Local government
Manorial government


Victoria County History



Patricia E.C. Croot (editor)

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'Local government: Manorial government', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 12: Chelsea (2004), pp. 202-203. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=28715 Date accessed: 27 November 2014.


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Westminster Abbey, as overlord of the manor, was holding view of frankpledge in Chelsea by 1367, and between then and 1399 views took place normally once a year on Whit Monday. Presentments were of the usual transgressions: failure to do suit of court or to join the tithing, the drawing of blood, brewing, stray animals, obstructions of and encroachments on highways and watercourses, and minor nuisances. Officers were occasionally presented for failure to perform their duties. (fn. 1) As lessee of the manor the Abbey held a court baron about once a year between 1367 and 1370; no record of its business survives. (fn. 2) Chelsea manor courts leet and baron were being held for the Crown in the late 1530s, in 1543, in or after 1548, and in 1555, and for Queen Catherine in 1544 and 1547. Leet business was little changed, but there was probably little business overall since perquisites were less than in the 14th century. The courts were held once or twice a year and in some years were omitted, as in 1552. (fn. 3) The Magpie inn in the later Cheyne Walk was the venue for courts in the 1650s, (fn. 4) and housed joint courts leet and baron in 1679 and 1682 and probably the intervening years. Then and in the early 18th century business included presentments of obstructions, encroachments, and nuisances. In 1705 and 1706 several inhabitants were presented for harbouring lodgers, and three signposts for business premises erected on the highways or waste were presented in 1706. (fn. 5) The leet still functioned in the late 18th and earlier 19th century. In 1794 it recommended making a small sewer in Turk's Row to clear mud. (fn. 6) In 1819 it presented the defective footpath at Hospital Row: perhaps then, as certainly in 1833, the court was held in the Row either at the Royal Hospital or an inn of that name. It still appointed constables and headboroughs. (fn. 7) Court rolls survive for 1543-4 and 1547, and a roll of presentments for 1555. (fn. 8) All other court rolls were apparently lost in a disastrous fire when the Cadogan estate archives were being moved in the early 1890s. (fn. 9)


In the late 14th century the leet elected two constables, two headboroughs, and two aletasters, and there was a hayward in 1378. The bailiff was mentioned in 1379 (fn. 10) and the predecessors of George Bryce, regranted the office in 1555, had been active, (fn. 11) but in the late 16th century the office may have lapsed. (fn. 12) The leet in the 1540s still chose two headboroughs and two aletasters, but only one constable. (fn. 13) Constables and headboroughs were occasionally mentioned in the 17th century, (fn. 14) and an aleconner occurred in 1616. (fn. 15) In 1612 the justices forbade a drunken constable to serve again or keep a tavern, (fn. 16) and in 1732 fined another for not producing accounts and for contempt of court. (fn. 17) Constables and headboroughs were reprimanded in 1692 for failure to keep sufficient watch and ward, allowing a spate of robberies and burglaries. (fn. 18) There may have been only one headborough in 1748 and 1762, but from 1769 there were again sometimes two. (fn. 19) In 1796 the constable's obligation to raise a special levy for riot compensation, directed by quarter sessions, was instead met by the vestry out of the poor rate. (fn. 20) By 1800 there were several constables. (fn. 21) In 1822 the vestry proposed to select an extra constable for approval by the magistrates and court leet. (fn. 22) In 1824 the parochial committee resolved that a compensation be allowed the five constables belonging to the parish instead of charges; it was not to exceed £52 a year. The constable who attended the billetting of any soldiers quartered in the parish, and the one who attended the magistrate at petty sessions, each received £14; each of the others £8. (fn. 1) By 1828 there were 15 constables and 4 headboroughs. (fn. 2) Parish constables were still being appointed in 1852. (fn. 3)

Instruments of punishment were still a manorial responsibility in 1705. (fn. 4) The 'old pound' in 1694 lay at the east end of Cheyne Walk, (fn. 5) but it is not clear where the pound mentioned in 1749 lay. (fn. 6)


1 WAM 4805-6, 4809-12, 4815-16 (no recs. for 1370, 1375, 1377, 1380); below, man. officers.
2 WAM 4806-7, 4813.
3 PRO, SC 2/188/42-3; SC 2/191/73; SC 2/205/40; SC 6/HENVIII/2101; ibid. /2103, m. 31; ibid. /6661; ibid. /EDWVI/299, mm. 40 and d., 44; ibid/PHIL&MARY/187 m. 3 and d; BL, Lansd. MS 2, f. 11.
4 NRA(S) 332, F1/182.
5 Faulkner, Chelsea, II. 156-61.
6 Vestry orders, 1790-1809, pp. 61-2.
7 Rep. Sel. Cttee on Police of Metropolis (Parl. Papers, 1828 (533), VI), p. 350; E. Ffooks, 'Kens. Turnpike Trust' (TS in Kens. Lib.), 40; Chelsea Scraps, 385; Vestry mins 1822-33, p. 55.
8 PRO, SC 2/188/42-3; SC 2/205/40; SC 2/191/73.
9 Pearman, Cadogan Est. 11.
10 WAM 4805, mm. 1-2; 4809, m. 1 and d.; 4811, m. 2; 4815, m. 2; 4816, m. 2 and d.
11 Cal. Pat. 1554-5, 46; BL, Lansd. MS 2, ff. 11, 15; BL, Harl. Roll N 30; PRO, SC 2/188/42; SC 2/205/40, m. 4; SC 6/EDWVI/299, m. 44.
12 BL, Harl Roll L 26.
13 PRO, SC 2/188/42; SC 2/188/43; SC 2/205/40.
14 Middx Sess. Rec. NS, I. 250, 444; II. 95, 209, 288; III. 59, 231, 339; IV. 24, 193, 200, 220, 279, 331; Cal. Middx Sess. Rec. 1611, pt. 2, 90-1; BL, Add. MS 11056, ff. 284, 289, 295; PRO, PROB 11/272, f. 47 (will of Hen. Ashton); PROB 11/310, f. 11 (will of Jas Leverett); CL, deed 18629; Vestry orders, 1662-1718, f. 9.
15 Middx Sess. Rec. NS, III. 253.
16 Cal. Middx Sess. Rec. 1612, pt. 2, 25.
17 Cal. Middx Sess. Bk July 1732-Dec. 1735, p. 10.
18 Middx County Rec. Sess. Bks 1689-1709, 87.
19 Vestry orders, 1745-71, pp. 48, 259, 330.
20 Vestry orders, 1790-1809, p. 106.
21 Ibid., p. 218.
22 Vestry mins 1822-33, p. 55.
1 LMA, P74/LUK/27, p. 155. For the cttee, below, poor relief to 1837.
2 Rep. Sel. Cttee on Police of Metropolis (Parl. Papers, 1828 (533), VI), p. 350. Lewis, Topog. Dict. Eng. (1831), A-C, 416, states that the court appointed 4 headboroughs and 9 constables.
3 CL, deed 18631.
4 Faulkner, Chelsea, II. 160. For the instruments, below, pub. svces (pub. order).
5 Dr King's MS, p. 5.
6 Cal. Middx Sess. Bk Jan. 1747/8-Dec. 1751, p. 69.