Broad Street Wrington Village Records
Studies of the history of a Somerset Village

Life and work on the Medieval manor: customs of the manor, 1238
Pages 12 - 13

Source: The Glastonbury Chartulary (Somerset Records Society) 101. 36 passim.

This long document, an Inquiry "made at Wrington of the services and customs of the men of the manor of Wrington in the third year of Abbot Michael" of Glastonbury, Lord of the Manor of Wrington, is available in printed form, but in its original Latin, and had first to be translated.

It forms a survey, person by person, of all the householders living on the manor in 1238, with their lands, and the services they owed to the Lord of the Manor in return for these lands. It gives a most detailed picture of life and work in the village and on the land in medieval times. The Abbots of Glastonbury were one of the biggest, wealthiest and most efficiently organised landowners in Somerset; and this record also provides a fine example of medieval estate administration.

Under the Lord of the Manor, every householder had his -or her- share of the arable, pasture and meadow lands of the manor, with a homestead and certain rights, customs and privileges (such as pasturing animals on the commons, or pigs in certain woods, or cutting wood). The size of his holding, and extent of these privileges, varied with his social status in the village. Land was often held in "strips" in the huge open fields, which were cultivated as a communal effort by the villagers; while there is also evidence of the appearance of small, enclosed "private enterprise" fields, probably on outlying parts of the manor or on difficult ground.

The Lord had by far the largest share of the manorial lands, and this was known as the demesne. In return for his holding and privileges, the villager owed "services" to the Lord on these demesne lands; and these services, too, varied according to status. For details of this medieval manorial system, and a background to this paper, see G. G. Coulton: The Medieval Village, which makes special reference to this village, and includes a brief summary of this document.

Reckonings in the manorial year were mainly by the great church festivals : Christmas; Easter; the Feast of St. John the Baptist (June 24th); and the Feast of St. Michael (Michaelmas, September 29th). Other medieval reckonings which appear are: Hockday (second Tuesday after Easter) ; the Feast of the Imprisonment of St. Peter (alias "Gulam Augusti" : 1 st August) ; and land measures .

1 Furlong: 10 acres

1 Virgate: 4 furlongs (40 acres)

1 Hide: 4 virgates (160 acres)

1 Knight's Fee: 4 hides (640 acres)

Villagers are classified primarily by the amount of land they hold. References to several people and some manorial buildings (i.e., the Tusards, the grange) mentioned in this Custumal, also occur in the papers The Early Deeds of Wrington, The Manor and the Manor House, and Manorial Accounts, 1343-4 & 1491-2.

Among 130 tenants in this manner there were at least 18 and probably 20 women householders. Gundilda, widow of Blitmund of West putte, held 1 virgate of land and paid 3s. in rent, quarterly, plus 20d. gift towards the Lardarium. This was the communal Salt-House, in which certainly the Abbey, and perhaps also villagers, could store their meat until they had need of it. Gundilda gave 2 bushels out of every 12 grown on her land to the Lord's Granary. She paid a silver halfpenny as Hearth-penny, which would be doubled if she re-married.

The Hearth-penny was a form of house-tax. In addition she rendered the following agricultural services: ploughing with 1 plough-team for 1 day each fortnight between September 29th and the following Easter; manuring 5 acres between Easter and 2nd August; scything hay in the lord's meadow for 2 days from dawn to 9 o'clock (a.m. ?), then lifting and carrying this hay to the lord's Court; hoeing the lord's corn for one day; fencing 2 perches or repairing such fencing at Pilton (the Glastonbury deer-park, between Glastonbury and Shepton Ma1let, where a sound deer-proof fence would be of great importance) and 1 perch more in the lord's garden; and digging in the vineyard at Panborough (near Wedmore).

She had to carry out 11 harvest boon-works. These were extra work-days required from the tenants in the busy seasons of the year, particu]arly harvest-time. Often the numbers of men to be provided were specified, e.g., for "3 days through 4 men" and for "2 days through 2 men" suggesting that other members of the household as well as, or instead of, Gundilda herself, had to help get the lord's harvest in. She had to provide a share of a cart every week from 2nd August to 29th September to cart the lord's corn (i.e., from the fields during harvest); if she cannot do this carting, she must instead plough and harrow 1 acre for oats and perform 2 other boonworks. She must also thresh 2 bushels of corn before Christmas, and 4 bushels of oats during Lent, and give 2 bushels of corn "according to the woodcutters' custom". This custom gave her the right to cut wood, for fires, building, too]s and repairs, etc. ; and many of the tenants of virgates and furlongs contributed 1 or 2 bushels to obtain this privilege, although it appears that those with 5 acres or less did not qualify for it.

Gundilda also had to carry loads to Glastonbury and elsewhere, as required, throughout the year. About 22 others - probably those of sufficient substance to have their own horse and waggon - were specifically assigned to this duty: which, with jobs to do at Pilton and Panborough, certainly shows that these medieval villagers travelled more widely than is sometimes made out. She was not allowed to sell a foal, mare or horse without licence, or marry off her daughter without the permission of the Lord of the Manor. Only two others were constrained in the same way: Walter Toker, a half-virgate holder, and Gilbert Tosard, lessee of a
mill and one furlong of land.

Another woman, the widow of Henry Bastard, also held 1 virgate of land, but rendered only royal service: the highest form of tenure, involving no menial agricultural work, but the obligation to serve as, or to provide, a soldier in the
King's army - if necessary, to fight overseas. There were two other tenants who held by royal service: the Lord of Watlegh who held 320 acres as half a knight's fee; and Robert Malherbe, who had 80 acres, or half a hide. "Watley" is the name of a group of fields near Lye Hole.