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From Romans To Normans

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Roman Times
Earliest information about Huddersfield is from Roman historians who make mention of fierce and warlike Brigantes that occupied all the north of England.
Of the 40 nations that inhabited Britain at the time these were the most numerous and powerful.
They were eventually made subjects of Rome by Petilius Cerealis c. AD 75.

Evidence of the Roman settlement of Cambodunum situated at Slack, above Outlane, on the Roman road between Tadcaster (Calcarice) and Manchester (Mancunium). The name Cambodunum may have originated from the the Celtic word dun, meaning a high place of strength, and from the name of the British war god Camul.

In 1736 a Roman altar was discovered at Slack by the Rev. Mr Watson. Other discoveries over the years, at the same site, suggest that this was the location for a permanent garrison. Finds have included the foundations of buildings and several hypercausts or heating chambers.
From markings on the bricks at the site it would appear that the soldiers who built the buildings were Breuch, a people of Celtic origin who settled in Pannonia, now modern Hungary. When the Romans subjugated a race and took their men into the armed forces they would post them to outposts far from their home country to limit the number of desertions and revolts in the ranks. Thus any Britons captured by the Romans would have been sent to distant outposts.

After the Romans withdrew from Britain in 418 AD, caused by the attack on the Roman Empire by the Gauls, the area became the target of the Picts and the Scots raiders. Despite desperate please to the Romans no help was forthcoming therefore the Britons turned to the Angles for help.
In due course the marauders were driven away by the Angles with the help of the Jutes and Saxons, who then settled in the area. Unfortunately they also chose to conquer the native Britons whom they had come to help.

Evidence of Saxon settlement are indicated by place names that had such endings as Ham, Ley or Ton as well as Burgh, Worth and Stead. Hence Meltham, Honley, Bradley, Dalton, Deighton and Almondbury all indicate Saxon settlement.

After the Saxon settlement the area was an invasion by the Norsemen who affected settlements in the area, among the Saxons, by force or by treaty. Birkby, Fixby, Quarmby, Linthwaite, Slaithwaite, Lingards, Upperthong, Netherthong (from the Danish 'Thing', a place of military gathering) Kirkheaton and Kirkburton all have names of Danish origin.

In the time of the Saxons, Almondbury was a place of some importance.
It was then a royal seat and graced with a church, built by Paulinus, dedicated to St Alban.

In the cruel war between Ceadwall the Briton and Penda the Mercian waged upon Edwin, the Prince of these territories, the church was burnt down.

Edwin was the first Christian monarch of Northumbria - made king in AD 547.
Paulinus, the Companion of St Augustine, first came into these parts having been consecrated Bishop of York in July 625.

1066 And Beyond
Earliest mention of the district in which Huddersfield now stands is in the Domesday Book where Odersfelt is mentioned.
Translation - Huddersfield probably means "The Field of an Englishman called Huthhere, or of a Scandinavian called Hather".

Also from the Domesday Book the following place names can be gathered.
Bradley (Bradeleia)
Lindley (Lillaia)
Quarmby (Camebi) Cornebi
Golcar (Gudlagsare)
Crosland (Croisland)
Thornhill (Torni)
Almondbury (Almondeberie)
Farnley (Fereleia)
Honley (Haneleia)
Meltham (Meltha)
Hopton (Hoptone)
Lepton (Leptone)
Whitley (Witelai)
Mirfield (Mirefelt)
Dalton (Daltone)
Elland (Elant)

According to the Domesday book 'in Odersfelt Godwin had six carucates of land to be taxed, affording occupation of eight ploughs.
Now the same has it of Ilbert (Ilbert de Laci) but it is waste.'
In the time of King Edward it was valued at 100 shillings. ( A carucate, hide or plow of land was about 120 acres. The pound was the value of a pound of silver.)

The barbarity of the Conquerer can be noted by the word 'waste', especially as Huddersfield was deemed fertile and advanced in civilization than most of Britain at the time.

It transpires that while William was in Normandy the British subjects rebelled against the oppressive regime of the Normans.
Whilst under the command of the earls Morcar and Edwin they attacked the city of York, expelling the garrison, slew the governor and killed many of his retainers.
The battle, in 1069, resulted in 3,000 Norman dead.

William, in his fury, exacted terrible revenge on York and levelled it to the ground.
Still dissatisfied he sent his followers over the whole country with orders to kill, burn and destroy. True to his word 100,000 men, women and children were killed and all their chattels destroyed.

William then bestowed the Barony of Pontefract on Ilbert de Lacy who became founder of one of the most powerful families of the north (AD 1092).

The de Lacy's founded the religious houses of Nostell, Pontefract and Kirkstall.
They also obtained the Earldom of Lincoln, the extensive lordship of Blackburnshire in the county of Lancaster: they had no less than 25 towns in the Wapentake of Morley and the greater part of 150 manors in the West Riding, one of the families is believed to be the founders of the Parish Church of Huddersfield.

At the time of the Domesday Book the fuedal system consisted of the followinfg heirarchy (in descending order):
Kings
Tenants-in-Chief (e.g. Ilbert de Lacy)
Sub-Tenants (e.g.Godwin of Huddersfield - see above)
Dwellers of the Manor (i.e. Freemen, Socmen, Villeins, Cottars and Bordars

Rent, as we understand it, was paid for by services or kind or both. The Tenants-in-Chief gave personal service to the kings in times of war and paid the recognized feudal dues; the villein, on the other hand, worked on the lord's (e.g. Ilbert de Lacy) land (the lord's demesne) so many days a week and also did extra work at such times as harvest (boon work); they could not leave the manors where they were born, could not marry their daughter's without the lord's consent, and had to grind their corn at the kings mill.
(One of the earliest mills of this type could be found on Kings Mill Lane at Aspley close to the confluence of the Colne and Holme rivers and, although the mill has been demolished for many years, one can still see the damming of the River Colne that diverted the water towards the mill wheel.)
The restrictions on the villeins seem to be harsh at first sight and villeins are considered as slaves. But this was wrong If they were unable to leave their manor it was no great hardship in those days, for all manors were more or less all the same, and feudal tenure was universal, while travelling was difficult and dangerous. The villein had possibly as much economic freedom as the average workman of the twentieth century, for he had his own holding and was free to cultivate it when he was not working for his lord in lieu of rent.

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SOURCES
- HUDDERSFIELD, ITS HISTORY AND NATURAL HISTORY, CHAS P. HOBKIRK, 1868

- HUDDERSFIELD & ITS VICINITY by DFE SYKES, 1898
- HISTORY OF HUDDERSFIELD AND DISTRICT by TAYLOR DYSON 1932

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