After the battle at Hastings, William and his commanders took steps to secure the conquered kingdom. This they did with great cruelty leading to regional rebellions in 1068 and 1069. The Anglo-Saxons sought support from the Danes but the latter were paid off by William and they returned home. To suppress the uprisings, a network of castles, ten miles apart, was built and the countryside in between was laid waste.
Gillian showed a map of the extensive region harried by the Normans. Beginning south of Shrewsbury and extending to Stafford, Chester, Tadcaster, York and the Humber, the devastation continued to the Tees and the coast south of present day Middlesbrough. “All the sources of life north of the Humber were destroyed”, including seed corn, animals, and food. One hundred thousand people starved to death. Horses, dogs, cats, and even people were eaten. Many fled south to monasteries such as Evesham. Only twenty percent of Yorkshire’s population remained.
In the aftermath, northern estates were reorganised. Many Anglo-Saxon lords, whom William had initially tried to keep on his side, lost their land. For example, Gamalbar owned 60 manors in 1066 but none by 1086, losing lands in Grassington, Threshfield, Eastburn, and Linton to Gilbert Tison. Roger de Poitou was given large areas of the Forest of Bowland, Ribblesdale, parts of
Airedale and Arncliffe and Linton in Wharfedale. Lands held by the Percys were centred on Skipton with some to the south of Gisburn. The King’s thegns held Kettlewell and Burnsall, and the King himself kept areas in Airedale near Kildwick and Keighley. Annual income from land dropped dramatically. Drogo de Beuvrière, who was given land in Holderness, seems to have lost most, his revenue falling from £561 7s to £94 3s.
Some have thought that William made a deathbed confession, recorded by Orderic Vitalis, repenting the death and devastation he had caused. Gillian’s view of this? “No way, this was propaganda.”