In 1086 King William the Conqueror ordered a great survey of England, now known as the Domesday
Book. As one might expect, the reason he wanted to know what everyone owned in England was that he
needed to levy taxes more efficiently.
It is disappointing that in Domesday Book, Langham was included as part of Oakham, so that we have no
knowledge of what there was in Langham in 1086. King Edward the Confessor, who died in 1066, had
given part of Rutland, including Oakham and Langham, to his wife Edith in his Will, intending that on her
death it should form part of the possessions of Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately King William did not
allow this to come into effect. All Westminster eventually got was the Manor of Oakham with
Barleythorpe and the great tithes (on cereal crops) for Langham and other villages. Langham itself was
attached to the other Oakham Manor (usually known as Lordshold) and the first reference to a separate
Manorial Court for Langham is in 1398.
The earliest dwelling houses in the village (which would have been very modest half-timbered structures,
roofed with thatch) are thought to have been in the area near Weston’s Lane, on the north side of the
church. As more land was cleared for agriculture the village would have spread east and west along the
borders of the stream. The road from Oakham to Whissendine ran through the centre of the village -
there are the remains of a much older bridge under the present bridge in Bridge Street.
The villagers were all tenants of the Manor of Oakham Lordshold and in return for the right to cultivate
strips of land in the open fields of Langham they would be bound by custom to perform work on the
Lord’s own land. The land was divided into open fields which were cultivated in accordance with a
rotation laid down by custom. A few of the tenants were free men, others would be serfs or bondsmen.
A serf was not a slave, he had definite legal rights, but he was obliged to live in the village and carry out
work on the Lord’s land as dictated by custom, or pay money in lieu. As time went on most bondsmen
obtained their freedom, as late as 1525 a bondsman named William Dykeman alias Clarke obtained his
freedom. The open fields of Langham were not enclosed by Act of Parliament as in many villages, but
they seem to have been divided up soon after the Noel family bought the manorial rights about 1600.
Langham Village History Group ~ © 1996 - 2022
Langham in the 2nd Millenium - by David Tew