Medieval Morden: Neighbourhood and Community

Morden is now a suburb within the London Borough of Merton, its only claim to fame being as a terminus of London Underground’s Northern Line. However, only a century ago it was still a small agricultural community and its medieval origins were still in evidence. Although almost nothing now remains of its medieval structures, we are fortunate that a considerable archive survives, detailing its layout and its day-to-day life.
This is the third of three volumes covering different aspects of life in medieval Morden as revealed by these documents, the other volumes dealing with the manorial economy and with landscape and landholding.
This study focuses on social interaction and community dynamics, in the light of the demands made of Morden’s inhabitants by the State, by the Church and in particular by Westminster Abbey as manorial lord, but also by the local community and the family. Most of the information comes from manorial court rolls, and the role and processes of the manor court are examined at the outset. Other chapters consider differences in status and in wealth, the role of credit, the evidence for conflict and cooperation and for the exercise of power and influence by local people. From brewers and bakers to priests and parishioners, this book explores the strengths and the tensions that worked together to form and to challenge a sense of neighbourhood and community in Morden especially in the centuries following the Black Death.
This volume also includes a substantial biographical register of over 1000 individuals who appear in the surviving records and who played their part in creating medieval Morden’s communal life.
(from the back cover)

MEDIEVAL MORDEN:
NEIGHBOURHOOD
AND COMMUNITY
MEDIEVAL MORDEN: NEIGHBOURHOOD AND COMMUNITY
Published by
MERTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY
2023
© Merton Historical Society and Peter Hopkins 2023

www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk

ISBN 978 1 903899 85 4

Printed by Aquatint

Units 3/4, Elm Grove Industrial Estate, Elm Grove,

Wimbledon, SW19 4HE

Front cover illustration: The 1459/60 brass of William Lovelace in St Margaret’s church,
Bethersden, Kent, superimposed on Lovelace’s charter selling his
freehold property in Morden in September 1458 (SHC K85/2/1).
This is the only known representation of a medieval tenant of
Morden.

Back cover illustration: A reconstructed map of medieval Morden, superimposed on an
extract from a modern street map reproduced courtesy of Merton
Design Unit, London Borough of Merton

iii

CONTENTS

PREFACE v

1: DEMANDS AND EXPECTATIONS 1

2: JUDGE AND JURY 9

3: STATUS AND DEGREE 47

bond and free 47

landlord and tenant 59

male and female 62

young and old 66

employer and employee 69

aliens and strangers 73

4: RICH AND POOR 81

evidence of wealth 81

poverty 103

standards of living in medieval morden 104

5: DEBTORS AND CREDITORS 127

6: CONFLICT AND COOPERATION 157

conflict: lord and tenant 157

conflict: farmer and tenant 181

conflict: official and tenant 186

conflict: tenant and tenant 187

cooperation 189

7: POWER AND PRESTIGE 201

8: BREWERS AND BAKERS 213

9: PRIESTS AND PARISHIONERS 229

10: NEIGHBOURHOOD AND COMMUNITY 251

A BIOGRAPHICAL REGISTER 255

ABBREVIATIONS 308

WORKS CITED 309

NOTES AND REFERENCES 313

INDEX 345
index of personal names 345

index of topics 352

A NOTE ON THE EDITING OF TEXTS

The use of ‘etc’ or ‘&c’ in quotations reflects the abbreviation used in the original document, as does the use
of strike-through for deletions and superscript for insertions. Any omission of text in this edition is indicated
by ‘…’. Square brackets [ ] are used to enclose original Latin or archaic text, in italics, or for editorial insertions.

The original spellings of surnames are retained in quotations, with all their variations, but standardised
in the commentary. Male Christian names are modernised, but female names retain the variety of the
originals to reflect similar variety in modern usage.

Many of the manorial court rolls have an elaborate letter ‘R’ in the margin. This symbol was probably
used when a payment was respited, or postponed, and it is rendered in this edition as ‘respited?’.

NOTE ON WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

Imperial measures are used in the original documents, and have been retained throughout this study:

1 acre (a) = 4 roods (r) = 160 [square] perches (p) = 4840 square yards = 0.4047 hectares

1 perch = 16.5 feet (ft) = 5.03 metres

1 virgate = 20 acres in medieval Morden though in neighbouring Ravensbury a 30-acre virgate seems likely

1 pound (£) = 20 shillings (s) = 240 pence (d)

1 quarter = 8 bushels = 32 pecks = 291 litres

The Julian Calendar was used in England until 1752, the year beginning on 25 March. Dates between
January and March are here shown as eg 1325/6.

iv

FIGURES

Brass of William Lovelace superimposed on his 1458 Morden charter – SHC K85/2/1 front cover

1.1 Medieval Morden: reduced extract from First Edition Six-inch Ordnance Survey map of 1865,

annotated to show locations known or suggested by various sources vi

2.1: The number of courts recorded in manorial accounts or having extant court rolls 10

2.2: The use of personal pledges or sureties in these early court rolls 16

2.3: Wagering one’s law in Morden manorial courts (arranged by date of initiation of the plea) 22

2.4: Assault cases 34

2.5: Hue and cry 36

2.6: The election of officers 40

2.7: Chief pledges and companion tithingers 1467-1481 41

2.8: Homage lists 1467-1480 42

3.1: Alice Lord’s bequests to her sons 64

3.2: The official careers of 41 men for whom we know the date of their placing in a tithing 79

4.1: Morden taxpayers 1332 82

4.2: Trespass with livestock 1298-1328 84

4.3: Offences involving livestock 1379-1541 87

4.4a: Heriots claimed on the death of a tenant 1378-1537 88

4.4b: Livestock heriots claimed on the surrender of a property 89

4.4c: Cash heriots 89

4.4d: Heriots – no details given 89

4.4e-g: Heriots waived 90

4.5: Summary of the bequests over the century 1494 to 1588 of 21 testators 92

4.6: Whitchurch’s Inventory of Growtes in 1553 – SHC K85/2/12 96

4.7a: John Schute’s yields per acre compared with demesne yields 107

4.7b: John Schute’s percentage yields per bushel sown compared with demesne yields 107

4.7c: John Schute’s crops sown 108

4.7d: John Schute’s crops harvested 109

4.7e: John Schute’s crops consumed and saleable surplus 109

4.7f: Value of John Schute’s surplus crops 110

4.7g: John Schute’s manorial expenses in cash 110

4.7h: John Schute’s manorial expenses if labour services commuted 111

4.8a: Costs per head per harvest meal 1288 117

4.8b: Costs per head per harvest meal 1291 118

4.8c: Costs per head per harvest meal 1305 118

4.8d: Costs per head per harvest meal 1311 118

4.8e: Costs per head per harvest meal 1323 119

4.8f: Costs per head per harvest meal 1330 119

4.8g: Costs per head per harvest meal 1343 120

4.8h: Costs per head per harvest meal 1353 120

4.8i: Costs per head per harvest meal 1353 rectory tithe harvesting 120

4.8j: Costs per category per harvest meal 1288-1353 121

4.8k: Costs per category of companagium per harvest meal 1288-1353 121

4.8l: The size of an average portion per harvest meal 1288-1353 122

4.9: Costs of meals for men delivering the manorial mill 1312/13 124

5.1a: Debt cases with little detail 128

5.1b: Detinue cases and debts involving chattels 129

5.1c: Debt pleas involving only cash 133

5.2a: A complex credit network 136

5.2b: Less complex credit networks 137

5.3a: The degree of participation in debt pleas, by percentage 138

5.3b: The degree of participation in debt pleas, by number 139

6.1: Common Fine payments 1473-1541 170

6.2: Unrepaired buildings – the chief offenders 172

6.3: Trespass against the lord’s property 178

6.4: Trespass against neighbours 187

8.1: The number of men, widows and other women presented for victualling each year 1296-1541. 217

8.2: The number of brewings and the sum of victuallers’ amercements per year 1378-1422 219

8.3: Presentments for victualling at individual-focused courts 226

Property Identification Codes (IDs) 256-7

v

PREFACE

This study is the third and final volume exploring aspects of life in medieval Morden as
revealed through the surviving records. The previous volumes have dealt respectively with the
manorial economy and with landscape and landholding, while the current study focuses on
social interaction and, in particular, what has been described as ‘community dynamics’ – ‘the
degree of harmony or disharmony in community relations’ (see page 252). Scholars debate
the appropriateness of the term ‘community’ to describe the inhabitants of a medieval rural
settlement, some stressing the cooperative aspects of life, others placing more emphasis on
competitive and individualistic traits (see chapter 6). Only by detailed examination of the
available evidence will we be able to build a fuller picture of ‘community’ life in Morden across
a multiplicity of situations and at various moments across the period from the 13th to 16th
centuries – especially following the Black Death, which reached Morden at Easter 1349 – and so
to identify any trends that might become apparent.

Although medieval records were not designed to answer modern questions, they do cast light
on many areas of everyday life. Thus each chapter focuses on a particular topic, as outlined in
the opening chapter. This approach necessitates some repetition and cross-referencing, not only
within this volume, but also the earlier ones. To assist in identification, codes have been assigned
to each property, and a table of Property Identification Codes (IDs) can be found on pages
256-7. This has been reproduced from the second volume in this series, which traces the history
of each property, but is here placed at the start of a Biographical Register, summarising what is
known of over 1000 individuals mentioned in surviving records.

I make no apology for quoting original sources at length, but I acknowledge that my handling of
Latin texts is far from perfect. I am grateful to those who have shared their expertise with me to
minimise my errors, especially Maureen Roberts, Dominic Alexander, Shirley Corke, Simon Neale
and Mark Page who have translated documents and checked and corrected many of my attempts at
translation. I hope that these have been sufficiently representative to enable the identification and
correction of most of my errors, but for those that remain I can only apologise. I have occasionally
included Latin words and phrases within the text [in square brackets] to assist interpretation.

I am also grateful to Dr Page for his frequent explanatory comments, and to Barbara Harvey, the
historian of the Westminster Abbey estates, who has also contributed valuable insights into the
meaning of the text, and given considerable encouragement, help, advice and support. I have
also received much support from fellow members of Merton Historical Society, especially the
late Judith Goodman, the late Lionel Green, David Haunton, Keith Penny, John Pile, Tony Scott,
Irene Burroughs and Rosemary Turner, who have seen this edition through to publication.

My thanks also to the archivists who have assisted me during personal visits and in allowing
me to photograph documents or in providing copies on microfilm, CD-ROM or paper,
particularly Dr Richard Mortimer, former Keeper of the Muniments at Westminster Abbey,
and his assistant Christine Reynalds, Adrian James of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and
staff at the Bodleian Library, the British Library, Cambridge University Library, Essex Record
Office, Hampshire Archives, Lambeth Palace Library, Surrey History Centre and The National
Archives, as well as Merton Library & Heritage Service and the Inter-Library Loans Service for
tracking down obscure articles and out-of-print books. Other articles were accessed through
JSTOR via Durham University, while many older published calendars and abstracts are available
at Internet Archive and other online sites.

I am very grateful to Carol Serginson for enabling me to photograph the brass in Bethersden
church, and to Surrey History Centre for permission to use the charter, both of which are
reproduced on the front cover. The owners of the various manuscripts cited in this volume have
also kindly permitted the reproduction of images of the original documents on the website
pages designed to accompany these studies, to enable scholars to check the accuracy of the
translations and transcripts.

Peter Hopkins – July 2023

Images and translations of most of the documents cited in these studies are accessible at

www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk/morden-manorial-records

vi MEDIEVAL MORDEN: NEIGHBOURHOOD AND COMMUNITY

Figure1.1: Reduced extract from First Edition Six-inch Ordnance Survey map of 1865, annotated to show locations known or suggested by various sources.

MITCHAM

CARSHALTON

+St Lawrence
Church

ravensbury

spital

(Merton Priory)

Manorial
Centre

kynnersley

Probable
extent of
demesne land

East Morden

The
Marsh

Gildon
Hill

Probable
extent of
tenant land

+

Merton
Common

Sutton
Common

SUTTON

Old
Mordens

The Southfield

freehold
estates

Bowhill

West Morden

The
Common
Mead

OTHER
PARISHES

MERTON

hobalds

(Merton Priory)

CHEAM

Sparrowfeld Common

Medieval Morden

MALDEN

1

1

1: DEMANDS AND EXPECTATIONS

There were many overlapping spheres of influence affecting the inhabitants of medieval Morden,
both as individuals and as social units. They were members of families; neighbours; tenants –
and sometimes landlords; employers and employees. They worked together, prayed together,
celebrated together. They shared common interests – which might lead to cooperation or to
conflict. They had common responsibilities, some irksome, others more satisfying. They were
subject to common demands and shared similar hopes and expectations. They were answerable
to one another as well as to higher authorities, local and national, secular and religious.

The State

On the national scale, the demands of the State were frequent causes of complaint, both in the
newly emergent Parliament and in the protest songs of town and countryside.1 The sovereign
was entitled to taxes and military service, but also ‘purveyance’ – the compulsory purchase of
food and transport for the royal household on its travels. People dreaded the arrival of purveyors
appointed to gather supplies for the king, the queen, a royal prince or a leading magnate, who
would descend on a community and commandeer food, hay, horses and whatever else they
might need. Officially they paid for everything they took – though they set their own prices –
but in practice payments were often deferred for long periods, if they were ever made.2 Those
with money or influence could bribe these purveyors to look elsewhere, and such bribes are
regularly entered into the manorial accounts, though not using the word. In 1349/50 several
purveyors were bribed to move on, as these excerpts reveal:3

Foreign
Expenses

… Also given to John Wermyngton purveyor of oats for the lord King in September for
not taking 14 quarters oats, 2s 6d. Also given to John Padyngton purveyor for the lord
Prince for not taking 4 quarters beans 6d. Also given to the purveyor of the lord King for
not taking hay at the same place in summer 12d …

Peas and
vetches

… in fodder for various purveyors of the lord Prince tarrying at the same place with 2
horses for 6 weeks in the months of December and January in estimation in sheaves 1
quarter …

Oats

… Given in fodder to various grooms of the lord Prince being at the same place in January
with 2 horses for 6 weeks 6 bushels. Given to the same so that they removed the said two
horses 1 quarter oats …

Where did these purveyors go? It is probable that the bribes only protected the manorial
demesne and not the tenants, who would have been unable to offer such bribes. The location of
Morden on a major route to and from London made it a convenient source of supply for such
officers, the royal household frequently passing through the neighbourhood. In addition, the
manorial accounts record that nearby Merton Priory was a regular stopping point for some
monarchs.4 However, distance from the areas of conflict and from the sea ports would have
protected Morden from the depredations inflicted upon other localities by purveyors attempting
to gather supplies for troops.

Not that Morden escaped completely from the demands of war – we occasionally read of a
tenant absent ‘in the king’s service’, though we have no information on how this impacted on
the individuals concerned, or on their families. In 1316 and again in 1322 each vill was required
to supply and equip one man to serve in the Scottish campaign.5 There are no extant manorial
accounts for 1316/17 but the accounts for 1321/22 record: 6

Deliveries

… Also paid in helping the lord king against Scotland by 1 footman provided for the
manor of Morden 20s by order of the bailiff.

Warren Ault traces the origins of such demands to the Anglo-Saxon fyrd, though he suggests
that ‘the peasant soldiers were not first-line troops; indeed most of them may have been used
as carters’.7 If any of them did in fact serve as combat troops, the cost of equipping the soldier
would have continually increased in line with developments in armour and armaments. The
later accounts no longer noted such expenditure, but the badly worn court roll for May 1378
reports that one Morden tenant was serving overseas, presumably in the French wars:8

Likewise they present that John [illegible] and has defaulted. Therefore etc. And they
present that he is overseas in the service of the lord king.

2 MEDIEVAL MORDEN: NEIGHBOURHOOD AND COMMUNITY

Similarly in April 1526 Richard Bayly was in royal service, presumably military, although, as
England was not at war, it is possible that he had been forced to transport goods, as had been the
case in earlier centuries:9

essoins

Richard Bayly is essoined because in the service of the lord king;

It was the need to finance these wars against France, Wales and Scotland that led to the frequent
taxations, or ‘subsidies’, of Edward I, II and III. The ‘Foreign expenses’ section of the manorial
account roll of 1290/91 records ‘expenses of assessors of a certain tenth for the use of the lord
king’.10 This probably refers to a subsidy from inhabitants of Morden. The ‘Foreign receipts’ section
for 1294/95 includes ‘The same renders account for 63s 8d for the tenths of the customary tenants’.11
This cannot refer to church tithes, as the abbey had not yet appropriated the tithes which were
still being paid to the rector of the church, so it must be the tenth granted in 1294 to Edward
I,12 collected from the customary tenants for forwarding to the tax collectors. Later assessments
were made at a lower rate. In 1306/07 the ‘Foreign expenses’ section has the entries: ‘Also given to
the 12 assessors of the thirtieth penny for the use of the lord king 2s. Also payment for the same
15s 6½d ¾d by 1 tally.’13 In 1306 twelve men from each Hundred had been appointed, with the
assistance of the reeve and four lawful men of each vill, ‘to make a true valuation of the movable
goods possessed by the people on a specified day’, for tax assessed at a thirtieth in rural areas
and at a twentieth in urban districts and ancient demesne of the Crown.14 However, conventional
valuations were often made, all cows, oxen, etc being assessed at the same value irrespective of
age, health, etc. Agricultural equipment, household goods and goods in the larder were normally
exempt. The ‘Foreign expenses’ section of the accounts for 1327/28 records 1 shilling ‘In expenses
of sub-assessors for the 20th of the lord king’, and that for 1332/33 includes the steward’s expenses
‘For coming to the court held there to assess tallage for the taxes of the lord king total geld 2s’.15

The taxation of 1332 was the last to value the goods of every individual in each vill, which might
explain why these records still survive in The National Archives.16 Six named inhabitants of the
‘vill of Morden’ – the free tenants – paid a total of 8s 9d, and a further 11s 5¼d was raised from
nine named ‘villeins of the abbot of Westminster in the vill of Morden, deducting their rents and
services’, levied at one-fifteenth of the value of their personal property (see page 82).17 Three of these
Morden villeins should not have been liable for taxation as their taxable goods were assessed as less
than the minimum level of 10 shillings. It would appear that they had originally been assessed on
their property before the rents and services due to the abbey had been deducted and that, when
this error was rectified, they were still taxed even though the new assessment brought them below
the tax threshold.18 The tax roll has clear signs that the original entries for Morden had been erased
and rewritten. Later taxations levied a set sum from each vill, leaving it to the local authorities to
allocate individual contributions, and no records of individual payments were kept. In 1336 the
free tenants of Morden paid 9s 9d in total, while the abbey’s villeins paid 13s 11¼d.19 As late as
1404/05 the ‘farmer’, or lessee, of the demesne successfully claimed 2s 2d for ‘one writ purchased to
discharge the manor at the same place for a certain subsidy granted to the lord king by view of the
bailiff’.20 It was not until the late Tudor period, beyond the scope of this study, that individual tax
contributions were again recorded in the lay subsidy rolls.

It is noteworthy that the total assessed value of taxable goods in Morden for 1332, at a little over
£15, was less than half that of 1294, at almost £32, and that the value of the 1306 assessment fell
between the two, at just over £24. The basis of the assessment had not changed – the threshold for
assessment was 10 shillings in all three years. Evidence does not suggest that the population of
Morden had fallen – lists of tenants c.1225 and 1312 indicate that the number of tenements was
about the same, and there had also been a substantial increase in the number of smallholders,
though these are unlikely to have been liable to tax. So one might assume that poverty had pushed
more residents below the tax threshold. However, experts warn that it was common throughout
the country for the number of taxpayers to fluctuate across the years, with a trend towards a steady
decrease, and that it would be unrealistic to put too much emphasis on such figures.21

But if the later taxes produced lower returns than in earlier years, this only led to more frequent
demands. There were two taxations in 1336, followed in 1337 by another spread over three years,

3

1: DEMANDS AND EXPECTATIONS

3

meaning that the subsidy was collected annually from 1336 to 1340.22 During this same period
various attempts were made by the government to profit from the wool trade, with the result
that ‘the English producer received less for his wool than he would otherwise have done’.23 J R
Maddicott argues that in these years ‘the weight of taxation may have been greater than at any
other time in the middle ages’.24

Further, it was not unknown for those who collected the taxes to attempt to line their own pockets
by charging more than was due. An inquisition, held at Merton in June 1292, condemned to
imprisonment one of the collectors for neighbouring Brixton Hundred for attempting to charge
excessive sums in the 1290 taxation. Fortunately his associates realised what he was doing and
prevented this fraudulent collection from taking place, but not before he had swindled a fish merchant
out of 1000 herrings, the keeper of Merton Priory’s West Barnes granary of 4 bushels of wheat and
4 bushels of barley, and the Prince of Wales’s marshal of 15 shillings which should have been repaid
to the prince’s creditors for supplies delivered for his sustenance while lodging in the area.25

In return for the taxes they paid and the services they performed for the State, whether military
or otherwise, the inhabitants of Morden would expect security at home. We know nothing of the
effects in our area of the period of the Anarchy following the death of Henry I in 1135, when the
crown was contested between Henry’s daughter, Matilda, and his nephew, Stephen. Again, we are
ignorant of the local impact of the baronial rebellion against John, though the negotiations that
brought it to an end following John’s death in 1217 were conducted locally, first near Kingston and
then at Merton Priory.26

Kingston was also the venue in 1261 for a treaty between John’s son and successor, Henry III, and
rebel barons, though hostilities flared again, culminating in the battle of Evesham in 1265 and the
siege of Kenilworth in 1266. Although the fighting was distant, local landowners were divided in
their loyalties, leading to outbreaks of violence and looting on most of the manors surrounding
Morden over the seven years of conflict. In an attempt to bring a fair settlement of the many disputes,
a judicial enquiry, the eyre de terris datis, was commissioned in 1267. Its records reveal that one
of Simon de Montfort’s supporters, Gilbert de Colville, held a manor in neighbouring Carshalton
and was responsible for a number of acts of plunder in Carshalton and Mitcham against royalist
neighbours. Another local rebel was Laurence II de St Michael, lord of Cuddington. Walter de Merton,
the royalist chancellor from July 1261 until July 1263, was the repeated target between June 1263 and
May 1267 of rebel destruction and looting at his manor of Malden and his house at Cuddington,
as well as the plundering of his ‘treasure and other goods’ at Merton, one of the perpetrators also
committing robbery at Kingston, where he killed Jews and took away the king’s treasure.27

In contrast, the overthrow of Edward II seems to have been essentially a political act, with little
disruption for the general populace, and this also seems to have been true of the deposition of
Richard II. It was not until the Wars of the Roses that the nation became embroiled in civil war on
a larger scale, though again we have no indication of local repercussions.

Similarly, we have no evidence for local involvement in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, though, as no
manorial court rolls for Morden survive for the period 1329-1377, it is possible that they had been
destroyed by insurgents, as is well documented for other estates.28 The rolls survive from 1378 to
1422, perhaps because the steward appointed by the abbey to preside over the manor court kept
the current rolls in his possession. It is probably coincidence that the top of the roll for August 1381
is damaged.

However, the records relating to Jack Cade’s rebellion in 1450 do indicate that a number of tenants
from Morden, Merton and Mitcham participated, as they were included among a list of 3,449
named individuals granted a royal pardon in July 1450 for their involvement.29 The only man
specifically identified as being from Morden was John Sauger, described as a husbandman but
in fact the farmer or lessee of Westminster Abbey’s demesne lands in Morden, and the abbey’s
rent-collector there. However, several others, noted as coming from Mitcham or from Merton, are
known to have held property in Morden around this time – John Malard, William atte Wode and
John Lyghtfoot from Mitcham, and Richard Dyssher from Merton. Also listed as from Merton, but

with property interests in Morden [W] [W5] [U2], was William Lovelace, gentleman, a citizen of
London involved in the wool trade (see image on front cover). His two brothers, both landowners in
Kent and citizens of London, were also granted pardons, and one seems to have been among the rebel
leaders. Another gentleman on the list was Thomas Codyngton of Merton, a London goldsmith.
He was a member of the de Codinton family, lords of the manor of Cuddington, and he held two
substantial freehold properties belonging to Westminster Abbey’s Morden Fee in Ewell (see page
161). This was not a revolt of landless labourers but of men influential within their local communities
– Malard, atte Wode and Lyghtfoot are all called yeomen, which normally indicates substantial
cultivators.

Cade was the leader of a contingent of Kentish protesters who marched on London to petition the
king about the corrupt and oppressive activities of the royal advisors and their agents, chief of whom
had been William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk – and incidentally lord of the manor of Ravensbury,
which included land in Morden, by right of his wife. In addition, there were complaints about high
taxation to pay for the unsuccessful war in France, during a period of slow recovery from poor
harvests and further outbreaks of plague, and of collapsing international trade, especially in wool
and cloth. This demonstration against corruption and injustice caught the imagination of many
others and within a month their numbers had swollen to more than 5000 as supporters from
Surrey, Sussex, Essex and beyond joined them. But things soon got out of hand and most of the
protesters were happy to accept the offer of a free pardon, having made their point.

A similar demand for justice and freedom from oppressive government had fuelled the baronial
revolt against John that led to the concessions enshrined in Magna Carta, particularly clause 39:

No free man shall be taken, imprisoned, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor
will we proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by
the law of the land.

But this key declaration of rights had a major limitation – it only applied to free men. Slavery
declined in England after the Norman Conquest – there was a single slave on Westminster
Abbey’s Morden estate in 1086 – but few in the country were counted as free under Common
Law. Most of Morden’s inhabitants were described in the manorial records as ‘serfs’ [nativi],
and the land they held within the manor was servile land [terra nativa] held ‘in bondage’ [in
bondagio]. They were subject to the lord of the manor on which they had been born, and owed
him not only rent but labour services and many other obligations (see page 48). The manorial
lord exercised legal jurisdiction through his manor court, which all his serfs were obliged to
attend (see page 9).

The law was one of the key areas of reform during the reign of Henry II (1154-1189), resulting
in new legal remedies under Common Law. But whereas free men were entitled to pursue
justice through the royal courts, the serf had lesser rights and in particular was prohibited from
prosecuting his manorial lord in the royal courts.30

As John Hatcher explains, ‘The reform and extension of royal justice necessitated the formulation
of rules to determine who had the right of access to it. It was never for a moment intended that
crown courts should be open to all lowly folk and to the petty disputes they had with their lords;
such an intention would not only have been completely unworkable in practice, it would have
appeared absurd to contemporaries.’31

This does not mean that serfs had no legal rights. Lords had no authority to arbitrarily kill
or maim their serfs, and clause 20 of Magna Carta includes villeins in its injunction that no
offender shall be amerced (what we would nowadays call ‘fined’) so as to imperil his ability to
continue to make a living – his ‘wainage’:

A freeman shall not be amerced for a small offence, except in accordance with the degree
of the offence and for a grave offence he shall be amerced according to its gravity, without
imperilling his status; and a merchant similarly without imperilling his stock-in-trade; and
similarly a villein shall be amerced always without loss of wainage – if their liability is to us.
And none of the aforesaid amercements shall be imposed except by the sworn evidence of
worthy men of the neighbourhood.

However, because a serf could not take legal proceedings against his lord, he was not able to
pursue legal remedies relating to dispossession of his land – by his lord or by others – as he was
deemed to hold it ‘at the lord’s will’. But as E B Fryde points out, ‘That does not mean that the
position of the majority of peasants had legally deteriorated because the new Common Law did
not protect them. Before Henry II’s time there had been no arrangements by which such humble
men could have got any legal hearing outside the courts of their own lords and they would have
been given brutal short shrift if they had tried to challenge these lords. The emergence of the
Common Law did not worsen their position; it merely did not allow them to improve it.’32

This did not totally exclude serfs from participation in royal justice. The reeve and four customary
tenants of each vill, together with the chief pledge or tithingman, were required to attend twice
a year at special meetings of the Hundred court when the sheriff held his ‘tourn’ or inspection.33
The Hundred court dealt with offences similar to those covered in manorial courts. Although
these courts had jurisdiction over minor misdemeanours such as theft and assault, felonies such
as robbery and murder were always transferred to the royal courts (see page 44).

The restraints of serfdom were sorely felt, and many attempts were made to avoid them, as we
will see in chapter 3. The last use of the term ‘serf’ in the Morden court rolls was in November
1420, but the account rolls continued to record payments by serfs absent from the manor until
1446.34

The Church

Until the closing years of our period of study, the Church was a multi-national organisation,
with its headquarters in Rome, that exercised authority on both spiritual and secular matters,
sometimes alongside national governments but sometimes in conflict with them. Within each
local community the church mainly operated through the local clergy (see chapter 9), though
occasionally the dean, archdeacon or even the diocesan bishop might make a brief appearance.

The local priest was entitled to tithes and other payments, in cash and in kind, from his
parishioners. Until 1301 this included the tithes of corn – one in every ten sheaves of wheat,
barley, oats, etc, collected directly from the fields at harvest time – but thereafter these became
payable directly to Westminster Abbey by an agreement with the bishop. A further agreement
made in 1331 confirmed that the current vicar would receive the tithes of the watermill, the tithe
of hay from the whole parish, all the small tithes (described in a valuation of 1535 as tithes of
wood, hemp, beans, wool, lambs, calves, dairy produce, colts, piglets, goslings, eggs, bees, honey,
wax, apples, pears and pearmains, and personal tithes), all offerings at the altar and all kinds
of oblations made at masses, confessions, etc, all that is bequeathed to him in wills, plus one
quarter of wheat and one quarter of beans a year provided by the abbey, in addition to a vicarage
house and 13 acres of arable land and half an acre of meadow as glebe.35 Furthermore, he would
be entitled to ‘mortuary’ on the death of a tenant with livestock, usually the second-best beast,
the best having been claimed by the lord of the manor as ‘heriot’.

In exchange, parishioners could expect regular services on Sundays and festival days, as well as
baptism, marriage, extreme unction on their deathbeds, and a burial within the churchyard, or
possibly inside the church, accompanied by appropriate prayers and masses. We will see in chapters
4 and 9 that some testators left detailed instructions in their wills relating to provision for the afterlife,
usually heavily funded. No doubt they also expected ongoing pastoral care and support from local
clergy during their lifetimes, especially during sickness and financial need, but such matters went
unrecorded. However, we will see on pages 233-7 that absentee rectors and litigious vicars might
have left pastoral needs unfulfilled. The effects of the Reformation are considered on pages 238-247.

In Morden the demands of the church overlapped with the demands of lordship, as Westminster
Abbey exercised lordship over the manor, which occupied the greater part of the parish, excluding
that portion within the manor which came to be known as Ravensbury.36 It is possible that the
abbey had an active pastoral role in Morden during Saxon times, but by the end of the 12th
century, if not before, any such spiritual authority over the parish was delegated to parish clergy,
appointed by the abbey but responsible to the bishop and diocesan officials. Even when the tithes

of the parish, rightfully claimed by the incumbent as rector, were officially appropriated to the
abbey in 1301, vicars were appointed to perform the pastoral duties previously undertaken by
the rector, and the abbey’s interests in Morden as a parish became purely financial.37 It received
the tithes, or the profits from them if they were leased or sold, and it was responsible for the
appointment and financial support of the vicar, and for repairs to the chancel of the parish
church – all previously the rights and responsibilities of the rector.

In exercising its rights of lordship within its manor of Morden, however, the abbey’s interests,
while still essentially financial, extended into every aspect of the lives of its tenants.

Lordship

These rights of lordship are set out in two extant documents, a ‘custumal’ of c.1225 listing the
free and customary tenants of the manor and the rents and services due from them, and an
‘extent’, or valuation of the abbey’s holdings, of 1312, which includes a similar but expanded
list.38 First and foremost, all land was held of the abbey, not only customary land, which was
held by the tenant ‘at the lord’s will’, but also freehold land, for which the tenants owed to the
abbey ‘rent, fine and fealty’, though strictly speaking the ‘fine’ payable on taking over a freehold
property was called ‘relief’ [relevium]. In addition to performing an initial act of fealty, free
tenants usually owed ‘suit of court’ – the requirement to attend the manorial courts – though this
was by agreement rather than by law (see page 9). The custumal and the extent also specify that
freehold tenants should provide men to perform certain harvest boonworks, and the freehold
tenants of properties within the abbey’s Morden Fee in Ewell were furthermore expected to pay
‘medsilver’ in lieu of mowing the demesne meadows, as well as gifts of poultry at Christmas.

Customary tenants faced more stringent demands. The standard formula when a customary
tenant was admitted to a holding is first recorded in extant Morden records in November 1398:39

… And later the lord grants the said tenement with its pertinents to John Edward, son
of the aforesaid Ralph, to have and to hold the said tenement with its pertinents to the
aforementioned John, his heirs and assigns, of the lord at the lord’s will in bondage by
roll of court by service paying 12 shillings per year at the usual four terms. And suit of
court and heriot when it falls due. And fealty for all other services. And he gives the lord
for fine as appears. And he does fealty.

This formula was used almost unchanged into the 19th century. The tenement was held ‘of the
lord’ of the manor, to whom the tenant had to ‘do fealty’. It was held ‘at the lord’s will’, though
custom imposed some restrictions on the way that the lord could exercise his will. It was held ‘in
bondage’, John, like his father Ralph, being ‘the lord’s serf [nativus]’ (see below). The tenement
was held ‘by roll of court’, the entry in the court roll being his only proof of title. It was also
held ‘by service’ (later expanded to ‘the rent, customs and services due and accustomed’), John
owing rent, heriot – a form of death duty – ‘when it falls due’, suit of court and the act of fealty.
It was a heritable property, being granted to John and his heirs, though the heir could only enter
into his inheritance on admission by the lord’s steward after he had done fealty to the lord and
paid his entry fine, in John’s case 3s 4d. And it was assignable – John could surrender it to the
use of whoever he chose, as his father had done when he surrendered it to John’s use within
his own lifetime. Another phrase normally used at this time, but omitted on this occasion, was
‘saving the lord’s rights’, a catch-all condition included as insurance. We note also that the grant
was of ‘the whole of that tenement and the whole of that land pertaining to the same and all its
pertinents’, the ‘pertinents’ being the rights associated with the tenement, including a share in
the common meadow, rights to common pasture, and the right to collect undergrowth, loppings
and dead wood (but not timber) for fuel and the repair of hedges, buildings and equipment.

Ralph had not transferred the tenement directly to his son. Instead, like all customary holdings,
it had been surrendered into the lord’s hand, and the lord, by his steward, admitted John into the
tenement. The property remained the absolute possession of the abbey, as lord of the manor, even
though the tenant and his or her heirs had full rights within it. As noted above (page 5), disputes
over customary property could not be pursued in the royal courts, but only within the manorial
court. Such property could not be openly sold like freehold property, but had to be surrendered to

the lord, ‘to the use of [ad opus]’ a new occupant, who would then be admitted in the same way,
and under the same conditions, as an heir such as John Edward – though no doubt an unrecorded
financial transaction took place between the old and new tenant behind the scenes.

John and his father were described as ‘the lord’s serfs’ [nativus], and the land they held was
therefore ‘servile’ land, held ‘in bondage’. Even if the property subsequently passed to a tenant
who was not a serf, it was still said to be held ‘in bondage’. Having once been part of a servile
tenement the land remained ‘servile’, whatever the status of the current tenant. The final
occurrence in our records of the term ‘in bondage’ was in a court roll of 1450, shortly after the
last mention of an individual as being a serf, in an account roll of 1446, referring to John Hegge,
from another ancient villein family, who died that year.40 But, as R H Hilton remarks, ‘villeinage
was never abolished; it withered away’.41

The distinction between servile land and free land had implications for would-be tenants. There is
some evidence that a serf could not purchase free land, and that any land so obtained automatically
became servile, while many free men were unwilling to hold servile land in case they should be
deemed to be serfs (see page 55).42 This distinction between serf and free man went far beyond
the tenure of land. A serf was tied to the manor on which he was born, and could only leave with
the lord’s permission, on annual payment of ‘chevage’.43 A serf’s daughter could only marry with
the lord’s licence, on payment of ‘merchet’.44 A serf’s son could not enter holy orders without the
approval of his lord. Many and varied were the restrictions endured by serfs, and it is not surprising
that attempts were made to avoid them (see page 51), especially in the period after the Black Death,
from which time most of our court roll evidence comes.

One requirement placed on tenants, although resented and resisted by many, was eventually
turned to their advantage. This was the manorial court, initially the means by which the lord of
the manor exercised judicial control over his tenants, but increasingly used by those tenants to
regulate their communal relationships and to ensure that their property rights were both recorded
and upheld. The role of the manorial court is considered in detail in chapter 2, and the records
generated at these courts are the main source of evidence for this study.

The Local Community

The court rolls reveal the local community in action and this will be the main focus of the present
study. The manorial court did not merely guard the lord’s rights and monitor the lord’s interests in
the transfer of property; it also concerned itself with matters important to the tenants themselves.

Thus we discover that there were communal expectations, everyone taking it for granted that
people would not block the highway by letting their trees overhang it or by dumping rubbish
or by placing obstacles on the road. Similarly, it was expected that each occupier would keep
clear any length of ditch or watercourse that bounded their property to prevent flood damage
to neighbouring properties. Most crops were grown in large open fields, so it was important
that everyone kept their livestock from trespassing in the fields and damaging their neighbours’
crops. Increasingly we find by-laws being enacted in the manorial court regulating the use
of these arable fields as well as the common pasture and meadow, or requiring that pigs have
rings inserted in their snouts to prevent them from uprooting plants (see pages 192-9). When
tenants had enclosed plots of land it was sometimes necessary to negotiate access rights across a
neighbour’s enclosure (see page 13).

But in addition to these communal expectations there were also shared personal ones. Cash-flow
problems were common, not only because of a frequent shortage of small-denomination coins
but also because of the seasonal nature of an agricultural economy. People therefore expected to
be given short-term credit, credit relationships often being reciprocal, with confidence that in
due course such debts would be settled (see page 127). And it was not just credit arrangements. It
was also expected that other agreements would be fulfilled – that promised work would be done
and agreed wages would be paid, that services and goods supplied would be of an acceptable
standard, especially food and drink, but also other items, whether grown or made, and that one
would not be cheated by short measures.

When these expectations were not met, aggrieved parties could make use of the manorial court
to enforce and uphold their just demands by use of legal sanctions. Thus the court records cover
such matters as the maintenance of highways and ditches; the protection of the arable crops and
the common meadows and pastures; disputes over credit arrangements (see chapter 5); conflicts
between individual tenants (see chapter 6), consumer protection in its supervision of brewing,
baking and retailing (see chapter 8); in fact with most aspects of local life. Its officers and
administrators were local men (and, very occasionally, local women), many of whom attained
a position of some power and prestige (see chapter 7). But much of its influence was exercised
through the individual households and families of which the community was comprised.
Thus in April 1539 a by-law was enacted at the manorial court against children breaking their
neighbours’ fences, their parents forfeiting 40d for each occurrence.45

The Family

Although parents were entitled to make demands of their children and husbands had authority
over their wives, the family was essentially a unit with shared interests that needed to work
together to survive and prosper. Children were highly valued as prospective contributors to the
domestic economy. Barbara Hanawalt has shown how even young children had a role to play
within the household, though she also stresses that their labour was not usually exploited and
that it was only in their late teens that they took on the full burden of adult work.46 Similarly,
she points out that marriage was seen as partnership, both husband and wife contributing their
labour towards the common goal of providing enough for themselves and their children to live
on and, hopefully, to prosper.47

Parents expected their children to be co-operative, though some reveal in their wills that they
were aware that some might not be (see pages 65-6). They also expected their children to support
them in old age and infirmity, though they took precautions in case that should not happen.
Children expected, or at least hoped, that their parents and other relatives would provide for
them – Morden followed the custom of ‘Borough English’ whereby the youngest son would
inherit a customary holding, whereas freehold property normally passed to the eldest son. If
there were no sons to inherit, property would be shared jointly by any daughters, while brothers,
sisters, nephews and nieces might succeed to property left by childless couples. But even non-
inheriting children would hope for some provision – daughters would expect a marriage portion,
whether of land, money or goods; sons might receive a cottage or a plot of land or even a larger
holding. If nothing could be provided in the immediate locality, influence might be exercised to
find a position as a servant or an apprentice, sometimes in a neighbouring village, sometimes
in London or further afield, their families paying the fee demanded by the lord of the manor in
the case of servile tenants (see pages 51-3). It might even be possible to marry someone with
property – a widow was many a young man’s entry into landholding.

But life did not always match expectations. Sickness and death were common. Many children
did not reach adulthood; others were orphaned and left in the care of a guardian. We will see
on page 65 that guardians did not always relinquish property when an heir came of age, while
others had not maintained the property. There was sometimes conflict between stepmothers
and stepchildren, a situation that husbands and fathers tried to anticipate, though not always
successfully (see page 66). Credit arrangements within families sometimes broke down – we
will see disputes between Peter Popsent and his father-in-law and between Peter and Baldwin
Popsent, probably his older brother (see pages 130-1). Alan Berenger sued Robert Berenger,
perhaps a cousin, over a trespass offence claiming damages of just 2½d (see page 188). The
Schutte family brought to the manorial court a question of access rights over land held by
individual family members – at first sight a breakdown in family relations but perhaps just a
necessary part of the process of defining and registering landholdings at that period (see page
13). Perhaps the most surprising aspect of family disputes is how few appear in our records. No
doubt there were the usual tensions and stresses between family members in medieval Morden
as there are today, but most were resolved without recourse to the manorial court.

8 MEDIEVAL MORDEN: NEIGHBOURHOOD AND COMMUNITY

9

9

2: JUDGE AND JURY

The manorial court rolls are our most useful source of information on the inhabitants of medieval
Morden. However, it must be remembered that these records, valuable as they are to the local
historian, were not designed for our use. In this chapter we will attempt to unravel some of the
intricacies of the operation of the manorial court in order to better understand and appreciate
the records that they produced.

Every tenant of the manor of Morden owed ‘suit’ [secta] at the manorial court, customary tenants
by definition and free tenants by formal agreement. Thus, in the 1312 Extent of the manor, the
entries for Sir Robert fitz Neel, Thomas de St Michael and John Cuppyng/Kippyng, the free
tenants of the manor’s Morden Fee holding in Ewell, and for William Antorneys of Morden, all
end with the statement ‘And he owes suit of court’. The only exception was the former rector of
Morden, Gerard de Staundon, though the court rolls record him owing suit of court, as did his
successors as owners of Wynteworthes tenement [W] in West Morden.1

In May 1297 the serviens or estate manager was ‘ordered to cause to be made a roll of the names
of the suitors of court before the next court under penalty six pence’.2 On the same day he and
his assistant, the manorial beadle, were pardoned ‘for default of the book for swearing the oath’.
Presumably they had forgotten to bring a Gospel book, perhaps normally borrowed from the
parish church.

If a tenant failed to attend the court and had not ‘essoined’ – sent apologies for absence by a
third party – he would be ‘amerced’ – or charged what we would nowadays call a fine. Those
who essoined were expected to ‘warrant’ their essoin ‘in person’ at the next court, presumably to
justify their previous absence.3 Until 1300 a note was made of the number of consecutive essoins
a tenant made, the maximum allowable apparently being three.4 (Some scholars suggest that
essoins were a 14th-century innovation, but they were recorded in the earliest extant Morden
court rolls beginning in 1296.5) In each of 1327, 1389 and 1390, a single essoin was declared not
valid ‘because a serf’ or because the tenant ‘held by the rod’ – terms describing customary or villein
tenure. On other occasions the same tenants’ essoins were accepted, so it does not seem generally
to have been the case in Morden that only free tenants could essoin, as on some manors, and was
probably a quirk of the clerk who recorded the court.6 In 1327 another essoin was disallowed
because the third party who presented the essoin failed to remain for the whole court.7

Traditionally, courts were held every three weeks [de tribus septimanis in tres septimanas], but
in reality they were seldom held more than twice a year in Morden, other than in exceptional
circumstances, as revealed in table 2.1 overleaf.

What courts?

Westminster Abbey had two distinct jurisdictions within Morden. As lord of the manor it held
courts variously called ‘general courts’ [curia generalis], ‘great courts’ [magna curia], or just
‘courts’ [curia], presumably named at the whim of the current clerk. However, from 1513 to
1515, the clerk called this court a curia legalis which is normally translated ‘court leet’,8 a term
associated with a different jurisdiction, the annual View of frankpledge [visus francplegii]. This
was originally a court of royal jurisdiction subordinate to the Hundred courts within a shire, and
had authority over the residents of a ‘vill’ or township, rather than a manor, though the right to
hold a View was often delegated to manorial lords, including Westminster Abbey. In Morden,
the View was normally a separate session within one of the regular manorial courts, taking place
at the beginning or end, though occasionally a roll of a court with View does not distinguish
between the two sessions.

The View of frankpledge was the occasion for reviewing the tithings. Every male inhabitant
over the age of 12, whether or not a direct tenant of the manor, was obliged to be enrolled
within a ‘tithing’ [decenna] – originally a group of ten – ‘to provide collective security for lawful
behaviour’.9 Until the early 15th century, there were two tithings in Morden – East Morden and
West Morden – and a separate tithing for the abbey’s tenants of Morden Fee in Ewell, who also
attended the View at Morden – each with its own elected officers.10 The individual tithings are
not named after 1420, and it seems probable that they had been combined due to decline in

population and amalgamation of holdings. At each year’s View these ‘tithingers’ paid to the lord
of the manor the ‘common fine’, traditionally calculated at 1d each but, by the time our records
begin, fixed at 6s 8d paid jointly by all three tithings – though attempts were made during the
late 15th and early 16th centuries to return this to a per capita charge of 1d (see page 169). The
View also dealt with ‘petty misdemeanours against the general law of the realm’ – infractions of
the peace such as assault or housebreaking, public nuisances such as unscoured ditches or the
dumping of rubbish, and the supervision of commercial activities such as brewing or baking
(see chapter 8).11 Felony cases were always sent to a higher court.

Whose court?

The manorial court primarily existed to maintain the rights of the lord of the manor over his
tenants, and the ‘profits of court’ [perquisitum curie] that he received from holding courts were
a valuable part of his income. The court was always held in the name of the manorial lord and
was presided over by a steward [senescallus] appointed by the lord, no doubt assisted by a clerk
to record proceedings on manorial court rolls. A considerable number of these rolls survive,
though many are missing – especially those from before 1378 and after 1541 – as can be seen
from the gaps in table 2.1 above.12

The lordly origin of these records ensured that the rolls recorded infringements of the lord’s rights and
the penalties or ‘amercements’ [misericordia] due to the lord for his ‘mercy’ for such infringements.
These might include failure to attend court; arrears of rent or of the performance of labour services
and boonworks due at harvest or ploughing; failure to ensure that every male over the age of 12
was sworn into a tithing; failure to maintain buildings, bridges, ditches and highways; breaches
of the assize of bread and ale, especially by using illicit measures or by selling inferior products;
encroachment or trespass, by the tenant or his livestock, on demesne land or public highways; and

Table 2.1 The number of courts recorded in manorial accounts [ ] or having extant court rolls
( ) in each calendar year:

1281 [1]

1314 [3]

1347 [2]

1399 (2)

1436 (1)

1463 (2)

1488 (2)

1519 (2)

1282 [1]

1318 [2]

1348 [2]

1400 (2)

1437 (2)

1464 (2)

1489 (2)

1520 (1)

1283 [2]

1319 [1]

1349 [5]

1401 (2)

1438 (1)

1465 (2)

1490 (2)

1521 (1)

1288 [1]

1320 [2]

1350 [3]

1402 (2)

1439 (3)

1466 (2)

1491 (2)

1522 (1)

1291 [1]

1321 [2]

1378 (2)

1403 (2)

1440 (2)

1467 (2)

1492 (2)

1523 (1)

1292 [3]

1322 [3]

1379 (2)

1404 (2)

1441 (2)

1468 (2)

1493 (2)

1524 (1)

1293 [2]

1323 [1]

1380 (2)

1405 (2)

1442 (2)

1469 (2)

1494 (2)

1525 (1)

1294 [1]

1325 [2]

1381 (2)

1406 (2)

1443 (2)

1470 (1)

1495 (2)

1526 (1)

1295 [5]

1327 [1](1)

1382 (2)

1407 (2)

1444 (2)

1471 (2)

1496 (2)

1527 (1)

1296 [3](1)

1328 [2](2)

1383 (3)

1408 (2)

1445 (1)

1472 (2)

1497 (2)

1529 (1)

1297 (5)

1329 [1]

1384 (1)

1409 (2)

1446 (1)

1473 (2)

1498 (2)

1534 (1)

1298 (4)

1330 [2]

1385 (2)

1410 (2)

1447 (2)

1474 (2)

1499 (2)

1535 (1)

1299 (4)

1331 [1]

1386 (2)

1411 (2)

1448 (2)

1475 (2)

1500 (1)

1536 (1)

1300 (3)

1332 [1]

1387 (3)

1412 (1)

1449 (2)

1476 (2)

1502 (1)

1537 (2)

1302 [1]

1333 [1]

1388 (2)

1413 (2)

1450 (2)

1477 (2)

1503 (1)

1538 (1)

1303 [3]

1335 [1]

1389 (2)

1414 (1)

1451 (2)

1478 (2)

1507 (1)

1539 (1)

1304 [4]

1336 [3]

1390 (2)

1415 (2)

1452 (1)

1479 (2)

1508 (2)

1540 (1)

1305 [2]

1339 [1]

1391 (2)

1416 (2)

1453 (1)

1480 (2)

1509 (1)

1541 (1)

1306 [1]

1340 [2]

1392 (2)

1417 (2)

1454 (2)

1481 (2)

1512 (1)

1594 (1)

1307 [4]

1341 [1]

1393 (2)

1418 (2)

1455 (2)

1482 (2)

1513 (2)

1596 (1)

1308 [2]

1342 [3]

1394 (2)

1419 (2)

1456 (2)

1483 (2)

1514 (1)

1310 [2]

1343 [2]

1395 (2)

1420 (2)

1457 (1)

1484 (1)

1515 (2)

1311 [2]

1344 [1]

1396 (2)

1421 (1)

1458 (1)

1485 (1)

1516 (1)

1312 [3]

1345 [4]

1397 (2)

1422 (1)

1461 (1)

1486 (2)

1517 (2)

1313 [2]

1346 [3]

1398 (2)

1435 (2)

1462 (2)

1487 (2)

1518 (1)

2: JUDGE AND JURY 11

11

breaches of the peace. The lord also had various customary rights over any tenant defined as a serf
[nativus], which entitled him to payments for licence for a serf’s daughters to marry or for his sons
to leave the manor, and to amercements when these rights were infringed (see pages 48-55).

If the amercement was not paid, the tenant’s goods could be distrained – taken as surety – until
payment was made. Neighbours would often act as pledges [plegium] (see page 15) to ensure
that litigants attended court or that amercements were paid. ‘If at any stage pledges could be
found, they could come and replevy (or recover) the goods for the defendant’.13 If the litigant
defaulted, the pledge could then be amerced and a better pledge appointed [ponere per meliores
plegios], while the defaulting litigant would be further distrained. Under chapter 3 of the Statute
of Marlborough of 1267 it was an offence to take an unreasonable ‘distress’ or distraint.14

It was also in the lord’s interest that property transfers were legitimised at the court. Sale of
freehold land gave rise to the payment of ‘relief’ to the lord of the manor, and the purchaser did
the lord ‘fealty’. Customary land was surrendered into the lord’s hand ‘to the use of’ [ad opus] the
new tenant, who paid an entry fine and did fealty. The death of customary tenants was reported
at court, and heirs were invited to claim the property. If no heirs came forward the property was
taken in hand, the bailiff answering to the court for any profits. Heriot – usually the best animal
or a cash equivalent – was payable to the lord of the manor on the death of a customary tenant,
and sometimes on the transfer of a holding outside the family.15 (These records therefore supply
a great deal of useful information on local properties and their descent.16)

But although these were the lord’s courts, concerned with his rights and interests and presided
over by the lord’s steward, the bulk of the business was conducted by the tenants or suitors who,
in effect, acted as both jury and judge. They presented the material to be adjudicated upon, both
on their own behalf and also making ‘presentments’ on behalf of the community – as the ‘homage’
[homagium: those owing fealty] or ‘jurors’ [juratio: those sworn on oath] or as elected officials. In
addition to presenting the cases to be considered, they would inquire into the rights of a disputed
case and reach a verdict [veredictum, literally ‘truly said’] (see page 24). Two or three tenants also
served as ‘affeerers’ [afferatores] to set the level of amercements and fines at the end of each court,
presumably in cooperation with the steward and his clerk.

Thus the manorial court became a place for the community to conduct its business. Local officials
were elected at the manor court – chief pledges or head-tithingmen [capitalis], constables
[constabularius] and aletasters [tastator cervisie] were appointed for East Morden, West Morden
and for the abbey’s estate in Ewell. Cases of public nuisance were reported – such as overhanging
trees, the dumping of rubbish, the overflowing of ditches and watercourses, and damage to
bridges and to the highway – and instructions issued that the matter be rectified before the next
court under a set penalty. Even the lord of the manor could be presented in this way, though it
was his lessees who were amerced, as in these extracts from 1378:17

amercement 20d

Likewise they present that the lord of the manor has 1 ditch at le Foureakrer in length
40 perches not scoured, to the nuisance of those passing. Therefore John Edward 6d
is in mercy. And that Simon Hobekoc 6d has 1 ditch at Wollardescroft in length 6 10
perches not scoured. And the lord has 1 ditch 6d at le Park in length 20 perches not
scoured, to the nuisance. Therefore etc Simon Hobekoc in mercy. And that William
Bunt 2d has 1 ditch at Neweberygardyn in length 4 perches not scoured to the nuisance
of those passing. Therefore etc.

amercement 3d

Likewise they present that the lord 3d has 1 ditch beneath Waterdenebrigg in length
12 perches not scoured to the nuisance of those passing. Therefore Ralph atte Rithe
is in mercy.

Matters concerning the communal conduct of agriculture were also settled at court. By the late
15th century we have cases of tenants overstocking the common pastures or allowing outsiders
to use them. Later we have all sorts of by-laws or ‘ordinances’ [ordinatio], regulating the pasturing
of cattle and even geese, the fencing of the common fields and meadows before Easter, the yoking
[iugo/iungo], licensing [justifico] and ringing [annulatio] of pigs to prevent them from rooting
up plants, as in this example from February 1513 (see also pages 192-9):18

penalty

order for pigs

At this court a day is given to each tenant and inhabitant to make their fences
[clausura] towards the common field within this lordship before Easter next under
penalty for each perch not done 4d. And towards the common meadow at the same
place within the next eight days under penalty for each perch 4d.

And similarly a day is given to each inhabitant of this manor to ring their pigs within
the next eight days under penalty for each pig not ringed 4d.

Penalties were allotted, and failure to comply resulted in the penalty being forfeited to the
lord of the manor. The manorial court also recorded livestock straying onto the manor and
arrangements for proclaiming them in church, fair and market. Strays still unclaimed after a
year and a day were forfeited to the lord.19

However, it was not just in their official roles that tenants took advantage of the manorial courts.
Individuals also used these courts to settle personal differences between neighbours, such as
trespass and debt. In addition to any damages awarded to the injured party an amercement,
payable to the lord, would also be imposed, as it was in cases of false accusation or failure to
answer an accusation or to pursue a prosecution – they even had to pay for licence to settle a
complaint [querela] out of court. Disputes between tenants over such matters as boundaries and
rights of way were settled by ‘inquests’ or inquiries [inquisitio] undertaken by ‘jurors’ – local
people who knew the background to the dispute. If necessary, a search could be made of earlier
court rolls – all for a fee – as in 1327:20

search of roll

fine 6d

Henry atte Chirch gives the lord for a fine 6d for search of the rolls for a fine which he
made in the presence of William Bysshop the steward for lands and tenement which
Isabelle Coxx mother of the same Henry held in bondage.

Procedures

All court rolls begin with a list of those who had essoined – sent apologies for absence – and the
name of their essoiner.

In the earliest Morden rolls, this is followed by an assortment of entries, covering default
(failure, often repeated, to attend the court), trespass in the demesne fields or meadows, arrears
of labour services, brewing and selling of ale, and the occasional property transfer by sale, lease
or inheritance. Thus the first extant court roll, for 20 October 1296, reads:21

court of morden held the saturday next after the feast of st luke the
evangelist at the end of the 24th year [of edward i]

Essoins:

Henry Gilden attorney for Gerard de Staundon of common [suit of court] by Luke
Kanninle.

Thomas of the church of common [suit of court] by Gilbert Durannt.

John Swein of common [suit of court] by John Juel.

amercement 3d

John Sepherde puts himself at the lord’s mercy for trespass made in the lord’s cornfield;
pledge Henry Gelden.

adjournment

Suit between the lord and Master William de Ewell, for more defaults and others, in
adjournment.

distraint

John Bult is distrained as before. William Fles is distrained as before. Alan Sidher,
Widow Gote and William Marens are distrained for trespass made in the lord’s
meadows.

aletasters:
amercement 3d

They present the wife of Paternoster. 3d

distraint

They present in default Master William de Ewell, Geoffrey le Gras, Adam Ingulf.

amercement 3d

Luke Kin’st puts himself at mercy for default; pledge.

distraint

Master William de Ewell is distrained for default, Paternoster for the same.

Peter Priur is distrained for three harvest labour services which are in arrears.

All the above entries had to do with manorial authority. In May 1297 we have our first recorded
complaint or ‘action’ [querela] by an individual:22

John Schutte brings an action against [querit de] Peter Priur and provides as pledges
to prosecute William atte Rythe and John le Svein. And the said Peter is summoned to
answer the said John.

We are given no details of the case here, or in the following note from September 1297:23

distraint

Peter Priur, summoned to answer John Sutte, does not come, therefore he is distrained.

But when Peter also failed to attend in November 1297, we discover that the case concerned an
undefined trespass:24

distraint

John Shutte plaintiff appears [optulit se] against Peter le Priour defendant in a plea of
trespass and he does not come. And it is testified in court by the bailiff on oath that
the aforesaid Peter holds nothing in his bailiwick for which &c. Therefore he is to be
distrained when &c.

However, in February 1297/8, the case was settled when John admitted making a false accusation:25

amercement 3d

John Chutte for a false plea made against Peter Priour puts himself at mercy; pledge
the beadle.

We are not told how the case was decided, only that John ‘put himself at mercy’ [vadiat
misericordiam]. Did John have a change of heart, or did Peter produce evidence of some kind?
The later court rolls give more detail of the processes involved in deciding a case, as considered
in the following pages.

Some members of the Schutte family were not the most law-abiding, as we discover from a later
entry from the same court:

fine 10s

Peter Chutte and John Chutte and William Chutte come and give the lord 10s in order
to have possession of chattels seized by the lord’s bailiff which same Peter, John and
William were judged before the sheriff on a plea of theft and for the flight of the same;
they made fine &c.

It would seem that they were not above disputes among themselves, as we discover in March 1299:26

fine 6d

John Chutte senior comes and gives the lord 6d for licence to measure his land adjacent
to his portion, which land lies next to land of Peter Chutte and in order that the court
be able to see and to measure the aforesaid land &c. And William Atterith is ordered
and makes oath &c measures &c.

fine 6d

Peter Chutte comes and gives the lord 6d for having an inquest to enquire truly whether
John Chutte senior and John Chutte junior and William Chutte have common pasture
in the portion of the said Peter or not, because the aforesaid Peter says that the aforesaid
John, John and William only have a way for driving namely for each of them a cart and
driving their beasts &c. Upon this the said John, John and William are charged and
they come and say that they have claim to common pasture etc and that the aforesaid
Peter does not have severalty &c, thus &c, and they seek that it be inquired into and the
aforesaid Peter similarly.

amercement 9d

The inquest comes and says that the aforesaid John, John and William do not have
rights over land of the aforesaid Peter except as the aforesaid Peter says and that the
aforesaid Peter has severalty &c and is able to plough his portion except a way leading
&c. Therefore it is agreed that the aforesaid Peter have his land such &c and that the
aforesaid John, John and William are in mercy; they pledge one another.

However, there were no simple methods at this period for defining rights over land, and it was
common practice to bring such matters to a court of law so that a formal statement of rights
could be recorded. For freehold land the process was to bring a fictitious dispute before the
royal justices in order to obtain a ‘Final Concord’ registering the transfer of the property, and it
is possible that the Schuttes were following a similar course here over their customary holdings,
rather than merely quarrelling among themselves. This is our first recorded example of an inquest
[inquisitio] – an inquiry made by a panel of fellow tenants, whose decision was binding on all
parties. The appointment of William Atterith, on oath, to measure the land gives further insight
into the role of tenants in the running of the court. William had served as manorial reeve, or
estate manager, in the 1280s, and may well have been reappointed to that post.27

Another trespass dispute involving a John Schutte, from July 1300, provides our first example of
a licence to agree [licentia concordandi], for which an amercement was paid to the lord:28

amercement 3d

Walter atte Wode plaintiff and John Chutte defendant on a plea of trespass for licence
to make an agreement on condition that the aforesaid John puts himself at mercy;
pledge William Atterythe.

One of the John Schuttes came to a bad end, as the manorial accounts for 1307 and 1308 inform
us that he had been hanged and his goods and chattels forfeited to the abbey (see page 104).29
Again, no details are given of his offence.

However, Peter Priour himself was not above reproach. In October 1296 he was indicted for not
performing three labour services on the lord’s demesne land at harvest, and again in September
1297 for not having done his harvest works, resulting in his ‘messuage’, or house, being taken
in hand by the manorial bailiff in November of that year (see page 175).30 Presumably this
was a temporary punishment, as in February 1298 Peter and his wife Agnes surrendered their
messuage to the use of John Sweyn.31 In October 1298 Peter was indicted for trespass with his
beasts in the lord’s enclosure, and was ‘attached by security’ [per vadium] –
‘required to find
sureties that he would appear at trial’.32 This condition was not fulfilled – ‘because security does
not follow’ [quia non sequitur vadium] – despite regular distraints, until May 1299, when he was
finally discharged.33

Another complaint of trespass, made by Agnes la Daye, probably the manorial dairy worker
[daia], is noted in July 1299:34

Essoin

Robert le Flesch against Agnes la Daye and others in a complaint in a plea of trespass,
by William Pollard – affeered.

remains by
essoin

Agnes la Daye plaintiff, by pledges Thomas the miller and Henry Tracy, appearing
against Robert le Flesch defendant in a plea of trespass – he has essoined and is
attached to answer; pledges Richard Atterith and Thomas the miller.

The matter appears to have been settled in October 1299, though the assessment of damages in
wax raises questions as to the nature of the trespass:35

amercement 6d

Robert Le Flesch for trespass made on Agnes La Daye gives security to emend the
same, and damages are assessed at half a pound of wax and the lord’s amercement;
pledges Robert Le Webbe and John the beadle.

But relations between Robert and Agnes seem to have led to violence, or the threat of violence,
as the roll of the View of frankpledge for April 1300 reveals:36

amercement 3d

The head tithingmen of Morden with their tithingers present that Agnes la Daye justly
raised hue and cry upon Robert le Flesch.3d Therefore in mercy; pledges Robert le
Webbe and Richard father of the same.

(The process of hue and cry [hutesium] is considered below, page 36). The only detailed account
of violence in these earliest rolls related to Ewell, not Morden, and in turn led to questions over
jurisdictions, as Robert de Ewelle was both a free tenant of the abbey’s Morden Fee in Ewell and
lord of the Ewell manor later known as Fitznells.37 The court roll for 20 July 1300 reports:38

Richard de Wytewelle is attached to answer Nicholas le Ropere concerning this, that
the same Richard and other strangers the day of the Nativity of blessed John the
Baptist in the 28th year of the reign of King Edward (I) [24 Jun 1293] in the vill of
Ewell [Ewelle], the aforesaid Richard beat and maltreated him drawing blood from
the same and has broken a certain tabor worth 2s and inflicted other enormities on
him to the grave injury of the same 20s and against the peace &c, and he produces
witnesses therefor &c.

adjournment

And upon this comes a certain Robert de Ewelle and claims his own court concerning
the aforesaid parties &c. And the court deeds thereof say that the lords of this court
have been accustomed to determine the attachment of tenants of the ancestors of the
aforesaid Robert for this kind of trespass. Therefore &c. And the aforesaid Richard is
present and does not wish to answer. And the aforesaid Nicholas asks judgement of
the same [illegible] undefended. And the aforesaid judgement is adjourned until &c.

It was normal to specify if blood was drawn [tractatio sanguinis] during an assault [insultus],
perhaps to differentiate between physical attack and threatening behaviour.39 This is the last court
roll to survive until 1327, so we must remain ignorant of the outcome. However, the valuation of
the ‘tabor’ – a drum, often used in falconry for starting game – is of interest.40 It was common to
note the value, if any, of a weapon used in an assault or other crime, presumably because it was
forfeited and sold to the lord’s profit. Later cases are considered below (see page 34).

Pledges and securities

We have seen that a tithing provided collective security for the lawful behaviour of its members,
and one aspect of this mutual responsibility can be seen in the pledging system, whereby family,
neighbours or community officials provided surety for those involved in litigation. Two words
are used in our records, plegium, here translated as ‘pledge’, and vadium, here translated as ‘surety’
when a person is named, or as ‘security’ when it is unclear whether the vadium is a person or a
possession. Possessions could certainly be used as security for future attendance, as is seen in
this extract from October 1299:41

distraint

Stephen ate Seler, John son of the reeve, Richard ate Thorne and a certain stranger are
attached by 1 hood, 1 hatchet and 2 bills and do not come. Therefore judgement is
given that they be distrained at the previous security.

Thus we cannot be certain whether Peter Priour’s vadium that did not ‘follow’ [non sequitur]
refers to a personal surety who did not fulfil his task of ensuring that Peter attended the court,
or a possession promised as security for his attendance but not delivered, or one delivered
but not acted upon. If the translation is correct, perhaps the phrase ‘distrained by surety and
not sequestration’ [per vad’ nec seq’], used in March 1300, refers to the distinction between
security by person and by possessions:42

distraint

Alexander Coke, John Saleman, Isabella Sydher and a certain stranger for trespass made
with their beasts in the lord’s enclosure are distrained by surety and not sequestration.
Therefore they are distrained. Afterwards they are pardoned and discharged because
they cannot be distrained. Therefore the aforesaid sureties are free of the same.

In the above case of Stephen, John and Richard, the items offered as security were distrained when
they failed to attend, and the distraints taken from Peter in 1298 could similarly have been items
offered as security. The phrase ‘did not follow’ appears several times in the court roll for that year.

Another possible example of an object used as security is the following entry from July 1300,
though it is not certain whether securi[tu]m is used to mean ‘surety/security’ as an alternative
for vadium, or refers to an axe [securis]:43

distraint

John son of the reeve is attached by 1 axe/security [securi’m] for trespass made with
his beasts in the lord’s enclosure and does not come. The judgement is that he be
distrained. Afterwards discharged because he comes with one of his men at harvest for
1 day to reap.

Another word with a similar meaning to pledge – manucapio – ‘to go bail for’ – is used in
November 1297, following the lease of 20 acres of Adam Inggolf’s tenement to Walter atte Wode
for a term of four years:44

fine 6d

Adam Inggolf comes and gives the lord 6d that the aforesaid Walter atte Wode during
his term of possession for him makes suit of court &c. And the aforesaid Walter goes
bail for the aforesaid Adam that the same Adam will acknowledge and repair his house
within Michaelmas next; pledge John the beadle.

Interestingly, the manorial beadle is appointed as pledge, in addition to Walter’s bail.

We have a variety of examples of the use of personal pledges or sureties in these early court rolls
(see chart 2.2 overleaf), in entries dealing with defaults of suit of court, erection and maintenance
of buildings, surrenders of customary property, leases, the claiming of stray livestock, as well as
cases of trespass, pleas of land, and the raising of hue and cry noted above. However, not every
such case involved the finding of pledges, though it is unclear why this should be.

plaintiff

defendant

pledge 1

pledge 2

pledge 3

date

No details

lord

William Fles

not named

5.2.1297

45

lord

Alan Sidher

not named

5.2.1297

46

lord

Widow Gode

not named

5.2.1297

47

damaged

damaged

John Sette

8.1.1297

48

Default

suit of court

lord

Luke Kin’st’

not named

20.10.1296

49

lord

John Sette

William de Rithe

8.1.1297

50

lord

Peter Priur

John Cuppyng

26.2.1298

51

Buildings

Richard atte Rythe

[will build house]

William atte Rythe

Roger of the
Church

Luke le Knyt

26.2.1298

52

lord

William Paternoster

not named

[demolished]

28.4.1300

53

Inherit

& maintain

Robert le Sweyn
sen

Robert le Sweyn jun

Robert le Webbe

John Schutte

23.10.1298

54

Hue & cry

just

Agnes la Daye

Robert le Flesch

Robert le Webbe

Richard his father
[le Flesch?]

28.4.1300

55

Lease

Adam Inggolf

Walter atte Wode

William atte Ryth

7.11.1297

56

Adam Inggolf

Walter atte Wode

John the beadle

[Adam to maintain house]

7.11.1297

57

lord

John Edward

bailiff

[demesne?]

7.11.1297

58

Plea of land

Peter Chutte

Chutte, John sen,
John jun & William

one another

30.3.1299

59

Walter Shette, son
of John

Walter atte Wode

Henry Gulden
pledge for
prosecuting

Walter Edward
pledge for
prosecuting

1.10.1327

60

Walter Shutte

Walter atte Wode

not named

2.3.1327/8

61

Walter Shutte

Walter atte Wode

Henry atte Rithe

Robert atte Rithe

22.4.1328

62

Stray

will pay or return

within the year

lord

William le
Godesone

whole homage

1.10.1327

63

Surrender

John le Svein

Thomas & Isabelle
miller

John Svein

John the beadle

2.5.1297

64

John Snoter

Peter Shutte

William atte Ryth

John Shutte

7.11.1297

65

Robert Codebrid

Henry Tracy

Robert le Webbe

John the beadle

7.11.1297

66

Thomas Belle

John Godwyn

William atte Rith

23.10.1298

67

Thomas Belle

Robert le Webbe

John Chute

23.10.1298

68

Richard le Fleche

William & Alice le
Flech

William atte Rithe

23.10.1298

69

Thomas & Emma
Belle

William le Flessch

not named

[& fealty]

17.10.1299

70

Peter & Agnes
Priour

John Sweyn

Thomas miller

Richard atte Ryth

[& maintain]

26.2.1298

71

Thomas & Emma
Belle

Thomas miller

William atte Rithe

William le Webbe

[& maintain]

30.3.1299

72

John Hubert

John Webbe

John Hubert

[for annuity]

1.10.1327

73

Trespass

lord

John Sepherde

Henry Gelden

20.10.1296

74

John Schutte

Peter Priur

William atte Rythe
pledge to prosecute

John Svein pledge
to prosecute

2.5.1297

75

John Chutte

Peter Priour

beadle

[false plea]

26.2.1298

76

lord

William the
shepherd

not named

18.5.1299

77

Table 2.2: The use of personal pledges or sureties in these early court rolls

plaintiff

defendant

pledge 1

pledge 2

pledge 3

date

Trespass

(continued)

lord

Robert le Webbe

beadle

1.7.1299

78

lord

Alexander Cocke,
John Salaman,
Isabelle Sidher and a
certain stranger

17.10.1299

79

lord

Peter le Masonn

not named

30.3.1299

80

lord

William de Braye

beadle

30.3.1299

81

Agnes la Daye

Robert le Flesch

Thomas miller
pledge for
prosecution

Henry Tracy
pledge for
prosecution

1.7.1299

82

Agnes la Daye

Robert le Flesch

Richard atte Rith
pledge for defendant

Thomas miller
pledge for
defendant

1.7.1299

83

Agnes la Daye

Robert le Flesch

Robert le Webbe

John beadle

[damages]

17.10.1299

84

lord

Alexander Cocke,
John Salaman,
Isabelle Sidher and a
certain stranger

not named

[pardoned]

23.3.1300

85

lord

John son of reeve

reeve

23.3.1300

86

lord

Richard atte Thorne

Robert le Webbe

23.3.1300

87

lord

Stephen Atteselere

Walter atte Wode

23.3.1300

88

lord

Alexander atte Hille

not named

20.7.1300

89

Walter atte Wode

John Chutte

William atte Rythe

[licence to agree, if John

puts himself at mercy]

20.7.1300

90

lord

Walter de Webbe

Henry atte Chirche

1.10.1327

91

lord

Henry atte Cherche

William atte Wode

2.3.1327/8

92

lord

William Otediss’

William atte Wode

2.3.1327/8

93

lord

Isabelle atte Thorne

Walter le Webbe

2.3.1327/8

94

lord

Alice Northalle

Edmund Sweyn

2.3.1327/8

95

lord

John in the Hale

John Clappegier

22.4.1328

96

Edmund Sweyn

Walter le Webbe

one another

[licence to agree]

22.4.1328

97

serviens’ accounts

auditors

Robert de Neweport

[John] Sweyn

26.2.1298

98

EWELL

lord

Robert de Ewelle

John Kyppyng

beadle

defaulted suit
of court

1.7.1299

99

lord

Walter Snel

John Kypping

beadle

defaulted suit
of court

2.5.1297

100

lord

John Snel

beadle

defaulted suit
of court

23.3.1300

101

lord

Robert de Ewelle

Richard de
Wytewelle

defaulted suit
of court

28.4.1300

102

lord

Robert de Ewelle

Richard de
Wytewelle

beadle

defaulted suit
of court

20.7.1300

103

William de
Newdegate for

Walter le Gras

John Kyppyng

discharge suit
of court

23.10.1298

104

William de
Newdegate for

Walter de Gras

beadle

discharge suit
of court

26.2.1298

105

lord

Richard le Ropere

Richard de Witewell

John le Ropere

essoin not
warranted

2.5.1297

106

William de Ewelle

Robert de Ewelle

John Kyppyng

Richard Alard

inheritance

26.2.1298

107

Philip Tayl

Robert de Ewelle

none

not prosecuting

23.3.1300

108

lord

William de Ewell

John Atrithe

not stated

2.9.1297

109

lord

William de Ewell

Richard de Witewell

not stated

2.9.1297

110

lord

Richard de Witewell

John Cuppyng

pledge pledged!

7.11.1297

111

Richard de Wytewell

John Kyppynge

surety not present

17.10.1299

112

William Snel

John Snel

John Cuppyng

John the beadle

surrender

7.11.1297

113

Occasionally the pledges are not named, but more often than not only a single pledge was
appointed. However, it was not unusual to have two pledges named – and in one case there were
three.114 In October 1327 ‘the whole homage’ acted as pledge in a case concerning a stray mare:115

pledge

William le Godesone the lord’s serf comes and certifies a certain stray mare to be his and he
has delivery &c. And he gives the lord for seizure 12d. And he provides pledge of the whole
homage to return the aforesaid mare within a year &c whether &c or the price, namely 4s.

In the plea of trespass between Agnes la Daye and Robert le Flesch, each party provided two
pledges, though Thomas the miller served as pledge for both Agnes and Robert. The manorial
beadle often served as pledge, on his own or with another tenant, and the manorial reeve – the
estate manager – was pledge on one occasion, though it was for his son in a case of ‘trespass with
his beasts in the lord’s enclosure’.116 In Agnes la Daye’s hue and cry against Robert le Flesch, it is
unclear whether Robert’s father Richard similarly acted as pledge, together with Robert le Webbe
or if Webbe’s father was the second pledge, presumably for Robert’s future good behaviour.

‘Good behaviour towards the lord king’ was specified as the purpose of a pledging in May 1403:117

pledge of peace

The pledge of John Castelman for his good behaviour towards the lord king and by his
pledges – chiefly against William Mulsey and Peter Popseynt – the beadle Baldwyn
Popseynt and Ralph atte Ryth each under penalty of £10. And the said William Mulsey
and Peter Popseynt now found pledges for the same, namely John Spyk and Alan
Bernger each under penalty of £10 etc.

(Castelman and his wife Julian were involved in a land dispute with William and Peter, Julian’s
stepsons-in-law.118 At a previous court Castelman had ‘refused to swear upon the book with the
homage in contempt of court’, which perhaps led to the ‘good behaviour’ clause.119)

Other family pledges included William atte Rythe for Richard atte Rythe’s promise in February
1298/9 to build a house,120 and John Schutte’s pledge of Peter Schutte after he had been admitted
to a property on surrender by John Snoter in November 1297. The disputing Schutte family also
pledged each other [alter alterius] after the inquest over Peter Shutte’s land in March 1299, noted
above.121 It is tempting to suspect that no one else would pledge such an unruly family, though
John Schutte found pledges in his actions against Peter Priour,122 and he or his namesake acted
as pledge on other occasions.123 In this case it was more that the family as a whole was to take
responsibility for the maintenance of the agreement.

Another case of pledging one another was over a decision to agree out of court in April 1328,
which should only have happened under licence from the lord of the manor:124

amercement 4d

Edmund Sweyn 2d and Walter le Webbe 2d without licence of court are in agreement on
a plea of trespass. Therefore both in mercy pledge one another.

Two surrender cases are worthy of note. In May 1297, John Sweyne was a pledge for the buyers
of his messuage:125

amercement 6d

John le Svein surrenders into the lord’s hands one messuage to the use of Thomas the
miller and Isabelle his wife to have for themselves and the heirs of the body of the
same Isabelle for ever and to hold of the lord by doing customs and services thereof
due and accustomed and they give for admittance 6d and ½d rent increment a year at
Michaelmas, pledges John Svein and John the beadle.

and in October 1327 John Huberd was pledge in a complex surrender involving an annuity and
a possible reversion:126

fine 12d

John Hubert comes and surrenders into the lord’s hands to the use of John le Webbe
one cottage with curtilage adjoining between the tenements of Richard le Milleward
and Richard le Webbe as enclosed by the metes and bounds, to have and to hold to
himself and the offspring issuing from his body, and if he should die without etc that it
shall revert to the aforesaid John Hubert and his offspring [sequela] etc, by customs and
services &c in bondage &c that he shall pay the aforesaid John Hubert for the whole of
his life 18d yearly at the usual four terms. And he gives the lord as a fine 12d; pledge
John Hubert. And he does fealty and he has seisin &c.

It is difficult to see how Huberd could guarantee Webbe’s fulfilment of this agreement – or was
he merely pledging that Webbe would pay the lord the shilling fine?

It is not entirely clear how pledges were appointed. The rolls use the word ‘inventio’ – find or
provide – but we are not told whether this ‘finding’ was done by the suitors before they came to
court, or by people volunteering during the court session, or by ‘being volunteered’ by the court
officers. A series of cases between October 1393 and July 1397, concerning conflicts between
tenants of Morden and tenants of neighbouring Cheam over rights to common pasture in
Sparrowfeld – a cause of ongoing dissension across the centuries – might indicate that, on these
occasions at least, the pledges were appointed by the court. Morden tenants acted as pledges
for Cheam tenants at the very time that a major assault case (or possibly two similar cases) was
underway in the royal courts between tenants of the two townships, including some of those
pledging and being pledged here.127 Thus, in October 1393:128

amercement 2s

the common

Likewise they present that John Gerard 12d and Walter Pottere 12d were attached in the
common with their sheep, the which John and Walter found pledges John Spyk and
Robert Berenger. for satisfaction etc Therefore they are etc.

and again in May 1395 (though the manuscript is damaged):129

amercement 2s

amercement 2d

Walter Pult 12d for trespass in the common pasture with his beasts, pledge William
Wynteworth. Walter Potter 12d of the same at the same place, pledge John Gulden[?].
Walter Beste, Robert Beste, John ………. , John Hegg[er], Nicholas [White?], Walter Kent
and John Rolfe of the same at the same place ……….. under penalty. Therefore …………

then in November 1396:130

attach

1 hayward

amercement 21d

Walter Pottere 6d submits himself for trespass in the common pasture of the lord and
tenants etc called Sparwefeld with his beasts; pledges John Spyk and John Carpenter. John
Payn 6d with his beasts at the same place; pledge Alan Berynger. Walter Pottere 6d with his
beasts at the same place, pledge John Carpenter. John Payn. 2d trespass in corn Richard Attecourt,
1d Agnes Hunte,1d and John Sowth 1d for trespass in the tenants’ corn, whose animals were
impounded for the aforesaid trespass. Therefore they are severally in mercy.

and in July 1397:131

Walter Pulter of Cheam for trespass in the lord’s common pasture at Sparwefeld with
his sheep on 2 occasions; pledges Ralph atte Rithe and John Carpenter. John Gerard
of the same with his sheep at the same place; pledge Ralph atte Rithe. Therefore etc.

Although one can see that they might want to do all in their power to ensure that justice was
done, it is difficult to see how these pledges could enforce attendance at the manor court by
people from another manor whom they were opposing in the royal courts.

The final case of pledging recorded in the Morden rolls was in October 1483, by which time it
had become meaningless, the ‘pledges for prosecuting’ being fictional characters, John Doo and
William Roo, equivalent to the use of ‘John Doe’ in modern American criminal cases:132

plea

Wylotes

Arbitration

John Cowper complains against John Godfrey for trespass; pledges for prosecuting
John Doo and William Roo. And the aforesaid plaintiff declaring says that the aforesaid
defendant overthrew one and a half acres of the same plaintiff at Walettys lying with
certain ploughlands. And the aforesaid defendant says etc. However Richard Cooke and
John Goldewyer senior, are elected impartially by the aforesaid plaintiff and defendant to
arbitrate and judge whether the aforesaid land pertained to the aforesaid plaintiff before
the aforementioned defendant. And they have until the feast of All Saints next to arbitrate
and judge by agreement of the parties, and then to render judgement in respect thereof etc.

This is the only specific reference in our records to election by both parties of impartial arbitrators.
Perhaps the impression is unfounded that those selected to undertake these inquiries were
normally appointed by the court.

The following entry from April 1300 points out the perils of serving as a pledge:133

distraint

Robert de Ewelle who owes suit of court is distrained as before for default, and that
Richard de Wytewelle the first pledge is summoned to hear his judgement.

Richard was frequently amerced for failing to bring to court Robert – and Robert’s uncle William
before him. He was probably their tenant and again it is likely that he was appointed pledge by the
court rather than by his landlords. The Ewell freeholders continued to be distrained into the 15th
century for default of suit of court and for failure to do fealty on inheritance or purchase, though
pledges were not involved after 1396 and not named after 1378 (see page 160 following).134

There are no occurrences of vadium in the later court rolls, which begin again in 1378, but
pledging continued into the 15th century, though less frequently. It would seem that a new
system had been introduced whereby an unsuccessful pledge was amerced and the order was
given [preceptus est] that the defaulting tenant be placed under better pledges [ponere per meliores
plegios]. Thus we find references to the first pledge of a tenant being replaced by a second pledge,
and so on. In the case of Wynteworthes free tenement in West Morden, we trace a succession
of pledges to ensure the fealty of John Godfrey, who had purchased the tenement in 1402. By
1406 a fifth pledge had been appointed, but in 1409 it reverted to another first pledge until again
reaching the fifth pledge in 1413. At this stage Godfrey disappears from the record without ever
having done fealty or paid his ‘relief’, the freehold equivalent of an entry fine.135 His predecessor
had similarly passed through four pledges between 1396 and 1398.136

The final entry relating to pledges for ‘fine and fealty’ was in 1419, relating to part of another freehold
property in Central Road that had been sold piecemeal by William Bunt in the 1390s.137 The initial
buyers were pledged in June 1391 to come to court to ‘satisfy the lord’ for the labour services due
from the tenement, and in the following November to apportion the rent among them.138

The earlier use of pledges in cases of inheritance or surrender of customary properties seldom
spelled out what was being pledged, though occasionally there are references to building or
repairing the buildings. By the late 14th century more detail is provided. Thus in February
1386/7 an heir is to be pledged to keep 5 shillings to pay as heriot once his widowed mother
dies, and meanwhile to look after the family tenement:139

Respited?

Likewise they present that William Carpenter who held of the lord one cottage with
pertinents and that Agnes his wife is jointly enfeoffed with the aforesaid William [her]
husband, which William has died since the date of the last court held here and that
John John his son is his next heir whereof nothing falls to the lord for heriot at present
but he shall find pledge to keep 5s in the name of heriot 5s. And to keep her tenement
well without waste etc.

Similarly, when Lotekyns tenement (a virgate holding of 20 acres) was granted in November
1391, the incoming tenant was pledged to maintain the property:140

Lotekyns
respited?

Whereas it was ordered at the last [court] to retain in the lord’s hand one messuage
and one virgate of land with pertinents called Lotekyns, now the lord grants the said
messuage and land with pertinents to John Carpenter and Cristine his wife to have
and to hold the said messuage and land to the same John and Cristine, their heirs and
assigns, of the lord at will by roll of court by service etc saving [the lord’s] right etc.
And they give the lord for fine to have entry as appears. And they do the lord fealty,
pledge Thomas Carpenter, to maintain and sustain the said messuage and land well
and sufficiently etc without waste etc.

And again, in November 1394, when John atte Style was admitted to Cokcyes tenement, his
three pledges were to ensure maintenance of the property and performance of labour services:141

respited?

At this court the lord grants to John atte Style one messuage and one virgate of land with
pertinents called Cokesseyes tenement, to have and to hold the said messuage and land with
pertinents to the aforementioned John, his heirs and assigns, at the lord’s will in bondage
by roll of court by services and customs; to him is granted seisin thereof, saving [the lord’s]
rights etc. And he gives the lord for fine as appears. And he does fealty. And to maintain the
said messuage and land well and sufficiently and to pay and do annual services with respect
to etc. He finds pledges, namely Ralph atte Rythe and John Spyk etc and John Gylden etc.

Similarly, in May 1409, Leticia Straw’s parents pledged that she would rebuild a cottage:142

respited?

At this court comes Henry Hobcok and surrenders into the lord’s hand, for himself
and his heirs forever, one cottage with curtilage and its pertinents, formerly parcel of
Richard Melleward’s tenement, to the use of Leticia Straw, daughter of John Straw and
Agnes his wife, to have and to hold the said cottage with curtilage and its pertinents
to the aforementioned Leticia, her heirs and assigns, of the lord at the lord’s will in
bondage by roll of court by services and customs saving [the lord’s] right etc. And she
gives the lord for fine as appears. And she does fealty. And the said Leticia is to build
anew the aforesaid cottage and so maintain it; pledges John Straw and Agnes his wife.

Pledges continued to be appointed in cases of detention of goods until 1405, debt until 1407,
pleas of land until 1410, and trespass until 1443, around the same dates that each such category
ceased to be brought before the manorial courts. These later rolls give more information on the
options available to litigants, and it is to these options that we will now turn our attention.143

Wagering law

‘Wager of law’ has been described as probably ‘the most curious method ever devised for
determining which party should prevail in litigation’.144 A defendant could contest an accusation
by wagering his law [vadiat legem] with his ‘hands’ [manus], normally translated as ‘compurgators’
or ‘oath-helpers’ – Latham suggests the meaning ‘hands raised in oath of compurgation’.145
This involved finding a number of character witnesses to swear on oath in confirmation of the
defendant’s denial of guilt, also made on oath. The successful completion of the oath-swearing
ritual – without any errors by the defendant or his oath-helpers – ensured dismissal of the case,
even if the plaintiff found an equal number to support his claim.146

This was a period when God-fearing people would not commit perjury lightly. It was assumed
that a guilty party would have difficulty in finding the required 2, 3, 4, 6 or even 12 neighbours
to swear to their innocence, and it has been suggested that some cases where the parties sought
‘licence to agree’ [licentia concordandi] after wagering their law might have been due to an
inability to secure sufficient oath-helpers.147

The Morden court rolls record 20 cases of wagering law between 1378 and 1411, of which
five were resolved by seeking licence to agree, a further two were ‘not prosecuted’, and seven
defendants ‘defaulted’ (see table 2.3 overleaf). In each case the defendants were amerced 2d, and
‘the order is given to levy to the use of the plaintiff, etc’. In only five cases, 25% of our total, were
the plaintiffs amerced for ‘false complaint’ or ‘unjust complaint’, indicating that the defendant
had successfully wagered his law. The final case involved a claim to two stray oxen, which was
proved with 12 compurgators and the oxen were delivered to the successful claimant.

Although there are no references to wagering law in the earliest batch of court rolls, this process
is clearly of some antiquity,168 and the 1297/8 admission of false accusation by John Schutte
against Peter Priour could well have been the result of an unsuccessful wager.169

Normally pleas of land could not be contested by wagering law, and it seems likely that the only
one mentioned in our rolls was a scribal error, as at the next court the contestants agreed to settle
what was then described as a plea of debt.170

Wagering law was frequently used in pleas of debt [debitum] or pleas of detinue [detentio] – the
unjust detention or withholding of chattels (see table 5.1b page 129). If the above case was for
debt not land, then 15 of the Morden cases concerned debts, ranging from 2d to 8 marks (£5 6s
8d), two of which also included chattels.

One of these concerned cash, malt and ‘tolcorn’ – that portion of the grain retained by the miller
in return for grinding into flour – and was classified as a plea of debt and ‘withholding chattels’ or
detinue. It began in November 1398 and ended by out-of-court settlement the following May:171

Table 2.3:
Wagering one’s law in Morden manorial courts (arranged by date of initiation of the plea)

began

defendant

plaintiff

hands

plea

value

damages

claimed

pledge1

pledge2

repeated

ended

category

amerce

damages
awarded

levy

not extant

Simon
Hobecok

John
Melleward

debt

12.2.1378

22.5.1378

unjust
complaint

3d

148

25.6.1383

William
Graunger

Simon
Willot

6

debt

11d

12.11.1383

default

2d

levy

149

15.5.1385

Richard &
Alice Sprynget

Simon
Pynnor

debt

8 marks

John
Melneward

John
Carpenter
jun

20.2.1386

false
complaint

2d

150

21.2.1387

Anicia Hayter

John
Melleward

6

land/
debt

6.5.1387

licence to
agree

151

29.10.1387

William
Mulseye

William
Webbe

3

debt

4s + 10b
corn +
shoes *

10.5.1388

default

2d

levy

152

10.5.1388

Simon Wylot

John
Melleward

6

debt

5s

John
Edward

Richard
Fouler

10.11.1388

default

2d

levy

153

21.11.1390

John Gildon

John
Carpenter

3

debt

3s 0½d

1.6.1391

not
prosecuted

2d

154

3.7.1392

Anicia Hayter

John Webbe

6

debt

2s 9d

12d

William
Wynteworth

Ralph atte
Rythe

11.11.1392

default

2d

3d

levy

155

11.11.1392

John Bailly

Richard
Fouler

2

debt

4d **

beadle

5.5.1393

unjust
complaint

2d

156

5.5.1393

John
Bekeswell

Walter atte
Hedg

2

debt

4d

John Spyk

20.10.1393

licence to
agree

1d

157

20.10.1393

John Morgon

William
Wynteworth

12

trespass

20s

Ralph atte
Rithe

John Spyk

22.5.1394

not
prosecuted

2d

158

10.5.1395

John Bailly

John
Carpenter

3

detinue

billhook
worth 12d

8.11.1395

licence to
agree

2d

levy

159

10.5.1395

John Bailly

John
Carpenter

3

trespass

8d

8.11.1395

default

2d

levy

160

16.11.1396

John Gildon

Alan
Berenger

3

debt

18d

2.7.1397

false
complaint

2d

161

7.11.1397

Peter Popsent

Baldwyn
Popsent

12

debt

6s 8d for
corn sold
***

40d

1.7.1398

default

2d

8d

levy

162

7.11.1397

John
Carpenter

John Gilden

4

debt

11d

1.7.1398

false
complaint

2d

163

4.11.1398

Peter Popsent

Henry
Milward

6

debt +
detinue

6s 8d + 1q
5b tolcorn +
4b malt

5.5.1399

licence to
agree

2d

164

17.11.1404

John Herford

12

stray

2 oxen

13.5.1405

proved

2d

deliver

165

20.4.1407

John Bailly

Alan
Berenger

3

debt

12d

beadle

16.11.1407

9.5.1408

default

2d

levy

166

6.5.1411

John Bailly

William
Mulseye

6

detinue

cow

19.11.1411

licence to
agree

2d

167

*
of which he acknowledged 3s + 9¾b, for which he was amerced 2d
Note: b=bushel

**
of which he acknowledged 2d

***
of which he acknowledged 4s 4d, for which he was amerced 1d

day

Peter Popsent has a day to wager his law with his 6 against Henry Milward in a plea
of debt and withholding chattels, namely over a debt of 6s 8d in cash and 1 quarter 5
bushels of tolcorn and 4 bushels malt, against the next [court] etc.

Peter Popseynt submits himself for licence to agree with Henry Milward in a plea of
debt and withholding chattels, namely over a debt of 6s 8d. Therefore he is in mercy
etc.

The other, from October 1387, was described just as debt, and was ended in May 1388 when the
defendant defaulted:172

amercement 2d

William Webbe complains of William Mulseye in a plea of debt, namely over a debt
of 4s and 10 bushels of corn and 1 pair of shoes [calciament’] worth [blank]. And
the aforesaid William Mulseye in open court acknowledges the said debt of 3s and
9 bushels 3 pecks corn, which the order is given to levy. And the aforesaid William
for his withholding is in mercy. And as to the rest he wagers his law against the next
[court] with his three compurgators.

amercement 2d

William Mulseye because he has defaulted to wager his law with his three compurgators
against William Webbe in a plea of debt of 12d, 1 pair of shoes and 1 peck of corn,
which the order is given to levy to the use of William Webbe etc. And the said William
Mulseye is in mercy.

This was one of three cases where the defendant admitted a debt to the plaintiff, for which he
was amerced, but contested the amount that was being claimed. Only one of these wagers was
successful, the other two defendants defaulting.

Another detinue case, wagered in 1395, concerned a billhook valued at 12d, while another in
1411 involved a cow – both were settled out of court.173

Two of the Morden wagers related to pleas of trespass, one plaintiff originally claiming 20s
damages, but deciding not to prosecute – perhaps because he settled privately with the defendant
– the other claiming just 8d in damages, which was levied to his use when the defendant defaulted.
No details are given of either offence.

The royal courts did not allow executors to wager their law to contest claims for debts owed by the
deceased party. ‘Since compurgation was in theory a test of conscience, a party could only swear
to his own lack of guilt or obligation. Swearing to someone else’s implied that the swearer had
personal knowledge of more than just his own deeds. Thus, at common law, one could only acquit
himself by oath concerning his personal actions.’174 However, this limitation seems not to have
applied in manorial courts, and one of our cases, first introduced in February 1385 and wagered
in May 1385, relates to such a claim and was successfully concluded by the following February:175

the order

is given

The order is given to distrain against the next [court] Richard Sp’nget and Alice his wife,
sometime wife and executrix of the will of Simon Hobecoke, to answer Simon Pynnor
in a plea of debt.

complaint

Simon Pynnor appears against Richard Sprynget and Alice his wife formerly executrix
of Simon Hobkok in a plea of debt, namely over a debt of 8 marks and the said Richard
Sprynget being present in court says that he owes nothing to him and for this he wagers
his law; pledges of law John Melnward, John Carpenter junior etc.

amercement

2d

Simon Pynnor for his false complaint against Richard Sp’nget and Alice his wife,
formerly executrix of Simon Holkoc, in a plea of debt. Therefore he is etc.

Seven of our 20 wagers involved pledges, described as ‘pledges of law’ [plegium de legem]. The
beadle served on his own in this way on two occasions, dealing with small debts of 2d and 12d,
both cases where John Bailly was defendant. John Spyk served alone for another small debt case
of 4d, and with Ralph atte Rythe for a trespass claim for damages of 20s. Ralph served again with
William Wynteworth on a debt of 2s 9d claiming 12d in damages, the defendant being a widow,
Amicia/Anicia Hayter. Two pledges served together in two other larger debt cases, one for 5s, the
other for £5 6s 8d. However, debts of 3s 0½d and 6s 8d did not involve pledges. One might suspect
that Amicia was singled out because of her gender, but no pledges were involved in her other case.

John Bailly was defendant in several wagers of trespass and detinue, but it was only in his debt
cases that pledges were appointed. The principles behind these appointments are not transparent.

Similarly, it is not clear why some wagers required 12 compurgators, while others only 2, 3, 4 or
6. One scholar explains ‘Ordinarily, in civil pleas, the number of oath-helpers was determined
by the weight of the accusation to be rebutted … It was customary in most courts to require the
defendant to bring two to three times as many oath-helpers as there were complaint-witnesses’.176
But why did John Herford require 12 compurgators to prove the two stray oxen were his, and
Peter Popsent similarly need 12 to combat his relative’s claim for 6s 8d for corn sold? Why did
John Morgon need 12 to deny a trespass assessed at 20s in damages, whereas John Bailly only
needed 3 for his trespass action of 8d damages? It was not the case that more compurgators were
needed in later years, when the principle of trial by 12 of one’s equals was becoming established
– the numbers went up and down across the 28 years of our records.

In the royal courts, compurgation was in decline from the end of the 13th century, being recognised as
‘one-sided rather than impartial and therefore was less likely to produce a just result. There was good
reason to think that an impartial verdict of the suitors or of a group of them was better than the word
of one of the parties and a few of his cronies – ‘six rascals’ [ribaus] as Justice Bereford called them in
a common law judgment of 1294. With the desuetude of the ordeals and battle, compurgation stood
almost alone in its primitive dependence on formalistic ceremonial. It made no attempt to evoke the
facts of a dispute and was certainly less reliable than jury trial.’177

In manorial courts, however, it lingered on into the early 15th century, alongside jury trial.
Perhaps its greatest strength was that cases seldom dragged on – of our 20 cases all but two were
concluded when the court next met, and the longest gap was no more than 13 months.

Inquests

Not all of the 50 cases described in the Morden rolls as pleas of debt or of detinue (see chapter
5) give details of the legal process used but, of those that do, 17 were ‘wagered’ with the aid of
compurgators, while 15 were submitted for inquiry by ‘the homage’, sometimes described as
‘the whole homage’ – the entire body of suitors. Occasionally the same pair of litigants pursued
two concurrent cases using different procedures. Thus in October 1387 William Mulseye and
William Webbe were each amerced 2d because they were ‘penalized by an inquiry’ or inquest
[inquisitio] in mutual pleas of broken contract, but on the same day Mulseye wagered his law
over a debt claimed by Webbe. 178 Similarly, in July 1392, Anicia Hayter pursued a debt case of
40d against John Webbe by inquiry by the homage, while wagering her law against Webbe in
another debt case.179 She defaulted in the wager case and the cash and damages were ordered to
be levied to Webbe’s use at the November 1392 court, the same day that Webbe was ‘penalized
by the homage against Anicia Haytere in a plea of trespass at damages of ½ bushel of wheat, ½
bushel of peas and 1 bushel of oats. which the order is given to levy’180

Other pleas submitted for inquiry by the homage were for ‘broken contract’ – probably relating
to a service paid for but not rendered or rendered but not paid for, rather than the more specific
meaning of breach of a marriage agreement. Six such cases appear in our records, with no details
being given.181 One, from October 1387, involved both parties prosecuting each other, and may
have been a situation where each had promised to perform a service for the other:182

amercement 4d

William Webbe 2d because he was penalized by an inquiry against William Mulseye in
a plea of broken contract. Therefore etc.

William Mulseye 2d because he was penalized against the said William in a plea of
contract. Therefore etc.

There were only 2 wagers but 39 inquiries in pleas of trespass, a term often used in the modern
sense of entering and damaging a neighbour’s property, or of animals damaging a neighbour’s
crops. Thus there are references to reaping a neighbour’s grass, trespass in someone else’s pasture,
felling trees or cutting underwood in another’s tenement, and animals grazing in a neighbour’s
grain or grass. But occasionally trespass could be used in a wider sense of any wrongdoing, and
an initial plea of trespass might later be described as a plea of debt or detinue.

The most enduring use of inquiries related to disputes over land, which can be found throughout
the extant records, from the 1299 inquest relating to the Schutte family lands noted above (page
13),183 to this 1525 dispute between John Holt and Ralph Bayly:184

Claim to land

At this court title of and in one piece of land lying next to the cemetery, now in dispute
between Ralph Baylye and John Holt, is placed upon the homage to inquire of the title
whether such land is free or customary and to render verdict in respect thereof before
the feast of Pentecost next under penalty of each of the homage of 3s 4d.

Very occasionally, the procedure could be speedy, as this example from May 1385:185

complaint
amercement 3d

Richard Fowler complains of John Geldene in a plea of trespass. And John says that he is
not guilty and for this submits himself upon the court and whereupon it is found by the
whole homage that the same John is guilty thereof to damages of 1 bushel of oats. And
therefore it is decided that the said Richard recovers etc and the aforesaid John is in mercy.

However, it usually took several sessions of court to reach a conclusion, as can be seen in a case
that began in May 1380:186

the order is given

The order is given to summon William Webbe against the next [court] to answer Ralph
atte Rithe in a plea of land.

The next court was held in November 1380, where we discover the nature of the dispute:187

day

Ralph atte Ryth complains of William Webbe in a plea that he ejected him from part of
his servile tenement at Durantesheld to his damage of 2s. And William says that he is
not the occupier thereof and submits himself upon the court. And Ralph similarly and
they have a day at the next [court] etc.

The inquiry was not settled by the next court held in August 1381:188

day

The whole homage have a day until the next [court] to inquire and present between
Ralph atte Rithe plaintiff and William Webbe in a plea of land as appears in the
preceding court.

A verdict was finally delivered in December 1381, though it was then described as a plea of debt
not of land:189

amercement 1d

Ralph atte Ryth is in mercy for false complaint against William Webbe on a plea of debt.

As we have seen, it was not unusual for litigants to be involved in several concurrent disputes,
but this is the only known case involving these two parties, so this description of ‘debt’ was
probably a scribal error.

The process could be speeded up by the defendant pleading guilty or not defending the case, as
in this example from February 1386:190

amercement 2d

Ralph atte Rythe appears against John Gildene in a plea of detention of chattels, namely
over the detention of 6 bushels of his oats delivered the Monday next after the feast of
All Saints last past. And the aforesaid defendant being present in court is not able to
give action. Therefore it is decided that the aforesaid Ralph shall recover and the said
defendant is in mercy and that he is to levy the oats.

Alternatively, the plaintiff might drop the case – there are several occasions of ‘not prosecuting’,
as noted in June 1391:191

day

A day is given to the whole homage for a verdict between Baldwyn Popsent not prosecuting
plaintiff and Peter Webbe in a plea of trespass.

This note was apparently inserted after the June court, Baldwyn being amerced in November:192

amercement
2d

Baldewyn Popsent because he has not prosecuted against Peter Webbe in a plea of
trespass. Therefore he is in mercy.

However, a pair of mutual accusations of trespass had gone through at least seven courts over
a period of 28 months before the parties each decided to drop their prosecutions (the insertion
of ‘again’ in the first entry is likely to have been a reminder for the next court, while the January
1392 occurrence of ‘Richard Aleyn’ probably refers to Fouler, perhaps an alternative name that
he used, or a scribal error):

Jun 1391

the order is given

The order is given to attach John Hobecok again to answer Richard
Fouler in a plea of trespass.

193

Nov
1391

the order is given

Again

Again the order is given to attach John Hobecok to answer Richard
Foulere in a plea of trespass etc.

194

Jan 1392

day

A day is given for an inquiry for a verdict between John Hobecok,
plaintiff, and Richard Aleyn, defendant, in a plea of trespass until the
next [court] etc.

195

Jul 1392

day ………

A day is given, as at other times, to inquire for a verdict between John
Hobecok plaintiff and Richard Fouler defendant against the next
[court].

196

Jul 1392

the order is given

upon the court

The order is given to attach John Hobecok to answer Richard Fouler
in a plea of trespass against the next [court] namely because he cut
down underwood of the same Richard at damages of 40d and because
he submitted himself upon the court and has defaulted.

197

Nov
1392

again day

A day is given to the whole homage for verdict between Richard
Fouler plaintiff and John Hobecok defendant in a plea of trespass. And
between the said John plaintiff and the aforesaid Richard defendant
in a plea of trespass until the next [court] etc.

198

May
1393

day

Again a day is given between Richard Fouler plaintiff not prosecuting and
John Hobecok defendant in a plea of trespass. And between the said
John plaintiff not prosecuting and the aforesaid Richard defendant in a plea
of trespass until the next [court].

199

Oct
1393

amercement 1d

Richard Foulere because he has not prosecuted against John Hobecok
in a plea of trespass. Therefore he is in mercy.

200

Oct
1393

amercement 1d

John Hobecok because he has not prosecuted against Richard Fouler
in a plea of trespass. Therefore etc.

201

Another common outcome was that the parties sought ‘licence to agree’, as in the cases of
wagering one’s law noted above. It would appear that this often involved the defendant admitting
his guilt and, presumably, making restitution, as indicated in this case from July 1300:202

amercement 3d

Walter atte Wode plaintiff and John Chutte defendant on a plea of trespass for licence to
make an agreement on condition that the aforesaid John puts himself at mercy; pledge
William Atterythe.

A similar example comes from November 1391:203

amercement
1d the order is
given to levy

The same Robert [Berenger] submits himself for licence to agree with Thomas Carpenter
and Thomas Humfrey in a plea of debt, namely 3s 4d, because the same Robert admits
in court, which the order is given to levy etc. Therefore he is in mercy.

There are several occurrences of the phrase ‘submits himself for licence to agree’, and it is likely that
all indicate an acknowledgement of guilt. However, there are other occasions when both litigants
sought licence to agree, as in the following two cases of mutual disputes from February 1386:204

amercement 2d

John Carpenter complains of William Graunger 2d in a plea of trespass and they seek
licence to agree and the aforesaid William submits himself. Therefore etc.

amercement 2d

John Carpenter complains of Anicia Hayterys agreement by writ in a plea of trespass and they
seek licence to agree and the aforesaid Alice [sic] submits herself. Therefore etc.

amercement 2d

The same Anicia complains of John Carpenter 2d in a plea of trespass and they seek
licence to agree and the aforesaid John submits himself. Therefore etc.

amercement 2d

William Graunger complains of John Carpenter 2d in a plea of trespass and they seek
licence to agree and the aforesaid John submits himself. Therefore etc.

There are also occurrences of a defendant being ‘penalized by his acknowledgement’ [recognitio]
of his guilt, as in July 1397:205

amercement 1d
levy

The same John Bekeswell because he was penalized by his acknowledgement against
John Gildon in a plea of debt, namely over a debt of 6d. Therefore etc. And the order
is given to levy the said cash to the use of the plaintiff.

But in most cases of being penalized [incedo] it is ‘by inquiry’ or ‘by the homage’, as in these three
entries from May 1380:206

amercement 3d

John Spykes because he was penalized by an inquiry against Thomas Carpenter in a
plea of trespass made in the pasture of the same Thomas to the damage of the same
Thomas assessed by the said inquiry for 3d. Therefore he is in mercy. And the order
is given to levy the said money of the aforesaid John to the use of the said Thomas.

amercement 4d

Thomas Carpenter because he was penalized by inquiry against John Spykes in a plea of
trespass made in the oats of the said John in two complaints to the damage of the same
John assessed by the said inquiry for 3 bushels oats. Therefore etc. And the order is given
to levy the said oats of the said Thomas to the use of the said John against the next [court].

amercement 2d

Thomas Carpenter because he was penalized by inquiry against John Spykes in a plea
of trespass to the damage of the same John assessed by the said inquiry for 1 bushel
barley. Therefore etc. And the order is given to levy the said money [sic] of the aforesaid
Thomas to the use of the said John against the next [court].

In the majority of cases where the defendant was penalized by inquiry there are no earlier entries
in the court roll relating to the complaint being brought or a day being given for the homage
to hold an inquiry. It is therefore unclear whether they decided on their verdict on the day the
complaint was brought to court, or had received notification and had undertaken their inquiry
before the court was convened. Many other matters were considered by the homage in advance
of the court session and its decisions were then ‘presented’ at the court (see below, page 32), and
it is possible that personal complaints were also sometimes treated in this way.

Of the 76 personal complaints submitted to the Morden homage for inquiry, 1 defendant did
not contest the case, 8 acknowledged their guilt, 9 cases were not prosecuted, 11 were settled by
agreement, 29 defendants were penalised by the inquiry, 8 were adjudged false complaints, while
the outcome of 10 cases is not recorded in the extant rolls.

Other than pleas concerning land, personal pleas ceased to be brought to the Morden manorial
court around 1400. The last case of broken contract was in 1402, of debt 1408, and of detinue
1411, though cases of trespass continued to be presented until 1443.207 Morden was not unique
in this way; there was a general decline in the range of cases dealt with in manorial courts across
the country.208 This was a period when the developing royal courts were expanding their spheres
of influence and offering a wider range of options than had been available in the past, providing
the hope of justice to those further down the social scale.209 It is probably not a coincidence that
the last reference to a Morden tenant being a serf [nativus] was in 1420.210

At the same time, actions in the royal courts could inspire actions at the manorial court. Thus, in May
1409, a complaint over a Morden Fee property in Ewell took the form of a writ of Mort d’ancestor, a
writ which sought to establish the rightful heir of a property, normally issued in Chancery:211

May
1409

complaint

Thomas Hatcher, next of kin and heir of Johane atte Hacche former wife of
Thomas Person, complains against Peter Brownnyng in a plea of land, namely
1 cottage and ½-acre land parcel of Kyppyng’s tenement, the which Thomas
declares following this complaint in the nature of assize of Mort d’ancestor –
pledges for prosecuting Robert Bernger and William Mulseye – upon which
the order is given to the beadle that he summon by good summoners the
said disseisor Peter Brownyng to answer the aforementioned plaintiff in the
aforesaid plea. And that he summon twelve etc to examine upon their oath if
the aforesaid Johane died seized etc. And if she died after the coronation etc.
And if her nearest heir etc, against the next [court] etc.

212

Apr
1410

the order is
given

Whereas the order was given at the last court to the beadle that he summon Peter
Brownyng to answer Thomas Hatcher in a plea of assize of Mort d’ancestor as
appears in the preceding court, and the beadle witnesses that he has summoned
the said Peter etc. And he has not come. Therefore the judgement is that the
assize is taken between them by default of the same Peter. And later the jurors,
as appear in the list here annexed, have been charged and have not appeared.
Therefore it remains for default of the jury until the next [court] etc. And the
order is given to the beadle that he have the bodies of the aforesaid jury at the
same court etc. And that they affix 6 tallies etc.

213

Nov
1410

the order is
given

The order is given to summon Agnes Brownyng, late wife of Peter Brownyng,
otherwise called Gylle, to answer Thomas Hatcher in a plea of land against the
next [court] etc; pledge for prosecuting [blank].

214

May
1411

complaint

The order is given to distrain Thomas Brounyng to answer Thomas Hatcher in
a plea of land. And he declares to prosecute his complaint in the nature of assize
of Mort d’ancestor according to the custom of the manor. And he seeks inquiry
if Johanna Person, relative of the aforesaid Thomas, namely elder sister of the
aforesaid Thomas, died seised of 1 messuage and an acre of land with pertinents
in Ewell according to the custom etc. And if the aforesaid Thomas is her nearest
heir etc. And if she died after the coronation or not etc. Upon which the order is
given to summon the aforesaid Thomas and 12 for examination and judgement
between the parties aforesaid etc.

215

216

Nov
1411

Assize

Whereas at the last court the order was given to distrain Thomas Brounyng
to answer Thomas Hatcher in a plea of land. And he declared to prosecute his
complaint in the nature of assize of Mort d’ancestor according to the custom of
the manor. And he sought inquiry if Johanna Persons, relative of the aforesaid
Thomas Hatcher, namely elder sister of the aforesaid Thomas, died seised of one
messuage and 1 acre of land with pertinents in Ewell according to the custom of
the manor. And if the aforesaid Thomas Hatcher is her nearest heir etc. And if she
died after the coronation or not etc. Upon which the order was given to summon
the aforesaid Thomas Brounyng and 12 for examination and judgement between
the parties aforesaid against this same court at which come the homage, namely
Alan Berynger, John Spyke, William Mulsey, Robert Berynger, John Edward,
Roger atte Hegge, John Wilot, John Kyppyng, John Baylly, Ralph atte Ryth, John
Gyldon, John Castelman, chosen to try this and sworn.

fine 3s 4d

amercement
1d

fealty

Who say on their oath that the aforesaid Johanna died seised thereof in demesne
etc according to the custom of the manor etc. And that the aforesaid Thomas
Hatcher is kinsman and nearest heir of the aforesaid Johanna, namely son of
John Hatcher, brother of the aforesaid Johanna. And that she died after the
coronation etc. And they assess damages at 13s 4d.

Therefore it is agreed that the said plaintiff recover seisin by examination of
the neighbourhood with damages etc. And the said defendant 1d is in mercy
etc. Upon which the said plaintiff gives the lord for fine to have this enrolled as
appears. And he does fealty saving [the lord’s] right etc.

It is interesting to note that the 12 jurors chosen and sworn to try this case were also called ‘the
homage’, a term that originally referred to the entire body of suitors. In May 1378 the homage is
described as ‘the free jury’ (see extract on page 33), a title usually reserved for those who formed the
‘grand inquest’ to rule on the accuracy of those making presentments at a View of frankpledge (see
page 43).217 In October 1439 seven individual members of the homage are named, who were sworn
with ‘others’,218 while just seven named individuals were sworn in October 1440, four of whom had
served on the previous occasion.219 In October 1441 twelve were named, of whom five had served once
before and four on both occasions.220 Thereafter it was common to name the individual members of
the homage, though the numbers varied year by year (see page 42). We will be looking in more detail
at the people selected to serve in this way or in other offices in chapter 7.

Also of interest is the fact that Hatcher paid 3s 4d to have this decision enrolled in the court roll
for future reference. It is likely that he also received a copy of the enrolled entry.

Appeals to documentary evidence

Documentary records became increasingly important over the late medieval period, as is evident
from the manorial court rolls and accounts and also the records of royal administration and
justice. Royal and ecclesiastical charters had been used since Saxon times to record transfers of
freehold estates, and they continued to be used for even the smallest freehold property. Customary
property was not normally transferred by charter. Instead the surrender of customary property
was recorded in the court rolls, and can be found in the earliest extant Morden rolls. By the 1380s
it was standard practice to describe customary property as held ‘by roll of court’, indicating that
the entry in the court roll was proof of both its status and its tenure.221 As early as October 1327
a tenant could pay to have the court roll searched for evidence of an earlier transaction:222

search of roll

fine 6d

Henry atte Chirch gives the lord for a fine 6d for search of the rolls for a fine which he
made in the presence of William Bysshop the steward for lands and tenement which
Isabelle Coxx mother of the same Henry held in bondage.

By February 1385 one finds reference to the tenant holding ‘of the lord by copy’:223

the order is given
R[espited?]

Note

The order is given to distrain Robert Berenger against the next [court] to answer the
lord for trespass making destruction upon land which the same Robert holds of the
lord by copy, felling trees, namely ash and elm, etc.

A year later such a copy was produced in court:224

Plea of land

fine 12d

the order is given

Henry Melleward appears against William Webbe in a plea of land – pledges for
prosecuting John Edward and Thomas Carpenter – namely because the said William
dispossessed him of 1 piece of land containing 17 perches and 5 feet in length and 7
perches and 4 feet in width at one end and 6 perches and 5 feet at the other end lying
between the way leading towards/against [versus] Morden church and land formerly
of Walter Webbe. And he says that on the Saturday in the feast of St Faith [Fides] the
virgin 34 Edward III [6 Oct 1360] the said W Henry purchased the same tenement
for himself and Alice his wife and the heirs of Henry himself from a certain William
le Bunt, which Alice now has died, and he produces here in court a certain copy
testifying to the things aforementioned. And he seeks that the court rolls be searched.
And he gives the lord for search of the said rolls as appears. And the order is given to
summon the tenants against the next [court].

However, the copy itself was not proof, as Henry still had to pay a shilling in order that the court rolls
could be searched and the evidence checked. The copy only served as a guide to the original entry.

In October 1393 evidence was to be shown to rebut what was later described as a false plea:225

the order is given

Further the order is given to attach John Wylot to answer John Carpenter not prosecuting
in a plea of land, namely ½ acre, against the next [court] and the same John Wylot
has a day until the next [court] to show his evidence etc.

However, it was not until April 1480 that we read of a copy produced in court being ‘full and
clear’ proof, rather than just evidence to be taken into consideration:226

Lotekyns

fine 3s 4d

respited?

At this court it is presented by the homage that Alicia, who was the wife of Henry Sager,
late wife of Robert Stevynson, which Henry and Alicia lately jointly held by roll of court
one tenement and 20 acres land called Lotkyns with pertinents, holding for themselves,
their heirs and assigns, by surrender of John Lyghtfote and Alice his wife, as by copy
produced in court dated the Tuesday next after Michaelmas 2 Edward IV [5 Oct 1462] [is]
full and clear. The which Alicia survived the same Henry and died seised thereof in March
20 Edward IV [1480]. And that Edmund Sager now aged 22 is son and nearest heir to the
aforesaid Henry and Alicia his wife, which Edmund in open court seeks his admittance to
the aforesaid tenement and land as son and heir of the aforesaid Henry and Alicia his wife,
and is admitted. To whom the lord grants seisin thereof, to have and to hold the aforesaid
tenement and land with pertinents to the aforesaid Edmund, his heirs and assigns, of the
lord at the lord’s will by roll of court saving [the lord’s] right etc. Rendering the lord in
respect thereof yearly at the usual festivals the rent customs and services in respect thereof
due and accustomed. And he gives the lord for fine as appears in the heading.

Thereafter it was common for such copies to be produced and apparently accepted in court
without further investigation, though in October 1553 the steward recorded that he had
been unable to find a court roll entry to match two copies brought into court dated ‘Tuesday
6 February 37 [Henry] VIII’, but that the homage had sworn that they were genuine:227

Note that at the manor court of Morden held at the same place Monday namely 30
October 1 Mary, by grace of God queen of England, France and Ireland, defender of the
faith and on earth supreme head of the church in England and Ireland, comes Thomas
Heryngman in his proper person and showing the copies written overleaf claims to hold
the customary land and tenements specified in the same by virtue of the same copies and
because by scrutiny in the court rolls of the manor aforesaid no roll of any court in the
manor aforesaid held on the day and year specified in the same copies was found, but it is
claimed that the rolls in respect thereof be lost. Therefore he seeks that it be inquired by
the remaining homage at this court whether these copies are true in all according to their
contents [tenores] or not. Upon which the remaining homage of the court aforesaid (the
same Thomas sequestered from the others) say upon their oath that these copies are true
in all according to [iux’] their contents. And upon this these copies are allowed by the
lord and his steward in this court etc. By me Richard Forssett steward.

6 February 1546 was a Saturday. The only years in Henry VIII’s reign that 6 February fell on a
Tuesday were 1537 and 1543. It seems likely that ’37 Henry VIII’ had been written in error for
1537. This date was given twice on this membrane and in two other extant copies relating to
different transactions.228 A few other copies survive, the earliest dating from 1512 and providing
much more detail about the individual plots of land than the short entry in the court roll itself. 229

Even if the copy could not be produced, a search of the court rolls could still be arranged, as in
April 1512:230

Surrender

Growtes

Likewise they present that the court is given to understand by John Willyams gent
that John Barker, kinsman and heir of Thomas Barker, namely son of Richard Barker,
brother of the aforesaid Thomas, sold to Peter Goodfild one cottage with garden
adjoining in the north field of Morden formerly Margaret Growte, and one cottage
with curtilage adjoining, 3 acres of land, one acre of meadow lying in Morden, and
one toft with curtilage adjoining formerly Bellys, and also one cottage with garden
adjoining formerly John Myllard, and one toft with curtilage adjoining and 3 acres
of land called Swaynes, and one acre of land late Berengers, and one cottage and one
acre of land adjoining the same cottage with pertinents formerly Simon Popesent and
late Thomas Drayton. To the which cottage and acre late Popesent William Broune of
Sevenoaks [Sevoke] in the county of Kent in right of Johanne his wife, daughter and
heir of John Popesent laid claim. Therefore search was made of the roll of court of 24
Henry VII [22 Aug 1508-21 Apr 1509] for the admission of the said John Barker to the
land aforesaid, and it is evident by roll of court 27 Henry VI [1 Sep 1448-31 Aug 1449]
that John Popesent was admitted to the premises. And later in the court next following
came both the aforesaid Peter Goodfild and William Broune and Johanne his wife. And
the said Peter said that she is not the daughter of the said John. And upon this a day
is given to the aforesaid William to prove that she is the daughter and heir of the said
John at London. And if proven he shall be admitted.

John Popsent had in fact been admitted on 18 April 1448, which was the 26th year of Henry
VI’s reign, to ‘Bawdes cottage and curtilage’ [I9], on the death of his father Simon (the brothers’
names had been reversed in the record of an earlier court).231

In January 1509 all the copyhold tenants were instructed to show their copies at court:232

the order is given

respited?

The order is given to the bailiff at the same place to warn all the tenants who hold of the
lord by roll of court of this manor that they be here at the next court with their copies
to show the court under the penalties due from them.

It was not just in claims to property that the court roll could be used in evidence. In the entry for
May 1395 we read of a punishment recorded 34 years previously:233

discontinued

Whereas at the last court it was presented that Thomas Carpenter made waste in the
villein tenement etc. Now however it is found on inspection of the roll that the said
Thomas, in the Court with View held here the Saturday in Pentecost week 35 Edward
III [22 May 1361] and in the court held here the Monday next after the Exaltation of
Holy Cross in the aforesaid year [20 Sep 1361] and in the court next held, was amerced
for the aforesaid trespass. And later the distraint was discontinued in the court roll etc.
And now it is found by the whole homage, sworn, that despite not entering in court the
said Thomas made fine with the lord for the aforesaid trespass in the time of Thomas
Parham farmer of the manor. Therefore this distraint is discontinued etc.

In November 1398 a possible maintenance agreement was enrolled:234

respited?

fine 4s

fealty

At this court comes Thomas Carpenter and surrenders into the lord’s hand for himself
etc, a moiety of one tenement formerly Robert Fabyan to the use of Alan Berneger,
to have and to hold the aforesaid tenement with pertinents to the aforementioned
Alan, his heirs and assigns, of the lord at the lord’s will in bondage by roll of court
by services and customs saving [the lord’s] rights etc, rendering therefor in future to
the aforementioned Thomas for the whole of his life 13s 4d paid at the usual 4 terms.
And the aforesaid Alan grants for himself and his heirs and assigns that if payment of
the aforesaid rent at any term in arrears happens not to be paid, thereafter truly the
aforementioned Thomas and his attorneys shall be allowed, for the whole of his life, to
enter into the aforesaid tenement and by means of his goods and chattels found in the
aforesaid tenement, distrain such distraints, take, carry off, drive away and retain until
the aforesaid rent of 13s 4d is fully satisfied and paid in full. And for heriot nothing
because [he has] no animals. And he gives the lord for fine to have this enrolled as
appears. And he does fealty.

In May 1402 Carpenter and Berenger paid for another agreement to be enrolled:235

fine 16d

respited?

fealty

At this court comes Thomas Carpenter and surrenders into the lord’s hand, for himself
and his heirs forever, one toft and 1 acre land with pertinents, parcel of the tenement
formerly Lottekynes, and nothing for heriot because no animals. And later the lord
grants the said toft and land with pertinents to Alan Bernger and Agnes his wife, to
have and to hold the said toft and land with pertinents to the aforementioned Alan
and Agnes and the heirs and assigns of the same Alan, of the lord at the lord’s will in
bondage by roll of court by services and customs saving [the lord’s] right etc. And the
aforesaid Alan and Agnes by licence of court grants to the aforementioned Thomas the
aforesaid toft for the whole life of the said Thomas on condition that, after the death
of the same Thomas, the aforesaid toft shall remain to the aforementioned Alan and
Agnes, their heirs and assigns, to hold in the aforesaid form etc. And they give the lord
for fine to have this enrolled as appears. And they do fealty etc.

In November 1400 the guardianship of a minor was similarly enrolled:236

respited?

fine 12d

fealty respited?

Likewise they present that Alice Hopcokkys, who of the lord held by the rod one cottage
with curtilage called Huberd, died in September last past, for whose death nothing for
heriot because no animals etc. And that Matilda Hopcokkys is a blood relation and her
nearest heir, namely the daughter of John son of the aforesaid Alice and aged 7 years,
for whom the custody of both land and heir is committed to John Skott and Katerin
his wife until the full age of the said Matilda. And they give the lord for fine to have
this enrolled as appears. And the fealty of the aforesaid Matilda is respited until her full
age etc. And they do the lord in respect thereof for the aforesaid tenement services and
customs owed during the term aforesaid etc.

and another in October 1447:237

fine respited?

respited?

heriot 1 bronze
cooking-pot 3s

Likewise they present that Matilda Pygott, who of the lord held by roll of court at the
lord’s will one messuage and 4 acres land, died in April last, whence there falls due
to the lord in the name of heriot one bronze cooking-pot to the value of 3s. And that
Alianora is her daughter and nearest heir and aged 7 years. And because she is underage
the lord grants custody of the messuage and land aforesaid and the governance of the
aforesaid Alianore, to Margary now wife of William atte Hegge to have and to hold the
said messuage and land and the governance of the said Alianore, until she comes to full
age, to the aforementioned Margery wife of the said William, and her assigns … [the
edge of the membrane is damaged], of the lord at the lord’s will by roll of court saving
[the lord’s] right etc. Rendering the lord in respect thereof yearly at the usual festivals
the rent [services and customs] in respect thereof due and accustomed. And she gives
the lord for fine to have this enrolled as appears etc.

Clearly the tenants of Morden saw the benefits of documentary evidence.

Juries of presentment

The bulk of the business dealt with at the local courts was concerned with ‘seignorial’ jurisdiction
– issues relating to the interests of the lord of the manor and his rights over the tenantry –
though offences against the community and against individuals were also prominent. Most of
these items were brought to the attention of the court by a ‘jury of presentment’ – men sworn on
oath who ‘presented’ certain misdemeanours. In Morden these were the chief pledges and their
accompanying ‘tithingers’ at Views of frankpledge (see page 39) and the homage at other courts,
the term ‘juror’ or ‘jury’ usually being reserved for the panel sworn in to investigate a special
inquiry or those who formed the ‘grand inquest’ (see page 43).

Occasionally mention is made of ‘the articles of the court’, as in this extract from May 1500:238

amercement 2d

The homage at the same place, charged to inquire of and upon [de & super] the articles
of court, say that Alicia Langton 2d owes suit of court and has defaulted. Therefore she
is in mercy.

A similar reference was made in April 1328 at a View of frankpledge:239

amercement 40d

The head tithingman presents that the Prior of Merton 40d holds a certain ditch at Slo
Russh not cleansed to the nuisance. Therefore in mercy and ordered before &c. Also
that Robert Traci out of the tithing, Therefore &c. And he is harboured by Is[abel] Traci
his mother etc. Therefore &c. He comes afterwards and makes an oath

Of the other articles nothing is known.

On other occasions, between 1478 and 1500, the homage was ‘charged by their fealty and oath’,
before making their presentments, which also indicates that they were being charged on oath to
answer a list of articles.240

Although no such articles survive from Morden, various collections have been published.241 The
following short list is from a 1342 View of frankpledge from Middleton, Essex:242

Then shall the steward make inquest by the frankpledges as to how the lord’s franchise is maintained.

• Whether the bailiff, reeve, hayward or any other of the servants [manorial officers] behaveth himself
ill in his office, and in each case how and in what.

• Whether there be any voidance [vacancy] in the tenements of free or bond, and what the lord shall
have by their death by way of heriot or otherwise.

• Whether any bond [man] be insufficient to hold the tenement that he holdeth; and tell us the reason.

• Whether any bond [man] demiseth [leases] his land or part of it to any free or other man without
licence.

• Whether any bond man hath betaken himself outside the franchise [manor] with his goods and his
following [family], and whither.

• Whether any bond man’s unmarried daughter hath committed fornication and been convened in
chapter, and what she has given the dean for her correction.

• Whether any bond man or woman hath been charged in the chapter touching any thing other than
marriage or testament.

• Whether any bond man’s daughter hath been married without licence, and to whom, and what her
father has given with her in the way of goods.

• Whether any bond man has been ordained clerk without leave [licence].

• Whether any bond man hath cut down oak or ash in his garden, unless it be to repair house, plough
or cart, and how much he hath taken.

Once they had considered such articles they made their presentments, which were always given
as facts, not as matters to be inquired into, and so created ‘a presumption of guilt’.243 Although
it was possible to challenge a presentment, by proving from a written record that one was not
liable to an obligation or had already fulfilled the obligation, there are few such examples. A
surprisingly early example comes from November 1298:244

adjournment

Henry de Gilden is charged for this, that he has not warranted essoin of View, and
he comes and says that he has paid the beadle 6d for the aforesaid default. Therefore
adjourned until the next court because the proceedings do not appear in the roll of the
View &c. On condition that he come without essoining. Afterwards discharged because
he was essoined at 2 courts preceding and at this court he warranted his essoin.

We have already noted a similar appeal in the entry for May 1395 (see pages 30-31 above].245

On most occasions the appropriate amercement was simply imposed upon the offender named
in the presentment. Thus we read in May 1378:246

Homage sworn

amercement 2s

The free jury present that William vicar of Morden against the peace entered a close of
Henry Mulneward and Walter ate Heg and took from there and removed 2 brass bowls
and 2 tin bowls William Bunt priced at 6d. Therefore etc.

It would appear that not everyone submitted quietly to such presentments, as revealed in two
entries from June 1383:247

amercement 3d

Thomas Carpenter because he denied [dedix] his oath to the chief pledges. Therefore
he is in mercy.

amercement 6d

Alice Hobecokes denied the chief [pledge]s contemptuously and maliciously. Therefore
she is in mercy.

An entry from June 1390 uses a different verb, but with a similar meaning:248

amercement 2d

Robert Berenger because he spoke against [contradict’] all the chief pledges in their
presence. Therefore he is in mercy.

A similar use of contradicto in November 1395 might indicate that this was a disagreement
among the panel members rather than a reaction by the accused (see page 185):249

amercement 6d

John atte Style because he spoke against the whole homage in his verdict in contempt
of the lord and the court. Therefore he is in mercy etc.

These juries of presentment seem to have been introduced into manorial courts through the influence
of the View of frankpledge, which we have seen was concerned with royal jurisdiction (see above,
page 9). The View dealt with matters concerning the tithings of a township, each presided over by a
head tithingman [capitalis decennarius], sometimes just called a ‘tithingman’,250 but in Morden more
commonly called a ‘chief pledge’ [capitalis plegius] though in May 1541 called ‘the headborough’ [le
hedborough].251 At each View the chief pledge for each tithing came with the members of his tithing –
herein called ‘tithingers’ to avoid confusion with ‘tithingmen’ – and made payment ‘for common fine’
[de communi fine] or ‘cert money’ [de certa fine] – a payment fixed in Morden at 6s 8d but originally
calculated at a penny per head and ‘given for the expenses of keeping the law day’ (see page 169).252

The chief pledges for West Morden, East Morden and Morden Fee in Ewell then took turns to
‘present’ administrative matters – those who had failed to attend, those who were not yet sworn
into a tithing though over the age of 12 and resident for more than a year and a day, and those
who ‘harboured’ such non-tithingers, usually a parent or employer. In the earliest rolls the chief
pledges also presented brewers who had broken the assize of ale, though normally this was the
task of the elected aletasters (see chapter 8).

But ‘the main function of the frankpledge system was to provide mutual surety: the good
behaviour of an individual member of the community was the responsibility of that individual’s
kin and neighbours … The chief pledges were responsible for the behaviour of those in their

tithing’.253 Thus an important aspect of their task was to present offenders ‘against the peace’,
particularly affray [affraiamentum] and assault [insultus], both on person and on property.

Table 2.4: Assault cases

date

‘attacker’

‘victim’

amerced

22.5.1378

William [Page] vicar of Morden

Richard Fowler

}

#

4d

254

22.5.1378

Richard Fowler

William [Page] vicar of Morden

}

4d?

255

4.5.1384

Laurence de Codyngton

John Carpenter

#

k

3d

256

7.6.1386

Richard Prynget/Sprynget

John Carpenter

a

4d

257

10.5.1388

William Wynteworth

John Spyk

}

#

12d

258

10.5.1388

John Spyk

William Wynteworth

}

#

2d

259

3.7.1392

Agnes Trillemelle

Katerina Hobecok

#

2d

260

3.7.1392

John atte Style

John Cokkell

#

2d

261

1.7.1398

Roger atte Hegge

William Spyk

l

6d

262

5.7.1400

William Child, vicar of Morden

Henry Tryllmyll

b

40d

263

9.5.1408

Baldwyn Popsent

John Bayly

}

#

4d+2d

264

9.5.1408

John Bayly

Baldwyn Popsent

}

#

m

4d+2d+2d

265

9.5.1408

Johanna wife of William [illegible]

John [Bayly?]

#

c

266

9.5.1408

Name illegible

William Berenger

c

n

267

16.4.1410

John Tyner

John Spyk

}

#

2d+2d

268

16.4.1410

John Spyk

John Tyner

}

#

2d

269

6.5.1411

John Morgon

Leticia, the farmer’s servant?

d

o

4d

270

5.5.1417

William [Felyce] vicar of Morden

John Castelman

12d

271

22.4.1422

John Castelman

John Spyk

20d

272

22.4.1422

John Castelman

William Felyce, vicar of Morden

8d

273

22.4.1422

Ingram Thressher

Thomas Shorfoot

6d

274

17.4.1464

John Tyller

Thomas Leycettyr

4d

275

30.4.1465

John Lyghtfote

William Goldewyr

12d

276

3.5.1473

William Gresylt

wife of Thomas Leycettyr

6d

277

3.5.1474

[William Batemason] vicar of Morden

William Brooke

40d

278

8.5.1481

John Tyler

John Dunnyng

6d

279

8.5.1498

Richard Rykhilles

Henry Cowleshawe

#

12d

280

21.4.1523

Ralph Baylye

Richard Cosyn

e

4d

281

2.5.1525

Ralph Stubbes

Robert Derley

}

f

2d

282

2.5.1525

Robert Derley

Ralph Stubbes

}

f

2d

283

31.5.1529

John Saye?

William Tegge

}

g

2d

284

31.5.1529

William Tegge

John Saye?

}

g

4d

285

7.5.1538

Johanna Bayly

Johanna Woodnett

}

#

h

4d

286

7.5.1538

Johanna Woodnett

Johanna Bayly

}

#

4d

287

22.4.1539

Nicholas Goryng

Henry Fermour

}

4d

288

22.4.1539

Henry Fermour

Nicholas Goryng

}

i

8d

289

5.5.1541

Richard Hawkesley

William Burbage

}

j

2d

290

5.5.1541

William Burbage

Richard Hawkesley

}

2d

291

Additional comments:

} both parties amerced for assault

# and drew blood

a at night with arms and arrows

b and made forcible entry

c [membrane damaged]

d and broke lord’s fences

e with a stick

f caused affray together with force and arms on
St John Baptist day

g caused affray together

h with her hands

i and broke Goryng’s head

j and drew a bare knife

k Matilda [illegible] unjustly raised hue and cry

l William justly raised hue and cry

m John unjustly raised hue and cry

n hue and cry raised by Robert Berenger

o Leticia justly raised hue and cry

There are 29 such cases reported in the extant medieval Morden manorial court rolls (see table
2.4), involving 39 offenders, both parties being amerced in many of them, as in May 1388, though
Wynteworth’s amercement was much greater than Spyk’s, presumably for having instigated the
affair:292

amercement 14d

Likewise they present that William Wynteworth 12d assaulted and drew blood of John
Spyk against the peace etc. Therefore etc. And that John Spyk 2d drew blood of the said
William against the peace. Therefore he is in mercy.

We noted above (page 15) that it was normal to specify if blood was drawn [tractatio sanguinis]
during an assault, and also that it was common to note the value, if any, of a weapon used in an
assault or other crime, presumably because it was forfeited and sold to the lord’s profit. However,
the value of the ‘arms and arrows’ recorded in an assault of June 1386 were not noted:293

amercement 4d

Likewise they present that Richard Prynget 4d made a certain assault by night with arms
and arrows on John Carpenter against the peace. Therefore he is etc.

Another case involving a weapon was recorded in the roll of April 1523:294

And that Ralph Baylye 4d with force and arms [vi et armis] and against the peace of
the lord king assaulted Richard Cosyn and struck [percuss’] him with a certain stick
[battulo] of no value. Therefore he is in mercy.

As late as the 1590s we encounter the following court roll entry:295

And that William Surman 6s 8d within this lordship assaulted and made affray upon
John Burnell his master and the same John with a certain stick worth 16d beat and
drew blood from the same against the peace etc. Therefore he remains in mercy just
as appears etc. And besides the said stick, namely 16d furthermore he is adjudged to
forfeit in respect thereof to the lord of this lordship etc.

In April 1404 a suspected thief was ejected from the manor, and the value of his knife was
noted:296

felon’s chattels 6d
respited?

Likewise they present that a certain stranger came within the lordship carrying one
knife [culter] worth 6d, who was taken on suspicion of theft and led to Wandsworth
[Wandelesworth] and handed over into the custody of Robert atte Heth bailiff of the
liberty to answer therefor to the lord etc.

It was not just men who were involved in assaults, as appears from the first of two assaults
presented in July 1392:297

amercement 2d

Likewise they present that Agnes Trillemelle drew blood from Katerina Hobecok
against the peace. Therefore etc.

amercement 2d

Likewise they present that John atte Style drew blood from John Cokkell. Therefore he
is etc.

A similar entry involving women occurs in May 1538, presented by the village constable, a
tenant elected into office:298

constable

amercement 8d

Thomas Toller, constable at the same place, presents that Johanna Bayly 4d assaulted
Johanna Woodnett with her hands and drew blood.

constable

amercement 8d

And similarly he says that Johanna Woodnett 4d assaulted Johanna Bayly and drew
blood. Therefore both women are in mercy as appears over their names.

Surprisingly, an earlier constable – and member of the grand inquest – was himself amerced for
his involvement in an affray reported in May 1529:299

amercement 6d

And furthermore they present that William Tegge 4d and John [Saye?]2d together
caused an affray against the king’s peace. Therefore they are in mercy.

Clergy were also frequently involved, both as victims and perpetrators. A damaged membrane
conceals the details of the earliest entries from May 1378:300

amercement 4d

Likewise they present that [?William vicar of Morden assaulted and] against the lord’s
peace drew blood from Richard Fowlere. Therefore etc.

[amercement 4d?]

Likewise they present that Richard Fowlere assaulted William vicar of Morden and
that …… wanted by the constable ……. peace ….… arrested and brought to justice.
Therefore he is in mercy. Pledge Ralph Edward.

But a later vicar combined assault with ‘forcible entry'[homsoken=hamsoca] in this entry from
July 1400:301

amercement

3s 4d

Likewise they present that William Child chaplain and vicar of the church of Morden
assaulted Henry Tryllmyll against the peace and made forcible entry upon the said
Henry. Therefore he is in mercy etc.

While an assault reported in May 1417:302

assault

amercement 12d

Likewise they present that William vicar of the church of Morden 12d assaulted John
Castelman against the peace etc.

was reciprocated in April 1422:303

assaults

amercement 2s
10d

And that the same John Castelman 8d assaulted William Felyce vicar of the church of
Morden against the peace etc.

An unnamed vicar continued the sorry tradition in May 1474:304

assault

amercement 3s 4d

Likewise they present that [blank] vicar of Morden 3s 4d assaulted William Brooke
against the king’s peace. Therefore he is in mercy.

A neighbouring vicar presented in July 1397 had participated in a violent and premeditated
ambush by what is described as a gang of highwaymen:305

… respited?
Common

Likewise they present that Master Henry Broun parson of the church of Cheam,
William Beste, John Prat, with others well-armed, stayed to fall into a fight by the road
near Sparwefeld, namely in the vill of Morden, and assaulted a certain John Spyk, Alan
Berenger, John Carpenter against the peace and beat the same violently [and they say]
further that the abovesaid Henry, William and John Prate are common highwaymen
and depopulators of the fields etc. Therefore etc.

However, this was just one act of violence among many involving tenants of Cheam and Morden
over rights to common pasture in Sparrowfeld, some of which reached the royal courts in this
same year, and we must allow for a degree of bias on the part of the Morden suitors.306 (These
‘border skirmishes’ have not been charted in the tables above and below, which only cover
Morden tenants.) One of the Cheam tenants cited in sheriff’s writs was Walter Potter or Pulter,
who is named twice in this same court roll of July 1397:

…. for

…… Common in
Sparrofelde

Walter Pulter of Cheam for trespass in the lord’s common pasture at Sparwefeld with
his sheep on 2 occasions; pledges Ralph atte Rithe and John Carpenter.

John Gerard of the same with his sheep at the same place; pledge Ralph atte Rithe.
Therefore etc.

amercement 6d

Likewise they present that John Shepherde, servant of Walter Potter, unjustly raised hue
and cry upon Alan Berenger against the peace. Therefore etc. Pledge Thomas Carpenter.

‘Hue and cry’ [hutesium] was ‘the general call to chase a miscreant’, obligatory on anyone who
heard the call.307 In addition to Shepherde and the five assault cases where it is specifically
mentioned (annotated k, l, m, n, o in table 2.4 above), there are 14 other entries in the Morden
court rolls (see table 2.5).

The earliest is the 1300 case noted above (page 14) where ‘Agnes la Daye justly raised hue and cry
upon Robert le Flesch’.308 The final occurrence was in April 1412, when the serviens – probably
meaning the lessee of the manorial demesne lands – unjustly raised hue and cry:309

hue and cry

Likewise they present that William Mulsey pardoned because serviens the lord’s serviens unjustly
raised hue and cry upon John Whilot against the peace of the lord king. Therefore etc.

It is not clear why hue and cry ceased at such an early date, but it is comparable with other
matters that, as noted above, cease to be part of the remit of manorial courts in the first decades
of the 15th century.

Table 2.5: Hue and cry

date

complainant

against

verdict

amerced

28.4.1300

Agnes la Daye

Robert le Flesch

justly

3d

310

30.7.1382

Cecily wife of John Gulden

Richard Fogheler

unjustly

3d

311

4.5.1384

Walter atte Hegge

William Webbe.

unjustly

2d

312

7.6.1386

Richard Fouler

John Gildene.

unjustly

2d

313

10.5.1388

William Webbe

William Mulseye.

justly

4d

314

10.5.1395

Alesia wife of William Wynteworthe

John Carpenter

unjustly

2d

315

10.5.1395

Thomas Carpenter

John Spyk

unjustly

2d

316

18.5.1396

Walter atte Hedge

John Spyk

unjustly

2d

317

2.7.1397

Alan Berenger

William Power clerk

justly

3d?

318

3.5.1401

Thomas Carter

John Bayle

justly

6d

319

8.5.1402

William Child chaplain

John Skott

unjustly

24d

320

30.4.1404

Isolde Hurrok

John Bekeswell

justly

6d

321

30.4.1404

John Baily

Roger atte Hegg

unjustly

6d

322

27.4.1412

William Mulsey

John Whilot

unjustly

pardoned

323

In only seven or eight of these cases was the hue and cry adjudged to be justly raised, two or
three noted in connection with assaults charted in table 2.4 notes l, n and o (the entry regarding
Robert Berenger [n] is damaged so it is unclear who was amerced), and the five in unspecified
circumstances charted here. One of the most bizarre of the unjust cases involved William Child,
the vicar noted above who had been involved in assault and forcible entry in July 1400. In May
1402 we read:324

amercement 2s

Likewise they present that William Child chaplain drew blood from himself against
the peace and that he unjustly raised hue and cry upon John Skott against the peace
etc. Therefore etc. Pledges Ralph atte Ryth and John Spyk etc.

Another case of repeated forcible entry or housebreaking [homesokyn=hampsoken], leading to a
just raising of hue and cry, was presented in April 1404:

amercement 6d

Likewise they present that John Bekeswell 6d did seven housebreakings upon Isolde
Hurrok’ for which the said Isolde justly raised hue and cry upon the said John. Therefore
he is in mercy; pledges John Spyk’ and Alan Berenger.

Isolde was Bexwell’s widowed mother-in-law (perhaps stepmother-in-law) who was entitled to
dower in her late husband’s cottage which had been inherited by Bexwell’s wife and her sister.325

A third occasion of a woman justly raising hue and cry, after an assault, was reported in May 1411:326

assault

Likewise they present that John Morgon 2d broke the lord’s fences [claus’] and assaulted
Leticia, the farmer’s servant[?], against the king’s peace. And the same Leticia justly
raised hue and cry against the aforesaid John.

However, three examples raised by women were deemed unjust. In July 1382:327

Likewise they present that Cecily 3d wife of John Gulden raised hue and cry against
Richard Fogheler unjustly. Therefore she is in mercy.

In May 1395:328

amercement 2d

Likewise they present that Alesia wife of William Wynteworthe unjustly raised hue
and cry upon John Carpenter against the peace. Therefore etc.

These may have been accusations of personal attacks upon the women, or perhaps upon their
husbands, but in May 1384 it was a third party (possibly the wife of the victim, though a John
Carpenter’s wife was called Cristina in 1390), who raised the hue and cry, though the membrane
is worn at the edge and cannot be deciphered:329

amercement 6d

Likewise they present that Laurence de Codyngton3d drew blood of John Carpenter
whereby Matilda [… un]justly3d raised the hue and cry against the said Laurence.

All these criminal activities were reserved to the jurisdiction of the View of frankpledge, but
poaching was an offence against the lord of the manor rather than the state, and was therefore
judged at the regular manorial court. Thus in October 1478 the homage presented:330

Note for common
writ in respect
thereof

that William [blank], parson of the parish church of Morden, overstocks the common
of the lord and tenants with more animals than he should have to the grave damage
and of his tenants aforesaid. And also that he is a common hunter [venatorum] within
the free warren of the lord, and he takes hares [lepores], rabbits [cuniculos], pheasants
[phazianos] and partridges [perdices] from the aforesaid warren. Therefore etc.

Similarly, in October 1502, the homage presented:331

the order is given

that Richard Gyles is a common hunter within the lord’s warren and kills hares, rabbits
and partridges against the lord’s will, and the order is given to warn him not to do it
any more under penalty of 3s 4d.

It is likely that this extract from April 1469 also refers to poaching:332

defaults

amercement 8d

Likewise they present that Roger atte Hegge 8d unjustly broke the lord’s park and various
beasts were impounded at the same place at that time and he found, took and hunted,
against the peace of the lord king. Therefore he is in mercy.

However, the illicit removal of domestic animals from the manorial pound was presented by the
chief pledges at the View in April 1482:333

defendant

in mercy 8d

Also they say that John Tyler 8d took his impounded animals out of the lord’s pound
without licence of the lord or his bailiff at the same place. Therefore he is in the lord’s
mercy as appears etc.

Other forms of misbehaviour

Marjorie McIntosh has noted ten forms of antisocial behaviour that, though not expressly against
the law, were widely reported at manorial and other minor local courts during the 14th to 16th
centuries.334 She has grouped them into three main categories which she calls Disharmony –
scolding and malicious talk, eavesdropping, and nightwalking; Disorder – sexual misconduct,
unruly alehouses, and ‘bad governance’ or ‘evil reputation’; and Poverty – hedgebreaking (for
fuel), sheltering vagabonds and allowing sub-tenants to move into one’s holding.

There were a few occurrences of hedge-breaking presented at Morden courts, but none are
obviously linked to the poorer members of the neighbourhood. Two cases seem to be related to
protest against the lord or his demesne farmer (see page 180). In July 1400 it is the vicar’s relative
who is the guilty party,335 while in April 1537 other evidence suggests that the offenders were
proprietors of what was to become the George inn, collecting fuel for their brewing and baking
(see page 222):336

And that Thomas Hunt and [blank] his wife are common hedge-breakers at grave
damage to the tenants. Therefore they are in mercy.

The harbouring of men not yet sworn into a tithing appears occasionally, but most are of parents
harbouring teenage sons, and the rest are probably live-in servants.337 It is not until the very end
of the 16th century that we are told of the ‘evil example’ of a man taking in a pregnant woman:338

[top of
membrane
recording date
is missing]

And that John North 6d received in his dwelling-house a certain Elizabeth Robynson for
her confinement having been made pregnant by a certain unknown in another parish,
and supports her at the same place by comfort, in evil example to others as against the
queen’s peace. Therefore he remains in mercy as appears etc.

This is the only reference in the Morden court rolls to any form of sexual misbehaviour. The only
complaints about alehouses relate to the use of non-standard measures or poor quality produce (see
page 213) and there is no mention of ‘ill repute’. We have no references to scolds, eavesdropping
or nightwalking, the only malicious talk recorded being the ‘contradiction’ of court officials noted
above (page 33). However, in nearby Merton things were somewhat different. The extant Merton
court rolls, which begin in October 1485, make a few references to people being ‘scolds’ [objurgatrix],
mostly women but occasionally both husband and wife, while in April 1517 we read:339

Isabel Davynson is a common scold and disturbs the peace, and the constable is to fine
her before 2nd May and none of the inhabitants are to receive her afterwards or consort
with her under penalty of 6s 8d

There are also references in the Merton rolls to men and women ‘of ill repute and governance’
[male fame et gubernacois] in October 1505, welcomed at a ‘common hospice’ run by John
Rede, while other such women were ‘received’ by William Yong and John Bryggs in April 1526,
and in October 1527 Thomas Tompson received ‘dishonourable women’ [inhoneste mulieres]
in his house.340 In October 1486 someone whose name is illegible is described as a common
breaker of hedges and a vagabond, while other references to hedge-breaking are too numerous
to mention.341

To these ten offences, McIntosh adds the playing of any games proscribed by Parliamentary
legislation. Although no references to these games has been found in Morden records, the court
rolls of neighbouring Merton contain a few references from the early 16th century to bowls and
‘quates’ – presumably quoits – including John Hyller senior who held properties in both Merton
and Morden.342 The court rolls of nearby Wimbledon included an ordinance against a variety of
games as early as May 1465:343

And also that hereafter no one shall play at handball, cards, dice, nor other unlawful
games, by the law of England prohibited, nor shall any such evildoers receive comfort or
support under penalty of 20s.

Even earlier was the 1428 presentment of three gamblers [communes lusores ad dales] at the
manorial court of Carshalton.344

It is unclear if it was the habit of Morden inhabitants to seek their entertainment in neighbouring
vills, or if such activities were accepted in Morden without comment.

The appointment of court officers

From 1378 to 1380 nine or ten chief pledges are named for West Morden, two for East Morden,
and five for Ewell. However, in 1383 only two chief pledges are named for West Morden and
one each for East Morden and Ewell, but they are accompanied by seven named companions
from Morden and four from Ewell who are not called chief pledges. Thereafter, the court rolls
switch between multiple chief pledges and just the four chiefs with companions, so it seems to
have depended on the clerk whether or not the companions were classified as chief pledges. By
1391 the companions were called ‘tithingers’ [decenarii], and in 1396 the names of the eight
tithingers from Morden and one from Ewell are not given. From 1418 only the four chief pledges
are mentioned. After 1420 the individual tithings are no longer named, and it seems probable
that they had been combined due to decline in population and amalgamation of holdings. In
1435 the names of 12 chief pledges are listed, in 1437 it is two chiefs plus ten others named,
but the following year 14 chiefs are named, and thereafter it again switches between chiefs and
companions. Usually there were 12 to 14 altogether at this period, though in the 1460s and
1470s it seldom reaches ten. In the 1490s and 1500s it is normally 12 or more. The emphasis
on 12 probably reflects the oft-repeated argument during quo warranto inquiries: ‘You have no
business to be receiving presentments in your court, because you have not got twelve complete
tithings; you have not got twelve chief pledges and no one ought to be punished save on the oath
of twelve men’.345

Chief pledges and other officers were elected, but there does not seem to have been any set limit
to the term they served. It is only from 1512 that the phrase ‘he is sworn to exercise the aforesaid
office for the year following’ appears with regard to any officers – chief pledge, beadle, constable
or aletaster.346 Only one of the chief pledges was replaced at any time, in order to maintain
continuity and expertise. The same is true of the aletasters. Elections were sometimes said to be
by ‘all the chief pledges’ and sometimes ‘by the whole homage’, though occasionally it was by ‘the
twelve jurors’ who formed the ‘grand inquest’ (see page 43), and sometimes the record just states
who was elected (see table 2.6 overleaf).

Table 2.6: The election of officers

date

chief pledge (CP)

beadle/collector

constable

aletasters

Nov 1380

by homage

347

Aug 1381

by CPs

348

Dec 1381

by homage (1 from 2)

349

Feb 1383

by homage (1 from 3)

350

Jun 1383

2 ‘are elected’

351

Nov 1388

by homage

by homage

by homage

352

Jan 1392

by homage (1 from 2)

353

Jul 1392

by CPs

354

May 1393

by CPs

by CPs

355

May 1396

‘is elected’

356

Jul 1398

by CPs

by homage (1 from 2)

by CPs

357

Jul 1400

by CPs

358

Nov 1400

by homage (1 from 2)

359

May 1402

by homage (1 from 3)

360

May 1405

by CPs

by CPs

361

May 1406

by homage (1 from 2)

by CPs

362

May 1408

by homage

363

Apr 1410

by CPs

364

Nov 1410

2 by homage

365

May 1411

by CPs

366

May 1414

by CPs (1 from 2)

by CPs

367

May 1416

by CPs (Ewell)

368

May 1435

by homage

369

May 1441

by homage

370

Apr 1442

by homage

by CPs

by CPs

371

May 1444

by CPs

by CPs

by CPs

372

May 1447

by CPs

by CPs

by CPs

373

May 1449

by CPs

by CPs

374

Apr 1455

by CPs

by CPs

by CPs

375

Apr 1457

by CPs

376

Apr 1458

by CPs

377

May 1468

by CPs

378

May 1470

by CPs

379

May 1471

by CPs

by CPs

by CPs

380

Apr 1482

by homage

381

Apr 1488

by homage

382

Apr 1493

by homage

383

May 1493

by homage

by homage

384

May 1495

by homage

2 by homage

385

May 1498

by homage

386

May 1503

by CPs

387

Apr 1512

by homage

by CPs

388

Apr 1523

by 12 (grand inquest)

389

Apr 1524

by homage

390

May 1529

by homage

‘they elect’

391

May 1535

by 12 jurors

392

Jun 1536

by CPs

393

Apr 1539

by homage

394

Mar 1540

by homage

by homage

395

May 1541

by homage

396

Occasionally two or three candidates were elected but only one took the oath of office. It would
appear that the final selection was reserved to the lord of the manor, no doubt through the
steward, as explained in May 1406:397

election

They [the homage] elect into the office of beadle John Spyk who now is and John
Edward the lord’s villein for election by the lord elected [ad electo’in dm’ eligand], of
whom John Edward the lord’s villein took the oath.

In May 1402 the current beadle was one of three elected, though he was not appointed, so
elections were not necessarily the result of resignations.398

It would appear that a chief pledge could be elected in his absence, as in this entry from May 1503:399

election of chief
[pledge]

And they elect William Mille into the office of chief pledge, who is not sworn to
occupy this office. Therefore the order is given to the bailiff to warn him to be here at
the next court for the receiving [ad recipiend] of his oath etc.

Mille seems to have been a poor choice for such a position, as an entry from October 1507 explains
that his property had been forfeited because he ‘fled on account of various transgressions and
felonies perpetrated by him and for making waste in respect thereof and rent arrears in respect
thereof being not paid’.400

Table 2.7 reveals their continuity in office at this period:401

Table 2.7: Chief pledges and companion tithingers 1467-1481

Apr 1467

William Goldewyr, John Lyghtfote, John Bordall CPs; John Hegge, Thomas Leycett, John Bekyswell,
John Goldewyr, William atte Hegge, Nicholas Drayton, John Broke, John Chertham, Henry Sager

May 1468

William Goldewyr, John Lyghtfote, John Bordall CPs; William Hegge, John Hegge, Henry Sager,
Thomas Leycettyr, John Bekeswell, John Goldewyr senior, Nicholas Drayton, William Broke, John
Goldewyr junior

Apr 1469

William Goldewyr, John Bordall, John Hegge CPs; Henry Sager, Thomas Leycettyr, John Bekeswell, John
Goldewyr senior, Nicholas Drayton, William Broke, John Goldewyr junior, William Goldewyr junior

May 1470

William Goldewyre junior, John Bordall, John Hegge CPs; John Goldewyre, Henry Sager, Thomas
Leycettyr, Nicholas Drayton, William Broke, William Goldewyre, John Bekeswell, John Goldewyre junior

May 1471

William Goldewyre, John Bodall [sic], John Hegge CPs; Henry Sager, John Goldewyre, Thomas
Leycettyr, Nicholas Drayton, William Brooke, William Goldewyre, Thomas Cecely, John Bekeswell,
John Goldewyre

Apr 1472

Henry Sager, John Hegge, Nicholas Drayton, John Goldewyre senior, John Bordall, Thomas Leycettyr,
William Goldewyre senior, John Kyrkeby, William Broke, William Goldewyre, John Bekeswell, John
Dunnyng, John Goldewyre junior

May 1473

Henry Sager, John Hegge, John Bordall, John Goldewyre senior, Thomas Leycettyr, John Kyrkeby,
William Broke, William Goldewyre senior, John Bekeswell, because infirm John Dunnyng, John Goldewyre
junior, William Goldewyre junior

May 1474

Henry Sager, John Hegge, John Bordale, Thomas Leycettyr, William Brooke, William Goldewyre
senior, John Dunnyng, John Goldewyre junior, William Goldewyre

May 1475

Henry Sager, John Hegge, John Bordale, Thomas Leycettyr, William Goldewyre senior, John
Goldewyre senior, William Goldewyre, John Dunnyng, William Brooke, John Goldewyer, John
Kyrkeby

May 1476

William Tenett, Henry Sager, John Bordall, Thomas Leycetone, William Goldwyer senior, John
Goldewyer, William Goldewyer, John Dunyng, William Broke, John Kyrkeby

Apr 1477

William Tennette, Thomas Leycettour, John Goldewyer junior, William Goldewyer, John Dunnyng,
William Brooke, John Kyrkeby

Apr 1478

William Tennet, Thomas Leycetour, John Goldwyer junior, William Goldwyer, John Dunnyng,
William Broke, John Kyrkeby, Robert Stevenson, William Cruste

May 1479

William Tennett, Thomas Leycettour, John Goldwyer, William Goldwyer, John Dunnyng, William
Brooke, John Kyrkeby, Robert Stevenson, William Lane, John Sommer, John Playstowe

Apr 1480

William Tennett, Thomas Leycettour, John Goldwyer junior, John Godfrey, John Kyrkeby, William
Lane, John Playstowe, Edmund Sager

May 1481

William Tennet, Thomas Leycettour, John Goldewyer junior, John Godfrey, John Kyrbeby, William
Lane, Edmund Sager

Although John Hegge had replaced John Lightfoot as a chief pledge in 1469, there is no record
of his election. In fact, the only election to this office recorded in this period was that of William
Goldwyre junior in 1471, though he was already serving in this office in 1470.

When we turn to consider those who formed the homage, we discover that there are no clues
as to how they were appointed. They are merely introduced with a formula such as this from
October 1444:402

homage

The homage, namely Richard Pulton, Richard Swanne, William Popsent, John Pycott,
Robert Newbery, John Mychell, John Bayly, Saunder Fyssher, William Lyghtfoot, Roger at
Hegge, John Bekeswell senior and William Goldewyre, sworn, present that …

The members of the homage are not always named individually, so it is not possible to tell
how often each served and whether it was common for some to serve in successive years to
ensure continuity, as with the chief pledges. However, we do have some homage lists from
consecutive years in the 1460s and 1470s, the period selected above for tithingers, as set out
in table 2.8:403

Table 2.8: Homage lists 1467-1480

Oct 1467

William atte Hegge, John atte Hegge, Walter atte Hethe, Nicholas Drayton, John Chertham, John
Goldewyre, John Bordall, John Bekeswell

Oct 1468

Nicholas Drayton, William atte Hegge, John atte Hegge, John Bordall, John Bekeswell, John
Lyghtfote, William Goldwyre, Thomas Leycettyr, William Broke, John Goldewyre senior

Oct 1469

Nicholas Drayton, John atte Hegge, John Bordall, William Goldewyre senior, Henry Sager, John
Bekeswelle, Roger atte Hegge and William Brooke

Oct 1471

Nicholas Drayton, John atte Hegge, John Bekeswell, William Goldwyre junior, William Brooke,
John Kyrkeby, Thomas Leycettyr, John Goldewyre junior, and John Goldewyre senior

Oct 1472

William Tenet, John Goldwyre senior, John Bardolff, John Goldwyre junior, Thomas Leycettyr and
William Goldwyre

Oct 1473

Henry Sager, John Hegge, John Bordale, Thomas Leycettyr, William Goldewyre, John Goldewyre
junior, William Brooke, John Kyrkeley, John Goldewyre senior and John Bekeswell

Oct 1474

Henry Sager, John Hegge, John Bordale, Thomas Leycettyr, William Goldewyre junior, William
Broke, John Kyrkeby and John Bekyswell

Oct 1475

Henry Sager, John Bordall, Thomas Leycetor, William Goldewyer junior,ill William Brook, John
Kyrkeby and John Bekyswell

Oct 1476

John Bordall, Thomas Leycettour, William Goldewyer junior, William Broke, John Kyrkeby, John
Goldwyer senior, John Goldewyer junior, John Cruste and John Sevyn

Sep 1477

Thomas Leycettour, William Goldwyer, William Broke, John Kyrkeby, John Goldwyer senior, John
Goldewyer junior, Robert Stevenson

Oct 1478

Thomas Leycettor, William Goldewyer, John Kyrkeby, John Goldewyer senior, John Goldewyer
junior, William [hole in membrane]r, Richard Playstowe

Oct 1479

Robert Stevynson, John Godfrey and John Kyrkeby

Oct 1480

John Godfrey, John Goldewyer senior, John Goldewyer junior, William Tennett, John Kyrkeby and
William Gylden

It is clear that, at this period as in the 1430s and 1440s (see page 28), most served for several
years, and in no year were they all newly appointed. Even in 1479, when only three members
served, Kyrkeby already had seven years’ experience, and it was Stevenson’s second time, and
he had also served as a tithinger accompanying the chief pledges at two previous Views of
frankpledge.

In fact, comparison of the homage lists with the lists of chief pledges and named tithingers
reveals that at this period the two groups were almost identical. In any year the majority were
serving in both capacities, and did so over several years. When an individual is not named as
serving at one court, his name is often noted among the defaulters, indicating that, if he had been
present, he would probably have served as usual. It might well be that, in the absence of some
regular members, newcomers were sometimes pressed into service to make up the numbers. We
will look in more detail in chapter 7 at those who served regularly in one of these positions – and
also at those who seldom, if ever, served.

Some scholars argue that these panel members must have been appointed in advance of the
court, possibly at the previous court, to allow time for the necessary inquiries.404 As so many
were already in post as both homage and tithingers, and had been for some years, it seems
equally likely that they continued to note events and offences between the courts and that the
few newcomers would have relied on their more experienced colleagues.

Not everyone welcomed being selected, as we read in May 1387:405

Penalty forfeited

20s the order is
given

William Wynteworth who by the steward was ordered with the chief [pledge]s to
present for the lord king under penalty 20s, which William refused all his aforesaid
summonses[?] in contempt of the lord king and court. And therefore it is agreed that
the aforesaid William should forfeit fully the aforesaid which is levied to the use of the
lord. And the order is given to levy etc.

Wynteworth was a freeholder, and perhaps resented having to serve in a capacity normally
assigned to customary tenants. We have already noted a similar refusal in November 1402:406

homage

amercement 2s

Sworn, they present that John Castelman, John Andrew infirm are suitors of court and
have defaulted. Therefore etc. And the said John Castelman 2d refused to swear upon
the book with the homage in contempt of court. Therefore he is in mercy etc.

The ‘grand inquest’

In the specimen list of articles to be considered at a View of frankpledge, noted above (page 32),
was a requirement to consider ‘Whether the bailiff, reeve, hayward or any other of the servants
[manorial officers] behaveth himself ill in his office, and in each case how and in what’.

Aletasters were often amerced – in every year from 1378 to 1388 (see page 215) – because they
had not done their office, or had not done it as they ought, as in May 1378:407

amercement 4d

Likewise they present that William Webbe 2d and Walter atte Hagge 2d are aletasters and
have not done their office in the way they ought. Therefore etc.

Similarly in January 1509 the six members of the homage were told to do a better job:408

day

And also they say that at present they have nothing else in their memory to present.
Therefore they have a day until the next court better to inquire. And then to present all
defaults which pertain to the court.

Twelve men were sometimes sworn in at the end of the View of frankpledge as the ‘grand inquest’
or ‘great inquiry’ [magna inquisitio] to ascertain whether the chief pledges and other officers had
been thorough in their disclosure of offences, or had concealed anything. This did not happen
during the period we have just been examining in the late 15th century, but in May 1385 we
read:409

Grand inquest

Respited?

6d

William Wynteworthe, Richard Sprynget, John Melneward; John Edward, Peter
Popsent, John Edward junior, Peter Pynnor, Richard Fowlere, John Carpenter; William
Brodeye, William Pynnor, John Godewyne; sworn, present that that [sic] the chief
[pledge]s 6d of West Morden have concealed; they present judgement [that] they are in
contempt etc. Therefore etc.

This body was sometimes labelled ‘the twelve jurors for the lord king’, as in this extract from May
1529:410

12 jurors for the
lord king

William Tegge, John Playstowe, William Woodman, Roger Wodnett, sworn.

John Hyller, Robert Derbey, William Mathew, Robert Bele, sworn.

John Woodman, James Carpenter, Richard Woodman, John Saye, sworn.

amercement 6d

Who say upon their oath that the head tithingman and the aletaster well and faithfully
have presented in everything that they have said and have made no concealment. And
furthermore they present that William Tegge 4d and John [Saye?]2d together caused an
affray against the king’s peace. Therefore they are in mercy.

Although they said that no offences had been concealed, they did present a further breach of
the peace not previously mentioned, which apparently involved two members of this same
jury.

In May 1535 this jury was called ‘the twelve free’, though there were 13 including the
constable. They were sworn in at the start of the View, before the ‘head tithingman’ and
his whole tithing made their presentments, followed by the aletasters. Once the twelve had
completed their main task, they ordained a by-law and dealt with a public nuisance, before
electing two officers: 411

12 jurors

John Playstowe, constable, William Woodman, John Tyler, John Pygeon, sworn.

Robert Marsshall, Roger Woodnett, Robert Tompson, John Holte, sworn.

Thomas Toller, Robert Kempt, Robert Derley, William Steward and Ralph Bayly,
sworn.

Presentment by
the 12

The twelve free, namely John Playstowe and the suitors of court at the same place,
sworn, come and present that all the above presentments are true. And furthermore
they say that it is ordained that all the inhabitants ring and license [justificar’] their pigs
at the normal time [tempore legual’] and yoke them in summer time [tempore estival’]
under penalty each of them 12d. And that the order is given to Alice Lorde to scour
[obscur’] the watercourse [aquam] and raise the riverbank at the end of the common
lane so that the water henceforth does not overflow beyond the riverbank at the same
place before the feast of Corpus Christi under penalty of 20d.

elections to office

And they elect in place of John Playstowe, constable, Thomas Toller and he is sworn.

And in place of John Bele head tithingman is elected Robert Marsshall and he is sworn.

The View was followed by the manorial court at which the homage were sworn in, two of whom
had served on ‘the twelve’:

homage

John Holte, John Hiller, sworn; John Playstowe and Alicia Lorde, widow, sworn.

It is interesting that a woman served on this homage. Alicia also served in April 1537, alongside
John Holt’s widow, Isabella, but there are no other records of women serving in this way.412 Their
five male companions had also served on ‘the twelve’, which was in fact eight.

Other jurisdictions

The manor court was not the only body to exercise jurisdiction over the inhabitants of Morden.
Church courts dealt with marriage and other ‘moral’ spheres, but no relevant records survive
for our area from the medieval period. Probate of wills also fell to the church courts. Criminals
who claimed ‘benefit of clergy’, by being able to read or recite a few lines, would be handed over
to the bishop for punishment, though no such cases have been found for Morden. It is notable
that so many Morden clergy were accused at the manorial court.

Disputes over freehold land were resolved at the royal courts, and many of these records have
been used in a companion volume exploring Morden’s landscape and landholding, so will not
be cited here.413 Cases of substantial debt were heard in the court of Chancery and are explored
more fully in chapter 5 pages 143-156.

Felonies such as robbery and murder were also reserved to the royal courts, both central
and itinerant, for which records survive in large numbers, though not in their entirety.
Some of these records have been published, particularly the extant rolls of the ‘eyres for
the common pleas’ covering the county of Surrey, a court ‘held in the county by the king’s
justices at intervals of several years, usually as part of a countrywide visitation’.414 Thus in
1235 we read that:415

they are to be
exacted and
outlawed

mercy

mercy

John de Morden and William son of Roger de Wingate and William le Hoppere fled
for larceny and burglary of houses, so they are to be exacted [called to appear] and
outlawed. John was not in a tithing, but he was harboured at Morden, so it is in mercy.
William was in the tithing of Roger his father in Effingham, so it is in mercy. William
le Hoppere was in the tithing of William Ion, so it is in mercy. None of them had
chattels.

It is not clear if all three were in collaboration, or where their crimes were committed.

In the same eyre we learn that:416

mercy

he is to be exacted
and outlawed

mercy

Peter de Morden killed Adam de Mitcham in the vill of Kingston and fled to the
church, and he escaped from it without abjuring the land. Because the vill of Kingston
did not search the church, so it is in mercy. Peter is to be exacted and outlawed. He was
in the tithing of Gilbert le Blodletere in Kingston, so it is in mercy. He had no chattels.

A killer or thief who sought sanctuary in a church could stay for up to forty days, being guarded
– and fed – by the parishioners. During this time he had the right to confess his crime and
abjure the realm in the presence of the coroner, going into exile overseas. If he did not take the
direct route to the port assigned to him – usually Shoreham for Surrey abjurors – he risked
being arrested and executed.417 In this case Peter escaped from the church, so the township was
amerced, as was Peter’s tithing. If a criminal did not abjure within forty days he would be starved
until he had to emerge and abjure.

No Morden cases are recorded in the 1258-9 special eyre of Surrey and Kent,418 or in the 1268
eyre de terris datis or the Surrey forest eyre (c.1258) and forest regard (1269).419 However, the
1263 eyre reports a murder in Morden following a break-in, though the culprit was not local:420

escape

he is to be exacted
and outlawed

amercements

William le Canun broke into the house of Matilda de la Feld in Morden and was
captured in that house with the stolen goods by Matilda herself and with the hue.
And detained in that house for two days and afterwards during the night he freed
himself and killed Matilda and escaped. So to judgement for the escape on the vill of
Morden. William is suspected [malecreditur] so he is to be exacted and outlawed. His
chattels and tithing are not known because he is a stranger and traveller. Osbert of
Sutton, one of the neighbours, has not come and was attached by Thomas Piper and
John his brother so they are in mercy.

In a list of indictments of people who had absconded and were suspected of many larcenies,
presented at the 1263 eyre, was Hugh, clerk of Morden. The indictment states that he was
harboured in the vill of Morden outside a tithing, so the vill was in mercy.421

Another case heard at that eyre concerned Merton Priory hospital. It is possible that this referred to
the priory’s Spital estate in Morden rather than the infirmary within the priory precinct: 422

abjuration

amercement

to judgment

quit

Henry of Mitcham put himself into the chapel of the hospital [capella hospitalis] of Merton
and confessed that he had stolen a certain chalice from the almonry of Merton. And he
abjured the realm before the coroner. He had no chattels nor was in a tithing. But he was
harboured in the vill of Merton outside a tithing, so it is in mercy. And it was proved by the
coroner’s rolls and by the twelve that while Henry was in the chapel he indicted a certain
William de Tooting of complicity in the theft. And the sheriff was ordered to attach William
and he did not attach him, so to judgment on him, namely on Gerard de Evington [the
sheriff]. And the sheriff is ordered to attach William. And William now comes and denies
complicity with Henry and for good or ill puts himself on the county. And twelve jurors and
four neighbouring vills say on oath that he is not guilty of complicity with the thief nor of
harbouring nor of any other crime. So [he is] quit thereof.

Another entry in the 1263 eyre roll concerned the liberties or legal rights claimed by the abbot
of Westminster:423

The king ordered the justices here that they should maintain the abbot of Westminster in
the liberties which he has by charters of the king himself and of previous kings of England
and which liberties he has enjoyed until now. And on this day Robert de Waleys steward of
the abbot himself comes and proffers a charter of the present king in which it is contained
that the king granted to the same abbot and his successors that they before whatsoever
justices, as much itinerant as others, should have estreats of the rolls of those justices
concerning the amercements and fines of all kinds regarding his men, and concerning the
chattels of fugitives and their damages, so that these estreats should not be handed over to
the exchequer but, by the hands of the same justices in whose presence the men are to be
amerced, these estreats should be handed over to the bailiff of the abbot. And he claims the
estreats of the rolls of amercements and fines concerning the men of the abbot himself and
of their men in this eyre, so let them be handed over to him.

Estreats [extractas] were copies of the summary of amercements from the court roll.424

No doubt this explains the fine paid by the Schuttes to regain their possessions in February 1298
(see above, page 13):425

fine 10s

Peter Chutte and John Chutte and William Chutte come and give the lord 10s in order
to have possession of chattels seized by the lord’s bailiff which same Peter, John and
William were judged before the sheriff on a plea of theft and for the flight of the same;
they made fine &c.

Similarly, this would be the reason that the goods and chattels of John Schutte were forfeited to
the abbey following his hanging, as recorded in the manorial accounts for 1307 and 1308 (see
page 14 and chapter 4 pages 104-111).426 Presumably Schutte had failed to seek sanctuary or he
would then have been allowed to abjure the realm, rather than face a death sentence.

The eyre was most active in the 13th century and was gradually replaced by a variety of
commissions and assizes, culminating in the appointment of Justices of the Peace, local
landowners who worked alongside professional lawyers to maintain justice within their counties
through the Quarter Sessions.427 Few medieval records survive from these, though some cases
were transferred to the court of King’s Bench, which until 1421 visited the counties between its
regular sessions held at Westminster. Other Westminster courts were Common Pleas, Exchequer
and Chancery, to which the courts of Requests and Star Chamber were added in the Tudor
period. Use has been made in an earlier volume in this series of several records from these
courts relating to disputes over land.428 No doubt there are many more examples of crime in
medieval Morden still to be discovered in the voluminous records of these royal courts, but it is
unlikely that they would add a great deal to the information readily available from the manorial
court records.

46 MEDIEVAL MORDEN: NEIGHBOURHOOD AND COMMUNITY

47

3: STATUS AND DEGREE

One thing is clear from a study of the sources – medieval Morden was not a community of
equals.

Bond and free

Slaves

Domesday Book records one slave [servus] on Westminster Abbey’s estate in Morden in 1086.1
It is generally assumed by scholars that the Domesday figures for slaves represent individuals
rather than the usual heads of households for other classes. Although it was common for
whole families to live in slavery, it is likely that the Domesday commissioners only recorded
those who actively contributed to the economy of the estate, so would have excluded minors.
Female slaves might also have been omitted, though in some regions where the term ancilla is
used, it probably refers to female slaves rather than employees.2

Although slavery in England was in decline by the late 11th century, it has been estimated that
perhaps 10 per cent of the population may still have been slaves in 1086.3 So the single slave
listed among the abbey’s assets in Morden was not unique. In fact Westminster Abbey had 149
slaves on its estates in 1086.4 The consensus among scholars is that the prime responsibility
of Saxon agricultural slaves was as ploughmen, and that landowners increasingly opted for a
system whereby freed slaves were granted a small landholding in part return for their labour.5
Christopher Dyer suggests that ‘the descendants of freed slaves of the tenth and eleventh
centuries can be identified after 1100 because they held small tenements in return for heavy
services, such as carrying out full-time tasks as ploughmen or shepherds’.6 The custumal
c.1225 has the following entry at the end of its list of customary tenants: ‘William Swein, for
3 acres, 12d’.7

No details are given of the labour services William owed, but in 1312 a descendant also paid
12d for his holding, and his duties are spelled out at length:8

Geoffrey le Sweyne holds the tenement formerly belonging to Robert le Sweyne at a rent
per annum of 12d at the four principal terms equally. And he shall give as medsilver 1d
at the feast of St John the Baptist. And he shall find at each of the three boonworks of the
lord’s corn-reaping in Autumn 2 men with food provided by the lord as above, a work
worth as above and at 2 dry boonworks for the lord’s corn-reaping in Autumn, namely
at each boonwork 1 man as above worth as above. And he shall go with a rod over the
reapers. And he shall find 1 man at haymaking for 1 day in the lord’s meadow with food
provided by the lord twice a day at the lord’s will. And he shall find 1 man at the cleaning
of the millpond as often as it needs to be done with food provided by the lord twice a day.
And the value of the work without deductions is ¼d. And they say that there are 15 who
are assigned to this, and that it is not necessary to clean the aforesaid pond if it is well
cleaned for the space of 10 years. And the total value of the work without deductions is
2s 11d. And so it is valued annually at 3½d. Also he shall find 1 man at the shearing of
the sheep of the lord and he shall receive of the lord after dinner bread and cheese. And
the value of the work is ½d. And he shall plough twice in a year with food provided by
the lord twice a day if he has a plough [team] or with as many as he can yoke, at the will
of the lord.

Geoffrey is listed among the free tenants, but this seems to have indicated freedom from
the obligation to perform weekly labour services, rather than a tenant of a freehold sold
by charter. Although Geoffrey was not required to perform the weekly labour services due
from tenants of virgates and half-virgates, his duties were quite onerous for one who only
held 3 acres and would therefore have needed to find employment in order to earn his
living.

An agreement of 1225 about rerouting the road that had crossed the abbot’s court mentions
Sweyn’s tenement as one of the landmarks. This and later evidence suggests that his was
a compact holding (ID code [Y]) that was later subsumed into what became the present
Morden Lodge, adjoining Morden Hall.9

Serfs

Alongside Morden’s slave, Domesday Book mentions eight villeins [villani] and five cottars
[cottari] or cottagers,10 and the 1332 taxation returns list nine ‘Villeins of the abbot of Westminster
in the Vill of Morden’ [Villani Abbatis Westmonasterii in Villa de Mordone], alongside six taxpayers
in ‘The Vill of Morden’ [Villata de Mordone], presumably the free tenants.11 The custumal c.1225
and the extent of 1312 only refer to free and customary tenants.12 However, following the Black
Death, which struck Morden in April 1349, the harvest boonworks due from the tenants are
described in the manorial accounts to 1357/58 as ‘harvest boonworks arising both from free
tenants and from serfs’ [nativi].13

We noted in chapter 1 that some customary tenants not only held ‘servile’ land, ‘in bondage’, but
were also described as ‘the lord’s serf’ [nativus]. This was not just a matter of tenure but of status.
As noted there, and explored in greater detail below, a serf was tied to the manor on which he
was born, and could only leave with the lord’s permission, on annual payment of ‘chevage’.14 He
owed regular weekly labour services on the lord’s demesne throughout the year, as well as money
rents and sometimes renders in kind, though he was excused these services if he served as ‘reeve’
– the estate manager – a demanding, though probably rewarding, role. A serf’s daughter could
only marry with the lord’s licence, on payment of ‘merchet’. A serf’s son could not enter holy
orders without the approval of his lord. A serf’s possessions were deemed to be the property of
his lord and on the death of a serf his heir had to pay heriot – normally the best beast on the
holding – as well as an entry fine in cash in order to claim his inheritance.

In later years some members of the Sweyne family were described as ‘the lord’s serfs’ [nativi].
Thus, in February and May 1378 John Swayn junior, ‘the lord’s serf’, was described as a ‘chaplain’
[capellanus], when summoned to the manorial court on the death of his father, though there is
no record of his attendance.15 It was not unusual for serfs to become clerics, although legal theory
was that they could not take holy orders unless they had received permission from their lord.16
In November 1398 the prior of Merton attempted to suppress gossip among the canons over
the servile origins of one of their number who allegedly had ‘letters of manumission’ that freed
him from his former ‘bondage’.17 One such document, dated 20 January 1397, survives among
the priory records, declaring that the convent had unanimously ‘manumitted and released from
all yoke of servitude and villenage John Calcheth, the younger, son of Adam Calcheth, native of
Fetcham [ffecham] in the County of Surrey, with all his offspring, begotten and to be begotten. So
that the said John and all his offspring might remain in perpetuity free and discharged without
hindrance, perturbation, or impediment from them or their successors or others in their name
whomsoever in future.’18 It would appear that John Swayn junior had not been granted such
authority, as he was summoned as the lord’s serf.

A John Sweyn is mentioned in June 1383, but probably in error for Roger Sweyn. Roger and his
brother Richard were recorded at several manorial courts between June 1378 and May 1384 as
defaulting and as runaway serfs living in Wimbledon without the lord’s licence.19 In February
1382 ‘the whole homage’ had been ordered ‘that they have here on this day the bodies of the
lord’s serfs dwelling outside the lord’s lordship without licence’, but nothing was done, and the
brothers disappear from the record, the last representatives of the family in Morden.20

It seems that at an early period a serf was himself considered to be the lord’s property, as the
following example illustrates. In neighbouring Malden around 1180 the lord of the manor, Eudes
de Malden, decided to end his days as a canon at Merton Priory and, as was normal for wealthy
patrons, gave the priory some property – the advowson of Malden church and half of a hide of
land, probably around 30 acres. His father, William, had previously given the priory the other
half-hide ‘with a certain Gilbert and with a messuage next to the same Hide’.21 It seems clear
that in the mid-12th century it was acceptable for William to give the priory a tenant holding
complete with the tenant and his house. One might assume that Gilbert was a descendant of one
of the three slaves recorded on the manor in 1086, but a 2-virgate holding of around 30 acres
seems far too generous for that to be the case, so it would appear that all servile tenants were
considered at that period to be entirely at the disposal of their lord.22

3: STATUS AND DEGREE 49

There is some debate among scholars over the extent to which this legal theory was matched
by local practice and custom. Over the centuries there was an ever widening gap between the
‘extreme statements of [a lord’s powers] contained in the law books and the pronouncements of
lawyers’ and the ‘lesser exactions [that] became the custom that governed their proceedings’.23
‘Custom served to fix and standardize the exactions on villein holdings, and to establish how they
were levied and enforced: relations between lords and tenants were characterised by mutually
understood and agreed notions of what constituted appropriate dealings’.24 ‘The custom of each
manor was the outcome of practical compromise gradually established’, but the widespread
destruction of manorial records noted during the 1381 revolt reveals that the perpetrators ‘clearly
did not regard these manorial customs as an effective protection against excessive exploitation
and much arbitrary injustice’.25

There is no evidence in the Morden records for the rough treatment complained of by tenants
in neighbouring Merton on the eve of the Black Death. The De Banco rolls for 1348 record
that they complained against the lord of the manor, the prior of Merton, ‘of his unscrupulous
exaction of services and customs such as had not been wont when the king held this demesne’.26
The National Archives catalogue suggests that an undated petition to the king relates to this
complaint, though local historian Evelyn Jowett favoured a date ‘1307-1335, probably in 1320’.27
Expert opinion favours the middle two quarters of the 14th century though on palaeographical
grounds alone it could be as early even as the 1310s or 1320s, and probably no later than the 1370s.28
The petitioners recite that ‘the prior who then was and William de Kent, his fellow monk, came
to the houses of the tenants and broke open their chests and took away the muniments and
charters belonging to the said tenants and carried them away and had further assaulted them’.
They claimed to be ‘tenants of ancient demesne’, appealing to the evidence of Domesday Book
that the vill had belonged to King Harold, and the document is endorsed ‘They should pursue
this at the common law’. However, Harold had held the manor when earl of Wessex during the
reign of Edward the Confessor, so it was not ‘of ancient demesne’. Morden had been held by
Westminster Abbey since the 10th century, so its tenants could not claim the right enjoyed by
tenants of former royal demesne estates to sue their current lords in the royal courts.

There was considerable variety in the way lordship was exercised on different manors, and we
need to examine the evidence that survives from medieval Morden to ascertain the situation
here at different periods. It is unfortunate that most of our court roll evidence comes from the
late 14th century onwards, so little information is available for the period before the Black Death.

The following were the customary tenants listed in 1312, with the acreage of their holdings [plus
an ID code]:29

William Attechirche formerly John de Marreys 30a [M]

Thomas Belle formerly Durand Godesone 20a [B]

Roger Attecherche formerly Isabell atte Cherche 20a [C]

Adam Est [sometimes called Adam Ingulf] formerly Simon son of Thomas 20a [A]

John Hubert formerly Hugh Hubert 20a [S]

Henry Attehengg 20a [H]

Agnes Edward 20a [E]

Hawenld la Bosser 20a [L]

Johana la Godesone 20a [O]

Henry Attecherche 20a [J]

Thomas Attecherche 10a [X]

Alice Attecherche [probably in error for Alice Atterithe] 10a [T]

Henry Attechurche 10a [R]

At least four of these had ancestors who were customary tenants c.1225:30

John son of Gode 1 virgate 20a [O]

Thomas Ingulf 1 virgate 20a [A]

Robert Edward 1 virgate 20a [E]

Hubert 1 virgate 20a [S]

It is likely that others could trace their holding to the other 1225 tenants:

Henry de Brus 1½ virgates 30a

Walter Wig 1½ virgates 30a

Hugh West 1 virgate 20a

Widow Laurence 1 virgate 20a

Avicia 1 virgate 20a

Reginald miles 1 virgate 20a

William Palmer 1 virgate 20a

William the oxherd’s son 1 virgate 20a

Mabel 1 virgate 20a

William the clerk ½ virgate 10a

Gunnild ½ virgate 10a

John son of Gilbert ½ virgate 10a

Hugh Aunger ½ virgate 10a

Many of the nine villeins listed in the 1332 taxation were listed, or had relatives listed, in 1312
[*] and three family names appear in both 1312 and c.1225 [**]:

[**] John Huberd

[**] Richard Edward

[*] Henry ate Cherche

[**] William Godeson

[*] Henry ate Hegge

William Joce

[*] Robert ate Rythe

Henry le Gulden

Walter le Webbe

Joce had taken on one of Henry Attecherche’s two tenements [J], but we have no record of the
transfer so cannot tell if he was a relative of Henry. Henry le Gulden was probably son of Gilbert
le Guldene, listed among the free taxpayers, so it would seem that he was not of servile birth but
merely tenant of servile land. He was listed among the free tenants in 1312, holding half of what
appears to have been a 2-virgate holding which in later years was treated as a customary holding
[G]. Similarly Walter le Webbe was probably not of servile birth. He had obtained the largest
share of Belle’s former customary holding [B] when it was broken up in the late 13th century. In
November 1396 the death of a William Webbe was presented at the manorial court when he was
described as having held ‘in serfdom’ [native] a messuage and 4 acres, but the same description
was used of a small plot of customary land held by a tenant of a substantial freehold tenement.31

Henry ate Cherche died in 1342 and it is not known who inherited his other tenement [R].32
William Godeson’s tenement [O] came into the tenure of John Reynald who died in 1354
without heirs.33 John Huberd died in the plague year, holding not only his family tenement [S],
which was presumably inherited by an unknown relative, but also that formerly held by William
Makernays (also called Mankernays and Megurneys) [M], which reverted to the lord of the
manor for lack of a tenant.34 Makernays is described as a ‘serf’ in the manorial account rolls
following the Black Death,35 and from 1353/54 William Joce or Jose, who had also died in 1349,
was similarly called a serf.36 But none of the other customary tenants whose tenements reverted
permanently to the lord after the plague – Walter atte Cherche [X], John Adam [A] and Thomas
de Northwich [F4] – were called serfs in these account rolls.

Henry ate Rythe’s tenement [T] came into the lord’s hand following his death in the plague year,
but was soon back in the hands of the family, many members of which were called serfs in later
records. Two members of the Edward family [E] died in the plague year, but other family members
survived to continue the name, and many of them were described as serfs in later records. Richard
ate Hegge [H] also died, but his family survived, and again many were denoted as serfs.

These three families provide the most information about serfdom in Morden, but four others
warrant a brief survey, particularly as they shed some light on the period before the Black Death.

In October 1327 William le Godesone was described as the lord’s serf when he successfully
claimed a stray mare. However, the entry is unusual:37

pledge

fine 12d

William le Godesone the lord’s serf comes and certifies a certain stray mare to be his and
he has delivery &c. And he gives the lord for seizure 12d. And he provides pledge of the
whole homage to return the aforesaid mare within a year &c whether &c or the price,
namely 4s.

It appears that he had to pay a shilling for the offence of his mare straying, and also had to
promise to pay a further 4 shillings within a year as the value of the mare, or else return it,
though the clerk’s repeated use of ‘etc’ is not entirely clear. The manor sold unwanted mares
for between 4s 6d in 1306 and 8 shillings in 1303, but bought replacement mares for between 9
and 10 shillings. It seems that William’s mare would have been of similar value to the one that
the manor disposed of in 1306, which was described as ‘old’ [vetus].38 This is the only 14th-
century case in the extant records of a stray being claimed, so we cannot be certain whether
William’s treatment was due to his status or was normal for the period. In 1405 a claimant was
merely amerced at 2d for his two stray oxen,39 while in 1474 a stray horse was reclaimed without
any payment, as were colts in 1494 and 1495 and a ewe in 1499.40 The legal theory was that a
serf’s possessions were the property of his lord, so it is possible that William was required to
repurchase his mare, and was also being punished for losing it.41

In March 1327/8 Adam Ingolf sent his essoin or apologies for absence via Walter atte Hacche, but it
was not accepted because he was a serf, and he was later amerced for defaulting.42 Similar instances
occurred in 1389 and 1390, when an essoin was declared not valid because the tenant ‘held by the rod’
– describing customary tenure. However, on other occasions the same tenants’ essoins were accepted,
so it does not seem generally to have been the case in Morden that only free tenants could essoin, as on
some manors, and was probably a quirk of the clerk who recorded these particular courts.43

Also in October 1327 Walter son of John Shette or Shutte was described as the lord’s serf in
relation to a plea of land, but the case was adjourned several times without further detail being
given and no court rolls survive between 1328 and 1378.44 The manorial account rolls between
1306 and 1311 record goods forfeited by a John Shutte who had been hanged for an unexplained
offence (see page 104).45 He was one of a family who made several appearances in the court rolls
between 1297 and 1300 for anti-social behaviour and for family discord (see page 13).46 In 1312 a
‘Gilbert le Shutee’ was paying ½d rent increment yearly for 3 acres of land, probably part of Belle’s
former tenement [B4]. A later John Shute defaulted his suit of court in May 1378 and June 1379,
and he was probably the John ‘Chute’ or ‘Schutte’ presented at courts between May 1380 and
November 1383 as a runaway serf dwelling in London without licence.47

A serf was bound to the manor of his birth and was not allowed to leave it unless he had purchased
his lord’s permission.48 From ‘long before the Norman Conquest … as for centuries afterwards,
one of the chief preoccupations of landowners had been the retention of a maximum number of
dependent men obliged to pay rents and till their demesnes … Before 1348 … cultivatable land
or good meadows and pastures were scarce … Unfree tenants with holdings would not in those
circumstances lightly disobey their landlords and there was little danger of many servile peasants
trying to migrate elsewhere.’49 However, following the Black Death in 1349 the population fell
dramatically and land was more widely available, if not on one’s native manor then on another.
The demand for labour also increased, and many were tempted to flee the restrictions of serfdom
at home to seek employment, and freedom, elsewhere, though it seems that few travelled very far.

Zvi Razi points out that some who settled in a neighbouring parish had inherited property there
from distant kin, in the same way that the Goldwyre family inherited the Morden holdings
of their Gilden relatives in 1413.50 This was especially true when they had a claim through
the female line, as Razi explains elsewhere, because ‘the legal personal status of a peasant was
determined by his father rather than by his mother … if the son of an emigrant bondman came
back to take, say, his uncle’s land, he lost the freedom which he had enjoyed in the village in
which he was born’, whereas a bondwoman’s son would retain the personal status inherited from
a non-servile father.51

Another defaulting serf often presented alongside Shute and the Sweyns was William Lotekyn,
who gave his name to the tenement that had been held in 1312 by Hawenild la Bosser [L],
though his relationship to her, if any, is not known. In November 1383 and May 1384 he was
said to be dwelling at Beddington, again without licence.52

A decade later, sons of serfs were still seeking their fortunes away from the manor, but their
fathers were persuaded to put things on a legal footing by giving to the lord two capons as
chevage for such licence. Thus at the courts held in May 1394, November 1394, May 1395 and
November 1396, John son of Walter at Hegge, the lord’s serf, was said to have defaulted, and
was living without licence at Ilford with his wife.53

Similarly, in November 1395 the court was informed that: 54

amercement 2d

penalty

Likewise they present that Ralph Edward the lord’s serf has placed his son William,
the lord’s serf, to study the liberal arts [ad artem lib’am] in London without the lord’s
licence. Therefore he is in mercy. And the order is given to his parents and next of
kin to have the said William here before the next court under penalty of a half mark
etc.

In November 1396 William’s father’s name was corrected to John Edward and he was said to
be living without licence with a joiner outside Newgate in London.55 It would seem that he had
been apprenticed to a member of a London craft guild.

In July 1397 both parents sought the lord’s licence and agreed to pay chevage each year:56

chevage

2 capons

At this day comes John Edward, the lord’s serf, and gives the lord for chevage for William
Edward his son, the lord’s serf, in order that the aforesaid William is able to reside outside
the lord’s dominion at London with Simon Serles joiner [joyno’] outside Newgate until
the next View day as appears.

chevage

2 capons

Likewise Walter atte Hegge, the lord’s serf, gives the lord for chevage for John his son,
the lord’s serf, in order that the same John is able to reside outside the lord’s dominion at
Ilford [Illeford] until the next View day as appears.

These payments were recorded in the next two court rolls, and in the manorial accounts until
their deaths, William’s in 1417 and John’s in 1445/46.57 However, in April 1410 Walter atte Hegge’s
other son, Roger, was ordered to ensure his brother attended the next court. At the same court
Roger was elected and appointed as manorial beadle, a post he held until 1423:58

the order is
given

The order is given to Roger Hegge, the lord’s serf, that he have here the body of John
Hegge, brother of the aforesaid Roger, against the next court under penalty of 40d etc.

oath

Roger Hegge, the lord’s serf, is elected into the office of beadle in place of John Pygot and
he takes the oath.

In November 1410 we learn that John was at Barking, then in Essex.59

Why had these two families agreed to pay chevage, when others had openly flouted the rules
without hindrance? They were among the leading families within the manor, John leasing
the abbey’s demesne with Ralph atte Rithe by 1388/89 until 1390/91, serving as beadle and as
the abbey’s rent collector in Morden from 1406 to 1408. Was there pressure on them to set a
good example? Or were they anxious to maintain their sons’ links with the manor, in case they
should ever inherit the family property? Or had the court become more effective in enforcing
its decrees?

A later example casts doubt on all these interpretations. It would seem that not every manorial
official was as compliant as John and Walter. At the court held in May 1409, John atte Rythe
was presented at court for a breach of the Statute of Labourers, first enacted in 1351, which
obliged the able-bodied to work on long-term contracts rather than by the day or hour. This
was presumably the John who was one of the current aletasters in Morden and joint-lessee of
two virgate holdings with his father – himself a former lessee of the demesne and rent collector
– rather than a namesake, though this is not certain. This statute supplemented the Ordinance
of Labourers proclaimed in June 1349, immediately after the Black Death when labour was in
short supply, and was confirmed and extended many times into the mid-15th century:60

amercement 2d

Likewise all the chief pledges as above, sworn, present that John atte Rythe 2d is a labourer
[laborar’] and he does not want to serve for the year nor the quarter year against the
statute and in contempt of the lord and he has nothing of his own upon which he lives if
he withdraws from the lordship. Therefore he is in mercy.

We are not told on this occasion that John was a serf, but in April 1410 the court roll records:61

fine 20d

Likewise they present that John atte Ryth is the lord’s serf and remains outside the
lordship without the lord’s licence. Therefore the order is given to seize him etc. And
later in this court by John Thurstan he is seized as the lord’s serf etc. And the order is
given to seize all goods and chattels of the aforesaid John atte Ryth wheresoever they are
found etc. And later [he gives the lord fine] so that he is able to dwell outside the lordship
with all his goods and his chattels until Michaelmas as appears.

This is the only occasion recorded in the court rolls of a runaway serf being apprehended, which
throws some doubt on the suggestion that the manor had introduced a more efficient mechanism
for apprehending runaway serfs. Thurstan is not otherwise mentioned in the manorial records,
so does not seem to have been acting in an official capacity. John atte Ryth only had permission
to remain absent until Michaelmas, but he had not returned for the court held in October 1410.
However, it appears that he had not gone far from home, as in May 1411 we read:62

the order is
given

Likewise they present that John Ryth, the lord’s serf, remains outside the lordship, namely
at Malden. Therefore the order is given to seize him etc.

No further mention is made of him until May 1417 when we are told:63

chevage 2
capons

John atte Ryth

At this court comes John atte Ryth, the lord’s serf, and gives the lord for chevage in order
that he may remain outside the lordship wherever he wishes, for one year 2 capons etc.

One might suspect that this act was motivated by the desire to safeguard his right of inheritance,
even if only to sell the property, as later in the same court we are informed:

respited?

fine 2s

fealty

heriot 16d

fine 3s 4d

[fealty]

At this court comes John atte Ryth, the lord’s serf, and seeks his admittance to one messuage
and 10 acres land with pertinents after the death of Ralph atte Ryth, whence there falls
due to the lord for heriot nothing because he had no animals etc; and he is admitted to
hold to himself and his, of the lord at the lord’s will in bondage by roll of court by services
and customs saving [the lord’s] right etc. And he gives the lord for fine as appears. And
he does fealty. And later, in this and the same court it is witnessed by John Whyte and
Baldwyn Popsent, tenants, that the same John atte Ryth, the lord’s serf, and Matilda his wife,
examined alone, surrendered into the lord’s hand, for themselves and their heirs forever, the
said messuage and land with pertinents to Roger atte Hegg’ and Alianore his wife, to have
and to hold the said messuage and land with pertinents to the aforementioned Roger and
Alianore, and Roger’s heirs and assigns, of the lord at the lord’s will by roll of court by service
etc. And they give the lord for both heriot and for fine as appears. And they do fealty.

However, he continued to pay his two capons every autumn from November 1417 until 1420, the
last occasion that the court rolls mention the word serf.64 Thus it does not appear that maintaining
one’s right to inherit property within the manor was the sole motive for paying chevage.

These three examples are the only records of the payment of capons as chevage to live outside
the manor. However, there are earlier references to a different form of chevage. Between 1311
and 1314 the manorial accounts note that John Brounyng senior paid a plough foot annually as
chevage, and this is also recorded at the end of the list of tenants in the 1312 extent.65 One can
only assume that he was a smith. The account for 1292/93 records the payment of a cow for heriot
of a William Brouning, the 1312 extent shows a Ralph Brounynges paying a rent increment of 2d
for a cottage which was later held by Randolf Edward – the reeve in the 1350s – and a Thomas
Brouning was presented for brewing in April 1328, but nothing further is known of the family
or why John was liable for chevage.66 It has been suggested that chevage was also payable by both
free and unfree immigrants for the privilege of living on the manor as undertenants or labourers,
but there is no evidence in the Morden records for such a practice.67

The payment of chevage was just one of the indicators used to prove that a family was servile.
Another was merchet, paid on the marriage of a serf’s daughter. The term does not appear in the
Morden records, but there are occasional cases where a fine was imposed following the marriage
of a serf’s daughter without the lord’s licence. The first was in October 1298:68

amercement 6d

Richard le Flech puts himself at mercy for giving in marriage Alice his daughter without
the lord’s licence.

Richard is never called a serf, and in fact only held a cottage in 1312, paying 2½d rent increment
as it was built on land recently enclosed from roadside waste in what is now Central Road. He
had passed one rood of land here to a William le Flech, possibly his son, at the same October
court 1298. It would seem that at this early stage in the court records it was not entirely clear
which customary tenants owed merchet.

The next case was in February 1378:69

the order is
given

Again the order is given to distrain Richard Folere to give satisfaction to the lord because
he married Alice daughter of Ralph Edward the lord’s serf without licence etc.

It is interesting that it was the husband who was expected to pay, not the father as in 1298.
Richard paid 2s 6d fine at the next court:70

fine 2s 6d

Richard Fowler comes and gives the lord for fine because without licence he espoused
Alice daughter of Ralph Edward the lord’s serf as appears.

Almost 20 years later it was reported that Alice had married again, also without licence. In
November 1397 we read:71

the order is
given

It is found that a certain Thomas Gaston espoused Alice, daughter of Ralph Edward, the
lord’s serf, without the lord’s licence. Therefore the order is given to distrain him against
the next [court] to satisfy the lord for trespass etc.

The order was repeated at the next court:72

distrain

And the order to distrain Thomas Gaston to satisfy the lord for trespass because he
espoused Alice daughter of Ralph Edward the lord’s serf, and a widow of [ie in the
jurisdiction of] the lord against the next [court] etc.

There is no record of Gaston, sometimes called Garston, paying his fine, though he and Alice
continued to live in Morden and Thomas served as aletaster from 1400 until 1405. He was a
newcomer to Morden, having been sworn into the tithing in July 1397. He was noted as infirm
in 1406 and seems to have died the following year. By 1409 Alice had married again, to Thomas
Attemere, but no comment was made as to whether the lord’s licence had been sought on this
occasion, perhaps because Thomas seems to have died within a year, when Alice is called Garston
once more.73

It was not because such licence was no longer required. In April 1410 we find:74

writ

Likewise they present that William Pynnor married Lucy, daughter of Ralph atte Ryth,
the lord’s serf, without licence. Therefore prosecuted by writ.

However, this was not a recent offence. Ralph atte Rithe had surrendered a cottage and curtilage
to his daughter Lucy and her husband William Pynnore 21 years before, in 1389!75

Surprisingly, these are the only references to marriage licences in the extant Morden records.
These cannot be the only daughters of serfs who married. In fact we know that Alice Edward’s
cousin, Emma Edward, married John Spyk, who first appears in the court rolls in 1380. They
were certainly married by November 1388, but had perhaps married before the extant court rolls
began again in 1378.76 They inherited the Edward family holding in May 1393, but Emma was
dead by November 1397 when John was required ‘to show by what right he occupies the land
and tenement, late Emma his wife, which the aforesaid Emma, the daughter and heir of the late
John Edward, the lord’s serf, inherited, against the next [court] etc’.77

Scholars debate the origins and purpose of merchet – was it based on status or tenure? – was
it a tax on marriage or on the wife’s dowry? – was it a means of vetoing an unsuitable husband

as a possible future tenant or compensation for loss of the chattels taken from the manor when
a servile woman married outside the manor, as was the case in the Oxfordshire manor of
Headington in 1277, as confirmed in 1355?78

These few examples from Morden add little to the argument, but they do seem to support the
suggestion that such marriage fines were paid by families of servile origin but not by those
merely holding servile tenements; that they were usually only exacted from villein families with
larger landholdings (a half-virgate or more), and not from smallholders or the landless; and that
they were paid by father or husband, not the bride as sometimes recorded elsewhere.79

No doubt the burden of serfdom was more oppressive in earlier centuries than it seems to have
been in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was only occasionally, and somewhat erratically, that the
status of a serf was noted in the later court rolls. When brewers were presented at the manor
court in November 1396, Walter atte Hegge was described as the lord’s serf but John Edward
was not. However, in October 1399 it was John Edward who was described as a serf in a similar
presentment, while John atte Ryth and Roger atte Hegge were not.80 Similarly, we find young
Thomas Edward described as a serf when he was sworn into a tithing in May 1406, but Thomas
atte Rythe, who was also sworn in, was not so described, although clearly from a servile family.81

After the Black Death, when serfs were in the minority, it must have been galling that free
neighbours were not subject to the stigma of serfdom, and it is not surprising that risings such
as the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 placed the abolition of serfdom high on their list of reforms.82
‘This constant reminder of their disadvantages intensified the chronic discontent of the servile
peasants’.83 However, in earlier centuries, when the majority of one’s neighbours were also serfs,
although the burden might have been heavy, the stigma perhaps had not seemed so important.
In spite of being a serf, John Huberd was the wealthiest man in Morden, being taxed at 4s 7½d in
the 1332 taxation, and he held a 30-acre holding as well as his 20-acre family tenement. He was
also one of the most influential, having served as reeve from 1323 until 1341. Did he feel inferior
to his poorer free neighbours? It seems unlikely. ‘In the village, a man’s enterprise and economic
standing might matter more than his status’.84

This is not to downplay the serious implications that an accusation of servile origins could have,
as Simon Wylot found to his cost in October 1387:85

the order is
given

Wylot

The order is given to seize into the lord’s hand five acres of land which Simon Wylot, the
lord’s serf, as if pertaining to his manor of Parham, purchased within the lordship of this
manor saving whatever rights against the next [court] etc.

Simon had been resident in Morden since at least June 1379 and in December 1381 had served
as a pledge (see page 15), so he was clearly seen as a reliable member of the community.86 The
legal theory was that a serf could not own freehold property, as all his possessions belonged to
his lord. The land would be confiscated and regranted under customary tenure.87 However, this
was not the first freehold property that Simon had purchased. In May 1384 we read:88

Fine 18d
respited fealty

Simon Willot and Amicia his wife come and do the lord fealty for 3 acres land late William
Bunt. And they give the lord for fine for entry into the lord’s fee such as appears, both for
the purchase on their own behalf and for the purchase by John Salyng. [U5]

So why was the second purchase challenged, but not the first? Like Morden, Parham in Sussex
was a Westminster Abbey manor, and when the abbey decided to lease the demesne at Morden
in 1359, the first lessee was from Parham.89 Some of Simon’s contemporaries in Morden were also
from Parham (see pages 76 and 190), including another with the surname Wylot, so presumably
a relative, and he had also purchased freehold property without challenge.

The order was repeated in May and November 1388, and again in May 1389:90

the order is
given

Wylot

Again the order is given to retain in the lord’s hand 5 acres free land which Simon Wylot,
the lord’s serf, purchased within the lord’s fee as if pertaining to the manor of Parham,
and to answer for the issues etc until etc. [U6]

But in November 1389 things began to move forward:91

issues 2s 5d

fine 6d

increment 2
capons

fealty

Wylott

Whereas the order was given at the last [court] to retain in the lord’s hand 5 acres of free
land which Simon Wylot, the lord’s serf, late purchased within the lord’s fee, as pertaining
to the manor of Parham, and to answer for the issues etc until etc. Now at this court
the serviens answers for the issues as appears. And again the order is given to retain in
hand and to answer etc until etc. Now at this court the lord grants the said land to the
aforementioned Simon, to hold to himself and his by service and customs etc. And for the
future to give at Christmas for rent increment 2 capons annually until it is proved whether
he is a serf or not etc. And he gives the lord for fine as appears. And he does the lord fealty.

We have already seen that two capons formed the standard payment for chevage, and this was
apparently considered an appropriate charge while investigations were made. The situation
continued for another 18 months, during which period, at the courts held in November 1390
and June 1391, it was revealed that Simon’s land had been part of William Bunt’s freehold
tenement in what is now Central Road, which had been broken up into several parts and sold
to various tenants.92 At this latter court we learn that Simon seems to have given up any hope
of a solution:93

respited?

Wylot

fine 2s

A Berenger

fealty

At this court it is witnessed by the whole homage that Simon Wylot surrenders into the
serviens’ hand five acres of free land which the same Simon lately purchased, and later it
was granted to him at a rent increment of 2 capons a year etc as appears in the court held
here 14 November in the present king’s 13th year. And later the lord grants the said five
acres land with pertinents to Alan Berenger and Agnes his wife to hold to the same Alan
and Agnes and Alan’s heirs by service etc, saving [the lord’s] rights, etc. And a similar
rent increment of 2 capons as appears above. And they give the lord for fine for entry
as appears. And they do the lord fealty. [U5]

respited

heriot 1 horse
sold for 5s

fine 6s

fealty

At this court it is witnessed by the serviens that the aforesaid Simon Wylot and Anicia his
wife surrender into the lord’s hand by the hand of the said serviens, for themselves and
their heirs forever, one cottage with croft adjoining in Stoyle. And later the lord grants the
said cottage and croft with pertinents to the aforementioned Alan Berenger and Agnes his
wife, to hold to the same Alan and Agnes and to Alan’s heirs, in bondage by roll of court by
service etc, saving [the lord’s] rights etc. And whence there falls due to the lord for heriot
1 horse. And they give the lord for fine for entry as appears. And they do fealty. [N6]

Surprisingly, we discover from the court of May 1393 that Simon had never been sworn into a
tithing in Morden.94 In May 1394 he defaulted in his attendance at court, though he had been
brewing during the year, but he had not left the area as he was present in November:95

respited?
amercement
3s 4d

fealty

heriot 1 hogget

At this court come Alan Berenger and Agnes his wife, examined alone, and surrender
into the lord’s hand one cottage with croft adjoining whence there falls due to the lord for
heriot 1 hogget [hoggaster] worth [blank]. And later the lord grants the said cottage and
croft with pertinents to Simon Wylot and Anicia his wife, to hold to the same Simon and
Anicia, their heirs and assigns, in bondage at the lord’s will by roll of court by service etc,
to whom is granted seisin thereof, saving [the lord’s] rights etc. And they give the lord
for entry fine as shown and they do the lord fealty etc.

Perhaps the Berengers had taken the property in some kind of mortgage arrangement, rather
than a permanent transfer, as by 1397 they had also returned the 5 acres to Simon. But at long
last, after 9 years, the abbey reached a verdict. In November 1396 we are informed:96

fine 2s

the order is
given to distrain

distrain because
another has
purchased

The lord was given to understand that a certain Simon Wylot was a serf of the church of
Westminster as pertaining to the manor of Perham, which manor pertains to the office of
the infirmarer of Westminster, and he purchased freely by charter within the lordship of this
manor five acres free land with pertinents. Upon which the order was given to the beadle that
he seize the said 5 acres land for the reason abovesaid and answer for the issue thereof until etc,
saving [the lord’s] right etc, as appears in the court held here the Tuesday on the morrow of the
apostles Simon and Jude 11th year of the present reign. And upon this in various courts later
held here the serviens answered for issues etc, as fully appears in the said courts held here etc,
until at the court held here 14 November in 13th year of the present reign that the said Simon
Wylot took from the lord the said 5 acres free land for a rent increment of 2 capons payable at
Christmas until it is proved whether he is thus the lord’s serf or not. And further the infirmarer
of Westminster questioned in respect of the bondage of the said Simon and his ancestors etc.

And upon this the order was given to John Kanterbury monk of Westminster and now
infirmarer of Westminster by the steward that enquiry be made by the oath of the whole
homage of the manor of Perham in respect of the bondage of the said Simon, which same men,
sworn for the full verdict, presented that the aforesaid Simon is free and of free status and he
and his ancestors were free and of free status time out of mind. Which infirmarer wherefore,
in respect of the matter aforesaid upon the villeinage of the aforesaid Simon, in the presence
of brother John Burwell monk and bailiff of Westminster, brother William Sudbury monk of
Westminster and other trustworthy [persons] at Westminster, witnesses the aforementioned.
And therefore it is granted and agreed by the court and the lord that the aforesaid Simon
Wylot and his heirs shall have and hold the aforesaid 5 acres land with pertinents to himself
and his heirs freely by charter without any increment of rent thereof by the lord imposed as
rent according to the tenor, freely to hold of the chief lords by services and customs thereof
due and accustomed. And moreover that the aforesaid 5 acres land are completely discharged
of the said rent increment of the aforesaid 2 capons. And the aforesaid Simon being present in
court gives the lord for fine to have entry within the fee of the lord as appears. And the order
is given to distrain him to do the lord fealty against the next [court] etc.

Simon’s ordeal was over, his free status had been vindicated and he was allowed to regain the 5
acres as his own freehold, though at a price. Perhaps it is not surprising that Simon defaulted at
the next court in July 1397, having finally disposed of the freehold property:97

respited? [fine]
20d

fealty

Whereas the order was given at the last court to distrain Simon Wylot to do the lord
fealty for 5 acres free land with pertinents as appears in the last court, now it is found
that William Mulseye purchased within the lord’s fee the said land with pertinents of the
aforementioned Simon, which William, being present in court, gives the lord for fine to
have entry as appears. And he does the lord fealty.

He does not appear in further court records, and we later learn that he had left Morden. His tenement,
presumably his customary cottage and croft, was regularly noted among those that had become
ruinous, and from November 1405 until November 1408 it was said to have been taken into the lord’s
hand.98 However, in May 1409, following Simon’s death, his widow tried to sell the property:99

respited?

new rent for the
year 2d

fine 4d respited?

fealty

The order is
given to retain
etc

There is allowed to remain in the lord’s hand, as appears above, one messuage with pertinents
called Wylot’ because it lies vacant and uncultivated and the tenant of the said messuage has
withdrawn from the lordship and allowed the said messuage [to be] ruinous and unrepaired
as appears in the preceding court. Now at this court comes Amisia former wife of Symon
Wylot and in her pure widowhood surrenders into the lord’s hand the said messuage with
pertinents, for herself and her heirs forever, to the use of William Mulseye, who being present
in court, refuses to hold the said messuage with pertinents of the lord by services and customs.
Therefore the order is given to seize the said messuage with pertinents into the lord’s hand
and to answer for the issue until etc etc. And later the lord grants to Robert Oveslee chaplain,
vicar of the church of Morden, one parcel of the aforesaid messuage tenant is admitted containing
in length 82 feet and in breadth at each end 4 feet, to have and to hold the said parcel of the
aforesaid tenement to the aforementioned Robert, his heirs and assigns, of the lord at the
lord’s will in bondage by roll of court by service rendering the lord in respect thereof yearly
at the usual 4 yearly terms equally two pence for all other service saving [the lord’s] right etc.
And he gives the lord for fine as appears. And he does fealty. And the order is given to retain
the rest of the aforesaid tenement in the lord’s hand and answer for the issues until etc.

The cottage and most of its croft disappear from the records but the small parcel continued to be
held as part of the vicarage into the late 16th century and beyond.100 The descent of the 5 acres of
freehold land, however, has been traced into modern times in a previous volume in this series.101

William Mulseye’s refusal to accept the tenement under the customary terms of service reveals
that, even at such a late date, the performance of labour services was still considered a mark of
servility. William had already fallen foul of the system in October 1393:102

amercement 2d

William Mulseye because he has not come to do his labour service [opera] when he was
summoned by the beadle. Therefore he is etc.

William Mulseye first appears in our records in December 1381 as an occasional brewer and as
someone who had allowed his cow to trespass in the lord’s corn, one of several tenants indicted

for that offence at that court.103 By February 1383 he and his wife Agnes had purchased 2¼ acres
of freehold land, formerly part of William Bunt’s holding in Central Road.104 In June 1390 he
and Agnes obtained the right of remainder, after the death of the current tenants, to a cottage
and an acre of land ‘in bondage’, which they surrendered in October 1416.105 Then in November
1392 they obtained a cottage and 5 acres from Richard Melleward and his son and their wives,
probably relatives of Agnes, who was a daughter of a Henry Melleward/Milward, from whom
they inherited a share in a 5-acre croft.106 It was presumably this land, once part of Thomas Belle’s
servile tenement, which made him liable for labour services. As we have seen, he purchased
Simon Wylot’s free 5 acres in 1397 and he bought another free acre adjoining in May 1399.107 He
was appointed manorial beadle and rent-collector at the court held in November 1400, and in
1406/07 took on a 12-year lease of the demesne as joint farmer with John Spyk and later on his
own, and by 1409/10 he was also leasing the rectory – the right to receive the tithes of Morden.108

The Mulseye family was not of servile origin, or at least not in Morden – it is likely that they
came from Molesey, where Merton Priory had estates.109 They first appear in extant records in
the account rolls for 1356/57 and 1357/58, when a Peter Mulseye and his wife Alice were leasing
for the term of their joint lives a ½-acre plot of Makernays 30-acre tenement in Lower Morden,
which had come into the lord’s hand when the previous tenant had died in the plague year.110 The
account rolls from 1359 to 1388 do not survive, and no court rolls survive for this period until
February 1378, when a Peter Molsey is presented as a brewer of East Morden, the area around
Central and London Roads.111 At the next court in May 1378 he was one of the chief pledges for
West Morden, the Lower Morden area, so it seems likely that he still held the plot first leased 20
years earlier, as well as a home in East Morden.112 We discover more about the latter property in
May 1403:113

fine 2s heriot
4s respited?
fealty

Likewise they present that Peter Mulsey, who of the lord held one cottage and part of
a cottage thereof, and 2 acres land formerly Walter Webbe and others, formerly John
Hopcok, lying adjoining, died in March last, after whose death there falls due to the lord
for heriot 2 wethers, valued at 4s. And that William Mulsey is his son and nearest heir and
of full age. And he seeks his admittance and is admitted to hold and to have to himself and
his in bondage by roll of court by services and customs saving [the lord’s] right etc. And
he gives the lord for fine as appears. And he does fealty etc.

The 2 acres seem to be those ‘upon le helde’ later called Merton Close [N8] on the border with
Merton and the cottages may have been built on that land.114 William seems to have had no
compunction about inheriting this servile land held ‘in bondage’. In fact at the very same May
1409 court that he had refused the Wylot messuage he surrendered his father’s inheritance so
that he and Agnes could be admitted as joint tenants, still ‘in bondage’.115 But his main interest
was in acquiring freehold property, buying another 3½ acres in November 1409, probably that
later known as Plomers Hawe in Lower Morden.116 He is last mentioned at the court of April
1422, for brewing, having sold his 8 acres free land in Central Road two years earlier.

The fear that liability to perform labour services could reduce a free tenant to servile status
dates back to the legal reforms under Henry II noted in Chapter 1. ‘Regular labour services
through most of the year … were regarded in the thirteenth century as among the main legal
tests of servile tenure’.117 In Morden, one day’s labour on the demesne each week was required
from the abbey’s customary tenants between Michaelmas and 1 August, and these were called
‘winter works’ or ‘manual works’. The estate manager would not always require every such labour
service to be performed, in which case unwanted services would be ‘sold’ to the tenant for a fixed
sum of ½d each. At harvest time the c.1225 custumal states that a virgater is ‘to reap in a week ½
acre’, whereas the 1312 extent requires that ‘from 1 August until Michaelmas he shall do 8 works
at per work 1½d’.118 However, harvest works were seldom sold as the harvest was both urgent
and labour intensive. A further five days of harvest boonworks were also required, which often
involved the whole family, though food was provided at all of these, and drink at three of them.

There were a number of additional customary demands for labour, as the custumal of c.1225 and
the 1312 extent spell out with increasing detail:

c.1225

1312

Likewise to do carrying
services 4 times in a year. He
must plough 2 acres per year
with food and 1 without
food. And to weed, with
food, and to harrow twice
in a year. They must clean
the pond, with food. They
must mow the meadow, with
food, and lift, without food,
and carry, with food. They
must carry corn once, with
food. They must for three
days carry hay and the third
day to have food.

And he shall do 4 carrying services by horse per year to Westminster.
And he shall have 1 loaf of meynebred and 1½ gallons of nun’s ale. The
value of the work without deductions is ¾d. And he shall find 1 man at
the shearing of the lord’s sheep with bread and cheese after dinner and
the value of the works is ½d. And he shall find 1 man at haymaking in
the lord’s meadow until the lord completes it. And he shall have on the
last day bread and cheese once in the day, and the value of the work
without deductions is nothing. And he shall find at each of 5 boonworks
1 man and the value is ½d. And he shall plough twice a year. And he
shall harrow the same number of times with food provided by the lord
if he has animals and if not he shall give nothing. And he shall carry
dung for 3 days with one meal a day. And the value of the work is ½d for
each day without deductions. And he shall find 1 man at the cleaning of
the mill pond as above. And he shall plough 1 rood without food and
the value of the work is 1½d. And he shall give 1 hurdle at the lord’s
sheepfold per year and the annual value is ½d. And he shall weed for 1
day with food provided by the lord at the will of the lord.

Surplus labour services were sold at the estate manager’s discretion, not at the request of the
tenant, though unpleasant tasks such as the carting and spreading of dung were regularly sold.
Of the 24 surviving manorial accounts between 1320, when the recording of labour services was
introduced, and 1358, only four record the performance of this service, in 1341/2, 1345/6, 1346/7
and 1348/9 – the year the Black Death struck. However, in all but two years during that period,
the task was still performed by the same customary tenants, but as part of their normal weekly
manual work.119 It is not known how labour services were handled after 1358, when the demesne
was leased to farmers, but it is clear that some demands could still be made into the 15th century.
In fact as late as June 1570 the wealthy tenant of a substantial customary holding, who also held
15 acres of freehold land and the lease of Merton Priory’s Spital estate in Morden, was prepared
to pay double the annual rent for his customary holding in order to obtain an agreement with
the lord of the manor, to be ‘wholly exonerated and acquitted from the works, carrying services,
boonworks and other service’ forever. These services were detailed in the agreement, and match
exactly those listed in the 1312 extent:120

doing between Michaelmas and 1 August 40 works and between 1 August and Michaelmas
8 works and doing 4 carrying services by horse a year to Westminster and finding one man
to shear the lord’s sheep and another man to lift hay in the lord’s meadow and at each of five
boonworks one man. And to plough twice per year and to harrow just as often and to carry
dung for two days; and he shall find one man at the cleaning of the mill pond as often as it
needs to be done, and he shall plough one rood and he shall give one hurdle for the lord’s
sheepfold per year and he shall weed for one day and otherwise by custom and service in
respect thereof previously from of old due and accustomed.

Although it seems unlikely that these services could have been enforced at this period, the lord
of Morden manor at this time was the lawyer Richard Garth, and his 1565 annotated copy of
the 1312 extent still survives.121 It would seem that the threat of reintroducing ancient customs,
with all their implications, was enough to prompt John Smith to seek protection. The powers of
lordship were still strong and the shadow of serfdom still heavy.

Landlord and tenant

Although the lord of a manor could exercise extreme control over his servile tenants, the power
he held as landlord over his free tenants and leaseholders was not as rigorous. The early freeholds
listed c.1225 were held by important and influential people, including London mayors, while by
1312 the Ewell freeholds were in the hands of families who held lordship of manors in their own
right (see page 160). Some of the Morden landholders described in 1312 as ‘free tenants’ held
properties that were transferred by charter and could be disputed in the royal courts, though
for others the word ‘free’ seems only to have referred to freedom from labour services, as the

properties could still only be transferred through the process of surrender to the lord who then
granted it to the ‘use’ of the new tenant, in exactly the same way that customary holdings were
transferred.122

But even before the Black Death, a custom had developed that allowed heirs to inherit customary
land, though only after payment of heriot and an entrance fine, as noted at the end of the 1312
extent and in the early manorial accounts.123 Thus as early as 1298 Robert le Sweyn successfully
claimed the holding of his late father, though no heriot was mentioned:124

fine 4s

Robert son of Robert le Sweyn comes and gives the lord 4s for having entry to one messuage
and 4 acres land and it is admitted by the whole court that the aforesaid Robert should
have entry to the aforesaid land and he provides pledges to maintain the aforesaid house
and land in as very good condition as now or better and does fealty to the lord; pledges
Robert le Webbe, John Schutte.

In October 1327 we read that Henry atte Chirch had previously inherited a tenement from his
mother, for which a heriot was paid:125

heriot 1 cow

Likewise they present one cow for heriot of Isabelle Coxx is valued at 10s.

search of roll
fine 6d

Henry atte Chirch gives the lord for a fine 6d for search of the rolls for a fine which he
made in the presence of William Bysshop the steward for lands and tenement which
Isabelle Coxx mother of the same Henry held in bondage.

Customary tenements, although held ‘in bondage’ and ‘at the lord’s will’, were now fully heritable,
and the court roll records grants to tenants and their heirs as early as May 1297:126

amercement
6d

John le Svein surrenders into the lord’s hands one messuage to the use of Thomas the
miller and Isabelle his wife to have for themselves and the heirs of the body of the same
Isabelle for ever and to hold of the lord by doing customs and services thereof due and
accustomed and they give for admittance 6d and ½d rent increment a year; at Michaelmas
pledges John Svein and John the beadle.

We have seen that, even when free tenants were admitted to land that had once been held by
serfs, the same formula continued to be used, with its language of ‘bondage’ and ‘service’, and
its insistence that the land was held ‘at the lord’s will’ even though grants included ‘heirs and
assigns’. The last use of ‘in bondage’ was as late as October 1451:127

fine 4d
respited?
fealty

At this court comes Alice Newbery widow and in open court surrenders into the lord’s hand,
for herself and her heirs forever, one cottage with curtilage and 3 acres of land and 1 acre
of meadow lying in Mycheham Mede formerly Robert Berneger and 1 toft with curtilage
formerly Belles, later Henry Tracy, to the use of Thomas Leycestre and Cristina his wife, to
have and to hold the said cottage, curtilage, land and meadow, and the said toft and curtilage
with its pertinents, to the aforementioned Thomas and Cristina, their heirs and assigns, of
the lord at the lord’s will in bondage by roll of court saving [the lord’s] right etc. Rendering
the lord in respect thereof yearly at the usual festivals the rent services and customs in respect
thereof due and accustomed. And they give the lord for fine as appears. And they do fealty.

We have noted above that demands could still be made of free tenants of former servile land, but
new forms of tenure were evolving which gave greater security. These have been examined in
detail in a previous volume in this series, and will not be further explored here.128 However, the
introduction of copyhold tenure, with its less extreme formula of admittance, encouraged even
minor court officials and London merchants to invest in properties that previously would have
been thought too servile to consider.129 This example is from May 1474:130

fine Cokeseys
respited?

At this court comes Thomas Sharpe of London and surrenders into the lord’s hand, for
himself and his heirs forever, one tenement with garden adjoining and 20 acres land by
estimation called Cokeseys, to the use of Thomas Acton, to have and to hold the aforesaid
tenement and garden adjoining and 20 acres land by estimation called Cokeseys with
their pertinents to the aforementioned Thomas Acton, his heirs and assigns, of the lord
at the lord’s will by roll of court saving [the lord’s] right etc. Rendering the lord in respect
thereof yearly at the usual festivals the rent services and customs in respect thereof due
and accustomed etc. And he gives the lord for fine as appears. And he does fealty.

But even so, a copyhold tenement could still be taken in hand for breach of the tenurial
conditions, even when held by a London merchant, as John Cowper, a capmaker or ‘hurer’,
discovered in October 1485:131

fine 8s
respited?
fealty

Whereas at the general court held here the Wednesday next after Michaelmas 2 Richard III [6
Oct 1484] the order was given to Thomas Adam, then bailiff at the same place, to seize and take
into the lord’s hand all and singular the tenements, messuages, tofts, gardens, lands, meadows,
grazings [pasc’] and pastures [pastur’] which John Coweper of London, hurer [hewerer], held
of the lord at that day by roll of court at the lord’s will lying within this lordship, or which any
other person holds, to the use of the same John, both for waste made in buildings, woods
and gardens, and especially for rents therefor in arrears for two years being unpaid. And
meanwhile to come to answer the lord for issues and profits therefor as ordered. And now
at this court the lord of his grace from the severe plaint of the aforesaid John and Elena his
wife, re-grants all and singular the tenements, messuages, tofts, gardens, lands, meadows,
grazings [pasc’] and pastures [pastur’] aforesaid to the aforementioned John and Elena, to
hold to themselves and to John’s heirs and assigns, of the lord by roll of court at the lord’s will
saving [the lord’s] right etc. Rendering the lord in respect thereof yearly at the usual festivals
the rent customs etc customary. And they give the lord for fine as appears in the heading. And
they do fealty and seisin is delivered to them by the rod. And they are admitted tenants etc.

The roll recording the forfeiture is not extant, but ‘waste’ and unpaid rents were the cause. In April
1488 the holding was forfeited again, this time because it had been sub-let without licence:132

the order is
given to seize

At this court the homage, sworn, present that John Coweper, late of London, hurer, who of
the lord held by roll of court at the lord’s will, various land and tenements lying within the
lordship of Morden handed over and demised all his land and tenements with pertinents
at farm to John Dunnyng by indenture without the lord’s licence for a term of years.
Therefore the order is given to John atte Well bailiff at the same place, to seize and take
into the lord’s hand all the land and tenements aforesaid and to answer for the issues and
profits arising from the same because he did not have the lord’s licence

This is a timely reminder that not all land was held directly of the lord of the manor. A tenant
could obtain licence to sub-let a property or part of a property for a fixed term.

As early as 1297 such arrangements were being made at the manorial courts:133

fine 12d

Adam Inggolf comes and demises to Walter atte Wode 20 acres land at farm for a term
of four years and the same Walter gives the lord 12d for licence &c and does fealty and
doing in respect thereof the services due and accustomed for the aforesaid term and
after the aforesaid term all the aforesaid land shall revert entirely to the aforesaid Adam
without contradiction of the aforesaid Walter &c; pledge William atte Ryth.

fine 6d

Adam Inggolf comes and gives the lord 6d for the aforesaid Walter atte Wode during
his term of possession for his making suit of court &c. And the aforesaid Walter goes
bail for the aforesaid Adam that the same Adam will acknowledge and repair his house
within [before?] Michaelmas next; pledge John the beadle.

This lease was for four years, and an eight-year lease can be found in a damaged court roll from
December 1298:134

……………..

Robert le Sweyn comes in open court and grants and demises at farm to John Sweyn all
his land which he has in the vill of Morden for a term of eight years next following fully
complete and if it happens that the aforesaid John should die within the term aforesaid
then the aforesaid Robert […………] claim. And the said John shall hold the aforesaid
land until the end of the term […………… ]

Very few such licences to sub-let are recorded, one for 10 years, one for 21 years and one for
the life of the lessor’s wife,135 though there are other records in the court rolls of forfeitures for
sub-letting without the lord’s licence.136 Yet it is difficult to imagine that all other customary
tenements were owner-occupied throughout the whole of the medieval period. By the late 15th
and early 16th centuries many of the customary tenements had been taken over by wealthy
tenants, from within the manor and from outside, among them those described as esquires
or gentlemen as well as the London merchants and minor royal officials noted above. They
held both substantial virgate-holdings and the small cottage-properties, often holding several

at a time. Few of them played any part in the local community, whether as officeholders (chief
pledge, aletaster, constable) or as jurors or members of the homage. Equally, many of those who
did serve in these various ways were not tenants in their own right. There is a passing reference
to two sub-tenants in an entry of November 1517:137

penalty

A day is given to Peter Goodfeld and John Bele his sub-tenant to make 12 perches
of his garden hedge towards land of Richard Rownd subfarmer of John Holt before
Christmas under penalty of 2s.

A John Bele was regularly listed among the chief pledges from April 1486 until May 1535, but
mention of John Bele senior in April 1516 suggests that the later references are to a son.138 In
April 1512 John Bele was designated ‘gent’.139 Rownd served as a juror in May 1516/17 and
in April 1518.140 Until almost the end of the 15th century most of the inhabitants of Morden
whose names appear in the court rolls as manorial officers, tithingers, jurors or homage, can be
recognised as being tenants of the manor, but in the 16th century many who served in such roles
are not known to have been tenants in their own right, and are likely to have been sub-tenants.

It seems almost certain that ‘absentee landlords’ were buying up properties in the vicinity of
the capital as an investment, leasing the agricultural units to tenant-farmers and the cottages
to whoever would pay. However this seems to have gone largely unrecorded, and because of
this lack of transparency we are not able to discover whether there were tensions between sub-
tenants and their landlords comparable to those between tenants and manorial lords. Perhaps
this scenario should be borne in mind when investigating disputes between villagers, especially
those involving people not known to have been tenants of the manor. Conflict, both between
lord and tenant and among tenants, will be examined further in chapter 6.

Male and female

Although women frequently make an appearance in our records, they seldom played a leading
role in manorial affairs. Only two women, Isabel Holt and Alice Lord, are recorded as serving
on the homage, and that was towards the end of our period of study, both serving in April 1537,
Alice having also served in May 1535.141 No women served in any other office, though women
are often named among the brewers and alesellers amerced at each court for breaking the assize
of bread and ale (see chapter 8). We saw in chapter 2 that women often raised hue and cry both
on their own behalf and on behalf of others. We also saw that women are named among those
engaged in antisocial behaviour such as brawling and hedge breaking (pages 35, 180). As noted
above, marriage fines are occasionally recorded in the court rolls, and we will see in chapter 5
that a couple of women were named in matters concerning debts.

But the majority of the cases involving women were property transactions. These have been
analysed in a companion volume so will not be considered in detail here, but they include
inheritance as well as lifetime surrenders, both to family members and outside the family.142
Although the custom in Morden was that the youngest son would inherit the family holding,
daughters would share the property between them if there were no sons. Surprisingly there are
two cases of mothers bequeathing property to daughters during the lifetime of their husbands
(see below, page 66).143

It was not unusual for a wife to bring landed property into a marriage, whether as provision
by her father, or as an inheritance, or as a widow holding a life interest in a property as dower.
The husband would take control of such property, though in the latter cases he only held it ‘in
right of his wife’. A widow was entitled to a third of her husband’s estate, though many husbands
went beyond this minimum by surrendering customary property to the lord of the manor so
that it could be granted back to both husband and wife as joint tenants, the survivor entering
into sole possession. A similar arrangement could be made with leasehold property, the lease
being for the term of two lives – or even three lives if a son was included. But even without such
extra security, the manorial court always concerned itself with a wife’s rights in any property,
and whenever a couple surrendered property at the manorial court the steward would interview
the wife separately – ‘she examined alone in the absence of her husband in the presence of the

steward’ – to ensure that she was in full agreement.144 A widow with joint tenure could leave the
property to a second husband or a child of a second marriage, but dower rights were only for the
widow’s life, the property then reverting to the first husband’s heirs.

Husbands could make alternative arrangements in a will, sometimes specifying that the widow
would only hold the property until the heir came of age, or until she remarried, rather than for
the full term of her life. So in 1558 Thomas Heryngman’s widow ‘Elizabeth shall have and take
all the profectes of all my Landes and Tenementes, leases, pastures, rentes and services with all
the appurtenances duringe her naturall life yf also she kepe her self soole and unmarryed. And
after the decese of the sayd Elizabeth yf she marry not, or ells after her marryadge, then I will
that John Heringman my sonne …’.145 In 1571 his son, John Heringman, willed ‘that Margaret
my wiffe shall have ye governance of my three sonnes and all the proffitte of their landes till they
come to the age of 21 yeres and that she make no wast nor spoyle upon their landes, howses and
woodes. Item I will that she shalbe bounde to Henry Heringman and Walter Man of Kingston
uppon Thames before the daye of hir mariage for the performance of their bequestes, which
forenamed persons I make my overseers, that she make no waste, nor he to whom she shalbe
maried, of their aforenamed bequests. Yf she does that then the forenamed Henry Heringman
and Walter Man shall enter upon all their landes for ye behoofe of the children and she shalbe
paied therof’, though he went on to ‘will and bequeath unto Margaret my wyffe all the rest of my
goodes and cattalles moveables and unmoveables, whome I make my full executrix and she to
paye all my legacies and debtes and to dischardge my funerall expences’.146

We will be examining some 15th- and 16th-century wills in chapter 4, and in the majority of those
where the testator’s wife was still alive, he not only left her the residue of his goods once any debts
and bequests had been paid, but also appointed her as his executrix, either alone or jointly with
a son or daughter, though one or two overseers were also appointed to ensure that the testator’s
wishes were carried out. It is unusual to find terms of affection used – though John Parker in 1494
calls Johanne ‘my true and welbeloved wif’ – but the husbands clearly had confidence that their
wives were both capable and trustworthy of such a responsibility.147 Quite often a testator would
ask to be buried near to his late wife, even if he had married again, as did William Woodman in
1539, requesting ‘my body to be buryed within the churche of Saint Laurance of the parishe of
Mordon in the countie aforesaide bie my wyffe’ but also stipulating ‘Item I geve unto my wyff
Eden the thirde parte of my goodes as Catall and corne but no husolde stuffe’.148

Although widowhood could cause financial hardship in many cases, widows enjoyed a legal
freedom that they had not known before or during marriage, being able to obtain and dispose
of property at will, though many, such as Alice Edward, successively wife to Richard Fowler,
Thomas Gaston and Thomas Attemere, or Alice Dunton/Flemyng/Langton, quickly entered into
a second or third marriage. As Peter Franklin has pointed out, a young widow with a substantial
agricultural holding and no adult sons might have found it hard to employ male servants, as
living-in male servants who were not relatives might have occasioned gossip.149

However, many widows chose not to remarry. Alice Lord was first mentioned in extant rolls as a
widow in October 1534, her husband George being last recorded in May 1529. They were a wealthy
couple with properties in Westminster and Sutton as well as a country home and other properties
in Morden, and had seven sons, Henry, the youngest, being only 13 when he inherited the Morden
properties from his mother in 1540, while the 5th and 6th were still both in apprenticeships. Her
will of July 1539, proved 3 months later, shows her to have devoted considerable time and effort
into providing for her boys leaving, besides property or cash sums, to each of them a carefully
selected, matched and labelled set of household items, the eldest two having already received theirs,
as laid out in Table 3.1 overleaf.150 Edmund also received furniture and equipment to the value
of £15 7s 6d, each item individually described and valued (see page 94). James, George and
John received £20 apiece in lieu of property, but George’s portion had conditions attached: ‘I
give and bequeth to the sayd George the some of £20 sterling in full satisfaction & payment
of his childs parte of all my goodes & catalls and that he so to be contentyd, and not to

Edmund

James

George

John

Bartholomew

William

Henry

featherbed

featherbed

featherbed

featherbed

featherbed

featherbed

featherbed

mattress

mattress

mattress

mattress

mattress

mattress

mattress

bolster

bolster

bolster

bolster

bolster

pillow

2 pillows

2 pillows

2 pillows

2 pillows

2 pillows

2 pillows

pair blankets

pair blankets

pair blankets

pair blankets

1 blanket

pair blankets

pair blankets

trussing bed

4 pairs sheets

3 pairs sheets

3 pairs sheets

3 pairs sheets

3 pairs sheets

4 pairs sheets

2 pillowberes

a fine sheet

a fine sheet

a fine sheet

a fine sheet

a fine sheet

coverlet

coverlet

coverlet

coverlet

coverlet

coverlet

coverlet

tester with
curtains

a great kettle
with a bayll

tablecloth &
towel of diaper

tablecloth &
towel of diaper

tablecloth &
towel of diaper

tablecloth &
towel of diaper

tablecloth &
towel of diaper

pair of harkes
with 3 pipes?

tablecloth and 3
towels long and
short of plain
cloth

tablecloth and 3
towels long and
short of plain
cloth

tablecloth and 3
towels long and
short of plain
cloth

tablecloth and 3
towels long and
short of plain
cloth

tablecloth and 3
towels long and
short of plain
cloth

all delivered aforehand
[including items below]

which is trussed all together in a sheet and his name written upon it

red mantle

girdle

girdle with a
long harnis &
purple edges

girdle, the corse
wrought with
gold and lined
with yellow silk
with a demison
and acorn with
a pomander gilt
annexed to it

girdle with
pendant &
buckle of silver
with a gilt wreath
of silver

girdle the corse
of gold lined
with crimson
velvet with a
buckle and
a pendant of
parcel gilt

girdle the corse
of low work and
a wreath with a
pendant and a
buckle of silver
wrought with
wires

celer

pair coral beads

a little pair coral
beads …

a pair of plain
beads of silver

a pair of amber
beads …

a little pair of
beads of jasper

a pair of long
coral …

maser with
a ‘dayse’ in
bottom with
high band

maser with a
JHU in bottom

maser with a
high band & a
thistle flower
made in bottom

maser with a
pomegranite
made in bottom

maser with
a pawnte? in
bottom

maser with a
piece? of silver
set in it where it
was broken

maser with
the sign of the
George made in
the bottom

salt seler (silver
parcel gilt)

6 spoons with
acorns & a lyon
on the end

4 spoons with
maidens heads
on the end

6 spoons with
naked boys in
the end

6 spoons with
maiden heads on
the end

6 spoons
with wrythen
knoppes on end

6 spoons
with wrythen
knoppes on end

9 spoons with
diamond
points

1 spoon with the
apostle at the
end

1 spoon with the
apostle at the
end

1 spoon with the
apostle at the
end

1 spoon with the
apostle at the end

1 spoon with the
apostle at the
end

1 spoon with the
apostle at the
end

4 platters

4 platters

4 platters

4 platters

4 platters

4 platters

4 dishes

4 dishes

3 dishes

4 dishes

3 dishes

3 dishes

2 pewter saucers

2 pewter saucers

2 pewter saucers

2 saucers

2 saucers

2 saucers

a pewter quart
pot and pint pot

a quart pot and a
pint pot

a quart pot and
a pint pot

a pewter quart
pot and pint pot

a pewter quart
pot and pint pot

a pewter quart
pot and pint pot

a great
candlestick

a great
candlestick

a great
candlestick

a great
candlestick

a great
candlestick

a candlestick

a chafing dish

a chafing dish

a chafing dish

a chafing dish

a chafing dish

a laten basin

a laten basin

a laten basin

a laten basin

a pewter basin

a pewter basin

a great brass pot

a great brass pot

a great brass pot

a great brass pot

a brass pot

A brass pot

a great pan with
2 eres

2 pans, 6 basins,
a pot

a great pan

a great pan

2 pans

a great pan of
red metal

a posnet chafer
with 3 feet

a chafer to set by
the fire

a chafer to set
water in

a chafer to set
water in by fire

a water chafer to
set by the fire

a water chafer to
set by the fire

2 spits, 1 long 1
short

2 spits, 1 long 1
short

2 spits, 1 long 1
short

2 spits, 1 long 1
short

1 great spit

1 long spit

a frying pan

a frying pan

a frying pan

a little frying pan

a dripping pan
without handle

a dripping pan
with a handle

a trivet

a trivet

a trivet

a trivet

a trivet

a trivet

a gridiron

a gridiron

a gridiron

a gridiron

a little mortar

a hanging water
laver with 2
spouts

a fleshhook

a candlestick

a fleshhook

lease of house
in Westminster
called the Bell
(held from
Westminster
Abbey)

£20

£20

to be contented!

£20

lease of all my
tenements in
Thieving Lane
Westminster
(held from
Westminster
Abbey)

all my lease
and term of
years in Sutton
(Surrey) (held
from Chertsey
Abbey)

All my lands
and tenements
in Morden +
lease of garden
in Says alley
Westminster

Table 3.1: Alice Lord’s bequests to her sons

have, aske nor demaunde no more, eny thinge or things hereafter mencioned to the contrary
notwithstanding’. A similar statement appears later in the will, referring to all five of her youngest
sons: ‘Provided alwayes that yf any of my fyve sonnes, that is to wett George, John, Bartylmew,
William, and Henry, or eny of them, be not contentyd nor agreyd with every thing or things
herein conteyned in this my present Testament and last will, that then I will that every suche
parte or porcion of goodes of every suche sone or sones egally to be devyded by the discrecion
of myn Overseers of this my last will amongs the residue of all my sonnes, and he or they so not
contentyd nor agreed utterly to be struke out of this my present testament and last will and he
not to have, take nor receyve any proffytt or benefite of any parte or parcell therof, eny thing or
things conteyned in this my present testament and last will to the contrary not with standing’,
but it seems that it was George who was considered to be the problem child – the residue of
Alice’s estate is divided among the other six sons, but not George.

Alice was not the only testator to anticipate trouble from a disappointed son. The surviving copy
of Thomas Heryngman’s 1558 will is incomplete, but he left to his third son Thomas a property
that was currently leased to his eldest son John, who was left other property. If John were to
refuse to give it to Thomas then John would lose the whole of his legacy, which would then go
to his next brother, Henry.151 However, John’s 1571 will reveals that he was holding the property
left to him by his father, so Thomas’s worries were unfounded.152

Henry Kneppe’s concerns over his son and heir Robert were more substantial – probably
because Robert was so much like himself! Henry held lands and money in trust for various
grandchildren and other wards, most of which should have already been handed over to them.
In his will of 1580/81 he instructed that they were to be settled by Robert, ‘Provided alwayes
and my very minde & intent is that yf the said Robert Knepp, his executors or assignes doe not
truly aunsweare and cause to be paid as well to all & every the persons before in this my present
testament named, b…ted and apoyntted, as also hereafter, all and every suche some and somes
of lawfull mony of Englond, debtes, lagaces and bequestes which in right & conscience I ought
to paye … and accordinge to the contentes and true meaninge of this my present testament, but
doe not goe about by any manner of wayes or meanes whatsoever to defraude[?] … voyde any of
the premisses or paymentes of the said severall somes of mony before menconed and declared
or hereafter menconed contrary to the true meaning and intent of this my last will & testament,
That then I geve, devyse & bequethe by this my said testament unto William Makrythe my sonne
in lawe of Camberwell in the county of Surrey gent & to Thomas Hyllar of Beddinton in the said
county of Surrey yoman suche and so muche of my foresaid landes for to make sale of and …
shall discharge all suche severall some and somes of lawfull mony of Englond, debtes, lagaces
and bequestes whatsoever in this my said will and testament contayned and specified without
the lett or interrupcon of my said sonne Robert, and after (yf it so happen) this my said will
and testament in all respektes and poyntes, by my sonne in lawe William Makryth and Thomas
Hyllar aforesaid be performed and accomplyshed accordinge to the true meaninge of this my
said will & testament and as is afore expressed (any former quyste or other thinge herein this my
said last will and testament to the contrary thereof in anywyse not withstanding. that then I do geve &
beqeth to my said sonne Robert & to his heires forever the residewe of my foresaid landes’ 153 Ten years later Robert was still holding
one leasehold property that should have been handed over to his nephew John Smith in 1583.154

In 1494, John Parker, a London scrivener who held some small properties in Morden, left to his
three eldest children, John, Agnes and Margarete, ‘Goodes [God’s] blessing and myn’, plus 40 shillings
each, explaining that they ‘have ben right chargeable and costlie unto me as wele whyle they were of
theire tender ages as sithey they cam to theyr lauful ages by diverse and many sondry means’, and
that he could not afford to give them more, ‘I being but a por handry crafty man and have borne
grete losses and charges diverse tymes in my days and nowe am in grette age not so lusty to labor for
my lyving as I was in my yonge and florisshing daies and yt growing dayly in grete expenses I being
but of small substance of goodes of fortune’. The bequest was conditional ‘that non them nor wone
of them trouble sue nor vex myne executours and specially my wif after my decesse by the Lawe nor
otherwise for to have any more good of myn than only the said money that I have above bequeithen

unto them’. To young William and his sister Elisabeth, ‘which both tendre of age and have put me
as yet to no further charge of cost than naturall and patirnal love hath it required’, he bequeathed
‘Godys blissing and myn’, as well as 40 shillings each when they came of age or married. William was
also to receive a ‘chased cup covered with a lowe fote of silver parcele gilt’, and Elisabeth a ‘flat cup
covered and chased of silver half gilt withowte a fote’, William, as the youngest son, also inheriting
his copyhold properties. The ‘Residue of all my goodes & catales and dettes what so ever they be and
where so ever they may be founde aftre my dettes be paid, my funeral expenses ful don, my legacies
fulfilled, the which both conteyned in this my present testament, and all other charges bene and don
that owen to be don for me, I geve and bequieth holy to Johanne my true and welbeloved wif, she to
do hire own voluntary will and fre disposition therewith’.155

Johanne was his second wife, probably the mother of the two youngest children, but stepmother to
the older ones – a situation that often gave rise to conflict. Henry Mellewarde married three times,
and he held a property jointly with his third wife, which passed entirely to her on his death. But
she also seems to have claimed dower rights in his other properties which were inherited jointly
by his two daughters and their husbands, and the dispute occupied the manorial court from 1401
to 1403.156 In April 1404 another widow was harassed over her dower rights in a cottage left to her
husband’s daughters, probably her stepdaughters, one of whom was married to John Bexwell: 157

amercement 6d

Likewise they present that John Bekeswell 6d did seven housebreakings upon Isolde
Hurrok’ for which the said Isolde justly raised hue and cry upon the said John. Therefore
he is in mercy; pledges John Spyk’ and Alan Berenger.

Although these conflicts between stepparents and stepchildren represent inter-generational
tensions, there may have been little difference in age between the parties involved. A stepmother
was likely to live longer than a birth mother, so heirs could expect a long wait before they could
enjoy their inheritance in full.

But not every child outlived its parents, and it is to parents and children, childhood and old age,
that we now turn our attention.

Young and old

Manorial records seldom report the ages of Morden’s inhabitants, but we are usually given some
information when a minor inherits property. Thus John Parker’s heir, William I, was 6 when his
father died, and Johanne became guardian of William (and probably Elisabeth as well) and also
of the cottages and land that John held within Westminster Abbey’s estate in Morden and in the
Morden section of the adjoining Ravensbury manor. William I did not claim his inheritance
until May 1519, perhaps waiting until his marriage or the death of his mother, but he had died
by May 1520, leaving an heir aged just 9 months. His widow, Johanna, married Ralph Bayley and
they were granted custody of William II and his properties, but had to fight a losing battle for the
Ravensbury properties (see page 176).158

Two other minors each inherited property from their mothers even though their fathers were alive.
Perhaps their grandfathers had stipulated in their wills that the inheritances should not pass to their
fathers. Alianor Pygot was aged 7 in 1447 when she inherited her mother’s family tenement (probably
[B2] which had last appeared in our records in 1392 when William and Agnes Mulseye obtained it
from John Mulneward and his wife and mother).159 Alianor Pygot and her property were in the
custody of William and Margary ate Hegge, probably Alianor’s mother’s sister and brother-in-law.
In 1457 Alianor inherited another property [B3] from her father, but by this time she was of age.160

Johanna Wethir was just 1 year old in 1502 when her mother died and she and her inheritance
[G] [G2] were entrusted to her father, John Wethir.161 The next reference to her is 17 years later,
when she was married to Hugh Mannyng.162 John had presumably been married before as
his son, also John, joined him on the homage in April 1512, so perhaps this explains why her
mother’s property descended directly to Johanna, by-passing her father.163

The question of when a young girl came of age is exemplified in the case of another minor, Matilda
Hobecok, who was 7 when she inherited her grandmother’s cottage [N7] in 1400, her father having

predeceased her.164 Matilda was in the custody of her mother and stepfather, Katerine and John
Skot, who paid the entry fine for the cottage, though the oath of fealty was ‘respited’ until Matilda
came of age. The court roll repeats this statement every year, but in 1405 a note was inserted
explaining that this would be when she reached the age of 14.165 However, in 1406 it was stated that
she was now 12 and should take the oath, though in fact she did not do so until April 1407, the year
in which she turned 14.166 Presumably the suggestion that she would be of age at 12 was an error
by the steward or his clerk, perhaps confused because the custom was different on other manors.

Extant wills reveal that children might come into their full inheritance at any age from 16 to 21. In
1559 Nicholas Smith’s grandson William could inherit at 16 but his granddaughters had to wait until
21, as did his maidservants.167 In 1580 Henry Knepp’s female relatives and wards would inherit at 18,
but grandson John Smith II had to wait until 21, even though his father had stipulated 18, according
to evidence produced by young John in 1591.168 Henry Lord had to wait until 21, but brothers
Bartholomew and William were to inherit their shares on completion of their apprenticeships. The
most common age was 21, though heirs would normally inherit at their marriage if that was earlier
than their coming of age. We have seen that Johanna Wethir was around 18 when she married.

We seldom have evidence regarding the age at which people married, but Peter Webbe was
married to Anicia when they were admitted to the family holding [B3] in November 1392,
though Anicia was not mentioned when he had received another property in 1390.169 A court
case of 1398 indicates that they married after Michaelmas 1391 (see page 72).170 Peter had been
sworn into the tithing in June 1383, making him at least 21 in 1392.171

Boys were required to be sworn into a tithing at the age of 12, though it is clear that they were
not yet considered to be of full age, as a distinction is made between such youngsters and others,
newcomers to Morden, who were noted as being of full age when they were sworn in. Every so
often the tithing entries mention boys who then disappear from the record, presumably dying in
their teens or twenties. Thus Roger Spyk should have been sworn into the tithing in 1397, but was
not sworn in until 1398, at the same time as John Spyk junior, probably his younger brother. Roger
was brewing in 1406 and John junior in 1407 (see page 224), but in 1405 another John Spyk junior
was sworn in, and in 1407 so was his younger brother Thomas, and Thomas and one of the Johns
inherited on the death of their father John Spyk I in 1420. John II, as the eldest surviving son,
received the freehold properties, Thomas, as the youngest surviving son, receiving the copyholds.
Their mother had died by 1397 and there is no record of their father remarrying, so it is unclear
who were the Simon I and Peter Spyk, sworn into the tithing in 1413 and 1414 respectively. If
they had been younger surviving brothers of Thomas, then Thomas would not have inherited the
copyholds. But if they were sons of Roger then they would have taken precedence over John II.
Either way, it seems that three or four members of the Spyk family died young.

Barbara Hanawalt explains that boys were often given the Christian name of a godfather, so it was
not unknown for two sons to have the same name; but she goes on to warn us not to assume that
such youngsters necessarily died of some disease – accidental death is recorded in the coroners’
records that she has investigated.172 However, only two coroners’ rolls survive for Surrey, for
1417/18 and 1451/52, and neither contains cases from Morden, so we must remain in ignorance.173

But of course, not everyone died young, even though life expectancy was around 33.174 Henry
Kneppe, the guardian of John Smith II, claimed to have been about 80 in 1579, when giving
evidence at the Ravensbury manorial court.175 In 1591 the vicar of Morden, Francis Medcalfe,
claimed the right to the tithe corn, which the lord of the manor also claimed as his own, and the
memories of some of the oldest inhabitants of Morden and neighbouring places were sought
as evidence. The eldest was Richard Redworth clerk aged 96, closely followed by Thomas Fraye
aged 90, Henry Farmer aged 87, Richard Mathew aged 80, Robert Smith also aged 80, Roger
Tomson aged 76, John Palmer aged 74, a former vicar John Mantell aged 68, John Blake aged
64, and others in their 50s and 40s.176 And, as we shall see (page 70), in April 1524 Thomas
Addelston of Mitcham, aged 70, had given evidence at the Morden court about the work he had
done as a servant 40 years previously.177

There are occasional references in the court rolls to tenants being unable to attend the court
because they were sick [debilis], infirm [infirmus] or demented [demens], as in April 1418:178

amercement
10d

Likewise they present that Thomas Best,2d the tenant of Fitznell’s land and tenement,4d are
suitors of court etc. And that Peter Clement,2d John Tyner,2d Simon Lyghtfoot, infirm Simon
Pynnor, infirm William Berynger, demented [demens] are tithingers and have defaulted. Therefore etc.

William Berynger appears regularly hereafter as a tithinger and office holder, so his ‘dementia’
was presumably of a temporary nature, but often a note regarding a tenant’s infirmity is followed
a year or two later by the announcement of his death, which perhaps indicates that ‘infirmity’
was an age-related term. In November 1396 William Brodeye surrendered his cottage to the lord
of the manor because his wife had died and he was ‘impotens’, probably ‘incapable’, though E B
Fryde suggests ‘ruined’.179 We will see on page 103 that poverty could often be related to age and
dependence.

Many manorial studies have revealed ‘retirement contracts’ being negotiated by aging tenants,
often with family members but sometimes with those with no known relationship to them. On
page 131 we will examine a debt plea of 1398 between Henry Mulneward and his son-in-law
Peter Popsent which had possibly resulted from such an arrangement. Another might have been
behind a series of agreements made by Thomas Carpenter and his wife Cristina. In October
1393 they had surrendered their virgate tenement [F] into the lord’s hand to be granted back to
them to hold for the whole of their lives, but ‘so that after the death of Thomas and Cristine the
said messuage and land with its pertinents wholly remain to Alan Berenger and Agnes his wife
to have and to hold the said messuage and land with its pertinents to the same Alan and Agnes,
their heirs and assigns’.180 Then in November 1398, presumably after Cristina’s death, Thomas
surrendered the property to Alan, but with a condition attached – Alan was to pay Thomas ‘for
the whole of his life 13s 4d paid at the usual 4 terms. And the aforesaid Alan grants for himself
and his heirs and assigns that if payment of the aforesaid rent at any term in arrears happens not
to be paid, thereafter truly the aforementioned Thomas and his attorneys shall be allowed, for
the whole of his life, to enter into the aforesaid tenement and by means of his goods and chattels
found in the aforesaid tenement, distrain such distraints, take, carry off, drive away and retain
until the aforesaid rent of 13s 4d is fully satisfied and paid in full.’181 Thomas was exchanging
his tenement for an annuity, with the security that the court would uphold his right to enforce
payment should Alan default at any time. It is not clear where Thomas was to live, though he
still had a toft – the site of a former dwelling – and an acre of land [L1] which he surrendered to
Alan and Agnes in May 1402, but which they then granted back to Thomas ‘for the whole life of
the said Thomas on condition that, after the death of the same Thomas, the aforesaid toft shall
remain to the aforementioned Alan and Agnes, their heirs and assigns, to hold in the aforesaid
form etc’.182 They surrendered the latter property in 1405, so Thomas had presumably died.183

Similarly in January 1413 Alice Welot surrendered her cottage [F2] and acre of land [B62] – ‘And
later the lord in this and the same court grants the aforesaid cottage and curtilage and land with
pertinents to the aforementioned Alice for the term of her life only. And that after the death of
the said Alice the said cottage with curtilage and land with pertinents remains to Walter Payn
and Agnes his wife, to have and to hold the said cottage with curtilage and land with pertinents
to the aforementioned Walter and Agnes, their heirs and assigns, of the lord at the lord’s will
in bondage by roll of court by services and customs saving [the lord’s] right etc. And the said
Walter and Agnes shall keep, repair and maintain the said cottage with its pertinents at their
own cost and expense. And they give the lord for fine to have entry as appears. And they do
fealty.’184Agnes Payn was probably Alice’s daughter, but some sort of maintenance contract is
involved here, if only the maintenance of the cottage.

An earlier case of tenants surrendering the ‘remainder’ of a holding but retaining it for life comes
from June 1390, when William and Letitia Granger granted the ‘remainder’ to ‘one cottage and one
acre of land with pertinents formerly William Taverner’ [I5] [I6] to William Mulseye, who disposed
of it in 1416; the Grangers also surrendered an unidentified ‘cottage toft … formerly William Corpell’
to Peter Webbe – presumably a separate property.185 No mention was made of maintenance, however.

No doubt many of the property transfers that took place during the tenant’s lifetime, particularly
those to family members, were made in the expectation that the recipient would provide care
and support to the giver in his or her old age, but such expectations were not spelled out. Some
of the cottages listed in the 1312 extent seem to have been built within family tenements for
dependent relatives such as elderly parents or newly-married children.

Employer and employee

Many smallholders and cottagers would have needed to find employment, as they had insufficient
land to provide them with a living. Some sons and daughters of virgate and ½-virgate holders
probably also sought employment outside the family holding in order to augment the family’s
income. Some would have been craftsmen – millers, smiths, farriers, carpenters, sawyers and
roofers, both thatchers and tilers (see pages 124-5) – while occupational surnames from 1312
included le Webbe (weaver), le Flessch (butcher), le Taverner (tavern-keeper), Paternoster
(maker of rosaries) and le Hose (stocking-maker).186 Although it is not certain that such surnames
represented current occupations, in the closing decades of the 14th century two men with the
surname Carpenter were frequently presented at the manorial court for felling quantities of
trees, and it is likely that they were in fact carpenters (see page 179). In the same period a man
named Pynnore was described as a tailor, and many members of that family were sometimes
referred to by the surname Taillor rather than Pynnore (see below, page 71).187 Many households
brewed ale, selling surplus stock to neighbours, and some became professional brewers and
bakers, running alehouses (see chapter 8).

In the period before the arrival of plague and the consequent leasing of the demesne, there was
always employment to be found on the manorial demesne as a household servant [famulus] (see
page 122). Fulltime ploughmen and carters were always required and sometimes also shepherds,
cowmen or swineherds.188 Seasonal employment was also available, both for adults – as additional
carters and harrowers – and for children – the manorial accounts mention lads [garcio] employed
to look after lambs, cows and bullocks, and plough-beasts,189 and as bird-scarers during the sowing
seasons.190 During harvest, in addition to a stacker [tassator], extra supervisory staff were employed
– the reapreeve [reperevus], the overseer of the harvest [messor], and a granger [grangiarius]
to
oversee threshing. The latter was often a former reeve, so perhaps these tasks were reserved for older
members of the community who had proved themselves suitable for such posts of responsibility,
though one of the monks undertook this role in 1352/53.191 A dairy-worker was also permanently
employed, also being responsible for the poultry, for making the pottage for the other staff, and
winnowing half the manor’s corn. This was usually undertaken by women, but a dairy-lad [garcio
daie] was employed from 1350 to 1352.192

Casual labour was also required on the demesne. Such tasks included hedging and ditching,193
felling and fetching firewood at Penge,194 repairing fences,195 mowing the stubble,196 drying oats
and making oatmeal,197 making malt,198 pruning and tending vines,199 planting leeks and other
vegetables bought for the yard,200 planting and tending beans,201 and thatching bean and pea
stacks.202 These were probably undertaken by tenants and their wives and families, by piecework.
Very occasionally the number of days spent on the work is mentioned, such as pruning vines for
8 days for 2d, working out to ¼d a day,203 or 2 women paid 1½d a day for 20 days cleaning wheat
at sowing.204 Sometimes a rate is quoted for scouring ditches, at ¾d or 1d a perch.205 Other tasks
probably required some expertise, including castrating piglets – 3d,206 white-tawing draught horse
hides – 6d,207 and repairs to brass utensils – 6d though, if metal had to be purchased, as much as 2s
7d.208 In addition, there was always a need for additional harvesters paid by piecework [ad tascum]
to supplement the unpaid labour required by custom from the tenantry (see page 111).

However, it was not just the demesne that offered employment. Every household would have
needed the skills of craftsmen and tradesmen, and many tenants with large holdings would have
needed to employ workers to assist with the daily running of the holding, especially those whose
children were too young to work in the fields, or those who had no children or whose children
had left home. It is likely that many, perhaps most, young people would have taken employment
outside of the family at some stage in their life, and that many who later employed staff on their

holdings had been employed in this way in their youth. Thus it is unlikely that there would have
been a ‘class’ distinction between tenant employers and their employees.

When one turns to the records, however, there is not a great deal of evidence for tenant employers.
In 1397 a complaint was made at the Morden manorial court that a servant of a Cheam potter
had unjustly raised the hue and cry against a Morden tenant, all part of an ongoing dispute over
common pasture rights between the two communities (see page 178).209 In 1411 an assault on
a female servant of the lessee of the demesne was reported, though the entry is difficult to read
(see page 180).210 In May 1490 we read:211

chief
[pledge]s

… the order
is given

[the chief pledges] … say that Richard Gyles, servant of John Godfrey, is aged 12 years and
above and has dwelt within the lordship for a year and a day and above and is not sworn
to the lord king. Therefore the order is given that he appear at the next court to take the
corporal oath to the lord king under penalty of forfeiture 12d.

Again in 1499 Godfrey who, by marriage to the widow of John atte Hegge, held a 30-acre
copyhold tenement in Lower Morden [H31], similarly employed one or both of those sworn
into the tithing:212

oath

At this View come John Halstede and Richard Greve servant[s] of John Godfrey and are
sworn to the lord king.

In April 1524 a Thomas Addelston of Mitcham, aged 70 years, called himself the former ‘servant
of John Parker … 40 years past [pro xl annos elapsis]’ in giving evidence over a disputed half-acre
of land next to Morden church, though it is likely that he meant John Barker.213

Although these are the only entries in the court rolls that specifically mention servants, the two
references to servants being sworn into the tithing provide another clue to assist in identifying
servants. Most of the entries about those who had not been sworn into the tithing refer to sons
of tenants, and comment that their mother or father harboured them, but others that mention
harbouring have different surnames and probably refer to resident employees. Thus in June 1378:214

amercement
5d

Likewise they present that Simon Taillor,1d John Carpenter,2d have dwelt within the bounds
of the View for 1 year and more and are not in a tithing. Therefore etc. And that William
Carpenter 2d receives and harbours them outside the tithing. Therefore etc.

John and William could have been related, but it is possible that these two were employees, as later
evidence suggests that both William and John were active carpenters (see page 179).

In May 1380 we are told:215

amercement
4d

Likewise they present that John Kitte 2d has dwelt within the bounds of the View for 1 year
and more and is not in a tithing. Therefore etc. And that John Willot 2d harbours him.
Therefore etc.

In June 1383 a Morden Fee tenant in Ewell is similarly presented, as well as a man from West Morden:216

amercement
3d

Likewise they present that John Netlsham 3d has dwelt within the bounds of the View for
1 year and more and is not in a tithing. Therefore he is in mercy. And that Richard Parker
respited? harbours and receives him. Therefore etc.

amercement
4d

Likewise they present that Henry Trillemill 2d has dwelt within the bounds of the View for
1 year and more and is not in a tithing. And that Richard Corde 2d receives him.

In November 1389 the court was informed that Coorde had leased his cottage [I1] to Trillemill
without licence, and it was seized in hand, but at the following court the licence was obtained
and Trillemill continued brewing in Morden until 1400.217

Meanwhile, in June 1386, we have another entry for Thomas Carpenter:218

amercement
5d

Likewise they present that John Bekyswell 2d dwells within the bounds of the View and is
of full age and is not in a tithing. And that Thomas Carpenter 1d harbours him. Therefore
they are severally in mercy. And that William Swyft 2d has dwelt within the bounds of the
View for a year and more and is not in a tithing.

In May 1395 we read:219

sworn

Likewise they present that John Pynnore tailor sworn has dwelt within the bounds of this
View for a year and more and is not in a tithing and is of age etc. Therefore etc. And that
Ralph atte Rithe harbours him against the statute etc. Therefore etc.

John might have been a son of Peter Taillor, whose death was presented immediately after this entry:

respited?
heriot 1 ewe
fine 4s. fealty

Likewise they present that Peter Taillor, who of the lord held by roll of court one cottage
with curtilage, formerly John Goodwynes, died in March last, after whose death there falls
due to the lord for heriot 1 ewe. And that Thomas Pynnore is his son and nearest heir and
of full age, who being present in court gives the lord for fine to have entry as appears, to
hold to himself, his heirs and assigns, of the lord at the lord’s will by roll of court by service
etc, saving [the lord’s] rights etc. And he does the lord fealty.

Thomas would have been Peter’s youngest son, so if John was also a son, he would also have been
an adult. He is likely to have been a relative by marriage of Ralph, whose daughter had married
a William Pynnore in 1389.220

Of these presented for not being in a tithing, John Pynnore is the only one for whom we can
identify a probable local family. Neither Halstede nor Greve are mentioned again in our records,
but Kitte had been brewing in 1378,221 and Nettlsham brewed in Ewell between 1381 and 1384,222
while Gyles was presented for poaching in October 1502 but served as a chief pledge in May
1503.223 John Carpenter, Simon Taillor/Pynnore and John Bexwell later became tenants in their
own right, and, as we have seen, Henry Trillemill became a licensed sub-tenant.

This is a process also found on other manors, where young people came to a village as servants
to the more substantial tenants but ‘left the household after seemingly short periods of residence
and sought their fortunes as landholders, perhaps after they had accumulated sufficient money to
do so’.224 Sandy Bardsley notes ‘the increasingly common institution of life-cycle service, that is,
the custom of spending the years between childhood and marriage contracted to one employer
at a time. Servants were employed on an annual basis from their mid to late teens, continuing
with the same or different employers until their early to mid-twenties.’225

Although only men would be sworn into the tithing, young women similarly might spend a
period in service before marriage, as is revealed in the wills that survive from the Tudor period.
Thus William Leigh of Morden, a widower with no surviving children of his own, left substantial
bequests to three servants in 1536 (see page 99 for a further extract from his will):226

Item I give to Marye my maid servant 5 marke in monye, 2 kyne or bullocks and a calf which
ys her own, 2 quarters of wheete and 2 of barly. Also I geve hir 2 rynges.

Item I will that Mary my maid servant aforesaid shall have half my moveables within my
howse unbequethed and if yt fortune that the said Mary departe before she be maryed then I
will that the said moveable goodes to remayn to Elisabeth Heryngman aforesaid and Margaret
Hedall.

Item I geve Goryng my servant 20 shepp of 2 yere of age apece and 2 Stere bullocks at Cristmas.
Item I will that he have 10s in mony which I owe hyme for his wages and his lyverey. Item I
give hyme my best letherne dublet, a paire of hosen and half a quarter of whete. Item I give and
bequethe to Mathewe my servant 10 shepp, a Cowe bullocke and 6s 8d in monye.

In 1539 his neighbour, William Woodman, who held the sub-lease of the manorial demesne,
also left bequests to three servants, though not on the same scale as Leygh, having a surviving
widow and adult children (see page 99):227

Item I geve to my maydens Agnes Hasylgrowe and Agnes Baylie eche of them 6d a pece and
to Robert my servante 4d.

Two decades later Nicholas Smyth left bequests in his will dated 1558, but proved 1560, to four
servants, though he had a surviving widow and son and five young orphaned grandchildren (see
page 98):228

Also I will and bequethe unto Margerie Powell my servant £4 and one bullocke of tow yeares
of age, to be payde unto her at the day of mariage or at the age of 21 yeares & if she faile within

that tyme it to remayne unto my sonne John. Also I will and bequethe unto Jone Goryng my
servant £4 and one bullocke of 2 yeares of age, and these to be delivered unto her at the day of
mariage or at the age of 21 yeares & if she faylle within these yeares then it to remayne unto my
sonne John. Also I will and bequethe unto Thomas my lytle boye 40s to be delivered unto hym
at the daye of mariage or at the age of 21 yeares & if he faile within these yeares it to remayne
unto my sonne John. Also I will and bequeth unto Jone West my servant 6s 8d.

The two Goryngs were probably from a local family – a Nicholas Goryng, labourer, who was a
chief pledge in 1538 and served on the homage in 1540 and 1541, died in 1559, leaving bequests
to his widow and children including a daughter called Joan.229 The surnames Mathewe, Baylie and
Powell also appear in local records, though there is no evidence to connect the servants to these
families. It is possible that those whose surnames are not given were also from local families.

Most of these female servants were unmarried and under 21 years old, as was Smyth’s ‘lytle boye’
Thomas. Leygh refers to ‘my maydens’, which suggests that they too were young girls. It is not
clear what work they did. Jane Whittle warns that each household would require different tasks,
though cooking, cleaning and dairying would have been common to many, while childcare
would have been important for those with young families.230 It is also uncertain if they lived
in, as was common in the early-modern period. Barbara Hanawalt considers the evidence for
live-in servants to be ‘hardly overwhelming’, though she suggests that the guarantee of meals,
wages and a roof over one’s head might have been more attractive in the first part of the 14th
century than after the onset of plague, when labourers preferred their wages in cash rather than
in kind, and were reluctant to accept long contracts.231 With labour supply again outstripping
demand in the late 16th and 17th centuries, the live-in option became more popular. However,
in nearby Merton the manorial court passed this by-law in April 1531 that reveals that it was
not uncommon to have live-in servants there, though many more servants are identified in the
Merton court rolls than in Morden:232

It is made known to all head inhabitants of this lordship that they should not receive
conductores [=hired persons?] or any other person into their homes except sons or servants
… under penalty of 6s 8d for each of them.

One earlier Merton resident had a young live-in servant girl who almost certainly had links
with Morden. In Hilary Term 1398 William Power of Merton accused Peter Webbe ‘of Stoyle’
that in September 1397 he ‘with force and arms took and abducted Alice Skete being a servant
of William himself in his service at Merton so that the same William lost the service of his
aforesaid servant for a long time, namely a whole year’, claiming damages of 20 marks. Peter
denied force and injury and explained that when Alice had been about 6 years old her mother
had agreed that Alice should serve William for six years, which the girl did. During this time
Peter married Alice’s mother and at the end of the contract went to Merton and took Alice away
to serve himself and her mother. William, however, claimed that Alice had agreed to extend her
contract with him for a further year, and that Peter had abducted the girl and deprived him of
her service. A jury was appointed to investigate the matter, but the outcome of the enquiry has
not been found.233 This is almost certainly the Peter Webbe, married to Anicia by November
1392 when they were admitted to Peter’s family smallholding [B3] in Central Road, Morden,
then known as Stoyle or Stoile Street.234

As employment or service was often only a stage in the career paths of young people who would
in due course become tenants in their own right, either by inheritance, marriage or through the
investment of savings accrued from wage labour, there was probably little distinction between
employer and employee on the grounds of status. Thus in 1513 Richard Cooke of Sutton, who
describes himself as a yeoman, left three sheep to his servant William Playstow, two to John
Playstow, and one to Thomas Plastow the younger, as well as a quarter of barley and 4d to Thomas
Playstow the elder.235 The Playstowe family held substantial freehold and copyhold properties in
Morden, Ewell, Merstham and elsewhere in Surrey, and would have been on the same social level
as Cooke (see page 98), though it is possible that William was from a less prosperous branch of the
family. The largest employers are likely to have been the wealthiest tenants.

The wills suggest strong bonds of affection between the testator and his servants, though no
doubt many employers fell far short of the ideal. Evidence from other manors reveal that some
debt cases recorded in manorial court rolls relate to unpaid wages.236 However, there is no
evidence in our records for this or for other forms of ill-treatment, though at the very end of the
16th century a violent employment dispute was recorded in the Morden manorial court roll, so
similar cases would probably have been recorded had they occurred:237

And that William Surman 6s 8d within this lordship assaulted and made affray upon John
Burnell his master and the same John with a certain stick worth 16d beat and drew blood
from the same against the peace etc. Therefore he remains in mercy just as appears etc.

Aliens and strangers

The medieval kings of England ruled over many other lands and territories, including Wales,
Ireland, the Channel Islands and various French possessions, and there was considerable
movement of people between these dominions. Royal marriages were usually made with foreign
princesses, and the queens naturally brought with them fellow-nationals in their entourages.
The church was also a supra-national organisation, and many clergy came to England from
overseas, while international trade flourished in these centuries, bringing merchants and
financiers from across Europe. These were not the only people who settled here, though most
others went unrecorded. However, every so often a change in government policy initiated the
gathering of data relating to these lesser folk, and the resultant records have been collected
into an online database by the England’s Immigrants 1330-1550 project, enabling us to identify
who these people were and where they came from.238 Three periods in particular gave rise to
substantial archives – 1436, the 1440s and the 1540s.

In 1436, during the Hundred Years War against France, a long-term alliance with the Duchy of
Burgundy broke down under the strain of years of minority rule, which showed little sign of
coming to an end even though Henry VI was by then a teenager. As a result, migrants from the far-
flung Burgundian lands who had settled in England were no longer considered loyal friends, and
were required to take an Oath of Fealty to the young king if they wanted to remain here. The oath
was administered by county and over 1,800 names, mostly from Flanders, Holland and elsewhere
in the Low Countries, are recorded in the patent rolls now stored at The National Archives at
Kew. Not surprisingly, the highest density is in the south and east of the country, nearest to the
Continent. Surrey had the highest concentration after London, with 217 listed, of whom 184
lived in Southwark, though eight were in Kingston and three in Croydon. All were male and were
skilled craftsmen – goldsmiths, cordwainers (shoemakers), linen-weavers, tailors, haberdashers,
embroiderers, skinners, smiths, armourers and barbers. None of them had links with Morden,
though no doubt some who lived in less urban settings slipped under the radar, but it is to be
expected that the majority would have settled in urban centres within easy reach of their customers.

As the decade went on, the war with France continued to drain government finances, and the
natural progression was to impose a tax on foreigners – the Alien Subsidies introduced in 1440
and continuing intermittently until 1487. All resident aliens aged 12 or over were to be assessed,
a higher rate being charged for householders, a lower rate for servants. Although it proved a less
successful revenue-raiser than had been hoped, partly due to the ever-present problem of tax
evasion, partly because it was dependent on the conscientiousness of local assessors, we have
records of some 1,400 aliens in Surrey during the 1440s, though some of these are likely to have
been duplicate entries. In 1440 alone there were 688 aliens recorded in Surrey – the seventh-
highest county after Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Middlesex (including London)
and Northumberland (with many Scots) – of which 445 lived in Southwark, while locally there
were 34 in Brixton Hundred, 33 in Kingston Hundred and 26 in Wallington Hundred. Although
the highly qualified craftsmen were again represented, especially in Southwark, there were 335
servants and 22 labourers – and 132 women, 90 of them foreign-born wives of alien men, while
the unmarried women were mostly in service.

One of these aliens, Peter Clement, lived in Morden. His only appearance in the assessment rolls
was in 1440 when he was described as a beggar and as a non-householder.239 However, the name

appears in Morden manorial records (twice mentioning that he came from Gascony) between
1389 and 1454 (by which date he had died), buying and selling cottages and odd acres of land –
and brewing ale in 1397:

May 1389

oath

Peter Clement is placed in a tithing. And he takes the oath.

240

May 1396

essoins

Peter Clement of common [suit of court], by Alan Berenger.

241

May 1396

amercement
4d

Likewise they present that … John Taillu’, above Peter Clement 2d are tithingers and
have defaulted. Therefore etc.

242

Nov 1396

fine 6d

respited?

fealty

Likewise they present that Peter Clement purchased within the lord’s fee one acre of
free land from John Spyk and Emma his wife. The same Peter being present in court
gives the lord for fine to have entry as appears. And he does the lord fealty etc. [U3]

243

Nov 1397

brewers

amercement
16d

Peter Popsent and John Carpenter, aletasters, of Morden and John Hernere of Ewell sworn, present
that Peter Clement brewed once,2d Baldwyn Popsent 1,2d Peter Popsent 1,2d Robert
Shaldeford 3,6d Richard Parkere 2,4d and broke the assize. Therefore they submit
themselves in mercy etc.

244

May 1399

fine 4d

respited?

fealty

At this court comes William Mulsey and gives the lord for fine to have entry within
the lord’s fee to one acre of free land purchased by charter of Peter Clement. And
he does fealty etc. [U3]

245

Jul 1400

fine 8d

respited?

fealty

Likewise they present that Peter Clement purchased within the lord’s fee one toft
and 4 acres free land of Thomas Pynnore and Anicia his wife who, being present in
court, gives the lord for fine to have entry within the lord’s fee as appears. And he
does fealty etc. [W3] [W4]

246

May 1405

heriot 3s

respited?

fine 12d

fealty

At this court come Alan Berngeer’ and Agnes his wife and surrender into the lord’s
hand for themselves and their heirs forever one toft and one acre of land with
pertinents, parcel of the tenement formerly Lotekyns, whence there falls due to the
lord in the name of heriot 3s. And later the lord grants the said toft and land with
pertinents to Peter Clement of Gascony [de Vascon] to have and to hold the said toft
and land with pertinents to the same Peter, to himself and his heirs and assigns, of the
lord at the lord’s will by roll of court in bondage by services and customs saving [the
lord’s] right etc. And he gives the lord for fine to have this enrolled as appears. And he
does fealty. [L1]

247

Apr 1412

homage

respited?

fine 4d

fealty

Sworn, they present that Peter Clement and Johanna his wife purchased within the
lord’s fee ½-acre of free land called Crouch halfacre by charter of Nicholas Bysshop.
Which Peter and Johanna being present in court seek to hold it of the lord etc. And
they give the lord for fine as appears. And they do fealty. [W2]

248

Apr 1418

amercement
10d

Likewise they present that … Peter Clement,2d John Tyner,2d Simon Lyghtfoot, infirm
Simon Pynnor’, infirm William Berynger, demented [demens] are tithingers and have defaulted.
Therefore etc.

249

May 1419

amercement
13d

Likewise they present that … Peter Clement,2d Simon Lyghtfoot, later he comes John Lyghtfoot,1d
William Berynger,2d are tithingers and have defaulted. Therefore they are in mercy.

250

Apr 1421

respited?

fine 2d

fealty

Likewise they present that Peter Clement purchased within the lord’s fee one cottage
and a ½-acre of free land by charter of John Pynnor, who being present in court
gives the lord for fine as appears. And he does fealty. [B63]

251

Apr 1421

common fine
6s 8d

Richard Pulter, Peter Patyn, William Popsent, chief [pledge]s at the same place, sworn,
together with William Goldwyr, Simon Popsent, John Pycot junior, Michael Blake, John
Bayly, John Pycot senior, Peter Clement, William Lefefote, Robert Wythyer, Robert Newbury,
Thomas Pyke, present that they give the lord for common fine at the same place at this day as
fixed 6s 8d. And it is paid in open court in the presence [coram] of the steward etc.

252

May 1447

fine 12d

respited?

18d in the
name of
heriot

fealty

At this court it is witnessed by Richard Swanne, collector of rents at the same
place, that Peter Clement of Gascony [de Vascon’] out of court surrendered into the
lord’s hand one toft and 2 acres of land parcel of Lotekyns tenement formerly Alan
Berneger, whence there falls due to the lord in the name of heriot 18d as appears, to
the use of Thomas Spyke and Emmote his wife, to have and to hold the said toft and
land with its pertinents to the aforementioned Thomas and Emmote, their heirs and
assigns, of the lord at the lord’s will in bondage by roll of court saving [the lord’s]
right etc. Rendering the lord in respect thereof yearly at the usual festivals the rent
services and customs in respect thereof due and accustomed. And they give the lord
for fine as appears. And they do fealty. [L1]

253

May 1454

fine 4d

respited?

fealty

At this court comes Johanna Clement widow in open court and surrenders into the
lord’s hand, for herself and her heirs forever, one cottage with curtilage called Hurlokkes
to the use of John atte Hegge, to have and to hold the aforesaid cottage, curtilage and
its pertinents to the aforementioned John, his heirs and assigns, of the lord at the lord’s
will by roll of court saving [the lord’s] right etc. Rendering the lord in respect thereof
yearly at the usual festivals the rent services and customs in respect thereof due and
accustomed. And he gives the lord for fine as appears. And he does fealty. [H2]

254

If, as seems likely, the subsidy roll and the court rolls refer to the same man, he must have been at
least 60 by 1440, so perhaps old age had reduced him to penury. Or had his neighbours decided
to exaggerate his poverty so that he would not be liable for the tax? His classification as a non-
householder certainly seems incorrect as the court rolls show he was still holding property at
that time, though the date of his and Johanna’s admission to ‘Hurlokkes’ cottage [H2] is not
known – it was probably recorded in the missing court rolls between 1422 and 1435.

Alien migrants were a common feature in English towns throughout the medieval period and,
though unusual in rural places such as Morden, they were not unknown. Peter Clement is the
only alien recorded in Morden over these centuries, and 28 other villages in Surrey similarly
only have one alien recorded. Most were fully integrated within their communities until, at a
time of crisis, their nationality was remembered and their loyalty questioned.

The third such period of crisis reflected in surviving records was the 1540s when heightened
tensions with France reawakened fears of invasion. Foreigners resident in this period were
required to buy Letters of Denization from the Crown, granting them rights to be treated legally
as English subjects. These were not a new idea – they had begun in the 14th century as grants
to foreigners of the right to engage in trade or to pursue debts or to buy and sell land. But these
early examples were restricted to the more wealthy or influential aliens. One such man with
Morden connections was Anthony Toto, the Florentine artist who served as serjeant-painter to
Henry VIII and his successors, who had been granted denization by letters patent of King Henry
in June 1538, a few months before he was granted two cottages and some land in Mitcham. In
December 1542 Henry also granted him a 40-year lease of the manor of ‘Ravesbury’ which
included lands in Morden (see page 181).

By the 1540s the net had widened to include more humble people. Of the 2,665 aliens receiving
denization recorded in a single document of 1544, 28 lived in Surrey, 19 of them in Southwark.
Most were men of French or Norman extraction and included 6 workmen, 3 servants, 3 ‘cap-
thickers’, 2 smiths, 2 armourers, a skinner, a shoemaker, a hat-maker, a cooper, a brewer and a
former apprentice. Thus they differed from the highly-skilled craftsmen of the previous century.
Many of the Southwark aliens had lived there for a long time – on average 20 years, but in
some cases around 40 years. It was only when the political climate changed that the government
showed any interest in them – and so created the records that enable us to identify them.

One alien who does not appear in these records is revealed in a dispute of June 1545, when a
tenant of Ravensbury manor appeared before the Privy Council meeting at Greenwich, charged
‘for beating two servants of Anthony Tote’ but ‘as he alleged that the displeasure arose through
a Scot, servant to the said Tote, who was found to be no denizen and might be a spy, Tote was
advised by honest means to rid his hands of him’.255

Toto and his Scottish servant were deeply unpopular in Ravensbury and each provoked violent
reactions from his neighbours (see page 181). However, it was not just those of foreign nationality
who evoked negative reactions, as can be seen from several references in the Morden court rolls
to ‘strangers’ – people from outside the community. Thus in October 1298 ‘a certain stranger’
was among several offenders presented ‘for trespass made in the lord’s enclosure’, but who failed
to attend court. After several attempts to distrain them the case was dismissed in March 1300:
‘Afterwards they are pardoned and discharged because they cannot be distrained’.256 It is likely
that none were resident in Morden, though only one had not been identified by name. In May
1403 another case involved two unnamed strangers:257

amercement
2d

Likewise they present that a certain stranger 2d drew blood upon another stranger against
the peace. And John Spyk was pledge. Therefore he is in mercy etc.

In April 1404 we have two entries, perhaps connected, though a local item separates them:258

Felon’s
chattels 6d
respited?

Likewise they present that a certain stranger came within the lordship carrying one
knife [cultr’] worth 6d, who was taken on suspicion of theft and led to Wandsworth
[Wandelesworth] and handed over into the custody of Robert atte Heth bailiff of the liberty
to answer therefor to the lord etc.

amercement
2d

Likewise they present that a certain stranger who was suspected of felony was taken by the
constable and that John Scot 2d was summoned by the constable to keep the said felon just
as etc the said constable ordered him, which he refused in contempt of the lord king and
the lord. Therefore he is etc.

Although these entries might suggest that residents of Morden were resistant to outsiders, we have
seen that Peter Clement was certainly accepted by his neighbours. It is likely that William Irish, second
husband of Agnes Carpenter by 1390, was of Irish origin, while Geanes Agalliaway alias Gallawaie,
who died at Morden in 1575, was presumably from Galloway in south-western Scotland.259

There were also many ‘immigrants’ from other villages. We have seen above, from the evidence
of young men being sworn into the tithing (page 70), that some of those who came as servants to
Morden from elsewhere soon settled here and took up both property and office-holdings. The first
extant reference to such a ceremony is from June 1379,260 and many cannot be identified as children
of existing tenants. Some had come through purchase of a property, others, such as the Goldwyres,
as heirs of distant relatives. Local women would marry men from other villages who then settled
in Morden, though we can seldom trace their origins. Peter Mulseye, and his son William who
married a daughter of Henry Mulnewarde, are likely to have originated from Molesey in Surrey
(see page 58), but we have no information about John Spyk, who had married the daughter of John
Edward before 1388 (see above, page 54), inherited the family tenement in 1393, purchased several
properties, and leased others including the demesne and the rectorial rights.

In 1439 we learn that Johanna Lightfoot’s father was Richard Perham, probably from the abbey’s
manor of Parham in Sussex, and the Wylots also came from there, as had the first lessee of the
Morden demesne in 1359.261 No doubt other tenants came from abbey manors throughout the
country, while the various professional estate managers [serviens] employed by the abbey before
1359, and those lessees thereafter who were not local, similarly owe their connections to the
abbey. Other links with the abbey would have enabled the Lord family of Westminster and the
many Londoners named in our records – Aylmer, Barker, Coweper, Hawekyn, Parker, Sharpe,
Shreve, Tillesworth, and Wilcokkes – to learn of vacant properties in Morden.

Others arrived from closer at hand. Those pardoned after the Jack Cade rebellion in 1450 included
residents of Mitcham and of Merton who also held property in Morden – Richard Dyssher of
Mitcham and John Malard, William atte Wode and John Lyghtfoot of Merton, together with
William Lovelas/Lovelace, who originated from Bethersden in Kent, where his brass can still be
found (see front cover and page 4).262

The Merton manorial court rolls, which survive from October 1485, record many names familiar
from the Morden rolls:263

John Smyth Oct 1485, died in 1487; John Smyth Oct 1494-Oct 1507; his widow Margaret,
listed as brewing Oct 1505-Oct 1510; another John to Oct 1519; William in May 1520; Nicholas
from Apr 1528 until his death presented in Oct 1572, when his 8-year-old son John succeeded
to his copyholds, though by 1587 John Smyth the younger was living in Ifield in Sussex.264

Robert Gyldon/Goldwyre Oct 1488-Oct 1492; John Gyldon May 1489-Apr 1507; William
Gyldon Oct 1505; Richard Goldwyre Oct 1505-Apr 1536.

John Holt of Tooting Graveney Oct 1493-Apr 1516. He also had interests in Mitcham,
Wimbledon, Streatham and Clapham as well as Morden.265

William Wilcokkes Apr 1491-May 1500 and his daughter and heir Johanna Greville Oct
1500-Oct 1501.

John Kirkeby May 1492-Apr 1499.

Ralph Bayley May 1527-Oct 1528.

Ralph Wodnet Oct 1494-Apr 1503; his son John Oct 1494-Apr 1498; Thomas Oct 1518-
May 1552, and Richard Apr 1535-Oct 1572.

William Tegge Oct 1548-Oct 1549

John Hillar Oct 1490 until his death presented in Apr 1539, John junior from Apr 1516
until his death presented in Oct 1548, and his 15-year-old son James until he surrendered
the Merton properties in July 1577. A Clement Hiller is mentioned in May 1520 when he
was sworn into the tithing aged 12 or more.

It is likely that the John Hyller mentioned in the published Bandon and Beddington manorial
court rolls between 1511 and 1531 was our John senior, as a Clement Hyller is also mentioned
there in 1545 and 1546, but no other matches are obvious from these rolls.266

A couple of names in the juror lists for 1509×1529 from the published Wimbledon manorial
court rolls appear briefly in the Morden records: Lionel Dunton quitclaimed his rights in his
parents’ holdings in Morden in 1512,267 while John Mounte was offered first refusal of Richard
Holt’s Tooting properties if his heir ever decided to sell, and he sold a former Holt freehold in
Morden [P] in 1546.268 It is also possible that the John Sager and Edward Siger/Sygar/Segir in
the lists for 1481×1483 and 1485×1509 should be identified with the John Sawger, in Morden
1444-81, and Edmund Sagar, in Morden 1473-82.269

The index to the published Sutton court rolls 1307-46 does not appear to mention names
familiar from Morden records, apart from the Ewell freeholders who held property across the
region.270 However, the following three people who appear in the published Carshalton court
rolls might be the same people named in the Morden rolls at around the same period or, in the
case of Bekeswell, related to one of them:271

Carshalton

Morden

John Bekeswell

1359, 1360

1378×1475 – senior & junior

Richard Corde

1380, 1381, 1393, 1395

1378×1390

Richard Pynget

1380, 1392, 1393, 1395

1384×1400

William Lane from Mitcham was baking, or at least selling bread, in Morden in 1492,272 while the
Heryngmans held lands in Mitcham, Tooting Graveney and Croydon, although their home was in
Morden.273 A John Heryngman was a baker in Merton from October 1495 until October 1497.274

The Playstowes came from slightly further afield – Merstham in Surrey – but had wide ranging
interests. The first John Playstowe’s trustees were from Merstham and Horley, his widow married
Richard Coke of Sutton, while later generations had properties in Ewell and Bletchingley and
strong links with Cheam.275 The Yerde family were also from Cheam – we first meet them c.1415
when they led an attack on Morden parishioners ‘beating the bounds’ of the parish (see page
249), but they had become tenants in Morden by 1435.276

However, the traffic was two-way. We have seen above that runaway serfs left Morden for
Malden, Wimbledon and Beddington, all nearby in Surrey, and for Newgate in London, as well as
Barking and Ilford in Essex (pages 51-3). These were individuals, who left their families behind
in Morden, but often a whole family would depart, usually with no record of their destination.
One exception was John Mulneward and his wife Agnes, who had moved to Carshalton by 1385,
selling their interests in Morden in 1392.277 A John and an Agnes Mulleward are mentioned in
the Carshalton manorial court rolls between 1380 and 1393, but the name is common.278 In 1477
and 1479 John Goldewyer or Gyldon senior and junior were described as ‘of Cheam’, though
they continued to act as chief pledges, affeerers and in other offices until John senior’s death
‘outside the lordship’ in February 1493, John junior continuing in Morden until at least 1500.279

The evidence suggests that, at least in the post-plague period, Morden was an open community,
accepting outsiders. There is no evidence of newcomers being singled out for blame in the few records
of assaults presented at the manorial courts (see table 2.4 on page 34). Another indicator of the degree
of acceptance and integration of newcomers, the time lapse between their first appearance in the court

roll and the date of their first appointment to a jury or an office, similarly reveals no bias against
newcomers. All males over the age of 12 who had resided in Morden for more than a year and a day
were required to be sworn into a tithing. Some 120 individuals are listed in the rolls as either not yet
sworn into a tithing or as being placed in the tithing at that court – one in the earlier rolls, in 1328, the
rest between 1379 and 1499. (Those named as residing within Morden Fee in Ewell have been omitted
from this total.) The careers of 41 can be traced, as laid out in table 3.2, while 14 shared a name with a
contemporary, so it is unclear which of them held an office. The rest are never listed as holding office,
most of them only making a brief appearance in extant records, including non-inheriting sons who
sought their fortunes elsewhere, those on short-term contracts who soon moved on, those who died
shortly after being placed in the tithing, or perhaps those recorded in missing rolls.

Table 3.2 records the date they were first placed in a tithing, and traces the first extant record
of their taking on a property, if any, [with the ID code for that first property] and the first
three occasions, if any, that they served in different official capacities, again using codes. (Many
served in the same capacity over several years.) The names of those known to have had family
in Morden at the time they were placed in a tithing are shown in bold. For some offices – chief
pledge, beadle, constable and aletaster – election was necessary, and these office codes are also
shown in bold. There are no references to elections for members of the homage or the grand
inquest, and it is likely that selection was made on an ad hoc basis (see pages 42-4). Usually up
to three chief pledges are named – originally one for each tithing – but they were supposed to
be accompanied by the other members of their tithing, and these are sometimes named, and
occasionally they are all described as chief pledges. In this table the term is reserved for the
elected chiefs, and the others are identified with the code CP+.

Surprisingly, the only men for whom it is specified that they were over 12 were those who
served in some capacity within 6 years of their placing, and were therefore obviously adult (John
Bonham, John Lytell, Henry Sawger, John Chinne), while only John Bordale is noted as ‘of full
age’, which we have seen above (page 67) would be around 16 to 21. It is likely that most of those
with relatives in Morden were in their teens, and only four of them gained property within 10
years of their placing, the rest often after a much longer period, if at all. Similarly only one,
Peter Popsent, who inherited his mother’s cottage 2 years after his placing so was not a young
teenager, took on an elected post in less than 10 years – in his case 9 years – and for many local
lads it could take up to 30 years before they were first elected. In contrast, of the newcomers
only John atte Stile (who seems to have been more commonly known as John Bayley) and John
Kyrkby had to wait more than 10 years for election – in both cases 22 years – though 13 of them
never held an elected office. In the case of Alexander (Saunder) Fyssher and Thomas Goldwyre,
their early deaths intervened, and this might have been the reason for others.280 Simon Popsent
lived for a further 40 years, but he was leasing the manorial demesne for part of that time, which
perhaps deterred him from undertaking office.

Unless John Chinne and John Holme each had an otherwise unknown son who shared their name,
they each held the distinction of being both placed in a tithing and elected as aletaster on the first
day they attended the manorial court, Chinne also being elected chief pledge, while Holme was also
one of the men accompanying the chief pledges and served as affeerer at that court. John Bordale,
who had a relative in Morden, similarly served as affeerer at his first court, where he was placed
in a tithing, though he had to wait 13 years for an elected post. William Eston accompanied the
chief pledge in 1486 and 1487, 4 years before his placing and John Kyrkeby, despite his long wait for
elected office, served on the homage 2 years before placing and accompanied the chief pledges a year
before he joined the tithing. Thomas Edonstowe was aletaster the year following his placing, when
he also accompanied the chief pledge, and John Somer accompanied the chief pledges and served as
affeerer the year after his placing. These were all from the later period, between 1449 and 1495, but
John Pygot senior was elected chief pledge only a year after his placing in 1397, and Thomas Gaston,
second husband of Alice Edward, was elected as aletaster 3 years after his placing, also in 1397, a post
he served for 5 consecutive years. Allowing for the likelihood that most of the local lads were perhaps
10 or more years younger than the majority of these newcomers, there is nothing to suggest that they
received preferential treatment or were fast-tracked into office.

Table 3.2: The official careers of 41 men for whom we know the date of their placing in a tithing, arranged in date order of that placing

Name

First entry & reason

Placed

First
property

Property ID

First office

Second office

Third office

John atte Rythe

May 1378

Sep 1400

[J] [O]

May 1405

T

May 1409

GJ

281

William Berenger

May 1378

Oct 1387

[N3]

Nov 1389

T

May 1406

C

282

John Carpenter

Jun 1379

not in tithing

?

Jun 1390

[H2]

May 1385

GJ

May 1394

CP+

May 1396

T

283

John Andrew

Jun 1380

Jan 1392

[R]

May 1409

GJ

284

Peter Webbe

Jun 1383

Nov 1390

[I5] [I6]

May 1393

CP

May 1396

A

285

Peter Popsent

Jun 1383

not in tithing

May 1384

Feb 1386

[N2]

May 1385

GJ

Jun 1386

CP+

May 1393

T

286

John atte Stile als
Bayley?

May 1388

Nov 1394

[C]

Nov 1406

A

May 1409

GJ

Nov 1410

T

287

Simon Lightfoot

Nov 1389

brewing

Jun 1390

Nov 1400

[A] [A2]

Jul 1398

GJ

288

John Hurrok

May 1387

not in tithing

Jun 1391

Nov 1390

[H2]

Jul 1398

GJ

289

Roger atte Hegge

May 1393

May 1403

[H]

Nov 1407

A

May 1409

CP

May 1411

B

290

John Crouch

May 1395

Nov 1398

[N4]

May 1409

GJ

291

Thomas Gaston

Nov 1396

defaulted

Jul 1397

1397 married
to a widow

[X]

Jul 1400

T

292

John Pygot/Pigot sen

Nov 1396

brewing

Jul 1397

Jul 1398

[B3]

Jul 1398

CP

May 1406

A

Apr 1410

B

293

John Scot/Skot

Jul 1400

Nov 1400

[N7]

May 1409

GJ

Nov 1410

T

294

Simon Popsent

Apr 1407

Apr 1404

[I9]

May 1409

GJ

May 1435

CP+

May 1438

A

295

Thomas Spyk

Apr 1407

Nov 1420

[E]

May 1435

CP+

May 1435

B

Apr 1442

A

296

John Leycetre

Nov 1406

brewing

May 1408

May 1409

CP+

297

John Lightfoot

Nov 1411

hedgebreaking

May 1414

May 1436

[B62]

May 1436

CP+

Apr 1442

T

May 1443

A

298

John Pygot/Pigot jun

May 1419

1448

[B2]

May 1436

CP+

Nov 1437

T

Oct 1439

A

299

Robert Newbury

Nov 1419

brewing

Nov 1420

May 1435

[I1] [I2] [N3]
[B22]

May 1435

CP

Nov 1435

A

Apr 1442

C

300

Alexander Fyssher

Apr 1439

Oct 1441

[C]

Oct 1441

H

301

John atte Hegge

Apr 1440

May 1454

[H2]

Apr 1455

CP+

Oct 1461

A

Oct 1465

H

302

John Bonham

May 1441

Oct 1441

[B21]

May 1444

T

303

Thomas Cecely

May 1441

Apr 1463

CP+

304

Nicholas Drayton

Oct 1440

brewing

May 1441

[I9]

May 1447

CP

May 1447

T

Apr 1448

A

305

John Goldwyre

May 1441

not in tithing

?

Oct 1464

[N4]

Apr 1450

CP+

May 1454

H

Apr 1457

CP

306

John Lytell

May 1444

Oct 1444

[C]

May 1447

CP+

May 1450

H

Oct 1455

A

307

Henry Sawger

May 1444

Apr 1450

CP+

May 1454

H

Nov 1454

A

308

John Bordale

May 1449

Oct 1467

[B63]

Oct 1449

A

May 1462

CP

Oct 1465

H

309

John Chinne

Apr 1455

Apr 1455

T

Apr 1455

CP

310

Thomas Goldwyre

Apr 1455

[N4]

Apr 1456

CP+

311

William Broke

Apr 1464

Apr 1465

CP+

Oct 1468

H

May 1471

T

312

John Kyrkeby

May 1473

May 1471

[I8]

Oct 1471

H

Apr 1472

CP+

Oct 1475

A

313

Edmund Sager

May 1473

Apr 1480

[L]

May 1481

CP+

May 1481

A

314

John Bole/Bele

May 1474

Apr 1486

CP+

Apr 1488

A

May 1492

T

315

Walter atte Hegge

Apr 1475

Apr 1488

CP+

May 1492

T

May 1495

CP

316

John Somer

Oct 1475

essoined Acton

Apr 1478

May 1479

CP+

May 1479

A

317

Thomas Edonstowe

May 1489

May 1490

CP+

May 1490

T

318

William Eston

Apr 1486

CP+

Apr 1491

Apr 1486

CP+

319

Richard Gyles

May 1490

not in tithing

Apr 1491

May 1503

CP+

320

John Holme

May 1495

May 1495

CP+

May 1495

T

May 1495

A

321

Bold indicates
that he had family
resident in Morden
at the time he was
placed in a tithing.

Key to official
appointments:

A: Affeerer;

B: Beadle;

C: Constable;

CP: Chief Pledge;

CP+: accompanied
Chief Pledges;

GJ: Grand Juror;

H: Homage;

T: Aletaster

(bold indicates
elected offices)

Although Morden was a very open society, with frequent new arrivals and both long- and short-
term residents often moving away, we should not imagine that it was in a state of constant flux. Some
families remained here for several generations. This is particularly true of the period before the Black
Death, when there was both less opportunity for people to move away and also a greater incentive
to stay put for those who had property holdings at a time when such holdings were in great demand
from an expanding population. But even at later periods, when land was more readily available and
there was an increasing demand for workers following the drastic fall in population, many families
chose to stay, though encouraging individual family members to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

Thus at least five tenants listed in the c.1225 custumal had family members in Morden more than a
century later, and it is likely that the descendants of others are hidden from us. William Godeson,
a taxpayer in 1332, would have been related to John son of Gode; John Adam, who died in 1349, is
almost certainly the son of Adam Ingulf, a descendant of Thomas Ingulf; John Huberd, who also
died that year but whose family tenement did not lapse into the lord’s hands until the 1390s, could
no doubt trace his lineage to Hubert; the last resident member of the Sweyne family died in 1378;
while Robert Edward’s Spyk descendants were still in Morden in the 1460s. The Webbes are recorded
by 1297 and departed in 1398; the atte Rythes are first noted in extant records in 1283 and were still
around in 1417; the last known Willot descendant of John le Hayter, first noted in 1304, died in 1436;
the atte Hegges, present by 1298, remained until 1513; the Gyldons and their Goldwyre descendants
were resident by 1296 and sold out in 1521. But later families also endured – the Popsents recorded
from 1378 to 1455, the Lightfoots from 1389 to 1482, the Playstowes from 1458 to 1604, the Smyths
from 1539 to 1658. However, the stability of a few families should not blind us to the mobility of
others.

In an earlier volume in this series, an examination of the extant records revealed that, apart from
the break-up of Belles virgate [B] in the closing years of the 13th century, no virgate- or ½-virgate
tenement in Morden was surrendered outside the family before the 1430s, though several lapsed into
the lord’s hands for lack of heirs and were leased.322 Of course, it must be remembered that no court
rolls survive between 1328 and 1378, or between 1422 and 1435. In contrast, for cottage properties,
surrenders outside the family formed around a third of all property transfers, including inheritance,
in each decade from 1390 to 1449. In the decades between 1450 and 1540 most transactions involving
virgates and ½-virgates were outside the family, though this reflects frequent changes for a few
tenements, while others, as we have seen, long remained in an established family. This trend can also
be seen for cottage properties, except in the 1480s, 1500s and 1530s, though again some properties
changed hands much more frequently than others. Overall, the property market in medieval Morden
accelerated throughout the 15th century, but calmed down in the first four decades of the 16th.
One major influence was the introduction of copyhold tenure, without the stigma of servile status,
which encouraged investors from London to engage in the property market here, acquiring and
disposing of virgates and ½-virgates as well as smallholdings and cottage plots. Another trend was
the accumulation of properties, again of all sizes, by both local families and outsiders.

In her investigations of population mobility in rural Norfolk in the 15th and 16th centuries, Jane
Whittle has noted that less than a quarter of men spent their whole life in one village, though
other researchers have suggested around a third was more typical across southern and midland
England.323 She also draws attention to research that indicates that the most stable element
comprised husbandmen and craftsmen, followed by the yeomen, while those at each extreme, the
wealthiest and the poorest, were the most mobile.324 This certainly accords with the high turnover
in Morden properties acquired by wealthy Londoners, and the longevity of those families that
described themselves as yeomen or husbandmen. It also fits the picture given above (pages 51-3)
of non-inheriting sons of servile birth leaving Morden in their search for land or employment, and
of the constant influx of outsiders, whether on short-term contracts or taking a first step onto the
property ladder. The poorer members of the community are the most difficult to study, but we will
consider the evidence for wealth and poverty in medieval Morden in the next chapter.

80 MEDIEVAL MORDEN: NEIGHBOURHOOD AND COMMUNITY

81

81

4: RICH AND POOR

EVIDENCE FOR WEALTH

Before 1350

Although few tenants in Morden could be described as wealthy in comparison with those from
whom they held their land, it is clear from the extant records that there was wide variation in the
wealth of Morden’s inhabitants throughout our period.

The custumal c.1225 reveals that there were then three substantial freehold tenants in Westminster
Abbey’s manor of Morden, one of whom, Richard de Winnelendune, can probably be identified
as a former sheriff of London, another, John Ducet, had inherited his estate from another likely
former sheriff, while the third, William de Wattune or Walton, had close connections with the
Mauduit family, a member of which became earl of Warwick.1 A fourth freeholder, Matilda
daughter of Baldric, not mentioned in 1225, sold her property to a wealthy Londoner in the
1230s.2 During the 1220s de Walton’s estate passed to Merton Priory, who also held the Spital
estate in the Farm Road/Central Road area of Morden, and Westminster Abbey soon lost all
jurisdiction over them.3

By 1312, when the extent was drawn up, there were only two substantial freeholders within the
abbey’s estate.4 One was William Antorneys, who held a property by right of his wife, which
seems to have been that acquired by William Bunt around the middle of the 14th century and
broken up and sold piecemeal in the 1380s [U].5 The other was the former rector of Morden,
Gerard de Staunden, who had resigned the living in 1301 to enable the abbey to appropriate the
tithes (see page 232) and who held the property in Lower Morden later known as Wynteworthes
[W]. Three freehold properties in Ewell lay within the abbey’s Morden Fee, and by 1312 these
had passed into the possession of families who held lordship of manors in their own right (see
page 160).

Various lords of Ravensbury, which included land within Morden, might have occasionally been
resident on their manor, and some of their ‘farmers’ or lessees certainly were, but the evidence
suggests that the ‘capital messuage’ of the manor lay on the Mitcham side of the parish boundary.6

But even if we ignore this handful of wealthy people, there were still wide variations in the
economic resources of the remaining tenants, as we will see in the following sections, which
look at various indicators of comparative wealth as revealed through the records.

The size of holdings

Even as far back as 1086 we can see that Morden’s population was divided into three categories –
eight villeins, five cottars and a slave.7 It is likely that each cottar or cottager would have only held
around 4 acres of land, while later evidence suggests that the slave, if he held land at this date, only
held 3 acres (see page 47). It is likely that the villein holdings recorded in Domesday Book were not
all the same size – although no details are given for Morden, the abbey’s Middlesex manors show a
wide variety of holding size. On three sample estates, the villein holdings were as follows:8

Greenford: 1 at 5 virgates, 4 at 2 virgates, 4 at 1 virgate – total 17 virgates held by 9 villeins

Hanwell: 1 at 8 virgates, 4 at 1 virgate – total 12 virgates held by 5 villeins

Hendon: 3 at 2 virgates, 7 (+ 1 priest) at 1 virgate, 16 at ½-virgate – total 22 virgates held by 27 tenants

Certainly by c.1225 the customary holdings in Morden ranged from two at 1½-virgates, eleven
at 1-virgate (20 acres) to four at ½-virgate, while William Sweyn, possibly descended from the
Domesday slave, held a mere 3 acres.9 There was no mention of any other small properties, so
the cottar settlement seems to have been subsumed within the customary holdings. By 1312
the customary holdings included one at 1½-virgates, nine at 1-virgate and three at ½-virgate,
though two other holdings, described as ‘free’ but thereafter treated as customary, had previously
formed a single unit of around 40 acres.10 But two of these tenements – a virgate and a ½-virgate
– were held by one man, Henry atte Cherche, and in 1327 he inherited another virgate tenement
from his mother, bringing his holdings to 50 acres, though at his death in 1342 he only held a
½-virgate.11 In 1297 John Edward was granted a 7-year lease of a 20-acre holding previously held
by his late father, a former reeve.12 He had already inherited the family virgate tenement, bringing

his holding to 40 acres.13 Another reeve, John Huberd, had amassed a 50-acre holding by his
death in 1349.14 Alongside these larger tenements, however, there were several smallholdings
and cottage properties, the largest only 7 acres in 1312 and soon broken down into smaller units,
while most were just a cottage and croft.15 Of course, it must be remembered that someone who
only held an odd acre in Morden may well have held many more across the parish boundary, so
size of holding here may not be a reliable indicator of wealth. So, even before plague ravaged the
estate in 1349, there were wide variations in the size of holdings, and these differences multiplied
over the next two centuries, as we will see later. But first, we will see what can be discovered
about the personal wealth of some of these tenants.

The evidence from the tax returns of 1332

The 1332 tax on ‘movables’ – personal property excluding land – was assessed at one-fifteenth of
its valuation, and included livestock, grain, peas, beans and hay, but not agricultural equipment,
tools, household goods or goods in the larder. Livestock was often valued at a conventional
amount, irrespective of age or condition. The Morden entry has clearly been erased and re-
written, and it appears that the assessment had originally been made before the deduction of
rents and services due to the abbey, and was recalculated once this error had become known,
leading to the extended heading for the ‘Villeins of the abbot of Westminster in the vill of
Morden, deducting rents and services of the same villeins by writ of the king’.16 Any person
whose taxable goods were valued at less than 10 shillings should have been exempt, but the
confusion over the calculation led to three villeins being taxed even though their goods were
below the tax threshold (marked * in figure 4.1).

Figure 4.1: Morden taxpayers 1332

The vill of Morden [Villata de Mordone]

Gilbert le Guldene 1s 6d

William ate Thorne 2s 7d

Gilbert ate Thorne 2s 0d

William ate Thorne 8d

Richard Vsel 1s 0d

William Otedisch 1s 0d

SUM: 8s 9d

Villeins of the abbot of Westminster in the vill of Morden, deducting rents and services of the
same villeins by writ of the lord king

[Villani Abbatis Westmonasterii in Villa de Mordon’ deductis redditibus et serviciis eorundum
villanorum per breve Domini Regis]

John Huberd 4s 7½d

Richard Edward 1s 5½d

Henry ate Cherche 1s 5½d

William Godeson 7½d *

Henry ate Hegge 9½d

William Joce 3½d *

Robert ate Rythe 1½d *

Henry le Gulden 1s 3½d

Walter le Webbe 9¼d

SUM: 11s 5¼d

Thus Robert ate Rythe, who held a ½-virgate [T], paid 1½d, indicating goods of total value of
just 1s 10½d, and William Joce, who held the virgate held in 1312 by Henry atte Cherche [J],
paid 3½d for his goods valued at 4s 4½d, while William Godesone, who held a virgate [O], paid
7½d for his goods valued just below the threshold at 9s 4½d.

4: RICH AND POOR 83

The highest taxpayer among the Morden villeins was John Huberd, paying 4s 7½d, indicating
goods valued at £3 9s 4½d, no doubt reflecting his possession of his family virgate [S] plus
Makernays 1½-virgate tenement [M], though perhaps not unconnected to his long tenure of
the post of manorial reeve. Trailing well behind Huberd, but far ahead of their neighbours, each
paying 1s 5½d for goods valued at £1 1s 10½d, were Richard Edward, probably a descendant of
the John who had held 40 acres three decades earlier, though apparently only holding the family
virgate [E] at this time, and Henry ate Cherche, probably still holding his own ½-virgate [R] and
his mother’s virgate [C].

In between were Henry le Gulden, with one half of a 2-virgate tenement [G], paying 1s 3½d for
goods valued at 19s 4½d, Henry ate Hegge, with a virgate [H], paying 9½d for goods valued at
11s 10½d, and Walter le Webbe, with just 7 acres [B3], paying 9¼d for goods valued at 11s 6¾d.

The other ½-virgate holder, Thomas or Walter ate Cherche [X], was not taxed, so his goods must
have been valued at less than 10 shillings before his rents and services were deducted, revealing
that he had even less than Robert ate Rythe. However, he was not alone in falling below the tax
threshold. There is no entry for Adam Est or his son John Adam, with a virgate [A], nor for the
holder of the virgate held in 1312 by Hawenild la Bosser [L], nor for the holder of the other half
of the 2-virgate tenement [F] held in 1312 by Walter ate Wode and Robert Fabian. Webbe was the
only smallholder to be liable for the tax, though his surname might indicate that he was, or had
been, a weaver and thus had another source of income beside his land. Size of holding certainly
mattered, as borne out by John Huberd, Richard Edward and Henry ate Cherche, but three
virgate holders were not liable for tax even before their dues to the abbey had been deducted,
whereas the ½-virgate holder, Robert ate Rythe, passed that test – though, as he became reeve in
1351, an office normally only open to virgate-holders, it is possible that he had held more than
the family ½-virgate as early as 1332.17

It was not only the villeins who were taxed. Six taxpayers were entered under the heading ‘the
vill of Morden’, and these were presumably the freeholders. Three members of the ate Thorne
family were taxed, at 2s 7d, at 2s, and at 8d respectively, reflecting goods valued at £1 18s 9d, £1
10s, and 10s, a total for the family of £3 18s 9d, only a few shillings more than the villein John
Huberd. It is not known where they lived, but they only paid 1d rent a year to the abbey, so their
main holding is likely to have been in one of the Merton Priory holdings or perhaps within
the Morden section of Ravensbury manor. Gilbert le Guldene, presumably a relative of Henry
le Gulden but counted as a freeman rather than a villein like Henry, probably held the large
freehold property owned in 1312 by the former rector, Gerard de Staunden [W]. Gilbert paid 1s
6d for goods valued at £1 2s 6d, slightly more than Henry. Vsel and Otedisch cannot be located,
but each paid 1s for goods valued at 15s, less than was paid by four of their villein neighbours.
So status was not a determinant of wealth, the wealthiest taxpayer in Morden being a villein, and
several free men having less than some villeins.

Owners of livestock: the evidence from trespass complaints before the Black Death

Some of the names listed in the 1332 tax records also appear in the Morden manorial court
rolls for trespass with their livestock in the demesne lands, both in ‘the lord’s cornfield’, in ‘the
lord’s enclosure’ and in ‘the lord’s meadow’. These were mostly called ‘draught animals’ [averus],
probably horses rather than oxen. Table 4.2 overleaf sets out the evidence for these owners of
livestock:

From this we learn that a member of the Webbe family owned a horse not described as a draught
horse and another owned draught horses, two atte Thornes also owned draught horses, as did
Henry atte Cherche and William Otedisch. None of the others found guilty of such trespass can
be identified as tenants in the 1312 extent, and some, such as Peter de Cheyham or Cheam, are
likely to have been outsiders whose livestock had strayed into the manor causing damage before
being reclaimed.

Table 4.2: Trespass with livestock 1298-1328

Date

Name

Livestock

Location

Feb 1298

Peter de Cheyham

draught animals

cornfield

18

Oct 1298

Peter Priour

draught animals

enclosure

19

Oct 1298

Isabella Sidher

draught animals

enclosure

20

Mar 1299

William de Bray

draught animals

enclosure

21

Mar 1299

Peter le Masonn

draught animals

enclosure

22

May 1299

William the shepherd

sheep

meadow

23

Jul 1299

Robert le Webbe

horse

cornfield

24

Mar 1300

Stephen Atteselere

draught animals

enclosure

25

Mar 1300

Richard Attethorne

draught animals

enclosure

26

Mar 1300

Alexander Coke

draught animals

enclosure

27

Mar 1300

John son of the reeve

draught animals

enclosure

28

Mar 1300

Isabella Sydher

draught animals

enclosure

29

Jul 1300

Alexander Attehille

draught animals

enclosure

30

Oct 1327

Walter de Webbe

draught animals

cornfield & pasture

31

Mar 1328

Henry atte Cherche

draught animals

cornfield

32

Mar 1328

Isabelle atte Thorne

draught animals

cornfield

33

Mar 1328

Cristina Godwyne

draught animals

cornfield

34

Mar 1328

Alice Northalle

draught animals

cornfield

35

Mar 1328

William Otediss’

draught animals

cornfield

36

Apr 1328

John in the Hale

draught animals

cornfield

37

One other entry, from October 1327, reveals that William Godesone, who held a virgate [O],
had a mare that had strayed:38

pledge fine
12d

William le Godesone the lord’s serf comes and certifies a certain stray mare to be his and he
has delivery &c. And he gives the lord for seizure 12d. And he provides pledge of the whole
homage to return the aforesaid mare within a year &c whether &c or the price, namely 4s.

Owners of livestock: the evidence from heriots to 1349

Another indicator of wealth is the heriot, normally the ‘best beast’ that was claimed by the lord
of a manor on the decease of a tenant and sometimes on the surrender of a customary tenement
outside the family. These were accounted for in the manorial accounts, either being added to the
manor stock or sold, perhaps to the heir of the property.

Thus we discover that an ox was claimed in 1278 on the death of the Ewell freeholder Geoffrey
le Cras/Gras, but also in 1302 on the death of Morden villein John Edward who, we saw above,
had held a 7-year lease of a 20-acre holding since 1297 in addition to his family virgate tenement
[E].39 More surprisingly, in 1313 an ox was claimed on the death of John atte Rythe [T], just two
years after a cow had been taken on the death of a relative, Richard atte Rith.40 Perhaps the loss of
two animals in such a short time explains why, 20 years later, the goods of Robert atte Rythe were
assessed at such low value, as noted above. In 1341, an ox was claimed on the death of ‘Gilbert
le Freman’, perhaps the Gilbert le Guldene who had held a freehold property [W] in 1332, while
in 1349, following the arrival of plague, an ox was claimed for William Kyppyng of Ewell and for
John Huberd.41 As we have seen, Huberd held two properties [M] [S] and a draught horse was
also taken, but Kyppyng was also listed for a second heriot, a cow. It is possible that a son of the
same name had inherited and then died, though it might have been a clerical error as the entry
relating to sale of cows included the heriot of ‘Jakynges’ rather than Kyppyng, probably referring
to John Adam whose tenement [A] came into the lord’s hands for lack of heirs.

In addition to Huberd’s draught horse, one was claimed in 1349 on the death of John Gildon
[G], another for Peter Edward [E] while a mare was claimed for Richard Edward [E] – again

perhaps father and son died of the plague – and two draught horses were claimed for Henry
Buxton, possibly then holding the two Cuddington freeholds in Ewell. A draught horse had
also been claimed in 1330 for the heriot of John Cuppyng/Kyppyng of Ewell.42

Cows were also claimed in 1349 for John Webbe [B3] and William Jose [J] (both before calving,
as was Kyppyng’s/Jakynges’), and for Walter atte Cherch [X] (after calving), for Henry atte
Rithe [T] (described as dry) and for William Corped, tenant of an unidentified cottage in
Central Road. Cows were often taken as heriots, presumably because the tenant had no draught
animals. Thus in 1293 cows were claimed for William Brouning, probably an ancestor of Ralph
who held a cottage [E3] in 1312, and for William Wylemo, otherwise unknown; in 1323 for
William Flesche, a cottager; in 1327 for Isabel atte Cherche or Coxx, the mother of Henry atte
Cherche [C]; in 1341 for John Hautere or Hayter, a smallholder [P] [F2]; and in 1345 for Alan
Schutte, presumably a descendant of Gilbert le Shutte who held 3 acres in 1312 [B4].43

In addition, in 1349 a steer was claimed for Richard atte Hegge [H] – as one had been claimed
in 1341 for Henry atte Cherche [R]44 – and ‘half a young heifer’ for Adam Hobecok [C], which
was sold for 18d, perhaps to his heir, or possibly to the vicar who was traditionally entitled
to claim the second best beast. A ewe was claimed for Cecil Gardner and another for Charles
le Catter, neither of whom is otherwise known. In 1345 a yearling calf had been claimed for
William Taverner who held a cottage plot or croft in Central Road [I5].45

These heriots confirm the evidence of the 1332 taxation that the wealthiest families in Morden
during this period were the Huberds, the Edwards and the Gildons, while it also reveals that
some smallholders and cottagers were not without livestock. Perhaps more surprising was
that four virgate holders and two with a ½-virgate did not own draught animals, or perhaps
only ones of such poor quality that a cow or steer was considered of more value. Whereas
the trespass presentments show that Henry atte Church had draught horses in 1328 he had
apparently disposed of them, along with his own virgate (before 1332) and his mother’s virgate,
before his death in 1341, though neither his mother nor their successor, Adam Hobecok, had
them. Presumably it was the possession of the full 50 acres that had both required and enabled
his investment in horses.

After 1350

The devastation caused by plague in 1349 brought a flood of vacant holdings, some of which
were leased to tenants, though not in their entirety at first. There are no extant account rolls after
1359 until 1388/89, by which time most of the tenements that had come into the lord’s hands
were let ‘at farm’. There is another gap from 1412 to 1441, by which time a new form of tenure,
described as ‘new rents’, had been introduced, whereby money rents had replaced most of the
former labour services. This separation of customary tenure from the stigma of labour services
made these tenements more attractive, though the abbey was having difficulties in maintaining
the level of rents. By the 1480s these ‘new rents’ had evolved into full copyhold tenure, by which
time some tenants, both locals and outsiders, had begun to build up multiple holdings.46

In addition to the range of sources that we used for the pre-plague years regarding property
holdings and the ownership of livestock, we also have evidence in wills and probate inventories
from the late 15th century onwards.

The size of holdings

In 1359 the abbey decided to lease its demesne lands to a succession of farmers. The first such
farmer came from their estate at Parham in Sussex, but by the 1380s local customary tenants
had taken over the lease – John Edward and Ralph atte Rithe jointly until 1391, and then Ralph
alone to 1406. He was followed by John Spyk, John Edward’s son-in-law, jointly until 1410 with
William Mulseye who had married into the Mulneward family, probably descendants of the
miller of 1312. Mulseye continued as sole lessee, and was briefly succeeded by his nephew, Simon
Popsent, but Roger atte Hegge had taken on the lease by 1419, though no accounts survive from
this period. From the 1440s the farmers all seem to have been outsiders, mostly Londoners.

The rectory – not a building but the abbey’s right to receive the tithes of corn – was also leased
from the 1350s, at first to the vicar, and later to locals – John Edward and Ralph atte Rithe with
the demesne to 1391, then William Wynteworthe, who held the freehold tenement formerly
held by Staunden [W], until his death in 1395/96. In 1399 atte Rithe leased it again with the
demesne, followed in 1400 by John Spyk and from 1409 by Mulseye. No further information
regarding the rectory has been discovered until 1511 when demesne and rectory were leased
together to a Londoner, William Porter.

A similar trend can be seen with customary properties. By the end of the 14th century a
flourishing property market had been established, particularly among the cottage properties
and smallholdings, and some families established small property portfolios as they accumulated
a cottage here and a croft there. But by the mid-15th century these properties were being
snapped up by London investors, and by the end of that century all but the alehouse on the site
of the present George inn had been swallowed up into three groups of holdings, of which those
in Central Road survived as units of landholding into the 19th century.47

The virgate and ½-virgate tenements were also being amassed, initially by local families, around
the end of the 14th century. John Spyk leased a 1½-virgate tenement [M] and three virgate
holdings [A] [O] [J] in the 1390s, alongside the family virgate [E] and various small freehold
and customary properties, before taking on the leases of the demesne and the rectory.48 In 1400
Ralph and John atte Rithe took on 10-year leases of two of these virgates [O] [J] in addition
to their own ½-virgate [T], Ralph having leased the demesne for some years, and in 1406 he
was also granted a customary virgate [L] for life, though John surrendered the family virgate in
1417 to Roger atte Hegge.49 Atte Hegge also leased the demesne around 1419 and, in addition
to holding the family virgate [H] and the atte Rythe ½-virgate [T], was leasing the two virgate
holdings [O] [J] by 1442, his son John inheriting this 70-acre holding in 1457, though John’s
widow was only holding 30 acres [H31] in 1475.50

The Playstowe family owned the large freehold [W] in Lower Morden from the mid 15th
century, to which had been added some small freehold properties in other parts of Morden,
perhaps a total of some 70 acres. In addition they held a further 80 acres belonging to three
customary tenements [M] [F] [H31], though the copyholds were inherited separately in 1513
and the freeholds were split between two brothers in 1540.51 John Goldwyre, whose family
had inherited the Guldens’ virgate [G] and the Pygots’ 8-acre smallholding [B23], surrendered
the latter in 1475 but added two virgate holdings [E] [S] and a freehold smallholding [P],
though only the family holding [G], extended by 2⅛ acres in 1487, descended to his great-
granddaughter.52

The largest holding in Morden was built up gradually by John Holt, probably the ‘John Holt of
Tooting’ who had a substantial holding in neighbouring Merton until April 1516, the forerunner
of Merton Holts/Merton Hall Farm.53 He had begun his investment in Morden in 1494 when
he took on a virgate [E] formerly held by Goldwyre, adding the freehold smallholding [P]
the following year together with the 30-acre West Hawes [H32]. In 1502 he obtained three
customary virgates, a ½-virgate and some smallholdings totalling almost 84 acres, formed
around a nucleus accumulated by the Lightfoot family in the mid-15th century, and then
passing through various London investors [A] [A31] [A32] [F2] [C] [R] [S] [C1] [N1]. In 1512
he purchased 11¼ acres of freehold land, and 16¼ acres of copyhold smallholdings, followed
by another 2 acres freehold land the next year. In 1519 a further 4¼ acres of smallholdings
were obtained, as well as another virgate [S], bringing his total holdings in Morden to almost
200 acres, of which 54 acres were held jointly with his wife Isabel. He disposed of 81¾ acres of
copyhold and freehold land in 1536 to Thomas Toller, and on his death the following year, 17
acres of freehold land passed to his nephew Richard Holt and 43 acres of copyhold to a cousin,
Johanna Symond, and they each received parts of Isabel’s portion following her death in 1538.54

During this same period the London Chancery clerk, William Porter, who was granted a 60-year
lease of the demesne and rectory in 1511, also accumulated some copyhold tenements totalling
90 acres [H31] [H33] [M] [F], which his son surrendered to Thomas Heryngman in 1535. The

Heryngman family also took over the 43½-acre share of the Playstowe’s freehold tenement [W]
at an unknown date after 1546.55

Although few of these accumulations remained in the same family for more than a generation
or two, and some quickly fell apart and were reassembled in different groupings, they indicate
who were the more wealthy families at a particular moment. Sometimes the additional
properties were obtained through inheritance or marriage, sometimes through the profits of
trade, particularly the London investors. Those who had developed management skills through
farming the demesne were able to apply these skills successfully to operate substantial holdings,
while others no doubt sub-let some parts of their holdings at a profit.

Owners of livestock: the evidence from trespass complaints and other offences

Table 4.3 omits offenders who can be identified as tenants of Cheam, though it is possible that
John Vyel, the only case which mentions sheep, was another tenant of Cheam. In fact, all the
1396 and 1397 offenders, here shown in italics, might have been Cheam tenants as they are not
known to have been tenants of the abbey’s manor of Morden.

Table 4.3: Offences involving livestock 1379-1541

Date

Name

ID

Livestock

Location

Jun 1379

Robert Berenger

I2, N3, B2

4 draught animals

in lord’s wheat

56

Jun 1379

Peter Mulsey

B21, N8

4 draught animals

in lord’s wheat

57

Jun 1379

Alan Berenger

B4?

1 cow

in lord’s wheat

58

Jun 1379

William Graunger

I5, 16

1 cow

in lord’s wheat

59

Jun 1379

Simon Willot

U6

1 cow

in lord’s wheat

60

May 1380

John Gulden

G

draught animals

in lord’s wheat

61

Dec 1381

John Carpenter

H2?

1 cow

in lord’s corn

62

Dec 1381

Peter Mulsey

B21, N8

1 cow

in lord’s corn

63

Dec 1381

Thomas Carpenter

F, L1

2 mares

in lord’s corn

64

Dec 1381

John Edward

E

1 mare 1 colt

in lord’s corn

65

Dec 1381

William Mulsey

U4?

1 cow

in lord’s corn

66

Feb 1385

Peter Mulseye

B21, N8

pigs

in lord’s pasture

67

May 1385

Peter Mulseye

B21, N8

pigs

in lord’s pasture

68

Nov 1396

Richard atte Court

?

draught animals

in tenants’ corn

69

Nov 1396

Agnes Hunte

?

draught animals

in tenants’ corn

70

Nov 1396

John Payn

?

beasts

Sparowefeld

71

Nov 1396

John Payn

?

draught animals

in tenants’ corn

72

Nov 1396

John Sowth

?

draught animals

in tenants’ corn

73

Nov 1397

John Cartere

?

horses and mare[s]

in lord’s meadow

74

Nov 1397

John Vyel

?

sheep

in lord’s corn

75

May 1399

John & Johanna Bekeswell

?

draught animals

in Alan Berenger’s corn

76

May 1411

William Mulsey

v John Bailly

B2,B3,U3,U4,U5

1 cow

withheld by Bailly

77

Oct 1473

‘Rector’ of parish church of
Morden

glebe

30 beasts

common overstocked

78

Oct 1478

William, parson of parish
church of Morden

glebe

draught animals

common overstocked

79

Apr 1482

John Tyler

?

draught animals

removed from lord’s pound

80

Apr 1520

John Playstowe

W

pigs

not licensed

81

Apr 1520

William Tegge junior

Hobalds

pigs

not licensed

82

Apr 1539

William Woodman

demesne

cattle

straying on neighbours’ pasture

83

May 1541

Roger Woodnett

?

draught animals

in common way

84

The only offender who clearly had a large number of animals [bestia] was William the vicar,
and it is possible that he was leasing his pasture rights to outsiders, rather than keeping
large herds himself. The others who had livestock ranged from smallholders to those with
large accumulations of property.

Owners of livestock: the evidence from heriots

Table 4.4a shows heriots claimed on the death of a tenant, though Simon Hobecok’s heriots
in 1383 were respited until the death of his widow, who held jointly. The three marked *
here and in succeeding tables were in Ewell. Peter Mulsey held a cottage and 2 acres of land,
while Roger atte Hegge had combined two properties, so each owed two heriots and, as we
have seen, John Holt held several. (Cosyn’s heriot is entered in both table 4.4a and 4.4b as it was
a deathbed surrender to his wife.)

Table 4.4a: Heriots claimed on the death of a tenant 1378-1537
year

name

ID

heriot

value (pence)

1378

Alan Hayter

P

1 ox

not stated

85

1378

Alan Hayter

F2

1 cow

not stated

86

1383

Simon Hobecok

C

1 horse

120

87

1383

Simon Hobecok

N7

1 ox

120

88

1393

John Edward

E

1 ox

160

89

1395

Peter Taillor/Pynnore

B62

1 ewe

not stated

90

1396

John Person*

K3

1 cow

120

91

1403

John Hurrok

H2

1 cow

96

92

1403

Peter Mulsey

B21, N8

2 wethers

48

93

1407

Matilda Hopcok

N7

1 wether

12

94

1410

Emma Hayters

U21?

1 cow

60

95

1410

Peter Brownyng*

K3

1 lamb

20

96

1413

Agnes Crouch

N4

1 ewe

16

97

1413

John Gyldon

G

1 ox

120

98

1418

John Kyppyng*

K

1 sow

14

99

1420

John Spyk

E

1 bullock

60

100

1447

Matilda Pygott

B23

1 bronze cooking-pot

36

101

1457

Roger atte Hegge

H33

2 bullocks

144

102

1529

Richard Cosyn

I81

1 cow

72

103

1534

William Porter

H33

1 horse

24

104

1537

John Holte

various

5 oxen

not stated

105

Matilda Pyggott’s entry is unusual, not only because her heriot was not an animal, but
also because she was a married woman, whose property would normally have become the
possession of her husband during her lifetime. It would appear that she had inherited the
4 acres land that she left to her infant daughter Alionore, who was put into the custody of
another couple, not her father from whom Alionore inherited another 4 acres in 1457.106

Heriots were sometimes claimed on the surrender of a property outside the family, as shown in
Table 4.4b:

Table 4.4b: Livestock heriots claimed on the surrender of a property

year

name

ID

heriot

value (pence)

1390

William & Leticia Graunger

I5 I6

1 mare

128

107

1391

Simon & Anicia Wylot

N6

1 horse

60

108

1393

Thomas & Cristina Carpenter

F

1 ox

120

109

1394

Alan & Agnes Berenger

N6

1 hogget

not stated

110

1395

Robert & Matilda Berenger

I2

1 sow

not stated

111

1395

Thomas Pynnore

B62

1 mare

not stated

112

1398

Peter & Anicia Webbe

B3

1 horse

40

113

1398

John Spyk

N4

1 horse

not stated

114

1398

Ralph Edward

E3

1 mare

not stated

115

1409

William Mulseye

N8

1 ewe

12

116

1522

John Goodfeld

various

1 horse

192

117

1529

Richard Cosyn

I81

1 cow

72

118

1534

John Judd

M F H33

1 horse

24

119

Sometimes cash was accepted, as shown in table 4.4c, on all but the last occasion as part of a surrender.

Table 4.4c: Cash heriots

year

name

ID

heriot

value (pence)

1380

Ralph Edward

I8

cash

30

120

1384

John Milleward

B2

cash

12

121

1384

Adam Tracy

B222

cash

12

122

1387

Robert & Matilda Berenger

N3

cash – heriot & fine

20

123

1389

Andrew & Alice Aslak

B41

cash

24

124

1390

John & Agnes Berenger

I7

cash – heriot & fine

72

125

1390

William & Agnes Irish

H2

cash – heriot & fine

72

126

1390

John & Cristine Carpenter

H2

cash

80

127

1391

Robert & Matilda Berenger

I2 moiety

cash

60

128

1391

Richard & Alice Pynget

C

cash

120

129

1392

John & Agnes Milleward

B3

cash

36

130

1392

Margary Webbe

B3

cash

96

131

1405

Alan & Agnes Berenger

L1

cash

36

132

1405

Alan Berenger

B42

cash

36

133

1409

Thomas & Alice Attemere

I8

cash

24

134

1410

Simon Pynnore/Taylor

B63

cash

24

135

1410

Alice & John Welot

B62

cash

20

136

1416

Thomas Hatcher*

K3

cash

12

137

1417

John atte Rythe

T

cash

16

138

1447

Peter Clement of Gascony

L1

cash

18

139

1457

John Chynnor

M

cash – death

20

140

On three occasions a heriot is mentioned but no detail is given, as shown in table 4.4d.

Table 4.4d: Heriots – no details given

year

name

ID

heriot

reason

1475

John Playstowe

M

no detail

death

141

1494

Robert Goldewyre

E

no detail

142

1539

John Hyller

G

no detail

death

143

Tables 4.4e-g: Heriots waived

The court rolls also record a number of tenants whose heriot was waived ‘because he/she had no
animals’ [null’ animal’], as shown in Table 4.4e.

year

name

ID

heriot

reason

1378

Isabel Hobekoc

I7

no animals

144

1383

Agnes atte Rythe

T

no animals

death

145

1388

John Trowght

N4

no animals

death

146

1398

Thomas Carpenter

F

no animals

147

1400

Alice Hobekoc

N7

no animals

death

148

1401

Ralph Edward

E3

no animals

death

149

1402

Agnes Berenger

B42

no animals

death

150

1402

Thomas Carpenter

L1

no animals

151

1403

Walter atte Hegge

H

no animals

death

152

1407

John Person *

K3

no animals

153

1417

Roger atte Rythe

T

no animals

death

154

1419

Robert Berenger

I1 B22

no animals

death

155

1439

Simon Lightfoot

F2 F3

no animals

death

156

1457

John Pigot

B3

no animals

death

157

1464

Thomas Goldewyre

N4

no animals

death

158

1465

Simon & Emma Colyns

E

no animals

159

1512

Laurence & William Aylmer

various

no animals

surrender to Holt

160

1513

John Barker

various

no animals

surrender to P Goodfeld

161

1514

Walter Playstowe

M F +

no animals

162

1520

William Parker sen

various

no animals

163

1521

Hugh & Johanna Mannyng

G

no animals

surrender to Hyller

164

This is explained more fully in this entry from May 1493:165

fine paid to
the treasurer
Spykes
respited?

in the name
of heriot
paid to the
treasurer
fealty

The homage are charged by their fealty and say that John Goldewyer senior, who of the lord held
by roll of court one tenement and 20 acres land and meadow with pertinents called Spykes, lying
in West Morden, as appears by copy of court bearing the date the Tuesday next after Michaelmas
5 Edward IV, died in February last, whence [nothing?] falls due to the lord in the name of heriot
because he died outside the lordship and had no animals within the lordship. And that
Robert Goldewyer is his son and nearest heir and of full age, who being present in court seeks his
admittance and is admitted, to whom the lord grants seisin thereof by the rod, to hold to himself
and his heirs and assigns, of the lord by roll of court at the lord’s will saving [the lord’s] right etc.
Rendering the lord in respect thereof yearly at the usual festivals the rent services and customs
due. And he gives the lord for fine as appears in the heading. And he does fealty etc. [S]

Similar entries are shown in Table 4.4f, though only one was excused on the grounds of poverty:

year

name

ID

heriot

reason

1386

Matilda Popsent

N2

nothing because poor

death

166

1444

John Skott

N7

nothing etc

167

1455

Anna/Agnes Yerde

F

nothing

death

168

1472

Elionar Wylman

B23

nothing – died outside lordship

death

169

1538

Isabella Holt

H32

nothing

death

170

Spouses who held jointly with the deceased were not liable for heriot, nor were those who only
surrendered part of their holding, according to the entries in Table 4.4g:

year

name

ID

heriot

reason

1519

Peter Goodfild

various

nothing due Goodfeld still a tenant

surrender to Holt

171

1536

John Holt

R A C H +

nothing, still a tenant

surrender to Toller

172

The evidence of wills and probate inventories

Table 4.5 overleaf summarises the bequests over the century 1494 to 1588 of 21 testators who
had interests in Morden when they died. Although 16th-century wills can provide a great deal
of information about the possessions of the testator, only those for which probate inventories
survive give the full picture, and even these might not be complete. Two such inventories survive,
both from the brief period December 1558 to February 1558/9. John Frysbee’s reads:173

An Inventories of all suche goodes and catalles as were John Frysbees late deceased in the
parysshe of Mordon at the tyme of his departure whyche was the 23rd of Decembre in the
yeare of our lorde 1558.

In primis 4 kyne £4

Item a horse 20s

Item a mare 13s 4d

Item 5 wether tegges 6s 8d

Item 2 hogges 6s 8d

Item 5 acres of wheate 40s

Item brasse and puter 26s 8d

Item spyttes and cobyrons 3s 4d

Item sheetes and table clothes 26s 8d

Item one fetherbed & 2 mattresses 20s

Item coverlette & blankettes to theim belongyng 13s 4d

Item one table, one cubborde, a fourme & chestes 20s

Item in money 40s

Item debtes owyng 30s 4d

Sum total: £17 10s
Praysed by us Nicholas Smythe, Thomas Heryngman, John Mantle

In his will, Frysbee, described as a ‘husbandman’, left cash bequests totalling almost £7, plus his 5
wether tegges and various bequests of clothes – ‘my best cote, my doblet, shyrte, hosen, cap … my
russet coote of sheepes coloure & a shyrte.’ He left his wife ‘all the rest of my goodes bothe moveable
and unmoveable beyng unbequetht, whom I also make my full executryx, and Nycholas Smythe
my land lord and George Myller my brother in law I make my overseers, that these my bequethes
& legaces be executed & performed accordyng to the tenor of this my last will and testament.’

Nicholas Goryng, who called himself a labourer, had more livestock, but less in household
goods, while no mention is made of his cash or of debts owed to him, and he only bequeathed
30s in cash:174

The Inventorie of the gooddes & cattalles of Nycholas Goryng latelie deceased in the parishe
of Mordon

Fyrst 10 kyne £6 13s 4d

Item a horse 13s 4d

Item 10 sheepe 20s

Item brasse & puter 20s

Item spyttes & cobyrens 2s

Item lynnen & beddyng 40s

Item two acres of wheate 13s 4d

Item one hogge 3s 4d

Prysed by Nycholas Smythe, Thomas Heryngman, John Mantyll [£12 5s 4d]

Of particular interest is the fact that at least six of his cows were hired out to various other farmers:

Also I bequethe to my doughter Alice 2 kyne beyng at hyre with Nycholas Rolande dwellyng
in Martyng, & she to receve the profyttes of theim after my decease & 10s in golde. Also
I bequethe unto my doughter Jone 2 kyne, one of them with Goldsmythe of Martyn and
the other with Rychard Randolfe, and she lykewyse to receyve the profyttes of theim after
the decease of me. & furthermore I bequethe unto John my sonne 2 Red kyne, to receyve
the profytes of them after the decease of me & 20s in money, 10s in golde, and half a score
of Sheepe, the pryce of them 22s beyng at hyre with John Tyler for 3s 4d by the yeare, and
lykewyse the profitte of theim to remayne unto John my sonne after my decease.’

Table 4.5: Summary of the bequests over the century 1494 to 1588 of 21 testators who had interests

Date

Name

Proved

cash

cash

servants

livestock

corn

religious / charity

personal

1494

John Parker

of London

1494

£1 6s 8d

£12

1518

Richard Plaistowe

of Ewell

1519

£14 16s 8d

+ 30s pa obits

£5

57 ewes,

14 bullocks

1522

William Porter

of London

1522

£10 6s 8d

£110

2

1532

William Teg

of Morden

1532

16s

£1 4s

1 lamb,

4 bullocks

1536

William Stuart

of Morden

1536

(3 priests requested)

1536

Robert Tomson

of Morden

1536

(3 priests requested)

11s 8d

2p wheat

1536

William Leygh

of Morden

1536

£1 2s

+ 10s pa obit

+ £1 road repairs

£7 0s 8d

3

35 sheep, 6 cows,

2 heifers, 2 calves, 3
bullocks, 1 hogge

3.5q
wheat, 3q
barley 4q
oats

1536

John Holt

of Tooting Graveney

1537

£8 1s 8d

+ 6 kyne for obit

£8

12 kyne

1537

Isabel Holt

of Tooting Graveney

1537

£7 3s 4d

2

1 cow

1539

William Woodman

of Morden

1539

4s 6d + food &
drink at burial,
month’s mind &
obits

9s 6d

3

3 lambs, 1 cow

3q wheat,

4b barley,

2b malt

1539

Alice Lord

of Westminster

1539

£1 13s 4d

£77 12s 8d

1545

Richard Holt

of Tooting Graveney

1551

£2 11s

£12 15s 4d

1550

Ranold Stradder

of Morden

1550

3s 4d

1 mare colt

1558

John Frysbee

of Morden

1559

3s 4d

to the poor

£6 15s 4d

5 wether tegges,

4 kyne, 2 hogges,

1 horse, 1 mare

5 acres
wheat

1559

Nicholas Goryng

of Morden

1559

£1 10s

10 sheep, 10 kyne,

1 hogge, 1 horse

2 acres
wheat

1558

Thomas Heryngman

of Morden

1561

£80

1558

Nicholas Smyth

of Morden

1560

13s

for pallbearers,
ringers & steeple

£22 12s 8d

4

2 bullocks,

+ team (of oxen)

1571

John Heryngman of
Morden

1571

£25

18 ewes

1b wheat

1575

Geanes Agalliaway

of Morden

1575

4 cows, 1 bullock,

1 mare

1587

Edward Dumbrell

of Morden

1587

1588

Thomas Wood

of Morden

1588

£4

6 cows,

4 stalls of bees

14lb flax,

fruit of
orchard

in Morden when they died: NB b=bushels, p=pecks, q=quarters, lb pound weight

clothes

household goods

messuages

land

other lands

residue to

2 silver gilt cups, 6 spoons

widow

175

5

54.5a

in Morden, Ewell,
Merstham &
Bletchingley

widow

176

1 fur, 3 gowns,

1 silver & 2 gold rings

Lands, tenements & rents in London + lands,
tenements, rents & Monkton farm in Morden

widow &

3 children

177

2 coats

4 pr sheets, 2 pr blankets

widow

178

coat,

2 doublets

widow

179

all own & wife’s

children

180

3 doublets, 2 hose, 4 coats,

1 peticote;

wife’s 2 gowns & kerchief

2 rings, 2 kettles, 1 pot,

1 pr sheets

servant &
stepson

181

all to widow

charity

182

2 gowns, 1 kirtle, 1 rayle,

1 petticoat, 1 kerchief

2 pr sheets, 1 mattress, 1 bolster, 1
coverlet, 1 pot (+ 3 altar cloths, 2
cruets, 1 frontal to church)

charity

183

1 gown, 3 coats,

1 doublet, 2 shirts,

1 cloak, 2 hose

2 cauldrons, brass pot, cupboard,

1 featherbed, 1 bolster & 1 pillow,

1 coverlet

soul

184

detailed (see summary on page
64 and extracts on pages 94-5)

Westminster, Morden & Sutton

6 sons

185

widow,

then son

186

widow

187

2 coats, 1 doublet,

2 shirts, 1 hose, 1 cap

brass & pewter, spits & cobirons,
1 featherbed, 2 mattresses,
coverlets and blankets, sheets,
tablecloths, 1 table, 1 cupboard, 1
form, chests

2a

widow

188

brass & pewter, spits & cobirons,
linen & bedding

widow

189

1 shod cart

several

several

several

widow
for life or
unmarried

190

farm + freehold + copyholds

widow &
son

191

2 cupboards, 1 press

2a in
Mitcham

in Tooting, Phipps Bridge,
Croydon & Morden

widow

192

widow

193

widow

194

wife’s 2 gowns, 2 smocks,
1 petticoat, waistcoat;
own breeches & leather
hose

1 joined bedstead & furnishings, featherbed, bolster, coverlet, & curtains; 1
truckle bed, flockbed & bolster;

1 joined cupboard, 1 joined chest, painted cloths, round table, tongs, bellows &
milk bowls, old chest with lock, 2 old hives, kettle

brother

195

It is not clear if his sheep and pig were similarly hired out, as they formed part of ‘The residew of
all my gooddes and cattalles unbequethed (my deptes beyng paide) I will & bequethe to Jone my
wyfe, whome I make my sole executryx, and Nicholas Smyth and Thomas Heryngman I make
myne overseers, to se that thes my legacess & bequethes be performed accordyng to the tenore
& prescripte above writen.

It is possible that he had been forced to make such an arrangement through illness, but an
alternative interpretation is that he had purchased livestock as an investment rather than to rear
them himself. A similar arrangement had been made by Geanes Agalliaway in 1575, though he
seems to have had fewer animals:196

Item I wyll & bequeeve to Figdish my wyffe my three kine & my mare. Item I wyll & bequeve
to Margerett my eldest dafter my cow now in the tenire or farm of Baylie. Item I wyll &
bequeve to Tomason my yongest dafter my yonge bolloke. All the rest of my movabls &
unmoveables I gyve & bequeth to Figdishe my my wyfe trusting in in [sic] god that she
wyll geve somthing else at hir plesure to my dafters. Also I make Fygdish my wif my soull
executrixe & Jo Richard Hopkinse gentillman & John Everest my oversevers & they to have
for theyre payne god reward them.

Although Frysbee and Goryng are the only Morden testators for whom probate inventories survive,
another will includes the testator’s own detailed inventory of the furnishings of her home, though
this was not her copyhold property in Morden but a house in Westminster, which she leased from
Westminster Abbey in addition to other leasehold properties in Westminster and in Sutton. As
we saw on pages 63-5, Alice Lord, a widow with seven young sons, left each of them a carefully
selected and comparable set of household goods and personal effects, not in a bottom drawer but
‘trussed all together in a sheete and his name wrytten upon yt’, her youngest son also receiving her
Morden copyholds, which included the house known as Growtes after a former tenant:197

Item I give and bequeth unto Henry Lorde my yongest sone a fetherbedd, a matres, 2 pillowes,
a payre of blankettes & a coverlet. Item 4 payre of sheetes, a fyne sheete, a tableclothe and
a towell of dyaper, a tablecloth and three towells long and shorte of playne clothe, which ys
trussed all together in a shete and his name wryten upon yt. Item a girdell the corse of lowe
worke and a wreth with a pendent and a buckell of sylver wroght with wyres, a payre of
long corall beedes with 17 spaces dobull gaudes with sylver and giltt with a crosse of sylver
parcel gilt and a knoppe of perle therunto annexed, a maser with the signe of the George
made in the bottom, 6 spones with wrythen knoppes on th’endes and oon other spone with
th’appostell on th’end. Item 4 platters, 3 dysshes, two sawcers, a quarte pott and a pynte pott
of pewter, a pewter basen, a bolen brasse pott, a grete panne of redd mettell, a water chaffer
to sett by the fyer, a long spytt, a drypping panne with a handell, a trevett, a hanging water
laver with 2 spowtes, a litle brasen morter and a bell candelsticke. Item I give and bequeth
unto the sayd Henry Lorde all my londs and tenements sett, lying and being in Mordon in
the countie of Surrey after my decease to have and to holde to hym and to his heirs after the
custom of the manor and also the lease of a gardyn lying in Says alley within the towne of
Westminster whiche I have of the graunte and demyse of Nicholas Nightingale of the sayd
towne of Westminster for terme of certen yeres yet to come.

Her eldest son Edmond had already been given a similar collection and was also to receive the
lease of her Westminster residence plus:

my goods and catalles, which dothe remayn in the aforesaid howse of the Bell in the
custodie of the said Edmond Lord. In primis 63 pound of pewter in the kechyn, 18s 4d;
168lb weight of pewter vessels in the buttery worth 53s 4d; 251lb weight of brasse in the
kechyn worth 52s; 12 spittes great and small worth 8s 4d; 3 payr of cobbards [=cobirons?],
6s; two frying pannes, two drypping pannes and two sklytes worth 4s; a cesterne, 13s 4d;
three payre of andyrons, 4s; two grete laten basens worth 3s 4d; 12 candlestickes worth 10s
8d; two chaffing disshes worth 2s 8d; two half dosen cusshyons worth 9s; 12 tables, two
forms and 7 trestelles worth 35s 1d; 16 formes worth 10s 2d; 4 payre of trestelles worth 4s
4d; two cupbordes, one in the hall and another in the flaundrs[?] worth 10s 8d; a almery in
the second parlour worth 8d; a rayclothe, a celer in the chamber next the Rose halle, two

testers in the chamber next unto the maydens chamber, a celer in the chamber next unto
the chapell hall, all the paynted clothes thoroughout all the howse save myn own chamber,
worth 37s 10d; a cownter in the chapell chamber worth 20d; two lytle chestes in the halle
worth 12d; a fyre forke in the hall worth 10d; a carpet in the halle, 20d; a chest in the myddle
parlor worth 12d; a press worth 13s 4d, and a carpet in the chapell hall worth 5s, all which
somes of mony comyth to the some of £15 7s 6d.

Three sons received £20 each instead of lands, and her two eldest each received an additional £6
13 4d for acting as executors, her two overseers receiving £2 each.

Alice’s possessions seem impressive but they fade into insignificance against the inventory of
the man who was to buy her Morden copyholds. Edward Whitchurch (a London haberdasher
and bookseller who, in partnership with Richard Grafton, had printed the 1539 Great Bible and
the 1549 Book of Common Prayer) also purchased the former Westminster Abbey manor of
Morden, the sale being completed shortly before the death of Edward VI in July 1553. As an
ardent Protestant, he quickly sold up on the accession of Catholic Mary, fleeing to the Continent,
and the sales inventory of the contents of his ‘new buylded mansion house called Growtes’ is
transcribed as Figure 4.6 on pages 96-7.198 Various additions, annotations and deletions had
been made, as indicated here by the use of italics, brackets and strike-through.

Other wills give some insight into the wealth of the testator. In 1494 the London scrivener, John
Parker, who held a few copyhold cottage plots and tofts in Central Road from Westminster
Abbey’s manor and others on the opposite side of the road from Ravensbury manor, pleaded
poverty for only leaving his five children £2 each, ‘being but a por handry crafty man and have
borne grete losses and charges diverse tymes in my days and nowe am in grette age not so lusty
to labor for my lyving as I was in my yonge and florisshing daies and yt growing dayly in grete
expenses I being but of small substance of goodes of fortune can not of por to departe toward
them of my goodys as a man of better substance may do’, but he is one of only three Morden
testators to leave items of precious metal – a ‘chased cup covered with a lowe fote of silver parcele
gilt’, ‘my flat cup covered and chased of silver half gilt withowte a fote’ and 6 silver spoons.199
He still managed to find 26s 8d for religious and charitable bequests – to his London church
of Colchurch and the fraternity of St Katherine there and to the fraternity of St Margaret in St
Thomas of Acres church, as well as to the common box of the Scriveners Company – before
leaving the residue, and the care of the two youngest children, to his widow.

Another Londoner was William Porter, ‘clerk of the Crowne of the Kinges Chauncery’ but also a
member of the Fishmongers Company, who held the lease of the manorial demesne of Morden,
referred to as the ‘ferme of Monkton’. At his death in 1522 he requested burial in the lady chapel
of Whittington College, setting the limit of expenditure at £10 ‘without any pompious maner or
moch Rynging of belles not having above the nombre of 8 Torches and without calling of any
comen beggers to my buriall and without any greate Tapers save only two white Braunches to
stande upon the herse’.200 He had, however, already ordered a tombstone of ‘Tuche’ or Touchstone
– a fine black marble – and he left 6s 8d to the ‘bedemen’ of the college. He calculated that
he held in trust around £80 for a young stepdaughter from her father’s will, which was to be
made up to £100 from his own bequest at 21 or marriage. He followed the custom of the City
of London in dividing his personal estate into three equal parts, the first part being left to his
widow together with ‘th’apparell bilonging to hir body and all hir juelles, that is to sey girdelles,
cheynes, rynges, broches and bedes of golde and of silver’, the second part being divided between
his own three children, and the third part to cover personal bequests – £2 each to his sister, two
brothers, a friend, and an employee ‘over and above his ordynary wages’, also instructing that
any outstanding wages be paid to another, as well as bequeathing three richly-lined gowns, a fur,
two gold rings and a silver ring to friends – the residue to be divided equally between his widow
and his three children. He left his London properties to his elder son on reaching 21, excluding
his widow’s dower rights in them, and he left his Morden properties, including the lease of
Monkton, to his younger son at 21, with the proviso that if his daughter’s share in his bequests
was less than £100 it was to be made up to that sum from the issues and profits from Morden. So
he expected to leave an estate in excess of £1000 over and above his land.

Figure 4.6 Whitchurch’s Inventory of Growtes in 1553 SHC K85/2/12

In the Chamber over the parlour next the lane

Inprimis a ioyned bedstede

Itm a fether bed and a bolster

Itm a wolle mattresse

Itm a mattresse of flockes

Itm fyve curtaynes of read say & grene to the same bed

Itm the hangynges of the chambre of grene saye

Itm 2 curtaynes to the fore wyndowes of grene say

Itm 1 curtayne to the other windowe of olde sylke

Itm a tryndell bedde

Itm a spanysshe chare

Itm a Courte Coborde ^
wth a cloth for it

Itm a great Chest with plated barres with 8 cussions in yt

Itm 4 litle ioyned stoles wt turned pillers

Itm in the great chest several 8 sylke quysshinges

A chaire red wth patern of brigus striped white & red

2 the cubord clothes of turky dorny &

A litle ship chest

A 2 lok lokyng glas

A case wth combes

In the backe chambre over the parloure

Inprimis a ioyned bedstede

Itm a fether bed and a bolster

Itm a wolle mattresse

Itm fyve 5 curtaynes of red say & grene

Itm a litle table

Itm a longe settell

Itm a ioyned pece of waynscott

Itm a payre of crepers

Itm a payre of tonges & a seed shovell

Itm a pallet of straye under the mattresse

Itm 2 grene curtaynes to the wyndowes

Itm the hangyng of the chambre of grene saye

Itm a brusshe

Itm a wickerd chayre covered wth patern of briges green
& red

Itm a styllatory wt th’appurtenances

A grete ship cheste wth 2 new coverletes of grene & yelo
dorny & lyned wth canvas

A ^ new Carpet of dornye

In the thirde chambre

Inprimis a ioyned bedstede

Itm a fether bed with a bolster

Itm a wolle mattresse

Itm fyve curtaynes of red say & grene

Itm a pallet of strawe under the mattresse

Itm a long settell with a perticion

Itm a litle table

Itm 2 curtaynes of read say & grene for the wyndowe

Itm the hanging of the chamber red say & grene

Itm a litle black kasket

Itm a payre of crepers

Itm 3 stoles wherof 2 leffte

A spanyssh chaire covered wth lether

2 pictures in frames

In the fourth chamber over the kychen

Inprimis a litle ioyned Bedstede wth a tester

Itm 3 curtaynes of blacke bokeram and yallowe (lack 1)

Itm a fether bed & a bolster

Itm a tryndell bed

Itm a pallet of straye under the mattresse

Itm a presse of bordes to lye gere in

Itm a ioyned bedsted wth a tester of an olde cope

Itm a matrys & a bolster

Itm a grete chyst wth 6 pillowes, 6 peces of grene say,
^ a pece of hangynges of yelo & red bokeram, 3 red frese
coverletes & 4 pares of blanketes in yt

Itm an olde litle chist

Itm an olde brusshing table wth a payre of tresselles

The hangynge of red & yelo bokeram

A wagon clothe of red cloth lyned with canvas

6 wagon coshions of tappery

2 crepers

A Close chair of wainscot

The 4th chamber over the buttry

Itm 2 staple bedstedes wth a trundell bed undr th’one
of them

Itm an olde chyst

Itm 2 corse coverletes

Itm a matrys & 2 bolsters

Itm one corse coverlet alle torne

Itm a corte cobord of carpintes work

In the servauntes chamber ^ over the hall

Inprimis 2 staple beddes

Itm a tryndyll bed

Itm a fether bed

Itm a ticke flockebed A strawbed wth canvas

Itm a mattresse and 4 bolsters of flockes

Itm a great cheste

Itm 2 litle clothes of bawkine worke to lye upon litle
tables

Itm a great Craddell

Itm six hyves for bees

Itm 4 servauntes coverletts

Itm a flasket

Itm a lather to go into the apple lofte

A ioyned bedsted wth a tester of red & grene saye

paynted clothes wth brode[?] & grene watr flou’res

2 peces of harneses

2 shefes of arowes

2 black bills

A Chair wth red clothe & grene lace

3 settles of waynscott

In the chamber over the litle parlor

A bedsted wth a Tester of red & grene saye wth a botom
of sackcloth

An olde joined chaire

A corte cobord of wainscot, 2 painted tables

Lynnyng in my chambre

Inprimis 4 payer of shetes 1 payer of them being wt 3
leaves

Itm 6 payer of shetes for the servauntes beddes

Itm 7 pelowbers (lack 2 1)

Itm 4 5 4 table clothes (4)

Itm 6 playn towells (5)

Itm 2 one coberd clothes

Itm 3 dossen and 11 2 olde napkyns (lackes 4 napkins)

Itm 2 shorthand towelles

Itm 2 great ioyned stolles

Itm a litle spruse cheste

Itm 6 downe pelowes

Itm 4 payer of blankettes

Itm 3 read frese coverlettes

Itm a coverlet of tapsetery [sic]

Itm 4 payer of newe corse shetes

In the parler

Inprimis a table with a frame ^ & a carpet of grene cloth

Itm 3 ioyned ^ fourmis

Itm a square table with a frame

Itm a court Coberd

Itm 6 quysshens of tappestery for the wagon (they be
yn the chamber over the kychen)

Itm 5 6 new ioyned stoles

Itm a walnut chare wt a wooden backe

Itm another chare covered with blew cloth

Itm a payer of andyernes ^
of flaunders worke

Itm a payer of crepers

Itm 2 fyre shovelles

Itm a payer of tonges

Itm a payer of virgenalls

Itm a payer of tables

Itm a litle byble

Itm a service boke

Itm a salter

Itm a boke of prayers

Itm a dornyckes carpet

Itm hanginge of read & grene saye

Itm a lokyng glasse

Itm divers bookes

A litle folding table of waynscot

2 painted stories

In the hall

Inprimis a table with a payer of trestilles

Itm a painted ^ & carved coberd

Itm a payer of crepers ^
& a payre of grete andyernes

Itm hanginges of new panted clothes wt roses &
honysocles

Itm 3 formis

A fyre forke

{illegible}

A Counter table

A painted storie of the frere & ye None

In the kytchyn

Inprimis a fyre shovell

Itm a flaunders pot to sethe meate in wt yron fete

Itm 3 lesser brasse pottes

Itm 2 brasse pannes

Itm 2 kettelles

Itm a brasse skellet

Itm a chaffing dysshe

Itm 3 wooden candylstikes

Itm 4 spetes [=spits]

Itm a payre of rackes

Itm 2 yron tramelles to hang pottes upon

Itm an Iron bare in the chymney

Itm 2 dryppinpannes of playte

Itm a frying panne

Itm a wasshing bowle

Itm a great boucking toube

Itm a chopping knyfe

Itm a litle chare for children

Itm 10 5 tyn spones

A newe joiyne tubbe wth a cover

Itm 6 8 platters

Itm 6 8 dysshes

Itm 6 sausers

Itm 12 litle sausers

Itm 3 bassens wyth ^
one ewre

Itm 5 yerd pottengers

Itm a dossyn ^
10 of tyne spones

Itm a Cast {illegible}plate

Itm a quart potte

Itm 4 bowes pottes wherof th’one is graven

Itm a pynte potte

Itm 2 half pynt pottes

Itm 2 tynne salte sellors & one bigger then the other

Itm 3 newe pewter chamber pottes

Itm 5 litle stone potes & 1 of a gallon

Itm 5 drynking glasses

Itm 2 glasse bottes

Itm 4 glasse pottes for beare

Itm 7 lattyn candilstickes

Itm 3 gallon stone pottes wt covers of pewter

Itm a brasse spyce morter wt a pestill

Itm a glasse bottell for sallet oyle

Itm 2 dossing of trenchers

Itm a graffing sawe

Itm 2 shredding knyves

Itm 3 erthen pottes

Itm a payre of sheres

Itm a honket bill

Itm an axe

Itm a graffing knyfe

Itm a chesell

Itm a hammer

Itm kychen bordes

Itm a coope for capons

Itm Shelves

A Colonder & A Skomer

A grete cawderne, A Stout morter wth a pestell, 2 yron
^
cutting hoks

A brede grates

In the mylke house

Inprimis a cherne

Itm a chese presse

Itm 5 mylke pannes

Itm 4 chese Fattes

Itm a bowting tobbe

Itm a kneding tubbe

Itm a bruyng tubbe

Itm a hoggeshead for hoges wasshe

Itm a meale tubbe

Itm a syve

Itm a coarse bolter

Itm two A cowelles

Itm a kyldern

Itm a mylke ladder

Itm a streyning bowle

Itm a pale

Item 3 one creme pottes

Itm 3 pichers

Itm 2 litle erthen pannes

Itm 7 butterdisshes

Itm a iron for the gate

Itm a mowlestaffe

Itm a payer of dossers

Itm a stone morter

Itm 4 litle olde stoles

Itm 2 drinking stone pottes

Itm a whele for a spytt

Itm a brasen morter & a Stone morter & a garlyk
morter

A Gryndstone

A leden stillatory

2 Bee hyves

In the chamber over the bultynghous

A flocke bedsted wth bordes

An olde joined chaire

A spynnyng whele

2 netes, viz a draw net & a shove net

A pair of shirs for ….rders

2 olde flocklockes

A hand sawe

In the grene parlor

A table wth 2 trestles

Setles of wainscot yn 2 partes of the parlor

Thomas Heryngman, who died in 1561, bequeathed £20 to each of his four sons when they
reached the age of 21, together with substantial gifts of land after the death or remarriage of his
widow, but only the first pages of his will survive.201 Ten years later his son John left to his three
young sons lands in Morden, Mitcham, Tooting and Streatham on reaching 21, together with 6
ewes each and some furniture, and £10 to each of his young daughters at marriage, £4 to another
young relative at 18, and £1 to a ‘kinesman’, John’s widow receiving the residue.202

Bequests for religious purposes, examined in chapter 9, also hint at a testator’s weath. In 1518
Richard Playstowe, who lived in Ewell but held Winterworthes [W] freehold in Lower Morden plus
properties in Merstham and Bletchingley, left 14 bullocks and around 60 ewes (one to each of his
godchildren and two to each child of Thomas Codyngton). His cash bequests to relatives totalled
at least £5 (6s 8d to each unnamed sister), while £14 6s 8d was shared between two churches, two
priories and a chaplain to celebrate masses for himself, his parents and his friends for two years.
He further arranged for 30s a year to be paid out of bequeathed properties for anniversary masses
in Ewell and Merstham parish churches, while his widow was to sell some Ewell properties so that
‘the money arising therefrom be disposed by the said Margaret for the salvation of my soul’.203

However, John Holt who, we have seen, held several freehold and copyhold tenements in
Morden which were divided among his widow, a nephew, and a cousin at his death, gave little
indication of his wealth in his will of 1536.204 He lived in Tooting Graveney and also had interests
in Merton, Mitcham, Wimbledon, Streatham and Clapham, leaving 6s 8d to the churches of
each of these parishes (though not Morden), but only mentions 12 ‘kyne’, 6 left to his widow
with all his household goods, and 6 left to Tooting church. These were ‘for a stock forever to
be kept to encrease and with th’encreas of the same kyne and the profite of them I will that the
churchwardyns alwayes for the tyme being shall yerely forevermore observe and kepe within the
said parishe church myn obit or annyversary with rynging of belles and to espende about the same
for dirige and masse bread and ale and other necessaries 2s. And the residue of the yerely encreas
to be employed and bestowed in and about the Reparacions of the said church forevermore.’ He
also left £4 towards ’12 poor maidens mariages of the said parishe of Totingraveney’ at 6s 8d
each, no doubt hoping they and their families would also pray for his soul. The residue of his
estate was left to his three executors, ‘they to dispoase the same in deades and workes of charitie
as they shall thinke best to please god for the wealthe of my soule’. For this they and the overseer
of his will were bequeathed £2 apiece. His widow, who died the following year, left £7 3s 4d in
cash for religious purposes, together with ‘three awlter clothes two cruettes and a frontal before
th’awlter’, the altar cloths and frontal perhaps made by herself. She left a cow and some clothes
and household items to be divided among her two servants and a widow of Southwark.205 Their
lands passed to relatives. One of these, Richard Holt of Tooting Graveney, makes no mention
of his Morden inheritance in his will of 1541, in which he left his Tooting lands to his widow
for life and then to his son.206 He left cash bequests amounting to almost £13, divided among his
four daughters, a granddaughter and the children of other relatives or friends, as well as 12d to
Tooting church for tithes forgotten plus funds for a yearly obit for 5 years.

Frysbee’s landlord, Nicholas Smyth, left a freehold and copyhold properties plus the lease of a
farm to his son John in his will of 1558 proved 1560, together with his ‘hoole teeme without any
demynishyng of the same’.207 He was determined that John would be able to continue ploughing
his land, as he repeated himself when leaving jointly to his widow and son John his ‘goodes and
catalles unbequethed (my teeme only excepted)’. A grandson was to receive £3 at age 16, and his
four granddaughters £2 each at marriage or at 21. He left £4 and a bullock to each of his two young
maidservants on marriage or at 21, and £2 to presumably another servant, ‘Thomas my lytle boye’,
again on marriage or at 21. Another female servant, probably an older woman, received 6s 8d.
He left 12d to each godchild, 8d to each pallbearer, 8d to each ringer, and 10s to each of his two
executors, as well as 5s ‘towardes the reparation of the steple for the wetherbordyng’ of Morden
church, bringing his total cash bequests to well over £22. The leased farm would have been Merton
Priory’s Spital estate and the freehold a 15-acre holding in Central Road, while the copyholds
would have included adjoining copyholds in Central Road and elsewhere in Morden as well as
two in neighbouring Merton. As the property held from Smyth by Frysbee in December 1558

included 5 acres under winter wheat, it is likely that he was leasing the 15-acre freehold, a similar
5 acres awaiting spring sowing and 5 more fallow, though 5 acres of that estate had been described
as meadow in 1537.208 (Frysbee also leased 2 acres in Mitcham, which he left to his brother.)

In 1536 William Leygh of Morden, after asking for burial ‘in the church yard of Moredon as
neygh my wif as yt may conveniently be’, made careful arrangements for his soul (see page 244):209

‘Item I bequethe to Morden church to maynteyne the light there 10s. Item I give towards
the byeng of a pall cloth to the said church 3s 4d. Item I wyll that a prest shall syng for me
and my wif and all christen soules by the space of oone yere. Item I will that there be at my
buriall five prestes and as many at my monthe mynde at which tymes I will that ther be
spente a kelderkyn of ale and 3 dos[en] of bred and at my monethes mynd also a busshell of
whete to make pyes with all. Item I will that there be given at my buriall to poore people to
pray for me 6s 8d. Item I give to the mendyng of the way on this syd Hobbolles 10s. Item I
give to the mendyng of Moordon Lane betwene my house and William Woodmans house
where as moste nede ys 10s. Item I give my mother half my wood at Oxshute and to John
Parke the other half, they to do a trentall of masses for my soule in Moordon church …
Item I give and bequeth toward the makyng of the Trendyll in the church of Moordon 2s …
The residue of all my goods moveable and unmoveable not given nor bequethed I give and
Bequethe them holy to John Jakys my sonn in lawe [stepson], whome I ordeyne and make
my sole executor, he to dispose them to the honor of godd and the welth of my soule. Also I
will that the said John shall bestowe yerlye for my soule, his fathers soule, his mothers soule
and all Christen Sowles upon an Obite to be donne in Mordon Church 10s.’

He also left 35 sheep, 13 cattle and a pig, as well as corn, clothes and household items, plus £7 in
cash, though the latter included wages due to two servants identified only by surname.

His neighbour, William Woodman, held the sub-lease of the Morden manorial demesne, known
as Monkton. His will of 1538 divided his goods among his widow, children and servants:210

Item I geve unto my wyff Eden the thirde parte of my goodes as Catall and corne but no husolde
stuffe. Item I geve to Agnes my eldest doughter halfe a quarter of whete and a olde cawdron
that was my grandams. Item I geve to Johan my doughter halfe a quarter of whete. Item I geve
to Alice my doughter a cowe and halff a quarter of whet and a quarter of barley. Item I geve to
Elisabeth my doughter a quarter of whett and a greate brasse potte and a coberd that stondes
in my chambre. Item I geve to John Teme 2 busshells of barlye and a busshell of whete and
to his syster Julyan a busshell of malte. Item I geve to John Taylor a busshell of maulte. Item I
geve to Henry Wodman a lambe and 4d. Item I geve to Elyn Maye my goddowghter a lambe
and a busshell of whette and a busshell of maulte and 2 busshells of barleye. Item I geve to
William Woodman a lambe & 4d. Item I geve to my maydens Agnes Hasylgrowe and Agnes
Baylie eche of them 6d a pece and to Robert my servante 4d. Item I geve unto my oldyst sone
Richard my fetherbed that I lye in with the boulster and a pyllowe. Item I geve unto my sone
John a great cawdiron to the valew of the fetherbed and my best coverlett.

He gave 3s 4d for his ‘body to be buryed within the churche of Saint Laurance of the parishe of
Mordon in the countie aforesaide bie my wyffe’, but, like Leygh, his main concern was for his soul:

Item I geve unto the hie auter for my oblations forgotton 12d and to my mother churche of
Wynchester 2d. Item I geve to the churche of Morden a torche. Item I wyll that there be songe at
my departinge half a trentall of mass and the other halffe to be songe at my monthes mynde. Item
I geve unto all my godchyldren that comes unto my buriall or to my monthes mynd 4d a pece.

The Residue of all my goodes, catalles and debttes after my debttes payd, my bequestes and
funerall expencys fulfylled, I ordeyn and make myn executors Richard Woodman and John
Woodman my sonnes that they shall faithfully dispose for the welth of my soule and my
Frends soules according unto this my last wyll. Item I wyll ther be at my buryall three preests
or mor as shall please myn executors. Item I wyll ther be a shepe, brede and drynke spent at
my buryall. Item I wyll ther be ordenyd at my monthes mynd a shepe or a calffe, bread and
drynke sufficient for the same. Also to have at that time 5 preests. Item I wyll at my yeres
mynde that my executors shall ordeyn a calffe or a shepe and a kylderkyn of ale and breade for
that same and a chese price 6d. Item I wyll every yere after duringe the lyves of myn executors
yf they be able to fynde breade and drynke and a chese price 12d at my obett.

William Teg, who held the lease of Merton Priory’s Hobalds estate, left his widow ‘to doo for my
soule as she thynkyth best’ in his will of 1532, bequeathing just 12d to the high altar of Morden
church and 4d to ‘the moder churche of Wynchestre’. The vicar was appointed co-executor with his
widow, for which he received 3s 4d, but the rest of his possessions had been quickly disposed of:211

Also I bequeith to Jone my dowghter 10s and a bulloke & 2 payre of Shets & a payre of
blanketts. Also I bequeith to Mawde my doughter 10s and a bulloke & twoo payre of Shetts
& a payre of blanketts. Also I bequeyth to Annys my dowghter a bulloke. Also I bequeith
to Elysabeth my dowghter a bullok. Also I bequeith to Jhon Oscumbe a busshell of whete.
Also I bequeith to every oone of my godchylder 4d. I bequeith to Wyllyam Mathew a cote.
Also I bequeith to Richard Teg a cote. I bequeith Wyllyam Mathew my godsone a lambe.

Richard Plaistowe, John Holt, Nicholas Smith and the two Heryngmans all referred to themselves
as ‘yeoman’, whereas William Woodman and John Frysbee were called ‘husbandman’, and the
difference in status is reflected in their bequests. Further down the scale we have those who called
themselves ‘labourer’ such as Nicholas Goryng above, Edward Dumbrell whose nuncupative or
verbal will of 1587 simply stated ‘the goodes which I have I do leave unto my loving wiff Joan’,212
or Thomas Wood whose 1588 will left £4 in cash, 6 cows, one not yet fully paid for, 4 stalls of
bees, 14lb flax, the fruit from his orchard, his own and his late wife’s clothes, and a surprising
quantity of joined furniture reflecting the new styles of Elizabethan England – 1 joined bedstead
‘with all the furniture thereunto belongeinge’, a featherbed, bolster, coverlet and curtains; 1
truckle bed, flockbed & bolster; 1 joined cupboard, 1 joined chest, painted cloths, a round table,
tongs, bellows and milk bowls, an old chest with a lock, 2 old hives, and a kettle.213

Some wills are so brief that they give no information as to the wealth or status of the testator,
which perhaps indicates that they had little to bequeath. Thus William Stuart’s will of August
1536 merely states:214

In the name of godd amen. The last day of August I William Stuart in the parysshe of
Moordon, in good mynd, this I ordeyne and make my last will. First I bequeth my soule to
almyghtye godd and to our ladye Seynt Mary and to all the holye companye of hevyn, my
bodye to be buryed in the church yard of Seynt Laurence in Moordon. Allso I will have at
my buriall 2 prestes And at my mothe day 3 prestes.

Also I bequethe to Robert my brother my best cote and my best dublet. Allso I geve to Roger
Randell my worst dublet.

The residue of all my goods I geve and bequeth to Elizabeth my wif, shee to pay my debtes and
for to Rescewe for my soule as shee thinks best, whiche Elizabeth I make myn executrice.

[no witnesses listed]

Written two weeks later but proved on the same day as Stuart’s, 12 December 1536, was Robert
Tomson’s will:215

In the name of God Amen. In the 14th day of September I Robert Tomson, dwellyng within
the paryshe of Mordon, of good mynd, I make my last will. Firste I bequeth my soule to
allmyghty god and our blessyd Ladye Seynt Mary and to all the holye compenye of hevin,
my bodye to be buryed in the churche yard of Seynt Laurence in Moordon aforsayd.

Allso I bequeth to Roger Woodnett all my weryng gere. Allso I bequethe his wif all my wifs
weryng gere.

Allso I will have 3 prestes at my buriall And 3 at my monthes day.

Allso I will to Richard my son 6s 8d. Allso I will that Margaret Carpenter shall have half
a busshel of whete. Also I will that the longest lyver of the 3 children, that is to say Roger,
Henry and Katherine, shall have my good and my debtes payd and them I will to be my
executors. Also I will that John Tayler and Roger Woodnet shalbe my oversears they to have
for their labor 5s.

[no witnesses listed]

Neither made any financial provision to fund the priests that they requested. No such requests
were needed in 1549, during the reign of the Protestant king Edward VI, when Ranold Stradder
made his will (see page 247):216

In the name of Godd sooe be yt, the 16th day off the monthe off December the yere off oure
Lorde 1549 and in the thyrd yere of the Reyng of our Soverayng Lorde kyng Edward VI, I
Ranold Stradder of the parishe of Morden, off good mynd and memorie, make my Last Will
and Testament in maner and forme folowyng:

First I bequeth my sowle to allmyghtie godd and my bodye to be buryed in the churche
yarde of Moreden.

Also I bequeth to John Stradder the sonne of Richard Stradder one wethyr mayre colt, the
Resydew of my goodes, my debtes payd, I gyve to Johane my wyff whome I make my full
executrexe.

Wyttnes hereoff: Sir Robert Bust curate there, John Wellch and Thomas Heryngman

The property or properties held or occupied by eight of our testators is not known, and it is
likely that they were sub-tenants. Overall, we have seen that some held substantial estates, both
leasehold and copyhold, with a few also holding freeholds, while others probably only occupied
a cottage with a croft or perhaps just a garden. Lack of land was not an obstacle to the owning of
livestock, as Nicholas Goryng reveals in his will. Thirteen mention livestock, some like Richard
Plaistowe and William Leigh bequeathing large numbers, others only mentioning a single
animal. Among those who made no reference to livestock were our three wealthy Londoners,
and it is likely that Thomas Heryngman bequeathed some livestock on the missing pages of his
will. Of the other four, we cannot equate lack of reference to livestock with lack of livestock.
Twelve bequeath furnishings, while nine bequeath clothes, from expensive furs and silk-lined
gowns to their worst doublet (or should we read it as ‘worsted’, as suggested by Cliff Webb?).217
Some were undoubtably wealthy, while all possessed something that they wanted to pass on to
loved ones, or to invest in the salvation of their souls.

Evidence for land use

We have little information on how Morden’s large-scale operators used their extended holdings.
However, in the decade following the Black Death, the abbey authorities had attempted to
introduce a sheep-based economy on its demesnes, sending 175 assorted sheep to Morden
from Teddington in October 1349. This experiment failed, with 48 dying of murrain, and
51 were quickly sold while the remainder were returned to Teddington in January before
shearing ‘on account of very great murrain’. Despite this poor start, 172 lambs were delivered
from Battersea in June.218 More lambs arrived from Teddington and from Echelford manor in
Ashford, Middlesex, in July 1352, from Greenford and Battersea in May 1353, and from two of
the abbey’s manors in Essex in June 1353.219 After shearing at Morden, adult males were sent
to Teddington in 1352 and 1353, and to Battersea in 1354.220 Substantial building work began
on a large sheephouse, completed in 1355/56.221 These years coincided with the lowest sown
acreages, perhaps indicating an intention to replace arable with sheep farming.

From 1354 a breeding programme was instituted at Morden. Echelford supplied 4 rams in
July 1354.222 Ewes came from Teddington in August 1353, from Greenford in July 1354, and
from Battersea in December 1355.223 In 1358 another 60 ewes were purchased at Greenford.224
Gimmers [young female sheep] arrived from Echelford in November 1353, and from Greenford
in December 1355.225 But the venture was risky. Of 122 lambs of issue recorded at Morden in
1353/54, 33 died, together with 68 yearlings.226 Of 189 lambs of issue in 1355/56, 104 died,
and 44 of the 188 yearlings also died.227 The following year 34 of the 189 lambs of issue died,
as did 6 yearlings.228 Most of the deaths were ‘before weaning’. The surviving lambs were sent
from Morden to Greenford in 1354, 1356 and 1358, though in 1358 half were sold.229 Adult
males were again sent to Teddington in October 1356.230 The abbey’s involvement in sheep-
rearing in Morden ended in 1359 when the manor was let at farm. However, little is likely to
have changed on the ground as all 247 sheep were sold to the new lessee, though no details
are extant.231

Large scale sheep farming was practised on Merton Priory’s Hobalds estate in Morden, where
a large building labelled ‘the shepehouse’ is depicted on a 1553 map of Sparrowfeld, fronting
onto Green Lane, roughly opposite the present-day stables, though an earlier lessee, William

Teg, only bequeathed 1 lamb and 4 bullocks in his will of 1532.232 Perhaps this indicates that
the rearing of livestock was not yet an important element at Hobalds, though it is possible that
the stock was leased from the priory together with the land.

However, there are hints in our documents that a similar focus on sheep could be found in
other neighbouring estates. Thus in September 1391 Thomas Kennardesle, lord of the manor of
Kynnersley in Carshalton, which extended into Morden in the Green Lane area near Rosehill,
left 30 sheep for the fabric of Carshalton church for tithes not yet paid. If this was purely for the
tithes on lambs due that year, it would indicate a flock of 300 newborn lambs, but it is possible
that his calculations also allowed for the value of the fleeces, and that it covered more than one
year’s unpaid tithe. In addition, he may well have included a free will offering, so the overall
size of the flock cannot be determined, though it is likely to have been large. The implication is
that the sheep were reared in Carshalton, though the manor also included a detached Wealden
portion in Horley parish.233

Again, in 1393/94 the archbishop of Canterbury, who owned the neighbouring manor of East
Cheam, complained in the king’s court against ‘William Winterworthe of West Morden, John
Spige, Thomas Carpenter, John Gildinge, John atte Ryve, John Carpenter, Richard Degun,
John Gay…, [John] Begeswell, Walter atte Hedge, Ralph Edward and Alan Bernger of East
Morden’ that ‘with force and arms they came upon, found and carried off two hundred sheep
of the Archbishop himself worth ten pounds at East Cheam and they came upon, found and
carried off his goods and chattels to the value of 100 shillings at the same place and inflicted
other enormities on him to the grave damage of the Archbishop himself and against the King’s
peace’.234

There are several references in the 1390s to disputes with Cheam tenants over grazing rights
in Sparrowfeld Common, and the sheep belonging to the Cheam tenants are frequently
mentioned in this regard (see page 178). Then in 1430 Thomas Cuddington, lord of the manor
of Cuddington, granted rights of pasture in Sparrowfeld for 60 cattle and horses and 100 sheep
to a London grocer who held from him a messuage and 100 acres of arable in Cuddington. The
section of Sparrowfeld where he was allowed to pasture them was between his messuage and a
gate called Cartersgate.235

A presentment was made at the Morden court in October 1469:236

default
amercement 2s

Likewise they present that Simon Cecely 2s overstocked the tenants’ common pasture
with 96 sheep and 18 oxen and bullocks to the nuisance of all the tenants at the same
place. Therefore he is in mercy.

Although Simon was not a direct tenant of the abbey’s manor, as the court was informed in
May 1470,237 we must consider the possibility that the Morden tenants who accumulated large
holdings similarly experimented with large scale pastoral farming, rather than continuing to
operate the mixed economy of mostly arable with some livestock. Richard Plaistowe certainly
had large numbers of livestock, bequeathing 57 ewes in his will of 1518, as well as 14 bullocks,
but in addition to his freehold in Morden [W] he held estates in Ewell, where he lived, and in
Merstham and Bletchingley, so his flocks and herds might not have been in Morden.238 John
Heryngman bequeathed 18 ewes, as well as some wheat, in 1571, but he had lands in Tooting,
in Croydon, and at Phipps Bridge in Mitcham, as well as his holdings in Morden.239 However, in
1536 William Leygh of Morden made bequests of 35 sheep, 6 cows, 2 heifers, 3 bullocks and 2
calves, as well as a hog, though he also bequeathed wheat, barley and oats, so he was practising
a mixed economy although with an emphasis on stock rearing.240 It is not known what lands he
occupied, but he left funds for ‘the mendyng of the way on this syd Hobbolles’, so it is possible
that he had succeeded William Teg as farmer there, though he also left money for ‘the mendyng
of Moordon Lane betwene my house and William Woodmans house where as moste nede ys’.
Woodman was sub-lessee of the Morden demesne farm of Monkton on the Morden Hall site,
so Leygh was not living at Hobalds far away in Lower Morden. Woodman, only bequeathed 3
lambs and a cow in livestock in 1539, but also some corn, again suggesting the traditional mixed
economy.241

We have seen that the labourer Nicholas Goryng had hired out at least four of his 10 kine to
various Merton farmers, but his 10 sheep were at hire with John Tyler, who appears regularly
in the Morden court rolls though his holding cannot be identified.242 We saw above (page 87),
that Tyler, or his father, was presented for removing his draught animals from the lord’s pound
in 1482, so it seems that he too was practising a mixed economy.243 Similarly, Nicholas Smyth,
who held the lease of Merton Priory’s Spital estate, made a point of ensuring that his son inherit
his whole team of plough oxen in 1558, indicating that he was still strongly involved in arable
production.244

POVERTY

We have seen above that William Leygh’s 1536 will stipulated ‘that there be given at my buriall
to poore people to pray for me 6s 8d’, while in 1558 John Frysbee bequeathed ‘unto the poore of
this towne 3s 4d to be bestowed at the discrestion of Goodman Smythe my landlord immediatly
after my decease’.245 Other non-resident testators similarly left money to the poor in their home
parishes, Richard Plaistowe in Ewell, John Holt in Tooting, Alice Lord in Westminster, and John
Parker in London, though William Porter was dismissive of the idea of the ‘calling of any comen
beggers to my buriall’, also in London.246

However, it is difficult to identify many Morden tenants in these categories.

In May 1299 Henry le Tracy, one of the brewers, was pardoned his 3d fine for breaking the assize
of ale ‘because poor [pauper]’.247 In April 1300 we read that ‘Richard atte Rithe head tithingman
comes and gives the lord nothing in order to be released from his office’, with the marginal
note ‘fine pardoned by the lord because a beggar [mendicans]’.248 The atte Rithe family held a
½-virgate tenement [T] in Lower Morden.

In 1386 Matilda Popsent’s heriot for her cottage [N2] was waived ‘because poor’, as we noted
above (page 90).249 In July 1397 Adam Tracy was excused his 2d amercement for defaulting in his
attendance at the View of frankpledge with the note ‘poor’ above his name, as were both Walter
atte Hegge and John Andrewe in May 1401.250 Walter held the family virgate tenement [H] until
his death in March 1403, though he had been described as ‘infirm’ [infirmus] at the court held
in November 1400.251 He was succeeded by his son Roger who by 1442 had built up a 70-acre
holding by taking on three other tenements in Lower Morden, so it does not seem that the
family was in poverty.252 John Andrewe is first noted in the court rolls in May 1380 when he was
sworn into the tithing, and he was granted a 10-year lease of Rykedons ½-virgate tenement [R]
in January 1392, which he continued to lease on a yearly basis until 1412.253 He was described
as ‘infirm’ in May and November 1402 and November 1404, as ‘sick’ [debilis] in November 1407
and again as ‘infirm’ in November 1411 and April 1412 and he disappears from the record after
May 1413.254

Similarly the tax assessment roll for alien subsidies in May 1440 describes Peter Clement as a
beggar and a non-householder in Morden.255 As we noted on pages 73-5, he was registered as an
alien, and there seems no reason not to identify him as the Peter Clement of Gascony [de Vascon]
who appears in the Morden court rolls between 1389 and 1447, buying and selling cottages and
crofts and brewing ale. His widow Joanna surrendered their last cottage in May 1454.256

Although it would be unwarranted to draw firm conclusions from such scanty evidence, the
impression is that, in these cases, poverty was linked to sickness and old age, and indicates a
dependence on others, either family or community. No doubt there were others in different
circumstances who also experienced poverty, or at least a lack of ready cash, at some stage of
their life, when it became impossible to maintain an acceptable standard of living.

STANDARDS OF LIVING IN MEDIEVAL MORDEN

Although extant documents were not designed to answer questions about the standard of living
of the tenant population of Morden, there are clues scattered among the sources which allow
indistinct glimpses into this topic.

The hanged man

Christopher Dyer has used data from manorial accounts, for Bishop’s Cleeve in Gloucestershire,
to build a model of peasant income and expenditure.257 We will attempt a similar exercise,
using his model, but substituting data from Morden. Of particular value are the references in
the Morden manorial accounts for 1306 to 1311 to John Schutte, who had been hanged for an
unspecified felony, his lands and chattels thereby becoming forfeit to Westminster Abbey as lord
of the manor (see page 46).

His hanging is mentioned several times in the Michaelmas 1306/07 accounts.258 We first meet
him in a note at the end of the income section: ‘Inquire about the chattels of John Schute hanged’.
In the Harvest costs account we are informed that a shortage of harvesters providing labour
services was partly because ‘the tenement of John Schutte, hanged, in the lord’s hand’. However,
there was no reduction in the rents received, as he had paid the final quarter’s rent at Midsummer
(see Livestock account below). The Harvest account concludes with the entry: ‘In reaping 4 acres
wheat, ½ acre rye, ½ acre barley, 2½ acres peas and vetches, 3½ acres oats of the tenement which
was John Schutte’s by piece-work 3s 7d, price of each of 10 acres 4d, price of one ½ acre barley 3d’.
No explanation is given about the remaining half acre.

The Livestock account has the following items:

Draught
horses

The same renders account for 4 draught horses from the remaining. And for 1 mare
received from the reeve of Echelford by tally. And for 1 mare of the chattels of John Shutte
hanged. Sum 6.

Of which

In murrain 1. In sale 1. Sum 2. And there remain 4, of which 1 is a mare.

Oxen

The same renders account for 18 oxen from the remaining. And for 1 ox of the chattels of
the said John. And for 1 of purchase. Sum 20.

Of which

In expenses as regards harvest boonworks 1 because weak and having falling disease [morbum
cadutum].259 In sale 3. Sum 4. And there remain 16.

Cows

The same renders account for 4 cows from the remaining. And for 3 of the chattels of the
said John, of which 1 after calving and 2 sterile and not in milk [nich lactand] received
about the feast of blessed John the Baptist. Sum 7. And there remain 7, of which 2 sterile
and not in milk.

The account ends with an inventory of the manor, to which is appended the statement: ‘Also 1
brass pot, 1 vat, 2 barrels, 1 chest, 1 ploughshare, 1 coulter, 1 plough with all other apparatus,
1 bushel measure of wood, 1 mortar and 1 small table, of the chattels of John Schutte, hanged’.

The next account, for Michaelmas 1307 to early January 1308, includes the following entries
under ‘Issues of the Grange’:260

Wheat

The same renders account for 32 quarters wheat, 6 quarters 3 bushels curall of the same
threshed by piece-work by 3 tallies. And for 6 bushels wheat, ½ quarter curall of issue of
the tenement of John Schutte, in the lord’s hand, threshed by piece-work by 1 tally. Sum
39 quarters 5 bushels.

Of which

In sowing over 70½ acres, 17 quarters 5 bushels, viz over the acre 2 bushels. In customary
payment to the sower 1 bushel. In making maslin for servants’ livery 5 quarters 3 bushels
curall. Also delivered to brother J de Wytteneye keeper of the granary of Westminster 11
quarters by 1 tally. In sale ½ quarter wheat, 1½ quarters curall. Sum 36 quarters 1 bushel.
And there remain 3½ quarters wheat.

Rye

The same renders account for 2 quarters 3 bushels rye threshed by piece-work by 2 tallies.
And for 6 bushels rye of issue of land of John Schutte, hanged, threshed by piece-work by
1 tally. Sum 3 quarters 1 bushel.

Of which

In sowing over 6 acres, 1½ quarters, viz over the acre 2 bushels. In making maslin for
servants’ livery 1 quarter 5 bushels. Sum as above. And none remains.

Barley

The same renders account for 6 bushels barley of issue of land of the aforesaid John
Schutte, threshed by piece-work by 1 tally.

Of which

In making maslin for servants’ livery 6 bushels. Sum as above. And none remains.

Peas

The same renders account for 2 quarters peas threshed by piece-work by 2 tallies. And for
2 quarters 7 bushels of issue of land of the aforesaid John Schutte, threshed by piece-work
by 2 tallies. Sum 4 quarters 7 bushels.

Of which

In making maslin for servants’ livery 3 quarters 7 bushels. In sale 1 quarter. Sum as above.
And none remains.

Oats

The same renders account for 3 quarters 2 bushels oats threshed by piece-work by 1 tally.
And for 3 quarters 5 bushels oats of issue of land of the aforesaid John Schutte, threshed
by piece-work by 1 tally. And for 1 quarter estimated in sheaves for ox fodder. And for 1½
quarters received from R serviens of Hampstead by tally. Sum 9 quarters 3 bushels.

Of which

In making meal 1 quarter. In fodder for 2 horses from Michaelmas until the Wednesday
after Epiphany for 103 nights, both days counted, 6 quarter 3½ bushels, taking per night ½
bushel. In fodder for oxen by estimation in sheaves 1 quarter. In expenses of brother Philip
de Sotton 2½ bushels by 1 tally. Sum 8 quarters 6 bushels. And there remain 5 bushels.

The Threshing section of the account confirms these totals.

There is no mention of Schutte in the accounts for January to Michaelmas 1308,261 and
disappointingly the accounts for the following two years are not extant, but the account for
Michaelmas 1310/11 has the following entries under ‘Issues of the Grange’:262

Wheat

3-fold less 5
quarters

The same renders account for 47 49 quarters 2 bushels wheat, 20 18 quarters 1 bushel
curall of the same threshed by piece-work by 1 tally. And for ½ quarter wheat, 3 quarters
drauk received of the goods of John Schutte fugitive. Sum 70 [quarters] 7 bushels.

Of which

In sowing over 92 acres, 23 quarters 1 bushel by tally, viz over the acre 2 bushels but
plus in total 1 bushel. In customary payment to the sower 1 bushel. In mixing with
rye for mixstillio seed ½ quarter curall. In household expenses in harvest 3 bushels.
In expenses as regards harvest boonworks 1 quarter ½ bushel. In livery of Robert the
serviens for the year except 6 weeks in harvest 5 quarters 6 bushels taking per week 1
bushel. In making maslin for servants’ livery 17 quarters 5 bushels curall. In expenses
of brother Philip de Sutton 1 bushel by tally. In sale 17 19 quarters 1½ bushels wheat, 2
quarters curall, 3 quarters drauk. Sum as above. And none remains.

Peas

4½-fold plus 3
bushels 1 peck

The same renders account for 24½ [quarters] peas threshed by piece-work by 1 tally.
And for ½ quarter received from the goods of John Schutte fugitive. Sum 25 quarters.

Of which

In sowing over 18 acres, 4½ quarters by tally, viz over the acre 2 bushels. In mixing with
beans for seed 1 quarter. In making maslin for servants’ livery 10½ quarters. In sale 9
quarters. Sum as above. And none remains.

Oats

increase of the
number of acres

The same renders account for 64½ quarters oats threshed by piece-work by 1 tally.
And for 12 quarters estimated in sheaves for ox and calf fodder. And for 4½ quarters
received from the goods of John Schutte fugitive. And for 4 quarters oats of issue at the
audit. Sum 81 quarters. 85 quarters

Of which

In sowing over 96 acres 48 quarters by tally, viz over the acre ½ quarter. In making
meal for the year 2½ quarters. In fodder for 2 carthorses from Michaelmas until the
day of St John before the Latin Gate for 219 nights, 13 quarter 5½ bushels, taking per
night ½ bushel. In fodder for oxen and calves by estimation in sheaves 12 quarters. In
expenses of brother Philip de Sutton 7½ bushels by 4 tallies. In expenses of W Bysschop
for holding courts 1 bushel by 2 tallies. In fodder for Roger atte Donne serviens for his
coming 1 quarter by tally. In sale 3 quarters. In sale at the audit 4 quarters 2 bushels for
12s 9d. Sum 81 quarters 2 bushels. as above And so he exceeds by 2 bushels.

Drauk or drawk was a weed found among cereal plants, such as darnel, cockle or wild oats, and
was probably normally used to supplement animal feed. There is no mention in this entry of
Schutte’s crops having been threshed, unlike the previous account, and his crops are not included

in the totals listed in the Threshing section, so it is likely that these were sold unthreshed. The
Corn sold entry reads:

The same renders account for 9s 6d [sic] for 1 quarter 1½ bushels of poor [debil] wheat sold
and for £7 1s 4d 19s for 16 quarters 18 quarters of poor wheat sold by order of brother Philip de
Sutton before Lent, price of a quarter 8s 10d. And for 9s for 2 quarters of curall wheat sold.
And for 6s for 3 quarters drank/drauk sold. And for 6s 3d for 1 quarter 2 bushels barley
sold. And for 40s 4d for 9 quarters peas sold, price of each of 3 quarters 4s, price of each of
2 quarters 4s 2d, price of the other 4 quarters 5s. And for 10s for 3 quarters dredge [drag’]
sold. And for 9s for 3 quarters oats sold.

As there were no reductions in rents over these years, it seems that Schutte’s holding quickly
found a new tenant. Thus it is unlikely that these crops were from the current harvest, though
it is possible that his growing crops had been sold to the incoming tenant, perhaps being paid
for by instalments over the three years 1308-11. This is the last entry concerning Schutte in the
manorial accounts, which continue without a break until Michaelmas 1314, so presumably his
crops had now all been accounted for.

There is another inventory at the end of this account, to which the following has been appended:
‘Likewise there remain of the chattels of John Schutte, hanged, 1 brass pot [olla], 1 vat [cumelin’],
2 barrels [barilli], 1 chest [cista], 1 bushel [measure] of no value [null’ valor’], 1 mortar
[mortarium], 1 small table, 2 moulds for making cheese, 2 buckets [boketti], 2 ladders [scale]’.
The buckets and ladders had not been mentioned previously, while the livestock and ploughing
equipment had presumably been absorbed into the manor’s stock or had been sold or otherwise
disposed of.

It is frustrating that the accounts for 1308/09 and 1309/10 are missing, as they would have given
us an insight into the yield of a peasant’s crops, a subject debated by scholars. Some argue that
peasant yields would be lower than demesne yields due to shortage of manure and marl, whereas
others suggest that peasants would invest more intensive family labour into maximising their
harvest, particularly by repeated weeding (though Schutte had 3 quarters of weeds at harvest),
than poorly-motivated demesne workers providing unpaid customary labour services or paid
by the acre.263 Schutte’s livestock would also have produced manure to enrich his few acres.

However, we do have information on yields for each of the crops on the Morden demesne lands
cultivated on behalf of the abbey, calculated after the deduction of tithes and of damaged or
spoiled crops, so these can be used for comparison with the partial information on Schutte’s crops.

Thus the net demesne yield per acre for the wheat harvested in 1307 and threshed in 1307/08 can
be calculated at 5.58 bushels per acre, barley at 11.76 bushels per acre, oats at 4.66 bushels per
acre, and legumes (peas, beans and vetches) at 12.36 bushels per acre.264 No rye was harvested
that year on the demesne, but the yield was generally higher than for wheat, the other autumn-
sown crop, and, in years where the wheat yield was comparable to that of 1307, the rye yield
ranged from 5.88 to 9.56 bushels per acre, so perhaps 7.5 would be a reasonable estimate for
Schutte’s rye crop.

On this basis, we might expect Schutte’s 4 acres to produce 2.79 quarters of wheat and curall, a
poor-quality wheat, his ½ acre of rye to produce 0.47 quarters, his ½ acre of barley 0.74 quarters,
his 2½ acres of peas and vetches 3.86 quarters, and his 3½ acres of oats 2.04 quarters.

In fact, the partial records inform us that, although his barley crop was at least around this level,
his rye was considerably more than predicted, producing at least 0.75 quarters. Even if no more
of these crops were threshed in the years for which no accounts have survived, his yield in each
case was 12 bushels per acre. His recorded harvest of peas and vetches was 3.375 quarters – a
yield of 10.8 bushels per acre, not far below the demesne yield. But there were still 4 bushels
remaining in 1310/11, so it is likely that some had been threshed in the missing years, bringing
his yield above the demesne level.

But it is his oat harvest that is the most surprising, with 8.125 quarters recorded, which would
reflect a yield of at least 18.57 bushels per acre. This is greater than the highest recorded demesne

yield, at 17.16 bushels per acre in 1290/91, noted as ’19 quarters more than sown’.265 As 4½
quarters of Schutte’s oats were still being accounted for in 1310/11, it seems likely that more were
entered in the missing accounts, bringing his yield even higher.

Similarly, his wheat crop was still being recorded in 1310/11, and quantities equivalent to the 6
bushels of 1307/08 were probably handled in the missing years, increasing his recorded harvest
to around 2.75 quarters of good wheat in addition to the recorded 4 bushels of curall, a total of
some 3.25 quarters. This would be equivalent to 6.5 bushels per acre, slightly higher than the
demesne yield that year, though the missing accounts may well have recorded further quantities
of both good wheat and curall.

The evidence, incomplete though it is, certainly suggests that Schutte’s yields were higher than
contemporary demesne yields and, even ignoring the drauk and possible unrecorded crops,
compare well with the highest recorded demesne yields (see table 4.7a).

Table 4.7a: John Schute’s yields per acre compared with demesne yields

[Italics represent probable figures in this and the following table]

John
Schutte’s
crops

1306-
1307

1307-
1308

1308-
1309

1309-
1310

1310-
1311

minimum

crops yields

demesne yields

1306-1307

highest demesne
yields

acres

quarters
threshed

quarters
threshed?

quarters
threshed?

quarters
received

quarters

bushels
/acre

bushels
/acre

=quarters

bushels
/acre

=quarters

wheat

4.00

0.750

0.75

0.75

0.50

2.750

}

6.50

5.58

2.79

11.38

5.69

curall

0.500

0.500

}

rye

0.50

0.750

0.750

12.00

5.50

0.34

16.00

1.00

barley

0.50

0.750

0.750

12.00

11.76

0.74

23.59

1.47

peas &
vetches

2.50

2.875

0.50

3.375

10.80

12.36

3.86

16.91

5.28

oats

3.50

3.625

4.50

8.125

18.57

4.66

2.04

16.38

7.17

drauk

3.00

3.000

TOTALS

11.00

9.250

0.75

0.75

8.50

19.25

9.77

20.62

In order to test the validity of the above figures, we can also compare the percentage yields per
bushel sown for Schutte’s recorded crops and for the demesne, using the seeding rate used on the
demesne at this period. On the Morden demesne, seed was sown at the rate of around 2 bushels
per acre for wheat, rye, and pulses such as peas and vetches, and at around 4 bushels per acre for
barley and oats.266

Table 4.7b: John Schute’s percentage yields per bushel sown compared with demesne yields

John
Schutte’s
crops

acres

sown

1306

seeding rate

(bushels/acre)

seed sown

(bushels)

minimum crop 1307

(bushels)

minimum
% yield
per bushel

demesne
% yield
1306-
1307

highest
demesne

% yields

wheat

4.0

2

8

26

325%

265%

680%

rye

0.5

2

1

6

600%

315%

569%

barley

0.5

4

2

6

300%

303%

505%

pea &
vetches

2.5

2

5

27

540%

504%

590%

oats

3.5

4

14

65

464%

100%

364%

This comparison confirms that Schutte’s yields considerably exceeded demesne yields that year
in all but barley, which was about equal, and his oats yield highlights the paucity of the demesne
yield – the second lowest recorded in extant manorial accounts.267

Having established that Schutte’s crops produced around 20 quarters of grain at the least, we
return to Professor Dyer’s model to investigate Schutte’s potential standard of living had he not
fallen foul of the law.

First, we must deduct seed corn for the coming year, using the demesne seeding rates noted
above. Thus, to produce the 1307 harvest, Schutte is likely to have sown 1 quarter of wheat, 1
bushel of rye, 2 bushels of barley, 5 bushels of mixed peas and vetches, and 1 quarter 6 bushels
of oats, a total of 3.75 quarters. But, had he lived, would he have sown the same acreage in the

following year, and would he have sown the same ratio of crops? In 1307 he had a total of 11
acres under crops, so he probably held a virgate of land, which in Morden was 20 acres of arable
land scattered in ¼-acre strips across the open fields each side of the lane now known as Lower
Morden Lane.

The Morden demesne land was cultivated under a three-year cycle, with autumn-sown crops
in approximately one-third of the available demesne arable land in any year, spring-sown crops
in another third, and the remainder left fallow.268 The next year the previous fallow lands were
ploughed and sown with autumn-sown crops – wheat and rye – while spring-sown crops –
barley, peas and vetches, and oats – were sown on the lands which previously had autumn-sown
crops, the lands formerly under spring-sown crops being left fallow. The cycle was completed
in the third year. Although the evidence indicates that the demesne land was not cultivated in
scattered strips alongside the tenant strips, but in consolidated blocks of land, it is likely that the
tenant land was organised in a similar three-year cycle.

But it is clear that Schutte planted more spring-sown crops than autumn-sown crops in 1306/07,
4½ acres of autumn-sown crops, and 6½ acres of spring-sown crops, leaving some 9 acres fallow.
(The drauk was not sown, but grew as weeds among the wheat.) It would appear that his arable
strips were not scattered equally among the three units of cultivation. There were three main
blocks of tenant arable land – in Old Mordens north of Lower Morden Lane between Bow Lane
and the London-Epsom Road; in Bowhill west of Bow Lane; and in the Southfeld south of
Lower Morden Lane. These open fields were of unequal area, though it is likely that the three-
year cycle was not restricted by this three-field arrangement but was organised within smaller
cropping areas within the three main fields – the furlongs.

In 1307/08 Schutte’s successor would have planted some 9 acres – the former fallow – with wheat
and rye, and only 4½ acres with spring-sown crops, leaving 6½ acres fallow. If he kept to roughly
the same proportions of each crop as Schutte had chosen – allowing for ¼-acre minima – he
would have needed to reserve for seed corn 16 bushels of wheat, 2 bushels of rye, 1 bushel of
barley, 3½ bushels of pulses, and 10 bushels of oats – a total of 4 quarters ½ bushel – 2½ bushels
more than the previous year. The following year would require even more spring-sown seed corn
(see table 4.7c).

Table 4.7c: John Schute’s crops sown

wheat

rye

barley

pea & vetches

oats

fallow

Total

seeding rate (bushels/acre)

2

2

4

2

4

sown acreage 1306-07

4.0

0.5

0.5

2.5

3.5

9.0

20

sown acreage 1307-08

8.0

1.0

0.5

2.0

2.5

6.0

20

sown acreage 1308-09

5.5

1.0

0.5

3.5

4.5

5.0

20

seed corn 1306-07 (bushels)

8

1

2

5

14

30.0

seed corn 1307-08 (bushels)

16

2

1

3.5

10

32.5

seed corn 1308-09 (bushels)

11

2

3

7

19

42

We have no information on the size of Schutte’s family, if any, but Dyer estimates that a typical
peasant family – of father, mother and three children under the age of 12 – would need a minimum
of 6 quarters 5 bushels of grain for food – bread and pottage – and a further 3 quarters to be
malted for brewing ale.269 His suggested diet is 2 quarters 2 bushels of wheat, 4 quarters of barley
and 3 bushels of oats for food, plus 3 quarters of barley for drink. Unless substantial additional
quantities of grain were recorded in the missing accounts, Schutte’s food grains from the harvest
of 1307 would have been insufficient, after seed corn was deducted, to support a family at this
level for the coming year. Even by substituting rye for wheat, there would be a shortfall of 1
quarter of wheat, while the barley fell far below the recommended level. Oats could be malted
instead of barley for brewing – Judith Bennett points out that oats were often preferred in the
13th century, and they were commonly used for demesne staff in Morden – and peas and vetches
could supplement oats in pottage – as in the demesne in 1281/82 and 1282/83 – but additional
bread corn would need to be purchased unless a reserve remained from the previous year.270

If the yields remained as high as in 1307, which is doubtful, the increased acreage under winter-
sown crops in 1307/08 would have produced enough food corn for the following year, and there
would have been sufficient oats for malting, but the third year of the cycle would again have a
slight shortfall of food corn, as shown in table 4.7d.

Table 4.7d: John Schute’s crops harvested

wheat

rye

barley

pea & vetches

oats

food corn

drink corn

yields (bushels/acre 1307)

6.5

12

12

10.8

18.57

produce 1307 (quarters)

3.250

0.750

0.750

3.375

8.125

less seed corn 1307-08 (quarters)

2.000

0.250

0.125

0.438

1.250

balance (quarters)

1.250

0.500

0.625

2.938

6.875

2.75

6.50

produce 1308 (quarters)

6.500

1.500

0.375

2.363

5.804

less seed corn 1308-09 (quarters)

1.375

0.250

0.375

0.875

2.375

balance (quarters)

5.125

1.250

0.000

1.488

3.429

6.75

3.05

produce 1309 (quarters)

4.469

1.500

1.125

4.725

11.027

less seed corn 1309-10 (=1306-07)

1.000

0.125

0.250

0.625

1.750

balance (quarters)

3.469

1.375

0.875

4.100

9.277

6.09

8.90

Average produce (quarters)

4.740

1.250

0.750

3.488

8.318

less average seed corn (quarters)

1.458

0.208

0.250

0.646

1.792

balance (quarters)

3.281

1.042

0.500

2.842

6.527

5.20

6.15

On average, over the three-year cycle, food corn would never reach Dyer’s suggested levels,
though there would be a surplus of oats. When one remembers that the corn would need to be
ground at the local mill, for which a toll of around ½4 of the grain would be charged, the surplus
shrinks even further.

As the acreage under each crop changed in each year of the cycle, we will use the three-year
average figures in our further investigations of our virgate-holder’s potential standard of living,
following Dyer’s model, though with adjustments to the balance of food corn. For convenience,
we will assume that the peas and vetches were all consumed by the household and their livestock,
and that the drauk was all sold, rather than consumed by livestock. We will also assume that only
oats were malted for ale, that all the wheat, rye and barley were eaten, and that the shortfall of
barley was purchased, though in reality a tenant might prefer to sell his better quality wheat
and buy cheaper grain for his bread. Table 4.7e tabulates the gradual decrease of grain, and the
saleable surplus of oats and drauk.

Table 4.7e: John Schute’s crops consumed and saleable surplus

CONSUMPTION

wheat

rye

barley

peas & vetches

oats

drauk

average annual produce
(quarters)

4.740

1.250

0.750

3.488

8.318

3.000

less average seed corn (quarters)

1.458

0.208

0.250

0.646

1.792

balance (quarters)

3.281

1.042

0.500

2.842

6.527

3.000

less food grain (quarters)

3.150

1.000

0.480

2.842

0.375

balance

0.131

0.042

0.020

0.000

6.152

3.000

less drink grain (quarters)

3.000

balance

0.131

0.042

0.020

0.000

3.152

3.000

less mill toll @ 1/24th

0.131

0.042

0.020

0.141

surplus for sale (quarters)

0.000

0.000

0.000

0.000

3.011

3.000

grain purchased? (quarters)

1.995

Dyer points out that possession of a bushel measure is indicative of marketing activities, though
presumably it would also be useful in measuring seed corn.271 We can again consult the demesne
accounts to discover the current prices at which oats and drauk were sold and barley purchased.
Table 4.7f includes prices of all the crops for completeness.

Table 4.7f: Value of John Schute’s surplus crops

CONSUMPTION

wheat

rye

barley

peas & vetches

oats

drauk

total

surplus grain for sale (quarters)

0.000

0.000

0.000

0.000

3.011

3.000

0.000

grain purchased? (quarters)

1.995

price per quarter 1307/08 (pence)

64

56

48

36

30

24

income from grain sales (pence)

0.00

0.00

0.00

0.00

90.33

72.00

162.33

less purchase of grain (pence)

95.76

95.76

net income from grain sales (pence)

66.57

Thus, over a three-year period, the tenant of Schutte’s virgate could potentially feed a family of five
and raise an average of 5s 6½d each year from surplus grain. As well as arable strips, he would have
a small allocation in the common meadow, which would be mown in June to provide hay for the
livestock, but it is unlikely that the hay would have been sold. However, following the Black Death
in 1349, the hay from 1½ acres of meadow appurtenant to a 30-acre customary holding was sold
for 1s 6d towards payment of outstanding rent from the deceased tenant.272 Customary tenants
also had rights in the common pasture of Sparrowfeld, on the west of the Pyl brook, enabling them
to pasture livestock and to collect fallen branches and undergrowth for firewood or for fencing
and minor repairs to house or equipment, but again there was no financial gain from these rights,
except where tenants charged for illegally pasturing livestock belonging to non-tenants.

In addition we know that Schutte had three cows which would provide dairy produce and
calves, though two of his cows were ‘sterile and not in milk’. At this time the demesne dairy
herd was leased ‘at farm’ for 5 shillings a cow, the dairy farmer taking the calves and dairy
produce for his profit.273 Had all three cows been productive, Schutte could have made a further
15 shillings a year from this source, though in fact he would only have made 5 shillings from his
one productive cow. However, he would have to pay tithe (10%) on this to the vicar – 6d – and,
in addition, Dyer tells us that the family diet would require cheese worth about 3s 4d a year, so
we will only add 14d to the above income, bringing it up to 6s 8½d. Schutte had neither pigs nor
sheep, which was in line with demesne policy at this period.274 Surprisingly, no mention is made
of Schutte having had any poultry, which would have added eggs as well as meat to the diet and
perhaps contributed a few pence through sales.

Among Schutte’s forfeited chattels were a brass pot, a vat and two barrels, evidence of brewing,
another possible source of occasional additional income. In October 1298 John Chutte senior,
perhaps the hanged man or his father, was among the brewers presented at the manorial court
for ‘breaking the assize’ of ale, and was amerced 4d – a form of licensing (see chapter 8) – but
this is the only extant reference to a member of this family brewing.275

Perhaps some garden produce might be sold to earn a few extra pennies, or craft skills put to
profitable use. A tenant’s wife could also earn money during the year, perhaps by ‘pruning vines’
on the demesne for 8 days at ¼d a day, or by ‘cleaning wheat for sowing’ at ¾d a day for 20
days.276 Their children might get work as a bird-scarer for two weeks during seedtime, earning a
total of 2d plus a bushel of maslin (mixed grains). But let us see how far the basic 6s 8½d would
go in meeting the everyday needs of a virgate tenant.

The first demand on a tenant’s cash was for rent, at 2 shillings a year for a 20-acre customary
virgate holding. In addition, he had to pay other cash dues to the lord of the manor – tallage (a
form of manorial tax), medsilver (in lieu of mowing the hay meadows), and common fine (to
cover the expenses of the annual View of frankpledge (see page 33)). Table 4.7g shows that this
would consume 2s 7¼d, leaving 4s 1¼d.

Table 4.7g: John Schute’s manorial expenses in cash

MANORIAL EXPENSES

s

d

rent pa for 1 virgate (20 acres)

2

0

tallage

medsilver

2

common fine

1

TOTAL

2

In addition to these fixed payments, tenants were frequently amerced a penny or two at the
manorial court for any infringements of its jurisdiction. We have seen in chapter 2 that members
of the Schutte family were frequent offenders, but we will merely deduct the odd 1¼d, leaving
4 shillings.

The church also made further demands, over and above tithe on corn. A hay tithe was also
payable to the vicar but, as with the corn, this would have been collected at source, so never
passed through the tenant’s hands. A valuation of the vicar’s income in 1535 also mentions
‘small tithes’ on wood, hemp, beans, wool, lambs, calves, dairy produce, colts, piglets,
goslings, eggs, bees, honey, wax, apples, pears and pearmains, and personal tithes, together
valued at 57s 7d.277 It is significant that only one ox from Schutte’s stock was forfeited to
the abbey; a pair of oxen would be the minimum to power a plough, probably assisted by
the mare, so it is likely that the other ox was claimed by the vicar as ‘mortuary’. In addition,
the vicar was entitled to ‘all offerings at the altar and all kinds of oblations made at masses,
confessions, etc’. In 1535 oblations are mentioned on the four ‘principal days’ – Christmas,
Easter, Whitsun and the Assumption of the Virgin – plus Candlemas and Good Friday
– totalling 9s 4d from the whole parish.278 Dyer suggests allowing some 2 shillings per
household for these dues.

Unless we have seriously underestimated Schutte’s harvest, we are left with 2 shillings
to meet all the other costs of living – salt for cheese-making, ironwork for the plough,
clothes, shoes, and other basic necessities. However, there were other manorial obligations
which could involve additional cash payments – he was required to provide a hurdle for
the demesne sheepfold each year, or to pay ½d instead, and to render a number of unpaid
labour services on the demesne. If any of these services were not required by the demesne
manager during the year, the tenant would be charged the cash equivalent, as set out in
table 4.7h, a possible further 3s 3d, though before the Black Death harvest works were never
commuted to a cash payment.

Table 4.7h: John Schute’s manorial expenses if labour services commuted
s

d

1 hurdle @ ½d

40 winter works @ ½d

1

8

8 harvest works @ 1½d

1

0

4 carrying services @ ¾d

3

shearing @ ½d

3 dung carryings @ ½d

ploughing @ 1½d

TOTAL

3

3

Although Schutte and his neighbours would have been irked by having to do these unpaid labour
services on the demesne, they would have been just as unwilling to pay for the privilege of not
performing some of them. The 3s 3d at which the abbey valued his labour would be needed
to make ends meet at home, especially in years of poor harvest. Perhaps it is not a surprise
that Schutte apparently turned to crime and met his end on the hangman’s rope. One can only
wonder how the three tenants of half-virgate holdings (10 acres) managed, particularly in the
famine years which affected the whole country from 1315 to 1317.

The harvest workers

In addition to the eight days of unpaid harvesting, tenants were required to perform ‘boonworks’
on five or six further days during harvest, at which they received a food allowance. The 1312
Extent or valuation of the manor explains that, at that date, tenants were obliged to attend three
boonworks at which food and ale was provided ‘at 2 meals per day, namely at midday and supper’,
and a further two days called ‘dry boonworks’ at which food, but no ale, was ‘provided by the
lord once a day’.279 Until 1296 there had also been a ‘love boon’ at which both food and ale were
provided.

Up to 1325 the manorial accounts detail the ale, bread, cheese, fish and bacon and other meat
taken or made from stock or purchased, which enables us to investigate the proportions, and
sometimes the quantities, involved. Bread and fish were provided at the two dry boonworks,
bread, meat, cheese, fish and ale at the other three boonworks, and bread, meat, cheese and
ale at the love boon. This was unlikely to represent the standard fare that a peasant would eat
throughout the year, as estate managers would want to ensure that the workers could keep up the
pace in a task that demanded hard labour over long hours, often in a race against the weather.
Thus the bread provided was normally some two-thirds wheat and one-third rye, rather than
the cheaper barley or rye bread commonly eaten, and from 1313 only wheat was used, then
considered to be the highest quality bread.280 When the ale was brewed ‘in house’, both barley
and oats were used for malting, with the occasional addition of wheat or multure from the mill.

The tenants were joined at these meals by the full-time staff of the manor (see below), who
supervised the teams of workers – though, until the mid-1320s, the ‘management’, some specially
hired for the harvest, were catered for separately ‘at table’, served by the dairymaid, who also
shared in the meal. At the end of harvest the manorial staff, including the temporary harvest
supervisors and key local figures such as the millers and smiths, shared in a celebration meal
known as ‘harvest goose’ [repgos].

Thus the accounts covering the harvest of 1288 have the following entry under Harvest costs:281

Harvest costs

Also in fish bought for the use of 24 men for 2 days at 2 dry boonworks in harvest 8d. In
fish for the use of 72 men at 3 boonworks 2s 4d. In meat bought for the same 2s. In bread
bought for 1 of the same for making broth 1d. In tallow for candles 3d. In ale bought for
the use of 34 men at 1 love-boon 15d. In ale bought for the use of the serviens, 1 reap-
reeve, beadle and dairy worker being at table for 5 weeks in harvest for part 2s 3d. In meat
bought for the use of the same 18d. In fish for the same 20d. In expenses of the same with
expenses of 6 household servants, 2 millers, 1 stacker and 1 smith for ‘harvest goose’ 21d.
Also in reaping 3 acres 3 roods rye by piece-work 14d, viz per acre 3¾d. In reaping 46½
acres wheat, 12 acres curall wheat, 18 acres oats 25s 6d, viz per acre 4d. Also in reaping 10
acres peas and vetches 4s 2d, viz per acre 5d. In reaping 3 acres barley 18d. In hiring 1 cart
for 1 day for carrying corn 4d. In stipend of 1 stacker in harvest 3s. Sum 49s 5d.

(This is the only reference to broth [mortrellus] in extant Morden accounts.) The Wheat account
includes the entry ‘In expenses as regards 6 harvest boonworks 2 quarters 6 bushels; in expenses
of household in harvest 1 quarter 2 bushels’; the Rye account records ‘In expenses as regards
harvest boonwork 1 quarter 5 bushel’ (and continues ‘In baking for reaping corn by piece-work
2 bushels’, a regular entry, but we are not concerned here with piece-work); the Barley account
reads ‘The same renders account for 2 quarters barley of the remaining; and accounted in making
malt, and none remains’; the Oats account includes ‘In making malt 2 quarters’; while the Malt
account has ‘In expenses as regards harvest boonworks 3½ quarters; in household expenses in
harvest 1 quarter’. Under the Stock account, the Cheese section includes ‘in expenses as regards
harvest boonworks … 1½ quarters [quartrona]; in household expenses in harvest … ½ quarter’;
while the Larder entry has ‘In expenses as regards harvest boonworks 3 bacons and ½ ham; in
household expenses in harvest 1 bacon’ – a ham [perna] being half a bacon [baco] or salted pig
carcase. The ‘household expenses’ were for the management eating ‘at table’.

It would appear that the 72 men were obliged to attend all three boonworks, making 216 man-
days, and the 24 men at both dry boonworks, so 48 man-days, whereas the love boon seems to
be a single day, so the 34 men were individuals. It is nowhere stated whether one or two meals
were provided at the love boon, but it seems reasonable to assume two, which would mean that
the wheat provided 10 meals while the malt was for 8 meals.

In the next extant account, for 1290/91, more meat had to be purchased, as recorded in the
Harvest costs entry:282

Also in fish bought for the use of 24 men reaping at 2 dry boonworks 9d by tally. In
fish bought for the use of 72 men at 3 boonworks 2s 4d by the same tally. In meat bought
for the same 4s by the same tally. In meat bought for the use of 56 men at 1 love-boon 20d by the
same tally. In meat bought for the use of the serviens, reap-reeve, beadle and dairy
worker from the Sunday before the feast of blessed Peter ad Vincula [29 Jul 1291]
until the Sunday after the Exaltation of Holy Cross [16 Sep 1291] for 7 weeks 4s by the
same tally. In fish bought for the use of the same 2s 3d because he has the rest from
the bailiff. In expenses of the 4 aforesaid, a smith, 2 millers, 8 household servants for
‘harvest goose’ 22½d without tally. In tallow bought for candles 3d without tally. In
reaping 5 acres wheat, 6½ acres rye, 8 acres 1 rood beans, peas and vetches, 24 acres
oats by piece-work 14s 7d, price of an acre 4d. Sum 31s 8½d.

This was because there were only 2 bacons in the larder, ‘of which in expenses as regards harvest
boonworks 1½ bacons; in household expenses in harvest 1 ham’. (After 1295 no bacon came
from stock, though a sick ox was slaughtered for meat for the harvest of 1307).283 Cheese was
as previously, though in the next few years cheese supplies from stock regularly fell from 1½ to
1 quarter-wey in weight at boonworks. The total amount of malt was unchanged, though those
at table received 1½ quarters instead of 1 quarter, while the allocation to those in the fields
dropped from 3½ to 3 quarters, in spite of the fact that no ale was purchased for the love boon,
which 22 more people attended than in 1288. The Wheat account notes ‘In expenses as regards
6 harvest boonworks 2 quarters by tally; in expenses of household in harvest 1 quarter 6 bushels
by the same tally’, while the Rye account mentions ‘In expenses as regards the harvest boonwork
1 quarter 2 bushels by tally; in expenses of household in harvest 2 bushels by the same tally’.
There is no record in the account of how much fish the bailiff had supplied, but in later accounts
(see below: 1353 rectory account) full details are given of such provisions, so that the account
could be balanced. (Deletions and insertions are evidence of the auditing process, which gives
us confidence that these were real figures, not mere tokens.)

In 1305 more precision is used with regard to the managers eating ‘at table’, with some present
for 8½ weeks, others for only 5 weeks, one for just one week, while some visitors from the abbey
only spent a day or so here, and it is possible that the previous entries give a false impression of
the exact numbers each day:284

Harvest
costs

allow this section
[capitul’] by
witness of brother
Reymund the
bailiff

Henceforth malt
to be made an
expense of the
harvest

In fish bought for the use of 23 men reaping at 2 dry boonworks in harvest by custom 14d.
So little this year because 1 man was reeve. And they reaped 10 acres oats, 7½ acres barley.
In fish bought for the use of 73 men with the household servants at 3 boonworks 3s. So
little this year because 1 man was reeve. In meat bought for the same 6s. In ale bought for
the same 15s. And they reaped 71 acres 1 rood wheat, 6½ acres rye, 1 acre 3 roods barley,
1 acre beans, 20 acres 1 rood oats. And note that [customary] labourers reaped 25 acres
wheat, 20 acres oats and 3 acres beans. In reaping 10 acres oats by piece-work 3s 4d, price
of an acre 4d. In mowing 6½ acres peas and vetches by piece-work 2s 2d, price of an acre
4d because the rest of no value. In meat bought for the use of Thomas the serviens for 4
comings, the reeve and 1 dairy worker for 8½ weeks and 1 reap-reeve for 5 weeks, brother
Reymund for 3 days, brother Laurence of Benflete and one of his fellows for 1 day at the
expense of the house and 1 forker for 7 days because no beadle 5s 6d. In ale bought for the
same 6s. In fish bought for the same 3s 10d. In expenses of the 4 aforesaid, 6 household
servants, 1 stacker, 1 smith and 2 millers for ‘harvest goose’ 21d. In candles bought 3d. In
stipend of 1 forker for 7 days 7d because no beadle. Sum 48s 7d.

The Stock account on the dorse of the account roll gives the following information regarding
items produced on the demesne:

Wheat

In household expenses in harvest ½ quarter wheat, ½ quarter curall because nothing in
rye. In expenses as regards harvest boonworks 1 quarter 1 bushel.

Rye

In household expenses in harvest, nothing because in curall wheat. In expenses as
regards harvest boonworks 1 quarter 2 bushels.

Cheese

In expenses as regards harvest boonworks … 1 quarter. In household expenses in
harvest … ½ quarter.

No malt was made this year, and it ceased to be produced on the demesne from 1308, so thereafter
all the ale was purchased, while cheese had to be bought from 1311, when the dairy was leased
‘at farm’. So the 1311 account reads:285

Harvest
costs

In fish bought for the use of 24 men reaping at 2 dry boonworks by custom in harvest 14d.
And they reaped 8½ acres wheat 6 acres mixtillio, 2 acres barley, 4 acres 3 roods beans.
In fish bought for the use of 70 men reaping with the household servants at 2 boonworks
because 2 men were in default at both boonworks, 78 men at the third boonwork with the
same servants 2s 6¼d. In meat bought for the same 13s 4d.10s In ale bought for the same
18s.12s In cheese bought for the same because the dairy is at farm 2s 8d. And they reaped
30 acres wheat, 40 acres oats. And note that [customary] labourers reaped 48 acres wheat.
In reaping 5½ acres wheat, 7 acres dredge, 34 acres oats by piece-work 17s 5¼d, the price
of an acre 4½d. In reaping 16½ acres barley, 22½ acres beans and peas by piece-work
19s 6d, viz per acre 6d. And so they have a gain in the total reaping of ½ acre barley, 1
rood peas and 2 acres oats. In meat bought for the use of Roger atte Donne serviens for 3
comings, Robert the serviens, the beadle and dairyworker for 6 weeks, 1 reap-reeve and 1
stacker for 5½ weeks 4s 8d. In ale bought for the same 5s. In fish bought for the same 2s.
In cheese bought for the same 14d. In expenses of the 6 aforesaid, 6 household servants
and 1 smith for ‘harvest goose’ 19½d. In candles bought 4d. Sum £4 10s 5d.1d

The Corn bought account includes the entry ‘In 1 quarter 7 bushels rye bought for household
expenses in harvest 7s 6d price of a quarter 4s. Sum 7s 6d.’, while the dorse includes ‘Wheat: In
household expenses in harvest 3 bushels. In expenses as regards harvest boonworks 1 quarter
½ bushel. Rye: In household expenses in harvest 3 bushels. In expenses as regards harvest
boonworks 1 quarter 1½ bushels.’

In 1323 we are informed of a dearth [caristia] of ale, and there is no further mention of a maid
in connection with the managers eating ‘at table’:286

Harvest
costs

In fish bought for the expenses of 24 men reaping at 2 dry boonworks 14d.12d And they
reaped 15 acres oats. In fish bought for the expenses of 72 men with the household
servants at 2 boonworks and 78 men at 1 boonwork 2s 8d. In meat bought for the same
10s. In ale bought for the same 15s.14s this year because of dearth In cheese bought for the same
2s 6d. And they reaped 64 acres wheat, 4 acres mixstillio, 12 acres oats. And note that
[customary] labourers reaped 7 acres beans, 4 acres barley, 18 acres oats. In reaping 16
acres oats, 7 acres peas and vetches by piece-work 9s 7d, viz per acre 5d. In ale bought
for the expenses of the reeve, beadle from 1 August until Michaelmas, 1 reap-reeve, 1
stacker in harvest for 6 weeks 6s 8d.6d In meat bought for the same 6s. In fish for the
same 2s 6d. In cheese for the same 15d. In candles bought 4d. In expenses for ‘harvest
goose’ 19½d. Sum 59s 3½d.57s 11½d

The dorse includes ‘Wheat: In expenses at boonworks in harvest 1 quarter 1 bushel. In household
expenses in harvest 4 bushels. Mixstillio: In expenses concerning boonworks in harvest 1 quarter
2 bushels.4 bushels. So much this year by grace.’ Mixstillio was a mixed crop of wheat and rye, and this was the
last occasion that rye was provided, all future bread being entirely of wheat.

From 1328 a budget was set, at the rate of ¼d per head for fish at dry boonworks, and at the non-dry
boonworks at ¾d per head for companagium (‘that which was eaten with the bread’ – cheese, fish,
bacon or other meat), with an ale allowance at ½d per head. Bread was still provided from stock, with
a regular allocation of 9 bushels of wheat until 1347. Thus the Harvest costs entry for 1330 reads:287

Harvest
costs

In fish bought for 32 men bread from stock as on the outside deducting reeve at 2 dry boonworks
8d. per head ¼d And note that they reaped 18 acres wheat. In expenses of 170 men both
free and customary during 1 day reckoning 36 men of household servants and
others supervising for the same day, bread from stock. In ale bought 10s 7d. 8s 7d, for each
½d In companagium 12s 10½d, per head ¾d. And note that they reaped 43½ acres
wheat, 21 acres.oats And customary labourers reaped 44 acres oats. In reaping 5 acres
mixstillio, 5 acres barley, 2 acres beans, 13 acres peas, 5 acres oats by piece-work 12s
6d, per acre 5d. In expenses of reeve and beadle from 1st August until Michaelmas,
1 reap-reeve, 1 stacker, for 5 weeks at harvest 16s. In candles 4d. In expenses for
‘harvest goose’ 19½d. Sum 54s 7d.

The total labour force at each kind of boonwork is now given, as though for a single day, rather than
the numbers attending each day. The 12 supervisors at each of the three non-dry boonworks brought
that total up to 206. The 1312 Extent had identified a total workforce of 36 obliged to attend over the
two days of dry boonworks and 166 over the other three days, excluding the supervisors.288 When
the demesne was managed by a customary tenant – the reeve – his management responsibilities
released him from the five days he would normally owe, which brings the figures very close to
the 1330 workforce. The totals for 1288 and 1291 seem to have been larger, though they probably
included the supervisors. However, a couple of smallholders in 1312 owed ‘at each of 2 boonworks
1 man and at the third boonwork 2 men’, so it is possible that a similar requirement to provide an
extra man had been demanded of other tenants at the earlier period.289

From 1320/21 the final entries on the dorse of the account roll accounted for the labour services
due from the tenants, though it was not until 1324/25 that it was felt necessary to record harvest
works in this way, as all were used. The 1329/30 roll is damaged, so is of limited use to us as we
do not know how many of the 202 boonworks were remitted:

[Harvest
works]

For 104 works from 13 customary tenants between 1st August and Michaelmas. And
from boonwork of Christina atte Rithe 1. Sum 104.

In allowance to reeve 8. In allowance to Robert atte Rithe, beadle, 8. In reaping corn
89. […]

Boonworks

For 69 boonworks from free tenants, with the lord’s food twice a day. And for 133
boonworks from customary tenants. Sum 202.

And [… ]

Certainly the reeve would be otherwise occupied, and it seems likely from the Harvest costs
entry that the total work force was 206 including the demesne staff and other supervisors. The
1343 entries mention 204 boonworks, including the reeve’s, and the Wheat account mentions
205 men receiving bread, so it is not entirely clear whether the 32 supervisors were included in
this total, or were additional (we will assume 233 in total in Table 4.8g below, page 120):290

Harvest
costs

Also in reaping and binding 43 42 acres 1 3 roods wheat, rye, pulses, barley and oats
by piece-work, of which 24 acres 1 rood oats, 16s 3¼d, and so for gain 6 acres 1 rood
giving per acre wheat, rye, pulses and barley 6d and per acre oats 5d. And customary
tenants reaped between 1 August and Michaelmas 48½ acres wheat and oats for which
reaping they received nothing. In expenses of 204 workers both free and customary
at 3 boonworks in harvest as though for 1 day together with expenses of 32 men sent
out with rods to superintend reapers who reaped 70 acres of corn of every kind; in
bread nothing here because claimed; in ale bought for the same 9s 10d, viz for each
of them ½d; in meat and fish bought for the same 14s 9d, viz for each of them ¾d.
Also in expenses of 33 30 customary tenants at 2 dry boonworks, who reaped 12 acres
of whichever corn, 8¼d, 7½d viz for each of them ¼d. In 2 lb of candles bought 4d. In
stipend of 1 reap-reeve in harvest 3s. In stipend of 1 stacker in harvest 3s. In servants’
expenses for their ‘harvest goose’ 18d. Sum 49s 3¾d.

Wheat

In livery of 1 reap-reeve for 4 weeks in harvest 4 bushels. In livery of 1 reeve between 1st
August and Michaelmas 1 quarter. In livery of 1 stacker for 4 weeks in harvest 4 bushels.
In bread baked for expenses of 205 men at 5 boonworks in harvest 1 quarter 1 bushel.

Harvest
works

The same answers for 105 harvest works arising from the said customary tenants
between 1 August and Michaelmas, with 1 work from Christina atte Rithe, the price of
a work 1½d. Sum 105.

Of which in allowance of works to reeve 8 works. And in reaping and binding 48½
acres wheat and oats 97 works, viz over the acre 2 works by custom. Sum as above. And
it balances.

[Harvest
boonworks
with lord’s
food]

The same answers for 69 harvest boonworks arising from free tenants at the reaping and
binding of the lord’s corn with the lord’s food twice in a day. And for 133 boonworks
arising from the aforesaid 13 customary tenants with the lord’s food as above. And for
2 boonworks arising from Walter Welde and William atte Thorne, the price of a work
½d. Sum 204 boonworks.

Of which in allowance of boonworks to reeve 3. And in reaping and binding 70 acres
corn of every kind 201 boonworks, viz over the acre 3 boonworks minus in total 9
boonworks. Sum as above. And it balances.

Dry
boonworks

The same answers for 33 harvest boonworks arising from the said customary tenants of
which 13 arise from free tenants, price of a boonwork 1d. Sum 33 boonworks.

1d

Of which in allowance of boonworks to reeve 2. In reaping and binding 12 acres of
whichever corn 31 30 works, viz over the acre 2½ works plus 1 work. In sale [at the
audit] 1. Sum as above. And it balances.

From the arrival of plague in 1349, until the demesne was leased ‘at farm’ in 1359, bread and
companagium were purchased at 1d per head for dry boonworks, while 2 loaves were purchased
for 1d at other boonworks, one each ‘at noon and at supper’, though the ¾d per head was
unchanged for ‘meat and fish’ and the ale allowance remained at ½d per head. This is the first
time since 1312 that two meals for non-dry boonworks are mentioned, and this continues to be
noted to 1358. Thus the entry for the 1353 harvest reads:291

Harvest costs

Also in reaping and binding 76 acres 2½ roods corn by piecework 63s 10d, for each
acre 10d. In expenses of 79 men both free and servile at 3 boonworks as though for 1
day together with expenses of 1 man over them with the rod to superintend reapers
who reaped this year 27 acres wheat and oats, 6s 8d, each of them at noon and at
supper 2 loaves, price 1d; in ale bought for the same 3s 4d, each of them ½d; in meat
and fish bought for the same 5s, to each of them ¾d. In expenses of 13 men reaping
and binding at 2 dry boonworks, who reaped this year 4½ acres corn 13d, each of
them in bread and companagium 1d. In 2 1 lb of candles bought 4d.2d In stipend of 1
reap-reeve in harvest 4s. For stipend of 1 stacker nothing here because in the Rectory.
Also in expenses of the reeve and reap-reeve in harvest beyond their fixed livery 18d.
In servants’ expenses for their ‘harvest goose’ at the end of harvest 18d. In 1 horse
hired at Hendon for the cart in harvest by letter of the bailiff 2s. Sum £4 3s 7d.

The year 1353 also has a particularly detailed account for ‘the rectory’ – the tithe corn owed by
parishioners to the rector which the abbey received because of a grant in 1301. This covered corn
from the whole parish of Morden, including those Ravensbury lands that lay within Morden
(here called ‘Estbury’) and the Spital and Hobalds estates belonging to Merton Priory – not just
the abbey’s manor (here called Westbury):292

Harvest costs

Also in expenses of 7 6 men in harvest, viz. 1 rider [equitator], 2 1 tithe collector, 1 carter, 1
pitcher, 1 stacker both at the manor and at the rectory, and 1 cellarer [claviger] and cook,
in bread baked 3 quarters 4 bushels wheat. Also in ale malt 2 quarters 2 bushels barley
malt. In 76 60 gallons ale bought besides malt brewed 9s 6d, 7s 6d price of a gallon 1½d. In
1 bushel oatmeal bought 18d.16d In meat – beef, pork and mutton – bought 12s 4d. 9s 8d In
salted fish bought and mackerel 8s 4d.5s 4d In cheese, butter and milk bought 6s 6d.5s In
3lb wax bought for boonworks at Estbury and manor of Morden 18d. In 3lb of candles
bought 6d. In gratuities given to various men of the vill viz at Estbury 3s, at the court of
the hospital of Morden 12d. Also manor of Westbery 8d. In 1 bushel salt bought 8d.6d In
6 dishes bought, 4 dishes, 4 saucers and 2 bowls bought 10d. In horseshoes bought with
fitting said shoes nothing here. In clouts bought with spike-nails nothing here. In grease
bought for greasing carts 6d.4d In 1 cart hired for 4 days in harvest 4s. Sum 36s 8d [sic].

The thoroughness of the auditors can be seen here – challenging staff numbers, quantities
purchased and prices, and deleting unauthorised expenditure. The account covered the period 1
August to 29 September – 8 weeks and 4 days – though a note on the dorse of the account states
that the harvest itself only lasted for 7 weeks. The Foreign receipts section of the account reveals
that the fish had come from the abbey’s manor in Battersea:

Foreign
receipts

The same answers for 40s received from Robert Broun serviens of Battersea by 1 tally. And
for 40s received from brother R Merstone bailiff by 1 tally. And for 5s 4d received from
the same Robert Broun in 4 salted fish and 60 mackerel. Sum 45s 4d.

No charge would have been made for the fish, but their value had to be noted in both the
income and the expenditure sections of the account to enable reconciliation. At first glance, the
contemporary manor account seems to explain the origin and quality of the beef:293

Livestock
sold

The same answers for 13s 4d 24s 10d for 2 old oxen sold of which 1 is priced 10s and slaughtered for
expenses at the Rectory and … carcase …3s 4d of which 1 old and infirm in the month of August.

However, it was only the cash raised from the sale of the meat that was sent to the rectory, not
the meat itself, as noted in the Foreign receipts section of the rectory account – ‘And for 40s
received from brother R Merstone bailiff by 1 tally’. The next rectory account lists the following
issue of tithe corn: 16 quarters 3 bushels wheat, 1 quarter 4 bushels rye, 1 quarter peas, 1 quarter
vetches, 11 quarters 1 bushel barley, 10 quarters 2 bushels oats.294 The predominance of wheat,
barley and oats contrasts with the ratio of crops that John Schutte had grown some 50 years
before (see above).

Each of the manorial accounts also mentioned the wages paid to those harvesters employed by
piecework, at so many pence an acre, together with an allowance of bread baked from 2 bushels
of rye – some 93lb of bread (see below). On some estates, though not at Morden, such employees
received substantial food allowances in addition to cash, and Christopher Dyer has used such
lists to investigate the diet of the workers.295 Once again, we will attempt to apply his models to
the Morden boonwork data.

First, we will compare the cost per head, in pence (d), per meal at the dates extracted above. The
costs of items purchased are straightforward, but for items taken from stock we need to use the
prices mentioned in other sections of the account roll, for corn, malt, bacon or cheese sold for
cash, or for items ‘charged at the audit’ – a fictitious sale to account for items disallowed by the
auditors. The stock sections of the accounts group ‘expenses as regards boonworks’ together,
without differentiating between the different days, so we have no choice but to assume that
the stock was shared equally among each, except of course for the malt, which was not brewed
for dry boonworks. The church’s requirement that meat was not to be eaten on Fridays and
Saturdays probably explains why the two dry boonworks were of bread and fish only. Also, we
must assume that all the various foods were consumed at each meal, although it is likely that
bacon was served on one day and the other meat on another day. The range of cheese and fish
as well as meat on the other days might indicate different menus for midday and evening meals
(see the section on ‘delivery men’ p.123). This would probably even out the costs of individual
portions at the 1288 boonworks and love boon below.

Table 4.8a: Costs per head per harvest meal 1288

1288

all boonworks

price

2 Dry:

3 Boons

Love boon

Cost/ head/ meal (d)

days

2

3

1

man-days *

48

216

34

meals/day

1

2

2

portions (man-days x meals)

48

432

68

from stock

(d)

(d)

(d)

(d)

dry

boons

love

bread wheat

22 bushels

3.00

5.78

52.03

8.19

0.12

0.12

0.12

bread rye

13 bushels

2.50

2.85

25.62

4.03

0.06

0.06

0.06

fish

8.00

0.17

0.00

0.00

fish

28.00

0.00

0.06

0.00

meat

24.00

0.00

0.06

0.00

bacon (whole pig)

3.25 bacons

24.00

67.39

10.61

0.00

0.16

0.16

cheese

1.5 quarters

25.50

33.05

5.20

0.00

0.08

0.08

ale

15.00

0.00

0.00

0.22

malt

28 bushels

6.42

155.23

24.43

0.00

0.36

0.36

TOTAL cost/portion (d)

0.35

0.90

1.00

0.35

0.90

1.00

(Prices are in pence per unit – e.g. pence per bushel or pence per bacon. A ‘bacon’ was a salted pig carcass, about 74%
of which was edible.296 Costs calculated for items from stock are shown in italics.)

* We have seen above that in some years the number per day varied, as some workers were only required to attend on
the third day of a boonwork.

The figures for 1291 are more balanced, though the high price of cereals has raised costs.

Table 4.8b: Costs per head per harvest meal 1291

1291

all boonworks

price

2 Dry

3 Boons

Love boon

Cost/ head/ meal (d)

days

2

3

1

man-days

48

216

56

meals/day

1

2

2

portions

48

432

112

from stock

(d)

(d)

(d)

(d)

dry

boons

love

bread wheat

16 bushels

10

12.97

116.76

30.27

0.27

0.27

0.27

bread rye

10 bushels

7

5.68

51.08

13.24

0.12

0.12

0.12

fish

9.00

0.19

0.00

0.00

fish

28.00

0.00

0.06

0.00

meat

48.00

0.00

0.11

0.00

meat

20.00

0.00

0.00

0.18

bacon (whole pig)

1.5 bacons

24.00

28.59

7.41

0.00

0.07

0.07

cheese

1.5 quarters

30.00

35.74

9.26

0.00

0.08

0.08

ale

0.00

0.00

0.00

malt

28 bushels

7.18

159.72

41.41

0.00

0.37

0.37

TOTAL cost/ portion (d)

0.58

1.08

1.09

0.58

1.08

1.09

By 1305 love boons had been abandoned.

Table 4.8c: Costs per head per harvest meal 1305

1305

all boonworks

price

2 Dry

3 Boons

Love boon

Cost/ head/ meal (d)

days

2

3

man-days

46

219

meals/day

1

2

portions

46

438

from stock

(d)

(d)

(d)

(d)

dry

boons

love

bread wheat

9 bushels

7

6.25

56.23

0.13

0.13

bread rye

10 bushels

6

5.95

53.55

0.13

0.12

fish

14.00

0.30

0.00

fish

36.00

0.00

0.08

meat (d)

72.00

0.00

0.16

bacon

0.00

0.00

0.00

cheese

1 quarter

30

30.00

0.00

0.07

ale

180.00

0.00

0.41

malt

0.00

0.00

0.00

TOTAL cost/portion (d)

0.56

0.97

0.56

0.97

Corn prices were again high in 1311.

Table 4.8d: Costs per head per harvest meal 1311

1311

all boonworks

price

2 Dry

3 Boons

Love boon

Cost/ head/ meal (d)

days

2

3

man-days

48

218

meals/day

1

2

portions

48

436

from stock

(d)

(d)

(d)

(d)

dry

boons

love

bread wheat

8.5 bushels

13.25

9.13

82.19

0.19

0.19

bread rye

9.5 bushels

6.00

4.62

41.59

0.10

0.10

fish

14.00

0.29

0.00

fish

30.25

0.00

0.07

meat

120.00

0.00

0.28

bacon

0.00

0.00

cheese

32.00

0.00

0.07

ale

144.00

0.00

0.33

malt

0.00

0.00

0.00

TOTAL cost/portion (d)

0.58

1.03

0.58

1.03

In 1323 the price of ale has risen again, noted in the accounts as ‘dearth’ or ‘dearness’ [caristia].

Table 4.8e: Costs per head per harvest meal 1323

1323

all boonworks

price

2 Dry

3 Boons

Love boon

Cost/ head/ meal (d)

days

2

3

man-days

48

222

meals/day

1

2

portions

48

444

from stock

(d)

(d)

(d)

(d)

dry

boons

love

bread wheat

9 bushels

15

10.95

98.51

0.23

0.22

bread rye

4 bushels

8

2.59

23.35

0.05

0.05

fish

12.00

0.25

0.00

fish

32.00

0.00

0.07

meat

120.00

0.00

0.27

bacon

0.00

0.00

0.00

cheese

30.00

0.00

0.07

ale

168.00

0.00

0.38

malt

0.00

0.00

0.00

TOTAL cost/portion (d)

0.53

1.06

0.53

1.06

In 1330, following the introduction of a set budget per head (though not per meal) for ale and
companagium, the bread was entirely of wheat, though the total allocation of wheat remained at
9 bushels, instead of the 13 bushels of wheat and rye of 1323 and the 18-35 bushels noted above
in previous extracts.

Table 4.8f: Costs per head per harvest meal 1330

1330

all boonworks

price

2 Dry

3 Boons

Love boon

Cost/head/meal (d)

days

2

3

man-days

32

206

meals/day

1

2

portions

32

412

from stock

(d)

(d)

(d)

dry

boons

bread wheat from stock

9 bushels

12.50

8.11

104.39

0.25

0.25

fish @ ¼d per head

8.00

0.25

0.00

companagium @ ¾d per head

154.50

0.00

0.38

ale @ ½d per head

103.00

0.00

0.25

TOTAL cost/ portion

0.50

0.88

0.50

0.88

Again, in 1343 the total wheat supplied remained at 9 bushels, in spite of the increase in
manpower and in spite of the reduction in the price of wheat, which considerably reduced the
price per portion.

Table 4.8g: Costs per head per harvest meal 1343

1343

all boonworks

price

2 Dry

3 Boons

Love boon

Cost/head/meal (d)

days

2

3

man-days

30

233

meals/day

1

2

portions

30

466

from stock

(d)

(d)

(d)

dry

boons

bread wheat

9 bushels

7.00

3.81

59.19

0.13

0.13

bread rye

0.00

0.00

fish @ ¼d

7.50

0.25

0.00

meat & fish @ ¾d

177.00

0.00

0.38

bacon (whole pig)

0.00

0.00

cheese

0.00

0.00

ale @ ½d

118.00

0.00

0.25

malt

0.00

0.00

TOTAL cost/portion (d)

0.38

0.76

0.38

0.76

As noted above, the budget per head for bread increased after the devastations of the plague,
greatly adding to the cost of each dry boonwork portion, as is clear from the 1353 accounts.

Table 4.8h: Costs per head per harvest meal 1353

1353 manor

all boonworks

price

2 Dry

3 Boons

Love boon

Cost/head/meal (d)

days (noon & supper)

2

3

man-days

19

80

meals/day

1

2

portions

19

160

from stock

(d)

(d)

(d)

(d)

dry

boons

bread & companagium @ 1d
per head

19

1.00

0.00

bread 2 loaves @ 1d per head

80

0.00

0.50

meat & fish @ ¾d per head

60

0.00

0.38

ale @ ½d per head

40

0.00

0.25

TOTAL cost/ portion (d)

1.00

1.13

1.00

1.13

The cost per portion at the rectory is surprisingly similar to that at the manorial boonworks,
considering that the rectory staff were more ‘management’ than labour. This suggests that this
wide range of companagium – beef, pork, mutton, salted fish, mackerel, cheese, butter and milk
(but no bacon?) – was also available at the manorial boonworks.

Table 4.8i: Costs per head per harvest meal 1353 rectory tithe harvesting

1353 rectory: tithe harvest

price

Cost/head/meal (d)

days

49

men per day

6

meals/day

2

(d)

quantities

(d)

oatmeal

16

1 bushel purchased

0.03

bread wheat

168

24 bushels from stock

7

0.29

meat: beef, pork & mutton

116

0.20

4 salted fish & 60 mackerel

64

4 salted fish +60 mackerel from Battersea manor

0.11

cheese, butter & milk

60

0.10

malt barley

160

16 bushels from stock

10

0.27

ale purchased

90

60 gallons purchased @1.5d/gallon

0.15

TOTAL cost/portion (d)

1.15

However, the impression is given that the rectory staff consumed more of their corn budget
as ale rather than bread, the price of ale being 50% higher than recorded in the 1320s (see
below). Table 4.8j shows the changes in the percentages of the costs allocated to the three main
categories of bread, ale and companagium over the selected years (plus the unique pottage entry
for the rectory in 1353). The equivalent percentages for the management eating at table have
also been included until 1323, the 1330 entry having only a lump sum of 16 shillings with no
breakdown of items. Dry boonworks have been omitted.

Table 4.8j: Costs per category per harvest meal 1288-1353

(B: boonworks; L: love boons; T: at table; R: rectory)

% of cost

1288

1291

1305

1311

1323

1330

1343

1353

1353

per portion

B

L

T

B

L

T

B

T

B

T

B

T

B

B

B

R

pottage

2

bread

20

18

16

38

38

33

26

19

27

23

26

24

29

17

45

25

companagium

40

24

41

31

32

36

32

52

41

47

39

46

43

50

33

36

ale

40

58

43

31

30

31

42

29

32

30

35

30

28

33

22

37

Once again the 1288 figures seem out of balance between boonworks and love boon, probably
due to the assumption that each item was distributed equally among meals – the percentages are
near enough equal in 1291. Also, ale seems to occupy a higher ranking in 1288. The high price
of wheat in 1291 has also distorted the percentage spent on bread that year.

In Dyer’s study of Sedgeford in Norfolk, the percentage spent on bread declined over this period,
while that spent on ale gradually increased.297 Dyer also noted a decline in percentages spent
on dairy produce and fish, with a corresponding increase in that spent on meat, together with
a change from bacon to fresh meat. Table 4.8k breaks down the percentage of the cost of each
portion spent on companagium into its main components for those years where we have the
data, the manorial accounts lumping all such expenditure together from the 1330s.

Table 4.8k: Costs per category of companagium per harvest meal 1288-1353

% of cost

1288

1291

1305

1311

1323

1353

per portion

B

L

T

B

L

T

B

T

B

T

B

T

R

fish

7

0

11

6

0

10

8

19

7

12

7

12

10

meat

6

0

10

11

17

17

17

27

27

28

25

28

17

bacon

18

16

13

6

7

4

cheese

9

8

7

8

8

5

7

6

7

7

7

6

9

total companagium

40

24

41

31

32

36

32

52

41

47

39

46

36

There is no evidence in this admittedly small sample that consumption of fish was decreasing in
Morden, though it was apparently not served at love boons. It had an important place at table,
which included weekly non-meat days. Expenditure per head on dairy produce also seems to be
gently declining, the accounts revealing an overall reduction from 1½ quarter-weys to 1 quarter-
wey around 1300, though apparently remaining at ½ quarter-wey at table. An early decline of
bacon in favour of fresh meat does seem apparent, even if some of the meat was from the culling
of old and sick oxen. However, murrain destroyed the demesne herd in 1305 and no pigs were kept
on the demesne between 1309 and 1334, so any bacon would have been purchased and its cost
included under the general heading of ‘meat’. Meat was certainly a key component of meals at table.

The proportion of total expenditure allocated to the different food categories was dependent on
prices. More usefully, the information we have for these years also enables us to calculate the
quantities consumed in each portion – at least for bread, ale, bacon and cheese. Dyer includes

a very helpful guide to convert raw grain into bread and ale, and to calculate the amount of meat
one might get from a medieval pig.298 Thus 8 bushels of wheat could make some 231 kg of bread;
8 bushels of malt made 273 litres of ale; pigs weighed from 32 to 41 kg (we will average at 36 kg
per pig), of which some 74% would be edible. Other sources suggest that 8 bushels of rye would
make around 168 kg bread (and reveal that in 20th-century America a mix of ⅓ rye and ⅔ wheat
were used in a loaf, similar proportions to those found in our records).299 Elsewhere Dyer informs
us that in 1320 best ale cost 1d a gallon, whereas ‘second’ ale – weaker than best – cost ¾d, though
the price fluctuated with the price of barley.300 In 1353 the rectory workers consumed 60 gallons of
ale purchased at 1½d a gallon. We will here assume 1d a gallon, though the 1323 account refers to
‘dearth/dearness’ [caristia] of ale, so our calculation will be incorrect in that year, and possibly for
other years of apparently high consumption. The Morden account rolls also inform us that 8 bushels
of oats normally made 4 bushels of meal.301 Cheese was measured by the wey, which could vary in
weight but standardised at 2 cwt. Our extracts use the ‘quarter’ [quartrona], referring to a quarter-
wey, so ½ cwt, or 25.4 kg. Our records also record the prices of wheat, rye and malt per quarter,
so we can convert purchase prices into quantities. Cheese prices are recorded until 1308 and were
generally around 2s 6d a quarter, so expenditure of 30d to 32d until the 1320s probably represents
purchases of a quarter-wey. Sadly, the general statements ‘in fish bought Xd’ or ‘in meat bought Yd’
cannot be used, but the following table gives a hint of the size of an average harvest portion.

Table 4.8l: The size of an average portion per harvest meal 1288-1353

quantity

1288

1288

1291

1291

1305

1305

1311

1311

1323

1353

per portion

boons

table

boons

table

boons

table

boons

table

boons

rectory

bread (grams)

1657

1031

1135

696

971

675

919

365

699

1179

oatmeal (grams)

35

cheese (grams)

76

25

76

23

58

29

58

29

57

?

bacon (grams)

173

?

80

?

?

?

?

?

?

ale (litres)

2

0.79

1.76

0.50

1.87

0.75

1.5

0.63

1.72

1.39

fish

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

0.1 mackerel+’salted fish’

fresh meat

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

The quantities for management at table seem to be far too low in comparison with the workers
in the field, so the assumption that two meals were provided each day is probably unfounded –
unless the items we have been able to quantify were served at one meal and those unable to be
quantified at the other. The proportion spent on fish and meat at table was certainly far in excess
of the value of cheese and bacon from stock.

Thus, we are again left with partial information that prevents us from seeing the full picture.
But our records have other references to allocations of food to workers, and these might give
us further insights.

In addition to the virgate and half-virgate tenants, there were some smallholders and several
who held only a cottage and an acre or two, paying from ½d a year rent for a cottage to 7d for
a smallholding. Some of these cottage plots seem to have been additional housing built within
a family tenement to house elderly parents or non-inheriting children, though in time some
passed outside the family. These tenants would have needed to earn their living as wage earners,
as explored below and in chapter 3 (page 69).

The estate workers

Some of the smallholders and cottage tenants of Morden, and no doubt some sons of virgate
and half-virgate holders, found full-time employment on the manorial demesne, as ploughmen,
carters, shepherds, herdsmen, or dairy-workers (the latter usually, but not exclusively, female).302
For most of the period for which our records survive, the full-time staff normally consisted of
four ploughmen, a carter and a dairy-worker. These were often augmented by a shepherd, a
stockman (until 1318), and a swineherd (in the 1340s), but these were more usually seasonal

posts, as were those of a harrower (often doubling as a second carter), a lamb-keeper, and a bird-
scarer at seedtime.303

The manorial accounts give details of their employment and remuneration, enabling us to
explore their potential standards of living and diet.304 From the late 13th century until the mid-
14th century the full-time staff each received a cash payment or stipend of 4s 6d a year together
with an allocation of maslin [mixtura], a mix of the poorer grains (curall wheat, rye, barley, and
dredge – barley and oats sown and harvested together), pulses (beans, peas and vetches) and
multure from the mill (that part of the grain retained as toll by the abbey as mill-owner). In
addition pottage – a porridge-like concoction of oatmeal but sometimes containing peas and
beans – was prepared by the dairy-worker to be eaten during working hours. Around 2 quarters
of oatmeal plus 2 bushels of salt were consumed by the staff each year.

Pulses were an unpopular form of payment, but were used to make up deficiencies in grain,
occasionally forming a quarter or even a third of the allowance, though averaging about 12%.
No oats were included in the maslin, unless oatmeal formed part of the multure, so the pulses
could be used for pottage – pease pottage, also known as pease pudding, is still a traditional dish
in parts of England.

The rates at which maslin was allocated differed according to the status of the employee, but
most received a quarter of maslin every 9 or 10 weeks, intended for home consumption by the
staff and their families. The staff shared the food provided for the customary tenants at the five
or six ‘boonworks’ during harvest (see above), but ate with the estate managers, millers, smiths
and harvest supervisors for ‘Harvest Goose’ at the end of the harvest – and at Christmas and
Easter meals – though it is possible that these meals were replaced by cash payments, calculated
at 1½d or 2d a head, as no geese were allocated after 1295.

Although the dairymaid received no maslin during the harvest period, when she ate ‘at table’, the
other full-time estate workers received their ration throughout the year, which further supports
the view that this ration was intended for families in addition to the workers themselves.

With some 5 quarters of grain – even though of a poorer quality than Dyer recommended for
tenants (see above p.108) – plus a cash stipend of 4s 6d a year, together with very low rents if a
cottager, a demesne-worker’s family would have enjoyed a standard of living comparable to, if
not slightly better, than a tenant such as John Schutte.

The delivery men

In 1312/13 a new mill, built in the abbey’s Hertfordshire manor of Aldenham, was transported
the 30 or so miles to Morden in 45 cartloads and erected on the recently-cleared site of the old
mill, probably in the vicinity of the present snuff mill buildings at Morden Hall. The Morden
manorial accounts include the following entry:305

Mill costs

In expenses of 75 men with their 45 carts carting the same mill from Aldenham as far
as Chelsea [Chelcheuth] for 2 days: in bread baked 6 bushels wheat; in bread bought 3s
4d; in ale bought 9s; in fish bought the first day 3s; in cheese bought 5d; in meat bought
the other day 7s 6d; in cheese bought 5d; in candles bought for 2 nights 4d. In carrying
the aforesaid mill beyond the water at Chelsea 16d. In carting the aforesaid mill from
Battersea as far as Morden by piece-work 15s, 1 quarter oats by agreement.

It seems certain that the main part of this task was done by customary labour services, as it was
only the final journey from the Thames at Battersea to Morden that was by piecework. The 1312
Extent records that each of the 13 customary tenants ‘shall do 4 carrying services by horse per
year to Westminster; and he shall have 1 loaf of meynebred and 1½ gallons of nun’s ale – the value
of the work without deductions is ¾d’. In addition 2 ‘free’ tenants of a divided holding were each
to ‘do two carrying services to Westminster in a year and when he arrives there he shall have
bread and ale, namely 1 loaf of meynebred and 1½ gallons of nun’s ale and the value of the work
without deductions is ½d … Total carrying services to Westminster: 56 carrying services which
are valued at 3s 6d.’ Meynebred, sometimes described as ‘black’ bread, was made from relatively

coarse flour and given to servants; a measure of nun’s ale [gazone de moniale] was weaker than
the conventual ale served to the monks, and was of the quality given to the nuns of Kilburn, who
received food and drink from Westminster Abbey.306 Presumably the Morden tenants were given
this refreshment at the end of each journey to the abbey.

The men who delivered the mill received better rations than these, with pure wheaten bread as
well as companagium, the task being over and above that required of them by custom. It is clear
that the overall journey took two days, and that the men were fed on both days, though it is
unlikely that 45 cartloads all travelled on the same two days. No doubt these 75 men represent
the total labour force – probably the same 15 tenants noted in the Extent, each travelling five
times to Aldenham and back. It would seem that not all owned a cart, probably only 9 of them,
so John Schutte was not unusual in this respect.

On the first day of their journey they ate fish and cheese, on the second day meat and cheese, and
the likelihood is that the cheese was eaten at one meal each day and the fish or meat at the other
meal. The wheat would have been milled and baked at Morden before setting off to Aldenham,
and the bread purchased for the return journey on the second day. Presumably the ale was
shared fairly equally between the meals, so direct comparison between the first day’s provision
and dry boonworks cannot be made, although both were ‘fish days’. Table 4.9 plots the costs for
each day, together with the percentage cost for each category of food.

Table 4.9: Costs of meals for men delivering the manorial mill 1312/13

carting the mill (75 ‘men’ over 2 days)

stock

price

total cost

day 1/man

day 2/man

% day 1

% day 2

bread wheat from stock

6 bushels

7½d/bushel

45d

0.60d

32

bread bought

40d

0.53d

21

ale bought

108d

0.72d

0.72d

38

28

fish bought (day 1)

36d

0.48d

26

cheese bought (day 1)

5d

0.07d

4

meat bought (day 2)

90d

1.20d

48

cheese bought (day 2)

5d

0.07d

3

daily cost per head (2 meals)

1.87d

2.52d

average per meal

0.935d

1.26d

The average spent per meal on the second day is some 20% more than for a portion received at
harvest boonworks at this period (see table 4.8d above), mainly due to a greater expenditure on
meat, though on the first day costs would be about the same as at a dry boonwork if we were to
exclude the ale from our calculations.

Thus it seems clear that boonworks and other exceptional services were rewarded with food of
a superior quality, of wider variety, and probably of greater quantity, than that available to most
Morden peasants at other times of the year.

Tradesmen

In 1312 some of the cottage plots in Morden were occupied by local tradesmen – the miller held
6 acres, and Robert le Webbe, perhaps a weaver, held 7 acres, while three cottages were held
by members of the le Fles/Flessch family, probably butchers.307 Another cottage was held by
Ralph Brounyng, while a ‘John Brounygg’ paid ‘each year 1 ploughfoot worth 2½d’, probably as
chevage for living outside the manor (see page 53). It is likely that John was a smith, and Ralph
may also have followed that craft. Other tenants in 1312 were William Paternoster with a 1-acre
croft – was he a rosary maker supplying the abbey? – and William le Taverner (an innkeeper?)
with a ‘curtilage’ or building plot. Small-scale brewing was a common activity, but by the late
15th century it was becoming the preserve of professionals, some of whom were also bakers or
kept alehouses (see chapter 8). In May 1389 one cottage on a family holding was surrendered to
the use of a daughter who had married William Pynnore.308 Others with the Pynnore surname
had the alias ‘Taylor’, so it is likely that William was a tailor. We will see in chapter 5 page 131

that Peter Taillor was a tailor and William Webbe may have been a shoemaker. Many of these
trades and crafts would have been part-time, and other employment would have been needed to
supplement the family income. It would also have been a precarious way of life, with no security
in the event of illness, accident or old age.

The building workers

There are frequent references in the manorial accounts to carpenters, sawyers, thatchers and
tilers, some of whom were certainly resident in Morden, and their daily wage rates are regularly
recorded.

The carpenter [carpentarius] was not a full-time member of the estate staff, but was employed as
and when he was needed, usually being paid at a daily rate, though those involved in long-term
projects were paid at a weekly rate, and some were paid at piecework or ‘by fixed agreement’.309

There does not seem to have been a standard rate of pay, though it normally ranged from 3d to
6d a day, the higher rate perhaps including the cost of an assistant. In 1294/95 a man making
a cog-wheel for the mill was paid 3s 2½d for 14 days work, at 2¾d a day, while a carpenter
repairing the louver [lodium] on the hall roof received 8¾d for 2½ days, at 3¾d a day – which
should have given him 9¼d – perhaps the ‘half day’ was a lesser fraction of a day.310

As most buildings were wooden structures, the carpenter was employed in constructing and
repairing the various buildings belonging to the demesne, and making and installing fitments,
such as the ‘mangers [praecepium] and stalls [stallus] for beasts [bestia]’ which took two men
2 days in 1349/50 at 4d a day each.311 He also made and repaired carts and other agricultural
equipment.312 His skills were required at the mill, not just with the buildings but also in
connection with the complex waterworks belonging to it. When the new mill was being made
at the abbey’s manor of Aldenham, one carpenter was paid at 2s 8d a week for 13 weeks, one
was paid 16s for 8 weeks, one 5s for 3 weeks and another 15s for 9 weeks, at 28d a week. Once
it had been transported to Morden, two carpenters were paid a total of 15s 6d for 3 weeks’
work ‘making the said mill house and erecting it’, and another received 7s 8d for 4 weeks’
work ‘making anew the outlets and removing [removent] the whole mill’.313 So weekly rates
ranged from 20d to 32d, higher rates perhaps reflecting the skill or effort required or possibly
covering the cost of an assistant.

The timbers of the old mill were reused the following year, when two sawyers [sarrator] were
paid 2s 3d for ‘sawing groundsills for the stable and for the hay-house from old timber from
the mill for 3 days’.314 Although the felling, sawing and trimming of timber seems to have been
done by tenants or household servants, a pair of sawyers was employed for more demanding
tasks, being paid at similar rates to carpenters. Thus two sawyers spent 17 days sawing timber
in Aldenham for the new mill at 4½d a day each, and eight sawyers were ‘hired for 3 weeks
and two sawyers for 2 weeks sawing timber for the same mill’ at 2 shillings a week each.315 In
1357/58, two sawyers were paid 4 shillings for sawing boards for 4 days ‘for repairing the flood-
gate [floudzat’]’.316

Buildings were usually thatched, using local straw. The thatcher [cooperatorius or tector] and his
mate were usually paid at a daily rate, though sometimes by piecework.317 The thatcher’s rate was
around 2d or 3d a day, with the mate getting 1d or 2d a day, the combined rate normally being
4d or 4½d, though for some large jobs, such as thatching the great barn for 12 days in 1312/13,
the combined pay was 7d a day.318 In the years immediately following the Black Death combined
rates of 6d or 7d a day were common.

By 1409/10 some of the manor buildings were tiled, ‘Robert Shorefoot, tiler [tegulator], hired
with his lad for 50 days strengthening walls of various buildings and tiling anew the manor
buildings at the same place in part, taking between them per day 12d’.319 There are also references
to the purchase of tiles for the chancel of St Lawrence’s church – 8000 tiles were bought from
Westerham and 1000 from Kingston in 1358, the tiler and his mate being paid 6 shillings for 10
days’ work repairing the roof.320

As with other tradesmen and craftsmen, these jobs are likely to have been part-time, with no
security in the event of illness, accident or old age – and building workers were particularly
susceptible to accidents.

After the Black Death

Plague brought untold suffering to both victims and survivors, but the drastic reduction in
population also had some beneficial effects for many of the survivors. A glut of vacant holdings
enabled many to take a first step onto the property ladder, some ascending to heights that few
would have imagined in the pre-plague years, as we have noted many times. At the same time a
shortage of labour placed workers in a stronger bargaining position and, in spite of government
attempts to control wages and enforce restrictions on workers’ rights, we have seen that wages
inevitably rose, while those who could not find employment at home looked further afield.
We saw in chapter 3 that sons of several serf families left the manor for more or less distant
destinations, few of them returning to Morden to settle, and non-servile families would have
been even more mobile. We do not have comparable sources to enable us to explore general
standards of living at this period, but there seems to be no doubt that, although some Morden
tenants prospered, many struggled to support themselves and their families, especially in times
of shortage when food prices soared, and in times of sickness and old age. We have seen on page
68 that some elderly tenants entered into maintenance agreements with relatives or neighbours,
while many will have been reliant on credit extended by tradesmen and neighbours. However,
credit was not merely a last resort but a fundamental part of the everyday economy of rich and
poor alike, as we will see in the next chapter.

126 MEDIEVAL MORDEN: NEIGHBOURHOOD AND COMMUNITY

127
127

5: DEBTORS AND CREDITORS

We saw in chapter 2 (page 24) that there are 50 separate cases recorded in the Morden manorial
court rolls where one tenant accused another of owing money or goods, and sometimes both,
as well as 6 cases of broken contract, where one party had failed to keep an agreement of some
kind. We also observed that such cases often involved reciprocal accusations, with both parties
claiming that the other had offended against them.

In that chapter we were concerned with the various legal processes available to litigants, but in this
chapter we will focus on the nature of these debts and the individuals caught up in these cases.

There were 39 men and 3 women named as parties in such disputes between 1378 and 1411 (see
tables 5.1a-c below, pages 128, 129, 133). A rough count of names mentioned in the manorial
court rolls over this period indicates that there were some 200 men involved in the various court
proceedings, and some of these might not have been resident in Morden, so at least one in five
was involved in debt litigation. Two of the women were widows, the other acting jointly with her
second husband as executor to her first husband. Women are named less often in the manorial
records so a similar comparison cannot be made.

It must be remembered that these cases only represent those transactions where problems arose.
The number of cases that were brought before the manorial court only represents a fraction of
the total number of credit transactions which took place between tenants of the manor, credit
arrangements that ‘facilitated the exchange of goods and resources among villagers without cash
in hand’, as Elaine Clark explains.1 Most of these transactions worked well for both parties.

Credit was a fundamental part of medieval village life, as Christopher Dyer points out: ‘… in spite
of the large quantities of coins in circulation, and the widespread use of money to pay rent, a good
deal of local exchange was conducted through forms of barter and payment in kind. Servants were
rewarded with their board and lodging, laborers and craftsmen received part of their daily wage
in meals, and rents for land which was informally sub-let often took the form of a share in the
crop. The price of purchased goods was not immediately paid, in the expectation that some future
transfer would cancel the debt. Clearly, a system of moneyless exchange could persist only with a
great deal of trust between parties.’2 In addition, Chris Briggs reminds us that ‘a major reason for
cash payment in full being impossible or inadvisable was that in the society under investigation,
income was generally irregular, being concentrated at various key points in the agricultural year’.3

Manorial courts were not supposed to deal with any debt in excess of 40 shillings, which should
have been sued in the royal courts.4 The debts involved, where noted in our records, could often
be very small – just a few pennies – and seldom reached 20 shillings, though 8 marks (£5 6s 8d)
was claimed on one occasion.5 The detinue cases, where the withholding of goods was at issue,
might deal with crops, livestock, clothing or household goods, but again values of items claimed
never exceeded 20 shillings, and could be as little as 2d.

Many of the cases give little detail, often the only entry being the occasion they were concluded.
These cases are summarised in table 5.1a (it has been assumed here that, in cases of seeking
licence to agree, the person amerced was the accused debtor, though that cannot be confirmed).

As noted in chapter 2, the 1387 Melleward/Hayter case was initially described as a plea of land,
which would be unusual for a case wagered at law (see pages 21-2), but it was called a plea of
debt when licence to agree was sought at the following court. Perhaps the debt was incurred
in some kind of land transaction. The 1402 atte Rithe/Bayly case, similarly, began as a plea of
contract and trespass but was agreed as a plea of debt at the following court, while the 1394
Mulseye/Willot debt case was classified as trespass when agreed at the next court.

Most of these cases were either settled out of court, and so dropped by the plaintiff, or settled
by licence to agree (see pages 21, 26). Briggs suggests that licence to agree could involve the
extension of a loan to allow the debtor more time to repay.26 It is quite likely that some creditors
only began legal proceedings as a way of bringing pressure to bear on a recalcitrant debtor,
knowing that it would persuade him to settle out of court, though in one case the defendant
attempted wager before reaching agreement, while another defendant only settled 19 months
after proceedings began, following three unsuccessful attempts to hold an inquiry.

Table 5.1a: Debt cases with little detail

date

plaintiff

defendant

plea

debt

result

concluded

02/1378

John Willot

Robert Shepherd

debt

agreed

02/1378

6

05/1378

John Melleward

Simon Hobekoc

debt

wager – false complaint*

05/1378

7

05/1378

Roger Draper

William vicar of
Morden

debt

dropped

05/1378

8

05/1378

John Willot

William vicar of
Morden

debt

attach to answer

dropped
6/1378

9

12/1381

Ralph atte Rithe

William Webbe

debt

false complaint*

12/1381

10

12/1381

William Webbe

Alan Berenger

contract

false complaint*

12/1381

11

12/1381

Alan Berenger & John Straw

William Webbe

debt

plaintiffs amerced*

12/1381

12

11/1383

Ralph atte Rithe

Ralph Edward

debt

agreed

11/1383

13

02/1385

Richard & Alice Sprynget

Robert Berenger

debt

dropped

02/1385

14

02/1387

John Melleward

Amicia Hayter

land?

wager

debt
agreed
5/1387

15

05/1387

Ralph Edward

John Kyppyng

debt

agreed

05/1387

16

05/1387

Vincent Carter

Robert Berenger

debt

agreed

05/1387

17

10/1387

William Mulseye

William Webbe

contract

penalised by inquiry*

10/1387

18

10/1387

William Webbe

William Mulseye

contract

penalised by inquiry*

10/1387

19

11/1389,
06/1390,
11/1390

John Melleward

Simon Willot

contract

inquiry requested

agreed
6/1391

20

11/1391

Vincent Carter

Robert Berenger

debt

agreed

11/1391

21

11/1392

John Power

John Mapelden
citizen & clothier

debt

dropped

11/1392

22

11/1392

John Bekeswell

Robert Swan

debt

dropped

11/1392

23

05/1394

Peter Mulseye

Simon Willot

debt?

attach to answer

trespass
agreed
11/1394

24

11/1402

Ralph atte Rithe

John Bayly

contract
&
trespass?

distrain to answer

debt
agreed
5/1403

25

Only six of the above cases (marked with *) were pursued to a final verdict, one the result of
an unsuccessful wager, two following inquiry by the homage, the other three by processes not
recorded in the court roll, but which all had one party in common:27

amercement 1d

Ralph atte Ryth is in mercy for false complaint against William Webbe on a plea of debt.

amercement 2d

William Webbe is in mercy for false complaint against Alan Berenger in a plea of contract.

amercement 4d
recovered

Alan Berenger 2d and John Straw 2d are in mercy as they agreed against William Webbe
in a plea of debt.

Ralph atte Rithe falsely accuses William Webbe of debt at the same court that Webbe accuses
Alan Berenger of breaking a contract or covenant. Berenger and John Straw are then amerced for
agreeing against Webbe in a plea of debt. It seems likely that Berenger and Straw had supported
atte Rithe in his false complaint against Webbe, either in retaliation for Webbe’s false complaint
against Berenger, or perhaps leading to Webbe’s action. This suggests considerable ill-feeling
among these litigants, though such inter-related actions are commonly found, as we will see below.

The reciprocal actions for broken contract between Webbe and William Mulseye in 1387 provide
another example, though in this case inquiries led to each defendant being penalised. However,
such counterclaims need not have been malicious in intent, as Elaine Clark points out. They
could be evidence of ‘mutual exchange of goods, services and labour over an extended period of
time … both parties balanced contributions and receipts but if these, for any reason, ceased to be
mutually beneficial, then people resorted to court action, to suits and to counter suits.’28

5: DEBTORS AND CREDITORS 129

The 1392 plea of debt between John Power and John Mapelden, a London citizen and clothier,
was presumably over a business deal. Neither appears elsewhere in our Morden records, though
a William Power, clerk, is mentioned in the court roll for 1397.29 He was not the vicar of Morden,
but might have been an assistant to Roger de Lakynghethe, who died in 1398.30 It is surprising that
this case was brought in a manorial court, even more so that it led to an out-of-court settlement.

The detinue cases, and those classified as debts but which included chattels, give more
information, as set out in table 5.1b.

Table 5.1b: Detinue cases and debts involving chattels

date

plaintiff

defendant

plea

debt

result

concluded

02/1386

Ralph atte
Rithe

John Gildon

detinue

6 bushels oats
delivered 11/1385

uncontested

levy oats

02/1386

31

02/1387

William
Pynnor

John Gildon

debt

1 quarter oats,
assessed by inquiry
at 1 bushel

penalised by
inquiry

levy lower
amount

agreed 5/1387

32

10/1387

William
Webbe

William
Mulseye

debt &
detinue

4s, 10 bushels corn,
1 pair shoes

acknowledged
3s + 9 bushels
3 pecks corn
– levy.

wager 12d, 1peck
corn, 1 pair
shoes

defaulted wager

levy 5/1388

33

05/1393

Peter
Taillor

Richard
Fouler

debt

6d

acknowledged

levy

05/1393

34

05/1393

Richard
Fouler

Peter Taillor

detinue

½-yard of woollen
cloth worth 6d

inquiry

false claim 5/1393

35

05/1395

John Bayly

John
Carpenter

debt

false

05/1395

36

05/1395

John Bayly

John
Carpenter

detinue

1 cup worth 2d

acknowledged

levy cash value

05/1395

37

05/1395

John
Carpenter

John Bayly

detinue

billhook worth 12d

wager

agreed 11/1395

38

05/1395

John
Carpenter

William
Wynteworth

detinue &
debt

5 bushels peas + 8d

inquiry

penalized by inquiry –
levy chattels 11/1395

39

11/1396

John
Carpenter

John
Bekeswell

detinue

1 bushel wheat

distrain to
answer

acknowledged

levy wheat 7/1397

40

11/1397

Baldwyn
Popsent

Peter Popsent

debt

6s 8d for corn sold
to him at damages
of 40d

4s 4d
acknowledged

levy

wager balance

defaulted wager

levy 2s 4d

+ 8d damages 7/1398 +
4s 4d still outstanding

41

11/1397,
07 &
11/1398,
05/1399

John
Gildon

John
Carpenter

detinue

3 pecks wheat

inquiry

agreed 10/1399

42

11/1398

Henry
Milward

Peter Popsent

debt &
detinue

6s 8d + 1 quarter 5
bushels tolcorn + 4
bushels malt

wager

debt 6s 8d agreed
5/1399

43

11/1405

John
Andrew

Simon
Lightfoot

detinue

1 brass pot, 1
brass pan, 1
kneadingtrough

distrain to
answer

penalized by inquiry
– unjust complaint –
levy 5/1406: half of 1
brass pot, 1 brass pan, 1
kneadingtrough, 1 pair
of trestles & 1 table board

44

05/1411

William
Mulseye

John Bayly

detinue

1 cow worth
[blank]

wager

agreed 11/1411

45

The 1386 atte Rithe/Gildon case makes reference to oats delivered but not paid for, while the 1397
case between the two Popsents refers to cash owing for corn sold. (As a guide to values around
this period, in 1400/01 wheat sold at 6s 8d a quarter, barley at 3s 4d a quarter and oats at 2s a
quarter, according to the Morden demesne and rectory accounts.46) In the former case, the oats
were returned to atte Rithe, but Peter Popsent challenged Baldwyn’s charges, only acknowledging a
lesser cash value. Some scholars would interpret the difference as being Baldwyn’s way of charging
interest, though others suggest that it was the damages awarded by the court that represent interest
charges.47 In this case Baldwyn claimed 28d more than Peter felt was fair, and also claimed a further
40d in damages, so it is unlikely that both amounts, if either of them, should be considered as
interest. As Peter failed to repay the 4s 4d he had acknowledged and also defaulted in wagering his
law over the balance, the full 6s 8d was ordered to be levied. However, the jurors rejected Baldwyn’s
claim for 40d damages, only awarding him 8d. It is unclear how Baldwyn had corn to sell to Peter,
as he is only known to have held cottages and small plots, the largest only an acre, so he is unlikely
to have grown the crop.48 Was he a corn dealer, or had he merely purchased some for Peter while
buying his own stock? At the same courts Baldwyn sought an inquiry over an alleged trespass by
Peter, which he dropped at the following court.49 In view of the unusual surname, it is likely that
the two men were related, but no further information is given in our sources.

In 1387 John Gildon was penalised by inquiry into a plea of debt over oats claimed by William
Pynnor, but the jurors reduced the amount awarded from the 1 quarter claimed to 1 bushel. This
was one of three disputes between them presented to the court that day:50

amercement 2d
the order is given

John Mellewar Gelden because he was penalized by an inquiry against William Pynnor in
a plea of trespass, namely over a debt of 1 quarter oats, by inquiry assessed at 1 bushel
oats. Therefore he is etc. And the order is given to levy to the use of the said William etc.

amercement 2d
the order is given

William Pynnor because he was penalized against the aforesaid John in a plea of trespass
to the damage by inquiry assessed at a third part of a measure of wheat. Therefore he is etc.
And the order is given to levy etc.

day

A day is given to inquire against the next [court] for a verdict between William Pynnor,
plaintiff, and John Melleward, Gelden defendant, in a plea of trespass in 2 complaints of
grazing the same William’s corn etc.

Gildon had inherited his family virgate [G], but the third case indicates that Pynnor also held
arable land, possibly the 20-acre virgate holding [L] from which he was evicted in November
1390, which he had been sub-leasing from John Godwyne without licence, so it is unclear which
of them had grown the oats.51 Taken alone, the debt plea might suggest that Pynnor was claiming
that he had been given less than he had paid for, but it is possible that all three cases were
claiming recompense for damage to crops. This interpretation is strengthened by an entry in the
roll of the following court, when Gildon sought licence to agree with Pynnor, presumably over
the outstanding grazing offence, though the plea was then described as a plea of debt.52

In 1395 William Wynteworth was penalized by inquiry for detinue and debt over 5 bushels
peas and 8d claimed by John Carpenter, and the order was given at court to levy the peas for
Carpenter’s benefit, though no mention was made of the cash. Had Wynteworth, who held a large
freehold tenement and was also leasing the rectorial rights to tithe corn,53 taken Carpenter’s cash
but not delivered the peas, or was this a case of short measure, perhaps related to a payment due
for work done? Once again, there were other matters at issue between them at the same court:54

amercement 2d
levy

William Wynteworthe because he was penalized by an inquiry against John Carpenter
in a plea of trespass at damages of 20d which the order is given to levy. And the said
William is in mercy.

amercement 2d

William Wynteworthe for his false complaint against John Carpenter in a plea of
trespass. Therefore etc.

The following year Carpenter accused John Bekeswell of withholding 1 bushel of wheat,
which Bekeswell acknowledged the following July and the order was given to levy the wheat
for Carpenter’s benefit. There were no other cases between these two parties at this court, but
Carpenter was accused by John Gildon of withholding 3 pecks of wheat in November 1397.

Those two parties finally sought licence to agree in October 1399, after three attempts at inquiry,
nearly two years after the case was initiated. Again, the amounts involved might suggest short
measures of purchases or wages.

Another case involving grain probably arose in a different way. In November 1398 Peter Popsent
was involved in conflict with yet another relative, being accused by his father-in-law Henry
Milward of debt and detinue involving 6s 8d, 1 quarter 5 bushels tolcorn and 4 bushels malt.
Tolcorn was that portion of the grain retained by the miller as payment for grinding the remainder
into flour, so it seems likely that one of the parties was a miller. Henry’s surname suggests that he
was of a milling family but, because of the relationship between them, it is possible that Henry
had retired and his son-in-law had taken over from him – Henry’s death was presented at the
manorial court held in July 1400. In May 1399, they sought licence to agree over the 6s 8d debt,
but no mention was made of the grain, so it would appear that Henry wanted either the cash
or the grain, having not been paid for grain sold to Peter – or perhaps having paid for, but not
received, the grain.55 If Henry had handed his milling business to Peter, it is possible that this
debt and detinue related to a retirement agreement whereby Peter was to pay him a portion of
the income from the mill (see page 68).

Another debt and detinue case involved not only cash and corn but also a pair of shoes, when
William Mulseye was prosecuted by William Webbe in 1387. Mulseye acknowledged that he
owed Webbe 3s and 9¾ bushels of corn, which were to be duly levied, but denied owing the
additional shilling and ¼ bushel of corn that Webbe was demanding, as well as the shoes. He
offered wager, but defaulted to bring it, so the order was given to levy the remaining items. A
decade later Mulseye took on the lease of the demesne and rectory of Morden, so it seems more
likely that it was Webbe who was the shoemaker, and had sold shoes to Mulseye. Did he charge
a mixture of cash and grain for the shoes? But then, why were the shoes reclaimed along with
the cash and grain, and why was there a disagreement about how much to pay? One possibility
is that a number of separate transactions have been bundled together. Clark remarks on ‘the
tendency of some creditors to bring a single plaint of debt to settle diverse obligations and thus
recover the money owing from several sales, several loans’, whereas Briggs suggests ‘it was usual
that one debt, and hence just one transaction, was under consideration in each debt case’, though
he acknowledges that ‘some plaintiffs … claimed more than one debt from the same defendant
in a single case’.56

Another dispute over a debt to a tradesman took place in May 1393, when Peter Taillor brought
a plea of debt against Richard Fouler. Fouler acknowledged that he owed Taillor 6d and the
cash was ordered to be levied. However, the next case before the court was a counterclaim by
Fowler against Taillor for withholding ½-yard of woollen cloth worth 6d. Presumably Taillor
was indeed a tailor, and Fouler had provided him with cloth to produce an item of clothing – a
common practice – but then kept back part of the agreed price because he felt that Taillor still
had some of his cloth left over.57 He requested an inquiry, but seems to have thought better of the
idea, for the next but one item in the court roll has Fouler being amerced 1d for his false claim
over the cloth. Fouler was one of the chief pledges, the head of one of the tithings of Morden
(see page 39).

We will see in chapter 6 (page 179) that John Carpenter was amerced on two occasions for felling
timber without licence – 12 ash trees in 1396, and a further 18 in 1397.58 So some at least of his
12 appearances could have been in relation to his work as a carpenter.

It is possible that the dispute between John Andrew and Simon Lightfoot in November 1405
might also have been a tradesmen’s dispute, perhaps an argument between former partners over
shared equipment. Andrew was penalized at the next court for a false complaint, but Lightfoot
had to restore some of the goods he was accused of withholding. Andrew had claimed 1 brass
pot, 1 brass pan, and 1 kneadingtrough, but the inquiry ordered the following items to be levied
– only half of 1 brass pot, the brass pan and the kneadingtrough, but also 1 pair of trestles and 1
table board. If they were partners in a catering business, they could each have had shares in the
brass pot – a 3-gallon brass pot bought for the manorial centre in 1341/42 had only cost 18d, but

larger ones cost considerably more.59 The manorial accounts record the following expenditure
in 1329/30:60

Also payment in recompense for 2 brass pots exchanged for 1 new pot containing 5½
gallons 4s 0¼d.

This new pot had cost 4s over and above the value of the two old pots given in exchange, so
was an expensive item. Lightfoot was among the brewers amerced at the 1406 court, but his
brewing was otherwise only mentioned in 1389 and 1393, while Andrew was never listed among
the brewers.61 They had had disputes over land or trespass in 1393 and 1394, which had also
involved their wives, both called Johanna, but no other links between them are known.62

However, the counterclaims brought by John Bayly and John Carpenter in May 1395 seem more
mundane, typical of neighbours borrowing items and forgetting to return them, but escalating
into something more serious. First, Bayly was found guilty of a false claim of debt against
Carpenter, whom he then accused of withholding a cup worth 2d. Carpenter acknowledged his
guilt, but it would seem that the cup had been lost and its cash value was levied instead. Then
Carpenter accused Bayly of withholding a billhook worth 12d, which Bayly denied, offering to
wager his law, but at the next court they sought licence to agree, Bayly paying the amercement.
Bayly also offered wager against Carpenter in a plea of trespass at the May court, though he
defaulted and was ordered to pay damages of 8d to Carpenter at the next court, but no other
disputes between them have been found.

Bayly was also the accused in the final case of detinue brought before the Morden court, in
May 1411, accused of withholding a cow belonging to William Mulseye, by then lessee of the
manorial demesne. Once again, Bayly offered wager, but was amerced when they sought licence
to agree at the following court. The circumstances leading up to the case are unclear – there is
no mention of a stray cow in the court records around this time, and it seems unlikely that Bayly
was the owner of a bull to which Mulseye sent a cow for mating (though one might envisage
the process working in reverse). Was this a matter of barter, Bayly reneging on a promise to give
Mulseye a cow in exchange for other goods supplied to him? Or had Mulseye hired the cow to
Bayly for a certain period which had now expired – it was not unusual for cows to be hired by
the year?63

The debt pleas involving only cash, shown in table 5.1c opposite, are more difficult to analyse.

The only one where the background is explained is the 1385 Pynnor/Sprynget case, where the
debt of £5 6s 8d was claimed from Alice Sprynget as executrix to her previous husband, Simon
Hobkok. No information is given as to why Pynnor made the claim, which was ultimately
judged to be false when the Spryngets won their wager of law, so is unlikely to have related
to a legacy. The Hobcoks do not seem to have bought property in the years leading up to the
court case, having held both their virgate tenement [C] and their cottage [N7] from before the
extant run of court rolls begin in 1378, so a loan to help fund a land acquisition or an entry
fine seems to be ruled out. As noted on page 23, it was unusual for an executor to be allowed
to wager over a debt claimed from the deceased, as the royal courts held that ‘a party could
only swear to his own lack of guilt or obligation’.85

As in other cases noted above, there were some reciprocal actions, Amicia Hayter making a
counterclaim for 40d debt against John Webbe in July 1392, but defaulting in her wager against
his claim for 2s 9d plus 12d damages, the damages being reduced to 3d. No more is heard
of her 40d claim. Bayly and Fouler made reciprocal pleas of debt in November 1392, when
Bayly acknowledged his 16d debt and was also charged 2d damages, but then counterclaimed a
debt of 4d, which Fouler claimed should only have been 2d. Fouler wagered and won his case.
William Webbe made a counterclaim for trespass against John Carpenter in February 1386 and
Carpenter dropped his debt claim, then sought licence to agree on the trespass case.86 Carpenter
similarly made a claim of trespass against John Gildon in November 1397, when accused of debt.
Carpenter wagered and won his debt case, which was declared a false complaint in July 1398,
and finally dropped his trespass case in November of that year.87 Gildon had acknowledged a

Table 5.1c: Debt pleas involving only cash

date

plaintiff

defendant

plea

debt

result

concluded

06/1383

Ralph atte Rithe

John Kyppynges

debt

13s 4d

acknowledged

levy

06/1383

64

06/1383

Simon Willot

William
Graunger

debt

11d

wager

defaulted, levy
11/1383

65

02/1385

Simon Pynnor

Richard &
Alice Sprynget,
executors of
Simon Hobkok

debt

8 marks

distrained,

wager 5/1385

false 2/1386

66

02/1386

John Carpenter

William Webbe

debt

8d

dropped

02/1386

67

02/1387

John Melleward

Simon Willot

debt

5s

acknowledged, 2s
paid, levy 3s

attach to answer
10/1387,

wager 5/1388

defaulted wager,
levy 11/1388

68

11/1390

John Carpenter

John Gildon

debt

3s ½d

wager

dropped 6/1391

69

11/1391

Thomas
Carpenter &
Thomas Humfrey

Robert Berenger

debt

3s 4d

acknowledged

agreed

levy

11/1391

70

01/1392

John Rydon

Robert Berenger

debt

21d

penalised

acknowledged

levy

01/1392

71

07/1392

John Webbe

Amicia Hayter

debt

2s 9d
+ 12d
damages

wager

defaulted wager

levy 2s 9d – only 3d
damages awarded
11/1392

72

07/1392

Amicia Hayter

John Webbe

debt

40d

inquiry

07/1392

73

11/1392

Richard Fouler

John Bayly

debt

16d

acknowledged

levy + 2d damages

11/1392

74

11/1392

John Bayly

Richard Fouler

debt

4d

2d acknowledged

levy – wager 2d

unjust complaint –
5/1393

75

05/1393

Walter atte Hedg

John Bekeswell

debt

4d

wager

agreed 10.1393

76

05/1394

Matilda
Melleward by
attorney

William Mulseye

debt

2s

penalised by
inquiry – levy

05/1394

77

11/1394

Ralph atte Rithe

Walter atte
Hegge

contract

damages
assessed
6d

penalised by
inquiry

levy

11/1394

78

11/1396

John Gildon

John Bekeswell

debt

6d

acknowledged
7/1397

79

11/1396

Alan Berynger

John Gildon

debt

18d

wager

false complaint
7/1397

80

07/1397

John Carpenter

John Gildon

debt

6d

acknowledged –
levy

07/1397

81

11/1397

John Gildon

John Carpenter

debt

11d

wager

false complaint
7/1398

82

11/1397

Baldwyn Popsent

John Bayly

debt

damages
assessed
2d

penalized by an
inquiry – levy

11/1397

83

04 &
11/1407

Alan Berenger

John Bayly

debt

12d

wager

defaulted wager

levy 5/1408

84

debt of 6d due to Carpenter at the July 1397 court. The John Melleward/Simon Willot case of
February 1387 is of interest as Willot acknowledged his debt of 5s, but was only able to pay 2s of
it. He later offered to wager over the difference, in spite of having acknowledged it, but defaulted
in November 1388 and the order was given again to levy the outstanding 3s.

Clark identifies five classes of transactions that might give rise to debt cases:88

• sales, where credit could involve either a deferred payment for goods sold, or the advance
of a purchase price against the promise of future delivery

• loans, either for ‘utilization and return’, or where the item borrowed was used and a
replacement or its cash value was required

• labour and services, where a wage or other payment had not been paid for work done, or
where cash was paid in advance for a task not yet performed

• leases, where land, livestock or equipment was hired in exchange for future payment,
perhaps by instalments

• special transactions, such as suretyship or other commitment, though this was an
infrequent category

Briggs offers similar categories, but adds ‘debts arising from obligations incurred involuntarily’,
such as failure by an executor to pay a legacy.89

Perhaps we should also add casual debts, incurred almost accidentally. As suggested above, one
can imagine such a scenario between the Popsents in 1397, with Baldwyn saying to Peter, ‘I’m
off to market, can I get you anything?’, and Peter subsequently challenging the price Baldwyn
claimed to have paid. Again the 1395 dispute between Carpenter and Bayly could easily have
arisen out of a neighbourly offer – ‘I’ve mislaid my billhook.’ ‘Borrow mine.’ ‘Thank you, let me
pour you a drink.’ ‘That’s kind of you, I’ll take it with me and let you have the cup back later.’
Then both the cup and the billhook get put down somewhere and forgotten, until Carpenter
goes to use his billhook and accuses his neighbour of withholding it, to which Bayly replies
‘What about my cup?’ Can we label such situations as credit?

Clark identifies 8.8% of the 681 transactions recorded in the court rolls of Writtle in Essex
between 1382 and 1490 as cash loans, while Briggs observes that ‘straightforward loans of money
are not a particularly prominent feature of the evidence’ from his subject villages in 14th-century
Cambridgeshire and Buckinghamshire, commenting that ‘there would have been relatively
little need for loans if without them villagers could still acquire on credit the commodities they
wished to buy’.90 He further notes a lack of evidence that land was used as security for loans at the
village level.91 Although land was regularly used as security for mercantile credit, as will be seen
in the case study at the end of this chapter, there are only two instances in the Morden manorial
records which could perhaps be interpreted as mortgage arrangements. Thus in June 1391:92

respited?

Wylot

fine 2s

A Berenger

fealty

At this court it is witnessed by the whole homage that Simon Wylot surrenders into the
serviens’ hand five acres of free land which the same Simon lately purchased, and later
it was granted to him at a rent increment of 2 capons a year etc as appears in the court
held here 14 November in the present king’s 13th year. And later the lord grants the
said five acres land with pertinents to Alan Berenger and Agnes his wife to hold to the
same Alan and Agnes and Alan’s heirs by service etc, saving [the lord’s] rights etc. And a
similar rent increment of 2 capons as appears. And they give the lord for fine for entry as
appears. And they do the lord fealty. [U5]

respited

heriot 1 horse
sold for 5s

fine 6s

fealty

At this court it is witnessed by the serviens that the aforesaid Simon Wylot and Anicia his
wife surrender into the lord’s hand by the hand of the said serviens, for themselves and
their heirs forever, one cottage with croft adjoining in Stoyle. And later the lord grants the
said cottage and croft with pertinents to the aforementioned Alan Berenger and Agnes his
wife, to hold to the same Alan and Agnes and to Alan’s heirs, in bondage by roll of court by
service etc, saving [the lord’s] rights etc. And whence there falls due to the lord for heriot 1
horse. And they give the lord for fine for entry as appears. And they do fealty. [N6]

However, in November 1394, the cottage is surrendered back to Simon and Anicia:93

amercement
3s 4d

fealty

heriot 1 hogget

At this court come Alan Berenger and Agnes his wife, examined alone, and surrender
into the lord’s hand one cottage with croft adjoining whence there falls due to the lord for
heriot 1 hogget worth [blank]. And later the lord grants the said cottage and croft with
pertinents to Simon Wylot and Anicia his wife, to hold to the same Simon and Anicia,
their heirs and assigns, in bondage at the lord’s will by roll of court by service etc, to whom
is granted seisin thereof, saving [the lord’s] rights etc. And they give the lord for entry fine
as shown and they do the lord fealty etc. [N6]

By July 1397 the 5 acres were also back in Simon’s possession:94

respited?

[fine] 20d

fealty

Whereas the order was given at the last court to distrain Simon Wylot to do the lord
fealty for 5 acres free land with pertinents as appears in the last court, now it is found
that William Mulseye purchased within the lord’s fee the said land with pertinents of the
aforementioned Simon, which William, being present in court, gives the lord for fine to
have entry as appears. And he does the lord fealty. [U5]

There were special circumstances surrounding this freehold property (see pages 55-7), which
account for it being surrendered in 1391, rather than sold by charter, but the brief tenure by
the Berengers could possibly reflect a period of mortgage. Another possible mortgage might be
discernible in the surrender of a moiety, or half, of a messuage, also in June 1391:95

respited

heriot 5s

fine 8s

fealty

At this court come Robert Berenger and Matilda his wife, examined alone, and surrender
into the lord’s hand for themselves and their heirs forever, the moiety of one messuage and
one curtilage formerly Adam Tracy in Stoyle, whence there falls due to the lord in the name of
heriot as appears. And later the lord in open court grants the said moiety to Henry Milleward
and Matilda his wife, to hold to the same Henry and Matilda and their heirs, of the lord in
bondage by roll of court by service etc saving [the lord’s] rights etc. And they give the lord for
fine for entry as appears. And they do fealty. [I2]

In November 1395 Robert and Matilda surrendered what appears to be the same property to
their son, but no mention is made of Henry Milleward’s moiety, so again the earlier surrender
might only have been short-term:96

fine 3s

heriot 1 sow

fealty

At this court come Robert Berenger and Matilda his wife, examined alone, and surrender
into the lord’s hand, for themselves and their heirs forever, one cottage with pertinents
formerly Tracyes, whence there falls due to the lord in the name of heriot as appears. And
later the lord grants the said cottage with pertinents to William Berynger and Margery his
wife to have and to hold the said cottage with pertinents to the aforementioned William
and Margery, the heirs and assigns of the same William, of the lord at the lord’s will by
roll of court by service etc saving [the lord’s] rights etc. And they give the lord for fine as
appears. And they do the lord fealty etc. [I2]

Berenger and Milleward both appear in our lists but no debt disputes between them have been
found. However, the very fact that the creditor could enjoy use of the property until the debt was
repaid would reduce the likelihood that the matter would end up in court. In neither case did
the property pass permanently to the supposed creditor.

Briggs also considers the uses of credit, distinguishing between ‘exigency credit’, where a loan
is made to meet an immediate need, and ‘investment credit’, where one seeks a loan in order to
expand his resources – whether land, livestock, equipment or materials for trade. In the former
case, the debt would usually exacerbate poverty, as the borrower would have consumed what
he borrowed without any material gain whereby he could repay his debt, whereas in the latter
case, the longer-term gains are likely to exceed the initial costs of obtaining credit. However, we
are seldom provided with enough data in the court records to enable such a distinction to be
made.97 Perhaps a more detailed examination of the individuals concerned, charting their many
interactions, will give a clearer picture.

So who were the debtors and creditors who appear in our records? Did some of them come into
both categories over the period under consideration? Were people indebted to more than one
creditor at the same time?

Figure 5.2a displays a fairly complex network of cases involving 21 different litigants, some
of whom were on the periphery, while others were involved in a multiplicity of pleas, both
as plaintiffs and defendants. (False claims are denoted by grey dashed outline arrows, an
unjust claim where more was demanded than should have been, is denoted by a black
dashed outline arrow. Arrows point from plaintiff to defendant. Spellings of names have
been standardised.)

Figure 5.2a: A complex credit network

Most of the main players, and a few of the peripheral ones, were holders of virgate or half-
virgate tenements, though Alan Berenger is not known to have held a tenement until 1399
when he took on the lease of a 30-acre tenement [M] for 10 years, having previously held
an 8-acre freehold [U2] from 1385 to 1389 and a 5-acre freehold [U5] from 1391 to 1397.
John Gildon [G] and Walter atte Hegge [H] held their family virgates, Ralph Edward held
another virgate [S] and John Carpenter, who was holding a cottage [H2] until 1390, also
held a virgate [L] between 1391 and 1402, but might also have been a carpenter by trade.98
John Bayly leased a virgate [C] from 1394 and added another [A] in 1406. William Pynner
was illegally sub-leasing a virgate [L] by 1388 until 1390 and also held a cottage [T2] from
1389 to 1391.99 Richard Fouler held a half-virgate tenement [X] from 1388 until his death
in 1394. Ralph atte Rithe inherited his family half-virgate [T] in 1396, but was already joint
lessee of the manorial demesne by 1388, when the extant run of manorial accounts restart,
and was sole lessee 1388-1406. He also leased two virgate tenements [J] [O] from 1400.
William Wynteworthe held a substantial freehold tenement [W] of up to 60 acres in Lower
Morden, while John Kyppyng held a substantial copyhold property in Ewell [K].

Baldwyn PopsentPeter PopsentHenryMilwardPeter TaillorRichardFoulerJohn BaylyMatilda MellewardWilliam MulseyeWilliam WebbeRalph atte
RitheWalter atte HeggeJohn BekeswellRalph EdwardJohn Kyppyng1393139313921392139813971397139413861383138313931394Alan BerengerJohn StrawJohnCarpenterWilliam
WyntewortheRobert SwanJohn GildonWilliam Pynner139813861392139613871387

On the other hand, William Webbe only held a 4-acre smallholding [B3] until his death in
1388, but we have noted the possibility that he was a shoemaker, so would have been involved
in many commercial transactions.100 We have suggested above that Henry Milward and Peter
Popsent might have been millers, Henry only having smallholdings [B31] [U7] [Y], the last
surrendered to his widow, the others ultimately passing jointly to Peter’s wife and her sister, to
add to the cottage [N2] that Peter inherited from his mother.101 We also noted that Baldwyn
Popsent is only known to have held cottages and tofts [I3] [I7] [N1] and 1 acre of demesne
land, though he was a frequent brewer (see page 218).102 John Bexwell and his wife may
have shared a cottage [H2] with her mother/stepmother, as no other property is known for
him.103 Peter Taylor held a cottage with curtilage [B63] until his death in 1395.104 Matilda
Melleward had been party, with her son and daughter-in-law, to the sale of a house and 5-acre
smallholding [B2] to William Mulseye in 1392, and her 1394 claim against Mulseye might
have been about an outstanding payment in relation to that sale.105 It is not known where
Mulseye lived prior to that purchase, though he became lessee of the demesne from 1406.106
The homes of John Straw and Robert Swan have similarly not been identified. It is significant
that these smallholders and cottagers were less frequently involved in debt litigation, and this
is true also of most of the cases shown in figure 5.2b, less complex networks of cases, also
involving a further 21 litigants, but with few multiple pleas.

Figure 5.2b: Less complex credit networks

Only Robert Berenger and Simon Willot were involved in multiple pleas, mostly as defendants.
Robert Berenger held 2 cottages [I1] [I2] and 3 acres of arable land [B22] [N3] and 1 acre of
meadow [B222]. As we have seen, Simon Willot, whom we met in chapter 3 (pages 55-7), held a
5-acre plot [U5] and a 3-acre plot [U6] of freehold land as well as a cottage [N6], but had to fight
between 1389 and 1396 to prove that he was not a villein. Two of his debt cases came during that
period, perhaps as a result of these problems.

Peter MulseyeSimon WillotWilliam GrangerJohn MellewardAmicia HayterJohn WebbeSimon HobcokRichard & Alice
Sprynget (Hobcok)
Simon PynnerRoger DraperWilliam vicar of
MordenRobert ShepherdJohn WillotJohn PowerJohn Mapeldon1392139413831387139013781378137813781387139213921385Robert BerengerThomas Carpenter &
Thomas HumfreyVincentCarterJohn RydenSimon LightfootJohn Andrew1405138513851392139113871391

Simon Hobcok, and later his widow and her husband, held a virgate tenement [C], as did Thomas
Carpenter [F], though the latter also held a 1-acre detached croft [L1] and 4 acres of freehold land
[W3] [W4], while the former also held a cottage [N7]. A half-virgate [R] took the name Rydons
or Rykedons, perhaps indicating it had once been held by John Ryden, but when John sued Robert
Berenger in 1392 it was held by John Andrew. John Willot inherited a smallholding [F2] and an acre
[B62] in 1378, and in the 1390s also held 2 acres of freehold [B5]. Amicia Hayter held a 3½-acre
freehold [P] in Lower Morden and possibly a freehold toft in Central Road [U21]. Simon Lightfoot
only held cottages and smallholdings until 1400 when he leased a virgate [A] jointly with Thomas
Gaston. Peter Mulseye held a cottage and 2 acres of land [N8], John Webbe held a cottage with 1 acre
of land [B4], as did William Granger [I5] [I6]. John Melleward inherited a 5-acre smallholding [B2]
before 1391, having held it jointly with his father and their wives since 1384, but is not known to have
held property in 1378 when he falsely sued Simon Hobcok. His mother, or more probably stepmother,
was the Matilda Melleward noted above. In 1395 a Simon Pynnor alias Taillor held the cottage [B63]
formerly held by Peter Taillor mentioned above, but it is not known where he lived in 1385. As noted,
John Power might have been related to an assistant to the vicar, a successor to the William sued in
1378. No information has been found for Mapelden, Shepherd, Draper, Carter, or Humfrey.

These findings accord with Briggs’ observations that most village credit arrangements were
between neighbours of similar social and economic status. He also found little evidence of
credit being extended to the landless, suggesting that they were not considered credit-worthy.
He dismisses the idea that such debts were deemed too insignificant to be brought to court,
pointing out that recorded cases included claims to the value of just a few pence.107

Figure 5.3a reveals that 5 of the 42 litigants were involved in 37.5% of these 60 cases,

Figure 5.3a: The degree of participation in debt pleas, by percentage

Bayly, John 7.50Shepherd, Robert
Swan, RobertWynteworth, William 0.83Bayly, John 7.50Berenger, Alan 3.33
Carpenter & Humfrey

0.83

atte Hegge, Walter 1.67

Figure 5.3b presents the same data in a different format, using numbers of cases rather than
percentages.

Figure 5.3b: The degree of participation in debt pleas, by number

Of the seven who were most often involved, just one, Ralph atte Rithe, appears only as a creditor,
while Robert Berenger is the only person who is a serial debtor but never a creditor. The other five
are graded in between – John Carpenter being the creditor in seven out of ten cases (excluding
the two false claims against him), William Webbe in three out of five (excluding two false claims
against and one by him). William Mulseye was the accused debtor in three out of five, John
Gildon in five out of eight (excluding one false claim against and one by him), and John Bayly in
six out of seven (excluding two false claims made by him).

Although, as we have seen, it was not unusual for there to be reciprocal actions between parties,
there are few instances of individuals being indebted to more than one creditor at the same time.
William the vicar was accused by John Willot and by Roger Draper in 1378, John Kyppyng by
Ralph atte Rithe and by Ralph Edward in 1383, and Robert Berenger by John Ryden and jointly
by Thomas Carpenter and Thomas Humfrey in 1391.

Similarly, there are few examples of creditors being owed simultaneous debts by several debtors.
John Willot also proceeded against Robert Shepherd in 1378, John Melleward brought two
separate complaints – against Simon Willot and Amicia Hayter – in 1387 and Baldwyn Popsent
took action against both Peter Popsent and John Bayly in 1397.

vicar of Morden, WilliamWebbe, JohnWillot, JohnAndrew, JohnCarpenter & Thomas Humfrey, ThomasDraper, RogerGraunger, WilliamHobekoc, SimonLightfoot, SimonMapelden, JohnMelleward, HenryMelleward, MatildaMulseye, PeterPower, JohnPynnor, SimonRydon, JohnShepherd, RobertSwan, RobertWynteworth, William012345678910111213Carpenter, JohnGildon, JohnBayly, JohnWebbe, Williamatte-Rithe, RalphBerenger, RobertMulseye, WilliamBekeswell, JohnBerenger, AlanFouler, RichardMelleward, JohnWillot, SimonHayter, AmiciaPopsent, BaldwynPopsent, Peteratte-Hegge, WalterCarter, VincentEdward, RalphKyppyng, JohnPynnor, WilliamSprynget, RichardTaillor, Petervicar of Morden, William
William Wynteworth

Robert Swan

Robert Shepherd

John Rydon

Simon Pynnor

John Power

Peter Mulseye

Matilda Melleward

Henry Melleward

John Mapelden

Simon Lightfoot

Simon Hobekoc

William Graunger

Roger Draper

Thomas Carpenter & Thomas Humfrey

John Andrew

John Willot

John Webbe

William vicar of Morden

Peter Taillor

Richard Sprynget

William Pynnor

John Kyppyng

Ralph Edward

Vincent Carter

Walter atte-Hegge

Peter Popsent

Baldwyn Popsent

Amicia Hayter

Simon Willot

John Melleward

Richard Fouler

Alan Berenger

John Bekeswell

William Mulseye

Robert Berenger

Ralph atte-Rithe

William Webbe

John Bayly

John Gildon

John Carpenter

12

11

10

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

0

There is little in the Morden data to support the existence of patronage that Christopher Dyer
has observed in the debt networks of some villages: ‘Evidence of debt pleas suggest that wealthier
peasants had developed an informal clientage, especially among the poorer peasants, granting
loans, for example, and probably receiving cheap labor in return’.108 Clarke similarly identifies
examples of creditors using ‘debt accumulation as part of a strategy designed to strengthen ties
of dependency’.109

If anyone in Morden could be fitted into such a category, the most likely candidate might be
Ralph atte Rithe who made five claims against various neighbours, plus one judged to be false,
over two decades. His position as a lessee of the demesne, and later as a substantial landholder,
would have put him in a strong position within the community and, as we have seen, he is never
accused as a debtor. Similarly, John Carpenter’s repeated interactions with John Gildon over a
10-year period might possibly suggest such a dependent relationship, though if, as suggested
above, he was a carpenter by trade as well as by name, his litigation is more likely to have arisen
in the course of business. However, credit should not necessarily be seen as a means of the
wealthy tenant exploiting his poorer neighbours for, as Dyer also notes, ‘peasants had to give
each other credit, because they did not have enough cash, in the same way that they gained from
the economic benefits of agricultural systems which promised all those with shares in the fields
at least a meager living’.110

Briggs came to the conclusion that, in the villages he studied, ‘most people … borrowed without
serious long-term economic problems, and without suffering obvious exploitation at the hands
of creditors’.111 As we have seen, in Morden two of the above debtors, Robert Berenger and Simon
Willot, surrendered property during this period, but soon regained it, raising the possibility of
mortgages. Berenger also surrendered an acre to his son in 1387, followed by a cottage in 1395,
but retained another cottage and 4 acres until his death.112 Ralph Edward surrendered a cottage
[I8] to his daughter and son-in-law in 1380 and his virgate tenement [S] to his son in 1398.113
John Carpenter surrendered a cottage [H2] to John Hurrok in 1390 but then took on the lease
of a virgate tenement [L].114 The property was seized into the lord’s hand in 1402 because vacant
and it was presumably his son and heir, called John Carpenter junior, who ‘withdrew from the
lordship’ in 1406.115 None of these give the appearance of forced sales due to debt, but of normal
activity. In fact, similar activity was recorded among the creditors – Richard and Alice Sprynget
surrendering their virgate tenement [C] into the lord’s hand in 1391 but retaining their cottage
[N7] until Alice’s death in 1400, while Ralph atte Rithe surrendered a cottage to his daughter and
son-in-law in 1389.116

However, Robert Berenger and Walter atte Hegge each owed rent arrears in May 1387, atte
Hegge for 2 years and Berenger for 1 year, both at 3d a year, and in May 1396 John Carpenter
was distrained for unpaid rent, which might be connected with debts that they owed or, in
Carpenter’s case, for debts owed to him.117 However, Berenger was also amerced for refusal to
perform ploughing duties, and other of his activities might be interpreted as protests, while
John Bayly, Baldwin Popsent, Peter Popsent and John Willot took part in similar protests in
November 1411 (see page 177).118

For only one complaint do we have information as to how long creditors were prepared to
wait for payment – the atte Rithe/Gildon detinue case. The oats were delivered to Gildon in
November 1385 and atte Rithe brought the case at the next court held the following February, so
only 3 months on this occasion.119

Debts to the abbot of Westminster

Another debt case involving Morden tenants is preserved in a writ to the sheriff of Middlesex in
November 1397:120

Richard, by grace of God King of England and France and Lord of Ireland, to the sheriff of
Middlesex, greetings. Charge through bail and safe pledge, Baldwin Popsent, William Prior,
Alan Berenger, William Mulseye, Henry Milleward and William Pynnore of Morden that
they be before our justices at Westminster on the octave of Saint Hilary to answer the Abbot

of Westminster on the charge whereby they should render to him twenty two pounds, that
they owe to him and unjustly withhold, as is said, and to show why they were not before
our justices at Westminster within sixteen days after the day of St Martin, just as they were
summoned. And have there the names of the pledges and this writ.

Witness W. Thirnyng at Westminster, 30 November, in the twenty-first year of our reign.

William Priour is not mentioned elsewhere in our records, but the other names have already
been noted in this chapter as among those most involved in debt proceedings. None of them
held any manorial post at this time, though Mulseye was to serve as beadle in 1400/01 and took
on the lease of the demesne from 1406, while Berenger was beadle 1402/03. The demesne was
currently leased to Ralph atte Rithe at £14 a year from 1391 until 1406, and he also took on the
lease of the rectorial rights at £10 a year from 1396. Nor were they serving as chief pledges or
aletasters, though until May 1393 Berenger had been a chief pledge and Popsent an aletaster
and both frequently served as affeerers.121 Three of the manors studied by Briggs were owned by
the bishop of Ely, and Briggs concludes that ‘landlords apparently played little part in providing
credit to villagers … there is little if any evidence in our court rolls that lords like the bishop
of Ely lent directly to their peasant tenants’, but only indirectly by allowing the accumulation
of rent arrears.122 In Morden, it was not until Michaelmas 1399 that the collection of rents
became the responsibility of the lessee of the demesne and the following details were entered
on the manorial accounts, so we must consider the possibility that the 1397 debt represented
accumulated unpaid rents from some of the leading tenants:123

rents of assize

For rent of assize at the same place for the Michaelmas term 22s 11d.

From tallage of customary tenants at the same term 5s 0d.

For rent at the same place for the Christmas term 18s 0½d.

For rent at the same place for the Easter term 18s 0½d.

For rent at the same place for the term of the Nativity of John the Baptist 18s 0½d.

For a certain rent called medeselver at the same term 2s 8d.

For rent of William atte Thorne at the same term 1d.

Sum £4 4s 9½d. approved

farms

From Alan Berenger for farm of 30 acres land which was John de Marreys and afterwards
William atte Chercher leased to him per year 4 terms 13s 4d.

From Simon Lightfoot and Thomas Gaston for farm of 20 acres land formerly Simon son
of Thomas and afterwards Adam Est and 1 tenement and ½ acre land formerly Walter
Attewode leased to them per year 4 terms 12s.

From John Edward for farm of 20 acres land formerly Hugh Huberd and afterwards John
Huberd leased to him and his heirs per year 4 terms 12s.

From John atte Rithe for farm of 20 acres land formerly John le Godesone and 20 acres land
formerly Henry atte Rithe called Jocyes leased to him per year 4 terms 14s.

From Alice Fouler’ for farm of 10 acres land formerly Thomas atte Cherche leased to her
per year 4 terms 5s.

From Ralph atte Rithe for farm of 10 acres land formerly Alice atte Rithe leased to him per
year 4 terms 5s.

From John Andrew for farm of 10 acres land formerly Henry atte Rithe leased to him per
year 4 terms 5s 6d.

From Baldewyne Popsent for farm of 2 cottages formerly William Flessh and 1 acre land
leased to him per year 4 terms 20d.

Sum 68s 6d. approved

However, rents of assize were, by definition, fixed annual rents assessed at 12d per virgate,
while Alan Berenger was only paying 13s 4d a year for the lease, free from other servile
obligations, of his 1½-virgate tenement, and Popsent 20d for his leaseholds. It would have
taken many years for accumulated rent arrears from just six tenants, mostly smallholders,
to reach the huge sum of £22.

Further doubt is cast on this interpretation by an earlier document, from July 1383, which
records a bond to pay £20 to Abbot Nicholas de Litlington, entered into by Thomas Carpenter
of Morden, who we met alongside Thomas Humfrey in 1391 when they jointly claimed 3s 4d
from Robert Berenger.124 Unfortunately the 1383 document is so badly worn and damaged
that very little is readable. This was a period from which no manorial accounts survive, so
we have no evidence as to whether he was leasing the manorial demesne. He did not serve as
beadle, which was the other office that often included responsibility for collecting the rents
of fellow tenants, though the court rolls show that he served as a chief pledge from 1380 to
1390. At this time he held a virgate tenement [F] and a detached croft [L1], as well as a toft
and 4 acres of free land [W3][W4], so his personal rent would have been only a few shillings
a year at the most. One thing is known about Thomas – that he was frequently amerced for
felling trees – and it is likely that his surname is a true reflection of his occupation. This
raises the possibility that this was a business arrangement – perhaps an agreement over a
deferred payment for timber provided by the abbot – which in turn might indicate that the
1397 debt also related to some kind of business enterprise involving all six men – perhaps
the purchase of livestock from the abbey or wool paid for in advance by the abbot but not
delivered.

Thomas Carpenter and his wife sold the freehold properties to Thomas Pynnore in 1395,
but had already surrendered the copyhold virgate tenement in 1393 to Alan Berenger and
his wife.125 However, this was not a straightforward surrender, as they retained a life-interest
in the property. Thomas finally surrendered the tenement to the Berengers in 1398, but only
after having agreed that they would pay him an annuity of 13s 4d for the rest of his life (see
page 68).126 This seems to have been a retirement contract rather than a means of raising
funds to pay off an outstanding debt to the abbot made in 1383. He was still alive in 1402
when he surrendered the croft to the Berengers, though again retaining it for life, but that
is his last appearance in the court rolls.127

Debts mentioned in wills and probate inventories

It was normal to include a clause in one’s will requiring executors to pay all outstanding
debts, whether one was a wealthy widow such as Isabel Holt (1537), a substantial landholder
such as John Heryngman (1571), a demesne farmer such as William Woodman (1538), or
one of more humble circumstances such as Robert Tomson (1536), William Stuart (1536)
and Ranold Stradder (1549) (see pages 91-101).128 However, Woodman also mentions ‘The
Residue of all my goodes, catalles and debttes after my debttes payd, my bequestes and
funerall expencys fulfylled, …’, while the probate inventory prepared after the death of John
Frysbee, husbandman, in December 1558 includes 30s 4d under ‘debtes owyng’ to him,
almost as much as his 40s cash in hand.129

Debt was a fact of life for both rich and poor. In fact, the wealthier one was, the more
important part was played by credit. It was essential in all areas of business, as will be seen
in the following case study involving a man at the other end of the social and economic
spectrum to even the wealthiest of our Morden tenants, for in 1347 Henry de Strete
purchased the lordship of the neighbouring manor of Rasebury or Ravensbury, which
extended into the parish of Morden. This case study makes use of the wealth of detail that
survives concerning his credit transactions, details not normally available for lesser tenants.

Mercantile debt – a case study

In his 1918 study of the English wine trade with Gascony in the reign of Edward III, Frank
Sargent wrote:130

Between the years 1337 and 1351 … there was a great development in the power and wealth
of the vintners and a great extension of their activities in Gascony … At no previous time
had the vintners included among their number so many persons of such influence as John
Malewayn, John Stodeye, Henry Picard, John Michel, Henry Vannere, Henry Palmere,
William Clapitus, Henry del Strete, John and Richard de Rothyng, and Richard Chaucer.’

Sargent illustrated this statement by a reference in the close rolls to two of these London
vintners, William Clapitus and Henry del Strete, who in 1346 jointly became creditors to Walter
de Chiriton and his fellows in the enormous sum of £1,027 6s 8d:131

William de Melchebourn, Walter de Chiriton and Thomas de Swanlond acknowledge that
they owe to William Clapitus, citizen and vintner of London, and to Henry del Strete £1,027
6s 8d to be levied, in default of payment, of their lands and chattels in co. Essex.

He also drew attention to Clapitus’ wealth as revealed in entries in the close rolls of 15 November
1346 regarding his assessment at ten marks [£6 13s 4d] in connection with the collection of the
fifteenth in 1345 and 1346, representing moveable goods (excluding armour and riding horses,
jewels and dresses of himself and his wife, and their vessels of gold and silver)132 valued at 150
marks [£100]:133

To the treasurer and barons of the exchequer. Order to discharge William Clapitus and the
taxers and collectors of the tenth and fifteenth granted in parliament at Westminster in the
18th year of the reign, in the city of London, of 10 marks for his portion for the second year,
as the king has pardoned him that portion and ordered the taxers and collectors to supersede
the demand made upon him for the same, and the treasurer and barons have notified the
king that they have not proceeded to discharge William and the taxers and collectors of that
portion, because the mayor and citizens of London render a gross sum of 1,100 marks in each
taxation, whereof they have not any particulars, and the taxers and collectors have returned
that William is assessed at 10 marks for his portion for the second year.

Although no similar assessment survives for Henry del Strete, there is plenty of evidence that he
too had access to considerable funds. For example on 15 October 1348 the close rolls record:134

John de Frenyngham acknowledges that he owes to Henry del Strete of London 100 marks
[£66 13s 4d]; to be levied, in default of payment, of his lands and chattels in co. Kent.
Cancelled on payment.

As noted above, Henry used some of his wealth in purchasing the ‘Rasebury’ or Ravensbury
estate in Mitcham and Morden from William de Herle in January 1347:135

This is the final concord made in the court of the lord king at Westminster in the fortnight
from St Hilary 21st year of the reign of Edward III king of England and 8th year of the same
as king of France, in the presence of John de Stonore, William de Shareshall, Roger Hillary,
Richard de Kelleshull, Richard de Wylughby and John de Stonford, justices, and others
faithful to the lord king then there present. Between Henry de Strete, citizen and vintner of
London, plaintiff, and William de Herle, knight, defendant, for the manor of Rasebery with
pertinents in Mitcham and Morden, in respect of which full agreement was made between
them in the same court, namely that the aforesaid Henry acknowledged the aforesaid manor
with pertinents to be the right of the same William. And for this acknowledgement, fine and
concord the same William grants to the aforesaid Henry the aforesaid manor with pertinents.
And he rendered that to him in the same court to have and to hold to the same Henry of the
chief lords of that fee by the services which pertain to the aforesaid manor for the whole life of
Henry himself and after the death of Henry himself the aforesaid manor with pertinents shall
wholly remain to Thomas de Strete of London son of Katerine de Temple and the heirs of
his body procreated, to hold of the chief lords of that fee by the services which pertain to the
aforesaid manor forever. And if it should happen that the same Thomas should die without
heirs of his body procreated then after the death of Thomas himself the aforesaid manor with

pertinents shall wholly remain to William de Strete of London son of the aforesaid Katerine
de Temple and the heirs of his body procreated, to hold of the chief lords of that fee by the
services which pertain to the aforesaid manor forever. And if it should happen that the same
William de Strete should die without heirs of his body procreated then after the death of
William himself the aforesaid manor with pertinents shall wholly remain to the rightful heirs
of the aforesaid Henry, to hold of the chief lords of that fee by the services which pertain to
the aforesaid manor forever. And the aforesaid William de Herle and his heirs will warrant
the aforesaid Henry for the whole life of Henry himself and the aforesaid Thomas and his
heirs aforesaid and the aforesaid William de Strete and his heirs aforesaid if the same Thomas
should die without heirs of his body procreated and also the rightful heirs of the aforesaid
Henry if the same William de Strete should die without heirs of his body procreated for the
aforesaid manor with pertinents against all men forever. Surrey

In October 1347 Henry purchased a further 60 acres land in Mitcham from William Mareys and
his wife Alicia:136

This is the final concord made in the court of the lord king at Westminster in the three
weeks from Michaelmas 21st year of the reign of Edward III king of England and 8th year
of the same as king of France, in the presence of John de Stonore, William de Shareshall,
Roger Hillary, Richard de Kelleshull, Richard de Wylughby and John de Stonford, justices,
and others faithful to the lord king then there present. Between Henry del Strete, citizen and
vintner of London, plaintiff, and William Mareys and Alicia his wife, defendants, of sixty
acres land with pertinents in Mitcham, in respect of which full agreement was made between
them in the same court, namely that the aforesaid Henry acknowledged the aforesaid land
with pertinents to be the right of the same William. And for this acknowledgement, fine and
concord the same William and Alicia grant to the aforesaid Henry the aforesaid land with
pertinents. And they rendered that to him in the same court, to have and to hold to the same
Henry of the chief lords of that fee by the services which pertain to the aforesaid land for
the whole life of Henry himself and after the death of Henry himself the aforesaid land with
pertinents shall wholly remain to Thomas del Strete of London son of Katerine de Temple
and the heirs of his body procreated, to hold of the chief lords of that fee by the services which
pertain to the aforesaid land forever. And if it should happen that the same Thomas should
die without heirs of his body procreated then after the death of Thomas himself the aforesaid
land with pertinents shall wholly remain to William del Strete of London son of the aforesaid
Katerine de Temple and the heirs of his body procreated, to hold of the chief lords of that fee
by the services which pertain to the aforesaid land forever. And if it should happen that the
same William del Strete should die without heirs of his body procreated then after the death
of William himself the aforesaid manor with pertinents shall wholly remain to the rightful
heirs of the aforesaid Henry, to hold of the chief lords of that fee by the services which pertain
to the aforesaid land forever. And the aforesaid William Mareys and Alicia and the heirs of
William himself will warrant the aforesaid Henry for the whole life of Henry himself and the
aforesaid Thomas and his heirs aforesaid and the aforesaid William de Strete and his heirs
aforesaid if the same Thomas should die without heirs of his body procreated and also the
rightful heirs of the aforesaid Henry if the same William de Strete should die without heirs
of his body procreated for the aforesaid land with pertinents against all men forever. Surrey

The precision with which Henry arranged for the inheritance of these properties suggests that
he was meticulous in all his business dealings. We discover from later records that Thomas
was his son, a detail not mentioned in these documents, which also omit any suggestion that
Katerine was Henry’s wife. The specific arrangements for inheritance might therefore arise from
the illegitimacy of his children. In the event neither of the heirs named in these documents were
to inherit the properties, as we will see below.

William Mareys held a substantial estate in and around Mitcham, but this is not the only occasion
when he sold land. In November 1336 he had sold 12 acres of meadowland to the son of his
Beddington neighbour, Sir Nicholas Carew:137

Know [all men] present and future that I, William Mareys of Mitcham, have given, give, and by
this my present charter confirm to William de Carreu, son of Sir Nicholas de Carreu knight, 12
acres meadow in the parish of Mitcham which lie between the meadow of lord William Herle

on the east, and meadow of the abbot of Westminster on the west, and a certain field which
is called Nortfeld on the north, and the water which is called Lotebourn on the south; to have
and to hold the aforesaid 12 acres meadow with pertinents to the aforesaid William de Carreu,
his heirs and assigns, freely, quietly, well and peaceably forever. And I the aforesaid William
Marreys [sic] and my heirs will warrant the aforesaid 12 acres meadow with pertinents to
the aforesaid William de Carreu, his heirs and assigns, against all men and farmers forever.In
witness to which my seal is appended to this my present charter. Dated at Beddington the
Thursday next after the feast of St Katherine 10 Edward III [28 Nov 1336]. Witnesses: Reginald
Forester, John Waleton, William Charlwode, Robert Daudre, Thomas Child, Richard Alman,
William Fyge and others. [Dorse: Mitcham, Surrey]

(The possible origins of these two properties have been considered in a companion volume to
this study.138)

Then in April 1347 Mareys and his wife Alice sold 30 acres land in Mitcham to Reginald le
Forester of Bandon:139

This is the final concord made in the court of the lord king at Westminster in the fortnight
from Easter day 21st year of the reign of Edward III king of England and 8th year of the
same as king of France, in the presence of John Stonore, William de Shareshall, Roger
Hillary, Richard de Kelleshull, Richard de Wylughby and John de Stonford, justices, and
others faithful to the lord king then there present. Between Reginald le Forester de Bandon,
plaintiff, and William de Mareys de Micham and Alicia his wife, defendants, for thirty acres
land with pertinents in Mitcham, in respect of which full agreement was made between them
in the same court, namely that the aforesaid William and Alicia acknowledged the aforesaid
land with pertinents to be the right of the same Reginald as that which the same Reginald
has by gift of the aforesaid William and Alicia, to have and to hold to the same Reginald
and his heirs of the chief lords of that fee by the services which pertain to the aforesaid
land forever. And furthermore the same William and Alicia grant for themselves and for
the heirs of William himself that they will warrant the aforesaid Reginald and his heirs for
the aforesaid land with pertinents against all men forever. And for this acknowledgement,
warrant, fine and concord the same Reginald gave the aforesaid William and Alicia twenty
silver marks. Surrey

In 1332 Mareys had been among the top tax payers in Mitcham, being assessed at 3s 4d on his
movable goods, not land.140 Levied at one-fifteenth, this would indicate that his goods were
valued at £2 10s. But in 1337 he was unable to pay a debt of £15 to a London ‘bureller’ or cloth-
merchant:141

[To the reverend and] discreet man the lord Robert Prynk, chancellor to the illustrious [lord
king of England and]142 France, his humble and devoted [men] John of Oxford mayor of
the city of London and William de Carleton clerk, deputed for receiving recognizances of
debts in the same city, greetings with honour. We indicate to you by the present [document]
that William Mareys of Mitcham in the county of Surrey, on Thursday before the feast of St
Valentine 11 Edward III [13 Feb 1337], came before Henry Darcy then mayor of the city of
London and William de Carleton then clerk, and made recognizance that he is indebted to
Thomas de Winchester citizen and cloth-merchant [bureller]143 of London in £15 sterling
according to the form of the Statute of Merchants which he ought to pay him at the feast
of St Luke the evangelist then next future [18 Oct 1337] and it is not yet paid as said. And
because the aforesaid William has not observed the term of his payment we humbly request
you to write to the sheriff of Surrey in due form namely that the said William be compelled
to make the said payment owed to the same Thomas according to the form of the statute. In
witness of which the seal of the office for recognizances of debt is appended to the present
[document]. Farewell in Christ. [Dorse: Surrey: before the justices of the bench]

Under the statute De Mercatoribus, passed in 1285, commercial debts had to be acknowledged
in public before the clerk of the Statutes Merchant and the lord mayor of London, or before
two merchants appointed by the mayors of other towns. The merchant was liable to have his
goods seized and the rents and profits of his lands collected by his creditor if he defaulted in
the payment of his debt. This was replaced in 1353 by the Statute Staple by which debts were
acknowledged in public before the mayor of the Staple.144

It does not seem that Mareys was suffering from a temporary cash-flow problem, as this debt, or
an equivalent one, was still outstanding four years later:145

To the reverend and discreet man the lord Robert Prynk, chancellor to the illustrious lord
king of England and France, his humble and devoted [men] John of Oxford mayor of the
city of London and William de Carleton clerk, deputed for receiving recognizances of debts
in the same city, greetings with honour. We indicate to you by the present [document]
that William Mareys of Mitcham in the county of Surrey, on Thursday next after the feast
of St Hilary in the 14th year of the reign of King Edward III and in France the first [18 Jan
1341], came before Andrew Aubrey then mayor of the same city and William de Carleton
then clerk, deputed for receiving such recognizances and made recognizance that he is
indebted to Thomas de Winchester of Candlewickstreet in £15 sterling according to the
form of the Statute of Merchants which he ought to pay him at the feast of St Michael then
next future [29 Sep 1341] and it is not yet paid as said. And because the aforesaid William
has not observed the term of his payment we humbly request you to write to the sheriff of
Surrey in due form namely that the said William be compelled to make the said payment
owed to the same Thomas according to the form of the statute. In witness of which the seal
of the office for recognizances of debt is appended to the present [document]. Farewell in
God. [Dorse: Surrey: before the justices of the bench]

£15 was a substantial sum – in the 1340s the total income in cash and kind that Westminster
Abbey received from its estate in neighbouring Morden never exceeded £10 a year146 – so this is
unlikely to have been normal domestic expenditure by Mareys. Perhaps it indicates an advance
payment for wool that he had failed to deliver – it was quite common for wool producers to
contract to supply a merchant with a certain quantity of wool, not necessarily of their own
production, and to be paid in advance to cover the costs of any purchases.147

Whatever the origins of Mareys’s debt to Thomas of Winchester, his financial situation does not
seem to have been improved by selling the 30 acres to le Forester and the 60 acres to de Strete
in 1347, for just over a year later Mareys acknowledged that he owed de Strete £100, a sum still
not paid in September 1362:148

To the venerable father and lord in Christ, the lord William, by grace of God bishop of
Winchester and Chancellor of the illustrious lord king of England, if it please him John
Pecche mayor of the city of London and William de Merston clerk, deputed to receive
recognizances of debt in the same city, all reverence and honour such as is due to a
father. We indicate to you by the present [document] that William Mareys of Mitcham
in the county of Surrey, on 30 January 23 Edward III [30 Jan 1349], came before John
Lovekyn then mayor of London and Thomas de Colle then clerk, deputed for receiving
such recognizances in the same city and made recognizance that he is indebted to Henry
de Strete citizen and vintner of London in £100 sterling according to the form of the
Statute of Merchants which he ought to pay him at the feast of St Michael then next future
1 and it is not yet paid as said. And because the aforesaid William has not
observed the term of his payment we humbly request you to write to the sheriff of Surrey
in due form namely that the said William be compelled to make the said payment owed
to the same Henry according to the form of the statute. In witness of which the seal of the
office for recognizances of debt is appended to the present [document]. Dated London
20 September 36 Edward III [1362]. [Dorse: Surrey: before the justices. In Michaelmas
fortnight]

The sale of these lands may well have contributed to his financial difficulties as he was no longer
receiving a regular income from their tenants. No indication is given in the document regarding
the source of this debt. Wine retailed at 4d a gallon in London in the 1340s,149 so it is unlikely
that Mareys would have ordered £100 of wine from de Strete; it was probably a loan from a
neighbour. De Strete, practical as always, attempted to cover any risks. Two days after the loan
was registered before the mayor, on 1 February 1349, William de Mareys granted de Strete a
25-year lease of his lands and tenements in Mitcham, Wicford, Wandsworth and Carshalton as
security should the loan not be repaid within the agreed period:150

This indenture witnesses that I William Mareys of Mitcham in the county of Surrey by
a certain bond declared by statute merchant am holden to Henry de Strete citizen and
vintner of London in a hundred pounds sterling, payable at Michaelmas next happening
after the date of this indenture just as is fully contained in the said bond. However, the same
Henry wishes and grants for himself, his heirs [and] executors that if the aforesaid Henry,
his heirs or assigns, peacefully have and hold certain lands and tenements with pertinents
in Mitcham, Wicford, Wandsworth and Carshalton in the aforesaid county according to
the form, force and effect of a certain charter and indentures agreed between the aforesaid
Henry, William and Alicia his wife, and that if the said William henceforth shall not grant,
contract nor alienate to anyone the reversion of the aforesaid lands and tenements with
rents, meadows, pastures, feedings, commons and all other of his rights and pertinents or
any part of them which the aforesaid Henry has and holds by the aforesaid charter and
indenture under certain conditions for a term of twenty-five years by feoffment, grant and
lease of the aforesaid William and Alicia his wife in Mitcham, Wicford, Wandsworth and
Carshalton aforesaid and also that if the same William shall not grant, alienate nor contract
to anyone the aforesaid lands and tenements with mills, gardens and their pertinents or part
of them which the said William and Alicia his wife have in Mitcham aforesaid henceforth in
fee nor by any means whatsoever in disturbing or disinheriting the heirs of William himself,
that now the aforesaid bond everywhere found, quashed, nullified, and for nought be held
undone. And if it should happen that the said William in any way grants contrary to the
tenor of the aforesaid covenant at any time henceforth for the same William himself, his
heirs and executors, that from that time the said bond shall in every way to him be confirmed
and shall stand firm and permanent. Saving always and reserving the aforesaid parts of all
the covenant between the same Henry, William and Alicia or either of them before the
date shall make payment of the aforesaid hundred pounds nothing had or made by this
indenture withstanding. In witness of which to the parts of this aforesaid indenture they
have alternately placed their seals. Given at London the first day of the month of February in
the twenty-third regnal year of king Edward the third after the Conquest. [Seal attached]

And yet, in spite of this agreement, de Strete was still trying to recover the debt in 1362. It would
seem that Mareys had reneged on the deal, and had decided to ‘grant, alienate [or] contract … the
aforesaid lands and tenements with mills, gardens and their pertinents or part of them’, contrary
to the above agreement. And such a grant had indeed been made in August 1361:151

Know [all men] present and future that I William Mareys of Mitcham in the county of
Surrey have given and granted and by this my present indented charter have confirmed to
Sir Richard Porter perpetual vicar of the church of Mitcham and [Sir] John de Scaldewell
perpetual vicar of the church of Westmordon all my capital messuage with the buildings
built upon it, gardens, crofts, meadows, pastures, woods, trees, fences, hedges, ditches thus
enclosed, with two watermills and a certain piece of marshland adjoining thus enclosed by
the water towards the field called Beneytesfeld and with all other their pertinents which I
have in Wykeford in the parish of Mitcham abovesaid, to have and to hold all the aforesaid
messuage with the said two watermills, piece of marshland adjoining and with all other
their pertinents as aforesaid to the aforementioned Sir Richard and [Sir] John and their
heirs and assigns, freely, wholly, well and in peace, in fee and heredity of the chief lords of
that fee by the services in respect thereof due and customary forever, rendering in respect
thereof annually to me the aforementioned William and my assigns for the whole of my life
100 shillings sterling at the feasts of Easter and Michaelmas by equal portions. And if the
aforesaid annual rent of 100 shillings at any time during the life of me the aforesaid William
should be in arrears beyond any term when the same rent ought to be paid as aforesaid
then it is well permitted to me the aforementioned William and my assigns to enter the said
messuage and mills with their pertinents and to distrain by all goods and chattels found in
the same and to carry off, take away, drive away and retain distraints until satisfaction is
fully made to us for all arrears of the same annual rent.

And I the aforesaid William and my heirs will warrant the whole of the aforesaid capital
messuage with the buildings built upon it, gardens, crofts, meadows, pastures, woods, trees,
fences, hedges, ditches thus enclosed, with the said two watermills, piece of marshland
adjoining and with all other their pertinents as is aforesaid to the aforementioned Sir

Richard and [Sir] John and their heirs and assigns against all people forever. In witness
whereof to one part of this indented charter, that shall remain in the possession of the
said Sir Richard and [Sir] John, I the aforesaid William have affixed my seal. The other
part of the same, which shall remain in my possession, has been sealed with the seals of
the same Sir Richard and [Sir] John. These being witnesses: Nicholas de Careu, John de
Bergh, Robert atte Doune, Adam Kentyssh, William Harpour, William Fyge, Thomas Est
and others. Dated at Mitcham the Friday next after the feast of St Laurence the martyr 35
Edward III [13 Aug 1361].

And it is noted that the aforesaid William Mareys came into the King’s Chancery at
Westminster 21 January of the present year [1362} and acknowledged the aforesaid charter
and all contained in the same in the form aforesaid.

Was this the property that had been leased to de Strete, or was it a different property that Mareys
was giving away? The two watermills mentioned are almost certainly the ‘two watermills in one
house’ listed among de Strete’s assets in 1357 and 1372. Later documents reveal that these were
held of Rasebury manor – though whether as freehold or copyhold was to become a matter
of dispute – and that they were located above Mitcham Bridge on the site of Grove Mill, now
converted to apartments.152

This annuity of 100 shillings appears to have been a form of pension, William investing his
property to provide for his old age and also for his afterlife. It was not unusual for local clergy
to act as trustees for landowners. In fact these very mills were the subject of such a transaction
some 150 years later, when William Standen enfeoffed them to Thomas Bagthwayte, vicar of
Mitcham 1491-1522, but this was only a temporary arrangement as Bagthwayte in turn enfeoffed
‘Wyllyam Standen, Rychard Carewe knight, Nicholas Carewe, Rychard Gent and Harry Burton
and theyr heyres and assygnes to the use of the same Wyllyam, hys heyres and assygnes’.153
However, Mareys’ arrangement seems to have been more long-term and the responsibility of the
two vicars more demanding.

It has been suggested that this grant was in trust for Merton Priory, which was said to be holding
‘the manor of Wickford’ in 1380,154 and at its dissolution in 1538 it held a substantial estate in
Mitcham and Carshalton called Mareslond, perhaps named after Mareys.155 These lands can
be traced through later documents, where they are described as ‘Mareslondes’, ‘Marrish lands’,
‘Marris Fee’ or ‘Marsh Fee’ lands.156 But the priory was to gain an interest in this estate by another
route in March 1373, as we shall see below.

In November and December 1351 the close rolls record a number of instructions relating to the
repayment of ‘loans’ made to the king – probably the value of goods taken but not paid for – by
individual merchants, one of whom was Henry:157

To John Malwayn, surveyor of the customs and subsidies in all the ports of England, and
to the collectors of the same in the port of London to cause allowance to be made to Henry
atte Strete of 20s on every sack of his own wool taken out of that port, until he is satisfied
for 20 marks for the present year, for 40 marks which he lent to the king at the receipt of
the exchequer, in accordance with the king’s grant to him of 40 marks to be received of the
issues of the customs and subsidies on his own wool taken out of England, for two years
from Michaelmas last, and if such allowance cannot be made to him of his own wool then to
pay him what is lacking of the 20 marks of the issues of the custom and subsidy of the wool,
hides and wool fells of others taken from that port.

A similar order was made on 16 October the following year:158

To the collectors of the customs and subsidies in the port of London. Order to cause
allowance to be made to Henry atte Strete of 20s on every sack of his own wool taken from
that port of the issues of the customs and subsidies until he is satisfied for 30 marks, to wit
for 20 marks thereof before Easter next, and for 10 marks between Easter and Michaelmas,
and if they cannot make such allowance to him of his own wool, to pay him what is lacking
of the said issues within the said terms, as by the certificate of the treasurer and barons of
the exchequer it is found that Henry was satisfied for 10 marks of 40 marks lent by him to

the king and which the king caused to be assigned to him upon the issues of the customs
and subsidies for two years, by John Malewayn, late receiver of those customs and subsidies;
and the king wishes him to be satisfied for the residue.

Again in October 1353:159

To the collectors of the customs and subsidies in the port of London. Order to pay to Henry
atte Strete or to his attorney 30 marks, as on its being found by certificate of the treasurer and
barons of the exchequer, sent into chancery, that Henry had been satisfied at the exchequer
for 10 marks of a sum of 40 marks lent by him to the king, and which the king granted should
be delivered to him upon the issues of the customs and subsidies, in two years, by the hands
of John Malewayn, late receiver of the customs and subsidies, the king ordered the collectors
to cause 20s. to be allowed to Henry on each sack of his own wool taken out of that port of the
issues of the customs and subsidies until he should be satisfied for the remaining 30 marks,
and Henry has surrendered the said writ in the wax to chancery to be cancelled.

It might seem strange that a vintner was to be paid by cancelling the customs duty due on the
export of his own wool, but it was not unusual for vintners to be involved in the wool trade.
Often wool was exported to Gascony to be exchanged for wine imported back to England.160
Although he would have leased to tenant farmers his 600 acres in and around Mitcham, of which
220 acres were meadow or pasture in 1357, he could well have had first refusal on the wool from
his tenants’ sheep.

Such delays in obtaining remuneration from the king do not seem to have hampered de Strete’s
business activities, as the following entry on the 1353 close roll reveals:161

June 6. Margery Alman of Micchelham acknowledges that she owes to Henry del Strete,
citizen and vintner of London, £100 to be levied, in default of payment, of her lands and
chattels in Surrey. Cancelled on payment.

The same Margery acknowledges that she owes to the said Henry £100 to be levied as
aforesaid.

As a London wine merchant, de Strete was adept at manipulating credit, lending when he
had funds in hand and borrowing when emergencies arose when funds were not to hand. As
Michael Postan explained, ‘sudden liabilities which could not be met from the regular resources
of the business, payments impending before the corresponding receipts fell due, promptitude of
creditors and procrastination of debtors – in short, all the maladjustments of the regular system
of sale credits – would create a demand for short loans. In a sense these maladjustments could be
described as emergencies, but in so far as selling and buying was generally based on credit, they
were both frequent and inevitable, and the ’emergencies’ were therefore part of the ordinary
commercial routine’.162 Henry frequently raised short-term loans on the security of his lands in
Mitcham, Morden and London in the 1350s and 1360s. Thus on 23 January 1357, the close rolls
record an annual payment of £13 6s 8d from these estates, agreed the previous April, towards
settlement of an existing debt of 400 Flemish gold florins:163

Enrolment of grant by Henry de Strete, citizen and vintner of London, and Thomas his son to
John de Herwardstok, citizen of that city, of 20 marks yearly free and quit rent, to be received
of all their lands in the town of Miccham or elsewhere in Surrey, one moiety at Midsummer
and the other moiety at Christmas, in fee and inheritance, with power of distraint if the rent
be in arrear, in the name of seisin they have paid 40d to John. [at Westminster]

Witnesses: William Mareys, William Fige, John Combe, Henry Priour, John de Swynesheved
of Miccham, Ralph de Cauntebrigge, Richard de Claveryng, Simon Palmere, William Credil,
clerk.

Dated Miccham, 20 April, 30 Edward III [1356]

Memorandum: that Henry de Strete and Thomas his son came into the chancery at London
on 28 April and acknowledged the preceding deed.

Enrolment of indenture witnessing that whereas Henry de Strete, citizen and vintner of
London, and Thomas his son have granted to John de Herwardstok, citizen of that city,

20 marks of yearly quit rent of all their lands in Miccham and elsewhere in Surrey by the
preceding deed, John grants that if they pay him in the dwelling house of Ralph de Cauntebrugg
upon Cornhulle, London, or to Ralph, in John’s absence, at Midsummer next or before that
feast, 400 gold florins de l’ecu164 of right weight of the coin of the count of Flanders called
‘gravessheldes’,165 then the deed for that rent shall be null and void. For the greater security of
the payment of the said debt of 400 florins as aforesaid, Henry and Thomas have delivered to
John, upon the making of these presents, a statute merchant made at Westminster in the king’s
staple by Henry and Thomas to Matthew Forteguerre, merchant of Lucca, for £173 6s 8d and
a bond containing £120 made by Henry and Thomas to Thomas son of John Fynch, sometime
citizen and vintner of London, upon condition that if Henry and Thomas his son observe the
day of payment of the 400 florins in the manner aforesaid, John grants and is hereby bound
that he will surrender to them the said statute merchant and bond. Dated London, the last day
of April, 30 Edward III.

Memorandum: that the said parties came into the chancery at London on the last day of April,
and acknowledged the preceding indenture.

(Thomas son of John Fynch is mentioned again in July 1363 – see below).166 If I have read the
above agreement correctly, Henry and Thomas had other debts due to them of £293 6s 8d, which
they used as part security for this loan to them.

Normally such debts were quickly repaid, as Margery Alman’s debt to Henry had been. But what
happened if a substantial debt remained unpaid for a long time, as in the case of William Mareys?
This could create a cash-flow problem for the creditor, who could then himself be faced with
the prospect of the debtors’ prison. Thus on 26 June 1357 an order was sent out by Chancery to
the sheriff of Surrey to arrest Henry and Thomas and to value and seize their properties within
Surrey in order to repay a debt of £50 that had fallen due in November 1355:167

Edward, by the grace of God king of England and France and duke of Ireland, to the sheriff of
Surrey, greetings. Because Henry atte Strete, citizen and vintner of London, and Thomas
atte Strete his son on 22 May in year 29 of our reign in England [1355], before John Wroth,
then mayor of the Staple of Westminster deputed to take recognisances of debts in the same
staple, made recognisance for themselves and each of them that they owed in the whole
sum to Richard Smelt, citizen and fishmonger of London168 £50 which they ought to pay
at the feast of St Martin next [11 Nov 1355] and they are not yet to him paid as said, we
order you that you take the bodies of the aforesaid Henry and Thomas if they are laymen
into our prison to give to the same Richard full satisfaction of the debt in safe custody and
diligently to value and appraise all the lands and chattels of the same Henry and Thomas in
your bailiwick by the oath of proven and legal men of your bailiwick by whom the truth of
the matter may be better known according to the true value of the same and into our hands
to seize it as to the aforesaid Richard until satisfaction of the aforesaid debt is made to them,
making delivery according to the form of the ordinance made in respect thereof. And at the
feast of the translation of St Benedict the abbot next [11 Jul 1357] to make known to us in
our chancery by your sealed letters how this our order is executed. And have there this writ
&c. Witness myself at Westminster 26 June year 31 of our reign [1357].

Fortunately for them they were not living at Mitcham, and so escaped the sheriff’s jurisdiction.
The sheriff replied to Chancery:169

The bodies of Henry atte Strete, citizen and vintner of London, and Thomas atte Strete his
son written within on the back of this writ are not delivered nor able to be found in my
bailiwick. And the said Thomas de Strete has no land or chattels in my said bailiwick to be
valued or appraised or able to be seized into the hands of the lord king as appears in the
extent stitched to this writ. And all lands and chattels of the aforesaid Henry in my bailiwick
have been diligently valued and appraised by oath of proven and legal men of the same my
bailwick according to the true valuation of them and seized into the hands of the lord king
as required by this writ and that the lands and chattels of the aforesaid Henry so valued,
appraised and seized into the hands of the lord king are contained in the said extent which is
sent to you under our seal and the seals of those by whom it was made, stitched to this
writ.

On behalf of Thomas de Hoo, Sheriff

Despite his absence, Henry’s Mitcham and Morden estates were valued on 10 July 1357. The
extent or valuation of the properties revealed that the annual income from the properties only
amounted to £38 10s, so they were seized in the king’s name until the creditor had been repaid
from the income:170

Extent and appraisal of all the lands and chattels of Henry atte Strete citizen and vintner of
London and of Thomas atte Strete his son made at Clapham before Thomas de Hoo, Sheriff
of Surrey the Monday next after the translation of St Thomas the martyr 31 Edward III [10 Jul
1357] by virtue of a writ of the lord king. This extent was made on oath by Bartholomew de
Kynardesle, Thomas Child, Richard de Waleton, John Bekeswell, William Mareys, William
Harpour, John Taillour, John Vyncent, John Swynesheved, Walter Mounde, William Fyge
and John de Combe. Who say on their oath that the aforesaid Henry atte Strete and Thomas
his son have no chattels in the county aforesaid that they are able to appraise. And they say
that the aforesaid Henry has and holds in the vills of Mitcham and Morden the lands and
tenements underwritten, namely one messuage now worth yearly 10s after expenses; also
400 acres of arable land of which 200 are worth £8 6s 8d according to the true valuation of
them yearly at 10d an acre and the other 200 acres are worth according to the true valuation
of them yearly 100s at 6d an acre; also 140 acres of pasture worth according to the true
valuation of them yearly 46s 8d at 4d an acre; also 80 acres of meadow worth according to
the true valuation of them yearly 10 marcs at 20d an acre; also he has there one watermill
worth yearly after expenses 40s; also he has rents of assize and of farm yearly £13 6s 8d; also
they say that pleas and profits of the court there are worth 6s 8d a year. And they say upon
their oath that the aforesaid Henry atte Strete does not have any more lands in the aforesaid
county that they can value or appraise. And they say that the aforesaid Thomas atte Street
has no lands or tenements in the aforesaid county that they can value or appraise or seize
into the lord’s hands. In witness of which the aforesaid jurors to this extent append their
seals. Dated the year and place etc. Total yearly value of lands and tenements £38 10s.

It must have been galling that Mareys, who could perhaps have solved their financial problems if
only he had paid back the £100 he owed them, should be one of the jurors valuing the properties!

But things were about to worsen. Another debt incurred by Strete later in 1357, again secured
on these Surrey properties, was still unpaid 15 years later (see below). In spite of this, the Surrey
properties were again used as security for another debt, of £60, on 29 June 1363, when the close
rolls record:171

Henry de Strete citizen and vintner of London to Richard Blake citizen and vintner of the
same. Recognisance for £60, to be levied, in default of payment, of his lands and chattels in
Surrey [at Westminster].

No legal proceedings have been found relating to this debt, so presumably it was repaid. However,
on 7 July 1363 a London property was used as security for a debt of £80, being granted to the creditor
presumably on a similar basis to Mareys’s 25-year lease, though no term of years is here specified:172

Henry de Strete citizen and vintner of London to William de Stodeye citizen and vintner
of London. Recognisance for £80, to be levied etc. in Surrey [at Westminster]

Indenture of defeasance of the foregoing recognisance, upon condition that William
de Stodeye, his heirs and assigns, may peaceably hold the tenement which the said
William has of the gift and feoffment of Thomas son of John Fynch sometime citizen
and vintner of London, situate in the parish of St Martin of the Vintry London between
a tenement sometime of Bartholomew de Kynardeslee towards the east, a tenement
sometime of John de Oxenford citizen and vintner towards the west, the high street of
the Vintry towards the south, and Kyrounlane towards the north, so that they be not
ousted therefrom by law nor from any parcel thereof by Henry de Strete, Maud his wife,
by Sara, John, Margaret, Richard, Idonea and William children of the said John Fynch,
or by any other, or that Henry, his heirs or executors, shall recompense the said William
or his heirs for any loss of the premises which they may suffer by lawful judgment.
Dated London, 10 July 37 Edward III.

Memorandum of acknowledgment by the parties, 11 July.

Of course, the outstanding debt from Mareys may not have been the only cause of de Strete’s
financial problems. Mitcham historian Eric Montague identifies other likely causes:173

the campaigns of Edward III and the Black Prince in France, culminating in the victory at
Poitiers in 1356 and the depredation by bands of English mercenaries – ‘free companies’ – in
1357-8, devastated the vineyards and towns of northern France and severely disrupted the
wine trade. As if this was not enough, whilst Edward marched from Calais to Reims across an
already ravaged countryside, the autumn of 1359 was wet and the vineyards of northern France
produced nothing of value. … The wine trade with Gascony was also ruined by 1373, following
the failure of John of Gaunt to stem the French re-conquest of south-western France …

The war also added to the danger of shipping the wine across the Channel to England, and it
became necessary to sail in armed convoys to protect the fleets and their valuable cargo from
enemy shipping. Additional subsidies were levied to cover the expenses involved, though these
extra costs were passed on to the consumers, the retail price in London rising from 4d a gallon
in the 1340s to 6d a gallon in 1352, increasing to 8d a gallon in 1361, and only returning to
6d in 1372.174 Although recovery was underway by the 1380s, with replanting of the Gascon
vineyards, prices never returned to their pre-war levels.

Renewal of war in 1369 proved disastrous to the English, whose area of control soon became
confined to a narrow coastal strip between Bordeaux and Bayonne.175 This perhaps triggered
further prosecution of the de Stretes on 14 August 1372 for the debt incurred 15 years before in
October 1357:176

Edward, by the grace of God king of England and France and duke of Ireland, to the sheriff
of Surrey, greetings. Because Henry del Strete, citizen of London, and Thomas del Strete,
son of the same Henry, on 6 October in year 31 of our reign in England [1357], before
Adam Fraunceys, then mayor of the Staple of Westminster deputed to take recognisances
of debts in the same staple, made recognisance for themselves and each of them that they
owed in the whole sum to John Michel, citizen of the said city, and John Conyngton,
clerk, £186 which they or either of them ought to pay at the octave of St Hilary next [20
Jan 1358] and they are not yet paid to them as said, we order you that you take the bodies
of the aforesaid Henry and Thomas if they are laymen and into our prison to give to the
same John and John full satisfaction of the debt in safe custody and diligently to value and
appraise all the lands and chattels of the same Henry and Thomas in your bailiwick by the
oath of proven and legal men of your bailiwick aforesaid by whom the truth of the matter
may be better known according to the true value of the same and to seize into our hands
as to the aforesaid John and John or either of them until satisfaction of the aforesaid debt
is made to them, making delivery according to the form of the ordinance made in respect
thereof. And on the octave of St Michael next [6 Oct 1372] to make known to us in our
chancery wherever it might then be, by your sealed letters, how this our order is executed.
And have there this writ. Witness myself at Westminster 14 August year 46 of our reign in
England and in France 33 [1372].

But Henry and Thomas were beyond the jurisdiction of both sheriff and king, as the sheriff reported:177

Henry del Strete citizen of London and Thomas del Strete, son of the same Henry, are dead.
Therefore no action has been taken at present regarding this writ.

On behalf of Roger Dalyngge, Sheriff

However, the debt still had to be paid, and new orders went out on 4 November 1372 to value
the Surrey properties that they had held at the time of the recognizance of the debt in 1357:178

Edward, by the grace of God king of England and France and duke of Ireland, to the sheriff
of Surrey, greetings. Because Henry del Strete, citizen of London, and Thomas del Strete,
son of the same Henry, on 6 October in year 31 of our reign in England [1357], before
Adam Fraunceys, then mayor of the Staple of Westminster deputed to take recognisances
of debts in the same staple, made recognisance for themselves and each of them that they
owed in the whole sum to John Michel, citizen of the said city, and John Conyngton,
clerk, £186 which they or either of them ought to pay at the octave of St Hilary then next
following [20 Jan 1358] and they are not yet paid to them as said, we ordered you by our

brief that you take the bodies of the aforesaid Henry and Thomas if they are laymen into
our prison to give to the same John and John full satisfaction of the debt in safe custody
and diligently to value and appraise all the lands and chattels of the same Henry and
Thomas in your bailiwick by the oath of proven and legal men by whom the truth of the
matter may be better known according to the true value of the same and to seize into our
hands as to the aforesaid John and John until satisfaction of the aforesaid debt is made to
them, making delivery according to the form of the ordinance made in respect thereof.
And on the octave of St Michael next [6 Oct 1372] to make known to us in our chancery
wherever it might then be, by your sealed letters, how this our order is executed. And you
replied to us179 that the aforesaid Henry and Thomas are dead and therefore no action was
taken regarding the aforesaid writ and we order you diligently to value all the lands and
tenements which were of the aforesaid Henry and Thomas on the day of recognisance
aforesaid or afterwards in your bailiwick by the oath of proven and legal men by whom
the truth of the matter may be better known according to the true value of the same and
to seize into our hands as to the aforesaid John and John until satisfaction of the aforesaid
debt is made to them, making delivery according to the form of the ordinance made in
respect thereof. And on the octave of St Martin next [18 Nov 1372] to make known to us
in our chancery wherever it might then be, by your sealed letters, how this our order is
executed. And have there this writ &c. Witness myself at Westminster 4 November year
46 of our reign in England and in France 33 [1372].

The sheriff replied that the properties had now been valued and seized for the king:180

All the lands and tenements which were of Henry del Strete citizen of London and Thomas
del Strete, son of the same Henry, on 6 October in the 31st year of the present king of
England or afterwards in my bailiwick have been diligently valued by the oath of proven
and legal men of my same bailiwick according to the true value of the same and seized into
the hands of the lord king according to the tenor of this writ. And that extent is sent to you,
stitched to this writ.

On behalf of Roger Dalyngregge, Sheriff

And the following extent, made on 17 November 1372, was stitched to the writ and returned to
Chancery:181

Extent of the lands and tenements which were of Henry del Strete citizen of London and
of Thomas del Strete son of the same Henry on 6 October in the 31st year of the present
king [1357] made before Roger Dalyngregge, Sheriff of Surrey at Southwark Wednesday
17 November in the 46th year of the same king [1372] on oath by Richard Grene, John
Vyncent, Walter Golderye, William Harpour, John Gada, Walter Coupere, Walter Mounde,
Nicholas Davy, John Catercoks, John Chelsham, John Holdegrym and Peter Werman. Who
say on their oath that the aforesaid Henry del Strete and Thomas his son had no chattels in
the county aforesaid that they are able to appraise. And they say that the aforesaid Henry
had on the day of recognisance aforesaid in Mitcham: one messuage and two watermills in
one house which are worth yearly after expenses 53s 4d; also that he had from rents of assize
in Mitcham and Morden yearly 30s; also he had from a certain rent called worksilver 2s 10d;
also he had there 300 acres of arable land in Mitcham and Morden which were worth yearly
£10; also he had on the aforesaid day of recognisance of debt 57 acres meadow in the said
vills of Mitcham and Morden which were worth yearly 57s. Also they say that the aforesaid
Thomas son of Henry did not have any lands or tenements in the aforesaid county that they
can value or appraise. In witness of which the aforesaid jurors presenting append their seals.
Dated the place and year [abovesaid].

This extent omits several items listed in July 1357, and it might have been for this reason, but
perhaps because the sheriff was too slow in returning the writ and extent, that on 27 November
1372 the following order went out from Chancery:182

Edward, by the grace of God king of England and France and duke of Ireland, to the sheriff
of Surrey, greetings. Because Henry del Strete, citizen of London, and Thomas del Strete,
son of the same Henry, on 6 October in year 31 of our reign in England [1357], before Adam
Fraunceys, then mayor of the Staple of Westminster deputed to take recognisances of debts

in the same staple, made recognisance for themselves and each of them that they owed in
the whole sum to John Michel, citizen of the said city, and John Conyngton, clerk, £186
which they or either of them ought to pay at the octave of St Hilary then next following [20
Jan 1358] and they are not yet paid to them as said, we ordered you by our brief that you take
the bodies of the aforesaid Henry and Thomas if they are laymen into our prison to give to
the same John and John full satisfaction of the debt in safe custody and diligently to value
and appraise all the lands and chattels of the same Henry and Thomas in your bailiwick by
the oath of proven and legal men by whom the truth of the matter may be better known
according to the true value of the same and to seize into our hands as to the aforesaid John
and John until satisfaction of the aforesaid debt is made to them, making delivery according
to the form of the ordinance made in respect thereof. And on the octave of St Michael next
[6 Oct 1372] to make known to us in our chancery wherever it might then be, by your sealed
letters, how this our order is executed.

And you replied to us183 that the aforesaid Henry and Thomas are dead and therefore no
action was taken regarding the aforesaid writ and we order you according to another order
diligently to value all the lands and tenements which were of the aforesaid Henry and
Thomas on the day of recognisance aforesaid or afterwards in your bailiwick by the oath
of proven and legal men by whom the truth of the matter may be better known according
to the true value of the same and to seize into our hands as to the aforesaid John and John
until satisfaction of the aforesaid debt is made to them, making delivery according to the
form of the ordinance made in respect thereof. And on the Wednesday after St Nicholas
next [8 Dec 1372] to make known to us in our chancery wherever it might then be, by your
sealed letters, how this our order is executed. And have there this writ &c. Witness myself at
Westminster 27 November year 46 of our reign in England and in France 33 [1372].

The sheriff responded:184

All the lands and tenements which were of Henry del Strete late citizen of London and Thomas
del Strete, son of the same Henry, on 6 October in the 31st year of the present king of England
or afterwards have been diligently valued by the oath of proven and legal men and seized into
the hands of the lord king according to the tenor of this writ. And that extent is sent to you
under my seal and the seals of those by whose oath it was made stitched to the same writ.

On behalf of Roger Dallyngrigg, Sheriff

The extent of 4 December 1372 includes items omitted a fortnight earlier, and is comparable
to the one made in July 1357 as far as overall acreage is concerned, though the land use is very
different and the land values are lower, giving a total value just 57% of its former value:185

Extent of the lands and tenements which were of Henry del Strete citizen of London and
of Thomas del Strete son of the same Henry on 6 October in the 31st year of the present
king [1357] made before Roger Dalyngregge, Sheriff of Surrey, at Southwark the Saturday
next after the feast of St Andrew the apostle in the 46th year of the same king [4 Dec 1372]
by virtue of a writ of the lord king in the presence of the lord Richard in his Chancery
the Wednesday next after St Nicholas [8 Dec 1372],186 returned on oath by Richard Grene,
William Harpour, William Fyge, Walter Mounde, Nicholas Davy, John Chelsham, John
Vyncent, Walter Coupere, John Holdegrym, John atte Wode, William Provys[?] and Roger
Smyth. Who say on their oath that the aforesaid Henry del Strete and Thomas his son had
no chattels in the county aforesaid that they are able to appraise. And they say that the
aforesaid Henry had on 6 October in the aforesaid 31st year: one messuage, two watermills
in one house in Mitcham worth yearly 53s 4d after expenses; also that he had in rents of
assize in Mitcham and Morden yearly 40s; also he had from a certain rent called worksilver
2s 10d a year; also he had 300 acres of arable land Mitcham and Morden aforesaid which
were worth yearly £10; also he had in the same vills 200 acres arable land which were worth
5 marcs; also he had 64 acres meadow in the same vills which were worth yearly 64s; also he
had there 30 acres of pasture which were worth 7s 6d; also he had pleas of the court there
which were worth 5s a year. Also they say that the aforesaid Thomas del Strete, son of Henry
del Strete, did not have any lands or tenements in the aforesaid county on the aforesaid day
of recognisance that they can value or appraise. In witness of which the aforesaid jurors
presenting append their seals. Dated the place and year abovesaid.

The 1372 values of arable and meadow were comparable to those given in an extent of 1314,
while the July 1357 values were higher.187 This is perhaps surprising in the light of the fall in
population after the devastation of the Black Death just eight years before in 1349, which in
Morden had led to a reduction in demand for land, though perhaps it was just the demand for
customary land, with its burden of labour services, which was rejected.188 Or had Mareys, who
was one of the jurors valuing de Strete’s lands in 1357, persuaded his fellow jurors to artificially
inflate the value of the properties that he had been forced to lease to de Strete?

An entry in the close rolls for 18 March 1373 reveals that the properties were delivered to Michel
and Conyngton ‘to hold as their freehold until contented of the said sum and of their damages
and costs’, but their rights were sold on to Merton Priory:189

Writing of John Michel, citizen of London, being a grant and sale to Robert prior of St Mary
Merton and the convent and to their successors of all the lands which were of Henry del Strete
in the towns and parishes of Mycham and Mordon, County Surrey, on 6 October 31 Edward
III [1357], on which day the said Henry and Thomas del Strete his son, before Adam Fraunceys
then mayor of the staple of Westminster and therein deputed to take recognisances of debts,
made to him the said John and to John de Conyngton clerk a joint and several recognisance
for £186 payable in the octave of St Hilary then next, which lands upon suit of the said John
Michel for execution of the said recognisance for that the said Thomas and Henry paid them
not the said sum, were by the sheriff by virtue of the king’s writ delivered by extent to the
said John and John and to their assigns, to hold as their freehold until contented of the said
sum and of their damages and costs, as the said prior and convent have fully paid the same to
him the said John Michel, and his damages and costs in regard to the said suit and execution;
and warranty of the premises as if he the said John had held the same in his own hand, until
the said prior and convent be contented as aforesaid in recompense of the debt to him paid.
Witnesses: Nicholas de Carreu, Peter atte Wode, William de Neudegate, William Hussee, John
Olyver the younger. Dated Merton, Friday after St Gregory the Pope, 47 Edward III.

Memorandum of acknowledgement 18 March.

So Merton Priory bought up the outstanding debt which perhaps began when Mareys reneged
on his agreement to allow de Strete to recoup his losses from the income arising from Mareys’s
estates, and instead granted them to the two vicars in order to secure an income in his old age.
As the contract had been broken, it is likely that the priory, as de Strete’s creditor, was entitled
to claim Mareys’s lands in settlement of his unpaid debt of £100. Perhaps this was the origin of
their ‘Wickford’ estate that became Maresland – not a charitable grant to the church but a debt
that had brought a neighbour to financial ruin.

A final concord of January 1378 reveals that the manor of Rasebery had come into the hands
of James de Strete, who sold it to two clerks acting on behalf of Sir John de Nevill de Raby. The
agreement allowed James to retain the manor for his lifetime, after which it was to pass to Nevill:190

This is the final concord made in the court of the lord king at Westminster in the fortnight from
St Hilary 1st year of the reign of Richard [II] king of England and France, in the presence of
Robert Bealknapp, William de Skipwych, Roger de Fulthorp and Henry de Percehay, justices,
and others faithful to the lord king then there present. Between Thomas de Middelton, clerk,
and Robert de Wyclyff, clerk, plaintiffs, and James de Strete, defendant, of the manor of Rasebery
with pertinents and of one messuage, one mill, 124 acres land, 20 acres meadow, 100 acres
moor/marsh and 40 shillings rents with pertinents in Mitcham and Morden, in respect of which
full agreement was made between them in the same court, namely that the aforesaid James
acknowledged the aforesaid manor and tenement[s] with pertinents to be the right of the same
Thomas and that which the same Thomas and Robert have of the gift of the aforesaid James. And
for this acknowledgement, fine and concord the same Thomas and Robert grant to the aforesaid
James the aforesaid manor and tenement[s] with pertinents. And they rendered that to him in
the same court, to have and to hold to the same James of the chief lords of that fee by the services
which pertain to the aforesaid manor and tenement[s] for the whole life of James himself and
after the death of James himself the aforesaid manor and tenement[s] with pertinents shall
wholly remain to John de Nevill de Raby, knight, and his heirs, to hold of the chief lords of that
fee by the services which pertain to the aforesaid manor and tenement[s] forever. Surrey

James was not listed among the designated heirs in the agreements of 1347, and it is not known
whether he was another son of Henry and Katerine or some other relative. The last known
reference to Henry dates from May 1364, when he witnessed an agreement at Lambeth, as
recorded in the close roll for 1367.191 As he was dead by 1372, and both Thomas and William
were also dead, it is possible that all three had succumbed to the plague that had returned to
England in 1369.

In January 1382 the manor of Rasebery was again sold, and its description remained the same
as in 1378, confirming that the additional lands leased from Mareys were not included.192 The
further history of the estate is considered in another volume in this series.193

156 MEDIEVAL MORDEN: NEIGHBOURHOOD AND COMMUNITY

157

6: CONFLICT AND COOPERATION

CONFLICT

Lord and tenant

For R H Hilton, writing in 1949, the agrarian relations of feudal society made peasant revolts
‘inevitable’. Landowners’ ‘sustenance as a non-producing class depended on the transfer to
themselves of the surplus produced by the peasant, above what the peasant needed to keep himself
and his family alive, and to ensure the reproduction of the agricultural routine year in and year
out. There was no economic reason why the members of the peasant communities (many of which
existed before feudal lordship developed) should transfer their surplus to their lords. The lord-serf
relationship was in fact primarily a political relationship. It may originally have contained within it
an element of quid pro quo by which the lord protected some of the peasants during the chaos of
the ninth and tenth centuries, but that the element of protection was of minor importance by the
eleventh and twelfth centuries is shown by the legal status of the majority of the peasants. Their
surplus has now to be transferred under coercive sanction, and therefore they are unfree.’1

More recently, many scholars, while not denying this analysis, have put less emphasis on peasant
oppression and more on the limits to the absolute power of landlords. As Bruce Campbell explains
of the situation around 1300, ‘Notwithstanding the much-vaunted powers of lordship, tenants had
long been remarkably effective at opposing efforts by lords to raise rents and increase labour services
in line with rising land values and commodity prices. They did so by countering seigniorial power
with custom and denying that, as tenants, they were obliged to pay their lords anything more than
a de facto ground rent for the land. Tenant right, in fact, often proved more powerful than landlord
right’.2 Chris Wickham sums it up neatly, ‘Lords did not have the time and inclination to police
every detail of peasant lives; even brute force could only be intermittently employed (it too cost
money); they relied on peasant cooperation’.3

Hilton had himself recognised the strengths that peasants had. A few lines before the extract quoted
above he had written, ‘The fact that the peasants were organized in an organic community and that
they were in effective possession of their own means of subsistence is of the greatest importance.’
Their lords were in fact dependent on them, not they on their lords. During the 13th and early
14th centuries, when lords abandoned the practice of leasing their demesnes to farmers and ran
their estates through directly-appointed managers, most of these managers were reeves – servile
tenants of the estate. In Morden, it would appear that Westminster Abbey appointed professional
managers only when, and for as long as, they were unable to find a suitable tenant to serve as reeve.4
Similarly, we have seen in chapter 2 that the manor court, though chaired by the lord’s steward,
was run by the tenants, who served as both jury and judge. Lords claimed total control over their
servile tenants, as we have seen in chapter 3, but, as Hilton admitted, there is ‘some truth’ in the
statement that ‘the villein was in practice protected against the extremes of extortion by a tenacious
manorial custom which the lord could not override’, though he emphasises that ‘manorial custom
was not fixed. It was in fact a shifting compromise between peasant resistance based on the mutual
solidarity produced by common interests and a common routine of agriculture on the one hand,
and the lord’s claims on the other, more or less urgent as they might be, and backed up by more or
less political and military power.’5

In this section, we will be looking at this ‘shifting compromise’ as it played out in medieval Morden
across the centuries, and to see what evidence there is for ‘peasant resistance’ and also for the
‘mutual solidarity’ on which it was based.

But first, it is necessary to define what historians mean by the term ‘peasant’. R B Goheen explains:
‘peasants are small agricultural producers with rights of property in their land, which they work
primarily with the labour of their own families. They consume much of what they produce, the
surplus going largely in rent to their landlords (in medieval England, manorial lords), from whom
they hold their land in relations of economic, social, and often political subordination’, though he
also warns: ‘Precisely when a rising family ceased to belong to the peasantry and a falling one joined
its ranks was always a nice judgment.’6 Moreover, a number of London merchants, minor royal
courtiers and gentry invested in property in Morden in the 15th century, and it is possible that some

of the newcomers noted as early as the late 13th century might have had links with Westminster.7
For these reasons we will hereafter refer to ‘tenants’ rather than ‘peasants’, except in direct quotations.

Christopher Dyer has identified what he terms ‘rent-strikes’ as one form of protest found on
many estates.8 The custumal c.1225 and the extent of 1312 set out the rents and customary dues
recognised by both lord and tenants. Is there any evidence that in Morden it was common to refuse
to pay the agreed rents or to perform the main obligations set out in these documents and, if so,
can such refusal be found throughout the medieval period or only at certain times?

Refusal to pay rents

There is a writ from the royal courts of 1397 which records that six Morden men unjustly
withheld £22 which they owed to the abbey. It seems unlikely that this large sum was through
refusal to pay their rents but rather that it represents some other kind of debt (see pages 140-2):9

Richard, by grace of God King of England and France and Lord of Ireland, to the sheriff of
Middlesex, greetings. Charge through bail and safe pledge, Baldwin Popsent, William Prior,
Alan Berenger, William Mulseye, Henry Milleward and William Pynnore of Morden that
they be before our justices at Westminster on the octave of St Hilary to answer the abbot
of Westminster on the charge whereby they should render to him twenty two pounds, that
they owe to him and unjustly withhold, as is said, and to show why they were not before
our justices at Westminster within sixteen days after the day of St Martin, just as they were
summoned. And have there the names of the pledges and this writ. Witness W Thirnyng at
Westminster, 30 November, in the twenty-first year of our reign.

Thirnyng was chief justice of the Common Pleas. Alan Berenger served as Westminster Abbey’s
beadle and rent-collector for the manor of Morden in 1408/09, while William Mulseye was farmer
of the rectory and the demesne of Morden from 1409 to 1412 and also served as the Abbey’s rent-
collector there.10 Presumably the writ was sent to the sheriff of Middlesex because the abbey was
within his county, although Morden came under the jurisdiction of the sheriff of Surrey.

There are occasional references in the Morden records to a particular tenant not having paid his
or her rent. Thus in May 1387 the court roll records:11

the order is
given

Likewise they present that Walter atte Hegge has withheld 3d annual rent for two years
now elapsed and moreover the order is given to levy etc.

the order is
given

Likewise they present that Robert Bernger has withheld 3d annual rent for 1 year and
therefore the order is given to levy, namely for the tenement of Walter Hose and for Tracy’s
tenement.

Robert was frequently amerced for refusal to do ploughing services and for other actions that
might suggest protest (see page 176). However, these cottage properties remained in their families
for many generations, so this is not evidence of sustained rent-strikes, but perhaps rather of cash
flow problems or even of a short term dispute with the authorities.

Again, in May 1396 the court was informed:12

amercement
2d

Likewise they present that whereas John Gildon’ beadle took distraint in John Carpenter’s
tenement for rent etc, the said John Carpenter recovered the said distraint etc. Therefore etc.

Carpenter, who was appointed aletaster at this same court, had been admitted to Lotekyns virgate
tenement [L] in 1391, and remained there until 1402 when the tenement was found to be vacant
and in May 1406 it was reported that John Carpenter junior, presumably his heir, ‘withdrew out
of the lordship and allowed the said tenement and land to be vacant and uncultivated’, so it would
appear that he was having financial problems in 1396, rather than this being an expression of
protest.13 It seems likely that he was a carpenter by trade as he felled large numbers of elm trees
growing on the tenement (see page 179).

In May 1405 a similar presentment was made concerning a Ewell tenant:14

respited? the
order is given

Likewise they present that Thomas Hayton’ held back 4d for rent issuing for the year for
land and tenement which he holds of the lord. Therefore the order is given to distrain the
said Thomas for the aforesaid rent against the next [court] etc.

6: CONFLICT AND COOPERATION 159

Hayton was a JP who held the sub-manor of Batayles in Ewell among other properties.15 The
abbey held several properties in Ewell that were administered from Morden (see overleaf), but
it is unclear which property is referred to in this entry, though the rent indicates it was a small
holding.

It is unlikely that Hayton could not afford his 4d rent, but for others it was more difficult and the
abbey was struggling to maintain rent levels. Problems in finding a tenant for Makernays [M] is
noted in the manorial account roll for 1408/09:16

From farm of 30 acres land formerly John de Marreys afterwards William atte Cherch late
leased to Alan Berenger for 13s 4d per year, leased this year 5s and no more because the
greater part of his land remains in the lord’s hands for lack of hire.

The following year a lessee had been found, but at a much reduced annual rent:17

From farm of 30 acres land formerly John Marreys afterwards William atte Cherch late
leased to Alan Berenger for 13s 4d per year, leased to John Spik for a term of 10 years, 10s.

As leases came up for renewal, it became increasingly common for the rent to be lowered to a level
more in line with the current condition in the land market. In 1411/12 the rent for the combined
tenements of Godesones [O] and Jocyes [J] fell from 14s to 12s.18 By 1441/42, when the next batch
of extant accounts begins, Lotekyns [L] had fallen from 8s to 7s, while Rykedons half-virgate [R]
had twice been reduced, from 5s 6d, to 4s and then to 3s.19 Other properties formerly leased were
now being held by ‘new rents’, a form of customary tenure without liability for labour services,
which was to develop into copyhold tenure.20 Both Swans [S] and Edwards [E] virgate tenements
had been paying 12s under their leases, but were now only paying 10s each, while Bexwells [X]
half-virgate, leased at 5s, was now paying 3s 4d. By 1467/68 Godesones [O] and Jocyes [J] had
fallen further, to 10s, but the other rents apparently remained unchanged until the final account
for 1502/03, though the names of tenants had not been updated for decades.21

By the late 15th century, however, the demand for holdings seems to have increased, as any
failure to pay rents automatically led to confiscation. Thus, in April 1482 a half-virgate tenement
was taken into the lord’s hands because of rent arrears and lack of repair, though it was returned
to the tenant in April 1486, presumably after repairs had been made and arrears paid:22

seize
tenement
respited?

At this court Robert Hardyng’s tenement with pertinents is seized and taken into the lord’s
hand both for rent arrears unpaid and for repairs in respect thereof least done etc.

Similarly, in October 1485 a tenement that had been taken in hand the previous year ‘both for waste
made in buildings, woods and gardens, and especially for rents therefor in arrears for two years being
unpaid’, was regranted to the offending tenant, John Coweper, a London hurer or capmaker.23

However, in October 1507 a property ‘that came into the lord’s hand as forfeit because the said William
Milly fled on account of various transgressions and felonies perpetrated by him and for making waste
in respect thereof and rent arrears in respect thereof being not paid’ was granted to a new tenant.24

In April 1512 a case of longstanding arrears was dealt with:

seizure done

Likewise they present that John Kyrkeby without the lord’s licence leased to Richard
Cosyn his tenement for a term of ten years, and the same John is in arrears of quit rent and
service for the space of eight years. And also the aforesaid tenement for not being repaired
is nearly decayed. Therefore the order is given to the bailiff to seize the tenement aforesaid
into the lord’s hand and to answer the lord for issues of the same.

A period of 8 years of unpaid rent was unusual, but this was a special case, as Cosyn used part of
the property as an alehouse, a forerunner of the present George inn on the same site [I8]. Perhaps a
reluctance to close the alehouse caused some delay in solving the rent problem. However, a solution
was found – this part of the property was promptly granted to Cosyn as the main tenant rather than
as sub-tenant, though the rest of the property was retained in hand for some time.

The final case in extant records was in May 1541, when a number of freehold and copyhold
tenements defaulted to the lord because of unpaid rents for properties recently inherited from
a substantial tenant, but no further court rolls survive to reveal whether they were reclaimed:25

Likewise the order is given to the bailiff to seize into the lord’s hand the lands and tenements
of Richard Holte and Ralph Symondes for defaulting payment of rent.

Thus it seems that, at this period, any rent defaults were normally dealt with promptly and strictly.

However, there was one part of the abbey’s estate where there is clear evidence of an early, but
persistent and increasing, tendency for the tenants to dissociate themselves from the demands of
lordship which ultimately led them to withhold their rents for many years. This was Morden Fee
in Ewell, which was administered from Morden. The rebel tenants, however, were not peasants,
but people of high rank, some being manorial lords in their own right.

The bad example of the Ewell freeholders

There were four large properties in Ewell administered from Morden [K] [Q1] [Q2] [Z], together
with a couple of cottages. Three of these properties were freeholds acquired by influential families
in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.

The earliest court rolls reveal that there was already an ongoing dispute with one of these free
tenants [Z], Master William de Ewell, nephew of Walter de Merton the founder of Merton College,
Oxford, chancellor of England and bishop of Rochester. Master William was repeatedly distrained
for not attending the manorial court.26 He had mortgaged his lands, which were then leased by the
mortgagor to William’s brother Robert for 6 years in July 1297. In February 1298 it was reported
that Robert was now responsible for the property, and he finally did his fealty at the Morden court:27

fine ½ mark

Robert de Ewelle for default several times of William de Ewell for which William owes
suit; pledge John Kippyng; puts himself at mercy and he comes later and gives the lord for
a fine for licence for entry and for the aforesaid default ½ mark and does fealty to the lord;
pledges John Kyppyng and Richard Alard.

He was frequently presented for non-attendance, though three times he paid the amercements
imposed upon him.28 However, there were occasional disputes over jurisdiction. A clash over
land between Robert and another Ewell man, Philip le Tail, was brought before the Morden
court in July 1299, but Philip withdrew the charges in March 1300, possibly because he held the
land from Robert.29 Certainly in July 1300 Robert challenged the right of the Morden court to
hear a case between two of his tenants:30

Richard de Wytewelle is attached to answer Nicholas le Ropere concerning this, that the
same Richard and other strangers the day of the Nativity of blessed John the Baptist in the
28th year of the reign of King Edward [I] [24 Jun 1300] in the vill of Ewell the aforesaid
Richard beat and maltreated him drawing blood from the same and has broken a certain
tabor worth 2s and inflicted other enormities on him to the grave injury of the same 20s
and against the peace &c, and he produces witnesses therefor &c.

adjournment

And upon this comes a certain Robert de Ewelle and claims his own court concerning
the aforesaid parties &c. And the court deeds thereof say that the lords of this court have
been accustomed to determine the attachment of tenants of the ancestors of the aforesaid
Robert for this kind of trespass. Therefore &c. And the aforesaid Richard is present and
does not wish to answer. And the aforesaid Nicholas asks judgement of the same [because]
undefended. And the aforesaid judgement is adjourned until &c.

There are no further court rolls extant until 1327, so the outcome is not known.

By 1312 the estate was held by Robert II Fitz Neil who in 1311 had inherited from his wife’s
uncle, Master William, the lands which formed the nucleus of the Ewell sub-manor known as
Fitznells.31 He regularly defaulted at the courts for which Morden court rolls survive. On his
death in 1331 he was succeeded by his daughter Grace, widow of Sir John de Nowers. She died
in 1349, but her son and heir, Robert III Fitz Neil, had been declared insane following a jousting
accident, and he and his lands were put into the care of a guardian.32 The Morden accounts for
1350/51 record two years’ rent arrears for the Fitznells properties, described as ’12s 9½d for
rent and services of Giles Brian knight for the great tenement of William de Frameswerth for
the previous year to this in arrears, viz 11s for rent, 1d for medsilver, 1½d for 1 cock, 2d for 1
hen, 15d for 15 boonworks with food, 2d for 2 dry boonworks. Also he asked for allowance for

12s 9½d for rent and services of the said Giles knight for the said tenement at the same place
in arrears for this year’.33 This entry, among the estate manager’s requests for allowances for
unpaid debts, is crossed through but is immediately followed by a note that ’25s 9½d 7d for rent
and services of the lord Giles Bryan knight still in arrears for this year and the previous year’ was
respited, though similar entries are struck through on subsequent accounts from 1351 until
1354.34 Framesworth and Brian were presumably trustees or lessees of the estate. However, in the
latter year the accounts record ’36 harvest boonworks sold with food and drink of the lord, price
of a boonwork 1d, of which 21 boonworks of the lord of Cudyngtone and 15 for the tenement of
Fitz Nel. And for 6d for 6 dry boonworks sold of which of the lord of Cudyngton 4 and for the
tenement of Fitz Nel 2 boonworks’. The account rolls for 1355/56 and 1356/57 similarly record
‘In sale 37 boonworks, viz for the tenement of Robert Fitz Nel, 15 boonworks and the tenements
Thomas St Michel, 22 boonworks’, but in 1357/58 the manager sought allowance for the Fitznell
boonworks because the property was in the king’s hand, though the entry is crossed through
as rejected.35 The Cuddington court rolls from 1355 to 1357 similarly record that ‘the lands of
Robert Fenel are in the king’s hands’, perhaps indicating that Robert was dead.36 The first run
of Morden accounts ends here, but by the time the Morden court rolls start again in 1378 this
Morden Fee property was in the tenure of John Griffyn, probably Robert’s son-in-law, whose
defaults are regularly recorded until June 1386, when we read:37

the order is
given

The order is given to distrain in the tenement formerly John Griffyn’s, for remedying
default of suit of court and for various labour services being in arrears, against the next
[court] etc.

the order is
given

And the order is given to distrain the tenants of the said tenement to do the lord fine and
fealty against the next court. It is presented by the whole homage that the said tenement be
alienated. And note that the said tenement was formerly Gildefordys etc.

The final concord recording the sale of the entire Fitznell estate was dated 13 October 1386.38 The
estate passed through many hands in future years, but none of the subsequent owners attended the
Morden court to do their fealty or pay their relief, and few are named in the Morden records. By
1447 the current lord, named as Robert Ewerby but in fact John whose surname is normally spelled
Iwardeby, had, in company with his neighbours, also stopped paying rent and other services:39

the order is
given

Likewise they present Thomas Codyngton for land and tenement lying in Ewell called
Quidekepes, Robert Ewerby for land and tenement lying in Ewell called Fitznelles, and John Saye
for land and tenement lying in Ewell, late in the tenure of Thomas Exham, called Kyppyngges,
owe suit of court every three weeks and owe suit at this View and rent, heriot, relief whenever
it falls due, and to do the lord other services and customs yearly in respect thereof due and
accustomed as appears by the extent and now they do the lord in respect thereof nothing etc.
Therefore the order is given to distrain them etc against the next [court] etc.

The last mention of the Fitznells property in the Morden court rolls was in 1448, with a similar
comment, while the account rolls continue to record until 1502/03 the failure of all the major
Ewell tenants to pay their rents and amercements (see below).

In fact it was Thomas Codyngton who began this apparent rent-strike. He held two large Morden Fee
freehold properties in Ewell [Q1] [Q2] which his ancestor Thomas de St Michael had held in 1312:40

Codyngton

Thomas de St Michael holds the tenement formerly belonging to Geoffrey le Cras, at a rent per
annum of 8s at the 4 principal terms equally and he shall give ½d for medsilver at the feast of St
John the Baptist. And he shall find 4 men at 3 boonworks at the lord’s corn reaping in Autumn
on the same conditions as the aforesaid lord Robert [Fitz Neil]. And he shall give at Christmas
2 cocks worth as above and 3 hens worth as above. And he shall find 1 man at 2 dry boonworks
as the aforesaid lord Robert. And the value of work is as above. And he owes suit of court.

The same Thomas holds the tenement formerly belonging to Walter Snel at a rent per
annum of 3s 6d at the four terms equally. And he shall give ½d at the feast of St John the
Baptist for medsilver. And he shall find 2 men at 3 boonworks at the lord’s corn reaping
in Autumn with food provided by the lord as above. And the value of works is as above.
And he shall give at Christmas 1 hen worth as above. And he shall find 1 man at 2 dry
boonworks in Autumn as the aforesaid lord Robert. And he owes suit of court.

A document of 1456 dates Geoffrey’s tenure to the reign of Henry III (1216-1272) and the
Morden account rolls record the payment of an ox for heriot of G le Cras in 1287/88.41 A Walter
le ‘Gras’ is mentioned in Morden court rolls between 1296 and 1300, usually for being essoined
– sending apologies for absence – but once paying a fine for ‘discharge of court’ – permission to
not attend for a year – though he was sometimes amerced for defaulting.42

A William Snel is mentioned at various courts in 1272 for defaulting, for being essoined and
for surrendering ‘one messuage and 2 acres land to the use of John Snel his brother’.43 John’s
property was held by rent increment and so was treated as customary rather than free land in
spite of having been part of a freeholding.

Thomas de St Michael inherited the manor of Cuddington on the death of his brother William
c.1326, and in October 1327 it was a Reginald de Codington who was summoned to do fealty
for his Morden Fee properties:44

distraint

They present as several times distraint of Reginald de Codington before the next court for
entry and fealty &c.

This might have been Thomas’s son, but if so he had died by 1333 when Thomas settled the
manor on his eldest nephew, Laurence son of his brother John. However, Laurence died before
his uncle, and the manor passed instead to John’s second son Simon in 1341.45

Following the Black Death which struck Morden in 1349, the account roll of 1349/50 records
the impact of the plague and includes the following struck-through entry under the heading
‘Payment of rent paid and decayed rent’:46

In decayed rent for the tenement late Walter le Cras which the lord of Cudyngton now holds
for the year 8s. And for medsilver for the same ½d. Also the same for the tenement of Walter
Snel for the year 3s 6d. And for medsilver ½d. Also for 2 cocks 3d. And for 4 hens 8d. And
for 18 boonworks 18d.

The 1350/51 account roll records two years’ rent arrears for both of the Cuddington holdings,
and also for Fitznells as noted above:47

Respites

… Also he asked for allowance for 7s 4d in part for 14s in respect of rent and services of the
lord of Cuddington for the past year to this in arrears, viz for rent 8s, for medsilver ½d, for
the tenement late Geoffrey le Gras. Also for the tenement of Walter Snel for rent 3s 6d, for
medsilver ½d, for 2 cocks 3d, for 4 hens 8d and for 18 boonworks 18d. Also he asked for
allowance for 14s for the same for this year for the said lord of Cuddington. Also he asked
for allowance for 12s 9½d for rent and services of Giles Brian knight for the great tenement
of William de Frameswerth for the previous year to this in arrears, viz 11s for rent, 1d for
medsilver, 1½d for 1 cock, 2d for 1 hen, 15d for 15 boonworks with food, 2d for 2 dry
boonworks. Also he asked for allowance for 12s 9½d for rent and services of the said Giles
knight for the said tenement at the same place in arrears for this year. Sum 74s 7½d.

Although these entries were again struck through, they were all allowed in the next item on the
roll:

Sum of all expenses and deliveries £24 16s 2d.

… Of which the same is respited … for 21s 4d from the lord S de Cuddington knight for his
rent and services still in arrears; and 25s 9½d 7d for rent and services of the lord Giles Bryan
knight still in arrears for this year and the previous year.

Similar entries are struck through on the accounts from 1351 until 1354.48 As noted above,
the harvest boonworks due from the Fitznells and Codyngton tenements were recorded as
sold between 1354 and 1356, but in 1357/58 the account explains that ’22d [was] received for
22 boonworks sold of the tenement of Thomas St Michel because it is not possible to levy’.49
It would seem that Simon was too powerful to be coerced into providing men for this scarce
harvest labour, though he was prepared to pay the standard fee. Simon was sheriff of Surrey in
1353 and 1362, and also sat for Surrey in several Parliaments.50 He died in 1374 and his eldest
son William inherited, but died about 1377 to be succeeded by his brother Ralph, who similarly
served as sheriff of Surrey in 1400 and occasionally as a county member of Parliament.51

No Morden records survive between 1359 and 1378. The name Quedekepe or Quidekepes for
Geoffrey le Cras’s former tenement [Q1], one of ten properties occupying the present Bourne
Hall site, first appears in the court roll of February 1378:52

the order is
given

Again, as several times, the order is given to distrain the tenant of land of Quedekepe to
make the lord a fine for entry into the lord’s fee and to do the lord fealty.

The tenant was unnamed in this and many succeeding repetitions of this order, though he is
named as Ralph Codyngton in November 1379 and May 1380.53 However, in May 1384 it is
Laurence Codyngton who is named as the defaulting tenant, and his name is repeated until
July 1397, though throughout this period an unnamed tenant of Quidekepes is also noted
as defaulting.54 It seems that the court authorities were confused by the fact that he held two
tenements. In January 1392 Laurence sent his essoin by a neighbour, but he made no attempt to
come himself.55 In May 1395 his Morden Fee property was said to be in the lord’s hand.56 It is not
until July 1397 that the court roll reveals that Ralph had inherited the Morden Fee properties
from Ydonia Codyngton, Simon’s widow, who held them as part of her dower, and Ralph was
summoned to do relief and fealty – a summons repeated without effect until November 1398.57
Then, in May 1399, it was reported that Ralph had sold his tenements to his brother Laurence:58

the order is
given

Likewise they present that Laurence Codyngton esq again purchased all the free land and
tenement called Quidekepis by charter etc of Ralph Codyngton his brother. Therefore the
order is given to distrain him to do the lord fine and fealty against the next [court] etc.

It would appear that Ydonia’s death had taken place many years before it was noted at court, and that
Ralph had sold the properties to his brother soon after he had inherited them. Laurence finally came
to the Morden court to do fealty in April 1410, though his relief or entry fine remained unpaid:59

fealty
respited

Whereas the order was given at the last [court] to distrain Laurence Codyngton esq to do
the lord fine and fealty for Quydekepys tenement purchased of Ralph Codyngton, now at
this court he comes and does the lord fealty. And the fine is respited until etc as far as etc.

Laurence was noted in a 1408 Register of Ewell as holding several Ewell tenements of various
lordships, including ‘a capital tenement called Quedekepe, of Mordon fee’, for which an undated
marginal annotation records ‘W. Codyngton, now Whytefeld’.60 ‘W Codyngton’ or ‘William
Codyngton’ is noted against most of Laurence’s former holdings, though ‘John Codyngton’ and
‘Henry Codyngton’ are also noted against a few other properties not formerly held by Laurence.
Laurence’s son, also Lawrence, was summoned to the Morden court in May 1414, but there is
no record of his coming.61 One would assume that thereafter the descent of the Morden Fee
properties was distinct from the descent of the manor of Cuddington, but it is possible that it
reverted back to the main manorial line, as the next two recorded holders of the Morden Fee
properties bore the same names as the contemporary lords of the manor.

By 1441/42 the Morden account roll informs us that the properties were in the possession of
Thomas Codyngton (misspelt as Conyngton):62

Of which respited to the same £7 9s 11½d for rent issuing from land and tenement formerly
Laurence Conyngton in Ewell and now Thomas Conyngton goldsmith both for the present year
and for 12 years preceding, as per year 11s 6½d because not able to levy and not fully agreed
when he ought to distrain, therefore etc until etc. Examine the schedule of the account for 15th
year of the reign of King Henry VI. And so he owes over and above what is respited £49 10s

This would suggest that Thomas started his rent-strike in 1429/30, but no account rolls survive
between 1412 and 1441 nor court rolls between 1422 and 1435. Thomas first appears in Morden
records in the court roll for May 1435, when he and the other two main tenants of the abbey’s
holding in Ewell defaulted in their attendance at the Morden manorial court, which they
continued to do until 1448.63 He held two large freeholds in Ewell, including Quedekepes. His
rent-strike is again recorded in the next extant account roll, that for 1445/46:64

Of which respited to him £9 16s 1½d for rent issuing from land and tenement formerly
Laurence Conyngton in Ewell and now Thomas Conyngton goldsmith both for the present
year and for 16 years preceding, as per year 11s 6½d, because not able to levy and not
fully agreed when he ought to distrain, therefore etc until etc. Examine the schedule of the

account for 15th year of the reign of King Henry VI now attached. And to the same £4 5s
10½d for rent of various lands in Ewell aforesaid both for the present year and for 3 years
preceding as per year 21s 5½d because not respited previously.

The next account roll, for 1448/50 makes no mention of unpaid rents, but it uses a completely
different format, which is not found again in extant rolls. However, as we have seen, a court roll
entry in October 1447 reveals that Codyngton’s neighbours had also joined his rent-strike:65

the order is
given

Likewise they present Thomas Codyngton for land and tenement lying in Ewell called
Quidekepes [Q1] [Q2], Robert Ewerby for land and tenement lying in Ewell called Fitznelles
[Z], and John Saye for land and tenement lying in Ewell, late in the tenure of Thomas Exham,
called Kyppyngges [K1], owe suit of court every three weeks and owe suit at this View and
rent, heriot, relief whenever it falls due, and to do the lord other services and customs yearly in
respect thereof due and accustomed as appears by the extent and now they do the lord in respect
thereof nothing etc. Therefore the order is given to distrain them etc against the next [court] etc.

Thomas was presumably the ‘Thomas Codyngton of Merton gentleman’ who was listed among
those receiving royal pardons following Jack Cade’s rebellion in July 1450 (see chapter 1 page 4).

Legal proceedings over outstanding rents and services were instigated at an assize held at
Southwark in 1456, when the abbot’s attorney complained against a Richard Benton or Denton:66

that the aforesaid Richard disseisined him of eleven shillings and seven pence of rent and of the
render of two cocks and four hens with pertinences etc. And the aforesaid Richard Benton in his
own person came and said that he made no injury or disseise to the aforementioned Abbot. And
concerning this, he should submit to the assize and the aforesaid Abbot similarly etc.

Richard was probably a lessee rather than the second husband of Thomas’s widow, as Thomas
continues to be named in the manorial accounts until 1495/96, though these were often outdated.
Richard denied the charges and the case was postponed until Michaelmas, to be heard at Reigate.
Richard failed to attend, and the case proceeded in his absence. The jurors reported the facts as
they knew them and judgement was given against Richard:

Therefore it is granted that the aforesaid present Abbot shall recover his seisin of the
aforesaid returns with pertinences, together with the arrears of the same, both before the
days of petition of the writ at the aforesaid assize, and after, through the view of examination
of the aforesaid assize and his aforesaid damages to the aforesaid five marks through the
aforesaid examination at the above assize, the which damages together with the aforesaid
arrears, in total therefore attain to seventeen pounds, forty eight cocks and eighty hens. And
the aforesaid Richard Benton is in mercy etc.

This was for a stated 24 years of unpaid rents, together with damages. Probably the legal process
had taken two or three years to reach this stage. No further account rolls survive until 1467/68,
but the former arrears had apparently still not been paid, in spite of the earlier judgement, as
the sums respited had increased, though the period of unpaid rents is given as only 28 years, but
calculated at 38 years:67

Respited

The same rent collector now accounts £22 6s 2½d for rent issuing from land and tenement
formerly Laurence Conyngston in Ewell, now in the tenure of Thomas Conyngston
goldsmith both for this year and for 28 years preceding, as per year 11s 6½d, because not
able to levy and not fully agreed when he ought to distrain. And to the same £27 17s 9d for
rent of various lands and tenements in Ewell both for this year and for 24 years preceding
as per year 21s 5½d for the aforesaid reason. And to the same 13s 4d for amercements
imposed 6 years preceding upon the Prior of Merton,10s Richard Salynge 20d and John Salyng
20d for remaining outside the lordship and having nothing within. And to the same 2s 8d for
amercements of tenements in Ewell for suit of court 6 years preceding because not able to
levy. And to the same 10s for rent of Walter at Heth for 7 years preceding because he fled
with his goods & chattels. And to the same 6s 8d for rent of land of John Bekeswell because
the same land lay fallow and uncultivated for 3 years preceding. £51 16s 7½d.

These respited entries in the account rolls were repeated every year until the final extant account,
for 1502/03, with not always successful calculations of the number of years elapsed or of the
sums due – or even of the total, which should be £96 3⅛d:68

Respited

The same now accounts £31 10s 7¾d for rent issuing from land and tenement formerly
Laurence Conyngeston in Ewell late in the tenure of T Conyngston goldsmith, both for this
year and for 54 years preceding, as per year 11s 6½d, because not able to levy and not fully
agreed when he ought to distrain. And to the same £56 8s 8⅞d for rent of various lands and
tenements in Ewell both for this year and for 52 years preceding as per year 21s 5½d for the
aforesaid reason therefore &c. And to the same 13s 4d imposed 21 years preceding against
the Prior of Merton, 10s Richard Salyng [20d] and John Salyng 20d because they remain outside
the lordship and have nothing within &c. And to the same 3s 8d for amercements of tenants
in Ewell for suit of court 20 years preceding because not able to levy &c. And to the same
10s for rent of Walter at Heth for 20 years preceding because he fled with his goods and
chattels &c. And to the same 6s 8d for rent of land of J Bestwell because the same land lay
fallow and uncultivated for 17 years preceding. And to the same £6 7s 2½d for a common
fine of tenants at the same place for 26 years preceding with this year which they withdrew
themselves less than justly. Therefore etc. Sum of respites £94 3⅛d.

These entries also reveal that other influential people could ignore the impositions of the manorial
court, even though it ostensibly had the authority of the abbot of Westminster. Merton Priory had
not paid amercements probably relating to unscoured ditches around its two holdings in Morden,
while the Salyng family, who had provided two priors to Merton Priory, also felt able to resist the
Morden court. Those with less influence, such as the former farmer Walter at Heth, and John Bexwell
(not Bestwell) found the easiest way to escape the demands of lordship was to leave the area.

A document from the reign of Henry VII (1485-1507) gives details of the Cuddington family’s
holdings of Morden Fee, which were then in the possession of the widow of Thomas’s son John,
and her new husband Richard Vynes.69 The document, which is damaged at both edges, states
that Vynes ‘owes suit at the court of Morden, heriot and relief. And he does […] various works
just as they appear in the custumal of Domesday and the house of the messuage lies opposite the
messuage in which […] dwells, and one lane separates both the messuages aforesaid’. The heading is
difficult to read but could contain a variant of the name Quidekepes. The purpose of the document
is unclear, but it does reveal that the abbey had not given up on its claims to its Ewell properties.

How did the lesser tenants in Ewell and in Morden react when, at court after court, they observed
the more powerful tenants from Ewell flouting the demands which they still had to endure?

The tenants of the smaller copyhold properties in Ewell continued to make use of the manorial
courts. Cottages and small parcels of land taken from Kyppings tenement continued to be
surrendered and granted at the Morden court, as did the cottages held by rent increment in 1312.
Many of the land transfers continued to use the phrase ‘in bondage’ until 1419, while property was
noted as held ‘at the lord’s will’ as late as 1499.70 Ewell remained a separate tithing with its own chief
pledge and aletaster until 1420, a Ewell man served on the homage as late as 1454, and a Ralph
Ewell, possibly a resident in Ewell, served as a chief pledge at the Morden court until 1503, while
Ewell brewers were still presented at court until 1435 and tithingers until 1521.71

But what of the Morden tenants? Christopher Dyer has drawn attention to another phenomenon
found in the records of many great landlords in the 15th century, the problem of escalating
rent arrears.72

Rent arrears

Manorial estates run directly by appointees of the lord were always run on a credit basis, the estate
manager receiving income from rents and sale of produce and paying for purchases and wages. In
the case of Morden, cash sums were often handed in to the abbey’s bailiffs or treasurers during the
year and some supplies were sent to the abbey rather than sold. At the end of the financial year the
manager submitted his accounts detailing income and expenditure under various headings and
reckoning the balance. If he had spent, or sent to the abbey, more than he had received he was not
normally recompensed but he added this sum as the first item in the Expenses section of the next
year’s account under the heading ‘Surplus’ [superplusagium]. If the income he had accounted for
exceeded the expenses, including cash and supplies already sent to the abbey, he did not hand over

this sum but it was entered as ‘Arrears’ [arreragium] at the beginning of the Income section of the
next account. These arrears might include cash owed to him but not yet received by the manager.
One year expenses might exceed income, another year they might be less.

After 1359 the Morden demesne was leased to farmers, who rendered accounts similar to those
of the earlier estate managers but with less detail. Occasionally the rents due from tenants were
included in the lease, but more often the farmer merely collected them and forwarded them to the
abbey – though sometimes the manorial beadle or a separate rent-collector was responsible for
receiving the rents and paying them to the farmer to pass to Westminster. By the closing years of
the 14th century, it was common for arrears to be due from the farmer and from the beadle, though
most of these were paid off over time. Dyer points out that ‘it was quite normal in the middle
ages to pay large sums in instalments’ and distinguishes between ‘temporary’ arrears – ‘delayed
payments from the year previous to that covered by the account’ – and ‘permanent’ arrears – ‘sums
due to the lord which, after a delay of two or three years, were often never paid’.73 In Morden in the
late 14th and early 15th centuries, arrears were often substantial but seldom permanent.

Thus in 1389/90 the Morden account balanced, but in 1390/91 the farmer, Ralph atte Rithe,
owed arrears of 41s 9d, which were carried over to the next account, which in turn ended with
£7 2s arrears.74 They had dropped to £4 9s 8d in 1392/93 but had risen to £18 16s 10d by 1397/98,
of which the beadle, John Gildon, owed £6 6s 4⅝d. A separate account, or ‘onus’, of John Gildon,
survives with the account roll for 1400/01, which details his liabilities:75

‘Onus’ of John Gildon beadle at the same place

For arrears of the preceding year £7 0s 0d

For rent at the same place £4 4s 9½d

For farms at the same place £3 8s 6d

For rent in kind 4s 1d

For profits of court 16s 5d

Sum of receipts £15 13s 9½d

In rent paid out nothing here because by R atte Rithe farmer

In allowances and rent defaults £1 0s 4⅞d

Delivered to the bailiff by 3 tallies £4 7s 4d

Sum of allowances £5 7s 8⅞d

And he owes £10 6s 0⅝d

And afterwards he was charged for rent paid out for the year next preceding

and allowed to him because R atte Rithe paid 4s 0d

And so he now owes £10 10s 0⅝d

Apart from some confusion as to whether the beadle or the farmer was responsible for paying
the rent due for land in Morden held from the neighbouring Carshalton manor of Kynnersley,
it is clear that the beadle was responsible for collecting rents – both in cash and in kind – and
‘farms’ – the rent owed by leaseholders – and that he also handled the amercements and fines
levied at the manorial courts. The beadle was excused from paying any rents for his own holding
while in office – the ‘allowances’ – while the ‘rent defaults’ referred to the ancient rents due from
customary holdings that had fallen into the lord’s hand 50 years earlier, when tenants had died
without heirs in the repeated outbreaks of plague, but which were now leased out at farm, so
accounted for separately. Thus there was a shortfall of £3 10s in rents and farms received from
current tenants, in addition to the £7 of arrears brought forward from previous years – perhaps
the equivalent £3 10s unpaid for two years. Even if some Ewell tenants were already refusing to
pay their rents, as noted above for later years, that would only account for just over a third of the
yearly deficit, so it would seem that Morden tenants were also withholding payments – unless
the beadle was holding on to money received from tenants for his own purposes.

However, Gildon managed to reduce his debts over his remaining years in office, to £8 17s 2⅞d
in 1401/02 and £8 10s 8½d in 1403/04, though it rose again in his final year to £9 17s 9⅛d.76 Even
after he had retired from office, he was able to pay off £2 in 1404/05, was ‘remitted by grace of
the lord Prior and discretion of the auditors’ a further 52s 5½d in 1407/08, paid another £1 in
1408/09 and 13s 4d in 1409/10, leaving only 26s 8d still unpaid when that series of account rolls

finishes in 1412.77 It would seem that the problem was a temporary blockage in the cash flow,
rather than a rent-strike by tenants.

Atte Rithe was even more successful, paying off his debt completely by 1405/06 when his lease
expired, though the following year he was charged £5 13s 9d ‘for corn sold’, which he reduced to
17s 9d the following year, at which level it remained – perhaps because he disputed the valuation.78

Gildon’s successors as beadle served for shorter terms and were able to completely clear their
debts, John Spyk balancing his arrears in 1409/10, two years after completing his year in office
and the same year that John Edward did the same at the end of his two years in office, while Alan
Berenger cleared his by 1411/12, within three years of completing his one year in office.79 It seems
reasonable to view the introduction of shorter terms as a response to the arrears problem, though
Spyk became joint farmer of the demesne in 1406, with William Mulseye – for which they paid
in corn not cash, perhaps in itself an indication of problems in the coin supply at this period.80

However, the mid-15th century saw a big increase in these arrears on many estates, and most
were never paid.81 There are no account rolls for Morden between 1412 and 1441, but the
few surviving rolls for the 40 or so years from 1441/42 list an ever-growing schedule of sums
outstanding from former beadles and farmers as well as unpaid debts from royal purveyors,
dating back many years.82 These do not include the unpaid rents from Ewell, mentioned above,
which had already been deducted. William Longe’s account of 1441/42 lists arrears of £58 13s
5⅛d, ‘over and above what is respited’, of which:83

Against {William Mulseye late farmer £4 11s 3½d

{The lord King for 9 quarters oats 19 years preceding 18s

{Simon Popsent late farmer 73s 4d

{John Ravenyng Tayllo’ [?tailor?] late farmer £14 16s 3½d

{The lord King for 7 quarters oats 12th year King Henry VI 15s 3d

{The same lord King for 9 quarters oats 18s

{William Goldwyr late beadle 51s 8d

{Roger Attehegg late farmer 71s 4d

{William Longe late farmer 64s 7¼d

{Thomas Spyk late beadle £12 4s 3½d

{Richard Pulton late beadle 47s 1⅞d

{Richard Swan now beadle £7 2s 0½d

{John Sawger now farmer 40s 4d

William Mulseye had become sole farmer of the demesne of Morden in 1411/12, Roger atte
Hegge (later mistakenly recorded as ‘at Heth’) around 1419.84 Henry VI’s 12th year was 1433/34.

Only a fragment survives from the final account in this series, and it bears two dates – 1474
and 20 Edward IV [1480/81], but this fragment is the list of arrears, repeating and updating the
earlier list (though misreading 12 Henry VI as 15 Henry VI):85

Against {William Mulseye formerly farmer £4 11s 3½d

{The Lord H VI for 9 quarters oats sold to his purveyors 48 years preceding 18s

{Simon Popsent formerly farmer at the same place 73s 4d

{John Ravennyng late farmer at the same place £14 16s 3½d

{The Lord H VI for 7 quarters oats sold to his purveyors 15th year of his reign 15s 3d

{The same King for 9 quarters oats sold to his purveyors on other occasions 18s

{William Goldwyr formerly beadle at the same place 51s 3d

{Roger at Heth late farmer at the same place 71s 4d
{William Longe late farmer at the same place 64s 7¼d
{Thomas Spyke late beadle at the same place £12 4s 3½d

{Richard Pulton late beadle at the same place 47s 1⅞d

{Richard Swan late beadle at the same place £10 19s 11¾d

{John Sager late farmer at the same place 40s

{William Davy late farmer at the same place 60s

{Richard Huntman and his fellows for amercements … 17 and 18 years preceding 13s 4d

{Walter at Heth farmer of the demesne of the manor … for 17 years preceding 33s 4d

{John Dounton both farmer of the demesne of the manor and rent collector … [blank]

Walter at Heth first appears in Morden court rolls in October 1455, but the accounts for 1467/68
inform us that he had ‘fled with his goods & chattels’, leaving 10 shillings unpaid for seven years
rent. He was still listed among the homage present in court until October 1467, and surrendered
Cokesayes tenement to two leading tenants out of court in May 1470.86 Richard Huntman is
mentioned in court rolls of 1455-58.87

Dyer explains that such arrears ‘were not the result of a loss of rent from vacant tenements or
‘official’ reductions in rent … these changes would be allowed for in the manorial accounts. Arrears
represent a blockage in the flow of money from the tenants to the lord.’88 The 1440s through to the
1460s are recognised by economists as years of ‘massive depression’ and of ‘monetary shortage’.89
Dyer warns that the high total of arrears cannot be attributed to a single cause, pointing out
that ‘some of the total resulted from corruption or carelessness, but a proportion of these sums
stemmed from a refusal to pay rent at the base of the whole administrative edifice – the peasants
and demesne farmers,’ citing as evidence some documents from the estate of the bishopric of
Worcester which claimed that the tenants would abandon their holdings if their arrears were
levied.90 Walter at Heth’s flight from Morden suggests that such fears were not unfounded.

It is significant that two of the largest sums were due from beadles, and so are likely to represent
unpaid rents rather than the farm of the demesne. It is possible that Ravennyng’s large debt
also included rents, as the demesne farmer was sometimes responsible for rent collecting. Swan
was elected beadle in 1441 in preference to his predecessor Richard Pulton who submitted his
account for 1441/42, and Swan was chosen again in 1442 from three candidates, rendered his
account as beadle alongside the farmer in 1445/46, and was noted as being rent collector in
1447, so it would seem that the authorities had no complaint about his service, in spite of his
arrears reaching almost £12.91

On the assumption that Swan served for the six years 1442-48, his arrears averaged £2 a year. The
potential annual net income during these decades from rents and farms, other than the farm of
the demesne, was £6 13s 9d, including the ancient rents owed, but not paid, by the Ewell tenants.
However, in 1448/50 a new form of account listed each individual’s rent, totalling £4 12s 3½d a
year, but this did not include any rents from Ewell.92 By the next extant account, for 1467/68, the
traditional format had been reintroduced, so it was probably a quirk of the new rent collector
rather than a more rational approach to rental income. However, the implication is that Swan
failed to gather the equivalent of over 40% of the rent due from his fellow tenants in Morden, and
that this debt was never paid off. Annual rents in 1448/50 ranged from ½d to £1. Were two or three
leading tenants refusing to pay anything, following the example of the Ewell freeholders? Or was
this a more general refusal by the majority of the tenants to pay more than a portion of their rent?

As Dyer points out, ‘The ‘struggle for rent’ in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was
usually won by the lords, but in the fifteenth century social realities prevented such a victory.
The lord’s income was still high, but tenants were able to resist at least some rent payments with
a measure of success; violent revolts were unnecessary when the peasants could negotiate from
a comparatively strong position.’93

However, as noted above, the situation had changed by the 1480s, when failure to pay rent
promptly led to immediate forfeiture of the property (see page 159). If arrears were paid it was
possible to regain the property, but otherwise a new tenant was found. It is tempting to see this
new strictness as a response to rent-strikes in the preceding decades, perhaps due to new and
firmer management at the abbey – John Estney became abbot in 1474, Thomas Arundel taking
Estney’s former office of prior.94

In fact, this new strictness seems to have been more widespread than just the Westminster Abbey
estates. Dyer notes a similar situation on the estates of the bishopric of Worcester: ‘by the 1490s
an increasing population deprived the tenants of their ultimate sanction, easy migration, and
rising prices gave the lord a new incentive to maintain and increase his revenue. The receiver’s
accounts of the early sixteenth century show that arrears were paid much more promptly than
before, and that more than 90% of each year’s receipts came from the income of the same year.’95

We only have five extant account rolls for Morden from the last two decades of the 15th century and the
opening years of the 16th, but the earliest of these, for 1493/94, shows arrears of £78 brought forward
from the previous year, which increase this year to £80 15s 4⅝d. At first glance, it would seem that the
situation had not changed, but this was far from the truth, as the account roll continues:96

Of which allowed to the same present accountant 14s 1⅝d for rent and farm undercharged
and more than is able to be levied for the year as appears by examination of all new rents at
the audit at the same place examined for the 11 years next preceding and approved. And to
the same 8d for rent default for certain parcels of land called Brounyngges 4d and Scottes 4d
remaining in the lord’s hand for default of tenant this year and nothing in allowance for rent
default for demesne land and nothing thereof levied of issue this year. And he owes £80 7d.

Of which Respited

The same rent collector now accounts £26 6s 9½d for rent issuing from land and tenement
formerly Laurence Conyngston both for this year and for 45 years preceding, as per year 11s
6½d, because not able to levy and not fully agreed when he ought to distrain. And to the same
£46 15s 7½d for the aforesaid reason. And to the same 13s 4d against the prior of Merton, 10s
Richard Salynge 3s 4d [because] they remain outside the lordship and have nothing within. And
to the same 2s 8d for amercements of tenants in Ewell for suit of court 11 years preceding of
which not able to levy. And to the same 10s for rent of Walter at Heth for 12 years preceding
because he fled with his goods and chattels. And to the same 6s 8d for rent of land of J Beswell
because the same land lay fallow and uncultivated for 8 years preceding. And to the same 105s
6d for a common fine of tenants at the same place for 18 years preceding with this year 5s 6d
which they withdrew themselves less than justly. Therefore etc. Sum of respites £80 7d. And
so the said present accountant over and above respites is Quit.

Although these figures include several miscalculations, they do seem to reveal a change in policy.
For a start, the auditors had examined the accounts for the previous 11 years, and had accepted
that certain payments could not be levied, though none of these related to arrears due from former
farmers and beadles, which had dominated the previous accounts. Presumably these had already
been written off, rather than paid. But no recent arrears of this kind are recorded – only 14s 1⅝d was
outstanding ‘for rent and farm undercharged and more than is able to be levied for the year’, and this
was remitted to the farmer. The greatest amount was for the dues withheld by the powerful tenants
in Ewell and Merton, discussed above. A small shortfall was due to tenements still in the lord’s hand,
and for the final instalment of rent unpaid by Heth and Beswell several years before.

But a new item has appeared. For the past 18 years, starting in 1475, the tenants of Morden had
made a different kind of collective protest, and it is tempting to see this action as taking the place
of an earlier form of protest manifested through some kind of general rent-strike. Although
the evidence for such rent-strikes in mid-15th-century Morden is inconclusive, it seems to be
more than coincidence that tenants began this new action at the very time that we start to see a
tougher approach to rent arrears.

Refusal to pay more than 1d per head Common Fine

From the earliest extant court roll for the annual View of frankpledge, in May 1297, until that of
May 1474, the chief pledges, on behalf of all the tithingers of Morden and Morden Fee in Ewell –
every male resident aged 12 or over – made a ‘fixed’ [ex certo] payment of 6s 8d as the Common
Fine, sometimes called ‘cert money’ by historians.97 The 1312 extent has this entry:98

Lawday: Likewise they say that there are at the same place from a fixed fine at Lawday of
Hokeday 6s 8d

Hokeday was the second Tuesday after Easter, following Hoke Monday.

However, in April 1475 the chief pledges made a momentous change to an ancient tradition,
though the clerk recording the event reduced its impact by relegating it to the margin:99

chief [pledge]s
common fine
6s 8d of which
they render
11d

Henry Sager, John Hegge, John Bordale, Thomas Leycettyr; William Goldewyr’ senior,
John Goldewyr’ senior, William Goldewyr’, John Dunnyng; William Brooke, John
Goldewyer, John Kyrkeby; chief [pledge]s at the same place, sworn, present that they give
the lord for common fine at this day etc.

Whereas they had paid 6s 8d time out of mind, this year they only paid 11d. No explanation is
recorded on this occasion, or the following year when they paid 12d, but in April 1477 we are told:100

chief [pledges]
common
fine 6s 8d of
which they
render 9d

William Tennette, Thomas Leycettour, John Goldewyer junior, William Goldewyer;
John Dunnyng, William Brooke, John Kyrkeby; chief [pledge]s, were accustomed [to
pay] common fine as fixed as appears in the heading. But now they refuse and pay per
head.

From now on, they would only pay a penny per head. The Black Death in 1349 had reduced the
population dramatically, probably between a third and a half dying in that first outbreak. Plague
had returned many times since, and the population is not thought to have begun to recover until
the 16th century. Furthermore, many of the tenants of Morden lands in the 15th century were
not resident within Morden. Some 40 tenants had been recorded in 1312, but these were only the
heads of households, and the male population over the age of 12 must have been much greater
– perhaps around the 80 that would have made 6s 8d equivalent to the per capita payment of a
penny. In his study of the manors of Ramsey Abbey, J A Raftis suggests that an original per capita
payment was changed to a fixed sum at a period ‘before the extant court rolls’ when the abbey
simplified ‘the tedious task of counting new boys coming of age by an agreement with the villagers.
For the payment of a fixed sum every year the villagers would themselves collect the tithing penny
or head tax from everyone in the tithing’.101 Although such an agreement is not recorded, it is a
likely scenario, but times had changed and the demands of lordship needed to change accordingly.
The suggestion by Warren Ault that the payment originated as a penny per head of those who did
not come to the court seems less likely, both because it is difficult to imagine that the population of
Morden was ever large enough to include 80 men regularly defaulting and also because defaulters
were always individually amerced at the manor court, usually at 2d a head.102

In Morden in the 1470s, was the claim being put forward that there were no more than a dozen
male residents over the age of 12, or was it that those who attended the court were only prepared
to pay for their own contribution? In 1475 the 11 chief pledges were the only ones who paid, and
yet the very next item on the court roll recorded two further additions to the tithing:

oath

Walter atte Hegge and John Brooke at this View are sworn to the lord king.

Were these two only required to pay in the following year, when 10 chief pledges paid 12d? At
that court two more were added to the tithing, and 9d was paid by the 7 chief pledges in 1477. It
would seem that those present were not just objecting to a system that had long been out of step
with the true number of resident males but also refusing to pay for absent tithingers. In fact, in
some years the number of pledges named was more than the fine paid, as can be seen in table 6.1
below. (From 1512 it was usual for only a single chief pledge to be named.)

Table 6.1: Common Fine payments 1473-1541

Year

pledges/

tithingers

common
fine

1473

12

6s 8d

103

1474

9

6s 8d

104

1475

11

11d

105

1476

10

12d

106

1477

7

9d

107

1478

9

108

1479

11

12d

109

1480

8

9d

110

1481

7

8d

111

1482

8

10d

112

1483

7

10d

113

1484

8

8d

114

1486

12

11d

115

1487

12

10d

116

1488

12

9d

117

1489

12

9d

118

1490

15

9d

119

Year

pledges/
tithingers

common

fine

1491

13

8d

120

1492

15

15d

121

1493

13

122

1494

13

14d

123

1495

13

124

1496

12

12d

125

1497

12

12d

126

1498

10

10d

127

1499

8

8d

128

1500

11

8d

129

1503

9

8d

130

1508

12

12d

131

1512

1

13d

132

1515

1

14d

133

1516

1

14d

134

1517

1

11d

135

1518

1

14d

136

Year

pledges/
tithingers

common

fine

1519

1

16d

137

1520

1

12d

138

1521

1

16d

139

1522

1

24d

140

1523

1

20d

141

1524

2

19d

142

1525

1

20d

143

1526

1

20d

144

1527

1

16d

145

1529

1

15d

146

1535

1

20d

147

1536

1

21d

148

1537

1

16d

149

1538

1

21d

150

1539

13

151

1540

1

20d

152

1541

20

22d

153

It is clear that we cannot use Common Fine payments to calculate population figures.

By 1502/03 those responsible for the manorial account roll calculated the amount unpaid as
‘£6 7s 2½d for a common fine of tenants at the same place for 26 years preceding with this year
which they withdrew themselves less than justly’.154 The pennies had mounted up.

Although the 1539 entry fails to note the total paid, it does show how the Common Fine was
calculated, and that it was used that year to make the stocks – there was a limit to how much
licence the populace could enjoy:155

common fine

Who say upon their oath that they give the lord annually for common fine, namely per head of
each man inhabiting the said manor who are over the age of 12 years one penny. And for this
year as appears [sic], which the lord gives to the inhabitants to make stocks, namely le Stockys.

The current run of court rolls finishes in 1541 and, although odd copies and extracts survive
from the next few years, the next batch starts in 1594.156 By this time the abbey had long lost
control of its Morden estate and it was now in the possession of Richard Garth, a lawyer who
searched through and copied ancient documents to ensure he exercised all his traditional
rights. Common Fine was back to the full sum of 6s 8d, and this remained the sum into the
mid-17th century.157

Perhaps the most surprising fact is that this refusal only manifested itself in Morden during
the last quarter of the 15th century. It was a widespread phenomenon, and was recorded on
the bishop of Worcester’s estates as early as 1441.158 Communications were more restricted
then than now, but there were opportunities at markets and fairs for such matters to be
gossiped across the country. Attendance at county and hundred courts helped spread the
word within each locality, and at their auditing sessions lords brought together officials from
their various estates who could discuss and plan concerted action.159 The fact that Morden
tenants began this action at the very time that the abbey was stamping down on rent arrears,
as noted above, suggests that tenants had quickly looked around for an alternative means of
protest. Dyer comments, ‘Much of the hidden struggle between lords and tenants involved
not violent confrontations, but latent coercion and grumbling resistance, which are scarcely
discernible in early written sources’.160

The silence of aletasters

We will see on page 214 that each year the aletasters presented the brewers and other
victuallers who had ‘broken the assize of ale’, which is usually understood to have been a form
of licensing, the lord of the manor taking a small amercement from each offender. However,
in 1473 and 1474 no such presentments were made, although two of the three victuallers who
had been presented in the immediately preceding years were again presented in the following
years.161 In 1483 the aletaster had ‘nothing to present’, and there was no entry for presentments
in 1484, while the roll for the 1485 View of frankpledge is missing, yet one of these same
victuallers was still active in the following years.162 These occurrences raise the suspicion of a
brief attempt to challenge the seigneurial right to amerce those in the food and drink business.
This suspicion is strengthened by the realisation that there were again no such presentments
between 1499 and 1514 (though no rolls survive for 1500, 1505-06 or 1510-11), in spite of
the fact that the proprietor of one of the alehouses was still active in court to 1503, that of
another was alive until 1507, while in 1512 Richard Cosyn, the proprietor of a third alehouse,
on the site of the present George inn, was said to have been occupying the property for the
past 10 years, though he was not presented as ‘a seller of ale and beer and sells by unlawful
and unsealed measures’ until 1515.163 For the next three years the aletaster presented that ‘all
is well’, but from 1519 until 1527 Cosyn was again presented as brewer, baker and alehouse
keeper. Although it is only a suspicion, one cannot avoid wondering if these were short-lived
silent protests, comparable to those discussed above, though there had been occasional courts
earlier in both Morden and Ewell at which it was reported that no one had brewed (see page
216).

Refusal to repair buildings

Such passive resistance could also be demonstrated in non-financial ways. One area that seems
to reveal a successful defiance of lordly authority concerns the requirement to keep buildings
in good repair. There are over 300 entries in the court rolls recording presentment of tenants
because they had tenement, cottage, or other building ‘ruinous and unrepaired’, ‘defective both
in roofing and in timber’, or the like. These offences do not appear in the few court rolls that
survive from before the Black Death and it is likely that, at a time of high demand for property
holdings, tenants did not dare to risk eviction through poor maintenance. However, following
the loss from plague of so many tenants, lords found it difficult to find replacements, and the
survivors often took on additional landholdings. Unless a second house was required for other
family members or employees, it was tempting to leave an unwanted building to collapse rather
than spend money and labour on it. Lords and their officials could make demands, but it became
increasingly difficult to enforce them, especially as many of the manorial officers responsible for
such enforcement were themselves among the chief offenders.

Table 6.2 lists the majority of these offenders, ordered by the frequency presentment was made
against them over a sequence of years. Often it is clear which of their properties had been
neglected, but where this is uncertain, all the properties known to have been in their tenure
have been noted, using the IDs listed on pages 256-7.

Table 6.2: Unrepaired buidings – the chief offenders

Name

From

To

Count

Property ID

Comment

Ralph Edward

02/1378

11/1398

31

[E3]

roof

164

John Bailly

11/1394

04/1439

29

[C]

165

John Scot

05/1403

04/1422

27

[N7]

166

Simon Willot

11/1388

11/1408

18

[N6]

roof

167

John & Alice Willot

05/1405

05/1413

14

[F2] [B62] [U21]?

168

John Willot

05/1380

05/1395

13

[F2] [B62] [U21]?

169

Emma/Anicia Hayter

02/1386

11/1408

11

[U21]?

170

John Mulneward

05/1384

05/1388

9

[B2] tenement + barn

171

Richard Springet

05/1385

11/1397

8

[N7]

172

Simon Lightfoot

05/1394

04/1404

8

[F3]

173

Thomas & Alice Garston

11/1396

11/1407

7

[I8] [X] [X1]

174

Henry Mulneward

11/1389

10/1393

7

[I2]?

roof

175

Matilda Corde

11/1405

11/1408

7

[I1]

176

John Andrew

05/1396

05/1399

6

[R]

177

William Goldewyre

10/1446

04/1469

5

[N7]

seize

178

Robert Newbury

04/1437

05/1449

5

[I1]

179

Simon Pynnore/Taylor

11/1396

10/1399

5

[B63]

180

William atte Hegge

05/1449

10/1468

5

[B23]

181

Richard Mulneward

05/1380

06/1383

5

[B2]

seize

182

John Arnold

04/1463

10/1469

5

[A] [A2] [F2]

seize x2!

183

Ralph atte Rythe

05/1384

05/1388

4

[T]

184

John & Johanna Wethir

04/1514

04/1516

4

[G]

roof

185

Alan Berenger

11/1391

07/1398

4

[F4]

186

John Spyk

11/1402

05/1436

4

[B21]?

187

John Williams

04/1514

04/1516

3

[X] tenement + barn

roof

188

Agnes atte Rythe

11/1379

11/1380

3

[T]

189

William Brodey

05/1385

11/1396

3

[N1]

190

Robert Berenger

11/1389

11/1390

3

[I1]

roof

191

John Edward

11/1379

11/1380

3

[E]

192

Walter atte Heth

04/1463

10/1468

3

[C]

seize x2!

193

Alice Langton

10/1507

10/1508

3

[B21] [B23]

repaired

194

Johanna Symond

05/1538

05/1541

3

[B21] [B23]

195

John Tyner

04/1410

11/1411

3

[?]

196

William Lotekyn

01/1387

05/1387

2

[L]

197

William Pynnore/Taylor

11/1388

11/1389

2

[L]

198

Thomas Barker

05/1500

10/1502

2

[I7]?

199

John Chertham

10/1468

04/1469

2

[E3]

seize

200

John Edward

05/1385

02/1386

2

[E] bakehouse

201

Thomas Sharp

10/1473

05/1474

2

[C] [A]

202

Richard Tillesworth

05/1500

10/1502

2

[B21]

seize

203

Agnes Salyng

11/1388

11/1397

2

[?]

204

Alice Dygen

05/1395

11/1395

2

[?]

205

John Flemyng

10/1490

10/1491

2

[B23]

repaired

206

Richard Hunteman

11/1454

01/1458

2

[?]

207

John Judde

04/1518

04/1518

1

[M] [F4]

timber & roof

208

Robert Hardyng

04/1482

04/1482

1

[X]

seize

209

Nicholas Dewey

05/1468

05/1468

1

[S]

seize

210

William Porter

04/1515

04/1515

1

[S]

211

John Hobekoc

05/1395

05/1395

1

[N7]

212

William Davy de Tenet

05/1468

05/1468

1

[N2] [R]

seize

213

William Gilden

10/1416

10/1416

1

[G]

214

John Godewyne

05/1384

05/1384

1

[L]

215

Lotekyns [John Carpenter]

10/1399

10/1399

1

[L]

in hand

216

Alice Popsent

05/1417

05/1417

1

[I9]?

217

Simon Popsent

10/1418

10/1418

1

[I9]?

218

Adam Tracy

05/1389

05/1389

1

[I2]?

219

Thomas Leycester

04/1455

04/1455

1

[I1] [I2]

220

Robert Berenger

10/1418

10/1418

1

[I1]

221

John Hurrok

10/1393

10/1393

1

[H2]

222

William Porter

04/1515

04/1515

1

[H]

223

Alice Yerde

04/1437

04/1437

1

[F4]

seize

224

John Yerde

10/1447

10/1447

1

[F4]

225

William Lightfoot

10/1440

10/1440

1

[F3] barn

226

Robert Lightfoot

04/1467

04/1467

1

[E3]

seize

227

Cokcyes [Alice Hobcok]

06/1383

06/1383

1

[C]

228

John Adam

10/1399

10/1399

1

[A]

in hand

229

Occasionally the property, rather than the tenant, is noted in the presentment, but the current
tenant can be identified from other sources. If they are not already listed, their names have been
added in square brackets. Four tenants cannot be located, while for a few others the property is
uncertain (marked with ‘?’), but many of the other names are only too familiar – William Porter
was the lessee of the demesne; Ralph Edward is listed regularly among the chief pledges between
1378 and 1386; as was John Bailey in 1435 and 1436, having served as aletaster 1410-1414 and
again frequently between 1435 and 1442; Thomas Garston was aletaster 1400-1405, as was John
Scott from 1410 to 1422 and both may have been among the unnamed tithingers accompanying
the chief pledges; Henry Mulneward was a chief pledge between 1378 and 1386, while Richard
served in 1385; at least two William Goldwyres served frequently as chief pledges between 1435
and 1500, sometimes distinguished as senior and junior, though that title would vary across the
generations; Robert Newbury was a chief pledge between 1435 and 1442; William atte Hegge
served on the homage on five occasions. John Arnold was a Londoner and probably an absentee,
so never served in any office during his brief tenure. However, there were periods when office
holders were not named, so those not appearing in surviving lists need not have been less active

(see page 39). No Willots are listed in major offices, but Simon’s problems have been considered
in chapter 3 (pages 55-7); Springet served once on a grand inquest while Simon Lightfoot served
twice; the Pynnors/Taylors are never listed in office (see chapter 7).

Occasionally it is noted that the building had been repaired but it is likely that, where there is a
long gap between presentments, some repair had been made without comment appearing in the
rolls. No doubt John Edward’s bake-house [pistrina] or cookshop [coquina] was soon brought
up to standard if, as is likely, he provided a public service.230 The fact that it was presented twice
within a year must have caused concern to his customers. One would hope that John Scott was
not using his ruinous building for the brewing that is recorded for him between 1402 and 1413,
though no other property is known for him (see chapter 8).

Amercements of a penny or two were levied against offenders, and sometimes more stringent
financial penalties were threatened – though only two cases have been found where the penalty
was imposed. Thus in May 1508 we read:231

penalty
forfeited 6s
8d

And that the tenement late in the tenure of Alice Langton still is not repaired as she was
commanded at the last court. Therefore she forfeits the penalty [forum penam] as in the
heading. And the order is given again to repair before the next court under penalty of
forfeiture etc.

Repairs had been made by October of that year.232 One might suspect that Alice was being
unfairly penalised because of her gender, but a case from October 1515 relates to a man, albeit
the guardian of his infant daughter:233

penalty 3s 4d

Likewise they say that John Wether has not yet fully repaired his defective tenement called
Goldwyers but he has begun. Therefore he forfeits 3s 4d of the penalty imposed on him at
the last leet. And a new day is given to him to fully repair before next Easter under penalty
of 12s.

John had not completed the repairs by April 1516, though he was not penalised on this occasion,
and no further presentments were made against him or his daughter, who had come of age by
May of that year.234

Court officers were more successful in enforcing financial penalties on those who persistently
failed to scour ditches or repair fences, but this is to be expected, as these offences would actively
affect their own interests, whereas it was only lords who suffered loss when buildings were
neglected.

The ultimate threat of forfeiture of the property was one that manorial officials were
reluctant to act upon, in the fear that no one would be found to take on the property if
costly repairs were required. It is perhaps surprising that the majority of the orders given to
the beadle to seize a property into the lord’s hands, and to answer for any income that could
be made from it, were made after only one or two presentments had been recorded. There is
evidence that such forfeitures were sometimes made because the tenant had also defaulted
on payment of rent, or had abandoned or sub-let the property, or had died, though this was
not stated in every case.235 Forfeiture was often a response to the opportunity afforded by
the death of an uncooperative tenant, in an attempt to persuade the widow or heir to take
action. Thus William Yerde’s death was reported in May 1436 and at the next court the
tenement was seized from his widow:236

Likewise they present that Alice Yerd has 1 tenement ruinous and unrepaired called Aleyn
Berngerr’ and the order is given to seize.

However, she regained the property and on her death in 1442 it was inherited by her son, who
was himself presented in 1447 because the property was again ruinous.237

In February 1513, when a young heir successfully claimed his grandfather’s copyhold lands
unjustly taken by his uncle, who had rightly inherited the freeholds, it seems that it was the uncle
who was required to rebuild (though this might be a clerical error as the threat of forfeiture
would surely only apply to Walter):238

petition
Makernays
and Yardes –
Playstowe – a
day is given
under penalty
of forfeiture

At this court comes Walter Playstowe kinsman and heir of John Playstowe his grandfather,
namely son of John Playstowe, son and heir of the said John Playstowe the grandfather. And
he seeks his admittance to one tenement and 30 acres land called Makerneyes and to one toft
and 20 acres land called Yerdes with their pertinents in West Morden now in the tenure of
Richard Playstowe. Which same Richard has a day until at the next court to emend and build
the tenement aforesaid under penalty of forfeiture of his title in the premises.

On a couple of occasions the same property was ordered to be seized from the same tenant
two or three times within five years because it was again (or still?) unrepaired, so forfeiture
was not necessarily permanent, or perhaps not even enforced.239 As noted above (page 159), in
April 1482 Robert Hardyng’s holding was seized ‘both for rent arrears unpaid and for repairs in
respect thereof least done’, but it was returned to him in April 1486, presumably after repairs had
been made and arrears paid:240

[The edge
of the roll
is dirty and
illegible]

[At this court the lord] of his grace regrants to Robert Hardyng and Johanna his wife [their]
tenement with pertinents late taken and seized into the lord’s hand for rent arrears in respect
thereof being [unpaid and for] repairs in respect thereof not yet done, as appears by roll of
court 22 Edward IV, to hold to themselves, their heirs and assigns, of the lord at the lord’s will
in bondage by roll of court by services and customs saving [the lord’s] right etc. Rendering
the lord in respect thereof yearly at the usual festivals the rent customs and services in respect
thereof due and accustomed. And they give the lord for fine as appears in the heading etc.

Where properties were recorded as being ‘in hand’, it was common to continue for the next two
or three years to order the former tenant to make the repairs, though usually without effect.241
Eventually the decision had to be made either to use central funds for the rebuilding or to accept
its loss. It is not uncommon to find that a property which had been noted as ruinous year after
year for a decade or more is later called a ‘toft’ rather than a ‘cottage’ or a ‘tenement’, indicating
that the building had gone. But even plots that had been described as tofts for decades could be
built upon at a future date, should the current tenant require new buildings.242

Refusal to do labour services or boonworks

In chapter 3 (page 57) we noted that in May 1409 William Mulseye had refused to accept a
property subject to labour services and that he had previously failed to perform the labour
services due from his own customary tenement in October 1393:243

amercement 2d

William Mulseye because he has not come to do his labour service [opera] when he was
summoned by the beadle. Therefore he is etc.

On some estates such refusals were widespread and frequent, though Peter Franklin suggests
they ‘never approached an all-out strike, but should be seen as a kind of economic guerrilla
warfare’.244 In Morden they seem to have been rare and mostly uncoordinated. The earliest
example in the extant Morden rolls was in October 1296:245

Peter Priur is distrained for three harvest labour services which are in arrears.

A similar statement was made in September 1297:246

distraint

Peter le Priur is distrained because he has not done his labour service at harvest.

However, Peter did not have the same opportunities that William Mulseye was to enjoy a century
later, and we read at the November court of that year:247

taken into the
lord’s hand

The bailiff was ordered to hold in the lord’s hands one messuage which Peter le Priour
formerly held because the same Peter has not done labour service &c.

It was presumably this property that he sold, perhaps under duress, to John Sweyn in February 1298:248

fine 2s rent
increment ½d.

Peter le Priour and Agnes his wife come and surrender into the lord’s hands one messuage
to the use of John Sweyn and the same John comes and gives the lord for fine 2s for
having entry to the aforesaid messuage and he furnishes a pledge to build and mend
and maintain the aforesaid house in as very good condition as now or better and does
fealty to the lord and further gives the lord for rent increment ½d at Michaelmas; pledge
Thomas the miller and Richard atte Ryth.

In 1312 it was held by Geoffrey le Sweyn [I9]:

now William
Webbe

Geoffrey le Sweyne holds 1 messuage at a rent per annum of 2½d at Michaelmas. And he
shall owe at 3 boonworks in Autumn, namely at each of 2 boonworks 1 man and at the
third boonwork 2 men. And the value of the work is as above.

Peter’s possible unwillingness to sell might be revealed in an entry for October 1298, where he was
one of four tenants distrained for ‘his beasts coming into the lord’s enclosure’, a distraint repeated
in the following December, in March 1299, and in May 1299, when he was finally discharged.249

The suspicion that this was a protest against unfair treatment in losing his tenement is reinforced
by a similar case more than two centuries later, in the Morden section of the manor of Ravensbury,
though that protest took a different form. Three generations of the Parker family had held a messuage
and 3 acres of land within the manor by copyhold, though both son and grandson had been minors
in the guardianship of their mothers when they inherited. However, the manor came into the king’s
hands in 1539 and was leased in December 1542 to a new farmer who, in November 1546, claimed
that the property had been forfeited after the death of the grandfather in 1494, and that the current
claimant, William Parker junior, had no rights in the property. The case was one of many brought by
the farmer before the court of Star Chamber, Parker arguing that the farmer ‘did therof wrongfully
expell & putt oute the said defendant & his mother’.250 The outcome of this litigation is not recorded,
but a presentment at the Ravensbury manorial court on 8 April 1549 suggests that William had been
unsuccessful in his claim, and vented his anger in some anti-social behaviour:251

And that William Parker and Johanna Bayly his mother after the last court entered into one
tenement of the lord king lying in Morden and broke the doors, walls and windows of the
said tenement to damage valued at 20d. Therefore the bailiff is ordered that he distrain &c.

We will look further at the heavy-handed activities of this Ravensbury farmer later (see page
181), but to return to the abbey’s manor of Morden, the next recorded refusal to perform a
labour service comes from November 1379:252

amercement 2d

Robert Beranger is in mercy because he has not done the lord’s labour services, which
he ought to do.

Nearly five years later, in May 1384, he was presented again:253

Fine 2d

Robert Berenger gives the lord because he has not come as he was summoned to do his
boonwork [Benerthe] as [appears].

Benerthe seems to be a ploughing boonwork – the 1312 extent mentions two such services.
But Robert had not been inactive in the meantime. In June 1378 he was one of five tenants
amerced for letting their livestock trespass ‘in the lord’s wheat’, in 1383 he was presented because
he ‘cut down and carried off 1 bushel of thorns’, and in February 1385 ‘for trespass making
destruction upon land which the same Robert holds of the lord by copy, felling trees, namely
ash and elm’, and also for ‘trespass made [against] the lord for ploughing the lord’s land without
licence’ – presumably encroaching on a piece of demesne land perhaps adjoining his property
– an interesting case considering he had twice refused to plough when summoned.254 Then in
May 1387 he was summoned for one year’s rent arrears on two properties – that later occupied
by a predecessor to the present George inn [I8], and a cottage near Morden Hall [I2].255 (We will
investigate this range of trespasses against the lord in the next section.)

One might assume from all this that Robert was a dissident member of the community, but in
fact he served as a chief pledge from 1378 until 1414.256 However, he was not always the most
compliant of colleagues, as we read in June 1390:257

amercement 2d

Robert Berenger because he contradicted all the chief pledges in their presence. Therefore
he is in mercy.

Eighteen years after Robert’s second refusal to perform his ploughing services, he and his son
William were amerced for the same offence in May 1402:258

amercement 2d
respited?

Robert Berneger 1d and William Berneger 1d were summoned to do ploughing services
as they ought according to custom by the Custumal for the tenement formerly Bellys etc
and they refused to do so etc. Therefore they are in mercy etc.

This, with later records, indicates that two of the three acres of arable that he held had been part
of the holding that the miller had built up from plots obtained when Belles tenement was broken
up in the final decade of the 13th century [B22].259 If all who acquired plots from Belles were
required to perform the full range of services due from the tenement, it is surprising that there
were not more refusals, but it is likely that the various services had been allocated among the
new tenants, the origins of the demands, justified or not, having long been forgotten.

Apart from a Ewell entry in June 1386 ‘for various labour services being in arrears’, the only other
refusal at this time was that by William Mulseye in October 1393, quoted above (see page 175).260

Each of these refusals had involved just one individual or family, albeit repeatedly if erratically
in the case of the Berengers. However, the final presentments in extant Morden records for
withholding labour services involved two apparently unrelated tenants who each failed to do the
harvest works due from their holdings, and they were not the only offenders against ‘the lord’
who were presented in November 1411:261

hayward’s
attachments
pertaining to
the farmer

respited

amercement
nothing to the
lord harvest
labour service

amercement
2d

Peter Poppeseynt 20d for trespass done, namely breaking the lord’s hedges [sepes] and
carrying away timber [ligna] without the lord’s licence, by which the lord has great damage
in his corn with livestock.

John Lyghtfoot 12d for the same. John Whilot 12d for the same.

The same John Whilot 2d has not come to do harvest labour service with other customary
tenants as he is obliged by his tenure etc. Therefore etc.

William Bron’ 12d because he reaped the lord’s meadow and destroyed the pasture. Therefore
etc.

Baldewyn Poppeseynt 12d has not come to do harvest labour service with other customary
tenants as he is obliged by his tenure etc. Therefore etc.

John Baylly2d submits himself for licence to agree with William Mulsey in a plea of
withholding chattels, namely 1 cow worth etc. Therefore etc.

Zvi Razi points out that, even when weekly labour services were commuted, the requirement ‘to
do boonworks during the peak periods … became … almost an unbearable obligation as a result
of the severe shortage of labour’.262

This concurrence of withholding labour services and of trespass against the lord’s property
suggests concerted action, and we will examine this case in more detail below, but first it will be
useful to consider other examples of such trespasses.

Trespass against the lord’s property

There are numerous entries in the court rolls throughout our period recording tenant livestock
trespassing within the demesne lands of the manor and causing damage to crops or pasture.
No doubt most of these would have been accidental, perhaps due to carelessness by a member
of the tenant’s family or to insecure fencing or tethering. We find similar complaints made by
tenants against fellow tenants (see page 187) and, though some coincide with known disputes
between the parties (see page 24), there is no evidence to suggest that most such offences were
deliberate.

There are also examples of tenants breaking the lord’s hedges and of the unlicensed felling of
timber, as well as various encroachments onto demesne land. There are even a couple of cases
of poaching, one involving the vicar. These seem to show a casual attitude to lordly rights, but
probably do not normally indicate specific acts of protest.

However, figure 6.3 (overleaf) shows that there were some years when several tenants were
reported for such offences. It is tempting to view these as concerted acts of sabotage against the
landlord. As Rodney Hilton observed of the non-performance of labour services on Ramsey
abbey estates: ‘The individual offences are not exceptional, and might occur even where
ordinarily the most harmonious relations prevailed between lord and serf … It is the number of
these offences that makes them significant’.263

The number of such offenders in any year was not large, and it must be remembered that
the population fell dramatically after the first arrival of plague in 1348, and is not thought to
have made any significant recovery until well into the 16th century. In fact, with increasing
amalgamation of properties in the 15th and 16th centuries, it is likely that Morden’s population
continued to fall.

There is no way of knowing whether there was any collusion among the offending tenants in the
earliest rolls, but there were no examples of regularly repeating offenders in these years, though
the short timescales of five and then two years for the extant rolls might obscure a more spread-
out pattern such as that noted above for the Berenger family.

As noted on page 176, Robert was one of five tenants amerced for letting their livestock trespass
‘in the lord’s wheat’ in June 1378:

amercement
18d

Robert Berenger 4d submits himself for trespass in the lord’s wheat with 4 beasts. Peter
Mulseye 6d submits himself for trespass at the same place with 4 beasts. Alan Berenger 4d
submits himself for trespass at the same place with 1 cow. Simon Willot 2d submits himself
for trespass at the same place with 1 cow. William Graunger 2d submits himself for trespass
at the same place with 1 cow. Therefore they are in mercy.

We cannot tell if this was coincidence or protest, though the latter seems likely, given Robert’s
subsequent track record.

It is unlikely that any of the four trespasses reported in 1391 were by Morden tenants, as both
John Gerard of Cheam and Walter Kent were among several Cheam tenants named in writs sent
from the court of Common Pleas to the sheriff of Surrey relating to incidents in an ongoing and
often violent dispute with Morden tenants over shared rights to pasture in Sparrowfeld common
in the 1390s.264 Most of these offences took place on the common itself, and so are not charted
here, but on this occasion they affected the arable fields. As the Southfeld, which adjoined the
disputed common pasture, was tenant land, it is likely that these amercements were for trespass
in the tenant arable rather than the demesne:265

amercement
14d

John Rynet submits himself for trespass in the corn 2 times 4d with his sheep. John Gerard 2d for
the same at the same place with his oxen. Walter Kent 2d for the same at the same place with his
oxen. Walter atte Grene 6d with his oxen at the same place. Therefore they are severally in mercy.

Figure 6.3: Trespass against the lord’s property

(Only years when these offences were reported at a manor court have been charted. As indicated, no court rolls
survive from before 1296, or between 1300 and 1327, 1328 and 1378, 1422 and 1435, or 1541 and 1594, and there
are odd gaps elsewhere.)

456789100123129612971298129913001327132813791380138113821383138413851386139113931394139613971398140014011402141014111475147814991502151615171521152515371539encroachmentworkstreespoachinghedgesbeasts
no extant court rolls 1301-1326

no extant court rolls 1329-1378

no extant court rolls 1422-1435

breaking hedges

felling trees

encroachment on demesne land

trespass with livestock

poaching

refusal to do labour services

In May 1397 one of these writs states that these men of Cheam ‘assaulted John Gyldene servant
of the abbot himself at Morden, and beat, wounded and evilly handled the same, such that the
same abbot lost the services of his aforesaid servant for a long time, and inflicted other enormities
upon him to the injury of ten marks to the abbot himself’.266 This assault has sometimes been
mistakenly seen as evidence of a violent dispute between the abbey and its Morden tenants but
Gilden’s description as the abbot’s servant referred to his role as manorial beadle, as was noted
above (page 166).267 He was a resident of Morden and served as beadle from 1390 to 1400, apart
from a break in 1398, probably as a result of this attack.

The court roll for July 1397 reported several incidents relating to this dispute:268

…. for ……
Common in
Sparrofelde

Walter Pulter of Cheam for trespass in the lord’s common pasture at Sparwefeld with his
sheep on 2 occasions; pledges Ralph atte Rithe and John Carpenter. John Gerard of the
same with his sheep at the same place; pledge Ralph atte Rithe. Therefore etc.

amercement
6d

Likewise they present that John Shepherde, servant of Walter Potter, unjustly raised hue
and cry upon Alan Berenger against the peace. Therefore etc. Pledge Thomas Carpenter.

……………
respited?
Common {a
tie obscures
the text here}

Likewise they present that Master Henry Broun parson of the church of Cheam,
William Beste, John Prat with others well armed stayed to fall into a fight by the road
near Sparwefeld, namely in the vill of Morden, and assaulted a certain John Spyk, Alan
Berenger, John Carpenter against the peace and beat the same violently [and they say]
further that the abovesaid Henry, William and John Prate are common highwaymen and
depopulators of the fields etc. Therefore etc.

As these took place in the common, not the demesne, they are not charted above but, in
November 1397, trespasses on the demesne also seem to have involved men from Cheam:269

attached
amercement
8d

John Cartere 2d submits himself for trespass in the lord’s meadow with his horses and
mare[s], John Vyel 4d with his sheep in the lord’s corn. Therefore he submits himself in
mercy etc. John Chayh’m 2d with 5 beasts in the pasture etc. Pledge Simon Taillo’.

However, the tree-felling reported at that court was by a Morden man:270

respited? the
order is given
waste of 4s 6d

The order is given to distrain John Carpenter to satisfy the lord for waste done in his
tenement which he holds in bondage, over and above the 12 elms presented against him
in the Court with View held here in the 19th year, against the next [court] etc. And later
it is found that the said John felled 18 elms over and above the aforesaid 12 elms, price of
each 3d, 4s 6d, which the order is given to levy to the lord’s use etc.

The 12 elms referred to had been felled in the previous year:271

amercement
2d

levy 2s felling
wood

Likewise they present that John Carpenter felled timber in the servile tenement, namely
12 elms, worth 2d each. Therefore he is in mercy. And the order is given to levy the said
value of the aforesaid elms, namely 2s, to the use of the lord.

The offence did not prevent his election as aletaster in the same court.

A Thomas Carpenter was also presented several times for felling trees – in July 1382 (20 elms),
February 1386 (2 elms), June 1391 (‘trees’), July 1398 (10 elms) and May 1410 (6 elms).272 It is not
known if the two men were related, but the frequency of their offences and the quantity of trees
involved probably indicates that they were themselves active carpenters. It is likely that they
were felling timber for professional use and that their amercements represented little more than
a retrospective licence fee. There is no evidence that the other tree-felling presentments were for
professional purposes, but there does seem to have been a commercial aspect to several of the
cases presented. Thus in May 1384:273

the order is
given

Likewise they present that Alice Hobcokes felled upon the lord’s servile tenement called
Hebardes 5 elms and carried the said trees as far as Carshalton. Therefore the order is
given to distrain in the aforesaid tenement against the next [court] to answer the lord for
the aforesaid trespass.

While in June 1386:274

amercement
6d

the order is
given

Likewise they present that Andrew Eslok and Alice his wife who hold of the lord a
servile [tenement] felled 24 elms worth 2s in their servile tenement without licence.
Therefore they are etc. And the order is given to levy the said price to the lord’s use.

Again, in October 1499:275

Also they say that Robert Hornby vicar at the same place cut down and carried away 24
trees called elms lately growing at West Morden.

The vicar’s glebe land included a ½-acre plot of meadow in West Morden, now Lower Morden,
as well as 13 acres of arable, probably in strips scattered among the tenant fields there.276

It is not clear whether the presentment at the May 1500 court constituted a separate offence, or
a correction of the previous case, and it has therefore been omitted from the chart:277

And that Robert Hornby vicar of the church at the same place cut down 7 trees called
elms. Therefore he is etc.

Most of the other cases also related to elm trees, though ash trees were also mentioned in 1385,
but, except for the four cases where no numbers are given, only one or two trees had been felled.278

The three cases of hedge-breaking in 1525 involved ‘the hedges of the farmer and tenants’
indiscriminately, so should not be seen as tenant protest against the lord.279

In 1394 three women were presented for hedge-breaking, and it is likely that they acted
together:280

amercement
6d

Likewise they present that Anicia 2d wife of Simon Wylot removed the lord’s hedges at le
Neweberycroft. Therefore she is in mercy etc. And similarly Agnes 2d wife of Alan Bernger
and Agnes wife of Henry Trelmell 2d similarly. Therefore they are severally in mercy etc.

Although no reason is given for their offence, it did take place at the height of Simon’s dispute
with the abbey over the question of his alleged villeinage (see page 55), and Alan and Agnes
were the temporary purchasers of his disputed property, so some degree of protest is likely on
this occasion.

However, in November 1411 three cases of hedge-breaking were presented alongside one case
of encroachment and two cases of withholding harvest labour, as quoted above (page 177), and
this cluster does seem to suggest concerted action on a larger scale.281

Although these offences were against ‘the lord’ of the manor, it must be borne in mind that, like
most of the disputes recorded above, they took place while the manorial demesne was leased
at farm to a tenant. It may well be that the immediate trigger for subversive action was not the
demands of the abbey far away in Westminster, but those of its local tenant farmers.

This seems to be borne out by an entry that had appeared in the roll for the previous court,
in May 1411. Although parts are difficult to read, it does seem that this particular offence was
specifically against the farmer and his representative:282

assault
amercement
4d

Likewise they present that John Morgon’ 2d broke the lord’s fences [claus’] and assaulted
Leticia, the farmer’s servant[?], against the king’s peace. And the same Leticia justly raised
hue and cry against the aforesaid John.

It is significant that in 1411 the farmer, to whom amercements were payable, was William Mulseye,
who was also the successful party of the only private prosecution noted in the paragraph quoted
above (page 177).283 It might not be too fanciful to suggest that there was resentment among the
other tenants that Mulseye, who had himself once stood out against labour services, was now
insisting on their performance when they were to his own benefit. If the abbreviated marginal
entry thought to denote ‘respited’ applied to all the November 1411 amercements, it might be
that Mulseye had waived his right to these payments in recognition of the tenants’ point of view.
However, tensions were still high at the April 1412 court, with several tenants defaulting and
Mulseye himself being presented for action deemed unjust by his fellow tenants:284

amercement
5d

Likewise they present that William Berynger, suitor,1d Simon Pynnor, tithinger,1d Simon
Lyghtfoot, tithinger,1d John Andrew, suitor, infirm and William Andrew, tithinger,1d Richard
Godfray, suitor,1d ought to pay suit and to come at this View and have defaulted. Therefore etc.

hue and cry

Likewise they present that William Mulsey pardoned because serviens the lord’s serviens unjustly
raised hue and cry upon John Whilot against the peace of the lord king. Therefore etc.

Although it looks as though Mulseye was able to use his position to escape punishment, we have
already noted that, under the terms of his lease, he was the beneficiary of the amercements paid
at court so there was little point in forcing him to hand over cash which would then be paid back
to him. In spite of this ‘moral victory’, there was still an unusually high number of defaulters at
the May 1413 court:285

amercement
11d

Likewise they present that John Andrew,1d Richard Godfrey,4d suitor[s], William Andrew,1d
Simon Lyghtfoot,2d Simon Pynnor,1d William Berynger,1d Peter Popsent,1d are tithingers
and have defaulted. Therefore they are in mercy.

However, no further presentments of antisocial behaviour were made at this or following courts.
In fact, it would seem that Mulseye was not without support within the community, as in May
1414 he was elected one of the three chief pledges, alongside John Pycot and Roger atte Hegge:286

elections

They elect into the office of chief [pledge], in place of Robert Berynger, William Mulsey,
and of aletaster, in place of John Bailly, John Edward, and they take the oath etc.

After serving for 37 years as a chief pledge, Robert Berenger had finally retired, willingly or not,
and he died in 1419.287 Mulseye remained in this office until at least 1422, when the current run
of extant rolls ends. It is likely that he continued as farmer until 1417/18.

Farmer and tenant

Conflict with the demesne farmer was certainly the case in the mid-16th century in the manor
of Ravensbury, which had jurisdiction within parts of both Morden and Mitcham.

As noted above (page 176), an appeal was made to the court of Star Chamber in 1546/7 by the
farmer of the Ravensbury demesne, an Italian painter employed at the courts of Henry VIII and
Edward VI, who rose to become serjeant-painter to the monarchs. In December 1542 Henry VIII
had granted a 40-year lease of the manor of ‘Ravesbury’, which had come into the king’s hands
following the attainder and execution of Sir Nicholas Carew, to ‘our servant Antonie Toto’ at £42
6s 8d a year.288 Although little of his work survives, there is a surprising amount of information
available concerning Toto and his career both in England and his native Florence.289 There is also
a considerable amount of information regarding Toto’s dealings with his Ravensbury tenants, as
a result of his litigious activities.

As mentioned on page 75, on 6 June 1545, at the Privy Council meeting at Greenwich, a ‘Charge
against Mr. Biston for beating two servants of Anthony Tote [was] deferred till next day, as the
declaration of the matter consisted much on the report of Sir Ric. Sowthwell’, and on 9 June
before the chief lords of the realm – Privy Seal, Winchester, Browne, Wingfield and Paget –
‘Beston was reprimanded for striking two of Anthony Tote’s servants with a forked staff; but as
he said that he was commanded to serve the King upon the seas he was dismissed to answer
further at his return; and as he alleged that the displeasure arose through a Scot, servant to the
said Tote, who was found to be no denizen and might be a spy, Tote was advised by honest means
to rid his hands of him.’290 Biston/Beston was a tenant of Ravensbury manor.

Then, in 1546, Toto brought an action in the court of Star Chamber against many more of his
tenants and neighbours, accusing them of ‘unlaufull assemble & riott’ against him ‘uppon the
15th day of August in this present yere of the reign of our said Soveraign lord the kyng beyng
Sounday & the feast of th’assumpcon of oure laydy the virgyn, in Mowyng & ymedyatly caryyng
away certeyn corne of yor said Orators not beyng ripp, that is to say Barly growyng uppon one
acre of the demesne lands of the said manor that yor said Orator dyd Sow’.291

Among many pages of evidence surviving from this case are the ‘Articles exhibited unto the right
honorable Sir Thomas Wriothesley knyght lord Wriothesley and Lord Chauncyllor of Engyland

and to all hother the right honorable lords of the Councell in the Starr Chamber by Antony Tott
concernyng suche vexacions, troubles & unquitnessis, intensions, encrocheamentes and unlaufull
entres & uniust clamez as the said Antony hath hertofore & yet dothe susteyn and suffer by the
uncharitable, unlaufull and malycyous behavor and demeans of Thomas Byston, Sir John Brickenden
clerk, Henry Nypp, Sir John Mordint knyght, Thomas Webbe, Ralph Illyngworth, Edmond Harvy,
John Bowland, William Folle, Nicholas Spackman, John Christmas, William Foreman, William
Parker & others dyvers ye Inhabitants in the parisshe of Mich’m in the Counte of Surr[ey]’.292

These complaints also specified various encroachments on common land of the manor, unlawful
occupation of demesne land, non-payment of rent, diversion of the river causing flood damage,
poaching of trout, deliberate destruction of crops by livestock, stealing and killing of his sheep
and shooting at his spaniels. In addition there were many instances of acts, or threats, of violence
against Toto, his family, his servants, and those tenants who supported Toto.

He began with Biston, alleging that he, ‘allweys bearyng displeasur and malyc towardes the
said Antony Tott, was the pryncypall begynner and cheif perswador and Capteyn of the said
Inhabituns & parochians of Mich’m for and towards the unlaufull assemble and Riott’, and
adding ‘Also, for the declaryng of his Evyll will and malic that he bearithe unto yor said Orator,
he wyll not suffer a poore Spanyll of yor said Orator nether about ye howsse where he dwellithe
nor in the highe way but Showtithe [shooteth] at theym with hys handgun and by that meaynes
some tymes hath most uncurtesly and unneyghberly slayn theym to the great displeasure and
unquyetyng of yor said poor Orator.’293

‘Beeston’ denied ‘all the ryottes, unlefull assembles and other mysdemenors surmysed by the
said Totte in the said byll of articles to be comytted and doon by the said Thomas Beeston’,
explaining that the corn he had helped cart away was on parish ground ‘which grownd before
the tyme wherof there is onye memorye of man hath ben by sum wel disposed person or persons
gyven to the vycar of the said parishe churche of Mych’m and to his successours to th’use of
the said parishens for the mayntenans of th’ornamentes and of reparacyons of the said churche
and for other charitable uses there, of which grownde the vicar hymself at no season hathe
taken any profitt, but oonly the churche wardens there for the tyme being to th’use of the said
churche. By force wherof the said Thomas Beeston, as oon of the parochians of the said parishe
of Mycham, ayded and assisted them in as moche a peacyble maner as he coulde to have the
said corne growing on the grownd perteynyng to the said parisshons be caryed and howsed to
th’use aforsaid’. ‘And as to the kyllyng of the dogge he sayeth that he dyd not knowe whether
the said dogge perteyned to the said complaynant or nott, but he sayethe that the saide dogge
sundry tymes cam into the said defendantes grownde and there kylled & distroyed his conyes,
whereuppon he slewe the said dogge uppon the said grownde’.294

Toto also complained that the vicar ‘Sir John Bryckenden in his sermon about mid-Lent declaryd
in the parisshe churche and procured and movyd the parysshonors to malyc and sedicon agengst
your said Orator … After which sermon the said parysshoners dyd riotoussly assemble theymsellfes
and comyttyd the ryott as in the said byll of yor Orator is declaryd’, to which the vicar replied that
Toto had claimed land that he had always understood to be glebe, not copyhold of Ravensbury
manor, and that he had merely been asking ‘th’elders & longest dwellers & that have ben born &
brought upp here in the parishe that ye wyll charytably ley yor heddes togyther and shew me the
very trouth of it as nere as ye can, for at this tyme to my knowlege I have no maner of evydence to
shew for the said glebe landes butt you to whome I suppose it wyll cum at the last.’295

Toto accused his predecessor as farmer of the demesne, Henry Knepp, of frequently threatening
him – he ‘hathe seyd [many] tymes that he will kepe yor Orators nose to the gryndyngston so
that he will make hym wiry[?weary?] of all together’, and ‘thretthenyd yor Orator to his face 8
days before the said ryott with theis wordes in effect: ‘Althoughe all the Town be bent agenst
you yt were not best for you to take me in your temppere[?] to’. And then beyng demaunded by
yor Orator what then shulld be of the Town that shulld be so bent agenst hym, the said Nepp
aunswaryd ‘Ye shall know, I warrant you, ye shall here forth.” Knepp replied ‘as to any ryott,
slaunderous wordes and all other mysdemeanours surmised by hym to be done agenst the peace

of our sovereigne lord the king or otherwise he sayeth that he is therof not gyltie, and that he is
redy to averre and prove as this honorable courte shall award, and prayeth to be dismyssed with
his resonable costes and charges in this behalf susteyned’.296

Ralph Illyngworth, a substantial landowner in the Mitcham and Carshalton area, ‘manacyd the
tenant of yor said Orator saiyng theis words in effect: ‘What dost thou uppon my land? Whillt
thou sow or ploughe this ground? Yf you sow yt I will reapp yt.’ So that yor Orator can not occupy
his own land for the said Ralph Illyngworth. Also he manacyd allso one William Precyous and
Richard Famor servantes to yor said Orator and so dryvith theym out of the parisshe &c.’ In
reply, Illingworth argued that the land was not within the manor of Ravensbury.297

Another leading inhabitant, Sir John Mordaunt, ‘uised to destrowye and burn the hedges about
the said messuge and other tymber that was in the said howsse as the plaunkes of the stable
the rack and manger’. Mordaunt denied the charges, claiming that the property was not part
of Ravensbury manor, but was freehold land granted by the king to his wife and her previous
husband.298

Nicholas Spackman, ‘beyng confederatyd withe parocyans of Mich’m afforesaid & a chief procuror
of the said ryott came to yor Orators howsse in London and raylyd uppon his wyff & with great
othes threthynyd your Orators servants to have a legge or an arme of theym yf he cowd mete with
theym and thus sent three severall tymes his sonnes & servants to the parisshe of Mich’m and
there lodgyd and lay in waytt for yor Orators servants yf they cowd have mete with theym. Also
he mayteynythe the surmyzyd title of Sir John Bryckenden clerk, John Bowland & William Fowll
and he saith he wyll spend a hundred pounds but he wyll bare theym out in this matter. And the
said Spagman also seyd theis words in effect: ‘I have three Sonnes that shall cut any man as small
as flesshe to the pott that comes to any ground that my vicar or fermer hathe, to tak a distres’.’

In rebutting this charge, Spackman ‘sayeth that as to ony procurement of ryott, unlefull assemblie
or ony other thing supposed to be by hym doon agayns the kynges maiesties peace he sayeth he
is not gyltie. Nor he never thretened the said complaynantes servants to have a legge or an arme
of them yf he coulde meate with them. Nor sent his three sonnes & servants nor ony of them
to Mych’m for ony suche intente or purpose as in the said byll is surmysed. Nor his said sonnes
& servants nor ony of them did there hyd in awayte for the servants of the said compleynant as
by the said byll is also untrly surmysed. Nor he at ony season hathe maynteyned ony surmysed
title of Sir John Brykenden. Nor yett of the said Bowland & Fowle named in the said byll, albeit
that he by the kynges lawes myght & may lefully iustifie the mayntenans of the title of the said
Bowland & Fowle, forsomuche as they ben bothe his fermours & occupie certeyn of his landes
lyeng in the said parishe of Mych’m. Nor he never said that he had three sonnes that wolde cutt
ony man as small as flesshe to the pott that wolde cum to his vicars grownde or fermour to take
a distresse as by the said byll is also untrulye surmysed. All which maters this defendant is redie
to averre as this honorable courte wyll awarde. And prayeth to be oute of the same dymyssed
[dismissed] with his reasonable costes for his wrongfull vexacyon in this behalf susteyned.’299

John Bowland, who had ‘laboryd very ernistly rydyng on his horse about the Town almost to
every howsseholld and man within the said parisshe of Mich’m And by his sinistre informacon
and labor procuryd and causid [the] unlaufull assemble & riott to be made with hymsellff and
the said parochyans’, later ‘came with four persons unknown with daggers, pytcheforkes and
bills and of his extort power caryed away twoo loodes of Tarres growyng uppon the said land
that your said Orator dyd sowe. Also the said Bowland at the same tyme seyd unto the servants
of yor said Orator theis words in effect: ‘Tott shall have no land sown. I know the worst Seynis
[?sins?] that I have begoyn I wyll goo thorow and mak an end, for master Mordaunt will spend
five hundred marks but he will bear me out.’ … And where the tenants of yor said Orator ought
to have for their porcon certeyn bests goyng in the Common of Mich’m the said Bowland sayd
they shulld have non’ because they tok Mr Totts parte agenst all the said parisshe as he seyd and
so manacyd the tenants & servants of yor said Orator that they ben fled & removyd out of the
parisshe.’ Bowland denied all the charges against him.300

‘Henry Pyk, beyng Highe Constable of that Hundred, was the cheif author and present at the
said riott and assemble agenst yor said Orator in caryyng away the said corne’. Pyke similarly
denied the charges, claiming that ‘as to any ryott or unlefull assemblie or any other thing
supposed to be by hym doonne agaynste the kynges highnesse his peace he is in no poynte
gyltie in maner or forme as the said compleynant by his said byll hathe untrylye surmysed’.301

‘William Foull beyng an especyall author of the said unlaufull ryott and assemble and
confederatyd with the rest of Mich’m agenst yor said Orator hathe so threttynyd yor said
Orators tenants and servants that he dryvythe theym out of the said parisshe and dyd consell
Spachmans men and kept theym in his howsse that lay in waytt for yor said Orators servants
to layme or slaye theym’. Fowle similarly denied all charges, claiming that his land was not
within Ravensbury manor.302

In 1552 Toto, deep in debt because of tardy payments by his royal employers, assigned the
lease to John Hopkins, dying in 1555.303 Perhaps it was his concern over his debts that had
driven Toto to harry his tenants in an attempt to maximise his income from the estate, though
one cannot rule out the possibility of xenophobia on their part. What is clear is that many
of Toto’s opponents in this affair were of equal or greater rank than him. Mordaunt was a
knight who gained his property interests in Mitcham through his marriage to the widow of a
wealthy London merchant. Illingworth was grandson to Sir Richard Illingworth, baron of the
Exchequer, who died 1476. Fowle is thought to have been related to the last prior of Southwark
Priory, which held the property now known as The Canons in Mitcham, purchased after the
Dissolution by another of Toto’s antagonists, Nicholas Spackman.304 Knepp had been Toto’s
predecessor as farmer of the Ravensbury demesne. Pyke served as bailiff of the Hundred of
Wallington. Together they formed a powerful opposition to Toto, and in their support of
the vicar they were successful in that opposition. The Ravensbury manorial court roll for 5
December 1547 records that Toto’s steward returned the disputed land to Brykenden by order
of the court of Star Chamber:305

copies

rent 22d

fine 3s 8d

At this court the lord by his steward according to the form and ordinance in Star Chamber
[Camera Stellata] by lord Richard Ryche lord chancellor of England and others of the
council of the lord king there decreed, granted out of his hands to John Brykenden clerk,
vicar of Mitcham, one acre land lying in Mitcham in a culture called Blakelond upon
Stone croft; half an acre lying behind the messuage Redlyster; and one acre lying at le
Buttes; which the lord by his steward grants and delivers seisin thereof by the rod to the
aforementioned John Brekenden and his successors vicars there for ever, at the lord’s will
according to the customs of the manor aforesaid, by yearly rent of 22d paid at the terms
there usual and suit of court and other services in respect thereof previously due and
lawfully [de jure] customary. And he gives the lord for fine for having such entry 3s 8d, and
he does the lord fealty and so is admitted tenant thereof &c.

At the court held 7 October 1550 Brykenden surrendered the properties to his successor as vicar
of Mitcham, and again the judgement of the court of Star Chamber is mentioned:306

rent 22d

fine 4s

At this court comes John Brykenden clerk and surrendered into the lord’s hand by his steward
out of court, the homage witnessing this, one close next to Lambkyns orchard, one acre land
lying between demesne land of this manor next to Pyps bridge and a half-acre abutting upon
the way leading to the parish church of Mitcham [Micham], which the lord granted to John
Palmer vicar of Mitcham and his successors according to decree made in Star Chamber by
the lord chancellor of England and the council of the lord king then and there being, which
the lord by his steward grants seisin thereof to have and to hold to the aforementioned John
Palmer by the rod at the lord’s will according to the customs of the aforesaid manor by yearly
rent of 22d and other services previously owed and lawfully customary. And he gives the
lord for fine 4s, and he does fealty, and so is admitted tenant thereof &c.

Although young William Parker and others of the lesser Ravensbury tenants were not so
successful as their vicar in obtaining the justice they sought, they were at least able to have their
day in one of the highest courts in the land. The restrictions of earlier centuries were passing
away at last.

Official and Tenant

There are several entries in the Morden manorial court rolls revealing complaints made against
manorial officers other than the demesne farmer. It is unclear whether these were intended as
protests against the lordly authority that they represented, or against the individuals in their own
right, or merely expressions of general anger against what were seen as bad decisions.

We noted above (page 176) that in June 1390 Robert Berenger was amerced because he
‘contradicted’ [contradixit] all the chief pledges in their presence.307 This word could perhaps
merely indicate that he ‘spoke against’ or criticised them, but Phillipp Schofield interprets a
similar entry in an Essex court roll as ‘… unjustly contradicted the presentment of a chief pledge
and, as a result, was convicted by a jury’.308 As Berenger was one of the chief pledges it seems
likely that he was refusing to accept the majority opinion in a particular decision not identified
in the record, though it is possible that he was challenging a presentment being made against
him – he had been presented at that court both for a ruinous tenement and for an unscoured
ditch.

Though a different word is used in June 1383 – dedico can be translated as ‘deny, refuse, contradict,
repudiate’ – a similar uncertainty arises in the first of these two presentments, as Carpenter too
was one of the chief pledges, though not presented for any other offence at this court:309

amercement
3d

Thomas Carpenter because he contradicted [dedix’] his oath to the chief pledges. Therefore
he is in mercy.

amercement
6d

Alice Hobecokes contradicted [dedix’] the chief [pledge]s contemptuously and maliciously.
Therefore she is in mercy.

However, Alice was not among the chief pledges, her gender automatically excluding her from
such an office. Her presentment, which appears between these entries, had been for an unscoured
ditch. It is noteworthy that she was amerced twice as much as Carpenter, perhaps because of her
‘contempt’ and ‘malice’. The word ‘contempt’ [contemptus] was also used in November 1395,
and the amercement was again 6d, though once more the circumstances are unclear, as the
individual members of the homage are not listed:310

amercement
6d

John atte Style because he contradicted [contradict’] the whole homage in his verdict in
contempt of the lord and the court. Therefore he is in mercy etc.

Was ‘his verdict’ one he gave, or one he received? John was not presented at this court for any
other offence under that name, but there is some evidence that he was also known as John Bayly,
who paid for licence to agree in a case of detinue and who was also amerced for defaulting in
wagering his law in a trespass case.

A case at the View of frankpledge in May 1387 is of interest because William Wynteworthe was
a freeholder, with a substantial tenement purchased by charter:311

Penalty
forfeited 20s
the order is
given

William Wynteworth who by the steward was ordered with the chief [pledge]s to present
for the lord king under penalty 20s, which William refused all his aforesaid summonses[?]
in contempt of the lord king and court. And therefore it is agreed that the aforesaid
William should forfeit fully the aforesaid which is levied to the use of the lord. And the
order is given to levy etc.

It would appear that he was objecting to serving as a chief pledge, a role normally undertaken
by holders of customary tenements. The chief pledges were described as acting ‘for the lord
king’ in 1488, but the same phrase is used in the 16th century to describe those previously called
the ‘grand inquest’ and in 1535 as ‘the twelve free’ (see pages 43-4).312 Wynteworthe is never
recorded as a chief pledge but in May 1385 he had served on the grand inquest which had found
the chief pledges guilty of concealment:313

Grand
inquest

6d Respited?

William Wynteworthe, Richard Sprynget, John Melneward; John Edward, Peter Popsent,
John Edward junior, Peter Pynnor’, Richard Fowlere, John Carpenter; William Brodeye,
William Pynnor, John Godewyne; sworn, present that the chief [pledge]s 6d of West Morden
have concealed; they present judgement [that] they are in contempt etc. Therefore etc.

There is only one other presentment for such concealment by the chief pledges, in May 1384:314

amercement
10d

The chief [pledge]s of West Morden because they concealed Henry T’llemill dwelling
within the liberty of the lord etc and not being in a tithing. Therefore they are in mercy.

Normally the grand inquest present that they ‘have concealed nothing’ but ‘have presented well
and faithfully’. However, at an ordinary court in January 1509 the six members of the homage
were told to do a better job:315

day

And also they say that at present they have nothing else in their memory to present.
Therefore they have a day until the next court better to inquire. And then to present all
defaults which pertain to the court.

Another example of ‘contempt of court’ was in November 1402:316

homage
amercement
2s

Sworn they present that John Castelman, John Andrew infirm are suitors of court and have
defaulted. Therefore etc. And the said John Castelman 2s refused to swear upon the book
with the homage in contempt of court. Therefore he is in mercy etc.

A further case was presented in April 1404:317

amercement
2d

Likewise they present that a certain stranger who was suspected of felony was taken by the
constable and that John Scot 2d was summoned by the constable to keep the said felon just
as etc the said constable ordered him, which he refused in contempt of the lord king and
the lord. Therefore he is etc.

In May 1406 an aletaster was amerced the substantial sum of 3s 4d for contempt for not
attending the court to present those who had broken the assize of ale (see page 215), though he
had otherwise fulfilled his office ‘well and faithfully’:318

amercement
3s 4d

Likewise they present that Peter Popsent 3s 4d is aletaster and has not come to present etc as
he ought according to his office etc in contempt etc. Therefore he is in mercy.

none

Likewise they present that John atte Rythe and Peter Pompsent are aletasters and do their
office well and faithfully. Therefore etc.

The following year the aletaster for Morden Fee in Ewell attended and made his presentment but
was amerced because he ‘has not done his office now as he ought’:319

brewers at the
same place
amercement
12d

Likewise they present that John Herner 2d is aletaster at the same place and has not done
his office now as he ought. Therefore he is in mercy. The same aletaster, sworn, presents
that Robert Shaldeforde brewed 2,4d John Trowne 2,4d and John Herner’ 1,2d brewed and
broke the assize. Therefore they are severally in mercy.

He had faced a similar charge in May 1405, while in November 1410 he failed to come and
others had to present the brewers:320

brewers
of Ewell
amercement
8d

John Herner,2d aletaster of Ewell, because he has not come to do his due office as he ought.
Therefore he is in mercy. Likewise they present that Robert Schaldefford,6d brewed 3 times
and broke the assize. Therefore he is in mercy.

It is not clear why Herner was only amerced 2d for his absences, whereas Popsent was amerced
3s 4d, but no doubt individual circumstances were taken into account.

From 1378 to 1388 aletasters were routinely amerced because they had not done their office, or
had not done it as they ought (see page 215), as in May 1378:321

amercement 4d

Likewise they present that William Webbe 2d and Walter atte Hagge 2d are aletasters and
have not done their office in the way they ought. Therefore etc.

A presentment in November 1394 also concerned brewing:322

amercement
2d

Likewise they present that John Carpenter brewed and refused to sell ale after which he
submits himself. Therefore he is in mercy etc.

No reason is given for his refusal. It was normal practice for anyone who brewed to sell to their
neighbours, as ale had a short shelf-life (see page 216).

Apart from Wynteworthe’s refusal to compromise his status as a freeholder, these actions do not
seem to show any planned protest against the manorial officials either as representatives of the
lord or as individuals.

Tenant and Tenant

However, there are entries in the court rolls that clearly reveal hostility between neighbours. We
have looked in chapter 2 at cases of assault (table 2.4 page 34) and the raising of the hue and cry
(table 2.5 page 37). However, complaints concerning a violent brawl or two were reported in only
34 years across the 148 years for which court rolls survive, so it does not seem that Morden was
a particularly contentious place to live, though no doubt minor scuffles and arguments did not
make their way to the manorial court. Nor is there any evidence of sustained feuding, though
disputes between Castleman and the vicar are reported in 1417 and 1422, while unjust hue and
cry was raised by Cecily Gylden against Richard Fouler in 1382 and by Fouler against Cecily’s
husband John in 1386, each possibly indicating ongoing ill-feeling between the parties. Many of
the antagonists are well-known figures, including several vicars and substantial tenants, though
others are only mentioned very occasionally in our records, and Cokkell, Thressher, Gresylt and
Stubbes are not otherwise recorded. It is likely that the rarely-recorded parties, especially in the late
15th/early 16th centuries, were sub-tenants or employees of tenants.

In comparison, the complaints of ‘trespass’ were twice as frequent, with 73 individual cases
identified between 1297 and 1443, as summarised in table 6.4 below:

Table 6.4: Trespass against neighbours

Date

plaintiff

defendant

damages

amerced?

7.11.1297

John Shutte

Peter le Priur

323

17.10.1299

Agnes la Daye

Robert le Flesch

½lb wax

6d

324

20.7.1300

Walter atte Wode

John Chutte

3d

325

1.10.1327

Ralph vicar of Morden

Henry atte Hegge

2d

326

1.10.1327

Ralph vicar of Morden

Robert in the Rithe

2d

327

22.4.1328

Walter le Webbe

Edmund Sweyn

328

23.6.1378

Simon Hobekoc

William Vicar of Morden

dropped

329

23.6.1378

John Willot

William Vicar of Morden

dropped

330

5.5.1380

Thomas Carpenter

John Spykes

3d

331

5.5.1380

John Spykes

Thomas Carpenter

3b oats [in pasture]

4d

332

5.5.1380

John Spykes

Thomas Carpenter

1b barley

2d

333

5.5.1380

Thomas Carpenter

John Spykes

3d

3d

334

5.5.1380

Thomas Carpenter

John Spykes

unjust complaint

3d

335

12.11.1383

Ralph Edward

John Gilden

2d

336

12.11.1383

Ralph atte Rithe

Walter atte Hegges

2d

337

4.5.1384

John Brightle

Henry Lovelan

John fled

338

4.5.1384

Henry Lovelan

John Brightle

John fled

339

16.2.1385

Robert Berenger

Richard & Alice Springet

340

15.5.1385

Richard Fowler

John Geldene

1b oats

3d

341

20.2.1386

John Carpenter

William Graunger

2d

342

20.2.1386

John Carpenter

Anicia Hayteris

343

20.2.1386

Anicia Hayteris

John Carpenter

2d

344

20.2.1386

William Graunger

John Carpenter

2d

345

20.2.1386

William Webbe

John Carpenter

4d

346

21.1.1387

Thomas Carpenter

John Gelden

2d

347

21.1.1387

John Gelden

Thomas Carpenter

2d

348

21.1.1387

Alan Berneger

Baldwyn Popsent

2s claimed [grazing]

349

21.1.1387

John Gelden

William Pynnor

⅓ measure of wheat

2d

350

21.1.1387

William Pynnor

John Gelden

[grazing corn]

351

10.5.1388

Baldwyn Popsent

Alan Berenger

3d

2d

352

20.5.1389

John Melleward

Simon Wylot

353

13.11.1391

Baldwyn Popsent

Peter Webbe

dropped

354

25.1.1392

Thomas Carpenter

John Edward }

}

2d

355

25.1.1392

Thomas Carpenter

John Gildone }

} 1b wheat

2d

356

25.1.1392

Thomas Carpenter

Richard Aleyn }

}

2d

357

25.1.1392

John Hobecok

Richard Aleyn

358

11.11.1392

John Bailly

Richard Fouler

2½d

2d

359

11.11.1392

Richard Fouler’

John Bailly

1d

2d

360

11.11.1392

Anicia Haytere

John Webbe

2b wheat, peas & oats

2d

361

20.10.1393

Richard Foulere

John Hobecok

362

20.10.1393

John Hobecok

Richard Fouler’

363

20.10.1393

John Carpenter

William Wynteworth

1b rye

2d

364

22.5.1394

William Wynteworth

John Morgon’

2s claimed

dropped

365

3.11.1394

Peter Mulseye

Simon Wylot

366

3.11.1394

Simon Wylot

Peter Mulseye

2d

367

3.11.1394

Simon & Johan Lyghtfot

John & Johan Andrewe

368

10.5.1395

William Norman

Peter Webbe

2d

2d

369

10.5.1395

William Norman

Bartholomew Killy

2d

1d

370

10.5.1395

John Carpenter

William Wynteworth

20d

2d

371

10.5.1395

William Wynteworth

John Carpenter

false complaint

2d

372

15.11.1395

Ralph atte Rythe

Peter Webbe

2d [reaped grass]

2d

373

15.11.1395

John Carpenter

John Baylly

8d

2d

374

16.11.1396

John Carpenter

John Bekeswell

1b wheat

375

16.11.1396

John Bekeswell

John Carpenter

376

16.11.1396

John Edward

William Berynger

377

7.11.1397

William Mulseye

John South }

1d

378

7.11.1397

William Mulseye

Agnes Hunte }

1d

379

7.11.1397

John Carpenter

John Hegger

4d

2d

380

7.11.1397

Alan Berynger

Robert Berynger

2½d

1d

381

7.11.1397

Baldwyn Popsent

John Bayly

2d

2d

382

1.7.1398

Amicia Hayter

John Bayly

2d

383

4.11.1398

Peter Popseynt

Baldwyn Popseynt

384

4.11.1398

Alan Berynger

John Carpenter

2d

385

4.11.1398

Alan Berynger

John Spyk

2d

386

5.5.1399

Richard Pe’get

Nicholas Taylor

2d

387

5.7.1400

Alan Berneger

John Croucher

388

5.7.1400

John Croucher

Alan Berneger

389

5.7.1400

Thomas Carpenter

John Bekeswell

6d

2d

390

5.7.1400

John Bekeswell

Thomas Carpenter

4d

2d

391

3.5.1401

John Willote

Amicia Hayteris

392

13.11.1402

Ralph atte Rythe

John Bayly

393

16.11.1405

Alan Berenger

John Bayly

2d

394

15.5.1443

Robert Newbury

Nicholas Drayton

[membrane damaged]

395

Note: b = bushel

The dates given here are of the last recorded mention of the case, which could be spread over two,
three or more sessions of the court. Very few details are given. The outcome of 21 cases has not
been identified, but some that are presented as ‘trespass’ on one occasion are sometimes called

Date

plaintiff

defendant

damages

amerced?

‘debt’ or ‘detinue’ at a later court. It is not unusual to see pairs of complaints, with A complaining
about B and B about A. As noted on page 24, these can include debt and detinue alongside trespass.
Whereas most of the cases of trespass against the lord involved animals trampling corn or meadow,
livestock is never mentioned in cases between tenants, though two cases involved grazing. Although
a 1392 case involved three defendants and a 1397 case two defendants, and the same defendant
was occasionally prosecuted by more than one plaintiff at a single court, there is again no evidence
of sustained feuding, though there might have been an ongoing problem between John Carpenter
and William Wynteworthe. A couple of unjust claims were dismissed, but many cases were settled
out of court and four were dropped or ‘not prosecuted’.

Jerome Blum observes of village communities across Europe: ‘Though the village records reveal
endless bickerings and feuds and bitterness among the villagers these were outweighed by the
community of interests, the pressure of economic necessity and of common obligations to lord,
state, and church, and the tradition of cooperation’.396 It is this ‘tradition of cooperation’ that we
will now investigate.

COOPERATION

Blum comments ‘The small size of the usual village community gave it a familial character,
intensified by intermarriage among the villagers. Everyone knew everyone else, and knew
and shared each other’s joys and sorrows. They rejoiced together in village celebrations, they
worshipped together, they worked together in the fields, they had a common interest in the use
of the pastures, meadows, and forests of their village, and they had a common adversary in the
seigneur and his officials. The creation of communal administrations with officers elected by the
villagers from among themselves, and with periodic village meetings to make the rules by which
the village lived, served to intensify the cohesion of the community.’397

However, cooperation was not merely a social convenience; it had become an economic necessity
with the introduction of common-field agriculture. As Joan Thirsk observed, ‘The community
was drawn together by sheer necessity to cooperate in the control of farming practices. All the
fields were brought together into two or three large units. A regular crop rotation was agreed by
all and it became possible to organize more efficiently the grazing of stubble and aftermath.’398

As well as agreeing on crop rotation and the like, individual tenants would need to work together
in practical ways. It is unlikely that all tenants owned sufficient plough beasts to pull a plough,
even if they owned a plough. It was noted in the 1312 extent that ‘Geoffrey le Sweyne … shall
plough twice in a year with food provided by the lord twice a day if he has a plough team or
with as many as he can yoke, at the will of the lord’ and the same was stated for Henry Gulden.399
Sweyne only held 3 acres, but Gulden’s tenement seems to have been a full virgate. Although we
have no evidence in the Morden records for neighbours combining to plough tenant strips or
the borrowing of draught animals, there are references to this practice in the records of other
manors.400 Similarly some tenants would probably need assistance from their neighbours at
harvest time. Normally reapers worked in teams of five when harvesting the demesne crop, four
to reap, the fifth to bind the sheaves, and it is likely that a similar system was employed with
tenant crops.401 Some would have employed neighbours to assist, but it is likely that mutual help
would have been common, perhaps with reciprocal actions – for example, a tenant without a
plough agreeing to perform some other task in exchange.

Blum looks at the bigger picture, explaining that the system ‘demanded increased and continuous
cooperation among the holders of the strips to regulate such matters as access to the individual
strips, pasturing of cattle on the fallows and on the stubble of harvested fields, protection of the
sown fields from trespass by cattle and by unauthorized persons, and water rights. In short, it
required the communal regulation of husbandry.’402

Although the relationship between lord and tenant was carefully spelled out in the custumal
c.1225 and the 1312 extent, no formal record of such ‘communal regulation’ is found in Morden
until late in our period, and it is likely that no such written document had been necessary. Each
tenant would have recognised the benefits of cooperation and the problems associated with an

uncooperative neighbour. No doubt there were frequent arguments and resentments, and some
of these may have been behind those few acts of violence reported at the manorial courts, but
on the whole people would have worked together to achieve their joint and individual goals. We
only discover the existence of these unwritten regulations when they were broken or when there
was uncertainty as to whether they applied in a particular situation. Thus there are no recorded
incidents in the manorial court rolls regarding access to arable strips in the common fields, but
uncertainty over whether tenants had access rights across a neighbour’s enclosed croft led to the
following entries as early as March 1299:403

fine 6d

Peter Chutte comes and gives the lord 6d for having an inquest to enquire truly whether
John Chutte senior and John Chutte junior and William Chutte have common pasture
in the portion of the said Peter or not, because the aforesaid Peter says that the aforesaid
John, John and William do not have except a way for driving namely for each of them a
cart and driving their beasts &c. Upon this the said John, John and William are charged
and they come and say that they have claim to common pasture etc and that the aforesaid
Peter does not have severalty &c, thus &c, and they seek that it be inquired into and the
aforesaid Peter similarly.

amercement 9d

The inquest comes and says that the aforesaid John, John and William do not have
rights over land of the aforesaid Peter except as the aforesaid Peter says and that the
aforesaid Peter has severalty &c and is able to plough his portion except a way leading
&c. Therefore it is agreed that the aforesaid Peter have his land such &c and that the
aforesaid John, John and William are in mercy; they pledge one another.

This case has the rare distinction of having been quoted in a learned article. Warren Ault
summarises the principles of this case in these words ‘The jury at Mordon, Surrey, settled a
dispute between two tenants in this way; A has the right to drive his beasts and a cart over B’s
land; and B when he ploughs his land must leave a right of way for A.’404

Peter Schutte had obtained a messuage and 1½ acres [F2] in November 1297 by surrender of
John Snoter, and this land can be identified through various records as the eastern part of plot
70 in the 1838 tithe apportionment, shown on the associated tithe map immediately south of
the glebe meadow (plot 71).405 As this land seems to have once been the croft of one of the two
tenements held as a single unit by John le Berther and his daughter Isobel Poybele earlier in the
13th century, but divided again before 1312, it is likely that Peter’s relatives held one of these
tenements or an adjoining one. A John Schutte’s tenement was forfeited in 1306, and the records
concerning his holding indicate it was a virgate tenement of 20 acres (see page 108).

Peter Schutte’s holding later came into the possession of John Lightfoot by surrender of John’s
mother who, in 1439, also surrendered to John half of a nearby ½-acre croft called Gildencrofte
[A31], the other half [A32] going to his brother William. Once again, the access rights of the
brothers were spelled out:406

fine respited?
fealty

At this court comes Johanna late wife of Simon Lyghtfote, daughter and heir of Richard
Perham and surrenders into the lord’s hand for herself and her heirs forever, a fourth
part of one acre of land, parcel of Gildencrofte lying at the same place on the east, to
the use of William Lyghtfote and Johanne his wife, to have and to hold the said fourth
part to the aforementioned William and Joanne, and William’s heirs and assigns, of the
lord at the lord’s will by roll of court saving [the lord’s] right etc by rent services and
customs due, saving and reserving to John Lyghtfote, his heirs and assigns, one way [via]
at the same place to his tenement with his carts and other things necessary to his same
tenement. And they give the lord for fine as appears. And they do fealty.

fine respited?
fealty

At this court comes Johanna late wife of Simon Lyghtfote, daughter and heir of Richard
Perham and surrenders into the lord’s hand for herself and her heirs forever, a fourth part
of one acre of land, parcel of Gildencrofte lying at the same place on the west, to the use
of John Lyghtfote, to have and to hold the said fourth part to the aforesaid John, his heirs
and assigns, of the lord at the lord’s will by roll of court saving [the lord’s] right etc by rent
services and customs due, saving and reserving to William Lyghtfote, his heirs and assigns,
one way [via] at the same place to his tenement with his carts and other things necessary to
his same tenement. And he gives the lord for fine as appears. And he does fealty.

However, the March 1299 dispute among members of the Schutte family concerned more than access
rights. The family were claiming the right to have ‘common pasture’ in Peter’s land, and the communal
use of land for grazing was fundamental to the agrarian economy. One of the main benefits of the
common-field system was that it enabled tenants to graze their livestock on the stubble after harvest
and on the fallow fields, as well as in the meadows after mowing and on the rough pastures of the
‘waste’ – those areas which often still retain the name ‘common’ today. The arable and meadow lands
in particular benefited from the manure deposited by the grazing animals, but there was always a
danger of over-grazing the grass, so the rights of the tenants were strictly protected and abusers of the
system were prosecuted in the manorial courts. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is a member of the Schutte
family who is first recorded for such an offence, in May 1299:407

amercement 3d

William Chutte, for overstocking the common pasture with sheep from outside the
manor, puts himself at mercy.

It would seem that Schutte was attempting to profit by using his right to graze livestock on
Morden Common to pasture sheep from outside the manor, probably on behalf of other flock
owners. The next extant case was from October 1469, 170 years later:408

default
amercement 2s

Likewise they present that Simon Cecely 2s overstocked the tenants’ common pasture
with 96 sheep and 18 oxen and bullocks to the nuisance of all the tenants at the same
place. Therefore he is in mercy.

He might have been unconsciously following Schutte’s earlier example by pasturing livestock
from outside the manor, or perhaps he was a substantial farmer, but he was not a direct tenant
of the manor, as the court was informed in May 1470:409

overstocking
pasture
amercement
11s 8d

Likewise they present that Simon Cecely 6s 8d and Thomas Cecely 5s are not holders of
land nor tenements within the lordship unjustly overstock the tenants’ common pasture
at the same place to the nuisance. Therefore they are severally [in mercy].

They are first mentioned in the court roll of 9 May 1441, when John Cecily was vicar of Morden,
so they were probably related to him, which perhaps explains why Simon’s amercement was then
crossed through:410

amercement 4d

Likewise they present that John Goldewyre,2d Simon Cissle,2d have dwelt within the
bounds of this View for 1 year and 1 day and are not sworn into the tithing. Therefore
they are severally in mercy.

sworn

Likewise they present that Thomas Cissele, John Bonham, John Growte and William
Longe have dwelt within the bounds of this View for 1 year and a day and are aged 12
years and more and take the oath to the lord king etc.

Thomas was one of the nine tithingers who accompanied the chief pledge at the Views of
frankpledge held in April 1463, April 1464, and May 1471, and both were recorded as defaulting
at the View of April 1486, so they were resident within the parish of Morden.411 Presumably a
sub-tenant would have been entitled to any common rights pertaining to the tenement he was
leasing, so it would appear that they were either resident within the Morden section of the manor
of Ravensbury or of one of Merton Priory’s estates in Morden, or held a cottage property within
the abbey’s manor which did not enjoy common rights. Simon is almost certainly the ‘Simon
Sysly of Merton, labourer’ whose will of 1491 made his brother Thomas his executor, so it would
appear that they had left Morden.412 He left to the prior of Merton two debts owed to him, to be
distributed for the salvation of his soul, which perhaps strengthens the suggestion that he had once
leased property from the priory, though one would not expect such a lessee to be called a labourer.

Another who overstocked the common, as recorded in a damaged entry from October 1473, was
the ‘rector’, probably the vicar William Batemason or Batemonsey (1469-82), rather than the
farmer who leased the abbey’s rectorial right to receive the tithes of the parish:413

…………..
overstocks the
lord’s common
3s 4d

Likewise they present that the rector of the parish church of Morden 3s 4d has overstocked
the lord’s common with 30 beasts to the great detriment of the lord and tenants at the
same place. Therefore he is in mercy.

This identification seems likely as William had offended again in October 1478, in more ways
than one:414

Note for
common writ in
respect thereof

And that William [blank], parson of the parish church of Morden, overstocks the
common of the lord and tenants with more draught animals than he should have to
the grave damage [ie of the lord] and of his tenants aforesaid. And also that he is a
common hunter [venatorum] within the free warren of the lord, and he takes hares,
rabbits, pheasants and partridges from the aforesaid warren. Therefore etc.

The vicar was entitled to pasture some livestock on the common, but he was accused of doing so
‘with more animals than he should have’, though none of the extant court rolls define how many
the maximum was for any tenant. Presumably these limits or ‘stints’ were recorded somewhere,
as indicated in an undated fragment from some time before September 1594:415

amercement 5s

Furthermore the Homage present that William Plaistowe 5s put two bullocks into the
common pasture of this lordship to be pastured at the same place over and above the
rate and portion approved and allowed to him in the same, against the ordinance in this
regard before this made. Therefore he is in mercy as appears etc.

Such an agreement had been reached in 1530 as a result of further tensions between the
inhabitants of Morden and Cheam though, if the numbers quoted refer to the total numbers
of livestock allowed to the demesne and tenantry of Morden, it gives no guidance as to the
numbers allowed to individual tenants:416

Thys indenture of composition made the fyrste day of december the xxiith yere of the
reign of our soveraign lord kynge Henry the VIIIth betwene the most reverend father in
God, Wyllyam lorde Archebysshoppe of Canterbury and primate of all England, lorde
of the manor and towneshippe of West Chayham in the countie of Surrey on that oon’
partie and John by the grace and sufferance of God, abbot of the monastery Seynt Peter
of West[minster] in the countie of Midd and the convent of the same monastery, lordes
and awners of the lordshippe of Mordon in the countie of Surrey on that other partie,
Witnessith that where as certeyn varyaunces, stryves, dyscordes and debates have lately
byn moved and styred betwene the tenantes of the said lordeshippe lorde Archebysshoppe
of hys said lordshipp and townshippe of Westchayham and the tenantes of the said Abbot
and convent of their saide lordshippe of Morden of, for and concernyng the communyng,
pasturyng, grasing, and fedyng of the Rother Bestis called catell of the said tenantes of
the said lordshyppe of Morden and for the fellynge of furcys and busshes for fyrewood
and busshes for their heggeyng and other necessaryes in uppon the comen of Sparfeld
conteynyng by Estimacyon CCvixx acres of lond abuttying apon the paryssh of Mordon on
the Est parte and agenst the londs of the prior of Marton called Ewell, on the northe parte
and apon Westcheyham on the southe parte and apon the Estcheyham belongynge to the
prior of Chryste Churche of the west part in the parysshes of Cheyham and Morden in the
said county of Surrey for thappesyng and quyetnes of the saide tenantes of bothe the saide
lordshippes and in avoydyng manslauter & further troble in the lawe and other dyvers
inconveniences lykely to falle it ys nowe covenantyd accordyd concludyd condiscendyd
and fully agreyd bitwene the saide lord Archebysshoppe and the saide Abbott and covent
and their successours by thys indenture of composition in maner and forme followynge
that is to wete the saide lorde Archebysshoppe for hym hys successors and tenantes of
hys sayde lordeshippe or towneshippe of West Chayham covenantyth and grauntyth to
and wyth the sayde Abbott and covent and their successors, by theis presentes that it
shalbe lefull and lawfull to the said Abbott and covent and their successors ther tenantes
and fermours of their said lorshippe of Mordon for the tyme beyng at their liberties and
pleasures at all times from hensforward for ever as ther righte and accustome to put into
the saide comen of Sparefeld 60 Rother Beastes, ten horses, mares or coultes, a hundreth
shepe and 30 hogges or pygges there to go abyde pasture foode grace and contynewe
uppon the same comen withoute any lett gaynesayinge or interupcion of the said lord
Archebysshoppe or hys successors or of any of them or of their tenantes of the lordshippe
or towneshippe of West Cheyham or of any of them of any other person or persons by or
for them or any of theym in any maner of wyse And also the said Abbott and covent for
them and theyr successors and tenantes of the saide lordeshippe of Mordon covenantyth

and grauntyth to and wth the saide lorde Archebysshoppe and hys successors by thes
presentes that yf the said Abbott and covent and ther successors and tenantes of the
said lordeshippe of Mordon or any of theym do put or cause to be putt upon the said
comen of Sparfeld or any Rother Beastes there to fede pasture grace and contynewe then
ys conteyned in thys agrement That then it shalbe lefull and lawfull to the said bayly
and tenantes of the saide lorde Archebysshoppe of hys lordeshippe of Cheyham or any
of them to take and dryve awey all suche Rother Beastes horsses mares coltes shepe or
hogges or any of theym as shalbe found grasyng or pasturyng upon the said comen of
Sparfeld over and above the nombre afore rehersyd to the pound of the saide lordeshippe
of Cheyham or Croydon and ther to remayne tyll the said tenantes of Mordon or any of
them so puttyng in to the said comen more catell in nombre or eny other catell otherwyse
then ys before expressyd and agreyd there shalbe allowed to hym or theym by the steward
of the said lordeshippe of Mordon shall pay to the said lorde Archebysshoppe and hys
successors after the rate of every beste 1d for every horsse, mare or colt 2d for every 12
shepe 1d and for every 4 hogges 1d for every tyme so off[end]ed at the pleasure of the
saide lorde or hys offycers accordyng to the hurttes and trespase thereof. In Wytnesse &c.

In neighbouring Merton, where similar offences were reported over the years – including
unjustified grazing by men from Morden – the earliest recorded such ‘ordinance’ was from the
court held in October 1531, though it only dealt with mares and colts:417

Robert Tymberden unjustly overloads the Common with his beasts

At this court it is ordered, with the assent of all the tenants and by the authority of
this court, that no one within this lordship should keep more than one mare on the
Common, and if the mare has a colt, they are to expel any colts from the lordship by the
end of the year under penalty for each of them 6s

Similar ordinances were made at Merton courts, such as this one from October 1551, concerning
non-resident tenants:418

Orders:

It is ordered on the authority of the court that by the assent of all the tenants present and
attending that any tenant living outside the lordship shall no longer put livestock on the
Common under penalty of 10s.

Another, about under-tenants, was formulated in October 1556:419

Orders:

It is ordered that no inhabitant called An Undersell keep any animals in the Common
of Merton

In April 1559 a man who had no rights in Merton Common was ordered to remove his livestock:420

Nicholas Clerke has been set a day to remove and expel all his draught-animals that
are in the Common of Merton within the next four days as Nicholas does not have any
rights in the Common.

In April 1563 a limit of four animals per Merton tenant was set:421

Orders:

No tenant is to keep more than four cows or other beasts grazing on any common within
the manor

It was not until August 1592, after the manor of Merton had come into the hands of the Crown
following the dissolution of Merton Priory, that a list of tenants was drawn up detailing the
number of animals allowed to each tenement:422

Commonings

An order agreed upon by the tennantes and resiantes the Mannor of Marton for &
concerninge cattall beasts in tyme shalbe pastured in & upon the comons & wasts of the
said mannor according to such proporcions & rate as hereunder is sett downe att the
Cowrte holden the xiith daye of August 1592.

The list also included the name of each sub-tenant – only two properties were not sub-let. The
highest allocation was of a horse and 6 ‘kyne’ for ‘the two tenements and lands he holdeth of her
Majesty’, while one copyholder was allowed 6 kyne for one of his properties, 3 for another and 2
for a third. The list ends with the following totals:

The number of kyne is:

74

The number of horses or mares counting every one for two kyne is:

4

At the same Merton court the following ordinances were agreed to ensure enforcement of the
orders:

It was also ordered and agreed at the said Cowrte that there shalbe twoe overseers of
the said Comon to be chosen att every Cowrte yf the same cowrte be holden yearly
and yf nott by the apoyntmente of the parishioners that have interest in the Comon as
before ys sett downe or by sixe of them to be agreed upon att some meetinge ffor that
purpose: which overseers shall & maye ympownde all such cattall or beastes as after
Michaelmas nexte shall happen to be upon the same Comons or wastes grounds ffrom
tyme to tyme of the persons before named and of their heirs and assignees above the
rate and proportions before sett downe for the severall estates of the same owners of the
landes or tenants or occupiers thereof: And shall likewise ympownde all other cattall
horses or mares or beasts whatsoever of any other person nott havinge interest to comon
there as by suche cases is used.

And the said overseers shall keepe the gates & ffences abowte the said Comon in all
reparacions: And ffor the paynes & traveil to be taken ytt is agreed that they maye putt
in the said Comon over their Stynte otherwise one weanlinge or colte or such like cattall
apece. And ytt is ffurther agreed that yf any cattall or beaste or horse be suffered to
comon or ffeede there otherwise than before is ordered, that the said overseers shall
admonishe those that comon or putt there any cattall horse or beaste above the said Rate
and all other that have not righte to comon yf they can ffynde them: And yf the said
cattall horse or beaste contynewe one daye & one nighte after that then the said overseers
to fforfeyte ffor their nigiligence in suffering the same soe to doe without ympowndinge
as before at xxd apeece ffor every suche defaulte to be paid by them to the use of the
poore of the said parishe.

And ytt is also ordered & agreed att the said cowrte that yf any person havinge righte
to comon after the rate before sett downe doe putt on the said Comon any cowe beaste
horse or mare shall ffor every defaulte fforfeyt & paye to the Quen’s Majesty 5s which
shalbe required of and presented att the nexte Cowrte after the ffaulte made ffrom tyme
to tyme untill other orders be taken to the contarye.

Ytt yst also ordered att this cowrte & agreed upon that the greate Comon shalbe spared
every yeare one ffortnight or ffowerteene dayes before Maye daye without any cattell to
be putt therein by any person or persons.

And also ytt is ordered and agreed upon att this Cowrte that noe person or persons shall
fell fetche or carry awaye of or ffrom any of the comons of the mannor any ffurses or
busshes for the space of twoe yeares followinge the feast of St Michael the Archangell
next cominge after the date of this cowrte: And that every person that doth offende or
make defaulte herein shall paie & fforfeyte in the name for every loade soe taken carried
or filled 6s 8d and for every burden also soe taken carried or ffilled 12d to be levied by
the said overseers & to be presented att the nexte cowrte the mony then att the said
cowrte to be ordered to the use of her Majesty or of the poore of the said parish as the
cowrte then shall order.

The names of those present which gave their consente to the orders and agreementes
above sett downe:-

Matthew Locke, John Carpenter the Elder, John Mantill clerk, Nicholas Clerk, Adryan
Vandemere, Robert Cole, Thomas Woode, Richard Powle, James Heron, Thomas
Seamour, William Morrys, Richard Myles, William Chyswicke, John Howe, Richard
Taylor, Henry Whyte, John Searles, William Leache, William Cuttell, James Sparkes

It is possible that similar details were set down on the contemporary court rolls in Morden, but
no complete rolls survive between 1541 and 1594.

However, Morden was not lagging behind Merton in issuing other ordinances. In May 1493 the
following was recorded:423

common

the order is
given

Also they say that the tenants at the same place have their pigs unringed and they
ruin the common and the tenants’ ground. Therefore the order is given to them to
ring the aforesaid pigs before the feast of Pentecost under penalty of forfeiture each
of them 2d.

Similar orders were given on 4 November 1517:424

ordinance

It is ordained both by the steward and by the tenants that each inhabitant yoke [iugant]
and license [justificar’] his pigs before 12 November under penalty for each pig not so
licensed [justificat] 2d.

Again in May 1527:425

for the licensing
of pigs

It is ordained and agreed between all the inhabitants, neighbours [vicinos’] and tenants
to ring their pigs each year at the feast of St Edward and to so keep them licensed until
the feast of the Purification of the blessed virgin Mary [2 February] under penalty for
each pig not licensed 2d.

Presumably this referred to Edward the Confessor’s translation in Westminster, celebrated on 13
October, rather than Edward the Martyr, whose feast days were 18 March and 20 June.

In May 1535 pigs were also to be yoked during the summer:426

Presentment by
the 12

The twelve free, namely John Playstowe and the suitors of court at the same place, sworn,
come and present that all the above presentments are true. And furthermore they say
that it is ordained that all the inhabitants ring and license their pigs at the normal time
[tempore legual’] and yoke them in summer time [tempore estival’] under penalty each
of them 12d.

In April 1539 the period was St Edward’s day to Pentecost, which in that year was 25 May:427

penalty

Likewise that everyone within the manor aforesaid keep their pigs ringed between the
feast of St Edward and the feast of Pentecost under penalty for each pig 12d.

Ault explains ‘A very common ordinance, early and late, was that pigs must be rung with iron
rings … Two or three rings firmly set in the rooting edge of a hog’s nose will discourage it from
rooting too destructively … In a few cases yokes were prescribed as well as rings’. He continues ‘In
some villages pigs were allowed to pasture in certain fields at set times, only. At Basingstoke they
could enter the Lent field, after 29 September; the winter field on 8 November … The Lent field
was lying fallow, presumably, and had already been pastured, after harvest, by larger animals. The
winter field would have been sown to wheat or rye, whose shoots, by early November, would be
well established. Pigs, carefully herded, might find tidbits here and there for their sustenance. In
any event, pigs were firmly excluded from the grain fields in harvest time.’428 The exact meaning
of the word justifico in this context is uncertain, but one possibility is ‘to license’.

Pigs were not the only creatures considered destructive, as we see from this Morden entry from
May 1525:429

[illegible]

Likewise they present that the tenants at the same place have their pigs unringed and
they ruin the lord’s common in the field Sparofelde and pasture land at the same place.
Therefore the order is given to ring the aforesaid pigs before the feast of Pentecost next
and so to keep them ringed from time to time in the same place under penalty of 20d
for each time. And that they do not permit any geese at the same place to feed to the
nuisance of the greatest and smallest of the other beasts and livestock feeding at the same
place under the same penalty.

Geese were likewise subject to strict controls in neighbouring Merton, as recorded in April
1549:430

Orders:

No one within this lordship shall keep any geese within the Common after the feast of
St Michael under penalty for each goose of 12d.

And no one shall henceforth keep any pigs within the Common during the period
aforesaid under penalty for each pig of 12d.

And none of them shall permit their geese to wander by the roads except to cross directly
to the Common under penalty for each of them 12d.

Pigs were similarly required to be ringed in Merton, and were not permitted to cross the King’s
highway into Merton Common unless ringed and licensed.431

In Morden, no animals were to be pastured on the roads without a keeper, according to an
ordinance of May 1541, following destruction of trees by one tenant’s animals:432

for pasturing
in the common
way 2d

Likewise they present that Roger Woodnett’s animals pasture in the common way and
destroy trees to the nuisance of the lord and tenants. Therefore he is in mercy.

penalty pasture
in way

Likewise they present that nobody from now on send animals to pasture in the common
way without a keeper under penalty of forfeiting 20d.

Several 16th-century ordinances in Morden concerned the fencing of arable fields and meadows
to prevent destruction by livestock. Tenants were required to fence their crofts that backed onto
the open fields and, where there was a back-lane between the crofts and the fields, it is likely that
they were responsible for fencing both sides of the lane outside their properties.433 Ault explains
that these could be temporary, ‘made of hurdles, readily set in place and removed’.434 Thus in
February 1513 only 8 days notice was given regarding the common meadow:435

At this court a day is given to each tenant and inhabitant to make their fences [clausur’]
towards the common field within this lordship before Easter next under penalty for each
perch not done 4d. And towards the common meadow at the same place within the next
eight days under penalty for each perch 4d.

Certain tenants were also required to make hedges between the common pasture in Sparrowfeld
and their enclosed fields, as in April 1516:436

head
tithingman …
penalty

John Tyler, head tithingman at the same place, sworn, with his whole tithing, … presents
that … John Bele, John Tyler and Richard Rownde and the vicar of Morden make their
hedges between the common called Sparrowfeld and the enclosed fields [separalem
campum] at the same place, each of them towards his land, before 1 May next following,
under penalty for each perch not made 2d.

From an entry in April 1518 we learn that such fences also lined the main roads:437

Sparofeld

At this court a day is given to each occupant of land in the common field called the
Southfeld to make their enclosures towards their land in the same field towards the
king’s highway and the lord’s common in Sparrowfeld under penalty for each perch of
the aforesaid fence not sufficiently made 2d before 1 March next.

In April 1521 and April 1524 individual tenants were instructed to repair specific sections of
the fences and hedges, including Robert Bele, William Tegge, Ellis Hill, John Playstowe, Ralph
Bayley and John Wyllynson, as well as John Tyler once again.438 Similarly, a by-law against hedge-
breaking is found in March 1537:439

order

And that the order is given to all the inhabitants that none henceforth break hedges of
any tenement nor take away wood therefrom for fire under penalty for each of them so
offending 40d.

While in April 1539 there is specific mention of damage by children:440

penalty

Likewise it is ordained that henceforth no inhabitant breaks hedges within the aforesaid
manor under penalty of 40d for each occurrence. And similarly that their children
[pueri] do not break neighbours’ hedges under penalty that their parents forfeit 40d.

But tenants were also ordered to throw down illicit enclosures which prevented the exercise of
age-old rights of pasture, as in this case from October 1481:441

the order is
given

Also they say that the prior of Merton has enclosed a certain meadow called Hoboldes
Mede with ditches and hedges, in which the tenants of Morden from of old customarily
had common in the same from the feast of St Peter ad vincula until the feast of the
purification of the blessed Virgin Mary. Therefore the order is given to throw down.

An ordinance of 17 April 1526 cancelled all communal rights in any of the common fields after
2 February each year:442

Ordinance
Common field

At this court it is ordained and agreed both by the steward and by all the tenants both
free and customary and all the farmers of the same that all their land lying in all the
common fields of the vill of Morden within this lordship or manor henceforth each year
immediately after the feast of the Purification of blessed Mary are to be several and that
none of them have rights of common in the land beyond that without licence under
penalty each of them 6s 8d.

Was this because the winter crops were sprouting, while both the fallow and the land to be sown
in the spring were being ploughed? No closing date is given, but presumably the right to graze
livestock on the stubble was reinstated between harvest and spring. As late as September1594
by-laws were agreed regarding livestock in the common field after the sowing of wheat, though
at the same time earlier by-laws were repealed:443

Ordinance

It is ordained by the court with the assent and consent of all the tenants and inhabitants
at the same place that no tenant or inhabitant of this lordship henceforth shall put in the
common field of this lordship called the Southfelde any of his livestock after the sowing
of wheat called ‘wheate’ growing in the same unless it is bound or in custody under
penalty for each animal offending to the contrary 3s 4d. And that as many as etc.

Ordinance

Furthermore it is ordained that ordinances called By-laws hitherto made and appointed
for and concerning the depasturing of livestock of inhabitants and the maintenance of
their geese in the lanes and waste called Morden Green within the precinct of this View
shall hereafter be entirely disputed and had or deemed for nothing etc.

Although most of these by-laws related to agricultural practice, other matters of concern to the
whole community were also covered. Thus in April 1516:444

head
tithingman

John Tyler, head tithingman at the same place, sworn, with his whole tithing, … presents
that the tithing raise the royal way from Monkyn as far as Growtes before Michaelmas
next under penalty of 5s.

In April 1521 instructions were issued to make butts for archery practice:445

head
tithingman

And that the order is given to all the inhabitants to make the butts [lez buttes] before the
feast of Pentecost under penalty of 3s 4d.

According to Steven Gunn, ‘Butts seem generally to have been made from piled-up turves …
sometimes with the addition of stones or timber’.446

Ault has examined hundreds of court rolls and has discovered some by-laws enacted as early as
the middle of the 13th century, but these are rare. Although breaches are reported throughout the
medieval period, the formal pronouncement of by-laws and ordinances is found in Morden court
rolls only from the very end of the 15th century and becomes common at the beginning of the
16th.

Some scholars see this increase in formally pronounced by-laws and ordinances as indicating a
decline in community cooperation over the course of the 15th century. Thus Barbara Hanawalt
notes: ‘One of the most interesting changes that occurred was that the use of pledges to
guarantee loans, appearance in court, payment of fines, and assurance of general good behavior
declined after 1350. Rather than relying on interpersonal bonds to guarantee good behavior
and performance of obligations, communities resorted to by-laws that extracted fines for
dereliction. Part of the explanation for this more impersonal form of regulation was that the
devastations of the plague and increased mobility of survivors broke the continuity of long-term
family residence in villages. Village residents were no longer the neighbors that your father and
your father’s father knew. Pledging a newcomer could present too much personal risk since the
pledger would be financially liable. Only by the sixteenth century did a renewal of confidence in
pledging appear in some communities.’ 447 Although it is true that in Morden personal pledging
died out during the early 15th century, there does not appear to be any overlap here between
the earlier cases of pledging and the later by-laws. Rather, it can be seen that the cases that had
relied on pledging were no longer being brought before the manorial courts (see pages 21, 27).

This is a timely reminder of another aspect of community cooperation, active not within the
fields but in the courtroom. From the raising of the hue and cry to pursue wrongdoers, to the
presentment of offenders by the homage at the manorial courts and by the chief pledges at the
Views of frankpledge, the community worked together to maintain law and order, not just for the
sake of their overlords but for the benefit of all. We have seen in chapter 2 that, though essentially
representing the lord’s interests, the manorial court soon became a place for the community to
conduct its own business, both at the public level, dealing with cases of general nuisance, and
at the personal level, dealing with disputes between individual tenants. Apart from the lord’s

steward and his clerk, all the personnel of the court came from the tenantry. Although the lord,
through his steward, had the right to approve manorial officers such as chief pledges, aletasters
and constables, most were elected by the suitors of court and were answerable to them as well
as to the lord. We have noted above (pages 185-6) a few instances where individuals refused
to serve in a particular office, but it would seem that most were willing to serve, some even
relishing the opportunity.

Many scholars have observed the tendency for the manorial offices to become concentrated
in the hands of a few powerful families who formed an oligarchy exercising control over their
communities, and some have pointed to the by-laws discussed above as evidence of such an
elite manipulating their neighbours.448 We will examine the evidence for the existence of such a
group within Morden in chapter 7, but the ordinances discussed above, while clearly favouring
those tenants whose landholdings entitled them to rights of pasture and who sought protection
for their lands, seem to be to the advantage of the entire community.

Christopher Dyer observes: ‘The constant repetition of by-laws in the fifteenth century suggests
that the system was being tested by change in farming practice. The ever-present tension
between the selfish behaviour of individuals and the defence of the common good was reaching
a new fraught level. When offenders were identified and presented to the courts, they were often
revealed as belonging to the upper ranks of village society. They were the people who had taken
advantage of the cheapness of land to build up accumulations of two or three formerly separate
holdings, and who were most anxious to increase their profitability by exploiting their flocks and
herds, which gave them the best prices at market and cost less in labour than cultivating grain.

‘These leading villagers could be accused of inconsistency, because they were the same people
who, as jurors, helped to frame the by-laws. They should be seen as people who believed
themselves to be representing the best interests of the community, who attempted to control
and prevent destructive abuse of the common fields while allowing individuals, including
themselves, to adjust to new economic circumstances.’449

In Morden, as noted on page 191, Thomas Cecely had overstocked the common in 1470. He was
one of nine tithingers who accompanied the chief pledge at three Views of frankpledge, though
he had no tenant rights in the abbey’s manor. In October 1541 a by-law was passed prohibiting the
pasturing of animals in the common way without a keeper, because Roger Woodnett’s animals
had caused damage to trees. Between May 1522 and October 1541 he frequently served as a chief
pledge, on the homage or on the grand inquest, but this was his only recorded offence, other
than a defaulted attendance at the 1523 View.450 John Tyler served regularly as a chief pledge, on
the grand inquest, member of the homage and an affeerer, between 1497 and 1541, sometimes
in conjunction with John Tyler junior who was elected headborough in the latter year.451 It is not
certain which of them had repeatedly failed to make his hedges, but we can probably assume
that if it had been John junior it would have been stated. Another who failed to make his hedges
was John Bele, described as ‘gentleman’ [generosus] and a sub-tenant of one or more of Peter
Goodfeld’s copyhold properties, who similarly served as a chief pledge, was on the grand inquest
and the homage and was aletaster between 1486 and 1517.452 Another was Richard Rownd, a
‘sub-farmer’ of John Holt, who served on the grand inquest in 1516 and 1518.453 The list can be
continued – Robert Bele served in several capacities between 1516 and 1536 as did Richard Bele,
presumably a brother or son, unless this is a clerical error.454 William Tegge, farmer of Merton
Priory’s Hobalds estate at Lower Morden, served as aletaster, on the grand inquest and as affeerer
from 1515 until at least 1526, sometimes alongside William Tegge junior who also served as a
constable from 1526 until 1529.455 John Playstowe, of a family who owned the freehold property
known as Wynteworthe as well as a couple of copyhold tenements in Lower Morden, similarly
served as constable as well as in the other capacities. Ralph Bayley, on the other hand, only held
some cottage properties in Central Road as well as some Ravensbury property on behalf of
his infant stepson, but served in various capacities between 1523 and 1541. Ellis Hill and John
Wyllynson, also called Wylkynson, did not serve in any office and their property interests are
unknown.

So, while it is true that those who failed to make fences and hedges included a few senior office
holders, as did those who failed to scour their ditches or repair their tenements, there is no
evidence that Morden office holders regularly exploited their positions to break the by-laws
that they were ordaining. Rather we should note that such offenders did not get off scot-free,
whatever position they might hold. The size of the amercements in cases of overpasturing was
substantial – Simon Cecely was amerced 2s in 1469, he and Thomas the sum of 11s 8d in 1470,
the farmer of the rectory 3s 4d in 1473, Thomas Compton 20s in 1503.

Penalties for unrepaired hedges and fences varied between 2d a perch, in 1516 and 1518, and
4d a perch, in 1513 and 1521. On the latter occasion, 12d was forfeited because the repairs were
not made by the set date. In April 1537 both Richard Bele and Robert Derley forfeited 20d each,
Bele for fences, Derley for hedges, and the penalty imposed on Derley for failure to comply with
the order was raised to 6s 8d. Derley was on the grand inquest in May 1535 but is otherwise
unknown. Bele, who we met above, forfeited 3s 4d in May 1538:456

presentment of
chief pledge[s]
penalty
forfeited 3s 4d

And the aforesaid chief pledge[s] present that Richard Bele has not sufficiently made
his fences by the king’s highway between Plummers land and Wynters before the day
imposed in the last court. Therefore he forfeits the penalty imposed in the same as
appears by the last court roll 3s 4d.

The penalty for each unringed pig rose from 2d between 1493 and 1527 to 12d between 1535
and 1549, but in 1525 hit 20d each, as did the penalty that year for geese feeding in Sparrowfeld
common. However, the only recorded occurrences of such a penalty being enforced were in
April 1520:457

head
tithingman
penalty
forfeited

John Tyler, head tithingman at the same place, sworn, comes with his whole tithing and
… presents … that John Playstowe and William Tegge junior incur in the penalty imposed
on them in the last court because they have not sufficiently licensed their pigs. Therefore
each of them forfeits 4d. …

The penalty for hedge-breaking in 1537 and 1539 was 40d for each offence. Similar amercements
and penalties were enforced for unscoured ditches. Short lengths might incur a few pence or a
shilling, but the normal rate was 3s 4d, though it often rose to 6s 8d, while William Tegge was
set a penalty of 10s in 1522 for persistently ignoring previous instructions to scour a 40-perch
length of ditch – he had forfeited a 12d fine the previous year.458 Between 1439 and 1540, 37
individual forfeits were levied for unscoured ditches and other water offences, totalling £3 19s
6d, each of them enforced because the offender had not scoured the ditch within the time set at
a previous court.

Ault points out: ‘Agrarian by-laws were largely self-enforcing. In a close-knit community
unneighborly non-conformity would be resented’.459 It would obviously be in the lord’s interest
to have what Ault calls ‘well-accustomed rules of agrarian procedure’, and the lord’s court would
provide the authority to enforce them, but the by-laws were not imposed by lords but were
promulgated by the chief pledges or by the homage – the representatives of the community. The
formulae of ‘common consent’ developed throughout the 16th century in Morden, as elsewhere.
Thus in November 1517 we see the simple phrase ‘It is ordained both by the steward and by
the tenants’ – a joint agreement by lord and tenants.460 By April 1526 this had been expanded
to ‘At this court it is ordained and agreed both by the steward and by all the tenants both free
and customary and all the farmers of the same’.461 The following year there is no mention of the
steward, but the community is defined even more widely: ‘It is ordained and agreed between
all the inhabitants, neighbours [vicinos’] and tenants’.462 Finally, in September 1594 we get the
full-blown version: ‘It is ordained by the court with the assent and consent of all the tenants and
inhabitants at the same place’.463

How much credence can we place in these statements? There seems no reason to doubt that
the ‘voice’ behind the ordinance is that of the members of the homage – the tenants who were
responsible for all the presentments and judgements made at the manorial courts. Likewise, we
can be certain that the interests of these spokesmen were first and foremost in their minds as
they drafted each by-law. But, as Ault concludes elsewhere, ‘in the community of the vill certain

matters were of mutual profit and concern to all the ‘shareholders’ in the agrarian enterprise, be
their status free or servile, and whether they be landlord or tenant … The ‘vote’ of the lord or a
few freeholders doubtless counted for much more than the ‘vote’ of many customary tenants;
and village folk without any rights in the land probably had no voice in the framing of the
agrarian by-laws. ‘Common consent’ is a phrase that must be interpreted in the light of the
social and economic conditions of the time. But so interpreted there can be little doubt, I think,
that it meant what it said.’464

Although, as we have seen throughout these studies, there were examples of conflict among
the tenantry of Morden, these are found across the whole period and were not confined to the
15th and 16th centuries. We have noted tensions within the tenant community at many levels,
between rich and poor, male and female, young and old, the influential and the less-powerful.
Dyer points out that ‘Village society was fractious, but the leaders sought to control violence,
and the conflicts arose out of feuds and friction between neighbours rather than divisions rooted
in differences of wealth and economic functions’.465

As Dyer observes elsewhere, ‘villages were never … very harmonious places, and there were
always divisive elements in their structure. They were held together, not by cooperative idealism,
but by the need to survive in a harsh environment.’466 But this did not prevent cooperative action.
In fact, the increase in by-laws towards the end of our period can be seen as evidence of increased
cooperation as the ‘community’, however that should be defined or delineated, came together to
face the problems encountered in the changing circumstances. As Dyer concludes ‘despite the
stresses and strains experienced by most (one might say, precisely because of those tensions), the
villagers asserted their unity more strongly and organized themselves more than ever before.’467

200 MEDIEVAL MORDEN: NEIGHBOURHOOD AND COMMUNITY

201

7: POWER AND PRESTIGE

We saw in chapter 2 that the administration of the manor of Morden, and especially the manorial
courts, relied heavily on tenants taking on the main responsibilities. Although Westminster
Abbey kept overall control through its bailiffs and stewards, it was from the tenantry that reeves,
beadles, constables and aletasters were appointed, and it was the tenants who were responsible for
maintaining law and order and suppressing antisocial behaviour. In particular, those who formed
the homage at manorial courts and those who served as chief pledges and tithingers at the Views
of frankpledge were entrusted with the threefold role of prosecutor, jury and judge, presenting
offences and ruling on them. In principle, the homage included every tenant of the manor, while
the tithingers included every male over the age of 12 resident within the vill of Morden, whether
tenants of the abbey’s manor or not. In practice, not everyone was actively involved. Some tenants
were not resident, others were incapable of taking on such responsibilities due to age or infirmity,
while there were always some who did their utmost to avoid such burdens.

The official ‘careers’ of Morden’s inhabitants are charted within the Biographical Register at the end
of this volume, so there is no need to repeat here the many references to the sources given there,
but we will extract from it the information it provides about some of the most active in office-
holding and courtroom responsibilities.

We are not able to investigate office-holding in the period before the advent of plague or the decades
immediately following the Black Death as there are few extant Morden court rolls from the years
before 1378. Over the 173 years from 1378 to 1550, for which court rolls survive for 143 years, 222
individuals, including 2 women, served in some function at the courts, out of a total of a little over
1000 recorded individuals (not all of whom were resident or tenants), some 830 of them male.

Of these 222, 55 are recorded as having served on only one occasion, 36 in two years, 15 three
years, 17 four years, 9 five years, 7 six years, 8 seven years, 4 eight years, 6 nine years, 7 ten years,
4 eleven years, 7 twelve years, 5 thirteen years, 2 fourteen years, 3 fifteen years, 4 sixteen years, 3
seventeen years, 2 eighteen years, 2 nineteen years, 1 twenty years, 2 twenty-one years, 2 twenty-
two years, 2 twenty-three years, 1 twenty-four years, 2 twenty-five years, 2 twenty-six years, 3
twenty-nine years, 2 thirty years, 1 thirty-one years, 1 thirty-two years, 2 thirty-three years, 1
thirty-four years, 2 thirty five years, 1 thirty-six years and 1 thirty-seven years.

Thus we see that some 22% of the recorded individuals, and more than 26% of the males among
them, served at some time in an official capacity. However, 25% of those who did serve did so
only once and only 65 individuals served for ten or more years, of whom 26 served for 20 or more
years, 11 of these for 30 or more years. Clearly, the latter played a key role within the community.

Of course, we must remember that our records are incomplete – we have no court rolls for 30
years of this period, including the 12 years 1423-1434, so some who seem to have served only
for a few years might well have appeared in missing records, while some who served for long
periods either side of such a gap probably served during the missing years as well. But they are
also inconsistent, each individual clerk making his own decision of what to record – sometimes
tithingers are listed as chief pledges and sometimes as those accompanying the chief pledges,
while on occasions their names are not even recorded. This inconsistency is due to the fact that
such details were incidental to the record keepers – they were not writing for future generations
of historians but to meet the needs of their day.

In this chapter we will be looking more closely at the regular office holders, to discover what
roles they played but also to investigate who they were, where they stood within the socio-
economic structure of the community and, if possible, to understand a little of the reasons why
they took such leading roles over such long periods. In particular, we will be focusing on those
who served as chief pledges and tithingers at Views of frankpledge and those who served on
the homage. This latter role is often described as the juror [juratus], because each had sworn
[jurare] on oath that he would fulfil his role honestly and impartially. In Morden records the
term ‘jury’ [juratio] is used of the homage as a whole, but ‘juror’ is normally restricted to those
who served on the ‘grand inquest’ (see page 43) or those appointed to hold a special inquiry to
settle a specific dispute (see page 28). It might be this difference in the terms used on a particular

manor that leads some scholars to claim that jurorship was the ‘pivotal village office’ suitable for
‘a village notable, a dominant personality [of] local stature’, while others see it as a role for ‘lesser
people’ than those who served as ‘constable, taster, and tithingman’.1

In chapter 2 we noted that during the period 1467-1480 the homage lists and the lists of
chief pledges/tithingers (see pages 41-2) each contain the same few names year after year
with only the occasional newcomer. We also saw that the same names appeared on both
lists, so this same small group served in both capacities. Many of them also served in other
offices at some time in their careers. Is this an example of a self-perpetuating oligarchy
jealously restricting access to their ranks in order to bolster their power and prestige, as has
been suggested by many scholars investigating similar groups in other manors?2 Or was it
merely a case that the number of eligible candidates for these posts was very small because
of the decline in the local population?

It is interesting to note that the most active of these officers, serving for at least 37 years, was a
relative newcomer. John Pigott senior (also spelled Pygot and Pycot) had only been sworn into a
tithing in July 1397, though he was already brewing in Morden in 1396 (and in subsequent years
until 1436). In July 1398 he and his wife Matilda received a cottage and 4 acres [B3] surrendered
by Peter and Anicia Webbe, probably not Matilda’s parents, as we saw on pages 67 and 72 that
they had only been married 7 years, though it is likely that Anicia already had a daughter
named Alice Skete, so might possibly have had another named Matilda.3 Later in that same
court Pigott was elected into the office of chief pledge in place of Peter Webbe, and he served
as one of the three chief pledges every year from 1398 to 1422. It is likely that he had similarly
served during the period 1423-1434 for which no court rolls are extant. He was also named as
a tithinger accompanying the chief pledges in 1439 and 1444, though in 1435 his name is struck
through at sixth in the list of 12. He might be the John Pigott listed in 1442 and 1445, though
this was perhaps his son and namesake (see below). In addition he served as beadle from 1410
to 1412, aletaster from 1435 to 1444, affeerer in 1439, on the homage from 1439 to 1441, perhaps
constable in 1442 and on the grand inquest in 1442.

His son, John II, by contrast, only served in six years. He had failed to be sworn into a tithing
in 1419, so was then aged 12 or over, and was presumably sworn between 1423 and 1434. He
is named as the twelfth of 12 chief pledges in 1436, seventh of 7 tithingers accompanying the
3 chief pledges in 1437, tenth of 14 chief pledges in 1438, third of 10 accompanying tithingers
in 1439 (his father being listed as sixth), and fourth of 9 tithingers in 1440 and 1441. In 1442
‘senior’ is inserted over ‘junior’, which is not struck through, and ‘John Pygott’ is listed as last of
the 10 tithingers in 1445, without distinguishing title. He also served as an aletaster in 1437, and
a member of the homage and an affeerer in 1439, and it is possible that he was the ‘John Pycott’
who was elected constable in 1442, rather than his aging father. Neither served in any office after
1444, though both were still alive when the 1448/50 rent roll was drawn up, but both had died by
1457 when John junior’s death in March 1455 was reported at the manorial court, his daughter
Alianor inheriting his family holding.4

Why was John I so quickly appointed to such a leading position? If Matilda was Peter Webbe’s
stepdaughter, this might have given him a greater status than a newcomer might expect, but Peter
had only served as a chief pledge in the six years 1393-98 and his only other recorded office was
as affeerer in 1396, though Peter’s father, William II, had served as chief pledge 1379, 1380, and
1383-88, as well as aletaster in 1378, 1379, 1381 and 1383 and as affeerer 1378, 1379, and 1385-
87. This does not appear to be an example of an office passing from one generation to another
within a family, or of an office being associated with a particular property and passing from
tenant to tenant, both phenomena observed in other manorial studies.5 Nor was their holding a
large one, just a cottage and 4 acres, so it was not an example of a substantial tenant exercising
a key office by virtue of his landholding, as suggested for some other manors.6 We will return to
these other suggestions below. Perhaps John’s role as a regular brewer, and so possibly running
an alehouse, raised his profile within the community – it has been observed in other manorial
studies that ‘occupations gave individuals a special position in village society, with some, such as

7: POWER AND PRESTIGE 203

smiths, enjoying a better reputation than others, notably the miller’.7 Peter Webbe is only noted as
a brewer in 1393 and 1396-98, so the property does not appear to have been a long-established
alehouse. In fact we suggested on pages 125 and 131 that Peter’s predecessor in this holding,
William Webbe, might have been a shoemaker, and it is possible that Peter had followed such a
trade. On the whole it would seem that John’s personality and natural ability were soon recognised
and he was seen as an obvious choice to succeed to the position vacated by Peter.

Although the Webbe/Pigott link is not an obvious case of generational continuity in office, there
were families within Morden where a tradition of service can be found in successive generations.
Close behind John Pigott I in the ranks of office holders, with 36 years of recorded service, was
William Goldwyre I, who inherited a virgate holding [G] in 1413 from his uncle John Gilden
II. This was certainly an office-holding dynasty, John Gilden serving for 26 years, William’s
son John I for 30 years, and two of his grandsons, William II for 31 years and John II for 32
years. Uncle John served as affeerer six times from 1378 to 1406, as constable in 1381, as beadle
11 times from 1383 to 1404, as aletaster continuously from 1388 to 1396, and was one of the
extended group variously named as chief pledges or as accompanying tithingers in every such
list from 1384 to 1391, his final appearance being as a member of the homage in 1411. William
I is first recorded as holding an office in 1435, though no court rolls survive for the previous 13
years. He served as one of the tithingers or chief pledges 36 times from 1435 to 1476, as affeerer
9 times over the same period, as constable in 1457 and 1458, and as a member of the homage on
9 occasions between 1439 and 1473. His death was not recorded in the court rolls, and there is
no record of his son, John I, inheriting the family tenement, though it certainly passed to John’s
son, John II, whose daughter inherited it in 1502. John Goldwyre I was not in a tithing in 1441
but was listed as tithinger/chief pledge 24 times from 1450 to 1491, although defaulting in 1466,
was on the homage 13 times from 1454 to 1487, served as constable in 1468 and 1477, as affeerer
10 times from 1471 to 1491, and was appointed one of two arbitrators to decide a trespass case
in 1483. He inherited a cottage [N4] in 1464 from his brother Thomas, who had been sworn
into the tithing in 1455, and who served as a tithinger/chief pledge 1456-8, and John took over
two virgate holdings in 1465 [E] and 1468 [S], inherited the Pigott holding, extended to 8 acres
[B23], from his maternal aunt in 1472 and also held a freehold smallholding [P], all of which
were divided among his three sons, Robert, William II and John II, on his death in 1493. Robert
sold his inheritance [P] and [E] within two years and held no office, perhaps not being resident in
Morden. William II was a tithinger/chief pledge 29 times from 1469 to 1500, was on the homage
20 times from 1471 to 1500, served as affeerer 10 times from 1477 to 1496, and as constable in
1493. He died in 1512 leaving his virgate [S] to his son, John III, who had been sworn into the
tithing in 1495 and served on the grand inquest in 1515 but otherwise undertook no office. The
Edward ‘Golden’ who was on the grand inquest in 1512, was probably another son. His uncle,
John II, as the youngest son of John I, inherited the family virgate [G], having received Pigott’s 8
acres [B23] during his father’s lifetime but surrendering it in 1475. He served as tithinger/chief
pledge 29 times from 1468 to 1500, often alongside his father and brother William, was on the
homage 22 times from 1471 to 1499, and was affeerer 10 times from 1489 to 1500, dying in 1502,
his virgate being inherited by his daughter.

Two members of the Berenger family were among the top scorers, Robert for 34 years and Alan,
probably Robert’s nephew, for 33 years. Robert was a chief pledge in 1378, when the extant run
of court rolls restarts, and served in that capacity every year until 1414 as well as affeerer 5 times
and on the homage in 1411, though, as we noted on page 176, he was not the most cooperative
of tenants or colleagues. Robert held two cottages, 3 acres of arable and 1 acre of meadow,
surrendering in 1397 one cottage [I2] to his son William, who inherited the rest [I1] [N3] [B22]
[B222] in 1419. Unlike his father, William seems to have played a minor role in manorial affairs,
serving as aletaster in 1389, constable in 1404 and affeerer in 1406, 1419 and 1420 and defaulting
to attend the court 7 times from 1399 to 1419. However, it must be remembered that none of
the accompanying tithingers were named between 1396 and 1422 and there are no extant court
rolls from 1422 until 1435. He had been sworn into the tithing in 1378, at the same court in
which Alan Berenger had been sworn into the tithing. Their exact relationship is not known,

but Alan served as tithinger/chief pledge 12 times from 1385 to 1395 and was possibly one of
those not named thereafter, as affeerer 32 times from 1387 to 1421, as beadle in 1402, 1408 and
1409, as constable in 1406, was on the grand inquest in 1398 and on the homage in 1411. He is
last mentioned in 1421 but there is a gap in the extant court rolls between 1422 and 1435. He did
not inherit any property until his mother’s death in 1402 and he sold that, a cottage and an acre
of land [B42], in 1405. However, he dabbled in land transactions, buying a freehold messuage
with 8 acres in 1385, selling it in 1389; a further 5 acres of freehold land [U5] plus a cottage [N6]
from Simon Wylot in 1391, though they had been returned to Wylot by 1396 (see page 56); was
granted the remainder to a virgate holding [F] in 1393 and a 2 acre croft [L1] in 1402, perhaps
as part of a maintenance agreement (see page 68); and held a 10-year lease of a 30-acre holding
[M] from 1399. His father, John I, who died in 1394, had held no office and defaulted to attend
court 8 times from 1378 to 1391. Other members of the family – Adam, John II and Thomas –
each make a single appearance in the court records but none held office.

It is possible that William Broke III, who served for 35 years, may have been following in the
footsteps of his grandfather or great-grandfather, as a William Broker I had served as one of
the tithingers/chief pledges in 1379 and 1380. As the extant court rolls begin in 1378, when he
was listed but noted as absent because ‘infirm’, it is likely that these were the last of many years
of service. He had died by 1385, his widow continuing in their joint tenancy of their cottage
and curtilage [I9] until disposing of it in 1404, their son William II ‘of London’ quitclaiming
his rights. William Broke III was sworn into the tithing in 1464 and served as a tithinger/chief
pledge 31 times from 1465 to 1503, as well as a member of the homage 10 times from 1468 to
1497, an aletaster 10 times from 1471 to 1483 and an affeerer 6 times from 1474 to 1503. There
is no record of any property holding though he was presented as an alehouse keeper, ale seller
and brewer 10 times from 1476 to 1498, his wife Lucy being similarly presented 8 times from
1477 to 1498 (see page 221). A John Broke, who served as a tithinger/chief pledge in 1467,
having defaulted in 1463, but is not otherwise recorded, might have been his father or brother
though, as William was not listed in either of those years, it is possibly a clerical error. He was
presumably not the John ‘Brooke’ sworn into the tithing in 1475 (see page 170).

Other families provided office holders on a less monumental scale. Baldwyn Popsent, who held
some cottages in Central Road [N1] [I3] [I4] [I7], a rood of land [U8] plus an acre leased from the
demesne, served as a tithinger/chief pledge 12 times from 1379 to 1395, as affeerer 7 times from
1389 to 1410, aletaster in 1392 and 1393, and on the grand inquest in 1398. He regularly brewed ale
from 1378 to 1408, 1413-15 and 1418, so was presumably an aleseller, possibly running an alehouse
at one or more of his properties. Peter Popsent is likely to have been a younger brother, being sworn
into the tithing in 1384 and inheriting his mother’s cottage [N2] in 1386, adding a garden and 2
acres of land in 1389 [B41] and a share in a 2½-acre croft [B31] inherited from his father-in-law. He
was also a regular brewer from 1386 to 1405, and served as aletaster 1393-1410, a tithinger/chief
pledge in 1386 and was on the grand inquest in 1385. We saw on page 131 that he might have been
a miller. Simon Popsent I, who was sworn into the tithing in 1407, was probably his son, and was
already brewing in 1405, continuing until 1444. He was on the grand inquest in 1409, a tithinger
from 1435 to 1445, and affeerer in 1438, 1439, 1442 and 1444. He held a cottage [I9] from 1404,
both shares of his grandfather’s croft [B31] by 1414, jointly with his wife Laurencia, another cottage
[N9] from 1438, Baldwyn’s cottages from 1442, and also obtained 8 acres of freehold land [U3]
[U4] [U5] and at some time leased the demesne. At his death in 1447, the freeholds were inherited
by his elder son John, who had been sworn into the tithing in 1390 but did not hold any office.
Simon’s 16-year-old younger son William II only inherited one cottage [I9], the other properties
not being mentioned and perhaps no longer in the family’s possession. A William Popsent also held
Peter’s garden and 2 acres [B41] and a 3-acre holding [Y] from 1441 to 1455, though this might
refer to William Popsent I, probably a brother of Simon, who had been sworn into the tithing in
1414. It is not clear which of the two served as one of the three chief pledges in 1439, as a tithinger
in 1435-45, on the homage in 1441, 1450, 1451 and 1454, or as aletaster in 1446 and 1447. A
Robert Popsent was sworn in 1437 but there are no other entries for him in the extant court rolls.
An otherwise unknown Thomas Popsent was noted as a former neighbour in 1465.

Other families produced some members who served for many years while other members
seldom held any office. Thus, John Lightfoot I served in various capacities over 29 years, having
been sworn into the tithing in 1414. He had been one of the tithingers from 1436 to 1442, but
served as one of the three chief pledges every year from 1443 to 1468, was on the homage in
1442, 1450, 1455 and 1468, and served as affeerer 10 times from 1443 to 1464. He might also
have served as aletaster most years from 1442 to 1458, though in 1444 the aletaster is called John
Lightfoot junior, so it is possible that all the other aletaster entries referred to a son or nephew.
This John II served in no other capacity and is only named as a defaulter in 1441 and as inheriting
a share in a cottage [I2] and 3 acres [N3] from an aunt in 1447 and 1448. John I held a cottage
and half-acre [N9] from 1438 until his death before 1478, plus a couple of small land holdings,
as well as a virgate holding [L] by 1450 until 1462 and another [S] from 1456 to 1467. His father,
Simon, who had held a cottage [F2] and some adjoining small plots of land, and leased a virgate
[A] in 1400, had been sworn into the tithing in 1390, but his only recorded service was on the
grand inquest in 1398 and 1409. He died in 1439. John’s elder brother, William, was sworn into the
tithing in 1405 and accompanied the chief pledges, including his younger brother, 14 times from
1439 to 1464, and served on the homage in 1439, 1441 and 1450, but held no other office. He held
a number of small properties over the years, and left to his son Robert a cottage [E3] at his death in
1465. Robert played no part in manorial affairs and was probably not resident.

One of John Lightfoot I’s sons-in-law, John Dunnyng, inherited a share of Lighfoot’s toft and
land [N9] in 1478, and in 1488 was leasing without licence Adams [A] and Cokcyes [C] virgate
tenements with their associated crofts, which were accordingly seized and granted to new tenants
in 1489, though he continued to hold office until 1497, serving as a tithinger/chief pledge 20 times
from 1472 to 1497, affeerer 3 times from 1477 to 1488 and on the homage in 1485 and 1486.

John Lightfoot’s other daughter, Alicia, married to Henry Sager or Sawger, inherited the other
share of [N9] with John Dunnyng, but Henry had already received a virgate [L] from his father-in-
law in 1462, having previously surrendered another virgate [S] to Lightfoot in 1456. He had been
sworn into the tithing in 1444 together with John Sawger senior and junior, presumably his father
and brother. John senior leased the demesne in the 1440s and served as beadle and a tithinger
1444-49, and Henry was himself listed in the 1460s as a former lessee. Henry served as a tithinger/
chief pledge 15 times from 1450 to 1474, on the homage in 1455, 1474 and 1475, as affeerer 5
times from 1454 to 1472, and as constable in 1455, 1468 and 1470. He died in 1478, his widow
then marrying Robert Stevenson, who served on the homage in 1477 and 1479, as a chief pledge/
tithinger 1478-79, and as affeerer in 1479. At Alicia’s death in 1480, the virgate [L] was inherited
by her son Edmund Sager, who had been sworn into the tithing in 1473 and served as a tithinger/
chief pledge 1480-82 and as affeerer in 1481. A property inherited in 1481 by Stephen Sawger from
his father John junior might have been the toft [N9], but neither John junior nor Stephen held any
office. A Peter Sager was sworn in 1464 but makes no other appearance.

Of the Playstowe family, who held the Lower Morden freehold known as Wynteworthes [W] from
at least 1458 until 1602, only two held office, but their family estate was in Merstham. Richard,
although described as ‘of Ewell’, was listed as one of the tithingers/chief pledges (often the first to
be named) from 1490 to 1497 and from 1500 to 1503, He also served on the homage 16 times from
1478 to 1518, on the grand inquest in 1512 and 1515-18, and as affeerer in 1494, 1515 and 1516,
dying in 1519. His heir was his nephew John III, who only served as a tithinger/chief pledge in
1479, 1480 and 1538, but was on the grand inquest every year for which records survive from 1518
to 1537, on the homage from 1519 to 1541, served as constable in 1524, 1526, 1527 and 1535, and
as affeerer 8 times from 1523 to 1540, but was dead by 1545.

Various Drayton family members are mentioned in the records, though relationships are unclear.
Thomas Drayton I alias Hobbys was sworn into the tithing in 1416 and was brewing 1415-22,
as was his wife Johanna in 1420. They surrendered their toft and croft [I5] [I6] to their 14-year
old son Thomas II in 1473 and 1474, but neither Thomas held any office. Simon Drayton was an
affeerer in 1462 and 1471 and on the homage in 1468 but held no other posts. His widow Margaret
surrendered a virgate [C] in 1471, and their various small copyhold properties [N0] [I7] [X1] [B42]

[Y] [B21] [N8] [I9] to their daughter Katerine in 1486. A William Drayton is mentioned in 1470
but held no office. However, Nicholas Drayton held various offices from 1447 to 1472, the year
he died. He was regularly presented as a brewer from 1440 to 1470, but had not been sworn into
the tithing by 1441. In 1447 he was elected as one of the three chief pledges and as an aletaster,
continuing as a chief pledge until 1455, and as a tithinger until 1472. He was aletaster again
1461-63, affeerer 7 times from 1448 to 1470, constable in 1449, and on the homage 5 times from
1455 to 1471. He and his wife Lucy held a virgate [A] and associated crofts from 1455 to 1457, but
he only held a cottage with 1 acre of land [I9] at his death in 1472, inherited by his 17-year-old son
Thomas III, who surrendered it in 1477, making no other appearances in the records.

So the suggestion that a tradition of office-holding ran in families is certainly true in many cases,
though few regularly supplied officers, but many regular office holders had no known family
members who also held office.

For example, John Bexwell II is the only member of his family to hold office, John I not having
been sworn into the tithing by 1386 and defaulting as a tithinger in 1398 and 1399, while Peter
was sworn into the tithing in 1420 and Reginald in 1444 but make no other appearance in extant
records. John II held a cottage [E3] from 1419 to 1449 and a half-virgate [X] from 1442 to 1466
when he and his wife surrendered it to their daughter. It is likely that they continued to live
there, as he served as a chief pledge/tithinger 29 times from 1436 to 1473, as affeerer 4 times
from 1437 to 1464, on the homage 9 times from 1440 to 1475 and as an aletaster 1461-64.

John Kyrkeby was another with no known family history of service in the area – or of any family
connections. He was admitted to a cottage and curtilage [I8] in 1471, but in 1512 it was presented
to the court that he had sub-let the property without licence, and was 8 years in arrears of his
rents and services. The property was taken in hand and split in two, the sub-lessee being granted
the part [I81] then used as an alehouse, a forerunner of the present George inn on the same site.
Kyrkeby was on the homage 23 times from 1471 to 1508, a tithinger/chief pledge 26 times from
1472 to 1499, affeerer 6 times from 1475 to 1482, and aletaster in 1495. His successor, Richard
Cosyn, served on the homage every year 1513-27, and on the grand inquest 1515-27, as well as
affeerer 1515-17, but held no elected office, dying in 1529.

Kyrkeby’s predecessor, John Boredale, had been a tithinger/chief pledge every year 1462-72, as
well as serving 12 times as affeerer and 8 times on the homage, so it is possible that he, Kyrkeby
and Cosyn are an example of a practice that has been suggested in other manorial studies – that
office-holding sometimes passed with particular properties, though Boredale also held another
cottage.8 Ralph Edward and his sons-in-law, whose office-holdings are considered below (page
209), held the property by 1380 until 1409, again with other holdings, though in 1387 Robert
Berenger was presented as owing arrears of one year’s rent on this property and his own cottage
[I2], so was presumably occupying both (see page 158). However, there is no evidence that
others who held this property ever held office.

Such a practice is not specifically stated in the Morden records, but there are a few other
examples of office-holding among successive tenants of a property who may or may not have
been related. Thus, Robert Newbury had been sworn into the tithing in 1420 though we do not
read of him holding any property until 1435 when he received from his wife’s sister-in-law, the
widow of William Berenger, a cottage [I2], 2 acres arable [B22] and 1 acre meadow [B222]. As
we saw above, William had played a minor role in manorial affairs, though his father had been
a prolific office holder. Robert Newbury served as tithinger/chief pledge 12 times from 1435 to
1449, usually among the three chief pledges, was on the homage in 1439, 1441 and 1442, had
been constable until replaced in 1442, and served as affeerer in 1447, in which year he and Alice
inherited the remaining Berenger cottage, now a derelict toft [I1] and a further acre [N3]. He was
dead by 1450, when Alice surrendered them all to Thomas Leycester and his wife Cristina, who
had been brewing in Morden since 1437 (see page 222). It is possible that he was the Thomas
Leycester mentioned in Carshalton manorial court rolls around this time, and who was named
there in 1532 as a former owner of the Kynnersley estate which included land in both Morden
and Carshalton parishes. He served as aletaster in Morden 1449-52, as a tithinger/chief pledge

27 times and on the homage 14 times from 1450 to 1483, and as affeerer in 1478. A Robert
Leycester who was sworn into the tithing in 1474 might have been a son, but he makes no other
appearances in the records and Thomas surrendered the property to his daughter Elena and her
husband John Bernes or Baron at his death in 1484. A John Leycester, possibly Thomas’ father,
had been sworn into the tithing in 1408 and was on the grand inquest the following year but
served in no other office. He was brewing in 1379, 1406-8 and 1412 but it is not known where he
was based. John Bernes/Baron was on the homage 6 times from 1485 to 1491, a tithinger/chief
pledge 6 times from 1486 to 1491 and affeerer in 1491, dying in 1492.

Many manorial studies connect office-holding to ‘main families’, the population within the vill
being divided into three or four categories. The ‘main families’ are identified by the frequency of
their court appearances, the offices that they held, and the size of their landholding. At the other
extreme are the ‘isolated individuals’ who make few appearances in the records, never hold
office, and have few if any family members mentioned. These people are often outsiders, with
few links to the vill. In between are the ‘men and women [who] cannot be identified with the
leading tenants as such, nor as governing class in the village with ensuing official responsibilities’,
but are quite distinct from the isolated individuals.9 Some of these only occasionally held office
or only held one, others never held office, and these are sometimes divided into B and C families,
the main families being A families, the others designated as D.10 Although this has proved a
useful way of classifying communities, it has come under some criticism.11 The choice of office-
holding as the main criterion for social grouping is often made because there is little available
evidence for size of holdings in the manor or manors under investigation. But this leads to
some anomalies in Edward Britton’s study of Broughton, Hunts, with holders of half-virgate
properties appearing in all of the A, B and C groups.12 While there is no reason to assume
that all half-virgaters would have been of the same socio-economic standing, it is important to
examine the evidence in each case, rather than to decide on the basis of office-holding alone.
Another drawback of this approach is that it makes no allowance for social mobility, or at least
social decline. Any family where ‘one or more members held the office of juror on three or more
occasions each’ is automatically defined as an A family, even if no one else in the family held
such an office.13

It is necessary, then, to look at two further questions in our study of office holders in Morden.
Was office-holding restricted to the holders of the largest properties? And did all holders of large
properties serve in an official capacity?

John Holt held the largest collection of properties in Morden, starting in 1494 and reaching
a maximum of almost 200 acres in 1536, when he disposed of almost 82 acres. He died the
following year, his wife retaining 54 acres which they had held jointly, 17 acres of freehold
passing to a nephew and 43 acres of copyhold land to a cousin. Although he seems to have been
known as John Holt of Tooting, so perhaps was never resident in Morden, he is only recorded as
missing 6 courts and he played a full part in court affairs, serving on the homage 22 times from
1495 to 1536, as affeerer 11 times from 1495 to 1521, as a tithinger/chief pledge 5 times from
1495 to 1503, and on the grand inquest 11 times from 1512 to 1535. Surprisingly, his widow
Isabelle served on the homage in 1537, the year of her death, one of only two women to have
served in that capacity. His nephew and heir to his freehold properties, Richard Holt, was on the
grand inquest in 1537, the homage in 1537 and 1539-41, and a tithinger/chief pledge in 1538,
but his properties were confiscated in 1541 for non-payment of rent.

Few absentee landlords held any office in Morden – of the London courtiers and merchants
who had substantial property holdings there, only John Coweper and his son William took any
part in local affairs, John serving on the homage 1483-85, a chief pledge/tithinger in 1484 and
affeerer in 1481 and William on the homage in 1481. The London scrivener, John Parker, who
held a handful of cottages and plots of land in Central Road including some held of Ravensbury
manor, only served on the Morden homage twice, as did his grandson, William Parker II. The
Yerdes, who held a virgate holding in Lower Morden, were residents of Cheam, and played no
part in Morden’s administration.

But not every resident with a large landholding played much of a part in the administration
of Morden. William Wynteworthe, who held a substantial freehold estate in Lower Morden
[W] only served on the grand inquest in 1385 and as affeerer in 1385, 1389, 1391 – we saw in
chapter 2 that in May 1387 he had refused to make presentments with the chief pledges, perhaps
considering it beneath the dignity of a freeholder.

However, it is clear that many of those who regularly held office were not among those with the
largest holdings, though it must always be borne in mind that someone with only a cottage or a few
acres within the Westminster Abbey manor of Morden may well have had substantial property
holdings elsewhere in the area. One such was Richard Cosyn who, in addition to the alehouse
on the present George inn site [I81] also held some Ravensbury demesne land around 1512 (see
page 228). But the Webbes and the Pigotts, Robert and William Berenger and their successors, the
Brokes and John Kirkby all held small properties – a cottage and a few acres at the most, though
some were alehouse keepers and others may well have been craftsmen or tradesmen not reliant
on landholding for their income. Office-holding was not dependent on the size of landholding.

Nor was it dependent on one’s legal status – the atte Hegges and the Edwards were both servile
families, often having to pay chevage for sons who chose to live outside the manor and paying
fines when their daughters married without the lord’s licence, yet both families were among the
most active office holders, following in the tradition of their ancestors who had regularly served
as manorial reeve in the era of demesne management before the Black Death.

The atte Hegge family had roots in Morden reaching back to the late 13th century. A century
later, Walter I served as a tithinger/chief pledge 14 times from 1378 to 1395, aletaster 20 times
from 1378 to 1400, beadle 3 times from 1380 to 1383 and again in 1392, affeerer in 1395, 1396
and 1397, and constable in 1388, dying in 1403. As we saw on page 52, his elder son John I lived
in Essex and the family paid chevage for him until his death in 1445/46. The family virgate [H]
was inherited by John’s younger brother Roger I, who was the third most frequent office holder
recorded in the extant court rolls, serving in 35 years. Sworn into the tithing in 1393, he served
as affeerer in 1407 and on 10 further occasions from 1440 to 1454, as beadle 7 times from 1410
to 1422, as one of the three chief pledges from 1409 to 1422 and as a tithinger accompanying the
chief pledges in all but two years from 1440 to 1456. He was on the special jury to investigate
a land claim in 1411, and served on the homage 6 times from 1440 to 1455, dying in 1457. He
leased the manorial demesne somewhere around 1419, and soon extended his personal holdings,
adding to his family virgate [H] a cottage [T2] in 1422, and two virgate holdings and a half-
virgate [J] [O] [T] in 1442, reorganising them into a single 70-acre holding, which was inherited
by his youngest son John II in 1457. John was not as prolific in his service as his father had been,
but was one of the tithingers accompanying the chief pledges 15 times from 1455 to 1488, having
been sworn into the tithing in 1440. He served as an affeerer 11 times from 1461 to 1473, and
was on the homage 7 times from 1465 to 1474. His elder brother William was a tithinger 20
times from 1443 to 1468, affeerer 6 times from 1449 to 1463 and served on the homage 5 times
from 1450 to 1468. His wife became guardian of Alianore Pygott in 1448 and he was responsible
for repairs to her cottage in 1463 and 1468 and it is possible they lived there, but he was probably
essential to the running of the enlarged family holding. Another brother, Walter II, is mentioned
in 1453 and 1458 but he did not hold any office. John II left a 30-acre holding [H31] to his widow
Elena in 1475, the remaining 40 acres apparently having already been disposed of in two lots,
the 30-acre West Hawes [H32] and a 10-acre holding [H33]. Elena retained the holding for life,
marrying John Godfrey, who continued the tradition of local service, serving on the homage
16 times from 1479 to 1499, as affeerer 14 times from 1479, as a tithinger/chief pledge 20 times
from 1480 to 1500, and as constable in 1493. The heir was John II’s youngest son, Walter III, who
had died by 1515 when his daughters surrendered the property. Walter had been sworn into the
tithing in 1474 and served as a tithinger/chief pledge 11 times from 1475 to 1496, as aletaster
1492-1495, and as affeerer in 1495. He is last mentioned in 1496 and may well have predeceased
his mother. Three other members of the family were sworn into the tithing – Roger II in 1457,
Richard II in 1462, and Simon in 1465 – Roger only appearing on the homage once in 1469 and
Simon as affeerer in 1462.

The Edward family had even earlier roots in Morden, being first mentioned in extant records
in the Custumal c.1225. If one includes their Spyk descendants, ten members of the family
held office across at least 6 generations – Walter Edward had been reeve until 1282, Richard I,
probably his grandson, was reeve 1342-45, as was Ralph, probably Richard’s son, 1357-59, after
which the manorial demesne was leased at farm, Ralph’s younger brother John II leasing it in the
1380s until 1391. Ralph was a tithinger/chief pledge 15 times from 1378 to 1395, and an affeerer
5 times from 1381 to 1392. As an elder son he had not inherited the family virgate [E] but held
the property on which the George inn now stands [I8] until he gave it to his daughter Alice and
her first husband in 1380, and he also held a virgate property [S] which he surrendered in 1398
to his son John III who also inherited Ralph’s cottage [E3] in 1403. John III surrendered the
latter in 1419, but already held a cottage and half-acre [N9] jointly with his wife, who disposed
of it in 1438. He died between 1422 and 1435, from which period no court rolls survive, and
the virgate [S] was also granted to another tenant in 1438, as John’s son William, who had paid
chevage to live outside the manor (see page 52), had died in 1417. Two other members of his
family are mentioned briefly – Richard II who was an affeerer in 1380 and Thomas who was
sworn into the tithing in 1405 – but neither was otherwise recorded.

Alice Edward’s first husband, Richard Fowler, was sworn into the tithing in 1378, accompanied
the chief pledges 1389-90, was one of the three chief pledges 1391-93, served on the grand
inquest in 1385, and as an affeerer in 1386 and 1393, in which year he died. Alice was married to
Thomas Gaston by 1397, and he served as aletaster 1400-05. She had married again by 1409 to
Thomas Attemere who served no office and probably was not resident here as they surrendered
their cottage [I8] in that year.

Ralph Edward’s youngest brother, John II, had inherited the family virgate [E] as well as leasing the
demesne. He was a chief pledge/tithinger in 1380, affeerer 7 times from 1380 to 1392, beadle in
1383 and served on the grand inquest in 1385. It is possible that he did not consider it practical for
the lessee of the demesne to also serve as a chief pledge, but on his death in 1393, the family virgate
passed to his daughter Emma, married to John Spyk I, who likewise leased the demesne from 1406
to 1410 with William Mulseye, and John served as one of the three chief pledges every year from 1394
to 1408 (as did Mulseye, who carried on the lease until probably 1418 and served as one of the three
continuously from 1414 to 1422). John also served as affeerer 26 times from 1392 to 1417, as beadle
in 1399, 1400, 1402, 1405 and 1406, and on the homage in 1411. He was involved in many property
transactions including leases, but at his death in 1420 he left 10 acres of freehold land [U2] and [W1]
to his elder son John II and the family virgate [E] to his younger son Thomas. As we saw on page 67,
a John Spyk junior had been sworn into the tithing in 1398, at the same time as Roger Spyk who had
failed to be sworn in the previous year, but another John Spyk junior was sworn into the tithing in
1405. Thus we cannot be certain which was the John II who served as a tithinger accompanying the
chief pledges 7 times from 1435 to 1451 but held no other office, whereas Thomas, who had been
sworn into the tithing in 1407, was one of the three chief pledges 1435-6 and 1440-47, as well as
beadle 1435, affeerer 1442-47 and on the homage in 1442. Roger Spyk, a victualler in 1406 and on
the grand inquest in 1409, was presumably an elder brother who did not survive to inherit or to leave
further record, while Simon I and Peter Spyk, who were sworn into the tithing in 1413 and 1414
respectively, were perhaps younger brothers who likewise died young. Thomas had a son William
who had not been sworn into the tithing in 1441 and does not subsequently appear, while John II’s
son Simon II had not been sworn into the tithing in 1440 but served as a tithinger 9 times from 1449
to 1466 and on the homage in 1455. It is not clear which was the father of John III who had not been
sworn in 1458 and who makes no other appearance.

It is also clear from this one family alone that seniority was not an advantage when it came to
office-holding, younger brothers, as heirs to copyhold properties, often holding more prestigious
posts than their elder siblings. This was not the only such family, a further example being William
and John I Lightfoot (see page 205 above).

To hold an office, it was not even necessary to be a freehold or customary tenant of the manor.
Many were leaseholders, others were sub-tenants. John Bele was a sub-tenant of Peter Goodfeld,

who held Growtes [N0] and Sweynes 3-acre holding [Y] (which together form the site of the
present Morden Lodge adjoining Morden Hall), as well as the former Berenger cottages and 3
acres [I1] [I2] [N3] [B22] [B222], two other cottages [I7] [I9], and another acre [B42], all in the
Central Road area, and a croft occupying the present car park of the George inn [X1]. However,
John was also responsible for scouring a ditch in the Lower Morden area, so must have leased
property there as well. Described as ‘gentleman’ in 1512, he had been sworn into the tithing
in 1474 and served among the many chief pledges 1486-94 and possibly in 1535, though he
is described as John Bele senior in 1516 so the 1535 entry might have related to a son. He also
served as affeerer in 1488, aletaster 1492-94, on the grand inquest in 1512 and 1515-17, and
on the homage 1512-17. Robert Bele, perhaps a son, was on the grand inquest 1517-19 and
1522-29 and served as the single chief pledge in 1535 and 1536, while Richard Bele was on the
grand inquest 1520 and 1521 and one of 17 chief pledges in 1538 – all years that Robert did not
serve, perhaps indicating a scribal error. A Roger and a Walter Bele are mentioned in 1515 but
not again. A Henry Bele had been sworn into the tithing in 1464 and appeared as a tithinger
the following year, and might have been a relative. Goodfeld himself had served on the grand
inquest 1515-18 and on the homage 1516-19, but in no other capacity.

The name John Tyler appears in the records from 1458 to 1558, so clearly refers to more than
one person – possibly three or even four generations. One served among the many chief pledges
1497-1500, senior and junior together in 1503, one with others in 1508 and one as the single chief
pledge in every year for which records survive from 1512 to 1529. There are no extant rolls from
1530 to 1533, but a John Tyler was one of the many chief pledges in 1539 and a senior and junior
both served in this capacity in 1541. In addition, the name appears as affeerer 6 times from 1497 to
1537, on the homage 5 times from 1509 to 1541, on the grand inquest in 1512 and 1535-37, and as
a churchwarden in 1549 and 1552. It is not known where in Morden any Tylers lived.

Nor do we have any indication of what land William Saye occupied, though a John Saye had held
the former Kyppyng tenement in Ewell in 1447 and 1448. Another John Saye, perhaps William’s
son, served on the grand inquest in the 1520s and as constable in 1529. William served as a chief
pledge/tithinger for 13 years between 1486 and 1508, including as first-named of the three in
1495, as well as being an aletaster from 1486 to 1490, and affeerer in 1508. Similarly John Bond
served as one of the chief pledges/tithingers 8 times from 1489 to 1508, was on the homage in
1508 and 1509, was aletaster in 1488 and 1489 and affeerer in 1409 and 1507, but makes no other
appearance in any of our records apart from essoining absent suitors in 1489 and 1491.

Local farmers of the demesne often served in other offices, but the Londoners who farmed the
manor in the closing years played no part in the life of the community, sub-letting the demesne
to others. Thus William Porter, a Chancery clerk, sub-let the demesne to William Woodman
in 1511. Woodman served as constable 1512-24, on the grand inquest 1512-37, as affeerer in
1523 and 1538 and as a chief pledge/tithinger in 1538. He died in 1539. His son Richard I was on
the grand inquest in 1525 and 1529, and another son John also in 1529. A ‘John Wodman’ had
served as a chief pledge/tithinger in 1508, so it is possible that the family was local.

William Woodman is an example of one who served in what are often considered to have been
lesser roles, particularly that of constable for 14 years, only ‘achieving’ a place among the chief
pledges in the year before he died, and yet his role as constable was of utmost importance to
the smooth running of the vill. Another who served in such a ‘lesser’ role for many years was
William Graunger who served as aletaster from 1383 to 1392, but who had served as a chief
pledge/tithinger in 1379, 1380, 1383, 1384 and 1385. Peter Popsent, who served as aletaster from
1393 to 1410, having served once as a chief pledge/tithinger in 1386 and on the grand inquest
in 1385 and 1398, and John Scot I, aletaster 1410 to 1422 having served on the grand inquest in
1409, might be similar examples, but our sources are uninformative at this point as, from 1396
to 1422, when one run of extant court rolls ends, the tithingers accompanying the three chief
pledges were not named.

One cannot help wondering whether Woodman and Graunger had chosen these particular
offices, preferring an active role rather than a judicial one, or if others had decided that they

were more suited to these tasks. But such questions are beyond the scope of the evidence we
have. We cannot be sure of the reasons behind the appointment of one person to one role and
someone else to a different role, or why some served continuously for many years while others
did so only sporadically. In the same way, we cannot hope to understand the motives of those
who served year after year. No doubt they were as varied as those which influence people today
who undertake responsibility in a public office or within a small group or society. Some people
will join every committee they can, some are natural organisers who enjoy putting their talents
to good use, while others feel under compulsion to serve – ‘who else will do it if I don’t?’

Which perhaps raises a question over attributing such importance to the role of jurors serving on
the homage – was it even an ‘office’? There are no records of elections to the homage, unlike the
offices of chief pledge, constable or aletaster, and this seems to be the case in all manorial studies.14

We noted in chapter 6 that during the late 15th and early 16th centuries there was a dispute
over the payment of the common fine, and it seemed from the little evidence recorded in the
court rolls that the only people who attended the Views of frankpledge were those listed as chief
pledges/tithingers and the occasional person being sworn into the tithing (see page 170). If this
was indeed the situation, then there was no question at that period of an exclusive elite jealously
guarding its privileges – everyone who attended automatically participated in the processes of
the court. Perhaps at an earlier period, when the population of Morden was larger, some may
have been excluded from a more active role – many of the studies that have observed these
elitist tendencies covered the pre-plague era. But the evidence of the extant Morden court rolls
suggests that people of all walks of life – servile and free, rich and poor, holders of large estates
and smallholdings, newcomers as well as established families – were able to fully partake in the
administration of the manor and vill if they so wished.

But even if accession to office-holding was not restricted to a narrow elite, there was always
the possibility that those who did occupy such posts could abuse their position and behave in
self-serving and exploitative ways. As Peter Larson points out, ‘The jurors were in a position
to manipulate the village through presentment and enforcement, as well as through the
establishment of bylaws. This state of affairs … could have had a darker side; small groups of
families have ruled through a combination of support and fear in other times and places. Through
control of information, landholding, and partnership with the lord, a village jury could have a
powerful grip on local society, leaving others with little recourse. Men and women outside of
patron-client networks may have had little succor … Although unpalatable, the possibility that
consent and cooperation were obtained through fear and intimidation cannot be overlooked;
for many peasants, their already hard life may have been made harder still.’15

Although such a potential existed, there were a number of safeguards within the manorial court
system to prevent, or at least limit, such abuses of power. As we saw in chapter 2 (page 43), at the
Views of frankpledge a separate jury – often called the grand inquest – had the responsibility to
scrutinise the presentments made by the chief pledges and tithingers, ‘Who say upon their oath
that the head tithingman and the aletaster well and faithfully have presented in everything that
they have said and have made no concealment’, or something similar, though in May 1385 they
found the chief pledges of West Morden to be in contempt of court.16 If there had been other cause
for complaint the opportunity was there to reveal it. Although there was no equivalent scrutiny
of the homage – in fact several who served on a grand inquest were simultaneously members
of the homage – it seems unlikely that there was no opportunity for any such exploitation to
be brought to the notice of the steward who presided over the courts. As we saw on page 185,
there are only four occasions in the extant Morden records on which anyone ‘spoke against’ the
decisions made at court, three against chief pledges and one against the homage, though we saw
that three of these seem to have been made by people who were serving as chief pledges or on
the homage and perhaps reflect a disagreement among the members of those bodies.

Also, we have seen in earlier chapters that those making presentments, both at Views of frankpledge
and at general courts, were not immune from prosecution – table 6.2 on pages 172-3 includes

several regular members of the homage who had continually failed to repair buildings, and many
of them were among those amerced for trespass, while we saw on page 199 that some forfeited
quite substantial sums for breaking the very by-laws that they were promulgating.

This does not mean that such bodies necessarily represented the interests of their community
– we will see in chapter 8 that there is reason to suspect that some aletasters omitted to present
themselves or their brewing wives during their period in office (page 216), while it has been
suggested in some manorial studies that others may well have used their office to increase their
prestige and power over lesser neighbours, creating dependent client networks, though we have
no evidence for this within Morden (see page 140).17 But, as Wim Blockmans points out, the very
concept of ‘representation’ was still developing during the medieval period, so we should not be
surprised if individual interests sometimes conflicted with those of the wider community.18

212 MEDIEVAL MORDEN: NEIGHBOURHOOD AND COMMUNITY
213

8: BREWERS AND BAKERS

As seen in chapter 4 (page 124) there were several tradesmen and craftsmen living and working
in Morden at various periods, but no others were subject to the degree of regulation and
supervision applied to the brewers, bakers and other victuallers involved in the provision of
food and drink, especially the latter. As Judith Bennett explains, brewing was important because
‘ale and (later) beer … were essential parts of the English diet’, people rarely drinking water or
milk, so those in authority ‘tried to regulate brewers in the hope of assuring a steady supply of
good ale’, but also with an eye to profit from the fees they could levy on its production and sale.1

The Assize of Ale, although absorbed into national law codes, was in origin a local measure,
and it remained local in both its definition and its enforcement, with local juries determining
the price at which ale could be sold, in line with local prices of grain, and with local aletasters
monitoring and reporting on ‘bad measures, poor quality, unfair prices, and other undesirable
trading practices’.2 Although the aletasters presented those who ‘brewed and broke the assize’,
it was apparently considered that few, if any, could brew without breaking the assize, ‘given
contemporary imprecisions of quality, measurement and coinage’, so all brewers were presented.3
Thus most scholars agree that the basic amercements were little more than informal licensing
fees, though additional amercements might be taken for more blatant breaches.4

The offences

The standard presentment was the one used below in West Morden in November 1380 – but
at the same court the East Morden brewers had more severe treatment, though this is the only
occasion on which forfeiture of ale or seizing of measures was specifically recorded:5

East Morden
amercement 3s
amercement 2s 6d
amercement 4d

The aletasters present that John Kytte 1,3d Nicholas Gilberd 1,2d Peter Mulsey 1,3d John
Edward junior 1,3d Robert Beranger 6,14d Baldewyn Popsant 3,8d William Brokere 1,3d
brewed and broke the assize and sold by unsealed measures. Likewise they present
that ale forfeited by the aletasters is to the value of 2s 6d, of which the order is given to
levy to the lord’s use. Likewise Ralph atte Rith 2d and Simon Hobecok 2d are in mercy
because they do not have fixed or sealed measures, seized as ordered etc.

West Morden
amercement 4d

The aletasters present that Thomas Carpenter 2d and William Wynteworth 1,2d brewed
and broke the assize. Therefore etc.

The use of ‘unsealed’ measures (those without the official stamp of approval) was a frequent
complaint, used indiscriminately at some courts, as in June 1386:6

amercement 20d

The same present that Ralph Edward brewed once, 2d John Edward 1, 2d William
Wyntworth 1,2d Baldwyn Popsent 2,4d Robert Berneger 2,4d William Berneger 1,2d
Henry Trillemelle 1,2d and Agnes Brokers 1,2d are brewers and break the assize selling
excessively. Therefore they are severally in mercy. Likewise the same aletasters present
that all brewers aforesaid sell by unsealed measures. Therefore they are etc.

This had been spelled out in more detail in June 1383:7

amercement 20d

The same aletasters present that William Wynteworth 2d brewed once, William Carpenter
1,2d John Spykes 1,2d William Brokere 1,2d Baldewyn Popsent 1,2d Alan Berenger 1,2d Robert
Berenger 1,2d Simon Willot 1,2d John Carpenter 1,2d William Webbe 1,2d and broke the assize.
Therefore they are in mercy. And they sell by cup and dish and not by sealed measures etc.

But aletasters were also concerned with the quality of the ale, as in May 1487:8

defendant in mercy
12d

William Say, aletaster at the same place, sworn, presents that John Godfrey 12d is a
common alehouse keeper [blank] baker and makes unwholesome ale and refuses [to
let] the aletaster taste it.

Another who did not have confidence in the quality of his ale was Robert Tompson, but his
bread too was not satisfactory, as we discover in May 1535:9

aletaster

William Mathewe, aletaster at the same place, sworn, comes and presents that Robert
Tompson, Robert Marsshall, the widow of William Brymyng are common bakers of bread
for human consumption and they are common brewers of ale and break the assize and sell
underweight bread. Therefore they are in mercy. And that the aforesaid Robert Tompson
is an aleseller and sells ale both within and outside and has not put out a sign for the last
four years [?] and does not allow for the aletaster to taste his ale. Therefore he is in mercy.

Bread had been within the purview of the alestasters since the mid 15th century, regulating both
the quality and the size of loaves. As James Davis explains, ‘a unit loaf would be sold at a constant
price (usually a farthing or halfpenny) while its weight would vary according to changes in the
market price of grain. As the price of corn increased, the size of the loaf would decrease and vice
versa.’10 The aim was to protect consumers from increasing prices while enabling bakers to retain a
fixed profit margin of 4d a day, comparable to the earnings of other craftsmen.11

But Tompson had offended in another way as well. The manuscript is worn and faint, but if I
have read it correctly it would seem that he had avoided punishment for another offence for 4
years – perhaps it should be ‘a quarter of a year’. Certainly William Tegge was dealt with more
swiftly in May 1527, and with a substantial penalty should he fail to act:12

aletaster

George Sturmyn, aletaster at the same place, sworn, comes and presents that Richard Cosyn
is a beerseller and sells by illegal and unsealed measures. Therefore he is in mercy. And that
William Tegge is a beerseller and sells by unsealed measures and did not put out a sign.
Therefore the order is given to him to put out his sign immediately under penalty of 3s 4d.

Again it is hard to understand why they would be unwilling to advertise their wares, though L F Salzman
suggested the sign was not primarily to inform customers but to let the aletaster know that his services
were required to sample the new brew.13 Another unexpected presentment was in November 1394:14

amercement 2d

Likewise they present that John Carpenter brewed and refused to sell ale, after which
he submits himself. Therefore he is in mercy etc.

However, an entry for May 1443 might offer an explanation:15

amercement 2d

Likewise they present that Johanna Brysham 2d brews for sale and is not willing to sell
ale outside her house by sealed measures but sells within by unsealed cups and dishes
etc. Therefore she is in mercy.

Carpenter was probably not refusing outright to sell his ale but, like Johanna, he was not willing to sell
in bulk for his neighbours to take away for their daily home consumption. Unlike Tompson who, we
have just seen, sold ‘both within and outside’, or Nicholas Drayton who, we will see below, purchased
licences in order ‘to be able to sell bread, ale and other victuals both within the lodgings [hospitium] and
outside yearly’, Carpenter and Johanna preferred to sell only to those customers that would frequent
their premises for a drink or two (or more), a method that offered at least a little more profit.

Judith Bennett observes that the prices set by the local assize of bread and ale allowed little
room for profit, and one complaint that often appears in our records is that victuallers ‘sold
excessively’.16 An entry from April 1486 makes it clear that this does not refer to the amount they
sold or to the number of times they sold, but to the price at which they sold:17

Defendant in mercy

William Say, aletaster at the same place, sworn, presents that John Godfrey is a
common baker and alehouse keeper and breaks the assize many times [multotiens]
excessively [excessi’e]. Therefore he is in mercy as appears over his name.

Thus there were many offences for which the victuallers of Morden could be amerced, but
perhaps they could be grateful that they only faced financial penalties – there is no evidence of
physical punishments, such as the tumbrels or ducking-stools that Judith Bennett discovered
in some manors, though J B Post reminds us that absence of evidence for the practice is not
the same as evidence of its absence.18 The aletasters presented brewers, bakers, ale sellers and
alehouse keepers at the annual Views of frankpledge and, until 1478, at one other court session
each year, though in 1383 and 1387 they were presented at the View and at two other courts.

Aletasters

Aletasters were appointed at the manorial courts and, although it is stated sometimes that they
would serve for the coming year, they often seem to have served for longer periods. Until 1400 a
separate aletaster was appointed for each of the three tithings – East Morden, West Morden and
Ewell (where, as we have seen, Westminster Abbey had some jurisdiction). Thereafter there were
usually two aletasters described as ‘of Morden’, though probably still representing its separate
tithings, plus the Ewell aletaster who continued to present Ewell brewers separately until 1436.
At this period, only one aletaster was replaced at a time, his companion remaining in office to

8: BREWERS AND BAKERS 215

provide continuity and experience, but by the early 16th century it was rare to have more than
one aletaster mentioned. This chapter focuses on the presentments made for Morden, with Ewell
examples only being referred to occasionally.

From 1378 to 1388 the aletasters were routinely amerced for not doing their job properly – at both
courts in 1386 – but in June 1379 an additional failure is noted after their normal presentment: 19

amercement
2d

Walter atte Hegge, pardoned William Webbe, 1d John Kippyng,1d are aletasters and do not do
their office. Therefore etc.

amercement
8s 2d

Likewise they present that John Kitte 1,2d Anicia Hayter 2,3d Nicholas Gilberd 2,3d John
Mulneward 3, 20d Peter Mulseye 3, 6d John Berenger 3,6d Simon Willot 1,2d Robert Beringer
11,22d Baldewyn Popsent 10,20d William Brokere 3,6d William Webbe 1,2d; likewise Alan
Berenger 1,2d William Brodeye 1,2d and Richard Corde 1,2d brewed and broke the assize.
Therefore they are in mercy.

amercement
20d

Likewise they present that Ralph Edward brewed 1,2d John Parham? 1,2d John Grolam? 1,2d
Thomas Carpenter 2,4d John Edward 1,2d William Wynterworth 2,4d William Carpenter 1,2d
Walter atte Hegge 1,2d and broke the assize. Therefore in mercy.

amercement
9d

Likewise they present that Simon Willot, 2d Robert Berenger, 3d Baldewyn Popsent,
3d William Brokere,3d brewed each of them once, and not measured by the aletasters.
Therefore they are in mercy.

In spite of the fact that this was a bumper year for brewing in Morden, with 10 shillings having
already been raised in amercements, someone was determined that no brewing should be
omitted, though it is not the aletasters who are amerced but the brewers themselves (even if the
amount shown in the margin does not match the figures over their names). It is unclear why John
Mulneward, with 3 brewings, was amerced the same sum as Baldwyn Popsent, with 10 brewings.

If an aletaster was absent, he would be amerced and the homage might make the presentments
instead, as in Ewell in November 1394 and (below) in November 1396:20

amercement
1d

Likewise they present that John Hernere of Ewell 1d is aletaster and has not come to present
defaulting brewers as by right and of law and custom. Therefore he is in mercy etc.

brewers
amercement
3s 10d

… The homage of Ewell present that Robert Schaldeford brewed twice,4d Robert May 1,2d
John Hernere 1,2d and broke the assize. Therefore etc.

However, in 1387 it was the West Morden aletaster who presented the Ewell brewers when their
aletaster absented himself, while in November 1410 it is unclear if ‘they’ refers to the other
aletasters or the Ewell homage.21

There is a series of confusing entries in May 1406 when one of the Morden aletasters was amerced
3s 4d for his ‘contempt’ in failing to present the brewers, even though the next two entries record
that he had presented, and that he had presented well:22

amercement
3s 4d

Likewise they present that Peter Popsent 3s 4d is aletaster and has not come to present etc as
he ought according to his office etc in contempt etc. Therefore he is in mercy.

None

Likewise they present that John atte Rythe and Peter Pompsent [sic] are aletasters and do
their office well and faithfully. Therefore etc.

brewers
amercement
4d

John atte Rythe and Peter Popsent aletasters at the same place, sworn, present that Alan
Bernger 1,2d John Spyk 1,2d brewed and broke the assize. Therefore they are in mercy.

A similar case is found in November 1417, where an aletaster who has just presented is then
amerced for not doing so – though, as a Ewell brewer is among those presented, it is possible that
the Morden aletaster has been named in error for his Ewell counterpart:23

brewers
amercement
10d

John Edward and John Scot, aletasters, present that John Edward brewed once,2d Alan
Berynger 1,2d Roger atte Hegge 1,2d and Robert Shaldeford 2,4d and broke the assize.
Therefore they are in mercy.

amercement
1d

John Scot, aletaster, because he has not come to present etc. Therefore etc.

We saw on page 171 that in 1473 and 1474 no presentments were made by the aletaster, although
two of the three victuallers who had been presented in the immediately preceding years were

again presented in the following years.24 In 1483 William Broke III had ‘nothing to present’, and
there was no entry for presentments in 1484, while the roll for the 1485 View of frankpledge is
missing, yet one of these same victuallers was still active in the following years.25 Again there
were no such presentments between 1499 and 1514 (though no rolls survive for 1500, 1505-06
or 1510-11), in spite of the fact that William Broke III, proprietor of one of the alehouses, was
still active in court to 1503, that Elena Godfrey, who ran another alehouse, was alive until 1507,
while in 1512 Richard Cosyn, proprietor of a third alehouse, on the site of the present George inn,
was said to have been occupying the property for the past 10 years, though he was not presented
as ‘a seller of ale and beer and sells by unlawful and unsealed measures’ until 1515.26 For the next
three years the aletaster presented that ‘all is well’, but from 1519 until 1527 Cosyn was again
presented as brewer, baker and alehouse keeper.27 It was suggested on page 171 that these might
have been short-lived silent protests against seigneurial exactions, comparable to other methods
employed by tenants of Morden at that time. However, there had been the occasional year in
the past where it was presented at the View of frankpledge that ‘no one had brewed within the
lordship’, as in Morden in April 1439 and as in Ewell in 1386 and 1387, though brewers were
presented at the other courts held in all three years.28

Of the 39 aletasters mentioned in the extant rolls, 19 were themselves presented, or their wives
were presented, for victualling, and on more than one occasion the aletaster presented himself
or his wife. But was it coincidence that Walter atte Hegge I was never presented during his two
terms in office, only in the years between; or that Thomas Gaston was only presented in 3 of
his 6 years in office but also in the 3 years before his appointment; or that William Tegge was
only presented after his time in office; or that William Berenger’s year as aletaster was one of
the few in which he was not presented; or that John Edward III ceased being presented in 1417,
halfway through his 9 years in office; or that Nicholas Drayton was not presented during his
second term in office, though in years before and after; or that the Leycesters were not presented
during Thomas’s 4 years in office; or that no Pigots were presented after the first year of John I’s
12-year term; or that John Skot was only presented once in his 12 years in office; or that John
Lighfoot was only presented in 2 of his 14 years in office? One might assume that aletasters were
exempt from presentment were it not for the fact that William Webbe presented himself in all
his years in office; or that Baldwyn Popsent presented himself during his year in office; or that
Peter Popsent presented ei