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

Advertisements

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 1: Transcript

An essential method of making sense of historical document is transcribing the original.  The Amanuensis Monday blogging prompt suggests transcribing documents is a good idea, because it:

  1. makes a copy
  2. transforms the original into searchable text
  3. forces focus on details

This is a start, but only hints at the processes involved.  A transcript is a faithful copy that preserves the characteristics of the original as much as possible, making a useful copy for further analysis and research.  The process of transforming an old hand-written document into a computerised one is not just a matter of typing the words.  Diplomatic (the study of documents) and palaeography (the study of hand-writing) skills are a great help in producing a good transcript.

The example I use here is a manorial court record of a property transaction.  The diplomatic study of this kind of record reveals their structure and the reasons why they follow a particular pattern.  The manorial court held sessions periodically at which various matters concerning the governance of the manor were presented.  Consequently the court recorded sessions and within each session one or more cases to dealt with each matter.  The court at Claverley typically presented the legal event of a surrender of a property to the lord of the manor as a one case, and the legal event of an admission of a tenant to a property as a separate case.  This reflected the legal technicality of copyhold property transfers where property always reverted to the lord of the manor before being granted to a new owner.

I have not included images of the original court books because I only have poor quality images and do not have any permission to reproduce the original.  These two related cases come from:
Manor of Claverley. Court Book 1833-1848. Session 25 April 1844. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, USA. film no 1951756.

Inevitably, some characteristics of the original do not translate easily into electronic text.  Description of the layout on the original pages, identification of my digital image files, and other explanatory comments are in square brackets.  Each line of text has been reproduced as on the original and line numbers added within each case.  I do this for difficult to read documents because it makes finding the place within the repeated phrases much easier.

[image P1284247.jpg]
[page number] (544)

[new court session starts half way down the page]
[in margin]
Manor of Claverley} to wit
25th April 1844

  1. The Court Baron purchased of Thomas Whitman
  2. Esquire Lord of this manor held at the dwelling house of
  3. John Crowther called the Kings Arms situate in Claverley
  4. within this manor on Thursdays the twenty fifth day of
  5. April in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred
  6. and forty four and in the seventh year of the reign of her
  7. present Majesty Queen Victoria  Before Francis Harrison deputy
  8. Steward there and in the presence of Christopher Gabert and
  9. Edward Crowther two copyholders of this manor.

[case 1 not transcribed as it does not concern people of interest]
[I photographed the start of the court session, then skipped to the cases of interest on a later page.]
[image P1284248.jpg]
[page number ?query not the page following the previous image.] (561)
[case x starting half way down page]

  1. To this Court come John Wilson of Aston within this
  2. manor Farmer and Samuel Nicholls late of Catstree in the
  3. parish of Worfield but now of Bridgnorth in the county of Salop
  4. Gentleman Devisees in trust named in the last will and testament
  5. of John Felton heretofore of Hopstone but late of Draycott within
  6. this manor Yeoman late copyholder of this manor deceased
  7. in their own proper persons and in consideration of the Sum
  8. of three hundred and fifteen pounds seven shillings of lawful
  9. British money to them the said John Wilson and Samuel Nicholls
  10. in hand well and truly paid by Sarah Ward Nicholls of
  11. Catstree aforesaid Spinster before the passing of this surrender
  12. as and for the purchase money for the hereditaments hereinafter
  13. mentioned surrender into the hands of the Lord of this manor
  14. by his deputy Steward aforesaid by the rod according to the custom
  15. [image P1284249.jpg]
    [page number] (562)

  16. of this manor All that piece or parcel of land called or known
  17. by the name of Mill Hill and all that newly erected messuage or
  18. dwelling house and outbuildings on the same piece of land or some
  19. part thereof with the appurtenances formerly Grosvenors and
  20. late Onions’s[?] situate in the township of Sleathton in the manor
  21. of Claverley in the county of Salop formerly in the occupation
  22. of John Felton and now of William Ferrington or his undertennants
  23. containing by admeasurement three acres one rood and sixteen
  24. perches or thereabouts being by computation the half of one
  25. third part of a nook of land  To the use and behoof of the
  26. said Sarah Ward Nicholls her heirs and assigns for ever at
  27. the will of the Lord according to the custom of this manor

[case y]
[undeciferable mark in margin]

  1. To this Court comes Sarah Ward Nicholls of Catstree in
  2. the parish of Worfield in the County of Salop Spinster in her own
  3. proper person and by virture of a surrender to her use at this
  4. Court made by John Wilson of Aston within this manor
  5. Farmer and Samuel Nicholls late of Catstree aforesaid but now
  6. of Bridgnorth in the said County of Salop Gentleman Devisees in
  7. trust named in the last will and testament of John Felton
  8. heretofore of Hopstone but late of Draycott within this manor
  9. Yeoman late a copyholder of this manor deceases desires to
  10. be admitted tenant to the Lord of this manor according to the
  11. custom of this manor of and to All that piece or parcel of land
  12. called or known by the name of Mill Hill and all that newly
  13. erected messuage or dwelling house and outbuildings on the same
  14. piece of land or some part thereof with the appurtenances formerly
  15. Grosvenors and late Onions’s situate in the township of Heathton
  16. in the manor of Claverley in the county of Salop formerly in the
  17. occupation of John Felton and now of William Ferrington or
  18. his undertenants containing by admeasurement three acres one
  19. rood and sixteen perches or thereabouts being by computation
  20. the half of one third part of a nook of land  To whom the
  21. Lord of this manor by his deputy Steward aforesaid by the
  22. rod according to the custom of this manor hath granted the
  23. premises aforesaid with the appurtenances and seizin thereof
  24. To have and to hold the same premises with the appurtenances
  25. unto the said Sarah Ward Nicholls her heirs and assigns
  26. To the use and behoof of the said Sarah Ward Nicholls her heirs
  27. [image P1284250.jpg]
    [page number] (563)

  28. and assigns for ever at the will of the Lord according to the
  29. custom of this manor by the rents and customary services
  30. therefore due and of right accustomed and for such estate and
  31. ingress[?] the said Sarah Ward Nicholls doth give to the Lord
  32. for a fine six pence half penny and four sixth parts of a
  33. farthing and she is admitted tenant thereof in form aforesaid
  34. and doth to the Lord fealty
  35. [signature]  Fran[cis] Harrison
  36. Deputy Steward of the said manor

[end of court session, another session follows]

Now we are ready to start analysing the information contained in this property transaction.  I will tackle extracting data in the next instalment.  If you fancy some homework, try answering the following:

  1. How many people are mentioned?
  2. How many places are referred to?
  3. Who lived at Catstree?
  4. How many ‘facts’ (e.g. John Wilson was a Farmer on 25th April 1844) are contained in this transcript?

© Sue Adams 2013