Morden Manorial Records

A document listing tenements in the lord’s hands following the Black Death, enclosed with WAM 27322, the account roll for Michaelmas 1348 to Michaelmas 1349, (c) The Dean & Chapter of Westminster


Westminster Abbey had owned an estate in Morden (usually spelt Mordon) from before the Norman Conquest. It is fortunate that many of the medieval manorial records are still in existence, mostly in the Muniment Room at Westminster Abbey, though some documents have found their way into other archives. Translations of all these documents are being added to this website and can be viewed or downloaded from these pages. Images of most of these documents are also being added alongside the translations, by courtesy of the various archives.

Two copies survive of a custumal of c.1225 which lists the tenants of the Abbey’s manors, including Morden, and records the rents, in cash and in kind, and the customary services that each owed.

In 1312 a more detailed survey was undertaken in the form of a valuation or extent, now in Cambridge University Library. As well as recording the tenants and their dues, the various parcels of demesne land were listed, and a value assigned to them. The labour services were likewise given a monetary value.

A collection of more than 100 manorial account rolls provide fascinating details of the way the demesne was managed. These cover the period 1280 to 1503, though the sequence is incomplete, and none survive from between 1359 and 1387, or from 1412 to 1440, and only a dozen thereafter. Some of these account rolls cover the rectory of Morden, which was appropriated by the abbey in 1301. A few include inventories.

From 1359 the abbey’s demesne at Morden was leased to tenant ‘farmers’. Unfortunately the early manorial leases have not survived, but the abbey’s Registers or Lease-Books, dating from 1485, contain copies of the last three leases of the demesne at Morden. The final lease of 1511 was for 60 years, and was subsequently assigned to other lessees. Surrey History Centre has several documents dealing with these assignments. A Rental of the leased demesne from 1547-50 survives at The National Archives

A number of manorial court rolls survive, though many are missing. Those covering the period 1296-1300 and for 1327-1328 are in the Muniment Room at Westminster Abbey, while the British Library has those for 1378-1422, 1435-58, 1461-1503, 1507-9, 1512-29, 1534-43, and 1655. Extracts from 16th-century court rolls can be found at the British Library and Lambeth Archives and at Surrey History Centre, which also holds the later court rolls. The translation project was extended to include all court rolls up to 1732, from which date English was always used.

As well as these manorial documents, there are others which provide much information on Medieval and Tudor Morden.

A number of documents deal with the church and clergy of Morden.

There are several tax receipts, for both royal and ecclesiastical taxations, which include valuations of the manor and the parish church. Two examples have been transcribed and translated and the rest have been summarised.

There are several original charters relating to properties granted to or by the Abbey, some still bearing the seals of the parties involved. Many charters and other agreements were copied into the Abbey’s cartularies. The cartulary known as the Westminster Domesday (WD) has copies of several documents relating to Morden. As some of the original documents have been damaged by damp, and others have been lost, the cartularies are of great value to the researcher.

There are a few early documents in Surrey History Centre relating to freehold properties in Morden.

There are even 14th-century sheriff’s writs and other documents dealing with disputes over common rights in Sparrowfeld Common.

The manor of Morden also included four properties in nearby Ewell, known as Morden Fee, held by Westminster Abbey since Saxon times. Translations of key documents relating to Morden Fee in Ewell are included here.

Peter Hopkins, the Project Co-ordinator, wishes to thank all those who have helped him to produce these translations. Maureen Roberts oversaw and corrected his initial attempts at translating the account roll from the Bodleian, the Extent of 1312, the c.1225 Custumal, and the early manorial court rolls at Westminster Abbey Muniment Room. Shelagh Mitchell transcribed and translated the sample tax valuations, Dominic Alexander undertook the initial transcription and translation of the extracts from the cartulary known as the Westminster Domesday and other documents at the Abbey, and Shirley Corke kindly corrected the transcripts of the Westminster Domesday extracts. Simon Neal made sense of the complex documents relating to the church and its tithes, Barbara Harvey and Jane Sayers providing additional expertise. But the main work has been done by Dr Mark Page, who has made available his professional skills to check and correct the translation of countless problem passages from the account rolls, court rolls and other documents.

Dr Page has also offered frequent explanatory comments, many of which appear as footnotes to the translations. Barbara Harvey, whose monumental study of the Westminster Abbey estates is well known, has also contributed valuable insights into the meaning of the text, and her encouragement, help, advice and support has been greatly appreciated.

Thanks also to the archivists who have assisted the research, both at personal visits and in providing copies of the documents on microfilm, CD-ROM or paper, particularly Dr Richard Mortimer, Keeper of the Muniments at Westminster Abbey, and his colleagues, Adrian James of the Society of Antiquaries London, and staff at Surrey History Centre, the British Library, the Bodleian Library, Cambridge University Library and The National Archives. We are particularly grateful to those archives that have given permission for images of their documents to be included alongside the translations, so that any doubtful passages can be checked against the original.

The support of fellow members of Merton Historical Society has also been invaluable, especially Judith Goodman, Lionel Green, David Haunton, John Pile and Rosemary Turner.

Studies relating to various aspects of Medieval Morden, based on these documents, are now in preparation.