Customs of the Manor of Mansfield

The Old Market Place.
The Old Market Place.

THE tenure to which reference has been made was copyhold, of the custom known as "Gavelkind." Of this Davies says:—"Gavelkind (derived from the Saxon gif eal cyn, 'give all suitably;' or from gafolcynd—land yielding rent), the custom of Kent in dividing paternal estates in land, the wives to have half, the rest equally amongst male children without any distinction. First employed in 550. By the Irish law of Gavelkind even bastards inherited. The Law Dictionary adds that not only were the lands of the father equally divided among all his sons, but the lands of the brother also among his brethren if he had no issue of his own. This custom still exists."

In 1272, the first year of Edward I., the following presentment of the customs of the royal manor of Mansfield was made:—

Whereof by common council and assent of all the demises king's tenants of the soke of Mansfield it is ordained all their customs, and the manner of their hold, to ordain and express in writing as their ancestors from the time of the first Conquest have been wont to hold. So in manner of a special law it is underwritten, which writings to all the heirs of them coming may remain as a memory for ever.

That Tenants there be of Free Blood.— First they say for them and their heirs, the tenants of our lord king of Mansfield be free of blood; and lawfully may marry them after their wills, as well men as women, by and after the custom of the manor.

Of Suit due to the Court.—Also they say that every landowner, be he more or less, oweth suit to the court of our lord king of Mansfield, from three week unto three week. But if he hold by special charter of our lord king, or his executors, the which of the same shall him acquit, and every tenant there, is not bound to the court, but in the town of Mansfield, in the which it is and hath been used of time that no mind is.


Also, they say that every landowner in fee lawfully may have three essions or common suit, after the custom of the manor, that is to say from court to court continually, and that by one essioner of the said manor, or by any stranger, if he will it, and at the fourth court appear to warrant the aforesaid essions.

Of the manner of Keeping the Great Court.—Also they say that it is lawful to every bailiff of the court aforesaid, which is for the time, to hold two great courts at his will, so that all the tenants of the manor aforesaid have reasonable summons by fifteen days before every court: That is to say, one court after the Feast of St. Michael, and another at the Feast of Pasche, for the crown and keeping of the peace, at which court all tenantes ought to appear, and to cause them to be essoined of common suit. And, also, all those that owe appearance ought to be there, or to cause them to be essoined of their appearance.

Of the manner of Seising the Land and making the Relief.—Also they say that whensoever it shall happen that any of the tenant in fee of the manor aforesaid do die, the greave of the town that he shall be of ought to seize all the tenements of the said tenant in the king's hands untill the heir and heirs of him make satisfaction for the relief, for all tenements of the manor aforesaid are partable among the heirs, females if heirs male want, except all those that hold of the king by charter.

That Heirs as soon as they be Born and Christened be of Full Age.—Also they say that as soon as children be born and christened, be they males or females, are of lawful age to have their inheritance. But the greave of the town whereof the child or children be, shall cause the child or children to be brought to the court, and then shall present to the court bailiff that shall be for the same time, then by the bailiff shall be delivered seisin to the child or children. And if the inheritance come to the child or children by the father's side, the child or children shall be in the keeping of the mother, if they have any, or of the next of the blood of the mother's side. And if they have the inheritance by the mother, the child or children shall be in the keeping of the father, or of the next of the blood by the father's side, and the same to hold at the will of the heir, and the said keepers shall do to the lord the king the services due and accustomed in the name of the children, and give reasonable account to the heirs they have the keeping of.

That all Lands are Departible between Sons and Daughters.—Also they say that if any of the tenants of the manor aforesaid, or a stranger wed a woman having inheritance in the manor aforesaid, and have sons and daughters between them, her husband dead, if she take another husband, and have sons and daughters betwixt them, all male children, as well of the first as last, be heirs alike after the father's and mother's decease, by equal portions; and if males lack, all the tenements shall be departible between the females, as well of the first as of the second husband. And if the first husband have no males, but females, males or females of the second husband shall enjoy all the tenements for ever, and so of every husband, and so in the same manner of the inheritance of the father. A man that taketh to wife a woman inheritrix and have by her children shall have her land during his life, and what husband soever having sons or daughters shall enjoy all the tenements of his wife all his life, for no husband ought to be endowed of the inheritance of his wife, after the custom of this manor. Not having children, nothing shall he bear away of his wife's inheritance, but the one half of the goods.

Of the manner of the Paying of Relief.— Also they say that if any tenant die, and have heirs male or female, as is aforesaid, every one of such heirs holding his portion more or less, shall give to the king for his relief only two shillings, nor the bailiff of the court, that shall be for the time, may not ask any more for gratues of any tenant. And also for shedding of blood within the franchise of our lord the king of the soke of Mansfield, two shillings. In other pleas of the court of the lord king of Mansfield impleaded and determined be they affeered after the quantity of the trespass, and after the case of the trespass by his peares.

What manner Writ runneth in this Manor, and of the manner, process thereof.—Also, of the pley of land, they say that there runneth not any writ within the demesne of our lord king, within his soke of Mansfield, but a writ close of right after the custom of the manor, in the which every action touching freehold fee and right may be comprehended, and if it happen any tenants of the manor aforesaid by the same writ to be impleaded first miste the plaintiff, his writ in full court, attached by pledges to pursue, and anone shall precept be made to the bely assigned to do execution of the aforesaid court, and to summon the party defendant to answer to the party plaintiff in plea of land, notwithstanding the summons aforesaid. But that the tenant may make default if he will—the which is called sursise, after the custom of the manor aforesaid, and at the second court he may be essoined in form of law if he will; and also both parties may be essoined after each appearance if they list. At the third court must the tenant at the suit of the plaintiff appear, and by word accustomed after the customs of the manor aforesaid, defend his tenor, and ask sight of the land. If he will it shall be granted to him sight, but if another time, between the same parties by writ of the same nature, the same action has been moved and sight of the land has been had, and after sight of the land may both the parties at the next court after be essoined. If he list, at the fourth court must the plaintiff his tale which he made afore the sight of the land, rehearse again, telling and making clear in form of law, after the custom of the manor, by what right, or title of right, he doth claim the lands which he asketh, and lawfully the tenant may have his exception against the person of him that asketh, and against the form of his tale, and against the writ and against the substance of his action, after that of old time, and of law after custom of the manor, tenants so impleded have been wont to have. And if the tenant so impleded hold to term of life, or in fee to him and his heirs, as of the gift feoffment of any man, he may lawfullie call to warrantie a foreigner or any man at his peril. And if he that is called to warrant come not, nor make he essoin, at the next court be the tenant admitted to defend his tenure and his right, in manner as if he had not called to warrantie. And if the tenant afterwards he so shall come to warrantie have not his warrant at the next court, nor the same tenant appear, anon the land asked be taken into the king's hand after custom of the manor, and the party that is tenant be summoned to hear the record of his judgment, and if the tenant appear not at the next court following, but make default, after default, be it deemed to the party plaintiff, and that he recover his seisin of the tenements that he asketh, to him and his heirs for ever, and the tenant and his heirs of all actions be precluded for ever. Also they say that if it happen any party tenant do put him into inquest of the court instead of great assize of our lord king at the suit of any asking, by writ of right close after the custom of the manor aforesaid, upon right of the tenement asked (after putting at the next court after making default, he that is asker recover the tenements asked) to him and his heirs for ever. And if the asker after mise joined see not his writ, holde the tenant the tenement in peace to him and his heirs for ever, and he that asketh, and his heirs, be rid of any action for ever. And because the king will not have any mean between him and his demean tenants they say that any tenant may not in the manor aforesaid sell any tenements, but in the full court, and that by giving up into the king's hand by his belife for the time that shall be feoff any man after, will to hold of the king for services due and accustomed, and that giving up to be enrolled in the court rolls by the hands of the clerk that is for the time, so that the rolls and the court shall bear record when the tenant shall have need to call the rolls to warrant. And the seisone of the purchaser shall be delivered in the full court by the bailiffs hands that shall be for the time after the will of the giver up, in his giving up openly expressed. And they say that if any of the king's tenants of the manor aforesaid be impleded of lands or tenements, whether they be more or less, by little writ of our lord king of right close, after custom of the manor, may in pleading call to warrant the court rolls,—those things that shall be found enrolled in the court rolls be as a record, nor upon those things further the parties nor heirs of the parties nor thereof inquests of the court be admitted.

Also, they say that well may the heir or heirs of the next of the blood of any giver up challenge the buying of the tenements given up in the court, from the day of the court of the aforesaid giving up unto the next three week court. At the which day, if they come and challenge the buying, and offer as much money as the purchaser stranger should give, they shall be admitted to the buying, without the withsaying of the purchaser. And if the seller his tenements call not to face in the next heir of the blood that so challengeth the buying, he may well and lawfully hold his tenements, as he held them before the day of the first selling, without gainsaying of the purchaser or letter of the heir so challenging the buying, or of the bailiff that shall be for the time, or of any other, or without any gift of his own. And if it happen the next heir or heirs to be by in the full court in his own person, and such buying after sale made to strangers challenge not forthwith, while the court and rolls open, from buying of the said tenements to be barred for ever. Also they say that well it may be lawful to all tenants of the same manor all the tenements simply to give of their good will, or to exchange them without any challenge of the heirs of the blood, or to set them to term for forty years, and not over, after the custom of the manor. And if any of the tenants of the same manor, the inheritance of the purchaser of his wife will alien, it must be that the wife with her husband come into the full court, and the wife by herself be examined strictly, in the absence of her husbaud, if it be by coersion or fear of her husband, or any other ways against her will. If her husband and she jointly give and enfeoff to any man tenements, the which being of her inheritance or purchase, from thence after that that she shall consent, or say nay, it is to be done of the seisin of the tenements of the inheritance or purchase of the same wife to be given to the same purchaser. And if she consent to the will of her husband, the feoffment shall remain and be stable to the purchaser, as if it were a fine rered in the common place. And if she deny, hold she her tenements jointly in peace with her husband. Also it is to be known that if any man his own tenement within the manor aforesaid will alien, and his wife come freely in the full court, and make knowledge by oath, in the absence of her husband, that she shall not claim dower in the tenements of her husband after his death, she shall be barred from action of dower for ever. Also they say that none of the tenants of this manor, males or females, may give, sell, or in any wise alien, his tenements that he holdeth of the king before they be fifteen years old full, that the gift and sale may be held fast for ever. Also, they say that every wife of this manor ought to be endowed of half the tenements of which her husband has been seised, as of fee, at the time of their wedding or afterwards.

A judgment of the court: That if any of the king's tenants of the soke of Mansfield sell all his land unto any man, keeping to himself the chief mese; whether that the said seller ought to want or lack always his several pastures, hanging to the said land, or mese, or not; all the court saith that nay, for this reason, for the mese payeth the third part of the farm to the king, and therefore several pasture ought not to be apportioned. Forasmuch as it is found that some of the tenants of our lord king of the soke of Mansfield charge their tillthe to the great hurt of their neighbours, therefore, it is to be enquired of all the court at Mansfield whether this be their custom or not; it saith that nay. But nevertheless, if any of the tenants of the soke have need of two oxen to do this tillthe, or of two cows for milk, it is lawfull for them to have. Or if any of the tenants should have 20 or 40 ewes that he may have part of the wool and lambs, so that they stand thereby a year continued or two years, and so from thenceforth, so that the tythes be reserved to holy kirk, or els not. Also, they say that any tenant of this manor may lawfully give or sell at his will his tenements, the which he hath purchased in the Manor of Mansfield, without challenge or let of the heirs of the blood, whatsoever they be, or of any others. Also they say that if any tenant of this manor purchase any tenements to him or to his wife and their heirs, and in full court take jointly estate thereof, though they may have heirs between them or not, after the death of the husband the wife the said tenements all her life shall hold in peace, after the custom of the manor. And after the death of the wife, who so she be, the aforesaid tenements to the heirs of the aforesaid husband shall fully revert. Also they say that in a plea of land, wheresoever runneth the king's writ of right, after the custom of the manor, it ought to be determined by twelve men of the court, chosen alone and sworn, and after that, that those men shall say, shall be firm and stable for true. It is to be known that none of the tenants of this manor ought to swear upon a book but at the two great courts for the peace, or for king's writs, or for judging man's death, the which ought always to be determined by inquest of twelve men, and not else. All other plaints and pleas ought to be determined by six men of the court, the which ought to be charged by their fealty made to the king, that they shall say the truth. Also, they say that every tenant of this manor may lawfully tell or declare for himself the truth in all pleas and plaints without challenge of any, except in the king's writ of right, after the custom of the manor; so that he leave suit to witness his plaint, and in nothing to be occasioned. And it is lawful for either party to have a teller if they list. Also they say that none of the tenants ought to be amerced in his absence. But if any of them make default, a distress shall be deemed to hele his default; and if he come not at the next court following, the beadle of the court shall answer of the distress. And if he come not by one distress, there shall be deemed to him that that distress be holden, and another taken, and so on until he. come and save all his defaults by pledges. And if he have nought whereby he may be destrained, his tenements may be taken into the king's hands, until he make a suit unto the king for his defaults.

Also, they say that no freeboroughs of this manor ought to present bloodshedding, nor ought without the franchise of this manor. But if it happen any of the tenants of this manor to draw blood of any tenants without the franchise of this manor, he shall lose nought of his for the blood, but have his recovery against the doer for his hurt by plaint in this court, if he see it may speed him, els not.

The court of Mansfield, holden the Thursday next after the Feast of St. Hillary, the first year of the reign of King Edward the First, the court examined by the bailiff if the tenants of our lord king of this soke of Mansfield may give their lands and tenements by attorney, and that to be firm or not and to be stable for ever. But if their self be in proper person in the court to perform their gift, the which they say that if any giver of lands and tenement make attorney in the presence of the bailiff of the court that hath power to make and receive attorneys, the giver may lawfully, by his attorney, in the presence of the bailiff as above is said, give and yield up his tenements in the court to the king, by his bailiff feoff another at the will of the giver, doing to the king service due and accustomed. And the court, further examined by the bailiff if they claim the judgment by the common law, or by custom of this court; and the court saith that not by common law but by custom of this court. Yet over this the court is examined by the bailiff that judgment hithertoward hath been seen and used in this court. All the court saith that is open by Hugh Radmoth-wait, for the said Hugh made attorney in the presence of the bailiff of the court, Robert Stuffen, to yield and give up in his court all his lands and tenements to Robert, his son, the which gift abideth firm and stable for ever, after the custom of this court. John, of Skegby, in likewise, and Jannett Webster, of Mansfield, the which long time past hath given and yielded up their tenements by attorney in this court, and many others.

These be the chapters that ought to be enquired of in view of frankpledge, in all places in England, where people are in frithe, as they ought two times in the year to be enquired, that is to say at the Feast of St. Michael, and Pasche. At the beginning there ought to be chosen an inquest of the most wise and most mighty the which best understand and dare say the truth of the articles, the which shall touch the view of the frankpledges. And first call the jury, that shall say the truth of the chapiters that shall be asked of them by the king, or by the lord of the court that oweth the franchise, and all other of the jury shall swear the same oath. First at the beginning ye shall say to us by the oath that ye have made, if all the pledges that are of the franchises be come as they ought to come, and if they have brought theur doyens as they ought to do, and who hath not. And if all those that are of twelve years of age or more that are of this franchise be sworn to the peace of our lord the king, and which are not. And if there be any that be of the frithe, and will not be justified by his frankpledges, what that he is. And if any of the lord's franchises sue any out of the franchises, and what he is. And of breakers of houses, and of receivers of small thieves, and their receivers. Of common thieves and their receivers. Of thieves that draw cloathes or other things by walls or windows. Of them that go of thieves' messages. Of outlaws repared without the king's charter. Of their chattels and of receivers. Of treasure found. Of owyth reared, and who reared it, and upon whom. Of bloodshed and wounds made. Of bounds broken and made less. Of waters turned, stopped, and brought out of the right course. Of dikes or walls reared or cast down to nuisance of ways, or states wrongfully stopped or made less. Of false measures, as of bushels, gallons, or of weights or of wands. Of double measures, to buy with the great and sell with the less. Of misorders in parks, rivers, in lands or in waters. Of rape of women which have not been presented before the coroner. Of makers or clippers of money. Of usurers of Christian people. Of assize of bread and ale not kept. Of people put in prison for theft, or of death of man, and afterwards letten out without the king's commandment. Of buying again of stolen things, and of escape of thieves. Of the king's suit, as of county's hundreds, and of courts that are withdrawn, how and by whom, and how long time. Of curriers of skins, and of walkers of cloth, other than in market towns. Of those that sel flesh, and if there be any bondman by whom the lord shall now leese. And if there be any stranger received in the franchises over a night, that he may be brought before the court. Of the lord's does taken in snares or other engines. Of all these things ye shall make us to understand by the oath that ye hath made.

The Form of Doing Homage.—When a free man shall do him homage to his lord, he shall hold his hands together, and shall say thus: I become your man from this day forth of life or limb, and of worldly worship and faith to you shall bear for the tenements that I hold of you, saving the faith that I owe unto our lord the king. When a free man shall do his homage to another lord than his chief lord, that he holdeth his chief house, and for a small tenement, he shall hold his hands in the lord's hands, and say thus.: I become your man from this day forth, and faith to you shall bear for the tenement that I claim to hold, saving the faith that I owe to the king and to my other lords. When a free man shall do fealty to his lord, he shall hold his right hand upon a book and shall say thus: Hear ye, lord, that I shall do to you, be true and loyal, and faith to you shall bear of life and limb, and of earthly honour; and truly to you shall do the service and customs that I owe to do for the tenements that I hold of you and at the terms assigned. So help me, God. When a bondman shall do his fealty to his lord, he shall hold his right hand upon a book, and shall say thus: This hear ye, my lord, that I, from this day forth, shall be true and loyal, and justifiable of my body and chattels. So help me, God.

Of the Assize of Bread and Wine.—When a quarter of wheat is sold for 12d., then shall the farthing wastel well boiled and sodden weigh £6 16s. The cocket loaf of the same corn and of the same boulter shall weigh more than the wastel by 2s., and corn of ye less price shall weigh more than the wastel by 3s. The symnell shall weigh less than the wastel by 2s. The loaf of whole wheat shall weigh a cocket and a half; the loaf shall weigh two wastels.

When a quarter of wheat is sold for Then shall the farthing wastel weigh When a quarter of wheat is sold for Then shall the farthing wastel weigh
18d. £4 10s. 8d. 7s. 6d. 19s. 1.
2s. 0d. £3 8s. 0d. 8s. 0d. 17s. 0d.
2s. 6d. 54s. 4¾d. 8s. 6d. 16s. 0d.
3s. 0d. 42s. 0d. 9s. 0d. 15s. 0d.
4s. 0d. 36s. 0d. 9s. 6d. 14s. 4¾d.
4s. 0d. 30s. 0d. 10s. 0d. 13s. 7¼d.
5s. 0d. 28s. 2¼d. 10s. 6d. 12s. 11½d.
5s. 6d. 24s. 8¼d. 11s. 0d. 12s. 4½d.
6s. 0d. 22s. 8d. 11s. 6d. 11s. 10d.
6s. 6d. 20s. 11d. 12s. 0d. 11s. 4d.
7s. 0d. 19s. 1¼d.    

And it is to be understood and noted that the baker may get in every quarter of wheat as it is provided by the king's bakers, 3d., and the bran and two loaves for the baking, and to his three servants 3 ob, and to two boys ob, and in yeast ob, in salt ob, in candles ob, in brush or wood 3d., in hire for boulting ob.

When a quarter of wheat is sold for 3 s. or 40d., and barley for 20d., and oats for 18d., then may the brewers well sell in city two gallons of ale for 1d. ; then ought they to sell in boroughs three gallons for 1d. ; and when they sell in boroughs three gallons for 1d., then ought they to sell in country four gallons for 1d. This is the assize that goeth by all England.

First weight is called 1d. 1—4, and it is called a scruple, and two scruples is a dram; second weight is 2d. 1—2, and makes a dram. The third weight is 5d., and makes the fourth part of an ounce. The fourth weight is 10d., and makes half an ounce. The fifth weight is 20d., and makes an ounce. And two ounces maketh 40d., three ounces maketh 5s., four ounces maketh half a mark; five ounces maketh 8s. 4d.; six ounces maketh 10s.; seven ounces maketh 11s. 8d.; eight ounces maketh a mark; nine ounces maketh 15s.; ten ounces maketh 16s. 8d.; eleven ounces maketh 18s. 4d.; twelve ounces maketh 20s., and 20s. maketh a pound. And it is to be known that the sale of two gallons of ale ought not to be changed but at the increase or decrease of 6d., or thereabouts. And the brewers shall not increase a farthing in the gallon but by 12d. increasing in a quarter of malt. Assize of weight of bread shall be made in the middle sale of wheat; and then the weight of bread is not changed but by 6d. increasing or decreasing in a quarter of wheat If a baker be found in default of weight 2s. 6d. in a loaf or within, he shall be amerced; and if he pass the number he shall have punishment of the pillory. And the judgment of the trespass shall not be forgiven for gold nor silver. Assize of wine shall be kept after the king's assize, that is to say a sextum for 12d. And if the taverner pass not that assize by the mayor and bailiff, his tavern doors be besparred, and not suffered to sell wine until the time he have leave of the king. A butcher that selleth swine's flesh, messell or murrain, or buyeth flesh of Jews, and selleth it unto Christian men, after he be first convicted, be amerced grievously, second time convicted, have judgments of the pillory; third time, be imprisoned and ransomed; the fourth time forswear the town. And so be it done all trespassers; that is to wit of forestallers, and those that be meet sellers of victuals, and offer them to sell, and suggest unto them that they may not sell their goods dearer than they purpose, this judgment be done in all forestallers; and of all them that to them give counsel, help or favour. The standard bushel and the yard be marked with ye seal of iron diligently and safe to be kept under pain of £100, and no measure be made in the town but if it accord with the king's measure, and be sealed within the seal of the town. If any buy or sell with any measures not sealed, and by the mayor examined, be grievously amerced. And all measures of the town more or less be seen twice a year and diligently examined. If any be convicted with double measures, that is to say a more to buy with and a less to sell with, he be put in prison as a false man, and grievously amerced. No manner or kind of corn is sold by the upheap or hand wave but oats, malt or meal. Toll of the mill be taken after the custom of the realm, and straighte of the wasse, or of the twentieth corn, or of the twenty-fourth corn. And the measure by the which toll ought to be taken according to the king's measure, and to be taken by the stroaking and not upheaping or hand weaving. Farmers shall find to their millers their necessaries, so that they take not but due toll. And if they otherwise do, be they grievously amerced. If any presume to sell corn, meal, or oats by sephrine, or other deceivous ways, first, be he grievously punished; the second time convicted; lose he all the meal; the third time be set upon the pillory; the fourth time forsake the town.

I cannot find any record of a Mansfield tradesman having been punished under these laws. Doubtless some were; but at the Notts. County Sessions, held on the 14th of August, 1756, there came on to be tried an appeal to an information lodged against Mr. William Daubnay, a respectable baker of Sutton-in-Ashfield, for selling bread under assize. The bread complained of was a threepenny household loaf, which, instead of being under weight, proved to be above the weight prescribed by Act of Parliament; whereupon Mr. Daubnay was honourably acquitted, "and hath not only thereby proved himself a fair trader, but also set a good example to the bakers in general."

It will be seen from the foregoing that, in these remote days, the laws were exceedingly strict as to the use of proper weights and measures. It will also be seen that there were rogues to guard against quite as unprincipled as are some to-day. With regard to the tenures, there can be no doubt that the laws which governed them were just to a degree, the effect being to keep the tenants as much as possible on the soil which saw their birth. The custom to-day is, with little alterations where time has rendered such necessary, the same as it was seven hundred years ago; but it is never put into force.