Pages 47 - 48

Broad Street Wrington Village Records
Studies of the history of a Somerset Village

Two villagers' deeds
Pages 47 - 48

Source: Xerox copies of two original M SS in Somerset Records Office (Ref: BR/tjf).

The two leases here summarised give a brief picture of the terms under which an ordinary villager might hold his land of the Lord of the Manor during the later years of the manor's long existence.

The first indenture was made on 20th September, 1697, between the Earl of Essex, then Lord of the Manor of Wrington, and Henry Sumner of Wrington, who was aged about 45. For the sum of £50 Henry Sumner leased a dwelling known as Brians, with the following lands :-

1 close or field of 2 acres of pasture land adjoining the dwelling.
1 close or field of 2 acres of arable land commonly known as Gatcombe.
1 close or field of ½ acre of adjoining arable land.
3 close or field of 4 acres of pasture land lying together and nearby
and called West land.
1 acre of arable land adjoining West land.

and "All the ways, passages, waters, profits, commodities etc which belong to the said premises, or any of them belonging or in anyway appertaining". All timber trees and all other trees likely to be timber trees that were standing and growing, could be felled and taken away as required by the Earl and his heirs. The Earl also held the right to lead mines and other mines.

The lease was for 99 years at a rent of 3s. per year, to be paid in two equal parts on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel and on the Feast of the Annunciation of The Virgin Mary. The rent was to be paid within 31 days. There was a repair and maintenance clause. Henry Sumner was to be responsible for the repair of all premises, gates, stiles, hedges, ditches, fords, and enclosures. On the death of Henry Sumner, the Earl was to be given his best goods. This might, for example, be ½ acre of his best corn. If warned by the Steward or Bailiff of Wrington, Henry had to be prepared to attend the manorial court. On the 1738 map of Wrington there are several fields marked Samuel Sumner, probably a descendant of Henry.

The second indenture was made on 21st September, 1700, between the Earl of Essex and John Russell of Wrington. John Russell paid the sum of £155 for the lease of a dwelling together with garden and orchard (approximately 1½ acres) and also the following land :-

2 acres of arable or pasture ground commonly called Branches Cross.
Parcel of 4 acres of meadow ground commonly called Cranesmeade.
1 close or parcel of 2 acres of ground called Rydings.
2 parcels totalling 6 acres of ground called Maine.
1 acre of meadow ground lying in a common meadow called Broad meade.
2 acres of meadow ground lying in a common meadow called Eight Acre.
1 acre of meadow ground lying in a common meadow called Six Acre.
½ acre of meadow ground lying in a common meadow called West

The rights and conditions of tenure were as in the first deed. The lease was for 99 years with an annual rent of 12s. 8¾d., to be paid on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel and on the Feast of the Annunciation of The Virgin Mary. The Indenture states that John Russell was aged about 29, Sarah, his wife was about 40 and their son was 8. On the death of the son, and on the death of John Russell if his son was deceased, and on the death of Sarah his wife, if John Russell and his son were dead, £5 was to be paid to the Earl within 31 days.

These two deeds are written on single sheets of parchment, with the wavy ("indented") top edge that gives them the name of "indenture". There would have been two copies of each lease, one kept by the Earl, and the other by the lessee. The two would have been written on opposite ends of one large sheet of parchment, and cut apart with this wavy irregular line: so that they could always be fitted together again - a simple device to prove authenticity.

John Russell's holding (house and 20 acres) is obviously considerably larger than Henry Sumner's (house and 9½ acres). Both his fee for taking up the lease, and his annual rent, are considerably higher. The Earl, as lord of the Manor, keeps timber and mining rights on the lands, and the lessees still have obligation to attend the centuries-old manorial courts, and to pay heriots or death-duties: though in Russell's case this is a cash sum and not goods.

The lands held by both tenants show a mixture of holdings in the old open fields, i.e., the "common meadows", and individual "closes" or hedged fields: the communal system of the middle ages is gradually giving away to the compact, centralised fields of the Enclosure era. Names such as Gatcombe, Maine(s), Branches Cross and Rydings catch the eye.