Page 10 - Illustrated Reditch History
P. 10

William The Conqueror

          Then in 1066 all that changed. William, the Duke of Normandy in northern France,
          decided to invade England. He assembled a huge army of 5,000 men on the French
          coast. They waited in sailing ships for a wind to blow them across to England, then
          under cover of darkness and in silence, they slipped away across the channel.

          William met the English king and his army at Hastings on 15th October. It was a
          terrible battle. The English king was killed. William the Conqueror was king. The
          whole of England now belonged to him as well as Normandy.
          His first task was to learn to speak English! We now had a king  of England who
          could hardly speak English! England was now ruled by the Normans. All the officials
          had to speak French.
          William  wanted  to  know  exactly  what  he  owned  in  England  to  make  sure  that
          everybody was paying their taxes and so he organised the ‘Domesday Book’. It
          lists every building and every adult across the whole of England. It was finished
          in 1086, the year before he died.
          William had one great passion – hunting. He now owned all the forests. ‘Forests’
          were not only trees but any ground left to grow wild, such as moors and heaths.
          At that time the Redditch area was on the edge of  the great forest of Feckenham,
          a vast oak forest.
          Emma is ten years old. She lives in a thatched cottage in a clearing in Feckenham
          Forest. The walls are built from twigs, mud and manure, known as wattle and
          daub. This may sound surprising but if you get some horse or cow manure stuck
          on your car you will know that it is a strong, hard substance. Her cottage is better
          than most with two rooms instead of one. At night, all their precious animals come
          into the far room. They have chickens for eggs, a goat for milk, a pig for meat and
          two sheep for their wool. Emma says.

                “A marshal came and told us that the king wanted all the forests to be
                cleared for hunting. We were to leave, and our cottage was to be pulled
                down.  My  father  and  his  friends  complained  so  much  that  now  we  are
                allowed  to  stay  if  we  keep  to  strict  forest  laws.  We  would  be  fined  for
                breaking the laws  or even hung!  My poor dog will have to be put down as
                no dogs are allowed, only mastiffs and they must have their claws cut. We
                rent a tiny clearing for our animals but now the fences that we put round
                to keep the wolves out will have to be pulled down. We cannot catch deer,
                boars, hares, wolves, foxes, pheasants or partridges. We cannot cut any
                wood or even collect fallen branches to sell. We are not even allowed to eat
                any berries but I shall pick a few when no-one is looking. Life is going to
                be very difficult. “

          The male boar was an aggressive wild pig, you didn’t want to come across one of
          those on a dark night! Boars were hunted until none were left in the 1200s. The
          wolves had all been killed by the 1400s. Mastiffs were large dogs with black faces.
          Although they were gentle by nature they made good guide dogs.)

          When William the Conqueror died, his son became King Henry I.

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