Document of the Month, February 2015: Grant of rights in the Forest of Essex, c.1135-1138

The earliest document we look after at ERO is over 1,000 years old – but it is nothing to do with Essex. February’s Document of the Month is our oldest Essex document, a deed dating to c.1135-1138 (D/DBa T2/4).

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The deed is a grant of rights in the forest of Essex given by William de Monfichet and his wife Margaret to Humphrey, son of Eustace de Barentun.  His father had previously held the rights in this deed.  The grant is one of a series of this approximate date made to Eustace and Humphrey de Barentun by the Earl of Essex and William de Monfichet, which followed similar grants by the King.

The de Barentuns, later the Barrington family of Barrington Hall in Hatfield Broad Oak, were the hereditary woodwards or keepers of Hatfield Forest.  At this date the Barringtons were a minor family compared to the great barons who were descended from William the Conqueror’s most loyal supporters.

William de Monfichet and his wife Margaret were the grandchildren of two of the Conqueror’s supporters – Robert Gernon and Richard (de Clare) son of Gilbert, both of whom were well rewarded with extensive landholdings recorded in Domesday Book.  The Monfichets held lands in Essex, including at Stansted Mountfitchet and claimed the hereditary right to be Keeper or Forester of the Royal Forest of Essex.  William’s great-grandson Richard de Montfichet was one of the 25 Magna Carta barons chosen to ensure that King John abided by the terms of the charter.

Even if you do not read Latin, see how many recognisable words you can make out. Look out for ‘Will’ (short for William), Umfredo (Humphrey), filio (son), Estach (Eustace), forestie (forest), Exsexie (Essex), and Margarite…

The deed will be on display in the Searchroom throughout February 2015.

Wading into a Polystyrene Sea

After our recent posts on how to run a manorwhat a manor was, and the records produced by manorial courts today we had an exciting package which arrived from Professor Lawrence Poos all the way from America. It’s another manorial document for our collection! You can find out more about manorial records and how you can use them in your own research from Professor Poos and others at Essex through the ages: tracing the past using manorial records on Saturday 12 July 2014.

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ERO Archivist Katharine Schofield and Public Service Team Manager Neil Wiffen eagerly anticipating opening the package!

We thought we’d provide a little photo story of the unboxing. I think the pictures below will give you some idea of the lengths people go to to transport the documents they want to deposit with us. Documents arrive with us in all sorts of forms and conditions and it is always exciting to unwrap them for the first time.  As always, stay tuned for more details about this new document! 

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Don’t worry, Neil is a fully trained knife wielder.

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Nearly there!

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Hey Presto! One new Copyhold Deed for the Essex Record Office Collection.

Hey Presto! One new Copyhold Deed for the Essex Record Office Collection.

 Whether you are interested in using manorial records in your own research, or just want to enjoy hearing experts talk about them, join us for Essex through the ages: tracing the past using manorial records on Saturday 12 July 2014 to find out how you can discover centuries of Essex life using these fascinating documents. There are more details, including how to book, here.

The return of Sargant Wilson: deeds in family history

Archives Assistant Edd Harris blogs for us about just a few of the things family historians can learn from property deeds…

Do you remember our friend Sargant Wilson? At the beginning of October we discovered his marriage licence which told us that in 1834 at the age of 60 he married Karenhappuch Morgan, ten years his junior. We have come across the couple again although unfortunately in less happy times.

Extract from admission of Karanhappuch Morgan (D/DCf M73)

This document is an admission onto copy hold land (D/DCf M73). This is a type of land holding used when land is part of a Manor. The people who hold land from the Manor are recorded in the Manor Court Roll along with any payments or rents that they are due to pay as well as a description of the land and its previous owners. The new landholders are then provided with a copy of that entry in the Court Roll, hence the name ‘copy hold’.

Extract from admission of Karanhappuch Morgan (D/DCf M73)

In the recitals of this particular example from Southminster in 1844 (ten years after his marriage) we are told that Sargant Wilson has died. The land that he held has been passed back (surrendered) to the Manor. The admission then goes on to say that Sargant Wilson left the land to his wife by his will which is quoted at length, describing the property and revealing that it was bequeathed to him by his former wife Dorothy and that he had a son who predeceased him.  It goes on to admit his second wife Karenhappuch onto the land in his place and collects a fine or payment for doing this.

Extract from admission of Karanhappuch Morgan (D/DCf M73)

This just goes to show that family history can move far beyond the usual records of births, marriages and deaths. We now know that Sargant Wilson had a previous marriage to a Dorothy with whom he had a son, he had written a will, held land in the Manor of Southminster and we have a rough date for his death, all from one document.

You can search for deeds on Seax by the name of a person or property. Not all deeds are catalogued to this level of detail however, in which case manorial court rolls may be helpful. These records can be challenging, but as we have seen in the case of Sargant Wilson they can also be extremely rewarding, not only for family history but for house history and local history too. If you would like any further advice, then talk to ERO staff in the Searchroom, e-mail us on ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk, or telephone 01234 244644.

The beginning: our oldest document

We thought that a good place to start our new blog was at the ‘beginning’ of our collection, so here Archivist Katharine Schofield introduces the oldest document in our collection.

The oldest document in the ERO is over 1,000 years old. It is an Anglo-Saxon charter (catalogue reference D/DP T209) which dates from 962, in the reign of King Edgar.

(Click for a larger version)

It is a grant of land in South Brent, Devon by King Edgar to one of his ministers Ǽthel[wine]. The land later came into the possession of the Petre family, who originated from Devon and became an important Essex family, and the charter forms part of the extensive Petre collection held at the ERO.

The first part of the charter is written in Latin. The second part which describes the boundaries of the land (e.g. ‘by the lane as far as the earthwork’) is written in Anglo-Saxon.

Unlike medieval deeds this charter is not sealed but has a long list of witnesses, beginning with King Edgar. The witnesses include bishops, ealdormen (royal officials) and ministers and Dunstan (later St. Dunstan), Archbishop of Canterbury.

As this charter is so early in date it does not use the conventional language found in later deeds. It includes the warning to those who might choose to ignore the deed:

But unto any who should lessen or infringe this my grant (far be such a thing from the minds of the faithful) be their portion with those on the other side upon whom is pronounced the sentence ‘Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire which was prepared for Satan and his followers’.