This being the third part of my brief history about the river Ribble and incorporating the Norman invasion of England.
Descended from Viking blood, the Normans began their conquest on the 14th October 1066 with the Battle of Hastings. William II Duke of Normandy (1028 – 1087) who is known as William the Conqueror, defeated King Harold II of England (1022 – 1066), who was killed and is alleged to have been shot in the eye with an arrow.
William contested the English throne after the death of Edward the Confessor and fought Harold at Senlac Hill just outside Hastings. After further military engagements including Canterbury, Winchester and Dover, he was crowned William I of England. This was the dramatic end of Saxon rule in England and the start of a new era.
(In recent years there’s been contention about the site of the 1066 battle, it’s been suggested that Caldbec Hill is the actual location not Senlac, this piece from the Telegraph will give you a clearer picture of this…)
The Bayeaux Tapestry.
There’s also been several arguments concerning the tapestry’s story, one example being the question of how Harold died.
Some historians believe it was not by the traditional view of Harold being shot in the eye with an arrow. It’s been suggested that the arrow was added some years after the tapestry was made.
Interestingly, this work of art is not a true tapestry where people and scenes are woven into the cloth, but an embroidery where the scenes are stitched onto the cloth. It was probably made sometime in the 1070’s and is kept at the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux; Britain has a full sized copy which resides at the Reading Museum.
The Doomsday Book.
After some discussion with his esteemed council in December 1085, King William I ordered the compilation of the Doomsday Book. Its a sort of inventory about the landowners and land utilization of England, a description of how the land was worked and how people lived.
The two parts of the Domesday Book
The survey for the main book, “Great Doomsday”, took just under a year to complete and was finished around the beginning of autumn 1086. The actual book took much longer to create and some information had to be omitted due to its volume. This covered much but not all of England and included counties which had their borders pushed into Wales.
There’s another part of the Domesday Book called “Little Domesday”. It was carried out separately from the main book, but is much more detailed; a work covering the East Anglia region of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.
The Doomsday Book was never completed but it nevertheless provides a great wealth of information about 11th Century England. It has been called Britain’s greatest treasure.
Norman Motte Castles on the Ribble.
Situated on the lower Ribble at Penwortham and at the top of a small hill are St.Mary’s church and graveyard.
In the north west corner are the remains of a Norman Motte castle built in 1086 (on fortifications which were probably already there), by Roger de Poitou and stood in defence of a ford which crossed the Ribble nearby.
There was a serious excavation on the Motte in 1856 which revealed artefacts, several chambers and a stone platform about eleven feet (3.5m) down; a layer of kitchen waste was also found. This must have been an important and busy area with the castle and ford dominating the river in this locale. Norman soldiers stationed at the castle were in control of the ford, the comings and goings of traders, merchants, and farmers to and from Preston.
The castle mound site has been rightly designated as a Scheduled Monument and St. Mary’s Church as a Grade 11 listed building so both come under the protection of the law, these are very important designations which have helped preserve these structures.
The church of St. Mary’s is situated on Church Avenue, looking down on the river. It’s steeped with an almost tangible atmosphere of time and history – one can reach out and almost touch it.
The earliest written record of a church on this site was from the 12th Century however, the oldest part of the present church was built in the 14th Century and had work done in the 15th and 19th Centuries.
It is thought by some researchers that there was probably a church here back in St. Wilfrid’s day (7th Century), the evidence of which has disappeared at some point in the years leading up to the Norman Conquest. With other evidence of occupation and rich cultural development in this area, I tend to favour this theory.
There have also been suggestions that the site was occupied by the Romans but I can find no evidence of this…..
Another famous Norman Motte and Bailey castle and in much better condition, is located near the river at Clitheroe. Up on the hill and sitting on top of protruding limestone rock, it provides a great defensive view of the surrounding lands.
The castle is recorded as having been built by the second Robert de Lacy in 1186 however, there is some evidence to support the theory that it was actually the first Robert de Lacy who built the castle between 1102 – 1114. Again, possibly on fortifications already there and built by Robert de Poitou. There is suggestion of a document dating 1104, which refers to ditches and moats surrounding the castle but I’ve not seen any actual written evidence of this personally.
After William the Conqueror died, his eldest son Robert was made Duke of Normandy and his second eldest son William II, was crowned king of England, he ruled from 1087 – 1100. Henry I was the youngest son, he succeeded to the throne after his older brother William II died. Henry I rule lasted for 35 years from 1100 – 1135. He had a son William and a daughter Matilda but had many other children illegitimately.
Henry’s two sons, William and the illegitimate Richard, drowned in the English channel causing concern for the succession. Matilda was chosen to succeed after his death but was denied the throne by her cousin Stephen. He was the nephew of Henry and the grandson of William the Conqueror, he reigned for 19 years until 1154.
After becoming the widow of Emperor Henry V, Matilda married Geoffrey Plantagenet. It was agreed their eldest son Henry was to become king after Stephens death and he was subsequently crowned Henry II on the 19th December 1154. He was the first of 14 Plantagenet Kings who ruled England, ending with King Richard III’s death in 1485.
The next important events surrounding the Ribble include the history of Samlesbury lower and upper halls, witchcraft, priest holes, The Tudors and The Reformation. Hope you enjoy.
Until then, regards James :)