Invasion and Genocide

In 1066 the Normans under William the Conqueror invaded England in Sussex. However, it took several years for the Normans to extend their rule over the rest of England. Faced with local rebellions in northern England that were encouraged by the Danes and the Scots, William set about systematically destroying large parts of the north in early 1070.

According to the contemporary chronicler, Orderic Vitalis, William ‘….made no effort to restrain his fury and punished the innocent with the guilty. In his anger he commanded that all crops, herds and food of any kind be brought together and burned to ashes so that the whole region north of the Humber be deprived of any source of sustenance’.

Entire villages were razed and their inhabitants killed, livestock slaughtered and stores of food destroyed, in a ‘scorched-earth’ strategy that was carried out during winter.  Food stores and livestock were destroyed so that anyone surviving the initial massacre would succumb to starvation. [ref, see here also for more details]

Symeon of Durham wrote that no village remained inhabited between York and Durham and that the countryside remained empty and uncultivated for nine years. Indeed, at the time of the Domesday survey of 1086, over a third of Yorkshire was still identified as ‘waste’. The villages surrounding Seaton Ross were particularly affected and saw a worse than average decline in the value of the land to their Lord of between half (Everingham) and 80% (Bielby, Pocklington, Holme, Aughton).

The situation in Seaton Ross (including a number of associated villages), according to the Domesday survey, was even worse, seeing a reduction of over 96% in value – from 40 pounds in 1066 to one pound 10 shillings in 1086. Seaton Ross was described in 1086 as “waste”. The village must have been either entirely or mostly abandoned: Fields would have returned to scrub and then woodland.

The 12th century Norman Font which can be seen in St.Edmund’s Church, Seaton Ross. CLICK on image to enlarge.

The population may only have recovered some decades later when the Norman Lord had to move new tenants in, from other territories that he ruled, to repopulate his wasted lands. Effectively, the village would have needed to be refounded and rebuilt. The typical Norman layout with  the church on the highest point in the village and an adjacent manor house (on the site of the current Manor House farm) strongly suggest this. Under the modern church tower is a large Norman font dating from the eleventh century.

Although the Normans were only ever a tiny minority in England, these actions in the north of England would have dramatically changed the local population.

In Domesday, two Norman landowners are identified in 1086 for Seaton Ross: William the Conqueror himself, and Nigel Fossard whose name was associated with 105 places in 1086 – all in the eastern half of Yorkshire. He reported to Count Robert of Mortain, Willam the Conqueror’s half-brother – who in 1086, as tenant-in-chief, held 957 pieces of Land from the King, and as Lord, held 263 pieces of Land. These were spread throughout the whole of England.

The image at the top of the page is from the Bayeux Tapestry and shows Normans burning Anglo-Saxon buildings.

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