Domesday Year

By Michael Blakstad for Meon Matters, 2010

The History Group is keen to compile recollections of events in East Meon which might be of interest to future generations. Contact Michael Blakstad (823 337) if you do …. You can either describe your memories to one of us, and we will take notes, or write them down. Photographs and other memorabilia are especially welcome. The results will be recorded and stored in our archive (and your precious souvenirs returned to you …)

Here is Michael’s second attempt to record an event which has taken place during his time in the village.

The Domesday# Book was published in 1086. Nine hundred years later, the Hampshire County Museum service decided to mount an exhibition in the Winchester Great Hall, and in it, to feature a ‘typical’ village of the time. Although East Meon has no buildings surviving from that time, its layout has not changed and it was important as the property of the Bishop of Winchester, who held his assizes in The Court Hall. Unbeknownst to anyone in East Meon, we were chosen as ‘The Domesday Village’.

East Meon at the time of the Domesday Book, as envisaged by historians. In Saxon times it was a minster, an important administrative centre.

A splendid model was built to illustrate what East Meon would have looked like at the time. (After the exhibition in Winchester was finished, the model was sold to La Musee de la Tapisserie in Bayeux – a floor below the great Bayeux tapestry.)

Sunday TImes Domesday Exhibition

Sunday TImes Domesday Exhibition. One of three panels featuring East Meon as ‘The Domesday Village’.

The Sunday Times agreed to publish a colour supplement on the project – featuring a fanciful illustration of William the Conqueror on the cover.

The village formed a steering group, uncertain whether we should publicise the project and gear up for possible hordes of visitors, or try and limit the publicity and the damage. I was co-opted to act as PR adviser, since I was working at TVS at the time. I pointed out that it is more challenging to limit publicity than to encourage it! At times, our debate resembled scenes from the novel Clochemerle. A key issue was providing WC facilities for short-taken visitors. Parking was, of course, an issue, especially for charabancs. It was felt that the shops and pubs (yes, there was more than one shop then) should seize the opportunity to provide refreshments.

In the end, we decided not to initiate publicity ourselves, but to prepare the village for the possible invasion. Parking for buses (and a temporary WC) were made available at the lay-by half a mile south of the village on the Clanfield road. Peter and Audrey Street, who lived until recently at the School House, opened their garden to the public (they specialised in growing geraniums). This proved to be the springboard for the subsequent Gardens Open events which raise money for the Good Causes Fund. Another by-product of the Domesday Village year was the planting of several English native trees along the footpath beyond the cricket field.

# For those who are used to the spelling ‘Doomsday’, this is the original, and now the trendy, version.