FROM AUGUST 16, 2006

In AUGUST 2006 the Domesday Book, which was held at the National Archives in Kew, was hauled into the 21st century and made available for the first time online.

When Norman scribes compiled the book 1,000 years ago, all Kingston was was 15 ploughs, one church and 40 acres of meadow with five watermills.

Prompted by a threat of invasion from Denmark, William the Conqueror commissioned the book in 1085 to find out how many military and financial resources he had at his disposal.

As a royal manor, Kingston was held directly by the crown as part of the king’s personal estate.

William – a fanatical hunter – is thought to have kept part of the royal stud here.

The book survived the First and Second World Wars I and II stored in a prison for safe-keeping and even emerged unscorched from the Great Fire of London after it was sent to Nonsuch Palace near Epsom for safekeeping.

It travelled in the company of royalty and earned its place in history as one of the most remarkable and comprehensive surveys of land and resources ever commissioned.

Written in 11th-century Latin, the 920-year-old manuscript was translated, PDFd and put online.

Domesday specialist Adrian Ailes said the book provided a snapshot of England in the late 11th century and mentioned some interesting laws and customs.

He said: “It is the curiosity value which will get the better of people. Most people will be looking to find a place they recognise, they’ll want to find out what the landscape was like and what sort of people were there.”

John Whiting, a tax partner with accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, saw the book as an early effort to codify the tax system.

He said: “A lot of ploughs are mentioned. Was it something the king was trying to codify?

"Did it spark something in someone’s bureaucratic mind? Could we tax ploughs?”

In Weybridge, there were eight acres of meadow, woodland for two pigs and one plough.

Cobham had land for 10 ploughs, three watermills and one acre of meadow.

Mr Ailes said: “When all the information had been collected, the commissioners visited county courts to test the accuracy of the information provided.

"Jurors were summoned to verify the accuracy under oath.

“In those days when you swore on oath, your soul was on the line.”