Medieval Scholes PART I

Medieval Scholes


from The Barwicker No. 49

Back to the Main Historical Society page
Back to the Barwicker Contents page

We know nothing of Scholes in Saxon times. The Domesday Book of 1086, twenty years after the Norman conquest, does not mention Scholes but there is no doubt that it was at that time part of the manor of Ledston, Kippax and Barwick, which had been granted to Ilbert de Lascy as part of the Honour of Pontefract. A manor was the estate of a single lord which was worked as an economic unit and which had a separate value put on it for taxation purposes.

At some time after this, Barwick and Scholes became separate manors. By about 1240 in the early part of the reign of Henry III, the lordship of the manor of Scholes had by some means passed to Roger de Quency, Earl of Winchester. In 1253-4, the manor was returned to the de Lascy family when Roger de Quency transferred it to Edmund de Lascy in an exchange.

In 1256, in a settlement made for the marriage of Henry de Lascy, son of Edmund, and Margaret, daughter of Sir William Longespee, Edmund gave the manors of Scholes and Kippax to Margaret for her life. On her death they came to her husband. In 1294, Alice de Lascy, the heiress of the family estates, married Thomas, 2nd. Earl of Lancaster and nephew of the King, Edward 1. The de Lascy lands then became part of the vast Lancaster estates, which extended over many parts of the country.

The manor of Scholes would have been only of minor importance to these noble families but what of the inhabitants of the manor? The organisation, habits and customs of the manor were of great significance to them and, before we can use the meagre information we have about them, it is necessary to know what a manor was. The 'classic' manor is described in 'The Medieval Foundations of England' by G O Sayles as follows:

"A 'normal' manor had two main components. First the lord of the manor's demesne. This was the home farm, often small in extent, and usually but not always, comprising a number of strips of land scattered here and there within the manor. Its cultivation was the first and foremost duty of the manorial tenants and all other activities on the estate were subordinate to it.

The manor-house was the centre of administration served by a competent staff under a steward and bailiffs who worked in co-operation with the reeve as the representative of the tenants. The manorial court made the agricultural arrangements and saw that they were carried into effect.

The second component of the manor was the peasant's dependent land holdings. The manor therefore was a practical means of managing an estate through compulsory labour services. Its fundamental value was as an agricultural unit, for the main purpose of its inhabitants was to cultivate the soil so that they could live by its produce. It was very largely self sufficing and self consuming."

Scholes is more fortunate than Barwick in the survival of two early Minister Accounts for 1295 and 1303/4 in the reign of Edward 1. They are statements of the receipts and expenses of the manor and are reproduced in translation in Rev Colman's 'History of the Parish of Barwick-in-Elmet'. They are given below in sections and in an order that has been altered to suit the needs of this article. It is unlikely that they are complete as the accounts for 1295 contain only two items of expense. They are the only documents that we have about Scholes at the time and we must make the most of them, even if this involves some speculation about their meaning and significance.


1295 Oliver de Stanesfeud, Constable, and Walter the Reeve render their accounts
1 lb of pepper rent of Matilda de Lesingcroft12
Farm of Skales and Morwyke8 17
From the demesnes put to farm 28 1
A plot of meadow called Fallis 19 0
Two plots of meadow put to farm 8 0
A place called Suwynsick 9 0
Increase of the toft formerly John de Haldeworth 14
Arrears 48

l lb of pepper of rent sold 12
Rents and farms of Scales and Morwyke9 2
Demesne Farm 28 1
A place called Thurstonhagh 4 6
Increase in the tenement of Eleanor de Birne and Adam Scott 8
Arrears of last account 37 8

What do these accounts reveal about the workings of the manor of Scholes? How do they differ from the 'classic' or 'normal' manor described above and what do the accounts tell us about the lives of the inhabitants of Scholes at that time?

The item referring to the payment of 1lb of pepper as rent arises from a grant to Robert de Walcote in about 1240 of lands in Lazencroft, previously called 'Lazingcroft', in the southern part of Scholes manor and in Shippen by the lord of the manor Roger de Quency. The land eventually passed to the 'de Lasingcroft' family.

Later surveys include 'foreign service' as rent in addition to the 1lb of pepper, which indicates how the King required his tenants in chief to supply him with fighting men for his wars. Would members of this family have fought with Edward I against the French, the Scots and the Welsh? It would appear that Lazencroft could be regarded as a private estate of the de Lasingcroft family paying only a token rent to the manor.

The accounts show that there were manorial tenants (or villeins) in Scholes and Morwick, a small settlement in the northern part of the manor, the term 'farm' meaning that the land holdings were let out for rent. The conditions of these tenancies, which usually involved a house and a bovate of arable land (10-25 acres), are described in detail in later surveys and include 'labour services', the reponsibility of tenants to help in the cultivation of the lord's demesne lands. The tenants arable land probably lay to the north of what is now Scholes Main Street and would be arranged in an open field system (see 'The Barwicker' No.31).

The accounts reveal that part at least of the lord's demesne land and meadows were at that time let out for rent. Their cultivation had therefore ceased to be "the first and foremost duty of the manorial tenants" as in the 'classic' manor. The value of their labour services would have been commuted to money which they would pay in addition to their rent.

These items show that the lord's agents were taking a less direct part in the workings of Scholes manor than in the 'classic' model. What are we to make of the items listed as 'arrears'? It seems unlikely that the tenants would be deliberately late with their rents - they had too much to lose.

Fine of William son of Nicholas for entry of the land formerly Peter le Wyte's 6. 8
Of the wardship of the third part of the tenement formerly Robert de Walcote in Schipin and Lesingcroft which happened by the death of the wife of the said Robert who held in dower and it is still ordered to be surveyed. 25 0
Chevage of Adam Skot 6
Perquisites of the Hallmote 15

Fine of Matilda widow of Walter the Reeve that she may hold her husband's tenement till the full age of her son 134
Leirwyt of two women 18
Merchet of Agnes daughter of Hull 2 0
From the acknowledgement of William Cokhebed6
From perquisites of the Halmote 3 7
ÿ Expenses
To the Reeve for his services 3 0
For free alms 6 8

The items in the account relating to the manor court demonstrate how land transfers were made. In 1295, the tenancy of the land and house of Peter le Wyte became vacant perhaps because of his incapacity or death with the absence of an heir. William son of Nicholas applied for the tenancy and after paying the appropriate 'fine' became the new tenant of the land and a record was made in the court roll in the presence of the jury of witnesses. With land and a house he would be in a position to marry, raise a family and become the head of a household, a rise in social status as well as economic circumstances.

The item concerning the widow of Robert de Walcote illustrates the right of a widow to hold a third of her late husband's property during her lifetime. Such rights of 'dower' were safeguarded by the manorial court. Similarly, the tenancy of Walter the Reeve was ensured for his son by the action of the court. Such practices would have been common when, with late marriages and early deaths, a man would be less likely than now to see his son grow to manhood.

'Merchet' was a fine paid to the lord by a father on the marriage of his daughter. 'Leirwyt' was a a fine paid by the father of a woman who was guilty of fornication. 'Chevage' was a fine paid by a bondman who lived outside the boundaries of the manor. The halmote (moot or meeting) would appear to be a gathering at which local by-laws were enforcd and this generated some income for the manor. What the 'free alms' entry signifies is not known.

The remainder of the entries in the accounts show that the lord possessed a park at Scholes. Medieval parks were large fenced enclosures which may have been maintained for the hunting of deer but they were used for variety of other purposes, such as grazing, quarrying, mining and the production of timber. They were expected to show an economic return and the accounts are given below.

Herbage sold about the fishpond 12
Herbage of the garden 12 6
From the bark, branches and coperon (?twigs or chips) of 4 oaks and 2 alneor (?alders) 9 4
Turfs sold 1
Sea coals Nil

Herbage of the Capital Messuage 20 0
Bark of 16 'Bletrones' (small trees) for the mill at Castelford 2 6
Farm of the mill 26 8
From the Dovecote Nil
Sea coal sold 4 1
Branches felled for the game and an oak felled for the Mill20 6
ÿ Expenses 1295
Carrying venison to Pontefract 12
Delivered to the searjeant of le Roundhaye 28 0
Stipend of the Parker 6 8
Mending the chamber of the Parker14
Felling branches for the paling of the park 4 5
Mending of the paling of the same 3
Repairing and raising the head of the pond and carrying earth for the same 12 6
In making and placing 114 rods of pale about the pond38 0
Carrying the said palings 32
Mending the Mill with 1 axle and 1 rod 7 3
Mowing and making of hay, etc. in Suwynsyke 410

If the 'capital messuage' was the manor house, the accounts suggest that the building no longer existed, as the land was let out for grazing and hay-making. Perhaps the reference to 'the garden' refers to this land also. Colman suggests that this entry might refer to a long disused house built by a Saxon lord on the site of the later Scholes Hall. However a survey of the manor made in 1628 for the City of London suggest that it might refer to the moated site
Scholes in Victorian times showing the moat
near the corner of Leeds Road and Main Street "a quadrangle moted round about; and in that quadrangle stood the house. The Motes are now dried upp bearing grass which is usuallie mowed everie year."

Scholes Park is described in a later survey as being one league (3 miles) in circuit which means that if it were approximately circular it would be almost a mile across. Using evidence from 18th century maps, the physical features of the area and the position of the comparitively recently built Scholes Park Farm, it seems likely that the park lay to the south of Wood (Laithe) Lane and Main Street and probably extended well to the south beyond the present Leeds Road and to the west across Cock Beck and into Stanks. The man in charge, the 'parker' with a stipend and house, and the reeve would appear to be the only paid officials. The cost of mending the boundary fence and other items must represent the wages of casual workmen paid to do the task, the timber coming from the trees in the park or the lord's woodland.

The lord was usually the only person allowed to own a fishpond. The fish from the Scholes pond at this time appear to produce no monetary return and the grazing surrounding it had been let out. Where the fishpond was we do not know. As the entry speaks of the 'head' of the pond, we can infer that it was produced by damming a stream, which was unlikely to have been Cock Beck because of its considerable flow but perhaps a side stream. The 114 rods (627 yards) of paling needed to surround the pond indicates an enclosure of about 200 yards across.

Another manorial monopoly was the dovecote, used to supply fresh meat especially during the winter. In Scholes at this time, it produced no cash return. The entry concerning 'sea coal' shows that some small-scale mining occurred at that time probably in the southern part of the manor. Timber materials were produced from the park and woodlands, some used in other manors, as for the mill at Castleford. The lord's mill was another manorial monopoly and all the tenants were forced to grind their corn there. The accounts show that in 1303/4, the mill had been let out but the lord was still responsible for its repair. The reference to 'le Roundhaye' is not explained but must arise from the close connection between Roundhay and our area which extended as late as the last century.

Scholes manor at that time differs considerably therefore from the 'classic' manor described above. Lazencroft appears to be run as a separate estate rather than part of the manor. The lord was no longer cultivating his own demesne land but was letting it out. Some of his other interests appear to make little money or, like the mill, have been let out for rent.

How do these changes affect the lives of the inhabitants of Scholes? The manorial tenants would no longer be required to do labour services for the lord but these would be commuted to a small additional rent. With more land available, tenants could add to their holdings as did Eleanor de Birne and Adam Scott. Inhabitants of the manor could rent some of the demesne land. With the decrease in labour services, there would be more work for landless labourers in the manor. These were changes that occurred in many manors throughout the country at that time.


Back to the top
Back to the Main Historical Society page