Pages 12 - 13

Wrington Village Records
Studies of the history of a Somerset Village

Life and work on the Medieval manor: customs of the manor, 1238
Pages 12 - 13

Source: The Glastonbury Chartulary (Somerset Records Society) 101. 36 passim.

This long document, an Inquiry "made at Wrington of the services and customs of the men of the manor of Wrington in the third year of Abbot Michael" of Glastonbury, Lord of the Manor of Wrington, is available in printed form, but in its original Latin, and had first to be translated.

It forms a survey, person by person, of all the householders living on the manor in 1238, with their lands, and the services they owed to the Lord of the Manor in return for these lands. It gives a most detailed picture of life and work in the village and on the land in medieval times. The Abbots of Glastonbury were one of the biggest, wealthiest and most efficiently organised landowners in Somerset; and this record also provides a fine example of medieval estate administration.

Under the Lord of the Manor, every householder had his -or her- share of the arable, pasture and meadow lands of the manor, with a homestead and certain rights, customs and privileges (such as pasturing animals on the commons, or pigs in certain woods, or cutting wood). The size of his holding, and extent of these privileges, varied with his social status in the village. Land was often held in "strips" in the huge open fields, which were cultivated as a communal effort by the villagers; while there is also evidence of the appearance of small, enclosed "private enterprise" fields, probably on outlying parts of the manor or on difficult ground.

The Lord had by far the largest share of the manorial lands, and this was known as the demesne. In return for his holding and privileges, the villager owed "services" to the Lord on these demesne lands; and these services, too, varied according to status. For details of this medieval manorial system, and a background to this paper, see G. G. Coulton: The Medieval Village, which makes special reference to this village, and includes a brief summary of this document.

Reckonings in the manorial year were mainly by the great church festivals : Christmas; Easter; the Feast of St. John the Baptist (June 24th); and the Feast of St. Michael (Michaelmas, September 29th). Other medieval reckonings which appear are: Hockday (second Tuesday after Easter) ; the Feast of the Imprisonment of St. Peter (alias "Gulam Augusti" : 1 st August) ; and land measures .

1 Furlong: 10 acres

1 Virgate: 4 furlongs (40 acres)

1 Hide: 4 virgates (160 acres)

1 Knight's Fee: 4 hides (640 acres)

Villagers are classified primarily by the amount of land they hold. References to several people and some manorial buildings (i.e., the Tusards, the grange) mentioned in this Custumal, also occur in the papers The Early Deeds of Wrington, The Manor and the Manor House, and Manorial Accounts, 1343-4 & 1491-2.

Among 130 tenants in this manner there were at least 18 and probably 20 women householders. Gundilda, widow of Blitmund of West putte, held 1 virgate of land and paid 3s. in rent, quarterly, plus 20d. gift towards the Lardarium. This was the communal Salt-House, in which certainly the Abbey, and perhaps also villagers, could store their meat until they had need of it. Gundilda gave 2 bushels out of every 12 grown on her land to the Lord's Granary. She paid a silver halfpenny as Hearth-penny, which would be doubled if she re-married.

The Hearth-penny was a form of house-tax. In addition she rendered the following agricultural services: ploughing with 1 plough-team for 1 day each fortnight between September 29th and the following Easter; manuring 5 acres between Easter and 2nd August; scything hay in the lord's meadow for 2 days from dawn to 9 o'clock (a.m. ?), then lifting and carrying this hay to the lord's Court; hoeing the lord's corn for one day; fencing 2 perches or repairing such fencing at Pilton (the Glastonbury deer-park, between Glastonbury and Shepton Ma1let, where a sound deer-proof fence would be of great importance) and 1 perch more in the lord's garden; and digging in the vineyard at Panborough (near Wedmore).

She had to carry out 11 harvest boon-works. These were extra work-days required from the tenants in the busy seasons of the year, particu]arly harvest-time. Often the numbers of men to be provided were specified, e.g., for "3 days through 4 men" and for "2 days through 2 men" suggesting that other members of the household as well as, or instead of, Gundilda herself, had to help get the lord's harvest in. She had to provide a share of a cart every week from 2nd August to 29th September to cart the lord's corn (i.e., from the fields during harvest); if she cannot do this carting, she must instead plough and harrow 1 acre for oats and perform 2 other boonworks. She must also thresh 2 bushels of corn before Christmas, and 4 bushels of oats during Lent, and give 2 bushels of corn "according to the woodcutters' custom". This custom gave her the right to cut wood, for fires, building, too]s and repairs, etc. ; and many of the tenants of virgates and furlongs contributed 1 or 2 bushels to obtain this privilege, although it appears that those with 5 acres or less did not qualify for it.

Gundilda also had to carry loads to Glastonbury and elsewhere, as required, throughout the year. About 22 others - probably those of sufficient substance to have their own horse and waggon - were specifically assigned to this duty: which, with jobs to do at Pilton and Panborough, certainly shows that these medieval villagers travelled more widely than is sometimes made out. She was not allowed to sell a foal, mare or horse without licence, or marry off her daughter without the permission of the Lord of the Manor. Only two others were constrained in the same way: Walter Toker, a half-virgate holder, and Gilbert Tosard, lessee of a
mill and one furlong of land.

Another woman, the widow of Henry Bastard, also held 1 virgate of land, but rendered only royal service: the highest form of tenure, involving no menial agricultural work, but the obligation to serve as, or to provide, a soldier in the
King's army - if necessary, to fight overseas. There were two other tenants who held by royal service: the Lord of Watlegh who held 320 acres as half a knight's fee; and Robert Malherbe, who had 80 acres, or half a hide. "Watley" is the name of a group of fields near Lye Hole.

Robert Edwi, holding 1 furlong, paid 8d. rent at the 4 quarters, and 6d. to the Lardarium, with Hearth-penny and 1 bushel of corn as Church-scot. This was originally paid to the church but became a fixed manorial due paid to the Lord: usually 1 or 2 bushels of seed corn. Poorer people, however, paid in hens : 4, unless you were a widow or widower, when it was reduced to 2, one of several examples of practical sympathy.

Robert Edwi also had to give 2 bushels of corn as woodcutters' custom, and provide 2 oxen for the lord's service 1 day in every week from 1st August until 29th September (probably to pull the carts loaned by Gundilda and others). He maintained 1 perch of fencing at Pilton Park, and dug in Panborough vineyard. He had to render 6 harvest boon-works through 6 men and 3 hand-works a week 1st August-29th September and 1 a week the rest of the year. He had to carry loads when summoned, scythe the lord's meadow, and lift and carry the hay to the Court.

It is acknowledged that on the days when he reaps, carts or renders other services he shall be quit of handworks. These "hand-works" were probably less seasonal than boon-works, more in the nature of doing the lord's odd jobs for the day. To round off his year's services he had to manure 2½ acres in summer, sow 1 perch with his own grain, harrow and hoe it. In such time as was left, Robert, like all the other villagers, was free to cultivate his own land-holding!

Alice in Furse holds 1 furlong, pays 2s. rent quarterly, and 8d. to the Lardarium. She rendered similar services as Robert Edwi and others of the same acreage, except that she paid no Church-scot, and did no hand-works. Instead, she must scythe and carry hay in the Abbot's garden (at the Court House) and repair 1 perch of fencing there. She also had to thresh 2 bushels of corn by Christmas, and 4 bushels of oats by Easter. Another widow, Edith, held the same acreage, paid less rent (12d. instead of 2s.) but had instead to do much more work. Besides scything and carrying hay she had to work at the hayrick, repair 1 perch of fencing at Pilton Park as well as 1 perch in the garden, also dig at Panborough vineyard, and manure 1 acre in summer; besides doing pack-horse service when the Lord Abbot and his Steward visited the Manor, and stacking corn in the grange for three days.

Three holders of furlongs are described in a foot-note as paying 8d. instead of 6d. to the Lardarium, as their furlongs were extra wide. Ralph de Stodlegh gives 1d. at the Feast of St. Michael for a certain hedged enclosure, but otherwise renders the same service as Alice and Robert: paying 2s. rent for his furlong, 12d. to the Lardarium, and 3s. annually for "Godwine crofte". Richard Wodenard paid in addition to his 2s. rent for his furlong, 4d. at Michaelmas for 1 acre of Upper Godecroft, and 4d. for a croft "which Serich Pere holds". Blitmund de Haselton gives 1d. at Michaelmas "for a certain little plot of land, but it is not known where it lies".

Alice, widow of Hugh Faber (the Smith, see paper Early Deeds of Wrington)
holds 1 furlong of land, but instead of money rent, she must make 2 sets of iron
shoes for ox or horse, from the lord's iron, and shoe 1 draught-ox on all four
feet (probably from her own iron). She must still give 6d. to the Lardarium, and
hearth-penny. She should have two tree-trunks a year (presumably to burn on
the smithy forge) by arrangement with the bailiff. All this stems from her
husband's trade, and suggests that Alice must have kept the smithy going.

Robert de Gardine and Reginald Burgais hold 1 furlong between them, and render the same service as Richard de la Barewe, except that they do not have to harrow for oats in Lent; but instead they do more, for they must provide 2 men for 3 days in autumn for stacking the lord's corn, "and it is acknowledged that when the aforesaid Richard provides 1 man for each of his services, these (two) ought to provide 2 men, and duplicate their services". They must also carry letters and drive cattle at the order of the lord's bailiff, when it may be necessary.

After the furlong holders come the long list of tenants of smaller, odd acreages, the cottagers and the crofters. Most of the croft-holders seem to have paid from 12d. to 2s. rent, and 2d. to 4d. as a gift to the Lardarium, and this completed their obligations. Of the two women crofters, Matilda, widow of Level, held 1 croft and gave as rent 12d. for all services. Gregory de Billingmere held 1 croft for 18d. rent, and 4d. to the Lardarium, and also gave 1d. at Michaelmas as rent for a little hedged enclosure, but did not render any other services. Edith, a widow of Leghe (Lye Hole?) however, paying 12d. rent and only 2d. to the Lardarium, had to be at 4 harvest boon-works-but was to receive 3 sheaves of corn at 3 of these. These "free sheaves" were a perquisite allowed to the poorer tenants.

Next come the 5-acre tenants. Levenet de Broke paid 18d. rent, 4d. to the Lardarium, hearth-penny, and 4 hens as Church-scot. In addition he had a commensurate proportion of fencing, digging, scything, cartage, hoeing and threshing. This is followed by, "Item, he ought to scythe in the lord's meadow, and carry hay, as the holder of one virgate; and be at the haymaking of the lord, and stack corn in the lord's grange for 3 days, and ought to come twice to the plough-service boonwork of the lord with 1 ox, and with more if he shall have them; and when it shall be his boonwork-duty each year, he shall thresh 3 bushels of wheat every week between the Feast of St. Michae! and the Feast of
the Imprisonment of St. Peter, or do other jobs which shall be assigned to him,
and then he shall be quit of 15d. of the rent, and pay 3d. at the 4 quarters".

This demonstrates the extreme flexibility of the system of assessment, and the organisation of the work, and seems to apply to the other 5-acre holders. Two of them are women; one, yet another widow named Edith, pays 16d. rent, and 4d. Lardarium gift, with hearth-penny and 2 hens as Church-scot - but should she remarry, her Church-scot goes up to 4 hens. The other, Edith Huppenhulle, was similarly treated, but her rent was only 12d.

Heading the 3-acre tenants is Golliva at Lake, who holds 1 acre in the open field and 2 acres as part of her croft. She pays 12d. rent quarterly, 2d. to the Lardarium, and hearth-penny. She had to render 5 harvest boon-works, for which she received 3 sheaves of wheat; she also had to "rake the meadow before scything" (?), and to "be at the lifting of the hay, with her rake". She had to stack wheat for 3 days at the Grange, and for this she received a further 3 sheaves of wheat. She must also thresh 2 bushels of corn by Christmas, and 4 bushels of oats during Lent. She only had to repair one sixth perch of fencing at Pilton Park, but also 1 perch in the lord's garden.

Apart from this there was scything and carrying of hay in the lord's garden, and hoeing the lord's wheat for one day. After she had, in addition, carried letters and driven oxen to Glastonbury or elsewhere as the lord ordered, her time was, we think, her own! Similarly with Alice, daughter of Mabille, and nine men, all rendering more or less identical services to Golliva.

Alice de Scalario held a house and curtilage (frontage, or small yard), rent 8d., and Isobel Faiteresse held one curtilage for 6d. rent - which rents included all services. Eve de Lutterwell held a house and curtilage and half an acre in an open field for 6d. and the following services: carrying water for sharpening
scythes at hay-cutting time (indicating the scrupulous detail with which farming routine was organised), and working at 5 harvest boon-works, at 3 of which she
received a sheaf of wheat. She also had to work at the Grange for 3 days,
receiving a further 3 sheaves of wheat, besides carrying hay and helping with the haymaking. Robert Hooper, Alexander Gallard, Alvena Pule, Alice Hunte and Levonet de Broke enjoyed similar tenure for similar services.

A few special tenants held by lease, for cash rents, and not by services, obviously because their jobs prevented them from working full time in the fields; they are the millers, and the clerk. Gilbert Tosard (already mentioned) and William Wrech each held one mill and a furlong of land. Gilbert, whose mill it is noted was formerly held by Henry Tosard - a milling family? - paid 3Os. rent, and William 13s. 4d. Gilbert, moreover, was expected to attend the Lord's Scot-ale -an entertainment given by the lord for the tenants, attendance at which was in a few cases a condition of tenure. Gilbert Tusard, clerk, leases 4 acres which are called Langenham, at the will of the lord, for a rent of 3s. He was probably the parish priest, and no doubt a relation of Gilbert the miller. As he does not contribute to the agricultural side of the manor, his land is a grace-and-favour affair. Stephen Chamberlain leases a mill and a furlong of land at La Beme -i.e., Beam Mill - for 2Os. ; while William de la Burne, a free tenant, holds one mill and half a virgate of land. This accounts for four mills within the Manor - one more than in Domesday Book. The name of William de la Burne (cf. Bourne near Rickford) suggests that his mill was on Rickford Brook; Beam Bridge Mill and Wrington Mill account for two of the remaining three, while the third may well have been either in the centre of the village, around Silver Street area, or at Lye Hole.

The four free tenants represent the highest status of landholders in the manor, apart from the tenants by royal service already mentioned, who were responsible directly to the King. The most affluent of the millers, William de la
Bume, was one, and paid 4s. quarterly for his mill and his 20 acres, and for all services. Thomas his brother held 1½ virgates of land, for 4s. quarterly; William Baudewine had 1½ virgates for which he paid 7s. and Robert de Credehulle paid 4s. for 1 virgate "at Rikeford".

The custumal finishes with a list of the total rents and other payments. All the rents together total £13 3s. 9d. a year. "Gifts" (one suspects, not really voluntary) to the Lardarium amount to £3 3s. 1d. The total paid as the wood-cutters' custom amounts to 13¾d. "Total of Peter's Pence if all shall be married, 8s. 2½d. with 3s. 8d. as the church's custom" - these were the various annual ecclesiastical dues. Wheat paid as churchscot totalled 5 crannocs and 6 bushels, at 10 (? bushels) to the crannoc - a now disused medieval grain measure. Finally the account concludes, "Total of acres which ought to be sown by custom with the villagers' own corn : 14½ acres and 1 perch. Total of acres which ought to be manured in summer by custom: 166½ acres ".