The Domesday Book has been published online for the first time, and you can check out what Preston was like all the way back in 1086.
Open Domesday, set up by Anna Powell-Smith, allows you to type in your postcode and find the Domesday listing nearest to you. Preston was part of the Amounderness – a hundred small territories in (present-day) Lancashire that have now become known as Fylde, Wyre, Preston and the Ribble Valley.
Speaking to Anna, she said: “I was really surprised to see that the National Archives didn’t offer a free copy of Domesday online – you have to pay for access, and the search isn’t very good. This seemed like a shame.
“So I went hunting for Domesday data, and found (hidden in a dark, dark corner of an academic data site) that the Arts and Humanities Research Council had funded a CD-ROM in the 1980s and the raw data had been released”.
Anyone interested in obtaining the raw data that allowed Anna to create the map can find it at the Economic and Social Data Service here.
A quick search for Preston reveals that compared to other Domesday settlements residents paid a medium amount of tax, and that in 1086 Preston had three churches. You can also search by postcode to find out what life was like in your area of Preston.
“As a Lancastrian, I was horrified to see that Lancashire didn’t exist in the data, and at first I assumed I had made a mistake somewhere in the conversion” said Anna. “But I’m sorry to say that Lancashire really didn’t exist in 1086 – everything we now think of as Lancashire was either in Cheshire or Yorkshire!”
After adding the data to a Google map, Anna added a few details about each place to give more context. Visitors to the site can see statistics on population, and whether they’re comparatively big or small compared to other settlements, with most of the places in today’s Lancashire seeming quite sparse.
Anna hopes to develop the project and enable people to carry out research by opening up the service.
“It’s all part of making the Domesday Book data as open as possible. We’d like to add English and Latin text, and make it searchable, I’d be very happy to hear from anyone who’d like to help with the project”.
You can get in touch with Anna via her Twitter account at @darkgreener and follow the progress of Open Domesday at @opendomesday.