Welcome to the world of one-place studies! Twenty-six of our members are sharing something in their particular place for this year's A-Z Blogging Challenge and today it's Bratton Clovelly's one-place studier Kim Baldacchino.

With voter records, BMD registrations and censuses, the 19th and 20th centuries were fairly straightforward in my place. Then with parish registers going back to 1555, freeholder lists, deeds and various other sources, even the 17th and 18th centuries started to emerge. But eventually I fell off the cliff. A few tax lists, an occasional muster roll, a clergy list and not much more when I tried to make some sense of medieval times. That is, until I discovered the manor rolls. How much information such a small set of documents can hold.

Fmanor rollsor my parish of Bratton Clovelly, Devon, there were ten court rolls at the Devon Heritage Centre from 1377-1684. I had the rolls digitised and then translated over several years to spread the cost but they turned out to be a goldmine of information. For example, before getting the rolls translated I only knew the names of 14 people in the parish before the 1500s based on one lay subsidy. In contrast, the manor roll for 1408-09 alone had the names of over 150 people, probably reflecting the great majority of males in the parish over the age of 12 and a number of females as well.

There was lots of descriptive information on people:

Of Sir Thomas Wyes (3d) of the honourable Order of the Bath, knight, the heirs of Sir William Kirckham (3d), knight, Sir Shilston Callmadie (3d), knight, John Moore (3d), esquire, and John Dynham, esquire, free tenants which owed suit then and made default. (1627)

And on happenings:

(The Bratton tithingman) presents that Blythe Blakegrove raised the hue and cry justly upon Roger Brode (6d) … Roger Brode beat the aforesaid Blythe with 1 staff (4d) … Roger beat the aforesaid Blythe, to the effusion of blood (6d) … (1377)

On sustaining the community:

The tithingman (of Bratton) presents that John Skedemur (2d), Walter Roberd (4d), Thomas Clovele (6d), William Uppecote (6d), John Veyse (3d), John Roue (6d), John Aylecote (6d), Henry Vysak (6d), John Miller (6d), Thomas Langeworth (6d), Robert Colyn (6d), brewed ale and sold it contrary to the assize … William Lobet (12d) and Richard Valeys (6d) are common tapsters and sold ale and broke the assize. (1377)

Or not sustaining it:

Robert Clerk refused to sell ale when he had it to sell. Therefore he is in mercy. (1431)

Even a bit of a scandal (for a quiet place like Bratton Clovelly):

The bailiff is in mercy because he did not attach William Southeo, by the pledge of H Estelake, to answer to the lords as to why he stands accused because he keeps a certain woman in his house suspiciously. She lives against etc. And he should be attached. (1552)

The National Archives, working with county record offices, is making a lot of progress on the Manorial Documents Register. There’s an introduction at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/manorial-documents-register.htm and the register can be searched at http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/manor-search. Your record office may know of other documents held locally, possibly even some that have been translated. Then it’s just that little matter of teaming up with the right people to figure out how to unlock the information in them.

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