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Medieval Basingstoke

Knight with aleWessex was one of the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, which eventually became the most important kingdom, with Winchester as the capital of the country. One part of Wessex was Hamtunscire, like other shires it was split into smaller divisions called hundreds (units of 100 families), these were further divided into tithings, which consisted of ten householders.

     The shire reeve (sheriff) was responsible for the kings interests and hisThe King authority throughout the county. The sheriff saw that writs from the king were carried out by the population and he was also responsible for the maintenance of law and order. The king's interests also included those of a landowner and included estates at  Hurstborne and Basingstoke.

  Knight on guard  Landowners used what parts of the land they needed for thier own use and rented the rest out to tenants in return for an annual payment in money or kind. In addition to free tenants, who paid money and helped the owner at busy times of the year, there were also unfree tenants (villeins) who performed a weekly labour service for him. The Normans introduced the term "manor" for these estates. The Domesday book describes Basingstoke as "always having been a royal manor". The king kept the town in his own hands, not letting it out to tenants.

  Show me da money  The manor of Basingstoke was not part of a hundred but had appendages of the hundred of Basingstoke and five other hundreds, Bermondspit, Chuteley, Holdshot, Odington and Overton. One of the functions of the sheriff was the collection of revenue, details of which were recorded in the Pipe Rolls. Basingstoke is first mentioned in a roll in 1159-60 when the sheriff of the time paid into the royal treasury the sum of 66s 8d for fines for murder in the Basingstoke hundred. In 1203 there was an entry which referred to the market of Basingstoke when the town paid to move the market from a Sunday to a Monday.

    It's good to be King In the year 1211-12 the king granted the men of Basingstoke "firm of the manor", which meant that they were then directly responsible to the king for payment of the rent of the manor, without reference to the sheriff. Unfortunately the men of Basingstoke had trouble paying the rent regularly and so in 1217 custody of the manor was granted to Bartholomew peche and then onto Luke de Drumare. In 1227 the town was separated from the other hundreds, which the king retained as his own. This allowed the men of Basingstoke to hold the manor at a reduced rate of 80. However the town still continued to get into debt, in 1236 three of the men of Basingstoke had to explain to the king's justices why they had borrowed 20 in the name of Basingstoke without their consent.

 Knight with flag     In 1237 Walter de Burgh was appointed king's bailiff, with the responsibility of the finances of the manor of Basingstoke. In 1238 the roll mentions the name of Walter de Merton, who in 1240 was granted the manor for five years at an annual rent of 80. At the end of this period responsibility reverted back to the sheriff until in 1256 Henry III granted the men of Basingstoke and their heirs the perpetual tenure of the manor and hundred of Basingstoke. This meant that the town was now a self governing community.

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