Amblecote Normans

1066 - 1154

The Norman Conquest wrought massive change upon Anglo-Saxon England, and Amblecote was not spared. If William the Bastard's victory at Hastings was something of a surprise, the devastation of great swathes of England that followed simply reinforced the Conqueror's reputation for ruthless cruelty. Any area that defied him - and Staffordshire was one - was simply 'laid waste'. The division of the Kingdom, of which William personally took half, was equally rapine; with Williams 'nobles' (a term that should not be confused with any concept of men of a higher culture) quarelling amongst themselves to gain a greater shares of estates. In 1086 William decided to draw a line under this general lawlessness (in as much as it was reducing his tax revenues) and commissioned the infamous Domesday Book in which Amblecote first appears in written history; its size and value carefully assessed. Domesday also allows us a glimpse of Williams wider strategic aims, with Amblecote in the possession of a trusted lieutenant, William Fitz Ansculf, who had been charged with the defense of the west midlands against an assortment of fugitive Saxons in uneasy alliance with the Welsh. Ansculf (and later his son) made their local headquarters at Dudley, where they built a castle; and the various estates they were granted in the surrounding area, including Amblecote, were designed to support this. This was, in fact, defense in depth. Dudley and its environs representing a heartland from which the Normans could project power onto the 'front line' of the Severn Valley and Welsh Marches. The peasant farmers of Amblecote found themselves working for and being taxed by a foreign power in support of a war against their own liberation. Yet, despite the Norman grip on power, such was the efficiency of the former Saxon state and the depth of its long standing culture that Amblecote remained essentially 'English' at its core. So much so that, in time and in common with the rest of country, a new post-Conquest England eventually emerged. The 'what if' game of history is never so fascinating than when applied to 1066; but it is a certainty that the historical record of Amblecote would be less complete had Harold Godwinson and not William the Conqueror prevailed at Hastings.