St. John's abbey
and its successors held courts leet until 1775,
and courts baron until 1924 although the courts
were held only every two or three years after
1865. In the late 15th century the court held in
the octave of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
(24 June), during St. John's fair in Colchester,
was called the fair court, but its business and
procedure did not differ from those of other
courts. (fn. 73) Medieval and early modern courts dealt
mainly with such offences as allowing animals
to trespass in the abbey's crops, taking timber
from the abbey's woods, and leaving ditches
unscoured; transfers of land were recorded,
pleas of debt heard, complaints made against the
aletaster, and brewers regularly amerced for
breach of the assize of ale. From the 1460s con-
stables and rent-collectors were elected, the
latter for particular tenements: in 1471 one was
a woman. In 1471 the tenants owed 18s. palfrey
silver at the election of a new abbot. Cases of
theft were heard in 1478 and of bloodshed in
1493. In 1488 the abbot was presented for not
repairing the stocks. Craftsmen and tradesmen
were presented in 1490 and 1493 for overcharg-
ing, and in 1494 for poor workmanship.
Colchester sergeants-at-mace infringed the lib-
erties of the manor by making arrests there in
1493 and 1500.
Before 1638 the court forbade the settling of
poor strangers on the manor, and in 1639
ordered the ringing of pigs and piglets. (fn. 74) From
1687 to 1729 surviving rolls record only the
transfer of copyholds, but in the 1730s un-
scoured ditches, unrepaired highways, and nuis-
ances were presented, and in 1738 orders were
made for commoning on the waste. Thereafter,
business was confined to the election of con-
stables and drivers, and the transfer of copy-
holds. In the 19th century courts were held at
the White Lion or Ship inns in Rowhedge. (fn. 75)
No records of vestry government survive.
Two overseers of the poor were recorded in 1655
but only one in 1737. (fn. 76) There was a surveyor of
the highways in 1608. (fn. 77) In 1650 the inhabitants
were presented at quarter sessions for failing to
maintain their roads. (fn. 78)
In 1642 the poor seafarers of East Donyland
needed help to maintain their poor. (fn. 79) A poor rate
in 1737 raised £22 15s., but the overseer spent
£23 9s. 6d. (fn. 80) In 1776 expenditure on the poor
was £82 11s., but between 1783 and 1785 it aver-
aged only £47 3s. 4d. In the earlier 19th century
expenditure per head of population was in most
years the lowest in the hundred. Total expendi-
ture reached £269, roughly 12s. 8d. per head of
population in 1813, but fell to £231 or c. 10s.
3d. a head in 1815. The number of people
relieved declined in the same period from 32 to
26. Expenditure rose fairly steadily to £383 14s.
or 14s. a head in 1819 before falling to £212 10s.
or 7s. 6d. a head in 1821. It rose slightly in the
1820s and early 1830s, reaching £403 or 11s. 8d.
a head in 1833. (fn. 81)
Daniel Bayley of Newmarket (Cambs.) in
1754 surrendered to the churchwardens and
overseers for the use of the poor a house which
was apparently used as pauper housing until it
was sold in 1838. (fn. 82)
||Paragraph based on E.R.O., D/DEl M143; D/DHt M145-8.
||E.R.O., D/DEl M145.
||Ibid. D/DEl M146-53; ibid. T/B 94, 142/2-4.
||Ibid. Q/SBa 2/91; ibid. D/DSb T7.
||Ibid. Q/SR 185/73.
||Ibid. Q/SBa 2/9.
||Ibid. Q/SBa 2/45.
||Ibid. D/DSb T7.
Rep. Sel. Cttee. on Poor Rate Returns, 1822-4, H.C. 334, Suppl. App. (1825), iv; ibid. 1825-9, H.C. 83, p. 62 (1830-1), xi; ibid. 1830-4, H.C. 444, p. 60 (1835), xlvii.
||E.R.O., T/B 142/2, 3; ibid. Q/CR 1/1, 1/10, 1/12; cf. ibid. G/LwM 3, p. 30.