Tudor Handsworth – People, Places and Possessions

Birmingham Archives and Heritage has recently acquired a manorial rental dating from the sixteenth century. It gives us a fascinating insight into what Handsworth was like at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The document measures two and a half metres (just over eight feet). It is written on five sheets of parchment sewn together. It is dated to the Tuesday next after the feast of St Bartholomew the Apostle in the 30th year of the reign of Henry VIII – that is 27th August 1538.

What is a manorial rental? The lord of the manor of Handsworth, who held his land from the king, was landlord of many of the people who lived in Handsworth. A rental would be made as a record of who rents which plots of land. The document would be drawn up only occasionally, for example on a change of the lord of the manor.

This rental records:
• the names of the tenants
• the terms under which they leased their property
• a description of the land
• how much rent was paid

The tenants. The lord of the manor was William Worley (often spelt as Wyrley) of Worley (or Wyrley) Hall also known as Hamstead Hall. His name appears at the top of the list of tenants. Tenants could be individuals or organisations:

William Blakham, John Lane, Harry Wyllys, Harry Lane, William Gefsey, Harry Sedgwike, John Mere, The heyres (heirs) of John Jesslyn, William Coke, William Couper, John Hoggatts, Nicholas Cooke & the Chauntrye of Aston, Thomas Holt, Richard Hodgetts, Roger Brown, The Church Wardens of Aston, John Milward, Cecillye Stanley, Thomas Asshford, John Bott, John Worley, The Church Wardens of Honnesworthe, John Blakham, Wyllm Gest, Richard Osbourn and Harry Scott, William Blakham, Richard Chamber, Elizabeth Froddisham, Thomas Bond, Robert Haytley, Thomas Couper, William Worley Esquire, The Magister (Master) of the Guyld of Dereyatend & William Wight, William Worley Gent, George Squier, Richard Saunders, Thomas Middilton, John Milward, [no first name given] Byssytt, John Senton, The heres (heirs) of Thomas Smyth, William Piddock, Harry Bodgy

Notice how common the name of Harry is, presumably in honour of the king!

What information can we get from the roll? The entries give information about tenants on the manor and also of the lands that they held, sometimes with quite detailed descriptions:

Richard Saunders holdith by Indentur(es) a T(enem)ent w(ith) thapp(ur)tenn(an)ces & foreign p(ar)celles of land & pastures lying to the same next to the ways leding from Honesworthe Churche & Birmyngh(a)m & the way leding from New Inne to Aston by the yerelye rent of nyne shilling(es) [this entry is illustrated]

The roll predates the parish register series for Handsworth by several years, and a comparison between this document and the earliest register of 1558 shows many of the same surnames appearing in each.

This fascinating record is available to view at Birmingham Archives & Heritage, quoting the reference MS 2669 (Acc 2007/016). http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/archivesandheritage

Rachel MacGregor
Senior Archivist (Digitisation and Public Services)

Further reading:

Denis Stuart, Manorial Records (1992: Phillimore)
Rosalyn Bass, Manorial Records, 16th-19th Centuries (1998: Borthwick Inst.)
Mary Ellis, Using Manorial Records (1997: Public Record Office)
Alf Ison, A Secretary Hand ABC (2000: Berkshire Family History Society)

The National Archives website has tutorials for Latin and palaeography: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/gettingstarted/in_depth_guides.htm
Nottingham University has a guide to manorial records: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/ManuscriptsandSpecialCollections/ResearchGuidance/Manorial/Introduction.aspx


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