Robert the Bruce – Essex man

As the people of Scotland prepare to vote in the independence referendum, Archivist Katharine Schofield examines how Essex is able to claim a connection with Robert the Bruce, who from 1306 became King Robert I of Scotland. 

D/DP T1/1770 - names Robertus de Brus

D/DP T1/1770 – names Rob’tus de Brus

The Bruce or Brus family held lands in Writtle, Hatfield Broad Oak, Terling, Hatfield Peverel, Lamarsh and Southchurch from a grant made by Henry III in c.1237/8 to Isabel de Brus.  She was the daughter of David, Earl of Huntingdon (brother of Malcolm IV and William I of Scotland) and Matilda, the daughter of the Earl of Chester.  Isabel’s brother John inherited the title of Earl of Chester from his uncle.  When John died in 1237 the earldom reverted to the Crown, and today is one of the titles of the Prince of Wales.  In compensation Henry III granted lands to his sisters and heiresses, one of whom was Isabel, wife of Robert de Brus, 4th Lord of Annandale (the great-grandparents of Robert the Bruce), who received various lands in Essex (if you get as confused with the genealogy in this post as we did, here’s a handy family tree).

Among the earliest records in the ERO are records of the Brus family in Hatfield Broad Oak and Writtle.  The deeds, although undated, almost certainly relate to Sir Robert de Brus, father of the future king of Scotland.  Deeds of grants of meadow land in Hatfield Broad Oak of c.1280 and c.1300 (D/DBa T1/44, 50-51126, 157, 159) refer to part of the demesne meadow land of Sir Robert de Brus which adjoined the land being granted.

D-DP T1-1770 Whole

D/DP T1/1770 – A much later copy of a quitclaim made bu Sir Robert de Brus

A release and quitclaim (renunciation of all future claims) which survives as a later copy was made on 22 May 1298 by Robert de Brus senior, Earl of Carrick, of half a virgate (approximately 30 acres) of land in Writtle to John Herolff (D/DP T1/1770).  Robert de Brus inherited the earldom from his wife, and today this is another one of the Prince of Wales’ titles, which he uses in Scotland.  Another quitclaim was made at Writtle on 4 August 1299 by Robert de Brus, described as lord of Annandale (dominus vallis Anandie) and lord of Writtle and Hatfield Broad Oak to Sir Nicholas de Barenton [Barrington] of 21 shillings annual rent for lands in Hatfield Broad Oak (D/DBa T2/9).

D-DBa T1-4 Seal

D/DBa T1/4 – This seal which belongs Sir Robert de Brus and shows the saltire or St. Andrew’s Cross, now an integral part of the Scottish flag.

In about 1295 Sir Robert de Brus, Earl of Carrick, exchanged 5½ acres of land in Hatfield Broad Oak for 5¾ acres held by Hatfield Priory (D/DBa T1/4).  Brus’s seal survives on this deed and shows the saltire, still used today on Scotland’s flag, with a lion above.  The seals of Scottish nobility began to include the saltire or St. Andrew’s Cross from the late 13th century.

D-DBa T1-4

D/DBa T1/4 – in its entirity.

When Alexander III of Scotland died in 1286, his four year old granddaughter, Margaret, the Maid of Norway, was the closest heir to the Scottish crown.  She died in 1290 in the Orkney Isles en route to Scotland, leaving no obvious successor and Edward I King of England was asked by the Guardians of Scotland, who had been appointed to govern during the minority of the queen, to arbitrate between the many different claimants to the throne in what became known as the Great Cause.  There were 15 claimants, including Edward himself, but the two main claimants were two great-grandsons of David, Earl of Huntingdon (a grandson of David I, r.1124-1153): John Balliol, grandson of David’s daughter Margaret, and Robert de Brus, grandson of Isabel, Margaret’s younger sister (again, this family tree helps!).

In 1292 Edward I selected John Balliol, who had the best claim.  However, Balliol proved an ineffectual king and in 1296 Edward I took the opportunity to invade Scotland.  Having defeated the Scots at Dunbar, he deposed Balliol, took over the throne of Scotland and removed the Stone of Scone, which was used for the coronations of the Scottish kings, to Westminster.  The Scots fought back and the following year William Wallace defeated the English at Stirling Bridge.  Battles and guerrilla warfare followed.

In 1304 the Sir Robert de Brus, mentioned in the Essex documents, died and his son more commonly known as Robert the Bruce inherited his father’s claim to the throne.  At Brus’s death he held the manor of Writtle from the king for half a knight’s fee and the manor in Hatfield Broad Oak for another half.  Feudalism meant that all land was held from the Crown in return for military service, the provision of a knight.  Land that was held for one knight’s fee meant that Brus had to supply a knight (or sometimes the monetary equivalent) to the King for military service.

File:Robertthebruce.jpg

Robert the Bruce in a much later depiction

On 25 March 1306 Robert the Bruce was crowned king of Scotland at Scone.  As a result all his English lands were attainted or forfeited to the Crown.  The majority of the lands were later granted by Edward II to Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex.

There is one final reference to the Brus family in an extent (description of landholding) of the manor of Writtle dating from c.1315, possibly relating to the grant to de Bohun.  This describes free tenants of the manor who held land from deeds of the lord Robert de Brus [per cartam domini Robert de Brus], who is further described as father of the present lord King [pater domini Regis nunc est].

How to run your manor

Following our recent posts on what a manor was, and the records produced by manorial courts, today we have the final instalment in our manorial mini-series from Archivist Katharine Schofield. Running a manor produced all sorts documents, which record boundaries, customs and obligations owed between tenants and lords – read on for just a few examples. You can find out more about manorial records and how you can use them in your own research at Essex through the ages: tracing the past using manorial records on Saturday 12 July 2014.

Imagine you are lord of a medieval manor. You might even own several manors, and they might be scattered around a county, or indeed the country.

To make sure you are making the most of your manors (and getting the most from your tenants), you are going to need to establish how much and what type of land your manors include, how much your manors cost to run, and how much income you can expect to get from them.

All of this took a great deal of estate management, and has left us with a rich archive of administrative records. This includes extents, surveys and custumals, accounts or compoti, and later maps, rentals, perambulations and terriers. Handily for the modern researcher, they were often produced in English from as early as the 15th century.

Custumals

Custumals record the customs of a manor; that is, the labour services and rents owed by tenants in return for their lands, and any obligations owed to or by the lord. The famous Dunmow Flitch ceremony, for example, has its origins in a custom of the manor of Little Dunmow.

The extent and custumal of 1329-1330 from the manor of Stansgate in Steeple (which survives as a copy of c.1450 (D/DCf M34)), records a number of customs, including the obligation of all tenants resident in Ramsey Island, Steeple and Stansgate with their own boats or barges to take the Prior of Stansgate (the priory owned the manor), monks and servants by water to and from Maldon market every Saturday with their food. In return the Priory would give them dinner on the following Sunday.

Surveys, maps, terriers and perambulations

These are all different types of document that establish the boundaries of a manor, and which bits of the manor were held by which tenants.

The survey of the manor of Ingatestone of c.1275 (D/DP M150) is stitched into a rental and names the tenants, with a brief description of their holdings and a more detailed list of the service they owed the lord. For the tenants the survey recorded the extent of their liabilities and offered the assurance that the lord could not demand more work from them. This document was known as the ‘Domesday of Barking’ (Barking Abbey owned the manor) and appears as such in a court roll of 1322-1323 where it was produced as evidence in a dispute about a customary fine.

Title page of the ‘Domesday of Barking’, for the manor of Ingatestone, here called ‘Gynges’

Title page of the ‘Domesday of Barking’, for the manor of Ingatestone, here called ‘Gynges’

The ‘Domesday of Barking’ records that Juliana Strapel (you can make out her name at the beginning of the first full line shown here) held one messuage and 10 acres. Her obligations from this landholding included the payment of 5s 3d. annually, 9d. ‘lardsilver’ (a payment to the larder of Barking Abbey), and payment of one ploughshare at Michaelmas. She was also obliged to plough twice a year, hoe and harrow each for one and a half days, make hay, reap one acre in the autumn, and provide a man to work for three days. She also owed pannage, where pigs were allowed to roam in the wood to feed off acorns, and was obliged to collect nuts

The ‘Domesday of Barking’ records that Juliana Strapel (you can make out her name at the beginning of the first full line shown here) held one messuage and 10 acres. Her obligations from this landholding included the payment of 5s 3d. annually, 9d. ‘lardsilver’ (a payment to the larder of Barking Abbey), and payment of one ploughshare at Michaelmas. She was also obliged to plough twice a year, hoe and harrow each for one and a half days, make hay, reap one acre in the autumn, and provide a man to work for three days. She also owed pannage, where pigs were allowed to roam in the wood to feed off acorns, and was obliged to collect nuts

Originally, records dealing with boundaries used written descriptions of the land in question.  During the 16th century these written descriptions developed into maps and some of the earliest local maps in the Essex Record Office were produced by manors. In 1592 Israel Amyce produced a written survey of the manor and lordship of Castle Hedingham (D/DMh M1). In order to make the written descriptions clearer he included marginal sketch maps and larger pull-out maps.

Pull-out map of centre pf Castle Hedingham in survey of manor and lordship of Castle Hedingham by Israel Amyce, 1592 (D/DMh M1)

Pull-out map of centre pf Castle Hedingham in survey of manor and lordship of Castle Hedingham by Israel Amyce, 1592 (D/DMh M1)

A survey of manor and lordship of Castle Hedingham by Israel Amyce, 1592, using a combination of written descriptions and  maps (D/DMh M1)

A survey of manor and lordship of Castle Hedingham by Israel Amyce, 1592, using a combination of written descriptions and maps (D/DMh M1)

Maps were costly to produce as it usually required the employment of somebody with the cartographical skills of Amyce or Walker. Terriers and perambulations (where the boundaries were walked) and a written description was produced, continued as a cheaper alternative to describe the bounds of a manor.

Rentals

After the Black Death of 1348-1349 and the estimated loss of between a third and half of the population, lords of the manor found it much more difficult to enforce labour obligations on their tenants. This made it much less profitable for lords of the manor to farm the land themselves and increasingly the lords commuted the labour services into a rent.  At Thaxted in 1393 the survey (D/DHu M58) lists all of the labour services which had been due from each tenant and then concludes ‘now pays to farm’. The rent payable quit the tenant of any further labour obligations and from the 15th century onwards rentals or quit rentals are found among manorial records. Rentals name the tenants, and often give a description or even names of the copyhold premises they occupied, with the amount that they owed to lord.

Accounts (compoti)

When lords of the manor farmed the lands of the manor themselves, detailed bailiff’s accounts or compoti (from the Latin computare to calculate or estimate) were produced. The parchment membranes of accounts and rentals are usually stitched together end to end to produce an effect like a giant till roll. When unrolled they can be several feet long.

D/DBw Q1, which is about 18 feet long

D/DBw Q1, which is about 18 feet long

A compotus usually runs from Michaelmas to Michaelmas and there is a set pattern, beginning with the cash amounts to be charged and then discharged, the corn and stock (in a specified order) and then labour services. The compotus for the manor of Terling, 1328-1330 (D/DU 206/22) is the record kept by the bailiff William Knott. He accounted first for all of the money and goods coming in, including the sale of produce and purchase and birth of livestock. He then continued by listing every charge on the lord’s income including shoeing horses, making wheels, wages for work including ditching the park and roofing and repairing the gutters of the hall, chapel and dovecot. Knott also accounted for every loss of livestock, including deaths from the ‘murrain’ (a catch-all word used to describe unidentifiable animal diseases) and payments of eggs to the lord’s household and to the church. One of the biggest items of expenditure was bringing a watermill from Prittlewell (£10). There were further payments for the mill including digging the pond for it and removing the earth, buying nails and tiles and timber from Boreham and paying a carpenter.

Extract from the compotus for the manor of Terling, 1328-1330 (D/DU 206/22), which records the purchase of a watermill [molend’ aquatic] from Prittlewell [Priterewelle] to be moved to Terling.

Extract from the compotus for the manor of Terling, 1328-1330 (D/DU 206/22), which records the purchase of a watermill [molend’ aquatic] from Prittlewell [Priterewelle] to be moved to Terling.

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.