Dispute between the tenants of the manor and the Fortescues, 1603-1611


After Sir John Fortescue bought the Manor of Winslow from the Crown in 1599, he had the map of 1599 drawn up and held a court of survey in 1600 to assess his new holdings. He appears to have imposed much heavier fines when tenants transferred their lands and holdings at the manor court, leading to a lengthy dispute. The following document from 1603 is a letter of attorney about this, in which the tenants appoint a group of seven to negotiate for them.

Centre for Bucks Studies, D/BASM/84/12

[Cover:] Letters of attorney to settle disputes with the Lord of the Manor of Winslow about Fines, Dec. 1603

To all (Christ)ian people to whom these p(re)sents shall or maye come. All wee whose names markes and seales are hereunder written sealed & subscribed, send greetinge. Whereas dyverse questions have latelye been moved betwene the Right honorable Sir John Fortescue Knight Chauncellor of the Duchye of Lancaster and one of his Ma(jesty)s moste honorable pryvie Councell and we w(i)th others the Tenaunts of his Mannor of Wynslowe and the members thereof in the countye of Buck’ for and concernynge the levyinge ratinge and taxac(i)on of Fynes uppon death and surrender of diverse Copiholds and Customary Tenaunts of his honors said Manor of Wynslowe and the said members (Namelye) Shipton Grenborowe and Lyttle Horwood. Wherby it is to be feared that sundrye stryfes and controversies are lykelye to aryse betwene us and his honor (yf the same be not tymely bye other wyse prevented) For that as we take yt, most parte of the said Fynes whiche he demandeth doe farr excede all former ancient p(re)sidents and recordes, yet beinge verye desirous to enioye his honors wanted favor, thoughe to o(ur) greate costs and charge, thereby to purchase our peace and to reduce all Fynes hereafter uppon soche lyke dyinge seized or surrender to soche a Rate for ev(er)ye howse and aker of grownd w(i)thin the saide manor, As shall better satysfye us and all our posteryties, by some mutuall agreement and conclusion betwixt us his honors tenants and hym self. Whereof there is some good hope, uppon a late moc(i)on made unto hym to that purpose For that yt pleased his honor to order that some of us his said Tenannts shoulde in the name of the reste repayre unto hym to make knowen our saide desires and to consulte of some good cawse for the effectinge therof for soche considerac(i)ons as shoulde be propounded and myghte happilye uppon the said mocion be agreed uppon  wherefore wee whose names markes and seales are hereunder sealed and subscribed, Uppon due deliberac(i)on and considerac(i)on amongest our selfes for that purpose have earnestlye desyred our wellbeloved neighbores and fryndes Peter Fyge of Wynslowe aforesaid gentleman, Rob(er)te Williatt of Lyttle Horwood gentleman, Henrye Wendover of Wynslowe gentleman, Benedict Holland of Grenborowe yoman, Thomas Graunt al(ia)s Myller of Shipton yoman, John Illynge the elder of Lyttle Horwood yoman and Rob(er)te Stevens of Grenborowe yoman amongest others, Being  also all copiholders of the said Manor and thereby interessed in our common cawse For us and in our names as for them selfes, to consulte with the said Sir John Fortescue in and about the p(re)misses, And to conclude agree determyne and compounde in soche wyse as they shall thinke meete with the said Sir John his heires and assignes, for money or otherwise, For and aboute soche a rate of Fynes to be paide for our customarye howses Lands and tenements holden of his honor as of the said mannor and members uppon soche dyinge seized or surrenders respectyvelye, As to them shalbe thought meete and most convenyente for the better establyshinge of peace and settinge of a conformable cowrse in that behalfe to us and our posteryties.

To whiche ende and purpose wee doe herebye also awthorize depute and appointe them the said Peter Fyge, Rob(er)te Williott, Henrye Wendover, Benedict Holland, Thomas Graunt al(ia)s Myller, John Illynge and Rob(er)te Stevens and everye of them to consulte and compounde w(i)th the said Sir John accordinglye, Gevynge and grauntinge unto them and ev(er)ye of them our full power and absolute awthorytie to doe and deale in the p(re)misses as to them shalbe thought most meete and expediente, promysinge and undertakinge hereby faythfullye unto the said Peter Fyge, Rob(er)te Williott, Henrye Wendover, Benedict Holland, Thomas Graunt al(ia)s Myller, John Illynge and Rob(er)te Stevens and ev(er)ye of them to paye and p(er)forme unto them whatsoever in that behalfe they or anye of them shall promyse or undertake to paye or p(er)forme unto hym the said Sir John for us or anye of us respectyvely thereabouts. In considerac(i)on wherof and to the intente wee shoulde be aswell in lawe as conscience bownde hereunto. And the more to put the said Peter Fyge, Rob(er)te Williott, Henrye Wendover, Benedict Holland, Thomas Graunt al(ia)s Myller, John Illynge and Rob(er)te Stevens and ev(er)ye of them out of doubte of p(er)formance of the same wee have hereunto mutuallye sette our names markes and seales the sevententh daye of December in the yere of the raigne of our sov(er)aigne Lord James by the grace of God of England Fraunce and Irelande Kinge defender of the faythe &c the firste and of Scotland the seaven and thirtieth

[In the document, sig(ill)u(m) + genitive of the Latin Christian name is used for those who made their marks, while the others signed in English.  Numerous seals are affixed to the document.]

[mark] Johis Williott [mark] Johis Grace sen’ [mark] Tho Cepenyrst [mark] Tho Pitkyn [mark] Johis Pytkyn [mark] Ric Cowper [signed] Georg Adams [mark] Willi Hobs [mark] Tho Curtis

[signed] Roob[?] Mascall [mark] Robti Hawkyns [mark] Radi Barton [mark] Robti Adams [mark] Willi Meade [mark] Johis Illynge jun’ [mark] Thome Barber [mark] Francisci Varney

[mark] Tho Rutland [mark] Tho Mountague [mark] Tho Fynell [mark] Johis Boton [mark] Willi Stevens [mark] Johis Shelton [mark] Tho Robynson [mark] Tho Coxe [signed] William Lowndes

[mark] Ric’ Shelton [mark] Thome Hogson [mark] Ric’ Stutsberye [signed] William Sponer [signed] Will’  Edmunds deput [mark] Tho Overynge [mark] Thome Graunte [mark] Willi Tomlyn [signed] Nicolas Overing

[mark] Seth Mason [signed] John Stutsbery [signed] William Ellot[?] [signed] Hughe[?] Stusberry [signed] Frauncis Brinsell [mark] Johis Chynnall [mark] Johis Kyrbye [mark] Tho Kyrbye George Ellat [mark] Willi Stevens sen’

[mark] Robti Raynde [signed] Francis[?] Clements [mark] Ric’ Worrall [mark] Thome Goodspeede [mark] Ric’ Stevens [signed] Stutsbery Thomas [mark] Henr’ Stevens [mark] Willi Kinerton[?]

[deletion] Ben’ Grace [signed] Thomas Hobsom [mark] Thome Adams [mark] Willi Varney [mark] Ric’ C[?]oylson [mark] Johis Glenister [mark] Johis Brasehed

[mark] Henrici Jeffes [mark] Ric’ Mayle [mark] Mathei Myller [mark] Edw’i Gilberd [mark]  Johis Grace [mark] Robti Norman [signed] Nicolas Masell[?] [mark] Willi Ashwell

[mark] Johis Hawkyns [mark] Johis Taylor

A full list of tenants was drawn up in 1610. An agreement was eventually drawn up in 1611, followed by further disputes and then a final agreement in 1613.

Bucks RO, D/BASM/84/15

This 3-page document dated 25 November 1613 records a judgment in Chancery about a case brought by the tenants of the manor of Winslow led by Peter Fige against the lord of the manor Sir Francis Fortescue (son of Sir John Fortescue who died in 1607) and his son and heir John.  Its main interest is the list of tenants from Winslow, Shipton, Little Horwood and Granborough who joined in the complaint.  The full document can be read in PDF format.  A summary follows below. The agreement was binding on future lords of the manor, and in 1619 the manor was sold to George Villiers, Marquis (later Duke) of Buckingham.

Complainants:  the copyhold or customary tenants Peter Fige, William Edmondes, Henrie Wyndover and Roberte Williat Gentlemen, Benedict Holland, Roberte Stevens, Nicholas Brynsoll, Thomas Coxe, William Graunte, Thomas Graunte the elder, Thomas Graunte the younger, Walter Graunte thelder, Richarde Hayle, Edward Hogson, Thomas Hogson, Richarde Hogson, Steven Jackson, Peter Jackson, Elizabeth Illing, Thomas Kirbye, Walter Kerbie, William Lowndes, Roberte Maynwaring Clerke, Nicholas Michell, Richarde Miller, William Norman, Roberte Norman, Thomas Norman, Thomas Overing, Nicholas Overing, John Paxton, John Robinson, Richarde Shelton, John Shelton, William Sponer alias Lunt, Robert Snowe, Richarde Stuchburie, Thomas Stuchburie, William Tomlyne, Roberte Travell[?], Henrie Wallis, Peter Wardner, John Chinall, Thomas Asten, William Bancks, Johane Banckes, William Brashed, Edmonde Brawne, Thomas Barrowe, Thomas Bachiler, Richarde Barbor, John Emerton, William Giles, Thomas Jackson, Thomas Hide, Seath Mason, George Miller, Nicholas Norman, Thomas Parker, John Stuchburie the elder, John Stuchbury the younger, John Taylor, Thomas Smithe, Henrie Chaundler, James Coxe, Johane Nashe, Elizabeth Williams, Raphe Uddyne, Hughe Seyton, William Mynnell, Thomas Bowden, Robert Burte, John Glenister, Roberte Glenister, William Glenister, John Graunte, George Elliott, Mathewe Miller, Katherine Snowe, Richarde Snowe, Anthonye Tomlyne, William Greene, Robert Jaye, Thomas Sylverside, John Bowden, Thomas Bowden, Richarde Capenhurste, William Emerton, Richard Grace thelder, Richarde Grace the younger, Thomas Grace, Benedicte Grace, John Grace, Thomas Goodspeede, Benedicte Hollande the younger, Thomas Hollande, Thomas Mountague, John Pitkyne, Thomas Pitkyne, Roberte Rayner, John Rutlande, Richarde Stevens, William Stevens the elder, William Stevens the younger, Henrie Stevens, John Stevens the elder, John Stevens the younger, Richarde Worrall, John Worrall, Richard Bennett, Thomas Hopson, Margerie Osborne, William Porter, Reynolde Marshall, John Fuller, George Addams, Thomas Addams, Robert Addams, John Addams, Richarde Barton, Thomas Carter, Henrie Curtis, Richard Cowper, Henrie Fennell, William Hobbes, John Hawkyns, Roberte Hawkins, William Illinge, Richarde Johnson, Thomas Lewesley, Richarde Muncke, Roberte Nashe, Anthonie Okeley, John Aldam, Richarde Showler, William Sturdwick, Will(ia)m Verney, Roberte Allen, Henrie Warde, John Warde, John Williatt, Henrie Jeffes, Richarde Wilson, Henrie Mullens, Raphe Moores, Richard Maresfeilde, William Rishbrooke, William Meade, Rooke Maskall, Walter Graunte the younger, John Illinge and Thomas Illinge.

The tenants had paid £1000 to Sir Francis for a composition to settle the dispute, leading to an indenture dated 9 February 1611 between Peter Fige, William Edmonds, Henry Wendover, Benedict Holland, Robert Stevens and Robert Williatt (five of whom were the original negotiatiors) and the Fortescues.  A schedule of holdings was attached to it.

By this agreement any holding of 30 acres was to be treated as a yardland if it has not been so previously, and any holding of 15 acres as a half-yardland.  Any former demesne land was not to be treated as copyhold.  The fixed fine for surrendering or dying seised of a yardland with messuage or cottage was to be £3, and 30s for a half-yardland.  For any messuage or cottage with 2 acres of land or less: 5s.  For any other land: 2s per acre.  The agreement was to be confirmed by Sir Francis’ other sons (Gilbert, William, Adrian and Robert) when they came of age, and by his brother Sir William.

A tripartite indenture was then made on 6 June 1613 between (i) Sir Francis Fortescue and John Fortescue, (ii) the six complainants, (iii) Timothy Cartwright of Washbourne (Lower Slaughter), Gloucs and Francis Curson of Salden.  Evidently as a precursor to this, James I granted to the Fortescues the right to alienate the manor to Cartwright and Curson (1 April 1613). The Fortescues agreed to reimburse to Cartwright and Curson the complainants’ legal expenses from the Court of Common Pleas.  An entail was broken, and the manor would be held in fee simple by John Fortescue after Sir Francis’s death.  There was to be an Act of Parliament to confirm the arrangements.

The complainants said that Sir Francis then failed to keep to the agreement, which was in effect restated.  Sir Francis and the complainants agreed that “by way of composition for the ascertaining of the said fines” each yardland with or without a messuage or cottage should pay £10, each half-yardland £5, each messuage or cottage with less than 2 acres 10s, and all other land 6s 8d per acre. Sir Francis acknowledged that he had received at least £1,000 from the tenants. After that, any new tenant on admission would pay £3 for a yardland with or without a messuage or cottage, 30s for a half-yardland, 5s for a messuage or cottage with less than 2 acres, and 2s per acre for other land.  Sir Francis agreed a parchment schedule with details of customary tenants and fines payable.

The King issued letters patent to confirm this at the request of Peter Fige, dated 30 November 1613.