Bradford in the middle of the 14th century

T. T. Empsall

Series 1, Volume 1, 1888


It would be difficult, if not altogether impossible, to give an accurate description of Bradford and its neighbourhood at the middle of the 14th century, the period referred to in this paper. From the material yet extant, however, a partial glimpse of its social condition, its population, and extent may be obtained. The surveys of the Period, of the district which formed a part of the extensive Fee of the Lacies, shew that the inhabited portion of the town laid almost entirely on the north-western side, and extended from Barkerend, about the Parish Church, and in a more scattered form, along Kirkgate and Westgate, as far as White Abbey, down Millbank, into the Turles, and for a little way into the township of Little Horton. Ivegate up to this period, or the site of that street, would be a quarry, from which most of the stone required for manorial purposes and the mill below, would be obtained. The tenements were mostly of a very humble character, having only one story and were constructed of wood and plaster. A few of these, together with the Hall, were of stone. The latter, as "James" states, must have been in a very ruinous state (in nullo aedificat except muro lapideo), though a part of it was inhabited by William Walker, joint tenant with his brother of the fulling mill, which was united with the corn mill and the soke. But all these tenements, such as they were, had their tofts and crofts, which were ranged irregularly along the course described, bondmen and free being intermixed with little apparent difference in their circumstances.

As difficult would it be also, to arrive at more than an approximate number of the inhabitants, or the quantity of land under cultivation, either from the Exchequer's Rolls or the "Extants" of the Manor, or both combined, because even at this early period there were several families that, had obtained by grant, or purchase, freeholds of some importance. James has ventured to do so but his estimate must necessarily be imperfect, inasmuch as it is based chiefly on the number of messuages or burgages given in the survey. In several instances, the holdings are described as messuages or burgages only, no land being mentioned. But at the time in question even at a much later period, the meaning of both those terms was very uncertain. In the Inquisition of 1614, a messuage is described, as abutting on Revy Hill towards the north, on Clayton towards the west, Shelf towards the south, and Rulye Farm towards the east. And in the survey of 1342 we are told that William le Drinker held three messuages, one of which was without a building; that Ellen, the widow, held four acres, being. part of a burgage at 12d. a year; that Robert le Skynner held a certain part of the same burgage, paying a 1d. a year; and Alice de Lucocks held a messuage with edifice. From these instances, and several others that might be given, it seems clear that neither messuage nor burgage has any definite meaning, and hence cannot afford anything like a correct basis on which to estimate the number of the population.

The safest guide to an estimate of the population, exclusive of the small number of freeholders then existing, seems to be the list of tenants given in the "Surveys," and assuming the same relative numbers to each household that we should find in country towns at the present day. On this basis, if we take the number on the Bradford list, 84, and multiply it by 5, and add one third more for servants, hinds, &c., we obtain a total. of 560 for Bradford alone, a number which approaches that of Mr. James. Manningham was at time but thinly populated, a large portion of it being unenclosed and uncultivated. In that township the number of tenants was 24, and this it may be presumed was a complete list of its householders, which, reckoning as before, would give a population of 160.

Equally uncertain are the means by which to form an estimate of the quantity of land under cultivation, for though the holdings of a majority of the tenants are given in acres, or bovates, that is, as much as an ox could plough in a year, and supposed to contain about eight acres, not a few are denominated tofts, crofts, parcels, rudding, &c., and in one case an essart, which might be any quantity claimed from the waste. A somewhat curious feature of the system is the fact that some of the bondmen held the largest quantity of land, while others might be considered as doubly serfs in consequence of their holding more than one allotment subject to that kind of tenure, and one or two tenants occur, in the lists as being both serfs and freemen. But in the middle of the 14th century the Feudal system was fast declining in this neighbourhood, partly through the inability or disinclination of the Lacies to enforce its obligations, or the social progress and the growing spirit of independence in the people.

Horton at this time had been to a great extent alienated from the Honor of Pontefract and the Manor, together with most of its legal rights, were enjoyed by the Horton family. Only ten persons in this township were tenants under the Lacies, which must have been but a small portion of the inhabitants. Bolling too had long been detached from the Honor, acknowledging as the Manor of Horton did, its subordination only by the payment of Reliefs.

Care enough seems to have been taken by the Lacy family, at time and time, to have a correct, record of their inheritances in this locality, as is shown by the numerous surveys yet extant. The most interesting of these are three, all of which were made within a period of 50 years from the commencement of the 14th century. The first was executed at the death of Henry de Lacy in 1311. He left an only daughter, Alice, who married the Earl of Lancaster, and who, if the accounts of her by contemporary historians are true, was one of the most abandoned woman of her time, and the cause of the death of her own husband, as well as the death of many other persons in this neighbourhood. The estates were subsequently confiscated and given by Edward III. to the Earl of Derby in 1342,when the second survey was made. The Earl of Derby died in 1361, and John of Gaunt came into possession by virtue of his marriage with the Earl's daughter. Hence the property becoming vested in the Crown, it was annexed to the Duchy of Lancaster, and the third survey was made. From this brief outline of events and changes, and the local as well as national disorder which prevailed throughout the period, it may well be imagined that most prejudicial effects would be the result to this extensive Fee. Among that numerous tenantry many persons would no doubt avail themselves of every means in their power to set aside their allegiance and appropriate all they possibly could. Besides, there appears to have been no accurate and permanent register of either rents or holdings, beyond, in many instances, a lump sum from a certain number of acres. On these grounds chiefly, we may perhaps attribute the great, indeed, in some respects remarkable discrepancies in the surveys named.

This part of the subject is curious, too, on account of the names of persons who paid taxes and which occur in the taxation rolls of a little later date, being, with one or two exceptions, different to those which occur in the surveys of the time. But if we were to assume they were only different persons having the same holdings, James must be altogether wrong in basing his estimate of the population of Bradford at that time on the taxation list, because not one of the bondmen, of whom there was a large number, nor any of the free who were endowed with special privileges by the Lacies, or their successors, are included in the lists.

It would be interesting to examine the numerical progress of the town during the 14th century, by the light which existing documents afford. The enquiry would, however, be too lengthy for the present occasion, and must, therefore, be reserved for a subsequent paper.

In the present paper it is proposed to deal specially with the survey of 1342, so far as it relates to Bradford, Horton, and Manningham. On the 24th September of that year, a jury was summoned for this purpose at Bradford, and consisted of the following 12 persons William Hunte, Robert de Manningham, Richard the Smith, John, son of the said Richard, William Harwood, John le Roy, or Regis of Bradford, and Thomas Northrop, John at Yaite, Richard White, John Atwell, Ade Willeson, and Robert Willeson, of Manningham. The commission was presided over by John Gynwell and William Blaby, auditors of accounts of the lands of Henri de Lancaster, Count Derby. An examination of this jury shows that four of the number were not tenants of the Manor, and unless names have strangely altered, one of them was a female, whilst other four, at least, were men in bondage. The result of this enquiry went to show that in the three townships named, there were about 118 tenants, which were divided into three classes- Fermers, Free Tenants, and Bondmen, or Villaines.

Fermers, or Farmers as we now call them, were tenants at will, playing rent, but unaccompanied with, any other obligation, according to, the quantity or quality of the land they occupied. free tenants were persons who by their personal, effort and character had emancipated themselves from serfdom, and had become customary tenants, and held their land by what is now known as copyhold tenure. For their holdings they rendered certain services in the Manor Courts, and paid such rent as had been agreed to, together with the customary Heriot on succession. The latter varied slightly in some holdings, but both rent and service differed considerably, as will he seen in the sequel. Natives or villaines were bound to the soil, and passed with it in the event of change. Their service was such as the chief thought proper to impose upon them, which varied according to his exigencies or necessities. The rent paid by them was equal, or nearly so, to that paid by the other tenants.

A brief analysis of these tenantry, together with their obligations, will be the most that can now he attempted. Taking Horton first, as it has the smallest number, we find there were only ten tenants, all of whose holdings were situate at the lower part of the township, adjacent to Bradford. They all belonged to the second-class of tenantry, namely, Freemen, and two or three of them occupied an exceptional position. The first is Roger de Manningham, who held a messuage and two bovates of land (about 16 acres) by the service of "going with his Lord to Blackburnshire with a lance and a dog for 40 days to hunt wild boars, receiving 1½d. a day wages, also to be ready and willing to appear yearly at Bradford at the feast of St. Martin if required, to do suit of coart at Bradford every three weeks, and 'give to the Lord 3d. at the time of the Invention of the Holy Cross, in lieu of the work of one plough, and at seed time 1s 4d. annually for his freedom. And he shall go with the Bailiffe or receiver of the Manor to the Castle of Pontefract in safe conduct of the money of the Lord, at his own expense as often as he shall be required." Thomas de Northrop, one of the Manningham tenants, had identical service to render to the Chief as de Manningham in accompanying the Lord in his journeys into Lancashire. But Northrop had six bovates of land or about 50 acres, and three messuages which were burdened on succession with Heriots in the shape of the best beast in the herd to the Lord. Considering the extent of his farm, however, which seems to have been the aggregation of a number of bondmen's tenancies, this was not an onerous consideration. He had 8d. to pay besides annually, in lieu of farm labour at seed time, which labour bearing some sort of proportion to the extent of his holding, now difficult to understand, as well as to preserve perhaps the number of smaller allotments of which it was composed, was reckoned as "works two works, and a half and quarter of a work." This singular feat of enumeration is interesting, and is indicative of the attainments of the two accountants named.

Blount, in his account of Singular Tenures, includes those of de Manningham and Northrop and attributes their origin to John of Gaunt, in 1361; and James seems disposed to believe him. But from the fact of their being clearly described and sworn to before the jury of 1342, it is evident they had been established prior to this earlier date. The horn blowing was a subsequent addition to Northrop's engagement, in order to render the progress of Gaunt more imposing, and for this additional service, the annual pecuniary acknowledgement of 8d. before mentioned was cancelled. It may be added that both Northrop and Manningham were tenants of several other holdings in the Manor, and one of them occupied by the former was in bondage tenure.

Kirkstall Abbey held about 40 acres in this township by the gift of a pair of white spurs, which, by the description, might be of polished iron, or made white by some other means. This land was held by the same tenure for several centuries. William le Maison held two bovates and messuage, for which he tendered a plough share yearly to the Lord on his coming to Bradford at the feast of St. Martin, and performed service of court every three weeks. Brian de Thornhill held a piece of land, for which he paid 2d. annually. Thirty years before, his father, or who may be presumed as such, Theobaldus de Thornhill, held the same land, then called an essart, for 2d. a year. But an essart has no meaning in regard to quantity, and may imply any amount cleared from the waste. Who was Brian de Thornhill? Could he be the person from whom the new line of Thornhills, sprung, which seems to have settled at Fixby about this time. Neither Thoresby, Whitaker, nor Watson afford any light on the subject. Though all these historians have apparently done what they could to render the Thornhill pedigree intelligible, few accounts of noted local families remain in such an unsatisfactory state. The surmise is not an improbable one, and receives some support from the connexion the family had with the Leventhorpes, of Leventhorp, and the Lacies, of Cromwellbottom, an offshoot of the original owners of the Fee.

The remaining seven tenants of Horton held their allotments by foreign military service at the command of the Chief. They also paid a rent, varying from 1¼d. to 4d. per acre, and 1½d. each per bovate instead of plowing in spring. Hugh de Rochdale, one of them for instance, held a messuage and two bovates of land, which was called the 16th part of a knight's fee, paying 2/- yearly for the land and 3d. instead of labour, while William le Roy paid 6/6 for a messuage, and 1½ bovates, and 2¼d. instead of plowing, and all other service the same as Hugh.

In Manningham there were 24 tenants, 15 of which, including Northrop above-mentioned, were all in bondage. Their names are William of the Marsh, Thomas Fitz Juliana, Roger Fitz John, Thomas Fitz John, William of the Barn, John of the Barn, Robert White, John at Yaite, Adam Fitz William, William Fitz Margery, Agnes of the More, John Fitz Richard, John Riens, and Northrop. All of them had a dwelling each, with an amount of land varying from 8 to 16 acres, for which they paid 8d. per acre. They had also to pay three farthings per acre each for Pannage or Thistletake, that is for turning their pigs at certain seasons of the year into the woods and wastes of the township. They used besides a "certain Brek of land, 20 acres in extent, in common with the Fermers," for which they unitedly paid 9/- per annum.

The remaining tenants of Manningham were Fermers, tenants at will, paying rent only without any other service. The names of nearly all of them occur in the above list of bondmen. John Reins, one of these, was a remarkable man, at least he occupies a remarkable place in the survey. In the Bradford list of serfs, his name stands first, where also his menial obligations to the Lord are carefully described, and the remark is annexed that all the other tenants in the same position, both in Manningham and Bradford, hold on the same terms and conditions as he does. His name will occur again presently.

In Bradford there were 76 tenants, or holdings would perhaps be a better description, of all the three classes. The Fermers were the most numerous, being 37 altogether, several of whom held allotments of the other kinds. In almost every case the situation of the "Fermers" lands is named, as in the Linghurst for instance, Glomerfeld, Nidderstones, Bennecliffe, Thommelhugh, Benolyne, The Moor, Whitlands, Morerode, Stonecross, Lyngbrekes, Robynrudding, Under the Wood, Old Crike, Callehurst, Madyncroft, &c., most of which it would be difficult now to identify. James Walker, one of the brothers who occupied the old mills, held a "certain piece of land" adjacent thereto for his dyeing. and fulling business. In the list of Fermers occur the names of many ancient and notable Bradford families, such as the Manninghams, Bollings, Hortons, Bowers, Listers and Sharps. Here also occurs the first mention of shops or stalls, of which there are two, one of them being tenanted by Anabel Gill at a rent, of 6d. per annum, the other by Adam Nutbrowne, for which he pays 1/- a year. Richard the Smith holds a forge at will, rendering yearly four horse shoes without nails. Another tenancy held by Thomas Fitz Thomas is called a "curtilage cam corali" for which he pays a penny half-yearly.

Of the Free Tenants there were 36, seven or eight of whom were of the Manningham family, namely, Robert, Roger, Alice, William Fitz Roger, Richard, Thomas, Robert Fitz Robert, &c. Nearly all of this class of holdings consisted of "a burgage and one bovate of land for which 16d. per acre was paid and suit of court rendered every three weeks, together with a relief of double the rent on succession. From the fact of these tenancies being mostly of the same size and description as those of the "native" or bondmen class, it may be inferred that the holdings had originally been of that kind, and that the tenants had afterwards raised themselves into copyholders, subject to the obligations stated above. But though comparatively easy terms would be imposed in effecting their social advancement, the charge entailed obligations on these freemen and freewomen also, for there were five or six of this sex amongst them - of a very onerous kind, as this class chiefly was made responsible for the order and good conduct of the community, and supplied the lord, in time of war, with his military strength.

There were only two "nativi" in Bradford, John Reins and Agnes Thomsy. If the services of the freemen were onerous those of the serfs were much more so, and to them were added other conditions which can only be characterised as degrading. "The said John Reins holds a messuage and one bovate of land in bondage, rendering yearly 3/3½ (the sum paid by all the other bondmen of Manningham), whereof 3½. is for harvest work released. He also renders 12d. yearly at the term of St. Andrew by a custom called Thistletake, for which payment all the swine of his own rearing shall feed in the wood of the lord in the time of pannage quit. And with the other bondmen he shall make or repair the mill pond whenever it is required. And he shall fetch grindstones for the said mill from whence they are to be obtained according to orders, and also the timber required for the repair, of the mill, within the lordship, receiving every other old grindstone and a moiety of the old timber for his reward. For labour in repairs of the mill dam he shall have a measure of meal per day in common with his fellow bondmen in Bradford and Manningham. He shall also be Reeve or Granger of the mill, and also Woodward when the vacancy occurs, but have no remuneration from the lord for this service. And he shall, with the other bondmen, carry the victuals of the lord, with a horse and man from Bradford to Haworth and Colne, and thence to Ightinghill, receiving at every township 4d. And he shall carry, with them, wood for the lord's use on his journey, and also wood for the enclosures on the Manor, and what may be required at the mill, and receive for every ten horse loads 1d. And he shall not marry his daughters nor permit his sons to marry without permission or license of the lord. And if his daughter shall be [...] lawfully or unlawfully, without permission of the lord he shall be mulct in Letherwitte according to his means. And when he shall die, the lord shall receive nothing save that the holding shall remain in the hands of the lord until the wife or next of kin shall satisfy for the entry." This description of serfdom in Bradford during the 14th century is clear enough without further explanation. Doubtless no great obstacle was placed in the way of emancipation, nor were the conditions of their mean existence rigidly enforced, but the circumstances and requirements of the age legalizing serfdom, the system was maintained in a loose way hereabouts, according to the necessities of the Chief, for a short time after the period under review when it was entirely abandoned.

Who was John Riens? The, name being a new one in this locality, he was probably a recent importation of the servile class to teach or keep the rest in order. As we have seen he was placed at their head in the survey, and specially marked out for promotion on manorial service, on the first opportunity. He also held two "nativi" allotments in Bradford, for each of which he would have to render the prescribed service. And in addition to these he had recently obtained on lease as a Fermer a plot of land, containing 30 or 40 acres, at a rent of 10/- a year. The remuneration for his labour to the Manorial properties was peculiar. Half a measure of meal for an indefinite amount of service it is difficult to reconcile on any principle of even moderate recompense. But what could he do or make of "every other" old millstone. They could not be of much value as ornaments, and if used in any way it would be for the improvement of property not his own.

The course taken by the Lacies in their progress through their Fee every year has been a subject of dispute between Whitaker and James, the former alleging they went to Blackburnshire by way of Luddenden, and the latter by Denholme. But from what has been stated above it is clear they went neither way but by Haworth and Colne. Ightinghill, where stood the great Hall of the family, and the termination of the Fee in that quarter, was situate at the junction of the Colne with the Calder. Its distance from Pontefract was 90 miles, and was the residence of the lord at his annual visits to the Lancashire estates.

We might have a look for a moment in imagination at the imposing annual procession of the great Feudal Chief, De Lacy, or Gaunt, or whoever else might be in possession of these vast estates. His Highness has arrived from Pontefract with only a small retinue, amongst whom would be Nicholas Blaby, his auditor and cashier, the most likely person to have charge of and disburse the money necessary to defray expenses. The distance between Pontefract and Bradford could easily be travelled in a day, therefore it is not likely, as some suppose, that a night would be spent at "Roddil." Besides thereabout was the least important and lucrative part of the Fee, and to stop there would be an unnecessary expense, to the disadvantage of the display afterwards.

As we have seen there were 16 serfs, men and women, all living at Bradford and Manningham. Upon these, with the exception of a small retinue from Pontefract, he would entirely depend for service, protection, and display for the greatest part of the journey. Each of these serfs had to employ another man, and a sumpter horse to carry provision and fuel. There were also de Manningham and Northrop with their lances and dogs, for hunting boars, and perhaps other animals occasionally, which would no doubt be useful in the way of food. Subsequently the former gentleman would have a horn which he would wind (unum flatum) at times, as the procession wound its way, to make it more imposing. And such a horn! Now, in the possession of our Philosophical Society, it is a silent though precious relic of the past, for it is said that no person of the present day has lung enough, to sound it. If it would not have been thought too effeminate, what a treat the accompaniments of a modern band of music would have been in those early times, though its harmony might often be interrupted by the approach of hands of a rougher and sterner character. The procession, as just starting from the Hall in Kirkgate, consists probably of 40 or 50, persons, all dressed in the costume of the period, with half as many horses well laden with wood, utensils, and provisions for 40 days, and as it proceeds up narrow Westgate towards White or Black Abbey appears to our eyes an interesting and imposing spectacle. The excursion, at least the distance of the journey, is not very great, and as it will be some five or six weeks before the people return, and no doubt considered an agreeable outing, there need be no hurry, as indeed there could not be, in threading their way along the wretched lanes and boggy tracts to be encountered on the road between Bradford and Ightinghill.

A little excitement would now and then be afforded to the company by the hunting exploits of Manningham and Northrop, and their game, the grisly boar, would be suited exactly to the tastes of their companions. We have seen what great consideration was afforded for the breeding and rearing of pigs amongst the people, and therefore, may reasonably infer that almost every tenant must have been an ardent worshipper of that animal. Besides, whether by accident or design, there was an ample staff of women in the suite for cooking purposes, and this would render the outfit more complete and agreeable. But the long sojourn in Lancashire would, no doubt, tend little to improve either the manners or the morals of these people, and as in imagination we have seen them leave the town, so after their long absence we. may see them return, perhaps, a wearied and dilapidated rabble.

To complete the account of Bradford during this period, it is scarcely necessary to reproduce all the remaining portions of the survey inasmuch as they are given in substance by Mr. James in his valuable History. What might be gathered is of a very miscellaneous character, being a collection, so to speak, of odds and ends of manorial property, and relating chiefly to the Mills, Markets, the Old Hall and Lands attached to it, together with sundry other matters respecting the Church, Manor Courts, &c. One or two items may be referred to, in which James is not quite correct, or sufficiently clear. But it must be confessed that in many of these matters there is much obscurity as to the meaning of several important portions of the Records. It may be observed that, notwithstanding the troubled and unsettled state of the times and the insecurity of almost all kinds of property, very little, if any, of the manorial properties seem to have been unoccupied. Even the Old Hall, or what was left of it, does not appear to have been an exception. At the commencement of this paper it is inferred that one of the Walkers was the tenant of the premises; but, on further consideration, it appears more likely that the Vicar occupied them. "There is a certain messuage," says the survey of 1341, "but no building except the stone walls and one or two rooms of the old edifice, which messuage is estimated to contain 3 roods and is valued at 2/- per ann. There is also a field adjoining, called the Hallyng, containing 1 acre, and valued at 3/- per ann. The said messuage, together with a portion of the land, is occupied by one Galfride de Langton, Vicar of Bradford, for which he pays 4/- a year, and the remainder is occupied by William Walker, for which he pays 1/- a year." By this statement it would appear that the Vicar occupied the messuage on which the Old Hall stood, his name not occurring anywhere else in the survey.

The account respecting the Mills, especially the Fulling Mill, is especially perplexing. Both these Mills were in the occupation or charge of William and Jacob Walker. The statement respecting the Corn Mill is clear enough. It was provided for the use of all the inhabitants of the town embraced in the extent, and yielded £6 6s. 8d. to the revenues of the lord. But the Fulling Mill, which. had a house entirely roofless attached to it, while nominally let for 40/- a year, could only be made to yield 6/-, and there was consequently some dispute about it at the time.

Adjacent to the Hallyng was a large area of land called the Hallfelde, estimated at 40 acres. This was let in parcels to several tenants, one of whom was the chaplain, William de Dewsbury, and for which 1/- per acre yearly was paid. This was a very high rent in comparison with what was paid for land generally in the manor, and may be accounted for perhaps by its proximity to the town. The chaplain held 15 acres of this land, and in addition to this he was tenant of two other holdings in Bradford, so that altogether he appears to have had a good deal of farming work on hand, and could not have had much time left for his legitimate calling.