Court Rolls

Case 1:

Steward: Walter of the Moor... you are accused of taking away the Lord's fish... you stand in peril of life and limb.

Walter: Sir, my wife has been in bed for a whole month and has never eaten anything she could enjoy... She had a craving to taste a perch. She sent me to the pond to take one perch only.

Steward: Are you confessing to the court that you took away a perch?

Walter: Sir for God's sake do not think bad of me... I went along the bank of the pond and saw the fish playing in the water so lovely and bright... I laid down on the bank of the pond and with my hands caught it... My wife has been in bed for a whole month, as my neighbours who are here well know.

Case 2:

Steward: William... you cannot deny that this mare was found with you.

William: I never saw the mare until now... These men have their hearts big against me and hate me much.

Steward: They are good folk... and do only what is right... Confess the trut and thou shall find us more merciful.

William: I will confess the truth, my great poverty and the enticement of the devil made me take the mare, and often have made me do other things that I ought not to have done.

Steward: Take him away and let him have a priest.

Case 3:

Robert the Bailiff: Thomas Fisher, against the law of the lord and the village... hath sold fish... Thomas Fisher kept the fish for a long time in order to obtain a higher price... The fish was stinking, rotten and corrupt whereby many a man and woman hath received great sickness of body.

Steward: Thomas Fisher is judged to be guilty.

Case 4:

Henry of Combe complains that Stephen the Carpenter called him a thief and a lawless man and other villain words which were undeserved... Stephen the Carpenter said that Henry of Combe was spying the secrets of the honest folk... Stephen then snatched Henry's staff out of his hand, and hit him about his head and shoulders and then went off. Stephen the Carpenter is ordered to defend himself at the next Court.

Case 5:

Robert the Bailiff complains that William Long came to the lord's mill to grind his corn, a quarter of wheat and a quarter of rye. The miller skillfully ground the corn and put it in sacks. William collected the sacks and made off without giving his toll as he ought to have done according to the custom. William Long is ordered to defend himself at the next Court.

Case 6:

Robert the Bailiff complains that William of the Street sent Thomas his son over the lord's wall and commanded him to carry off fruit. The bailiff entered the lord's garden and found the boy high in the apple tree. The boy claimed that William his father bade him enter the garden and urged him to climb the trees... William is ordered to defend himself at the next Court.

Case 7:

Robert the Bailiff complains that William Tailor has broken the assize of beer that no brewer or breweress shall brew beer unless it is good and approved, according to the judgement of the ale-conner. William sold beer that was flat at one pence a gallon. William Tailor is ordered to defend himself at the next Court.

Case 8:

John the Parker, complains that Geoffrey and John of the Moor went in the lord's park with two greyhounds, with bows and arrows, and were spying what they would have. John the Parker... saw Geoffrey and John chasing and pursuing with their greyhounds a buck. Geoffrey with a barbed arrow killed the buck. They took and skinned it, and covered it with branches of underwood, and then went out of the park. Geoffrey and John of the Moor are ordered to defend themselves at the next Court.

1. Read the first two cases. How did Walter attempt to persuade the Steward not to punish him too severely? What punishment did William receive?

2. Read The Custumal. Find a case you were involved in. Write an imaginary dialogue of what might have been said in the Manor Court.

3. These court rolls do not include the name of the manor where the court took place. What clues does the court rolls provide that would help a historian discover the name of the manor.