BARWICK MANOR IN 1425 PART I : THE TENANTS Back to the Main Historical Society page



Barwicker No.25
March 1992

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There are few sources of information about Barwick in medieval times, so we are grateful that the Thoresby Society (Vol.XXVIII, 1928) transcribed, translated from the Latin and published an 'extent' or list of the rentals paid in 1425 by the tenants to the lord of the manor of Barwick. This was in the Duchy of Lancaster and it came into the ownership of the Crown when Henry IV became King. The lord of the manor in 1425 was his grandson, Henry VI, who was only a boy of three years of age at the time. The extent was drawn up by the lord's steward and a jury of 18 inhabitants of the manor. A similar extent for Scholes manor is given separately.

The manor included the lands associated with Barwick itself and also Barnbow, Potterton, Kiddal and 'Woodhouse', which have separate sections in the text. The document is not a complete survey of the manor and contains little information about the land occupied by the lord himself or that of the Rector. It gives the name of the manorial tenants, describes their land holdings and gives details of the rents and services paid by them to the lord. The document allows us to draw some sort of picture of the economic conditions, the rights and the responsibilities of the several types of tenants in their working and personal lives.

The term 'formerly' appears often in the text and this refers to an earlier extent of 1341, an extract of which appears in Rev. Colman's 'History of the Parish of Barwick-in-Elmet'. From the detail he gives, it is clear that there have been few changes in the land holdings and in the rents and services paid in the eighty or more years between the surveys.

One of the most interesting tenants was John Langton, knight, who held the vill of Potterton by what was termed 'the service of one knight's fee' for which he paid the lord the token sum of 1d per annum. This practice began when William I sought to establish a professional army of some five thousand armed and trained mounted knights, whom he could call upon to defend his realm. He required that his tenants in chief, Ilbert de Lacy in this area, should provide him with a specified number of such soldiers and for this purpose they gave grants of land to support the knights in question. This was the knight's fee and it was hereditary, passing to the heir on the death of the knight. In 1341, the fee was held by Sir Robert de Nevill. The extent gives no indication of how the land in Potterton was worked and how many people lived there.

Another substantial land holder was Robert Ellis, who occupied a 'capital messuage' or manor house and 136 acres of arable land and 16 acres of meadow, which were termed the 'New Demesne Lands' and for which he paid a rent of £6.13s.4d. per annum. The arable land was in 'the east field, the west field and the north field' but just where this land lay we do not know. It was 'farmed' to 16 tenants of the manor. The land had been granted in 1355 to Thomas Ellis (father of Robert) 'to himself and the heirs of his body' by the then lord of the manor, Henry Duke of Lancaster, the great-great-grandfather of Henry VI. The term demesne suggests that this land had in the past formed part of the land occupied by the lord himself and farmed by his servants, that is his 'home farm'.

There were other 'free' tenants in the manor, including Thomas Ellis, (the son of Robert), who held a considerable amount of land in Barwick and Kiddal. Free tenants did not own the freehold of the land but paid an annual rent to the lord of the manor. They were free of labour and other services, except 'suit of court', where the tenant renewed his allegiance to the lord and agreed to accept the customs of the manor. The land could be passed on to the tenant's heir on payment of double rent for the first year. Thomas Ellis also held in Woodhouse nine messuages (houses) and ten bovates of land listed under the heading of 'free ferm', for which he paid an annual rent of £4. A bovate was a measure of arable land the area of which varied from place to place but which was between ten and twenty acres. This land was granted to him 'by charter and to the heirs of his body' but there was a severe penalty for default. 'If the said rent shall be in arrears for forty days, then it shall be lawful for the lord to enter upon the said parcels and to hold them to him and his heirs for ever'.

Another section of the document list 'tenants in bondage'. There were nine holdings each comprising one messuage and a bovate of arable land. For this, the tenant paid an annual rent of 7s.10d. but there were substantial services and other duties which the tenant owed to the lord. He had to provide two hens at Christmas of value 4d. and 30 eggs at Easter of value 1½d. He had to pay 2d. for an unexplained item called 'ovenage'. He had to provide two men for twelve days to help to cut the lord's corn 'receiving daily one wheat loaf and two herrings to the value of three farthings'. The value of this work after the expenses for the food had been allowed was 2s. The tenant also had to provide one man to cut for twelve days at the end of autumn, without any food supplied and the value of this work was 12d. This brought the value of the tenant's rent and services to a total of 11s.5½d. per annum.

Described in the extent are other responsibilities imposed by the lord on his tenant in bondage, who had to carry out when chosen the duties of reeve, an officer responsible for overseeing the proper administration of the agricultural system of the manor. He was not to allow his son to become a priest or his daughter to marry without the lord's permission, presumably because these acts might result in a loss of labour in the manor.

The tenant was not allowed to leave the manor, hence the term bondage. However, he had important rights and some of these are detailed in the extent. It would be one of the duties of the jury to see that this was done. The tenant at this time had fixture of tenure to a substantial degree and could not be evicted from his holding without due cause. His land could be passed on to his heirs. The text says that 'after his death, his holding shall remain in the lord's hand until his wife or next of blood satisfy for entry', that is pay a 'fine' and make suit of court. The tenant then could think of the land to a considerable degree as his own. In these circumstances, it would be little hardship to be bound to the manor if by leaving it the tenant lost his land and his livelihood.

The rent and services, and their value, stated in the document are identical with those in the extent of 1341 and may have been fixed long before this. This was of considerable benefit to the tenant at this time as inflation had reduced the value of money. His payment was less than an economic rent and so working his land would yield some profit. In these circumstances it was in the interest of the tenant to have his labour services commuted to money payments if the lord agreed.

This tendency is illustrated in the details of the holdings of six other tenants under the heading of 'villeins holding'. They carried out no labour services but paid a higher rent of 15s. to 18s. for a messuage and a bovate of arable land. They were however still required to be reeve when chosen and they had the same obligations with respect to their sons and daughters. 'Entry' or the transfer of property after the death of the tenant was unchanged. These new arrangements might have been introduced when another family took over the tenancy as the names of the tenants in the previous survey are included. Some of the tenants listed here and also some of those described as tenants in bondage rented other land in 'The Ancient Demesne', which will be described later.

There are four tenants described as 'cotters who do works', who each held in bondage a cottage with a 'toft', that is a small plot on which the dwelling stood. They paid only 8d. rent per year but they were required to carry out considerable labour services. Each tenant 'shall lead straw for thatching of the house for one day, receiving nothing (in food), or he shall pay 1d., and he shall wash and sheer the lord's sheep for one day or shall pay 1d. He shall weed the lord's corn for five days by sickle receiving nothing or shall pay 5d., and he shall cut the lord's corn for twelve days with one man in autumn receiving from the lord one loaf and two herrings of the price of 3/4d., or shall pay the lord, after his expenses, 12d.' Payment of ovenage and the requirements as regards sons, daughters and entry were as described above for the tenants in bondage. The total value of the rent and services was 2s.5d. for each cotter.

There are sixteen named tenants who are described as 'cotters without works', who paid a rent of 3s.0d. for a cottage and toft, but did no labour service. There are also three or four tenants described as 'cotters of less rent' who held for a reduced rent either a cottage only or one with some small piece of ground. The services of both these classes of cotter with respect to ovenage, sons, daughters and entry are as described above. Several tenants also hold small plots of land, listed under the headings 'new rent' and 'termors'.

There is described in the document some land which is termed 'The Ancient Demesnes'. We must presume from the name that this was once part of the lord's home farm. It consists of about 150 acres of arable land and meadow, containing 23 named parcels of land, divided up into 71 separate holdings and leased at a total rent of £4.9s.0d. to 33 tenants of all types, including about half of those listed as cotters. The listing of names in the document shows us that a few cotters also held land under the headings of 'tenants in bondage' and of 'villeins holding'. Some cotters would work for wages on the land of the lord or some other large landholder. It was also from this class of manorial tenant that the village craftsmen arose - blacksmith, wheelwright, tailor, etc.

There are 67 tenants of various types named in the rentals of Barwick manor. However, the extent for the neighbouring manor of Scholes shows that seven of these had dwellings in Scholes, leaving a total of 60 living in Barwick and renting land from the lord. In addition there are the 16 tenants of Robert Ellis on the New Demesne lands. This total agrees well with the 77 dwellings (52 messuages and 25 cottages), listed in the document. This means that in 1425 more than half of the people in Barwick manor gained their livelihood by working land that they rented from the lord. Others would rent land from other freeholders such as John Langton in Potterton and John Grenefeld, whose land in Barnbow subsequently passed to the Gascoigne family. The rest of the population would work for wages for the lord or the other freeholders.


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