Although on the route of early Roman invaders, and probably the Saxons and Vikings who followed them, Bemerton was first mentioned in the 11th century Domesday Book following the Norman invasion.
William the Conqueror ordered that a record be compiled that contained information on the people and their possessions. Officials from the King were sent to every town and village across the country to find out what each person owned. The King used this information to find out how much the land was worth so that he could tax the people who lived on it.
At the time of the survey, which was completed in 1086, Bemerton consisted of two modest and separate pieces of land. The larger was owned by Aldred, a nobleman; the smaller by Aiulf, Sherriff of Dorset. Together, they comprised four households, land for ploughing, four acres of meadowland and a mill.
Extracts from The Domesday Book (written in Latin)
Images courtesy of Professor John Palmer and George Slater, University of Hull
The Domesday Book above shows two different spellings for the lands – ‘Bimertone’ for Aldred’s land and ‘Bermentone’ for Aiulf’s - but both pieces of land, and perhaps some others, were eventually merged and now form part of present-day Bemerton.
Between the 11th and 16th centuries, Bemerton had passed through the hands of various lords but was still almost entirely agricultural in nature, while the population had not increased much since the Domesday survey.
By 1642, the population had increased to 26 adult men, most of whom still worked on the land. Together with their families, the population of the village had grown to about 75. According to historian John Chandler (‘A Country Parson’s Flock: Bemerton 1632’) Bemerton was on the route between outlying villages and the enticing city of Salisbury. The cathedral city was in turmoil, ravaged by plague, and struggling to cope with the ‘haves and have-nots’. The city was finding it difficult to cope with an influx of vagrants and rough sleepers tramping through places like Bemerton to find that Salisbury’s streets were not paved with gold and being sent back again the way they had come.