Winchester: The ancient custom

A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.

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'Winchester: The ancient custom', in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5, (London, 1912) pp. 44-50. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]

In this section


The 'ancient custom,' the 'old law' of Winchester so often allowed to the rising boroughs (fn. 1) of the 12th century, is of peculiar interest. In certain particulars it was moulded by royal licence and enactment, others clearly derive from remote antiquity.

Death by the halter became in time the usual doom of the felon, but by the old custom of Winchester the convicted citizen suffered brutal mutilation (fn. 2) and blinding. This law may well have been the Conqueror's. In the reign of his youngest son we hear (fn. 3) of a fine paid by the fullers of Winchester 'ni disfaciant utlagos.'

From Winchester this grim mercy (fn. 4) spread under the warrant of royal charter to Wallingford, Portsmouth and possibly elsewhere. One illustration of this may be given. When in 1261 the itinerant justices sat at Wallingford (fn. 5) they heard that one Benet Hervy had been caught in possession of stolen cloth, imprisoned and by sentence in the portmanmote (fn. 6) (curiam istius burgi) dealt with according to the custom of the town. This as interpreted by twelve jurors consisted in the substitution of blinding and castration for the more usual punishment of the gallows, since none 'de nacione istius burgi' ought to be hanged whatever he might do. Further questioned by the justices, the Wallingford jurors declared that their privilege was by grant of Henry II when he allowed them all the liberties of Winchester.

This particular custom of Winchester was exercised at that city at least as late as the closing years of Henry III. In 1256 a city jury (fn. 7) in the case of William Shikehorn declared that the custom applied to 'any one of the city' captured therein and convicted of felony. Some sixteen years later the actual wording of the custom as then stated (fn. 8) by a jury would include all felons taken in the city and there convicted, but possibly the limitation to Winchester residents was tacitly understood. This interpretation has in its favour the early verdict as well as the known procedure of Wallingford. Petty thefts at Winchester as elsewhere were occasionally punished by minor mutilation, as for example the loss of an ear. (fn. 9)

The proceedings customary at Winchester for the landlord's recovery of the land when rent was in arrear are of especial interest. If the whole rent had fallen in arrear for a year and a day and more, and there were no effects for distraint, but 'there is a house (fn. 10) there and people inhabiting in it, [the landlord] by leave of the bailiffs of the town may take the doors and the windows, and if by this he cannot get his due for his tenement and can find no other distress, by award of the court and the view of the alderman of the street and of a serjeant, a stake shall be put, or a lock where a door remains there, and the cause shall be enrolled in court and sued from week to week for a full year and day from the first day of the suit, and if then no one comes to make satisfaction the tenant shall lose without recovery, whether he be of age or not, albeit so that before the judgment passes he may make satisfaction, the which judgment shall not be delayed to the damage of the demandant. And the same suit shall be made concerning waste land where there is no crop. And no man shall lay hand on the lands or tenements aforesaid while the king's sequestration is set there.' As an example of this form of procedure we may cite the case (fn. 11) of Prior of Christchurch v. Richard de Goldstrete. The rent of the tenement in question was seven years in arrear. The stake was fixed therein on Monday after Michaelmas 1293, and in the following year on Wednesday the morrow of All Souls the prior came in person to the full court of Winchester and 'peciit recordum et rationabile judicium suum' of the stake which by his attorney Roger Aunfrey he had sued for a year and a day and more, and thus recovered his tenement.

Instead of a stake a lock or bolt (serrura) was occasionally placed on the door which in that case seems not to have been removed. An illustrative case, (fn. 12) William of Dunstaple v. Henry of Aldington, may be cited, which arose in the soke where this custom of Winchester existed, (fn. 13) as well as within the city. Here Henry was in occupation of a messuage held from one John Charte, but charged with a yearly rent of 10s. due to William of Dunstaple. The rent having fallen in arrear a year and a day, William had a lock placed on the door 'per consideracionem Curie totius Sokene de predicto suburbio.' Henry met this by action for disseisin before the justices itinerant. The jury recited the facts and declared that Henry had never been in seisin, so the action was dismissed.

As Miss Bateson (fn. 14) has pointed out, the 'stakement' custom of Winchester and some analogous rules in other ancient boroughs may have more probably suggested the procedure of the famous writ (fn. 15) Cessavit per biennium than either the precedents of the civil or the canon law. She has also suggested that 'the term of the king's ban (the year and the day) may once have allowed the burgesses a more liberal term than was allowed to other tenants in the days of forfeiture for rent arrear, but in later times, until the cessavit brought the laws of the realm into harmony with the borough rules, the burgess was dealt with more severely than the ordinary tenant.'

Not only in the 'stakement' process did the term of 'a year and a day' figure prominently in the borough customs of Winchester; we hear of the 'authentic common seal (fn. 16) of the city,' with which town charters of feoffment were sealed. These charters were to be kept by the aldermen who made the seisins a year and a day, and if during this time they were unchallenged the charters were duly sealed, 'at which sealing the ban is cried through the town, the third day before the sealing.' This solemn sealing is constantly referred to in Winchester suits. Thus for example Adam of Northampton pleaded against Thomas of Anvers and alleged that a certain Reginald of Anvers enfeoffed him of the messuage aforesaid 'cum solempnitate qua decet in civitate predicta.' (fn. 17) Peter Saer, again, enfeoffed Robert Long of certain tenements, which Robert held for a year complete, taking the esplees 'et in testimonium sesine sue per annum integrum adeptus fuit impressionem communis sigilli civitatis Wyntonie.' (fn. 18)

Furthermore, says the late 13th-century consuetudinary of Winchester, 'Be it known that when a man has held lands or tenements a year and a day by inheritance or by purchase, whereof he has been seised by the bailiffs or by certain testimony of the neighbourhood without claim or challenge from anyone, then the demandant is for ever foreclosed, unless he was under age, or out of the country or in prison, or unless there be [a claim] for reasonable partition among those of equal degree, as, for example, a brother against a sister, an uncle against a nephew, an aunt against a niece.' For example, William le Bachiere sued Reginald le Mancer for a messuage, &c., in Winchester by writ of right patent. (fn. 19) Reginald answered that he had recovered the disputed tenement in the city court of Winchester against Thomas le Blund and Joan his wife, and William, although of full age, within the four seas and out of prison, had not challenged his right within a year and a day, nor anyone on his behalf. The justices recognized the custom, and William was in mercy for a false claim and lost his case. Two other cases involving this custom entered on the rolls of the same eyre raise an interesting question. In that of Thomas of Anvers v. Adam of Northampton (fn. 20) the demandant asserted that the city custom applied only to one 'qui sit de civitate predicta et in eadem residens,' but not to himself, 'since he is a stranger (forinsecus), and not resident (manens) in that city, nor ever was, nor has he made any stay therein so that notice of the feoffment in question could reach him. Outsiders like himself were not to be limited to a year and a day.' The 'whole community,' consulted by the justices on the point raised, declared that outsiders were barred as well as residents after a year and a day's unchallenged seisin.

Then Thomas of Anvers contradicted this finding, and declared that it had been otherwise decided in the case of Rowland de Oddingsel v. Jordan le Bishop, tried before Stephen de Segrave and his fellows at a previous eyre in the county 'et quod ita sit ponit se super rotulos de itinere predicto.' The justices ordered the rolls to be searched and the case to be adjourned to the quindene of Easter at Wilton. Other adjournments followed (fn. 21); unfortunately the final judgement has not been found.

In the case of Isabel daughter of Geoffrey Barun v. William le Espicer of Winchester and Florence his wife for 15s. annual rent in the city, the demandant as 'forinseca' again cited the case above mentioned and traversed the finding of the whole community, as Thomas of Anvers had done before. An adjournment followed to the octave of Trinity 'eo quod predicta Isabella non protulit recordum,' and she did not appear. So William went sine die.

It is not impossible that there was some ground for the allegations made in these cases that the 'possession annale' only held good against the claims of persons dwelling in the city, and that this was actually at one time the case in Winchester as in London. (fn. 22) But by the reign of Edward I the citizens of Winchester would seem to have established a complete bar against the 'foreigner' as well as the 'resident.' It may be worth notice, however, that in the case (fn. 23) of Ralph de Hautoft and Maud his sister v. Henry de Crondall, at the close of the reign of Henry III, the whole community of the town of Winchester, after reciting their custom in the ordinary form, point out very carefully that it cannot be used to protect an unlawful intruder 'qui nullum jus nec colorem juris habet succedendi aliquo neque per successionem neque per feofamentum' even if he has enjoyed unchallenged seisin for a year and a day. A mere squatter could derive no benefit from the custom, which in such a case 'non excludit aliquem qui jus in eodem tenemento exigere voluerit.' There must have been either the 'solemn' feoffment or a succession to an ancestor, which would in itself involve some measure of municipal recognition. (fn. 24)

In testamentary matters and rules of inheritance the custom of Winchester retained in the 13th century very ancient features. Not only are we reminded of the Saxon cwide, the primitive hearth-gods may loom in the shadows behind the filia asteraria. The case (fn. 25) of Henry Sharp and Aubrey his wife v. Henry le Clerk will furnish illustrations. Here the demandants by Aubrey's attorney sued for two parts of a messuage, &c., in Winchester, which they claimed as her right, of which she had been in seisin, taking esplees to the value of half a mark, &c.

Henry le Clerk summoned as vouchees John le Osfevre and Maud his wife, who denied Aubrey's right, inasmuch as the messuage in dispute and three other messuages within the city were formerly the right and inheritance of one Aylwin (Allelini) father of Aubrey and Maud. He on his death-bed bequeathed (legavit) according to the custom of the city of Winchester to each of his daughters one of those messuages; to wit, one to Aubrey, one to Maud and a third to his third daughter Erneburga, while the fourth messuage (apparently the one in dispute) he assigned to his wife Maud as freebench (tenendum in liberum bancum) during her lifetime, with reversion on her death to Nicholas the son of Aylwin. Both Nicholas and Maud, the widow, died. Hence after the decease of Maud, the widow, the messuage in question was shared (partitum) between Aubrey, Maud and Erneburga, and the vouchees said that Henry and Aubrey were in seisin of their purparty of the messuage aforesaid. Then Henry and Aubrey by Aubrey's attorney declared that neither of Aubrey's sisters ought to have or could have any part in the messuage in dispute, and utterly denied that Aylwin had ever in his life assigned (fn. 26) any messuage to Aubrey. Nay, rather they declared that Aylwin assigned to Maud and similarly to the aforesaid Erneburga a certain part of his tenements which he had bought (que habuit de perquisitu suo) in the city of Winchester, because Maud was then married (desponsata) to her husband John, and likewise Erneburga was about to marry someone else. Also Henry and Aubrey were in seisin of a certain messuage by assignment from Aylwin, and they said that because Aubrey remained with Aylwin at his death, of her own free will (inconsulta) and alone at the hearth (in astere), after the death of Maud, Aylwin's widow, she entered alone into the aforesaid messuage as the hearth-daughter (filia asteraria) according to the custom of the city, and was for some time alone in seisin thereof. Both sides demanded a jury, but ultimately came to terms and a chirograph was made.

It was doubtless desirable that this family squabble should be arranged promptly and in a friendly way, but we may be permitted to regret the loss of a verdict which might have thrown further light on the matters in dispute. A decision (fn. 27) of the reign of Edward II shows that devise of realty was allowed in the soke as well as in the city, since 'tenementa in soka Wyntonie sunt legabilia.' There were, however, restrictions against leaving land in mortmain without licence, for in 1298 we hear (fn. 28) that the bishop benefits by '4s. from the rent of the tenement of John le Ironmonger seized into the lord's hands because Richard le Porter bequeathed that rent in mortmain.' A few cases relating to the custom of Winchester as it affected dower, and also the husband's right under certain conditions to alienate his wife's land, are found on the rolls. In a case (fn. 29) in which Maud formerly wife of Adam Churmund sued Roger of Dunstaple for one-third of 17s. rent in Winchester, and also William Churmund for one-third of 46s. also in the city, both defendants answer that 'the rents aforesaid are in the city of Winchester where no such writ of dower runs or at any time ought to run since all holding lands in the city of Winchester have received their dower de tercio at the church porch.'

As to the husband's right in certain cases to alienate his wife's maritagium, Professor Maitland has pointed out (fn. 30) that there is much to suggest that the law in time past has upheld dispositions by the husband of the wife's land if he was driven to them by want, and he cites the well-known case in Bracton's Note Book dealing with land in the suburb of Winchester. One or two suits which further illustrate this matter are to be found on the rolls of the itinerant justices. Some twenty years after the date of Bracton's case we hear (fn. 31) of Christian widow of Robert Sigayn demanding from Edmund Silvester a messuage in Bredenstrete as her dower. Edmund answers that she ought not to have it since Robert her late husband sold the messuage in Christian's presence, and further he alleges that the custom of the city of Winchester is such that a husband can validly (bene) sell 'jus et hereditatem, maritagium et dotem uxoris sue' without her being able to claim anything therein, provided that she herself consents to the sale on account of their necessity, 'et per hoc testatum est per majorem et probos homines civitatis.' So Edmund goes without day and Christian takes nothing by this writ. In a similar case (fn. 32) on the rolls of the same eyre, Alice la Burgeise v. Henry Butcher, the defendant answered that 'such is the custom of the city of Winchester that the husband can sell the right, inheritance and marriage-portion of his wife in the presence of his wife, and that such sale is firm and stable for ever.' Alice could not deny she was present at the sale, so lost her case and was in mercy. Here there is no mention of urgent want. All turned on the presence of the wife at the sale with its implication of consent to the husband's act. (fn. 33)

Besides these illustrations there are frequent allusions on the 13th-century Assize Rolls to the many well-known privileges of the citizens of Winchester, their right of local justice, (fn. 34) their exception from the essoin de malo lecti, battle and the grand assize in proceedings on a writ of right and other peculiarities too numerous to mention here. But one final illustration from a Year Book (fn. 35) of 34 Edward I may show the occasional inconvenience arising from Winchester custom, when a city decision was questioned in the courts at Westminster. A writ of false judgement was brought against Winchester suitors, but out of twenty-seven only twenty entered an appearance. Willoughby, plaintiff's counsel, remarked on this and prayed a writ against the defaulters. On the other side was Westcote, who replied: 'There are no suitors in the court of Winchester, but when a writ of right is brought they summon the townspeople. But the serjeants would not come nor the traders, who have business to do, for it would be a hardship if all the people of Winchester should be here; wherefore we pray that you will accept the record.' Said Willoughby: 'Seven who were summoned are defaulters,' and Chief Justice Hengham replied: 'Sue a writ to make the rest come.' Westcote again interposed with a prayer that they might make their record before Sir Peter when he went on the Southampton eyre (quant ilvendre en pays), a favour which had been allowed before. But Hengham was inexorable. 'You shall not have it,' said he.


No particular account can be given of the soke or liberty of the Bishop of Winchester during the century and a half which followed the Conquest. That changes in its extent took place we know; but except in the case of the removal of the New Minster from the city to the suburb the actual facts are hard to disentangle. In the last year of Henry III, however, a Winchester jury (fn. 36) declared that the aldermanry which was Thomas le Marshal's outside Westgate, as well as the aldermanry of Gilbert le Cordwainer outside Northgate, were wont to sue with the city of Winchester at the sheriff's tourn and pay their share with the citizens (fn. 37) till Peter des Roches withdrew their suit to the injury of the king. Eight or nine years later a similar jury (fn. 38) presented that the suburb outside Eastgate and Southgate was at one time in the hands of the king, and shared with the citizens scottis et geldis until the time of Bishop Peter, who had appropriated it, and the jurors said further that his successor William de Ralegh had also seised a moiety of a street (vici) outside Northgate and the moiety of a street outside Westgate, and thus the tenants there escaped the burdens laid on the citizens by the king. There may be some confusion in the second of these presentments, but the earlier is very definite and specific. From the dearth of material available, any explanation suggested must be tentative only. But it is possible that John restored to his staunch lieutenant a portion of the ancient liberty conveyed therefrom by a former king or encroached upon by the city in the flushed prosperity of the 12th century.

In the early 13th century, as later, the main portion of the soke lay outside the city walls, especially beyond Eastgate, Kingsgate, Southgate, Northgate, and at Sparkford, but it also extended within the walls, and the rents of assize derived from Gar Street and Tanner Street especially reached a considerable sum. Amongst the most valuable of the local possessions of the bishop were the various mills; but their farms, or, if in his hands, their issues, were not accounted for by the bailiff of the soke, and after the middle of the 13th century were generally included in the returns of the manor of Wolvesey.

The chief administrator of the soke at the close of the 13th century was the bailiff, who, usually chosen from the substantial inhabitants, was often also a citizen of Winchester. He received a regular yearly salary of £3 0s. 10d., and seems to have held office at the episcopal pleasure. He was generally assisted by two 'servientes' or serjeants, who were paid 5s. a year each with an extra offering of 1d. at Christmas and Easter. In addition to these payments there were doubtless various perquisites and fees and occasional grants of clothing. About 1292 (fn. 39) we read in the soke accounts: 'In alms' to Elyas the serjeant 5s. toward his coat (ad tunicam), 'qui multum servivit in illo servicio et nunc impotens est sui,' but this was a kindly remembrance for an old servant whose working days were done.

The police duties of the soke were overseen by aldermen or tithingmen, who appear to have been relieved in their year of office of some at least of the local rates, as we occasionally hear of a man whose tenement was liable to 'brugable' paying 'nichil hoc anno quia est aldermannus.' (fn. 40) When criminals escaped the aldermanries or tithings to which they belonged were amerced. Notable examples of this occurred in the year 1249, no doubt in connexion with the episode of the Brabant merchants and the king's wine so vividly told by Matthew of Paris. Then three aldermanries (fn. 41) of the soke, those of John Le Bal, Benet Smith and William Cutler, were fined half a mark each for the escape of suspected criminals, in the first two cases the offender being the alderman himself, and a similar amount was exacted from the 'fee' of Durngate, 'quia receperunt Willelmum de la Legh extra decimam.' That year, too, the bishop's treasury received several payments, the price of the chattels of felons who had eloigned themselves and of outlaws seeking the nearest port. Sometimes the aldermanry received a local designation, and in the next reign (fn. 42) the aldermanry of Sparkford is recorded as paying 12d. 'pro contemptu,' while Henry Browning, (fn. 43) 'tunc aldermannus dicti vici de Wode Strete,' witnesses a conveyance of the old Jewish burying-ground in the soke with six houses in Wood Street and other tenements. (fn. 44)

The chief court of the soke was popularly known as the Cheyney Court, from the oak beneath the shadow of which it was originally held, its ordinary sessions being fixed for the Thursday in each week. It took cognizance of foreign pleas (fn. 45) as well as those of dwellers within the soke, and suit was owed to it by many tenants on the Hampshire manors of the bishop. The Thursday in Michaelmas week was the occasion of a more solemn session known as the 'burghmot,' when presentments as to civil and criminal matters and inquisitions 'de totez choses touchaunz la corune et de la pees' were made by the aldermen and a jury of twelve. About Martinmas the bailiff by his ministers inspected the measures used in the soke, and offenders against the assize were duly amerced. Another boroughmote was held on the Thursday following the Hock Day of Easter, and soon after this the measures were again inspected, and on Whitsun Eve at the church of St. John the faults of the tapeners, the chief craftsmen of the soke, were faithfully dealt with. Indeed, the bishop reaped a harvest of fines for offences against the assize, nightworking (fn. 46) and similar misdemeanours, and also profited by the issue of licences to set up looms or take on apprentices and journeymen. Such entries as these are a special feature of the records of the soke. Other especially local offences were in connexion with the numerous mills, (fn. 47) since careless management of the mill-races often led to serious floods after a continuance of rain. Amongst the more exceptional offences may be mentioned the burning of sea-coal (pro carbone maris arso), for which the offender, (fn. 48) in all probability a lime-burner, was fined 1s. in 1296–7. Occasionally deeds of conveyance were entered on the Plea or Account Rolls, (fn. 49) and from 3d. to 5d. was usually spent yearly in parchment by the bailiff or the clerk who wrote the roll. Besides the ordinary sessions, it may be mentioned that the bishop's seneschal and the justice of the Court of Pavilion held a sitting of the Cheyney Court (fn. 50) at the pavilion on St. Giles' Hill on the first day of the fair to summon (fn. 51) the free suitors of the soke and several other tenants of the prior (of St. Swithun's) who owed the service of grand serjeanty to the bishop in order that they might do their yearly service of policing the fair. During its duration, however, the Pavilion Court (fn. 52) superseded the ordinary court of the soke, and indeed all other tribunals within seven leagues of St. Giles' Down.

At the end of the 18th century the two boroughmotes of the soke were still held annually on the old dates, the Thursday after Hock Monday and the Thursday after Old Michaelmas Day, under the name of Court Leets, while the Cheyney Court, still belonging to the Bishop of Winchester, was held every Thursday, except the red-letter saints' days, in the Close of Winchester, where the bailiff of the soke still presided as judge. The process of the Cheyney Court was then regarded as speedy and the costs less than in the superior courts. In consequence it was frequently resorted to for the recovery of debts, of which it held cognizance to any amount if the parties lived in the liberty. (fn. 53) Indeed, it did not cease to exist until the year 1835.

Besides the Cheyney Court the soke seems to have possessed from an early period a court of pie powder in connexion with the market, for as early as the forty-fourth year of Henry III we hear of 'Amerciamenta mercati in Soka Wyntonie,' (fn. 54) when Aylwin le Tapener, Roger le Otterhunter and Piers Horsenemayn were amerced at the rate of 1s. each for false measure. By the 15th century, in its day of decline, (fn. 55) it is referred to specifically under the name of a pie-powder court. In 1487–8 the receipts were nil, while the perquisites of the Cheyney Court and the two boroughmotes produced 22s. 4d. Two years after the perquisites, 'Curie tente per ballivum in Soka Wyntonie cum duobus burgmotis,' were slightly less, 21s. 10d., but the court of pie powder, also 'held by the bailiff,' brought in 13d.

The chief rates levied from ancient times in the soke were 'Aquagium,' Spongable and Brugable. Of these the 'Aquagium,' as its name implies, was a species of water-rate paid by certain mills for their mill-races and apparently the ground on which they were built. In the reign of King John (fn. 56) the 'Aquagium' amounted to £4, £1 each being paid by the mills of the Hospital of St. Cross, of Jocelin the Queen's brother, (fn. 57) of William de Mohun and of the Abbess of St. Mary. Although certain of these mills soon passed into other hands, £4 continued to be the average (fn. 58) rate paid till early in the 14th century. About the end of its first decade (fn. 59) the site of the mill at one time held by Adam Poveray was recovered by the process of the 'stake' into the bishop's hands, and only the mills of the abbess, of William le Wayte and of Robert de Thorncombe continued to pay their £1 a year each for water. After this £3 was the normal amount derived from this source up to about the period of the Black Death (1349). In the rolls (fn. 60) for the year 1350–1 we read that nothing was received from the water-rate of Thomas de Thorncombe's mill, quia ibidem ponitur stachia, while Adam Poveray's mill had long disappeared. It is possible that Thorncombe's mill was again at work for a short time, but it was finally abandoned, and the site of the mill of the abbess had also been recovered by the bishop at least as early as the reign (fn. 61) of Richard II, as nothing worth distraint was found there. By the close of the reign (fn. 62) of Henry V even the remaining 20s. from Wayte's mill was no longer forthcoming, for it had tumbled down and there was nothing to distrain. As a very minor set-off to this loss of £4 a year, the place of St. Mary's Mill had been granted to John Burford (or Durford), (fn. 63) a smith 'pro petra fabri vocata gryndynston vertente,' at 12d. a year on the condition that he erected there no other kind of water mill or fulling mill. After his death other smiths followed him, as William Bere and then Robert Hankyn, who was still paying 12d. a year in the reign (fn. 64) of Henry VII. It is possible that by the 15th century the available water-power was insufficient for so many mills as at an earlier time, and we know that in the reign of Henry V the bailiff of the soke was holding the more profitable demesne mills at farm. On the history of these a few words may be allowed.

The receipts either in farm or actual issues of the demesne mills of the bishop in and near Winchester were of considerable value, and in the earlier part of the 13th century were not included in the soke accounts, but rendered under the heading of the mills of Winchester. After 1265 (fn. 65) they were included in the accounts of the estate of Wolvesey. In the year (fn. 66) 1213–14 the mills of the bishop in and about Winchester were seven in number. Of these the mill of 'Draiton' was farmed by the hospital of St. Cross at £4 10s. a year, while Adam Bule and Walter son of Elyas rendered account of the farm of the mills of Sparkford, Barton, Crepestre, (fn. 67) Flodstock and Segrimswell to the amount of £14 13s. 4d. The Durngate Mill was individually the most important of all, and farmed at £7 by Edward Alwele. All these were almost certainly mills for grain and malt, and there is nothing on the extant rent rolls to suggest (fn. 68) that a fulling mill was worked in connexion with any of these till about the year 1231, when we hear of a fulling mill farmed at 20s. In the civil war at the close of the reign of John the Winchester mills suffered severely, those of Flodstock, Barton and Sparkford being burnt down or otherwise destroyed, but in the following reign they generally appreciated in value up to the period of the Barons' War. Afterwards there was a slight falling off, but in 1272 the aggregate amount (fn. 69) derived from this source was larger than it had been in 1213–14. The fulling mill was farmed at £1 a year and the St. Cross Mill at £5. The Sparkford Mill, however, which formerly brought in £3, only produced 8s. 3d., as no one was anxious to lease it. The Barton Mill was farmed at £5, but the Flodstock Mill at 7 marks, instead of the usual 8, owing to the making of a road and ditch (via et fossato) by the citizens of Winchester; Crepestre Mill and Segrim's Mill were leased at £2 a year and 7 marks respectively, and Durngate Mill remained at its old farm of £7. At the beginning of the reign (fn. 70) of Edward II the aggregate receipts show an increase. The fulling mill, the Barton Mill and the mill of St. Cross were at the old farm, but Flodstock Mill had appreciated to £5, Segrim's Mill to £6, and Durngate Mill to no less than £11 6s. On the other hand, the Crepestre Mill had disappeared altogether, and the mill of Sparkford had been granted by charter to Master Alan the carpenter by the late Bishop John of Pontoise in fee at a yearly ground rent of 1 mark. A sum of 3s. was also being received annually as rent for a certain stream of water flowing through the garden of St. Cross.

Two years (fn. 71) before the Black Death we find a further total appreciation in value, especially as regards Segrim's Mill and Durngate Mill, but Flodstock Mill was in the lord's hands for lack of a lessee, and its issues produced rather less than half the previous farm. The farm of the Barton Mill had also declined from £5 to £3 3s. The Black Death (fn. 72) did not immediately affect the revenue derived from most of the mills to any grave extent, except in the case of Segrim's Mill. Two years before the issues had been £9 13s. 1½d. Now they were not more than £6 6s. 1d. 'pro defectu molendini per pestilenciam.' At Durngate Mill the issues fell less than 10s., from £12 9s. 5½d. to £12, and at Flodstock from £2 8s. 3¼d. to £2 1s. In 1350–1 the issues (fn. 73) at Flodstock had fallen still further to 19s. 8d. 'pro defectu secte ad idem'; at Durngate they had recovered to £12 14s. 3d., and the continued low return of £5 18s. 11d at Segrim's Mill is explained by the note that it stood idle half the year for rebuilding.

The 'second pestilence' of 1361 seems to have done as much harm in and about Winchester as the Black Death itself, and possibly, coming on the heels of the other, its cumulative effect was more crushing; but, whatever was the case generally, most of the demesne mills had largely recovered by the second decade (fn. 74) of the 15th century. Flodstock Mill only had by 1419 disappeared altogether (omnino prostratus). The fulling mill known as King's Mill was still leased at 20s., the mill of St. Cross at £5, and the little stream in the garden of the hospital still brought in 3s. a year to the treasury of Wolvesey. At Sparkford, too, the mill which had been Master Alan's still paid 1 mark a year. Durngate Mill, Segrim's Mill and a second fulling mill near Priors Barton were all leased to John Arnald on a twenty-four years' lease, which still had eleven years to run, at a rent of 40 marks a year. Soon after this the king's fulling mill near the Barton Bridge was apparently abandoned by the lessees, and by the reign (fn. 75) of Henry VII no profit was being derived either from that or from the mill of St. Cross, which was level with the ground. But the stream flowing through the garden of the hospital still cost the brethren the old rent. The mill at Sparkford also lay in ruin, and nothing worthy of distraint was found there to satisfy the arrears. But the other mills had actually risen in value. The fulling mill at Priors Barton with the fishery appurtenant was farmed at £9, while the rent of four corn mills at Segrim's Mill and Durngate, with the meadows adjacent, reached £23 8s. 4d. There was also at this time a fulling mill at Durngate leased to Stephen Bramden at £5 a year. We are unable in this place to trace further the history of the demesne mills of the bishop, but it may be noticed that, compared with the corn mills, the fulling mills furnished in the late 15th century a much larger proportion of the returns than they had done in the 13th century.

In the earliest rent roll extant (fn. 76) of the temporalities of the see of Winchester we have a record of a rate of 18s. levied in the soke derived 'de minister[io] rotarum [or rotariorum].' At a later period this rate is rubricked as 'Spongabulum,' 'Spengabulum' or even 'Speyngabulum.' There is no indication in the rolls of the 13th century of the exact nature of this rate, which, if the Latin name is any guide, might either be a 'rouage' tax or an impost levied on the wheelwright's craft. But in the 15th century at least Spongable would seem to have been an impost on carriers, for in 1488 we hear (fn. 77) that it amounted to 3s. 8d., and was derived 'de ministris cur[ie] cariantibus carbonem, syndres, lathez, rotas et alia in Soka Wintonie.'

The amount derived from this source fluctuated considerably during the first sixty years of the 13th century, being usually rather under 18s. than above it, though in the second year (fn. 78) of Aymer de Lusignan it reached, if the clerk is correct, no less than 29s. 6d. A rapid declension followed the Barons' War, and during the reigns of Edward I, his son and the early years of his grandson it was usually farmed at 5s. In the year of the Black Death, 1348–9, nothing was received from this rate, since, as the accountants (fn. 79) put it, 'nulli venerunt.' Two years after it produced 2s. 8d. For a long while after this it fluctuated in amount between 2s. and 3s., and, as already mentioned, in the reign of Henry VII produced 3s. 8d.—slightly over a quarter of the amount returned in 1208–9.

One other rate remains to be mentioned—Brugable or Burgable, (fn. 80) as it was sometimes termed. Numberless notices on the rent rolls of the 13th and 14th centuries prove conclusively that this was a tax levied on certain ancient tenements when ale was brewed there. As early as 1247–8 we read in a roll of the fifth year of William de Ralegh (fn. 81) a note by the accountant with respect to this tax: 'De cetero dicatur de quibus et quot vicibus braciaverunt.' Again and again we have such entries as follow: 'And (fn. 82) 5d. from John de Holonde. And 5d. from a certain woman brewing in the tenement of Richard le Porter.' Or 'From (fn. 83) the tenement of Piers of Portsmouth nothing because he did not brew.' This rate may be said to have shown from the middle of the 13th to the 15th century a continuous decline. In 1208–9 it produced 16s., (fn. 84) and it does not seem to have varied to any great extent from this figure in normal years until the Barons' War. (fn. 85) In 1267, however, (fn. 86) it was 12s. 11d., and by the early years (fn. 87) of Edward III had again fallen nearly 50 per cent. to 6s. 7½d. In the year (fn. 88) of the Black Death it reached 3s. 10½d. Two years after (fn. 89) it had recovered to 4s. 7d., but apparently fell again after the second pestilence of 1361, for even in 1387 the figure (fn. 90) reached was only 3s. 4d. The 15th century brought a further decline. In 1419 this rate (fn. 91) produced only 10d., and by the reign of Henry VII nothing at all. (fn. 92) If the tax was a general brewing tax levied on all brewers, the utter collapse of the 15th century is inexplicable, as it can hardly be supposed that brewing had ceased to be practised in the soke. The probable explanation is that certain ancient tenements were alone liable to this rate if brewing were practised therein, and these had either become derelict or were avoided by brewers. Some colour is lent to this hypothesis by the fact that even when the return to the rate was 'nil' the accountant carefully enumerated certain tenements which would have been liable if anyone had brewed therein.

The history of the soke during the later middle age to a great extent ran on parallel lines with that of the city. It suffered with the city during the civil troubles of the reign of John, and recovered like the city before the Barons' War. At its close, however, there was much poverty and distress in the suburb and consequent difficulty in getting in the full tale of rents. There was probably some revival until the outbreak of the Gascon War, but from that time, with occasional fluctuations, the course of the city and suburb was downward. The Black Death of 1348–9 accelerated the decadence, and still more, in its cumulative effect, the second pestilence (fn. 93) of 1361, after which many tenements were abandoned and lay in ruin. During the 15th century it is possible that the still active cloth manufacture of the soke, considerable in proportion to its area, may have rendered the decline of the suburb less rapid than that of the city proper. But in the next century the dissolution of the religious houses was a final blow to both city and suburb, and closed the great age of the capital of Wessex.

The close juxtaposition of the soke and city, with their separate administrative authorities and courts of law, occasionally led to conflict, but such collisions were perhaps less frequent than might be supposed. After the Barons' War the city fathers showed a certain soreness on account of the tendency of the textile craftsmen to settle in the suburb with its lighter taxes, and on one occasion at least during the following century there was serious trouble owing to the enforcement of the bishop's privileges at St. Giles' Fair. But on the whole the city and the soke were friendly enough. They were, indeed, largely interdependent. Winchester citizens of substance often held valuable property in the suburb; many of the bailiffs of the soke were citizens and members of the merchant gild.


  • 1. e.g. Wallingford, Portsmouth, Taunton.
  • 2. P.R.O. Assize R. 778, m. 51; cf. Hengham Parva, 87, 'apud Winton demembratus.'
  • 3. Hunter, Gt. Roll of the Pipe, 31 Hen. I (Rec. Com.), 37.
  • 4. On a roll of 1202 it is recorded of a woman 'Et ideo meruit mortem, sed per dispensationem eruantur ei oculi' (Pollock and Maitland, Hist. Engl. Law, ii, 462 n.).
  • 5. P.R.O. Assize R. 40, m. 30.
  • 6. Cf. P.R.O. Assize R. 37, m. 36, 'per iudicium portmanmoti.' The charter on which the burgesses relied was confirmed by Henry III a few years after (1267); Cal. Chart. R. ii, 68.
  • 7. Assize R. 778, m. 51 d.
  • 8. Ibid. 780, m. 20 d.
  • 9. Ibid. 778, m. 51.
  • 10. Arch. Journ. ix, 76; and Bateson, Borough Customs (Selden Soc.), i, 301 et seq.
  • 11. B.M. MS. Tib. D. vi, pt. i, fol. 88 d.
  • 12. P.R.O. Assize Roll 783, m. 9 d. (8 Edw. I).
  • 13. In 1286 we hear of John le Cunir having to pay 6d. in the soke 'pro injusta depositione cujusdam stachie' (Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 26, no. 159307). As the rent rolls of the bishop show, not only the sites of mills within the soke, but shops on St. Giles' Hill, were constantly recovered by the use of the 'stake' in the 14th century.
  • 14. Borough Customs, ii, 44.
  • 15. Statute of Glouc. cap. 4. Amended Westm. II, cap. 21.
  • 16. Arch. Journ. ix, 74.
  • 17. Assize R. 783, m. 22 (8 Edw. I).
  • 18. Ibid. 790, m. 7 (15–17 Edw. I).
  • 19. Ibid. 783, m. 22 (8 Edw. I).
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Assize R. 1002, m. 54.
  • 22. Bateson, Borough Customs, i, 270.
  • 23. Assize R. 779, m. 13 (56 Hen. III).
  • 24. After the death of every tenant in fee the bailiffs took a simple seisin of his tenements and delivered them at the next court to the nearest heir appearing, but anyone alleging himself a nearer heir or parcener had opportunity for making his claim good (cf. Arch. Journ. ix, 75).
  • 25. Assize R. 778, m. 16 (40 Hen. III).
  • 26. This reference is to the disputed messuage.
  • 27. Assize R. 794, m. 5 (19–20 Edw. II).
  • 28. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 27, no. 159316 (17 John de Pontoise).
  • 29. Assize R. 779, m. 11 (56 Hen. III).
  • 30. Hist. Engl. Law, ii, 412.
  • 31. Assize R. 776, m. 22 (32–33 Hen. III).
  • 32. Ibid. m. 20.
  • 33. For a later and fuller statement of this custom of Winchester see roll cited by Pike, Year Bk. 18 Edw. III, 377. The ratification by the wife in the city court gave to the feoffment the force of a fine in the King's Court, according to this plea. Both in the soke and the city it was the practice in these cases to examine the wife in the absence of the husband.
  • 34. This they asserted vigorously on several occasions in the reign of Edward I. Some interesting cases will be found entered in B.M. Stowe MS. 846, 39d. and 41d.
  • 35. Horwood, op. cit. (Rolls Ser.), p. 116 et seq.
  • 36. Assize R. 780, m. 21.
  • 37. 'Tacere pro porcione sua sicut cives Wintonie.'
  • 38. Assize R. 784, m. 33.
  • 39. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 27, no. 159313 (10 J. de Pontoise).
  • 40. Ibid. no. 159317 (18 J. de Pontoise). It is possible, however, that aldermen were forbidden to brew. Compare the case of the Mayor of Winchester in later times.
  • 41. Ibid. bdle. 24, no. 159290 (1248–9).
  • 42. Ibid. bdle. 26, no. 159305 (1 J. de Pontoise), 1283.
  • 43. Ibid. bdle. 27, no. 159318 (19 J. de Pontoise), 1300.
  • 44. At the close of the 18th century in the West Soke there existed a constable and the three tithingmen of Kingsgate Street, Hyde Street and Sparkford, and in the East Soke a constable and three tithingmen, those of St. John's, St. Peter Cheesehill and Milland (Hants Repository), ii, 305.
  • 45. Si plee seit de denzens auerunt aiornement de 8 iours e de foreyns 15 iours (Egerton MS. 2418, fol. 60 d.).
  • 46. The earliest detailed accounts of the perquisites of the soke court (1245–6) show us three craftsmen fined one shilling each for this offence (Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 23, no. 159288).
  • 47. 'Et de 6d. de Johanne de Wiltes pro assisa stachie aque fracta,' &c. (Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 55, no. 159458½ [7 Bp. H. Woodlock]).
  • 48. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 27, no. 159315.
  • 49. Ibid.
  • 50. 'Une courte de la Sok de Wyncestre qe serra nome de la cheyne' (Egerton MS. 2418, fol. 59 d.).
  • 51. Ibid.
  • 52. For enrolment of deeds in settlement of a local dispute at the Pavilion Court, Wed. after St. Giles, 30 Edw. I, see Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 53, no. 159448 (21 John de Pontoise).
  • 53. Hampshire Repository, ii, 290. The liberty was extensive, and included the Hampshire manors of the see of Winchester.
  • 54. Entered on the Marshal's Account, 18 J. de Pontoise, 1297–8; Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 27, no. 159317.
  • 55. Ibid. bdle. 5, no. 155846 and 155847 (1 Courtenay and 3 Courtenay).
  • 56. Ibid. bdle. 22.
  • 57. a Mr. Round points out that this was Jocelin who obtained from Henry I's widow Queen Adeliza the honour of Petworth and was ancestor of the Percys.
  • 58. With occasional exceptions. For example, in 1231 or thereabout the mill of William de Mohun was seized into the bishop's hand 'pro defectu servicii' (Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 23, no. 159282). Again in 1235 Jocelin's mill, which Henry Prince then held in fee, paid 26s. 8d., but as a rule each of these mills during the 13th century paid £1 as the normal rate.
  • 59. Ibid. bdle. 29, no. 159328.
  • 60. Ibid. bdle. 36, no. 159360.
  • 61. Ibid. bdle. 42, no. 159392 (1385).
  • 62. Ibid. bdle. 48, no. 159420.
  • 63. Both spellings occur on the rolls.
  • 64. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 5, no. 155846.
  • 65. Perhaps even before this, but our series of rolls is defective.
  • 66. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 22, no. 159272.
  • 67. a This name still survives. It is given to the junction of the streams below the 'pumping station.'
  • 68. As, however, there were fulling mills at Alresford and Waltham quite early in the century, the silence of the rent rolls is perhaps not conclusive.
  • 69. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 24, no. 159299 (4 Nicholas of Ely).
  • 70. Ibid. bdle. 28, no. 159322 (3 Henry Woodlock).
  • 71. Ibid. bdle. 35, no. 159356.
  • 72. Ibid. bdle. 35, no. 159358.
  • 73. Ibid. bdle. 36, no. 159360.
  • 74. Ibid. bdle. 48, no. 159420 (15 Henry Beaufort).
  • 75. Ibid. bdle. 5, no. 155847 (3 Peter Courtenay).
  • 76. H. Hall, Pipe R. of Bp. of Winchester, 77.
  • 77. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 5, no. 155846.
  • 78. Ibid. bdle. 53, no. 159447.
  • 79. Ibid. bdle. 35, no. 159358.
  • 80. The inversion of 'r' and its vowel is not unusual in old English; cf. A.-S. 'iernan' and modern 'run.'
  • 81. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 55, no. 159457.
  • 82. Ibid. bdle. 28, no. 159320. But note that John de Holonde did not pay brugable when alderman of his ward four years before on account of his office (ibid. bdle. 27, no. 159317).
  • 83. Ibid. bdle. 28, no. 159323.
  • 84. H. Hall, Pipe R. of Bp. of Winch. 77.
  • 85. In 1245–6 it was 15s. 1½d. (Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 23, no. 159288). In the second year of Aymer, Bishop-elect, 16s. 6½d. (ibid. bdle. 53, no. 159447).
  • 86. Ibid. bdle. 24, no. 159295.
  • 87. Ibid. bdle. 32, no. 159344 (9 J. de Stratford).
  • 88. Ibid. bdle. 35, no. 159358.
  • 89. Ibid. bdle. 36, no. 159362.
  • 90. Ibid. bdle. 42, no. 159394.
  • 91. Ibid. bdle. 48, no. 159420.
  • 92. Ibid. bdle. 5, no. 155846 et seq.
  • 93. The roll of accounts draws a distinction between the 'Defectus Redditus' prior to the 'second pestilence' and those resulting from it.