Chosen by Richard Mant, researcher
This is a copy in English of the entry for 12 March 1611 in the Court Book for the Manors of Woolavington, Wonworth and East Dean, dealing with the surrender of land by Edmund Maunt at the court baron in East Dean. The book covers the period 3 Oct 1597-28 Aug 1620, and includes the court customs for the manor of East Dean, 7 June 1651, in Latin.
Court rolls and later, books, are the records of manor courts which provided justice at a local level; recording the proceedings of the manor, which was the principal administrative unit of medieval landed estates. Manors varied in size but were administered by their lords as a single unit, and the ‘court baron’ was the court of the chief tenants of the manor, responsible for the internal regulation of the local affairs within the manor.
Recording the business of the court, the books can document the transferring of property rights and copyhold, the occupation of land, minor disputes and enforcement of law and order, and the regulation of agriculture and labour, amongst other things.
Manorial records can be invaluable as a resource for family and local history, providing information regarding the lowest members of the social hierarchy who were renting
and working on the land as much as those who owned and leased property and land. This court book in particular has revealed much about this branch of the Mant family. The entry shows that Richard is the son of Edmund Mant, the pater familias, who married Joan Hartley in West Dean in February 1560. Since it predates most of the surviving parish records for this area, it has helped to fill in many gaps in the family’s history, and reveals that the Mant family living in East Dean is the same family as those living in Charlton, Singleton and West Dean.
The record highlights where exactly in East Dean it was that Richard lived with his wife, Dowsabell, and their family, and proves that Edmund Mant held the lease (copyhold) for this land but had to surrender it to the lord of the manor before he could build a cottage on it. The records paint quite a picture, and places the family’s social and economic status within the larger context of the manor, allowing us to draw conclusions about their lives at this time.
If you are interested in finding out more about manorial records, the University of Nottingham has produced a useful online guide to manorial records available on their website – https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/researchguidance/manorial/introduction.aspx