Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Journal (1873) - Almonbury in Feudal Times

Reproduced from Volume II of the Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Journal.

The following is a transcription of a historic article and may contain occasional errors.


By J. K. WALKER, M.D., F.S.A., a Vice-President of the Association.

Some thirty years hare elapsed since I received from the late B. N. Rockley Batty, Esq., a copy of the Inquisition of Almonbury in Elizabeth’s reign, which, after careful examination, I lent to my late dear friend Mr. Turner. He afterwards procured an old copy made by Mr. Abraham Radcliffe, formerly of Almonbury, which contained also the jurors’ returns to the inquisitions in the reigns of Edward III., Henry VI., mid James I. These are not now in my possession ; but it is my hope that they may eventually find a resting-place among the archives of the Huddersfield Archaeological Association.[2]

The documents contain more than a mere dry catalogue of names, though some persons may at first sight perceive little else therein. It would indeed have been too tedious for the purposes of this paper to have transcribed the names of all the tenants, and we must wait for the pages of some future history of the Honor of Pontefract, wherein these inquisitions, in extenso, may not improperly be introduced.

In the copies to which I have had access, there are, I think, places where not only words but entire sentences are wanting ; and some parts have been incorrectly transcribed ; I trust, however, that such parts as I have selected for this paper have been correctly translated.

It appeared to me on examination that these inquisitions afforded an interesting exposition of the various feudal services prevalent in the district during several centuries ; and with this view I have extracted from each of them some of the more remarkable instances, and I have also taken the opportunity of extracting from the Hundred Rolls of Edward I. certain returns to several articles of inquiry relating to Almonbury, and the baronial abuses existing there in the preceding reign.

But after all that can be done to render this subject attractive, some one may think that it might have been more homoeopathically treated. In justification, however, I must appeal to the opinion of those who first solicited me to undertake this duty, and who were the best judges of its importance. In 1842, my late friend Mr. Turner expressed in earnest terms his wish that my attention should be directed to the history of Almonbury. It should be remembered also that the rudiments of the Constitution of England may be traced as far back as the Norman Conquest by means of these and similar records, and that each of these reigns — of Edward I., Edward III., Henry VI., Elizabeth, and James I. — is marked by events clearly illustrating the general advancement of that Constitution.

It is a matter of congratulation that we have now arrived at an era when the records of the Duchy of Lancaster are no longer inaccessible to the researches of the intelligent inquirer ; for it cannot be doubted that many interesting circumstances relating to Almonbury will thus receive new illustration. The Calendar to the pleadings of the Duchy has probably been examined by many members of our Association, and one or two instances of their use in relation to these inquisitions will appear in this paper.

Few periods of our history are more deserving the study of Englishmen than the Early Ages immediately succeeding the time of the Norman Conquest. From the battle of Hastings down to the battle of Bosworth Field, the feudal system in some of its forms prevailed in every part of the kingdom ; generally, however, its most oppressive features were seen and felt in the vicinity of the various castles, which, in the then unsettled state of the country, each baron found it necessary to erect for the safety of his possessions. The Conqueror himself, soon after the Conquest, sensible that the want of fortified places had greatly facilitated his success, had erected numerous castles in different parts of the kingdom, in order to remedy this defect for the future, as well as to overawe his subjects. Having also appropriated to himself no less than 1422 manors in various counties, he unceremoniously distributed to his followers the remainder of the country, and the lands of the Saxon nobles were lavishly bestowed on the officers of the Conqueror. Of these, Ilbert de Lacy, for his services in the subjugation of the Northumbrian kingdom, received no less than 162 manors, of which Almonbury was one. This fortunate soldier, in the tenth of William, began to erect the Castle of Pontefract, destined afterwards to become the head of the Honor of Pontefract, in which the manor of Almonbury was comprised.

The castle on the hill of Almonbury was built at a later period, not by Ilbert de Lacy, but, as commonly believed, by King Stephen. We have in “Domesday” a list of the Yorkshire manors granted to Ilbert, and under Almonbury we find that the two Saxon proprietors, Chetel and Suen, were dispossessed of this manor, and Leusin put in their place; but though in this, as in many other instances amongst Ilbert’s manors, the earlier proprietors were displaced, it is interesting to notice that they were transferred to neighbouring manors—the former to Bradley, and the latter to Dalton. In the case of the adjoining manor of Huddersfield, the Saxon proprietor remained undisturbed.

You are aware how often the word “vasta” (i.e. uncultivated) occurs in the Domesday of Northumbria. It is applied to Almonbury and other adjacent manors, but it is no proof that this part of the Northumbrian kingdom was treated more mercilessly than other portions of the district. The term was no inapt description of the country; for long after the ravages of actual warfare ceased, the work of confiscation proceeded. Thenceforth, not only the property of those Saxon lords who had fought against the invader, but also that of men who had taken no part in the conflict, began to pass into the hands of Norman barons. It can, therefore be no matter of surprise, that in so many places the land was left uncultivated ; for, seeing how soon they might be deprived of their land, and how small might be their chance of reaping the produce, few would care to plough their fields and sow their seed.

Little remains of the first century and a-half after the Conquest — little but the names of the tenants in capite, individuals who obtained their feudal privileges for services done to the crown. From the age of Henry III., however, various surveys are extant, in which are comprehended the names of those who held the subfees; and the inquisitions, to which I propose to devote this paper, are records of this character.

Though it is quite necessary that I should confine my remarks within the limits thus prescribed, yet I cannot refrain from observing how impossible it is to view the noble hill of Almonbury without feeling some lively impressions of the scenes that may have been enacted on its conspicuous summit. There is strong reason to believe that it has been a place of strength in Saxon perhaps even in Celtic times. It may have been the seat of a boundary fortress, and Huddersfield — the Oderesfelt of Domesday — may have derived its name from oder, a boundary. If Spelman is right that Berie and Burgh are synonymous, it makes it the more probable that a Saxon castle stood there. It might have been a wooden castle, for we are told that stone-built castles were exceedingly rare before the Conquest: many such castles of wood were hastily built and soon reduced to ashes. If antiquaries of some succeeding age, more curious than their predecessors, should venture to explore the interior of the hill of Almonbury, much light may be thrown upon die past history of this and perhaps the adjacent district.


But to return to our feudal history. The manor of Almonbury continued a part of the Lacy Fee till the reign of Edward I., the period when the inquiries addressed to Almonbury, in common with other parts of the country, brought to light so many delinquencies perpetrated by the officers of the Lords of the Honor of Pontefract, and of the Wapentake of Agbrigg. At the date of the inquisition in this reign the Honor of Pontefract was in the hands of Henry de Lacy, a confidential friend of Edward, and a great benefactor to Almonbury. This powerful baron, gifted with every quality that can adorn a soldier or a statesman, took a conspicuous part in rectifying the abuses which had crept into the administration of justice, and in perfecting many reforms during the early years of the reign, and it is but justice to the character of this great man to show how unlikely it is that he would personally sanction such abuses as are recorded in the inquisition, as it appears in the Hundred Rolls of Edward I., from which I quote. The names of Henry de Lacy and of the Earl of Warren are there introduced, as having the returns of writs and estreats of the Wapentake of Agbrigg, and both these noblemen are charged with trespassing upon the privileges of the King, but doubtless many of the abuses attributed to the Earl of Lincoln were due to subordinate officers acting without the knowledge of their chief.

The causes which gave rise to this inquisition are detailed in the Hundred Rolls above named. We are told that during the turbulent reign of King Henry III., the revenue of the Crown had been considerably diminished by the chief tenants of the Crown withholding under various pretexts what was justly due, and usurping, along with other royal rights, that of holding courts; and also that numerous oppressions of the people, claims of rights of chace and warren, with other exactions, were such as to call for immediate relief.

Ring Edward I., who was on his way from the Holy Land, on the death of his father, did not reach England till towards the latter end of the second year of his reign, and these abuses remained uncorrected until his return, when one of the first acts of his administration after his arrival was to inquire into the state of the demesnes, Ac. The returns to the several articles of inquiry made by the Commissioners, relating to Almonbury, present us with some charges against the Earl of Lincoln (Henry de Lacy) as well as certain delinquencies on the part of his bailiff and officers. The following is an extract from these returns :—

Ed. I. A.D. 1273-4.—
The commissioners say, that the Wapentake of Agbrigg is in the hands of the King. That the Earl of Lincoln and the Earl Warren have the return of Writs and Estreats, the first ab antiquo, the second for 40 years : and they say, that the said Earls do not allow the Bailifis of the Lord the King to execute any office in his own lands ; but that they (the Earls) execute all such offices by their own Bailiffs:—
That the steward of the Earl of Lincoln tries cases of felony in the Court of Almonbury, which is of the liberty of Pontefract, for the last six years past: That the Bailiffs of the said Earls take and keep possession of waifs :—
Also that, when the Bailiffs of the Lord the King were about to execute their accustomed office in Scameden and Corsland foes, the Bailiffs of the Earl of Lincoln, for the space of five years past, would not permit them.
They say that Nicholas de Burton, formerly Steward of the Earl of Lincoln, took from Hugo, Constable of Almonbury — often indicted (aoepius indictato), one mark for concealing his felony, and that so and in a similar manner, have done and still do all former and present stewards.
They say that Phineas de Gailstorp, formerly Bailiff, took from Thomas, Rector of the church of Heton, two marks for concealing a fine, in which the said Rector was amerced before the Abbot of Burg,[3] in his last circuit, now 16 years ago, namely 10 marks.
Then follow the names of six others, by whom smaller sums were taken for a similar purpose.
Also Hugo, Constable of Almonbury, Robert de Marcheden and Henry Odelin apprehended a certain thief, and took from him 9s 7d and allowed him to escape after keeping him two days; and the wife of the said thief they also took and imprisoned at the house of Hugo of the foss in Crosland, but how she escaped, they know not. The same Hugo apprehended another thief, and kept him imprisoned at his own house for six days, and afterwards let him go, but why or after what manner they know not.
There are also the names of certain approvers given, who for a bribe accused innocent persons, &c.

Before leaving these returns, in which the name of the Earl of Lincoln appears, as above quoted, it may be interesting to note, as further connecting him with the name of Almonbury, that in 1272 the King granted to him the privilege of a market to be holden there every week, and that in 1287 we find him presenting to the church.

In the reign of Edward I., we find certain portions of the returns for the adjacent districts to contain matters of great interest, as conveying to us undoubted information of the existence of the cloth manufacture in this part of the county.

We find it stated in the return for Pontefract that Walter, the dyer, and Richard Gris, along with four other persons, made cloth not containing the due width. In another wapentake, the Jurors say that certain persons buy and collect wool throughout the country for the use of the merchants, not for the home manufacturers. In the Calendar of the Patent Rolls (a.d. 1285) it is stated that a staple of wool was settled at Boston, and the merchants of the Hanseatic League established there their guild, and a tax of a mark was paid on every sack of wool exported.

Though it is a matter of history how the territories of the Duchy of Lancaster became the property of the Crown, yet it may be useful, whilst the name of this great ornament of the house of Lacy is before us, to trace in a succinct form the descent of our manor through him down to the time when the accession of Henry of Bolingbroke carried it amongst the possessions of our kings.

Camden tells us (quoting Placita 11, Henry III.), that Henry de Lacy, grandson of Ilbert, the original grantee, “being in the battle of Trenchbray against Henry I., was disseised of his Barony of Pontefract, but in King Stephen’s time he re-entered upon the said Barony.” His son Robert, dying without issue, made his half-sister, Albreda de Lisours, his heir. She carried sixty knights’ fees of the Honor of Pontefract into the family of the Constable of Cheshire, having married Richard Fitz-Eustace, Baron of Halton.

Their grandson Roger, Constable of Cheshire, assumed the name of Lacy on the death of his great-uncle, Robert Lacy of Pontefract. This Roger (vir magnificus et belli-cosus) bore no mean part in the events of King John’s reign. Dying in 1211, he was succeeded by his son John, who in 1232 became Earl of Lincoln, and who was the grandfather of Henry the famous Earl of Lincoln, whose name appears in the returns above extracted from the Hundred Rolls of Edward I.

The deed is extant in the Duchy Office (it is believed) whereby Alice, his mother, widow of Edmund Lacy, who died young, released her dower in “Almanbyrie.”

Henry Lacy was one of the greatest and foremost men of his age. In Stow’s catalogue of King Edward’s Parliament at Carlisle, in 1307,[4] his name is entered first of the barons, and next after the Prince of Wales. He died A.D. 1310, at his house in London, the site of which still bears his name as Lincoln’s Inn, and was buried at St. Paul’s, “in the new wirke, whereof he was founder.”[5]

“Vir illustris in consilio, strenuus in omni guerra et prelio, Princeps militie in Anglia, et in omni regno ornatissimus,” saith the book of Dunmow.[6] His only surviving child and heiress was the notorious Alice, wife of Thomas Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster, Leycester, and Derby, who was beheaded at his own Castle of Pontefract in 1321.

Henry of Lancaster (surnamed Grismond), his brother and heir, was in 1326 admitted to his lands and honours. He it was who took so prominent a part in “craftily compassing Edward of Carnarvon to make resignation of the crown to his eldest son,” Edward III. (of Windsor) ; and the deposed king was left in his custody.

Henry, son of the above, was created Earl of Derby in 1336, and it will be seen that our Manor of Almonbury, as an appanage of the Earldom of Lancaster, became his property in the lifetime of his father, for the inquisition of Edward III. (a.d. 1340) is the return made by the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the revenues of his lands. After the death of his father in 1345 he assumed the paternal titles, and in 1349, the earldom of Lincoln was conferred on him. In 1350 he was created Duke of Lancaster.

Blanche, his daughter and co-heiress, married John of Gaunt (son of Edward III.), Earl of Richmond, who, in her right, received the title of Duke of Lancaster, and whose son Henry, “by force of arms, made himself King,” and thus in 1399 united the Duchy of Lancaster to the Crown of England.


The reign of Edward II. is also not without record of some incidents connected with Almonbury and its neighbourhood. I would especially advert to that well-known instance of barbarity perpetrated in the Castle, or prison of the Castle of Almonbury, which is recorded in Dodsworth’s MSS. Speaking of this place, he writes:—

Here was a dungeon at least and the following inquisition will at once present some horrid images, and prove with what brutal neglect, the wretched victims of lawless power were treated in those times.
Quod quidam extraneus occisus est in prisona quondam Castri de Almonbury, habens corpus quasi devoratum vcrmi-bus, avibus, et canibus ; et dicunt quod alibi occisus est et ibidem postea positus et projedus, sed per quern ignorantur. Or in English — that a certain stranger had been murdered in the prison of the former Castle of Almonbury, whose body had the appearance as if it had been devoured by worms by birds and dogs, and they say, that the person had been murdered elsewhere but afterwards placed or thrown into that place, but by whom they know not.

We do not appear to have any positive evidence how long the castle on the hill near Almonbury had existed before it was destroyed or dismantled. It is, however, well-known with respect to many of these edifices, that, after being stripped of their outworks of warlike defence, they were used as prisons. So obnoxious were Baronial Castles in the earlier Norman reigns, that, on the accession of Henry II., a law was passed, which put a stop to their erection, except for purposes of national defence, and then castle-guard became a part of the knight-service by which the Barons, as tenants in capite, held their estates. Stow tells us (p. 149) that the castles that had been builded to fill the rich and spoil the poor were by the king’s commandment and counsel of his Chancellor (Beckett) thrown down — Anno 1155. We cannot indeed wonder that so many of the strongholds were destined to early destruction, for, if we can rely on the account given in the Saxon chronicles, they were the scenes of every species of torture. We read[7] sub anno 1137, that,—

Every powerful man made his castles and held them against the King; and they filled the land full of castles. They cruelly oppressed the wretched men of the land with castle-works. When the castles were made they filled them with devils and evil men. Then took they those men that they imagined had any property, both by night and by day, peasant men and women, and put them in prison for their gold and silver, and tortured them with unutterable torture, for never were martyrs so tortured as they were. They hanged them up by the feet, and smoked them with foul smoke ; they hanged them by the thumbs, or by the head, and hung fires on their feet; they put knotted strings about their heads, and writhed them so that it went to the brain. They put them in dungeons, in which were adders and snakes and toads, and killed them so . . . . Many thousands they killed with hunger ; I neither can nor may tell all the wounds or all the tortures which they inflicted on wretched men in this land; and that lasted the nineteen winters that Stephen was King.

But, even where the castles were dismantled, there were other feudal oppressions of a gross and debasing character, inflicted by the Barons on their vassals : and it seems to have been the policy of each of the successors of the Conqueror, to weaken by every means, legal or illegal, the strength of the Saxon part of the population, which, during these early Norman reigns, did not cease to nourish the most inveterate antipathy to their victors.

In the 9th year of Edward II., certain returns were required from the sheriffs of each county, as to the number of Hundreds and Wapentakes existing in each sheriff’s jurisdiction, and also how many and what cities, boroughs, and townships, there were in each such Hundred or Wapentake, a military levy of one man-at-arms from each township having been granted in the Parliament held at Lincoln. This document, which was published by the Record Commissioners in 1834, is called the Nomina Villarum and the Yorkshire portion of it has recently been issued by the Surtees Society (vol. 49).

Of the Wapentake of Aggebrigg, the King is returned as chief Lord (as in the Hundred Rolls of Edw. I.), and the Earl of Lancaster is Lord of the Manors of Almonbury, Muletham, Hoderfield, and others.

We find, also, that Farneley and Slaithwaite were at this period in the hands of different members of the Tyas family, whilst Honley was held by Richard de Waleys.

During this reign the kingdom was distracted by civil wars, which ended in the execution of the Earl of Lancaster; in the sanguinary conflict, many of the men of rank from this district fought against the King, some of them were made prisoners, and they did not all escape with their lives. Sir John de Eland fought under the Earl of Lancaster, and it is recorded in the Abbreviatio Rotulorum Vol. I., that he “finem fecit cum rege pro decern marcis pro pardona, &c.” In the year when the Earl of Lancaster was executed, a commission was issued to arrest Richard de Waleys, Lord of Honley, and Henry Tyes, the latter of whom was condemned and executed, whilst the former only purchased his life with the enormous fine of 2,000 marks.

There are others who fought under the Royal banner and some who remained neutral. It does not appear that the Beaumont family took any part in the wars between the King and the Earl, for in 1324 we find Sir Robert de Bellomonte Commissioner of array for the Wapentake of Agbrigg and Coroner of the County of York ; which would hardly hare been the case, had he been of the opposite party.


In the next reign — that of Edward III. — we have an important inquisition of Almonbury, the earliest, I believe, of those hitherto unpublished. It is on many accounts of singular interest, and it deserves a longer examination than the limits of this paper will allow me to indulge in.

That of Henry VI. will also call for some remarks : both these records are in Latin, but in some parts, the copies before me have been so carelessly transcribed that it is not very easy at all times to say what their exact meaning is.

The survey in Elizabeth’s reign is of peculiar interest as contrasted with the above. Trade and commerce had already shaken to its centre that odious system of feudal tyranny under which the nation had groaned for so many centuries, and we find little left of the badges of feudalism that characterised the reigns of Edward III. and Henry VI.

What those badges of feudalism were sufficiently appears in the inquisitions themselves. With a few exceptions, they were the same here as in other parts of the kingdom, such as, suit and service done by the tenants at the Court of their lord, the payment of double rent to the lord on the entrance of a tenant into his land, and the grinding of a tenant’s corn at the lord’s mill, &c.

We find it stated also, amongst the services of the bond-tenants of Almonbury, that the tenant shall not allow his daughter to marry without the lord’s license. The origin of this custom seems to have been that females should not unite themselves with their lord’s enemies ; and hence arose the custom of selling the necessary consent : of which an instance has been recorded, where the produce of such a sale amounted to 10,000 marks or £6,666 13s 4d, a sum equivalent to about £100,000. in our days.

We are told also, in these Almonbury documents, that such tenants (nativi) were forbidden “coronare fillos,”[8] that is, to make their sons priests, or let them be ordained, because ordination changed their condition and allegiance, giving them liberties which were prejudicial to the interests of the lords, who claimed them as their born servants.

The bond-tenant in Almonbury was, moreover, subject to the payment of the Laerwite or Lytherwitan, the fine due, si filia sua deflorata fuerit.

Besides the above common customs, we have in the inquisition of Edward III. a special service, to which certain classes of the tenants are amenable, viz., the attendance on their lord in his hunting parties, and the provision of due escort and means of conveyance between this Manor and the Castle of Pontefract : some tenants, moreover, were bound to do service between Almonbury and the lord’s Castle of Halton in Cheshire.[9]

The principal object of these inquisitions was of a fiscal nature, for the purpose of ascertaining what amount of revenue could be raised from the particular Manor or Lord-ship which was the subject of inquiry ; and what feudal services were due from the several descriptions of tenants.

The survey to which I am now about to call attention was made in the 13th year of Edward III., in the presence of certain commissioners whose names are added.

The first portion of the inquiry relates to the demesne lands; among these are the following:—

The hill where the castle formerly stood, containing by estimation two acres.

The site of the former Grange, with a piece of Wood adjoining. And also 60 acres of arable land.

There is also a dye-house, of the value of 6s 8d annually, which with the land attached, is rented at 13s 4d. The herbage of the park (containing 60 acres), is valued at 20s. The demesne also includes a water-mill, which is worth, exclusive of its reparation, 110s, and the secta or suit is farmed at 113s a year. In addition to this, a rent of 13s per annum is derived from a fulling mill; the market tolls bring in 18s, and the pleas and perquisites of the Courts, 60s yearly.

Besides these we have a “forinsecus boscus,” the value of the underwood from which is not estimated, on account of the rights of estover claimed by the free-tenants of the Manor, nor is any estimate made of the pannage, because it is of casual occurrence. The total value of the demesne lands, exclusive of the site of the castle, is £12 19s 6d.

The advowson of the church is next mentioned, and it is stated as of the yearly value of 80 marks. In Pope Nicholas’ taxation of 1291, the amount of this benefice is reckoned at £40. It may be well to render these details more intelligible by a reference to some comparative standard, which will enable us to realise more accurately the relative value of the various items enumerated in our document. The average price of wheat or of land in the 14th century will serve as such a standard ; and from well authenticated sources I have extracted the following details : —

In A.D. 1326 the yearly rent of arable land was 3d to 6d per acre, pasture land 1d, and meadow land 4d to 10d, and wheat sold at 6s. a quarter.

We next come to the list of Liberi tenentes, or free tenants ; above thirty of these are named, and along with the amount of rent, we have a record of the respective services due from each. The first in this catalogue is :—

Thomas de Okes, who held one messuage and one bovate of land at the annual rent of 6s. His services were to repair the mill-dam, along with the other freemen and nativi of the Manor, from the lord’s timber. At his decease the next heir shall pay double rent to the lord in the name of relief He is bound, too, to attend the lord’s court when necessary for judicial purposes, and to do suit at the lord’s mill, grinding his corn there, — not only that of his own growth, but also what he may purchase : in this last case, however, it would appear that the service was hardly compulsory, but was always performed as a mark of respect to the lord.

So little is the variation in the description of a large proportion of the names which follow, that it would answer no useful purpose to add further examples of free tenants. I will, however, make one exception by naming Stephen Walleye — a free tenant in Crosland, who held there one carucate of land by the service of an eighth part of a knight’s fee, with suit at the three-weeks’ Court, which was held at Pontefract, and payment of a rent of 9d. at Michaelmas term.

The value of a knight’s fee was not always the same. It varied according to the beneficence of the king, or of those that held of him in capite : originally, however, in the reign of the Conqueror, it was probably £20 per annum : and a certain number of these fees were required to make up a Barony.

He who held a knight’s fee was bound to attend his lord to the wars for forty days in each year, if called upon ; he who held half a fee was bound to attend for twenty days only, and so in proportion.

We find the total rent from the free tenants of our Manor of Almonbury to have been £4 6s 8d.

Of tenants in bondage (Nativi or Villeins) we have a list of nine names, the first of whom is Claricia le Hunt, who held one messuage and one bovate of land at the yearly rent of 2s 5d ; she paid also 12d at the Feast of St. Martin for pannage, according to custom, also 2 hens at Christmas, value 3d, and 20 eggs at Easter, value 1d.

Other services were to join in the repair of the milldam, material being provided by the lord, and to attend or escort the lord between his hunting ground at Marsden and his Castle at Pontefract, either personally, or with one horse and man; and, (as we have already stated) the bond-tenants were forbidden to permit their daughters to be married, or their sons to be made priests, without the lord’s leave. The payment of the Lytherwythe, when that penalty had been incurred, the attendance at the lords’ Court, the discharge of certain public or official duties in connection with the manor, and the payment of due fines on succeeding to the holding, make up the list of burdens which were incident to this class of tenure.

The next class of tenants noticed here, is that of the Tertninarii, as they are called, or term-tenants : of these, we have the names of 23, a notice of two or three of whom may adequately represent the whole.

The first is John Thorpe, who is said to hold one Ruddyng, containing two acres, by term, the yearly rent being 5d at Michaelmas.

Adam Kyde, who pays 3d 10s for his holding, is also bound to repair the milldam, as is provided in the case of the free-tenants.

William Stemertanbyne, rector of the Church of Almonbury, holds seven acres of land, at the rent of 5s.

The whole amount of the Rent paid by the Terminarii is 43s 8d.

Chevage is next mentioned. This is the payment made by the villeins or nativi, who might wish to reside away from the manor, in token of subjection to their lord, and as a fine for his permission to do so. The enforcement of this fine was important, for “according to the Laws of the Conqueror, a quiet residence of a year and a day upon the King’s demesne lands would enfranchise a villein who had fled from his lord.”[10] We have only two instances of this payment in the inquisition now under examination, viz., Thomas and Adam, sons of William Newsome, each of whom pays 4d for the privilege.

The survey proceeds to mention certain lands in Meltham and Huddersfield pertaining to the manor of Almonbury; as regards the former, we need only say, that the total rent appears to have been 2s 6d ; as to the latter, Agnes Beamounte, who held one messuage and one bovate of land in Huddersfield, as a free tenant, was bound to do suit at the three-weeks’ Court, and was subject to the payment of relief. An additional and special service was also attached to this holding, viz., the escort, or conveyance of the lord’s despatches to his Castle of Halton, in Cheshire, or the payment in lieu thereof of a fine of 6d at Michaelmas.

We have already had mention of the lord’s hunting-ground at Marsden, and the inquisition ends with the return of particulars respecting this portion of the demesne, which is described as a Forest, two-and-a-half miles long and two miles broad, in which there are six places called Booths, with ox-stalls, a grange, and other buildings. The herbage of this forest, with pasturage for 6 bulls and 26 cows is valued at £13 6s 8d, besides underwood, pannage, vert, and other proceeds, which are not reckoned, as being of casual occurrence.

Though the area of this forest is given as above, yet from discoveries that have been made in different parts of the country lying between Marsden and Almonbury, it seems probable that the whole of this interjacent district was nearly, though not entirely, a continuous forest. There were, doubtless, considerable tracts of open moorland, and occasional spots of pasture land, especially where the Saxons had retained their colonies. The nomenclature of many places in and near this district is also worthy of note, as proving that these forests were amply supplied with beasts of chace; I need only mention such names as Deerhead, Deerhill, Doe Hole, Stagwood Hill, and Wildboarley. A part of the district near Deanhead is called the Chace, and in the old deeds of a farm in Deanhead, we have the mention of Dogkennels, and a tradition remains that the huntsman visiting these kennels in the night in his night-dress was devoured by his own dogs.

In some parts of the district, many trunks of trees have been dug up hard and black as ebony, and it has been conjectured that they had been cut down by the Romans in their passage through these forest lands.

The total amount of the rents of the entire manor, as stated by the commissioners, was £33 12s ¾d.


We now pass to the Survey made in 1425. In this year (the 3rd of Henry VI.) a commission was granted under the privy seal, dated at Westminster, February 17th, to make a survey and rental of the manor—a parcel of the Honor of Pontefract—now vested in the Crown. The commissioners were Thomas Somercotes and Thomas Wombell, and amongst the jurors were John Fenay, Peter Kaye, Thomas Dalton, William Thorpe, Thomas Appleyard, and John Perkin. An interval of less than a century between the dates of this and the previous inquisition had effected various changes in the Demesne lands. The Castle hill, and the site of the Grange, are returned as before, but that is all The Park is not named, nor are the water-mill and the fulling-mill, which were so profitable to the lord, once noticed. Even the Church of Almonbury is not mentioned.

We have, it is true, 60 acres of Demesne lands recorded, which may probably be identified with lands of the same area, of which special notice was made in the former inquisition ; of these, 26 acres are now found to be in the tenure of John Wood, at a rental of 8s 2d.

We also trace 8 acres of meadow land, which in the time of Edward III. were farmed out at a rental of 10s, as still yielding the same amount, and as being in the joint occupation (as it would seem) of the villeins of the manor.

I am the more surprised at the absence of all mention of the lord’s mills in this survey, because not only do we find a return of the suit due thereto in the succeeding inquisition, but according to the calendar of the pleadings of the Duchy of Lancaster in the reign of Henry VIII., a claim of soke and suit to the King’s Water Mill, Corn Mill, and Fulling Mill was made not only as to Huddersfield Mill, but 'Almonbirie' also.

It would seem certain then that the returns to this inquisition are very incomplete, and I would again express my thankfulness that the voluminous records of the Duchy of Lancaster are now open to any one whose antiquarian researches may lead him to study any portion of its territory, and my hope that the history of this period of the Manor of Almonbury may be rendered more clear and perfect by a due examination of them.

Indeed, to the future historian of this district, the contents of those documents will prove an invaluable treasure; for it is from these inquisitions that the names of the tenants of the manor will be learnt In the list of Liberi tenentes at this time, we find not a few names which still are common in the locality. The number of them is increased by nearly 20 since the last surrey, but the services remain nearly the same, so that it is unnecessary to quote any examples.

We have seven tenants in bondage named, and of these we only find one bearing the same surname as any of the nativi at the time of Edward III. The burdens to which they were subject seem to be the same in all particulars, but we may note that the pannage, for which 1s was paid each year at Martinmas, is now called “Thistletake.”

The different forms of tenure in bondage, or servitude, are learnedly and largely discussed in Blackstone. Virtually, they were all abolished by the statute 12 Car. II., cap. 24; but our present copyhold tenures are lineally descended from them. In a great measure, however, villenage was destroyed during the reign of this king (Henry VI.), in consequence of the confusion occasioned by the two contending houses of York and Lancaster. The whole kingdom was divided, and every lord was obliged, even for his own security, to take part with one side or the other ; and, when once engaged, was bound to support his party with his whole force. Villeins were, therefore, emancipated in prodigious numbers in order that they might become soldiers.

To resume the consideration of our Almonbury survey, we note that in lieu of the Terminarii of the previous inquisition, we have a list of 26 Tenants at Will, occupying 38 tenements : a few of these will afford a fair specimen of all.

William Campinett holds one place, formerly the Pinfold, and the yearly rent is 2s.

William Thorpe holds one bovate of land (lately occupied by John, son of Hugh) at a rent of 5s.

Thomas Birne holds a messuage and curtilage (formerly Matthew de Green’s), and pays 18d.

After these we have the names of the Burgage holders, nine in number, of whom Thomas Batly, of Huddersfield, is the first, paying an annual rent of 2d.

Appended to the copy of this return which has fallen into my hands, I find a list of payments due from certain holders of property within the manor. This list, however, is written in English, and is of a much more modern date than the inquisition which we are considering. It is however of interest, as containing the name of a family which has for some 240 years past held the manor of Almonbury.

I subjoin the list—

John Ramsden, for Woodlands — 18s 3d Gilbert Penny, for the Hey, parcell of Woodland — 5s 1d Item for 2 acres of Copyhold at the Milne — 2s 0d Item for the Oaks — 8s 4½d Item for land enclosed by Jane Woodhouse — 6d Item for a Burgage — 2d Item for Newsom — 19s 9d

It would appear that in this reign of Henry VI. the Civil Wars so occupied the regal power, as to leave it no leisure for juridical improvement ; and the only act connected with this district which seems to deserve mention in this paper, is the grant by the King in 1428 of a Charter confirming the rights, liberties, and customs of the Duchy of Lancaster, and Honor of Pontefract.


The next inquisition to be considered was made in 1584, the 26th year of Elizabeth’s reign, and in perusing this document and the returns to the inquiry made in the reign of her successor, we may note that many of the disgraceful blots, which had been placed by early feudal abuses on the escutcheon of the fair fame of our country, were now gradually disappearing, until at a subsequent period (as already remarked) villenage was practically expunged by a statute of the realm.

On the 29th of June, 1584, an order was made in her Majesty’s Court of the Duchy of Lancaster, directing an inquiry to be made by Edward Stanhope, Esq., surveyor, “of all her Majesty’s honors, manors, lands, and tenements, parcell of the possessions of her Highness’s Duchy of Lancaster in the North parts,” as to the state of her Majesty’s manor of Almonbury.

Twenty-six articles of inquiry were exhibited to the Jury, and their certificate or return to the said articles was made before the surveyor above-named on the 25th day of September in the same year. The following are the names of the Jurors :—

John Kaye, of Woodsome, Esq. ; John Ramsden ; William Beamont, gentleman ; John Cudworth ; Nicholas Fenay ; John Hirst ; John Appleyard ; John Beamont, of Wellhead ; William Kaye; John Kaye, of Thorpe ; John North; Humphrey Beamont ; John Beamont, of Nether-thong ; John Armitage, of the Armitage ; Edward Cowper; John Kaye, of the Cross ; Richard Blegbourne (Blackburn) the younger ; Thomas Brooke ; John Lockwood ; and John Armitage, of Huddersfield.

The first inquiry relates to the boundaries of the manor, its liberties, and outlying members ; and in reply thereto the Jurors say—

That the Ring and uttermost bounders of the said manor and lordship of Almondbury are as followeth, that is to witt, first from the Ravensknowl hill as one hedge divideth, to John North’s house, and so eastward upon the height to the Smithy Dyke, from thence up the vale southwards joyning unto Mr. Harrupp laud, and so southward by the water unto the Fenay bridge on the east part, and from thence up a little river on the south called the Birk-brook unto a little bridge called the Birk-bridge, and so up the said little river to the Lum-head on the south-west, and from the Lum-head unto the New Hey Yate on the south-west and from the said Yate to the Park pitt on the west, from the said pit following the water till it fall into the water of Colne as it descendeth to the Queen's Majesty’s Mills, named in the records Huddersfield Mills, and from the said mills eastward by the broad water to the taylegoit and southward to the head of a close called Bernard-royd, and so southward by the head of a meadow (late Boothroyd's land), called Long-Inge, two acres by estimation lying over the west part of the said meadow (late Boothroyd’s land) and of the said Long-lnge towards the said mills only excepted. And so from the south part of the said Long-Inge eastward along the bottom of the Nether-Wood-Inge right against the north side of the meadow called the Robert-Royd-Inge, and so by the south side of two little Pighells, called the Lime Pig-hells, to the highway on the east, and so by the said little river south-east until against one house called Hole-bottom, and from the said Hole-bottom so far as the wast-ground or common was lately plowed by the Tenants and Inhabitants of the said manor. And from thence to the north end of one close called North-Royd, parcell of the Inheritanci of William Beamontt, gentleman, now in the tenure of John Boothroyd, being the said Ravensknowl Hill, where the said boundary first began.
And they further say that the townships of Huddersfield, Honley, Meltham, South Crosland, Slackthwait and Quicke do in respect of the Court Leet belong to the said manor of Almondbury ; for that the several constables and certain men of every of the said townships do twice in the year make their suite to the said Court Leet holden within the same manor of Almondbury, and there do make presentments upon their oaths of their new constables at the Court Leet holden at Michaelmas yearly, and of affrays, bloods and such other common annoyances, at both the said Court Leets, as are done and committed within the said several townships, and as are usually presentable at a Court Leet.
And they further say touching the said first article, that the said manor of Almondbury doth extend itself into the Manor or Lordship of Huddersfield, for that, that Edward Cowper one of the said Jury doth hold fireely by soccage a messuage and certain lands lying within the said manor of Huddersfield, called Egerton, of the Queen’s Majesty, as of the said manor of Almondbury.
And also the said manor of Almondbury doth stretch itself into the manor of Meltham for that, that one John Beamont holdeth certain lands and tenements, lyeing within the said manor of Meltham, by coppy of Court Roll, of her Majesty, as of the said manor of Almondbury.
And also the said manor of Almondbury doth extend itself into the manor of South Crosland for that, that one Thomas Beamont and John Cryer do hold two messuages and certain lands freely, lyeing in South Crosland aforesaid as of the said manor of Almondbury ; and also for that, that John Armitage of the Armitage holdeth one parcell of ground in South Crosland aforesaid, called Royd-bank and one meadow called Mere-holme, lyeing in South Crosland aforesaid, as of the said manor of Almondbury.
And as touching the dividing of the said manor of Almondbury from all other manors adjoyning, they say that the said manor of Almond-bury is divided as followeth, that is to witt, from the manor of Woodsome on the south parte, from the manor or lordship of Honley on the west parte, from the manors of South Crosland and North Crosland on the north-west and north partes, from the manor of Huddersfield on the north parte, from the manor of Dalton on the north and north-east partes, and from the manor of Lepton on the east parte.

In their reply to the following inquiries, the Jurors certify that the Queen, in right of her Duchy of Lancaster, is chief lord of the manor of Almondbury, and of those lands in the outlying townships which have been specially named in the first answer ; but that her lordship does not extend over the remainder of the lands in these places or hamlets, although they belong to the manor in respect of suit performed to the Court Leet. We also learn that Almondbury and Newsome were the only two several or distinct towns within the manor.

The fourth and fifth articles presented to the Jury were inquiries as to the existence of any mansion and manorial buildings belonging to the lord, and also as to the condition and present tenure of the Demesne lands. The answer thereto is of much interest, for we have here the historical record that the Castle, “which in antient time was the chief mansion house or scite of the said manor,” had now “of long time since” been “utterly decayed.” We find that the two acres of land whereon the Castle stood, and which have been named in the earlier surveys, are still returned as Demesne lands; and we have their exact position defined, i.e., on the west side of the top of the Castle hill. Those who are familiar with the features of this hill at the present time will, I doubt not, find that the results of their own explorations are confirmed by this statement of the position of the Castle. For these two acres an annual rent of 20d is said by the Jurors to be paid by the tenants of the manor to her Majesty’s collector for the time being ; this rent, however, comprised also three acres of Demesne land called the Wormecliffe, but, curiously enough, no one within the memory of man had known where the Wormecliffe was. We may imagine that its memory had only been preserved by the mention of it. in the return to the inquisition of Henry VI., a copy of which would, doubtless, be in the hand of Mr. Stanhope, the surveyor.

We have also mention of “one other scite or mansion house belonging to the said manor, called the Hall boure” (a name still borne by a small hamlet in the parish and township of Almonbury), with a garden, barn, and 38 acres of meadow and pasture land, now occupied by Edmund Blackburne, tenant to Francis Samwell, Esq., her Majesty’s farmer of the manor. We recognize in this place the site of the ancient grange, referred to in the earlier surveys.

The Demesne also included the 26 acres of land which in 1425 had been in the tenure of John Wood; they are now said to have been lately occupied by John Ramsden, gent, but at present to be in the hands of John Lockwood, as tenant to the farmer of the manor.

The eight acres of meadow land called Hall-Inge had been surrendered before the date of this inquiry by the copyholders of the bond tenure into the hands of the said farmer of the manor ; a house had been built on a portion of it, and it was now tenanted by Robert Anely.

The parcel of ground called Almondbury Park, containing about 60 acres, which we in vain looked for in the last returns, re-appears in the survey now before us. A new house and a new barn built there were occupied by John Lockwood, whilst the ancient house within the said Park was in the tenure of Robert Aneley.

“But as touching any other or more Demain land, or any other mansion houses, scites, gardens, orchards, stables, barns, dove-houses, or other houses of office belonging to the said manor (others than are before recited) they — the Jurors — knew none.”

In answer to the 6th article, the Jurors give a list of twenty-three Freeholders, with the names of their respective lands and tenements ; which, though of much interest to the holders of property in Almondbury, is too long for insertion in this paper. The first name on the list is John Ramsden, Gent, and we find in the middle of the long catalogue of his holdings, that some dispute had arisen between him and the authorities of the manor in respect of three fields called the High Newsomes, his claim to which, though supported by ancient evidence exhibited in the course of this inquiry, was referred by the Jury to the consideration of the Queen’s Court of the Duchy. The Jurors were unable, too, in one portion of the property, to distinguish the copyhold and freehold parts of the holding. We gather from a perusal of the list that a water corn-mill had been erected at or near Fenay Bridge before the period of the inquiry. We find, also, that one Giles Kaye held a burgage upon the top of the Castle Hill, freely at a rent of 1d by the year.

The Jurors further say, touching this said 6th article—

That all and every of the aforesaid several freeholders (except hereafter excepted) do hold their said several lands and tenements by the services hereafter following, that is to witt, to collect her Majesty’s rents whenever their course 6hall come, To repair the Queen’s Majesty's mill-dam, when need shall be, with the copy holders of the bond-tenure of the said manor, of the Lord’s timber, and to double the Lord’s rent after the decease of their ancestors, that is to witt, to pay so much rent as is due to her Majesty for the same land in the name of a relief. And to make suite to the Lord’s Court when they shall be thereunto lawfully summoned, and also to make suite to the Lord’s Mill with so much of their corn and grain growing upon any of their lands or tenements within the mannour of Almondbury, which be holden of the same manor, as they shall spend in their house, after a certain rate of multure, that is to witt after the 16th vessell. But for such corn as any of the said freeholders shall buy, they be not bound to make suite with the same to the said mill, unless they will of good will and love, and then they pay their multure but after the rate of the 32nd vessell. But forasmuch as the said Edward Cowper of Egerton, John Armitage of the Armitage, Thomas Beaumontt and John Cryer are neither bound to collect her Majesty’s rents nor to repair any parte of her Majesty’s mill-dams as freeholders within the manor, therefore whether they be bound to make suite to the said mill or no, they know not. And they say further that Nicholas Fenay for his messuage called Fenay and 32 acres of freehold land to the same belonging is not chargeable to or with the repair of her Majesty’s milldam of Almondbury as appears "by antient records. And they further say that John Kamsden Gent, and John Kaye of Thorpe for an oxgang of land lying at Thorpe and Oaks are bound by the tenure of the same oxgang to make fusillum molendini Domini de ferro Domini, as often as need shall require, that is to witt the said John Kaye 2 parts thereof and the said John Ramsden the third part thereof.

It is noteworthy that this service of making and repairing the mill-wheel has appeared in each of the preceding documents as attached to a particular oxgang of land. In the time of Edward III. this land was held by Thomas de Thorpe, John Lister and William de Thorpe, and in 1425 by Robert Rockley and Peter Kaye. It would seem probable, that Nicholas Fenay’s exemption from the general service of repairing the mill-dam was obtained, when he was permitted to erect the water Corn-Mill at Fenay Bridge, to which we have already referred.

We next come to the inquiry relative to the copyhold tenures of the Manor, and we find them divided into two classes, i.e. those “which be copyhold and which bound tenure.” We have nineteen names, the majority of them being the same as were contained in the freeholders' list, and we find full particulars attached to each name of the lands and tenements held by copy of court-roll, those lands which were held by the bond tenure being specified in their order.

The Jurors say, touching the said 7th article—

That the Copyholders (with one doubtful exception) severally hold their lands by doing suit to the Lord’s Court and Mill in such sort manner and form as is before set down with regard to the freeholders : those of the bond tenure joining also with the freeholders in the repairs of the Mill dam. And that all the said copyholders of both kinds are to pay and make the like fine as well after the decease of their ancestors (from whom any copyhold lands to them doth descend) as upon any surrender whereby any estate of Inheritance passeth, as the freeholder doth for his relief after decease of his ancestor, that is to witt, a year’s rent, and for a reversion, or term for life or years of copyhold lands, half so much rent as is paid to her Majesty in a year for the same lands, and upon a seizure two years' rent.

The Jurors then proceed to recite the customs of the manor, as to the surrender or passing away of copyhold lands by the ceremony of delivering a straw into the hands of the steward or his deputy, in open court, or to another copyholder of the manor, there being full power for a copy-holder to pass away either a present estate, or an estate in reversion, or a lease for life or years, to what persons, in what order, and for what years it shall please him, such surrender or release being brought to the court for record or entry not later than the third head-court day next ensuing.

The remainder of the customs recited refer to a variety of special cases, relating to other peculiarities incidental to copyholds. The concluding sentence, however, is as follows:—

The said Jury do pray that (forasmuch as the customs of every manor are best known to the tenants of the same manor, and by them to be set down and expounded when and as often as occasion shall serve, and that the customs of this manor be more than be above recited, or can as now be remembered and set down) that the Tenants of this Manor may not hereby be so strictly tyed by reason of the setting down of these few customs, But that from time to time they may have the expounding and setting down of such other Customs as belong to their customary lands, as occasion from time to time shall serve.
To the eighth article they say, That there is and hath been for the most part within the time of their remembrance two Courts kept yearly for the Queen’s Majesty within the said Manor of Almond-bury, the one within the month next after Michaelmas, and the other within the month next after Easter, at the which Courts both matters touching the Court Leet and also the Court Baron are there dealt in: and that the same Courts have been for the most part kept in the upper end of the town of Almondbury, in a lath or barn of the bond tenure of Humphrey Beaumont. They further say that no three-week Courts have ever been kept at Almondbury, for that the three-week Courts are continually kept at Pontefract, whereof this Manor is parcel.

In reply to the following inquiry we are told that suit is owed to these Courts by all the freeholders and copyholders of the manor by the tenure of their lands ; and also that by reason of their compulsory residence[11] within the several places named,—

The Constable and four men of the township of Almondbury,
The Constable and four men of the township of Huddersfield,
The Constable and four men of the township of Quicke,
The Constable and two men of the township of Honley,
The Constable and two men of the township of Meltham,
The Constable and two men of the township of South Crosland,
The Constable and two men of the township of Slackthwaite,

are summoned to appear twice a year at these courts, and they there make presentment of their new constables, and of blood and fray, and such other common annoyances as are presentable in a Court Leet. We are, however, expressly told that the suit thus made has no reference to the tenure of their lands.

The tenth inquiry appears to have been intended to elicit information as to certain copyhold lands, records of which were preserved amongst the archives of the manor, but which lands themselves had (as it seems) ceased to yield any rent or profit to the lord. The Jurors, however, were not able to give much information on this head, and even as regards the lands called Will-Royd, Moldcrye Mill, and Wormcliff, they say that “they never knew any such grounds, nor cannot learn where the same do lye.” A house which stood on a portion of copyhold land near the mill, on the side of the Tail-goit nearest to Almonbury, had (they say) been pulled down by William Ramsden, Gent., and the land had been included in the list of the holdings of John Ramsden, Gent., recited in their seventh reply.

To the eleventh, they say that they do not certainly know what lands or tenements, copyhold or freehold, hath been alienated to any person or persons within the memory of man. They know, however, that nothing had accrued to her Majesty, or the farmer of the manor, by reason of the alienation of any freeholds : but by right there ought to have accrued to her Majesty a fine of one year’s rent upon every alienation of copyhold lands.
To the twelfth article they say, that all waifs, estrays, deodands, felons-goods, and such like do as they think appertain to the Manor of Almondbury ; but as touching the serving of process within the liberties of the manor, they know not to whom the same of right doth belong.
And they further say that the Queen’s Majesty’s Leet Liberties and Royalties of the said manor do not extend themselves through the whole parish of Almondbury, for the Manors of Woodsome, Marsden, North Crosland, and the towns of Holme and Overthong (though part of the parish) are not subject to the Royalties of the manor: her Majesty claiming the Royalties within these places as being parcels of the possessions of the Dutchy of Lancaster by annexation or otherwise, but not as belonging to the Manor of Almondbury.
To the thirteenth and fourteenth inquiries they Bay that there be three little fairs (commonly called Tide-days) held within the town of Almondbury, viz. on the day of St. Martin the bishop in winter, on Easter Monday, and on Whit Monday: and a certain rent or toll is accounted for to the farmer of the manor, arising by the stud Tide-days, together with the toll of two other little fairs kept in the town of Huddersfield on St. Helen’s and St. Peter’s days respectively. To none of these fairs or “tydes” did any stalls, standings shops, or booths belong, so far as was known to the Jurors.

The next article requires a return of such augmentation lands (being no parcel of the ancient revenues of the manor) as had become the property of her Majesty in consequence of the dissolution of the Chantries, &c., “as Colledges/Chantrya, Cerechapells, lands given for the maintenance of obit lamps and such like uses,” “and whether any of the same be purchased and by whom, and what tenths or other rents be reserved upon the purchase, &c.”

In reply to this inquiry we hare a long list of lands and tenements held by Nicholas Fenay, which formerly belonged to the “late dissolved Colledge of Jesus in Rotheram,” but which had been purchased by his father William Fenay, from “Sir Edward Warner Knt., Silvester Leigh aud Leonard Bates, Gentn., who had the same (amongst many other things) by grant from the late king of famous memory, King Ed. VI.,” the whole of them being held by the Queen’s Majesty, as of the Manor of Wakefield, by fealty only in free soccage for all other services whatsoever.

Besides the above the Jurors say—

That there is one house called St Nicholas House, and one acre of land to the same appertaining within the Manor of Almondbury, some time belonging as they think to the service of St. Nicholas in the Church of Almond bury, now in the tenure of John Hepworth, being in the hands of her Majesty or her Majesty’s assignee or assignees, for which there is yearly answered to her Majesty by her Majesty’s receiver 8s 2d.

Before leaving the account of the lands, &c., which had been held by the College of Rotheram (to which the Church of Almondbury was granted) and which now were the property of Nicholas Fenay, we may note that they included one bay of the tithe barn situate in the Hall yards, two cottages called the “Personage,” one cottage at the west end of the steeple, built upon the grounds of the said Nicholas for the use of the Clarke of Almondbury for the time being, one tenement with land adjoining called Flatts, lying near the Fenay Cross, in the tenure of Robert Nettleton, one chamber and one parlour called Priest-chamber.

The 16th inquiry (as to the Mills of the manor) had been in great part answered under the 6th and 7th articles. We find here that there was one water corn-mill belonging to Her Majesty as lord of the manor; the fulling mill on the tail-goit of the said mill, which has been mentioned in former inquisitions, having fallen into utter decay, a second fulling mill “annexed to the corn-mill” had been built lately by William Ramsden, the farmer of the corn-mill, but this, too, is reported to be in some decay.

The usual road to the mill from Castle Hill, Longley, and the upper part of Almondbury, was over Her Majesty’s waste land, called Ashynhurst, and so by the lane called the Mill-lane.

From Newsome, Dudmanstone, and thereabouts, the tenants of the manor carried their corn over a parcel of waste ground called Newsome Wood, and thence by a little short lane to the damside, which then they followed to the mill.

The inhabitants of the lower part of the town of Almond-bury had formerly a road (in addition to that by Ashyn-hurst) over a field called Bernard Royd. This, however, had now been stopped ; and the Jurors were unable to discover whether any right of way to the mill had ever existed over this field, or whether the said way had only been used by licence and sufferance.

The woods and underwoods of the manor are the subject of the next inquiry, and the Jurors inform us “that the Queen’s Majesty hath no woods within the said manor, saving certain bushes or underwoods of small value, being about eight or nine years’ growth; nor any timber trees except a few old doted trees, which are good for nothing except it be for the fire ;” this wood and underwood was growing in Almondbury Park, and the tenants of the manor claimed such timber and underwood as they required, for the repair of their hedges and fences, as well as for the repair of the Queen’s mill-dam.

We find from the 18th article that there were at this time about 120 acres of waste or common land in Almond-bury, viz., Almondbury Common, the Lumb, Castlehill Green, the Castlehill, Benomly, Newsome Wood, Ashynhurst, and Okenbank.

The 19th article gives us particulars of the encroachments made, within the few previous years, on the commons or wastes, by the tenants of the manor or their sub-tenants, together with the rents paid in each case to the farmer of the manor, or to the Queen’s Majesty, on account of such encroachments, such rents being, as the Jurors say, “as much or more as most of the same encroachments are worth.’’

The greater part of them are said to have been made by the sub-tenants, without the consent or knowledge of their landlords, but by what right the Jurors know not. “For order’s sake,” however, the Jurors have, in their list of the encroachments, said that “the landlord by his tenant did encroach the same parcel.”

The 20th reply furnishes us with a list of the houses which had recently been built on the manor, with the lands whereon they had been erected ; and this reply serves also to assert on behalf of the occupiers thereof, a claim to the same rights of common and pasturage as were enjoyed by other tenants, in proportion to the extent of their holdings, inasmuch as “they are from time to time rated towards the payment of the tax for the same common, as other the inhabitants and tenants within the same manor be.”

We find from the two next articles that there were no mines of any kind, excepting one coalpit of small value worked by John Lockwood ; and no quarries, excepting some small gettings of wall-stone, which the copyholders had been accustomed to use for the repairs of their copyhold buildings and fences. The freeholders had no right of access to these quarries excepting by licence from the lord, with due payment for the same, nor could the copyholder use the stone without payment except for the purposes above named.

The remaining articles of inquiry refer to the various officers of the manor, and from the certificates given in reply thereto, we are enabled to construct the following table of those who had held the honor of Pontefract within the memory of some of the Jurors.

Head Steward Under Stewards or Clerks Bailiff of West Pontefract (including Almonbury)
The Lord Darcy Thomas Gryce, Esq.
— Rawson
Roger Thurgoland
Sir Henry Saville, Knt. Thomas Reynolds, Gent.
John Kaye of The Heath, Esq.
John Fournes
The Lord Talbott (now Earl of Shrewsbury) Sir Thomas Gargrave
Mr. Lee, Gent.
Gryce, Esq.
William Whalley
Edmund Wilbore
Robert Scholefield

All court rolls and records of the manor had always, within the memory of man, been prepared and engrossed by the understewards or clerks for the time being, and it was their duty to deposit them yearly in the Castle of Pontefract (amongst other her Majesty’s rolls and records there laid up), there to be kept to the use of her Majesty and her tenants of the said manor.

No rentals, accounts, or rolls were known- to be in the custody or possession of any person within the manor, excepting such copies of court roll as were held by the various tenants as their title-deeds, and such copies of the rental as were required for the collection of the rents.

We have previously seen that Francis Samwell, Esq., was the farmer of our manor. He, it appears, had re-let the manor to John Ramsden, Gent., as bis under-farmer; but the term of this sub-letting had now expired, and it was again in the hands of Samwell. Both John Ramsden (whilst under-farmer) and Francis Samwell, by their servants or deputies, executed the office of bailiff within the manor, both in serving such process as came to their hands, as also in taking waifs, estrays, and such other things within the manor.

The record ends by reciting the names of those who by the custom of the manor, and in respect of their freehold lands and tenements therein, had the collection of her Majesty’s rents and of the perquisites of the courts, “every one his year,” in the order set down.

Each collector, in his turn, was bound to answer upon his account at the audit at Pontefract, the ancient and usual rent due to her Majesty from the manor, receiving 3s 4d. for his pains taken therein. He was also bound to pay over such perquisites of the courts, as he could conveniently get.

If, however, he should be unable to levy any fine or amerciament, the debtor having nothing whereupon to levy or make distress, the collector, on making oath to this effect, was entitled to be discharged from all liability in respect thereof.


We have now only to consider the fifth of these Almonbury inquisitions, viz., that made in the seventh year of King James I. Not more than twenty-seven years had elapsed since the Commissioners in Elizabeth’s reign had completed their elaborate survey, on which we have just been dwelling, and we shall find that the inquiry now to be considered is much shorter. Instead of twenty-six articles of inquiry, only eight were submitted to the Jury. In the brief interval between the two, few changes could have taken place, and it would seem that the object of this later survey was little more than to obtain further information respecting the number of the copyholders and the state of their holdings. One new item of inquiry is inserted as to the measurement of the acres described in the records of the manor, “whether the same acres are according to statute measure, or otherwise of some larger or greater measure.” We find in the list of copyholders which appear in the Jurors’ certificate some names identical with those inserted in the surrey of 1584, and still retaining nearly the same lands and tenements. Other copyholds, though not in the same tenure, seem to hare been divided amongst members of the same family, but we find very few new surnames in this later document

The Jurors who were assembled on this occasion were :— John Lockwood of Linthwait, Nicholas Fenay, Robert Nettleton, Edmund Kaye, Thomas Bynnes, Edward Hanson, John Hirst, John North, John Beaumont of Meltbam, William Brooke, Thomas Wilkinson, Edward Appleyard, Thomas Beaumont ; and the Commissioner was Thomas Fanshaw, Esq., his Majesty’s Auditor within the duchy of Lancaster.

After giring their list of the copyholders and their lands, the Jurors say the whole of them hare been “anciently granted as copyhold.” Amongst other names, we find the “Goremors of the Free Grammar School of King James in Almondbury,” as holding four acres of land by copy at an annual rental of 16d. It is, however, needless to go through the list of lands which were held on this tenure ; we would only remark on the note made in reference to the holding of John Lockwood.

He (who was one of the Jurors) is said to hold by copy of Court Roll a messuage, a barn, half an ox-gang, and six acres of land, called “the Bottoms,” of. which land a great part hath been taken away by the water long ago, and now lies on the other side of the water above Lockwood Bridge.

The second article in this inquisition requires a true presentment of particular services, customs, works, boons, heriots or other duties to be paid to his Majesty by every particular copyholder for his copyhold lands, over and besides his rent and fine. To this the Jurors say, that they know not of any, saving suit to the Court, and to his Majesty’s corn mill there, and the repair of the mill-dam, saving, also, the usual fines upon admittances and surrenders. This answer, I conceive, applies to all the services and customs detailed in the answer to the seventh article of the inquiry in the preceding reign. After speaking of the woods and mines (or rather of the absence thereof), the jurors append their list of encroachments, which is numerically almost as great as that rendered at the time of the former inquisition, though as to the extent of the lands encroached there is a considerable diminution.

The fifth article in this survey conveyed an instruction to the Jurors, that they should proceed to make a new division of such copyhold and freehold lands, in the possession of any tenant of the manor, as had become intermixed and indistinguishable. In such cases the King’s prerogative entitled him to have his specified portion of land selected from the lands of the best value and quality in the particular holding, and to have the same set forth and declared as copyhold. This being done, the Jurors were bidden to fix such meers and marks as should for ever afterwards serve as definite boundaries. We find, however, that the Jurors in this instance declined the responsibility thus thrown upon them ; and, though they make presentment of William Ramsden, Esq., and Nicholas Fenay, as holders of two messuages and two ox-gangs of copyhold lands intermixed with their freeholds, yet they aver that it is impossible to “set forth” the copyholds from the freeholds, “forasmuch as they cannot learn by any record or otherwise how many acres an ox-gang of land in Newsome doth contain.”

This inquisition concludes with a certificate to the effect, that the Jurors know of no lands occupied within the Manor, for which due rent is not paid, or which is not legally granted to the tenant. They also state that they know of no sale or conveyance of any copyholds whereby there has been any attempt illegally to enfranchise any portion of the King’s lands.

And now, in drawing this paper to a close, I must apologise rather for trespassing so long upon your attention, than for not extending these extracts to a greater length. It has been my special object to direct the researches of our Members to those records, still in manuscript, which relate so closely to the history of our own neighbourhood ; the inquisitions, namely, of the reigns of Edward III., Henry VI., Elizabeth, and James I., and it would have been impossible to convey a just impression of their nature, without offering some examples from each; and I would again say, that whoever hereafter shall undertake a comprehensive history of this district, will find, not a part, but the whole, of these inquisitions indispensable, in order to convey a correct impression of the feudal system, as it prevailed in this portion of the Honor of Pontefract.

The short extract from the Hundred Rolls of Edward I., may have escaped the attention of some Members of our Association, but it is not without its use in exposing the usurpations not only of the Barons themselves, but also of their insolent subordinates.

The dates of each of these records may with advantage be taken as successive stand-points, from which we may trace marked evidences of growth in the constitution of our country. We learn from the records of Edward I., that the preceding reign had been disgraced by flagrant abuses in other places as well as Almonbury, and yet it was in the same reign, that the parliament received a new character by the admission of representatives of the people. Nor have we to wait long before we find a new law ratified, providing that no tax should he levied without the consent of Lords and Commons.

In Edward III.’s time we find notices of fulling mills and dye-houses at Almonbury, thus proclaiming, without mistake, that manufacturers were able to exist in the vicinity of the baronial fortresses. The feudal customs were not abolished, but it might be shown, that there was scarcely a grievance introduced by the ingenuity of feudal lawyers, or the arrogance of feudal superiors, for which a legal and frequently an efficient remedy was not provided : and though there were not wanting events to interrupt for a time the progress of civil liberty in England, yet our constitution continued to advance, till its progress was suspended by the civil wars of York and Lancaster in the reign of Henry VI., in whose days our next inquisition was made.

Even in Elizabeth’s reign we have seen that some vestiges of the feudal system still existed ; but in 1594, ten years later than our survey, a commission was issued, whereby all her bondmen and bondwomen might compound for their manumission.

We can say little as to the events of King James’ reign, the period of the latest document which we have had before us. Fond as he was of absolute power on trifling and unworthy occasions, his reign was not without some useful enactments.

Villenage is by many supposed to have finally disappeared in his time, but there is great difficulty in saying when it ceased to be lawful. We have, in the course of this paper, taken occasion to refer to the causes which led to a great decrease in the number of bond-tenures at the time of Henry VI. Lord Macaulay, in his History of England, after speaking of the gradual and silent extinction of villenage towards the close of the Tudor period, goes on to say that “some faint traces of the institution of villenage were detected by the curious, as late as the days of the Stuarts, nor has that institution even to this hour been abolished by statute.” Blackstone, however, in speaking of certain feudal grievances, tells us that they continued till the 12th of Charles II., “when all tenures of honor, manors, lands, &c., were turned into free and common soccage,” and this statute may fairly be considered as giving the final blow to the system. It was, however, in the middle of the 18th century that Lord Mansfield pronounced from the judicial bench the memorable sentence, “ The air of England has long been too pure for a slave.”

Mr. Thomas Brooke, while President of our Association, has done me the favour to examine this paper, and to his great ability and access to original documents I am indebted for much useful information. He has also made a happy selection of such parts of the inquisitions as are most worthy of publication.


  1. The substance of this paper was read at an early meeting of the Huddersfield Archaeological and Topographical Association, and its appearance in the Journal has been unavoidably delayed hitherto, partly, that opportunity might be given for verifying the copies of the Inquisitions of which it treats, with the records in the Duchy Office, and partly from the press of other matter, which, as the Association was extending, it was thought desirable to admit into Vol. I. of the Journal.
  2. his wish has since been realised, the MSS. referred to having become the property of the Association under the will of Mr. Turner's niece, the late Miss Elisabeth Turner, of Hopton.
  3. John de Caleto, a native of Normandy, thirtieth abbot of Peterborough, was made one of the King's (Hen. III.) Chief Justices, and rode in the circuit to execute justice in the kingdom. — Guntun, Hist. Peterb. pp. 33—35.
  4. Stow's Chronicle. Ed. 1631, p. 211.
  5. Slow's Chronicle, p. 215.
  6. Weever, Ancient Funeral Monuments, p. 366
  7. Thorpe’s Translation, p. 230.
  8. One who had received the first tonsure, preparatory to superior orders, was styled "coronatus," the tonsure being in the form of a corona or crown of thorns.
  9. See Ormerod's Cheshire, as to the duties of the Barons of Halton.
  10. See Blomefield’s Hist. Norfolk, folio, vol. i. p. 657, for an instance of an appeal to this Law, Plea Rolls, East. Term, 6 Edw. II.
  11. Reseantisia—vide Duncange, sub voce.

Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Journal (1873) - Almonbury in Feudal Times


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