A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 4, Agriculture. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.
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The later Middle Ages, in particular the period from the mid 14th century to the last quarter of the 15th century, have traditionally been seen as a time of depression in agrarian society, punctuated by crises. Recent interpretations, however, have drawn attention to signs of adaptation to changed conditions and to elements of innovation. (fn. 1) The geographical position and physical make-up of Shropshire meant that it was affected by agrarian depression in different ways from other midland counties and that there was perhaps less need for readjustment and less scope for growth or innovation. A series of crises did indeed cause considerable short-term distress and disruption but not abrupt changes of direction. The predominantly mixed nature of demesne exploitation in the county meant that the policies of the major landowners, and in particular the balance between arable and pastoral farming or between direct exploitation and leasing of the demesnes, depended more on individual circumstances or inclination than on market forces. Although the sources are weighted towards the landlords there is considerable evidence of peasant poverty, caused more by political factors such as the Crown's financial demands and Welsh raids than by population pressures. There was still plenty of room for the expansion of settlement and there is evidence throughout the period of assarting and the continued clearance of forest and woodland; that expansion was often under the control of the landlords, especially in the earlier 14th century. (fn. 2)
However the later 14th and 15th centuries are perceived, whether as a time of depression or of opportunity, there is no doubt that the early 14th century was a turning point. The lay subsidy of 1327 can be taken as a guide to differing regional levels of prosperity at that time, albeit an imperfect one. Apart from imperfections common to tax records generally, perhaps the principal uncertainty arises from concentrations of urban wealth in Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth, Ludlow, and Newport (fn. 3) and their possible weighting of calculations for the regions around those towns (Fig. 9). It should also be noted that the subsidy was taken only five years after a disruptive and damaging sequence of agricultural crises. In 1327 the wealthiest area of the county was the Severn lowland around and to the west of Shrewsbury. Also relatively prosperous were the Bridgnorth area and lower Corve Dale, and perhaps the small area around Newport on the eastern border of the county. The poorest areas were the uplands of the south and south-west.
The impact on Shropshire of the agrarian crisis of 1315-22 (fn. 4) can be traced most fully in the bailiffs' accounts of the manor of Adderley, which was then in the king's hands. (fn. 5) In 1316-17 twenty of the villein tenants and cottagers left their lands 'because of their poverty and the dearth of corn', and the number of vacant holdings had risen to 34 by 1321-2 when decayed rents amounted to 25 per cent of a total rental of nearly £52. Villein land was kept in hand and cultivated and 39 a. of such land was sown in 1322-3, compared with 115 a. of demesne. Under royal management the manor was being developed to provide pasture for cattle and horses from other manors and a small dairy herd was established, (fn. 6) but the enterprise was cut short by the arrival of the cattle murrain. In January 1319 a bull and 20 cows were driven to Adderley from Beverley (Yorks. E.R.) but 6 of the cows were dead by Michaelmas and during the next accounting year the bull and 8 cows died and the remaining 14 cows on the manor were sold because they were ill or sterile. In 1321-2 receipts from pannage and the sale of pasture, including that of a meadow formerly used for demesne cattle, were sharply reduced because of the great murrain of the previous year, and it was necessary to buy 10 oxen at a cost of £7 4s. 8d. to replace animals that had died or been sold at the first sign of weakness. (fn. 7) The accounts of the earl of Arundel's manor of RuytonXI-Towns confirm that 1319-20 was one of the worst years of the crisis: all 17 of the demesne oxen died of the murrain and 60 of the 192 sheep on the manor that year died or had to be sold. The demesne arable of c. 90 a., which had been extended in the previous year by a 13½-a. assart, produced in 1320 only 296 bu. of wheat on a sowing of 117 bu. and only 466 bu. of oats on a sowing of 332 bu. (fn. 8) The years of crisis may have persuaded some Shropshire landlords to reduce or abandon completely the direct exploitation of their arable demesnes: by 1336 the abbot and convent of Lilleshall had leased some of their lands which they had been unable to cultivate on account of cattle murrain and other adversities, and the Ruyton demesne was leased by the early 1340s. (fn. 9)
The lay subsidy of 1340, which records valuable evidence of agricultural conditions, (fn. 10) reveals continued and widespread poverty and distress in the county. (fn. 11) For over 100 vills (out of a total of 161) the assessors reported a lower return from the ninth sheaf, the ninth fleece, and the ninth lamb than that which the Crown expected on the basis of the valuation of the benefice in 1291, adducing (from the verdicts of local jurors) a variety of reasons for the shortfall. Some of the distress had been caused by recent disasters such as a sheep murrain which was specifically noted in the returns for 20 vills and was presumably the cause of the low flock sizes mentioned in another 35, and the storms and floods which were said to have caused harvest failure in 25 vills. Shropshire is one of four areas from which largescale abandonment of arable land was reported. (fn. 12) The reports are vague and inconsistent as to the amount of land lying uncultivated, but in over 70 vills, predominantly on the uplands south and west of the Severn, land was said to have been abandoned, usually because the tenants were too poor to cultivate it. In some cases that may indicate a short-term and possibly temporary retreat of settlement from marginal land caused by unfavourable conditions and the pressure of royal taxation; at Cold Weston, for example, it was reported that all but two of the tenants had absconded to avoid paying the ninth, 'as many throughout the patria have done'. (fn. 13) Nevertheless the extent of the shortfall in the value of the ninths, on average about 60 per cent, and the vehemence of the complaints of poverty point to a more fundamental malaise and to a chronically impoverished and unstable population, especially in the south of the county. In over 20 vills the tenants were said to have deserted their holdings: at Cardington, which was affected in 1340 by sheep murrain and harvest failure, 20 tenants had left; at Stoke St. Milborough the land of 11 tenants lay fallow and at Tugford it was reported that the tenants did not cultivate their lands because of poverty and that six of them went begging. (fn. 14) Though the evidence is mainly from south Shropshire, it cannot be assumed that conditions were better in the north. (fn. 15)
Death rather than dearth or destitution was the cause of the next fall in the value of land. The Black Death reached Shropshire in the early spring of 1349. In May 2 carucates of demesne arable at Harley which had been worth 60s. a year could not be valued 'because of the pestilence', and income from assize rents had fallen from £4 to 10s., while at Yockleton the mills were of no value 'for lack of grinding' and rents from free tenants had fallen from £8 to 30s. (fn. 16) Similar reductions in value were reported by jurors in inquisitions post mortem during the summer and autumn of 1349; at Ellesmere 6 a. of meadow were halved in value to 6s.; at Whittington two water mills were said to be worth only 20s. because the tenants had died of the plague; at Dodington 2 carucates of demesne arable which had formerly been worth 60s. could not be valued because the farm servants and labourers were dead and no one was willing to rent the land. (fn. 17) Evidence from court rolls confirms that the plague was at its height during the summer and autumn: at Kinnerley 14 tenements, amounting to a quarter of the customary land, were vacant by Michaelmas (fn. 18) and at Prees there were 22 admissions to vacant holdings at a court held in October 1349 when there were seldom more than two admissions recorded in normal times. (fn. 19)
The impact of the plague varied in intensity and duration. At Ruyton the bailiff accounted for 35 heriot cattle between Michaelmas 1349 and Michaelmas 1350 and in the following year was allowed £4 15s. 4d. for vacant tenements, but by 1357-8 the rent roll had risen above pre-plague levels. (fn. 20) At Wrockwardine the value of demesne arable and meadow had been halved by Michaelmas 1349 and assize rents had been reduced from £20 to £2 and the perquisites of court from 40s. to 5s. 'because the tenants are dead'; by 1367, however, income from the manor had recovered fully. (fn. 21) On Shrewsbury abbey's manor of Betton in Hales, however, 33 virgates of land were still lying uncultivated and in common in 1355 after the deaths of their tenants in the pestilence, and at Quatt a fall of two thirds in the value of 2 carucates of demesne was still being blamed on the pestilence in 1357. (fn. 22) Some of the land in the manor of Nordley was uncultivated in 1362 'on account of the past and present pestilences', and it was difficult to find tenants at Kenley after the second visitation of the plague in 1361-2. (fn. 23) After the third visitation in 1369 one court at Prees recorded 11 heriots of dead tenants and entry fines were lower than those levied in 1349. (fn. 24) Although the 25 per cent reduction in the amount of land held in demesne by Wenlock priory between 1291 and 1370 has been ascribed to stagnation during a period of royal custody rather than to economic adversity, (fn. 25) plague accelerated the decline in arable cultivation of the demesnes of Lilleshall abbey which was already under way before 1349: in 1353 the value of Lilleshall and its four granges was only 60 per cent of what it had been in 1330, and there was a further 60 per cent decline in value between 1353 and 1375. (fn. 26) By the beginning of the 15th century, however, Lilleshall's income had recovered to pre-plague levels, probably owing to increased concentration on stock rearing, (fn. 27) and elsewhere, such as in the lordship of Oswestry and on the Talbot (formerly le Strange) estate around Whitchurch, the last quarter of the 14th century was a time of prosperity for landlords. (fn. 28)
That precarious period of prosperity was shattered in many parts of the county by the events of the first decade of the 15th century. Oswestry was burnt in 1400 by Owen Glendower (fn. 29) and the Shropshire lowlands began to feel the effects of rebellion from 1403. Donnington, in Wroxeter, close to Henry IV's route to Shrewsbury, was worth nothing in 1403-4 'because of the rebellion'. (fn. 30) In April 1404 the inhabitants of Shropshire complained that a third of the county had been sacked by the Welsh rebels and many of them had been forced to abandon their homes. (fn. 31) The area around Oswestry suffered badly: at Aston the grange and sheepfold were burnt in 1403-4 and only small parcels of land could be cultivated; next year no rents could be collected because the tenants, their homes destroyed and their cattle abducted, had left in search of food. (fn. 32) At Sandford all the tenants abandoned their holdings and no rents could be collected between 1403 and 1405, (fn. 33) and at Ruyton the damage inflicted caused nearly £50 to be written off the revenues of the manor in 1406-7. (fn. 34) Whitchurch and the surrounding area were sacked in 1404 and rents were still being remitted five years later. (fn. 35) In 1405 the keeper of Caus castle reported that 100 of the Welsh tenants of the lordship had been driven out in a retaliatory raid from Baschurch, and Caus and the surrounding townships were granted exemption from taxation in 1405-6. (fn. 36) There was another destructive raid on Shropshire at the end of 1406 and tenants in 22 places around Shrewsbury were reported to have fled 'on account of the frequent attacks of the rebel Welshmen'; (fn. 37) in 1407 the burgesses of Shrewsbury complained to parliament that all the sheep in the area had been killed or driven off by the rebels. (fn. 38) In 1410, the year of Glendower's final raid into Shropshire, pasture at Church Pulverbatch could not be let because the tenants were afraid that their animals would be taken by the Welsh rebels. (fn. 39)
The effects of the rebellion continued to be felt later in the 15th century: in 1430 the lands of Hugh Burgh, which included the manors of Yockleton and Stoney Stretton, were given a low valuation because they had been devastated by the rebel Welshmen and were still mostly waste 'on account of pestilence and robbery prevailing there in the marches'. (fn. 40) In neighbouring Minsterley the lapse of labour services was blamed on the rebellion, and some houses destroyed by Glendower had not been rebuilt by 1445. (fn. 41) Farther north, in the lordship of Oswestry, there was a fairly rapid recovery from the worst effects of the raids but rents in several of the manors were reduced to attract tenants back into a seriously underpopulated area. (fn. 42) Recovery after the 1404 raid was slower on the Talbot estate around Whitchurch: in 1407-8 it produced only 42 per cent of the revenues coming in before the raid and by 1436-7 the income was still only 74 per cent of what it had been in 1399-1400. (fn. 43) In spite of the adverse local conditions the demesnes of the estate were extensively exploited between 1413 and 1422, probably a reflection of the Talbots' personal interest in agriculture. All forms of direct exploitation were, however, stopped after 1422 and the estate stagnated until rising population in the 1520s led to a revitalization of the administration and an increase in rent income which had remained remarkably stable during the 15th century. (fn. 44) There, as elsewhere in the county, it was the landowners who suffered financially as the structure of seigneurial privilege and monopoly disintegrated, and it was tenants who were able to take advantage of the stable agrarian conditions. (fn. 45)
The FitzAlans, earls of Arundel, were undoubtedly the county's greatest and richest landlords in the first half of the period. The family's estate had long been among the most extensive in Shropshire (fn. 46) but in the mid and later 13th century they also became great landowners in southern England: their acquisition of part of the d'Aubigny inheritance in 1243, of the d'Aubigny earldom of Arundel by 1291, and of a large share of the estates of the last Warenne earl of Surrey (d. 1347) with that earldom (1361), (fn. 47) made them one of the greatest magnate dynasties in the kingdom. Richard FitzAlan, earl of Arundel 1330-76, used his vast landed income thriftily, settled his inheritance carefully, and increased his wealth by lending to his fellow noblemen and the Crown. Profits were invested in land, (fn. 48) mainly outside Shropshire (fn. 49) though the Shropshire estates did increase between the late 13th century and the early 15th century. (fn. 50) The forfeiture of 1397 was quickly reversed in 1400 and only on the childless Earl Thomas's death in 1415 was the inheritance reduced, unsettled estates passing to his three sisters. (fn. 51) Though the FitzAlans' political interest in Shropshire collapsed after 1415, (fn. 52) the earl of Arundel's Shropshire inheritance remained one of the four or five greatest landed estates in the county for a further century and a half. (fn. 53)
The other estates on a par with Arundel's in Shropshire (fn. 54) were those of the Corbets of Caus, some of which passed in 1347 to the Stafford family, earls of Stafford from 1351 and dukes of Buckingham 1444-1521; (fn. 55) those of the Mortimers, earls of March 1328-30 and 1354-1425, which passed to the duke of York after 1425 and to the Crown in 1461 when York's son became king as Edward IV; (fn. 56) those of the Talbots, a line of Herefordshire landowners to whom the title and estates of the Stranges of Blakemere came in 1383 and on whom the earldom of Shrewsbury was conferred in 1442; (fn. 57) those of the Stranges of Knockin, one of the greatest landed families never to receive an earldom (fn. 58) but whose lands passed c. 1480 to the Stanleys, earls of Derby from 1485; (fn. 59) and the barony of Wem, with its three extensive demesne manors of Wem, Loppington, and Hinstock which passed from the Botilers through the Lords Greystoke to the Lords Dacre of Gilsland. (fn. 60)
Such large estates, together with those of the more important monasteries- Buildwas, Combermere (Ches.), Haughmond, Lilleshall, Shrewsbury, and Wenlock, (fn. 61) whose estates bore local comparison with those of the aristocracy-were the dominant features of the medieval landowning pattern in Shropshire. (fn. 62) At a lower economic level were the gentry. Throughout the period their estates were being built up and consolidated or divided among heiresses. Families like the Corbets of Moreton Corbet and the Newports of High Ercall steadily increased their acreages, furnishing themselves with the means of joining the ranks of the leading gentry and the new aristocracy after the close of the Middle Ages. (fn. 63) Large inheritances extending far beyond the county, like that of the Burghs of Mawddwy (Merion.) and Wattlesborough, were built up by marriage only to be divided among heiresses in a later generation: the estates of Sir John Burgh (d. 1471) were partitioned among his four married daughters and served to increase the landed endowments of the Leightons, the Newports, the Lingens, and the Myttons. (fn. 64) Similarly the considerable inheritance enjoyed by William Burley, of Broncroft, passed after his death in 1458 to the families of his daughters Lady Trussell and Lady Littleton. (fn. 65) Despite the seeming inevitability of such changes in the long run, some modest estates of one or two manors continued in the same families, neither increasing nor greatly diminishing as generation succeeded generation. Such, for example, were those of the Eytons of Eyton, (fn. 66) the Gatacres of Gatacre, (fn. 67) the Lutwyches of Lutwyche, (fn. 68) and the Plowdens of Plowden. (fn. 69) Sometimes changes of family obscure an essential continuity. The Chetwynds maintained themselves at Chetwynd for five generations but then, c. 1354, an heiress carried it to the Peshalls, and in the next century a Peshall heiress carried it to the Pigotts. (fn. 70) Hodnet is a rare case of an estate which, though it passed from family to family, was never sold between 1086 and the 20th century. (fn. 71)
Sales of estates seem to have been less common in the later Middle Ages than they were from the mid 16th century onwards, (fn. 72) though aristocrats whose main interests lay elsewhere occasionally sold marginal properties (fn. 73) or Shropshire windfalls. Thus in 1425 the duchess of Norfolk sold the third of Wellington Hay that had come to her as part of the unsettled estates of her brother, the earl of Arundel (d. 1415), (fn. 74) and in 1448 the duke of York sold Cressage, an escheat, to his adviser William Burley. (fn. 75) Towards the end of the period there are signs of the purchasing of land by successful townsmen and lawyers. In 1462-3 Lord Lovel sold Norton and Pitchford to the Shrewsbury merchant Thomas Stone, (fn. 76) and about the same time the Londoner Hugh Stapleton acquired the manor of Oaks (fn. 77) and part of Minton. (fn. 78) In the later 15th century too the Needhams, a Cheshire family of successful lawyers, began to buy up considerable quantities of Shropshire land around Shavington, eventually their seat. (fn. 79)
The pre-eminence of a few large lay and ecclesiastical landowners over more numerous, but less well endowed, gentry families suffered no fundamental change before the Crown's dispersal of monastic estates after the Dissolution. (fn. 80) Family vicissitudes did not alter the general pattern. Evidence for the management of the gentry estates during the later Middle Ages, however, is almost entirely lacking. The considerable changes to the ways in which the land was exploited can be charted only on the estates of the marcher aristocracy who dominated the county. Even for those estates bailiffs' accounts, the most informative sources for landlord farming, have survived only for isolated and exceptional years and only for parts of the far-flung estates of families such as the Mortimers and FitzAlans.
In spite of the deficiencies of the evidence, certain trends are apparent, notably the continued advance of settlement into the forests and wastes, usually with the encouragement and, at least at the beginning of the period, under the active direction of the landlords. Cereal production for the market became less and less important; amounts of demesne arable were small and contracting. On some estates the arable demesne had been leased before 1300 (fn. 81) and that trend continued during the 14th century. Landlords preferred where possible to concentrate on the more profitable and less labour intensive activities of sheep farming and cattle rearing, but even that form of direct involvement in agricultural production had virtually ceased by the mid 15th century and the major families had come to rely on income from rents and other indirect profits of lordship.
Assarting and inclosure
There is evidence throughout the central and northern parts of the county during the period for the continued clearing of woodland and forest and for the improvement of wastes. For a variety of reasons assarting, though a continuous process, was a piecemeal one. It was still conducted, however, under the landlords' direction, or with their encouragement. Only in the 1530s are there signs that squatters were beginning to encroach on the commons. (fn. 82) The pace of advancing cultivation depended on the extent of the demand for new land, the availability of labour for clearing the land and preparing it for use, and above all on the desire of lords to add to their demesnes or to increase their income from rents and entry fines. For those reasons the most active direction by the lords or their officers came in the early years of the 14th century when there was still pressure from an expanding population and when many lords were still engaged in the direct exploitation of their estates. (fn. 83)
Some fragmentary information can be found in bailiffs' accounts for the cost of breaking up new land before it was leased or incorporated in the demesne and cultivated. At Ruyton in 1319-20 it cost 6s. an acre to break up an assart of 12½ a. in woodland by piece work; preparing a parcel of waste for sowing in 1338 involved removing stones and cleaning the ground; in 1343 assarting some moorland cost 53s. 1½d. and in 1346 breaking up a meadow for cultivation cost 67s. 7d. (fn. 84) The earl of Arundel's bailiff at Wroxeter in the early 14th century employed two men for 13 days on assarting work, while the bailiff of Shrawardine paid out 33s. for the making of two assarts by piece work and also employed extra labour to ditch the assarts and inclose them with thorns, and at Upton Magna an assartator was employed for part of the year. At Adderley in 1318 six men were hired for 4 days' ditching on an assart. (fn. 85) At Dodington 6d. was spent on a ploughshare for breaking new land in 1342 and considerable labour costs were incurred for marling the land. (fn. 86) Newly broken land was usually sown with oats, but rye was also regarded as a suitable crop: a demesne assart at High Ercall was called Rye furlong. (fn. 87) Oats sown on an assart in woodland at Ruyton in 1319-20 yielded 5:2 and at Dodington in 1342 newly broken land was sown with 2 qr. 3 bu. of oats and another new assart in 1344 with 7 qr. of rye. (fn. 88)
Haughmond abbey provides a good example of how the direction of assarting of waste and woodland could form part of a policy of systematic extension of the cultivated area on a large estate. (fn. 89) In 1308 the abbot negotiated the partition of the wastes of Hadnall, Hardwick, and Grinshill, and the abbey's portions were inclosed and brought under cultivation. (fn. 90) A royal licence was obtained in 1313 to inclose and cultivate 60 a. of Haughmond wood and in 1318 Hadnall wood was divided and inclosed. (fn. 91) In 1297 the abbot and convent had been given permission by John le Strange (V), lord of Knockin, to inclose their grange of Caldicott within the demesne of Knockin and to build houses on the heath or waste and grant them out to tenants. (fn. 92) That policy was followed by the abbey on its own newly inclosed land: small portions of waste were granted to tenants for life on condition that they built houses or cultivated and marled the land at their own expense. (fn. 93) The demand for such land, and the ability to pay high entry fines, began to fall off in the mid 14th century, and some tenants in financial difficulties conveyed their assarts back to the abbey by way of mortgage. (fn. 94)
There is evidence, though not usually so detailed, that other lords, lay and ecclesiastical, were aware of the importance of controlling the assarting of waste land. The lords of the manor of High Ercall, it has been argued, balanced alienations of their demesne in the form of grants to the church or members of their families by a progressive policy of inclosure of the waste. In the final stage of the process, between 1278 and 1345, the wastes that separated Ercall from its neighbours were converted to arable or meadow, leaving barely enough common pasture in the manor. The improved land was leased to free tenants: cleared woodland fetched 1s. and heathland 6d. an acre. In addition the customary tenants were encouraged to make 'bruches' or assarts on marginal land for which they were charged nominal rents. (fn. 95) Elsewhere in the county, for example at Woolstaston and Smethcott, free tenancies were created to encourage the clearance of woodland. (fn. 96) In Condover land assarted from Buriwood was known as 'purchase land' and could be bought and sold without restriction. The process of clearing Buriwood began under the lord's direction, and in 1307 Edward Burnell granted out part of his waste at a rent of 25s. a year with the stipulation that if any cottages were built on the improved land their holders should pay him rent and owe suit to his court of Condover. Clearance was completed by the tenants of later, non-resident, lords who could easily obtain licences to hold assarts in severalty. (fn. 97) Assarting in the lordship of Oswestry was carefully regulated from the early 14th century. Assarts that were not taken into the demesne and cultivated directly were kept as separate units; unlike earlier assarts they were kept distinct from land held as part of a gwely and the holders were charged economic rents. Incursions into the waste help to explain the increase in the annual income from rents in the lordship from £60 in 1301 to £112 in 1362. The lord's financial interest in the increase of cultivated land culminated in the establishment of a seigneurial right to regulate incursions into waste land in the lordship by the sale of licences. In 1341 three men accused of appropriating the waste of Eardiston township were called to answer in the court of Ruyton. (fn. 98) In the neighbouring lordship of Ellesmere Roger le Strange was found in 1319 to have made many grants of waste at rents ranging from 1d. to 6d. an acre. (fn. 99)
Assarting in royal manors, woods, and forests in the county continued under licences granted by the king. In 1346 the abbot and convent of Shrewsbury were granted 240 a. of Lythwood, a royal hay in Condover, at a rent of 3d. an acre and by 1364 clearance of the wood by the abbey and its tenants was well under way. (fn. 100) Earlier in the century Haughmond abbey had been granted 'Skyneresmore' in Morfe forest and agreed to pay the arrentors of the royal waste an entry fine of 6s. 8d. an acre and a rent of 6d. an acre. (fn. 101) At the same time 8 a. of waste in the royal manor of Claverley was rented at 4d. an acre; (fn. 102) some 30 years later Sir William of Shareshill was licensed to bring into cultivation 200 a. of waste and pasture in the same manor and to lease them to tenants. (fn. 103) Records of the regards of Morfe and Shirlett forests in 1356 and 1360 show the extent to which the woodland was being reduced by hundreds of assarts, ranging in size from under 1 a. to 80 a., but most under 5 a. Included were the assarts, licensed and unlicensed, made by Shareshill and his tenants, and at King's Nordley John Astley held 80 a. himself and had leased 42 a. to tenants at a rent of 1d. an acre. Those assarts were being cultivated regularly and many had cottages erected on them. (fn. 104)
The clearing of woodland and improvement of the waste was not a steady, continuous process and it is not an easy one to chart accurately but evidence for it can be found throughout the period. On Wenlock priory's estates, where there had been vigorous expansion into woodland and waste in the 13th century, 'new land', often held in separate, inclosed plots, could still command rents of up to 1s. an acre in the first half of the 14th century, and, on one occasion at least, ½ a. of newly assarted land was offered as an incentive to encourage a tenant to take a holding at Derrington in Ditton Priors. (fn. 105) In 1345 Isabel de Ferrers made extensive grants out of the waste in her manor of Stoke upon Tern; she had no difficulty in finding tenants who were willing to pay 1s. an acre (measured by the perch of 24 ft. as was usual with assarts on the Welsh border) for inclosed holdings. In one case the tenants, two brothers, took on 120 a., paid an entry fine of 10d. an acre, promised an annual rent of 12d. an acre, and undertook to find other tenants who would take 80 a. more on the same terms and build on their holdings. Ten years later, however, Isabel's son William reduced the rents for those assarts by a third. (fn. 106) On the neighbouring manor of Prees there was still a brisk market in holdings approved from the waste in the later 14th century. (fn. 107) Assarts were still being made in the late 14th century in Habberley, Westbury, and Betton in Hales and during the 15th century in Condover, Pontesbury, Cound, and Kenley. (fn. 108) As much of the late assarting was from poor and unproductive heath land, it was often necessary to offer incentives in the form of favourable leases and low rents; in Eyton upon the Weald Moors, for example, the lord granted long leases rent free for the first eight years while the scrubland was being cleared. (fn. 109)
The scattered nature of settlement over much of the county, the predominantly pastoral or mixed character of agriculture, and the availability of pasture resources combined to lend flexibility to agrarian practice during the period. That flexibility can be seen in the varied treatment of assarts taken from the wastes and woodland. In some cases the open fields were extended: at Poynton in 1412 each of the three fields included a number of 'bruches' and in Alberbury, Cardeston, and Smethcott the amount of open-field land was extended by assarting during the later Middle Ages. (fn. 110) Those renting assarted land were frequently allowed to inclose and cultivate it provided that the lord and his tenants had common pasture rights. (fn. 111) Land improved from waste or woodland and held in severalty was often used for private pasture with the occasional arable interval. Land newly taken from the waste in Prees manor in 1391 carried a rent of 9d. an acre for pasture and 12d. for each acre cultivated; it was to be completely inclosed but the lord was to have access for pigs in time of pannage. (fn. 112) There was a similar flexibility of practice in the use of 'old' land. Open fields, it has been shown, were established over most of the county long before the end of the 13th century, (fn. 113) but there is evidence of considerable variety. Holdings could be part open and part inclosed, and extents and rentals of the period reveal a complicated mix of holdings in the open fields combined with closes, assarts, and meadows held in severalty. (fn. 114) At Little Wenlock in the 1320s there were apparently no common meadows, but some meadows were held in severalty and licences were issued to inclose both assarts and selions in the common fields; later in the 14th century fines were being levied for holding closes in severalty and for putting animals in a private field (in campum separale) after prohibition by the manor court. (fn. 115)
The proportion of open to inclosed land depended on the policies of individual landlords and the character of manorial arrangements, but there is considerable evidence of an increase in the amount of inclosed pasture and meadow to allow specialist livestock farming not possible in the common fields. Demesne pasture and meadow was highly valued; in the lordship of Oswestry the meadows were the last pieces of the demesne to be leased. (fn. 116) Meadow which could supply hay for winter feed or whose agistment could be sold was worth the expense of maintaining inclosures; (fn. 117) in Sutton upon Tern manor in 1367 tenants were amerced for allowing their animals to stray into the lord's inclosed pastures. (fn. 118) Meadow could also be broken up and cropped; income from agistment payments was reduced in Cleobury Barnes manor in the 1370s because one of the meadows was regularly sown with wheat and oats and in 1378-9 half of the manorial park was sold for pasture and the rest sown with oats. (fn. 119) At Ruyton it cost £3 7s. 7d. to break up two meadows in 1346-7 and at Ercall Magna two thirds of Holtesmoor was under the plough in 1424. (fn. 120) As landlords gave up the direct exploitation of their demesnes, leases of pasture with licence to inclose were made more frequently. (fn. 121) Sometimes such leases resulted in considerable increases in value; an inquiry into rents in the manor of Ruyton in 1393-4 found that the value of two meadows had been doubled by their tenants who had drained and inclosed them and rooted up thorns and brambles; Rednal meadow, which was then worth 8s. a year held in severalty, was said to be potentially worth 20s. but it would cost at least £10 to inclose it with hedges and ditches. (fn. 122)
A further indication of the flexible use of land in the period is the appearance of grassland within the arable fields. Field land could be laid down to grass temporarily or permanently and field names containing 'leasow' or 'ley' occur frequently. (fn. 123) There was meadow at the head of all the furlongs of Moortown, a township in Ercall Magna, in 1479 and in the manor of Oaks mention is made in 1407 of 'Kneriseleye', a permanently inclosed grass strip. (fn. 124) References to 'frisc' or uncultivated land need not imply that such land was derelict. Assarts were often allowed to lie fallow for some years before being brought back into cultivation. (fn. 125) In 1383 Bromfield manor court recorded an agreement of the tenants to cultivate part of the land lying frisc in one of the open fields. (fn. 126) Land which went out of cultivation was often put to other profitable uses: at Stanton Lacy and Cleobury Barnes in the 1370s uncultivated demesne was leased for sowing or sold as pasture, and the bailiff of Stokesay manor accounted in 1424-5 for 59s. 7d. received from the sale of the herbage of several closes and of frisc land in one of the common fields. (fn. 127)
The flexible treatment of pasture and meadow was accompanied by efforts to consolidate holdings in the open fields. There is evidence from the early 14th century of the piecemeal and largely peaceful inclosure which has been said to characterize Shropshire and which led writers in the 16th century to regard the county as largely inclosed. (fn. 128) Holdings in the common fields were exchanged and licences were obtained to inclose the consolidated strips, resulting in a complicated mixture of closes in the open fields: evidence comes from all parts of the county- south (Larden 1409, Stoke St. Milborough 1321-2), (fn. 129) east (Lilleshall 1345, Longford 1358, Madeley 1449-50, and Posenhall 1445), (fn. 130) central (Harley 1338 and 1359 and Longnor 1346 and 1454), (fn. 131) west (the Oswestry area and Picklescott in the 1520s), (fn. 132) and north (Hadnall 1471). (fn. 133) In some instances the process of consolidation led to complete inclosure of the open fields. At Kenley the open fields, which were still in use in the early 15th century, appear to have been inclosed by the end of the Middle Ages. At Allfield, in Condover, a man who was inclosing part of the open fields c. 1430 eventually bought out the remaining copyholders and the whole township was inclosed by 1595. (fn. 134) Despite apparently extensive piecemeal inclosure of open fields in Shropshire from the 14th century there was no large-scale conversion of arable to pasture, with associated depopulation and agrarian discontent, such as occurred in some other parts of the country. (fn. 135)
The returns of the commissioners appointed under the Tillage Act of 1515, (fn. 136) which made it an offence to convert land from tillage to pasture, are of little use in charting the progress of inclosure in the county. Although the commissioners reported in 1517 that 58 ploughs had been put down and 344 people deprived of their livelihood from the land as a result of conversion to pasture over the previous 20 years, their survey was unsystematic and of doubtful accuracy. (fn. 137) They started with Hopesay where they reported that Richard Rychard had inclosed 40 a. of arable and converted it to pasture in 1516, but they also found that seven inclosures totalling only 18 a. and not involving conversion of arable had been made in 1504. After a detailed survey of part of Purslow hundred the return becomes summary and casual; 35 of the 55 inclosures and conversions listed are said to be of 20 a. The largest inclosure reported was of 80 a. at Kenley in 1513 and may represent the former open fields. (fn. 138) All that the returns can safely be taken to indicate is an increase in the amount of inclosed pasture in the southern uplands at the end of the Middle Ages, and that appears to have been achieved, as in Cheshire and Herefordshire, without excessive disruption and depopulation. (fn. 139)
It is possible to build up a picture of the nature of demesne agriculture in the county in the later Middle Ages. The picture will inevitably be incomplete because the most informative source, bailiffs' accounts, survive for large and untypical estates and often only for isolated years. There are, however, accounts for most parts of the county and they cover the period from the early 14th century, when the retreat from direct exploitation had already begun, to the early decades of the 15th century, after which all the major landlords had leased out their demesnes, apart from some home farms, and ceased to be directly involved in agriculture.
At the heart of every demesne was the home farm or grange. Differing farm sizes, a greater or lesser emphasis on arable or pastoral farming, and varying local building traditions would all have contributed, as later, to a wide variety of building types. Similarly, on the demesne farms of the great estates individual buildings might be larger and more substantial than on smaller manors. Thus in 1468 Haughmond abbey's great barn at Homebarn Grange was of 11 bays (fn. 140) rather than the more usual 3 or 4. (fn. 141)
Although there was variety, the same basic elements appear consistently when farms were described. Chelmarsh and High Ercall were probably typical of larger demesne farms in the 15th century. At High Ercall in 1424 the complex was large and probably moated, being entered across a bridge that led to a 3-storey gatehouse. A separate stone tower was presumably defensive. Attached to the hall were a number of residential chambers; kitchen, larder house, brewhouse, and bakehouse stood separate. The agricultural buildings, probably roughly grouped around one or more yards, comprised 2 barns, 3 stables, ox and cow houses, a dovecot, a barleyrick tower, a garner, and a hay loft. (fn. 142) The manorial buildings at Chelmarsh in 1454-5 were slightly fewer: a hall with 2 cross chambers, chapel, another chamber, kitchen, gatehouse, 2 stables, barn, oxhouse, cowhouse, and dovecot. (fn. 143) On smaller demesnes and on granges there were probably still fewer buildings. At Haughmond abbey's grange at Nagington in 1474, for instance, there was a 3-bay house, 3-bay barn, and a sheepfold. (fn. 144)
In general the Shropshire demesnes were not large. Of the eight FitzAlan manors in Shropshire and the march (fn. 145) surveyed in 1301, only Oswestry with 5 carucates and Shrawardine with 4 carucates had over 250 a. of demesne arable, and in the four townships in the lordship of Clun where there were over 20 a. of demesne meadow there was no arable at all in demesne. The importance attached to demesne meadow is clear from the values given in the survey: meadow is valued at between 1s. and 3s. an acre, while arable is valued at between 2d. and 6d. an acre or between £1 and £2 a carucate. (fn. 146) The same pattern of small arable demesnes and highly valued meadow is found in inquisitions post mortem during the 14th century. In 1300 a jury reported that Peter, Lord Corbet, had in demesne at Caus 3 carucates of arable, each of 120 a., worth 3d. an acre and 2 a. of meadow worth 3s., at Worthen 4 carucates of arable worth 4d. an acre and 15 a. of meadow worth 1s. an acre, and at Minsterley 3 carucates of arable worth 6d. an acre and 24 a. of meadow worth 1s. 6d. an acre. (fn. 147) In 1310 the 60 a. of arable belonging to a third of the manor of Broseley were valued at 15s., and 40 a. of arable at Billingsley were worth only 1½d. an acre. (fn. 148) Two carucates of demesne arable at Wrockwardine which were valued at only £2 in 1324 because the land was very infertile had fallen to £1 in 1349; the demesne meadow was also halved in value after the plague but was still worth 1s. an acre. (fn. 149) In 1378 200 a. of field land (acrae campestrales) were valued at 2d. an acre because the land was sandy and lay in common, but 20 a. of meadow were worth 1s. an acre. (fn. 150)
The demesnes of the larger monastic houses in the county tell a similar story. The 21 carucates of arable held in demesne in Shropshire by Shrewsbury abbey in 1291 had shrunk to 12 carucates by 1355 and the 2 carucates in Astley manor that were valued at £3 in 1355 had fallen in value to £2 5s. in 1361, while the abbey's meadow continued to be valued at 1s. an acre. (fn. 151) In 1291 Wenlock priory had arable demesnes totalling 43 carucates; in 1370 there were 30 carucates divided between 13 manors and granges and valued at between 6s. 8d. and 13s. 4d. a carucate; by 1390 there had been a further reduction to 25 carucates in demesne. (fn. 152) At the Dissolution only the home farm of 286 a., valued at nearly 4d. an acre, was still cultivated directly but the convent had retained 25 a. of meadow valued at 28s. 4d. (fn. 153) At Lilleshall in 1330 the abbey had 10 carucates of demesne arable attached to four granges and managed in a three-year rotation with the two parts under cultivation valued at £15; by 1375 there were 9 carucates of which the two cultivated parts were valued at £10. There had also been a reduction in demesne meadow from 40 a. in 1330 to 24 a. in 1375 but the value remained constant at 1s. an acre. (fn. 154) At the Dissolution the Lilleshall demesnes consisted of 157 a. of arable valued at just over 5d. an acre, 35½ a. of meadow valued at 64s., and 331½ a. of pasture valued at 9d. an acre. (fn. 155)
The small size of the arable demesnes reveals that cereal production was on a minor scale and almost invariably subordinate to pastoral farming. Oats was the chief crop and is found on every estate for which accounts of cereal production survive. Wheat was the main winter-sown crop and was sometimes grown mixed with rye as maslin; barley was grown but only in small quantities and sometimes mixed with oats as dredge. (fn. 156) Also found in small quantities throughout the 14th century are peas, vetch, and beans. When the forfeited estates of the recently executed Roger Mortimer, earl of March, were valued in April 1331, just before the spring sowing, 80 a. of the 200 a. of demesne arable at Earnwood were sown with wheat, as were 40 a. of 120 a. of arable at Highley and 60 a. of 200 a. of arable at Cleobury Barnes. The granaries of the Shropshire manors contained 117 qr. of wheat, valued at between 4s. 4d. and 6s. 8d. a quarter, and just over 100 qr. of oats, valued at between 2s. and 4s. 4d. a quarter; there were also small quantities of rye, peas, and vetch but no barley. (fn. 157) Oats and wheat were the main crops in 1313-15 on the earl of Arundel's manors of Shrawardine, Upton Magna, Acton Round, and Ruyton, but barley, rye, and peas were also grown at Wroxeter, and peas and vetch at the former Templar manor of Lydley on which there had been found 125 qr. 5 bu. of oats, 47 qr. 5 bu. of wheat, and 44 qr. of maslin in January 1308. (fn. 158) The demesne arable at Ruyton continued to be cultivated directly until the early 1340s and in 1341-2 wheat, oats, and small quantities of rye, barley, and vetch were sown. (fn. 159) Cultivation of the demesne arable ceased at the same time at neighbouring Kinnerley where oats and beans were being sown together in small quantities as dredge in 1338-9. (fn. 160) Wheat and oats were the only crops sown on the c. 100 a. of demesne arable in Caus lordship, which were leased to tenants in 1383. (fn. 161) Records survive for the sporadic exploitation between 1331 and 1422 of part of the demesne arable on the estate around Whitchurch held successively by the Strange and Talbot families, and there oats was the main crop, but wheat, barley, rye, peas, and beans were also grown. (fn. 162)
The preponderance of oats and wheat is shown by the comparison in Table III of acreages sown at Adderley, a manor in the north of the county in the king's hands during the crisis years 1318-27, and on the southern manors of Cleobury Barnes and Stanton Lacy during the declining years of demesne farming at the end of the 14th century. At Adderley oats were sown at 4 bu. an acre, wheat at 2 bu., barley and beans at 3 bu., rye at 2 bu., and peas and vetch at 1½ bu. Sowing rates at Cleobury Barnes and Stanton Lacy were slightly lower for the major crops: oats at between 3 and 4 bu. an acre and wheat at between 1½ and 2 bu. an acre, and slightly higher for the minor crops: barley at 4 bu., peas between 2 and 3 bu., and vetch at 2 bu. an acre. Yields, impossible to estimate accurately, do not seem to have been good. The wheat yield at Adderley between 1322 and 1324 was just over 3:1, and it was 5:1 at Cleobury Barnes in 1378-9, the only year for which it can be estimated there. Oats yielded 2:1 at Adderley between 1322 and 1324 and only slightly better at Cleobury Barnes between 1377 and 1380 (Table III). On the Talbot lordship of Blakemere oats yielded 7:2 in 1384 but dropped to under 2:1 in 1388; in 1419 wheat yielded nearly 4:1. (fn. 163)
In 1392-3 the bailiff at Stanton Lacy noted that the seed was of poor quality that year. (fn. 164) Seed corn was usually taken from the previous harvest but occasionally it was mixed with purchased seed. Wheat was bought for sowing at prices ranging from 13d. a bushel at Adderley in 1322-3 to 6d. a bushel at Cleobury Barnes in 1378-9; (fn. 165) oats was rarely bought for sowing but in 1313 both wheat and oats were bought at Shrewsbury for sowing at Ruyton and 9 bu. of rye and 10 bu. of barley were bought at Shrewsbury in 1341-2 for sowing at Ruyton. (fn. 166) In 1343 the bailiff. at Dodington went with two carters to collect wheat for sowing and in 1384 the bailiff of husbandry at Myddle bought 3 qr. of seed wheat at Shrewsbury. (fn. 167) The treasurer of Lilleshall abbey bought seed wheat at Wenlock and seed rye at Newport in 1437-8, and in 1446-7 on the abbey's manor of Atcham 20 bu. of purchased seed was sown with 8 qr. 5 bu. of wheat from the previous year's harvest. (fn. 168)
Sources: P.R.O., SC 6/965/3-5 (Adderley); SC 6/965/12, 15, 17, 21, 24-5 (Cleobury Barnes); SC 6/967/27 and SC 6/1304/17 (Stanton Lacy).
a Actually 16 a. of vetch and peas.
b The totals are the totals harvested and do not necessarily correspond exactly to the sum of the acres sown. Unusually the Stanton Lacy account for 1389-90 also gives the total acreage sown, 81.
It is unusual for accounts to note vegetables and fruits, both commonplace in medieval gardens. Leeks and cabbages, two of the staple vegetables, were grown at Adderley in the early 14th century, and at Myddle a century later onions, another staple, were grown, and leeks. The reeve of Kinnerley accounted for the sale of apples in 1335-6 and for the sale of 45 gallons of cider in 1346-7. (fn. 169) Apples were sold from the garden at Stanton Lacy in 1377-8 and in the following year the reeve at Earnwood bought tar to paint on the trees in the garden to stop the rabbits eating them. (fn. 170) There were several manorial orchards at High Ercall in 1424. (fn. 171)
The major part of the crops produced on the demesnes was consumed by livestock, including the oxen and other draught animals necessary for the cultivation of the land. The chief plough beast remained the ox which was usually worked in teams of eight, although numbers varied from year to year as debilitated animals died or were sold and replaced by beasts purchased or brought from other manors. (fn. 172) There was considerable movement of animals between the manors of the large estates both for winter feeding and to make up the necessary ploughing numbers. There were 45 oxen at Clun in the early years of the 14th century and 39 at Caus in 1374 but only 16 in 1382 when the demesne arable was leased. (fn. 173) During 1343- 4 there were 41 oxen on Ruyton manor: 6 from the previous year, 2 received as heriots, and 33 sent by the receiver of Chirk; 13 were handed over to the bailiffs of other manors, leaving 28 at the end of the year. (fn. 174) At Michaelmas 1373 there were 16 oxen on Cleobury Barnes manor but during the preceding year 8 oxen had come from Stanton Lacy and 8 had been handed over to the parker of Earnwood. During 1387-8 there were 14 oxen at Stanton Lacy: 8 remained from the previous year, 2 were sent from Orleton (Herefs.), 2 received as heriots, 2 purchased, 4 sold, and 4 slaughtered, leaving 8 at the end of the year. (fn. 175) In the later 14th century black, grey, brown, and red oxen were all noted on Wenlock priory's estate, and that hints at the mixed nature of the stock available to farmers. (fn. 176)
Affers-draught horses-are found in most of the surviving accounts, usually one horse for every seven or eight oxen, and the scant evidence does not suggest that the proportion of horses increased during the 14th century. (fn. 177) Although horses cost less to buy, they were more expensive to keep than oxen. It is unusual to find oxen being fed on vetch and peas as they were at Stanton Lacy for six weeks in the winter of 1377 when the hay and straw were said to be poor and the oxen weak, but affers regularly required additional rations of oats during heavy work, such as harrowing. (fn. 178) Although 21s. 6d. was spent on a horse for the plough at Adderley in 1323-4, that was at the height of the cattle murrain when the cost of oxen rose to between 15s. and 17s. (fn. 179) In 1331 the 66 oxen on the estates forfeited by the earl of March were valued at between 6s. 8d. and 8s. each and the 9 affers at between 3s. 4d. and 5s. each. (fn. 180) Horses were mainly used for harrowing and carting rather than ploughing (which was the ox's preserve) but two oxen were bought to pull the wool wagons at Clun in 1386-7. (fn. 181).
Regular outlay was necessary to maintain ploughs and other equipment. The 'cost of ploughs' at Adderley in the early 14th century was between 11s. and 15s. a year and included the repair of a wheeled plough. (fn. 182) The latter was not such a rarity in the county as has recently been claimed, and wheeled ploughs were also used on the demesnes at Ruyton, Upton Magna, Dodington, and Cleobury Barnes. (fn. 183) In 1331 ploughs with harrows on the manors forfeited by the earl of March were valued at 12d. or 16d., and at Ruyton a plough to break new land was bought in 1336-7 for 4d. and also a harrow (3d.), a seed basket (3d.), and a two-wheeled wain (plaustrum) at 3s. for the same assarting work. (fn. 184) Three of the burgages in Oswestry in 1301 owed the service of making a pair of ploughshares, valued at 1s. 6d., with the lord providing the iron. (fn. 185) In 1343-4 at Dodington a smith was paid 1s. 1d. for dressing a pair of plough irons for the third plough newly set up (de novo levato) for the winter and spring sowings. (fn. 186) On the same estate 75 years later 2s. 10d. was spent on a set of new implements: a mattock (7d.), a seed basket (5d.), 8 hoes (8d.), a fork (2d.), 6 iron teeth for a fork (4d.), 3 plough staves (3d.), and 5 plough feet (5d.). (fn. 187) Carts and wagons were expensive pieces of equipment which required the attention of both smiths and carpenters. At Myddle 8s. 9½d. was spent on the ploughs in 1384-5 and 15s. 5d. on the wains and carts, including 11s. for a new wain. (fn. 188) A dung wain was forfeited as a deodand at Purslow in 1512. The 'draght' constructed at Cleobury Barnes in 1372-3 is thought to have been a sled or a harrow. (fn. 189)
As well as being spread as farmyard manure dung was also dropped directly on the soil by folding. In 1373 all 240 sheep remaining at Clunton and Kempton were sent after shearing to the reeve of Bicton, who grazed them on Weston's openfield land throughout September, presumably to prepare the ground for sowing with winter wheat. (fn. 190)
The principal chemical fertilizer in the Middle Ages was marl, which was being widely applied in Shropshire by the later 13th century, albeit in restricted quantities because of the expense of its extraction, transport, and spreading. (fn. 191) It was probably in north Shropshire that marl was most commonly applied, and the costs of marling assarts at Dodington in the 1340s show the esteem in which it was held. In preparation for the operation carts were repaired and fitted out and three-tined forks and a mattock bought. The work was done by farm servants, by tenants paid on a piecework basis, and by day labourers. About 32,500 heaped baskets of marl were dug, carried, and spread in 1342 and c. 13,400 in 1344; the costs of carriage and spreading totalled £9 13s. 7d. in 1342 and £4 11s. 8d. in 1344. In addition men had to be paid to dig the marl, two being so employed for six weeks in November and December 1343, and to drain the marl pit if it was flooded.
Lime too was applied to the soil, although its use in the later Middle Ages apparently remained restricted. At Dodington in the 1340s lime dressing seems to have accompanied the marling, and in 1342 two carters were paid 1s. for bringing lime from Corfham, a property of the same lord over 65 km. away. (fn. 192)
Arable farming was labour-intensive and the needs of the estates involved in arable cultivation were met in various ways, of which labour services were, by the beginning of the 14th century, the least significant. (fn. 193) The 1301 survey of the lordship of Oswestry records mainly seasonal services such as haymaking and reaping at harvest, and the performance of services was likely to be haphazard; the holders of five bondlands in Weston, for example, owed two days' ploughing at the two seasons, if they had a plough. (fn. 194) Commutation was already far advanced in many parts of the county by the beginning of the period: a holding in Little Wenlock which had carried ploughing, mowing, reaping, and carting services was leased at the beginning of the 14th century for three lives and an annual rent of 13s. (fn. 195) In 1328 at Ash Magna 11 bond tenants could pay 4d. instead of performing plough works and were given an allowance of 2d. instead of food by the lord. (fn. 196) At Ruyton in 1361-2 even the payment instead of customary works was relaxed in case the tenants gave up their holdings; at Minsterley 9 of the tenants still performing labour services were allowed to commute them in 1378 for lack of plough beasts, and all services had been commuted by 1388. (fn. 197) At High Ercall all work services, apart from one day's love reap at harvest, had been commuted for money rents by 1399. (fn. 198) Even where customary labour services were still exacted they had to be supplemented by paid labour. At Kinnerley ploughs were hired in 1340-1 to 'repair the defects' in the winter and spring ploughing and harrowing that had been done by boon work. Customary tenants at Dodington were paid 2d. for each ploughing and 1d. for each harrowing and their reaping at harvest was supervised by an overseer (messor) who was paid 1½d. a day for 28 days. (fn. 199)
On each manor there was a small staff of full-time farm servants (famuli) and wage labour was recruited when necessary to help with seasonal and specialized work. The farm servants were paid in cash and food, carefully graded according to the job. The men who guided the ploughs (tentatores) were better paid than those who drove the oxen (fugatores). Large teams of ploughmen are found at Lydley in 1308 when half of the 16 farm servants were ploughmen, and there were four drivers and four ploughmen at Caus in 1374. (fn. 200) The ploughman at Ruyton in 1313 was paid 6s. a year and the driver 3s. 6d. Typically other farm servants would include carters, cowmen, shepherds, swineherds, dairymaids, and poultry-maids. (fn. 201) Casual labour was used for many tasks and paid at varying rates. At Stanton Lacy and Cleobury Barnes between 1373 and 1394 the cost per acre of harvesting, which involved reaping, collecting, tying, and carrying, was calculated at between 6d. and 11d. (fn. 202) Forty-three reapers, mostly women and several with Welsh names, were paid 2d. a day at Stanton Lacy in 1381; at Bicton in 1355 reaping by 60 Welsh customary tenants was paid at ½d. a day and the reapers at Stokesay in 1424-5 were women or Welsh or both. (fn. 203) Hoeing and haymaking were also done by piecework, sometimes supplemented by labour services. At Blakemere in 1418-19 the wheat was hoed and the meadows mown by wage labour but the hay was lifted and carried by customary tenants who were paid ½d. for each boon work. (fn. 204) Wage labour was also used for threshing and winnowing when the farm servants were not available to do the work. (fn. 205) In 1374-5 an extra ox driver was hired for the winter sowing at Cleobury Barnes because the farm servant was watching the sheep, and at Dodington in 1343-4 extra labour was employed to help the farm servants carry and spread marl. (fn. 206) Casual labour, usually women's or boys', was employed to sow peas and beans and scare birds from new seed. (fn. 207)
On most of the estates for which records survive arable cultivation was subordinate to animal husbandry and was intended to serve it by producing grain and hay for consumption by the livestock rather than for the market. Cattle rearing and dairying, horse breeding, and sheep farming and wool production were better suited to conditions over most of the county, required less labour, and were more amenable to central supervision than arable farming. Criminal records give some idea of the scale of stock rearing in the county: in 1327 Sir Hugh Mortimer complained that 28 horses, 60 oxen, 40 sheep, and 80 swine had been stolen from his manor of Chelmarsh and in 1331 Sir Fulk FitzWarin claimed to have lost 5 horses, 100 mares, 100 colts, 48 oxen, 40 bullocks, 40 cows, 40 heifers, 500 sheep, and 100 swine, valued at £1,000, as the result of a raid on Whittington. (fn. 208) A quarter of the cases recorded in the Shropshire peace roll between 1400 and 1414 are concerned in some way with cattle and, although the county was particularly vulnerable at that time to Welsh cattle thieves, (fn. 209) it is clear that cattle were very important in the agrarian economy of the county. (fn. 210) Cattle were brought into the county for rearing and fattening and the main point of entry from Wales was Oswestry, the chief cattle market for the region in the later Middle Ages. (fn. 211) Haughmond abbey used its grange at Aston to pasture animals bought at Oswestry before they were distributed to its other granges and cattle farms. (fn. 212) Shrewsbury, Whitchurch, Ludlow, Bridgnorth, Wem, and Newport also had markets specializing in the cattle trade. (fn. 213)
Although the earl of Arundel had begun to specialize in sheep farming in his marcher lordships by the beginning of the 14th century, there were 45 oxen, 1 bull, 44 cows, 7 steers, and 20 calves at Clun in the first decades of the century, and oxen and cows were moved round the Shropshire estates both for ploughing and for fattening for sale and the larder. (fn. 214) The earl's officials were still buying cows in the 1330s, and in 1350 there were 160 oxen and 121 cows on the earl's estates in Shropshire, including 19 oxen, 1 bull, and 17 cows at Kinnerton. (fn. 215) The manor of Adderley was used for a short-lived experiment when it came into the king's hands in 1318. That year 24 cattle were purchased for pasturing in the small park and sold at a profit of £3 5s. Next year 41 cattle were fattened at a profit of £4 13s. and a dairy herd was built up from a bull and 20 cows sent from Beverley (Yorks. E.R.) in January (a journey of 7½ days) and 6 cows purchased with their calves for £2 15s. 11d. A cowman was engaged at a wage of 4s. 9d. and a dairy was equipped with a churn, a tub, a bucket, 2 stone pots, a brass pan, 2 cheese vats, 2 presses, and a supply of linen and salt. The cheese and milk products of the herd were sold for £2 1s. in 1318-19 and £1 11s. 10d. in 1319-20 but then the cattle murrain struck and the remnants of the herd were sold off because they were weak or sterile, and the pasture of the small meadow was sold once more. (fn. 216) At Cleobury Barnes in the 1370s a small herd of cows was kept on the manor but other animals were brought in for fattening; in 1372-3 the pasture in Rowley park was used for 11 cattle brought from other manors and 23 animals brought from Wales, and in 1375-6 five of the 40 oxen and young beasts received from the household died of murrain in July and August before the remainder were handed back in November. The cattle were looked after by a herdsman who was paid 5s. a year, and when necessary another herdsman was hired for part of the year. Milch cows were leased out if they were strong enough after separation from their calves but in 1378-9 no one could be found to hire the five milch cows so they were left with their calves. (fn. 217)
Similar arrangements are found on estates in the northern part of the county. During 1368-9 there were on Whittington manor 3 bulls, 18 oxen (of which 11 were sold), 13 cows (of which 6 were sold), and 20 steers and heifers (of which 17 were sold); 6s. 8d. was received in milk rent for two of the cows. (fn. 218) Before the Black Death a herd of cattle, 30 in 1341-2, was kept at Dodington and used mainly to produce meat for the lord's larder but there was a small income from milk rents and at the end of the 14th century Ankaret, the widowed Lady Talbot, revived the tradition of cattle rearing in the lordship of Blakemere. The grange at Yockings Gate was reconstructed and a small herd of dairy cattle, 25 in 1402, was established there under a dairymaid who was paid 7s. a year; the cows produced butter, cheese, and milk worth £2 8s. in 1402-3. That, however, was another illfated venture as 14 head of cattle were stolen in 1400 and in 1404 the whole herd was lost to the Welsh rebels. (fn. 219) Cattle rearing began again at Blakemere under Gilbert, Lord Talbot, and in 1418-19 there was a large herd consisting of 2 bulls, 35 oxen, 65 cows, 13 steers, 17 young oxen, 30 yearlings, and 41 calves, looked after by a cowman, but the herd was sold when exploitation of the demesne ceased in 1422. (fn. 220) A few years later the herd at Myddle, which had been kept at over 30 in 1422-4, was also sold. (fn. 221) There was still a demesne herd of some 30 head of cattle at Gatten in 1446-7, when the reeve accounted for £3 2s. 4d. for the farm of 17 milch cows, and also what seems to be a herd of wild cattle (animalia silvestria) consisting of a bull, 21 cows, 4 oxen, 10 bullocks, 16 steers, and 8 calves. (fn. 222) Cattle were kept by the canons of Lilleshall until the Dissolution. During the 15th century the bailiffs of their granges paid half-yearly milk rents and there were two dairies run by dairymaids. In October 1538 there were 18 oxen, a bull and 15 milch cows, 20 young steers and heifers, and 8 weaning cows at the home grange and 10 cows and a bull in Lubstree park, and 40 cheeses in the canons' dairy house. (fn. 223)
Shropshire demesnes were also used for the feeding and breeding of horses. Adderley manor played host to 11 of the king's cart horses, together with their carts and carters, between 1318 and 1324. Apart from a few months' absence on the Scottish campaign of 1322 and short periods when they were hired out for ploughing and carting (such as carrying wool from Newport to London in 1319- 20), they spent most of the year at Adderley and were maintained on the manor. They were expensive guests as they were fed twice-daily rations of oats and their carters were paid at the rate of 4d. a day. During their stay at Adderley two of the horses died of murrain and another had to be sold because it became so weak. (fn. 224)
Several of the marcher lords maintained studs on their Shropshire lands: in the 1320s the Mortimer stud was wintered at Earnwood and the lords of Caus had a stud farm in Minsterley park during the later 14th century. (fn. 225) The earl of Arundel was, in this as in other matters, the most enterprising of the marcher lords and had four studs, two of them in Clun and Oswestry lordships. (fn. 226) In 1301 the stud of 40 mares at Clun was valued at £5 and that of 30 mares at Oswestry at £2 10s. (fn. 227) In 1302 Edward I ordered the studs to be seized and the better mares retained for his own use in part payment of a debt. (fn. 228) By the end of the 14th century there were two studs at Clun, one in Clun forest and the other in 'the park of Boror', and the Oswestry stud was divided between the upper and lower parks at Oswestry and Bromhurst park in Aston, near Oswestry. (fn. 229) There was a total of 26 great horses (6 of them stallions), 55 mares, 32 colts, and 33 foals on Arundel's marcher estates in the mid 14th century, and 214 horses were among his son's forfeited possessions at Clun and Oswestry in 1397. (fn. 230) Horses were moved between the studs; the largest numbers were kept in the forest stud at Clun, and the keeper of the stud there in 1400-1 accounted for 245 animals, including 151 mares, at the start of the year, of which 47 were carried off by the Welsh rebels, 11 were sold, and 8 died of murrain. (fn. 231) The horses ate large amounts of hay and oats and 'at the time of leaping the mares' the stallions were fed a bread made from peas. (fn. 232) Considerable sums were spent on the care of the horses in the studs: in 1362-3 the receiver of Oswestry accounted for £18 9s. 8½d. spent on the horses, including candles for the stables in winter, cloth for blankets, and sulphur, fur, and honey for treating mares with mange. (fn. 233) Horses from the studs were occasionally quartered on other Shropshire manors and cannot have been welcome guests. In 1313-14 the earl's destrier, Morel Lestrange, and a dozen or so colts spent varying periods at Ruyton, Wroxeter, Lydley, and Shrawardine and were fed oats and bran. The farrier of the lord of Great Ness was called in at Ruyton to treat the war horse and some of the colts for mange; he used pig fat, olive oil, and honey. (fn. 234) During the 14th century the receiver of Ruyton accounted regularly for the cost of looking after horses on their way between Oswestry and Clun; in 1360-1 the reeve of Wroxeter fed 12 cart horses which had come from London and in 1363-4 the reeve of Kinnerley spent 73s. 4d. on 8 war horses during a stay of 98 days: the sum covered the hire of a stable, 2 bu. of oats a day, and 2s. spent on medicine for a sick horse. (fn. 235)
Sheep were the most profitable stock reared on Shropshire demesnes. Evidence for sheep farming can be found in most parts of the county during the period but the poor soils of the Clee hills plateau, the south-west and central uplands, and parts of the north-west plain provided the best environment for the Clun or mountain sheep, a light-weight breed with polled head and white or mottled face which produced a fine, short-woolled fleece. (fn. 236) Most evidence for the size and management of flocks and the marketing of wool comes from the demesnes of the marcher lords, in particular the earl of Arundel's estates. For the FitzAlans sheep farming was big business, amenable to much closer central supervision than arable demesne farming, and much more profitable. (fn. 237) In 1301 the FitzAlans' Shropshire demesnes provided grazing for 900 sheep, with 460 more in the adjoining marcher lordships of Clun (300) and Oswestry (160); the figure for Clun, however, can hardly be accurate, representing only what was available at Bicton; in 1349 over 3,000 of Arundel's 5,385 sheep in Shropshire and the march were in the lordship of Clun. (fn. 238) In 1371-2 a bailiff or stock keeper at Clun directly managed nine flocks, each of about 240 sheep, kept in seven places; he was responsible for buying and selling sheep, supplying cart loads of hay to the flocks, paying the wages of seven shepherds, and arranging the washing and shearing of 1,945 sheep at the rate of 1d. for every ten sheep. In addition he organized transfers of sheep between flocks kept on other manors under the care of demesne officials. (fn. 239) Flocks were frequently moved between manors: in 1313-14, for example, a flock spent the winter months at Wroxeter before being driven to Clun, and in 1372-3 the bailiff of Clunton and Kempton handed over 240 sheep to the reeve of Bicton to stock a new grange there but received in his turn 237 hoggets (yearling sheep) from the reeve of Clunbury. (fn. 240) Sheep could be kept on manors where there was no longer any demesne arable. At Upton Magna, where the demesne had been leased before 1300, a new sheepcot was built in 1313-14 and 24 a. were assarted to provide oats and straw for a flock of sheep sent from Clun; in 1381 the farmer of the demesnes at 'Neuton' and Bicton in Clun (where four flocks totalling 981 sheep were pastured in 1371-2) was ordered to provide enough litter for the sheep kept there. (fn. 241)
In 1349 the earl of Arundel had 422 sheep in the lordship of Oswestry and 452 in Ruyton. The Oswestry flock, which was kept at Llwyn-y-mapsis in Sweeney township, was maintained at just over 500 sheep in the early 1360s; in 1394-5 there were 260 sheep in the flock but by then there was another flock at Sandford. (fn. 242) Sheep had been kept at Sandford before the manor was acquired by the earl of Arundel in the 1360s but were reintroduced only when it proved difficult to find tenants for the demesnes in the late 1370s; a flock of about 300 was kept there until the spring of 1397 when the remaining sheep were sold, the shepherd paid off, and the sheepcot leased. (fn. 243) The most detailed accounts survive for the flock at Ruyton. There was an inauspicious start to sheep farming there in 1319-20 when 176 sheep were sent from Kempton, in Clunbury, and a shepherd engaged to look after the new flock; 30 of the sheep died of murrain and another 30 had to be sold. No more sheep are recorded at Ruyton until 1335-6 when there were 232 left at the end of the year after 32 had been killed for the larder. (fn. 244) The flock was then increased by purchase and transfer from Oswestry to a peak of 969 sheep in 1344-5; after that it was reduced by sales and natural wastage to between 400 and 450 in the late 1340s and early 1350s. In 1354-5 murrain reduced the flock by 35 per cent to 252 and it was maintained at that level for the rest of the 14th century (Table IV). (fn. 245)
There is little detailed information on the size and management of other demesne flocks. When Lydley Hayes demesne was leased in 1316 the stock leased with it comprised 240 sheep, 22 oxen, and 22 cows. In 1374 there were 879 sheep at Caus and Wallop of which 352 died of murrain during the year and the flock had shrunk to 439 when it was recorded for the last time in 1402; in 1385 the demesne meadows at Cound supported over 300 sheep but none remained by 1416 when the hay from the meadows was being sold annually. (fn. 246) The Stranges kept sheep on their manors of Dodington and Blakemere during the 14th century and there was close co-operation between the manors. In 1341-2 there was a flock of 247 milking ewes at Dodington of which 89 were sent to Blakemere and the rest died of murrain before shearing and lambing. During 1343-4 Blakemere sent 271 lambs to Dodington, and the 134 hoggets which remained at Dodington at the end of the year were handed over to the bailiff of Blakemere. In 1369-70 the 420 wethers kept at Blakemere were sold off after shearing but there were 241 sheep on the manor in 1379-80 and 210 in 1381-2. (fn. 247) Small flocks of sheep are found on the Mortimer manors of Cleobury Barnes and Stanton Lacy in the last quarter of the 14th century as part of a mixed farming enterprise. At Cleobury Barnes 200 sheep were fattened for the household in 1375-6, and in May 1380 the bailiff of Stanton Lacy bought 227 sheep at Knighton and sold 72 of them to the household after shearing. No tithes were due on sheep bought and sold in the same year and in 1376 the bailiff of Stanton Lacy bought 260 sheep for £15 15s. 5½d. in May and sold 240 of them to a Leominster merchant for £14 after shearing; by 1390 the number purchased had risen to 302, of which 294 were sold after shearing to a Hereford dealer, but in 1393 that enterprise ended with the 'sale' of the 184 sheep remaining on the manor to the receiver of Wigmore. (fn. 248)
Sources: S.P.L., Deeds 7189, 7192, 7203, 7266, 7271, 7327, 7334, 7338, 7340.
Sheep farming remained important to the economies of the larger religious houses in the county after the decline of the arable demesnes, but little evidence survives. (fn. 249) They continued to keep sheep long after the great lay lords had abandoned their demesne flocks. When the abbot and convent of Haughmond leased Downton grange in 1465 they reserved the use of the sheepfold and half a croft and common pasture for their sheep, and the lessee had to cart six loads of hay a year to the sheepfold and provide enough straw for the sheep. (fn. 250) During the 15th century a small flock was kept on the home grange at Lilleshall: 20 wethers were bought for it in 1428-9 and in 1436-7 a man was paid 2s. to look after the lambs which were fed on milk from the dairy at Atcham; there were 40 sheep and lambs on the grange at the Dissolution. (fn. 251)
Daily custody and care of the sheep was in the hands of shepherds, engaged by the flock managers or manorial officials. One shepherd could look after a flock of about 250, as at Ruyton in the later 14th century, but two or three shepherds were employed earlier in the century when between 700 and 900 sheep were kept on the manor, and the flock manager paid six shepherds to look after 2,000 sheep at Clun in 1371-2. (fn. 252) The shepherds were sometimes provided with additional help during lambing, and the cost of washing and shearing was accounted for separately, according to the number of sheep. (fn. 253) On manors where there were no permanent flocks shepherds were taken on temporarily and paid by the week. (fn. 254) Shepherds employed all year were paid between 3s. and 10s., usually with an allowance of oats. There was no standard wage for shepherds on the Arundel estates. Shepherds at Ruyton were paid 4s. in 1313, 3s. in 1335-6, 5s. in 1347-8, 6s. in 1361-2, and 6s. 8d. in 1387-8; those at Oswestry 5s. in 1362-3 and 6s. 8d., with a livery of 4 bu. of rye, in 1394-5; and the shepherd at Sandford was paid 7s. in 1380-1. (fn. 255) Most generously treated was Richard Perkyn who was engaged as a shepherd by the abbot of Lilleshall in 1398; he was to be paid 10s. a year, with 2 ells of Welsh cloth, 4 qr. 2 bu. of rye, and salt and oats for his pottage, and he was promised a place in an almshouse when he could no longer carry out his duties. (fn. 256) Sometimes a house was provided for the shepherd in the grange or on the sheep walk; 40s. was spent at Ruyton in 1386-7 to make a new grange and shepherd's house at Coton, and expenditure on a new pinfold and sheep pens followed. (fn. 257)
The demesne flocks were pastured on hills and heaths and any arable land when it was common or fallow; in winter they were fed with hay and sometimes with peas and vetches, and with oats for milking ewes and milk and bran for lambs. (fn. 258) Apart from extra attention during lambing, such as the provision of fern or pea straw litter, care was rudimentary. (fn. 259) The accounts record frequent purchases of red stone for marking the sheep, and a sheep bell costing 3d. was bought for Stanton Lacy in 1385-6 after some sheep had been killed by dogs. (fn. 260) Tallow and oil were bought to waterproof the sheep; 'tarpitch' and verdigris for treating cuts, sheep scab, and foot rot; and considerable amounts of ointment for unspecified ailments. (fn. 261) Disease took a heavy toll of flocks, and the recorded deaths in individual flocks confirm the evidence in the 1340 lay subsidy of the devastating effects of sheep murrain in the county. The bailiff at High Ercall reported the deaths of 16 rams, 21 ewes, 2 hogs, and 9 lambs in 1338-9; 146 of the 169 ewes in the demesne flock at Dodington in 1341-2 died of murrain before lambing and 28 per cent of the flock at Ruyton died in 1339-40. (fn. 262) In the 30 years between 1319 and 1394 for which deaths are recorded in the dry, non-breeding flock at Ruyton an average of 14 per cent a year died of disease and, in addition to 1339-40, losses were exceptionally high in 1346-7, 1348-9, 1354-5, 1358-9, and 1379-80. (fn. 263) Thirty-six per cent of the flock at Sandford in 1396-7 died before it was sold off. (fn. 264) Deaths were carefully recorded as either before or after shearing, and in the lordship of Clun the casualty figures were checked by the inspectors of the carcasses of the lord's sheep (cadaveratores). (fn. 265) Most of the demesne flocks for which records survive were non-breeding and numbers were made up by purchase while weak and surplus sheep were sold off. At Stanton Lacy the flock was increased by sheep bought at Knighton and animals were sold to dealers from Hereford and Leominster; as well as purchasing the tithe lambs of Clun, the flock manager at Clun in 1371-2 was buying sheep at Knighton and in 1341-2 the bailiff of Ruyton sent sheep to be sold at the new fair at Shrewsbury. (fn. 266)
The short-woolled sheep of the Shropshire demesne flocks did not produce heavy fleeces. Fleeces sold from the flock at Stanton Lacy between 1385 and 1393 weighed on average between 1.3 lb. and 1.9 lb. (fn. 267) There is insufficient evidence to show how far disease may have affected fleece weights but at Ruyton fleece weights of 1.5 lb. in 1336-7 had risen to 1.8 lb. in 1370-1. (fn. 268) The market value of the fleeces was high: in the surviving wool price schedules for the 14th and 15th centuries Shropshire wool was second in value only to Herefordshire wool. (fn. 269) In 1337 the king ordered the purchase for export of 1,500 sacks of wool in Shropshire at a price of £7 a sack, compared with £8 a sack for Herefordshire wool. (fn. 270)
Price schedules give an idea of the comparative value of Shropshire wool but the price actually received by the producers varied according to the amount of wool available for sale and the way in which it was marketed. Buildwas abbey may have been exporting its wool directly at the beginning of the period but most of the wool produced by the Shropshire monasteries was probably sold locally in the later Middle Ages. Shrewsbury was emerging in the period as the centre of the wool trade along the English border and in the Welsh marches, and in 1326 it was named as a staple town. (fn. 271) In 1339 merchants from Bridgnorth and Ludlow as well as from Shrewsbury are found exporting wool through London. (fn. 272) By the 15th century monastic marketing of wool was on a very modest scale: in 1428-9 and 1436-7 the treasurer of Lilleshall abbey sold about £10 worth of wool a year, mostly in small amounts to women for spinning. (fn. 273) Stanton Lacy in the last quarter of the 14th century is an example of a manor where wool from a demesne flock was marketed directly. Between 177 and 300 fleeces a year were sold to merchants from Hereford or Leominster at prices varying between 3½d. and 4d. a lb., or up to £6 13s. 4d. a sack. Three hundred fleeces (1¼ sacks) were sold for £5 16s. 8d. in 1389-90; that represented a profit for the year of £2 13s. or 2d. a sheep. (fn. 274)
It was more usual on the larger estates for the fleeces, after the deduction of tithes, to be sent to a centre where the sale of large quantities of wool could be negotiated; only the lockets and skins of dead sheep were sold off the individual manors. In the early 14th century fleeces from the bishop of Coventry and Lichfield's manor of Prees were sent to Haywood in Staffordshire; in 1307-8 over 8 sacks of wool, to which Prees had contributed over 300 fleeces, were sold for c. £8 a sack. (fn. 275) Clun was the collection centre for wool produced on the earl of Arundel's extensive manors. After deduction of tithes and sometimes a rough calculation of their value (see Table V), the fleeces were carried to Clun where the wool was weighed and sorted, a task that took the steward and auditor three days to supervise in 1387. (fn. 276) That year there were 2,505 fleeces, weighing 9 sacks 9 stones, to be dealt with and added to 10 sacks which had been kept in store from the previous year. (fn. 277) Few details survive of the mechanics of sale but the wool was probably taken up to London. In 1395 the receiver of Oswestry was informed from Arundel that 2,143 fleeces from the flocks at Ruyton, Sandford, and Llwyn-y-mapsis, which had been collected at Oswestry over the previous three years, had been sold to a London merchant. (fn. 278) The profit level is difficult to gauge: in the early years of Edward II's reign wool sales from Clun were nearly £400 a year with the clear profit estimated at over £170 a year, and in 1376 wool from the FitzAlan estates in Surrey, Sussex, and the march was sold for £2,041 6s. 8d. (fn. 279) For the earl of Arundel at least the rewards of sheep farming in the 14th century were evidently worth the high level of organization involved.
|no. of fleeces||value||value per fleece|
Sources: S.P.L., Deeds 7325, 7327, 7338, 7340-1, 7343-4, 9766.
Herds of pigs were kept on the demesnes but they are mostly found at the beginning of the period before many manors were given over to specialized sheep farming. There were 74 pigs and 8 goats among the demesne stock at Clun in the early years of Edward II's reign and 101 pigs at Ruyton in 1313, of which 39 died of murrain. (fn. 280) Pigs were moved between the FitzAlan manors for fattening: in 1313- 14 there were 145 pigs at Shrawardine of which 20 had come from Ruyton, 33 from Clun, and 7 from Whitchurch, and by the end of the year they had reached the lord's larder, 75 of them in the form of flitches of bacon. (fn. 281) A small herd of pigs was kept at Adderley as a commercial enterprise in the unusual conditions of 1318- 24. In 1318 the herd was established with the purchase of 33 pigs for £3 10s. 6d.; they were sold next year for £5 15s. and 18 more bought for £2 15s. In 1321-2 six were sold from the herd of 30 for 3s. 1d. each and next year the price reached 4s. for each pig sold but fell in 1323-4 to 2s. 1d. each. (fn. 282) The demesne herd at Dodington rose from 21 in 1333-4 to 46 in 1341-2 and 61 in 1343-4; some of the young pigs were sold but most were destined for the larder. (fn. 283) There were 60 pigs on the demesne at Stokesay in 1395-6. (fn. 284) Demesne pigs were fed on peas and beans and, though a pigman was employed for part of the year at Adderley, it was usual to combine the care of the pigs with that of the dairy cattle; at the beginning of the 15th century there was a small herd of pigs at Blakemere in the dairy at Yockings Gate. (fn. 285)
Other foodstuffs were reared on the demesnes, sometimes for sale but more usually for lords' larders. There was a flock of geese and several dozen chickens at Acton Round in the early 14th century and in 1314 the bailiff paid Roger le Voulare 3½d. a day for 14 days to catch partridges and supplied him with 2 chickens for his falcon; at the same time the bailiff of Wroxeter was feeding 2 bu. of wheat to the partridges. (fn. 286) Later in the century there was a flock of geese and eight swans on the demesne at Dodington and in addition several hundred hens were received each year as a payment for being allowed to cut turves and most of them were handed over to feed the lord's household or his falcons. (fn. 287) At Kinnerley the hens received by the bailiff were sold but at Stanton Lacy they were kept and their eggs were sold. (fn. 288) Geese were bred for market at both Stanton Lacy and Cleobury Barnes in the late 14th century, and there were several dozen capons among the demesne stock at Stokesay at the same period. (fn. 289) The only stock accounted for at Kinnerley in the 1330s were pigeons; 232 were produced in 1336-7, of which 146 were sold, and they were being fed on oats in winter. (fn. 290) In 1379-80 a new dovecot cost 25s. 8d. at Stanton Lacy; it was much cheaper that the one built at Blakemere in 1431-2 for £6 10s. but Blakemere supplied 1,222 pigeons to Lady Talbot's household in 1410. (fn. 291) Warrens, too, continued to be a feature on many, if not most demesnes. In 1337 rabbits, hares, pheasants, and partridges were stolen from Joan Talbot's warrens in Richard's Castle, and those were probably the creatures most commonly kept. (fn. 292) In the 14th century rabbits apparently began to escape the warren's confines; in 1377-8 the reeve of Earnwood painted the trees there with tar to prevent their being eaten by rabbits, (fn. 293) and in 1454 William Newport of High Ercall promised to keep his rabbits off his tenants' crops provided that they agreed to keep their hunting dogs away from the rabbits. (fn. 294) Manorial stews and fisheries provided fish for the lord's household: at Myddle in the 1420s and 1430s several hundred eels were caught each year and sent to the household or sold, but the fishery was farmed out by 1443-4. (fn. 295)
Whether or not the lords chose to exploit their demesnes directly they had considerable control over the resources of the countryside. In the 14th century marcher lords were advancing, and largely establishing, the claim that 'the pasture, forest, waste and water of the lordship in general were also part of their demesne in the broadest sense'. (fn. 296) Such a claim, with the implication that others could be forced to pay for the use or abuse of those resources, was of great significance in a county that was largely pastoral and still extensively wooded. Pasture was the demesne resource which was most in demand by others and which was amenable to exploitation in the most flexible fashion. Meadows were usually the last part of the demesne to be leased and the hay which was produced in large quantities (162 cart loads from nine meadows at Blakemere in 1402-3 and nearly 50 wagon loads a year at Stanton Lacy in the 1380s) was used for the demesne stock or sold. (fn. 297) Hay was highly profitable, and in the lordship of Oswestry extra income came from the sale of the aftermath or ruannum. (fn. 298) Where pasture was not required for demesne herds considerable sums could be raised by the sale of herbage or by the agistment of tenants' cattle. (fn. 299) In the last quarter of the 14th century the manor of Stanton Lacy was being intensively exploited and pasture proved a valuable asset; the herbage of uncultivated demesne and of the orchards and gardens was sold and meadow was offered for sale by the acre. In 1374-5 36 a. fetched £6 4s. 10d. and in 1379-80 45 a. were sold for £9 1s. 9½d., two portions of 4½ a. significantly going to Ludlow butchers. (fn. 300) When there was sufficient demand agistment could be more profitable than herbage: at Cleobury Barnes in 1378-9 a field which had been sold for herbage for 4s. earned 10s. 6d. when agisted. (fn. 301) The parks which were expensively maintained for the lord's deer provided additional pasture for herbage and agistment. (fn. 302) At Adderley in 1318-19 the lord's animals were pastured in the small park but £2 17s. 4½d. was collected for the herbage of affers and cattle in the great park, and in the park at Cleobury Barnes 35 cattle were agisted for between 4d. and 1s. a head in 1377-8. (fn. 303)
Many lords kept one or more parks in the 14th and 15th centuries, especially in central and eastern Shropshire. Between 1350 and 1370 there was a flurry of park creations with 11 or so new ones being formed. (fn. 304) It seems likely that in many of the 11 cases imparkment was part of the readjustment by lords to the new conditions prevailing after the Black Death, although in no case is that certain. As before parks continued to be used as demesne enclosures for stock and woodland, and for hunting. When Myddle park was broken into c. 1314 not only deer, but 24 mares, 16 colts, and 80 oxen were stolen. (fn. 305) In some woods in the county there were large numbers of deer in the late Middle Ages, and stocks had perhaps risen appreciably since the early 14th century as the population level fell and the pressure on land, especially marginal land, lessened. In Hogstow forest, actually an extensive tract of private woodland in Minsterley, deer were so plentiful that the hilly ground around Hope could not be cultivated, and Hogstow still contained 600 fallow deer in 1521. (fn. 306) The woods around Clun were also well stocked with deer, and in the 14th century the FitzAlans could take at least 70 a year. (fn. 307) Those deer were better protected than the ones in the royal forest of Morfe where it was reported that the king's deer had no browsing because of the large numbers of sheep and pigs commoned in the forest by the surrounding townships. (fn. 308) Woodland resources were jealously husbanded by the parkers and forest officials of the marcher lords. Heavy fines were imposed for putting cattle on woodland pasture without licence and in 1344 five men were amerced £4 16s. in Clun for claiming that a wood was theirs alone 'to the prejudice of the lord'. (fn. 309) A charge of 1d. a horse or head of cattle was levied for winter agistment in Clun forest and the charge was doubled in the summer; payment was made for over 500 animals in 1387 and over 100 horses were agisted each year at the beginning of the 16th century. (fn. 310)
Throughout the county parks, woods, and forests provided food, in the form of nuts, acorns, and berries, for large numbers of pigs. Goats were detested for their destructiveness and were kept out of the woods, (fn. 311) but pigs were encouraged between Michaelmas and Martinmas, provided mast was available and pannage dues paid. The amount charged for pannage and the associated payment known as tack, wormtack, or greystack varied according both to the manor and to the number and ages of the pigs, and payment was made both in money and in pigs for the lord's larder. The rules governing pannage appear complex and often obscure but it is clear from the accounts that pannage yielded a regular and considerable income from the 14th (fn. 312) to the 16th (fn. 313) centuries.
The woods had other resources which could be exploited. Standing timber was a convenient capital reserve for landlords, and at the end of the 14th century Richard, Lord Talbot, sold over £800 worth of timber from Blakemere in 13 years. (fn. 314) Brushwood and branches were sold for firewood and supplementary winter feed for stock, and those who attempted to help themselves were heavily fined. (fn. 315) Licences were required to dig clay and cut peat or turves. (fn. 316) Even the birds and the bees were appropriated to the lord's use. Bird traps in the woods were leased out and swarms of bees were the lord's property. (fn. 317) Beehives (bykes) were kept in the woods and women employed to collect the honey. Sometimes the hives were leased in return for half the produce: in 1395-6 the bailiff at Blakemere accounted for 46 hives, 4 of which were in the hands of tenants. In 1313 the bailiff of Ruyton sold 3 gallons of honey from 4 bykes and a century later 13 bykes at Blakemere produced 8 gallons of honey and 16 gallons of mead. (fn. 318) In the 1380s over 20 gallons of honey were produced and consumed at Clun each year and 50 gallons of honey at Oswestry in 1397 were valued at 7d. a gallon. (fn. 319)
The building, maintenance, and use of a mill was another way in which the lord controlled and exploited his tenants and one which had been recently imposed on the Welsh communities of the march. (fn. 320) In 1301 the bond tenants of the lordships of Clun and Oswestry were obliged to cart millstones and timber for repairs and as late as 1401 a fine of £1 was imposed on a tenant in the Upper Gorddwr in the welshry of Caus who refused to carry timber to the mill. (fn. 321) The building of a new mill represented a considerable investment of money and labour and the cost was recouped by the maintenance of a monopoly of grinding corn or fulling cloth for the lords' mills. (fn. 322) Shrewsbury, abbey's monopoly of grinding in Shrewsbury was the cause of a lengthy dispute and was not broken until 1328; it is not surprising that mills were singled out for attack in the Welsh raids of the 15th century. (fn. 323) The valuation placed on mills fluctuated with changing economic conditions and many were reported to be in a ruinous condition in the mid 14th century. (fn. 324) Even so it was not difficult to find tenants who were prepared to take long leases with heavy rents, sometimes-in the 14th century at least-paid in corn, and with the obligation to keep the mills in good repair. (fn. 325) Although the income from mills probably declined on most estates with the erosion of seigneurial authority and monopoly, as it certainly did on those of the Talbot family, it formed for the monastic houses a small but useful source of revenue throughout the period. (fn. 326) At the Dissolution the revenue from Haughmond abbey's 26 mills made up over 7 per cent of the total income of the house. (fn. 327) Five of the mills were fulling mills, (fn. 328) and it appears that, perhaps especially in the 14th century, there had been a considerable increase in the number of such mills in the county serving its textile industry. Certainly it has been claimed that the mid 14th century saw a 'mushrooming' of fulling mills in the lordship of Chirk, on Shropshire's northwestern border, with much of the cloth being marketed at Oswestry. (fn. 329)
The lords also attempted to profit from the trade in animals and the marketing of agricultural produce by their tenants and others. Markets and fairs were created at nine places in Edward I's last years and during his son's reign: Albrighton (1303), Cheswardine (1304), Wistanstow (1306), Prees (1307), New Ruyton (1311), Shifnal (1315), Adderley (1315), Chetwynd (1318), and Leebotwood (1320). (fn. 330) Sometimes a new market or fair gained by being less restrictive. The profits of Whitchurch market and fair declined in the 15th century and it has been suggested that Prees, Market Drayton, and Wem were preferred as less regulated marts by the Talbots' tenants in Whitchurch. (fn. 331) On the whole, however, the newly created markets and fairs of the early 14th century, like those of the 13th century, indicate more the extent of seigneurial ambition than of local trade. Few of them became firmly established or even managed to survive into the 16th century. (fn. 332) The market and fair established at Chetwynd in 1318 may have been intended to allow Sir Philip de Chetwynd to profit from the cattle being driven from Wales to relieve the famine but they failed to rival nearby Newport's, and the market obtained for Adderley in 1315 proved to be no threat to Market Drayton. (fn. 333) The earl of Arundel's new borough of New Ruyton, where he obtained a Wednesday market and a 5-day fair in 1311, was for instance always overshadowed by Oswestry where his market and two fairs were valued at £20 a year in 1301. In the later Middle Ages Oswestry became the leading market for cloth and cattle in the area and it eclipsed the smaller markets around. (fn. 334) At Oswestry the royal charter of 1330 was one of those that merely confirmed or varied the exercise of existing market and fair rights. (fn. 335) Other mid 14th-century charters served similar purposes. At Church Stretton a charter (1337) was necessitated by the passing of a Crown manor into private hands, (fn. 336) and at Ludlow and Halesowen charters of 1328 and 1344 do not seem to mark the beginnings of regulated trade in those places. (fn. 337)
The leasing of the demesnes
The decline in demesne profits was a consequence of the withdrawal of the larger landlords from direct involvement in agriculture of any sort. The process had begun on some estates before 1300 and the unsettled economic and political conditions of the 14th and early 15th centuries made demesne administration increasingly difficult and the steady income which could be produced by leasing the demesne arable and pasture increasingly attractive. After the early 15th century direct exploitation of the demesnes ceased almost entirely and, although monastic landlords retained home farms to support their communities, the great lay lords, who rarely visited the county except to hunt, were content to retain a few parks and meadows for the support of their studs. (fn. 338) On the earl of Arundel's estates arable farming was never conducted on a large scale, and in 1301 most of the small arable demesnes were reported to be in the hands of the villeins while the 5 carucates in Oswestry were held by three prominent burgesses. (fn. 339) As new estates were acquired the arable demesnes were leased and the meadows used to support stock. The demesne arable at Lydley, which had been the centre of a flourishing estate when the Templar preceptory was suppressed in 1308, was disposed of on a stock-and-land lease to a syndicate of four tenants in 1324, and the exploitation of the demesne arable at Aston, Sandford, and Kinnerley did not survive their absorption into the lordship of Oswestry. Even where, as at Ruyton, the amount of demesne arable was being increased by assarting in the earlier 14th century it was with the intention of swelling the rent roll. (fn. 340) The earls, however, were reluctant to lease demesne meadows, which were kept in hand as long as there were demesne herds and flocks to be fed. (fn. 341) At Caus the whole demesne was kept in hand longer and the Staffords did not lease the arable until the early 1380s; there was still mixed farming at the same period on the Mortimer manors of Stanton Lacy and Cleobury Barnes but there is no evidence that such relatively small-scale agricultural activity was profitable enough to be prolonged far into the 15th century. (fn. 342) There was a more idiosyncratic pattern of sporadic exploitation on the estate around Whitchurch acquired by the Talbot family in 1383. Prompted either by an interest in agriculture or by an ill conceived belief that more money could be made out of direct exploitation than from varieties of leasing, each new holder of the estate exploited a small part of the demesnes directly for a few years, but those experiments in 1383-7, 1391-1401, and 1413-22 were not at all successful and by the mid 15th century the entire income from the demesne came from rents and sales of pasturage. (fn. 343)
On monastic estates the general pattern was a contraction in arable farming in the face of the 14th-century crises, a switch wherever possible to stock rearing, and the leasing of those parts of the demesne which were no longer worth exploiting. The pattern of leasing by Haughmond abbey is probably typical of most of the monastic demesnes. The first lease was in 1316, of an estate outside Shropshire; it was followed by leases of small demesne holdings and buildings mostly at some distance from the abbey. Haughmond began to lease its granges from the 1340s but often retained part of the buildings for its own use; by the late 14th century only the demesne round the abbey was retained as a home farm. (fn. 344)
As the greater landlords withdrew from direct involvement in agriculture and leased their demesnes there were plenty of opportunities for those in a position to take advantage of changing conditions. Their activities can usually be traced only imperfectly in the leasing policies of the landlords whom they replaced in the cultivation of the soil.
Evidence survives from several parts of the county of a practice by which part of the demesne arable was annually let for sowing in return for a money rent or a part-the third or fourth sheaf-of the proceeds. A similar practice was used for customary land for which tenants could not be found, (fn. 345) but when applied to demesne arable, or even meadow, it could be a convenient and profitable way of exploiting that part of the demesne which the lord did not have the resources or inclination to farm directly. At Stanton Lacy between 1373 and 1390 up to 66 a. was let annually for sowing, at 12d. an acre for winter wheat and 6d. an acre for other crops. (fn. 346) A similar system of share cropping was in operation in the lordship of Blakemere where between 1399 and 1403 the lord's share, the third sheaf, of oats from a field previously worth £5 6s. 8d. as pasturage was sold for an average of £13 a year. The returns from the third sheaf dropped after the Welsh raid on Whitchurch in 1410 but it was a way of raising revenue from land which would not otherwise have been cultivated and it seems to have remained in use on the estate until 1468. (fn. 347) Sowing for the fourth sheaf was used in parts of the lordship of Oswestry as a way of attracting back tenants and raising revenue from the demesnes after the Welsh raids. (fn. 348) It is found also in the lordship of Caus: in 1366-7 the parker of Worthen accounted for 7 bu. of mixed corn received for land leased for the third sheaf and in 1383 the demesne arable at Caus was leased with the oxen in return for the third sheaf as a preliminary to leases for years and money rents. (fn. 349)
Some Shropshire demesnes were in the hands of tenants by the early 14th century. (fn. 350) Although it is rarely possible to discover the date of the first leases, rentals and accounts suggest that initially the demesnes were leased to the tenants as a whole or to groups of tenants. By the 1380s most of Fulk Corbet's demesnes were in the hands of the tenants: at Cardeston the tenants paid a joint corn rent for the arable demesne, at Yockleton c. 283 a. were held by the customary tenants and cottagers, and at Habberley the demesne arable was leased as nooks held at will. (fn. 351) The demesne arable at Ruyton was leased in 1346-7 to various tenants for 25s. a year, and in 1409 a group of tenants, headed by the vicar, paid 20s. a year. (fn. 352) Alberbury priory's grange at Pecknall was leased to a group of four peasants in 1373 and in 1406 six tenants took the demesne at Malinslee to hold at will for 43s. 2d. a year. (fn. 353) At Church Pulverbatch the tenants were willing to pay a rent of £18 2s. 1d. a year for the demesne and the mill, even in the unsettled years of the early 15th century when other rents were being reduced. (fn. 354) Demesne meadow and pasture were usually kept in hand longer than arable but when leased could command much higher rents though the tenants usually sought the security of long leases and the right to hold in severalty and inclose. When the demesne meadows at Pontesbury were leased in 1425 the common rights of other copyholders were excluded and at Condover at the same time meadow and pasture were being leased for terms of 20 to 100 years with permission to inclose. (fn. 355)
No single form of lease appears to have gained predominance but there was a tendency for the term to become longer. On Haughmond abbey's estates the lease for lives found in the earlier 14th century had been replaced by the mid 15th century by the lease for years. Haughmond is unusual in that the leases in force at the Dissolution were for a uniform 60 or 61 years; elsewhere there was considerable variation in the length of terms. Although lay lords were not prepared to grant such long leases as monastic landlords, their leases seem to have lengthened during the 15th century. (fn. 356) One unusual feature of Shropshire leases in the period was the widespread condition that lessees should pay a heriot of the best beast on the death of each tenant; that evidently provided useful additional income. (fn. 357) Sometimes the lessor retained an interest in part of the demesne buildings: when leasing half the vill of Cotwall in 1441 Thomas Newport reserved for his own use the large barn and two sheepcots, and Haughmond abbey reserved the use of the sheepfold at Downton grange in 1465 and imposed on the tenant the obligation of providing hay and straw for the abbey's sheep there. (fn. 358) More usually the demesne buildings were included in the lease and the lessees were required to maintain them in good repair and replace them when necessary; they were often given help in the form of timber and rent allowances when substantial rebuilding was required. (fn. 359)
The lessees were varied, but most of those who took leases were already tenants of the lessor. (fn. 360) Sometimes it is clear from the terms of the lease that the farmer was the equivalent of a demesne servant. In 1341 the lessee of Haughmond abbey's grange at Beobridge was responsible for collecting rents, accounting for the profits of the court, and maintaining a hall, chapel, abbot's chamber, two barns, and a bakehouse; in 1483 the grange was still leased on substantially the same terms though the lease was for years rather than lives and the rent was paid in money rather than wheat, oats, and barley. (fn. 361) The husbandmen who took the lease of Lady Clopton's Broseley demesnes in 1426 were to collect her rents and other manorial profits, maintain the inclosures around the demesne land, and bring in the harvest using the services of the customary tenants. (fn. 362) Sometimes, however, the lessees of the more substantial demesnes were of a more elevated rank, entitled to call themselves esquires or gentlemen. (fn. 363) Margaret Gresley, who leased Chelmarsh manor with all its lands and buildings in 1454-5, was far removed from a demesne servant, and Philip de Medewe, the farmer of Longnor from whom 14 oxen, 10 bullocks, and a heifer were stolen in 1403, was clearly a substantial stock breeder. (fn. 364) In the 1530s Prior Bayley of Wenlock leased Madeley to Hugh Leighton, esquire, of Rodenhurst, and Oxenbold to Richard Lee, esquire, of Wattlesborough, bailiff of the franchise of Wenlock 1542-3. (fn. 365) By the 16th century it was the local gentry families who were both farming the demesnes and supplying estate officials for the larger monastic houses and for the Stafford family in the lordship of Caus. (fn. 366) The most upwardly mobile of the lessees of demesnes in the later Middle Ages were the burgesses of Shrewsbury and Oswestry. Shrewsbury merchants were some of the most important of Haughmond abbey's tenants and were prepared to take leases of not only the abbey's fulling mills but also the granges within reach of the town; there was, however, some falling off in their enthusiasm in the early 16th century and rents which were buoyant in the 15th century had to be reduced. (fn. 367) Among the lessees of the Haughmond demesne at Aston, in Oswestry, were two Oswestry merchants. Prosperous Oswestry burgesses, such as Richard Ireland c. 1400, took advantage of the availability of demesne leases and acquired large holdings in and around the town and became the 'heirs of the soil'. (fn. 368)
The surviving records inevitably focus attention on the landlords' activities but during the period peasant holdings accounted for more land than the demesnes, and rents and the profits of lordship made up a larger part of seigneurial incomes than revenues from the demesnes, whether exploited directly or leased. At the beginning of the 14th century rents from tenants formed on average 46 per cent of the income expected from the FitzAlan estates in Shropshire and the march, and in the 15th century five sixths of the Talbots' estate around Whitchurch were in copyholders' hands and their rents accounted for a third of the total income, compared with a quarter from the exploitation of the remaining sixth which formed the demesne. (fn. 369) Beneath the formal nomenclature of bond or free, customary or copyhold, tenant at will or in advowry, lay the basic needs of the tenants in the arable, meadow, and pasture of their villages and townships and the constant interaction of landlord and tenant in the details of daily life. Changes in nomenclature during the period indicate that the balance was shifting slowly in favour of the tenant as the lords were forced to relax or reduce their demands for services and customary dues and payments in order to retain tenants and fill vacant holdings. Underpopulation and peasant mobility in the face of war and natural disaster or of excessive demands from lord or king were potent forces for change, and poverty as well as prosperity made for an active peasant market in land. Shropshire was predominantly a county of small holdings in the period, and economic conditions, though more favourable to tenants than to lords, were not so conducive to rapid peasant enrichment as in other regions. The pace of change was slow and uneven but the opportunities to acquire more land and a larger share of the resources of the countryside were there for those in a position to take advantage of them.
Peasant society in the 14th-century march has been described as 'not so much a pyramid in terms of wealth, but rather a broad plateau above which rose a few peaks', (fn. 370) and that probably applies to most of Shropshire for most of the century. At Adderley in 1322, when 14 bond tenants held half virgates and 18 held quarter virgates, services were calculated on the half-virgate unit. (fn. 371) At Little Wenlock 29 tenants held 34 customary holdings in the 1320s; they consisted of 15 half virgates, 17 quarter virgates, and 2 half nooks, and until Wenlock priory had leased its demesne in the manor at the beginning of the century each half virgate had owed the same labour services. (fn. 372) On Minsterley manor 26 tenants who were described in 1300 as tenants at will, or 'penimen', held half or quarter virgates and 10 bond tenants held half virgates at a rent of 2s. a year, but that rent had risen to 10s. by 1348 when labour services had probably been commuted. (fn. 373)
The erosion of any basic uniformity in holdings or rents, which had begun before the opening of the period, accelerated during the 14th century as opportunities increased for tenants to commute labour services and to rent portions of the demesne arable and meadow or small assarts in the wastes and woodlands. (fn. 374) In 1301 many of the customary holdings at Westhope in Clun and at Acton Round were supplemented by small portions of demesne arable and meadow, and at Little Wenlock the tenants could rent additional land as 'acres' from the former demesne or as acres of 'new' land, probably taken from the waste. (fn. 375) A survey of High Ercall in 1399 reveals that over half of the tenants were willing to pay up to four times the customary rent for extra meadow or small assarts to add to their half or quarter virgate. (fn. 376) An extent of Condover in 1363 lists the customary holdings of 90 tenants of the manor: 56 held less than a half virgate of 'old-hold' land and only two held one virgate or more. The 1363 extent did not, however, include assarted land; a further extent drawn up in 1421 shows that, while the pattern of 'old-hold' holdings had not greatly changed, most tenants held in addition small parcels of demesne or assarted land. The rent received from the parcels was almost double that from the customary holdings, which had become fixed before 1363 at 8s. a virgate in Condover township and 6s. 8d. elsewhere. (fn. 377) The importance to both lord and tenant of assarts as an addition to customary holdings can also be seen in the lordship of Oswestry. Whatever its origins, (fn. 378) the gwely had developed by the 14th century into a unit of rent assessment. Each gwely was divided into a number of individually rented holdings, forming part of a virgate or half virgate; in 1393 hundreds of small holdings were contained in the lordship's 49 gwelyau. Land assarted during the 14th century was not, however, allowed to be absorbed into the gwelyau and was arrented separately. (fn. 379)
The growing complexity of peasant holdings revealed by 14th-century extents indicates a vigorous peasant land market. Deeds, where they survive, illustrate the transactions in detail, as at Brockton and Larden, where hundreds of conveyances record the buying and selling of small parcels of land by free peasants in the 14th century. (fn. 380) The peasant land market was fuelled both by a buoyant demand for small pieces of land and by peasant mobility in the face of poverty and other misfortunes. Some peasants evidently just abandoned their holdings, but court rolls frequently record the formal surrender of holdings and the payment of a 'fare fee' (or 'varneth' on the lands of Wenlock priory), the converse of an entry fine. A tenant who gave up his lands at Aston in 1354 was charged only 11d. as fare fee because he was a pauper, but surrender fines were usually much larger and brought in £5 from Wenlock priory's tenants in Madeley in 1321-2. (fn. 381) Few custumals were as liberal as that of Pontesbury which allowed a tenant to leave his tenement for the lord to enjoy the profits until he wished to reclaim it, (fn. 382) but mortgages and similar arrangements made it possible for tenants to transfer land without permanently alienating it. The market in Welsh land was facilitated by the refinement during the 14th century of the prid deed, or Welsh mortgage, which made it possible to evade restrictions placed by the kindred or the lord on the alienation of land. Land was conveyed in return for an agreed sum of money, the prid, for a term of years, renewable until the mortgage was redeemed but usually amounting to alienation. (fn. 383) By means of such mortgages Haughmond abbey advanced money to starving peasants on its estate in Aston and Hisland during the agrarian crisis of 1314-18 and acquired in return small parcels of land. (fn. 384) The prid deed brought a much needed flexibility to the market in Welsh land and its advantages can be seen in operation in the lordship of Oswestry at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century. It enabled adjustments to be made in family territorial arrangements and also gave an opportunity for small tenants to increase and consolidate their holdings and for more ambitious investors, such as Richard Ireland and his fellow burgesses of Oswestry, to build up substantial rural holdings from vacant Welsh tenements. (fn. 385)
The increased availability of land, in combination with economic conditions that on the whole favoured the tenant rather than his lord, resulted in increased stratification within the ranks of the peasantry, although the structure of holdings continued to vary greatly from manor to manor. Some peasant families accumulated large holdings made up from one or more customary holdings with the addition of extra holdings of pasture or meadow and parcels of the demesne or old assarts. At Hopton Wafers in 1412 there were three such composite holdings: one consisted of a messuage, half virgate, and nook, a quarter messuage and half virgate, and a messuage and half virgate; the second comprised two messuages and half virgates; and the third a messuage and 3 nooks, a toft and nook, and a cottage. Such accumulations were not always stable and long-lasting. At Hopton Wafers 15 years later two tenants paid rent for more than one holding: one of them held the former demesne, two messuages and half virgates, and a quarter of 'Lewytefeld', and the other held a messuage, half virgate, and nook, a quarter of 'Pillokes land', and a parcel of meadow. (fn. 386) At Willey in 1446 there was one holding of 4 virgates, one of 2½ virgates, one of 2 virgates, seven of 1 virgate, five half virgates, and two holdings of 1 nook. (fn. 387) There was an even wider variation in the size of holdings at Chelmarsh in 1445 when a new rental was drawn up which incorporated recent changes in rents. (fn. 388) The accumulation of large holdings in the hands of one man was easier in vills or townships where there were few tenants. At Allfield in Condover, for example, there were six tenants holding 10 nooks in 1363 but by 1421 seven of the nooks were in the hands of one man. (fn. 389) In Cardeston parish the hamlet of Great Bretchell, where there had been eight tenants in 1379, was leased as a pasture to a single tenant in the 15th century, and in Alberbury parish Thomas Thornes built up a substantial estate between 1516 and 1535 on the site of Little Wollaston which, with Amaston, had contained at least eight families in 1327. (fn. 390) At the other end of the scale were the cottagers who appear with increasing frequency in rentals and court rolls and who held only a garden or a few acres of land. At Wroxeter in 1350 a third of the tenants held only cottages and between 3 and 6 a., and at Malinslee in 1406 there were six landed tenants and four cottagers. (fn. 391) These cottagers could not have supported themselves and their families from such small holdings and would have contributed to the pool of agricultural labourers. (fn. 392)
Peasant farm buildings in Shropshire probably varied widely in form and appearance according to the status of the occupier and the farming bias of the area. Documentary references suggest that the main components of a virgater's or halfvirgater's messuage were a house of perhaps three bays and a barn of three or four. (fn. 393) The latter would presumably have provided winter housing for the plough beasts as well as storage for produce. Cottagers and wage labourers may have had no buildings besides a one- or two-bay house, and mention of a shepherd's hut at Caus in 1445 (fn. 394) suggests how rudimentary accommodation might be for the poor countryman.
Relationships and contracts between peasants are difficult to assess as few written records of them survive. Study of marcher society, however, suggests that there the number of undertenants could be considerable, and the lord's authority over them minimal. In Clun it was asserted that any landholding tenant could accept another into his protection to become his tenant or servant, and it was even claimed that the goods of an undertenant who died without an heir should be forfeit not to the lord but to the tenant who was his immediate superior. (fn. 395)
Together with changes in the size and composition of peasant holdings went changes in the terms of tenure and the nature and amount of rent. Although progress was slow and uneven and there are some signs of seigneurial reaction, the general trend was towards an improvement in the status of the peasantry, a reduction in rents and customary dues and payments, and-in the marcher lordships-a blurring of the distinction between Welsh and English tenants. A variety of tenures could co-exist on one manor both at the beginning and end of the period. (fn. 396) Hereditary freeholds tended to disappear, as at High Ercall from the later 13th century, Church Preen by the mid 14th century, and Kenley between the 13th century and the 15th. (fn. 397) Between 1319 and 1331 several freeholds were bought back into the Langley manorial estate by Ralph Lee, and the lord of Whitton, William Spenser, took advantage of the Welsh raids in the early 15th century to increase his demesne by buying up freeholds. (fn. 398) Some monastic landlords seem to have followed the same policy for freeholds had disappeared at Lilleshall (except for one at Muxton), Madeley, and Little Wenlock by the end of the Middle Ages. (fn. 399) Leaseholds, however, a significantly different sort of free tenancy, were a common feature in most parts of the county and continued to increase in number during the 14th century with the encouragement of assarting. (fn. 400) At the other end of the spectrum of peasant tenures there were in the western lordships tenants in advowry who paid a small tax, usually 4d., for the lord's protection and permission to remain on the manor for a year; in 1362 advowry payments in the lordship of Oswestry were farmed for £2 a year. Most tenants in advowry were probably seasonal labourers or craftsmen or women and once they took land they ceased to be in advowry and became tenants. In the lordship of Clun in 1372 a tenant in advowry, a free man, offered to pay double rent for a messuage and 12 a. and to become a villein 'with all his brood'. (fn. 401) Elsewhere villeins were willing and able to pay large fines for their personal freedom. At the beginning of the 15th century members of the Houle family of High Ercall paid a total of over £50 in manumission fines. (fn. 402)
The conversion of customary villein tenures to leasehold or their gradual redefinition as copyholds (fn. 403) began first on those manors where the demesnes had been leased and labour services were no longer required. After Wenlock priory ceased to cultivate its Little Wenlock demesne at the beginning of the 14th century customary holdings were either converted to leaseholds (for some of the larger ones) or began to develop into various forms of copyhold. In the 1320s all the tenants there held for three lives (the tenant's, his wife's, and their eldest child's), and in 1540 most of the thirteen copyholds were still for lives but a few, like the seven leaseholds, were for terms of between 50 and 81 years. (fn. 404) Leaseholds for life are also found on the manors of Haughmond abbey from the early 14th century, (fn. 405) and the conversion of customary tenures to leasehold took place on lay estates such as those at Cressage and Wattlesborough during the 14th century. (fn. 406) When the manorial estate at High Ercall was surveyed in 1399 only one tenant still held by simple customary tenure; 36 tenements were held at will and 17 tenants held by a hybrid tenure described as 'at will and according to custom'. In addition leases had been granted during the late 14th century to unfree tenants for messuages and land previously held by custom, and 21 such leases were still in force in 1399. (fn. 407) Changes in tenure were also taking place in the marcher lordships. They could be a source of profit if the tenants were prepared to pay for the privilege. In the late 1350s the tenants of Kinnerley were prepared to double their rents for the concession of being allowed hereditary tenures, (fn. 408) but in the early 16th century the Stafford family met great resistance when they tried to persuade their remaining customary tenants in the lordship of Caus to convert to copyhold-probably for terms of years. (fn. 409) More often changes were prompted by difficulties in attracting tenants to vacant holdings, as can be seen in the use of the quousque lease in the lordship of Oswestry and the surrounding FitzAlan manors from the late 14th century. Lands were granted 'until another better lease can be found for the lord's greater profit'; frequently the lease specified that the land was to be held at a lowered or 'old' rent, the entry fine was often waived, and a clause relating to the upkeep of buildings was usually inserted. During the 15th century 'for term of life' and 'to his heirs and assigns' was added to the quousque formula, and the term copyhold was well established by the 16th century. (fn. 410) Similarly the rents paid for the Whitchurch demesne lands remained so static throughout the 15th century that by the 1520s they seemed to the earl of Shrewsbury and his council indistinguishable from customary rents. (fn. 411)
There are other indications that landlords were prepared to adjust to changing conditions and make concessions in order to attract and retain tenants. The wide variations in the rents paid for virgate and half-virgate holdings on the same manor suggest that individual bargains were being struck between lord and tenant, and in some cases rents were said to have been reduced. (fn. 412) Rents at Ruyton, where the rent roll had been swollen in the late 14th century by rent from assarts, were reduced after the Welsh raids in the early 15th century. (fn. 413) Entry fines also varied widely but do not appear to have been high and were sometimes waived altogether if the tenement or land was in a bad state. (fn. 414) Contrariwise when the earl of Shrewsbury decided in 1525 to take advantage of the increased demand for land from the rising population and to attempt to increase revenue from the estate around Whitchurch, where rents had fossilized during the 15th century, he did it by imposing entry fines. The bids the tenants made in 1525 for renewing their leases of demesne lands and mills amounted to £72 on top of an annual rental of £52. (fn. 415) At the same period the Stafford family were attempting to increase receipts in a similar fashion as they sought to fill vacant tenements on their Shropshire estates. In 1520 the duke of Buckingham proclaimed that anyone willing to take on farms and copyholds at increments or entry fines agreed with his surveyor and auditor should pay 'the old rent', and in 1527 his son Lord Stafford instructed that his Shropshire estates, whether held as copyhold or otherwise, were to be relet 'by indenture or bill' and copyholders were to pay agreed increments or entry fines. (fn. 416)
Both threats and inducements were employed by the lords to try to ensure that tenants kept their holdings in a good state. Those who allowed their buildings to become ruinous were presented in court and ordered to repair them under pain of forfeiture and those who failed to cultivate their holdings were forced to surrender them. (fn. 417) Leases frequently contained exhortations to keep buildings in good repair and land in a good state and were sometimes granted on condition that the tenants put up new buildings. (fn. 418) Inducements to build and repair were offered in the form of timber, rent reductions, and allowances. At Clun in 1411, for example, the rent paid for three holdings was halved during the first one or two years on condition that the tenants built houses at their own expense, and the farmer of the manor and demesne at Hughley was allowed 46s. 8d. for building a new hall and chamber. (fn. 419)
Labour services, whether commuted or not, and other customary dues and payments could increase considerably both peasant outgoings and seigneurial incomes, but they became increasingly difficult to exact and collect during the period. Most of the labour services which still remained in force in 1300 were commuted during the 14th century, apart from haymaking and harvest services which could be used to supplement full-time labour as long as the demesnes continued to be exploited directly. (fn. 420) Economic conditions were not conducive to the continued exaction of more than minimal labour services from customary tenants and made even the collection of commuted payments difficult. It was reported in 1519-20 that the 51 hens which were due from the customary tenants at Minsterley instead of labour services since the first visitation of the Black Death had not been collected since the Welsh raids over a century earlier, nor had any payments been received instead of ploughing and summer and autumn works. (fn. 421) To judge from entries in court rolls, carrying and carting were the residual services which the lords were most interested in exacting and which met with the most resistance; in 1357 four townships in the lordship of Clun were ordered to find someone to perform carting services within four days under pain of a hefty £5 amercement. (fn. 422) Any attempt to depress the status of the peasants by reimposing lapsed services met concerted resistance. In 1385 the customary tenants of Ford manor, which was ancient demesne, (fn. 423) obtained an exemplification of the Domesday Book entry, and their subsequent withdrawal of services led to the appointment of two commisions of oyer and terminer in 1386 and a further commission in 1410 when they renewed their resistance. (fn. 424)
Customary payments such as tallage seem to have been uneven in incidence and few records of their payment are found after the earlier 14th century. (fn. 425) A due which was unusually widespread in its incidence was the heriot of the best beast due to the lord at the death of a tenant; heriots were exacted from copyholders, leaseholders, freeholders, and even from tenants in advowry, and were collected conscientiously by the lord's officials. (fn. 426) Even more valuable was terciary, the right on death to a third of the goods of a tenant, bond or free, which is found on Wenlock priory's estates, where there is evidence that the tenants resisted by concealing the goods of dead relatives. Terciary had been commuted to a money payment by the time of the Dissolution but the heriot survived much longer. (fn. 427) The Welsh food rents and cow renders had been commuted to money payments by the beginning of the 14th century, and other renders in kind such as hen and goose rents were not of high value and few, apart from the 'tack' pigs associated with pannage, survived uncommuted into the 16th century. (fn. 428) The archaic nature of many customary tenures and the associated payments by the early 16th century did not deter the Stafford family from attempting to revive them in the lordship of Caus. The duke of Buckingham (d. 1521) revived bond services and forced the tenants of 3 townships in the Nether Gorddwr to pay a rent called porthyant bagell; the tenants claimed that it had been granted to the lord when the country was wild and disordered (fn. 429) for him to find a cattle guard and that it had not been levied 'time out of mind'. (fn. 430) Buckingham's policies were continued and extended with 'antiquarian enthusiasm' by his son Lord Stafford, whose revival of tallages and attempts to revive forest jurisdiction and restrict commoning rights caused disorder and conflict in border society. (fn. 431)
Only a faint and fragmentary impression can be received of the nature of peasant farming in later medieval Shropshire. The surviving documents are mainly concerned with the constraints imposed by landlords and local communities on the activities of individuals, rather than with change and innovation, which can only be guessed from the occasional inventory of a rich peasant's goods. Peasants' interests mirrored those of their landlords in that peasant pastoral farming was expanding in this period. Arable farming provided for the basic needs of the peasant and his family but it also provided support in the form of feed and grazing for the animals which were a source of profit, either in themselves or in their products of meat, wool, and hides. The peasant farmer's main concern was to find enough pasture for his animals, and there were signs of pressure when both landlord and tenant were competing for a share in the same resource, a pressure which was eased when the greater landlords withdrew from direct involvement in pastoral farming and released meadow and pasture for their tenants to rent and sometimes to inclose. (fn. 432)
The crops found in inventories of peasant goods confirm the subordination of arable to pastoral farming in that they are small in amount, low in value, and lacking in variety. Vegetables and fruit were doubtless grown in the garden attached to every peasant house but they are rarely mentioned; in 1306 the goods of a felon who abjured the realm included 1d. worth of cabbages growing in the curtilage. (fn. 433) In the fields the main crops were wheat and oats, with smaller quantities of barley, rye, vetch, peas, and beans. Of the 21 terciary payments from the estates of Wenlock priory recorded 1336-61 and 1377-9 and including crops, 5 mention only wheat and 15 both wheat and oats; 4 mention beans or peas, 6 either vetch or barley, and rye occurs only once. (fn. 434) Differing combinations of crops are found in other parts of the county at different times. The forfeited goods of a felon at Prees in 1324 included an acre sown with wheat, another sown with beans, and half an acre sown with rye, and there were 10 bu. of beans and 3 bu. of barley in his barn. (fn. 435) In the lordship of Clun it is more usual to find oats as the sole crop. A Welsh tenant at Bicton who died in 1357 had only an ox and 6 a. of land sown with oats, while a Welsh widow who died in 1372 had 4s. worth of standing oats which amounted to less than 6 per cent of the total value of her goods. (fn. 436) Further north more variety occurs. Two tenants who died at Ruyton in 1332 and 1353 had a few bushels of wheat, oats, and rye among their possessions; a Welsh tenant who died intestate in the lordship of Ellesmere in 1345 had 6 bu. of wheat, 6 bu. of oats, and an acre sown with wheat, oats, and beans; a prosperous Welsh tenant who died at Sandford in 1381 had stacks of wheat, rye, and oats valued together at £3 17s. 9d.; two tenants whose confiscated goods were sold by the bailiff of Blakemere in 1410-11 both had barley and oats among their possessions. (fn. 437) Seed is mentioned only occasionally. In 1321 a bond tenant at Stoke St. Milborough paid for permission to marry with a quarter of 'good seed'; in 1332 a tenant at Ruyton owned a fourth part of the seed of 2 bu. of wheat 'for increase'; wheat in the ground due as terciary at Hatton in 1354 was estimated in seed, and at Lilleshall the tenants of the abbey bought seed from the lord for 3d. 2 bushel in 1423. (fn. 438)
Although many peasants possessed affers, they probably used oxen for ploughing, as happened on the demesnes; draught horses were more expensive to maintain and were probably reserved for harrowing, hauling, or carting. (fn. 439) To judge from the evidence of heriots, strays, and reports of stolen animals, ownership of oxen and affers was widespread among the peasantry. (fn. 440) Between 1400 and 1414 nearly 150 oxen were stolen from 23 different places in Shropshire. (fn. 441) Such records, however, rarely give an indication of the total number of animals owned by individuals. Of the 23 tenants of Wenlock priory whose terciary payments are known, 10 owned oxen, 5 owned two or more oxen, and 4 had affers, all but one in addition to oxen. William Broun of Huntington, for example, owned four oxen and two affers when he died in 1377 and Agnes of Deuxhill (d. 1379) had seven oxen and an affer. (fn. 442) It is probable that a certain amount of co-aration was practised as few peasants can have owned enough animals even for a ploughteam of four oxen, a suggested likely size of peasant team in the period. (fn. 443) Most substantial peasants probably possessed one or more of the major pieces of farm equipment- ploughs, harrows, carts, and wagons-found in the surviving inventories, together with the occasional coulter, axe, or winnowing fan. (fn. 444)
Leland observed that the sandy soils of some parts of Shropshire would not bear good corn crops unless marled, (fn. 445) and there is evidence that, as in the preceding period, (fn. 446) marl was put on peasant holdings to improve their yield. Marlpits are found in field names and as the cause of accidental deaths, and leases occasionally specify that land must be marled at the tenant's expense or that the landlord will provide access to a supply of marl. (fn. 447) When Haughmond abbey acquired a piece of land called 'Skyneresmore' in Morfe forest in 1304 a 1-a. marlpit and the way leading to it were reserved for the use of the tenants of the royal manor of Claverley and the abbot allowed them to take marl when they wished. (fn. 448) In 1320 the lessees of an inclosed plot of land at Sandford, in Prees, were allowed to take mould and marl to improve the land when necessary, and the new tenant of an acre of land at Prees in 1323 had to pay 6s. 8d. to the previous tenant for his expense in marling it. (fn. 449)
All but the smallest peasant holdings supported a variety of animals. In addition to draught animals there were usually at least one cow (after oxen and horses the most commonly found heriot), a few sheep and pigs, the occasional goat, and some poultry, although the latter are seldom recorded except as rent hens or when geese strayed on crops. (fn. 450) There are, however, signs of change in the period with larger flocks and herds found concentrated in fewer hands. It is unusual in the 14th century to find references to peasants owning more than a dozen cattle or pigs or over a hundred sheep, although it is difficult to gauge the size of individual holdings from the surviving evidence of theft or trespass. Among the Wenlock priory terciary records peasant flocks ranged from 12 to 45 sheep. (fn. 451) Tenants of the manor of Sutton upon Tern were amerced for allowing flocks of between 15 and 60 sheep to stray into growing crops. (fn. 452) Inquests into the number of sheep kept in Morfe forest illustrate the growth in the size of flocks. In 1362 the average size of the flocks from Claverley and Worfield commoned in the forest was 13 with the largest flocks numbering no more than 40 sheep. (fn. 453) In 1497 the foresters reported that the king's deer could have no browsing because of the number of sheep commoned in the forest by the inhabitants of eight townships around Claverley and Worfield: over 2,000 sheep in 27 flocks were listed. Nearly 1,400 sheep in 19 flocks were said to be pastured daily in the bailiwick of Claverley and over 3,000 sheep from around Bridgnorth were kept in the forest throughout the year with the flocks averaging nearly 100 sheep. (fn. 454)
Herds of pigs also seem to have become larger during the 15th century, though individual herds varied greatly in size. In the 14th century herds of pigs are seldom found in more than single figures but in 1497 over 1,200 pigs from townships around Claverley and Worfield were listed by the foresters of Morfe in 115 herds averaging 11 swine, and agistment payments for swine in the same year show herds varying in size from three to over a hundred animals. (fn. 455) At Little Wenlock 23 tenants made pannage payments for 200 swine in 1397, and in the 15th century the herds increased in size and one of 37 pigs is found in 1449. (fn. 456) In 1422 the park and woods at Lilleshall contained 400 pigs in 73 herds of up to 18 animals and at the same time the bailiff at Myddle was collecting £6 3s. 6d. in pannage payments for several hundred swine in 84 herds. (fn. 457) Goats are found less frequently and in much smaller numbers; in 1325 two men were amerced for pasturing ten goats and a kid in woodland at Prees, and a Welsh tenant in the lordship of Clun who died in 1514 had a herd of 15 goats. (fn. 458)
There is also evidence, admittedly fragmentary and often difficult to interpret, to suggest some specialization in cattle rearing and a growing trade in cattle and cattle products among the peasantry. Payments for agisting cattle and amercements for allowing animals to stray into growing crops and private pasture suggest that more cattle were being kept than were necessary for subsistence. (fn. 459) The impression is confirmed by lists of peasants' goods, especially from north and west Shropshire. In 1381 a Welsh tenant at Sandford had 12 head of cattle, worth twice as much as his flock of 30 sheep; in 1410-11 a prosperous tenant at Blakemere had 16 cows, 18 calves, 1 bullock, and 16 steers which, together with his two horses, were valued at over £5; a more modest herd of 6 cattle, including a young bull, was owned by a tenant at Ruyton in 1427-8; Ralph Bostocke of Hodnet, whose goods were valued in 1534, had 14 cattle worth £8 and 16 sheep worth £1. (fn. 460) Cattle were often the target of thieves, especially those from Wales, and criminal records provide further evidence of cattle rearing and trading. In the early 14th century Worcester merchants buying stock at Clun fair were held until compensation was paid to one of the earl of Arundel's tenants who dealt in cattle and from whom four oxen had been stolen at Clun and taken to Worcester market. (fn. 461) The crimes of Robert of Middleton in the early 1350s included stealing cattle in Shropshire and driving them into Wales, and in 1380 three Welsh tenants of the earl of Arundel were accused of stealing seven oxen which they had distrained for him in Herefordshire. (fn. 462) Many of the hundreds of cattle reported stolen in Shropshire between 1400 and 1414 were presumably reared by peasant farmers. In 1400 the Welsh rebels were said to have stolen 84 cattle from the tenants of the lord of Wem. In 1401 six men at Bridgnorth suffered the theft of 53 animals worth £20, and in 1408 a herd of 16 cattle was abducted from Millenheath and held to ransom. An even larger herd of 47 oxen and cows was stolen at Winsbury in 1410 and driven into Wales. (fn. 463) Pontesbury suffered from the attentions of Welsh cattle thieves in 1411 when 24 oxen and cows were stolen from the tenants of Moorwood and 38 bullocks and heifers from John Dod at Woodhouse. (fn. 464) In 1414 £20 worth of cattle were allegedly taken by force from four tenants at Shrawardine by John Skynner of Shrewsbury and one of Sir William Clinton's servants. (fn. 465) The licence granted in 1425 to a group of four tenants who had leased two of the common fields at Farley to build a pound there large enough to hold 40 cattle reveals both the existence of specialized cattle rearing and the need for co-operative action perhaps to protect cattle from thieves who were a constant threat. (fn. 466) The tenants of Winnington in Alberbury paid for a hayward to guard their cattle on the Long Mountain from outlaws, and c. 1700 there was a tradition that in earlier times the townships around Myddle guarded their cattle in fortified enclosures at night. (fn. 467)
An increase in the number of animals kept by the peasantry was possible only if there was pasture enough to support them. Although there are signs of continued pressure (fn. 468) in the early part of the period, the combination of a declining population with the gradual withdrawal of the greater landlords from direct exploitation of their demesnes meant that sufficient resources of pasture and meadow were available to those who could afford them; the main problem was one of regulating the use of those resources that were still common to all members of the manorial community. The means of control were available in the manor court where ordinances and bylaws were agreed and enforced and anti-social behaviour was reported and punished. It is another sign of the predominantly pastoral concerns of the peasantry that ordinances found in the court rolls of the period are less concerned with arrangements for the common cropping of the arable fields and ensuring an adequate supply of labour at harvest time (fn. 469) than with pasturing routines. Tenants were ordered to close the fences around the arable fields at agreed dates, to keep the hedges and ditches around the common fields and closes in good repair, not to put animals into the common fields to graze at night or during harvest, and not to allow pigs into the common fields at all. (fn. 470) Those who broke their neighbours' hedges and allowed their animals to stray into growing crops were heavily amerced. (fn. 471) When permission was given to inclose woodland and waste the commoning rights of tenants were usually carefully safeguarded, (fn. 472) and there were protests in the manor court against those who were thought to have inclosed pasture without licence and thus reduced the common pasture. At High Ercall in 1338-9 there is evidence to suggest that an attempt by the lord to reduce the amount of land available for general grazing resulted in a concerted campaign of disobedience by his tenants. (fn. 473) In the early years of the 15th century the abbots of Lilleshall and Shrewsbury and the priors of Wenlock and Wombridge were all presented in Wrockwardine manor court for inclosing pasture that was claimed as common to all tenants. (fn. 474) Protests against those who overburdened the common pastures with their animals, who kept more animals than their land would support, or who allowed outsiders to bring their animals into the manor seem to increase during the 15th and early 16th centuries, and that jealous attitude to pasture is another indication of increasing specialization in cattle rearing among the peasantry. (fn. 475) Sometimes stints were fixed in an attempt to limit the abuse of common pasture. In the earlier 15th century limits were placed on the number of horses kept on the common pasture in Condover and Eaton-under-Heywood, and the tenants of Dorrington, in Condover, agreed in 1449 to limit the number of sheep commoned to 40 for each half virgate. (fn. 476)
Although there are signs of increasing pressure on pasture resources, they are not as frequent or widespread as in some other counties because there was still a plentiful supply of waste, woodland, and forest for piecemeal inclosure or common grazing. The inhabitants of the area covered by the former Clee forest were allowed commoning rights within the remaining waste lands of the forest, and the movement of cattle on Brown Clee by the Clee strakers has been said to amount almost to transhumance. (fn. 477) Occasionally there were disputes between tenants from neighbouring townships over commoning rights, and individuals were accused of taking unfair advantage of rights common to all. In 1386 an ordinance was made in the court of Aston that the tenants of Sandford, Woolston, and Aston should not prevent the tenants of Felton from pasturing their sheep and small horses on the waste or on the common pastures of the townships. (fn. 478) In 1413 it was found that 34 tenants of Lord Ferrers of Groby and 4 tenants of the dean of St. Mary's, Bridgnorth, had kept pigs continuously in the royal forest of Morfe for two years, ruining the common pasture and destroying the forest agistment. (fn. 479) There were also protests when tenants' rights were threatened by their lords' desire to increase their income from rents. In 1368 the burgesses of Ruyton complained that parts of Allans wood which had been granted to them in common for a rent of 6d. an acre were being leased to outsiders at a higher rent, and in 1502 the inhabitants of the township of Bucknell in the lordship of Clun complained that the lord of Jay had inclosed the common of the township called Jay Morsse. (fn. 480) In 1413 Lord Furnivalle's tenants defended an inclosure made by the prior of Wenlock at Powkesmoor near Ditton Priors against an attack by the earl of Arundel's men, but that dispute had more to do with political rivalry for domination of the county than with threatened tenants' rights. (fn. 481) In the early 16th century four Shrewsbury butchers and graziers acquired the townships of Loton and Hayes (in Alberbury and Cardeston) by paying large entry fines; then, having driven out the tenants by raising their rents, they converted the arable to pasture. (fn. 482) The inclosure of Harley and Cressage woods at the same period led to one of the few recorded incidents of hedge burning in early 16th-century Shropshire. (fn. 483) Considerable ill will was engendered by Lord Stafford's attempts to increase income from the forests in his lordship of Caus in the 1530s and 1540s. He increased the number of inclosed pastures in Hogstow forest but had to compensate the freeholders of Minsterley and other manors for the loss of their well documented common rights. His restriction of rights of common herbage in Hayes forest and his attempt to revive ancient herbage rents from the townships around the forest was resisted by his tenants before the Council in the Marches of Wales, and his inclosure of the forest pastures was seen as an obvious threat to the way of life of those peasants who 'had no other living but only upon their cattle'. (fn. 484)