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|
|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|
|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|
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’.
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|
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