The Country-woman 1066–1600

The Norman Conquest came as a disaster to the higher ranks of Anglo-Saxon society. Individuals who had survived the impact of the war might be able to come to terms with the Conqueror for a portion of their estates. But their position in the social order which arose after the war was everywhere precarious, and it was only in the remoter north that the class to which they belonged came to form a distinctive element in the society of medieval England. Elsewhere, with remarkably few exceptions, the rural aristocracy of pre-Conquest days sank without a trace into the mass of the surrounding peasantry. To the peasants themselves, the effects of the Conquest were less revolutionary. The English traditions of the countryside could not be eradicated in a generation by foreign conquerors who depended for their food on the native population. Normans inevitably married English girls. English methods of local government were maintained by the king’s own will, so that the courts of shire and hundred continued to do justice in the traditional English way. The new lords of English villages held private courts of justice for their men, but most of their men were Englishmen, and the manorial courts of later centuries represent without any obvious break the ‘hall moots’ of the Anglo-Saxon time. The women of the country-side carried on as their mothers had done before them.

The wives of English farmers have always been in a very real sense the partners of their husbands. Without the help of the women of the household it would have been impossible to look after the stock and make the butter and cheese. Women could even on occasion lend a hand in the fields. They had to make the rough cloth which dressed the members of the family from the wool of their own or their neighbours’ sheep. Of the daily lives of the inhabitants of English villages in the twelfth century little can be known, but looked at from the modern standpoint they were certainly harsh and dreary. Over a great part of England the majority of farmers and their wives were personally unfree. Their farm was held of a lord and they could not leave it to seek a future elsewhere. Even in those parts of England where there were many free peasant farmers life could have been little different. When an unfree peasant died his land reverted to the lord, who as a rule allowed the eldest or, in some parts, the youngest son to take his father’s place. The land of the free peasant was divided between his sons. The succession of a number of sons in a holding too small for division often meant a communal household farming the land together. Whether the members of the household were free or unfree it was the women who set the standard of its life.

The wife of the unfree peasant farmer was relatively in a stronger position than the wife of her husband’s lord. Feudal law and custom gave the widow of quality but a third of her husband’s lands, whereas ancient custom allowed the unfree peasant’s widow to hold the whole of her husband’s land so long as she did the service due to the lord. The widow’s bench, her seat by the fireside, was hers in her late husband’s house as long as she lived unmarried. Even after her sons had taken wives their mother could not be evicted from the farmhouse of her husband. The nine female cottagers at Stokesay, Salop, mentioned in Domesday Book, were probably widows sitting on the few acres their husbands had formerly held1. Domesday Book occasionally mentions widows among the population of a village, but there must have been many more than the clerks troubled to record. Local custom about the position of the widow and the rights of the sons varied from place to place, but in every farming community women were in a strong position, for their services could not be dispensed with.

The free peasant farmers, who are found in their greatest numbers in the counties where the Danes had settled in the ninth century, came to follow feudal custom in regard to the amount of the widow’s dower. Among them, too, it was customary for the daughters to divide an inheritance when sons failed. These free peasant farmers often display, as late as the early thirteenth century, their English or Scandinavian descent by the personal names they, or their fathers, or grandparents bear. Like their social superiors they could give away or sell their land, making a charter as evidence of the transaction and authenticating it with their seals. Many such documents have survived, among them a considerable number made by women1. Robert son of Aliva of Saltfleetby, Lincolnshire, whose mother bore a common Old English name, had two daughters, named Hawisa and Maud. Maud issued a charter releasing her rights in ten acres of land at Saltfleetby to Thomas son of John of Louth, with the consent of her heirs. Her seal survives on the charter. Her sister, Hawisa, describing herself as daughter of Robert son of Ayliva of Saltfleetby, ‘in her free widowhood’, released the same ten acres to Thomas, and her seal also survives on her charter. Mabel widow of Robert son of Aliva, who also described herself as daughter of Aze of Yarburgh, quitclaimed to Thomas all her right in the same ten acres of land. Her seal, too, survives on her charter. Each of these women used a similar device on her seal, an inverted fleur-de-lis, and round each seal a Latin legend recorded the owner’s name. All these charters come from the early thirteenth century.

Three other charters, two made by Hawisa and the third by their father’s widow, Mabel, daughter of Aze of Yarburgh, help to indicate the financial standing of the family. For 10 shillings down and a yearly rent of 2 pence Hawisa granted one acre of meadow to John, son of Odo of Saltfleetby. She also released to him all the lands which he had from her or her family, namely nine acres of the land of Robert, son of Aileva of Saltfleetby. On both these charters her seal survives. Mabel released all her rights of dower in her husband’s lands in Saltfleetby to Odo Galle for half a mark of silver, that is 6 shillings and 8 pence. Her seal, which was set to the document, no longer survives upon it. These are neither large acreages nor large sums of money. These women were of simple farming stock, descendants of the free men who had been farming in Lincolnshire for generations before the Norman Conquest.

It is remarkable how many of the men whose charters show that they were of Anglo-Scandinavian peasant stock describe themselves as son or grandson of a woman. Walter son of Bela of Wrangle, Swan son of Goda of Wiberton, Roger son of Wlviva of Kirkby Green, Gilbert son of Quenild, Osbert son of Edus, Robert son of Boniva of Somercotes, John son of Wlviva of Skidbrook, William son of Geva of Saltfleetby, Osbert son of Godiva, Robert son of Ralf son of Aldith ot Saltfleetby, Alan son of Alice daughter of Hungwin, Hungwin son of Aldith, Gilbert son of Queneluva, Robert son of Queneluva, Hugh and Oggrim sons of Aluerun—all these are grantors of land, generally very little land, a perch of meadow, an acre of arable. It is sometimes held that men who are said to be the sons of women are bastards. It is also generally admitted that if a man married a lady of higher social standing than his own their children took their mother’s name. When the king’s Justiciar, Geoffrey fitz Peter, married the heiress of the Mandeville earldom of Essex their son and heir was styled Geoffrey de Mandeville. Neither of these conditions fits the hard-headed free peasantry of Lincolnshire. When they call themselves their mother’s rather than their father’s sons, it may be presumed that the land with which they are dealing came to them through their mother. To preserve her name was to assert their right and to indicate their title to their land.

It was probably this consideration which caused the grantor of a fishery in the River Witham to Kirkstead Abbey in the late twelfth century to describe himself as ‘William son-in-law of Ulf of Coningsby’. The fishery had, he stated, been formerly held by the monks by the gift of his father-in-law. The monks agreed to pay a yearly rent of 12 pence or six ‘sticks’ of eels. William recorded in his charter the fact of his wife’s consent to the grant. Three men who had married sisters at Haltham on Bain—Robert son of Suarthoued and Richolda his wife, Rainald and Ivetta his wife, William and Agnes his wife, together with Gunnild, the sister of these women—agreed in 1163 to allow the monks of Kirkstead Abbey to make a mill-dam on the River Bain, touching which there had been a dispute between them. In return for this concession, the monks gave them one mark and agreed to receive them into the fraternity of their house. The land which these four women had shared must have descended to them from their father. Although no land passed to the Abbey by this gift the men alone could not make it unless their wives and their wives’ sister were also included in the deed.

Some of the grants of land made by women of peasant families suggest that much division of a small inheritance has made it impossible for the holder of the land to till it to any profit. Gunnilda daughter of Acke Mudding of Saltfleetby, released to Andrew son of Odo Galle all her right in her father’s land in return for one mark of silver which Andrew has given her ‘in her great necessity’. The same Andrew Galle acquired three perches of meadow in Saltfleetby from Hawisa, daughter of Ragenild of Saltfleetby, for 10 shillings given her ‘in her necessity’. Both these women owned seals which they set to their charters. Maud, daughter of Yungwin of Saltfleetby, about 1220 released to Philip, son of Odo Galle, all her right and claim in one toft and one croft and all the land that was Yungwin’s for 20 shillings. Maud’s seal, an ornate fleur-de-lis surrounded by a legend bearing her name, was attached to her charter by a strip of parchment cut from another document. The Galle family already in the twelfth century had begun to buy up the land of those who could no longer afford to keep it. They were still buying up such land a century later.

Among the free peasant farmers of Lincolnshire the women of the family held both by law and custom a strong place. There are many charters by which men provide modest marriage portions for their daughters. In return for a yearly rent of 2 pence Wigot of Holme about the year 1210 gave an acre and a half of meadow in the north part of his strip to Siwat son of Hugh in free marriage with Edith his daughter. Some ten years later Siwat gave to Odo Galle and his heirs an acre of this meadow in return for a yearly rent of one penny. Some years later still Siwat sold to Odo Galle’s son Andrew the whole acre and a half for 20 shillings and a yearly rent of 2 pence. The value of Edith’s marriage portion would therefore seem to have been 20 shillings. The duty of providing for their sisters was clearly felt to be incumbent on brothers. In the early thirteenth century Robert the priest, son of Stepi, granted to his sisters, Maud and Alice, a toft and four acres af arable land in Saltfleetby to hold for their lives at a rent of 8 pence payable to Robert’s brother, Alan. If the women died before Robert, the land was to revert to him subject to the rent payable to Alan. Both men put their seals to this document. There are even indications that a sister with surviving brothers had rights by inheritance over her father’s land. Three brothers, Robert, Thomas, and Thomas, the sons of Hugh son of Godric of Saltfleetby, granted by a single charter to which their three seals were appended a strip of land lying in Thornholm at a yearly rent of 2 pence. Agnes daughter of Hugh son of Godric of Saltfleetby made a separate charter releasing her right in the same strip. Among these folk of native peasant stock the ancient tradition of the rough equality between men and women had not yet been entirely forgotten.

Even in the courts of justice presided over by the royal judges country-women can be seen appearing and speaking on their own behalf. Sometimes a woman can be seen acting for her husband. Reginald the smith and Goda his wife brought an action against Gilbert of Howell for land in Boothby Graffoe, Lincolnshire, in 1202. As it so happened that the case could not be settled out of hand, Reginald appointed his wife, Goda, as his attorney to carry on the plea1. A plea for dower in Barton-on-Humber, brought by William Wine and Beatrice, his wife, was adjourned, and Beatrice appointed her husband her attorney in case she could not herself be present. At the same time William appointed Beatrice as his attorney in case he could not himself be present2. Lest it should be thought that only Lincolnshire country-women were considered competent to plead in person in court an example can be quoted from Somerset. Hamo and Christina his wife and Lucy his wife’s sister brought an action in 1201 to recover land which was evidently the inheritance of the two women. The case was adjourned from Taunton to Westminister, and Hamo and Lucy both appointed Christina, Hamo’s wife, as their attorney to follow up the suit there3.

The laws of Cnut, quoted in a previous chapter, had laid stress on the domestic responsibilities of the farmer’s wife. She was admonished to keep control of the keys of her storeroom, her box and her cupboard so that no stolen meat could be put in them, for no wife could prevent her husband from bringing anything into his own cottage. The tradition of the wife’s control of household stores goes back to the heathen days, when many women were buried with the hangers on which their keys had hung from their waists. This tradition has held through the centuries. The wives of peasant farmers in the twelfth century had little either of jewellery or cash to put in a box, but references to a wife’s box or a woman’s box occassionally occur. In 1202 a certain William of Lea said that three men had gone to his lord’s house and stolen various articles belonging to his lord and certain things belonging to himself including a gold brooch which was his wife’s and was ‘in the chest of his lord’s wife’4. Similarly when in 1200 the undersheriff of Buckinghamshire wanted to put money recovered from a thief under safe keeping he took the keys of his own wife’s chest and put the money in it5. The ladies who owned these two chests were country-women of rather higher social standing than the wives of the peasant farmers among whom they lived. But Christina Arnold, who in 1293 accused a man in the manor court of King’s Ripton of beating her, breaking her box, and ejecting her from her house was a customary tenant of the manor1. The houses of Emma at the Water and Duva at the Water, both customary tenants at Ashton, Wilts, were broken into in 1262. In each case the woman’s chest was broken and robbed. Duva had a bushel of wheat in hers2.

The best evidence for the position of women in the village communities of medieval England comes from the records of proceedings in the manorial courts. Every court-roll provides ample evidence of women farming independently the holdings of their former husbands and engaging in litigation on their own behalf. Women were frequently fined for breaches of manorial custom. At Tooting, Surrey, in 1246, Maud widow of Robin and Mabel widow of Spendelove were fined 6 pence each because they had encroached on the lord’s land3, and in 1247 Lucy Rede was in court because her cattle had strayed on to the lord’s pasture4. At Ruislip in 1246 Isabella widow of Peter had to pay 18 pence because her son, John, had trespassed in the lord’s wood5. At Wantage, Berkshire, in 1247 Aileva gave up her holding to her son who was allowed to enter upon it on payment of 20 shillings to the lord. On the same court-day Hugh son of Adam paid 2 shillings for permission to hold ‘a certain parcel of land’ which Christina widow of Peter of the churchyard had leased to him6. The rent of the land was two hens a year. The Abbot of Bec’s court at Weedon Beck, in Northamptonshire, can be seen in 1248 arranging the division of a small farm between two sisters, Juliana and Goda the daughters of Saer. Juliana was unmarried, but Goda was the wife of William Snell, who had taken possession of the whole inheritance. The court arranged that Juliana should have a barn with an open space before it and two strips of the land for ploughing7.

From the standpoint of the lord’s court, these men and women were customary tenants, personally unfree. They could not give their daughters in marriage without the lord’s consent. The widow of a customary tenant could not marry without the consent of the lord. Fines for marriages made without permission formed a small, but steady item of manorial income. In 1248 Ragenilda, widow of Robert le Beck, paid 2 shillings at Ruislip because she had married again without licence, and she offered to pay in all 5 shillings if she recovered possession of her late husband’s holding by verdict of the manorial jury1. She appeared and spoke on her own behalf, her new husband taking no part in the plea. It is possible that he had come from another manor. The jury gave their verdict in Ragenilda’s favour. In 1247 at Wantage, William Iremonger gave 6 shillings and 8 pence for permission to marry a widow and enter the tenement which her husband had formerly held2. A glimpse into a cottage home at Weedon Beck in 1288 is given by an entry recording that Richard Loverd rendered into the lord’s hands a cottage with its appurtenances and that Emma Loverd, his daughter, rendered into the lord’s hands one acre of arable land, and that Hugh Coverer was put in possession of both cottage and land. Hugh gave the lord 5 shillings for licence to enter the land and marry Emma, and he undertook to board Richard as well as he boarded himself and give him each year one garment and one pair of linen drawers and one pair of boots and slippers3.

Country-women in great number added to their resources by brewing and selling ale. They often broke the rules governing its quality and the size of the measures by which they sold it. Every court roll provides evidence of this profitable trade, which seems to have been entirely in women’s hands. The following women were presented on a single court-day at Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire, in 1278. The entry runs: ‘Simon son of Roger and Reginald son of Peter, ale-tasters, say that Katherine Ingol has broken the assize of beer. Therefore she is in mercy, 12 pence, surety, Thomas the smith. From the wife of Thomas Amable for the same, 18 pence, surety, William at the stile. From Christina Osmund for the same, 12 pence, surety, Thomas Almar. From the wife of Nicholas Trappe, 6 pence, surety, William at the stile. From the wife of John Gunild for the same, 6 pence, surety, John Aunzered. From Emma Cat for the same, 6 pence, surety, John Aunzered. From the wife of John Coe for the same—she is poor—surety Reginald Almar. From the wife of Anger at the bank for the same and for bad ale, 12 pence, surety, Henry son of Roger. From the wife of John Noble because she broke the assize, 18 pence, surety, her husband. From Alice Cot nothing, because she kept the assize and brewed once only. From Beatrice Mutun because she has continually broken the assize, nothing, because she is the man—homo—of Sir Reginald de Grey’1. The independent position of the country-woman is well illustrated by this entry. The woman herself, and not her husband, is charged with the fine. The description of the hardened offender Beatrice Mutun, as ‘the man of Reginald de Grey’, simply means that her fine is due to the lord of another manor than that for which the court was held. Now, as in the thirteenth century, the village of Hemingford Grey adjoins the village of Hemingford Abbots.

The treatment of women varied somewhat from manor to manor, as did the relations between the lord and his servants and the customary tenants. Everywhere the lord assumed the right to take a fine from girls who bore illegitimate children. Sometimes the clerk simply records that certain girls are charged with lerewita, the Anglo-Saxon word meaning the fine payable for fornication. Sometimes the clerk notes that a girl has borne an illegitimate child and records the amount of the fine she owes the lord. On one court-day at Chatteris in 1272 no fewer than eight girls were fined, most of them paying 6 pence, but one of them 12 pence. Several of these girls, among them one called Matilda the fool, were pardoned payment because of their poverty2. The courts of the Church were responsible for maintaining a watch over the morals of the laity and occasionally the roll of a manorial court takes notice of the fact that a customary tenant has been fined in the Church court for adultery. In 1290 at Gidding, Huntingdonshire, the jurors reported that Richard Dyer, a married man, had been convicted of adultery and ‘lost the lord’s chattels’. The fine which was due from him was pardoned3.

All lords of manors took a fine from their tenants for permission to give their daughters in marriage, but the Abbot of Ramsey showed an unusual interest in the remarriage of widows. At Wistowe in 1294 Sarah Bishop, described as ‘a young widow’, was ordered to marry ‘before the next court-day’4. As a churchman it is possible that the abbot was as concerned with the morals of an unprotected widow as he was with securing the present—gersuma—due to him for permission to make the marriage. In 1288 the abbot’s court at Shillington summoned Agnes Payn, a widow, ‘to provide herself with a husband’, but she did not appear in court, having set out to Evesham. She was ordered to find a husband before Christmas, but there is no evidence that she ever came back from Evesham1. It is more remarkable that the abbot’s court is obviously choosing the men who shall become the widows’ husbands. The record of proceedings on Saturday, 14 July, at Chatteris concludes with a list of men, each of whom is directed to marry a particular widow. Each of the women is described by the name of her former husband: John Jawe, for example, is matched with ‘the wife of Geoffrey Spark’2. Agnes Sempol, whose holding consisted of eight acres of land, was unwilling to comply with the lord’s commands. She first appeared on the roll as a widow in the court held at Chatteris on 2 August 1289, when she found two sureties that she would ‘provide herself with a husband before the next court-day, or satisfy the lord abbot’. Thomas son of Christina Cade was said to be ‘ready to take and lead Agnes Sempol to wife’. In the following May, Agnes was still unmarried. The clerk recorded that she gave the lord 12 pence ‘to have respite until Michaelmas to choose herself a husband who can defend the eight acres of land’3.

The Abbot of Ramsey was more peremptory than most lords in his treatment of widows, but the economic condition of the widow among his unfree tenants was a matter of interest to every lord. It was essential that on every holding there should be someone capable of doing the heavy work on the land. On one court-day at Ashton, Wilts, in 1262 the widow of Richard of Gayford agreed to pay a fine of 20 shillings for her husband’s land, and found two sureties that she would pay the money and render the services due. On the same day the widow of Ralf the miller of Luvemede promised 18 pence by way of fine and found sureties that she would pay the money and perform the services due. Her sureties also undertook to see that she kept up the house and tenement properly. A third widow appeared on the same day: Duva widow of Roger at the Water promised to pay a fine of 20 shillings, and found sureties that she would pay the money, perform the services due, and well and honestly maintain the house and the land4. The robbery of a bushel of wheat from Duva’s box has been mentioned above. It was not always easy for a widow to keep her land in good heart. Aileva of Rougham was a freeholder of twelve acres of land at Rougham, Norfolk, in 1202. Her land lay untilled because of her poverty and in consequence her lord leased it to a certain Thomas Blund and his son. Aileva, being a free tenant, was able to recover her land in the king’s court, although she had to employ an attorney to represent her at Westminster, where she was awarded damages of 8 shillings and 9 pence1.

Though the women who married within the manor generally stayed on in their husband’s house after his death, unmarried daughters, like unmarried sons, often ran away from their native village to seek a living elsewhere. Their lord might try to recall them, but they rarely came home again. Matilda Siggeword and Matilda and Alice White ran off from Ingoldmells, Lincolnshire, in 13032. The court ordered that they should find pledges to appear but there is no reference to them again on the rolls. Stark poverty was often the reason for the disappearance both of girls and boys from their homes. There are occasional references in plea rolls to women who have become robbers, generally living with some man following the same occupation. Hawisa, a female robber of Norfolk, was concerned with the murder of a servant of the Earl of Arundel and successfully underwent the ordeal. John Barate, who loved Hawisa, was less fortunate, for he died in prison3. Emma Brunfustian preyed on the inhabitants of Northamptonshire. She was said to go ‘daily to the market of Daventry and Northampton’ and to be ‘of the worst repute so that she kills men and leads robbers to rob houses’. She was reported to be kept by Adam Falc, ‘likewise of the worst repute’. With a number of other men, one of whom was called Hudde the forger, Emma robbed merchants at Stamford fair4. The medieval English woman who took to highway robbery was a sordid, rather than a romantic figure.

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries were a period of increasing wealth. The ravages of the Norman Conquest were being made good even before Domesday Book was compiled. By the end of the twelfth century there were men of substance in every part of England living on their estates and maintaining households which were centres of modest hospitality. Every country house was a farmhouse of greater of less dignity. Seven neighbours were present in Simon of Kyme’s hall at Bullington when a man was murdered at its door5. Many village girls could earn their livings by working in the household of the richer men in their neighbourhood. The equipment of the home of a knight of the shire in the early thirteenth century was simple enough, but it must have taken the labour of many women to maintain.

What sort of household goods the knight’s lady had at her disposal is hard to guess. The articles most commonly stolen were cloaks, tunics, hoods, linen sheets, towels, and food. Cloth was frequently stolen, sometimes from private houses, but more often from merchants and packmen. Wool, too, was stolen from the very backs of sheep. A Lincolnshire knight, Andrew of Edlington, was in 1202 accused of entering his uncle’s house as he lay dying and seizing four swords, four hatchets, two bows, fifteen arrows, two linen sheets, and five yards of linen cloth, as well as the title-deeds to the property1. It may be presumed that these things were the most valuable contents of the house. There is little evidence of comfort in such lists at this date.

Before the end of the thirteenth century a lady would own much more household equipment, though she was still poorly supplied by modern standards. Christina widow of John son of William of Long Bennington, Lincolnshire, made her will in 1283 and an inventory of her goods was attached to it2. She lived at Bennington and farmed her dower lands. She owned a mare worth 6 shillings, which was her best beast. She therefore left it to the church of Bennington as her mortuary. Apart from the mare her stock consisted of two cows, a horse, two young oxen, five pigs, and a hundred and twenty sheep. She had straw in the yard, hay, malt, wheat, barley, and peas to bequeath. Her farm cart, which she describes as ‘bound with iron’, she left to be sold for the benefit of the poor. Her furniture consisted of a table, a chest ‘bound with iron’, four leaden vessels, two napkins, two towels, a cauldron, a brass pot, two small brass pots, two possets, two pans, one basin, one washing-bowl, six carpets3, fourteen linen sheets, three pillows, three blankets, a coverlet, one feather bed, and twelve yards of linen cloth. Curiously enough no seats, forms or stools are mentioned They may be included under ‘all the utensils of the house both brass and wood not separately bequeathed’, which she left to two beneficiaries. There is no hint in the inventory of what they were. Her wardrobe was good, but not extensive. She had a blue furred super-tunic, that is a blue cloak trimmed with fur for cold weather. She had a shift, a frock, a blue mantle, a cloak, and a wimple, that is a headdress. She also had a tunic of ‘watchet’ and a robe of brown cloth ‘which has been in use’. This must have been her daily wear, but it was worth bequeathing separately in the will. No boots or shoes were apparently worth leaving.

Christina was a country lady of local standing in south Lincolnshire. She had little cash to leave, no more than £7 in silver pennies. To keep much money in a country house would have been an invitation to robbers. It was best to buy a few more sheep or a piece of plate with extra money. For the good of her soul Christina left a number of small bequests, 12 pence, 6 pence, or 3 pence to the churches in the neighbourhood, including the minsters of Lincoln and Southwell. She left similar sums to two bridges, and remembered in like manner the friars, lepers, the sick, and orphans. The length of her will is increased by the fact that she left her six score sheep in ones, twos, threes, or fours to her kinsfolk, friends, servants, and their children. To Laurence, who is simply thus described, she left ten sheep and half the crop of her land. Since 1235 widows were permitted to bequeath to whom they wished the crops standing on their dower land1. It is probable that Laurence was her son and her husband’s heir. She left a horse, two oxen, a cow, and twelve sheep to a certain Nicholas Raum, with the proviso that they should be at the disposition of Laurence until the end of ten years. Her malt and corn she distributed in bushels among a number of people who seem to have been her menservants and maidservants. If there were any residue she desired that it should be distributed among the poor of Bennington. Christina must have been the great lady of the village, in life a dominant figure, who meant her will to be felt ten years after her death.

The life of the farmer’s wife did not change greatly through the Middle Ages. Political troubles, even the civil wars of the fifteenth century, affected it less than the recurrent visitations of pestilence and famine. The populations of whole villages were wiped out by the virulent outbreaks of the mid-fourteenth century. If some of the inhabitants escaped the pestilence they were too few to carry on the cultivation of the old open fields. Lincolnshire, in the early Middle Ages one of the most prosperous parts of the country, was grievously afflicted, and the Wolds bear many traces of villages lost because of the plague. But, if plague brought death to many it put a premium on the labour of the survivors, who, despite statutory attempts to keep wages at their old levels, were certainly paid far more than their ancestors had enjoyed. Village households which came safely through the Middle Ages to the sixteenth century were more prosperous than those of a couple of centuries before. The customary tenant farmers were no longer serfs working so many days a week on their lord’s land. Most of them had become copyholders, who could produce as title to their land a copy of the record of their admission on the court roll of the manor. They paid a fine to the lord on entering their farm and owed him a ‘heriot’ of their best beast on their death1. In everything that mattered they were free. Men who were styled ‘gentlemen’ were ready to take copyhold land2, for there was now no taint of servitude about it. Copyholders could make wills and appoint executors to carry them out. But these wills, made by countrymen and women of the sixteenth century, reveal a culture and habit of mind which had changed little since the thirteenth century.

Some illustrations may be taken from the wills which have been preserved among the records of the ancient minster of Southwell in Nottinghamshire. Southwell is still a small country town, as it was in the sixteenth century. The spiritual jurisdiction of the chapter covered more than twenty villages in which many farmers, both freeholders and copyholders, were prosperous enough to make wills. Copyhold tenure lasted there until it was ended by Act of Parliament in 1926. Inevitably there survive more wills made by men than by women, for it was not yet customary for country-women of modest position to make a will before widowhood. Most of the wills seem to be made when death was near. Nor was it yet customary for women to live unmarried. Nevertheless, the Southwell wills include two made by spinsters. Dorothy Kepeas of Beckingham made her will on 8 December 1534, and it was proved early in the next year. It is a brief document, perhaps made so that she might have the pleasure of reminding William Dawson of East Retford of £20, ‘which he should have paid unto me the daye of my marriage’. That Dorothy never married is shown by her description when her will was proved, ‘the late virgin’. She left the £20 ‘which is in the hands of the said William’ to is three daughters. To every cottage house in Beckingham, Mattersey, and Mattersey Thorpe Dorothy left one penny1. The other unmarried woman’s will was made on 14 June 1566 by Thomasina Whitehead of Farnsfield. She was a small farmer who owned four cows and a flock of sheep. She left her mother ten sheep, ewes and wethers, one cow, a red coverlet, a salt cellar, a pair of tongs, a turned chair, her best but one brass pot and a chest. She left her godson Brian Whitehead two ewes, two lambs, an iron bound chest, a bed hanging, a dish, a candlestick, a pair of cupboards, and her greatest brass pot of three. She also left him a pair of reckoners after her mother had need of them no longer. To her brother John’s son she left two ewes, two lambs, a dish, a turned chair, and a pan; to John’s daughter two ewes, two lambs, a dish, a salt cellar, a gown, a red petticoat, a kerchief, a coat, and an apron. She left to her brother William’s son four lambs and a cow, and a dish, a porringer, and a kettle; to William’s daughter, she left four lambs, a cow, a platter, a porringer, a salt cellar, and a brass pot. She also left one cow equally between her brother John and his children. To John Pawte she left a ewe and a lamb; to her sister Elizabeth her best hat and a ruff; to Agnes Bingham a russet petticoat; to Mistress Bingham three pounds of wool; to Joan May a kerchief; to Katherine, her brother’s maid, a red petticoat; to James Fytton a ewe and a lamb; to John Longman a wether; to Thomas Hunt a hog sheep; to John Watson another hog sheep. To every one of her godchildren she left 6 pence and she made her mother her residuary legatee2.

The widows whose wills were proved at Southwell in this period seem to have been rather better off than Thomasina Whitehead. There is no hint in her will that she had any arable, nor had she much ready money. Katherine Francis was able to leave a peck of barley to every poor house in Beckingham in 1558 as well as substantial sums, £10 or 20 marks, to each of her five children. She gave names to her best animals in the modern fashion. Her son John was to have the mare called Throstle, her son Robert the cow called Cherry, her son Richard the horse called Cutt and her son Robert the mare called Wynne. To her daughter she left a great pan and 20 marks. She left a petticoat each to several women and to Alice Harson a kerchief and a young goose3. Joan Atkinson of Halam in 1561 left to her daughter Alice 20 marks in money, a great pan, a great pot, two of her best kine, eight of her best pieces of pewter in the house, a pewter salt, a candlestick, a chafing dish, two of the best silver spoons, three pairs of linen sheets, a pair of hempen sheets, two pairs of harden sheets, two towels, three mattresses, three bolsters, three short pillows, three of the best coverings, three bedsteads with the hangings and painted cloths thereto belonging, her harnessed girdle, her best beads, her long table and best tablecloth, the best cupboard, the best chair, the best frying-pan, a long chest, an iron spit and fire-irons, a salting trough, a brazen mortar and a pestle, and a long form with trestles. Alice was perhaps dearest of all her children. Joan left to her son James ‘one acre of wheat and one acre of barley and one acre of peas more than his fellows’ and to her son Simon a silver ring. She left to her sister Fogge her best kerchief and a side saddle, to her sister Jane a russet gown and a black coat, and to her sister Sheppard a ‘fresadowe’ gown. All her grandchildren were to have 2 shillings and 4 pence. One grandson was to have a yearling foal called Sterre, and a granddaughter to have a black yearling calf, a ewe and a lamb. Her other bequests of articles of clothing, sheets, and oddments are punctuated with bequests to Alice which she had evidently overlooked before, a laundry iron, a basin, a green table and bench. She left her silk hat and her best cap to Margaret Kitchen. She left 3 shillings to the chapel, now the church, of Halam, 20 pence ‘to the mending of the ways in Halam’, and to every cottager one peck of malt. Her residuary legatees and executors were her three sons and three other men; perhaps one of them was to be the husband of Alice1.

Many of the wills made by men show their trust in, and care for, their wives. Often the wife was made the sole executor. ‘Also I will that Katherine my wife shall have my house, my close, and all my arable land with meadows and pastures and all kinds of ground within the town and fields of Upton for the term of her life.… The residue of all my goods, my debts and legacies paid and I honestly brought to ground, I give and bequeathe to Katherine my wife whom I ordeyne and make my sole executrix of this my last will and testament’. This will was made in April and proved in December 15592. Thomas Kitchen of Westhorpe, Southwell, in 1561, left to his son John a young horse, a mare, a young foal, six sheep, an ironbound cart, a pair of iron gallows, a halbard, and a woodknife; ‘and if my wife do marry she to have three quarters of barley and three quarters of peas and if she do not marry she to occupy all together John and she… and I bequeste to my brother Henry to be good to my wife and my son 10 shillings and a pair of boots … to my brother Robert 10 shillings and my best hat to be good to my wife and my son. And I make my wife and my son John my full executors of all my goods unbequest’1. Henry Pryde of Westhorpe in 1564 left to Joan his wife and Katherine his daughter ‘all my goods both quick and dead whom I make my full executors, and also I will that my wife have all my land so long as she doth live and after my wife be departed then I will that my land go to Thomas my son2. In 1566 Robert Frank of Southwell willed ‘that my wife have the oversight and order of my children and their partes until they be at lawfull age, except she marrye. Then yf she marrye she to sett forthe their partes to their owne proper uses. The residue of my goodes not bequeathed I give and bequeath to Alice my wife whom I make my fulle executrix of this my last wille and testament’3.

When these Southwell wills were made some three hundred years had passed since Christina of Long Bennington distributed her goods and her sheep among her dependants and between three and four hundred years since the Lincolnshire farmers made their charters quoted earlier in this chapter. The Reformation had broken the long dependence of the English Church upon the Pope, the Renaissance was in full flood, and many changes had been made in English law before these wills were made. Yet their essential atmosphere is no different from that in which Christina of Bennington and the free Saltfleetby farmers moved. The ancestors of most of the people whose wills were proved at Southwell were far humbler folk than Christina. They were more nearly on a level with the Lincolnshire farmers, but time had favoured their descendants. To them, as to all farmers, life turned on the seasons of the agricultural year. Their wealth was in their stock and crops. The implements in daily use in the house and the cow-sheds can have changed little as the years passed. The general increase in wealth had brought pewter dishes and silver spoons, but brass pots, sheets, pillows, cushions and basins are still articles of value. A wider range of materials and articles of dress are available for the country-woman who could afford them, but her clothes are still important enough to be bequeathed item by item to her kinsfolk and friends. The cap, an indispensable article of dress to most ladies in Queen Victoria’s reign, and to the farmer’s wife as late as the present century, has made its appearance to take the place of the Anglo-Saxon headband and of Christina of Bennington’s wimple.

A hundred years before the earliest of these Southwell wills was written a family sprung from a similar environment in another part of England had begun to accumulate the vast body of correspondence which makes the Paston Letters a source of the first importance for English social history. The village of Paston in Norfolk lies about a mile from Bromholm Priory and the family had long been settled there. Enemies said that they were descended from an unfree husbandman, but Norfolk was, like Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, a land of free peasantry. The Pastons owed their rise to the fact that William Paston early in the fifteenth century took to the law and became a judge. Before his death in 1444 he had bought more land at Paston and had bought the manor of Oxnead for his wife’s jointure. The manor of Gresham he purchased and left to his son. He left, too, a trail of lawsuits, the theme of many of the letters. The judge married Agnes, daughter of Sir Edmund Berry, head of a knightly Norfolk family. His son John married Margaret Mautby, daughter and heiress of John Mautby, of Mautby, Norfolk. This marriage was arranged by the parents of the young people, who had never seen each other before the ‘young gentlewoman’ was brought to her future husband’s home. Agnes Paston wrote to tell her husband ‘good tidings’ of the occasion. ‘And as for the first acquaintance between John Paston and the said gentlewoman, she made him gentle cheer in gentle wise and said he was verrily your son. And so I hope there shall need no great discussion between them. The parson of Stockton told me that if you would buy her a gown her mother will give thereto a goodly fur’. Agnes added that Margaret needed a gown and suggested that it should be a ‘goodly blue or else a bright red’1.

John Paston followed his father to the law, so that he spent the terms in London, and in 1460 was elected to represent the shire in Parliament. His mother and his wife remained in Norfolk, looking after the family interests there. Agnes Paston had much trouble over ways which her husband had stopped up. She had a wall built, but it was pulled down. Even in church a man came into her pew to tell her that ‘the stopping of the way should cost her 20 nobles, yet it should down again’2. Margaret Paston, her son’s wife, was a woman of strong will and great capacity, equal to more serious emergencies. She did not flinch at the prospect of defending her husband’s house against attack, but asked that he would send her some crossbows and ‘wyndacs’ to bind them with and bolts to shoot from them, ‘for your house is so low that no man may shoot out with a long bow though we had never so much need’1. Lord Moleyns claimed the manor of Gresham against John Paston and in 1450 attacked his house with a great company while his wife was within with twelve people. They ‘myned the wall of the chamber wherein Margaret Paston was and bare her out at the gates and cut asunder the posts of the houses and let them fall’2. Some fifteen years later Margaret Paston was again in a house threatened by her husband’s enemies. Sir John Fastolf had made John Paston his executor and heir subject to certain conditions, but the Duke of Suffolk laid claim to Fastolf’s manor of Drayton. Margaret Paston was living in the neighbouring manor of Hellesdon supported by her eldest son. They were prepared, with guns and ordnance and sixty men, to withstand an assault, so that although the duke’s men came up three hundred strong they did not dare to attack. John Paston wrote to thank his wife for her ‘labour and business with the unruly fellowship that came before you on Monday last past. And in good faith you acquitted you right well and discreetly and heartily to your worship and mine, and to the shame of your adversaries, and I am well content that you avowed that you kept possession at Drayton and so would do’3. Before the end of the year, however, the duke’s men had plundered Hellesdon, destroying everything they could not carry away.

The letters which passed between husband and wife show complete trust, but their mutual affection is generally taken for granted. Margaret Paston was her husband’s agent. Supported by a group of good servants, she was able to transact on his behalf any business that might arise. She knew the ordinary processes of the law and could interview the royal judges at Norwich and win them to her point of view. She could instruct counsel and report their advice to her husband. She reported also the local price of malt and told him when she thought of selling wool to raise ready money. The endless lawsuits in which John Paston was engaged were by no means unusual. Nor was it unusual for the head of a country family of some importance to find himself in prison. John Paston was in prison three times in the course of the actions resulting from Sir John Fastolf’s will. Margaret Paston was an able woman, but there is no reason to doubt that many other women of her age were living similar lives and dealing as competently with similar problems. The courts of justice were familiar to country folk throughout the Middle Ages, and it was important for women as well as men to know the elements of the processes of law. The medieval country-woman had much more to think about than the mere provision of food and comfort for her family and household.

Men and women alike were above all concerned with the increase of their ‘livelihood’, a word which recurs again and again in the correspondence. They wanted to be certain of a sure income and were unwilling that any member of the family should marry a man or woman who was not thus provided. Anxiety to provide well for daughters often made parents harsh to them. They were afraid that girls would entangle themselves with men without a livelihood or even with their fathers’ servants. For this reason they sent them from home to be brought up in other men’s houses. There, they would have duties which would keep them occupied. Elizabeth Paston, sister of John Paston, had a hard time at home with her mother Agnes Paston, according to a cousin who wrote before 1449 urging John Paston to find his sister a husband. ‘She was never in so great sorrow as she is in nowadays, for she may speak with no man whosoever come.… And she hath since Easter been for the most part beaten once in a week or twice, and sometimes twice on a day and her head broken in two or three places. Wherefore, cousin, she hath sent to me in great counsell and prayeth me that I would send to you a letter of her heavyness and pray you to be her good brother, as her trust is in you’. The writer described how a widower had been to see Elizabeth, but that her mother hesitated about the marriage because she had not seen his daughter’s marriage settlement. She feared that his lands might already be settled on his daughter and her children. The matter was urgent because the suitor would withdraw if it were not brought to a speedy conclusion. ‘Wherefore, cousin, think on this matter, for sorrow often causeth women to beset them otherwise than they should do, and if she were in that case I wot well you would be sorry’1. Elizabeth Paston remained for some years yet unmarried and several husbands were canvassed for her. Meanwhile, she was put in the household of Lady Pole, and Agnes Paston noted among the errands she wished to have done for her in London: ‘Tell Elizabeth Paston she must use herself to work readily as other gentlewomen do’2.

It was not an easy matter to marry off a daughter, as the story of Margery, daughter of John and Margaret Paston, showed. She was first mentioned in 1463 when her mother wrote to tell her father how a friend had come in and seen Margery and said that she was a goodly young woman. Agnes Paston, her grandmother, at once prayed the friend to get her a good marriage if he knew any, and he said he knew one which should be worth 300 marks a year1. Nothing came of that. In 1465 when Margaret Paston was visiting her husband in the Fleet prison her youngest son wrote to tell her how ‘the garrison’ at Hellesdon did and added a suggestion that she should take his sister Margery to shrines ‘to pray that she may have a good husband ere she come home again’2. After the death of John Paston a certain J. Strange wrote to his son, now Sir John Paston, to ask for the hand of his sister Margery for a nephew, another J. Strange. He promised to make her sure of a jointure of £40 a year and an inheritance of 200 marks a year3. Nothing came of that either and in 1469 the family was shocked to learn that she wanted to marry Richard Calle and had, indeed, promised herself to him. He was the bailiff and manager of Sir John Paston’s property and had served his father before him. Margery’s brother, John, declared that Calle ‘should never have my good will to make my sister sell candle and mustard in Framlingham’4. A moving letter written by Richard Calle to Margery in 1469 survives, although he asked her to burn it5. The affair had been going on for a long time, for he says that she has had no letter from him for the last two years. Richard Calle appealed to the Bishop of Norwich, who summoned Margery before him, spoke to her about the seriousness of marrying where her kin did not approve, and asked her solemnly what words she had said in pledging her faith to Richard Calle. She told him what she had said to Calle, and declared ‘if those words made it not sure she said boldly she would make that surer before that she went thence’6. Her mother refused to receive her at home and the bishop had to find a lodging for her until he pronounced his sentence that she had indeed committed herself to marriage with Richard Calle. The Pastons could only acquiesce in the marriage, but they never accepted Margery’s husband as a member of the family. He returned to the service of Sir John Paston, who could not do without him. Margaret Paston never forgave her daughter and did not remember her in her will. But she regarded herself as a just woman and therefore left £20 to Margery’s sons.

Parents were not lacking in affection for their daughters when they sent them to the houses of other folk for training. It was expensive, for they often had to pay for their board, and always had to dress them better than they would have done at home. ‘I would be right glad that she might be preferred either by marriage or by service’, wrote Margaret Paston of one of her daughters to her younger son soon after he had himself entered the household of the Duke of Norfolk1. The suggestion that one of his sisters should enter the same household came to nothing. It was not always easy to find a place for a girl and parents often had to be content to put them with their own kin or friends. Anne Paston entered the household of a kinsman named Calthorpe and her mother was annoyed when in 1470 he wrote saying that he intended ‘to lessen his household and to live the straitlier’ and therefore wanted to send Anne home: ‘she waxeth high and it were time to purvey her a marriage’. Her mother thought that Anne must have displeased him or been caught out in some way. She asked her son to enquire of a cousin in London if he would be willing to have Anne ‘and send me word, for I shall be fain to send for her and with me she shall but lose her time…. Remember what labour I had with her sister, therefore do your part to help her forth’2. Anne was at last suitably married to William Yelverton, like herself the grandchild of a judge, but not before she had shown leanings towards a certain John Pamping, another of the Pastons’ servants. Sir John wrote from London in 1473 saying that he heard that she had been sick, whereas he had thought that she was married. ‘As for Yelverton, he said but late that he would have her if she had her money, and else not, wherefore me thinketh that they be not very sure. But among all other things, I pray you beware that the old love of Pamping renew not’3. The marriage with Yelverton took place at last in 1477.

The custom of sending boys and girls to serve in the household of some greater man than their father was a survival of the feudal practice which brought wards into their lord’s charge and gave them wider opportunities than their home afforded. It lasted well into the seventeenth century. Girls found it more difficult than boys to adapt themselves to altered circumstances. They did not always succeed in pleasing their mistress. On 14 August 1616 the Lady Anne Clifford, then Countess of Dorset and living at Knole, noted in her diary that she ‘fell out with Kate Burton and swore’ that she ‘would not keep her and caused her to send to her father’. Four days later Sir Edward Burton ‘came hither and I told him that I was determined that I would not keep his daughter’. It was not, however, until 2 October that the Lady Anne recorded that ‘Kate Burton went away from serving me to her father’s home in Sussex’1.

Hints of trouble and unhappiness can often be found in similar sources. In 1577 Lady Howard wrote to her nephew, Sir Edward Stradling of St. Donat’s, Glamorgan, about his sister Wentlian: ‘I sent for her upon the sight of your letter and dealt very friendly with her, and declared unto her that it grieved me, she being so near kin unto me, to see her go from service to service: she being so ill used, as she declared unto me, in the place where she was’. Lady Howard went on to say that she had arranged for Wentlian to come home to her brother, and that she, ‘like a good and loving sister puts herself wholey to be governed by you’2. Lady Howard urged her brother to be kind to his sister, particularly since, unlike all her other sisters, she was contented to marry and be ruled by her friends. It is probable that Lady Howard was referring to one of Wentlian’s sisters called Damasyn, who had gone off to Spain in the service of a lady and died there ten years before. Her mistress was Jane, daughter of Sir William Dormer of Eythrope in Buckinghamshire. While Jane Dormer was maid of honour to Queen Mary she married the Spanish ambassador, the Count, afterwards Duke, of Feria. Sir William Dormer proudly wrote to Sir Edward Stradling of ‘my daughter the Dowchesse’3. Damasyn died in Spain in 1567 before the death of her father, Sir Thomas Stradling. The duchess wrote to him to break ‘the dolefull news’ and said that in the seven years Damasyn had served her ‘I knew not what troubles meant; all my cares, all my business, all my lusts were discharged upon her back; she honoured me as her mother, and loved me as a sister, and served me with such fidelity and pains that not one woman living, I am sure, could vaunt themselves of so wise, noble, virtuous, loving, careful, nor able a servant as I’4.

The daughters of knightly families like the Pastons and the Stradlings may have been unhappy in youth, but if they married and survived their husbands they often enjoyed, like the Lady Anne Clifford herself, an independence and importance which must have sweetened the sorrows of age. The Paston correspondence provides three examples of the long-lived widow. Agnes Paston, the wife of the judge, lived as a widow from 1444 to 1479. She survived her eldest son by thirteen years and died in the same year as her grandson, his heir. Margaret Paston, whose husband died in 1466 and whose son died in 1479, lived until 1484. Both these ladies could hold their own with their sons and grandsons and did not hesitate to chide them. ‘My cousin Clere’, another widow, is frequently referred to by one or other of the letter-writers. Her opinions were respected and quoted and copies of her letters were forwarded to other correspondents. Messages were sent to her in letters written home. She was a widow when she first appears early in the Paston story and she remained a widow to the end. Her husband was Robert Clere of Ormsby, who must have died young. When Henry VI’s queen visited Norwich in 1453 she summoned Elizabeth Clere to her presence. Margaret Paston wrote to tell her husband about it and said that the queen ‘made right much of her and desired her to have a husband, the which you shall know of hereafter. But as for that he is never nearer than he was before. The queen was right well pleased with her answer and reported of her in the best wise and sayeth, by her truth, that she saw no gentlewoman since she came into Norfolk that she liked better than she doth her’1. The only occasion when Elizabeth Clere and the Pastons were at odds was when she claimed goods from a wrecked ship ‘by title of the leet’, that is, as the lord of the local court, and Sir John Paston claimed them as ‘lord of the soil’ on which they lay2. She last appears in the correspondence living with her son and his wife at Ormsby. Her will was proved in March 1493.

The more closely the Paston letters and other contemporary evidence is studied the more difficult is it to generalize about the position of the English country-woman in the Middle Ages. The law is clear enough and the Church’s view is clear enough. But men and women are never ruled in their personal relationships by law alone or by the Church alone. No farmer could get along without a wife. It is probably not far from the truth to say that the nearer the household was to the land the stronger the tie between man and wife, the more nearly were they on equal terms. When man and wife stayed on their farm year in year out, going to market and the local courts of justice, but having no particular need to go much farther afield their lives were much what they had been for countless generations past; their thoughts those of their Saxon ancestors. When success followed on hard work new factors came into play. There were opportunities for the able man away from the farm as there were not for the woman. The men rose in the world, but women could only rise through them or through marriage. The law was the avenue by which families rose, as did the Pastons after one of the family became a judge. When the menfolk went to the law they were in the very forefront of the intellectual life of the country. The Paston boys were being sent to Eton before the end of the century. They either went on to Oxford, were placed in a noble household, or entered the Inns of Court. They bought books and were making enough money to invest largely in plate. The men in such a family ceased to be mainly interested in the seasons of the agricultural year. The women stayed at home.

1 H. C. Darby and I. B. Terrett, The Domesday Geography of Midland England, Cambridge, 1954, p. 127.

1 F. M. Stenton, ‘The Free Peasantry of the Northern Danelaw’, Bulletin de la Société Royale des Lettres de Lund, Lund, Sweden, 1926, pp. 73185. All the charters quoted in this and the five following paragraphs are dealt with in this article, which contains a calendar of all the grants of land made by men of Anglo-Scandinavian descent in the northern Danelaw and known to the writer in 1925.

1 Earliest Lincolnshire Assize Rolls, Case 1133, p. 200.

2 Ibid., Case 434, pp. 756.

3 Pleas before the King or his Justices, vol. ii, Selden Society, vol. 68, Case 678, p. 200.

4 Earliest Lincolnshire Assize Rolls, Case 731, p. 126.

5 Pleas before the King or his Justices, vol. i, Case 3121, p. 299.

1 Select Pleas in Manorial Courts, ed. F. W. Maitland, Selden Society, vol. 3, 1888, p. 112.

2 Ibid., pp. 1812.

3 Ibid., p. 8.

4 Ibid., p. 12.

5 Ibid., p. 8.

6 Ibid., pp. 10, 11.

7 Ibid., p. 17.

1 Select Pleas in Manorial Courts, p. 14.

2 Ibid., p. 11.

3 Ibid., p. 32.

1 Select Pleas in Manorial Courts, p. 89.

2 Court Rolls of the Abbey of Ramsey, ed. W. O. Ault, Yale, 1928, pp. 2656.

3 Select Pleas in Manorial Courts, p. 97.

4 Court Rolls of Ramsey, p. 211.

1 Court Rolls of Ramsey, p. 195.

2 Ibid., p. 270.

3 Ibid., pp. 277, 279.

4 Select Pleas in Manorial Courts, p. 183.

1 Earliest Northamptonshire Assize Rolls, Case 817, pp. 1401.

2 Court Rolls of the Manor of Ingoldmells, ed. W. O. Massingberd, London, 1902, p. 28.

3 Pleas before the King or his Justices, 1198–1202, vol. ii, p. 9.

4 Earliest Northamptonshire Assize Rolls, Cases 696 and 707, pp. 11315.

5 Earliest Lincolnshire Assize Rolls, Case 1461, p. 262.

1 Earliest Lincolnshire Assize Rolls, Case 594, p. 105.

2 Lincoln Wills, vol. i, ed. C. W. Foster, Lincoln Record Society, vol. v, 1914, pp. 24.

3 The Latin word for carpets at this date means not carpets but covers, that is some sort of rug or table-cloth.

1 Statute of Merton, cap. 2.

1 See above, p. 22.

2 Court Rolls of Ingoldmells, p. 293. William Craycrofte, gent., 1569.

1 The Southwell wills (Southwell MSS., vols. 8 and 9) were transcribed by the late W. A. James of South Muskham Prebend, Southwell, Hon. Librarian of Southwell Minster, who left his transcripts to my husband. Dorothy Kepeas’s will is printed in Visitations and Memorials of Southwell Minster, ed. A. F. Leach, Camden Society, 1891, pp. 1389.

2 Southwell MSS., vol. 9, p. 479.

3 Ibid., pp. 393–5.

1 Southwell MSS., vol. 9, pp. 416–18.

2 Ibid., p. 502.

1 Southwell MSS., vol. 9, p. 506.

2 Ibid., p. 501.

3 Ibid., p. 480.

1 The Paston Letters, ed. James Gairdner, vol. i, pp. 389.

2 Ibid., p. 219.

1 The Paston Letters, vol. i, p. 82.

2 Ibid., p. 107.

3 Ibid., vol. ii, p. 209.

1 The Paston Letters, vol. i, pp. 8991.

2 Ibid., p. 422.

1 The Paston Letters, vol. ii, pp. 1401.

2 Ibid., p. 233.

3 Ibid., p. 296.

4 Ibid., p. 347.

5 Ibid., pp. 350–3.

6 Ibid., p. 364.

1 The Paston Letters, Introduction, p. 104.

2 Ibid., vol. ii, pp. 418–19.

3 Ibid., vol. iii, pp. 1023.

1 Diary, ed. V. Sackville-West, pp. 106 and 107.

2 Stradling Correspondence, ed. J. Montgomery Treherne, London, 1840, pp. 78.

3 Ibid., p. I.

4 Ibid., pp. 3423.

1 Paston Correspondence, vol. i, pp. 2534.

2 Ibid., vol. iii, p. 211.

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