ID: MARG_312 / W. Gurney Benham

TitleManorial Customs in West Mersea and Fingringhoe
AbstractManorial Customs in West Mersea and Fingringhoe

BY W. Gurney Benham.

From Essex Archaeological Society Volume XIII Part II Page 79,
Transcribed by Elaine Barker February 2020

According to Morant the lordships of West Mersea, Peet Hall (in the parish of West Mersea) and Fingringhoe were held by Edward the Confessor and given by him to the great Benedictine abbey of St. Ouen at Rouen, Normandy, with many special privileges. A priory and convent were founded here by the abbot to whom, as lords of the manors, and to their tenants King Henry I in 1128-9, granted a charter freeing their possessions and men from all toll and custom throughout the realm, and this charter, confirmed by Henry VI in May 1426, is fully recorded in the Colchester Red Paper Book. Its entry is due to the fact that the alien priories, having been seized into the king's hands under the Act of 1414, the priory of Mersea was, in May 1422, granted to Archbishop Chichele towards the endowment of the collegiate church at Higham Ferrers, Northants. founded by him. (Note 1) The tenants of the priory probably found their claim to immunity called in question, with the result that four years later Henry VI confirmed his ancestor's grant, as stated above. On the dissolution of the religious houses, Henry VIII granted these estates to Robert D'Acres, but in 1547 they were in possession of Edward VI. He granted them, in 1553, to Thomas Lord Darcy of St. Osyth. turba

Some of the ancient records and court rolls of these manors have been preserved from which I have been permitted to transcribe the information here given. The court rolls, which are in excellent condition, belong to the period 1547 to 1558, and the "Customary" dates from 12 Henry VII (1497).

The courts were held annually at Pete Hall, which (says Morant), was about a mile-and-a-half north out of the island of Mersea, and near Peete bridge.

The records of the court held at Pete Hall, on behalf of Edward VI a few clays before Michaelmas, 1547, show that the chief landowners (copy-holders) and tenants m the manor were Thomas Audeley, esq., of Berechurch (brother of Lord Chancellor Audley, once member of Parliament for Colchester), Thomas Colson, Dennis Moryson, clerk, John Hamond, John Laine, Christopher Woltett, Robt. Gypps, John Bromefeld, John Awdelyn, Arthur Clerk, gent., Wm. Hoy, John Maynard, Nicholas Wilbore, John Bullock, Wm. Tybbes, Stephen Wallys, John Wylford, Thos. Fokys (this family, under the name of Fookes, Folks, etc was for long one of the prominent families in the district), Thos. Malyn, Wm. Bennett, Thos. Sadler, Gregory Smyth, Robt Thurston, Stephen Comyn, and Robert and William Foox. Richard Crabtre and Wm. Smyth were farmers.

The 'homage' or jury, composed of the principal tenants of the manor of West Mersea, were John Maynard, Nicholas Wylbore, John Bullock, Wm. Tybbes, Stephen Walles, John Wylson, Thos. Malyn, Wm. Bennett, Thos. Sadler, Gregory Smyth, and Robt. Thurston.

Their 'verdict' began with a declaration that 2 l was due to the king (Edward VI) by way of common fine.

Then they ordered Stephen Wallys (one of their number) to scour his ditch to the distance of five perches towards Brokeland, by Whitsuntide, under penalty of 2d per perch for default.

John Jeffrey, junior, 'le maryner' was ordered to refrain from injuring the common, under penalty of 5s.

Richard Jeffrey was presented for injuring the king's highway with his cattle and was ordered to desist under pain of forfeiting 12d to the king for every beast (toricus).

The chronicles of the 'view of frankpledge' are much after this tyle, year by year.

John Lucas, esq was steward at this time for the king.

On August 18th, 4 Edward VI, the homage presented that a certain William Page, within this town, (West Mersea) is a common brawler (jurgator) and a disturber of all his neighbours, and therefore it is ordered that th esame William Page shall not remain any longer within the precinct of the town of West Mersey, after September 29th, under pain of a fine of 6s 8d.

At this court it was also directed that no pigs were to be allowed on the common unless ringed and yoked, and no cattle on the highways, unless accompanied by a keeper.

Robt. Flyngaunt was ordered (3 Edward VI 1551) to make a trench (puteum) by the Strode, where the old mill formerly stood, from the green hill (a monte viridi).

The chiefe men or 'homage' of Fingringhoe on Augst 3rd 1555 (3 - 4 Philip and Mary) were:- Richard Weold, John Kent, John Southe, Wm. Donnyng, John Egle, Thos. Weold, Richd Curlyng, J ohn Weold, junior, Wm. Stone, [Note 2] John Pollexfen, Giles Polley, John Wallys, John Durrell of Westrete, Wm. Champnes, Wm. Southe.


The following items throw some light on these ancient lands:-
July 2nd, 2 Elizabeth. Wm. Fooks, jun, was granted 30 acres, anciently customary, called Church field, for life, to be held according to the custom of the manor 'to repair the church of West Mersea.'

September 24th, 24 Elizabeth. William Fooks being dead the said 30 acres were granted to William Smith of West Mersea, 'to repair the Strood and church of West Mersea.'

July 30th, l James I. On the death of William Smith the said premises were surrendered with the intention that at the next court the lord would re-grant the same 'to the ancient uses and intentions following, viz., to Nicholas Dunoll, Richd. Fowks, jun., and Stephen Smith, in trust, the rents and profits to be applied to the repairing of the Strood and the church of West Mersea,' and this re-grant being made, the said trustees were duly admitted.

In 1559 the lands were also called 'Strood lands and Church fields.'



West Mersea Manor

South alias Southfield, " le crosse," Turball, Southet, a "tenement" called suggestively "Water att hatches," Buremeads, Darntofts, Crowland, Chapmans, Pratt's Garden, Coes, Parish Land, Walgraves (held in 1553 by John Maynard), Barntofts, Brokeland, Stuckgate, Kirbies, Genys, Tybnams (alias Loves), Holbroke, Maidmartells, Downes, Turball, Demotts, Doghole Lane, Bernotts Medowe, Bewotts, and Rysolls.

Pete Hall Manor

Breggefeld (Bridgefield), Ganokers (8 acres, near South Pate by "le Strode") Good Robyns, Squalapysacre, Shepherds, Petfield, Maydayse, Marchaunts in North Pete, Thorolds, Blasts, Wiglotts, Rutlands, Smythefeld, Myllers, Haywards, Geve Litells in North Pete (also called Give Little Croft), Mayhews, Five Akerlyng, East Dunstall, Westfields, Thornmede, Crosstree.

Fingringhoe Manor

Quadlyng Street, Sowthes Green, Cross Croft, Hulverwood Heath (also called Hulwood Heath and Hownd Wood Heath), Cowersgate, Ballyn's Field, Le Haye, Home Place, Dagfen, Mayehouse, Hicke (or Hicks) [Note 3] Westreat House, Lynfen, Heyhouse.

From a later roll (1688) Westfields, Hawfields, Whitings, Shredds, Howmeadow, Lakehouse, Linings, Kales, herehouse, Daniells (alias Denolds), Lockers Graces (house or tenement) Thorpes, Southpightle.

East Mersea Rectory Manor

5 - 20 Elizabeth (1564 - 1578)

Longland, Danyells, Nevards, Pages, Monys, Hodyes, Neverdes, Hodges, Shopland, Smithes Croft, Buttes land. Whether the rector or some local steward on his behalf kept these East Mersea rolls, it is noteworthy that they are not in Latin but in illiterate English. This is a sample: Sept. 23. 21 Elizab. (1579) Item. Mary Garyngton's howse ys not all done for that she could not com by strawe for no mony.


This curious document (which seems to have been inspected by Morant) is worth giving in full

THE USAGE, CUSTOME, AND CUSTOMARY of the Lordships of Westmarsye, ffyngeryhoe and Petehall in the county of Essex use tyme out of mynde of mann for the custumary tenanntes of the said Lordeshippes being tryparted indented viewed made and contynewed openly in the courte as well by Mr. Richard Wylleys, warden of the Colledge of Higham Ferrys in the county of Northampton, Lorde of the same mannour and Lorshippes in the right and tytell of the said Collidge, as by the assent and agrement of all the whole tenantes of the said Lordeshipes (that is to saie) at the corte holden at Petehall the Tewsdaye next after Whitsonday in the xijth yere of Kinge Henry the vijth by the advise and counsell of Thomas Bonham esquier then being stewarde and William Pyrton esq then being bailyffe of the said Lordshippes.

1. Fyrste that every tenante may make a bargaine of le alyenation lease for terme of yeres or surrendoure of his landes or tenements custumary as well out of the courte as in the courte and also make feoffes in his said landes to be named with him in his copies or that it be made or done in the presents of the stewarde of the corte or in the presents of the bailiffe or his deputye and two other tenaunts to wytnes the same (or els to be voyd). And the same bargaine, sale, alienation, lease, or terne of yeres or surrendours to be presented in the next courte or at the second next courte daye, by the homage, so that the lorde may knowe his tenauntes and have his fynes, fealties and suite of courte, payne of forfeytinge of the same landes or tenements to the lorde.
2. Also after the deathe of every tenante seased of any lande customary in his owne right, in fee or in feetaile, the lord shall have his best beaste (in the name of a harryote) whatsoever it be, horse, oxe, cowe, shepe, swyne, pyge, goose , cocke, or henn, and yf the tenantes have not a beaste then the lord to have no harryote
3. Also yf anye tenante dye sole of any coppyholde landes in fee simple or feetale, without anie surrender makinge thereof, that then his wyfe to have all his landes that he so dyed sole seased of, duringe her wydohod for her free benche.
4. Also every tenante is bounde to repayer his or their tenements cotages and buildynges now at this present tyme builded, without any waste doinge, payne of forfeityrnge of the same lands and tenements so beinge in decaye, excepte suche houses that may lawefullye fall downe and be in decaye by the discretion of the stewarde, bailiffe, and homage in the courte, to be presented for a lycense for the same.
5. That no tenante for terme of lyfe ne terme of yeres doe any extripment ne waste in their copihold houses ne woodes with out lycence, but be bounde to repayere their tenements and cotages payne of forfeiture of his possession tytle and interest to him in Revercion, Reverter, or Remainder.
6. Also that all fynes and amerciamentes of the courte and lete be assessed by the lordes stewarde and by his deputye and two or three tenantes of every lordeship after the olde usage and custome, that is to saie after the laste courte of the yeare and to be assessed after the olde presidents and so to be payed.
7. Also that every tenante or his farmour dwelling within any of the said Lordeshipes maye or shall straye uppon the lords demeane grownds with as muche of his owne cattle as his lande maye sustayne and kepe, wynter and summer, except plowed landes from Saint Gyels daye untill Christmas daye, paying for a horse or a cowe, jd, and for a bullocke, ob. (1/2d ), and from Christmas to Candlemas, to pasture their shepe uppon the said lordes demeane and to paye nothinge therefore.
8. Also if any tenante straye his plowe teame or any drafte beastes then he shall come to the lordes barnes or maner place and Eare a jornye of land in wheate season and an other Jorney of land in ote season. And he to have his meate and drinke of the lorde or of his farmor.
9. Also that every tenant may fell and sell his tymber upon his copyhold, kepinge reparacions of his houses with out any lycence to be asked of the lorde or his officers, except tenants for terme of lyfe, tenant at will, and tenant for tyme of yeres.
10. Also if a tenant have diverse tenements harytable and dye, the lorde [shall have] of it one harryot for them all, but the Jorde shall have [fynes for] every of them, of him that shall have them.
11. Also if there be two or three joyn tenants of coppyholde lande and every of them seased in their owne right, the lorde shall have, after the death of every of them, a haryot but no fynes till after the death of the last lyver or survyvor of them.
12. Also if the baron and the femall be joyntly seased of coppyeholde landes, yf the femall dye the lorde shall have no haryot by hir death. But if the baron dye the lorde then to have his harryot mayntayned after his death.
13. Also the lorde shall have no haryott after the death of any tenant having state or yeuse in his landes, but for terme of lyfe, but alwaies after the death of tenants seased in fee, or in fee-tale as is aforesaid.
14. Also yf a man seased with oder unto his use and dye then the lorde shall have his hariot after the death of the vearye tenant being verye owner of the landes nnto whose use the other be seased of. [This means that though lands be in feoffment the heriot is due to the lord at the tenant's death.]
15. Also a woeman being courte baron shall make no vpie lled [up-yield] or surrender ne gyfte of hir landes, but she be solye examined by the lordes steward of the courts or under steward.
16. Also a woeman shall have no dower of no landes ne tenements that weare hir husbandes during the covertour, but her free-banke as is aforesaid, that is to saye as longe as she kepeth hir solye unmaryed.
17. Also a man shall have all such Iandes and tenementes as his wife was seased of in fee simple or in fee tale dueringe the spousealles hadd between them, whether that he have any childe by her or no, for tearme of his lyfe with out waste or extripment doing therein, keping the reparacions of the houses, etc.
18. Also that yf any man or woeman dye sole seased or otherwise without any surrender makinge lawfully, that then his eldest sone or eldest daughter shalbe his or hir heire. But if the landes be in feoffment, or so that any parson be infeoffed with him in his lande, And yf he make a will of the same landes and no surrender, that the landes to passe accordinge to his will. And thoughe the landes be in feoffment yf he make a surrender and will also of his landes Articlo mortis, and the will and surrender doe varye to the other, then the surrender to take effecte before the will.
19. Also that no inheritance be shifsted betwene femalles, but the eldest daughter or kinsewoeman onelye to be heire of the copye holde landes within these Lordeshippes and all suche heyres and all other unto whome any.suche la ndes shall desend, remain, revarte, come to, or begeuen, shall by the lordes lycence enter into all their copieholde landes and tenementes at the age of fiftene yeres and take the proffite thereof to there owne use and behofe . But none of them shall departe, sell, make surrender ne gifte, ne make will of the said landes till they be of the full age of one and twentye yeres. And before the age of fiftene yeres the lorde to commit the rule and custodye thereof according to the common lawe in Socage tenor. And the lorde to have the moyetie of the said landes till the heire come to hir said age of fiftene yeres. And the garden [guardian] of the childe the other moyetie for kepinge of the childe with out waste or extripment doinge of the same.
20. Also that one tenante sewe not another tenante out of Pete hall courte for debte, trespasse, detynue or any other action determinable in the said courte, under the demaunde of forty shillinges, but to have their recoverye there. And yf any defendant be lawfully warned and distrayned in any action at the suit of the partye and make defaulte at two severall courtedayes, then he to be condemned at the thyrde courte daie, by defaulte, and iudgement thereof to begeuen [be given] and execution thereof to be awarded at the same thyrde courte, except some resonable cause shall require the contrary, to be iudged by the discretion of the stewarde there for the tyme being.
21. Item, provided that such tenantes as have but particular estates, as for terme of lyfe, terme of yeres, and at will, or tenante by the curtysie of Englande or woemen having estate for terme of lyfe with theire husbandes, or widowes for free benche shall paye no haryot to the lorde after their death.
22. Also the homage maye present and set merciaments and paynes at every leete or at every generall courte holden at Petehall for all manner of trespasses, offences or comon anoyances done within any of the said Lordeshippes to preiudice, noysance, and hurte of the lorde and his tenants of the said Lordships, by this their said customes and custumary used tyme of out of minde of man.
23. Also that a tenante may sell his intailed land for certaine and diverse consideracions to be discused and judged by the steward and the homage of the courte or eles not.
24. Also that no tenante be admitted to his suite fyne but by the Steward in the courte and for certen resonable consideracions, or els not.
25. That no tenante let his landes unto a dweller out of the towne where the land lyeth to ferme, yf any dweller with in the towne will have yt and give as muche as a straunger doth give, and will give and put him in as good sewerty for payment of the same, payne of forfeiting of the same to the lorde, yf yt be presented in the courte.
26. Also yf any tenante be againste any of these preuiledges, liberties, usages, custome or customarys of these Lordeshippes, that then he or they to forfeite their copyholdes to the lorde yf it be presented in the courte by the homage.
27. Item that the lorde shall have all manner of advantage of the admiraltye of the sea with in his townes of Westmersye, Fingerigoe and Petehall. And the finder of any wracke of the sea to have the one halfe thereof or like advantage after the vse of the Admiral! Courte.
28. Also that one tenante may assigne another at every corte that is to say one tenant maie at two courts togither with out any mony paying to the lorde or stewarde, but if the tenant so assigned at two corts, one next after the other, And after make defaulte at the thyrd corte then next to be kept, then he to be amersed by the courte for his defalte, ixd. [The marginal note says: "A tenant may be asoyned at two cortes and paie nothing.""""""""""""" "Assigned" and" asoyned" apparently mean" essoined," i.e. excused for non-attendance.]
29. Also that the lorde or his fermor at euery of these townes of Westmersey and Fingregoe doe yerely kepe a comon bull and a boore for the easement of the tenantes.
30. Also that no tenant doe sell awaye or otherwise sever his tenement. That is to saie parte of the lande that is persell and belonging or laid unto any tent, howse or cotage custumary being at this tyme belonging to or islayed unto any house as is aforesaid, without lycence of the corte to be asked before, paine of forfayting the same yf yt be presented by the homage.
31. Also it shalbe lawfull unto every tenant to Alien and sell parte of his tenement by lycence of the Courte.
32. Also if any tenement be hereafter shifted and seuered, that then the greater parte and moyetie thereof to be chargeable unto the lorde for the hariott, after the tenantes death thereof, and the other parte and moyetye to be contributury unto the first foresaid moyetye for the said hariot, and not to be chargeable of euery hariot unto the lorde for the same moyetye.
33. Also that every tenant that is shifted and seuered before the date hereof, eche tenants parte thereof to be chargeable unto the lorde for any hariot after the tenants death. So that no parte thereof be contributory to the other parte.
34. Also every dweller, being no tenant, that will not doe and be ordered after this custumarye, then no copyhold tenant doe lete him any land to ferme with in any of the said towns, payne of forfaitinge of the same yf it be presented.

The ancient customary was 'entered and renewed' on August 12th, 1572, by Thomas Cammack, 'Generall Surveyor to the right Honorable John Darcy, Knight, Lord Darcy, of Chich St. Osith.' Again, on April 7th, 1719, the 'Customes and Customary' were 'read over and passed by us whose names are hereafter written and wee find the same to be part of our verdict.'

Note 1 V C H Essex Vol ii page 196
Note 2 On December 26th 1688 John Stone and Richard Stone were of the 'homage' then sworn
Note 3 Held by Thomas Baxton in 3 and 4 Philip and Mary

See also MARG_313_011

AuthorW. Gurney Benham
SourceMersea Museum