A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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Management of Demesne Flocks, p. 21. Tenant Flocks, p. 26. The Tenantry, p. 29. The 14th and 15th centuries, p. 36.
The pattern of human settlement in Wiltshire as it was to endure for the next thousand years was already laid down in its main outlines by 1086. Saxon enterprise in clearing and cultivating had driven deep into the forest cover of the northern and western vale, and down the three wedge-shaped vales of Pewsey, Wylye, and Wardour which pierce the chalk downs from the west. Despite the difficulties in felling the heavy timber and of working the clays of the lowlands, the exploitation of these potentially fertile soils had advanced so far that most of the villages recorded on the map today were already strung along the foot of the steep chalk escarpments or up the river valleys on the banks of the streams. The downs, stretching over some 500,000 acres or three-fifths of the surface of the county, which had provided the sites for the earliest settlements, were left to the shepherds. (fn. 1) Great belts of forest still existed. (fn. 2) The extent of meadow-land generally was not large and in the 11th century meadows of only 5 acres were not uncommon on apparently quite prosperous manors. Grazing land was more extensive and was usually reckoned in leagues and furlongs rather than in acres. (fn. 3)
There is little direct evidence of the farming practices pursued in Wiltshire during the century following the Conquest. It may have been the tensions arising between the new landlords and their Saxon tenants, coupled with the uncertainty of markets and prices, that led the manorial overlord in many instances to grant portions of his demesne to individual tenants rather than to retain control of the whole of it, to relax the services of his villeins and supplement this by wage labour, and not to insist too rigorously upon the uttermost fulfilment of those labour obligations he still retained. Evidence of all three tendencies is to be found in the few surviving custumals and surveys.
On the Wiltshire estates of Glastonbury Abbey more than a dozen leases of plots of demesne land occur in a custumal of 1189 on the manors of Nettleton, Kington St. Michael, Damerham, (fn. 4) Badbury (in Chisledon), Winterbourne Monkton, and Christian Malford, while at Grittleton the whole of the demesne had been leased to the homage of the vill before that date. (fn. 5) Many of these leases were granted during the abbacy of Henry of Blois (1126–71).
The custumal also reveals a large number of rent-paying tenants in villeinage on the Wiltshire estates who were giving few or no labour services; in some instances 3d. or 6d. is added to the rent 'for all autumn works', or 'for all services'; in other cases tenants holding 1½ or 2 virgates apiece had the option to work for part of the holding, and to pay a cash rent only for the rest. (fn. 6) Others had been granted freedom from any burden of labour dues, paying an increased rent for the privilege. (fn. 7) The early account rolls of the estates of the Bishop of Winchester in Wiltshire, which begin in the year 1208, suggest that similar conditions prevailed on his lands. At Downton 13 tenants held portions of the demesne in the early years of the century, and wage labour rather than customary services was widely employed throughout his Wiltshire property. (fn. 8)
Slight as the evidence is, it is significant, particularly as it is derived from monastic and ecclesiastical estates. The church and the monasteries stood for extreme conservatism when it came to a question of the final change in the relaxation of the bond of forced labour. It suggests that in Wiltshire the picture of the growth of an orthodox and increasingly rigid manorialism thrust upon the villages in the century following the invasion does not fit; that method and custom were more fluid, the economy of the manor itself more dynamic and adaptable to the immediate local situation.
From the first quarter of the 13th century the whole attitude towards demesne farming seems to have altered. There appears to have been an outburst of energy and enterprise, an eagerness to improve and cultivate more intensively the land already under tillage, and to reclaim and colonize some of the waste lands and woods. Many factors doubtless contributed to that change. Political and social conditions were becoming more stable, the population was steadily growing. Then, at the close of the 12th century, came the first signs of the rise in the price of agricultural produce, particularly of grain, which was to continue for the next hundred years. On the Glastonbury manors a custumal drawn up between 1235 and 1252 reflects the changing tempo of activity. (fn. 9) The demesne plots, leased in the earlier custumal of 1189, had mostly been resumed into the abbot's hands, save in the case of Grittleton where the demesne was still farmed by the villagers. Options to work or to pay in cash for the whole or part of a holding had been withdrawn. The whole burden of labour services was apparently being demanded in most years, and these were far more carefully and exactly defined. Similarly, on the Bishop of Winchester's manor of East Knoyle the demesne was growing at the expense of the customary lessees between 1210 and 1267. Several holdings on which deficiencies of rent occur were drawn into the demesne in these years under the immediate control of the bishop. (fn. 10) On the other hand, after the middle of the century there was an increase in rents paid at Downton, East Knoyle, and Bishopstone (Downton hundred), as purprestures, assarts and a few acres of demesne arable were let to tenants. Labour services on the manors of the bishopric were likewise increased with a more intensive cultivation of the land. For example, at Downton the winter and spring ploughings, for which the services of 47 and 62 ploughmen respectively sufficed in 1210, were demanded from 66 tenants in winter, and from 101 in spring in 1256. (fn. 11)
A similar trend is to be observed in the last half of the 13th century on the manors of Lacock Abbey. The virgaters of Heddington, who in the mid-century had to work 'at the will of the bailiff' from midsummer to Michaelmas, by 1280 had to come after the midsummer festival to mow and lift the hay in the meadows of the abbess, and had to mow and lift ½ acre in a day; they also had to reap and cart corn daily should the abbess require it. At Bishopstrow the service of ploughmen likewise seems to have been more often demanded. (fn. 12) At Lacock itself the virgaters had to appear at the mowing of the meadows on horses and work until the third hour.
The 17 customary tenants at Fifield Verdon (Fiddington in Market Lavington (fn. 13) ) had to give 6 works a week in 1309, the amount to be achieved each day being carefully specified. They had to thresh a bushel of wheat, rye, barley, beans, or peas, and 2 bushels of oats a day. At haymaking they had to mow 2 swathes of a certain meadow as 1 day's work; at harvest time for 1 work each had to reap, bind, and carry ½ acre of any kind of grain, the reaper being allowed the twentieth sheaf for himself. (fn. 14) Thus in the custumals of the late 13th- or early 14th-century in place of a former vague demand simply for a day's work, the exact amount to be achieved is specified, suggesting an attempt to tighten up an earlier slackness.
It is true that this new precision may also have acted as a safeguard for the customary tenants, preventing the lord of the manor from making undue claims; but the fact that customary gifts or remissions of rent were at the same time reduced or abolished indicates that the underlying motive in this movement was to achieve a greater economy in carrying out the routine farming operations with, on occasion, scant regard for earlier tenants' rights.
The evidence for a rising population and an extension of cultivation in the 250 years following the Conquest lies in scattered and fragmentary notes in surveys, custumals, and manorial account rolls. There are many difficulties in making the comparisons at different periods, for the division of manors, which occurred particularly in the 13th and 14th centuries, leaves us often with disparate units to compare and with the records of only one portion surviving. There are also instances where the number of tenants shows little or no change in the later surviving records. (fn. 15) The following examples are cited merely as an indication of an upward trend on several manors, and of course make no claim to any exact measurement of growth over the widely separate intervals at which the figures occur. At Castle Combe the 30 tenants of Domesday had increased to 58 by 1340; (fn. 16) an estate at Durrington, in the valley of the Salisbury Avon, whose tenants numbered only 4 coscez in 1086, had a working population of 41 in 1334 and of 43 in 1340. (fn. 17) Compton Chamberlayne's tenants increased from 32 in 1086 to 55 in 1274; (fn. 18) Downton and Bishopstone, which were included as one manor in the Domesday Survey together with the hamlets of Charlton, Barford, Witherington, Nunton, and Bodenham (still belonging to them in the 13th and 14th centuries), saw an increase in their tenantry from 131 in 1086 to 219 by 1250. (fn. 19) The tenants of East Knoyle and Upton, in East Knoyle, grew from 54 to 78 in the same period. (fn. 20) The 18 tenants of Domesday at Fonthill Bishop had increased to 32 customary tenants and cotters, excluding free tenants (whose number is not given) by the 14th century. (fn. 21) Manningford Bohun, with only 4 bordars in 1086, had 24 tenants in 1361. (fn. 22) At Oaksey, in the extreme north-west of the county, the number of tenants had risen from 28 in 1086 to 63 by 1299, and had increased again to 89 by 1336. (fn. 23)
The same trend is discernible on some, although not all, of the Glastonbury Abbey estates. For many of these it is possible to make a comparison of the numbers of tenants at three periods, namely from the Domesday entry, from the survey made in 1189, (fn. 24) and from the 13th-century rental drawn up during the abbacies of Michael of Amesbury (1235–52) and Roger of Ford (1252–61) (fn. 25) (see Table 1).
Table 1. Changes in Numbers of Tenants on Some of the Glastonbury Abbey Estates
|Damerham (fn. 26)||75||161||166|
|Badbury (in Chisledon) (fn. 27)||25||38||39|
|Winterbourne Monkton (fn. 28)||32||35||34|
|Idmiston (fn. 29)||26||31||32|
|Nettleton (fn. 30)||24||55||48|
|Grittleton (fn. 31)||23||36||36|
|Kington St. Michael (fn. 32)||24||56|
|Christian Malford (fn. 33)||37||72|
|Longbridge and Monkton Deverill (fn. 34)||72||. .||96|
Thus an expansion of cultivation and an outward thrust into forest and waste must have been necessary in many villages to ensure the means of livelihood for a growing population and to allow for opportunities to experiment with farming in severalty. Definite evidence of that movement is forthcoming on many manors. The crofts and purprestures which the tenants of Oaksey and Poole Keynes (fn. 35) had won from the moor or marsh (mora), (fn. 36) the crofts, marshes (morae), and single acres in Stanley Grove brought under cultivation by the tenants in Trowbridge, together with sundry places called 'outsetyng' which others had reclaimed from the waste lands beyond the town, (fn. 37) and the crofts, purprestures, and plots of 'bordeland' attached to the customary holdings of Downton and East Knoyle, (fn. 38) are all examples of this outward reach of villeins, cottars, and small free men. In towns and villages lying in or adjoining the royal forests both the lords of the manor and their tenants attacked vigorously the trees and undergrowth in their efforts to win more land for the plough.
Ten assarts of probably many years standing appear in the 15th-century accounts of the demesne leases in the manor of Marlborough, which were then let in parcels of varying size to different tenants. Some must have been substantial holdings to judge by the rents paid, which varied from £1 7s. 9½d. to £3. Nine hundred and sixty-one acres and ½ a rood are stated to have been cleared here altogether. (fn. 39) As early as 1281 one tenant had gained permission to cut down, inclose, and cultivate to his own profit his wood of 'Holme' lying within the bounds of Savernake Forest; the holding measured 40 acres by the forest perch. (fn. 40) Earlier still, in 1252, a dispute concerning the tithes of the 'new lands' at Marlborough suggests that a small colony had found a footing upon the wastes. (fn. 41) The Priory of Maiden Bradley gained exemption for its wood of Bradley from forest fines and from waste in 1228, and the community was also granted the liberty to stub, till, and inclose 50 acres of heath in the manor of Yarnfield, a tithing of Maiden Bradley, which lay across the Somerset border. (fn. 42) In the forest of Clarendon assarts to the value of £10 10s. were sold by Edward I. (fn. 43)
An assart was made and inclosed at 'Timberhill' in Downton in the first half of the 13th century, and a new piece of arable was laid down and inclosed at 'Cowyk', also in Downton, and at 'Lothanger' (Loosehanger in Redlynch), in the mid-century. (fn. 44) Divers parcels of the demesne of Aldbourne, lying at Snap and Upham outside the village, were leased as separate lots when the demesne was let at farm in the 15th century and suggest an earlier extension of demesne cultivation here. There is also reference to a close and 'lands' in 'Pykewood' (Peaks Wood), territory which was almost certainly assarted at a former date. (fn. 45) Arable strips of the demesne at Heytesbury were to be found at 'Kynecombe', 'Nethercombe', 'Hydercombe', on the slopes of 'Westwoodhill' and bordering 'Thymberweis', and suggest by their names that here cultivation had been carried beyond the valley to the hillsides again by the 14th century. (fn. 46)
Efforts to improve the methods of cultivation accompanied this outward thrust, although they sometimes met with opposition. Osbert Foliot, Abbot of Malmesbury (1179–82), granted land in Foxham for a rental which covered all services save the obligation to plough three times a year in place of the customary two ploughings. (fn. 47) Abbot Walter of Loring (1205–22) tried to introduce further improvements and new methods, which are not specified. A bitter dispute resulted between the abbot and certain of the inhabitants of Ashley regarding the use of the pastures and cultivated lands lying between Long Newnton and Ashley, a dispute which suggests some attempt on the part of Loring to consolidate and inclose his demesnes. Loring was beaten by the conservatism of his opponents, and finally agreed not to cultivate these lands 'otherwise than by the ancient and approved custom'. (fn. 48)
William of Colerne, Abbot of Malmesbury (1260–96), by his energy and enterprise, carried out an extensive scheme of land reclamation and improvement involving much drainage and inclosure. He frequently purchased land from his neighbours, or exchanged outlying portions of his demesne for segments of their property lying nearer to his main farms, in order to consolidate the arable and pasture under his care into compact blocks. He also often induced a neighbouring landowner or tenant to relinquish long-standing rights of common pasture on ground bordering or overlapping the Malmesbury lands, or enjoyed on the abbey demesne itself. (fn. 49) He added steadily and continuously to an estate which he consolidated into a unit economic to work in both time and labour. He then proceeded either to plough and cultivate former pasture land, (fn. 50) or to divide off and inclose pastures on which the tenants had hitherto enjoyed rights of commoning, thus protecting his own stock from the danger of infection by the cattle of others.
Some of the most far-reaching of his ventures were to be found in Rowmarsh ('Rowmershe') and Fowlswick ('Fouleswicke') where considerable stretches of rough, marshy land were reclaimed and put under grain or turned into inclosed grazing grounds. (fn. 51) The common lands near Malmesbury, Portmansheath ('Portmanneshethe'), and Burntheath ('Barndehethe') were surrendered to him (perhaps under pressure) and were inclosed by hedges and ditches, the townsmen yielding to the abbot the right to cultivate their common pastures. (fn. 52)
Apart from the examples cited, on fifteen other manors within the county for which evidence survives between Domesday and the end of the 13th century, the acreage of the demesne arable and meadow is known to have increased; (fn. 53) on several others, where it is impossible to disentangle the later medieval from a larger Domesday manor, a similar growth is witnessed between the beginning and the end of the 13th century. (fn. 54) It seems that undoubtedly in Wiltshire, as elsewhere, it was an age of agrarian development.
Many of the great landowners were prepared to sink much capital in the improvement of their land and buildings. Great stone barns, tiled or thatched, arose on many of the Malmesbury manors, on the Bishopric of Winchester estates, and those of the Duchy of Lancaster. New cowhouses and stables, and stone-built sheepfolds, bercaria or ovilia, figure prominently in the account rolls. William of Colerne had a large building programme for his farms as well as his plans for extending the acreage under cultivation. An impressive list of his building and reconstruction work is to be found in the Malmesbury Register. (fn. 55) In 1218 and the following year the Bishop of Winchester had a new house built on the manor of Fonthill and the grange was reroofed and its walls repaired; new buildings were put up at East Knoyle and the barns, cowshed, and stables were rethatched; in 1235 the great hall and 'garderobe' were retiled at Downton and in 1251 a new barn was erected there. (fn. 56)
A main preoccupation of the medieval farmer, as of his successors, was to conserve and increase the fertility of the soil. Naturally the good farmer took steps to see that he derived the fullest possible benefit from the meagre supply of dung available. Thus at Downton, a custumal of the mid-13th century records that each virgater had to carry from 13 to 25 loads (fn. 57) of dung to the fields in a year, while the cottars had to spread up to 50 loads on the demesne strips. (fn. 58) At Bromham the virgaters, or greater erdlinges as they were called on this manor, were to cart dung whenever called upon to do so, those with carts using them, and those without providing a labourer daily for the task. (fn. 59) The virgaters of Lacock (fn. 60) and Nettleton (fn. 61) had each to spread a row of dung on ½ acre of the demesne land; the virgaters and semi-virgaters of Monkton Deverill had to pass 15 times in the day from farmyard to field carting dung. (fn. 62)
Provision for weeding and hoeing the growing corn—a task usually allotted as part of the week-work of the customary tenants—was likewise made with care. At Downton 2 days' weeding with 1 man was demanded from every virgater in the 13th century. (fn. 63) At Grittleton the virgaters had to hoe from dawn until noon every day except Saturday when the demesne corn was ready for weeding, while at Badbury each virgater had to weed for a day until two o'clock or until vespers if so required; at Winterbourne Monkton the virgaters had to weed, each with a man, for 1 day in the afternoon. (fn. 64) On the lay manor of Oaksey, the ferlingmen (ferendalli) gave a boon service called 'loverwedying' in the spring in addition to the week-work demanded from the villein tenants. (fn. 65)
Attempts to improve the traditional methods of cultivation are to be found on several manors. The older practice of ploughing only twice a year was retained doubtless on some farms late into the 13th century, judging by the ploughing services demanded from the villeins in surviving custumals. (fn. 66) But on others there are instances of the demesne being ploughed 3 times, a practice introduced in the later 12th century both on some of the Malmesbury Abbey estates as already noted, and on the manors of Glastonbury Abbey by 1189. At Damerham, Nettleton, Grittleton, Kington St. Michael, and Christian Malford 3 ploughings a year were demanded at that date. (fn. 67) The custumal covering the years 1235–62 on the Glastonbury demesnes shows that it had been introduced also at Longbridge Deverill. (fn. 68) Ploughing with horses, instead of oxen, is mentioned at Damerham at this period, every virgater owning a plough coming with his own horses to plough between Michaelmas and Christmas.
In addition to the normal steps taken to provide for the manuring and weeding of the demesne, there was much activity in marling the land during the 13th century. Fourteen acres of the 'old assart' at 'Timberhill' were thus dressed at Downton in 1235 at a cost of £4 4s. (fn. 69) Five lads with 10 horses were engaged here for 43 days in 1252 to marl the new assart at 'Lothangar'; 12 acres at East Knoyle and 11 at Fonthill Bishop, two other manors of the see of Winchester, were marled in that year, 2 men at East Knoyle being hired to dig and cart the marl for 56 days. (fn. 70) One virgater of Monkton Deverill at about the same date was excused all his services for the year so that he might marl his holding, the first occasion on which this had been done. (fn. 71)
The care exercised by a careful overlord to ensure a proper cultivation of his lands is witnessed in two leases of the 14th and 15th centuries, issued by the Warden and Fellows of Winchester College in 1394 and 1435. In the former, 2 virgates of land at South Marston, called 'Leyplace', together with meadow and pasture were let for 7 years; but the tenant was pledged to plough and manure well, and to keep hedges, fences, and ditches in good order, returning the land at the end of the lease in as good or better condition as he received it. (fn. 72) When the moiety of the manor of Durrington was let in 1435 to a tenant of the vill, a clause was inserted in the lease to ensure that he should grow the usual crops on the demesne lands, sowing the various furlongs with good and sufficient seed, and manuring adequately, while the different types of grain to be cultivated were specified with the 'rigges' or furlongs named. (fn. 73)
Though the demesne arable for the most part lay intermixed with the strips of the tenants, there is some indication of an attempt to inclose at least some of the demesne acres under corn. The arable in the field called 'Cowyk' at Downton is always described as a 'close' in the 13th-century accounts, as is the new assart at 'Timberhill', reclaimed in the mid-century; at East Knoyle certain of the cultivated lands lay within 'the brothers' close'. In 1334 at Wootton Bassett 126 acres of the demesne lay in severalty and were rated at double the value of the 89 acres under cultivation in the common fields and the 176 acres lying fallow. (fn. 74) In Draycot Cerne 66 of the 240 acres in the demesne were inclosed by 1344, and were worth 4d. apiece annually as against 100 acres valued at 2d. the acre, and 74 at 1d. the acre in the open fields. (fn. 75) Fifty acres of the demesne in the manor of West Dean and East Grimstead were inclosed by that year and 250 lay in common; the 50 acres were given the high value of 1s. the acre, while of the remainder in the common fields, 50 acres were valued at 8d. and the rest at only 1d. or ½d. the acre. (fn. 76) An extent of a tenement at Lydiard Tregoze in 1360 states that it contained a carucate of land comprising 70 acres, 50 of which were inclosed and worth 4d. an acre, sown or unsown, while 20 acres in the common fields were worth only 1d. the acre. (fn. 77) In 1364 at Bratton there was in the demesne a carucate of 104 acres, '29 of which lie under the hill and are worth 6d. an acre, and 75 on the hill and are worth only 2d. because they lie in the common field and can be sown only every other year', which implies that the acres below the hill were inclosed and farmed in severalty. (fn. 78) In this manor a number of the tenants also appear to have attempted some inclosure of their land, for inclosures are specified among property conveyed there in 1332. (fn. 79)
An effort on the part of customary tenants to protect and improve the cultivation of their plots may perhaps be seen in a case which came before the manorial court at Castle Combe in 1418, when 3 tenants were presented for sowing land in the common fields without licence from the lord. (fn. 80) Efforts for the same purpose are also to be seen in the not infrequent references to tenants wrongfully taking dung from the fold for use on their own holdings. An example comes from Eastcott in Urchfont where the shepherds and a woman tenant were frequently in trouble during the latter part of the 14th century for folding their sheep off the demesne. (fn. 81)
Yet, despite these individual efforts at improvement, the most common method of cultivation pursued in Wiltshire was the more primitive two-field system, by which half the available arable was cropped each year and half lay fallow. An even more crude form of cultivation was followed at Stoford (in South Newton), a manor belonging to Wilton Abbey. Here, in 1315, each tenant had to find 1 man for 24 days in the year, to work until one o'clock each day 'denchering' the demesne land. (fn. 82) When 'denchered' the surface of the soil, which had been allowed to relapse under a natural cover of wild grasses, was pared off by means of the breast-plough; the sods were then piled into heaps, lit, and allowed to smoulder away, and the ashes left were scattered broadcast over the furrows. A plot thus treated was cropped year after year until all the goodness was drained out of it, and was then left for some years to recover, while further strips were cultivated in like manner elsewhere.
Despite the prevalence of the two-course rotation, a choice governed presumably by the poor quality of the soil in many regions, the more economic three-field system was to be found on many manors, although no very clear geographical distribution is revealed if these are plotted on a map. It occurs, as might be expected, on the richer soils of the western and northern lowlands at Castle Eaton, Somerford Keynes, Stanton St. Quintin, and Castle Combe; but Westrop (in Highworth) and Sherston were still pursuing the two-course rotation in the latter half of the 14th century. (fn. 83) Wilsford and Durrington (fn. 84) in the valley of the Salisbury Avon near Salisbury were following a three-field system in the 14th century, but Berwick St. James (fn. 85) in the neighbouring valley of the Till pursued the two-field course; Ashton Gifford (fn. 86) (in Codford St. Peter) in the Wylye valley, Fonthill Bishop, (fn. 87) and Teffont Evias, (fn. 88) close to the Nadder, were manors with a three-field system, as was Downton in the south, but East Knoyle, a few miles from Fonthill Bishop, and Bishopstone in the Ebble valley retained the more primitive two fields. (fn. 89) On some manors there is evidence of a change from a two- to a three-field rotation, particularly towards the close of the Middle Ages. Thus at Poulton, (fn. 90) where a two-field system prevailed in 1250, a three-course cultivation was being followed by 1316 on the lands of Nicholas Saint Maur. (fn. 91) Of the land under cultivation on the demesne of Heytesbury in 1340, half could be sown, but by 1359, of the 504 acres then included in the crop cycle, 354 or rather more than two-thirds were sown and 150 lay fallow. (fn. 92) At Winterbourne Stoke, where from 1440 to 1450 roughly half the demesne arable was sown each year, (fn. 93) a custumal of 1574 states that the arable of the manor was then divided into three main fields, of which two were cultivated annually and one was left fallow. (fn. 94) At Collingbourne Ducis an extent of 1361 says that of the 500 acres of arable in the demesne, half could be sown annually, (fn. 95) while a rental of 1554 shows the arable divided into three several fields containing 142 acres. (fn. 96)
The average value of arable land within the county was 4d. an acre in the 14th century, the poorer soils being rated as low as ½d., 1d., or 2d. and the better, possibly the manured or composted strips, as high as 6d., 8d., 10d., or even occasionally at 1s. the acre, as at Ashton Gifford (1327), Heytesbury (1311), or Cherhill (1297). (fn. 97) The highest figure so far found for arable in Wiltshire was at Chirton. In the report of Prior Philip de Thame to the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitallers, drawn up in 1338, it is stated that here there were 200 acres of arable land valued at 1s. the acre and 6 acres of land (terre) at 3s. the acre. (fn. 98) But as no meadow is recorded for this manor, it is possible that the latter entry was a slip of the pen, and really refers to meadow-land.
Some indication of the condition of the soil is to be found in the manorial extents and surveys whenever differentiation is made between the various plots of the demesne. At Erlestoke, in 1340, the 142 acres of the demesne lying 'in the marsh' and at 'Podenhulle' (Pudnell farm) were valued at 10d. an acre, while 34 acres 'in the sand' and 85 in 'la clailand' were worth 7d., and 300 on the hill were valued at only 2d. when sown. (fn. 99) The demesne at Edington, comprising 2 carucates of arable, 20 acres of meadow and pasture, and 12 tofts and messuages, was rated at only 20s. in 1361, 'because the land is barren and lies here and there in many parcels'. (fn. 100) Fifty of the 125 acres in a certain arable holding at West Dean and East Grimstead lay fallow in 1349 'because they are not worth sowing', and the meadows there were priced at only 8d. the acre 'because the soil is such that in a dry summer they cannot be mown'. (fn. 101) The manor of Barford St. Martin was unfortunate in having 40 acres of the demesne arable lying at the edge of Grovely Forest, for which reason they were of no value 'because they are overrun by the game there'. (fn. 102)
The crops most generally grown in Wiltshire were wheat, as the winter corn, with oats and barley as the spring or etch corn. Very little rye was to be found in the county. Small quantities of mixed crops, such as drage, (fn. 103) were common but produced in small quantities. A few acres of peas and vetches are also frequently found in the grain accounts from the 14th century, used to restore the fertility of the soil and sometimes threshed out as fodder crops. Beans in small quantities were grown on some demesnes, and were rather more extensively cultivated on occasion, notably at Trowbridge and Wanborough. (fn. 104)
Though the manorial staff and the livestock maintained on the demesne farms were fed from the crops raised, a large proportion of the grain, particularly wheat, was destined for the market. A great landlord, whether lay or ecclesiastical, usually drew supplies for his household from the demesnes lying near his permanent residence, and sold the produce from the rest of his estates. On the Wiltshire demesnes of the Bishop of Winchester, for which there is a long series of grain accounts, running from 1208 to the opening decade of the 15th century, we find that from 50 to 90 per cent. of the wheat grown throughout the 13th and 14th centuries was sold, from 30 to 60 per cent. of the barley, (fn. 105) and from 12 to 50 per cent. of the oats. (fn. 106) The same applies to many of the lay manors within the county. Thus on the Hungerford estate at Heytesbury, between 1340 and 1429, from a quarter to two-thirds of the total grain output was sold annually. Here, likewise, the largest sales were of wheat; in four years over 90 qrs. a year were sold for cash. (fn. 107)
At Teffont Evias, between 1394 and 1425, usually between a third and a quarter of the output of corn was sent to market, and frequently half or more of the wheat crop was sold. A third of the grain was set aside as seed corn. (fn. 108) At Winterbourne Stoke, from 1440 to 1450, between one-third and one-half of the corn was marketed, including half the barley and wheat crop, and a quarter of the drage produced in 1450. (fn. 109) At Durrington, between 1324 and 1349, usually well over half the grain raised was sold, including two-thirds or more of the wheat and barley. (fn. 110) Nearly the whole of the output of the manor of Downton Rectory, (fn. 111) and half that of Stert and Alton Barnes, were marketed regularly in the 14th and early 15th centuries. (fn. 112) At Aldbourne, Amesbury, Trowbridge, Winterbourne Earls, and Collingbourne Ducis the two surviving grain accounts of the last decade of the 13th and the opening years of the 14th century reveal from half to two-thirds of the corn produced being sold in the market. (fn. 113) The Priory of Amesbury in 1315 sold four stacks of wheat for £43, and a year later a certain Thomas Wills paid £14 for corn bought from the priory. (fn. 114)
Carting or packhorse services on several manors provide additional evidence of the prevalent custom of selling a substantial portion of the demesne output, and, in defining those services, the markets are occasionally indicated. The virgaters of Durrington had each to carry 3 qrs. of wheat by packhorse for sale at any place within the county. (fn. 115) At Coombe Bissett each virgater had to carry 1 qr. of wheat or 12 bushels of barley or 2 qrs. of oats to market at Salisbury, Fordingbridge (Hants), Downton, or Wilton. (fn. 116) The 10 virgaters and 24 semi-virgaters of Christian Malford were obliged to take three loads of grain during the year for sale at Bristol or elsewhere. (fn. 117) At Longbridge Deverill the virgaters had to carry by packhorse to Ditcheat (Som.), Cranmore (Som.), Wilton, or anywhere within a radius of 15 leagues, and occasionally had to go as far as Gloucester. (fn. 118) The virgaters of Market Lavington had to carry corn to market. (fn. 119) The virgaters of Aldbourne gave 140 works a year in carting corn, cheese, and wool to market up to 20 miles away if necessary, while at Everleigh similar produce had to be carried anywhere within the county if the lord so willed. From Bishopstone (Downton hundred) corn was taken to the four nearest markets by the customary tenants, while at Upton, in East Knoyle, each man might be required to carry a quarter of corn to market on his back travelling to and fro for 3 days in the week, and receiving a customary payment in grain for this labour. Every bond tenant at Downton had to carry the demesne corn in his own cart to Winchester, 'Waltham' (possibly Bishop's Waltham), East Knoyle, or 'Hampton' (possibly Southampton). (fn. 120)
Of equal importance with the arable acres of the demesne were the meadow-lands put down to hay each year. The poorer meadows within the county were seldom valued at less than 1s. 3d. an acre, and the better were rated as high as 2s. to 3s. (fn. 121) The inclosure of a stretch of meadow to retain it in severalty throughout the year was by no means uncommon. Thus at Downton, in 1312, the rector was permitted to inclose a piece of meadow with a hedge and ditch and maintain it in severalty thenceforth. In the same parish in the time of Edward 1 the grant of an acre of land was accompanied by permission to inclose it and use it for pasture. (fn. 122) In the demesne of Manningford Bohun in 1361 there were 3 acres of meadow in severalty worth 2s. 6d. the acre, and 9 acres in common worth 1s. 6d. each. (fn. 123) At Sherston there were 5 acres of several meadow and 12 of common in 1360; (fn. 124) at Westbury in 1361 20 acres of several meadow were valued at 1s. 6d. an acre and 10 acres in common at 1s. each. (fn. 125) Occasionally, also, there is mention in the records of hams or 'hamelettes' distinguished from the ordinary meadowland, which possibly suggests early attempts to create water-meadows. (fn. 126)
On the rough grazing lands, which were never set aside for hay, inclosure of reaches for the exclusive use of the lord's cattle is also found in several instances from the 13th century onwards. Thus there were at Market Lavington 2 several pastures in the year 1258 capable of sustaining 10 oxen, (fn. 127) at Standen (in Chute) in the same year there was a 'several grove' and a several pasture which could support 16 oxen. (fn. 128) On the manor of Cherhill there were 20 acres of several pasture in 1265; (fn. 129) at Brigmerston (in Milston) there were two several pastures in 1274, one for 16 oxen and 2 cart horses and one on which 1,000 sheep could be maintained. (fn. 130) At Calstone (in Calne) there were likewise two pastures in severalty at this period (1274), one on the hill for sheep and oxen, and one on which 350 sheep could be maintained by the year, (fn. 131) and at Rockley (in Ogbourne St. Andrew) at the same date there were three several pastures, one for the lord's plough oxen, one for 700 of his sheep, and a third at 'Rothersdune' (probably Rough Down). (fn. 132)
In the late 13th and the 14th centuries it became fashionable to inclose land for parks and for hunting. For example, at Colerne there were 200 acres of parkland in 1311; (fn. 133) by 1328 Castle Combe is credited with an inclosed park which was to prove a source of temptation to poachers, particularly to the parsons of the locality, who made a mass raid on the rabbits there in 1392, and were brought to justice; (fn. 134) Oaksey had 95 acres of parkland in 1347. (fn. 135) Aldbourne had its great chase where rabbits bred by the thousand; (fn. 136) there were two inclosed parks at Vastern (in Wootton Bassett) in 1334, one without any coppice, the second containing undergrowth which it was forbidden to cut. (fn. 137) In 1369 a field of 120 acres, belonging to the manor of Wootton Bassett, was stated to have been recently inclosed and added to the great park of Vastern by the king's order. (fn. 138) The manor of Everleigh is credited with a park in 1361, (fn. 139) while at Lydiard Tregoze (fn. 140) there was a wood ('Parkwode') containing 40 acres in 1348. In 1375 two parcels of land at Tisbury were acquired by one Thomas West with permission to inclose them in his park at Rowcombe. (fn. 141)
Woods and coppices were important assets on several manors. Branches and trunks of oak and ash, blown down or felled, were sold for building, and loppings, twigs, and 'scroggis' for firewood and kindling. The income from this source seems to have been particularly important on the demesnes of Oaksey, Poole Keynes, Upton Scudamore, Aldbourne, Mildenhall, Heytesbury, and Colerne. Sales of underwood and loppings averaged £7 a year at Heytesbury in the 15th century; they brought in from £3 to £5 at Upton Scudamore in the same period, while the timber sold from the demesne at Aldbourne might realize as much as £22 in an exceptional year.
On many other manors there were varied sources of income over and above the usual ones derived from grain and stock. For example, marlpits are mentioned in leases of demesne land at Bratton in 1331; (fn. 142) there were orchards at Norridge, (fn. 143) near Warminster; rabbit warrens, a most valuable source of income, are specially mentioned at Aldbourne, Amesbury, Heytesbury, Winterbourne Stoke, Everleigh, Marlborough, and Teffont Evias. Rabbits from the great warren at Aldbourne, which could be let for as much as £40 and over in the earlier decades of the 15th century, (fn. 144) were supplied to both John of Gaunt and Henry VI; nearly 1,000 rabbits, valued at £14, were supplied for entertaining the royal household in 1434 and 66 couples were sold to other purchasers. (fn. 145) Turbary and marl figure among the receipts at Downton; nuts were gathered and sold from the woods around Collingbourne Ducis; a fishery for eels in the Bristol Avon was worth 2s. to the manor of Rowden, near Chippenham, in 1307; (fn. 146) trout from a stream at Heytesbury supplied to the table of the lord of the manor were valued at 27s. in 1428. The sale of such produce together with the marketing of grain and wool—the chief demesne products—indicates that in Wiltshire, as elsewhere, in the Middle Ages, landowners ran their estates with at least one eye upon the cash profit which manorial produce would realize.
The system of centralized control developed by the great landowners in the 13th and early 14th centuries is well illustrated in Wiltshire by the organization of sheep farming on the demesnes. Where flocks of a considerable size were maintained on the manors of a lordship within Wiltshire and the neighbouring counties, it was the custom to run the sheep farms on an inter-manorial or extra-manorial basis, with frequent interchange of grazing grounds, and of animals to replenish the stock on the various farms. The best example of such arrangements comes from the estates of the Lords Hungerford. (fn. 147)
When the manorial accounts of these estates begin in the mid-14th century, Heytesbury, lying in the sheltered Wylye valley, was the breeding centre for the demesnes included in the system, sending its yearlings annually to Colerne and Stert in the west of the county and over the Somerset border to Farleigh Hungerford. (fn. 148) In return, Heytesbury's flock was furnished with ewes and hogasters from Farleigh Hungerford and Wellow, also in Somerset, and received lambs and wethers from Stert on its pasture grounds. But in the later 14th century the ewe flock was given up and Heytesbury became the nursery for lambs sent thither from other manors to be reared over the first difficult months of their lives. This stock was then sent out as yearlings or fully grown ewes and wethers to maintain the other flocks of the lordship. Farleigh Hungerford, Wellow, and Holt (Som.) became the chief breeding centres, supplying the Wiltshire demesnes with ewes and lambs, and receiving in turn from those farms some of their fully grown stock to replenish their own flocks. The manors within this scheme of exchange included at first Farleigh Hungerford, Wellow, Holt, Heytesbury, Teffont Evias, and Sutton Veny; then, as manors changed hands, it was Farleigh Hungerford, Wellow, Heytesbury, Mildenhall near Marlborough, Fisherton de la Mere, Frome (Som.), Upton Scudamore, and Winterbourne Stoke that were involved in these transactions. (fn. 149) Several hundred sheep and lambs all told were included in these interchanges in any one year, travelling from manor to manor a distance which might vary from 5 or 10 to 30 miles, as they passed from Farleigh Hungerford to Mildenhall or Heytesbury, or from the latter manor to Frome. The organization and oversight of these movements rested with the stock-keeper (instaurator) and receiver, who also bought in new stock from time to time at the local markets and fairs, and authorized the sale of the substandard beasts, and the kebs from the various flocks. (fn. 150)
A similar movement of sheep between the demesne farms is found on the estates of the Bishop of Winchester. Here the exchanges occur chiefly between the manors within the county, Downton, Bishopstone, East Knoyle, and Fonthill Bishop, but occasionally estates farther afield were involved. Thus in 1252 East Knoyle received 20 ewes from Twyford (Berks.) and supplied ewes, hogasters, and wethers to Fonthill Bishop, Upton, in East Knoyle, and Bitterne (Hants), while in the black year of 1349, East Knoyle was able to send a number of lambs to help the stricken flocks on the other Wiltshire estates of the bishopric and also to supply a ram and 64 ewes to Rimpton (Som.). Downton in that year also received 4 rams and 199 ewes from Twyford, 55 lambs from Walton, nearby, and 100 from East Knoyle, and in turn sent out 77 wethers and 40 ewes to Rimpton in the course of the 12 months. (fn. 151) The sheep farming on these estates was likewise supervised by a stock-keeper, who in the early 13th century was a lay brother. In 1365 a supervisor of the livestock of the bailiwicks of Downton, Wargrave (Berks.), Witney ('Wyttenhey') (Oxon.), and 'Coggeswelle' appears on the account rolls of Downton manor, and both that demesne and East Knoyle are charged with 25s. for his stipend. (fn. 152)
The constant sales of old and weakly animals from the sheep-farming demesnes, and the purchase of fresh stock from outside, ensured the maintenance of a certain standard of quality both in sheep and in wool. There is also some evidence of more definite attempts at improvement through the importation of new and superior strains. Thus, in 1208, the Bishop of Winchester was experimenting with the introduction of rams from Lincolnshire into the flock at Downton, 16 Lindsey rams—the famous longwoolled Lincolnshire breed—being bought for the manor that year. East Knoyle at the same date accounted for 846 fleeces of great wool (grosse lane) and 6 of Lindsey wool sold from its demesne. Downton sold 2 pounds (pondus) of Lindsey wool in 1210, while 882 fleeces of great wool (lane grosse et crispe) were produced in East Knoyle, the produce of the improved stock. (fn. 153)
In the earlier accounts of these sheep-rearing estates before the centralization of activities was completed, the wool was sold direct from the demesnes. The later records of the 14th and 15th centuries show, however, that the fleeces were by that time collected at some principal warehouse or lanaria and thence sold by one of the senior officials, the receiver-general for the region, or the stock-keeper. On the Hungerford estates until 1359 Heytesbury formed such a centre for Colerne, Stert, Mildenhall, Wellow, and Farleigh Hungerford. (fn. 154) Later the warehouse was moved first to Down Ampney (Glos.) then to Farleigh Hungerford, (fn. 155) although between 1440 and 1449 wool from Winterbourne Stoke and Upton Scudamore seems to have gone to the centre at Farleigh Hungerford via Heytesbury, (fn. 156) and Heytesbury was storing its own wool again in 1455, 1457, and 1460. (fn. 157) On the Bishop of Winchester's estates in 1276 East Knoyle and Bishopstone sent their wool outside the county to Bitterne, (fn. 158) while after 1296 the wool from all the Wiltshire farms went to the bishop's palace at Wolvesey (Hants), save for a short period in the 14th century when it was gathered at and sold from Downton. (fn. 159) Because of this central organization of sales, the names of purchasers and the price realized is seldom recorded in the manorial accounts. Moreover, few receivers', and no stock-keepers', accounts have survived, so that only occasionally is it possible to discover who was buying the wool from the Wiltshire downlands. In 1247 it is recorded that Walter le Flendre bought the wool of the manor of Fonthill Bishop, which suggests direct sale to the foreign market. (fn. 160) In the 14th century it was the big English wool magnates who bought the fleeces from the Bishop of Winchester's demesnes, such as John Burford, one of the largest wool magnates of the period, and a frequent financier of the Crown. (fn. 161) A local wool-dealer and flock-master of Maiden Bradley, who was apparently also a butcher, purchased the clip of the Hungerford demesnes in the 15th century, buying also the sub-standard sheep from the demesne farms. (fn. 162) A cloth manufacturer of Trowbridge was another client for the Hungerford wool at this period. (fn. 163) A merchant and citizen of London, Henry Barton—possibly that Henry Barton, a skinner by trade, who became Lord Mayor of London in 1417 (fn. 164) —bought several sacks from the South Parts of the Duchy of Lancaster estates, which included those in Wiltshire, in the early 15th century. (fn. 165) But for the most part the destination of the Wiltshire wool in the Middle Ages is unknown to us.
The date at which cheese-making started on the farms varied; sometimes it was as early as 25 March, sometimes as late as 23 April. At East Knoyle it is stated in 1337 that the 420 cheeses made there between 13 April and 29 September were produced from the milk of 24 cows and 740 ewes, and at Downton, 428 cheeses made in the same period were from the milk of 24 cows and 312 ewes. Two hundred to 300 cheeses were produced annually at Downton and East Knoyle in the early part of the 13th century; and from 400 to 500 cheeses a hundred years later at the rate of one to three a day between April and the end of September.
Some information about the services and customs connected with demesne dairying before the practice of farming out cows and ewes to the tenantry had been adopted comes from the Lacock Abbey manor of Bishopstrow. Here 5 of the lesser tenants, holding 4 or 5 acres apiece, had to find a woman to milk the ewes of the abbess from the weaning of the lambs until Michaelmas. At Lacock itself the cowherd, who was drawn from the ranks of the cotsetlers, was allowed the milk of a heifer for 15 days, and of a cow of the demesne herd for 8 days, and could have a cow and a calf of his own running freely in the pastures of the abbey. (fn. 166)
Management of demesne flocks
Large demesne flocks of 1,000 sheep or over were to be found on several manors on or bordering the downs, from the 13th to the 15th centuries, as, for example, at Downton, East Knoyle, Bishopstone (fn. 167) (Downton hundred), Amesbury, (fn. 168) Aldbourne, Collingbourne Ducis, (fn. 169) Heytesbury, (fn. 170) Winterbourne Stoke, (fn. 171) Urchfont, (fn. 172) and Alton Barnes. (fn. 173) There were flocks of from 600 to 900 head at Fonthill Bishop, (fn. 174) Everleigh, (fn. 175) Mere, Mildenhall, (fn. 176) Sutton Veny, (fn. 177) Upton Scudamore, (fn. 178) Damerham, (fn. 179) Collingbourne Kingston, (fn. 180) and Rockley. (fn. 181) Smaller flocks of 100 to 500 are noted on the lands of New College, Oxford, at Stert, (fn. 182) and on the manors of the Knights Hospitallers at Ansty and Lockeridge (fn. 183) (in West Overton), though in the latter case it is not certain that this actual number was maintained there. There were flocks of about the same size at Coombe Bissett, (fn. 184) Alvediston, Pewsey, (fn. 185) Durrington, (fn. 186) Downton Rectory, (fn. 187) Idmiston, Winterbourne Monkton, Badbury, and Nettleton. (fn. 188) In most of these examples there is definite evidence of the number of sheep to be found in the demesne flock and not merely the number which could be grazed.
Where the flocks were very large it was usual to maintain three permanent sheepfolds, one for the ewes, one for the wethers, and one for the hogasters or yearlings with a shepherd in charge of each. He was responsible for maintaining the structure of the folds, and a constant item on the expenses accounts of the great sheep-farming manors is for the upkeep or rebuilding of these substantial folds. (fn. 189) The provision of hurdles for the movable pens in which the sheep were confined to manure the ground were frequently provided by the services of the customary or villein tenants. At Downton and East Knoyle in the 13th century and later the virgaters and semi-virgaters were responsible for making 1, 2, or 3 hurdles apiece as part of their labour dues. (fn. 190) At Longbridge Deverill this work devolved upon the cottars who, if called upon to do so, had to make 5 hurdles in 2 days, or smaller ones at the rate of 3 a day. (fn. 191) In many cases, however, the hurdles from early times were made by wage labour and paid for at piecework rates; for example, in 1295 Aldbourne paid for the construction of 58 hurdles, and Amesbury for 240, (fn. 192) while Upton Scudamore, in the 15th century, purchased them by the dozen in the market. (fn. 193) The moving of the pens across the fields was also a service which often fell among the customary labour dues, a duty devolving on the semi-virgaters at East Knoyle, (fn. 194) on the virgaters at Heytesbury, (fn. 195) and on the Mondaymen and cottars at Collingbourne Ducis. (fn. 196) The virgaters had to send a man or a girl to move the demesne pens at Chilhampton (in South Newton). (fn. 197)
The sheep were weeded out once or twice a year, those which were sickly or unsuitable for breeding being set aside in the 'kebhurd' to fatten for sale as butcher's meat. On most manors the large sales of stock took place at Martinmas, but the preliminary sorting was probably done earlier in the year when the stock-keeper, receiver, or steward came to the manor for the shearing of the sheep and the weighing of the wool. The annual sheep washing and clipping was an event of great importance, and extra labour was frequently hired to assist the customary tenants in these tasks. At East Knoyle in 1256 5s. 11½d. was paid for this additional help; (fn. 198) Amesbury in 1295 employed hired assistance costing in all 3s.; (fn. 199) 10 men were hired at Mildenhall in 1380 receiving 2d. and 3d. each; (fn. 200) 264 wethers from the south fold were washed and shorn at Heytesbury in 1375 by wage labour at a cost of 3s. 4d.; (fn. 201) in 1435, 6s. was paid at Everleigh for the aid of divers men and women at this busy season. (fn. 202)
A shearing feast was an annual event on many of the sheep-rearing manors. At Heytesbury in 1411, after 1,479 sheep and 30 lambs had been clipped and washed, 15s. 6d. was spent in buying 4 bushels of wheat, a quarter of barley malt for ale, a sheep, some beef, a pig, and a calf, these preparations being made on the authority of the receiver, who was in attendance at the shearing. (fn. 203) At Sutton Veny, where as at Heytesbury in the 15th century, only the services of the customary tenants were called upon for clipping and washing, the lord of the manor provided ale and other victuals, and the farmer of the demesne gave 4 bushels of wheat and of malt. (fn. 204) The Hungerfords likewise provided ale, cheese, and meat for their workers at Mildenhall; in 1380, 30 men and women all told shared in the feast there. (fn. 205) Ale, cheese, and meat were still being purchased for the shearers here in 1401, but bread was substituted for meat in 1403, reducing the cost, although more workers were employed and there were 604 sheep to be washed and clipped as against 495 two years earlier. (fn. 206) At Mildenhall the sheep were washed by men working in couples; each pair received 4d., while the shearing was done at a piece-rate of 1s. 1½d. a hundred sheep. At Winterbourne Monkton, Longbridge Deverill, and Monkton Deverill in the 13th century the shearers received the cheese made in the demesne dairy during the days they were at work. (fn. 207)
The office of shepherd was an important and responsible one. He was released from all other services and maintained as a permanent member of the staff of the home farm, receiving a money wage. This was supplemented usually by a grain allowance every 8 or 10 weeks, together with a lamb in spring, a fleece at shearing, and sometimes a cheese. In the surviving 13th-century accounts his rent was remitted in lieu of a wage and he was paid with liveries of grain and other perquisites, but by the middle or end of the 14th century the rent allowance was withdrawn on several manors and the wage payment substituted. By the end of the 14th century the shepherds at Downton, Bishopstone, Heytesbury, and Teffont Evias were receiving a wage of 10s. or 12s., and a quarter of barley, or of barley and wheat mixed, every 10 weeks, but they had no rent allowance. At East Knoyle in 1396 the shepherd held ½ virgate of land without payment, and received a similar grain allowance and 2s. in cash. (fn. 208) The shepherd of the ewes at Longbridge Deverill, who was drawn from the ranks of the cotsetlers, had an acre of land sown for him with his own seed, took 2 of the best lambs and a fleece, and had the milk of up to 29 ewes whose lambs had died. Also, in common with the dairymaid and the reeve, he had the milk of the ewes on Sundays from the Tuesday after Easter to 1 August. (fn. 209)
In addition to his wages and customary allowances, the shepherd had certain privileges with regard to the use of the demesne fold, and could in some instances keep a number of his own sheep in the lord's pastures. The shepherds of the hamlets of Wick and Walton in the manor of Downton, and of Bishopstone and East Knoyle, could have the demesne flock penned on their customary acres to manure them for 12 days at Christmas, while at East Knoyle the shepherd enjoyed 'herdland' of 31 acres of the demesne for his sheep after the corn was carried. (fn. 210) The shepherd of Amesbury, who was a cotsetler, could have 20 sheep in the demesne fold, and could manure 1 acre of his land with the demesne flock. (fn. 211) At Badbury in the 13th century the shepherd could have 15 sheep grazing freely with the lord's flock in the manor pastures; on the third Saturday of each month in the ploughing season he had the use of the demesne plough, and the demesne fold was on his land for 12 days at Christmas. (fn. 212)
The life of the shepherd was inevitably an anxious one. There was the constant danger of sheep straying, of theft, of worrying dogs, and even of attack by foxes; 3 perished at Sutton Veny in one night through such an onslaught. (fn. 213) The shepherd of Upton Scudamore was charged in 1440 with 18 sheep missing at the shearing of the previous year and 13 in the current one, a total burden of £1 19s. 4d. (fn. 214) Three years later he was still in difficulties. Twelve of his own sheep, valued at £1, were seized in part satisfaction of a debt of £2 3s. 4d. owed by him for divers of the lord's sheep which were missing. (fn. 215) Whether the sheep were genuinely lost or had been stolen by the shepherd and his confederates is not clear; he no longer held the office of shepherd in 1443, possibly having been replaced as untrustworthy, but it is apparent that the man in charge was held financially responsible for any sheep missing at the annual dipping and shearing.
The lambing season was a time of particular anxiety. The proportion of deaths among the newly born was often very high on the farms of the Bishop of Winchester, while at Collingbourne Ducis, one of the Duchy of Lancaster estates, there were 240 'slynkettes' or still-born lambs in 1434. Indeed, only 85 were born alive that year. (fn. 216) Most dreaded of all was the onset of infectious disease which might run through the whole flock. These years of disaster stand out in the account rolls with their long tale of deaths, but the incidence of sickness was usually localized; a manor in a neighbouring valley might pass almost unscathed while the sheep were perishing daily on pastures 10 miles distant. Thus the year 1235 took heavy toll of the lambs and yearlings at Downton, Fonthill Bishop, and East Knoyle, where a total of 1,051 deaths out of a group of 2,418 lambs and yearlings is recorded, while Bishopstone lost only 38 sheep in all categories. (fn. 217) Again, 548 lambs out of a total of 1,644 born on the demesnes of East Knoyle and Downton died in 1347, while only 7 perished at Fonthill Bishop and 15 at Bishopstone. (fn. 218)
One of the earliest mentions of scab in this country occurs at East Knoyle in 1272 (fn. 219) when sulphur was purchased to anoint the ewes suffering from this sickness. The Chronicle of St. Albans (fn. 220) tells how the scourge swept the countryside and left the folds empty two years later, and suggests that the infection was brought by imported Spanish sheep. In 1272, 156 ewes at East Knoyle died of the complaint while still suckling their young, 390 lambs out of 900 born fell with the sickness and died before weaning, while a further 42 ewes and 66 lambs succumbed before they were shorn, and 23 lambs were sold because they were ill. In 1276 the deaths among the lambs were still higher on this manor, and again in 1286 and 1298 there was a heavy mortality among the newly born, as is shown in Table 2, which also gives figures for Downton and Bishopstone.
Mortality of Lambs on Three Manors of Bishop of Winchester (fn. 221)
The year 1349 was a black one for the sheep and wethers as well as for the human inhabitants of Downton; 944 sheep perished before shearing and after the birth of the young from the demesne flock of over 2,000 animals, while no customary gifts of lambs could be made to the shepherds or other workers that year because of the severe murrain among them. (fn. 222)
In 1357 a disease not yet certainly identified and termed the rubeus morbus appeared at Bishopstone and Downton, and was rampant again in 1395 at Bishopstone, East Knoyle, and Upton in East Knoyle. (fn. 223) It appeared to attack the sheep with great fatality, particularly after shearing, and to make heavy inroads on the young stock. In 1357 deaths at Bishopstone from this disease were 123, including 80 out of 288 lambs. The total number of casualties suffered on the manor that year, not all specified as due to the 'red death', was 288 from a flock of 1,232 head. Downton in the same year lost only 54 lambs and 19 wethers by this disease, and only 158 sheep all told from a large flock of 2,058. But in 1395, 161 out of 242 lambs died of the complaint at Bishopstone; 177, including 33 ewes, out of the 450 sheep surviving after shearing, at East Knoyle, and at Upton in East Knoyle 71 wethers perished from a flock of 531. No lambs were forthcoming in payment of herbage dues from the tenants that year on these manors, so that a heavy mortality was experienced among the tenants' flock also.
The large sale of kebs which took place at Downton and Bishopstone in 1357 probably implies a hurried effort to get rid of sickly and possibly infected stock. Thus 130 were sold from the demesne pasture at Bishopstone, and 239, including 60 lambs, from Downton. East Knoyle, where there was no mention of the new disease at the earlier date, also had a large number of doubtful animals to send to the market in 1395, (fn. 224) when its flock was stricken; 284 sickly sheep were then sold, as well as 235 wethers, although the latter were not labelled specifically as unfit.
The end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century saw another disease with a new name spreading among the sheep of the Bishopric of Winchester—the variolus or pox, attacking both shorn and unshorn. Downton and Bishopstone, the only two Wiltshire manors of the bishopric whose flocks were not at farm in 1415, were both swept by this scourge, the death-rate again being particularly heavy among the young stock and the ewes. (fn. 225)
The Hungerford estates in the county had a surprisingly low record of deaths in the later 14th and 15th centuries. Despite the large flock of lambs and yearlings driven to Heytesbury from many miles away, we find such losses there as 29 out of 718, and 7 out of 691 lambs; in the years 1424, 1425, 1428–30, 1436, and 1443 there is not a single entry of death amongst the young stock. (fn. 226)
On the other Hungerford manors the record is nearly as good. The highest deathrates found are at Winterbourne Stoke in 1440 when 60 sheep were lost from a flock of 1,000; at Mildenhall when 34 out of 70 sheep perished, or at Sutton Veny where 70 were lost from a flock of 757, when 'les pokkys' attacked the animals during 1424–5. Table 3 shows the death-rate on two of the manors belonging to New College, Oxford.
Death-rate of Sheep on Estates of New College, Oxford (fn. 227)
The treatment of the disease whatever its nature was by the application of ointment. Wine, copper in the form of verdigris, and mercury were frequently purchased and used for sheep medicaments on the farms of the Bishopric of Winchester in the latter half of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century. After the mid-century they were replaced by tar and grease, bought usually by the barrel or gallon. (fn. 228) These were the weapons with which Downton and Bishopstone fought the rubeus morbus of 1357 and 1395, or the pox of the 15th century. At Urchfont, in the 15th century, a regular item among the expenses of the sheepfold is the payment made to a man coming to anoint the sheep and yearlings of the demesne at 1s. 8d. the 100; (fn. 229) this appears to have been a precautionary measure to prevent disease and infection.
The question how far the manorial tenantry raised wool on their own account can be at least partially answered. One source of information lies in the herbage dues paid for the right to graze sheep with the demesne flock, provided that it is known that this payment was made by the tenantry, and not by the owner of a neighbouring demesne who was short of pasturage. For the estates of the Bishopric of Winchester, a 13thcentury custumal (fn. 230) lists the tenant holdings owing this fold or grazing rent, and it has therefore been assumed that at least the bulk of the payments under this heading found in the manorial accounts represent sums paid by the tenantry.
The tenants of the hamlets of Wick, Charlton, and Walton within the manor of Downton gave a full-grown sheep for every 10 which they had grazing within the demesne pastures. The dues thus received by the lord of the manor from 1210 to 1415, after which the demesne lands were leased, represents a tenant flock varying from 470 in 1220 to 200 in 1406, and rising to 520 in 1337. At Witherington (in Standlynch) and Nunton, also close to Downton, 1d. was paid for 5 ewes or an ox; the sheep are not distinguished until 1406, when the sums paid reveal a flock of 160 to 185 sheep at Nunton, and 200 at Witherington. (fn. 231)
The dues for sheep at Bishopstone are not distinguished from the general herbage dues, including cattle, until 1256. On this manor the rate was ¼d. for a ewe, or a lamb for 10 ewes. After 1256 the payments represent the following number of sheep belonging to the tenants and grazing on the demesne pastures:
Tenant Flocks at Bishopstone Grazing on Demesne
|Year||Tenant flock||Year||Tenant flock|
|1306||78||1395 (fn. 232)||26|
These figures do not by any means represent the total number of sheep maintained by the tenants, nor is the drop in herbage dues in the 14th century necessarily a sign of a dwindling flock. More and more of the pasture of these manors was being let annually to tenants in the villages or farmed for longer periods—this was especially the case at Downton and East Knoyle—so that the number of sheep occupying the grazing grounds retained as part of the demesne farm would decline, whilst the total number kept by the tenants might be actually growing. From the end of the 13th century, therefore, the herbage dues are by no means a true indication of the extent of peasant sheep farming. Moreover, certain tenements carried with them the right of pasturage free of all herbage payments. A ferlingman at Downton could graze 20 ewes free of charge, giving 1d. for every 5 above this number; one semi-virgater at Nunton had 40 ewes and 2 rams thus acquitted, and another 100 ewes and 2 rams; a holding of 12 acres carried the right to maintain 40 ewes and 2 rams without charge, while 6 acres of demesne land held by one customary tenant gave him the liberty to graze 20 ewes and 1 draught animal without any payment. It is possible, therefore, that on the whole manor of Downton, at least in the 13th century, there was a tenant flock of 800 to 1,000 head in addition to the bishop's sheep.
Although there are no herbage payments among the receipts at East Knoyle, one free tenant, the holder of a virgate, could have 100 ewes and wethers free of charge on the demesne pastures; the shepherd of the bishop's flock of ewes was excused any payment for 60 of his own animals, and the guardian of the lambs could graze 30 lambs. At Upton, close by, the shepherd was again excused payment for 31 ewes. (fn. 233)
Two virgaters and 5 semi-virgaters of the manor of Heytesbury Westcourt and 9 semi-virgaters of Heytesbury Eastcourt had the right to maintain 35 sheep each in the common fields and pastures; when the villein services on this manor were commuted in 1391–2, the rent paid in lieu of services included a sum to cover the fold rent enabling the villeins to pen the sheep on their own holdings. (fn. 234) This would imply a tenant flock of at least 560.
Twelve of the lesser tenants or acremen at Collingbourne Ducis were paying together 7s. 6d. in the 15th century for permission to withdraw 15 sheep each from the demesne fold, while 2 Mondaymen with 10 sheep apiece gave ½d. at Hocktide for the privilege of keeping them on their own ground. There were thus at least 200 sheep belonging to the lesser tenants of the manor at that period. (fn. 235) At Aldbourne a 'faldage' of 2s. 3d. due from the customary tenants occurs in 1304, and of 1s. in the 15th century, payments which, at the rate of ½d. a head, represent some 50 sheep at the earlier date and 24 at the later withdrawn from the demesne fold by the tenants. (fn. 236)
A very common grievance on the manor of Stockton was the number of tenants' sheep straying into the demesne corn and pasture lands. In 1353 we find tenants with 12, 20, and 40 sheep each guilty of this offence; in 1356 one tenant paid fines on two occasions for his 50 sheep browsing in the demesne cornfields and woods, and a second, a villein, let 40 of his sheep thus stray. Two others likewise each had 40 sheep, and yet three more 60 apiece straying into the lord's cornfields. (fn. 237)
At Addeston (in Maddington), on the eastern edge of Salisbury Plain, the Rector of Berwick St. James, 2 free tenants, and 7 customary virgaters were allowed to graze 65 sheep each throughout the year, while 3 semi-virgaters could maintain 32 sheep apiece there. At full strength, therefore, in the early 14th century there would be a tenant flock of 746 sheep. (fn. 238) At Winterbourne Earls, in 1363–4, a customary semivirgater, holding some small additional plots of land, had grazing for 70 sheep in the common pastures. (fn. 239) The shepherd on the Earl of Salisbury's demesne at Amesbury in 1364 was a cotsetler and could have 20 'two teethed' sheep grazing with those of the lord of the manor, and 5 other holders of 'cotsetlands' could keep 25 sheep each in the lord's fold. Another tenant held two several pastures here, 40 acres in circumference, on which there was grazing for 300 sheep. (fn. 240)
On four pastures at Fiddington ('Fifield Verdon') 4 tenants had 162 sheep between them in 1309 (two 62 each, one 31, and one 7), and all the customary tenants of the manor could have their sheep in these pastures—apparently demesne meadows— giving the tenth sheep in payment. In addition these tenants were renting another pasture for 2s. a year, and for the sheep maintained there presumably paid nothing. In the year 1309 the tithe paid by the customary tenants would represent a tenant flock of 270 animals. (fn. 241)
At Yatesbury in the same year the ox pasture of 'Norylese' was 'common' for the tenants' sheep between 11 November and 2 February. The tenants of the succentors of Salisbury on the same manor also had pasture for their sheep, for which they paid 3s. a year, maintaining a common shepherd to look after them. (fn. 242) In South Newton in 1315 one free tenant holding 2 virgates had 75 sheep on the commons of the village free of herbage payments; another, the holder of a customary virgate, had free pasturage for 100 sheep and a third for 66. (fn. 243)
Fourteen tenants of Durrington, 8 free-men, 5 villeins (nativi), and one whose status is not specified, could have 50 or 60 sheep each in 1359 on the pastures of the manor; one of these, a villein, who was renting two holdings, kept 120 sheep. The total tenant flock in that year was 780 on pastures, which, it is stated, could maintain 1,000 sheep other than those of the demesne flock. (fn. 244)
At Tilshead in the 12th century there were 100 ewes in the tenants' flock for whose grazing on the demesne 2s. was paid, while in addition 100 ewes and 5 wethers could graze free of charge; in the demesne flock at that date there were only 27 ewes and 40 lambs. (fn. 245) At Urchfont in 1384–5, 2 tenants were accused of allowing 160 sheep over the stipulated number to graze in the several pasture of the demesne. (fn. 246)
Large-scale tenant sheep farming in the county is seen, however, most clearly in the assessment roll drawn up in 1225 to aid the collection of a fifteenth taken on movables on the Wiltshire and Dorset estates of the abbeys of Wilton, Glastonbury, Shaftesbury, Amesbury, and Préaux (Lisieux Dioc.). (fn. 247) Table 5 summarizes some of this information.
A widow in Alvediston owned 100 ewes and lambs; on the manor of West Hatch (in Tisbury) one tenant had 118 ewes and hogasters, one 63, and one 52; in Tisbury itself one tenant owned a flock of 150 ewes and yearlings, another had a flock of 62, another of 46, and two others of 40 ewes apiece. On this manor, where Shaftesbury Abbey maintained only 250 sheep on the demesne, the tenants' flock numbered 1,333 sheep.
A comparison of the names occurring in the 13th-century custumal of the Glastonbury Abbey lands of 1235–52, with those on the subsidy roll of 1225, shows that some of the larger owners of sheep at Damerham and Martin (now in Hants) were the ordinary villeins of the manor, though a number of wealthier sheep farmers appear to have settled in the latter hamlet in addition. For example, in the village of Damerham itself we find 20 customary tenants (fn. 248) in 1225 grazing sheep on the manor pastures, their small flocks ranging from 10 to 58 beasts, while in Martin, likewise, several villein tenants were among the owners of sheep.
Thus from the rather fragmentary evidence that has been preserved it is possible to visualize a considerable number of small sheep farmers among both the free and the villein tenants on the Wiltshire downs; some were probably to be found on every manor in or near the hills. A late 16th-century custumal of Winterbourne Stoke gives a glimpse of the management of a flock belonging to the villagers of that place. (fn. 249) Here there was a common shepherd to tend the whole flock; the sheep were folded in turn on the arable strips of the owners; fodder was purchased communally in seasons of dearth; breeding was restricted, and the prohibition of any private maintenance of sheep outside the common flock was prohibited. There is no trace of the disposal of the wool, but the wool-broker is probably a necessary adjunct of this rise of small-scale sheep farming. It is clear that many a cottar or virgater built his store of ready money from the sale of his fleeces to purchase his freedom, to add an acre or so of waste or demesne land to his holding, and in time to build up a substantial property for himself or his heirs.
The bulk of the rural population of Wiltshire at the time of the Domesday Survey was formed by the villani. (fn. 250) The survey does not clearly show the status of a member of this class, but he apparently ranked highest among the peasantry and his holding was probably a virgate of arable with appurtenant meadow and pasture. Beneath the villani in the social scale there were three classes of cottagers, probably with holdings of 5 or so acres: the bordarii, the coscez or cosceti, and the cotarii. Of these the bordarii were by far the most numerous, equalling or even outnumbering the villani on some estates. At the bottom of the social scale were the servi and the coliberti whose exact position is not known.
In the following centuries five main types of customary tenants are distinguished in Wiltshire; virgaters and semi-virgaters, cottars or cotsetlers, ferendelli or ferlingati, and Mondaymen. A virgater here might hold anything between 18 and 50 arable acres according to the nature and fertility of the soil, though the average was probably the traditional 30, while the semi-virgater's plot would vary accordingly. The ferendellus or ferlingatus generally held ¼ virgate. The Mondayland in the 12th century might be a croft or a croft and 1 acre as at Kingston St. Michael, Grittleton, and Idmiston in 1189. In the 16th century it could be 33 acres as at Collingbourne Ducis. (fn. 251) The cotsetland also showed a considerable range in its measurements, though generally it comprised a messuage and an acre or two of land; at Winterbourne Earls it was as much as 10 acres. (fn. 252) The workland is also found occasionally used synonymously with the Mondayland, (fn. 253) and varying usually from 2½ to 10 acres. On several manors the land was so subdivided among the tenants that no full virgaters appear at all. (fn. 254) Sometimes the partitioning had been carried to extreme lengths as in the case of Hannington where, in 1284, 44 customary tenants held between them 31½ virgates of land, or Berwick St. James where 22 customary tenants held 8½ virgates and certain portions of land known as 'akerland' in addition. (fn. 255) On other manors we find a larger holding of ½ a hide (which from the internal evidence contained 2 virgates) in addition to the more customary tenures, e.g. at Damerham, Nettleton, Grittleton, and Kington St. Michael in 1189 there were several holders of ½ hides and at Christian Malford 3 tenants held 1½ virgate. (fn. 256) But on many manors the very small holders—the cottars, crofters, and tenants of odd pieces of land of an acre or two in size—formed a large proportion of the village population.
It was doubtless usual for the main burden of the labour services rendered to fall upon the larger customary tenants, the virgaters, and half-virgaters; the Mondaymen, as their name implies, worked usually only 1 day a week on the demesne, and helped at haymaking and harvest; frequently the cottars paid only a money rent, but sometimes gave service at the seasons of haymaking and reaping. It is, therefore, usually assumed that the smaller tenantry had much time on their hands over and above what was needed to tend their plots, and formed a reserve of labour on which the larger tenants could draw for aid in cultivating their own holdings, or which the lord of the manor could hire when there was pressure of work. It is assumed that they were the nucleus of a force of wage labour, and a most important element in the manorial population. But there are instances in Wiltshire where the position is reversed, the burden of week-work falling on these cottars and lesser tenants, and the ordinary customary tenants coming only to the ploughing boons, or to perform the midsummer and autumn precaria. Thus at Downton, Bishopstone, and Upton in East Knoyle the virgaters and semi-virgaters were responsible for the customary ploughing and harrowing services for a few days in the year in winter and spring, and for certain shearing, reaping, brewing, and carrying services, while it was the ferlingmen who gave 2 days a week throughout the year to work on the demesne. (fn. 257) At Everleigh by the mid-15th century the virgaters and semi-virgaters could be called upon for 396 works only between midsummer and Michaelmas, with 12 mowing and 35 reaping works in addition, the cottars and Mondaymen shouldering the burden of the weekly labour dues throughout the rest of the year. (fn. 258) The cottars of Damerham in the 12th century worked 5 days in the week and paid no rent in money; at Winterbourne Monkton and Badbury the cottars gave 3 days in the week for 10 months in the year, and worked every day in the demesne fields from 1 August to 29 September, the other tenants being called upon only for customary ploughing, haymaking, and carting services at stated times, and possibly for attendance at the scotales. (fn. 259) At Stert in 1420–1, 19 ferlingmen worked on the demesne every day from 21 June to 1 August, and 3 days in the week thereafter to 29 September, and gave 444 manual works during the rest of the year. (fn. 260) Whether in such cases the larger and more powerful tenantry had shifted the onerous week-work to the smaller men of the village, or whether this had always fallen upon them, remains a matter of conjecture.
It would be reasonable to assume that the amount of work demanded each week from the villein tenants would vary in proportion to the amount of land under cultivation in the demesne. But the evidence for Wiltshire does not admit of any neat or exact correlation. At Oaksey in 1299, with 300 acres of arable and 80 of meadow, the virgaters and semi-virgaters worked for part of each day throughout the year on the demesne strips; (fn. 261) at Sherrington, with 380 arable and 6 acres of meadow, the customary tenants worked every other day from Michaelmas to 1 August, and every day through the summer months; (fn. 262) at Broughton Gifford, with 310 arable acres, the same services were demanded. (fn. 263) On the 140 arable acres and 12 acres of meadow which John Mauduyt held of the Abbot of Malmesbury in the village of Somerford, the virgaters worked for 3 days in the week with 1 man, the quarter-virgaters 1 day from October to August, and 2 days from 1 August to Michaelmas. (fn. 264) At Ashton Gifford (Codford St. Peter), (fn. 265) with only 110 arable acres and 9 of meadow, and at Easton, (fn. 266) with 190 of arable and 6 of meadow, the customary tenants gave the same amount of service throughout the year as at Sherrington and Broughton Gifford.
The rents in cash which the tenants were called upon to pay in addition to the services given, varied in proportion to the amount of week-work demanded. The greater and lesser erdlinges of Bromham (fn. 267) had to provide a man to do 4 day-works ('deywynes'), working from early morning to noon, immediately after Michaelmas. The greater cottars or half-erdlinges were called on for 6 day-works for the same number of hours after Michaelmas, and the lesser cottars for 3. This being the only week-work, the money rents were very high, from 5s. to 7s. for the virgaters, from 4s. to 5s. for the semivirgaters, from 3s. to 3s. 4d. for the greater cottars, and from 1s. 4d. to 2s. for the lesser. But the 14 virgaters of Somerford Mauduyt, who worked every other day throughout the year on the demesne, paid only 2½d. each in rent; the virgaters and semi-virgaters of Oaksey, with their daily service, gave only 5d. and 2d. respectively; the virgaters of Broughton Gifford, who were called upon for only occasional ploughing and reaping services, paid 5s. 8d. in cash for their holdings, while the semi-virgaters who worked every other day for 10 months of the year, and every day in the two summer months, were charged with no cash rental at all.
Haymaking and harvest were, naturally, two of the busiest periods of the year. The customary tenants were frequently called upon to work every day in the lord's fields from 1 August to Michaelmas when the labour forces of the manor were mobilized to get in the crops. On the manors of the Bishopric of Winchester in the 13th century ½ acre of corn had to be reaped in a day, each reaper taking 1 sheaf for himself; at Bishopstone a special boon service, the 'midrepe' of 3 days at the rate of an acre a day was claimed also, and 3 further precaria were performed here by the larger customary tenants, who had to provide 2 men for the work, and were then fed twice in the day, by the lord of the manor. At East Knoyle each man reaped an acre, and the corn was carried and stacked each day in the grange; (fn. 268) at Idmiston in 1189 the virgaters and semi-virgaters had to reap ½ acre of mancorn or barley, and either 1 acre of oats or ½ acre of oats and wheat together in the day. (fn. 269) The greater and lesser erdlinges or virgaters and half-virgaters of Bromham in 1282 had to send 2 or 3 men to 3 autumn precaria or 'medbedrypes' for 3 days, the men working from morning until evening. If the virgaters themselves worked, they came every day from Midsummer's Day until Michaelmas, ploughing an acre each week, or reaping and binding an acre of grain a day. The greater cottars were also called upon to reap and bind 1 'needacre' and to send 1 man for 3 days to the autumn 'bederipes' (fn. 270)
The labour involved was often divided out among the different groups of tenants; at Damerham in 1189, while the virgaters reaped the cottars stacked the corn in the grange, and the ferlingmen were called upon for a special 'bedripe'. (fn. 271) At Nettleton the virgaters cut and carted the corn, while the semi-virgaters stacked the sheaves, though the latter might also be called upon to reap 3 acres, if the weather were threatening, or the help given by the other tenants was too slow. (fn. 272)
Similarly, at the time of haymaking the customary tenants on all manors had to come for boons or daily service, mowing generally an acre or ½ acre a day, tossing, making, and cocking the hay, and finally clearing the meadows and carrying the hay to barn or stack. Thus the Mondaymen of Oaksey in the 14th century had to work in the hayfields for 1 day with 1 man tossing and carrying the hay, and to send a man for a second day if necessary to complete these 'lover-peyings', while cottars and Mondaymen together stacked the hay. (fn. 273) The cotsetlers of Amesbury were responsible for putting the hay into cocks. (fn. 274) At Trowbridge, various burgesses and free tenants, including those who had shops or booths in the market, might be summoned to make the hay in a certain meadow, working for half a day after dinner. (fn. 275) The very small tenants, cottars, and Mondaymen, the freemen and even burgesses might be called upon for aid at these seasons.
The customs which attended the haymaking and the autumn 'bederipes' varied from manor to manor. Frequently the lord had to provide food for those performing these services; 3 sheep were given for this purpose at East Knoyle, for instance, in 1250, and 5 or 6 were allotted at Heytesbury in 1428 and 1430. At South Newton in 1315 the haymakers took 20d. in common for bread and ale, and received 1 sheep or a cheese after mowing a meadow called 'Longerham'. After mowing, carrying, and stacking the hay from another meadow on this manor they received 2½d. for bread, and could also have, provided they could catch it, a sickly ram or sheep, which was placed in the middle of the field after the hay was lifted. (fn. 276) The virgaters who mowed the demesne meadows at Badbury had bread and cheese twice a day, and received 12d. for their work, and a ewe from the demesne fold chosen by them, but selected by sight only and not by touch. (fn. 277)
The sheaves allotted to the harvesters were also sometimes selected by strange methods. At Longbridge Deverill in the latter half of the 13th century if the size of a sheaf was questioned, it was to be rolled in the mud and then drawn through the hoop formed by the hayward grasping his hair, above his ear. If the muddy sheaf did not dirty the hayward's clothes or hair then it was too small. (fn. 278) Sometimes the eighteenth or twentieth sheaf, according to the nature of the grain, was set aside for the harvesters —a common practice on the manors belonging to the Duchy of Lancaster. At Castle Combe, about 1340, the haymakers could take for each day of mowing as much hay as they could lift with their forks; as a 'medshup' they received 1½ bushel of wheat, a sheep or 12d., a cheese worth 3d., and 1d. for salt and flour. (fn. 279) At Bromham the cottars, or half-erdlinges, and the lesser cottars who helped with the reaping were to have 2 sheaves of the grain bound by a rope 1½ ell long. (fn. 280)
The lord of the manor usually retained a small permanent staff for such essential tasks as ploughing and the care of livestock. These farm servants were excused all other duties and were paid in various ways. Ploughmen usually held rent-free tenements and, as at Nettleton, were allowed the privilege of having the demesne plough to cultivate their strips. (fn. 281) In Bromham in 1282 the ploughmen had a remittance of rent rated at 3s. a year and, like the other farm servants there, received a dish of bacon on all days that were not days of abstinence. (fn. 282) Payments in grain were also common, supplemented by wages in cash. Thus at Downton in the 13th century rents to the value of 1s. 8d. and 2s. were remitted to the ploughmen and they received payments of 6½ qrs. of barley. At Bishopstone in the same period 2 ploughmen each received 3s. and from 5 to 6½ qrs. of barley during the year. (fn. 283)
Men and women in charge of livestock and the carters, of whom, on most manors, one at least was retained in the lord's service throughout the year, fell into a slightly different category, most of them being paid on a food-and-money basis only, although some might occupy holdings which were free, or partially free, of rent. Other tasks, such as threshing and winnowing, ditching and weeding, were frequently done at piece-work rates for a money wage, and this practice is found in the earliest surviving manorial account (1208) for the estates of the Bishopric of Winchester. (fn. 284)
At Aldbourne in 1295, 43 acres of wheat were reaped and bound ad tascham at a cost of £1 9s. 6d., while works of bondmen for reaping to the value of £1 12s. 2d. were remitted. At Amesbury in the same year payments of 5s. 7d. were made to labourers for weeding, of 5s. for making hurdles, and of 3s. for sheep washing and shearing in addition to the works of the customary tenants, and 13s. 6d. was also paid for mowing 36 acres of meadow and turning and carrying the hay. (fn. 285)
At Collingbourne Ducis, Trowbridge, and Everleigh the meadows were mown ad tascham in 1304 and 1314; at Trowbridge in the latter year several acres of beans were planted and later cut for 9s. 2½d. (fn. 286) In 1383, 30 customary tenants gave 3 precarie in the harvest fields, reaping and binding, but 117 acres of corn were cut, bound, and carried ad tascham at 1s. an acre. As the years pass it appears that more and more of the customary services due on the demesnes were sold for cash, and in their place villagers were employed at money wages, leading to the general and final commutation of labour dues.
Thus it appears that from the very early days of high demesne farming the labour force on the estates was mixed in character; it included men who occupied rent-free service holdings, men who were engaged for the year, or half-year, on a food-and-money wage, men employed at piece-rates on particular jobs, and men who were fulfilling the customary tasks of villeinage without payment. (fn. 287)
The most important members of the class of full-time paid workers were the reeve and hayward. On large estates these two formed the link between the local demesne farm and the steward or receiver of the lord of the manor. The reeve was the working bailiff of the demesne, elected each year from the ranks of the villein tenants, sometimes by the lord of the manor or one of his higher officials, but often, as at Castle Combe, by his fellows in the village. It was the reeve who kept and rendered for audit accounts of all income and expenditure on the demesne farm, and who was held responsible for any deficiencies. He usually collected rents and customary dues, although occasionally there was also a rent-collector, in which event the auditor's clerk drew up the account in both names. The hayward had responsibility for all crops from the time they were sown, through their harvesting and storing, to their distribution from grange or stack.
Ways of rewarding the reeve for his services varied from place to place and from time to time. At Castle Combe in the mid-14th century he received a quarter of wheat at the will of the lord, and an allowance of 5s. in cash; (fn. 288) at Amesbury, a virgater, if elected reeve, was acquitted of half his rent of 14s. 8½d. (although he claimed the whole rent allowance in 1364), received a quarter of wheat in the autumn, and was given his coat. (fn. 289) At Keevil, if the reeve were a virgater, half the rent of the holding was acquitted and half the services due; if a semi-virgater, all the rent and services were remitted. For 59 days from 1 August to Michaelmas he was given 1½d. a day, and was allowed to have as many cattle as he could keep in winter with the lord's beasts. (fn. 290) At Coombe Bissett the reeve, a virgater, served at the will of the lord and was acquitted of rent and all other payments; the best lamb at weaning was given to him, and the best fleece at shearing, and half a certain meadow was allotted to him at mowing. He was paid 2d. a day during the harvest period, and had 1 working beast and 3 ewes in the demesne meadow and in the pasture on the down. (fn. 291) On some manors he ate at the table of the lord of the manor throughout the harvest season, or when the lord was in residence, (fn. 292) and in addition received a rent allowance or a cash wage of 5s. a year, and free grazing rights for some of his cattle; at Lacock he also received the inside of the second best ox killed at Martinmas.
The hayward, or messor, had similar but lesser rewards for his service. Thus at Heddington in 1260 he was acquitted of 4s. rent, received 2 'sedlepes' of grain, and ate at the table of the lady of the manor (in curia domine) in the two harvest months. (fn. 293) At Badbury he received a rent allowance of 2s., had ½ acre of wheat of the lord's corn, one piece of meadow, (fn. 294) and 1 working beast free of charge in the demesne pastures. But it is noted here that he had to make good any defect in the hay or grain yielded from the demesne fields. (fn. 295) At Winterbourne Monkton, where the hayward also had to visit the fold twice in the day, and carry milk thence, he received 3s. rent allowance if a virgater, or 2s. if a cottar. He had a lamb, a ditch in a certain meadow, an acre of wheat of the lord's best corn excepting that grown on the manured ground, and had 1 working ox tethered in the demesne pastures and allowed to graze as far as the halter would stretch. (fn. 296)
There are numerous examples from Wiltshire of the special tallages or aids for which the medieval tenant was liable in addition to the usual money rent for his holding, and herbage and pannage dues. At Norton Bavant and Fiddington ('Fifield Verdon') a payment called 'nutsilver' was required. (fn. 297) The manor of Stert collected a sum of 5s. annually, called 'grastab', from its tenants in addition to a tallage of 6s. 8d. a year. (fn. 298) At Collingbourne Ducis there was an Easter payment called 'rental penny', amounting to 4s. and collected from the whole community, a tallage of £2, and an Easter gift of 300 eggs provided by the tenants. (fn. 299) 'Lardersilver', representing the commutation of former gifts in kind for the lord's table, was a common payment. It is found, for example, at Heytesbury, Sherrington, Ashton Gifford, West Kington, Somerford Keynes, Erlestoke, Castle Combe, West Winterslow, Damerham, Colerne, and Amesbury, and was usually charged at the rate of 1d. or 2d. a head.
Scotales can best be illustrated by the description of the custom at Damerham and Longbridge Deverill contained in the Glastonbury custumal of 1235–61. The virgaters, semi-virgaters, a few of the ferlingmen, and even some of the cottars of Damerham and Martin were called upon to attend these customary ale-drinkings with their wives, and gave 3d. for the privilege. The feast lasted for 2 days in each instance. If they chose also to bring a man or maid servant, or sub-tenant, they gave a further ½d., and each of these underlings could join in the revels for 1 day. The full virgaters and half-virgaters could drink as much as they wished (potabit scotallum plene), but some of the lesser tenants, for example, the parkarius and his wife, could indulge only in half-drinks or a moderate potion. (fn. 300) Again at Longbridge Deverill the lord of the manor could hold three scotales a year; on the Saturdays of the ale-drinking the married men and the youths came after dinner and were served three times with ale, while on Sundays and Mondays husbands and wives attended with their pence. If the young men came on Sunday, they had to pay ½d. a head, but on Monday if they attended, they could drink for nothing, provided they did not sit on or above the bench (super scamnium); any caught so doing had to pay 1d. These rights, it was declared, belonged only to the villeins (nativi) of the manor and their offspring; a stranger dwelling on the manor or working there was excluded from the merry-makings. (fn. 301)
Each virgater of Downton and Bishopstone had to attend two scotales in the year with their wives, paying 2½d. each, and a third might be held at which other tenants of the villages were present, while semi-virgaters and ferlingmen also had the right of attending one or two of these festivals. At Wick and Walton, however, the virgaters had only to make 2 qrs. of malt each for the Bishop of Winchester, if demanded, while the smaller tenants, the ferlingmen, cottars, and crofters alone went to the scotales. (fn. 302)
On several manors all the customary tenants, on others the cottars and Mondaymen only, were called upon to pay churchscot or 'cherset', a due which in the course of time had been appropriated by the lord of the manor. This usually took the form of a cock and 3 hens given at Martinmas, or occasionally at the feast of St. Denis; the prevalence of this due and the eggs demanded at Easter point to the widespread practice of poultrykeeping among the tenants. On a few manors, however, 'cherset' was paid in corn, as, for example, at Somerford (Somerford Mauduyt) where the 14 semi-virgaters gave 3 bushels of wheat and 2d. each for hundred silver at the feast of St. Martin; (fn. 303) and at Broughton Gifford where 7 customary tenants ploughed and harrowed an acre at the winter sowing in the name of 'cherset', while 11 semi-virgaters gave the usual cocks and hens. (fn. 304) At Fonthill Bishop 4 acres were set aside to be specially sown for 'cherset'. Occasionally also this due was paid in cash, as at Downton and East Knoyle (at the rate of 1d. a head), while at Bishopstone the semi-virgaters only owed 1 cock and 1 hen, and in addition gave ½d. for Peter's pence if unmarried, or 1d. if married.
The general impression left by a close reading of the manorial account and court rolls, extents, and custumals is that in order to meet the number of small exactions levied upon him, and to pay his 1d., 2d., or 6d. fine in the manorial court when need be, the customary tenant must have been able to produce in cash anything from a shilling or 2 to 8 or 10 shillings a year, if the rent of his holding was a high one and his labour services were light. As he became more and more anxious to sell his work on the demesne, giving the lord from ½d. to 2d. for the different types of service he owed instead of actually doing the work, his need for ready cash would increase. He could obtain this only by hiring his services to the more substantial tenants of the manor, by persuading the officials to employ him at piece-work rates, or at an annual wage, or by selling his spare produce. He might carry a bushel or so of corn, or a capful of hen's eggs, or a capon to market, but in Wiltshire his main produce was undoubtedly wool from the sheep he could maintain on the manorial pastures. We have already seen how widespread was the custom of sheep farming among the tenants. It is certain that by the early 15th century at least, many tenants had acquired sufficient money to lease additional pieces of land and perhaps two or three cottages. On this land they could grow more produce for sale, while some plots with cottages were sub-let, thus giving to the enterprising peasant the status of a petty landlord.
The 14th and 15th centuries
The 14th and 15th centuries witnessed the final leasing of demesne lands. This movement may be said to have begun in Wiltshire in the late 13th or early 14th century. First to go were the stretches of pasture, small plots of arable, and the special perquisites of the lord such as mills, fisheries, marl pits, stone quarries, or rabbit warrens. Then the whole block of the demesne arable and meadow was let, usually preceded or accompanied by the freeing of the villeins from all demands for week-work and for heavy boon services. Finally the demesne flock also passed to the tenant of the manorial lands. The process was generally completed in Wiltshire by the mid-15th century at latest, and numerous examples are found from 50 to 80 years earlier.
The chief tenant of the demesne was frequently a former villein or customary tenant gathering land under his control. Very often he was an erstwhile reeve of the manor, sometimes a higher official, a bailiff or stock-keeper or receiver-general of one of the great baronies. (fn. 305) Occasionally he was a member of the old manorial famulus, such as the shepherd of Aldbourne, joint lessee with another tenant of the vill in 1469, or the 'hogward' who took the demesne lands of Berwick St. James in 1430. There are several examples of a whole group of villagers, many of them former bondsmen, taking over the demesne lands together. Thus at Poole Keynes in 1410–11 various parcels of the demesne meadow were let or 'sold' by the year separately, but the main portion of arable and meadow was rented by 5 tenants, all of them virgaters holding bond land. (fn. 306) Likewise the demesne at Oaksey was first leased in a main block with a few parcels of land extracted to let to individual tenants. In 1410–11 the reeve and a second customary virgater leased the demesne here together, but between 1425 and 1466 the land was consistently let as a unit to a group varying from 5 to 9 in number, of whom the majority were former villeins. (fn. 307) As early as the 13th century—some time after 1242— although the exact date is not known, the whole manor of Corsham had been leased to the customary tenants. (fn. 308) A similar grant of the manor to the whole homage of the vill occurred in the case of Grittleton (fn. 309) before the year 1189; this lease was not revoked when the demesne plots on other manors of the Abbey of Glastonbury were resumed by the abbot in the 13th century. Whether in such cases the villagers farmed the land co-operatively as a group or divided it into portions for each man to work himself with the aid of his family and such labour as he could hire, we have no means of knowing.
Prior to and accompanying the leasing of the demesne lands an active traffic in land had begun in the 13th century and gathered momentum during the 14th and 15th centuries. These transactions included sales and sub-letting among the free, the leasing of additional plots, and the exchange of holdings among the unfree. By the 14th century, in the place of one or two tenants-in-chief, there appear a number of sub-tenants holding portions of manorial property in parcels scattered throughout contiguous or widely separated demesnes. Thus a certain Thomas of Winterbourne, who died in 1372, held a messuage, a carucate of land, and 2 acres of meadow in Winterbourne Earls from the Earl of Salisbury, and in Hurdcott, nearby, ½ acre of meadow from the Prior of Bradenstoke. In Ford (Laverstock) he held a messuage, a dovecot, a fulling mill, 6 acres of arable, and 2 of meadow from the Abbess of Wilton. From the Bishop of Salisbury in the same place he held a messuage and 21 acres of land, and from Hugh Cheyney a messuage, a carucate of arable, and 11 acres of meadow. In Winterbourne Dauntsey he held a messuage and 31 acres of land from John Dauntsey. (fn. 310)
At Cholderton, which formed part of the lands of Amesbury Priory, several tenants were engaged in this exchange of lands and leases in the latter half of the 14th century. A certain John Vyrley granted a messuage and 2 virgates to Robert le Copener in 1351; two clerks on this manor in 1381 conveyed 3 messuages, 3 carucates, and 5 virgates of land and £6 of rents in Cholderton, Charlton, Rushall, Upavon, Netheravon, Hilcott (North Newnton), and Manningford, together with the advowson of the church of Cholderton, to John and Faith Skillyng and their heirs. Eight years later, in 1389, further property in Cholderton comprising a messuage and 3½ acres of land were granted to John and Faith Skillyng by Robert and Isabel atte Green. (fn. 311)
It is obvious that this subdivision of the manorial lands led to a complex situation with regard to the rents and services belonging to them, for these had to be divided between the various holders of the land. With the leasing of the demesne, labour services, however, took on a new significance, not as a source of labour, but when commuted for a money payment, as a source of income. On many Wiltshire manors by the later 13th century the only week-work claimed was in the summer and autumn for haymaking and harvest. This was the case, for instance, at Calstone (Calne), Rowden (Chippenham), on both moieties of the manor of Coombe Bisset, on at least some land in Damerham, at Keevil, Somerford (Somerford Mauduyt), Rood Ashton, Wexcombe (Grafton), Burbage, Lydiard Tregoze, Stratford and Newton Tony, East Grimstead, and Cherhill. (fn. 312) On the other hand at Salterton (in Durnford), Winterbourne Earls, and Ashton Gifford, the summer and autumn works were commuted by 1299, although the villeins might still be called upon for other services. (fn. 313) At Rockley in 1274 the virgaters owed 'certain works' from 1 August to Michaelmas, performed 3 carrying services in the year, and hoed the demesne corn for 2 days. (fn. 314) This was the sum total of their services. At Sutton Mandeville in 1276 the only service mentioned is that of 5 customary tenants who had to sow ½ acre of wheat in the year. (fn. 315) By 1300 at Mere and by 1307 at Rood Ashton, and on part of the manor of Heytesbury, the work of the chief tenants had been entirely commuted, only the cottars at Rood Ashton being called upon to work in the hayfields and act as messengers for 1 day in the year. (fn. 316) At Chilton Foliat by 1307 the customary tenants owed only suit of court. (fn. 317) On the estates of the Bishopric of Winchester by 1250, 4 virgaters and semi-virgaters were paying a double rent to cover all their services, and a custumal of 1250 lists 13 tenants at East Knoyle holding bondland then freed from all labour dues, and for which an increased rental varying from 6d. for a croft to 2s. 6d. for ½ virgate was paid. (fn. 318) The works of customary tenants remitted annually are a fairly frequent item on the account rolls of the later 13th century, and increase rapidly during the first half of the 14th century. Nevertheless, there is no record of a general and final commutation on these ecclesiastical manors. On the other hand, on many of the lay manors, commutation was complete by the early years of the 14th century. Thus at Steeple Ashton all labour dues were commuted by 1308; (fn. 319) at Elcombe (in Wroughton), Wootton Rivers, Stoke Farthing (in Broad Chalke), Fisherton de la Mere, Upton Lovell, on two-thirds of the manors of Littleton Pannell (in West Lavington) and of Knighton (in Broad Chalke), commutation had taken place by 1318, and in Keevil by 1327. In every case it was stated that the works had been commuted for a certain rent in money, or that the payments were made for all rents and services with no works owing. (fn. 320) In these cases a mass commutation of the services of the whole community appears to have been granted.
A later instance of this freeing of the whole village community at one stroke occurs on the manor of Castle Combe. Here in 1340 the holders of 2 virgates apiece still worked every day between 10 August and Michaelmas, and at other seasons of the year they had to harrow for 3 days, weed for 2 before lunch, perform carrying services, and make 2 qrs. of malt, receiving 2 bundles of firewood from the lord of the manor for this purpose. The virgaters and semi-virgaters were called upon for similar services, working slightly shorter hours; the Mondaymen mowed the meadows and worked at haymaking; only 4 tenants holding small paddocks and crofts or a few acres of the demesne and 12 cottars were paying sums in rent to cover all their services. By 1454 the customary tenants were all paying full money rents and were only liable to bear the office of reeve 'now called bailiff', if elected by the homage of the vill. (fn. 321) The bailiff's task when thus chosen was merely to collect the manorial rents and dues.
On other manors certain services lingered on into the late 15th century. At Collingbourne Ducis, for instance, a frequent item in the 15th-century account rolls is 6s. allowed for the works of 12 virgaters carrying 6 cartloads of timber from the lord's wood on that manor to Everleigh. Besides shearing, this was the only service claimed here; the meadows were mown ad tascham, and a cart was hired to carry the wool of the manor to Aldbourne. (fn. 322)
The only services required at Aldbourne itself in this century were for the sheep clipping and shearing, but the 32 customary tenants at Wanborough still made the hay in certain meadows belonging to Aldbourne. Mildenhall retained 3 autumn precarie, one of 24, one of 20, and one of 18 persons to cut, bind, and carry the demesne corn, and extra labour was hired in addition. At Heytesbury the Lords Hungerford likewise retained the autumn precarie of 36 men and women, and used freely their right to call upon the customary tenants for shearing and for mowing the hay, although additional labour was also hired for these purposes, and the dipping and clipping of the lambs was performed ad tascham. Teffont Evias retained certain mowing services, and Everleigh aid in carting, but at Berwick St. James and Amesbury only hired labour was employed according to the 15th-century accounts. It is possible that a certain conservatism prevailed at Great Cheverell, for there an account roll of 1437–8 shows that not merely are all demesne tenements, lands, meadows, and pastures farmed, but also all the works attached to the tenements. (fn. 323)
The tendency in the 14th century for the lord of the manor to lease rather than cultivate the demesne directly, naturally changed the position of the tenantry. The villagers were now able to offer their services in a wider market and could work as individuals to improve their position. As a result the 14th century was, to some extent, a time of upheaval and unrest, intensified in the middle years by the plague of 1349. With the steep rise in mortality caused by the Black Death more and more holdings fell vacant, and the account rolls show that landlords were left with derelict and decaying tenements on their hands for the next few years. For the most part, however, they were taken up again after a little time. In 1334 there were 41 tenants in Durrington; (fn. 324) by the end of 1349, 18 holdings in that place were vacant. (fn. 325) On the manor of Tidworth in the same year no rents of assize were paid because all the tenants of the manor were dead. (fn. 326) Only 1 free man was left alive on the moiety of the manor of Broughton Gifford in August 1349, all the others, both free and bond, had perished. (fn. 327) The 7 free tenants on a moiety of the manor of West Dean and East Grimstead were dead of the pestilence in 1350, and the tenements were vacant for want of purchasers, worth nothing and deteriorating. Five bond tenants here had also succumbed and their holdings were vacant; indeed, only 3 tenants were left alive. (fn. 328)
The restiveness of the lesser tenantry in the later part of the 14th century may be inferred from many entries on the manorial court rolls. Neifs who had fled from the manor in pursuit of higher wages or of freedom, or who had broken the law by demanding payment in excess of the statutory rates, are frequent among the entries of the period. One tenant at Wedhampton (Urchfont) who left his 2 virgates of bondland, had felled various trees without licence to sell the wood before decamping, carried away two hinges of iron, and had allowed his tenement to lapse into ruin. (fn. 329) In 1385 the whole homage of Urchfont, Wedhampton, and Eastcott refused the ancient custom of choosing a fit man to make the beer for the Abbess of St. Mary's, Winchester, and 6 of the tenants were amerced for the dilapidated condition of their tenements. (fn. 330) On the manor of Boscombe no tenant would hold land in bondage in 1362. (fn. 331) There was trouble at Stockton in 1354 and 1355 with several of the customary tenants for their bad harvest work, and their claims for wages above the statutory rate; (fn. 332) one repeatedly refused to render any of the services owing from his holding.
Among the lists of offenders against the Statute of Labourers in 1353 (fn. 333) were a number of farmhands whose occupation is given, in addition to the many names which appear without any indication of their owners' calling. Threshers, reapers, haymakers, and those described merely as labourers, were the most frequently at fault; only 3 oxherds, 1 swineherd, and 4 shepherds appear among the delinquents. In the hundred of Chippenham 21 people throughout the whole of the past year had refused to serve on the customary terms which the statute attempted to enforce, a large proportion being women, and 100 more had taken wages in excess of the legal rate. Five tenants of Malmesbury left the town in the beginning of the autumn to escape work in the harvest fields; the carter of the Priory of St. Margaret, Marlborough, abandoned his service and refused to appear before the prior. A labourer in the hundred of Highworth and Cricklade left the service of his lord and the county without permission. Grain liveries were taken in excess with a proportion paid in wheat instead of barley; at Upavon 13 mowers and reapers took wages exceeding the legal rate by sums varying from 5d. to 10d. for the work performed. Richard Donnyng of the hundred of Highworth and Cricklade tempted away a labourer from his master by offering him a wage of 20s. a year and his food.
The manorial account rolls (fn. 334) afford constant testimony to the rise in wages which, beginning in the early years of the 14th century, increased rapidly as labour became more scarce towards its close, and continued in the opening decades of the 15th century. Thus an oxherd at Downton who received 2s. and 6½ qrs. of barley a year in the 13th century was getting 4s. and a reduced grain allowance of 3½ to 4 qrs. of barley in 1304; by 1415 this had risen to 5s. and 5 qrs. of barley. A carter, with a wage of 3s. and 6½ qrs. of grain in the 13th century, and 4s. and 3½ to 4 qrs. of barley in 1304, could demand 10s. and 5 qrs. of grain at the end of the 14th century. Ploughmen, with a rent remittance of 1s. 8d. to 2s. in the 13th century, were receiving 3s. and a rent allowance after 1349. The wages of a carter at Bishopstone rose from 3s. and 5 to 6½ qrs. of grain in the 13th century to 4s. and 5 qrs. of barley in the years immediately following 1349, and 6s. and 5 qrs. of barley in 1415. At Heytesbury the chief shepherd's wages rose from 12s., 4½ qrs. of grain, and 3 fleeces in 1384–5, to 16s., 4½ qrs. of grain and 1 fleece in 1403–4; the swineherd's cash wages in the same period rose from 4s. to 5s., but his grain allowance of 3½ qrs. of barley ceased; the dairyman's wages grew from 3s. to 7s. a year. The remuneration of the bailiff at Teffont Evias was increased from 13s. 4d. to 20s. between 1401 and 1411, and the carter's from 10s. to 13s. 4d. with an undiminished grain allowance of 4 qrs. and 2 bushels. Similarly the price of day labour and piece-work rates rose in proportion. In 1296 wheat was threshed at 2d. a quarter at Downton, barley at 1d., and oats at ½d.; by 1400 the rate was 3d. for a quarter of wheat, 2d. for barley, and 1½d. for oats. (fn. 335)
There is little doubt that the more enterprising manorial tenants in the later 14th and the 15th centuries were in a strong position. Wages were being forced up and rents show a marked tendency to fall, particularly after 1450. (fn. 336) Thus at Aldbourne the decreased and 'decayed' rent items on the account rolls increase from £2 15s. 2½d. in 1432 to over £7 in the period 1437–66, after which this item falls slightly (£6 17s. 6d.). At Oaksey these decreases grow from £1 17s. 7d. in 1425 to a sum varying between £5 8s. 5d. and £6 6s. 10d. between 1438 and 1480; at Teffont Evias the decreased rents more than doubled between 1449 and 1465, and again increased by nearly 50 per cent. between 1465 and 1474. At Winterbourne Stoke the defects of rent leapt up from 10s. in 1435 to £9 18s. 8½d. in 1466. At Heytesbury, between 1443 and 1455, the entry for defects of rent grew from £3–£4 to £7–£8. A messuage and a virgate at Oaksey, which had previously been leased for £1, brought in only 13s. 4d. after 1425, and the rent of Mondaylands here dropped from 5s. to 3s. 4d. in the same period, falling again to 1s. in 1460; the rent of a parcel of meadow declined from 1s. 4d. to 8d., and of a cottage and curtilage from 1s. to 2d. in 1452. After lying vacant for a time the rent of ½ virgates fell from 10s. to 7s. or 6s. 8d., and of virgates from 22s. to 15s. or from 18s. to 14s.
By 1425 the rents of the ½-virgate tenements at Aldbourne had fallen from 8s. 7d. to 3s., and of virgates from 8s. to 6s.; if additional plots of land were held, the decline was from 10s. to 6s. after 1425, and in one case from 14s. 1d. to 8s. 8d. At Heytesbury cottage rents had dropped from 1s. to 8d. by 1421, and tenements with ½ virgates from 8s. 7d. to 3s. by 1415. Even in the thriving and growing cloth village of Castle Combe, where 50 new houses and 2 mills were built between 1408 and 1460, (fn. 337) rents give little sign of rising. It was by the fines imposed for tenants entering into a holding that the lord of the manor tried to recoup his losses. At Castle Combe these rise to £5 or £8; even on entry into a new cottage a tenant might have to pay anything from 33s. 4d. to £5 in the mid-15th century, (fn. 338) while at Stockton in 1339 and 1340 the virgaters and semi virgaters paid sums varying from £2 16s. 8d. to £5 6s. 8d. for entry into their tenements. (fn. 339) In the less populated villages the position was different; entry fines ranging from 6d. to 13s. 4d. were common for the smaller holdings, but the fines were everywhere irregular and apparently quite arbitrary; at Urchfont, 2 cotsetlands which had been joined together changed hands for a fine of 10 marks, and a messuage with a curtilage and ½ hide of land in Wedhampton for £10 in 1391 and 1392, whilst for entry into other holdings in this manor the rate was 6d., 1s. 8d., 2s. 4d., 6s. 8d., and 13s. 4d. (fn. 340)
A serious problem facing the lord of the manor was that of the vacant holdings left on his hands with a declining population. Many of these, particularly on the poorer lands, could not be relet as a whole, even at a reduced rental, so that henceforth the socalled 'decayed rents' form an item on the majority of the surviving accounts. As a result, as the 15th century advanced, a movement which had begun 80 or 100 years earlier to break up the larger customary tenements and lease them in small parcels to a number of villagers gained momentum. A fresh field for investment of their ready money was thus opened to the tenantry, and these morcellated holdings play an important part in the building up of a small, propertied class among the peasantry. Thus, for example, a substantial holding at Manningford Bohun was divided among 5 tenants of that village in the 1460's; at Upavon, a cottage and 2 half-virgates, formerly held by 1 man, were split up among 9 of his fellow villagers in 1474–5, in plots ranging from 1 to 4 acres, and a messuage, a virgate, and 2 ½ virgates in the same place, again formerly held by 1 man, were let in strips of 1 to 2 acres to 9 different tenants in the same year. Two years later another tenement here, comprising 2 messuages, a virgate, and ½ virgate, which had been vacant for a long period, was broken up and leased, part being allotted to 4 tenants, and 22 acres let to 'divers persons'. (fn. 341)
A similar example is to be found at Poole Keynes where in 1472–3 a messuage and a virgate which had lacked a tenant for several years was distributed among 4 people, and a year later was further divided among five. At Heytesbury, as early as 1365, a messuage and a ¼ virgate of land was parcelled out among 6 tenants, while at Teffont Evias in 1463 a ½ virgate was let in little plots among several of the inhabitants. (fn. 342)
The reverse of the picture reveals the property thus collected under the control of individual customary tenants and small freemen. But in Wiltshire it is the customary tenants rather than the free who make the acquisitions. A rental and survey of Upavon for the year 1396–7 shows 8 of the 46 villeins collecting land and cottages on a considerable scale, and 20 on a rather lesser one, while only 2 of the 7 free tenants were adding to their holdings at all. (fn. 343) The size of these little territories varied from 3 separate holdings of an acre apiece, 2 cottages, a messuage and virgate with a 'parcel of meadow' and a purpresture, to a couple of cottages and a few acres. Four of the villein tenants, who died in the plague of 1349 at Bishopstone, held 2 virgates each, 2 others had 2 virgates of bondland and 1 virgate of 'bordland' apiece, and another held a virgate of villein land (terra nativi) and a ½ virgate which had previously been let separately. At Downton a victim of the plague had held a fulling mill, 10 acres of arable, a croft of 36 acres, 6 other crofts in the waste, and 10 acres of 'bordland'. Twenty-one of the villein holdings had a few additional acres of 'bordland' or a 'garston' or 'hamme' of meadow added to the original tenement. At East Knoyle in 1395, 1 tenant was leasing a messuage, 2 crofts, a small grange, and 2 small purprestures. Under the item concerned with the reletting of villein lands at money rents on an account roll of Oaksey of 1410–11 there appear the names of 12 villagers, most of them villeins, holding various plots which had formerly been in the occupation of other tenants. (fn. 344) A woman, with the status of a customary half-virgater of Winterbourne Earls, had, by 1363, gathered into her hands 17 acres in addition to her own holding in little parcels ranging from 1 to 4 acres in size—all plots which had previously belonged to other tenants. (fn. 345) A second halfvirgater of this village, likewise a villein, held in addition to his customary acres a toft with a curtilage and 12 acres of land formerly the holding of another man, and two other tofts which previously had been let separately.
At both Winterbourne Earls in 1363 and at Oaksey in 1346, some of these holdings were let by copy of court roll, the lessee thereby assuming the status of a copy-holder at a life-term, instead of renting the land annually or at will. At Heytesbury in the 1430's, 2 men were leasing additional land for a term of three lives, one holding 9 acres, a croft, a tenement, and other cottages, and one 24 acres, a close, a cottage, and a messuage. A certain Thomas le Bonde of Amesbury in 1364 was the lessee of a messuage and customary ½ virgate of 23 acres, a croft of land, 7 acres of demesne in separate parcels of 2 to 3 acres, and of two several pastures 20 acres in circumference; the additional property (over and above this ½ virgate) was held at a life-term. (fn. 346)
Nevertheless, despite the subdivision of old holdings, on many manors vacant tenements were still left on the hands of the landlords. In account roll after account roll of the 15th century we find houses and holdings in manu domini for lack of tenants. It is uncertain how far land was passing out of cultivation, but in those few instances where sufficient documents have survived to yield a comparison between the returns to the demesne farmer in the 13th or early 14th centuries and the 15th century the tendency is for the profits of demesne farming to show a decline in the latter period with the hint of a slight recovery appearing in the closing decades of the 15th century. The great price rise in farm produce was followed by the slump of the late 14th century. From the aspect of the landowner or the large farmer trying to run his own demesne, the late 14th and 15th centuries were a period of recession, of an attempt to stabilize conditions and profits, to retract rather than to expand. As we have seen, most of the manorial overlords preferred to withdraw from the activities of direct farming of their demesnes, and to look henceforth to their rent rolls rather than to the returns from the sale of grain and wool as their source of income.
It was the tenant, the former serf or small freeman, whose position was improving in the 15th century. The peasants of the Wiltshire villages appear to have availed themselves, with varying degrees of success, of the new opportunities, struggling for higher wages, acquiring additional land at low rentals, and gaining freedom from the onerous burden of week-work on the demesne acres.