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Two articles discuss the influence of the Normans: this article places this dynasty within a chronological context but with special consideration of the sustainability context, while the plant context is discussed in the article on the Late Middle Ages.


The Romans had settled in a country of forests, fens, saltmarshes, scattered farms, and communities living in wooden roundhouses. To this landscape they added stone castles, villas, barracks, roads and a sophisticated international system of trade and administration controlled from distant Rome. Much of the Roman infrastructure deteriorated but with the Anglo-Saxons came manorial estates (fiefdoms) and the monasteries of the new Christian faith that became the keystone of community life. The Norman dynasty was relatively brief, lasting until the accession of the Plantagenet dynasty in 1154, but they would have the greatest impact on the English countryside since the Roman departure.

The Normans (northmen) came from northern France of the early 10th century. They were a mix of recent Viking and northern Germanic stock that had merged with the native Frankish and Gallo-Roman people in the region now known as Normandy.

Like the Romans, the Normans were militarily skilled, eloquent, industrious and highly organised: their Romanesque buildings displayed the hallmarks of power, wealth, and status – the medieval castles and magnificent arched and buttressed churches, often constructed of materials brought from the continent, were a demonstration of their resolve.

Monasteries became the community centres, repositories of learning, and places where the sick could be comforted. To the existing monasteries was added the  authority of new and impressive abbeys and cathedrals. Later, new orders of monks would arrive – the Augustinians (est. in England c.1250), Cistercians (est. 1128), Carthusians (1173), Dominicans (est. 1221), Franciscans (est. 1224) and orders associated with the religious Crusades (1095-1291), the Knights of St John of Jerusalem (est. c. 1190) and the Knights Templar (est. 1154). Orders of nun’s also practiced in convents and mixed communities. Hospitals were either independent establishments, generally staffed by nuns and monks, or part of the monasteries themselves, both usually included courtyards and gardens.

Battle of Hastings

The Norman accession to the throne began with the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

When Saxon King Edward ‘The Confessor’ died in 1066 he did not have an heir. Two men challenged for the throne: Harold II was the son of a powerful noble who had, in effect, ruled for the last 10 years of Edward’s reign, while William of Normandy was related to Edward’s mother and he claimed that Edward had promised him the throne. It was clear that only a fight would settle the matter.

While William’s planned invasion from Normandy was delayed by storms, Harald Hardrada, a Norse king, had joined forces with Harold’s alienated brother Tostig, landing an invasion force in the north in order to make further claim on the throne. In four days Harold marched from London to York with his army, surprizing Hardrada and defeating him at the Battle of Stamford Bridge only to learn that William had just landed in southern England’s Hastings with a navy of 500 ships. Marching south his exhausted army engaged the Normans but the effectiveness of their archers and death of Harold, killed by an arrow in the eye, gave victory to William. It was a momentous event in England’s history depicted on the famous Bayeux Tapestry. an embroidered cloth nearly 70 metres long and 50 centimetres tall, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings. It is thought to date to the 11th century, within a few years after the battle.

The Battle of Hastings – 1066

Not the Bayeux Tapestry, but a depiction of the battle by the earnest 10-year-old author of this article.
A work of art completed at Holland Road Primary School, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, in 1955.

Domesday Book

In 1086 William instigated the lasting and  remarkable compilation of a Domesday (Day of Judgment) Book, a stocktake of the people, lands, and livestock under his control. This was an orderly way of imposing taxes as assessed by former ruler Edward the Confessor. It also left a long-term impression on civic life in much simpler ways. It was written in Latin, now the official language of administration – of learning, medicine, and the law. As a census it was the first formal recorded allocation of peoples’ names to land. As a list of names it prompted the formal and permanent naming of villages and the endorsement of a conventional name structure for people – that of forename and surname (Christian and family name) – rather than the use of a single word name that was prevalent at the time, especially among the more lowly classes. It would not be until 1873 that any survey of similar scope would be attempted.

Significantly. the Domeday Book was a clear declaration of ‘ownership’ set out not according to geography or township but by landholders (tenentes) and one of its aims was to estimate the annual value of all the land in the country. Tenants-in-chief were referred to as barons and it was these wealthy men that would by the 13th century make up the nobility that would make up the Parliament of England. From the contents of the Domesday Book William could assess each baron in terms of his arable and other land and how that land was managed, along with the number of men and plough teams he employed.

The Domesday Book is one of Europe’s most remarkable public records of a people and their religious, social and economic history: it that serves as a fixed point for all that followed and nothing like this was produced on the continent.

Sustainability Analysis

Normans assumed the administrative positions in England in the legal profession, Church and land ownership.

Norman subjugation of Anglo-Saxons was through the take-over of institutions rather than a mass invasion of people. It is estimated that the Norman influx was in the tens of thousands and probably more than about 2% of the population.[1]

Landscape history and historical geography. Mission of the Journal Landscape History to secure a more penetrating comprehension of landscape evolution and an overall narrative account of landscape prehistory and history, together with an understanding of how this has influenced, and may usefully guide, the management of the present-day landscape.


1066 – Death of Edward the Confessor; Harold Godwinson claims throne and defeats Harold Hardrada at Stamford Bridge; Willian the ‘Conqueror’ of Normandy defeats King Harild at the Battle of Hastings and becomes king
1067 – construction of Tower of London
1068 – anti-Norman rebellion crushed
1069 – William subdues northern uprising
1072 – William invades Scotland
1086 – Domesday Book compiled up to 1090
1087 – death of William I, accession of William II ‘Rufus’
1092 – William II annexes Cumbria
1097 – construction of Westminster Hall
1100 – William II killed in New Forest and is succeeded by Henry I
1109 – 1113 – War with France
1110 – Pipe-Roll records commence

Page Menu


Early Middle Ages   -  400-1000
High Middle Ages   - 1000-1300
Late Middle Ages   -  1300-1500


SAXON   -   802-1066

DANE (Viking) = D

Egbert        -    802-839 - Wessex
Æthelwulf   -   839-856
Æthelbald   -   856-860
Æthelbert    -   860-866
Æthelred I   -   866-871
Alfred-the-Great - 871-899
Edward the Elder - 899-924
Athelstan    -    924-939
Ælfweard    -    924
Edmund I the Elder - 939-946
Eadred        -    946-955
Eadwig the All Fair - 955-959
Edgar I - the Peaceful - 959-975
Edward the Martyr - 975-978
Æthelred II - Unready - 978-1013
Sweyn I Forkbeard - 1013-1014D
Æthelred II Unready - 1014-1016
Edmund Ironside - 1016
Canute the Great 1016-1035 - D
Harold Harefoot - 1035-1040 - D
Harthacanute - 1040-1042 - D
Edward t'e Confessor 1042-1066
Harold II    -    1066
Edgar Ætheling - 1066

NORMAN  -  1066-1154

William I    -   1066-1087
William II   -   1087-1100
Henry I      –   1100-1135
Stephen of Blois – 1135-1154

PLANTAGENET  -  1154-1485

Henry II     –   1154-1189
Richard I Lionheart – 1189-1199
John Lackland – 1199-1216
Henry III    –   1216-1272
Edw' I Longshanks – 1272-1307
Edw' II of Carnarvon - 1307-1327
Edward III  –   1327-1377
Richard II   –   1377-1399
Henry IV     –   1399-1413
Henry V      –   1413-1422
Henry VI     –   1422-1461
Edward IV   -   1461-1483
Edward V    -   1483
Richard III   -   1483-1485

TUDOR  -  1485-1603

Henry VII    –   1485-1505
Henry VIII   –   1509-1547
Edward VI   –   1547-1553
Lady Jane Grey/Dudley – 1553
Mary I/Mary Tudor – 1553-1558
Elizabeth I   –   1558-1603

STUART  -  1603-1714

James I       –    1603-1625
Charles I     -    1625-1649
Civil War     –    1642-1651
Commonwealth - 1649-1653
Protectorate  – 1653-1659
Charles II    –    1660-1685
James II (VII Scotl'd) -1685-1688
Mary & William - 1688-1694
William of Orange – 1694-1702
Anne          –      1702-1714

HANOVER  -  1714-1901

George 1   –  1714-1727
George II   –  1727-1760
George III  –  1760-1820
George IV  –  1820-1830
William IV  –  1830-1837
Victoria      –  1837-1901

SAXE-COB' GOTHA 1901-1910 

Edward VII  -  1901-1910

WINDSOR  –  1910->

George V     –  1910-1936
Edward VIII  –  1936
George VI     –  1936-1952
Elizabeth II   –  1953->




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