How did William take long term control of England?

William used the methods of control that he was most familiar with: castles and the feudal system. But he also adopted a new method in the form of the Domesday Book.

  • Castles: William had new, loyal nobles from Normandy build over 100 castles all over the country. They were built extremely quickly, some in just eight days! From their castles, the new Norman lords could control the local area, and the sight of them made it clear who was now in control. The need for quick constructions meant materials such as earth and wood were used and although this sped up the building process, it meant they didn’t last very long. Over time, the more important ones were rebuilt from stone.
Carrickfergus Castle in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, built in Norman times.
Carrickfergus Castle in Northern Ireland, originally built in Norman times
  • The feudal system: William could not be everywhere at the same time. To solve this, he lent parcels of his new lands to nobles, or barons, as they were called at the time. In return for loyalty and taxes, they could use the land. The barons then loaned the land to knights who in turn loaned it to peasants who then did all of the hard farming work! If the barons betrayed William, they would lose their land, and the wealth that came with it.
  • The Domesday Book: the book was the end result of a survey of all of England by William to assess the value of the country. It took his two sets of officials a year to complete. The first group asked questions of the people. The questions concerned the value of farms and animals which created England’s wealth at the time. The second group checked the first group’s answers to see if they had told the truth. The book is still in existence today.
The Domesday Book.
The Domesday Book