Claverley Property Document Analysis, Part 5: Next Steps

This is the final post in the Claverley Property Document Analysis series, which examined a property transfer recorded at a court baron in Claverley, Shropshire, England in 1844.

  1. Transcript - described the structure of the court record of the session and cases, and presented a faithful copy in a format ready for further analysis.
  2. Semantic mark-up
    • presented an illustration of the transcript marked up with semantic tags, colour coded for people’s names, place names, dates, occupation/rank, manorial legalese and property description.
    • presented the relationships and links between the elements identified summarised as ‘facts’ or ‘events’
  3. Places - validated place names using contemporary records, categorised the types of places, and checked the locations.
  4. People and Identity – validated people’s names and identified each in at least one other contemporary record.

This process has provided answers, at least provisionally, to the questions:
What did the court record say?
Where and when did the events occur?
Who were the people?

The research questions you might ask depend on who is the person of interest. That is not necessarily one of the main characters. I came upon this court session because I have a connection with John Wilson, so my questions are: What was his connection with John Felton that resulted in him becoming a trustee? Did he also have a connection with his fellow trustee, Samuel Nichols? John Felton’s will is the document I want to see next because it is highly likely to answer those questions and lead to more questions.

If my interest is restricted to one person, why spend time investigating the other people and places? Apart from checking that I have transcribed the names correctly (yes, I did make a couple of errors!), the other people and places have a clear association with my person of interest. In the past I would have skipped over the apparently irrelevant detail, but I have too many times regretted doing so. My initial person of interest was John Wilson, but correspondence with another researcher has pointed to connections with the Crowther family. Had I not investigated the probable publican, John Crowther and the copyholder, Edward Crowther, I would have had to re-examine this court record and could easily have missed them altogether.

A major advantage of a fully transcribed collection of records over an index is that minor actors are included together with the context of events. Presented as a complete, semantically tagged, transcript, the entire Claverley court baron records would be a fabulous resource for genealogy and local history. Granted, it would be a significant undertaking. An example of such a resource on a much larger scale for a prominent criminal court is the Old Bailey Online.

One thing I have not addressed in this study is the manorial legal jargon. I have found myself repeating explanations of terms, so what I really need is a glossary to refer to. So, from the 1 February 2014, I commit to blog one term each day for the month of February for the Family History Writing Challenge with a new series:

Custom of the Manor – A Glossary

Family History Writing Challenge 2014

Family History Writing Challenge 2014

© Sue Adams 2014


Claverley Property Document Analysis, Part 4: People and Identity

In the three previous posts in this series I transcribed a court record of a land transaction that occurred on 25 April 1844; proposed semantic mark-up that identified people’s names, places, dates, and legal language; and validated the locations of places.  Now I will examine the people named in the transaction and try to find records of them to validate my transcription.

Twelve people were named, but I omit two, Grosvenor and Onions who were as previous owners at an unspecified time, so likely will not appear in contemporary records.

Name Role
Thomas Whitmore (previously mis-read as Whitman) Lord of the manor
John Crowther host
Francis Harrison deputy steward
Christopher Gabert homage
Edward Crowther homage
Samuel Nicholls trustee
John Wilson trustee
John Felton surrender
Sarah Ward Nicholls admittee
William Ferrington occupier

Thomas Whitmore, lord of the manor

The 1835 edition of Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of The Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland identifies Thomas Whitmore of Apley, near Bridgnorth, born in 1782, as owing estates in Claverley, and also names his son and heir Thomas Charlton Whitmore, born in 1807.  The younger Thomas was resident at Apley Hall, Stockton in 1851, but I could not find Thomas senior on that census, suggesting he may have died since being recorded in London on the 1841 census.  So, was the father or son lord of the manor in 1844?

Pigot’s 1844 Directory of Shropshire lists Thomas Whitmore at Apley Hall and Thomas Charlton Whitmore at Cotsbrook House.  As Thomas senior was a member of parliament, he was sufficiently notable to have a Wikipedia entry that indicates he died in 1846, a date confirmed by the FreeBMD death index entry in the district of Shifnal, so he was the lord on whose behalf the steward acted.

Francis Harrison, deputy steward

Stewards and their deputies were qualified legal practitioners, so would expect to find Francis Harrison in a contemporary directory of the legal profession like The Law List 1843 (available on Ancestry).  Not only did I not find him there, but Francis Harrison has also proved elusive in the 1841 and 1851 censuses, and trade directories.  In articles of clerkship dated 1829, a Francis Harrison was contracted to receive legal training from Thomas Wheldon of Barnard Castle, Co. Durham.

As he was a deputy, it is possible that he was a junior or temporary member of the legal practice that dealt with Claverley manor on behalf of Thomas Whitmore.  The Steward, George Pritchard, presided over the sessions before and after the session of 25 April 1844.  George Pritchard was present at this session as a trustee in another case, so Francis Harrison’s deputation avoided any conflicts of interest.

Christopher Gabert and Edward Crowther, homage

Members of the homage or jury of a court baron were drawn from the copyholders of the manor.  Copyhold was a type of land ownership, so I expect contemporary records to reflect the land owning status of the homage.

The 1851 census records the 82 year old Christopher Gabert as a ‘Proprietor of Houses and Land’, resident at Claverley Cottage, Claverley. The summary of the 1839 tithe apportionment lists him as a landowner of 29 acres, 1 rod and 39 perches.  Not to be confused with the parish vicar, Rev. George Hilder Betterton Gabert.

Edward Crowther is listed on the tithe apportionment (plot 106) as a minor landowner and occupier of 1 rod and 19 perches, described as a house and garden.  Neither the 1841 or 1851 census yielded an Edward Crowther resident in Claverley, nor could I clearly identify him elsewhere.

The tithe apportionments (Shropshire Archives ref 5586/5/19/1-3) are a good indication of land ownership within the parish, but not necessarily the manor.  As I pointed out in the post about places, I know the boundaries of the parish of Claverley, but do not know the boundaries of the manor of Claverley.  It is reasonable to assume there is overlap, but whether the particular properties of Christopher Gabert and Edward Crowther lie within the manor is not certain.

John Crowther, host

John Crowther, resident of the house named Kings Arms, provided the venue for the court to be held.  It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that the Kings Arms was a pub and John was a publican.  You would expect to find him there on the census, wouldn’t you?  This is where it gets confusing.  There were 3 John Crowthers resident in Claverley in 1841.

Record type Year Name Age Occupation Residence Details ID
tithe

1839

John Crowther jun Owner of 1 acre, 1 rod and 36 perches including Crown P H, occupied by Job Harley and Benjamin Everson

1

tithe

1839

John Crowther Owner of 74 acres, 2rods, 33 perches, comprising 23 plots

2

tithe

1839

John Crowther Heathton Owner of 8 acres, 3 rods, 31 perches in Broughton; 54 acres, 1 rod, 14 perches in Heathton

2

tithe

1839

John Crowther sen Owner of 2 rods, 11 perches comprising 2 houses & gardens, occupied by John Lewis and Thomas Scrinew

3

tithe

1839

John Crowther sen Kings Arms Inn, Buildings & Yards Owned by William Smith

3

census

1841

John Crowther

35

butcher Claverley Jane 30, Mary 5

1

census

1841

John Crowther

65

farmer Heathton Elizabeth 60, 4 servants

2

census

1841

John Crowther

65

victualler Claverley Mary 65, Joseph 25, Eliza 15

3

court baron

1844

John Crowther Kings Arms host
civil registration

1845

John Crowther death

2

census

1851

John Crowther

49

farmer - Jane 43, Mary Ann 14, William 21, 3 servants

1

census

1851

John Crowther

78

butcher - Mary 73, Daniel 33, Eliza 29, 1 servant

3

census

1851

William Weaver

50

victualler & registrar Kings Arms Mary 40, Edward 6, William 2, John 1, 2 servants

Of the 3 men named John Crowther, I think the host of the court session was no 3 in the table.  The tithe apportionments identify John Crowther, the farmer of Heathton, as a significant land owner with rights to the tithes collected.  Two other John Crowthers, distinguished as senior and junior, were minor land owners.

The tithe apportionment confirms that John Crowther senior occupied the Kings Arms Inn in 1839, but contains no information on his occupation.  He best matches the victualler in 1841 and we can rule out the Heathton farmer of the same age and the younger butcher.  The farmer died in 1845.  By 1851, John Crowther junior had changed occupation from butcher to farmer, possibly a result of inheriting from the Heathton farmer.  John Crowther senior, identified by household members, wife Mary and daughter Eliza, had become a butcher and the Kings Arms passed to William Weaver.

All 3 Johns could be related, and that may explain the occupational shuffling.  Confirmation of the relationships is likely to be in the parish registers, which I have not yet accessed.

Samuel Nicholls, trustee and Sarah Ward Nicholls, admittee

The tithe apportionments identify two Samuel Nicholls’, senior and junior, and tells us that Samuel Nicholls junior was Felton’s trustee.  Both Samuel Nicholls’ are in the Bridgnorth section as attorneys in Pigot’s 1844 Directory of Shropshire, senior at Cat’s tree and junior at Mill Street, Low Town. Both are in the 1843 Law List at Bridgnorth.

Remember both Samuel Nicholls and Sarah Ward Nicholls at some time resided at Catstree?  The 1841 and 1851 censuses record 2 Samuels and 2 Sarahs.

Record type Year Name Age Residence Details ID
Articles of Clerkship

1794

Samuel Nicholls Broseley bound to John Pritchard, supported by Ann Nock

1

Census

1841

Samuel Nicholls

60

Catstree

1

Census

1841

Samuel Nicholls

30

Mill Street head, Caroline 35, Samuel 1

2

Census

1841

Sarah Nicholls

65

Catstree

3

Census

1841

Sarah Nicholls

25

Catstree

4

Death registration

1843

Samuel Nicholls Bridgnorth district

1

Court baron

1844

Samuel Nicholls formerly Catstree, now Bridgnorth

2

Court baron

1844

Sarah Ward Nicholls Catstree spinster

4

Census

1851

Samuel Nicholls

40

Mill Street head, wife: Caroline 48, children: Samuel 11, Caroline 8, Alfred 8

2

Census

1851

Sarah Nicholls

80

Catstree head, widow

3

Census

1851

Sarah D Nicholls

52

Mill Street unmarried sister-in-law to Samuel Nicholls

4

It is clear that the younger Samuel Nicholls designated as ID 2 in the table is the trustee named in the court baron record.  The older Samuel Nicholls shared a household with the 2 Sarahs in 1841, but died in 1843, leaving the older Sarah as his widow.

Sarah Ward Nicholls, the spinster admittee in the court baron record, best matches the younger Sarah in 1841 and the sister-in-law in 1851 (ID 4).  The discrepancies in age and middle name need resolution, and her relationships to the Nicholls family need clarification, before I can make any more than a tentative identification.

John Wilson, trustee

Even though 4 John Wilsons resided in Claverley in 1851, the farmer and trustee to John Felton’s will is readily identified in census records by his residence at Aston.  He farmed 760 acres and lived with wife Dorothea.  The tithe apportionments confirm his status as a significant land owner and farmer.

The other 3 John Wilsons can be excluded on age, residence and occupation.  His son, also named John, was aged about 16 in 1844, so too young.  The two other John Wilsons, each the son of two different Thomas Wilsons, were a resident of Farmcott (a hamlet in Claverley parish) and a saddler respectively.

John Felton, deceased, whose property was surrendered

It is clear from the 1844 court baron that John Felton was deceased, but the timing of his death is not apparent from this session.  His death and the admission of his trustees as copyholders of the manor should be recorded in the court records, but I have only accessed the records of a few sessions.

The tithe apportionments push John Felton’s death back before 1839.  Civil registration commenced mid 1837, only 18 months before, so I expect some deaths were not registered.  The only death registration for a John Felton, in 1838 in Manchester, is not a good match.   Ownership of land in Claverley does not necessarily mean John Felton lived there or used the church.   As I have no other information about where John Felton lived, Claverley is the place to start searching for his burial.  Unfortunately, Claverley burials are not included in the Familysearch index.

William Ferrington, occupier

William Ferrington is recorded on the tithe apportionment and 1841 census at Heathton, the hamlet in which the property transferred in the court record lies.  His household includes Mary (45), John (15), Mary (12), Ann (8) and William (6), a structure suggestive of a wife and children.  I have not found this family on the 1851 census, but the FamilySearch index and a transcript of Claverley’s marriage register confirms relationships.

William Ferrington of Codsall, Staffordshire married Mary Felton of Claverley on 3 July 1823 at Claverley.  Baptisms of children born to these parents in Codsall and Claverley confirm the 1841 family structure.

Name Date Location
Elizabeth Ferrington 1824 Codsall, Stafford
John Felton Ferrington 27 November 1825
Mary Ferrington 11 October 1829
Harriet Farrington 28 February 1831 Claverley, Shropshire
Ann Furrington 12 July 1833
William Farrington 3 July 1835

Conclusions

Of the 10 people whose identity I have attempted to verify, I am reasonably sure of 6.  Multiple people with the same names featured. Census and tithe apportionments roughly contemporary with the court baron session proved useful in most cases.  A directory, and the Law List provided supplementary information for some.

I have not yet fully exploited two important sources: other sessions of the court baron, and parish registers.  I have consulted a restricted the range of sources as my aim was to validate the transcription rather than research the lives of all the people.

© Sue Adams 2014


Claverley Property Document Analysis, Part 3: Places

In the previous two parts of this series, I transcribed a manorial court record of a property transaction, and extracted information from it.  So far, I have only been concerned with information contained within the court session and cases.  The next steps are to check names, dates, places and legal language; and to identify people, locations and interpret events.  This process draws on information from other sources.

I’ll start with checking place names and locate them on a map.  The court records contained 11 names of places that referred to 7 specific locations, but stated the type of feature or jurisdiction (e.g. county, parish, dwelling house) in 5 instances.

A gazetteer (a geographic index, dictionary or encyclopaedia) is an ideal reference for validating place names.  A Vision of Britain is a key resource that includes historical gazetteers, boundary maps of many (but not all) jurisdictions, and tracks the history of jurisdictions.  It draws on two gazetteers, John Bartholomew’s Gazetteer of the British Isles (1887) and John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72).  The gazetteers include entries for 8 of the 11 place names, and the boundary maps include the parishes, district, and county.

Place name Type Gazetteer classification Location relative to Bridgnorth
Kings Arms dwelling house
Mill Hill property
Heathton township hamlet/ township 6.5 miles E
Hopstone unspecified hamlet/ township 4 or 4.5 miles E
Aston unspecified township 6 or 6.5 miles E
Catstree unspecified place/ township 3 miles NE
Draycott unspecified
Claverley manor
Claverley unspecified township and parish 5.25 miles E
Worfield parish village, parish and sub-district 3.5 miles NE
Bridgnorth unspecified municipal borough, town and district
Salop county ancient county

In only one case, the Kings Arms, the place name refers to a specific point, a building.  Hamlets and townships were small settlements, and villages and towns were larger settlements, all with no defined boundary. Jurisdictions such as parish, manor, borough, district and county were defined, and with the exception of manors are mapped by A Vision of Britain.  Examples are the boundary maps for the county of Salop, also known as Shropshire and the parish of Claverley.  Where the court document specifies a jurisdiction, we can be sure of the geographic area covered.

I did not find Draycott in the historical gazetteers.  The Vision of Britain boundary maps allows viewing of 4 map layers from different times.  Draycott is marked on the modern map layers (OpenStreetMap and Great Britain 20th Century) between Aston and Heathton.  The same hamlet is named Draycote on the Great Britain 19th Century layer.

Claverley – manor, parish, village

The court document referred to the manor of Claverley and Claverley as an unspecified entity.  The manor and parish were separate jurisdictions and usually did not cover the same geographical area.  There could be several manors within a parish and a manor could span the boundary of adjoining parishes.

Unlike parishes, manors have never been systematically mapped.  In the case of Claverley, I know of 3 documents that describe the manorial boundaries.  The earliest, dated 1509, is a metes and bounds survey written in Latin, which awaits transcription and translation (Shropshire Archives ref 5586/13/1).  The Manorial Documents Register includes two later boundary descriptions that I have not seen, dated 1615 and 1700-1900 (both at Shropshire Archives refs 1190/1/434 and 1190/1/433).

The court document references to the unspecified Claverley could be either the village or the parish.  Although the village doesn’t have clear boundaries, I think it does all lie within the parish from my interpretation of the maps.

The Kings Arms

Is there anyone who did not think ‘pub’ when you saw this name?  If not, I would guess you are not very familiar with Britain.

However, the court document explicitly refers to the venue as a dwelling house, a private residence, not a public house, a drinking establishment.  There is a pub called the Kings Arms in Claverley, but is this the same building?  A virtual wander in Google maps shows an historic looking building almost opposite the church.  The satellite view shows the pub is a large establishment comprised of several buildings joined together.

First we need to establish that the current building really is old enough to have been standing in 1844.  Fortunately, the Kings Arms is included in the English Heritage’s National Heritage List.  The listing describes the part a the building complex that includes the main entrance, and dates it to the 18th century.  So, yes it is old enough.

The Kings Arms name could have been applied to a different building in the past.  The tithe apportionments for Claverley, dated 1839, lists land owners and occupiers who were liable to pay tithes (a church tax) associated with property (Shropshire Archives ref 5586/5/19/1-3). Land parcel number 158 described as ‘Kings Arms Inn, Buildings & Yards’, was owned by William Smith and occupied by John Crowther senior.  I haven’t yet examined the tithe map to see where no. 158 is exactly.  I would not be at all surprised to find it is the location of the current pub.  When I have checked fourth source, the tithe map, as well as Google maps, listed buildings and tithe apportionments, I will be as sure as possible of the location of the Kings Arms, the building where the court baron was held.  That is not the same thing as my first thought of ‘pub’.

Mill Hill

The court record is all about the transfer of a piece of land called Mill Hill and associated house and out buildings, totalling 3 acres, 1 rod and 16 perches, but so far we do not know where that was.  The tithe apportionments give the following information:

Landowners Occupiers Nos. Refering to the Plan Name and Description of Lands and Premises State of Cultivation Acres Rods Perches
Felton’s Trustees, viz. John Wilson and Samuel Nicholls jun. William Ferrington 566 Waste and Land, before the House Pasture 0 1 15
588 House, Buildings and Garden 1 0 4
589 Mill Hill Meadow 1 3 37

The area of these three land parcels adds up to 3 acres, 1 rod and 16 perches (40 perches to the rod, 4 rods to the acre). The area, description, owners and occupiers all match the property described in the court record, so I am sure land parcels 566, 588 and 589 on the tithe map will show me exactly where the property was.  Umm, my excuse for not consulting the tithe map on my last visit to Shropshire Archives is looking feeble.  I could swear archive time is accelerated, honest!

In the meantime, I’ll pull together what I can.  Mill Hill was in Heathton township, which is somewhere near Heathton House, a listed building.  The manor of Claverley extended to parts of Heathton township.  The tithe apportionments confirm John Wilson’s ownership and occupation of Aston Hall, but possibly not the current building which dates from mid-late 19th century.

I have marked the places as points on the map below, but this fails to convey that most place names refer to a larger, undefined area (e.g. township) or a jurisdiction.  It is useful to see the spatial relationships between places.  The approximate directions and distances of places found in the gazetteers are confirmed on the map.

Did you think looking at a modern map was all you needed to confirm where your ancestors lived and did things like attending a court?

Next time I will examine the people involved in the court proceedings.

© Sue Adams 2013


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