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Eaton Bray Manor Regulations

This piece is taken from a document drawn up by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service staff for a lecture or exhibition on Eaton Bray. It refers to the regulations imposed by the Manor of Eaton Bray to ensure efficient farming.

Village life in Eaton Bray in the seventeenth century was largely controlled by the manor court, which made rules for the benefit of the inhabitants. Among the orders for 1694 were the following:

“That none shall put any maingee or infectious horses upon the Commons upon paine of forfeite … 10 shillings”.

“That none shall suffer their hoggs or pigs of a quarter of a year old to goe on the Common Greenes unringed upon paine … 3 shillings and 4 pence”.

“That everyone having any watercourse belonging to him upon any of his lands in Longland and Whitecross Lane to the Fenne Furlong on both sides of the way leading to Standbridge shall scoure the same within tenne daies after the ploughing thereof upon paine … 12 pence”.

“That none shall lay any strawe or dung upon or neere the cawsies [roads] to make any clomps or dunghills to hurt or spoile the cawsies upon paine … 20 shillings”.

“That none shall dig any clay upon the Common Greenes upon paine … 3 shillings 4 pence”.

“That William Bonnicke shall be herdsman from the 25th day of Aprill till Saint Edwardstide having sixpence a head for the heard cattle and usuall customes”.

“That William Fowler shall be heyward for one year next and that he shall have for his wages one penny for every acre of arable land which is sowed with graine within the parish of Eaton Bray and one penny for every acre of meadow in Eaton Fenne Meade to keepe drove cattle from goeing into the same and he shall have for every pinlocke [the money paid to the hayward, who locked and unlocked the pound gate when impounding stray cattle] of our towne twoe pence a head and for every pinlocke of out townes foure pence a head and that he shall see that noe hoggs goe upon the Commons unringed”.

Another hayward, appointed in 1820, found out that his duties were not easily carried out. Each commoner had the right to graze a certain number of animals on the commons according to the amount of land he held in the parish. The Hayward had to be notified of the number of beasts each turned on to the commons each year. In November 1820 Edward Barnes, the hayward, saw 127 sheep belonging to William watts, who had given no notice that his sheep would be put on the common. At this time there was no pound in Eaton Bray and so Barnes asked Joseph Roberts, another Hayward, to drive thirty of the sheep to Richard Thorn’s whose premises were being used as a temporary pound. Before he got there, however, he was met by William watts, who paid him his pinlock of sixpence and took the sheep home. Meanwhile the Hayward drove the other ninety seven sheep to Thorn’s and sent a message to Watts telling him what had happened. Watts came to the pound and started driving out the sheep but the hayward stopped him saying that Watts had treated him in this way before and that he could only have the rest of the sheep left in the pound if he paid a fine. Watts refused to pay and claimed his sheep could not stay in the pound as “they were sadly”. He then went into the White Horse where he made a note of all the land he held, but Barnes, the hayward, said he was claiming more than he had and asked him where it was. “Ask your Arse you fool” answered Watts, and after a few more words disappeared into the White Horse and was not seen in Eaton Bray again that evening [QSR24(1820) 530-532].

As there were already some animals belonging to another commoner in Richard Thorn’s pound, Barnes directed Thomas Clark and William King to take Watts’ sheep to Stanbridge pound for safe custody, but on the way, Watts took the two men into custody and delivered them to Stanbridge constable as sheep stealers; they were forced to stay in Stanbridge and to appear before a Justice of the Peace the next day.

It was decided finally that Watts had the right to graze only a hundred sheep in Eaton Bray and thus a fine was due on twenty seven of them.

A map of 1848 shows that when the new pound was erected it stood next to the pond behind William Brown’s smithy, opposite the aforesaid White Horse Inn.

In 1936 Bedfordshire Historical Record Society published Volume III of their Survey of Ancient Buildings series. It was divided between toll roads and pounds, the latter section being written by J. Steele Elliott. He wrote this of Eaton Bray pound: “The wooden Pound stood on what is now a small open space alongside the road opposite the ‘Five Bells’, which is used as a road store depot. It was demolished about 1900”.