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
Over the last 2 years, I’ve had the opportunity to see how the archival collections we hold have been built up since the first deposit of material in 1879: from estate papers, personal and family papers, school, hospital, religious, council and business records to deposits by photographers, pressure groups and activists, trade unions and employer’s associations, voluntary organisations, charities, societies and clubs. This has been without going into the strong rooms and without opening any boxes, but instead through retro-converting our accession registers which record brief details of every deposit we have received and where they came from.
Between 1879 and 2005, our accessions were recorded using a multitude of different numerical and alphabetical systems in various formats. These ranged from the large, heavy leather bound volumes with gold embossed titles of the 19th and early 20th centuries, to the drawers of handwritten index cards and slim handwritten notebooks of the mid-late 20th century to the early 21st century ring-binders of computer printouts. As part of the preparations for the move to LoB in 2013, one of my tasks has been to ensure that these accessions are entered onto our electronic database in a standardised format. Continue reading