England Finding and Using Manor Court Records (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Court Records-Criminal, Civil and Ecclesiastical  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).







Manor Courts (cont.)

Chart: Format of a Court Roll or Record
There is some variation in the order of items after the first two.

Name of manor, lord and steward.
Place and date of court.
Essoins (excuses).
List of homage (jury) of 12 or more men.
Appointment of officers.
Presentments.
  1. Court Baron (and transactions)
  2. View of Frankpledge where the tenants reported on misdeeds and named those responsible—there is much that is entertaining and curious here.
  3. Custom breach and variation.


Chart: A Whole Court Record 1770
Manor of Chipping Barnet and East Barnet, Hertfordshire

Film 1537716

The Manor of Chipping Barnett and East Barnett
17 April 1770
The Court of View of Frankpledge with the General Court Baron
of Margaret Thomlinson widow, Barlow Freedthick esquire and
Laurence Holker gentleman, guardians of Mary Thomlinson an
infant Lady of the said Manor held at Chipping Barnett within and
for the said Manor on Tuesday the 17th day of April 1770 before
the said Laurence Holker steward (by patent thereof)
The Grand Inquest of the Lord the King
Sworn: John Rumball, Henry Worster, Samuel Bartlet, Seth
Henson, William Warner, William Alien, Peter Sprecklison,
Richard Wilkinson, Robert Tapster, James Grant, John Naylor,
John Chapman, Henry Clark, Robert Bishop, George Lillington,
Joseph Stevens, William Lamphigh, Daniel Miller, Joseph
Rodbard, John Childers, Thomas Brack.
Officer presented, chosen and sworn for the year ensuing

For Chipping Barnett
Constables: William Allen Rich. Doubleday
Headboroughs William Field John Burton
Aleconners William Lamphigh John Kirby
For East Barnett
Constable John White
Headborough Thomas Lawford
For Mims Side
Constable John Niven (?)
Headborough Samuel Cooper
Common Keepers Thomas Steel William Kirby
At this Court came the severall capital pledges for the parishes and places undernamed and paid to their common fine for their several places to the Lady of the Manor aforesaid the several sums of money following, that is to say,
For Chipping Barnet 8s }
For East Barnett 6s } 16s
For Mims Side 2s }
Now of the Court Baron
The Homage - Sworn George Nicoll
William Beatty
Edward White
At this Court the Homage aforesaid present -
[there follow 12 pages of land matters dealt with by the Court Baaron - see the course on
English Land Records]


Some examples of presentations are shown next:


Estreat Book of the Clink Liberty, Manor of Southwark,
Surrey 10 October 1708 Film 15377126
Wee present Edward Alexander and Company for their Glasshouse
in Beargarden Yard for the Annoyance by smoak etc. and therefore
doe amerce them to pay twenty shillings.

We present Jo" Adams and Company for continuing a melting
furnace on the bank side within this mannor whereby the
inhabitants and her Majesties Leigh people passing that way are
very much annoyed by a sulpherious smell coming from yt said
furnace. And therefore doe amerce them to pay forty shillings.


Manor of Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey 1784
Film 1040053
We present Samual Barnes, Kingston labourer for keeping hogs in
a stye in the Back Lane in Kingston and for throwing the dung and 
filth arising there into the said Lane being a public nuisance to all
his Majesty’s Liege Subjects passing and repassing this way.

We present The Inhabitants of the Parish of Kingston for not
repairing and mending a certain town sewer in the Back Lane in
Kingston leading from the Hog Market to Mr Pinner’s
Slaughterhouse there by reason whereof the water and filth which
used to run along the same common sewer is prevented from so
doing and is a common nuisance to all his Majesty’s Liege
Subjects passing and repassing that way.

We present John Hind for laying a Quantity of Couch [undesirable
grass] on the Waste of this manor near Low Lane being
detrimental to the Herbage there 9yds by 6, And we amerce him
for the same 2/-.


Court roll of Wakefield, Manor, Yorkshire 1274
[from Petyt]
Soureby. Jordan de Schakeltonstall and his accomplice were
charged with taking a stag in the Forest of Soureby.
Wakefield.
John Grafford was fined 12d for letting his dog chase the Earl’s game in the forest.
Sourbey.
Jordan de Werlowely was fined 6d for chattering in
court.


Court Book of Goddard Manor, Swindon, Wiltshire 1750
[see Cole and Titford]

Also they humbly request and desire the Lord of the Mannor to repair the Markett Cross, and provide Weight and Scales for the Casuals, and also to Erect a Blind House [lock-up] within the Borough the same being greatly wanted.


Court Roll of Manor of Herstmonceux, Sussex 1686
Breach of Custom of the Manor [from Snatt]

This extract dated 6 April 1686 recites that on 8 October 1649
Stephen Snat and Judith his wife surrendered a messuage or
tenement and premises and 14 acres of land called Pendlands in
Herstmonceux to the use of themselves for life and the life of the
longer liver with remainder to the right heirs of the said Stephen
and they were admitted.
The homage present that the said Stephen, without licence of the
lord contrary to the custom of the manor, topped various oak trees
growing on the premises called Pendlands. Therefore the said
tenement was forfeited, but at this Court the lord graciously
accepted £20 in satisfaction of the said forfeiture and granted the
said tenement and lands to the said Stephen and Judith as before.


Records, where they survive, continue until 1922 on the demise of copyhold land, or to the date of enfranchisement of all copyhold land in that manor if earlier. There are a very few courts that still survive, mainly to supervise remaining common lands.

Manorial and Medieval Records

McLaughlin (Manorial Records. The author, 1996) and Overton (A Guide to the Medieval Manor. Local History Publications, Streatham, London, 1994) both have readable accounts of the manor, its customs and records, but the latter is more substantial. Palgrave-Moore (How to Locate and Use Manorial Documents. Elvery Dowers Publications, Norwich, Norfolk, 1985), Harvey (Manorial Court Rolls. #47 in Short Guides to Records edited by Kathryn M. Thompson. Historical Association, London. GSU book 942 A3t v2. and on film 0990062 and Park (My Ancestors Were Manorial Tenants. How Can I Find out More about Them. Society of Genealogists, 1990) are short useful guides to the records but outdated on finding aids. Ellis (Using Manorial Records. Public Record Office Publications in association with the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, 1997) concentrates on the records at TNA, and Stuart (Manorial Records: An Introduction to Their Transcription and Translation. Phillimore, Chichester, Sussex, 1992) is ideal for those wanting practice in deciphering the older material as it is superbly illustrated with originals and transcripts. Morley (Writing a Family History: Some Problems and Solutions: Manorial Records. Family Tree Magazine Vol 9 #4, page 27-29) shows how persistence, even with Latin text pays off in putting your ancestors in context amongst their neighbours.

Manorial Documents Register

TNA research guides L1 and L9 deal mainly with their holdings, whilst L25 describes the MDR (Manorial Documents Register) which is the finding aid for all extant manorial documents.

This is online at National Archives and identifies the location of original manorial records and refers to any published edition, transcription or translation. The MDR is available online for counties in England: Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cumberland, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Isle of Wight, Lancashire North of the Sands (the Furness area, now part of Cumbria), Middlesex, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Surrey, Westmorland, the three Ridings of Yorkshire; and all of Wales.

Court Leet and Court Roll Records

The many manorial records that have been filmed can be found on the FamilySearch Catalog under MANORS, MANORS—COURTS and COURTS for the county and place. Examples of filmed originals include:

  • Court Leet books for Newport, Hampshire 1617-1848 on three films commencing at Film 1470988.
  • Court Leet records for the Liberty of St. Peter, York on film 1545354.
  • Court Rolls of Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey 1434-1835 on four films starting at Film 1040050.

Manor Court Records

There are many translated, transcribed and published manor court records as well, which are noted in the MDR (Manorial Documents Register), such as:

  • Court Rolls of the manor of Chilham, Kent 1654-1656 by Jessup who provides a learned introduction.
  • Court Rolls of the Honor of Clitheroe, Lancashire 1568-1571 by Simpson.
  • Court Rolls of Chalgrave Manor, Bedfordshire 1278-1313 by Dale.

Strugnell (The Family of Strugnell - Manorial Tenants. East Surrey Family History Society Journal Vol 17 #1, page 17-21) describes the manorial tenants in his family, and Franklin tells of mediaeval life in Gloucestershire seen through court rolls. Jessel (The Law of the Manor. Bary Rose Law Publishers, Chichester, West Sussex) has a text for lawyers interested in the development of the law of the manor. The farcical situation of the sale of manorial lordships is explored by Knight (Me Experience of Buying a Manorial Lordship. Hampshire Family Historian Vol 30 #1, page 51).

Manor Records are sometimes found in amongst a mixture of other items, for example when solicitors deposit their papers at an archive. An example is the material relating to Tonbridge 1689-1946 from Walker, Templer and Thomson at Kent County Archives on fiche 6074026(2); this includes manorial records, probates of wills and admons, marriage settlements, a bankruptcy petition, deeds of separation, releases and other deeds of personal estate, agreements and bonds for employments and maps.


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Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Court Records-Criminal, Civil and Ecclesiastical offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.