Domesday to Magna Carta Michael Wood's Story of England


Domesday to Magna Carta

Michael Wood's unique portrait of one village through the whole of English history moves on to 1066, when the invading Normans built a castle in Kibworth.


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Transcript


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We've set out to uncover the story of one place through the whole of English history.

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Romans, Vikings, Anglo-Saxons...

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That is a piece of an Anglo-Saxon bone comb.

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..and all with the help of the local people.

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I told you it was only going to get better!

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We think we've found a mortar floor here.

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If in doubt I put it in the tub and then Robert throws it out.

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The more you find out about the village, the more intriguing it gets.

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You don't realise the heritage that a village like Harcourt or Beauchamp has.

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The place is Kibworth in Leicestershire.

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HE SPEAKS MIDDLE ENGLISH

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Using archaeology and science, we've already found a lost past.

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-I can tell you who may well have lived on this spot.

-Oh, really?!

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His name was Aelfric.

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So basically we're going to have to dig up your entire garden!

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The first chapter took us as far as 1066, the Norman Conquest.

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What does it feel like to suddenly have this new world coming on top of you?

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It's not, it's the end of the world.

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It's not a new world, it's the finish.

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-The end of the world?

-The end of the world.

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It's a disaster.

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So how did the villagers respond to this disaster of conquest and war

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and brutal foreign occupation?

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How did it shape them and change them?

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How did they become us?

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On October 14th, 1066, Anglo-Saxon England fell to the army

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of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.

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'Everybody's getting butterflies in their stomach.

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'The fear is starting to bite.'

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Standing in the shield wall that day there may have been men of Kibworth, under their Lord Aelfric.

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'They've slammed into that shield wall again. They're really giving it some hammer now.'

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"The flower of the English nation fell there,"

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said the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, "and God gave victory to the Normans."

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'We have groups here from all over Europe.

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-'

-They're from France, from the Netherlands...

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'from Germany, from Poland...

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'The Grentmesnil family are one of the big Norman aristocratic families.'

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They're the warrior bands who come with William for fight for him,

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to make his new crown possible.

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Hugh de Grentmesnil, he gets a huge cut of the new lands of England?

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He's given a large chunk of land in and around Leicestershire,

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with the town of Leicester and the new Norman castle that's built there.

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And castles are one of the great innovations that the Normans brought to England.

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The Norman Hugh de Grentmesnil now became the chief Lord in Kibworth

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as the villages passed under Norman rule with a resident Frenchman.

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Reporting in English, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

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says that the Normans spread their grip over the whole of England,

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and they oppressed the English people by building castles everywhere.

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Now, I think they built one in Kibworth using the old Roman mound

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in the centre of the village, the Munt.

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But how to prove it?

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The Normans siege Leicester, sack it,

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destroy half the city, level 120 houses to build a castle.

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And in the hinterland, they built small castles, motte and baileys, earth mounds with outer enclosures.

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And here in Kibworth, one of the most populous villages

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in Leicestershire, that would be the context for building this here.

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You can imagine the Norman knights, they're heavily-armed, like SAS men, tough as nails,

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press-ganging the villagers to dig the ditches, to throw this up,

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building the stockade on top, imposing a garrison locally.

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This is the area that we surveyed, it's hardly discernible.

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-No obvious features.

-No, no obvious features.

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More work needed.

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Proof that it was a castle was frustratingly elusive.

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It's all rubbish obviously, from gardens.

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It's been so heavily disturbed.

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I was still convinced that we'd got a Norman castle.

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In other places in Leicestershire where there's a Frenchman in the village, there's also a castle.

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We drew a blank with the Hallaton Group.

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The site's been too badly damaged in the last couple

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of hundred years to be able to tell whether it's a Norman castle or not.

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But the evidence has to be there somewhere, and where better to look

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than in the great 18th-century History Of Leicestershire by John Nichols?

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Kibworth Church before the spire fell.

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And this is what the Munt was like in the 1790s.

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"At the back of the Red-Lion Inn,"

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that's the Boboli Pizzeria today,

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"a large mount, encompassed with a single ditch,

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"the circumference of which at the bottom is 122 yards.

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"And the height in the slope of the mount about 18 yards."

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Huge difference with what we see today.

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And then, this is really interesting -

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"Running away from it for 55 yards north-east, another ditch, three or four yards deep."

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That's the crucial clue.

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Now, when you compare that

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with what you see today, surviving Norman castles

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like the Hallaton here,

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its almost...identical size and shape.

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And you draw that... on the map of the village...

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then what you get...

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..is a Norman motte and bailey castle.

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So even little Kibworth Harcourt got its Norman castle with its Frenchman

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dominating the Saxon village with its allotments behind.

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And pretty soon after the invasion and conquest the Anglo-Saxon landowners here,

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Edwin and Aelfric and Aelfmer, were removed, part of a wholesale removal of the English ruling class.

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By 1086, there's only two out of 1,400 chief tenants in England are of English origin.

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And even more fantastic, for the next 100 years there's virtually

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no inter-marriage between the Norman aristocracy and the native English.

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The Normans quite clearly consider the Anglo-Saxons socially and ethnically inferior.

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And the English here are living not only under occupation, but under apartheid.

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It took William and his mercenary armies nearly 20 years to subdue the English.

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And then, in winter, 1085...

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MAN SPEAKS MIDDLE ENGLISH

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The King had deep speech with his councillors about England,

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what sort of land it was, what kind of people.

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And he sent his men all over the country to find out.

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The jurymen from Kibworth and Smeeton were summoned to their assembly place.

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It lay in the countryside north of Kibworth, and for centuries

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was the meeting place for the local Hundred, the sub-division of the shire.

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And as its name suggests, it was a tree.

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I've come here to meet a Kibworth man who's been obsessed

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with local history all his life, and who thinks that he can pinpoint the lost site of the Gartree.

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These now forgotten meeting places lie at the root of the English system of local representation.

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Hi, Stuart.

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And Stuart knows more than anybody about this one.

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Good to see you.

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And you. Come in.

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The den, oh, gosh.

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The Gartree stopped being used for local government and oath-taking in the early 1700s,

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but the site was recorded by the great 18th-century antiquarian,

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John Nichols.

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Because in here, there is actually...

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..one of the very early maps of where the Gartree bush used to be.

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-Isn't that fantastic?

-There.

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And it's on the Roman Road, the old Roman Road, on the north side

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of the Gartree Road. Let me show you on the map.

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So on the Roman Road itself.

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It is. I think it's there.

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'These trees and mounds were important places for the English.

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'As late as the 19th century in many places,

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'they voted in the open air, just like their ancient ancestors.'

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When I was a lad, there used to be a big tree, which has now gone, and this is what I'm looking for here.

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That's the old, the last Gartree that stood on the point.

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And there it is beside the road itself...

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..with the Roman Road disappearing into the distance.

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I always believed it was the site of the Gartree bush.

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Not many years after that, it...died.

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It was a sad moment because it was the only thing that identified

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where we think the spot is. And when it fell it rotted away.

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The farmer didn't touch it for several months, knowing it to be hallowed ground, he left it.

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-And they are kind of hallowed ground actually, aren't they?

-They are.

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I mean, thousands of years of being the landmark for the people for this part of the shire.

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Such was the importance to me of this spot that I actually got a piece of the tree

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that was lying in the field. And there it is.

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It's the last piece of the Gartree.

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'Holy trees, ancient myths, Herne the Hunter, Robin Hood.

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'It's a fragment from the roots of England.'

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It's like an elephant's skull.

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It is!

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I took loads of aerial photographs through the years,

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and on one day, when the sun was going low one evening,

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I actually took a photograph of the crossroads.

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It was not until I got it developed and blown up, I actually saw

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what seemed to be an enormous mound on the site where the tree stood.

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-Yeah, yeah!

-I think there's something ancient about that.

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That's amazing because the name, the Gartree,

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is probably Scandinavian, probably post-9th-century.

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But the earlier English name is recorded in the Middle Ages

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and it seems to be "mathelew", or something like that.

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The Normans couldn't get the language straight.

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But it seems to mean, "the speech mound", or "the meeting mound",

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or "the mound where people spoke".

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-We should go and have a look. Let's do that, can we?

-Yeah.

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The Gartree stood at the physical centre of the Hundred.

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It was a place known to everyone.

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Great view across the Welland Valley.

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It's absolutely fantastic, isn't it? Look at that.

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Across the Slawston Hills,

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and over to the south bank of the Welland.

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-Which I suppose is what you want for a moot place, isn't it?

-Exactly.

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And who is to say that they didn't light a bonfire on the day the moot was being held, to summon people?

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Thorpe Langton and Stonton Wyville, Church Langton -

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all the south, southern villages of the Gartree Hundred.

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Medbourne and Hallaton. You can see through there even Market Harborough.

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And of course Kibworth, just over here.

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All connected.

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You would get the message, whether it was by bonfire or signal, and the villagers would see

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where the point of the meet was, the moot site, they could see clearly.

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It must have been this time of year in 1086 that the jurors, the ordinary freemen

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of these villages, including Kibworth, all came to this spot,

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maybe over a few days, to give all the information about themselves to the foreigners, to the Normans,

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with their English secretaries presumably,

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the collaborators(!), who wrote all this down!

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Including taxable information. I mean, that's what it is, isn't it?

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I wonder how accurate they were over their, erm...!

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The first real declaration of their inventory. The hand-over.

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TRANSLATION FROM MIDDLE ENGLISH:

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He was a hard man!

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HE SPEAKS IN MIDDLE ENGLISH

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Which means that he was a very hard man, yes.

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"And afterwards," says the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, "all the results of the survey were brought to him."

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They're in the National Archive in Kew today, in Domesday Book.

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This is Leicestershire, and here you can see how it's organised.

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Here's the list of the landowners, most of them Norman lords,

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who of course have replaced...

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It's not a neutral historical source,

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it's the record of a cataclysmic takeover in English history.

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Grandmesnil.

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Here we go. Kibworth.

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Cheborde, Chiborde, Clyborne, even - that's obviously Normans mishearing Anglo-Saxon, isn't it?

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Oh, and that's actually the Frenchman.

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Kibworth Harcourt first of all.

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There's 12 carucates of arable land on this,

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it's the old Danish system of measuring land, which they used in the East Midlands.

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In Kibworth Harcourt, the population was mix of free and unfree people

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with some slaves, and the Frenchman.

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But in Kibworth Beauchamp, curiously, in view of its later history,

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there were no free people at all.

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While in Smeeton and Westerby, the majority were free.

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As for what happened to the Anglo-Saxon lords before 1066,

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Aelfric and Aelfmer, Edwin Aelfrith and the rest, we simply don't know.

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But perhaps there's one little clue, one trace of human feeling

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in all this bureaucratic detail, in an entry from a village further south,

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where one Aelfric had farmed his land freely before 1066,

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but now farms it at a rent from William, a Norman, "gravitare et miserabilitare"

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miserably and with a heavy heart.

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And you can bet that they felt the same way in Kibworth too.

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For the English people, it was the start of a long time of oppression,

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and in Kibworth they saw the horrors close-up.

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1124, in this same year before Christmas,

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Ralph Bassett held a court of the King's Thanes

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at Hound Hill in Leicestershire,

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and hanged there more thieves than anyone had before.

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44 men were killed in no time, six of them were blinded and castrated,

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and many honest people said many of them suffered very unjustly there.

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But our Lord God, from whom no secrets are hid, sees the poor oppressed

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by every kind of injustice, deprived of their property and their lives.

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A terrible year was this.

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Beloved of Hollywood scriptwriters, the Norman yoke was not just a myth.

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There was rage and racism on both sides.

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The defeated English retreated into their own language, their own jokes, their own customs.

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To the Normans, the English were lazy, cowardly, treacherous, superstitious,

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not to mention their dog-like barking that passed for speech.

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INDISTINCT SPEECH

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But most of all, the Normans thought the English were uncontrolled boozers.

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And it's at this time that you get the first descriptions of that hallowed English institution

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which existed in every village, including Kibworth,

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the domus potationis, the alehus, the pub!

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One Norman writer describes the interior of one of these places where,

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"the rustics sat at their tables and benches and where, if you looked carefully,

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"you could see little devils perched on the lip of every man's cup."

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He's the old one, I'm the good-looking one!

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HUBBUB

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So even then, the English seemed to have seen the pub as a place

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where you could get away from it, to chew things over.

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You know, see a man about a dog.

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But the Normans, for them, the pub was a place you wouldn't be seen dead in.

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Kibworth in the 12th and 13th centuries was split between several Norman lords,

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two of whom have left their surnames in the village till today the Harcourts and the Beauchamps.

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To get a picture of the village then, we have to turn to the maps drawn up by a later landlord

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who took over Kibworth Harcourt in the 1260s.

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Merton College, Oxford.

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That is absolutely fantastic, isn't it?

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Astonishingly, Merton kept a record of all the families who lived here from that time.

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All the old families.

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The Parkers, the Foxes, Colemans...

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Wayne's ancestors, the Bryans, the Sanders -

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they go back into the Middle Ages. Isn't that just gorgeous?

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London Way.

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So that's the A6!

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And Kibworth's on the right route!

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And still presumably working as an open-field system village.

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As it had been in the 13th, 14th century.

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It's absolutely wonderful.

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And St Wilfrid's Church still has its beautiful spire.

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Right!

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One of the village tragedies!

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When did that disappear?

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It fell in 1825, I think. 160 feet, it was absolutely beautiful.

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But the key to the Merton maps, the centre of life in Kibworth from the Anglo-Saxons until 1779,

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is the open fields.

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And if you want to see what life was like in the heyday

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of the open fields, there's one place you can go - Laxton, the last open-field village.

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INDISTINCT SPEECH

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Here in Laxton you can see how our ancestors made their living for over 800 years.

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Everyone had strips in the open fields.

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Everything worked by co-operation,

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'overseen by an elected field jury of 12 good men and true.'

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So this is exactly what they did in Kibworth back in the 1200s and the 1300s.

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This is the field jury going out into the fields to check the width of the strips, hammer the stakes in,

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check whether one farmer has infringed on the others' fields.

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So what are you looking for then, Roy?

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What are you...?

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How can you tell where to put 'em?

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Just where the curve of the...?

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The roadway should be 15 foot wide.

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-Right.

-All these roadways should be at 15 foot.

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-If it's less than that, somebody's ploughed too far.

-Right.

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You know, the great thing about this is that you get a real sense of what

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an open-field landscape looked like with these huge open fields.

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There's no division between the strips, apart from the baulks and the stakes.

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This great, wide, open landscape, it's just what Kibworth would have looked like then.

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A well-off peasant might have 50 or 60 little strips scattered through the three fields.

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None of them are straight. Not a single piece is straight, I don't think.

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Not one that I know of!

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I always think it's to do with the land because...

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You can't plough...

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The soil changes as it goes across and it pulls your plough.

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And if you keep ploughing it every time the same way, where it's gone one way, it'll keep going the same.

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The light man ploughs straight, the strong man ploughs wide.

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'Here at Laxton, you can get a sense of the communal effort

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'of our ancestors - men AND women - that was needed to maintain such a complex system.'

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-You can see the line though.

-Oh, yes, yes.

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So he's left it. If it had been the other way, if it'd come to here, he'd have been in serious trouble.

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I want somebody who knows what they're doing to go round there.

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Are you going that way, Carl?

0:24:400:24:42

It's kind of a great image of medieval farmers of Kibworth going,

0:24:420:24:46

"I want somebody who knows what he's doing!

0:24:460:24:49

"You go down to the Sheep's Bottom and you go up to Blackwell Syke."

0:24:490:24:54

Today the Laxton Field Jury meets in the Dovecote Inn.

0:25:020:25:06

'Up at the top of the map, we've got'

0:25:060:25:08

the old motte and bailey castle site where the lord of the manor lived.

0:25:080:25:14

We've got West Field, Mill Field and South Field.

0:25:140:25:18

And the way this developed was that so people got a fair share of good land and bad land.

0:25:180:25:24

It's a way of distributing the land

0:25:240:25:26

so it was equal and fair to everybody.

0:25:260:25:29

One is always fallow, one is then followed by wheat and then the third field is always a spring-sown crop.

0:25:290:25:37

And then the woodland forms our parish boundary.

0:25:370:25:39

So you can see how the rural landscape developed

0:25:390:25:42

from the centre of the village out into the countryside.

0:25:420:25:46

What findings have we got off Mill Field?

0:25:470:25:49

We've got Donny Godson here, not ploughed far north.

0:25:490:25:54

-Langwell?

-Langwell, yes.

0:25:540:25:56

This is how the Kibworth jury worked during the Middle Ages.

0:25:560:26:00

Then we've got Ivan Rainer on...

0:26:000:26:03

What do you call it? Top of Westwood edge there, ploughed too far.

0:26:030:26:10

About a foot.

0:26:100:26:11

Fine or warn...?

0:26:110:26:13

Fine him. It's fairly blatant..

0:26:130:26:16

< Yeah, yeah, it is.

0:26:160:26:18

So we're going to fine him. Go on then. I'm open, what we putting?

0:26:180:26:21

50 quid!

0:26:210:26:24

But this is much more than a quaint survival -

0:26:240:26:28

you're watching the roots of the English system.

0:26:280:26:32

Fiver? All in agreement?

0:26:320:26:33

Co-operation, respect for your neighbours and the idea of fairness,

0:26:350:26:40

that good, old Anglo-Saxon word.

0:26:400:26:42

The Kibworth documents from the 13th century in Merton College paint the same scene.

0:26:500:26:55

Easter, 1270.

0:26:550:26:57

Meeting of the Manor Court for Kibworth Harcourt.

0:26:570:27:02

Grant of land to Robert, the son of Richard the Parson,

0:27:020:27:06

eight acres in Kibworth field divided as follows.

0:27:060:27:10

One acre on Little Hill near Roger White's strip.

0:27:100:27:15

One rude upon Wrayland near the land Rob Joy holds.

0:27:150:27:20

Three rudes near the land Hugh Hurtlebol holds.

0:27:200:27:26

One acre that sticks into Peashill syke next to the strip of land held by Nicholas, son of Simon the Reeve.

0:27:260:27:32

One-and-a-half rudes on Peascroft near Rob Joyce's land.

0:27:320:27:37

CHURCH BELLS TOLL

0:27:370:27:39

Back then the Kibworth jury probably met not in the alehouse, but in the church.

0:27:390:27:45

'Everything happens here, it's the focus of the parish.

0:27:450:27:49

'Parish officers are the public officials of the day.

0:27:500:27:53

'People meet here to sign contracts, get married in the porch,'

0:27:530:27:58

and that's particularly important, of course, when you've got

0:27:580:28:01

a settlement with more than a one manor,

0:28:010:28:04

three or four manors, as is the case here.

0:28:040:28:06

The parish church is where the whole community comes together.

0:28:060:28:10

It's the powerhouse of the community in many, many ways.

0:28:100:28:15

Witnessed here at Kibworth Church by Robert Knolle, Henry White Hart...

0:28:150:28:22

Richard the Huntsmen, William Gunsey...

0:28:220:28:24

Ivan, son of Roger of Kibworth, Sylvester, the village scribe.

0:28:240:28:30

The 12th and 13th centuries were a boom time in England.

0:28:330:28:37

In our big dig with the villagers, we'd dug an unprecedented 55 test pits across the village.

0:28:370:28:44

And after scanty evidence for the Romans, Saxons and Vikings,

0:28:490:28:53

suddenly the village seems to be much richer and more populous...

0:28:530:28:56

..as the Norman occupation opened new trade links with Europe.

0:28:590:29:03

Back in Cambridge, Carenza Lewis was now processing all the evidence

0:29:060:29:10

that the villagers had gathered from their test pits.

0:29:100:29:13

Take us on from 1066,

0:29:130:29:16

the next couple of hundred years how does it look on the ground?

0:29:160:29:19

It's very interesting actually, really quite dramatic.

0:29:190:29:21

When we get into the post-Norman period, look how it changes.

0:29:210:29:25

A huge explosion of growth in all of the villages, really!

0:29:250:29:28

Certainly Kibworth Harcourt, that looks like a nucleated village.

0:29:280:29:31

By nucleated village, you're talking about a street with houses along the

0:29:310:29:36

street, a church, there's a kind of nucleus and the fields are outside.

0:29:360:29:40

This is what you're seeing for the first time, perhaps.

0:29:400:29:43

I think absolutely. You can look at Kibworth Harcourt. It's a street running along there,

0:29:430:29:46

every single test pit just about that we dug, along both sides of the road, is producing pottery.

0:29:460:29:53

-It's a populous place.

-Absolutely.

0:29:530:29:54

And Kibworth was also a place where travel and communications were developing.

0:29:570:30:02

Take the A6, the bane of all Kibworth people's lives today.

0:30:040:30:08

It was made a turnpike in the 18th century but it starts in the 12th century,

0:30:080:30:15

linking the village with Leicester and London.

0:30:150:30:17

The village was doing well.

0:30:200:30:23

And in March 1223, the King awarded Kibworth Beauchamp a licence for a market.

0:30:230:30:29

"King Henry to the Sheriff of Leicester, we grant to our trusty

0:30:320:30:37

"and well beloved Walter de Beauchamp that he may have a market

0:30:370:30:44

"in Kibworth on Wednesdays, providing that

0:30:440:30:47

"that market does not prove a nuisance to other merchants in the region."

0:30:470:30:52

And at our History Day in Kibworth High School, an unexpected source

0:31:000:31:03

of new evidence came up for the beginnings of this boom time from local metal detectorists.

0:31:030:31:09

You didn't pick up any coins from that period, did you?

0:31:090:31:13

If I could find it, I've got an Aethelred II.

0:31:130:31:17

Aethelred the Unready.

0:31:170:31:19

That's the one.

0:31:190:31:22

It's only a half penny.

0:31:220:31:23

They cut it in half?

0:31:230:31:26

They're actually made with a voided cross so you can cut across the line.

0:31:260:31:30

'So the Normans took over an already sophisticated coinage system,

0:31:300:31:36

'and in the next period, there's a flood of finds telling us about wealth and travel.'

0:31:360:31:41

Probably from Walsingham.

0:31:410:31:45

You know, you've got these

0:31:450:31:46

plants there that I'd interpret at least as a sort of lily pot

0:31:460:31:51

on there, which is to do with the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin.

0:31:510:31:56

And on the other side a crown.

0:31:560:31:58

Henry III gave a golden crown to the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Walsingham, so that fits.

0:31:580:32:04

Fantastic. Absolutely amazing.

0:32:040:32:08

So somebody's got an Islamic coin

0:32:080:32:12

and turned it into a brooch.

0:32:120:32:14

I can't read Arabic script, I'm afraid, I'm ashamed to say!

0:32:140:32:17

I didn't think it would be a drawback doing the history of Kibworth!

0:32:170:32:22

Constant surprises here!

0:32:220:32:24

'So the economy boomed, the population more than doubled,

0:32:250:32:28

'markets opened everywhere and the common law developed.'

0:32:280:32:33

Even the poorest English men and women had rights as well as obligations.

0:32:330:32:37

At this point in the tale, the community of the village becomes part of the community of the realm.

0:32:370:32:45

In the early 1200s,

0:32:480:32:49

new laws began to restrain rulers like King John.

0:32:490:32:52

The most famous was Magna Carta.

0:32:520:32:55

But among them one was especially important to the people

0:32:550:32:58

of the village, because it made them more free to use their own countryside.

0:32:580:33:03

It's called the Charter Of The Forest.

0:33:030:33:06

It talks about their liberties and their rights, which had been held before in England.

0:33:060:33:13

English people hark back to their Anglo-Saxon past as a time when, so they believed, they had all these

0:33:130:33:19

common rights and common laws,

0:33:190:33:22

which had been eroded during the period of rule since 1066.

0:33:220:33:28

In 1264, these conflicts came to a head in civil war.

0:33:310:33:36

The barons had forced great reforms on King Henry III, which were

0:33:360:33:40

published now not only in French but in the people's language, English.

0:33:400:33:44

Among the rebels was the Lord of Kibworth, Saer de Harcourt.

0:33:440:33:48

The rebel army confronted the King at Lewes in Sussex.

0:33:480:33:52

No other country in Europe had gone so far, and so early,

0:33:520:33:57

in attempting to reduce the King to a constitutional monarch.

0:33:570:34:01

To force the King to rule according to custom and law, to consult not only with his great nobles,

0:34:030:34:09

but with the representatives of the shires, shires like Leicestershire.

0:34:090:34:14

The leader of the barons was the French-speaking

0:34:150:34:19

Earl of Leicester, Simon de Montfort an unlikely people's champion.

0:34:190:34:24

He gives a speech to the army, he's a great speaker, De Montfort,

0:34:240:34:29

epigrammatic and forceful, somewhere on this spot.

0:34:290:34:33

"You're fighting for England,"

0:34:330:34:35

he says now, "for honour, for God, for the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints and the Holy Church."

0:34:350:34:42

This revolution is almost a religious crusade to him.

0:34:420:34:46

The clash was brief and savage.

0:34:490:34:53

The King's army was broken, peasant soldiers cut the throats of knights in armour.

0:34:530:34:58

The victory of Simon de Montfort here at Lewes unleashed

0:35:010:35:05

a surge of elation among many, and for some, an almost revolutionary fervour.

0:35:050:35:10

"England can once again breathe the air of freedom,"

0:35:120:35:16

wrote a poet in 1264.

0:35:160:35:20

"Liberty is theirs and Englishmen who were once despised like dogs can

0:35:200:35:26

"now walk with their heads held high, their oppressors overthrown."

0:35:260:35:31

So two centuries after the Norman Conquest, the English people once more found their voice.

0:35:350:35:41

All generations quarry the past for defining moments of identity.

0:35:410:35:47

And for the English people, De Montfort was one.

0:35:470:35:50

Simon de Montfort had seized power from the King

0:35:590:36:03

and carried through gigantic reforms of the realm.

0:36:030:36:06

He sent a legal official round the kingdom to hear

0:36:100:36:13

everybody's complaints, even from the lowliest peasant.

0:36:130:36:16

And some of the legislation, the abolition of various impositions,

0:36:160:36:20

various types of fines, were directly designed to benefit the peasantry.

0:36:200:36:24

So you can see that the peasants themselves believed passionately in these kinds of reforms.

0:36:240:36:29

And I think particularly this area, this area of Leicestershire,

0:36:290:36:33

south Leicestershire, is very radicalised politically and very informed.

0:36:330:36:36

The peasants know what's going on.

0:36:360:36:39

And almost miraculously,

0:36:420:36:44

we've got a glimpse of that heady summer of 1264 from Kibworth itself.

0:36:440:36:50

A month after the Battle of Lewes, the villagers went on their annual local pilgrimage

0:36:500:36:56

to the ancient church of St Mary Arden, five miles away at Great Bowden.

0:36:560:37:02

Pilgrimage is hard-wired into our DNA.

0:37:020:37:07

99.9% of pilgrimages in the Middle Ages were local ones.

0:37:070:37:13

Every parish has a place outside of the village, outside the centre of settlement, where people will go.

0:37:130:37:21

And that summer day in 1264, the people of Great Bowden,

0:37:310:37:35

who were Royalists, met the villagers of Kibworth with axes.

0:37:350:37:39

Aw, it's great! Hello, everybody!

0:37:470:37:50

I see the Bowden people have come armed with their axes!

0:37:500:37:54

What followed is a tiny moment in a bitter civil war,

0:37:540:37:57

but it shows how deep the passions ran even at local level.

0:37:570:38:01

Right, are we meant to be afraid now?

0:38:010:38:04

No, you're friends now because you're wearing the badge.

0:38:040:38:06

Of course, the King has been defeated at the Battle of Lewes the previous month.

0:38:090:38:14

The people of Kibworth come on their customary, whatever it is,

0:38:140:38:17

pilgrimage or whatever it is, Graham is going to try and elucidate this for us

0:38:170:38:23

and when they try and go into the church as was their custom,

0:38:230:38:28

then some of the people of Bowden led by this guy called William King,

0:38:280:38:32

suitable name for a royal estate, barred their way.

0:38:320:38:36

And then an axe was produced.

0:38:360:38:40

'The man at the centre of the fracas came from a well known Kibworth peasant family.

0:38:420:38:47

'He was called John Wodard.

0:38:470:38:49

'He's later found with de Montfort's army down in Kent.'

0:38:490:38:53

Brought this back some years ago and put it here.

0:38:570:39:01

-Was it not originally...?

-It was originally, but it was taken over there for care.

0:39:010:39:05

'The locals in Great Bowden are now restoring this 17th century chapel, which was built from the remains

0:39:050:39:12

'of what was once the medieval mother church of Kibworth.'

0:39:120:39:17

If you imagine going back and back and back, this graveyard must have many thousands of burials in it.

0:39:170:39:23

It's a huge churchyard.

0:39:260:39:28

It's far, far bigger

0:39:280:39:30

than one would need for a common or garden village church.

0:39:300:39:35

It implies that St Mary-in-Arden is the regional mother church.

0:39:350:39:41

Really important place in their religious calendar.

0:39:410:39:44

When the people of Kibworth are coming here it's Whit Monday.

0:39:440:39:50

There were earlier processions of this type, not just Pentecost but

0:39:500:39:55

probably Easter, made by daughter churches

0:39:550:39:59

of Anglo-Saxon minsters to their mother church.

0:39:590:40:03

What we do nowadays at Easter, like you said, the clergy gather

0:40:030:40:08

at the cathedral where the oil is blessed

0:40:080:40:11

and that's the chrism oil as well,

0:40:110:40:14

and the clergy take it with them into the parishes. That's what's happening nowadays.

0:40:140:40:18

It always seems to be the same.

0:40:180:40:20

One parish is trying to keep another parish behind it in the procession.

0:40:200:40:25

They're competing for the privilege of going first into the church!

0:40:250:40:30

Maybe two dozen parishes converging on this place, and for a ceremony

0:40:300:40:37

which was full of movement and light and sound and joyousness,

0:40:370:40:42

because Pentecost is the birthday of Christ's Church.

0:40:420:40:46

Do they walk barefoot? Was there a particular tradition? Did you carry banners?

0:40:460:40:50

You would certainly carry banners, you were representing your parish,

0:40:500:40:53

so when somebody tries to tell you to get back in the queue,

0:40:530:40:57

local patriotism takes over, I suspect.

0:40:570:41:01

I think anger, actually, probably,

0:41:010:41:02

because if the King was captured

0:41:020:41:04

and this was the King's estate still,

0:41:040:41:07

so they would feel absolutely furious

0:41:070:41:11

and really red raw with rage.

0:41:110:41:13

And so it may have been a religious procession, but the people in Bowden

0:41:130:41:19

could have felt quite differently about it and very, very angry. And I think that's what it was.

0:41:190:41:23

And they come tooled up!

0:41:230:41:25

They still do!

0:41:250:41:26

They still do!

0:41:260:41:28

Axes, axes hanging at their belt.

0:41:300:41:33

In the National Archive, the record survives to tell us what happened here that day.

0:41:370:41:43

"When the men of Kibworth came to the Church of Harborough to make their procession there,

0:41:430:41:50

"the foresaid William King of Bowden came to prevent them from proceeding into the church

0:41:500:41:56

"and struck the foresaid Wodard with an axe and kill him if he could.

0:41:560:42:02

"And the foresaid John Wodard, perceiving this, turned round and struck the foresaid

0:42:020:42:07

"William in the head with an axe so he afterwards died of that blow."

0:42:070:42:12

And the jury, actually loaded with people from Kibworth,

0:42:140:42:18

seems to have concluded that it was self defence.

0:42:200:42:25

One of the things which has really emerged

0:42:290:42:31

from recent work on this whole period

0:42:310:42:33

is the way peasants were radicalised and took part in the actual fighting.

0:42:330:42:37

They both took part in raid and counter raid in the bands

0:42:370:42:41

of Montfortians burning villages in surrounding areas.

0:42:410:42:45

But they also fought in the great battles.

0:42:450:42:47

I mean, I would have thought Wodard was very likely in his troop at the various battles and we may think

0:42:470:42:52

of contingents from Kibworth, peasant contingents from Kibworth physically on the fighting side.

0:42:520:43:00

That summer, de Montfort summoned a great

0:43:010:43:04

peasant army from all over England, including John Wodard of Kibworth, to repel a French invasion.

0:43:040:43:10

But that was the high point of the revolution.

0:43:100:43:13

The following year it was crushed at Evesham.

0:43:130:43:17

The rebels had fallen out among themselves,

0:43:270:43:30

and finally de Montfort was trapped by his enemies.

0:43:320:43:35

De Montfort arrived here in Evesham about 6 o'clock in the

0:43:380:43:41

morning, and his army, who were desperate for rest.

0:43:410:43:44

But soon afterwards they became aware that out on the green hill there,

0:43:440:43:50

a large army was arriving.

0:43:500:43:52

De Montfort sent his barber Nicholas up the abbey tower to see who they were.

0:43:540:43:59

Nicholas was an expert in heraldry.

0:43:590:44:03

When they reached the top of the hill, they unfurled their Royalist

0:44:030:44:06

standards, and Nicholas knew exactly who they were.

0:44:060:44:10

"God save our souls," he said,

0:44:100:44:13

"for we are dead men."

0:44:130:44:15

In the final battle, de Montfort was hopelessly outnumbered.

0:44:170:44:21

And here we are on a 13th century battlefield.

0:44:210:44:26

Why doesn't Montfort try to escape?

0:44:270:44:31

He just wasn't made like that.

0:44:310:44:32

He was a man of rigid

0:44:320:44:35

discipline, both for himself and for his cause.

0:44:350:44:40

In fact, he believed he was doing God's work, this is what he'd convinced himself he was doing.

0:44:400:44:46

So the revolution was God's work, the constitutional revolution was God's work in his eyes?

0:44:460:44:51

It was, yes. And of course when

0:44:510:44:55

people become convinced that they're doing God's work, they're capable of anything.

0:44:550:45:00

-Yes, yes.

-And when they got up here and they could see what they

0:45:000:45:04

were really facing, they panicked and fled in all directions.

0:45:040:45:09

What happens to Simon himself at this moment?

0:45:090:45:12

Well, he's very quickly surrounded

0:45:120:45:14

by his enemies. His horse is killed under him and it's said that he was struck through the neck by a lance.

0:45:140:45:22

Pretty nasty thing.

0:45:220:45:23

And he, of course, fell to the ground.

0:45:230:45:27

And people were so fired up at this point that his enemies pounced upon the body and chopped it up.

0:45:270:45:34

Chopped all the arms and legs, head and the private parts as well. They were all chopped off.

0:45:340:45:41

The same thing happened to all those people who'd fled.

0:45:440:45:49

The rest of the day they were chased all over the landscape, wherever they could be found, and killed.

0:45:490:45:55

Some people got into the town and thought, "We'll hide in the abbey, we'll be safe there."

0:45:580:46:04

But they weren't. They were killed in the abbey.

0:46:040:46:06

The high altar itself was splashed with blood.

0:46:060:46:09

Bodies lay everywhere, it was the most appalling scene.

0:46:090:46:13

Did John Wodard of Kibworth die here?

0:46:170:46:20

We'll never know.

0:46:200:46:22

This is the traditional spot where Simon was killed, isn't it?

0:46:220:46:26

'The site of Simon's death immediately became a place of pilgrimage.

0:46:260:46:31

'And people of all walks of life came here from all over England,

0:46:310:46:35

'including peasants from around Kibworth, seeking miracles.'

0:46:350:46:39

People came from far and wide

0:46:390:46:42

to make use of this water, which they believed had miraculous powers.

0:46:420:46:46

A real emotional response to his defeat welling up among ordinary people,

0:46:460:46:53

for whom the revolution had meant something even though it failed.

0:46:530:46:58

So it's a window, a brief window, which closes after about 10 years,

0:46:580:47:03

into what ordinary people were inspired by at the time.

0:47:030:47:08

Even in remote places like Kibworth, it was the talk of the village,

0:47:080:47:13

you know, "What Earl Simon is going to do for us and what are we going to do now he's gone?"

0:47:130:47:21

After the battle,

0:47:380:47:40

the King's men swept into the villages around Kibworth which had supported de Montfort.

0:47:400:47:45

Saer de Harcourt was captured and thrown into jail,

0:47:450:47:48

and the King's assessors made an inventory of his estates.

0:47:480:47:53

And this is the...

0:47:530:47:55

November 1265, this is...

0:47:550:47:59

Full of anger and bitterness towards Saer de Harcourt, the King demands to know what he

0:47:590:48:04

possesses in his manor of Kibworth how much arable and meadow,

0:48:040:48:10

how many freeholders and villeins?

0:48:100:48:13

The condition of the manor house, the dovecote and the windmill,

0:48:130:48:18

and its annual taxable income.

0:48:180:48:21

And in this time of vengeance, close to Kibworth, we can hear the voice of the peasants themselves.

0:48:240:48:32

At Peatling Magna, a Royalist called Peter de Neville sends a troop of men through the village,

0:48:320:48:39

and the peasants stop them.

0:48:390:48:41

They try and prevent them going through the village.

0:48:430:48:46

And what Peter de Neville actually says, alleges, that they actually said was, "Why are we doing this?

0:48:460:48:52

"It's because you're committing all sorts of seditions and treasons, because you're acting against

0:48:520:48:58

"the utility of the community of the Kingdom and against the Baron."

0:48:580:49:03

The utility...the welfare of the community of the Realm.

0:49:030:49:07

De Neville was in a cold fury and threatened to burn the village down.

0:49:170:49:21

Men took shelter inside the church and a small group of the villagers,

0:49:210:49:25

mainly women, stood out here and argued with the King's men.

0:49:250:49:29

They were led by a woman, by Mrs Pillerton, the wife of one of the peasants.

0:49:290:49:35

That's so beautiful, isn't it? 'She said to the King's men that they were guilty of

0:49:380:49:43

'heinous treachery and other crimes because they were against the barons

0:49:430:49:48

'and they were against the welfare of the community of the Realm.'

0:49:480:49:53

I imagine she was a fairly buxom, sturdy, real woman of the soil.

0:49:530:49:59

And certainly very, very determined.

0:49:590:50:01

But she was backed up by her other women, I believe the record says that the women pleaded with Peter's men.

0:50:010:50:08

So you can imagine, they'd promise anything really to protect their families.

0:50:080:50:12

We would, wouldn't we, Margaret?

0:50:120:50:14

The King spared Saer de Harcourt's life, but imposed a huge fine for his treachery.

0:50:240:50:30

So Saer was forced to put the manor of Kibworth Harcourt up for sale,

0:50:320:50:37

with its new windmill, its dovecote, its freemen and villeins, and its 1,400 acres of prime arable.

0:50:370:50:45

A fine piece of medieval real estate.

0:50:450:50:48

And with that, a new character enters our story.

0:50:530:50:57

Merton College Oxford.

0:50:570:50:59

The college had recently been founded by Walter of Merton, a supporter of the King

0:50:590:51:03

whose lands in Surrey had been plundered in the war by de Montfort's troops.

0:51:030:51:09

Simon de Montfort has lost and is dead,

0:51:090:51:12

and therefore, Walter de Merton knows that he's on the winning side!

0:51:120:51:19

And so all the lands of the Montfortians,

0:51:190:51:23

of whom Saer de Harcourt was one,

0:51:230:51:27

are in a poor way and heavily indebted.

0:51:270:51:31

There's a document in the National Archive where the King says, "I have put aside my anger

0:51:310:51:37

"and rancour towards the said Saer de Harcourt and a fine will do instead."

0:51:370:51:44

So he has to sell up,

0:51:440:51:47

basically, cos he's been ruined. But Walter de Merton, who now

0:51:470:51:51

realises he's on the right side, seizes the moment...

0:51:510:51:54

That's right, and as he's the former chancellor of Henry III, he's in a good position

0:51:540:52:01

and pays off these debts and buys...

0:52:030:52:08

It's interesting, he buys first the advowson of the chapel and then

0:52:080:52:15

three days later he buys the manor, in 1270, October 1270.

0:52:150:52:22

In the purchase document, doesn't he use some word like,

0:52:220:52:26

"my old friend", "associate", "dear old fellow"?

0:52:260:52:31

Yes, yes, yes!

0:52:310:52:32

Walter perhaps was sensitive to the passionate feelings

0:52:330:52:36

aroused by the failed revolution, best perhaps let bygones be bygones.

0:52:360:52:42

This is what you've really come to see.

0:52:460:52:49

Wow! That's just wonderful.

0:52:490:52:52

So when was this built, Julian?

0:52:540:52:56

It was finished in 1291 and it was built to be fireproof.

0:52:560:53:00

A stone roof. You can see there's no wood in the roof.

0:53:000:53:02

There's no wood in the floor, it's all stone and tile.

0:53:020:53:05

So it's state of the art for the late 13th century.

0:53:050:53:08

'And here are 750 years of the records of Kibworth Harcourt,

0:53:080:53:14

'an almost unbelievable treasure trove of the social life of the village.

0:53:140:53:19

'And they even have Saer's sale document.'

0:53:200:53:24

I cannot believe that this is...

0:53:240:53:28

Whose seal is that?

0:53:280:53:29

That's de Harcourt.

0:53:290:53:31

That's the Harcourt seal.

0:53:310:53:34

Here's the text.

0:53:340:53:36

"Saer de Harcourt sends greetings"

0:53:360:53:39

and then saying he's "conceded and by this charter confirmed come Walter de Merton."

0:53:390:53:45

Absolutely great! "My dear friend."

0:53:450:53:48

Taking the shirt of my back, my dear friend and fellow.

0:53:480:53:51

MUSIC DROWNS OUT SPEECH

0:53:510:53:53

Across the courtyard is the early 14th century college library.

0:54:070:54:12

Isn't this wonderful?

0:54:150:54:17

The oldest, continuously functioning library in the world.

0:54:170:54:22

And here is the earliest complete survey of Kibworth and its people.

0:54:220:54:28

The magic of the parchment trail.

0:54:280:54:31

It's one of those medieval documents where the life of the past,

0:54:310:54:35

the life of the people of the past, just comes leaping off the page.

0:54:350:54:39

It's a list drawn up by the estate managers of Merton College in the 1280s.

0:54:390:54:45

The first description of the village of Kibworth Harcourt,

0:54:450:54:49

and in it are listed all the families of the village.

0:54:490:54:52

The Polles, we can trace them over 15 generations. The Browns,

0:54:520:54:57

a branch of whose family will become aldermen in Coventry and wear the ermine.

0:54:570:55:03

A fabulous case of medieval social climbing.

0:55:030:55:06

There are 11 free tenants and their families.

0:55:080:55:13

There's 27 customary tenants, they're people who owed part of their labour to their lord.

0:55:130:55:18

There are seven cottagers, people who did jobs in the village.

0:55:180:55:22

A washer woman or thresher.

0:55:220:55:24

And there's a dozen other families who have no land.

0:55:240:55:28

A wonderful snapshot of the village.

0:55:280:55:31

Suddenly with this, the village and its people come to life.

0:55:310:55:35

And who better to introduce the Kibworth people of the past than today's villagers?

0:55:400:55:46

Emma Gilbert, villein.

0:55:460:55:48

Robert the doctor.

0:55:500:55:51

Alice Starr, Matilda Starr.

0:55:530:55:56

Sisters!

0:55:560:55:59

Robert the thresher, cottage holder.

0:55:590:56:02

Beatrice Sybble, villein.

0:56:020:56:04

Henry Polle, freeman.

0:56:040:56:06

Richard Polle, freeman.

0:56:060:56:08

John Polle, villein...

0:56:080:56:10

ALL: Cousins!

0:56:100:56:12

Alice the washer woman.

0:56:130:56:14

Robert the broker.

0:56:150:56:17

Scalastica, villein and widow.

0:56:170:56:20

John Goodyear, villein.

0:56:200:56:22

-Hugh Bond, villein.

-Will Raines.

0:56:220:56:25

Henry Button, freeman.

0:56:250:56:27

And for almost 750 years, the relationship has continued.

0:56:380:56:43

On behalf of the college choir, can I say what a very great pleasure it is for us to be with you this evening

0:56:430:56:49

and to bring greetings from the Warden and fellows at Merton.

0:56:490:56:52

Our founder, Walter de Merton, would be pleased to know that

0:56:520:56:56

the relationship between his college and Kibworth is alive and well today.

0:56:560:57:03

Ladies and gentlemen, the choir of Merton College Oxford.

0:57:030:57:07

CHORAL MUSIC

0:57:190:57:21

So that's how Merton College became the lord of the manor of Kibworth Harcourt,

0:57:330:57:38

after the triumphs and the tragedies of the Barons' War.

0:57:380:57:42

By that time in the 1260s, the people of Kibworth

0:57:420:57:46

have already known Roman lords, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans.

0:57:460:57:52

So how will it fare now with an Oxford College?

0:57:520:57:56

And how will the villagers cope with the horrors that lie ahead

0:57:560:58:00

in the 14th century the most catastrophic in our history?

0:58:000:58:03

That's the next chapter of the story.

0:58:030:58:06

Next in the Story of England, the Great Famine and the Black Death.

0:58:180:58:23

Times of trial and times of hope.

0:58:230:58:26

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:440:58:47

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:470:58:50

Groundbreaking series in which Michael Wood tells the story of one place throughout the whole of English history. The village is Kibworth in Leicestershire in the heart of England - a place that lived through the Black Death, the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution and was even bombed in World War Two.

Wood's unique portrait moves on to 1066 when the Normans build a castle in Kibworth. He reveals how occupation affected the villagers from the gallows to the alehouse, and shows the medieval open fields in action in the only place where they still survive today.

With the help of the residents, he charts events in the village leading to the people's involvement in the Civil War of Simon de Montfort. Intertwining the local and national narratives, this is a moving and informative picture of one local community through time.


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