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Using records from 113 manors in Yorkshire and elsewhere, this article surveys the changing role of manor courts in English local government over three centuries. These institutions allowed juries of established tenants to deal cheaply and easily with a variety of chronic concerns, including crime, migration, retailing, common lands, and infrastructure. Their focus varied significantly according to region, topography, settlement size, and time period, but active courts existed in most parts of the country throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Ultimately, they had many valuable functions which historians have barely begun to explore. This article thus offers the most systematic analysis to date of the role of these institutions in making and enforcing by-laws in this period, showing that many of the courts evolved to suit the changing priorities of local tenants rather than falling rapidly into ruin as has sometimes been assumed.

Corresponding author
Faculty of History, University of CambridgeCB3
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I am grateful to Mark Hailwood, Steve Hindle, Dave Hitchcock, Dave Postles, Phil Withington, and the two anonymous readers for their comments, and to the Trustees of the Rena Fenteman Research Fellowship, the Borthwick Institute for Archives, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Isaac Newton Trust for providing funding and support for this research. In this article manorial records are cited by manor name and year of court session. Full references can be found in the Appendix. The only exceptions are the few manors that are not included in the quantified sample, for which full references are provided in the footnotes.

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1 ‘Manor court’ is used in this article to encompass ‘courts baron’ (for tenurial matters and enforcing ‘the custom of the manor’, including civil disputes, common lands, harbouring strangers, ‘ill-disposed persons’, etc.) and ‘courts leet’ or ‘views of frankpledge’ (for assaults and affrays, assizes of bread and ale, etc.), as well as ‘honour courts’ (for large estates comprising multiple manors). Often, these jurisdictions were locally intermixed, whereby a single court session might include business from multiple jurisdictions. Other lesser courts (not examined here) shared many features with manor courts, including ‘portmotes’ (for ports), ‘wardmotes’ (for urban wards), ‘courts of pie powder’ (for fairs and markets), and ‘barmotes’ (for mines). For a concise overview, see Harvey, P. D. A., Manorial records (revised edn, London, 1999), pp. 44–7.

2 For the historiographical emphasis on ‘decline’, see Section IV below.

3 This oft-quoted phrase comes from Norden, John, The surveyors dialogue (London, 1607), p. 28.

4 King, W. J., ‘Early Stuart courts leet: still needful and useful’, Histoire sociale/Social History, 23 (1990), pp. 271–99.

5 Ault, W. O., ‘Open-field husbandry and the village community: a study of agrarian by-laws in medieval England’, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n.s., 55 (1965), pp. 1154, esp. pp. 40–3. For other important work on the disciplinary and regulatory functions of the medieval manor court, see Bennett, H. S., Life on the English manor: a study of peasant conditions, 1150–1400 (Cambridge, 1937), ch. 8; DeWindt, A., ‘Local government in a small town: a medieval leet jury and its constituents’, Albion, 23 (1991), pp. 627–54; Beckerman, J. S., ‘Procedural innovation and institutional change in medieval English manorial courts’, Law and History Review, 10 (1992), pp. 197252; Razi, Z. and Smith, R., eds., Medieval society and the manor court (Oxford, 1996), esp. chs. 2–3, 6–7; Olson, S., A chronicle of all that happens: voices from the village court in medieval England (Toronto, 1996); Bennett, J. M., Ale, beer and brewsters in England: women's work in a changing world (New York, NY, 1996), ch. 6; P. R. Schofield, ‘Peasants and the manor court: gossip and litigation in a Suffolk village at the close of the thirteenth century’, 159 (1998), pp. 3–42; Bailey, M., The English manor, c. 1200 – c. 1500 (Manchester, 2002), ch. 4; DeWindt, A. R. and DeWindt, E. B., Ramsey: the lives of an English fenland town, 1200–1600 (Washington, DC, 2006), esp. chs. 3, 5, 9.

6 McIntosh, M., Controlling misbehavior in England, 1370–1600 (Cambridge, 1998).

7 Ibid., p. 42. See also her study of an Essex manor, which made extensive use of these records: eadem, A community transformed: the manor and liberty of Havering, 1500–1620 (Cambridge, 1991), esp. pp. 298–326.

8 McIntosh, Controlling misbehavior, pp. 44–5, 81–2, 239.

9 C. Harrison, ‘Manor courts and the governance of Tudor England’, in C. Brooks and M. Lobban, eds., Communities and courts in Britain, 1150–1900 (London, 1997), p. 48.

10 Kerridge, E., The common fields of England (Manchester, 1992); Winchester, A., The harvest of the hills: rural life in northern England and the Scottish borders, 1400–1700 (Edinburgh, 2000), esp. chs. 2, 7; Neeson, J. M., Commoners: common right, enclosure and social change in England, 1700–1820 (Cambridge, 1993), esp. ch. 5. For other examples of work that has used these records to examine commons and land management during this period, see Dilley, R., ‘The Cumberland court leet and the use of common lands’, Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society, n.s., 67 (1967), pp. 125–51; idem, ‘Agricultural change and common land in Cumberland, 1700–1850’ (Ph.D. thesis, McMaster University, 1991); P. Large, ‘Rural society and agricultural change: Ombersley, 1580–1700’, in J. Chartres and D. Hey, eds., English rural society, 1500–1800: essays in honour of Joan Thirsk (Cambridge, 1990), pp. 105–38, esp. 125–35; Thompson, E. P., Customs in common: studies in traditional popular culture (New York, NY, 1993), ch. 3, esp. pp. 144–51; Hindle, S., ‘Persuasion and protest in the Caddington Common enclosure dispute, 1635–1639’, Past and Present, 158 (1998), pp. 4850; L. Shaw-Taylor, ‘The management of common land in the lowlands of southern England, c. 1500 – c. 1850’, in M. De Moor, L. Shaw-Taylor and P. Warde, eds., The management of common land in north west Europe (Turnhout, 2002); M. Clark, ‘The gentry as governors in early modern England, with special reference to Middlesex and Essex, 1558–1625’ (Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge, 2008), ch. 2. Amazingly, some key studies of commons largely ignore manorial records: Yelling, J. A., Common field and enclosure in England, 1450–1850 (London, 1977).

11 King, , ‘Early Stuart courts leet’, p. 298. For his earlier work on this material, see idem, ‘Leet jurors and the search for law and order in seventeenth-century England: “galling persecution” or reasonable justice’, Histoire sociale/Social History, 13 (1980), pp. 305–23; idem, Regulation of alehouses in Stuart Lancashire: an example of discretionary administration of the law’, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire & Cheshire, 129 (1980), pp. 3146. For an analysis of an Oxfordshire court leet during this period, see Griffiths, M., ‘Kirtlington manor court, 1500–1650’, Oxoniensia, 45 (1980), pp. 276–81.

12 Webb, S. and Webb, B., English local government (9 vols., London, 1906–29), ii, chs. 1–3; Dilley, R., ‘Rogues, raskells and turkie faced jades: malediction in the Cumbrian manor courts’, Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society, 97 (1997), pp. 143–51.

13 Manorial Documents Register,, accessed on 13 Nov. 2011. The twelve digitized counties are Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cumberland, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire, Surrey, Westmorland, and the three Ridings of Yorkshire.

14 The extent to which these figures understate the actual number of documented courts is suggested by the fact that Winchester cites regulatory evidence from twenty-three manors in Cumberland from this period, sixteen of which are not listed in the Manorial Documents Register in the categories of ‘pains’ or ‘presentments’: Winchester, Harvest of the hills, pp. 176–7.

15 For an example of the former, see Burton Salmon (1659). For the latter, see Acomb (1544–1822).

16 Note that although the manors in the sample were intentionally drawn from a relatively wide variety of topography and regions, the primary criterion was the accessibility of their records rather than a scientifically robust sampling procedure.

17 I have sampled one court session per decade, except when a particular set of records cover only a few years in which cases I have recorded two or more years from the same decade.

18 The nominal distinction between ‘rules’ and ‘offences’ has been elided in the main sample for two reasons. First, separating them would double the number of categories necessary for any quantitative analysis making the presentation of the data much more opaque. Second, and perhaps more justifiably, many early modern manor courts do not appear to have made much of distinction themselves. Many ‘pains’ were not general by-laws but rather rebukes directed at specific offenders. Thus, the pains issued by the jury of Barlow in 1638 included not only broad rules about breaking hedges, ringing swine, and maintaining highways, but also many cases of pains that essentially laid conditional fines on specific people such as ‘wee lie a paine that John Richeson the millner keepe weights and scales at his milne’ (6s 7d), ‘a paine layd that Thomas Knight take his wood out of Robert Clay dike by the out wood laine’ (33d), and ‘wee lie an pane that Grace Man make hir Peice betwext hir and Elizabeth Grub betwixt and martinmas next’ (12d). Likewise, some supposed ‘presentments’ were not reprimands issued against named individuals but were instead pre-emptive amercements against any future offenders. For example, records from a session at Hunton in 1832 listed several presentments of specific people for specific infractions, but also included such entries as ‘We present and amerce every person’ who turns any animals into the highways (5s) and ‘We present and amerce all persons’ who neglect to source their ditches and drains (£1).

19 Sharp, J., Crime in early modern England, 1550–1750 (Harlow, 1984), pp. 42, 47–8; King, P., Crime, justice and discretion in England, 1740–1820 (Oxford, 2000), pp. 1112, 131–4.

20 Harvey, Manorial records, ch. 4. Private disputes resulted in personal actions for debt, trespass, or covenant.

21 For examples of the role of the manor court as a social event and source of local status, see St Mary Whittlesey (1788); Hainsworth, D. R. and Walker, C., eds., The correspondence of Lord Fitzwilliam of Milton and Francis Guybon, his steward, 1697–1709 (Northamptonshire Record Society 36, Northampton, 1990), p. 57; Estabrook, C., Urbane and rustic England: cultural ties and social spheres in the provinces, 1660–1780 (Manchester, 1998), pp. 31–4; King, ‘Regulation of alehouses’, pp. 40–1.

22 For jurors, see McIntosh, Controlling misbehaviour, pp. 36–7; King, ‘Leet jurors’, pp. 309–10; Clark, ‘Gentry as governors’, pp. 69–70; Griffiths, ‘Kirklington’, pp. 269–72, 282–3; J. Healey, ‘Agriculture and community in Elizabethan England: the duchy of Lancaster survey books for the south and midlands, 1591’, unpublished paper presented at the Economic History Society Annual Conference, 2010 (Durham). For lords and stewards, see Hainsworth, D., Stewards, lords and people: the estate steward and his world in later Stuart England (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 43–5, 190–4, 209–10; Clark, ‘Gentry as governors’, pp. 56–62. For gendered offences, see McIntosh, Controlling misbehavior, pp. 58–9, 73–4, 85–6, 197–8. For manorial officers, see McIntosh, Community transformed, pp. 316–26; Kent, J., The English village constable, 1580–1642: a social and administrative study (Oxford, 1986).

23 They were recorded in 45 sessions (10.0 per cent of the 452 total), 28 of which had only 1 or 2 such offences. It should be noted that technically only ‘courts leet’ (not ‘courts baron’) had the right to punish violent offences. In places where a ‘court leet’ did not operate, all such offences theoretically had to be presented at the county quarter sessions.

24 Colton (1628).

25 Sheffield (1564); Stanton Lacy (1609).

26 King, ‘Early Stuart courts leet’, pp. 276–7, 298.

27 Pockley and Beadlam (1735: abusing neighbours with her tongue); Brompton (1635: bawling and scolding); Clare (1702: eavesdropping and night-walking); Howden (1616: unlawful games); Gnossall (1585: playing ‘le tables and cards’, scolding, and night-walking). Slander and defamation, in contrast, were normally handled by the ecclesiastical courts and no cases were found in the sample. However, these offences did appear in a few manor courts in the early modern period: Dilley, ‘Rogues’; McIntosh, Community transformed, p. 67. Gaming and drunkenness, if it occurred on the Sabbath, might also be prosecuted in the ecclesiastical courts.

28 Recorded in 36 sessions (8.0 per cent), 22 of which had only 1 or 2 such offences. These largely fit into the clusters of offences that McIntosh labelled ‘disharmony’ and ‘disorder’, analysed at length in McIntosh, Controlling misbehavior, esp. pp. 56–81.

29 For important discussions of early modern ‘moral regulation’, see Wrightson, K. and Levine, D., Poverty and piety in an English village: Terling, 1525–1700 (2nd edn, Oxford, 1995), pp. 142–72, 207, 210–11; M. Spufford, ‘Puritanism and social control?’, in A. Fletcher and J. Stevenson, eds., Order and disorder in early modern England (Cambridge, 1985), pp. 41–58; J. Innes, ‘Politics and morals: the reformation of manners movement in later eighteenth-century England’, in E. Hellmuth, ed., The transformation of political culture: England and Germany in the late eighteenth century (Oxford, 1990), pp. 57–118; Davidson, L. et al. , eds., Stilling the grumbling hive: the response to social and economic problems in England, 1689–1750 (Stroud, 1992), ch. 5–7; M. Ingram, ‘Reformation of manners in early modern England’, in P. Griffiths, A. Fox, and S. Hindle, eds., The experience of authority in early modern England (London, 1996), pp. 47–88; McIntosh, Controlling misbehavior; Seaver, P. et al. , ‘Symposium: controlling (mis)behavior’, Journal of British Studies, 37 (1998), pp. 231305.

30 Lutterworth (1563); the Savoy (1684, 1694, 1714, 1754); Burbage (1584); St Mary Whittlesey (1788, 1794).

31 Arncliffe (1706: fined ‘for his Contempt & ill behaviour in Court’, 10s); Bishopthorpe (1765: presented ‘for abusing the Jurey’, 1s); Escrick (1753: none ‘shall rail of any of the Jouery’, £1); Deighton, E. R. (1638: none ‘raile of aney of the juery’, 6s 8d); Sherburn-in-Elmet (1730: presented for ‘giving abuse at the By-law’, 1s 8d; 1752: presented ‘for giving Eill Langues to a By-law’, 2s). For examples from Cumberland and Lancashire, see Dilley, ‘Rogues’, pp. 149–50; King, ‘Leet jurors’, p. 320.

32 Recorded in 59 sessions (13.1 per cent), 21 of which had 1 or 2 offences.

33 For examples, see Acomb (1586, 1614, 1624); West Routon (1662). For a more general discussion of this offence, which makes only one brief mention of manor courts, see Webb, S. and Webb, B., ‘The assize of bread’, Economic Journal, 14 (1904), pp. 196218. Like assault, these regulations were supposed to be enforced only by ‘courts leet’ (not ‘courts baron’).

34 Drax (1658); Gnossal (1593); Lutterworth (1563).

35 Selby (1625, 1682, 1716).

36 Tottenham (1558: refused to use lord's mill); Eckington (1585: withholding corn from lord's mill); Escrick (1753: only use lord's mill); Clare (1715: selling meat and ‘turning’ on the Sabbath); Dowdeswell (1654: selling ale without licence on the Sabbath); St Mary Whittlesey (1788, 1794: tippling or carting on the Sabbath).

37 Recorded in 64 sessions (14.2 per cent), 48 of which had 1 or 2 offences.

38 West Tanfield (1752). See also McIntosh, Controlling misbehavior, pp. 93–6; Hindle, S., ‘Exclusion crises: poverty, migration and parochial responsibility in English rural communities, c. 1560–1660’, Rural History, 7 (1996), pp. 128–31; idem, On the parish?: the micro-politics of poor relief in rural England, c. 1550–1750 (Oxford, 2004), ch. 5.

39 This was apparently one of the few rules ‘routinely and effectively enforced’ by the manors of Abson and Wick (Glos.) after 1660: Estabrook, Urbane and rustic England, p. 33. For a detailed examination of the implementation of the Cottages Act of 1589, see Tankard, D., ‘The regulation of cottage building in seventeenth-century Sussex’, Agricultural History Review, 59 (2011), pp. 1835. For more on the role of the manor in the accommodation of the poor, see Birtles, S., ‘Common land, poor relief and enclosure: the use of manorial resources in fulfilling parish obligations, 1601–1834’, Past and Present, 165 (1999), pp. 8790; Broad, J., ‘Housing the rural poor in southern England, 1650–1850’, Agricultural History Review, 48 (2000), pp. 151–70, esp. pp. 153–7.

40 Riccall (1625, 1646, 1655, 1665, 1674). In theory, most manor courts were restricted to fines of less than 40s, but there is also evidence of manorial juries imposing fines far above that level, even up to £10: the Savoy (1684, 1694, 1714, 1754); Hertfordshire Archives, QSR 16/1675/562.

41 Recorded in 280 sessions (61.9 per cent), 49 of which had 10 or more offences. For a quantitative analysis of agricultural offences presented at 17 manor courts in Cumberland between 1630 and 1839, see Dilley, ‘Cumberland court leet’, pp. 132–40.

42 Scholarship on common lands is vast, but some key studies are cited in n. 10 above.

43 Girton Pigotts (1682); Bishopthorpe (1625); Exning (1581).

44 Great Horwood (1550); Wedon (1564); Burbage (1584); Salford (1592); Eggborough (1607); Snaith (1648, 1687); Everingham (1633); Girton Pigotts (1653); Brotherton (1667); Ware (1687); Acomb (1713); Orston (1731); St Andrew Whittlesey (1779, 1795), St Mary Whittlesey (1678, 1718, 1838, 1848). For a recent analysis of the long history of ‘stinting’ pastures, see Winchester, A. and Straughton, E., ‘Stints and sustainability: managing stock levels on common land in England, c. 1600–2006’, Agricultural History Review, 58 (2010), pp. 3048.

45 Newton Longville (1608); Thorpe in Balne (1669).

46 Indeed, the offence of ‘unrung’ or ‘unyoked’ swine comprised nearly 5 per cent of the sample. For the details of why and how pigs were so restricted, see Ault, ‘Open-field husbandry’, pp. 27–9.

47 For examples of encroachments on common land, see Owston (1714); Clare (1702). For a man fined 6s 8d ‘for making an Encroachment upon the said [neighbour's] Garden’, see Beechill (1755).

48 For a more general discussion of the exploitation of these resources, see Woodward, D., ‘Straw, bracken and the Wicklow whale: the exploitation of natural resources in England since 1500’, Past and Present, 159 (1998), pp. 4376.

49 Recorded in 139 sessions (30.8 per cent).

50 Carthorpe (1620). Even more were presented at the nearby manor of West Tanfield in 1641.

51 Riccall (1614); Selby (1682); Pockley and Beadlam (1804, 1831). In contrast, for the spectacular failure of the Whickham (Durham) manor court to deal effectively with the expansion of coal-mining in the seventeenth century, see Levine, D. and Wrightson, K., The making of industrial society: Whickham, 1560–1765 (Oxford, 1991), ch. 2.

52 Burton Salmon (1659). For other examples, see Elmley Castle (1567); Escrick (1753); Acomb (1814).

53 Alston Moor (1597, 1692); Eggborough (1607); Chilham (1655). The lord's right to windfall timber was also protected here: Hainsworth, Stewards, p. 209.

54 Recorded in 383 sessions (84.7 per cent).

55 For previous quantitative analysis of this function of the manor court see Clark, ‘Gentry as governors’, pp. 62–82; Waddell, B., Landscape and society in the Vale of York, c. 1500–1800 (York: Borthwick papers, no. 120, 2011), section 2.6 and appendix 1. In Clark's sample of 248 presentments from twelve manors (1599–1627), over two-thirds concerned infrastructure. In my Vale of York sample, it comprised just over half of the 2,414 offences.

56 Acomb (1544, 1555: common well); Wedon (1564: grindstone); Alston Moor (1597: archery butts); Brompton (1634: cucking stool); Leake (1634: stocks); Dowdeswell (1634: stocks, crow net and whipping post; 1673: whipping post); Ware (1705: cucking stool); West Tanfield (1754: stocks).

57 Howden (1616); Selby (1682).

58 Bishopthorpe (1795); St Andrew Whittlesey (1729).

59 Exning (1694); Alston Moor (1597); Brotherton (1667).

60 For examples of uncategorized offences, see Dowdeswell (1581: inhabitants ‘have not used their bows and arrows according the statute’); Gnossall (1585: not wearing a cap); Acomb (1624: refusing to lodge a lawful traveller); St Mary Whittlesey (1768: butcher killing a bull without baiting it at the common bullring).

61 For a fuller discussion of a selection of lowland Yorkshire manors, see Waddell, Landscape and society, esp. part 2.

62 Owston (1626); Drax (1661); Fulford (1825). Of the upland/industrial group, 28 sessions (65.0 per cent) had no drainage-related pains or presentments. This was true of only 60 sessions (28.4 per cent) of the lowland group.

63 Sproxton (1670, 1745); Pockley and Beadlam (1735, 1831).

64 Bradfield (1564); Leeds (1666). The shifts over time are discussed in the subsequent section.

65 Sheffield (1564); West Tanfield (1635, 1656).

66 Instead, the lowlands had almost exactly the same number of ‘livestock’ (3.6) and ‘crops and harvest cases’ (0.2) per session as the uplands (3.6 and 0.3).

67 Corringham Magna (1601); St Andrew Whittlesey (1739); Tottenham (1558, 1565, 1576); Alston Moor (1597, 1692); Eckington (1556–1723).

68 Alston Moor (1597, 1692); Wasdale Head (1664); St Mary Whittlesey (1678); Prestaller (1764).

69 Dodeswell (1588); Riccall (1601, 1691, 1705); Acaster Malbis (1626); Thornborough (1635); Sproxton (1670). However, for evidence that flax and hemp were grown ‘on a substantial scale’ elsewhere, see Kerridge, E., Textile manufactures in early modern England (Manchester, 1985), p. 141. For more on the cultivation of hemp and flax, see Thirsk, J., Alternative agriculture: a history from the Black Death to the present day (Oxford, 1997), pp. 28–9, 46–7, 64.

70 For examples of other urban manor courts, not included in the sample, see Butcher, D., Lowestoft, 1550–1750: development and change in a Suffolk coastal town (Woodbridge, 2008), pp. 247–66; B. Howlett, ‘Manorial estate and market town: the early development of Hitchin’, in T. R. Slater and N. Goose, eds., A county of small towns: the development of Hertfordshire's urban landscape to 1800 (Hatfield, 2008), pp. 212–17; Hearnshaw, F. and Hearnshaw, D. M., eds., Court leet records [Southampton, 1550–1624] (4 vols., Southampton, 1905–8); Hewitson, A., ed., Preston court leet records, 1653–1813 (Preston, 1905); Earwaker, J. P., ed., The court leet of the manor of Manchester (12 vols., Manchester, 1884–90); Fraser, C. M. et al. , eds., The court rolls of the manor of Wakefield (14 vols., York, 1977–2004); Doncaster Archives, AB 5/5/5 (Doncaster court leet, 1608–1819). For a list with many more urban courts leet (some of which were still active in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), see Hearnshaw, F. J. C., Leet jurisdiction in England (Southampton, 1908), pp. 248321. Many towns and cities, including London and York, also had ‘wardmote’ courts that (like courts baron) dealt with streets, nuisances, lodging strangers, and other quotidian affairs: Webb and Webb, English local government, iii, pp. 581–6; Harris, A. T., Policing the city: crime and legal authority in London, 1780–1840 (Columbus, OH, 2004), p. 13; Tillott, P. M., ed., Victoria county history: Yorkshire – the city of York (London, 1961), p. 182; York City Archives, F 9, fos. 13–14, 17 (1686–7).

71 This was also true of the leets of Cockermouth and Egremont: Dilley, ‘Cumberland court leet’, pp. 128–9.

72 The urban proportion is much higher than that of the rural manors even if one excludes the extraordinary figures for Sheffield (1564) and Lutterworth (1563).

73 Again, this pattern holds even after accounting for exceptional cases and chronological bias.

74 French, H., ‘Urban agriculture, commons and commoners in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: the case of Sudbury, Suffolk’, Agricultural History Review, 48 (2000), pp. 171–99; idem, Urban common rights, enclosure and the market: Clitheroe town moors, 1764–1802’, Agricultural History Review, 51 (2003), pp. 4068. See also Bowden, M., Graham Brown, and Nicky Smith, An archaeology of town commons in England: ‘A very fair field indeed’ (Swindon, 2009).

75 Northallerton (1634, 1635).

76 Only functioning manors are included in the main sample, so it reveals little about the balance between active and inactive manor courts.

77 For evidence of at least Cumberland being undercounted, see n. 14 above.

78 But for pre-1600 regional patterns, see McIntosh, Controlling misbehaviour, pp. 43–5.

79 Turner, M., English parliamentary enclosure: its historical geography and economic history (Folkestone, 1980), ch. 2, esp. pp. 35, 59, 61; Wordie, J. R., ‘The chronology of English enclosure, 1500–1914’, Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 36 (1983), pp. 489–90; Clark, G. and Clark, A., ‘Common rights to land in England, 1475–1839’, Journal of Economic History, 61 (2001) pp. 1029–33.

80 Earwaker, ed., Court leet of Manchester, passim.

81 Kain, R. J. P. and Oliver, R. R., The historic parishes of England and Wales (Colchester, 2001), pp. 1213.

82 S. Hindle, ‘The political culture of the middling sort in English rural communities, c. 1550–1750’, in T. Harris, ed., The politics of the excluded, c.1500–1850 (Basingstoke, 2001), pp. 127–8.

83 Webb and Webb, English local government, ii, p. 124.

84 Ibid., p. 31. Richard Tawney, in contrast, writing at about the same time, treated manor courts very seriously indeed, but he confined his analysis to the Tudor period: The agrarian problem in the sixteenth century (1912; new edn, New York, NY, 1967), esp. pp. 125–9, 159–61, 244–6.

85 Harvey, Manorial records, p. 57.

86 Emmison, F. G., Elizabethan life: home, work & land (Chelmsford, 1976), p. 198; Hunt, W., The Puritan moment: the coming of revolution in an English county (Cambridge, MA, 1983), pp. 81–2; Jones, W. J., ‘A note on the demise of manorial jurisdiction: the impact of Chancery’, American Journal of Legal History, 10 (1966), pp. 300, 317–18. These were brought to my attention by Matthew Clark.

87 Harrison, ‘Manor courts’, p. 51; Sharpe, Crime, pp. 25, 85.

88 Dilley, ‘Cumberland court leet’, p. 132; Winchester, Harvest of the hills, pp. 47, 148. Likewise, Steve Hindle rightly suggests that in many areas, ‘it might not be until the eighteenth century that the vestry became more significant than the manorial court’: Hindle, ‘Political culture of the middling sort’, p. 128.

89 For broader critiques of narratives of the ‘modernization’ of local communities and the ‘decline’ of neighbourly relations, see R. Smith, ‘“Modernization” and the corporate village community in England: some sceptical reflections’, in A. Baker and D. Gregory, eds., Explorations in historical geography: interpretative essays (Cambridge, 1984), pp. 140–79; K. Wrightson, ‘The “decline of neighbourliness’ revisited’, in N. Jones and D. Woolf, eds., Local identities in late medieval and early modern England (Basingstoke, 2007), pp. 19–49.

90 Brooks, C. W., Pettyfoggers and vipers of the commonwealth: the ‘lower bench’ of the legal profession in early modern England (Cambridge, 1986), chs. 4–5; idem, ‘Interpersonal conflict and social tension: civil litigation in England, 1640–1830’, in A. L. Beier, D. Cannadine, and J. M. Rosenheim, eds., The first modern society: essays in English history in honour of Lawrence Stone (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 357–99; Muldrew, C., The economy of obligation: culture of credit and social relations in early modern England (Cambridge, 1998), ch. 8; Wrightson, K., English society, 1580–1680 (2nd edn, London, 2003), ch. 6; Hindle, S., The state and social change in early modern England, c.1550–1640 (Basingstoke, 2000).

91 Acomb (1567, 1575, 1584, 1596, 1605, 1614, 1624, 1685, 1707, 1717, 1738, 1765).

92 Riccall (1601, 1614, 1625, 1635, 1646, 1655, 1665, 1674, 1691, 1705); Bishopthorpe (1617, 1625, 1635, 1640, 1715, 1725, 1735, 1756, 1765); Dowdeswell (1577, 1588, 1599, 1610, 1636, 1649, 1654, 1664, 1673); Butcher, Lowestoft, p. 263. In contrast, regulatory business of Havering court leet declined markedly in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries: McIntosh, Community transformed, pp. 304–12.

93 For a discussion of shifts in the prosecution of brewers and alehousekeepers, see King, ‘Regulation of alehouses’, pp. 35–6.

94 This category comprised 7.6 per cent of presentments in the twelve manors from this period analysed in Clark, ‘Gentry as governors’, pp. 62–82. For a summary of the population trends over this period, see Wrightson, K., Earthly necessities: economic lives in early modern Britain, 1470–1750 (2nd edn, London, 2002), pp. 121–2, 159.

95 For the importance of social, economic, and moral concerns in this period, see Wrightson, English society, chs. 6–7; Hindle, State and social change, chs. 2, 6–7.

96 Wrightson, Earthly necessities, pp. 229–31.

97 At Lowestoft, the proportion of leet presentments concerning trading irregularity, breaches of the peace, and gambling declined from 43 per cent in 1618–22 to less than 1 per cent in 1718–22: Butcher, Lowestoft, p. 263.

98 W. A. Champion, ‘Recourse to the law and the meaning of the great litigation decline, 1650–1750: some clues from the Shrewsbury local courts’, in Brooks and Lobban, eds., Communities and courts, pp. 192–4; King, ‘Early Stuart courts leet’, p. 275 (table 1).

99 Yorkshire Archaeological Society Archives, MD 235.

100 Sharp, Crime, pp. 25, 28, 89–90, 172; Landau, N., Justices of the peace, 1679–1760 (Berkeley, CA, 1984); King, P., ‘The summary courts and social relations in eighteenth-century England’, Past and Present, 183 (2004), pp. 125–72; Gray, Drew, Crime, prosecution and social relations: the summary courts of the City of London in the late eighteenth century (Houndmills, 2009), esp. pp. 17–20.

101 Borthwick Institute for Archives, Wenlock 7/7. For the country's most famously long-lasting manor court, see Beckett, J. V., A history of Laxton: England's last open-field village (Oxford, 1989), pp. 2634, 318–19.

102 The rate of enclosure in various periods is still debated, but the pace almost certainly accelerated markedly after c. 1750: Overton, M., The agricultural revolution in England: the transformation of the agrarian economy, 1500–1850 (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 148–51; Wordie, ‘Chronology of English enclosure’; Clark and Clark, ‘Common rights’, p. 1026 (table 6).

103 King, P., ‘Gleaners, farmers and the failure of legal sanctions in England, 1750–1850’, Past and Present, 125 (1989), pp. 116–50; idem, Legal change, customary right, and social conflict in late eighteenth-century England: the origins of the great gleaning case of 1788’, Law and History Review, 10 (1992), pp. 131; Thompson, Customs in common, ch. 3.

104 For trends in population and prices, see Floud, R. and McCloskey, D., eds., The economic history of Britain since 1700 (2nd edn, Cambridge, 1994), ii, chs. 4–5, esp. pp. 63–6, 77–8, 97.

105 Beechill (1725–1825).

106 The Savoy (1684, 1694, 1714, 1754). This may be partly due to the fact that this liberty was extra-parochial and thus had no vestry: Webb and Webb, English local government, ii, pp. 96–7.

107 St Mary Whittlesey (1788); St Andrew Whittlesey (1789). These courts also ordered that no ‘Young Persons’ play football ‘violently’ on the market-hill and that the constable should seize anyone who ‘Disturbe[d] the Neighbourhood in a most Riotous manner’ by beating their wives: St Andrew Whittlesey (1759); St Mary Whittlesey (1794).

108 Suffolk Record Office at Bury St Edmunds, EE 500/D8/2/5.

109 For monographs, see Wrightson and Levine, Poverty and piety; Hindle, On the parish?; idem, State and social change, ch. 8; Snell, K. D. M., Parish and belonging: community, identity and welfare in England and Wales, 1700–1950 (Cambridge, 2006); Withington, P., The politics of commonwealth: citizens and freemen in early modern England (Cambridge, 2005). Manorial government is not mentioned in Wrightson, English society, nor in D. Eastwood, Government and the community in the English provinces, 1700–1870 (London, 1997). For an extraordinary set of by-laws from this period passed by a ‘company’ of ‘chief inhabitants’ that were neither a manorial jury nor a parish vestry, see Hindle, S., ‘Hierarchy and community in the Elizabethan parish: the Swallowfield articles of 1596’, Historical Journal, 42 (1999), pp. 835–51.

110 For some preliminary work on these questions, see the sources cited above in n. 21 above.

111 Particularly ill-served by existing scholarship are the West Country and the whole of the south coast.

112 J. Sharpe, ‘Crime and delinquency in an Essex parish, 1600–1640’, in J. S. Cockburn, ed., Crime in England, 1550–1800 (London, 1977), p. 92; idem, ed., Crime, p. 26.

113 For the parish vestry and other institutions through which people of modest means might take part in government, see Hindle, ‘Political culture of the middling sort’; M. Goldie, ‘The unacknowledged republic: officeholding in early modern England’, in Harris, ed., Politics of the excluded, pp. 153–94.

* I am grateful to Mark Hailwood, Steve Hindle, Dave Hitchcock, Dave Postles, Phil Withington, and the two anonymous readers for their comments, and to the Trustees of the Rena Fenteman Research Fellowship, the Borthwick Institute for Archives, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Isaac Newton Trust for providing funding and support for this research. In this article manorial records are cited by manor name and year of court session. Full references can be found in the Appendix. The only exceptions are the few manors that are not included in the quantified sample, for which full references are provided in the footnotes.

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