Staffordshire Historical Collections, Vol. 4. Originally published by Staffordshire Record Society, London, 1883.
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The hamlet of Marston, in the parish of Church Eaton, was an ancient possession of the great Benedictine Abbey of St. Remigius at Rheims. It has from time immemorial been treated as a member of the neighbouring manor of Lapley, the caput of their English possessions, where the Abbot's courts were held.
"Lepelie" and "Merestone," are, by some confusion of the transcribers, erroneously placed by Domesday in Northamptonshire, where they are thus described:—
"In the hundred of Codwestan [Cuttlestone, a Staffordshire hundred], the Church of St. Remigius holds Lepelie. She similarly held it in the time of King Edward. With the appurtenances there are three hides there. The (arable) land is six carucates. In demesne are three carucates; and there are five serfs and eighteen villains and nine boors with eight carucates. There are sixteen acres of meadow; wood three quarantines in length and the same in breadth. The value is 4s.
In Mersetone two men of St. Remigius hold one hide. Of arable land there is one carucate. The value is 5s. Godwin held it [in Saxon times] with soke and sac."
The manor of Lapley was given to the Abbey by Algar, Earl of Mercia, in the time of King Edward the Confessor; and it is probable that Marston also was included in the gift. Mr. Eyton informs us how it came to pass that the Saxon Earl should make such a donation to a foreign Abbey. (fn. 1) The story is, that Aldred, Archbishop of York, going on a mission to Rome, took with him many noble Englishmen, and among the rest Burchard, a promising youth, the son of Algar. The Archbishop returning by way of Rheims, this illustrious youth was seized with mortal sickness, but before his death he requested that he might be buried in the Abbey at Remigius, promising in return that certain vills and farms of his inheritance should be given to that House. Earl Algar, with consent of Edward the Confessor, is said to have fulfilled his dying son's promise. There can be little doubt that this story contains the substantive cause of St. Remige's English endowments. Archbishop Aldred's embassy to Rome took place in 1061, and the more probable date assigned to the death of Algar is 1063.
A priory of black monks from the Abbey of St. Remigius was accordingly founded at Lapley, and the Prior of Lapley henceforward became its English representative. There is a Charter of Henry I. addressed to Robert, Bishop of Chester, Nicholas, Sheriff of Staffordshire, and Richard de Belmeis, Sheriff of Shropshire, which forbids these persons from summoning the Monks of St. Remigius to attend Hundred or County Courts, but it allows them to send their Bailiffs or one of their tenants. It is tested by Henry, Earl of Warwick, at Waltham, and must have passed between 1102 and 1108. (fn. 2)
This privilege appears to have been subsequently interfered with by the Sheriffs, and in 1272, by writ dated on 11th July, the King, on the complaint of the Prior, ordered an inquiry to be made into the matter. The inquisition was to be taken at Kynewarston, on the Sunday after the feast of St. Peter ad Vincula, 56 Henry III. (7th August, 1272), before Ralph de Hengham (Richard de Honne (Onn) being the first juror, and Robert de Brinton and John de Engleton the two last). They reported that the Prior of Remigius of Lappelee holds one hide of land in Merseton, for which they owe suit every month at the County (Court) of Stafford, and every three weeks at the Hundred of Cuddleston, and they have been accustomed to do suit ever since they have been in seisin of the said land, and that suit is worth yearly half a mark, and it will be a loss to the King of half a mark if he remits to them the aforesaid suit. But for their tenements in Aston and Lappelee they have never paid suit, having been acquitted by the charters of the Kings of England from time out of mind, not only as regards the suits of counties, but of hundreds and of other suits; neither did they pay any yearly sum for such acquittance; but they said that John le Strange, who had been Sheriff of the counties of Stafford and Salop more than twenty years ago, distrained for a trespass of the then Prior, and took from him half a mark; and in subsequent years he took by extortion, in one year half a mark, and in another year ten shillings; and the Sheriffs who succeeded John le Strange took sometimes more, sometimes less, until within the last fourteen years, when Hugh de Akore, who was then Sheriff, distrained the said Prior to pay him 5 marks yearly; so that the King has been accustomed to receive 5 marks yearly from the time of the said Hugh until now. (fn. 3)
I do not find any mention of Marston among the lands of the Priory of Lappeley in Pope Nicholas's Taxation, about 1291, when the Prior is stated to have at Lappeley, in the Deanery of that name, three carucates of land, of which each carucate is worth 15s. yearly. He has also of stores 20s.; of meadow 40s. yearly; one mill worth half a mark yearly; a dove-house worth 2s. yearly; a vivary worth half a mark yearly; from pleas and perquisites 10 marks yearly; and of assigned rents 40s. yearly. He has also at Aston (WheatenAston, in the parish of Lapley), in the same Deanery, half a carucate of land, worth 10s. yearly; a mill worth half a mark yearly; a dove-house worth 2s. yearly; and of assized rents 20 marks yearly; total, £28 19s.
About the same time, namely, 20 Edward I., the Prior of Lapley had a grant for a market on a Tuesday, and a fair on the vigil and the day of St. Peter ad vincula at Aston, and for free warren in Lappeley, Merston, and Aston. (fn. 4)
In Hilary term of 21 Edward I. (1291) the Prior of Lappeleye was summoned to show by what right he claimed to hold pleas of the Crown, and to have free warren, a market, fair, gallows, and waif in his manors of M'ston, Lappeleye, Hydeslond, and Aston. He came and said that as to the manor of M'ston he claimed only free warren there: in proof of his right to which he produced the King's Charter, which was accepted. As to the other manors he said that Hydeslond and Aston were members of the manor of Lappeley, in which he claimed a view of frankpledge and gallows, which he and his predecessors from time immemorial had had and used in the said manor and its members; and as to the other liberties in the said manor and its members he laid no claim to them. Hugh de Lowther, who followed on the King's behalf, denied that the predecessors of the aforesaid Prior had enjoyed the said liberties which he claimed in the said manor and its members, from time immemorial, without interruption, for that King Richard in his time had possessed and used the aforesaid liberties. The Sheriff afterwards testified that the King had received from the said Prior 5 marks yearly for a view of frankpledge; so that the Prior's right was maintained. As to his right of free warren, he produced the above mentioned charter of King Edward I., upon which his right was allowed. (fn. 5)
In 1316, in the survey of 9 Edward II., the Prior of Lapley is returned as Lord of Lapley, Marshton, Ashton, and Aston. (fn. 6)
During the wars with France the lands of the foreign abbeys were frequently taken into the King's hands, and at such times the Priors of Lappeley were reduced to great distress. In 12 Edward III. (1338) the Prior of Lappeley preferred a petition to the King and his council, showing that the Priory had been taken into the King's hands, and let to secular persons at so exorbitant an extent that the same farmers cannot raise the farm without causing destruction of the woods and other goods and chattels of the Priory, which is therefore being destroyed, and nothing is apportioned for the sustenance of the Prior, who goes about the country begging for his bread; while the alms, charities, and divine services which were accustomed to be performed in the said Priory are entirely withdrawn; and yet the King does not receive his farm. The Prior therefore prays to the King and council to grant a writ to the Escheator or to the Sheriff of the same place to extend the said Priory to its true value, and to inquire concerning the destruction made in the same, and to certify the court thereof; so that the same Prior may have the wardship of his said Priory according to the same extent; and that he may have his sustenance, and be able to do the alms, divine service, and charities which belong to the same Priory out of the remainder; and that he in the meantime may have the wardship of the same Priory, so that it may not be destroyed. In compliance with this petition the King issues his mandate to Thomas de Halghton, Roger Hillary, and Henry de Hambury, requiring them to extend the said Priory; the mandate being dated on 20th February, 1338.
The extent, which was taken at Stafford on the Friday next after the feast of St. Gregory the Pope (13th March, 1338), reports that the chief manse of the Priory in Lappeley, with the curtilage and garden adjoining, is worth yearly beyond the reprize 16d.; also there is there a certain decayed dovecote, which is worth 2s. yearly; also there are there 160 acres of open field land in demesne, of which each acre is worth 6d. yearly; also there are there 20 acres of meadow, worth 2s. yearly the acre; also there are there three acres of several pasture, worth 4d. yearly the acre; also there are there about ten acres of wood, and the mast is worth, when it happens, 40d. There is no underwood, because it is destroyed for payment of the King's farm. Also there is a certain windmill which is worth yearly 6s. 8d. Also there are five tenants there, of whom Walter de Rideware, who holds of the Prior the manor of Rideware Hamstal by Grand Serjeanty, renders 5s. 4d. yearly; also Richard de Haukeston holds of the same Prior the manor of Silveston, and renders 20s. yearly. John Trussel of Cubblesdon also holds of the same Prior the moiety of the vill of Messord, for which he pays 16s. yearly, but the Prior has not dared to distrain for the same. There are also in the same manor thirteen customary tenants of ancient tenure, who each render 18½d. yearly, and perform divers services of ploughing, &c. The Prior ought to receive after the decease of each of the same thirteen tenants his best beast in the name of heriot, and his male horses and pigs if he has any. The Prior has a free court there, for which he pays to the King 5 marks, and he takes nothing beyond, and another court of his customary tenants which is worth 13s. 4d. yearly. Also the said Prior has there the Church of Lappeleye for his own use, and it is worth yearly 10 marks, the vicarage excepted. Also the Prior has at Whetenaston a messuage called le Mote, and it is worth yearly 12d.; and a certain watermill with a running stream, except in the winter time; and the said mill is worth 1 mark yearly, and no more, because the stream is destroyed for the payment of the King's farm. There are there forty customary tenants of ancient tenure, each of whom ought to render yearly to the Prior 3s. 1d.; and each of them ought to plough by himself and to harrow, reap, and mow in the autumn, in the same way as a tenant of Lappeleye, and ought to give after his death the same as a tenant of Lappeleye. Also there are at Merston eight tenants, each of whom ought to render to the Prior 3s. 1d. yearly at the Feast of St. Martin, and they do no work; but each of them ought to give after his decease the same as the other tenants of Lappeleye; but of the free tenants the same Prior has not dared to distrain. (fn. 7) As there is a memorandum endorsed upon the petition recommending that certain trustworthy persons should be appointed to extend the Priory lands, &c., and also that they should be let to the said Prior (whose name does not occur in the petition) for the said extent, if the King pleases, we may infer that he was allowed to farm the Priory of the King. But the Prior's condition does not appear to have been much improved, for on 22nd March, 1354, i.e., about sixteen years later, the King's mandate is directed to Roger Hillary, Hugh de Aston, John Musard, and Hugh le White, stating that Baldwin de Spinale, Prior of Lappeleye, an alien, has shown to the King that whereas the custody of his Priory of Lappeleye, together with everything belonging to the same Priory, has been committed to his charge by the King, to hold during the war between the King and his adversary of France, rendering therefore yearly to the King at his exchequer 20 marks, and that the same Priory as well by the pestilence which lately raged and afterwards by a certain sudden conflagration which arose in the said Priory, as by divers other imminent misfortunes, has been devastated, debilitated and impoverished to such an extent that the issues and profits arising from the same Priory are in no wise sufficient for the support of the same Prior and his necessary servants, and for the payment of the said farm; so that the same Prior will be compelled to restore his said custody to the King, and to relinquish his said house, unless a mitigation of a portion of the farm aforesaid, or of the whole, shall be made to him by the King for some time, in aid of the relief of his estate, and of the Priory aforesaid: the same Prior therefore prays that the King will, on account of the matters above stated, grant him relief. The King therefore, in order that he may do advisedly that which is best for himself and the same Prior in the same matter, wishes to be certified how much the same Priory is worth by the year according to the true value of the same, viz., in demesnes, homages, villenages, services, rents and other issues of the land, and also in ecclesiastical benefices appropriated to the same Priory, and pensions due to the same, if there be any; and (the King) assigns the above Roger Hillary and others to extend the Priory aforesaid by the oaths of good and lawful men of the county of Stafford, &c. Dated at Westminster, on the 22nd day of March, in the 28th year of the King's reign over England, and the fifteenth of his reign over France. (fn. 8) The inquisition was taken at Lichfield on Monday in the sixth week of Lent, in the 28th year of the reign of King Edward III. after the conquest over England (1354), by the oath of Roger de Picheford, John de Coveleye (Couley), Henry, Lord of Pilatenhale, John de Wolseleye, Richard del Newport, John de Covene, John Morys, William le Warde, of Weston, Richard Banastre, Richard de Bruynton, Roger Walter, of Pilatenhale, and Henry, son of Thomas de Pilatenhale, who say upon their oath that there are at Lappeleye belonging to the Prior of Lappeleye, within the manor of the same Priory, one chamber which is worth yearly beyond the reprizes 12d.; three granges each of which is worth yearly beyond the reprizes 12d.; and that there are no more messuages within the manor aforesaid, because all the other messuages of the same manor, by an unlucky accident, were burned; two carucates of land which are worth yearly beyond the reprizes 20s.; ten acres of meadow, which are worth yearly beyond the reprizes half a mark; thirty acres of land which lie uncultivated, and are worth yearly half a mark; twenty acres of waste, each acre whereof is worth yearly 3d.; six acres of wood, each acre of which is worth yearly 2d.; and they say that there are no more demesnes of the Priory aforesaid except two water-mills and one wind-mill, which are overthrown, and are worth nothing yearly; and three ponds, which are entirely dried up, and contain in themselves three acres of pasture, and each of them is worth yearly 6d. There are also there of rents of service £4 10s. yearly; two great courts holden by the year, the profits of which, when the farm thereof is paid by (sic) the King at his exchequer, in nowise exceed five marks by the year. The pleas also and the perquisites of the little courts there holden are worth yearly 20s.; and the ecclesiastical benefices are worth yearly six marks, and no more because the Prior of the Priory aforesaid has nothing there except the tithes of corn, and of this only two parts of the same tithe; and there are not any pensions due to the same Priory. Total of the extent annually £11 14s. 10d.; and the Priory aforesaid is worth nothing yearly beyond the extent aforesaid.
There is no mention of Marston in this extent, so that it is doubtful whether the rents due from the tenants there were farmed by the Prior at that time.
Owing to the frequent seizures of the estates of the alien Priories into the King's hands during the wars with France, the foreign Abbot and Convent, about 4 Richard II., determined to sell them to Thomas Cotterell, Clerk, and his assigns. But the sale does not seem to have taken effect, for this cell, coming to the Crown upon the general suppression of this kind of houses, was given by King Henry V., in the third year of his reign, to the College of Tong, in Shropshire, which had been founded in 12 Henry IV. by Isabel, relict of Sir Fulk Pembruge, Knight, for the maintenance of a warden, four chaplains, two clerks, and thirteen infirm old men. After the death of the said Isabel, the patronage of the College was to descend to Richard de Pembrugge and the heirs of his body, and for want of such heirs, to William de Ludlow, who had married Isabel, the sister of the said Richard de Pembrugge, and the heirs of their bodies, with remainder to the right heirs of Fulke de Pembrugge. The statutes and ordinances of the College of Tong throw some light upon the state of the morals and habits of the clergy of the later days of monastic institutions in England. They are to this effect: That none of the fellows, though all of them be in holy orders, should be capable of any other ecclesiastical preferment, except the master; that the master was to have a man and a pair of horses kept, at the expence of the College, to travel about the business of the fraternity, but if occasion require it he might keep more horses when he travelled to more distant parts (cum ad partes exteras se transtulerit); that the warden was exempted from residence when and as often as he absented himself in transacting the business of the college; but with this restriction, that he was not to be absent above two months in the year, and if longer, his salary was to be applied to the use of the College pro ratâ; that whichever of the fellows were absent from mass should forfeit 1d.; on every Sunday, if it could be performed conveniently, the Mass of the Holy Trinity was to be celebrated for the founders and benefactors; on Mondays, the Mass of the Holy Ghost; on Tuesdays, "Salus Populi," or the Mass for the salvation of all men; on Wednesdays, the Angels' Mass; on Thursdays, the Mass de Corpore Christi; on Fridays, the Mass of the Holy Cross; and on Saturdays, the Mass of Rest, by each chaplain deputed for his week; that if any of the almsmen was confined to his chamber by reason of sickness, one of the chaplains was to visit him thrice a week, as Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, and to say a mass each day; that if any stranger dined at the upper table, the clerk that brought him was to pay 3d. for his dinner, but if only ordinary common, then but 1¼d.; that the sub custos or sub-warden was to serve the cure of the parish church; that whoever was guilty of adultery, incest, perjury, sacrilege, robbery, after penance done for the first offence, he was to take an oath not to commit the like crime again, and if convicted the second time, to be expelled the house; that whoever committed lesser offences, as drunkenness, fornication, disobedience, evil language, and the like, was to be expelled for the third offence. Dated Anno 1411, Indictione quârta anno Johannis Papœ 23 primo apud Heywode Manerium Episcopi in diocœsi Lichfieldiensi. (fn. 9)
On the dissolution of the College of Tong in the time of Henry VIII., the whole of its possessions were granted to Sir Richard Manners for a sum of £486 4s. 2d. This was confirmed to him by King Edward VI. in the first year of his reign, (fn. 10) to hold to him and his heirs of the King in capite by the service of the fortieth part of one knight's fee, and an annual rent of £5 14s. 0½d., with a further annual rent of 12s. 11d. for Vernon's Chauntry in the Church of Tong. This grant includes, amongst other lands and manors in the counties of Salop, Stafford, and Leicester, the manor of Lapley, with all its rights and members; and lands, rents, services, &c., in Lapley, Hyddesland, Marshton, Assheton, Bykeford, Cubbeston, and Weston Huys, in the county of Stafford. (fn. 11)
As no lands in Marston are mentioned in the grant of Edward VI. to Sir Richard Manners, I imagine that little besides the manorial rights in this hamlet were conveyed to him, nor do I suppose that any more had been retained by the College of Tong or the monks of St. Remigius, who appear to have held no lands in demesne there.
Sir Richard's interest in the Lapley estate afterwards passed (by sale I suppose) to the Brooks; and by indenture of 21st March, 1620, between Richard Brook, of Lapley, co. Stafford, Esq.; Walter Brook, his son, and heir apparent; George Brook and John Brook, younger sons of the said Richard Brook; and Francis Brook, son of the said George Brook, the said Richard and Walter charge the manors or lordships of Lapley and Aston, the Rectory of Aston, and all their messuages, lands, tenements, and hereditaments in Lapley, Aston, Marston, Hidgland, and Bickford, co. Stafford, with a rent-charge of £80 per annum to be paid to the said George Brook. The said George Brook died in 1646, leaving his wife Joan, and two daughters, Dorothy, who married Francis Mildmay, and Elizabeth, who was living unmarried in 1654. Walter Brook, of Lapley, Esq., the eldest son, left an only daughter and heiress, Ursula, who married the Hon. Thomas Petre, younger son of (William) Lord Petre. The estate of Mr. Petre, as a recusant, had been sequestered to the use of the Parliament in or before the year 1645, and in or about the year 1654 two-thirds of the Lapley estate were restored to him by the Commissioners. (fn. 12)
I know not who were the earlier tenants in fee, but the chief part, if not the whole of the hamlet of Marston was in the possession of the Hill family during the latter part of the last century. From the Hills it passed, by purchase, in or about the first decade of the present century, to the Crocketts, of Shushions and Little Onn, who probably held it under the Lords of the Manor of Lapley. Mr. Crockett sold it, before 1850, to Mr. James Perry, from whom it passed by inheritance to the late William Perry Herrick, Esq., of Beaumanor, co. Leicester; at whose decease, in 1876, it devolved upon the present owner, Richard Dyott, of Freeford, in the county of Stafford, Esq.