A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC HISTORY
Until it was flooded by the suburban expansion of London Middlesex was an exclusively agricultural county, the near neighbourhood of the cities of London and Westminster preventing any great development of urban life or urban manufacture. There was no incorporate town in the county, and no trade but agriculture attained any degree of importance. But, containing as it did, some of the best arable land in the kingdom, within such easy reach of the London market; having also a sufficiency of good pasture and meadow land, and in the northern parts some valuable woodland, Middlesex, in the fourteenth century, was the second richest county in the kingdom. (fn. 1) When the wool tax of 1341 (15 Edward III) was levied, Middlesex (fn. 2) was assessed at 236 sacks, or one sack to 760 acres. The assessment of the richest county—Norfolk—was one to 610, and the counties which were the immediate neighbours of Middlesex were assessed at: Hertfordshire, one to 1,200 acres; Buckinghamshire, one to 1,260 acres; Essex, one to 1,580 acres; Surrey, one to 1,250 acres.
The Domesday Survey of Middlesex distinguishes three categories of servile tenants: villeins, bordars, and cottars. Of slaves proper there are only 104 in the whole county, and they make no further appearance in its history. Nor do we hear any more of the 'bordarii,' unless we may regard as their successors the holders of 'Bordlond' at Twickenham. Of the 2,132 tenants who are enumerated on the several manors in the six hundreds of the county, 1,936 are villeins (1,133), bordars (342), and cottars (461). The only free tenants mentioned in the survey are: 13 knights, 1 francus, 12 priests, 10 foreigners (francigenae), and 46 burgenses at Staines, nothing being said as to the status of 23 homines at St. Pancras who rendered 30s. a year. In the later records, on the contrary, from the time of Henry I onwards, free as well as servile tenants are mentioned on nearly all the manors of which we have any account. Already in the reign of Henry I there were at Harmondsworth free and custumary tenants and cottars. (fn. 3) At Kensington in 1263–4 the rents of the free tenants amounted to £4 15s., so that there must have been a certain number of them. The villein tenants held 21 virgates, their money rents amounting to £2 19s. 4½d., and there were two cottars. (fn. 4)
According to a Westminster Abbey custumal, in the reign of Henry III there were at Teddington five free tenants holding among them 10 virgates, and 15 custumary tenants holding 16½ virgates, besides five cottars whose holdings varied from 1 to 6 acres. Of the three other manors in the custumal, free tenants are mentioned on one only, Greenford. At Hayes and Paddington there appear to have been only custumers. (fn. 5) The survey of the St. Paul's manors of Drayton and Sutton in 1222 does not specify the status of the tenants, distinguishing only at Drayton twenty-nine tenants of demesne land and twenty-four of terra assiza. The demesne tenants have mostly small holdings, some paying money rents only, while some are posita ad operationem. The holdings of assized land are larger; one is a whole hide, two are half hides. There is one of 2 virgates, twelve of 1 virgate, and eight half virgates. The tenants all pay rents, generally at the rate of 4s. for a virgate, and render various services, but no week work. (fn. 6) A Drayton court roll of the time of Richard II in the library of St. Paul's cathedral mentions free tenants on the manor. In 1276–7 there is mention of seven free tenants on the manor of Edgeware. (fn. 7)
At Sutton there are three categories of tenants: seven demesne tenants who hold small tenements for rents and services; thirty-two tenants of assize land, one holding 3 virgates, four 1 virgate, ten half a virgate, and seventeen with smaller holdings. They hold at a variety of rents and services, some paying malt-silver (½d. to 5d.), and giving 8d. or 10d. de dono as well, and two paying 2d. ward-penny. Some of these holdings are in the hands of demesne tenants. Thirdly, there are eight operarii who hold 5 acres each, for weekly and boon works, paying no rent, but giving 5d. de dono, and 2½ malt-silver. Two of them, who hold assart lands as well as their 5 acres, pay rent only for them. (fn. 8)
The number of free tenants at Isleworth varies somewhat. In the time of Edward I there were four free and twenty custumary cottars, (fn. 9) while in 1315–16 nine free tenants superintended the mowing and reaping. (fn. 10) A rental of the parsonage (fn. 11) in the reign of Edward III enumerates nineteen free tenants, and a minister's account of the same reign mentions thirty-seven free virgaters. (fn. 12) According to a custumal quoted in the Historical Manuscripts' Commissioners' Report on the manuscripts at Syon House, there were also burgenses who held per cartam, and some of the free tenants were tallageable. (fn. 13) At Fulham by the reign of Richard II, at Stepney by the time of Edward III, and by the same reign at Kempton, where they are expressly stated to hold by socage tenure, the existence of free tenants is recorded. (fn. 14) Lastly, at Enfield, (fn. 15) though no free tenants are mentioned in our earliest account of the manor in the time of Henry VI, in an Elizabethan syllabus of all the free tenants in Middlesex, twenty-three are enumerated there; seven at Drayton; four at Fulham; eleven at Stepney and Hackney; and four at Harmondsworth. Neither Isleworth, Teddington, nor Kensington is given in the list at all. (fn. 16)
On some manors there were special tenures as to which the information derived from compotus rolls and even from custumals is not always very definite. Generally they are differentiated from the other tenants by doing a given number of works at a particular season, sometimes by different customs as to heriot and inheritance. Thus at Harmondsworth there are seven tenants, undistinguished by any special name, who render two works weekly between Michaelmas and Martinmas. (fn. 17)
There are several of these tenures at Isleworth. Eight custumary tenants held Forapellond. They had to attend the waterbedrippe, and they paid money rents as well. (fn. 18)
'Bordlond' was held by twenty-one custumary tenants in Twickenham. Their united rents amounted to £5 15s. 6d., and the net value of their services was 5d. a head. They held at a certain rent and tallage, and paid heriots of 2s. or 1s. according to the size of their holdings. They paid pannage and had to plough and harrow half an acre each at the winter sowing, fetching the seed from the grange; in return for which they each received 1d.; besides sending two men to one bedrippe at the lord's expense. (fn. 19) 'Bordlond' occurs at Fulham, but is only mentioned in the court rolls without any details as to the nature of the tenure there.
The tenants of 'Werklond' did the same ploughing works as the holders of 'Bordlond,' and they rendered 420 works during the fourteen weeks between Midsummer and Michaelmas, at the rate of three half days a week, in return for an allowance of half their rent, amounting to 1s. 3d. for each virgate. (fn. 20) The nature of the works done varied considerably, probably at the discretion of the reeve. Should they be kept beyond noon, they received 1d. each. These holdings passed by inheritance to the youngest son.
There were also at Isleworth six villein holdings, held for rent and services, 'misfre' or 'unfre' lands. The tenants ploughed, harrowed, sowed and carried grain to the field, receiving 2d. each, and sent two men to two bedrippes, who had one meal of bread, fish and cheese. If they had no beast they paid money heriots of 2s. for a virgate and 1s. for half a virgate. The eldest sons inherited. (fn. 21) In the Isleworth accounts for the reign of Edward III custumers called 'gader zerdus' put in an appearance, rendering with the cottars fifteen works at the ale-bedrippe and fifty-two at the water-bedrippe. They seem to have done no other works, and whether they paid rents or not, or what was the size of their holdings, does not appear. (fn. 22) An unexplained custom called a 'mismene' is mentioned in one compotus roll as yielding 6s. 8d. (fn. 23)
In the Teddington manor rolls tenants called 'hesebonds' or 'housebonds' appear who are mentioned neither in the Westminster custumal, nor in a rental of the time of Richard II. Nothing is said as to their status, and it is not easy to account for the land they held. At one time there are nine of them, at another fifteen. They do boon works only, it being expressly provided that they do not reap, but only follow the reapers, rod in hand, to superintend the work. (fn. 24) Certain tenants here rendered two unexplained customs called 'cherne' and 'russic.'
At Stepney, in the time of Edward I, (fn. 25) there were 10½ virgates of 'Shirlond,' 15 virgates of 'Cotlond,' and also 'Mollond' and 'Hydlond,' the virgate, for all four tenures, containing 20 acres. (fn. 26) One holding of a virgate containing 25 acres is noted as rendering the same services as the 'Mollond' virgates. The shirmen and cotmen owed weekly works for eleven weeks and three days in each year; six works a week being exacted from 8½ virgates, and three a week from the other 2 virgates of the Shirlond; while of the cotlond, 12 virgates owed five, and 3 virgates four days weekly. Instead of a corresponding number of these weekly works, the shirmen had to do 'redeherth' ploughing. The 'Hydmen' and 'Molmen,' on the other hand, rendered no weekly works, their services being confined to a certain tale of ploughing works and 'wodelods,' and to stacking corn, the amounts due differing for the two tenures.
In the accounts for 1392 (fn. 27) and later, the redditus assisi is entered in three sums, as accruing from free tenants (£17 14s. 11d.), custumary tenants (£1 6s. 5d.), and from 'Molelond' (£13 15s. 2d.). But 'Molelond' was held by freemen and custumers, 16½ acres being let on lease to custumers in 1362, (fn. 28) while in 1392 12 virgates were in the hands of free tenants. There were 'Molmen' at Enfield as well as at Stepney, but they are explicitly specified as custumers. Like the molmen at Stepney, the twenty-two 'molmen and cottars' at Enfield, (fn. 29) who differed from one another only in the amount, not in the nature of their holdings, did no weekly works, but sent twenty-six men, among them, to weed the lord's corn for one day (one man apiece from eighteen holdings, and two among the remaining four, probably the cottars', holdings) and mowed 23½ acres of meadow, (fn. 30) in the proportion of 2 acres per virgate for eighteen holdings and half an acre for the others. They also rendered, among them, twenty autumn boon-works, four tenants sending among them one man for two days at the lord's cost and the remaining eighteen each one man for one day. Thirteen of them also owed eleven carrying works (on foot). In view of the accepted definition of mol (or mal) men as custumary tenants, whose early release from servile works has reacted on their status in the direction of freedom, (fn. 31) it is curious to note that at Enfield the molmen, whose servile status is expressly asserted, were actually, in 1419, the only tenants on the manor who rendered works at all; while at Stepney, where the services generally were commuted very early, there is nothing to show that the mollond works were commuted earlier, or more completely, than those of the other tenures. In the Victoria History of county Durham (fn. 32) it is pointed out that the Hatfield Survey equates firmarius to malmannus (malmanni sive firmarii), and it is suggested that the malmen were farmers of portions of the demesne land, their services being, by special arrangement, extensively commuted for money payments. But at Stepney, as we have seen, though some mollond was let on lease, the commutation of molmen works proceeded pari passu with, and at Enfield was actually later than, those of the other holdings. Neither is there anything to show that the mollond was essentially, though some of it might be occasionally, demesne land. In one Stepney account one acre of mollond is mentioned under the heading of firme of demesne lands. Certainly at Enfield the molmen were not firmarii, for they rendered the same services before and after the leasing of the demesne, with the sole difference that afterwards their services belonged to the demesne farmer instead of to the lord of the manor. Now the demesne lease explicitly conveyed to the farmer all the weeding, mowing, and reaping works not let on lease (ad firmam non dimissis) nor commuted (necque arrentatis), (fn. 33) and these, as the accounts show, were precisely the works actually rendered to the firmarius by the twenty-two molmen.
'Acre ware' occur at Isleworth, Blanchappelton (a Duchy of Lancaster manor), and Fulham, but, unfortunately, not in a way to throw any illumination on that much-discussed term. At Stepney land is measured by 'day-work acres,' and on several manors in 'pyghtellings.'
On the two St. Paul's manors of Drayton and Sutton a portion of the land is distinguished as 'solanda' or 'scholanda.' This was identified erroneously by Archdeacon Hales (fn. 34) with the Kentish 'sulung' or 'solinus,' but Mr. Round has shown that it has no connexion with sulung, and is not a measure of land at all, but means a prebend, implying that the estates in question were prebends of St. Paul's. (fn. 35)
There are indications that the virgate represented a variable number of actual acres on different manors, and even, as at Stepney, on different holdings of the same manor. It is noted in the survey of Drayton of 1222 that the virgate there contained 16 acres, and at Teddington in the reign of Edward III one or two virgate holdings are stated to contain 16½ acres, and half-virgate holdings 8½ acres. At Harmondsworth, where there was a great deal of sub-letting, a holding generally continued to be called a virgate however much its actual contents had been reduced by subdivision.
The earliest custumal we possess for any Middlesex manor is one of Harmondsworth of 11 Henry I (1110–11), which is transcribed in a valor of the reign of Richard II. It is the sworn verdict of twelve jurors on the customs and services owed by the tenants to the abbot of Saint Katherine's of Rouen, (fn. 36) the lord of the manor, and gives the services in great detail.
At the time of sowing, every villein tenant who owned a plough had to plough and harrow 2 acres, one for corn and one for oats. The lord supplied the seed, and his servant sowed it, but the tenant had to fetch the seed from the grange and cart it to the field. Of whatever kind the seed might be, the tenant's horse must not have a feed from it, but if any remained over after the sowing it was to be taken back to the grange by the servant. Those villeins who had no plough were to thrash in the grange till vespers instead of ploughing.
At the hay harvest all the villeins, except the cottars, must mow for one day at their own cost, it being understood that they are bound to complete the mowing of the meadow, and that the lord is bound to find two mowers to help them. Custumers who do not come the first day may do their mowing on the morrow or at the lord's pleasure without fine. At vespers, after the day's mowing, each tenant receives as much grass as he can lift on the heft of his scythe in the presence of the lord or his ministers. But if the scythe break he loses the hay, and is fined into the bargain. When all the mowing is finished the tenants receive from the lord a ram or 13d. in lieu thereof.
All villein tenants, including the cottars, must attend or send one man to lift, load, and stack the hay, bringing with them any tenants they may have. For this work they are at their own expense. Every tenant who possesses a cart or wagon must carry three loads of hay to the grange, where those tenants who have no carts stack it, each working for the time occupied on its three journeys by the cart with which he came. Should the rain prevent the completion of this task, the tenants must make good the hours that are lacking either on the morrow or at the lord's pleasure. Any carrying works which may not be needed at hay-time must be made up, load for load, at the cornharvest cartings. There were three precariae at Harmondsworth: a water-bedrippe, the Great Precaria, and a third and very ill-named lovebedrippe, for it was a never-ending source of contention between the lord and his tenants. Every tenant had to attend the first boon day, when summoned by the crier, coming at the hour of prime with all his servants and tenants, and working till vespers. At noon every thirteen reapers received three loaves made from one bushel of corn. To the great bedrippe all the free and villein tenants and cottars were summoned to reap from prime until vespers at the lord's cost. After the day's work they had a supper in the hall, consisting of broth of peas or beans, bread, cheese and beer in sufficient quantity, and a dish of meat or fish to the value of 1½d. for every two men. Those who were tired out (gravati) by their task and could not sup with the others might carry their portions home with them. The superintendents of the reapers had beer in the hall at noon as well. They were responsible for any damage accruing from bad work.
For the third or love-bedrippe every tenant had to provide one man to bind the corn from prime; one meal in the hall being provided for each man. All villein tenants who had carts or wagons must carry three loads to the grange, without food or drink, and their horses must not eat of the sheaves. If any tenant worked otherwhere than in the lord's fields on the days of the first two bedrippes he was in the lord's mercy. After the wheat was carried the animals of the vill commoned on the fields.
Except the free tenants and the cottars all must provide one man to weed and one to clean the ponds (riperia) every three years, receiving one meal each of bread, cheese and beer, and a dish of meat or fish for every two men.
Every hide of bond-land must fence one perch every three years right round the manor, each tenant fetching the pales from the manor and fencing in proportion to the amount of his holding. The only week work done on the manor is by seven tenants who render two days a week from Michaelmas to Martinmas, four of the holdings rendering twelve, and two six days; the seventh is quit of his works. A later compotus states that they must do any kind of work which the reeve may impose on them.
All the native tenants and the tenants of the freemen whose holdings border on the woods have a right to wood and pannage, and whether there be mast in the wood or no they must pay for pannage 1d. on every pig over a year old and ½d. on all younger. All the villeins must bring their pigs to the court at Martinmas and pay their pannage, and if the lord be in doubt as to the age of any pig its owner is to be quit on oath and for 1½d. The lord is bound to provide a herd to watch the pigs while they are in the woods and to bring them home.
Every tenant in Harmondsworth and Ruislip, man or woman, bond or free, owes at his or her death a heriot of the best beast on the holding, and on changing hands the holding must be redeemed by a fine at the lord's discretion. No bondage tenant may marry son or daughter within or without the vill except by the lord's licence, for which he must fine at the lord's will, nor may any villein enter holy orders or leave the vill without his lord's permission. Nor may they let their lands out of the lord's dominion, nor place metes and bounds without leave and under the supervision of the lord's servants. Every bondage tenant is tallageable at the lord's will and pleasure either annually or when he comes over sea.
No tenant—bond or free—may shake down mast in the woods or thrash in Ruislip woods, on pain of having their teams confiscated by the forester till they have fined to the lord for their transgression. Neither may any tenant fish in the lord's water except for a dish of fish for the diet of himself and his wife, and then any fish more than a foot long goes to the lord.
The lord may seize the teams—oxen or horses—of any tenants, who, owing rent at Trinity, have not paid by the day after the feast, detaining the teams for a day and a night, after which time, unless the tenant have redeemed it by paying the rent, the lord may take the team to his own use.
Any villein tenant must serve as reeve or crier at the appointment of his lord, being quit of all other service and rent for his holding during his term of office. (fn. 37) The reeve and the crier either dined daily at the lord's table, or received a weekly allowance of a bushel of wheat apiece, 'and nothing more save by the lord's grace.' The crier had charge of the hay while it was in cocks, and was responsible for any damage to it. While watching the hay he had his lodging in the meadow.
The smith also held his tenement in return for the special services of his trade, being quit of all other obligations, except a yearly rent of 2s. He had to repair and replace the shares of the demesne ploughs, the lord providing the necessary iron and steel, to sharpen the tenants' scythes when they mowed for the lord, and to shoe the front feet of two beasts all the year round, keeping as his perquisite the old shoes, if they were still on the feet. In 1434 the smith's duties were not rendered because there was no one on the manor of that custom, and the tenement was ruinous. (fn. 38) So that evidently the smith's duties were accredited to a particular holding. The manor smiths were sometimes paid a regular stipend as at Isleworth and Paddington. (fn. 39) On the latter manor the smith's stipend is 18s. 'by custom,' and he makes as well as repairs the ploughs. At Isleworth he gets 6s. 8d. for repairing the ploughs, including the materials.
The Harmondsworth custumal does not mention how the forester of the manor was appointed. On some manors any villein had to serve in this capacity, too, if appointed by the lord. This was the case at Sutton, (fn. 40) where the forester, who was apparently one of the operarii, held his 5 acres free of all works in return for his services as woodward, and also at Paddington, where the woodward had 2 acres free of all services, pasture in the woods, and the loppings of the timber felled for the lord's ploughs. (fn. 41) Sometimes the office was, or tended to become hereditary. At Sutton it is particularly stated that the woodward had no hereditary right to the office and its emoluments. His father, it is recorded, had 28d. a year as stipend, he lost and never recovered the 5 acres, and was dismissed from the office. At Harmondsworth, on the contrary, it was hereditary. In 1383–4 the horn of office was successfully claimed by the cousin and heir of the late forester, (fn. 42) and later on it actually passed by inheritance to the second husband of the incumbent's widow. In the time of Henry VIII (fn. 43) one William Norton was forester, who held a 'principal tenement' of 160 acres by military tenure and also a small holding, whether bond or free is not stated, called a 'tile-place,' with a 'tile-house.' If the office of woodward was connected with any holding, it must have been with this latter one, as this one only passed at his death to his widow. The widow re-married within a year of her husband's death, and her second husband succeeded to the office of woodward jure uxoris suae.
At much less length, and with far less detail, than the Harmondsworth record, a custumal of Westminster Abbey states the rents and services due from the abbot's tenants in his Middlesex estates in the time of Henry III. (fn. 44) The Harmondsworth customs are fairly typical of the services rendered on the different manors, though there is some variation in the amount of ploughing and the number of boon-days exacted and in the amount and nature of the extra works and weekly works. (fn. 45) With few exceptions, such as the holders of half virgates at Teddington, and the operarii at Sutton, who pay no rent, the tenants render money rents as well as services; tallage is mentioned nearly everywhere and remained nominally constant over very long periods, though sometimes lowered 'by the lord's grace' in bad times. 'Gersilver' or 'gerspeni' or pannage is paid nearly everywhere, generally at the rate of 1d. or ½d. for each pig according to its age; but at Paddington the tenants pay a round sum, 19s., among them, and at Greenford it is ½d. for every pig, and at Enfield it is 4d. and 3d. per pig.
Of dues in kind, at Greenford the tenants brought ten eggs at Easter and the Hanwell tenants paid the fourth part of a quarter of wheat once a year. A bushel of barley and five eggs at Easter were exacted from each tenant at Teddington, as well as a hen from every two at Christmas, and they paid a certain number of sheaves of wheat and barley as a composition for trespassing fines. The Kensington tenants rendered sixteen and a half lambs, thirty-three hens, and 415 eggs among them.
As to the ploughing works, the tenants at Paddington ploughed, sowed and harrowed twice a year, while at Greenford the free tenants ploughed one acre, except one of them who ploughed two; one for wheat and one for oats; and even a third if exacted by the lord. This tenant and another defended the manor in the county and hundred courts. Four acres to plough and three to harrow was the allowance at Teddington; two acres for every half virgate at Sutton; at Drayton one acre for each holding. The tenants at Isleworth in the time of Edward III ploughed half an acre for each half virgate, fetching and carrying the seed, and received 2d. for every acre ploughed.
No weekly services are mentioned either at Paddington or at Drayton; at Isleworth they are confined to the holders of Werk and Akerlonds, and at Sutton to the operarii. The custumers at Teddington rendered three works in every fortnight—Monday and Friday one week, Wednesday the next—except from Midsummer to autumn, when they did only one weekly work, and during the six autumn weeks, when they rendered three days in each week. At Greenford they did five works in each month, except during the autumn weeks, when an extra day in the week was required. At Hayes and Kensington one day a week all the year round was exacted, with a second between 1 August and Michaelmas.
No weekly works are mentioned in an extent of the manor of Edgeware in the year 1276. (fn. 46) There the majority of virgaters paid a money rent of 5s. 11½d., and rendered works valued at 1s. 6d.: namely, four men to reap in autumn, one at their own and three at the lord's expense; one day's carting at the lord's expense, and two half-days' binding sheaves; two half-days' weeding, one half-day's harrowing, and a half-day's fencing, and four carrying works (averagia). The rent of the half-virgate holdings was 2s. 11½d., and their works were worth 9½d., as they sent four men (three ad cibum domini) to reap instead of five, did only half-a-day's carting and no averagia. All the tenants had to mow the meadow (6½ acres 1 rod) among them.
The extra works were heaviest at Greenford, where they included besides two days each at harrowing, weeding and thrashing, the hay harvest of two meadows, a day's carting after the autumn precariae and half a day's fencing in Easter or Whit-week. At Drayton and Sutton the two 'firme' which each manor rendered in kind for the canons' table at St. Paul's had to be carried to London by the tenants, besides the usual weeding, thrashing, and carting wood and manures. Washing and shearing sheep was another extra service, sometimes performed by the cottars, sometimes by particular custumers. The harvest of one and sometimes two meadows had to be completed by the tenants on all the manors. At Teddington the hay-makers received from the lord a dignarium, at Paddington 17d. and a cheese worth 4d.; while at Drayton they had half a load of wheat, a sheep, and a 'scultellata' of salt, and at Edgeware 6d., a cheese worth 2d., and salt to the value of ½d.
The usual number of boon-days is either three, as at Paddington, Kensington, and Teddington, where the free tenants only attend two, while the custumers send six men to three; or two, as at Drayton, the one with food being attended by all the tenants' servants as well as by the tenants themselves. At Sutton the tenants send one man to the dry and two to the 'wet precaria'; and at Isleworth, where again the free tenants attend as overseers only one bedrippe and have three meals a day of bread, cheese, and beer, at the lord's cost, the custumers have to attend two, receiving only one similar meal in the day, but without beer at the second bedrippe. At Greenford the free tenants attend one 'precaria,' while there are six—four being dry—for the custumers; but these probably include ploughing days, which were sometimes called 'precaria,' and are not otherwhere mentioned for the Greenford custumers. At Hayes no boon-days are mentioned.
The food provided at the 'precariae' is carefully specified at Teddington, where at the first 'precaria' the servants had a meal of bread, water and two dishes, and the masters received 30 gallons of beer. Masters and servants had bread, water and two dishes at the second 'precaria.' At the great 'precaria' the masters had a dignarium of bread and cheese and beer, the servants had water and two dishes, and masters and servants supped together, provided with a sufficiency of beer. On the second day of the great 'precaria' all the 'consuetudinarii' dined together, and when the harvest was finished they received a measure (sectariam) of beer. The fare provided for the tenants on all the manors was ample in quantity and quality. Bread and cheese with either fish or meat was the usual dinner, and at supper there was often a pottage of beans or peas as well. At Harmondsworth in 1434 the provisions laid in, either from the stock of the manor or by purchase, for the autumn boon-days included bread, cheese, milk and butter and eggs, beer, beef, pork and other meat, ducks, salt-fish, and herrings. If the usual diet of the tenants at their own tables was in anything like the same proportion, there would seem to be some justification for Froissart's surprise at the 'grant aisse et craisse' in which the English peasant lived, and in which the chronicler, who was not remarkable for democratic sympathies, saw the source and origin of their turbulence at the 'hurling-time.' (fn. 47)
Although the works were apportioned to the separate holdings, there was a certain amount of joint responsibility for certain services. Thus it was generally understood that the mowing and carting of the hay from the whole meadow must be completed, and if tenements were in the lord's hands, he had to provide substitutes for a corresponding share of this work. Again at Kensington all the tenants were responsible for the ploughing of a given number of acres, and at Isleworth when the number of cottars fell from five to four, the four had to do the same amount of stacking hay that was formerly done by the five. This common liability is illustrated by an Isleworth inquisition (fn. 48) into the status of a certain Nicholas Est of Heston, who complained that being of free status he had been presented at the court not by his lord but by the villein tenants of the manor for failing to render villein services.
Though there are many cases in the records of tenants being not 'heriotable,' as a general rule heriots were paid by free and bondage tenants alike. Even on the same manor there would seem to be a certain variation in the heriots, and sometimes special classes of tenants paid special heriots, as we have seen was the case with some of the Isleworth tenures. At Harmondsworth it is stated to be the 'custom of the manor' that no heriot accrued when there was neither live stock nor chattels on the holding; but nevertheless there are a great many instances of money heriots paid because there is no animal on the holding, and often heriots are paid in money without any reason being assigned. In a few cases the heriot consisted of clothing, as for instance a 'russet kirtle' and a tunic 'blodii coloris' lined with white lambskin. In one case a table and a scythe were given because there was no beast on the holding. There would seem to be no fixed amount here for the money heriots, but in one or two cases the amount of the heriot was specified when the holding was granted to the tenant. A heriot of 6d. is accepted from one tenant, 'quia pauper,' and in the time of Edward IV an apparently accepted heriot of a 'horscolt' is stated to be of no value because it is dead. According to the custom of the manor, when a holding was held jointly by husband and wife the heriot only accrued at the death of the survivor, because on the death of the first co-tenant the holding does not change hands. Nevertheless instances occur in the rolls of heriots paid at the first death, and there is at least one of heriots paid at both deaths. At Harmondsworth, where disputes were always plenty, there was a good deal of trouble in obtaining the heriots from the tenants in the fifteenth century, and orders to distrain for them are frequent, though more often made and repeated than executed.
It is more than once stated that according to the custom of the manor a widow's free bench consisted of a fourth part of her husband's holding, and in the fifteenth century a widower claimed the fourth part of his late wife's holding, 'per legem Anglie,' and 'according to the custom of the manor.' In many instances, however, the wife would seem to inherit the entire holding.
At Drayton and at Stepney the rule no animal, no heriot, applies, though there are two cases at Drayton, in a court roll at St. Paul's, where there being no animal a payment was made 'tam per finem quam per heriot.' We have already noted the special heriots paid by holders of Bordlond and 'unfre lond' at Isleworth of 2s. or 1s. accord ing to the size of their holdings. The usual cottar's heriot here was 3d.
At Kempton a money payment was made in the absence of live stock, and the amount would seem to be proportioned to the rent; in one case where the rent was 8d. the heriot was the same sum, and in two others, a virgate and a two-virgate holding paid 5s. 1d. and 10s. 1d. respectively, which would be roughly equal to the usual rent.
The history of the process by which the services on the Middlesex manors were commuted for money payments aptly illustrates the wisdom of Dr. Maitland's warning against facile generalizations from the history of particular manors to the history of 'the manor.' In Middlesex at any rate it is impossible to generalize at all as to commutation; each manor went its own way, some commuted earlier, some later, some by the gradual sale of services, some by a formal agreement, some by the grant of leases at money rents. One would expect a priori the neighbourhood of London, by providing the tenants with a market and the landlords with a source of supply for free labour, to accelerate the process of commutation, and tempt the tenants to desert the manors. As a matter of fact commutation in Middlesex on the whole was later instead of earlier than in other counties, and there are very few cases in the manor rolls of either fugitive tenants or tenants fining to remain away.
The earliest commutation of which the writer has found a record occurred on the manor of Harmondsworth shortly before 1110–11. (fn. 49) One of the seven tenants who rendered weekly works between Michaelmas and Martinmas was released from his six days' work by the prior then in office, in return for a yearly rent of 12d. Another early, but only temporary, commutation on the same manor is mentioned in 1390, (fn. 50) in a dispute as to the rent and status of a tenant whom the abbot claimed as his villein and attached for withholding 12d. a year rent as well as for 'diverse rebellions.' Walter atte Nasshe, on the other hand, asserted that he was free as were his predecessors, and that he held a virgate of land as heir to a certain Roger de Fraxino, who came to the manor as a stranger and took from the lord a messuage and virgate for an annual rent of 6s. and all the custumary services. At what date the said Roger came to Harmondsworth is not stated, but it is clear that there was more than one tenant between him and Walter atte Nasshe. Subsequently Roger obtained the land 'per cartam' at a composition rent of 7s. in lieu of all services and customs. Roger's heirs, however, reverted after his death to the original tenure, paying 6s. rent and performing the services due from a virgate of land according to the custom of the manor. And by this tenure Walter atte Nasshe claims and apparently desires to hold the virgate, unless indeed the alternative sought to be imposed on him by the lord was the payment of the higher rent and the performance of the services as well. After this there were practically only a few temporary commutations at Harmondsworth until after the time of Henry VI. In the reign of Richard II (fn. 51) the services rendered on the manor coincided absolutely with those enumerated in the custumal of the twelfth century, and in 1433–4 (12–13 Henry VI) (fn. 52) the same number of holdings is rendering exactly the same works as their predecessors rendered three hundred years before, and receiving the same dues in return. The mowers still get their heft load of hay each, and the 13d. for their 'mederam.' It is quite clear from the terms of the account in 1434 that the works were actually performed, and that the statement is not a mere survival of a formula with no real meaning. The expenses of the autumn 'precariae' are accounted for; it is noted that the custumary works sufficed for the mowing, and an allowance is made for the works of three holdings which are in the lord's hands. Only two tenants pay for their works, Roger Tenterden 3s. 4d. and Robert Hiton 12d. The latter made this arrangement in 1421, (fn. 53) in which year he covenanted with the lord to give a capon in lieu of services, and in the future to pay for them 12d. a year. This survival of services is the more remarkable that, although the formal number of holdings is unaltered, the actual distribution of them has been much modified by sub-letting, of which there was a great deal on this manor, subdividing, and consolidating the holdings. During the reign of Henry VI two or three tenants took up a good many holdings; Roger Hubard, the 'prepositus' of this very account, for one. A good many leases had also been granted and continued to be granted by this time. In this matter of commutation, Ruislip, which belonged to Harmondsworth, is a great contrast to it. In 1434–6, when the tenants on the latter manor were rendering all their services, the Ruislip tenants were quit of all theirs, some being sold and some definitely commuted under a new rental. (fn. 54) A curious arrangement made with a tenant in 1417 illustrates the reluctance with which the lord conceded commutations at Harmondsworth. In that year a certain John Samon took over a toft and half virgate which had escheated to the lord at the death of the last tenant. The holding was granted to Samon for five years at a rent of 7s. instead of all services and customs, always provided that the lord did not, during that term, concede it to a tenant holding according to the custom of the manor for rent and services, in which case Samon's lease was to determine. (fn. 55) Another rather curious case occurred in 1428. (fn. 56) Three tenants of Stanwell were sentenced to a fine of 2s. for trespassing and cutting thorns on the Harmondsworth demesne. Subsequently, at the special prayer of several of his own tenants, the lord remitted the fine on condition that each of the men should do one day's work at the following autumn bedrippe. And yet at this time some of the services were actually not profitable. In the reeve's account for 1433–4 (fn. 57) it is stated that the expenses of the scouring works exceeded their value, therefore only so many tenants as were absolutely required for the work were summoned, the others being quit. The expenses of the great boon-day also were in excess of the value of the works, in spite of which the works continued to be exacted and rendered.
In 1446 (fn. 58) an arrangement was made in full court between the lord and his steward on the one hand, with the assent of the tenants on the other, that every tenant might pay for his autumn works at the rate of 2d. a day, the money to be paid to the bailiff or some other of the lord's ministers yearly at the feast of St. Peter in Chains (1 August), or on the Sunday next following, any tenants not paying at this time to be charged at a double rate. But later than this agreement, tenants still took up holdings on the express condition of rendering autumn services; two years later, in February, 1448, Robert Iver, Edward Bokeland and Thomas Ravener were summoned to Westminster to have the amount of their autumn work determined, and in the following October they submitted themselves to the lord's mercy and petitioned for leave to perform their services and to be no longer disquieted for those previously withheld. (fn. 59) As late as 1455 and 1471 tenants were presented for not doing works, and in 1492 two tenants paid for their services. (fn. 60) No mention of such payments is made in the two court rolls of the reign of Henry VIII, (fn. 61) but no conclusion as to the absence of commutations can be deduced from the fact that the holdings in Henry VIII's rolls are still said to be granted for 'all services and customs due by law and custom,' or inde prius debita. The survival of this formula in the court rolls is very misleading, and continues long after it has any meaning in actual fact. It is used in court rolls of the Stuart reigns, and of the Commonwealth, and the tenants are still spoken of as custumarii. The same formula is used in the leases of manors granted by the Hospitallers in the reign of Henry VIII. (fn. 62) And in Sutton rolls (fn. 63) the formula is still regularly recited after the Restoration, and at Stepney (fn. 64) in the time of Henry VIII, although by the reign of Henry VI no more services were rendered on the manor.
At Sutton we find an early commutation in 1222, (fn. 65) a tenant holding 'per cartam' for a rent of 5s. instead of services, and by this time no new services were imposed, for, as we have already noticed, the assart lands held by two operarii were paid for by a money rent only. In 1408–9 no account of works appears in the rolls; (fn. 66) the demesne is let on lease, and there is an entry of £4 11s. 1d. from the sale of autumn works. A receipt of £7 8s. 10d. from the lord for the expenses of the autumn works is noted, and entries of expenses are made. So that evidently some are still rendered.
By 1283–4 six out of the ten and a half virgates of 'Shirlond' at Stepney were definitely posita ad denarium, and thirty-five more works were sold, accounting for 449 out of a total of 658½ works due. 450½ cotmen's works out of 854 were sold, as well as the great majority of Hydlond and Mollond works. In and after 1362 the rolls contain no compotus operum, but instead account for all the works due from the four classes of holdings under the heading de operis arrentatis. There was a dispute this year about the commutation of works due from twelve virgates of mollond held by free tenants, the homage declaring that the tenants had not been a party to the arrangement, and an allowance for an overcharge was made to them. In 1464 the accounts cease to distinguish the redditus assisi of the mollond, and only free and custumary tenants are mentioned. (fn. 67) Stepney suffered badly from the Black Death, and afterwards a good deal of land was let on lease, the rents of terre dimisse amounting to £43 14s. 6d. in 1352–3. (fn. 68)
As we have already seen, certain molmen's works only were rendered at Enfield in and after 1419. By 1439 the situs manerii, the demesne, was let on a six years' lease with the garden, pasture, all demesne and meadow land, all the custumers' weeding, mowing and reaping works and the profits of the first annual hunt in the chase. A house over the gateway, with some adjoining rooms and the stables were reserved for the king. A good deal of bondage land was also let on lease. The carrying works due to the firmarius from certain of the molmen were sold by him at 3¼d. each. (fn. 69)
Although many commutations were made with the granting of leases at Fulham between 1384 and 1396, services were still rendered on the manor at the latter date, for there is a note in an account of that year that tenants who had no horses paid 4d. instead of harrowing. The same account contains a list of custumary holdings, consisting of from five to twenty-six 'akerware' each, in Acton and Drayton, (fn. 70) and giving their payments for rents, works and customs to Fulham manor and to Ealing. The demesne was leased in 1401 for seven years with 40 cows and 251 sheep, and in 1439–40 the manor was leased for nine years with all demesne land, meadows, pasture, the profits of the court-leet and all services. The bishop reserved to himself the advowson of the church, the hall and all buildings and gardens within the lower gate, the great garden, one grange and all the stables, 6 acres of meadow, the fishponds and woods and all the judicial rights of the lord of the manor. (fn. 71)
A few payments for release from works occur in the Edgeware rolls from 1268, and the sums received do not vary greatly in the few years during which we have any account of the manor. A certain amount of land is let on lease 'at the lord's will,' for which the rents amount in 1268 to £1 4s. 6d., and in 1279 to £3 4s. 6d. There are also lands dimissae ad seminand'. (fn. 72)
The custumal and rental of the manor of Friern Barnet (fn. 73) was revised in 1506–7. In all but four cases the tenants paid a money rent and were charged with carrying and ploughing services and boon-works as well. Two holdings paid a money rent only, and two paid no rent and owed only carrying services. None of the services were sold except the carrying services, which were all sold at 4d. a load; and it is clear from the terms of the custumal that the other works were actually rendered. By a lease of 1519 granted by the Hospitallers, the 'firmarius' was bound to collect for the prior all 'rents, carriage-moneys, work-silver and fines.' (fn. 74)
At Barnes in 1460–1 services were still rendered, except for the lands let on lease, but in the time of Henry VIII no works are mentioned. (fn. 75) In 1434–5 at Uxbridge it was apparently left to the tenants' discretion whether they rendered the boon services or paid for them at the rate of 5d. for one, and 10d. for two bedrippes. (fn. 76)
At Kensington the services were in process of commutation during the reign of Henry VI, and a valor of that reign gives the money value of all the works. In 1406 the person and goods of a tenant described as nativus domini de sanguine are ordered to be seized for living out of the manor without paying chevage. (fn. 77)
A large number of works appear as sold at Isleworth in 1314–15 and subsequent years, all the superintending works being regularly sold. In 1361–2 a very large proportion of the works was sold; some of the aker- and werklond services and some ale-bedrippes being all that were rendered, besides the harvest works and sheep-shearing. Three years before, 145 acres were let on five-year leases in small holdings at rents of 6s. and 7s. per acre. Much the same proportion of works was sold in 1383–4, all the werk-and akerlond services being sold this year. Six tenants were presented for withholding works during the reign of Henry VI, and a compotus of 1462–3 shows the same proportion of works sold and rendered as in 1383–4. The demesne was let on lease, the house being reserved for the abbess of Syon. Indeed, to judge by the sum entered for opera vendita in a collector's account of 1484–6 the process of commutation does not seem to have made much progress. (fn. 78) In the inquiry already mentioned into the status of Nicholas Est, (fn. 79) he asserted that it was the custom of the manor for free tenants who, like himself, held bondage land as well, to pay a certain yearly increment in order to be quit of all villeinage. The verdict passed over this assertion and decided his freedom on the usual ground that one of his predecessors was an 'adventitius.'
At Teddington the first sale of works (258) occurs in 1313–14, and after that the numbers sold vary a good deal in different years; in 1324–5 ninety-eight were sold, and the next year seventy; the year after the Black Death only one and a-half. In 1372–3 the demesne was let to the prepositus on a fifteen-year lease at a rent of 80 quarters of barley, equivalent at the current price (4s. 6d. a quarter) to £18. The works then accrued to him, and he rendered no further account of them. A rental of Richard II, however, shows them in process of commutation. Six of the free tenants have commuted their suit of court and boon-works for 12d. The eight holdings which are let on lease by 1373–4 are all let at a rent covering all services, from 10s. to 13s. 4d. for a virgate of 16½ acres; for half a virgate (8½ acres) 4s. 6d. In 1379–80 seven holdings are still held for services with or without a money rent. Two holdings have been forfeited for non-performance of services, and in both cases the new tenant has commuted. One of the half virgates still pays no rent, but does all services, (fn. 80) and three cotmen are still doing their works. Finally, a rental of 1434 (fn. 81) does not mention works at all—the land is all let for money rents: virgates at £1 to £1 6s. 8d., and half virgates from 12s. to 13s. 4d.
Owing to the scarcity of early court rolls we are left very much in ignorance of the effects of the Black Death in Middlesex. (fn. 82) The only court roll in the Record Office for the plague year belongs to the manor of Stepney, (fn. 83) and witnesses to an appalling mortality. At the court held on the feast of St. Fabian and St. Sebastian (20 January), 1349, nine tenements were reported in the lord's hands owing to the death of the tenants. In December, 1348, four members of one family— mother and daughter and two sons—have died, a third son dies in the following February, and later in the year three more members of the family are reported to be dead and the holdings passed to heirs of a different name. After Easter, 1349, the ale-tasters in Stratford, Aldgate Street and Halliwell Street are all reported to be dead. The plague was at its worst during the summer and early autumn of 1349: between February and Michaelmas in that year 105 tenements were vacated by the death of the tenants, 121 deaths being recorded in connexion with the vacancies, as in some cases joint tenants, and in others the heirs, have died as well. Nor must it be forgotten that only the deaths of tenants and heirs to holdings are recorded in the rolls, and even this list is not complete, for the rolls are torn off at Hokeday, St. Peter in Chains and Michaelmas 1349, and it is impossible to know how many entries are lost.
Nothing comparable to these conditions is revealed in the Teddington manor accounts for the years after the plague. (fn. 84) There is no account for the years 1347–9, but as there is a gap in the series from 13 & 14 till 23 & 24 Edward III, it does not by any means follow that the account was not kept in those years. In the account for the year, Michaelmas 1349 to Michaelmas 1350, five custumers out of fifteen are reported as dead, and evidently left no heirs, for their holdings remain in the lord's hands and an allowance is made for their share of services. The number of hesebonders decreases in this year from fifteen to nine, but it is not stated that they are dead. There is also a decrease from five or six to only three and a half in the plough-teams owned by the tenants, as if they were not so well off. So far as we can see the manor was in its usual working order; tallage £1 13s. 2d. was paid in full, and all the works, with the exception of those of the five dead tenants, are rendered as due. Nevertheless, as may be seen from the following table, the profits of the manor show a decrease of over £11 compared with those realized in 1339–40 (from £13 18s. 5d. to £2 2s. 8¼d.), and of £9 compared with the average of all the preceding years on record. The profits of the manor of Paddington for the same year (fn. 85) are very small, £2 3s. 0½d., but as we only possess this one compotus for the manor, there are no figures for comparison. There are three holdings in the lord's hand at Paddington, no reason being given, and it is remarked in accounting for the servants' expenses at Christmas and Easter that there were fewer servants than usual. Walsingham, in the Gesta Abbatum, (fn. 86) asserts that the tenants of the St. Albans manor of Barnet in Middlesex took advantage of the disorganization caused by the Black Death—'when hardly any reeves or cellarer survived, and certainly could not care for such transitory and mortal things'—to tamper with the manor rolls.
The accounts of Paddington and Teddington show a sudden rise of wages immediately after the Black Death. In 1335–6 at Teddington, the chief ploughman had 6s., the fugator 5s., carters and herds 4s. 6d., and the 'daye' 2s. a year each; the same wages having been paid as far back as 1275–7. The year after the Black Death, ploughmen, carters, and herds all have 11s. a year and the 'daye' 4s. The price of thrashing wheat has risen from 2½d. to 4d. a quarter, and barley from 1½d. to 3d. At Paddington the ploughmen get 11s., and a maid to look after the poultry and winnow the corn has 5s. In 1351–2, in obedience to the statute, the wages fall again, the ploughmen, carters and herds getting 7s., while the 'daye' remains at 41.; but a substantial rise over the earlier rates is still maintained. Another effect of the Black Death was to give an impetus to the letting of land on lease. On most manors we find leases increasing during the latter years of the reign of Edward III. The five holdings left vacant by the Black Death at Teddington remained in the lord's hands (excepting a small portion of one, let in 1351–2) for years. The first of them was leased for a term of seven years in 1368–9 and the others gradually after that. By 1373–4 eight holdings are let on leases of varying lengths—for the life of the tenant, for seven, sixteen, twenty years.
So far as the paucity of information allows us to judge, in Middlesex, at any rate, the Black Death promoted the granting of leases far more effectually than the Peasants' Revolt. But before we follow the course of the revolt in Middlesex we must notice some earlier disputes between landlord and tenants. In all the rolls, more or less, there are the usual fines for trespassing in the woods and in the lord's fields, for overcharging commons and pastures, for withholding suit of court and other services, and orders to distrain for rents and heriots. The leniency with which these orders are repeated and apparently disregarded at court after court is very striking, so that there are instances in the rolls of tenants being ten, twenty and even thirty years in arrears with their rents. On no other manor in the county of which we have records was there anything like the constant disputes and insubordination which appear in the Harmondsworth Court Rolls. (fn. 87) Troubles between the abbot and his tenants began very early, and by the time of Henry III had been carried to the royal courts for settlement. The tenants asserted that the manor was ancient demesne and that the abbot was infringing their rights as ancient demesne tenants by exacting from them services and tallage to which they had not been subjected when the manor was in the king's hands. The plea was heard by William of Raseley, the chief justice, in 1233 and was given against the tenants, it being decided that the manor was not ancient demesne, that the abbot and his predecessors were seised of the tallage and merchet of the tenants; he was therefore to recover seisin, and the men to be fined 5 marks.
In 1276 the tenants returned to the charge. Walter de Lestile, Walter le Disine, Roger le Paternoster, and other men of Harmondsworth attacked the abbot on the same grounds as before. This time the abbot refused to plead on the ground that the manor not being ancient demesne the men were his villeins and could not sue him at law. The court declared that a jury of the county could not decide whether the manor were or were not ancient demesne, because rights of the crown which went back beyond the memory of man could not be determined by a reference to that memory. A reference to Domesday was made by the lords of the Exchequer, who found that Harmondsworth was not amongst the manors of ancient demesne entered in Domesday. The court therefore confirmed William of Raseley's verdict that the men were tallageable at will and bound to redeem their flesh and blood.
In this decision the tenants were not by any means minded to acquiesce. With 'presumptuous and inveterate fatuity' they flatly refused the disputed customs, 'saying they would rather die than render them.' When the abbot distrained their teams, they took them back by force vi et armis; openly threatened no less than to burn down his house, and committed 'various homicides and other enormities.' The abbot was powerless and appealed to the king, 'lest by their insolence and rebellion worse should befall his prior' at Harmondsworth. In May, 1277, Edward II dispatched Geoffrey de Pyncheford, the constable of Windsor, in propria persona, to the aid of the prior; and a year later the sheriff of Middlesex was sent on the same errand. But the men of Harmondsworth persisted in their 'pristine malice and rebellion,' so that later in that year or in the next the king sent Robert Fulton and Roger de Bechesworth with orders to call the tenants before them, and, if they persisted in their disobedience, to assist the abbot in enforcing his rights and to punish the men with a severity calculated to deter them from a repetition of their wrong-doing.
Apparently these drastic measures produced the desired effect, for there seems to have been no further litigation until ten years later. In 1289 the abbot proceeded against twenty-five tenants for withholding services and customs which they and their predecessors had rendered until two years before. The services claimed are practically those of the custumal; ploughing, sowing, weeding, mowing, carting hay and corn, attendance at bedrippes, and the obligation to tallage, merchet, and 'grasenese.' The defendants recognized all the works except sowing— which they claimed (and the custumal states) should be done by the abbot's servants—the third or love-bedrippe and the obligation to bring their cottars to help with the hay-carting. They also disputed their responsibility for the adequate performance of the ploughing, their obligation to pay merchet and tallage (auxilium) and to obtain licence to sell horse or ox. But once more the jury found for the abbot and placed the tenants in mercy.
After this there appears to have been no further litigation coram rege, but at the beginning of the reign of Richard II the first court roll (fn. 88) discovers a good deal of insubordination amongst the tenants. At the Martinmas Court in 1377, Roger Fayrher, Thomas Hyne, Walter Langleye, Robert Baker, William Hiton and Nicholas Houtchon were fined 1d. each for not coming to the haymaking ; John Austyn the same sum for not carting hay, and also, together with Walter Robyn and Roger Janyn, for reaping his own corn on the day of the great precaria. Roger Janyn and John Austyn, Walter Smith, Ralph Jurdan, Godfrey Atte Pyrie, John Pelling and Roger Cook were further fined for not coming to superintend the reapers as they were 'by law and custom bound.' John Essex, Richard Sheter and Nicholas Herbert were each fined 6d. for non-attendance at a bedrippe; William Pompe and Robert Freke for not obeying the bailiff's summons; and Roger Cook for a deficiency of one work, piling wheat in the grange. It is evident that there was something like organized opposition to the lord; indeed, Robert Baker so far forgot himself as to upbraid the jury in full court, and in the presence of the seneschal, accusing them of finding a false verdict; while Walter Breuer disturbed the court with his scornful words, and would not be prevailed on by the seneschal to behave himself reasonably as beseemed him (rationabiliter modo prout decebit). At the same time a good many tenants were letting their land without leave, there is a long list of trespassers in the woods, some one has been poaching in the abbot's private waters, and one tenant is a fugitive and undiscovered in spite of reiterated orders to search for him. The next year the servant of one of the tenants opened the lord's sluices so that the hay was flooded. Thomas Reynolds and Nicholas Herberd were fined 12d. each at Ascension-tide 1379 for abusing the lord's servants. On St. Luke's day in the same year four tenants were fined for not coming to load hay, by which default hay to the value of 1s. 8d. was lost, and William Boyland's land was ordered to be seized, because he withheld services and customs. It is not surprising under the circumstances to find that the reeve, elected at this court, fined 13s. 4d. to be absolved from the office. A year later at the St. Luke's court of 1380, Walter Frensch, Robert Freke, senior and junior, John Attenelme, Walter Breuer, Walter Holder, William Atte Hatche, William Boyland and Roger Taylor were fined for not coming to superintend the reapers; seven tenants worked in their own fields on the day of the great bedrippe, two tenants did not attend the love-bedrippe, and four came late to their autumn works. Thomas Reynolds, it must be supposed for further 'contempts,' had forfeited his land and had to pledge himself to the amount of 100s. to get it back. Again the elected reeve prudently preferred to decline the office even at the cost of a fine of £1 6s. 8d.
In the following spring the Peasants' Revolt broke out, and it would seem as if the ferment of the rebellion had been already at work at Harmondsworth. (fn. 89)
It is unnecessary to repeat here the account of the burning of the Savoy, of the Temple, of the Hospital of St. John at Clerkenwell, of the manor house of the Hospitallers at Highbury, of the properties of the under-sheriff of Middlesex at Eybury, Tothill, and Knightsbridge, and of the climax of the rebellion at Mile End, (fn. 90) which have no special connexion with the county, belonging rather to the general history of the revolt.
Although there does not appear to have been anything like a general Middlesex rising, there is evidence of sporadic outbreaks on several manors, and the Middlesex men must have taken their full share in the rebellion, for the list of exclusions from the general pardon is longer for that small county than for any other, except for London itself. (fn. 91) Twenty-three Middlesex rebels were excluded from the amnesty, from fifteen different parishes, (fn. 92) but so far as the evidence goes only two of them were convicted and outlawed; eleven were subsequently acquitted in 1386–7, and the remainder were, it must be supposed, never brought to justice, as there is no record of their conviction or acquittal. Of the two who were outlawed, (fn. 93) Peter Walshe held a cottage and 1⅓ acres in Chiswick, and was found to possess no goods or chattels; of the other outlaw, Thomas Bedford of Holborn, the goods seized by the escheator were valued at 4s., being chiefly small household utensils—most of them 'debil.' Only one other rebel figures in this Middlesex escheator's account: John Stackpole, described as of Middlesex, was beheaded as one of the principal insurgents in the Corpus Christi rising, and is mentioned in an inquiry carried out by the sheriffs in November, 1382, as being with Walter Tyler, one of the leaders of the rebels at Blackheath. His goods and chattels are valued at 18s., amongst them being a red and green cloth gown worth 8s. and 'unius cithere et gyterne, precium 16d.' (fn. 94) William Peche, clerk of St. Clements, accused of being with the rebels at Knightsbridge, Eybury, and Tothill; John Hore, of Knightsbridge, for burning the under-sheriffs' houses; Robert Gardiner (or Rob. Poltayne gardener) of Holborn, accused of joining in the burning of St. John's Clerkenwell, of slaying seven Flemings there and stealing a cup, and Thomas Clerke of Algate Street, butcher—all pleaded the general pardon; and John Norman of Hammersmith, John Smart and John Neue of Lilleston, and John Brewer of Hoxton do not appear to have been caught at all. (fn. 95) Thus it will be seen that Middlesex was no exception to the general rule of leniency in the suppression of the revolt. As to the local outbreaks in the county we have little more than the scantiest information. The disturbances at Pinner were sufficiently serious to warrant a royal inquiry, the manor of Harrow being in the king's hands as part of the temporalities of the see of Canterbury during the vacancy caused by the murder of Simon of Sudbury. (fn. 96) An entry in a Fulham court roll of 1392 states that the court rolls were burnt tempore rumoris. (fn. 97) Amongst the exclusions from the pardon are men from Hendon, Hounslow, Ruislip, Greenford, Twickenham, Fulham, Chelsea, Charing and Heston; but it does not appear whether they were engaged in local disturbances or in the London rebellion. At Heston the tenants seized the opportunity to pay off their old score against Nicholas Est. William Weyland, John Walter and Richard Umfray attacked Est on 5 June, 1381, with swords and staves, abused and wounded him, and finally imprisoned him for a day and night, until Nicholas paid 40s. for his freedom. When the latter brought an action against them in 1383, the three men pleaded—and brought four credible witnesses in support of their plea—that they had not acted of their own free will, but by the orders of Jack Straw, Walter Tyler, and other insurgents. The acceptance of this plea entitled them to benefit by the general pardon and they were actually dismissed sine die. (fn. 98) That an outbreak occurred at Harmondsworth is clear, for Walter Come, Richard Gode and Robert Freke, junior, forfeited their lands for rebellion against the prior and the king's peace, and William Pompe's and John Pellyng's lands were also seized for the same reason. It seems probable that the manor rolls were burnt, for the early custumals are extant, not in the originals, but in transcripts of the reign of Richard II, and with the exception of one roll of the time of Edward I there are no earlier court rolls of the manor extant than the one actually in use at the time of the rebellion. The prior was evidently not disposed to be harsh—indeed, it was far from the interests of the landlords to prevent a quiet settlement to the statu quo—for William Pompe got his land back a few months later, and at the instance of his friends the prior reduced his fine from 40s. to 40d. John Pellyng's land was given back to him in 1383 at the prayer of two of the tenants. Robert Freke, junior, is again in possession in 1385 and again does not come to superintend the reapers, and in 1386 Richard Gode is once more in a position to come late to the autumn bedrippe. (fn. 99) Indeed, things went on at Harmondsworth after the rebellion just as they did before. There were quite as many defaults at bedrippes and superintending works, and the same names recur amongst the defaulters —John Austyn, Thomas Hyne, William Pompe, John Attehelme, Nicholas Herbard, Roger Fayrer and Robert Freke. The position of reeve was so unpopular that William Boyland fined 10 marks to escape it, although diligently required by the steward to accept the office. In 1399 Roger Cook, when summoned to cart wheat, at first would not come, and when he did, flung his first load on the tithe heap and his second on the ground, so that all the sheaves were broken, and the carts had to pass over them to get into the grange; but the proceedings against him were stayed by the homage finding he 'had done all things well.' And so it goes on until in the fifteenth century the unquiet annals of the manor settle down, except for occasional defaults and troubles about the heriots. There are always long lists of defaulters from suit of court, and in 1462 they were called before the steward and allowed their obligation to render all dues, customs and services owing to the lord, promising faithfully to observe them in future and placing themselves in mercy for their past faults; which did not prevent most of them being in default again at the next court. (fn. 100)
As to the effects of the Peasants' Revolt on the economic conditions of Middlesex, it is difficult to see that they were great, though this conclusion may partly be due to the paucity of our information. The granting of leases was more advanced by the Black Death than by the revolt, and as for the extinction of base services, commutations had begun on some manors long before, and in others only commenced long after the rebellion.
The Middlesex markets and fairs are not of any great importance or special interest. Henry III and the three Edwards granted charters founding or confirming grants of seven markets and nine fairs, with all the liberties and free customs usually appertaining to them. Norden, in the Speculum, only mentions four market towns, Brentford, Staines, Uxbridge, and Harrow, but Middleton in 1798 (fn. 101) gives ten fairs and nine weekly markets, namely, Barnet, Southall, Finchley, Uxbridge, Brentford, Hounslow, Edgeware, Staines and Enfield.
Henry III, in 1228, granted an annual fair at Staines to the abbot of Westminster to last for four days at Ascensiontide. (fn. 102) But in his reply to a Quo Warranto inquisition of 1293–4, the abbot claimed by grant of Henry III a four days' fair at the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin (8 September), as well as a weekly market which he had had time out of mind and which was altered from Sunday to Friday by Henry III in 1218. (fn. 103) The grants were inspected and confirmed by Edward I.
Henry III also granted to the archbishop of Canterbury a Monday market at his manor of Harrow, and a three days' fair at the Nativity of the Virgin. (fn. 104) Edward II's only grant of a market in Middlesex was to the archbishop, of a Wednesday market and of a two days' fair at the Feast of the Nativity; (fn. 105) and finally the archbishop obtained from Edward III in 1336 a Wednesday market and two fairs at Pinner—for three days at the Nativity and for two at the Decollation of St. John Baptist (24 June and 29 August.) (fn. 106)
Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, who held the manors of Colham and Edgeware by his wife's right, claimed that his predecessors had had a Thursday market at Uxbridge, which was a member of Colham, and a three days' fair there at the Feast of St. Margaret (12 July), time out of mind. (fn. 107) In the same year Edward I granted him a Monday market and a two days' fair at Michaelmas. (fn. 108) Edward I also granted a Tuesday market and an eight days' fair at Trinity to the brothers of Holy Trinity of Hounslow; (fn. 109) and to Humfry de Bohun, earl of Hereford and Essex, and his wife the countess of Holland, a Monday market and two three days' fairs on St. Andrew's day and the Assumption (29 November and 15 August), at Enfield; (fn. 110) and lastly a Tuesday market and a six days' fair at Brentford at the Feast of St. Lawrence (11 August), to the prioress and nuns of St. Helens. (fn. 111) These ancient rights were surrendered to Charles I in 1635 by a certain Mr. Valentine Saunders, who then held the manor of Brentford, in return for a grant of a Tuesday market and two fairs to last six days each, beginning on 7 May and 1 September respectively, for which he was to pay 20s. a year. (fn. 112) He also had leave to enlarge on his own ground the market-place, which was too small to contain the concourse of people frequenting the town and passing on the London road. In a charter roll of 4 Edward III there is a grant of a yearly fair lasting seventeen days at Michaelmas at his manor of 'Scrine in com. Mid'. to 'francisco de feipo.' (fn. 113) I have been quite unable to identify either the manor or its owner. The entry is copied without comment by Palmer in his Index to Markets and Fairs, and from him by the commissioners on Market Rights and Tolls.
A probably not uncommon institution was a Sunday meat market, held in the churchyard before service at Enfield, for the retention of which 'old and ancient usage' the queen's tenants and inhabitants of Her Majesty's decayed town of Enfield, in 1586, petitioned Burghley, who was high steward of the manor. (fn. 114) The petitioners complained bitterly of the conduct of their minister, Leonard Thickpenny, 'set on we beleeve by the vicar,' who in 'a very outragious manner very evyll beseamynge a man of the churche, in a maddynge mode most ruffynlike' seized the butcher's meat one Sunday and threw it on the ground, 'most pyttyfull to beholde.' He then in the presence of a great many 'honest poore men' abused the butcher, threatening to kill him 'if he hanged for it half an hour afterwards.'Later in the forenoon the vicar improved the occasion by preaching on the subject of the 'marquet' in a 'most mallancolly and angrye vayne.' They have many such sermons, they concluded sadly, so that 'in church they wish themselves at home.' Burghley, it would appear, was minded to allow the market on which the men of Enfield set such store.
Owen's New Book of Fairs gives a list of seventeen fairs as existing in Middlesex in 1772: Bow, Beggar's Bush, Brentford (two), Chiswick, Edgeware, Edmonton, Enfield, Hammersmith, Hounslow (two), Staines (two), and Uxbridge (four). Of these, only the two Brentford fairs, one at Staines, one at Enfield, and one at Hounslow, were still held in 1888.
Elizabethan Middlesex was still a corn-growing county and famous for the quality of the wheat it produced. Norden in his Speculum Britanniae highly praises the fertility of the soil. 'Although it is so small a shire, yet for the quantetie of it the qualetie may compare with anie other shire in this lande.' The soil is 'excellent fat and fertile' and in parts of the county about Perivale, Heston and Harrow, there is what he calls a 'vayne' of some of the best wheat grown in England. Heston may be accounted 'the garner or store howse of the most fayre wheate and pure in this land.' So much so indeed that the 'marchet and cheate' for the queen's own diet are said to be specially made from Heston wheat. Times have changed in Middlesex since Norden could admire from Harrow Hill in harvest time how 'the feyldes round about so sweetely addresse themselves to the sicle and scythe, with such comfortable aboundance of all kinde of grayne, that it maketh the inhabitantes to clappe theyr handes for joy.'
He also notes with approval the good pasture, but regrets that 'things are more confounded by ignorance and evel husbandrye in this shire then in anie other shire that I knowe.' This he attributes to the large number of country seats owned by citizens of London—'prebends, gentlemen, and merchants'—which afford, with their fair houses, gardens, and orchards, a fine ornament to the country side, but are less advantageous to its cultivation, the land being 'noethinge husbandlyke manured.'
Husbandry and the carrying of its produce to London by land and water were then the only trade and occupation of importance in the county. Nothing in the way of a manufacture is noted by Norden except a copper and brass mill at Isleworth, where he admires the ingenuity with which bellows, hammers and snippers are moved by water power by means of an 'artificiall engine.'
The northern parts of the shire which used to be well timbered were in his time 'but poorly' wooded. In spite of reiterated orders (fn. 115) for the better preservation of Enfield Chase made by Henry VIII and Elizabeth, the depredations of keepers and commoners alike have so reduced it that Norden says it will hardly continue to provide fuel for the inhabitants. 'Cutting green boughs for sale in London' had apparently become a trade in Enfield. As for the Hornsey woods, their decrease was largely due to Aylmer, bishop of London, into whose inroads on the episcopal timber Cecil caused an inquiry to be made. (fn. 116)
Norden was no friend to inclosures; he praised the 'good store of large commons' in the shire, 'the best and most comfortable neighbours for poore men,' and noted with satisfaction that the 'many parks erected chiefly for deer now fall to decay and are converted to better uses.' Amongst these was the chase made by Henry VIII at Hampton Court, which was disparked in the time of Edward VI, at the petition of the inhabitants, who surmise that a younger king will prefer to seek better sport further afield. The land was re-let to the former tenants at the old rents, (fn. 117) just as Henry III granted (fn. 118) to the county of Middlesex, in 1227, that the warren of Staines should be disafforested 'so that all men may cultivate their lands and assart their woods therein.'
Long before inclosures became a source of contention, pasture and common rights were a frequent subject of dispute. There are constant entries in the court rolls, especially in the fifteenth century, of tenants fined for overcharging the commons, and pasturing on them beasts not their own property for which they were paid. The right of the animals of the vill to pasture on the arable after the harvest was lifted, and the periodical opening as common for the manor of the 'Lammas' fields often led to trouble, and there was the further complication of common rights enjoyed on one manor by the tenants of another. Thus the men of Drayton and Herdington exercised pasture rights on the Harmondsworth stubble fields, and in 1414, at the instigation of some of the Harmondsworth tenants, 140 men of Drayton and Herdington came into the manor, 'armed with bows and arrows, swords, staves and bills,' and with their teams and swine trampled and depastured the corn and hay where they had no right to common till the corn was cut and carried; neither the bailiff nor the hayward nor any other of the lord's ministers daring to oppose them for fear of death. (fn. 119) On the other hand the Harmondsworth tenants had the right of mast pasture in the Drayton Woods, and it was reported to the court of the manor in 1521–2, as an infringement of these rights, that the bailiff of Drayton manor had felled some twenty oaks in the wood there. (fn. 120) At Isleworth in 1445–6 the court was informed that the abbess of Syon had inclosed and kept separate two pastures which were always open from the Feast of St. Peter in Chains to the Purification (2 February) or the Annunciation (28 March), and in which two other persons, the prior of St. Walery and Emma de Ayston, shared her rights. (fn. 121)
The quality of the Middlesex land was so much better adapted to arable than to pasture farming that comparatively little was inclosed for pasture. But the rapid expansion of London made land in the neighbourhood of the City valuable, and most of the inclosures near the walls were probably made rather with a view to building than for any agricultural purpose.
Parts of the depopulation returns made for Middlesex by the inclosure commission of Henry VIII in 1517 are preserved in the Record Office. (fn. 122) There are only two membranes, a considerable piece being torn away from the right-hand side of each. They are headed 'Inquisitio indentata et prima capta apud Hendon in com. Mid. die Lune, 28 die Septembris anno 9 Hen: VIII.' The Middlesex commissioners were John, abbot of Westminster, Sir Thomas Lovell, Sir Thomas Nevell and John Heron. (fn. 123) The opening meeting and the appointment of the jury were held at Hendon, after which the commissioners adjourned to Westminster to receive the sworn returns of the jurors. Subjoined are tabulated the inclosures given in the return, and the number of ploughs put down in consequence. The incompleteness of the returns prevents, of course, anything like an exact estimate of the amount inclosed, but they suffice to show that the quantity is not very considerable.
A Lansdowne manuscript in the British Museum (fn. 124) contains a fragment of a list of inclosures in the suburbs of London, bound up with no heading, between the returns for the Isle of Wight and Staffordshire. The inclosures are in Hackney and, with the exception of one of 100 acres made by the prior of St. Helen's Bishopsgate, which is entered among the commissioners' returns in the inquisition at the Record Office, are of small amounts. Altogether, leaving out these 100 acres, 174 acres of arable land were inclosed in twenty-five separate inclosures. The object of the inclosures is not stated, but it seems likely that they were for building.
The inclosure of the commons and waste lands, of which, as we have seen, there was a considerable amount in the county, provoked, as usual, much opposition and in consequence made little progress, though the great stretches of waste land so near the City harboured very many undesirable rogues and vagabonds; indeed, the neighbourhood of London was far from safe, and the county sessions rolls contain a large number of indictments for highway robberies in Tudor and Stuart times. In February, 1591, a true bill was found against a band of seven highwaymen for robberies at Islington, and in November, 1594, a band of four was apprehended at Hayes. In 1693 highwaymen were indicted for robberies on the road between Bow and Mile End. (fn. 125) Small bands of robbers preyed upon the roads in the suburbs; there are robberies at Notting Hill, at Tottenham, and at Knightsbridge, and the fields between Gray's Inn and Paddington were infested with footpads. In 1690 complaints were made that the watches in the county were set too late and discharged too early, so a double watch was ordered to be kept from 9 p.m. till 5 a.m. and ward in the daytime from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. There having been robberies in the Strand before the watch was set, it was ordered, in 1691, that four 'able and sufficient' men were to be placed at convenient stands in the High Street till the watch was set at 10 o'clock by the constables. The same year (fn. 126) the inhabitants of St. Giles in the Fields and St. Clement Danes obtained leave to set an extra watch, at their own expense, and the next year Chelsea made a similar appeal. (fn. 127) Norden in his Speculum warns his readers against 'walking too late' in the neighbourhood of the old church at Pancras, which stands all alone and utterly forsaken, the buildings which used to surround it 'all removed and fled,' and is the haunt of very undesirable company. Even in the further parts of the county robberies were not infrequent on the roads; there are indictments for robberies at Enfield, Edmonton and Hayes, sometimes three or four in a day, and many of course at Hounslow. (fn. 128) Even in the early years of the nineteenth century, George IV and the duke of York are said to have been stopped in a hackney coach and robbed on Hay Hill, Berkeley Square. And it was the custom, on Sunday evenings at Kensington, to ring a bell to muster people returning to town.
Henry VIII, in an Act which 'in spirit anticipated the private inclosure Acts of the eighteenth century,' (fn. 129) made an attempt in 1545 to encourage the inclosure of Hounslow Heath, (fn. 130) which had come into his possession with the estates of Syon Abbey at the dissolution of the monasteries, and contained 4,293 acres of waste, extending into fourteen parishes and hamlets. The king considering that the
barrenness and infertility thereof by want of industry and diligence of men . . . . breadithe as well scarsitye and lacke of all manner of grayne, grasse, woode, and other necessarie thinges amonges thinhabitauntes of the said Parishes; . . . . even so the conversion thereof into tyllage and severall pasture by men's labor and paynes, besides that it shall be an exile of ydlenes in those parties, must of necessitye cause and bringe furthe to all his saide subjectes plentye and haboundance of all the thinges above remembred,
has had portions of the heath assigned to each parish, and it is enacted that the waste and heath can be inclosed by decision of four commissioners and shall immediately be and remain perpetually copyhold land, or it may be held on lease for twenty-one years, the tenants to improve at will.
In 1575 the tenants at Enfield petitioned (fn. 131) the queen against an inclosure of 53 acres, made by the lessee of the manor, of land which had beyond the memory of man lain open as common once a year. This 'evil example has given courage' to one of the keepers of the chase to inclose 12 acres of common land. They, the tenants, are charged with carrying duties to the royal household; 'to remove your Majesty with 12 carts in summer and eight in winter, either lying at Endfield or within 20 miles of London,' besides 400 horse-loads of wheat and grain, and carrying of poultry, 'which service to doo and see performyd they shall not be hable if the said Taylor and Holt be sufferyd to inclose their commen.' In 1589, 90 acres of a piece of ground, which the tenants claim as common, having been inclosed by nine different owners in pieces varying from 50 to 2 acres, a feminine riot ensued, 'certain women of the town' to the number of twenty-four, the wives of labourers and tradesmen of Enfield, 'assembled themselves riotously and in warlike manner, being armed with swords, daggers, staves, knives, and other weapons,' (fn. 132) broke into one of the inclosures and plucked up the fencing. The women, some of whom were 'greate with child and expecting every hour to travaile,' were in danger of imprisonment for the offence, and the inhabitants and the queen's tenants of Enfield petition Burghley to interfere in their favour and to get the common back. (fn. 133) What the results were on these two occasions we do not know, but the persistent opposition of the Enfield tenants did succeed in impeding the progress of hedge and pale, as is shown by the report to the Board of Agriculture in 1795. There are many indictments in the sessions rolls for breaking into inclosures in different parts of the county, of 'gentlemen' as well as of 'yomen' and labourers.
The Londoners saw with equal disfavour the inclosure of waste lands near the City walls, which they had been accustomed to use for their recreation and their archery practice. So 'on a morning' in 1513 'they assembled themselves and went with spades and shovels,' to some inclosures which had been made in the common fields about Islington, Hoxton and Shoreditch,
and there, like diligent workmen, so bestirred themselves, that within a short space all the hedges about those townes were cast downe and the ditches filled. The king's councell comming to the graie friars, to understand what was meant by this dooing were so answered by the maior of councell of the citie, that the matter was dissembled, and so when the workmen had done their worke, they came home in a quiet manner, and the fields were neuer after hedged. (fn. 134)
Indeed the necessity for maintaining open spaces round the City became very present to Elizabeth's careful government, to whom the expansion and overcrowding of London and the rural exodus to the City were a source of great disquiet. At the county sessions of the peace in May, 1561, John Draney, citizen and clothier of London, was fined for inclosing an open field in Stepney, through which the citizens were wont to pass freely to their archery practices. (fn. 135) And in the Act (fn. 136) by which the government tried to stem the further growth and overcrowding of the City by limiting the building of new houses within and without the walls, the inclosure of commons and waste grounds within three miles of the City gates was prohibited, as interfering with the mustering of soldiers, the practice of archery, and the recreation, comfort, and health of the people inhabiting the cities of London and Westminster.
The problem of providing for the poor of the county was complicated for Middlesex by the neighbourhood of London. London was one of the first of English towns to provide for itself an organized local system of poor relief. (fn. 137) But this had the disadvantage of attracting a hungry immigration from less advanced districts, which defied the terrors of Tudor settlement laws, and flooded the adjoining counties with undesirable vagrants, to provide for and deal with whom quite overtaxed their resources. It is not surprising to find from the county sessions rolls that the Middlesex justices were at once active and uncompromising in the execution of the Vagrant Act. In 1572 they reported to the Privy Council (fn. 138) that they had caused privy searches to be made on 20 March and 20 April in all the hundreds of the county, by which a number of rogues and vagabonds of both sexes have been taken, and have been 'ordered and ponyshed,' according to the statute. That is to say that those who were not taken into service by some employer who would make himself responsible for them were whipped and branded, and if found again wandering, hanged. Three relapsed vagrants found wandering in the parish of St. Giles were sentenced to be hanged in June, 1575. (fn. 139)
The sessions rolls for 1572–3 contain twenty-eight, and those for 1574–5 thirty-five convictions for vagrancy, and in ten weeks of the year 1589–90 seventy-one persons were sentenced to be whipped and branded for that offence. (fn. 140) Four years later the Privy Council ordered the City authorities to confer with the Middlesex justices as to the adoption of joint action for the repression of vagrancy, (fn. 141) and about 1600 the Lord Chief Justice at the queen's request called a meeting of the justices of Middlesex and Surrey and of representatives of the City (fn. 142) to consider what joint measures should be adopted. The best method of dealing with the vagrants was considered to be the institution of a house of correction in each of the two counties at a capital expenditure of £4,000 and a yearly allowance of £150 each, and as it was 'very apparent' that London really was the main source of this concourse of beggars, the representatives of the City consented that they ought to make some contribution to charges which exceeded the county resources. Confiding in this agreement the counties leased suitable premises and entered into agreements with 'undertakers' to take charge of and employ at suitable trades the vagrants committed to them. Amongst the Caesar papers in the British Museum (fn. 143) there is a scheme submitted to the justices of Middlesex in 1602 by the undertakers of the poor for employing pauper children from the age of seven at pin-making. The undertakers ask for a 'convenient stock of money' to take and furnish a house and clothe and provide for the children, who at first, of course, will be able to earn nothing, and they suggest a quarterly levy for this purpose at the rate of 4d. for every one rated at £10, and 1d. weekly contribution to the poor's rate. Apparently adult vagrants were to be taken in as well and employed as servants to the children, and in spinning and weaving linen and wool, making clothes, and knitting stockings for the house. The house is to be ' ordered like a college or hospital, whereby the whole nomber may learne exsample of religion and civilitie.' The children were to wear ' a clean shirt or smock fyttinge their age,' they are to rise at 5 a.m. and work till 9 p.m., and if they misdemean themselves to have 'reasonable correction according to discretion.' When they have served their time each is to receive 'double apparrell, and each man a new broad cloth cloke and each mayde a new gown,' and, it was hoped, be sent out into the world with the excellent prospect of soon being 'liable themselves to three or four servants.'
Meanwhile the promised contributions from the City were conspicuous by their absence, the undertakers were unpaid and petitioned the king for the reimbursement of money expended by them, and in 1603 James I appointed a commission of four—the earl of Shrewsbury, Sir John Fortescue, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Sir John Popham, the chief justice, and Sir John Stanhope, the vice-chamberlain, to inquire into the matter. Their report emphasized the greatness of the evil and the necessity for the co-operation of the City, which the latter obstinately continued to refuse. The king himself addressed a letter to the City urging on them their obligations, and in June, 1605, the City sent a petition to the king, in reply, in which many protestations of their humble duty barely veiled a sufficiently round refusal. No grant, they submit, can be made without the consent of the commons, and this is not an opportune moment to make such an application when they have just been put to great expense in fitting out galleys and soldiers for the Irish wars, towards which the two counties had persistently refused the contribution to which they were bound. (fn. 144)
In 1614 the justices levied by a 'rate and taxation' £200 for the building and furnishing of a house of correction, (fn. 145) and at the same time appointed a commission of five gentlemen: Sir George Coppyn, Sir William Smythe, Sir Baptist Hickes, Mr. Edmond Dobbleday and Mr. Francis Mitchell, to collect voluntary contributions from 'wellaffected persons' with what—if any—success is not on record. The rate was less popular in the county than with the justices, but they made short and exemplary work with grumblers, and in 1615 the house was finished. The justices appointed as governor, at a salary of 40 marks, one John (or Jacob) Stoyte, whose petition for the post is preserved amongst the Caesar papers in the British Museum, (fn. 146) in which he asserts that he 'has been trained up most part of his life in the said service.' That sanguine ideal of self-supporting pauperism, which Tudor and Stuart Poor Law administration strove vainly to realize, dictated the order that the inmates must earn their food by their labour, and that, except in case of sickness, they were to have no more than they earned. Stoyte undertook to 'keepe and maintain the exercise of trades of weaving and spinning of cotton, wooles for drapery, and all other manufactures fit for their employment and labour,' and some attempt was evidently made to put them to work, for there are orders for the repair of spinning wheels and hemp mills, and a new mill was to be provided so that more might be employed. The inmates were to have fresh straw every month, and warm pottage thrice a week, and their 'lynnen (if any they have)' was to be washed. But the house seems to have been little more than a prison, and not well managed in spite of reiterated orders for its better government issued by the justices, and an attempt at some sort of classification of the inmates does not seem to have been realized in practice.
At Clerkenwell in 1666 a 'workhouse' was built at an expenditure of £2,002 levied on the parishes within the Bills of Mortality by the 'Governors of the Corporation of the Poor,' to accommodate 600 blind, impotent, and aged poor as well as able-bodied paupers, (fn. 147) in which some advance seems to have been made towards differentiating paupers and criminals at any rate. It proved, however, so very expensive to maintain that it was closed and the county exempted for the future from any workhouse rate by Act of Parliament in 1675. The workhouse itself was let for £30 a year to one Sir Thomas Rowe, who turned it into a charity school.
A certain number of aged and impotent poor were relieved by pensions of 2s. 6d. a month or 1s. or 1s. 6d. a week. In 1690 the parish of St. Andrew Holborn complained that owing to the great increase of the pensioned poor the available money is insufficient to maintain them. In 1701 Ealing attempted to replace these pensions by indoor-relief, and obtained leave to accommodate eight of their pensioned poor in a house, and to levy for this purpose a rate of 3d. in the pound, hoping to effect a saving of £12 a year. (fn. 148) Invalided soldiers also were provided for under an Act of Queen Elizabeth's reign by pensions of about 40s. a year, raised by a special county rate managed by two county treasurers. As these pensions were given without any inquiry there was a great deal of abuse and fraud, and in 1623 the treasurers were ordered to give no pensions without strict investigation. (fn. 149)
To meet the expense of the poor, besides the special rates levied for the purpose, certain fines were apportioned to the justices, such as the fines for not taking the oath and the fines levied on alehouse-keepers for using false measures. (fn. 150) In 1631 (fn. 151) the justices sent into the Council the accounts of the expenditure of £92 received from such fines in the parishes of St. Sepulchre, Clerkenwell, St. Giles Cripplegate, Islington, Hornsey, Finchley, and Friern Barnet, reporting that they have apprenticed twenty children of poor men, that they are 'maintaining a manufacture' in the house of correction, founded by a 'stock' of £100 given by Sir John Fenner, by which an artisan is to instruct in the said manufacture twenty poor orphans, 'such as before wandered in the streets,' and that they have dispatched many idle and loose persons to serve with His Majesty of Sweden, besides distributions of money to the poor 'at their discretion.'
In consequence of many complaints of the inequality and uncertainty of the rates and charges for the poor and the highways, an assessment was ordered to be made according to an equal pound rate on the yearly value of the houses. (fn. 152) The increase of the poor, 'owing to the present war' led the churchwardens in Ratcliff to apply for an extra assessment in 1694, and a similar request was made by the parish of St. Clement Danes.
Special endowments for the benefit of the poor were often bequeathed to their parishes by well-to-do parishioners. A list of such benefactions belonging to the parish of Enfield in 1709 is in the British Museum, (fn. 153) amounting to a capital sum of £184, besides yearly income to the amount of £119 7s. 6d. Of this some is to be spent in distributions of money or bread or clothes to the poor; some is for the maintenance of poor widows, impotent men and orphans, and for apprenticing and schooling of the latter; £1 7s. 6d. is left in consideration of an inclosure made by the testator, and £22 is to keep a competent master for the new free school just built by the parish, to teach the children 'The Cross Row and the arts of writing, grammar and arithmetic.'
The plague epidemics were another frequent charge on the poor's rates. Sporadic cases of plague were of constant occurrence, and the authorities seem always to have had the fear of an epidemic before their eyes. In 1607–9 the Sessions Acts contain orders against the plague, enforcing the strict seclusion of infected persons in their houses, and forbidding the importation of rags from London for paper-making; and on one occasion eleven persons were actually committed to Newgate for attending the funeral of a victim of the plague. (fn. 154) In 1625 the Cockpit Theatre in Whitehall was closed for fear of infection. (fn. 155) In the same year there was an outbreak at Enfield, and in 1630 at Edgeware. (fn. 156) In 1636–7 there was a serious outbreak in and round London. Except for an isolated parish here and there the plague at this time and in the great outbreak of 1665 was chiefly severe in London and its immediate suburbs, the only rural parish for which the weekly assessment was made in 1637 being Isleworth. (fn. 157) This assessment was levied on the county for the relief of the affected parishes in sums varying from 10s. to £3. The plague was worst in Stepney, and the 'Green goose fair' held there in Whit week was prohibited for fear of spreading the infection. (fn. 158)
After the Great Plague in 1665 the overseers of the poor in St. Katharine's, Ratcliff, Whitechapel, and Limehouse were called upon to answer for refusing to make an assessment in their districts. (fn. 159)
During the latter half of the sixteenth century the persecutions of Protestants in France and the Netherlands led to a considerable immigration of refugees from both countries into the suburbs of London, (fn. 160) where a small alien population was already settled, protected by Tudor governments both as Protestants and as the importers of new and improved methods in the various trades they plied. The new comers settled chiefly in the parish of St. Katharine by the Tower, where in 1583, 285 foreigners were living; in East Smithfield, where there were 445; in Whitechapel 146, in Halliwell Street 152, in Blackfriars 275, and in the adjoining parishes, (fn. 161) making altogether a population of 1,604 foreigners. A small number were more or less substantial merchants, but the great majority were wage-earning servants and artisans of a great variety of trades.
The revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 caused a fresh immigration, this time from France, the great majority of the immigrants belonging to the silk-weaving industry and trades connected therewith. They settled chiefly in Spitalfields and its neighbourhood. (fn. 162) Strype writes:
The north-west parts of this parish became a great harbour for poor protestant strangers, who have been forced to become exiles from their own country for the avoiding of cruel persecution. Here they found Quiet and Security and settled themselves in their several trades and occupations, weavers especially. Whereby God's Blessing surely is not only upon the Parish, but also a great advantage hath accrued to the whole Nation by the rich Manufactures of weaving silks and stuffs and camlets: which art they brought along with them. And this benefit to the neighbourhood, that these strangers may serve for patterns of Thrift, Honesty, Industry, and Sobriety as well.
And indeed it is a fact that foreign names are of the rarest occurrence in the indictments of the county sessions. But the introduction of the silkweaving industry cannot have been so entirely their work as Strype states. Even camlets were introduced by earlier immigrants, if we may trust an entry in Evelyn's Diary on 30 May, 1652: 'Inspected the manner of chambletting silks and grograms at one Mr. La Doree's in Moorefields.' And a decade before the Revocation, in 1675, the Shoreditch and Spitalfields silk weavers indulged in an anticipation on a small scale of the future frame-breaking riots. (fn. 163) For three days, the 9, 10, and 11 August, bands of from 30 to 200 persons went about Stepney, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Hoxton, and Clerkenwell breaking into houses, carrying out the obnoxious 'wooden machines called engine weaving looms,' which they smashed and burnt in the streets. Now it is curious to note that none of the indicted rioters, and none of the owners whose machines they destroyed, bear foreign names. The riots were easily suppressed, and the ringleaders sentenced to heavy fines and stations in the pillories in different parts of London.
Middlesex, as described in the reports on the county drawn up for the Board of Agriculture at the end of the eighteenth century, differs a good deal from the corn-producing county described by Norden two centuries before. The subordination of the whole county to the rapidly expanding capital has increased. That city which already in Norden's day 'draweth unto it as an adamant all other partes of the land,' still 'attracts people so strongly from every part of the kingdom that no large towns can exist in its neighbourhood.' (fn. 164) The whole county may be very properly considered as a sort of demesne to the metropolis, being covered with its villas, intersected with innumerable roads leading to it, and laid out in gardens, pastures and inclosures of all sorts for its convenience and support.'
These reports commend the fertility of the soil as emphatically, though not so picturesquely, as Norden. The best wheat was still grown at Heston and towards the western boundaries of the shire, but most of the highly cultivated ground beyond Hounslow was given up to growing hay for the London market, and between this and London, from Kensington to Hounslow, 'is one great garden for the supply of London.' On the north-eastern side, about Islington and Hackney, a great deal of ground was occupied by cow-keepers, and to the east, by Bethnal Green and Stepney, there was nursery ground again, chiefly devoted to the raising of trees and plants. To the west, 'about a mile along the Kingsland Road there are some 1,000 acres of valuable brick fields.' The reports compute the number of acres in the county at 250,000, and of these 130,000 were meadow or pasture and 50,000 nursery gardens and pleasure grounds. The land had greatly increased in value, and 'as is natural in the neighbourhood of a large city' was held in small portions by a number of proprietors. Rents varied a good deal—near London under leases the land stood at about 50s. an acre, and inclosed garden ground was worth from £5 to £8 an acre, and near Chelsea and Kensington even to £10, and in the common fields near Fulham £3.
The woods and copses of the county were nearly annihilated; there were still a few acres left on the northern slopes of Hampstead and Highgate, and about 100 acres on the east side of Finchley Common, 1,000 in Enfield Chase, and 2,000 on the west side of Ruislip. The hills about Copt Hall and Hornsey which were wood a few years before were then meadow.
Inclosure being, to the reporters of the Board of Agriculture, the one saving grace of rural economy, the uninclosed condition of much of the Middlesex arable appeared very unsatisfactory. 'It is hardly to be credited (fn. 165) so near the metropolis, yet certain it is that there are still many common fields in the county.' Middleton (fn. 166) calculated that out of a total arable acreage of 23,000, (fn. 167) 20,000 acres were still in common fields, and not producing sufficient wheat to supply one-fiftieth of the inhabitants with bread. At Enfield, Edmonton, Tottenham, and Chiswick, there were still meadows held by the old Lammas tenure. (fn. 168) In 1789 Stanwell inclosed 200 acres of its common fields, thereby increasing their value almost immediately from 14s. to 20s. the acre. (fn. 169)
To the reproach of the inhabitants and to the utter astonishment of every foreigner who visits us, the county contains many thousand acres, still in a state of nature, though within a few miles of the capital, as little improved by the labour of man, as if they belonged to the Cherokees. (fn. 170)
By which neglect a yearly income of some thirty to fifty thousand pounds is thrown away. Middleton (fn. 171) estimates the uncultivated soil at 17,000 acres, something like a tenth part of the entire acreage of the county distributed among the following commons:
Hounslow, Finchley (1,240 acres), the remains of Enfield Chase, Harrow Weald and part of Bushey Heath (1,500 acres), besides eight smaller commons in the parish of Harrow. Uxbridge Moor and Common (350 acres), Hillingdon Heath (160 acres), Ruislip Common (1,500 acres), Sunbury (1,400 acres), Memsey Moor, Goulds Green, Peil Heath, Hanwell Common, Wormwood Shrubs in the parish of Fulham, and between 400 and 500 acres of waste in Hendon.
The good intentions of Henry VIII evidently bore but little fruit, for Hounslow Heath was far the largest waste, still containing in 1754 over 6,000 acres. According to the reports the common rights were profitable only to a few wealthy farmers, borderers on the heath, who overcharged the pasture with immense numbers of 'grey-hound-like sheep'; and to a few cottagers who cut turf and fuel for sale. In 1789 Stanwell inclosed its share of the heath, and 300 acres of practically valueless land was by 1793 worth from 15s. to 25s. the acre.
There still remained of Enfield Chase some 3,000 to 4,000 acres uninclosed of 'good soil and improvable,' thanks mainly to the tenacity with which the Enfield tenants, like their Elizabethan predecessors, clung to their common rights, which their unstinted exploitation had reduced to little more than scanty and very unhealthy pasture for a few half-starved cattle. They badly needed small inclosed fields, but the Enfield commoners may, not unwisely, have reflected that inclosure was by no means certain to bring the desired inclosed fields into their hands. A considerable portion of the chase was inclosed by Act of Parliament in 1777, as the reporter allows, not profitably ; a failure which he attributes to bad management. Better success attended an inclosure made by the parish of South Mimms (nearly 1,000 acres) which raised the annual yield of the land from 2s. to 15s. the acre. (fn. 172) Practically the whole chase, 3,540 acres, was inclosed in 1801 (see table).
Finchley Common, which in 1754 contained 1,243 uninclosed acres, was reported to be good soil for cultivation, though part of it was excellent road gravel. 900 acres were inclosed here in 1811 (see table). The annexed table of inclosures in Middlesex (fn. 173) has been put together from a list of Inclosure Acts 1702–1876 in Clifford's Private Bill Legislation, (fn. 174) and a list of Middlesex inclosures in the Middlesex and Hertford Notes and Queries, supplemented from the tables in Dr. Slater's The English Peasantry and the Inclosure of Common Fields. (fn. 175) The table shows that a great deal of land was inclosed in Middlesex during the latter years of George III's reign. As the increased inclosures so near London began to assume a less admirable complexion, the necessity of maintaining open spaces round the City—which had been so clear to Elizabeth's ministers —once more impressed a less far-seeing public opinion, and an Inclosure Act of 1854 prohibited the inclosure of common fields within ten miles of London. The general Inclosure Act of 1845 required the special consent of Parliament for inclosures of wastes within fifteen miles of the capital. And the later history of Middlesex inclosures is that of the struggle for open spaces led by the Commons Preservation Society.
In 1798, in his report on the county, (fn. 176) Middleton draws attention to the
numerous efficient and comfortable funds raised for the support of the idle poor in this county, which operate against the general industry of the labouring poor. The thriftless pauper in the workhouse was better housed and fed than the industrious labourer and his family. In some parishes the paupers cost 15.15 guineas a head, while their earnings did not reach 8s., at a time when the ordinary labourer's family of five or more persons had to subsist on thirty. Charity added to the evil by raising voluntary contributions during every temporary inconvenience, and by the constant clothing of upwards of ten thousand of the children of the labouring poor in this county. (fn. 177)
The report on the Poor Laws of 1834 (fn. 178) states the cost of the workhouse poor in the rural districts of the county at from 4s. to 5s. a head, whether farmed or not. Not very much seems to have been done towards the sixteenth-century ideal of 'setting the poor on work.' At some workhouses the inmates cultivated a garden; at Harrow the paupers were employed in picking oakum and at a corn-mill; at Isleworth any parishioner could have a pauper out of the house to work at 1s. a day: but in general the report states that no parish was in a situation to put able-bodied paupers to profitable work.
The standard of comfort in the workhouses was high. At Sunbury the paupers had beer every day, and at Isleworth the victuals and comfort were so excellent that people went in, especially for the winter, and it was very difficult to get them out again. Here in 1821, 28 out of the 130 persons in the house were children. At Staines the children went out to school, and here also a successful trial of allotments had been made to stop the increase of out-door pauperism. (fn. 179) The apprenticing of children to trades was hardly practised at all. The annexed table gives the poor law expenditure of the hundreds and of the county from 1776–1841.
|Poor Law Expenditure, 1776–1803 (fn. 180)|
|Hundred||Total, 1803||Total, 1776||Number relieved, 1803||Children in School of Industry|
|Ossulstone (Finsbury Division)||41,900||11,800||14,692||330|
|" (Holborn ")||84,200||22,500||8,069||629|
|" (Kensington ")||24,100||7,264||6,879||214|
|" (Tower ")||59,800||35,400||6,773||305|
|Middlesex Expenditure on Poor (fn. 181)|
|Expended on Poor||Average per Head of Population|
The general history of the county during the latter half of the nineteenth century is simply the record of the suburban expansion of London, effacing all local distinctions and characteristics under an undistinguished chaos of villas and streets. The 'huge and growing wen,' which so powerfully impressed the imagination of Cobbett, has almost absorbed the entire county, so that it appears at the present day, not as it did to Middleton, as 'the demesne of the Metropolis,' but almost as a part of that Metropolis itself.