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Crime and punishment during the Norman Conquest

For some time after the Norman Conquest, Saxon law still applied and if you killed someone you had to pay the dead man's lord a fine. We know what the fines were in Herefordshire because they were written down in the Herefordshire Customs, which can be found in the Domesday Book for Herefordshire.

"If anyone kills one of the King's men or commits house-breaking, he gives the King 20s as payment for the man and 100s in forfeiture. If anyone has killed a thane's man, he gives 10s to the dead man's lord."

The law, however, was different for the Welsh who lived in Archenfield, which today is the area around Ross-on-Wye.

"But if a Welshman has killed a Welshman, the relatives of the slain man gather and despoil the killer and his relatives and burn their houses until the body of the dead man is buried the next day about midday. The King has the third part of this plunder, but they have all the rest free."

Archenfield is in the south-west of the county. For a long time the border with Wales was the river Wye. Many place names in this part of Herefordshire attest to its Welsh origins (e.g. Llanwarne and Llangarron).

To make sure that the Herefordshire men of Welsh descent fought bravely on the side of the English, the men of Ross had to be in the front of the troops when attacking and at the back when retreating:

"When the army advances of the enemy, these men by custom form the vanguard and on their return the rearguard. These were the customs of the Welshmen in Archenfield before 1066."

[Original author: Toria Forsyth-Moser, 2002]