A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1957.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Wiltshire liberties before 1150–75, p. 44. The liberties 1175–1280, p. 49. 14th- and 15th-century liberties, p. 51. Scope and authority of liberties, p. 53. The liberties at work, p. 62. Relation between liberties and royal government, p. 66. Relations between liberties, p. 68. How the liberties were held, p. 69.
'As well within franchise as without'; this phrase, to be found in countless writs and statutes, might be taken as the text of this chapter, (fn. 1) for it is the areas of Wiltshire 'within franchise' which have to be surveyed. The first task is to record those areas of Wiltshire—areas which may be found in all English shires and also extending across shire boundaries—which lay outside 'the geldable'. How these liberties came into being and how they were administered, their relations with the central government, with the sheriff and with one another must be considered before attempting answers to the questions why they were created and why permitted to continue. The period of 450 years from the making of the Domesday Survey (and it will be necessary to glance at the years before 1086) to the beginning of the 16th century is so protracted that the answers to some of these questions will vary according to whether the time of our review is the later 11th and 12th centuries, the last quarter of the 13th or the later years of the 14th century. In recording what areas of Wiltshire were specially privileged it will be best finally to review the liberties when they had reached their widest extent in the early years of the 14th century. Holdsworth's dictum that 'feudal ideas formed the political atmosphere of the Middle Ages and feudal ideas meant the distribution of political power among the larger landowners' (fn. 2) is significant, for political power implied, among other things, extensive immunities and franchises.
The emergence of Wiltshire liberties before 1150–75
Before the Norman Conquest, the creation of specially privileged areas was having some effect upon the system of local government of vill (township), hundred, and shire which had evolved between the 9th and the early 11th centuries. The force at the command of the central government was limited and the larger landowners, both lay and ecclesiastical, were encouraged by grants of private jurisdiction to take a more active share in the preservation of law and order. In Wiltshire the earliest liberties and immunities were given to religious houses or ecclesiastical lords. The men who gave evidence when the Rotuli Hundredorum were drawn up thought that at least four hundreds had been granted to their holders' predecessors in the Anglo-Saxon period. (fn. 3) While it would be unwise to accept the statements of these jurors where no charter or writ exists purporting to record such a grant, it is possible that 10th- and 11th-century grants of 100 hides, or approximately 100 hides, implied the conferment of all royal rights over a hundred. Despite the fact that neither Domesday nor the Geld Rolls mention any of the 40-odd Wiltshire hundreds as being in private hands in 1086 or earlier, there is evidence to suggest that Ramsbury, Downton, and Chalke (Stanford) had been granted by the king to subjects. The hundred of Damerham was probably, and Whorwellsdown and Bradford possibly, in private hands. On the other hand grave doubts must be cast upon the conclusion, reached by some historians, that Malmesbury Abbey held the three hundreds of Malmesbury, Startley, and Chedglow in the nth century. (fn. 4)
The Bishop of Salisbury's manor of Ramsbury was assessed in the Geld Roll at 90 hides which, according to that document, constituted the whole hundred. No early charters relating to this place exist, and there is nothing to support the tradition of the Hundred Rolls that the hundred was granted to the bishop (presumably of Winchester) by King Offa. The estate may have been granted to the church as early as the 7th century, or it may have been provided at the time of the ecclesiastical reorganization of Edward the Elder early in the 10th century. The original grant may have been of 100 hides, and may well have included all rights over the territory. In the Domesday Survey the Bishop of Salisbury had estates in Potterne, Bishop's Cannings, Ramsbury, West Lavington, and Chaddenwick (in Mere). (fn. 5) There is evidence that Bishops Osmund (1078–99) and Roger (1102–39) had been granted, or had assumed royal rights, over the hundred of Cannings (fn. 6) and in Stratford-sub-Castle. (fn. 7) It seems likely also that the Bishop of Winchester had the hundred of Downton before the Conquest. Although the charter attributed to Cenwalh, King of Wessex, is spurious, a grant of 100 hides is by no means unlikely in the 7th century. (fn. 8) Moreover, the manor of Downton coincided with the hundred, which according to the Geld Roll contained 97 hides, and the bishop had all of these until 2 hides were withdrawn in the reign of Cnut. Some of the charters 'restoring' the estate in the 10th century refer to Downton as an estate of 100 hides and though none, including Edward the Confessor's charter, (fn. 9) uses language which implies the grant of hundredal jurisdiction, it is likely that the court was the bishop's. The third hundred which belongs to this category of pre-Conquest private hundreds is Chalke, i.e. Stanford in the Geld Roll. Edwy's charter of 955 (fn. 10) granting 100 hides at Chalke to Wilton Abbey (fn. 11) states that the estates were to be held 'in jus perpetuum ab omni seculari servicio liberam, praeter arcem, pontem, expedicionem' and might hardly seem to include any hundredal jurisdiction. Edgar's charter of 974 is also vague on the subject of jurisdictional privileges. (fn. 12) These pre-Conquest charters would, however, have made the abbess and her men quit of suit to shires and hundreds. The manor of Chalke is assessed in Domesday at 77 hides but by then the rest of the manors in the hundred may well have been estates granted out by the nuns of Wilton and subsequently lost. Edwy's charter of 100 hides probably included all the estates which can be assigned to Stanford hundred in the Conqueror's reign, although it cannot definitely be asserted that the abbess held the hundred until the early 13th century. (fn. 13)
Of other hundreds thought in the 13th century to have been granted to the holders' predecessors before 1086, we cannot speak with so much confidence. The hundred of Damerham comprised 63 hides according to the Geld Roll, and the Abbot of Glastonbury's manor of Damerham, assessed at 52 hides in 1086, formed the greater part of it. Although it is impossible to explain why Damerham's assessment fell, the reference in Edmund's charter of 944 (fn. 14) to an estate of 100 hides may raise the presumption that the hundred was in the abbot's hands from the 10th century onwards. This charter appears to concede jurisdictional immunities which were enlarged by Edgar in 971 (fn. 15) and confirmed by Cnut in 1032, (fn. 16) and, by the reign of Henry I, there can be little doubt that the abbot had hundredal jurisdiction. (fn. 17) There is no reason to query that Edgar gave the two estates of Steeple Ashton and Edington, assessed in the Geld Roll at 40 and 30 hides respectively, to the nuns of Romsey. There is, however, no reference to a hundred, although Edgar may have intended the two estates to form a round hundred, and the gift may, therefore, have involved hundredal jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the claim by Romsey Abbey to have held the hundred of Whorwellsdown in the 10th and 11th centuries must remain doubtful. Despite the assertion that the abbesses of Shaftesbury had held the hundred of Bradford since about 1000, (fn. 18) the position of this hundred is not entirely clear. Æthelred's charter does not indicate the extent of the endowments of the monastery (coenobium) at Bradford granted to Shaftesbury and says little that is precise about jurisdictional privileges. (fn. 19) The nuns were to hold the estate 'ut ego ipse illam in usus possederam proprios'. Moreover in 1086 the manor of Bradford with its appendages was assessed at 49 hides, about half the number of hides assigned to the hundred in the Geld Roll. It is hardly possible to suppose that the other half consisted of lands which the nuns had lost since the early 11th century, although the abbess's territorial position in the hundred was strengthened by the development of the small borough of Bradford. It is true that King John's charter of 23 May 1205 'restored and confirmed' the hundred of Bradford, but it must remain doubtful whether the abbess held the hundred from the early 11th century.
Malmesbury Abbey's tenure of the three hundreds of Malmesbury, Startley, and Chedglow was in all probability much later than has been suggested. Edward the Confessor's charter alleged to have been granted in 1065 (fn. 20) which has been described as 'not authentic but possibly based on genuine material', (fn. 21) makes no reference to the borough or the hundreds and three of the estates to which the alleged privileges apply are in other hundreds. (fn. 22) None of the early charters from Malmesbury, although they are seldom modest in their claims, makes any reference to the grant of the borough or of the three hundreds. However, in 1086 the Abbot of Malmesbury held over 170 hides out of about 200 in Cicemethorn, i.e. Chedglow hundred, but of the 150-odd hides assigned to Startley hundred, the abbey had only 25. The borough at this date undoubtedly belonged to the king, and since the judicial profits of the hundreds of Startley and Chedglow formed part of the farm of Malmesbury, it is clear that the abbey cannot have held either the borough or the hundreds in 1065. The king's judicial profits from Chedglow hundred must, however, have been negligible if we are to accept the abbey's exemption from 'shires and hundreds' granted by the charter of Edward the Confessor and confirmed by the doubtfully genuine charter of 1081. (fn. 23) The abbey's exemptions had been secured at a price, for in 1157 Henry II gave the abbey in alms the sum of £6 10s. which the monks had been accustomed to pay as hundred-silver. (fn. 24) The Pipe Rolls show that this was paid annually. Clear proof that the borough did not belong to the abbey in the thirties of the 12th century is given by the fact that Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, obtained it for himself from King Stephen in the period between 1135 and 1139, (fn. 25) although he had secured the abbey and all its endowments in 1131. (fn. 26) Although the monastery regained its independence after Roger's death, there is no reference to the borough or hundreds in the charters which it secured from Henry II or Richard I. The right conclusion appears to be that the abbot did not acquire the three hundreds until 18 July 1215 when they were granted to him and his successors in fee farm for an annual rent of £20. (fn. 27) It must not be assumed that, because a lord held most of the manors in a particular hundred, as the abbot did in Chedglow, he necessarily enjoyed jurisdictional privileges over it.
If before 1066 the creation of specially privileged areas had been limited and somewhat haphazard, after the Conquest it became more general and systematized. Honours, baronies, and other liberties held by knight service were granted by the Conqueror to his followers. These liberties were to be found in every English shire and extending beyond shire boundaries into several counties. Wiltshire was no exception. Within its borders many liberties were created and many fees belonging to honours whose capita lay in other counties are to be found. In the Domesday Survey Edward of Salisbury held estates totalling 33 manors widely scattered throughout the county. (fn. 28) So scattered were they, that it would be inaccurate to represent Edward as having had preponderant territorial interests in any one area of the county, although, in addition to lands in northern Wiltshire, he had a complex of estates in the valleys of the Hampshire Avon and the Bourne in the hundreds of Amesbury and Alderbury and a chain of manors stretching along the Wylye from Burcombe to Hill Deverill. As early as 1086 a number of sub-tenants—Domesday records some seventeen or nineteen, (fn. 29) held of Edward of Salisbury, and by 1166 Earl Patrick had created 40 fees and held 15 of his mother's maritagium. (fn. 30) In 1171–2, some 56 knights had been enfeoffed (fn. 31) and some twenty years later the second earl paid scutage on 562/3 knights' fees. (fn. 32) The earls of Salisbury held some fees of the honour of Trowbridge. While we cannot assert with certainty what jurisdictional authority Edward of Salisbury and his successors in the first century after the Conquest had over their tenants, it is unthinkable that no court was held for them. (fn. 33)
It seems probable that the honour of Trowbridge was created after the Conquest, for it was apparently divided on the marriage of Maud, daughter of Edward of Salisbury, to Humphrey de Bohun (II). (fn. 34) Part of the honour together with the manor of Trowbridge was assigned to her and her husband, while the rest descended to her brother Walter. The Bohuns held fees in the county which were not of the honour and by the third quarter of the 12th century Humphrey de Bohun (IV) had enfeoffed 40 knights of whom 9½ were of 'new enfeoffment'. (fn. 35) During the baronial wars of John's reign Henry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, lost all his possessions and some of his Wiltshire lands were granted to William Longespée, Earl of Salisbury. (fn. 36) In 1215 most of these possessions were restored but an arrangement made in 1228–9 between Ela, Countess of Salisbury, and Humphrey, Earl of Hereford, seems to have been a repartition of the Trowbridge honour. (fn. 37) Eventually the whole honour passed like the manor to the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 38) There is no evidence from the later 11th or 12th centuries, or even from the 13th, to prove the existence of an honour court during that period, but it is probable that there was one. The Longespées at a later period held the barony of Chitterne. In the 13th century this barony comprised knights' fees in Cherhill, Etchilhampton, Alton Barnes, Orcheston, Winterbourne (Parva), and Great Somerford, (fn. 39) and the earls held an honour court for the knights and free tenants of the barony. (fn. 40) Again we cannot avoid the probability that this barony was created in the first century after the Conquest although the records of it date only from the 13th century.
The barony of Castle Combe was an extensive Wiltshire liberty consisting mostly of fees granted by the Conqueror to Humphrey de Insula. This estate passed to the Dunstanville family by marriage and by 1155 Robert of Dunstanville had been granted the manor and hundred of Heytesbury. (fn. 41) The scutage of 1196–7 reveals Robert de Dunstanville's holding in Wiltshire as 211/5 knights' fees. (fn. 42) The administration of this barony—which has left such ample proof of its work—will be dealt with later, but here even more than in the case of the barony of Chitterne, we cannot avoid the presumption that there was some honour court for the barony in the later 11th or 12th centuries.
The manor of Bromham was granted to the abbey of St. Martin's, Battle (Suss.) by William II. (fn. 43) So wide were the immunities granted (fn. 44) —quittance of all pleas and of shires and hundreds—that the manor became a highly privileged Wiltshire liberty. The immunities of Battle Abbey in Bromham are similar, in the width of their range and the restricted area over which they were enforced, to those granted in later centuries to the Bonhommes at Edington or to the Prior of Maiden Bradley. (fn. 45)
A full consideration of the privileges of the honour of Wallingford does not concern this article. The honour of Wallingford was an extensive feudal complex with its caput at Wallingford castle (Berks.), but some of the fees of which it consisted lay in Wiltshire. Lands held as of the honour were situated mostly in the neighbourhood of Swindon but there was an outlying estate at Hazelbury in Box. (fn. 46) Again despite the absence of full documentary proof, it appears highly probable that the Wiltshire tenants of the honour owed suit to some honour court. There were many liberties, less well known than the honour of Wallingford, with outlying members in Wiltshire whose capita lay outside the county. As most of the evidence for the attachment of these fees to external honours comes from the 13th century, a conservative view has been taken in estimating the number of such estates in the later nth and 12th centuries. Wallingford certainly belongs to this period and so does the honour of 'Ewias' the caput of which was at Ewyas Harold (Herefs.). In 1242 fees or fractions of fees in Norton Bavant, Upton Scudamore, 'Cannings' and 'Allington', Widhill (in Cricklade), Moredon (in Rodbourne Cheney), 'Teffont' and Swallowcliffe, and Tytherton (in Chippenham) were held of this honour. Most of these lands had been held in 1086 by Alvred of Marlborough (fn. 47) and appear to have passed into the hands of the barons of Ewyas. The part of Teffont held of the honour had the name 'Ewias' attached to it, doubtless to distinguish it from Over or Upper Teffont before 1242. We cannot say at what date these Wiltshire estates became part of the honour but the presumption is that Alvred's line must have ended in an heiress who had married into the Ewyas family before 1166. The complex of fees later known as the barony of Elias Giffard, the caput of which was at Elston in Orcheston St. George, appears to consist largely of those lands held in 1086 by Osbern Giffard. (fn. 48)
By the third quarter of the 12th century a number of hundreds had been granted by the king to subjects. The grant of Heytesbury hundred to Robert of Dunstanville has already been mentioned. In 1155 he paid a fee farm rent of £40 per annum. (fn. 49) Kinwardstone, the most extensive hundred in Wiltshire, was granted to the Marshals by Henry I and there is evidence, from 1155 and 1242, that it was held appurtenant to the manors of Wexcombe and Bedwyn. (fn. 50) In the 13th century, it was referred to on occasion as the hundred of 'Bedewynd'. (fn. 51) The closely associated hundreds of Highworth and Cricklade had also been granted away. They formed part of the estate for the support of a Chamberlain of the Exchequer granted to the FitzGerold family in 1156. (fn. 52) After 1216 the estate descended to Margery, daughter and heiress of Warin FitzGerold. (fn. 53) According to Madox, considerable privileges had been conferred upon Warin in 1196. (fn. 54) The hundred of Warminster was in private hands in 1155, for in that year William FitzHamon is recorded as paying £40 for Warminster with the hundred. (fn. 55) In the same year Mere was let to farm by the Crown. It was held by Jocelin Balliol. (fn. 56)
The opening years of Henry II's reign is a favourable period of time in which to review what liberties had been created before and after 1066 and to compare their extent with the 'geldable'. Between 1086 and the beginning of the 16th century the number of hundreds in Wiltshire varied owing to the appearance of new hundreds and the merging of others. In the Geld Roll some 40 hundreds are recorded. (fn. 57) The roll of the itinerant justices, who visited the county in 1194, contains the names of 38 hundreds. (fn. 58) By that date the hundred of Scipe, mentioned only in Domesday, had been merged most probably into Highworth, and Ramsbury and Thorngrove hundreds are not mentioned on the roll. Of a presumable total of 39 hundreds in the period of our review, 10 were in private hands, a further one probably, and two possibly, had been similarly granted away. The hundreds of Heytesbury, Kinwardstone, Highworth, Cricklade, Ramsbury, Downton, Chalke, Cannings, Warminster, and Mere were then in private hands. In all probability Damerham had been granted away, and possibly also Whorwellsdown and Bradford although one can be less certain about these. By 1150–75, therefore, the Crown had alienated at least a third of the hundreds in the county. It appears that Heytesbury, Warminster, and Mere had been alienated during the wars between Maud and Stephen, since there are sound general arguments against the assumption that Henry II granted them away in the first years of his reign. In addition to the private hundreds, there were the honours and baronies already mentioned. The list of these honours is in all probability incomplete for many of those in existence in the 13th century may have been created between 1066 and 1175.
The expansion of the liberties 1175–1280
By the last quarter of the 13th century the proportion of private hundreds had been increased from one-third to two-thirds. It would be wrong to assume that a hundred once granted away was necessarily alienated permanently. As far as is known, however, only the hundred of Mere returned to the king and was regranted—to Richard of Cornwall. King John's reign saw a number of alienations. Fulk de Cantilupe was lord of the hundred of Calne as early as 1205. (fn. 59) In 1215 Malmesbury, Startley, and Chedglow were leased to the Abbot of Malmesbury. Walter de Pavely is said to have been given Westbury hundred after the baronial war in John's reign. (fn. 60) By the middle of the 13th century Amesbury hundred had been granted away. The sheriff of the county still answered for it at the Exchequer in 1189, (fn. 61) but William Longespee was lord of the hundred of Amesbury in 1249 and William Longespée (III) in 1255. (fn. 62) The small hundred of Staple had been alienated before 1249, for in that year, and again in 1255, Adam of Purton and Hugh Peverel held it. Chippenham was a royal hundred declared, doubtless temporarily, appurtenant to Devizes castle in 1218, (fn. 63) but before 1249 Henry III had granted it to Walter de Godarville. (fn. 64) Thus eight hundreds had been newly alienated in the first half of the 13th century and in the third quarter of the century three further grants were made.
Alderbury hundred was royal in 1249 although there is some evidence that it was in private hands in 1230 (fn. 65) and 1236. (fn. 66) By 1255 it had come into the hands of William Longespee (III). In 1249 and 1255 Melksham was in the king's hands: by 1275 the hundred was in the hands of the Prioress of Amesbury, (fn. 67) it was stated by grant of Henry III. (fn. 68) The royal manor of Melksham had been leased to the prioress by Amice, Countess of Devon, the prioress undertaking to pay a fee farm rent, first to the countess and after the latter's death to the Exchequer. This arrangement was confirmed by royal charter in 1276 (fn. 69) and further clarifications of Amesbury's privileges were made in 1285 (fn. 70) and 1286. (fn. 71) Selkley hundred, a royal hundred in 1249, was held in 1275 by the queen mother in dower. It has already been shown that the bishops of Salisbury were probably exercising royal rights in Ramsbury and Cannings in the 12th century, and it can be assumed that before the mid-13th century they were exercising similar privileges in the hundreds of Underditch and Rowborough. The latter is unique in Wiltshire for in 1249 its lordship was shared between the king and the bishop, (fn. 72) though such an arrangement was not uncommon in other shires. The subsequent history of Rowborough will require further consideration. A charter of 1227 justified most of the claims made by the bishops of Salisbury. (fn. 73) Finally the Prior of St. Swithun's, Winchester, had acquired or assumed the lordship of the hundred of Elstub by 1249.
Henry III's expedition to Gascony called forth an inquiry into fees; the results of which give a fuller picture of feudal Wiltshire than can be obtained at any previous time. William Longespée (II) still held the largest number of fees and the Bohuns held part of the honour of Trowbridge. Many estates in the county were held of the honour of Gloucester, the lord of which was Richard of Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford. There were fees or fractions of fees held of this honour in Pertwood Farms (in East Knoyle), Over Wroughton, Marston Meysey, and Castle Eaton. The Earl Marshal had 10 knights' fees within the county and Robert Tregoz, eleven. Walter de Dunstanville, lord of the barony of Castle Combe, held 17 fees and several fractions of fees. The FitzGerold fees in Wiltshire had been brought by marriage to the Rivers, Earls of Devon, whence they passed eventually to Isabel de Fortibus, Countess of Aûmale. There were outlying fees of the honours of Straddle (Golden Valley, Herefs.) and of the honour of Dover within the county and 1 fee in Hardenhuish and 1 in Berwick together with other estates in Wiltshire pertained to the Chaworth barony of 'Kinemerford' (Kempsford, Glos.). During the reigns of Richard I and John the honour of Walter Waleran had consisted of 25 knights' fees. By 1242 this honour had been divided between heiresses. In the early years of the 13th century the Bishop of Salisbury held his estates in the county for 32 knights' fees which assessment had been raised by King John to 43. (fn. 74) In Wiltshire there were an unusually large number of serjeanties. It is not surprising that a county in which there was so much royal forest should contain estates held on condition that their tenants performed the duty of forester. Most of the holders of these small estates were connected in some way with the royal forest, frequently as falconers or as guardians of sparrow-hawks and hunting-dogs, or holding by the presentation of spurs.
By the time of Edward I's inquiry into the franchises, of the 38 Wiltshire hundreds— for Thorngrove had been merged in Chippenham before 1249—only 11½ remained in royal hands. These were Branch, Dole, Cawdon, Cadworth, Dunworth, Frustfield, Kingsbridge, Blackgrove, Thornhill, Swanborough, Studfold and half the hundred of Rowborough. Royal rights had therefore been granted away over 26½ hundreds—more than two-thirds of the total. Of this number, 13½ were held by ecclesiastical and 13 by lay tenants. The Bishop of Salisbury was lord of the hundreds of Cannings, Ramsbury, Underditch, and of half Rowborough hundred, and the Bishop of Winchester, of Downton. The Prior of Winchester had the hundred of Elstub; the Abbot of Malmesbury, Startley, Chedglow, and Malmesbury; the Abbess of Shaftesbury, Bradford; the Abbess of Wilton, Chalke; the Abbot of Glastonbury, Damerham; the Abbess of Romsey, Whorwellsdown, and the Prioress of Amesbury the hundred of Melksham. William Longespée and his heirs held Amesbury and Alderbury, William de Cantilupe and his heirs, Calne, and Walter de Godarville and his heirs, Chippenham. Margery de Rivers was lady of the two hundreds of Cricklade and Highworth while the hundred of Staple was shared by Adam of Purton and Hugh Peverel and their heirs. Kinwardstone hundred remained after Simon's fall in the de Montfort family. Mere was held by Richard, Earl of Cornwall and his heirs. William Mauduit was succeeded by his daughter Joan in Warminster hundred and Reginald followed Walter de Pavely in Westbury. Walter de Dunstanville was succeeded by his daughter Parnel Delamere in Heytesbury. The hundred of Selkley appears to have become a permanent part of the queen mother's dower. In the Eyre Roll of 1194 (fn. 75) reference is made to a hundred of Longbridge and in a rental and survey of the lands of the Bishop of Salisbury dated between 1209 and 1212, (fn. 76) to a hundred of Deverel. This hundred is obviously made up of the bishop's manor of Longbridge Deverill and its appurtenances, and demonstrates that the word 'hundred' may imply the Old English hundred or a newly formed group of estates over which the lord claimed hundredal jurisdiction. Other examples of this latter type of hundred will be mentioned later. The hundred of the town of Bedwyn is recorded in the Eyre Roll. This may presumably mean that the borough was regarded as a hundred of itself at that time, since Kinwardstone hundred, for which it might simply be an alternative name, is also mentioned in the same roll.
The liberties in the 14th and 15th centuries
Turning to the last quarter of the 14th century we find that, in the measure in which feudatories' influence may be equated with their control of the hundreds, the position was essentially the same as it had been 100 years previously and as it was to remain throughout the Middle Ages. Still a third of the Wiltshire hundreds remained in royal hands and two-thirds were held by subjects. In 1316 there were 39 hundreds, (fn. 77) for the Bishop of Winchester had certainly formed the hundred of Knoyle—it is mentioned as early as 1249 (fn. 78) —by the early 14th century. The words 'hundred of Knoyle' simply indicate that the bishop's tenants in Fonthill Bishops, East Knoyle, and Hindon were exempt from suit to the courts of the hundreds in which these manors were situated. There is no evidence of a hundred court at Knoyle beyond the holding of a bi-annual tourn there by the bishop's steward. (fn. 79) The Abbot of Glastonbury, c. 1319, formed from the township of Christian Malford together with the manors of Grittleton and Nettleton in the old hundred of Thorngrove and Kington St. Michael in Chippenham hundred, the separate hundred known later as North Damerham. (fn. 80) In the early 15th century the Bishop of Salisbury by uniting Cannings with his half of Rowborough had formed the hundred of Potterne and Cannings. (fn. 81) In 1402 and again in 1428, the Prior of Winchester's hundred is called the hundred of Elstub and Everleigh and he had, it has been stated, attached many Wiltshire estates of the priory to it. (fn. 82) Everleigh itself was never a hundred, but there is mention of a liberty of Everleigh (presumably of the Lancasters) between 1341 and 1354. (fn. 83) Ashridge (or Hertoke) in Wokingham (Berks.), which belonged to the Longespees in the later 12th and 13th centuries, was in all probability removed by them from the jurisdiction of the Berkshire county court and placed under the jurisdiction of their own hundred court of Amesbury. It was organized as a hundred in the 15th century. The origin of this diminutive hundred is dealt with elsewhere in this volume. (fn. 84) From the references to the forest of Braydon, it is clear that the Chelworth of the 'Hundred of Chelworth' is the one in the parish of Cricklade, not that in Crudwell. (fn. 85) It was at one time held by the lord of Staple hundred and in 1422 the eighth part of the hundred of Chelworth may well mean an eighth part of Staple. (fn. 86) With the hundred of Chippenham and Dunlow (which had been merged with Chippenham in the later 13th century) there was granted a 'hundred of Bishopstone'. Letters patent mention the hundred, always connected with Chippenham, in 1317, 1351, 1423, and 1474, but identification has not been possible. By the end of the 14th century as a result of unions of both royal and private hundreds the number of Wiltshire hundreds had been reduced to 29. (fn. 87)
The 14th century saw far-reaching changes in the pattern of Wiltshire fees. This article is not primarily concerned with the changing nature and obligations of feudal tenure in the period, but has to record the new feudal complexes that were created. Of paramount importance in this century was the accumulation of widespread estates throughout the county by the earls (later dukes) of Lancaster. The Salisbury and most of the Hereford fees passed eventually into the Duchy. The Salisbury estates came to the Lancaster family by the marriage of Thomas, the 2nd earl, with Alice de Lacy, wealthy heiress of her mother Margaret Longespée as well as of her father Henry, Earl of Lincoln. Many of the Hereford fees were acquired by Henry of Lancaster's marriage with Mary de Bohun, daughter and coheiress of Humphrey, the last Earl of Hereford. The Duchy eventually gained possession of the manors of Aldbourne, Berwick St. James, Collingbourne Ducis, Everleigh, North Standen (in Chute), Poole Keynes, Amesbury (Earls), Oaksey, Manningford Bohun, Easterton, Upavon, Braydon (Forest), and Trowbridge. (fn. 88) The hundreds of Amesbury and Alderbury were also in the earls' hands. Tenants of the honour both in Wiltshire and in Somerset owed suit to the 'foreign court' of Trowbridge. (fn. 89) A survey of the descent of the Salisbury fees, some of which, in the 14th century, passed from the house of Lancaster to the Warennes and the Montagu earls of Salisbury and back to Lancaster, has been made elsewhere. (fn. 90) There were also some Cornwall lands in the shire. The bailiwick of Mere with its scattered manors in Wiltshire, Somerset, and Dorset was part of these estates.
The rearrangement of feudal estates in Wiltshire was made possible by escheat to the Crown which followed the dying out of great families or their attaint. The honour of Gloucester came into Edward II's hands in 1314 by the death without heirs of Gilbert of Clare. A beginning was made in the 14th century in the building up of the great complex of Hungerford estates. The wealth of the Hungerford family appears to have been established by office-holding, for Sir Thomas was steward of the lands of the Earl of Salisbury, (fn. 91) steward of the house of Lancaster, (fn. 92) 'of the council' of Sir Bartholomew de Burghersh, (fn. 93) and bailiff of the Bishop of Winchester's Wiltshire estates. (fn. 94) He may also have been a merchant of Salisbury. (fn. 95) He acquired estates at Wellow (now in Hants), Teffont Evias, and Heytesbury. The family also obtained Ashley, Mildenhall, Rushall, Codford, the Burnell lands of Great Cheverell (fn. 96) and Biddestone, and the manor and hundred of Mere. Subsequently a large complex of manors in the upper valley of the Wylye was acquired where the family owned estates at Tytherington, Sutton Veny, Imber, Warminster, Upton Scudamore, Leigh, Fonthill, Horningsham, and Maiden Bradley. The north-west of the county contained many Hungerford lands. Thus extensive estates had been amassed in Wiltshire before the death in 1449 of Walter, 1st Lord Hungerford. The Stourton family held the manor of Stourton and the Seymours that of Wolf Hall (in Grafton). The lords Lovel had estates at Upton Lovell, Knook, and Wardour castle. Several new families with estates, small compared with the great feudal complexes of earlier years, were arising in Wiltshire during the 15th century. The Mompessons of Bathampton (in Langford) and the Mervyns of Fonthill, are typical of a group less important than the Stourtons, Seymours, and Lovels.
Few new grants of land were made to religious houses in the later 14th and 15th centuries. New College, Oxford, however, was endowed with the manors of Colerne, Stert, and Alton Barnes. The Rector and Bonhommes of Edington and the Prior and Brethren of Maiden Bradley held their estates with wide jurisdictional privileges and exemptions as did Westminster Abbey its manor of Westbury Priors. Reading Abbey held the manor of Whitsbury, Holy Trinity, Caen, the manor of Tilshead, and the Priors of Bradenstoke and Monkton Farleigh (fn. 97) held fairly small estates with wide liberties.
About the year 1400 the liberties of Wiltshire, as we have seen, remained the same in some ways as they had been 100 or 125 years earlier but in other respects far-reaching changes had taken place. The largest feudal complex, the Duchy of Lancaster, was controlled, albeit indirectly, by the Crown and royal influence was felt in the lands of the Duchy of Cornwall. No subject had control over such wide areas of the county as had the 12th- and 13th-century earls of Salisbury and Hereford and few had the degree of control enjoyed by the Dunstanvilles and Tregozes. Importance in the affairs of the county, as in the affairs of the nation, was secured by other means. It is apparent in 1316 that many lords of private hundreds owned few manors within their hundred. In fact only the bishops of Salisbury and Winchester and the Abbot of Malmesbury in Chedglow held the majority of manors in the hundreds of which they were lords. The city of Salisbury was extra-hundredal and the borough of Marlborough was a hundred of itself.
The scope and authority of the liberties
Although England never saw the grading of jurisdictional privileges into haute, moyenne, and basse justice, some liberties were more highly privileged than others. Taking the same three periods, the third quarter of the 12th century, the last quarter of the 13th, and the end of the 14th century, we must endeavour to assess what privileges lords were exercising at these three dates, and whether their privileges were declining or increasing. No direct records of the exercise of these judicial functions, i.e. court rolls, are known to exist for the period before the mid-13th century. It would be surprising if lords' stewards had drawn up such rolls much before 1250 as the king's court had ordered such records to be made only during the previous 50-odd years. The earliest Wiltshire roll so far known is the record of a court held on 6 December 1259. (fn. 98) From the 1270's the volume of this direct evidence grows rapidly. Absence of court rolls does not argue that lords of liberties held no courts for their tenants and others: it does, however, make more difficult a precise assessment of the scope of the lords' jurisdictional authority.
The regalian rights granted to the lord of a private hundred made him the king's representative, and the lord's hundred bailiff was the king's bailiff also. (fn. 99) Such franchisal jurisdiction could be granted only by the Crown and franchise holders should have been able, according to Edward I's justices, to prove their title by charter. The Assize of Clarendon prohibited lords from taking the 'view of frankpledge', (fn. 100) but lords continued to exercise this and other regalian rights until Edward I was compelled to recognize such long user. (fn. 101) But a lord had feudal, as well as franchisal jurisdiction. It had been stated early in the reign of Henry I that 'every lord may summon his man that he may stand to right in his court'. (fn. 102) These judicial powers belonged to him as lord of a fief and not by virtue of any grant, real or supposed, from the Crown. Both the free and the villein tenants of a lord were bound to attend his manorial court or halimote as it was frequently called. A considerable extent of land held as a unit by military tenure was known as an honour or barony, and the lord of such an honour might hold a court for such of his tenants as held by knight service and for other freeholders. (fn. 103) In Wiltshire there were no large compact liberties like those of the abbey of St. Edmund (Suff.) or of Ely Cathedral, although the Winchester hundreds formed part of a great administrative system the centre of which lay outside the county. The lord of a liberty might possess therefore baronial jurisdiction in his honour court, franchisal jurisdiction exercised in a private hundred or other court and manorial or domanial jurisdiction in his manorial court. Moreover, liberties were not only jurisdictional but administrative and fiscal. (fn. 104) There is a dearth of evidence before and during the period of our first survey on the exercise of baronial and manorial privileges. In fact the wording of the Leges Henrici and of the returns to the Inquest of knights of 1166 (carte Baronum) (fn. 105) is almost the sole proof that honour courts existed in the 12th century and that evidence has not been accepted by all. (fn. 106) The interpretation of some of Henry II's legal reforms shows that lords were exercising jurisdiction over disputed possession and ownership of land until the king offered the great boon of the royal assizes. In these baronial courts trial by battle was common.
Of franchisal jurisdiction exercised by lords rather more can be inferred from charters. Our knowledge of this type of jurisdiction is therefore fuller than that of baronial or manorial jurisdiction in the period before 1175, although there are difficulties in the interpretation of the evidence. From charters to Wilton, Romsey, Glastonbury, Shaftesbury and to the bishops of Salisbury and Winchester some reconstruction of the scope of this delegated jurisdiction can be made. The men of five of these spiritual lords were exempt by the 12th century from suit to the shire and hundred courts, and those of the sixth, the Abbess of Romsey, may have attended the hundred court of Whorwellsdown possibly in her hands by Henry I's reign. Exemption probably meant in practice that the lord provided a court in which hundredal jurisdiction was dispensed for his men and tenants. Much has been written on the competence of the hundred court and this article is not concerned with the somewhat controversial issue as to how far preConquest immunities were fiscal exemptions and did not argue the establishment of courts. (fn. 107) It is not clear whether the Abbess of Shaftesbury's men in all her lands enjoyed this quittance but her tenants in Donhead did, although it was specifically stated that they were answerable for murder fines and fines for the escape of thieves. (fn. 108) The exemptions of the Abbess of Wilton's men in Chalke can only be inferred from the vague terms of the charters of King Edwy and King Edgar. To the bishops of Winchester and Salisbury and to the Abbot of Glastonbury more specific franchises were conceded. Edward the Confessor's charter to Bishop Ælfwine stated that the bishops were to have within all their lands, sac and soc, toll and team, and infangenetheof. (fn. 109) Grants of sac and soc and toll and team probably did not cover more than jurisdiction over cases of petty brawls, drawing blood, wounding and battery and the right to levy toll. (fn. 110) On confirming these privileges, however, Henry I added grants of forstal, hamsocn, and mundbryce. (fn. 111) These would enable the bishop's court to deal with cases of obstruction or assault on the highway, assault in a house or forcible entry, and breaches of royal protection. These privileges were not frequently granted. Henry II by quitclaiming all the lands and men of the Bishop of Winchester 'de tota assisa (aid) quam per justicias meas facta est per Angliam', (fn. 112) foreshadowed the massive franchises and immunities granted in the 13th century. However, in the period 1150–75, Glastonbury had probably reached a higher watermark of privilege. Edmund's charter of 944 conceded all customs and forfeitures of all Glastonbury lands to the abbot and monks: (fn. 113) its wording is specific 'id est burgbryce, hundred socna (setene), athos, ordelas (hordles), infangenetheofas, hamsocna, forthbrice, forestalle, et toll et team in omni regno meo et sint terre sue libere et solute ab omni calumpnia'. A charter of confirmation of King Edgar dated 971 (fn. 114) added to the abbey's liberties outfangenetheof, flemenneferde, and friderbrice, which liberties were all confirmed by Cnut. (fn. 115) The approach here seems to have been rather different from that at Winchester; the emphasis is on the granting of fiscal exemptions which benefit the abbey at the expense of the shire or hundred court or of the king, as well as on granting jurisdiction. Above Winchester, Glastonbury had the power of determining the customs of the hundred, the constitutio hundredi or hundraedsetene which it presumably exercised in Damerham. Moreover it had wider powers of criminal jurisdiction than Winchester. Friderbrice would give the abbot jurisdiction in cases involving breaches of public order and flemenneferde, the right to bring to justice those who harboured outlaws. The grant of ordelas is perhaps not important and may only indicate that the grantee had the right to try alleged thieves, for the ordelas ranked with compurgation as a method of trial. The grant of outfangenetheof, however, is of great significance. This jurisdiction over thieves other than those caught red-handed was rarely given to a subject. The charters to Glastonbury gave that house as wide privileges as those enjoyed by Ely, Ramsey, and Bury St. Edmund's. Confirmations of the Empress Maud and of Henry II (fn. 116) retained and extended the liberties but we know from later evidence that the abbot's privileges were not the same in all parts of his estates. The quittance from suit to shires and hundreds for example did not cover the abbot's manors of Idmiston and Gomeldon. The Bishop of Salisbury is said to have been granted the assize of bread and ale in Stratford-sub-Castle by Henry I in 1120. (fn. 117) The Empress Maud confirmed that the canons and their men should be quit of pleas and plaints, shires and hundreds as they had been previously. This would have placed the bishop on a level, as regards jurisdictional privileges, with the Abbess of Wilton in Chalke, except that his grants are better attested. In Wiltshire then, of the lords exercising franchisal jurisdiction, the Abbot of Glastonbury is pre-eminent, followed closely by the Bishop of Winchester. The Bishop of Salisbury and the abbesses of Shaftesbury and Wilton follow, with the Abbess of Romsey's privileges less ascertainable but almost certainly more restricted. Of the lay lords of the private hundreds little can be said except that they were exercising hundredal jurisdiction, which exercise involved fiscal privileges and the holding of a court.
A hundred and twenty-five years later the scope of the lords' liberties had undergone considerable change. Several immunities could not have been created until royal justice had been more fully developed. The outstanding example of this is the privilege of 'return of writs'. The years between 1190 and 1230 were a period of many confirmations of existing liberties and, in some instances, of considerable extensions. It may seem surprising that this period, which was marked by a significant growth in the activity of the king's courts, should witness what appears to be an extension of private jurisdiction. How far this was the result of baronial opposition to the Crown and of baronial determination to maintain their franchises will have to be considered later. Richard I confirmed to Malmesbury Abbey the quittance of payment of hundred silver and of the suit to shires and hundreds (fn. 118) and John, as already mentioned, granted the three hundreds to the abbey in 1215. In 1208 John granted far-reaching liberties to Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester. (fn. 119) This was so full a franchise that the king's officers had no right to enter the bishop's lands unless he or his officers neglected to perform their duties. The grant, in conjunction with a later charter, (fn. 120) made the lands of the bishop and of the dean and chapter free from gelds, hidages and carucages and of suit to shires and hundreds. They were released from payment of sheriff's and forester's aids, from the murdrum and latrocinium fines and from custody of castles. Considerable economic benefits were gained from freedom from toll, pontage, carriage, and stallage and from pannage throughout the king's realm. All amercements imposed upon the bishop's tenants by the king's justices were to be claimed for the bishop at the Exchequer. Not to be outdone, the Bishop of Salisbury received similar privileges in 1227, (fn. 121) although royal officials were to enter his liberty for attachments of pleas of the Crown. There is no direct evidence that Glastonbury was adding to its extensive privileges between 1190 and 1230 although there is evidence later in the 13th century that its immunities had increased. In 1205 John granted wide liberties to the Abbess of Shaftesbury and 'restored' the hundred of Bradford. (fn. 122) The Prior and Brethren of Maiden Bradley and their men were granted quittance of suit to shires and hundreds in 1204 (fn. 123) and some twenty years later were freed from all amercements. (fn. 124) Bradenstoke Priory by charters of 1207, (fn. 125) 1232 (fn. 126) and by letters patent of 1216 and 1220 (fn. 127) secured exemption from castle and bridge work and many other fines and quittance from suit to shires and hundreds. These royal grants gave wide jurisdictional liberties to the priors within a limited area, for their estates were not extensive.
Within these years several grants of privileges were made to owners of manors. As has been mentioned, lords of manors had the right to hold a manorial court irrespective of royal grant, but charters enabled lords to deal with a wider range of pleas in their courts. These free manors formed liberties within liberties. By John's charter of 1190, confirmed in 1233, (fn. 128) Godfrey de Craucumbe and all his men in Corsley were quit of shires and hundreds, of sheriff's aid, views of frankpledge, assizes and market dues. Godfrey and his heirs were to be judged by none save the king or his chief justice. (fn. 129) Subsequently Corsley was given to the Prioress of Studley (Oxon.) and in 1275 she claimed gallows and the assize of bread and ale there, and no suit was paid by the men of the manor to Warminster hundred court. Corsham was another free manor. In John's reign William Crassak, as lord of the manor, had withdrawn its suit to the hundred of Chippenham, and in 1230 the lands in Corsham of Ralph son of Nicholas had been declared quit of suit. (fn. 130) Richard, Earl of Cornwall, his son Edmund, and Mary, daughter of Edward I, subsequently held the manor. Henry III's inspeximus of a charter of Richard I confirmed the grant of Figheldean to Geoffrey Hussey and his heirs to hold with sac and soc, &c. and with freedom from suit to shires and hundreds and quittance of assizes and views.
Probably the greatest difference among liberties in the last quarter of the 13th century was between those which had return of writs and those which had not. We know that the sheriff delivered the writs concerning the men and tenants of all the Abbot of Glastonbury's lands, hundreds, and fees in Wiltshire to the abbot's bailiff at Damerham. (fn. 131) The bishops of Winchester and Salisbury excluded the sheriff from all their lands, as did the Prior of Winchester in his hundred of Elstub, and Battle Abbey in its manor of Bromham. The lords of the private hundreds of Mere, Alderbury, Amesbury, Calne, Highworth, Cricklade, Staple, Kinwardstone, Melksham, and Selkley, having return of writs, could exclude the sheriff and his bailiffs from their liberties. The Abbess of Wilton in Chalke, and the lord of Chippenham hundred executed the king's writs by their own bailiffs but admitted the sheriff twice a year to hold the tourn in their hundred courts. The lords of the hundreds of Whorwellsdown, Bradford, Heytesbury, Warminster, and Westbury, not having return of writs, admitted the sheriff's bailiffs and the sheriff held the bi-annual tourn in these hundreds. The sheriff also entered the hundreds of the Abbot of Malmesbury to hold the tourn and may, although the abbot claimed retornum brevium, have executed the king's writs within the liberty. This grant of return of writs was at once a privilege and a heavy responsibility; it was a source of profit to the immunity holder, but non-execution of the writ led to the intervention of the sheriff and involved the lord or his bailiff in litigation in the king's court. (fn. 132) Some highly privileged immunists had the right to levy royal debts. By the end of the 13th century the Bishop of Winchester was one of these and in the following century other Wiltshire immunists were to be added to this group. When the justices came to the counties in which Winchester estates were situated, the bishop's bailiff levied the fines and amercements imposed by them within the bishop's liberties and hundreds and paid the money thus collected into the Exchequer.
Another great dividing line among the lords of liberties was between those who possessed the right to hold pleas of replevin and those who did not. This was a royal plea which only the sheriff could hear without a royal writ, as had been stressed by Henry III in 1244. (fn. 133) The lord who had this franchise could hear complaints against those who refused to deliver up a distress to the owner when proper security (namium) for attendance at court had been offered. The lord of Highworth hundred enjoyed this franchise and litigation consequent upon such a plea can be followed in the hundred court rolls of 30 September, 29 October, 8 November, and 9 December 1275. (fn. 134) The bishops and priors of Winchester, the bishops of Salisbury and the abbots of Glastonbury, as we should expect, possessed this privilege, but the Abbot of Malmesbury specifically disclaimed this franchise. (fn. 135) Edmund of Cornwall claimed pleas de vetito namio in his hundred of Mere (fn. 136) but it is not known whether his claim was upheld. Eleanor, Countess of Leicester, made a similar claim in Kinwardstone. (fn. 137) The parson of Bedwyn, Thomas of Wichehampton also claimed that his predecessors had had this high franchise—an interesting and somewhat mysterious claim. This franchise among others, was granted in 1285 to the Prioress of Amesbury both in her manor and in the hundred of Melksham. (fn. 138)
Leaving for the moment one or two special franchises that were held only by a few lords of Wiltshire liberties, one must turn to the residual basic liberties. Such were the right to hold the view of frankpledge, the assize of bread and ale and to have gallows and the tumbril. Many lords claimed the right to punish bakers and brewers who broke the assize and by the beginning of the 14th century this right was assumed to go with the holding of the view of frankpledge. (fn. 139) The pillory and the trumbril were the instruments of punishment for those who broke the provisions of the assize. Most lords, however, took a small fine of 2d. or 3d. for the offence. At the twice-yearly views of frankpledge the tithingmen presented misdemeanours committed by members of the tithing or any irregularity in its composition. The 'view' gave the lord's court jurisdictional competence over 'any offences short of felony'. (fn. 140) Moreover the right to hold the view had a financial as well as a jurisdictional aspect. The 'cert money' paid by the tithings formed invariably a considerable part of the profits of the court. Gallows were an outward sign of the right to hang thieves and all lords with the franchise of infangentheof should have kept them in good repair. These basic liberties were possessed by the lords of all the Wiltshire liberties and private hundreds that have been mentioned. The lords of Staple hundred, although they had the administrative liberty of retornum brevium, made modest claims as to jurisdictional franchises. They claimed only to hold views of frankpledge without the sheriff. Most Wiltshire lords claimed the three franchises together.
The Abbot of Malmesbury claimed pleas of unjust weights. (fn. 141) In Bromham, the Abbot of Battle asserted that, when the justices came into the shire, he had the right to ask for a special session for his liberty. (fn. 142) The abbot's steward sat beside the justice on the bench. (fn. 143) The Chancery inquired into this liberty in 1282 when the abbot demanded the delivery of his gaol at Bromham. The abbot showed a charter of Henry III granting jurisdiction over all his men in England and stating that he should have, at the discretion of the Chief Justice, a judge to sit with the steward to hear and determine all pleas. After this inquiry, Thomas of Suthington and Brother Roger of Pevensey sat. It must be pointed out that the Abbot of Battle apparently appointed his own nominee to sit with the itinerant judge. Edmund of Cornwall in 1281 claimed pleas of approvers (fn. 144) — an exceedingly rare franchise—within his manor of Mere. Adam of Stratton, to whom the Countess of Aûmale had granted Highworth, asserted that all cases touching his liberty were to be heard at Westminster in Parliament. (fn. 145) This assertion he proved by a charter of Henry III. The Abbot of Glastonbury in 1275, and probably much earlier, had the right to elect his own coroners. (fn. 146) He had also full comital jurisdiction. The Prioress of Amesbury, as tenant in ancient demesne, had her right to implead and be impleaded in Melksham by the writ of right close specially confirmed by a charter of Edward I, which also granted to her considerable franchises and immunities. (fn. 147)
Superficially it would appear that the lords' liberties in 1275–1300 were greater than they had been 125 years before. The appearance is, however, deceptive. Most of the new liberties that had emerged were economic rather than jurisdictional. Moreover, the judicial competence of the shire and hundred courts had declined by the 13th century, so that grants of hundredal and comital jurisdiction meant less and less. Further, even where lords had a clear right to certain types of jurisdiction they were loath to act without a royal writ. In capital cases this was especially so, for lords of liberties with infangenetheof were becoming increasingly fearful that, after the sentence had been executed, royal justices might intervene and the growing tendency therefore was to hand alleged thieves over to the royal justices. (fn. 148) Lords were more interested in the profits of jurisdiction than in retaining certain types of plea in their courts, and the Crown apparently was satisfied to let the profits go. This loss was offset by the increasing area of jurisdiction over which the Crown gained control. In coming to a true assessment of the lords' liberties, it is important to state that many of the immunities and franchises granted to Wiltshire lords, as to the lords of other counties, were already anachronistic. The immunities from gelds granted to the bishops of Salisbury and Winchester and to others, cost little for they were no longer levied: the grants of private hundreds meant little more than jurisdiction in cases of brawls and other petty misdemeanours, and the provision of a court for the enforcement of small debts. By the time we have written records, the influence and importance of feudal, and possibly of franchisal courts, had passed their zenith.
Professor Helen Cam has pointed out that Edward I, II, and III granted franchises freely and that franchise holders were pressing for a more liberal interpretation of general terms in charters so as to give them the right to hold possessory assizes without a specific grant. (fn. 149) There were also petitions in Parliament against the extension of franchises in 1347 and, in the last quarter of the century, reiterated complaints against grants of franchises that threw an unfair financial burden on the unprivileged or geldable parts of the shire. Throughout the century the distinction between the palatinate and the lesser franchises was widening. Although there was no great palatinate in Wiltshire, the same movement is apparent: the highly privileged areas tended to add new franchises while the privileges of the lesser liberties became of less value. Advance on one front, however, was counteracted by retreat on another, for the justices of the peace deprived the old communal and feudal courts of much business.
The bishops of Salisbury and Winchester added to their franchises in the 14th century. In 1317 the Bishop of Winchester received confirmation of his long-held right to exclude the sheriff from holding bi-annual tourns in Winchester lands. (fn. 150) This tourn or hundred as it was called on Winchester rolls until c. 1330, was held by the bishop's steward. The steward, who supervised the 10 bailiwicks which formed the units of Winchester estate administration, visited each bailiwick around Hocktide and Martinmas to hold the tourns. He held a tourn at Bishopstone (Downton hundred) to which the tithings of Faulston, Flamston (Farm), and Bishopstone presented, and on the same, or sometimes the following day, at East Knoyle, the tithings of Fonthill Bishops, East Knoyle, and Milton (in East Knoyle) and the bailiff of Hindon presented. At Downton two courts were held on the same day; the borough court at which the aldermen of the West and East Borough presented, and the manor court at which there was a view of the tithings of Church, Wick, East Downton, Charlton (in Standlynch), and Nunton. The order of the steward's visit might vary, but these four courts were held regularly in Wiltshire in October and late April or May as part of the tourn held on all Winchester estates. (fn. 151)
To advise him in the administration of his extensive estates and franchises the bishop had a council. The Winchester Council, which has not been traced back beyond 1343–4, had some judicial functions; it heard cases of trespass in the warren and parks of the bishop. (fn. 152) There does not appear, however, to have been any honour court to which freehold tenants from all the bailiwicks owed suit. It may well be that the organization in bailiwicks and the wide dispersion of Winchester estates over so many counties prevented any such central court, and it is unlikely, as has been suggested, that, if one had existed, it would have had any appeal jurisdiction. The plea of falsum judicium had been a royal one at the time of the Leges Henrici Primi. Professor Plucknett has pointed out that a great court held for a group of manors sometimes reviewed the decisions of the manorial courts, (fn. 153) but no such 'great court' seems to have been held by the bishops of Winchester. The steward did not act as the representative of the bishop's council and its judicial functions appear to have been subordinate to its administrative duties.
By a great charter of 1394 the immunities and franchises of the Bishop of Salisbury were confirmed and extended. (fn. 154) All fines for trespasses and other misdeeds, for licences to agree as well as all amercements levied in the king's court upon the bishop's men were to be paid to the bishop. All forfeitures, year, day, and waste and murder fines in his lands and those of the dean, chapter, and canons went to the bishop who was also granted the chattels of all fugitives, felons, and outlaws being men, tenants, or residents within his or the chapter's lands. The bishop was to have return of all the king's writs and of summonses, estreats, and precepts, so that no sheriff, bailiff or other royal minister should enter his lands and fees save in case of default by the bishop or his minister. Within the city of Salisbury the bishop's authority was very great. He was to have cognisance of all pleas of debt, trespass, and covenant and of all other causes and contracts within the city and was also to hold the possessory assizes. The bishop was a royal judge in Salisbury. The presence there of a royal judge or even of the king himself was not to deprive him of hearing the above-mentioned royal pleas. Full powers were granted to him to hear and determine by his bailiffs all matters, plaints, defects, and causes which should fall to the justices of labourers and craftsmen. The bishop's bailiff was not, however, to proceed to the determining of any felony without a special mandate from the king. This great charter of liberties, frequently confirmed, was at once the acme of royal grants to St. Osmund and the foundation upon which the exercise of the bishop's wide liberties was based. It was clearly stated in 1462 (fn. 155) that the bishop and his successors were to have within the city of Salisbury, the suburbs, and liberty, power to appoint justices of the peace. They were also to appoint two coroners, one within the city, suburbs, and liberty and one, within their manors, lands, and fees, with the full powers possessed by other coroners. The privilege of hearing so many royal pleas, and of appointing his own justices of the peace and coroners was one rarely granted to a subject, although the Abbot of Glastonbury possessed similar and in some respects, even wider franchises. Until the later 14th century Salisbury lagged behind Winchester in the extent of its royal grants but towards the close of the Middle Ages it equalled, if it did not surpass, the see of St. Swithun.
The liberties of the Abbot of Glastonbury were confirmed rather than increased in the 14th century although one extension took place. Glastonbury's privileges were not the same in all parts of its estates. This article is not concerned with the important franchise of the banleuca, the so-called Twelve Hides of Glastonbury, for none of the Wiltshire estates was included in that highly privileged inner liberty. (fn. 156) As has been mentioned the abbot's quittance from suits to shire and hundreds did not at first apply to Idmiston and Gomeldon and this matter was settled by a final concord between the abbot and the lord of Alderbury hundred levied at Westminster in June 1230. (fn. 157) By this agreement all the abbot's men in the two vills of 12 years of age and over should do suit twice a year in the hundred court of Alderbury and not, by inference, from three weeks to three weeks. All shepherds and ploughmen of the two vills, all carters and all who were of the abbot's mainpast were not to do suit to the court unless they were impleaded or impleaded others there. The lord of the hundred was to have 8s. a year from the men of the two places and the abbot was to receive half of all the profits of justice paid by his men at the hundred court. Edward I granted a charter of confirmation of the abbot's liberties in 1280, (fn. 158) but the abbey was still impeded in its liberties by the king's ministers. A charter of confirmation with clause licet was issued in 1327, (fn. 159) granting the abbot returns of the summonses of the Exchequer and all precepts and mandates of the king in all his lands where he had return of writs. Although the abbot had paid 120 marks for this confirmation, he still experienced difficulties. Between 21 and 23 December 1331 Edward III and his queen stayed at Glastonbury and a discussion took place in the king's presence concerning liberties which were in dispute. (fn. 160) The trouble appears to have arisen from the fact that the abbot did not have return of writs in all his manors. Idmiston was one of these. By a charter of 1332, Edward III granted return of all writs and summonses of the Exchequer in the abbey's manor of Idmiston. (fn. 161) The exclusion of the sheriff and royal officials from Glastonbury lands was thus completed.
In the 14th century far-reaching liberties were granted to a number of Wiltshire religious houses. The Rector and Bonhommes of Edington in 1359 received felon's chattels, all fines, forfeitures and amercements and immunities of economic importance in the form of quittance from tolls, passage, pavage, and pontage. This house was exempt from aids and tallages nor was it to pay the part of any Papal tenth that might be granted to the Crown. Moreover, it was not to be compelled to act as a tax-collector or to lodge magnates or royal officials. These grants did not convey wide jurisdictional powers but freedom from attendance at the view would have entitled the rector to hold views of frankpledge for his men and he also exercised hundredal jurisdiction. Similar in scope were the liberties of the Prior and Brethren of Maiden Bradley who also had the goods of suicides even if the deceased held elsewhere of the king or of any other person. A comprehensive charter of 1449 confirmed and extended these liberties. (fn. 162) In this year the priory was granted the assize of wine and ale and other victuals, examination of weights and measures, and the correction and punishment of offenders against the statutes of Victuallers, Measures and Weights. The prior also exercised hundredal jurisdiction in his court. (fn. 163) Westminster Abbey was granted the manor of Westbury Priors in 1399 and received similar immunities. This charter contains many anachronistic immunities. (fn. 164) It is difficult to assess what a grant of westgeldethef or freedom from danegeld and horngeld really meant at the end of the 14th century; in all probability it meant very little. The priories of Bradenstoke and Monkton Farleigh held their lands with similar, though more restricted, privileges. The scope and authority of a few of the larger liberties had increased by the end of the 14th century but, except in the few instances where lords secured the right to appoint their own coroners and still more their own justices of the peace, the importance of the lesser liberties was bound to decline, indeed by that date it had declined before the encroachment of royal justice.
Wiltshire liberties at work
Lords left the administration of their liberties to stewards. On the Winchester estates the stewardship was not hereditary as on so many great estates and, although generally held by a layman, clerks occasionally held the office. In the 14th century, the steward was assisted by a supervisor terre or clericus episcopatus who looked after the stock and granges, and later an under-steward was appointed. (fn. 165) In order to secure the amercements on his men the bishop's attorney, usually the bailiff of the liberty, had to be present at the Exchequer. (fn. 166) Probably in the 13th century and certainly in the 14th, the officials of liberties were becoming a professional class. They have been described as 'the forerunners of the estate agent and bailiff of to-day'. (fn. 167) In 1330 Richard of Nottingham, who was attorney of the Bishop of Norwich in Norfolk, also accounted at the Exchequer for the Prioress of Amesbury's liberty of Melksham. Robert of Lufwyk bailiff of the liberties of the Abbot of Peterborough in 1330–6, was also bailiff of the Bishop of Salisbury in Wiltshire, Dorset and Surrey. Later in the century local men appear more frequently. In 1375 John Wolf, evidently a Trowbridge man, (fn. 168) was steward of the fees and franchises of the Duchy of Lancaster in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, and Hampshire. (fn. 169) Between 1360 and 1370 Thomas Drew was steward simultaneously of the Abbot of Glastonbury's hundred of Damerham (fn. 170) and the Prioress of Amesbury's hundred of Melksham, (fn. 171) and towards the end of that period was also steward to the Abbess of Lacock. (fn. 172) Shortly afterwards (1372–4) he was steward of the Abbot of Glastonbury in Longbridge Deverill, (fn. 173) and in 1379 he was the Bishop of Winchester's steward in Downton. (fn. 174) He is also found as a justice of the peace between 1362 and 1382 and in the latter year was a justice of array. Thomas Gore, the Abbess of Romsey's steward in c. 1359 and 1363, (fn. 175) the Prior of Farleigh's between 1365 (fn. 176) and 1367 and Dame Elizabeth Audley's in 1394, (fn. 177) was a county coroner between 1384 (fn. 178) and 1390 (fn. 179) if not later. Enough examples have been given to show that stewards were becoming a professional class. The great immunists employed stewards early. Berengar, steward of William, Earl of Salisbury, and Osmund, steward of William, Earl of Pembroke, in 1199 (fn. 180) were probably clerics but by the 14th century the stewards were laici literati. The appointment of officials was made by the lords of liberties, but the bailiffs of private hundreds were representatives of the king as well as of their lord. It is not surprising that these stewards and bailiffs who presided at their lords' private courts, were frequently coroners and justices of the peace.
Lords' relations with their tenants were not always without friction. Stewards and bailiffs sometimes sought in the interests of sensible administration to amalgamate courts. In the 13th century the earls of Salisbury held an honour court for knights and free tenants of the barony of Chitterne. This court, it was alleged, had been moved from Chitterne to Shrewton (fn. 181) by the bailiffs to the great inconvenience of the suitors. How great such inconvenience was, is open to doubt, as Shrewton is only about 6 miles from Chitterne, but another grievance had more justification. The suitors, who had owed suit only twice a year, were compelled to attend from three weeks to three weeks. In 1275 a long complaint was made by the jurors of Startley hundred that, when the hundred was in the king's hands, freemen and tithingmen had only attended the court on the two lawdays, but that the sheriff then called them for the two days of Startley and the two days of Chedglow. (fn. 182) Thus their court attendances had been doubled. This the sheriff did with the assent of the Abbot of Malmesbury, taking 10 marks from the tithings for 'beau pleader' which sum he shared equally with the abbot. Suitors of an immunist's court might sometimes take a dispute with their lord to the king's court. In King's Bench in Hilary term 1282, 27 brewers of Malmesbury brought a case against the abbot complaining that he had demanded from them the amends of the breaking of the assize of ale although previously they had only paid such amends when someone had lodged a complaint against them. (fn. 183) The abbot replied that they had been presented in the hundred courts of Malmesbury, Startley, and Chedglow and that his bailiff amerced those 'sicut ei bene licuit pro assisa cervisie fracta'. The plaintiffs argued that no buyer of ale had complained. Judgement, however, was found for the abbot. He had the hundreds: he could enforce the assize as he pleased. Sometimes violence was shown by tenants towards their lord. This happened at Salisbury in 1306 and 1344. (fn. 184) In the latter year a number of people assaulted William Randolf, bailiff of the city, and locked him and some other servants of the bishop in the Guildhall where Randolf was holding pleas of the bishop's court. He was later released by another party of Salisbury citizens. The rioters had prevented John Cyprian and Robert Gore from coming before the court and carried away rolls and memoranda relating to pleas of the court. The bishop complained that he had lost the profits of his court and the services of his bailiffs for a long time. Here is evidence of the uneasy relations between town and bishop.
That the halimote dealing with domanial business—the entry into tenements, failures to perform the necessary agricultural operations or repairs, or to pay the customary dues—should continue throughout the Middle Ages and beyond is not surprising. The honour court, however, had lost much of its importance by the beginning of the 13th century. The fees of Malmesbury Abbey have been referred to as an honour, and it has been suggested that the knights enfeoffed by the abbey were chosen to do their service by rotation in the honour court. (fn. 185) J. H. Round wrote that the knight service of Malmesbury reminded him of the well-known system by which Ramsey Abbey's service was discharged, and drew attention to the division of those holding by knight service into three groups. (fn. 186) These tenants also paid hundred silver to the abbot and owed suit to his three-weekly court at Malmesbury. (fn. 187) As there are no known court rolls of any such honour court and as the three hundreds were held by the abbot and convent, the court to which the tenants by knight service and other free tenants owed suit was probably a hundred rather than an honour court. (fn. 188) The reference, however, to the full court of St. Aldhelm in which many laymen, knights, and others were present (astantibus) and over which the abbot himself presided, may indicate the existence of an honour court. (fn. 189) The honour court of the barony of Gastle Combe, known as the curia militum, was active in the 14th century, but declined during the 15th century until by the end of the century it was moribund. (fn. 190) The court dealt with tenements held of the barony by knight service, collected reliefs and ordered tenants to do homage and fealty to the lord. The rolls, of which there is a long series, contain mostly the names of those in default to the common suit or those who have failed to perform homage and fealty. The records, dating from 1327–8 and 1350–1, of the honour court, the so-called 'foreign court' of Trowbridge, show that non-performance of fealty and the common suit was widespread. (fn. 191) In the 14th century the court was apparently held eight times a year but, whatever might have been its importance earlier, it was a badly attended court at this period. The court of the honour of Wallingford was held in the 15th century from four weeks to four weeks. (fn. 192) It displays, to an even greater degree, all the features of the moribund courts of Castle Combe and Trowbridge. The honour courts had passed their zenith long before we have records of their existence in the 13th century, and of their work in the 14th.
The hundred court also had lost much of its importance by the beginning of the 13th century and the view has been expressed that it would probably have died, had it not been a source of profit for lords of private hundreds and a convenient court for the settlement of minor debts. (fn. 193) Despite the growing importance of the justice of the peace, it would appear that many who came before the king's justices had been indicted for offences, not before the justices of the peace, but before the stewards of liberties or of private hundreds. The abundan.ce of the evidence from the gaol delivery rolls (fn. 194) proves that the hundred court was playing a more important part than some historians have realized. The Statute of Gloucester 1278 operated, however, to give the hundred court jurisdiction over amounts of less than 40s. All private courts brought perquisites to the immunists who held them, for, even in the mid-13 th century, lords sought fines for respite of, or release from suit rather than the attendance of the suitor. The private courts of Wiltshire dealt with cases similar to those heard in other counties. The settlement of minor debts was frequently achieved by furthering the loveday or settlement out of court, or by one party seeking a licence to agree (licencia concordandi) with the other, which licence was granted for a small payment. These courts were also used to enforce broken contracts, usually concerning the purchase of land or cattle. An early example of this is to be found in 1262 when Walter Walerand in the court at Steeple Ashton promised to pay Richard of Tilshead the cost of building houses on a site of which Richard had put Walter in seisin. (fn. 195) Walter had not paid, so he promised in court to pay or lease the site to Richard for a time with reversion to Walter. In 1443, John Ballerd was at his law four-handed in the hundred court at Steeple Ashton to prove that he not broken a contract about repairs made with Robert Batyn. (fn. 196) The method by which a defendant was ordered to clear himself by compurgators' oaths continued in these courts. As numerous as the pleas of debt are the affrays and assaults. Stephen Poynant charged Robert Poynant with coming to his home and, having ascertained from Stephen's daughter that he was in bed, beating him about the face with an ash rod. This accusation he brought in the Countess of Aumale's court of Highworth hundred. Robert offered to wage his law, but, as Stephen had raised the hue and cry, the case was respited to the lawday to be presented by the tithing. The weapons of assault, rods (usually of no value), forks, spades, bows and arrows (valued at 4d. in 1406), (fn. 197) and rakes were invariably forfeited and their value is added to the profits of the court. In cases of assault or theft if the hue and cry was raised, all were supposed to help in pursuit, but a special obligation fell upon the tithing. In Wiltshire the tithing, though partly personal and partly territorial in 1194, (fn. 198) was from the later 13th century only territorial. It included all males over 12 years of age but excepted women, clergy, domestic servants, and free tenants. (fn. 199) The tithing was frequently amerced for failure to pursue the hue or alternatively for raising it falsely or even for not reporting that it had been raised. The tithing also presented cases of theft and burglary. These capital causes were not usually completed in private courts but preliminary steps were taken to attach those accused. In the court of Colerne, of which the Warden and Fellows of New College, Oxford were lord, one Agnes Boteler in 1441 was to be attached for housebreaking and stealing two goblets and 4d. from Alice Gregory. (fn. 200) Cases of rape occur infrequently in the rolls. Like larceny (over 12d.), homicide, arson, and burglary, rape was a felony that would have been determined by the king's justices. In 1422, however, a man was at his law six-handed in the manor court at Cheverell Hales (in Great Cheverell) to prove that he did not enter another's house and violate his wife. (fn. 201)
The hundred court gave a remedy against slander where the king's court gave none. (fn. 202) Many were amerced for falsely accusing their neighbours and others checked for abuse. Cursing one's neighbour or the lord's bailiff might entail an amercement of 6d. or 12d. (fn. 203) The common gossips or scolds were also amerced. At the view of frankpledge held at Colerne on 20 June 1405, Maud wife of John Mullman was presented as a common scold and disturber of the peace and was to be punished by ducking. (fn. 204) Her husband paid 4d. to relax this judgement. Colerne seemed to have many a garulatrix and vexatrix and for them, in 1401, the reeve had been ordered 'unum tumbrell supra dictum Horsepo(o)l de novo facere et ponere'. Eavesdropping was made an offence by a statute of 1361 and hundred courts had jurisdiction in this matter. The court of the Abbot of Battle at Bromham dealt with two eavesdroppers in 1445, and there, in 1447, John Green had to pay 8d. because he was 'communis noctivagus per vicos et placeas et jacet sub fenestras populi domini rectoris ad audiendum secreta inter homines et mulieres'. The manor court was the place where many customary payments were made by villein tenants. Until the end of the Middle Ages and beyond, 'chevage' was paid by the tithing, and villeins paid fines for permission to marry whomever they pleased or to live away from the manor. In all these court rolls, perhaps the most striking feature is the interminable delay in securing justice and the large number of cases allowed to drop. (fn. 205) There is no evidence, however, that the private courts countenanced longer delays than did the royal courts. The bailiff may be ordered month after month to levy a sum from a man's goods to settle a debt and in the end there is no definite proof that the creditor was satisfied. The lord also found it difficult to enforce his claims. The Abbess of Romsey ordered Sir Humphrey Stafford and his tenants to do fealty and pay 1s. 3½d. relief at every court between 1422 and 1436, but he was not distrained and there is no record of his doing fealty. For at least 24 years (1396–1420), the Prior of Winchester's bailiff might summon William, son of John Felawe, to attend the court at Stockton but he never did so. Such delays as these were not exceptional.
Professor Helen Cam has remarked that in the late 13th century a hundred was regarded as a source of revenue rather than as a source of political prestige or public authority. (fn. 206) This could be illustrated from Wiltshire court rolls of that period which show that private courts yielded considerable profit to their lords. The steward's costs for holding the court were far less than the income from the court in judicial payments, customary payments or in other fiscal privileges granted by royal charter to the lord. On the other hand, in the 15th and early 16th centuries the profits of private courts were often infinitesimal and the steward's costs at times exceeded them. (fn. 207) The Abbess of Romsey's hundred court of Whorwellsdown, held at Steeple Ashton, illustrates the decline in judicial payments. As the amount of judicial business declined so the income from amercements, fines, and licences to agree fell. At the court in 1413–14 the threeweekly profits varied between 16s. 3d. and 4s. 6d. the average being 7s. 6d. (fn. 208) In 1493–4 the profits were between 1s. 8d. and 4d., the average of 11 courts being 12d., and in 1497 between 1s. 7d. and 4d., when the average of 16 courts was 7½d. (fn. 209) In 1502–3, however, profits rose to an average of 1s. 10½d. (fn. 210) The steward's expenses in the year 1413–14 were between 9d. and 1s. 4½d. at each hundred court. Towards the end of the 13th century Adam of Stratton's hundred court of Highworth brought him in usually between 10s. and £1 in judicial profits at every court and at the bi-annual view, between £2 10s. and £6. (fn. 211) The tithing paid a fixed sum (certum or cert money) at the view and payments of lovesilver, wardsilver, and scotsilver. Wardsilver was, in origin, a commutation for ward services and scotsilver was similar to tallage. Payments for respite of suit usually made in October for the period from Michaelmas to the next Michaelmas, were sometimes the most lucrative source of income. At the 'foreign' court of Trowbridge held on 22 November 1350, out of 68s. 11d., 25s. was for respite of suit. The assized payments and the amends of the assize may still have been worth collecting at the end of the Middle Ages, but judicial payments were often small and mostly declining. There is evidence for the conclusion that financial gain was not a reason for the continuation of these private courts in Wiltshire. The manorial court played an essential part, but the honour court and the private hundred were unimportant and in the main continued largely by reason of tradition and of a certain prestige which they conferred upon lords.
The relations of the liberties to the royal system of government
The officials of the franchises had both direct contact with the central government and indirect contact by way of the sheriffs. Where a liberty included among its franchises summonses and estreats of the Exchequer, the bailiff or steward of the liberty appeared at the Exchequer alongside the sheriff to render account of moneys collected on behalf of the Crown. If the lord was entitled to the amercements on his men, a bailiff would also need to be at the Exchequer to claim them on his behalf. The Abbot of Glastonbury was granted in 1280 half of all amercements, fines, and licences to agree, and half of all fines for the escape of thieves, half of the chattels of fugitives and con demned persons, half the murder fines and of the chattels arising from disseisin within his lands and fees. The other half was also granted to the abbot, but for this he was to answer at the Exchequer. (fn. 212) In 1420–1 the abbot was summoned to reply to the Crown concerning 34 steers, 3s. 6d. and two swords belonging to a condemned felon, a cattle thief, Edward Knyght. The abbot then admitted that he should answer for half at the Exchequer. John of Pontoise, Bishop of Winchester, complained in 1285 that he was not receiving his amercements, which had been confirmed to him the previous year. Between 1327 and 1336 the lord of the hundred of Calne apparently accounted himself at the Exchequer, and not through his bailiff. As has been mentioned, the Prioress of Amesbury's bailiff accounted for the liberty of Melksham at the Exchequer. Some liberties had contact with the sheriff when he came twice a year to hold the tourn. We cannot assess the total sum that the sheriff obtained from the liberties but we know some of the fees which he collected. In 1255 in Chippenham hundred for example, he obtained 5 marks a year at the tourn and 36s. sheriff's aid and from Chalke, 46s. 8d. (fn. 213) The yearly sum of 5 marks with 2 marks aid was paid to the sheriff when he held the tourn at Cowfold (Cole Park) in Malmesbury. He received 5 marks for the king's use and 2½ marks sheriff's aid from Bradford, while in Whorwellsdown he had at least 6 marks a year. From Warminster in 1255 the sheriff was obtaining 77s. 4d. per annum for holding the two tourns; from Westbury, 2 marks and from Heytesbury hundred, 6 marks and 20s. aid. (fn. 214)
The liberties came into contact also with the royal courts of justice. The court of the Prior of the Charterhouse, London, at Ogbourne St. George was directed to hear a plea of novel disseisin. John Childe and Maud his wife presented a writ of right close on 10 July 1464 stating that John Hawe had deforced them of a messuage and 40 acres of land. (fn. 215) John Hawe was ordered to be at the court on 31 July but he did not come. On 21 August he did not attend so he was distrained to be at the court on 11 September. He was not present though the bailiff had distrained him by one sheep; therefore he was distrained by two sheep to be present on 2 October. Then John Hawe denied the charge and begged leave to imparl. Finally, after further absences and an amercement for contempt of court, John and Maud Childe obtained the land. A similar plea of novel disseisin was heard in 1468. The Crown might direct the sheriff to take certain action in an immunist's court by a writ of recordari facias. In 1312, the Crown ordered the sheriff of Wiltshire to intervene in a case of detinue in the hundred court of Mere, between Emma, Abbess of Wilton, and John Strug and Thomas Lade. (fn. 216) The immunist also might suffer interference from the Crown in his judgements. In Michaelmas term 1373, the record of a case between Milleward and Davy was ordered to be brought into the court of Common Pleas from the Bishop of Winchester's hundred court of Downton. (fn. 217) The Crown also insisted upon the necessity of royal assent being given before hundred bailiffs and their subordinates were appointed. In 1328–9 Thomas Tiny was pardoned for acquiring the bedelry of Whorwellsdown hundred from the Abbess of Romsey without licence. (fn. 218) The story of Edward I's inquests into the liberties is too well known to need repetition but quo warranto was a writ to which an immunist might have to make reply both before and after Edward I's reign. However, even when a lord's liberties were recognized he was subject to royal interference and control especially if he failed to observe royal instructions. When such failures occurred the writ non omittas propter libertatem would issue to the sheriff ordering him to intervene. (fn. 219)
The Crown also permitted private courts to enforce the law against statutory offences. Cases of eavesdropping have already been mentioned but courts with leet jurisdiction had jurisdictional competence under statutes on economic matters. They shared with the justices of the peace the right of enforcing the labour legislation after 1349 and the price control legislation of the late 14th and 15th centuries. In Wiltshire court rolls no amercements of millers charging excessive toll have been found before 1371, (fn. 220) when four Bromham millers were brought before the Abbot of Battle's court. In the 15th century many Wiltshire tradesmen were amerced for over-charging. A seller of candles was fined 4d. at Bromham for selling a pound of candles for 2½d. instead of 2d. (fn. 221) In the same court butchers were fined for excessive charges. Millers, butchers, fishmongers, (fn. 222) innkeepers (over-charging for victuals and for fodder), shoemakers, (fn. 223) chandlers, and fruiterers (fn. 224) were amerced for over-charging; the fines usually ranged from 3d. to 6d. Two Bromham butchers Walter and John Paradyse were brought into court every six months for three or four years between 1449 and 1452. From the court rolls it seems as if a 'drive' were made against particular offences on some days. At one court a long list of butchers might be amerced, at another, bakers, at another, those who had not scoured out their ditches.
The relations of the liberties to other liberties
The returns known as the Hundred Rolls give clear evidence of the creation of liberties within liberties. By the 13th century the lord of a private hundred frequently found that several privileged areas within his hundred had withdrawn their suit from his court. This clash of interests sometimes led to disputes between immunists. The Abbot of Glastonbury's men in Christian Malford, who owed suit twice a year to the Abbot of Malmesbury's hundred court of Startley, withdrew their suit by agreement between the abbots. These two immunists settled their differences as to suit of court by a final concord levied in Hilary term 1224. (fn. 225) The Abbot of Malmesbury quitclaimed to the Bishop of Bath and Abbot of Glastonbury his right to the suit of Glastonbury's tenants to his court at Malmesbury, for which the bishop is said to have given the abbot 10 marks in silver. No settlement of the Abbot of Malmesbury's complaint against the Earl of Gloucester has been found. The abbot complained that the earl had amends of the assize of bread and ale and gallows at Stanton contrary to the liberty of the abbot. In Stanton, Herbert St. Quentin and his men had withdrawn their suit due to the hundred of Malmesbury, first owing to the power and influence of Richard of Clare and then at the instigation of his son Gilbert, Earl of Gloucester. (fn. 226) In 1280 it was stated that the men of John St. Quentin should have paid 16s. per annum at the sheriff's tourn and that the king was accustomed to have half this sum and the Abbot of Malmesbury the other half. (fn. 227) Reference has already been made to the compromise solution reached in 1230 between the lord of Alderbury hundred and the Abbot of Glastonbury over the suit of the abbot's men in Idmiston and Gomeldon. Immunists guarded their privileges jealously. In the court rolls of Durrington from 25 June 1426 to 21 September 1436, there are entries stating that a writ is to issue against John Grygge, bailiff of Amesbury hundred, and John Carre, constable of the hundred, because they entered the liberty of the lord of Amesbury and took and imprisoned one, John Hide, tenant of the lord, to the derogation of the lord's liberty there. (fn. 228) Immunists attempted to prevent those owing suit to their courts from proceeding against another tenant in a court other than their own. In the court at Colerne on 22 June 1402, John Mulleman was amerced for impleading Maud Hanecokkes in the court of Chippenham hundred without licence. (fn. 229)
How the liberties were held
The tenure by which lords held their Wiltshire liberties varied. Several of the private hundreds were leased from the Crown at a fee-farm rent. Malmesbury, Startley and Chedglow, Heytesbury, Mere, Calne, Kinwardstone, Melksham, and Warminster were held in this way. Some of these hundreds were held as appurtenant to manors. Bedwyn had the hundred of Kinwardstone attached to it and the hundred of Warminster was held with the manor of the same name. The manors of Mere and Melksham also had the respective hundreds attached to them. The rents for these hundreds were paid at the Exchequer usually by bailiffs. In 1326, Robert Sauery paid 52s. for the farm of Melksham on behalf of the Prioress of Amesbury. (fn. 230) As has been mentioned earlier, Highworth and Cricklade were held by the service of providing a chamberlain at the Exchequer. In 1242 an estate at Oaksey was said to be held as part of the provision for the constable (pertinet ad constabularium Anglie). (fn. 231) Ralph Mortimer held an estate estimated at ½ a knight's fee by virtue of his castleguard services at Wigmore. (fn. 232) Some Wiltshire lords held parts of their lands by different tenures. Within the county, the Abbess of Shaftesbury held estates for 4 knights' fees and also considerable estates, including the manor of Bradford, in free alms. The Abbess of St. Mary's, Winchester, held Urchfont and All Cannings, and the Abbess of Lacock, Bishopstrow, in free alms; the Prior of St. Swithun's Winchester, held Patney and the Prior of Bradenstoke 1 hide in Etchilhampton by the same tenure. These were exceptions to the tenure by knight service by which most of the honours, baronies and other liberties were held.
The superimposition of a system of knights' fees and honours upon the territorial division of vills (townships) and hundreds sometimes led to a dislocation of the pattern of local government. What happened to the community of Teffont in the Nadder valley provides a good example of the influence of these post-Conquest, feudal divisions upon institutional organization. The part of Teffont held of the honour of Ewyas Harold appears to have had the name of 'Ewias' attached to it before 1242, doubtless to distinguish it from Over or Upper Teffont. (fn. 233) Over Teffont (now Teffont Magna) with Dinton belonged to the Abbess of Shaftesbury and was attached to the hundred of Warminster. It is not difficult to describe some of the effects of such feudal boundaries upon the lives of Wiltshiremen in medieval times. Two adjacent communities, living and working, despite somewhat differing soils, under similar conditions, would yet move in different spheres: they would not meet in local or in hundred court; their taxes would be paid to different officials. That the vill of Teffont was, certainly by the time of the compilation of the Nomina Villarum in 1316, and possibly in the 13th century, effectively divided into two, is proof of the deep changes that could be made by the creation of two fees within a vill. Teffont, a vill originally in Dunworth hundred becomes two townships, the one in Warminster and the other in Dunworth yet the two centres of population are less than a mile apart. The difficulties for the Wiltshire tenant which resulted from the creation of honours and privileged areas, were intensified by the scattered nature of the estates. In the main, the estates held by religious houses were more compact than the lay fiefs. Moreover estates held by laymen in the 15th century were more compact than the fiefs of the 12th and 13th centuries.
The estates of the Abbess of Wilton were nearly all situated along the valleys of the Nadder and the Ebble. Similarly Malmesbury's estates were unusually compact, being situated almost entirely within the three hundreds of Malmesbury, Startley, and Chedglow. The Glastonbury lands were situated at the four corners of Wiltshire. In the south-east the abbot had the hundred of Damerham and he grouped his manors in the north-western part of the county, Christian Malford, Grittleton, Nettleton, and Kington St. Michael, into a hundred known as the hundred of North Damerham. In the southwest there were estates belonging to the abbey in Monkton and Longbridge Deverill and towards the north-east in Badbury (in Chisledon) and in Mildenhall. Of lay fees, only the Duchy of Lancaster managed to build a comparably compact block of estates through central Wiltshire from North Standen (in Chute) through Collingbourne Ducis, Everleigh, Manningford Bohun, and Upavon to Easterton and thence, with a gap of some 10 miles, to Trowbridge. The control of a steward or bailiff might stretch throughout the whole of the liberty. Thus Drew, steward of the Abbot of Glastonbury, held his lord's views of frankpledge at Damerham in 1360 and 1367, Kington St. Michael in 1363 and 1370 and Longbridge Deverill in 1372 and 1374. (fn. 234) The constable of Damerham hundred was apparently responsible for arresting the abbot's men in all his Wiltshire fees for in 1384 Walter Giffard, the hundred constable, arrested John Jernemouth at Longbridge Deverill. The scattered nature of these feudal estates might, however, entail lengthy journeys to a lord's court. Though it may be true that in the first half of the 13th century suit of court was being increasingly commuted, some suitors must have had inconvenient journeys. Before Nicholas of Wylye agreed to pay to his lord a fine of 40s. Walter de Dunstanville had compelled Nicholas to attend his honour court at Castle Combe and his hundred court at Heytesbury. For this fine Walter had quitclaimed to Nicholas and all his heirs suit to the two courts. Heytesbury and Castle Combe are some 20 to 25 miles apart and the confirmation secured in 1270 demonstrates the importance to Nicholas and his heirs of this exemption. (fn. 235) Another example of an additional 6-mile journey has already been given. (fn. 236) It is clear that the superimposition of a feudal pattern upon the older pattern of local government was burdensome to some members of the community.
Wiltshire liberties like those in other counties were created because, both before and after the Norman Conquest, the resources of the central government were limited and the proceres were encouraged to share in the work of the enforcement of law and order. The first extension of the franchises in all probability coincided with the disturbed period between 1135 and 1154, years during which Wiltshire saw much fighting. It is less easy to explain why in the second period, roughly between 1190 and 1230, new franchises were granted away. Those to religious houses may have been pious grants but the impecuniosity of Richard I and John together with the fact that extending royal justice made the grants in themselves less valuable, was also a cause of the creation of these new liberties. Moreover these years saw the resistance of feudal magnates to too extensive royal encroachments on their liberties; a resistance that is summed up to some extent in certain clauses of the Great Charter of 1215. These franchises were permitted to continue because, throughout the Middle Ages, the resources of central government remained limited and because those immunists who held them felt that it would have been derogatory to their prestige to surrender them. Most liberties in the 14th and 15th centuries were not direct sources of profit to their lords.
As has alreadybeen noted, Wiltshire contained an unusually large number of serjeanties. Moreover, the number of privileged areas and private hundreds exceeded the number in many counties but fell short of that reached in others. Surveying the counties of Surrey, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset, and Devon in the early years of the 14th century, the ratio of private to royal hundreds increases as we go farther to the south-west. As Wiltshire is situated in the middle of this area geographically, so is the county in a middle position as regards the number of royal and private hundreds. At the eastern end of the region, in Surrey, there were nearly twice as many royal as private hundreds, in Oxfordshire the numbers were roughly the same, in Berkshire there were slightly more private than royal hundreds. In Gloucestershire as in Wiltshire two-thirds of the hundreds were in private hands and the proportion in Hampshire was slightly higher. Over 90 per cent. of the Dorset hundreds were private while the figure reached 75 per cent, in Somerset and again over 90 per cent, in Devon. Whatever reasons may be advanced to explain this distribution of private and royal hundreds, it is clear that the south-west was a district of large royal manors which were often granted away with the hundred.
To estimate the burden which fell upon the men and tenants of an honour or liberty or upon the men of a lord of a private hundred, is not an easy task, particularly since the burden depended more upon the man's status in society—whether he was a freeholder or villein—than upon his place of residence. Quittance from the payment of trading dues (stallage, passage, &c.) did not mean that an immunist's tenants were free from those payments but, usually, that they were made to the franchise-holder rather than to the Crown. Freedom from sheriff's aid, wardpenny, hundredpenny, borthpenny, averpenny meant that these dues went to the lord of the liberty and not to the sheriff either for his own or the king's use. Quittance from shires and hundreds meant that the tenant would have to go to a lord's court that dispensed vice-comital and hundredal justice. Moreover, though quit of suit, he might still have to attend the shire court if he were involved in litigation with the tenant of a lord living in another hundred or to afforce the shire court on special occasions. The tenant, on the other hand, had a court readily available which, especially in the earlier period, might have been of use to him in settling minor debts and other civil actions. Perhaps there was some advantage where the lord had wide immunities and quittances from toll for the resident in a liberty. The men of the honour of Wallingford, of the bishops of Salisbury and Winchester, the men and tenants of the abbots of Glastonbury, Bec, and Sempringham and of the Earl of Leicester were all exempt from the payment of toll in Marlborough. (fn. 237) However, there can have been little difference between the burdens and obligations of a resident in a liberty and those of a resident in the 'geldable'. The importance of the liberties in a limited sense continued, and well into the 16th century a man could describe himself, though we know not with what feelings, as 'of the lordship of Castle Combe'. (fn. 238)