Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Willington > WillingtonManorCourtRolls > Willington Manor Court Rolls Introduction

Willington Manor Court Rolls Introduction

The manor house on Gordons map of 1736 [CRT120-113]

The Manor House on Gordon's Map of 1736


Introduction to the Willington Manor Court Rolls & Accounts 1394 - 1674

By Dorothy Jamieson

Index to the Willington Manor Court Rolls

These documents have been transcribed from the mediaeval Latin over a period of several years. Many of the documents are damaged and very difficult to read. The Latin used is repetitive, but is much abbreviated and in some cases very complex. It would not have been possible to complete the translations without the help and encouragement of Kevin Ward, James Collett-White, Dr. Bridget Jones, Stephen Gibbs, and other fellow local historians and students. I am most grateful for their help and thank them very much; without them the task would never have been finished.

Most of the original documents are kept by Bedfordshire Archives Service as part of their Bedford Estate (Russell) archives in box R212, but eight rolls, dated between 1463 and 1472, are kept in the British Library, at reference Add. Ch. 26813/1-8. They also hold a Bailiff’s Account of the manor for 1457 to 58 at Add. Ch.657. The Arundel Castle Archive holds the Receiver’s Accounts for Willington in 1421 to 22 at ref: A 1642, and another for 1480 to 81 at A 1328. Some draft rolls from the sixteenth century are held at Chelmsford Record Office.

Other contemporary documents for Willington include the Bailiff’s Accounts from 1382 to 1397, held under reference R8/62/6. A full transcript of these compiled by J. S. Thompson is held by Befdordshire Archives. Although the Accounts for both Willington and Haynes survive they do not form a complete sequence. They begin in the year after the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, but Accounts for 1383 to 4, 1391 to 2, 1393 to 4, and 1395 to 6 are missing. The evidence suggests that in these unrecorded years changes took place because of disputes about rents and holdings. The first five manor court rolls overlap the later part of the Accounts series.

The syntax of the language has been modernized to make the rolls easier to understand and some basis punctuation has been added. Other additions to the text to make better sent of the originals or to indicate numerals in modern form, or words missing, have been enclosed in squared brackets [ ] thus. First names have often been modernized, for instance John is used rather than Johannes, but some attractive women’s names, such as Esalia, are as in the original. Surnames and place-names are as written in the originals, though the modern form of the latter usually follows in squared brackets.

There is evidence that the headings of some rolls have been written out beforehand, as some have copies have been abandoned and re-used at a later date. Also, on some rolls the headings have been written in a significantly different script from the script of the rest of the document. These include: 3, 33, 34, 35.

The jury of sworn men, also sometimes called the homage or the tithing men, almost always numbered 12, as did the second jury who were often appointed to verify the accuracy of the proceedings from 1405. On the rare occasions that the numbers were different details have been given in the summaries below.

Common fines were paid each autumn at the View of Frankpledge and were usually 12s at the beginning of the series.

According to Sarah Charlton[1] new legal and political developments in Tudor times, leading to the appointment of Justices of the Peace and greater emphasis on parishes rather than manors, meant that the power and business of the manor court dwindled

[1] MDR consultant working at Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Record Service from May 2012  on the Manorial Documents Register.