Introduction

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Institute of Historical Research

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Author

Col. John Parker (editor)

Year published

1903

Pages

7-27

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'Introduction', Lancashire Assize Rolls: 4 John - 13 Edward I (1903), pp. VII-XXVII. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=69813 Date accessed: 18 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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INTRODUCTION.

The Assize Rolls now preserved in the Public Record Office form a series of 1546 documents containing the record of the work done by the successive Justices of the King's Court Itinerant or in Eyre in the various counties, from the time of John to that of Henry VI inclusive. Unlike the Patent Rolls, whose membranes are joined end to end into continuous and somewhat unwieldy rolls, each many yards in length, the membranes or long parchment strips of which the Assize Rolls are composed are bound together at the top, and kept flat. They are in good condition and such membranes as have been affected by damp are well repaired. The penmanship is very neat and clear and the excellence of both ink and parchment have enabled them to defy the ravages of the centuries of neglect that preceded the removal of the Records to their present home.

The Assize Rolls are now arranged alphabetically by counties and numbered consecutively. The Lancashire Rolls commence with No. 404 and (omitting No. 406) end with No. 453. There are also eight Duchy of Lancaster Assize Rolls, numbered 1 to 8, of the time of Duke Henry, for the years 25—34 Edward III. These fifty-seven rolls, however, do not represent all or even the greater part of the Lancashire Assize Rolls. In the last 400 rolls of the series—formerly classified as "Divers Counties"—are the records of numerous Lancashire Eyres, bound up, as originally sent in by the Justices, with those of the other counties included in their circuit: Only when the bulk of Assizes was very voluminous does the Lancashire record appear to have become separated from its fellows. The present Calendar—to 13 Edward I— comprises but two of the Lancashire series against nine of the Divers Counties; and for the next six years—to 19 Edward I—we have but one of the former and six of the latter series. The following year—20 Edward I—is represented by no fewer than nine Lancashire rolls of 402 membranes in all; and, though some of these are duplicates, this year is one of extreme importance to Lancashire history, from the nature and amount of the matter recorded on its Assize Rolls. It is hoped that the next volume of this Calendar will include most, if not all, of this year's Assizes and Pleas of the Crown; as also such Lancashire cases as appear on the Rolls of the Eyres in Yorkshire, Westmorland and other counties, up to the same date.

Turning from the Assize Rolls themselves, let us now consider what it is that they record. The administration of justice in the thirteenth century is too large and intricate a subject to be dealt with here; yet some explanations are needed to render intelligible the subject matter of this volume. And here the Editor would beg to express his indebtedness to that invaluable work, The History of English Law, by Professor Maitland and the late Sir Frederick Pollock, a work wherein the legal intricacies of this period are fully discussed and explained, and which has been of great assistance in the interpretation of these Assize Rolls.

A systematic visitation of the counties by Justices of the King's Court was organized by Henry II in the early years of his reign. Each party of these Justices Itinerant contained usually, though not of necessity, one or more of the King's permanent Justices and had assigned to it a definite sphere of one or several counties; the county of Lancaster being, as a rule, grouped with Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland. In 18 Henry III, however, we find William de Ebor and others commissioned to proceed on Eyre in Lancashire alone; and in 52 Henry III as many as ten counties are comprised in the circuit of Gilbert de Preston and his fellows. These Justices appear to have had power to call in the aid of Associates and we frequently find local magnates assisting them in their work: thus, in 6 Edward I, John de Reigate and William de Northburgh associated to themselves Ranulph de Dakre and Richard le Botyler, with the object undoubtedly of completing as many Assizes as possible before leaving the northern circuit. It has been stated that these Eyres were held at regular intervals of seven years, and elsewhere this may have been the case; but in the northern counties such regular visitations were impossible, owing to the disturbed state of the country where, at this period, peace was seldom of long duration—turbulence and rebellion alternating with Scottish invasions. To the latter we are indebted for the loss of some, at least, of the records which were produced at these Eyres. Matthew de Redman, who was Sheriff in 30—31 Henry III (the year to which we owe that fine Assize Roll, No. 404), appears to have had a most unpleasant time a year or two later, while one of the Coroners for Lancaster, when his house was burnt down and the Coroner's Rolls stolen. Here is the petition of his grandson:—

A nre seinr le Roi et a soun counseil prie soun liege vadlet Maheu de Redmane si lui plest que come Mons Maheu de Redmane son Ael que dieux assoille qi heir fut un des coroners le Roi en le comite de Lancastr graunt temps dedens quen temps les Escos venierunt en le dit comite de Lancastr ces est . . . au manor de Yeland Redmane qe fut au dit Mons Maheu et qe est en Lonesdale en le dit comite, pristerunt de lui toutz ses biens et chatteux ensemblement oue toutz les Roules tochanz l'office de Coronner et arderunt la dite ville et tout le pays entour, parquoi le dit Maheu prie la grace nre seignr le Roi qil ne soit empeche en temps de Heyr pur les Roules avantdits desicome tout le pays set le mischef et qe la defaute qe les Rules furent perdutz ne fut la defaute de Coronner. (Ancient Petitions, Bundle 136, No. 6799).

As Matthew de Redman, the grandfather, died before 1254 and Henry, his son and successor, lived until the autumn of 1278, the absence of the Coroner's Rolls seems to have passed unheeded for many years, and the Justices in Eyre during that period must have overlooked them. In 1292, however, the Justices held a very strict enquiry into every detail connected with the county and to this we probably owe the above Petition.

In another of these Petitions (No. 6816) Amabel late the wife of Matthew de Redman (the grandfather) gest du Comite de Westmerl gest ars et destrut par les enemis Descose complains that she cannot bring to a close an Assize of Novel disseisin which she brought against Henry de Redman (her son), Roger de Cornethwayt and others, touching a certain tenement in Yeland, because the Justices assigned come so seldom to those parts; and she asks for Justices especieux, namely Edmund de Nevell, Adam de Skelton, Gilbert de Syngelton and Robert de Shyreburn, or two of them. These four names fix the date of the Petition as about 1296, or even later; and, as Amabel would be then a very old woman and her son Henry had long been dead, her complaint cannot be thought unreasonable. The views of Dame Amabel were shared by numerous other litigants, to judge from the ever increasing number of cases for which special justices were commissioned towards the end of the reign of Henry III—a schedule of which will be found on pp. 219—253. Seventenths of the Patent Roll for 1 Edward I are filled with these appointments. The Special Commissions appear to have been directed to four local magnates during the earliest years of Henry III but after 1253 that system became rare, and it was the general rule to appoint one or more of the regular Justices to take these Assizes. Abstract of two such cases will be found on pp. 121—124; possibly laborious research might bring others to light.

Omitting Eyres of the Forests, which deal chiefly with Forest trespasses and hardly come within the scope of this volume, the following list, compiled from Mr. Farrer's Lancashire Pipe Rolls, comprises probably all that now remains on record of the visits of Justices Itinerant to Lancaster during the reigns of Henry II and his two sons.

i.1166–67.The Earl of Leicester, then Chief Justiciar of England, sent John Mauduit and William Fitz Martin to Lancaster on the King's service; probably to take Assizes, as nearly every part of England was visited by Justices in Eyre this year. (Pipe Roll, 13 Henry II, No. 13).
ii.1184–85.Godfrey de Lucy and his associates, Hugh de Morwich, Robert de Vaux and Hugh Murdach, were in Eyre and took Crown Pleas &c. in the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland York and Lancashire this year. (Pipe Roll, 31 Henry II, No. 31).
iii.1187–88.Godfrey de Lucy, Joscelin, Archdeacon of Cirencester, and William le Vavassur took Pleas of the Crown in Lancashire this year. (Pipe Roll, 34 Henry II, No. 34).
iv.1194–95.Reginald le Bigod, Ralph, Archdeacon of Hereford, William de Glanville and Ralph de Ardern were in Eyre in this county and took Assizes &c. (Pipe Roll, 7 Richard I, No. 41).
v.1202,October 26—November 7. Assizes were taken before John, Bishop of Norwich, Hugh Bardulf, John de Gestling, Master Roger Arundel and William Fitz Richard. (Pipe Roll, 4 John, No. 48: Lancashire Fines, 3–10, 12–21, 23–32, 35).
vi.1205–6,February 26. Robert de Vipont and his fellows took Assizes at Lancaster the Justices named in the Fine of this date being Simon de Pateshull, James de Poterne and Richard de Mucegros. (Pipe Roll, 8 John, No. 52 : Lancashire Fine 41).
vii.1208,October 5—December 7. The Justices in Eyre at Lancaster were Simon de Pateshull, Adam de Port, Henry Fitz Hervey, Robert de Percy, Alexander de Pointon, Henry de Northampton, Ralph Hareng and Geoffrey de Lisle, or some of them. (Pipe Roll, 11 John, No. 55: Lancashire Fines 50, 51, 53–58, 60).
viii.1210–11.The Pipe Roll contains a note of 59½ marks paid into the Treasury in 25 tallies as the amercements by Saier, Earl of Winchester, and his fellows, who evidently took Assizes at Lancaster this year. (Pipe Roll, 13 John, No. 57).

It is much to be regretted that the Assize Rolls of these early Eyres have vanished so far as Lancashire is concerned. A few such rolls for other counties are extant, in some of which are to be found Lancashire cases. Assize Roll 1039, for instance, a Yorkshire roll for 13 John, contains several Lancashire entries; among them an interesting dispute as to the Church of St. Helen of Grostein [Garstang], claimed by the King as a chapel belonging to the Church of S. Michaelon-Wyre, which was in his gift. But, apart from these scattered cases, thirty-seven Final Concords and a few amercements etc. entered on the Pipe Rolls, the earlier Lancashire Assizes have passed into oblivion.

When we come to the next reign, Henry III, our Assize records are but little better. We have, it is true, one excellent and complete Assize Roll (No. 404) for Michaelmas 1246 —complete not only as to the Assizes but also comprising the Crown Pleas which are missing on so many other rolls—yet this is only one roll for a period of fifty-seven years, and represents but one out of the eight Eyres held at Lancaster during this reign. These Eyres were as follows:—

ix.1218–19.January 16—February 4. Eyre of Philip de Ulcot, Thomas de Muleton, Ralph de la Ferte, William de Vernun and Laurence de Wilton, clerk. (Patent Roll, 3 Henry III, m. 1: Pipe Roll, 3 Henry III, No. 63: Lancashire Fines, Henry III, 1–4).
x.1226–27,January 14–20. Eyre of Martin de Pateshull, Ranulph Fitz Robert, Brian Fitz Alan, William de L'Isle, Richard Duket and John de Lacy. (Patent Roll, 10 Henry III, m. 2d: Pipe Roll, 11 Henry III, No. 71: Lancashire Fines, Henry III, 12–28).
xi.1235,May 13–19. Eyre of William de Ebor, Roger Bertram, Robert de Ros and Richard de Levington. (Patent Roll, 18 Henry III, m. 7d.: Pipe Roll, 19 Henry III, No. 79: Lancashire Fines, Henry III, 34–62).
xii.1241,November 12–25. Eyre of Robert de Lexinton, Ralph de Sulleg, William de Culeworth and Jolland de Nevill. (Pipe Roll, 26 Henry III, No. 86: Lancashire Fines, Henry III, 66, 69–98: Kirkstall Coucher Book, 23, 24: Assize Roll, 1176, m. 5).
xiii.1246,October 20–27. Eyre of Roger de Thirkelby, Gilbert de Preston, Master Simon de Wauton and John de Cobham. (Assize Roll, 404: Pipe Roll, 32 Henry III, No. 92: Lancashire Fines, Henry III, 101, 103–127).
xiv.1256,June 18—July 1. Eyre of John, Abbot of Peterborough, Roger de Thirkelby, Nicholas de Hadlon and John de Wyvyle. (Patent Roll, 40 Henry III, m. 15d: Pipe Roll, 41 Henry III, No. 101: Lancashire Fines, Henry III, 141–160).
xv.1261–2.February 9—March 2. Eyre of Walter de Helyon, John de Oketon, Peter de Chester and William de Northburgh. (Assize Roll 1238, m. 31 and 405, m. 2d: Lancashire Fines, Henry III, 167–181: Pipe Roll, 12 Edward I, m. 26).
xvi.1271–2,February 3. Eyre of Peter de Chester and his fellows. (Assize Roll 1265, m. 4).

Justices-in-Eyre were detailed to visit Lancaster in 1269, but there is no record of any such visit and probably it never occurred, for reasons given elsewhere (p. 123). The Sheriff did not account for amercements made at the Eyre of 1262 until twenty-two years later. Our knowledge of the Eyre of 1272 is derived solely from a reference in the Assize Roll for 1284 to an agreement then made about the demolition of a fence! Of amercements and sums tendered by way of fine, etc., we have fairly full lists up to 46 Henry III in the Pipe Rolls (Appendix II) but for the last ten years of his reign these rolls contain no Lancashire entries.

Apart from the above, two records classified as Assize Rolls contain Lancashire entries, temp. Henry III. A.R. 1176 is a Roll of the King's Court, being a "Roll of the Grand Assize" from 1238 to 1264. There are Lancashire cases under the years 1242 and 1258 (p. 5). A.R. 1196 contains Pleas de diversis comitatibus taken at Guildford in 1263. The two Lancashire items both refer to Forest matters (p. 122).

From the evidence at our disposal we gather that up to this period—the end of the reign of Henry III—it had been the custom of the Justices Itinerant to visit Lancashire once only during their Eyre; they spent about three weeks at Lancaster and there exhausted the Assizes and Crown Pleas which had accumulated since the preceding Eyre, some seven years before, besides conducting the various Inquisitions etc. specified in the Articles of the Eyre. An Eyre superseded everything else; the Justices in Eyre disposed not only of all the Assizes for which Special Justices had been commissioned, but also of those which would have been taken by the King's Court. The Assize Roll for Michaelmas, 1246, shows how thoroughly their work was done. Out of 261 Assizes, we find judgment delivered in 129; in 48, the parties come to terms; in 64, the plaintiff either does not prosecute or gets leave to withdraw; 14 cases only are adjourned—8 to York or Appleby to hear judgment (within a month); 1 to Westminster; 1 to the next Eyre; 3 sine die till one of the parties comes of age; 1 for Trial by Combat; in 6 cases the record is incomplete. Here there are but few signs of the dilatory adjournments and essoins which hampered the Justices of Edward I. But the ever increasing numbers of Special Commissions indicate the inadequacy of the Eyre system of Henry III. Litigation was undoubtedly growing in popularity—a tendency naturally encouraged by the King, who saw in it not only a bulwark against the pretensions of his Barons, but also a sure source of revenue. Disputes and actions must constantly arise; let them be settled by the King's Justices, not in the Manor Courts, and let the King's Exchequer profit by the fines and amercements. The proceeds of the Lancashire Eyre of 1262 amounted to 863li. 12s. 5d.—a sum which points rather to the quantity of business transacted than to the costliness of the litigation or magnitude of the amercements. To cope with the increasing volume of Assizes and other work, combined with a development of legal processes ever tending to retard the issue, some modification of the existing Eyre system was demanded.

Accordingly, we find, on the 10th July 1273 (1 Edward I), two Justices—John de Oketon and Elias de Beckingham—in pursuance of their appointment by Patent as Justices, assigned to the counties of Nottingham, Derby, Lancaster, Cumberland, Westmorland, Northumberland and Lincoln, to take Assizes, Juries and Recognitions. No Assize Roll now exists to record their work in Lancashire, but on the Patent Roll for 1 and 2 Edward I they are commissioned to take a large number of Assizes there. They were succeeded in 1274 by Charrun and Northburgh, who were appointed to take the Assizes and Attaints which still remained to be taken before the King's Justices in those counties, and the county of York was added to the circuit. On the 24th November 1275 John de Reigate took the place of Guichard de Charrun who was wanted elsewhere. On 24th April 1279 Reigate and Northburgh were appointed Justices Itinerant for Common Pleas in Kent, Surrey, etc., and their place in the North was taken by Geoffrey Aguyllun and Alan de Walkingham.

There is no Roll of the Assizes taken by Charrun and Northburgh, but we know that they were hearing a case at Whittington early in 1275, and a large number of special commissions were directed to them that year.

Of the work of Reigate and Northburgh we have four Assize Rolls, one a duplicate, from which it appears that they were in the habit of visiting Lancashire once or twice yearly, and that they held Assizes not only at Lancaster but also at Clitheroe and probably at Whittington. The following places and dates are recorded:—

1276.September 15, at Lancaster. (Assize Roll 405).
1277.May 24, at Clitheroe. (Assize Roll 1235).
1277.October 6, at Clitheroe. (No Assize Roll).
1278.September 15, at Lancaster. (Assize Rolls 1238–9).

It is interesting to note the amount of work done by these Justices in the year 1278—the last year of their tour in the north, as given on Assize Roll 1238:—

1277–8.January 7,at York.
"January 10," Clifton in the Liberty of Byland.
"January 14," Doncaster.
"January 20," Blyth, Nottingham.
"January 27," Lincoln.
"February 5," Newark.
1278.June 22," Appleby.
"June 26," Carlisle.
"July 3," Newcastle-on-Tyne.
"July 17," York.
"July 26," Blyth.
"July 31," Hyrst, Derbyshire.
"August 2," Lincoln.
"September 15," Lancaster.
"September 22," Kirby Kendal.
"October 3," York.

There must have been arrears of work at York for, at their October visit, they were assisted by Geoffrey Aguyllun and William de Saint Quintin. The Assize Roll recording the above year's visitation contains forty-one large membranes; the duplicate Roll (A.R. 1239) contains forty-three.

The wording of the respiting order on their last Assize Roll may be noted:—

Put back to the next coming of the Justices of all Pleas hither (Lancaster) unless John de Reigate and William de Northburgh come first to these parts.

This certainly indicates that a regular Eyre was shortly expected in Lancashire.

After the departure of Reigate and Northburgh, Geoffrey Aguyllun and Alan de Walkingham were commissioned to take Assizes in Lancashire but, beyond a notice on A.R. 1244 of an Assize taken before them at Lancaster on some day in 1280 or 1281, and of another case at Clitheroe (p. 200), no record of their work exists. By Patent dated at York, 12 January 12 Edward I (1283–4), John de Reigate and Geoffrey Aguyllun were appointed to take all Assizes, Certifications and Attaints arraigned before the said Geoffrey and Alan de Walkingham which had not yet been taken by reason of the death of the said Alan, in the counties of York, Lancaster, Northumberland and Westmorland. From this period our rolls re-commence, and record the following visits to Lancashire:—

1284.April 17,Assizes at Lancaster (A.R. 1265).
1284.October 6," " Clitheroe (A.R. 1265).
1285.April 22," " Lancaster (A.R. 1268).
1285.September 22," " Whittington (A.R. 1268).
1285.October 6," " Clitheroe (No Assize Roll).
1285–6.January 20," " Clitheroe (No Assize Roll).

The last date is that to which several Assizes were respited from Whittington in the previous September, but it is uncertain whether any Assizes were taken by Reigate and Aguyllun after October 1285 in Lancashire. At Epiphany 1285–6, Nicholas de Stapleton began his visitation at York (A.R. 1271), and he and his associates proceeded to Whittington in September 1286, thus taking the place of Reigate and Aguyllun with whose departure from Lancashire this volume of Assize Rolls ends. It will be observed that during the first thirteen years of Edward's reign we have no record of an Eyre, in the strictest sense, having been held in Lancashire. The Justices, whose visits have been traced, are commissioned to take Common Pleas only. They are assigned to this and neighbouring counties to deal with civil actions, which otherwise would have been taken to Westminster or awaited the arrival of an Eyre. There was an Eyre in Northumberland in 7 Edward I—and evidently one was expected that year in Lancashire; but if any such was held it has left no record.

The duties of the Justices in Eyre were onerous and by no means confined to the trial of civil actions. They were commissioned to take all Pleas—Pleas of the Crown as well as Common Pleas—and, in addition, were furnished with a long list of interrogatories called the Articles of the Eyre (Capitula Itineris), to be answered by the Juries of the various wapentakes and boroughs. This list of questions grew longer with each successive Eyre and we have on pp. 63—129 a good sample of the information elicited.

When we have put on one side the questions that deal with the felonies, we still have before us a miscellaneous mass. We find, however, three main groups of articles. One consists of those which desire information about the king's proprietary rights, escheats, wardships and so forth. These do not lead to any punishment or any trial. Information is all that is wanted; it will hereafter be used in various ways. Another group asks for tales about the assumption or misuse of "franchises." Here again, as a general rule, information is all that is immediately wanted. When the justices' rolls come to the king's treasury, his advisers will consider whether writs of Quo warranto should not be issued for the recall of liberties that have been abused. A third and a large group of articles relates to the official misdoings of royal officers, sheriffs, coroners and bailiffs." (History of English Law, Vol. II, p. 521).

A very large sum was collected by the Justices from the various wapentakes, boroughs and vills, for failure to present or to arrest wrongdoers. It must have been a rare occurrence for a suitor to appear in court without being amerced. Even in a case of accidental death there is money to be made out of somebody. The Prior of Hornby is killed by a fall from his horse: a man who was present fails to attend the Eyre; he is fined, and his two sureties with him—and others are amerced for putting a wrong value on the horse! In another case, the horse and its rider are both drowned—but the value of the horse's hide goes into the Exchequer. Indeed, so general are these amercements that it has been found unnecessary in most instances to insert them in this Calendar. This refers especially to sureties, who are never named except to be fined or, to be more correct, put in mercy.

The numerous appeals for felony in 1246 indicate the lawlessness of the country at that period. In the majority of serious cases the accused has fled and is outlawed. The fate of an outlaw when caught at Lancaster is swift; nor has the thief taken with the mainour a better time; the one is beheaded straight away, the other hanged. Offences against property are dealt with far more severely than offences against the person. Except in very serious cases, if the accused is convicted he is committed to prison and then compounds for his liberty by a small fine; 40s. seems the ordinary sum accepted. In the case of an acquittal it is the appellant who suffers, and if the losing party is poor the fine is excused and generally he is released. The Pleas of the Crown at Lancaster for 1246 compare favourably, both in nature and number, with those taken at Newcastle ten years later. We find thirty-six appeals of murder at Lancaster against seventyseven at Newcastle, and other serious crimes are in proportion; but only in rare instances are the culprits brought to justice.

The other business of the Eyre—the Common Pleas— less remunerative, no doubt, to the Exchequer of the day, but far richer in treasures for the historian and genealogist— has been so amply discussed and explained in The History of English Law, that it would be superfluous to enlarge upon it here. Examples will be found in this Calendar of almost every form of action and mode of procedure known to the thirteenth century Justice. The ordeals of fire and water have vanished before our Assize Rolls commence; but we have the Writ of Right, when the simple question—has Adam de Pemberton or Peter de Burnhull the greater right to 200 acres in Pemberton?—is decided by a combat in which Adam's champion is worsted. In another case the defendant, Richard son of Avice, exercises his right of appeal to a Grand Assize, and four knights are sworn and choose twelve other knights to form a Jury; whereupon Thomas Bussel, the plaintiff, discreetly comes to terms with his opponent and the case is settled. Of the petty Assizes—the Assize Utrum, the Darrein presentment, the Novel disseisin, the Mort d'Ancestor—the instances are many, especially of the two last. The two former, though not so numerous, deal with the advowsons and glebe of many of the most important parishes in the county. In these four Petty Assizes proceedings were begun by obtaining a royal writ, the cost of which seems to have varied according to the purse of the applicant from half-a-mark to 20s. This writ directed an inquest to be held to answer a particular question:—Are 16 acres in Samlesbury free alms belonging to Samlesbury Church or the lay fee of William de Samlesbury? Did Robert Banester or the Abbot of Cocker sand present the last parson to Wigan Church? Did John de Caton and others unjustly and without judgment disseise John son of Simon de Caton of his common of pasture in Caton? Was Roger father of Richard de Worsley seised in fee at the time of his death of 8 acres in Dalton which William son of Odo now holds? These are the simple facts which the Assize comes to ascertain; but the recognitors are not always allowed to tackle the main question. Disputes as to matters of fact arise on the pleadings, whereupon a Jury is impanelled to decide the new question. The cost of a Jury is one mark, which is sometimes paid by one party, sometimes by both. The Jury is sworn and they give in their verdict. There is no appeal such as we meet with now-a-days, but the unsuccessful party has two courses open to him. He can have a Certification, a rehearing of the case by the same Jury in order that the Justices may be made more sure on some point. John de Mereclough had lost his case because he could not produce his charter so that the Jury could certify his seisen, and he asks for this point to be re-considered. The Jury adhere to their former verdict. A more serious matter is an Attaint. The Jury are charged with giving a false verdict and the case is re-tried before a Jury of twenty-four—a process we find frequently resorted to, and of which the Byron v. Gresley case (pp. 174–5) is a good example. In that action the parties come to terms, but in others we find the verdict of the twenty-four taken, confirming or otherwise the verdict of the twelve. All this brings in money by way of fine, unless the losing party is too poor to offer anything, in which case he is pardoned. If the old verdict is quashed, the Jury of twelve are punished for making a false oath. We have no instance of this in the present volume. A successful litigant gained but little beyond the recovery of his property. Damages were awarded in cases of disseisin, it is true, but the ominous letters t.c. (or c.) put after the amount show that these went to pay the clerks of the court. Occasionally, when the damages were large, the clerks got only a part; but the damages like the amercements were, as a rule, small.

Besides the four Petty Assizes we have numerous other forms of action, each with its own peculiarities. By the end of Henry the Third's reign the number of forms in use had reached a maximum, and it required an expert to decide which writ was the particular one required to meet the case. The large number of actions arising out of the Provisions of Merton (1236) show to what an extent the common lands were broken up for cultivation and enclosed by virtue of that Statute. The estate workmen of the thirteenth century lord must have had a busy time putting up fences and dykes and repairing them when demolished by the villagers or neighbouring lords. The action for demolition of fences, obstruction of ways and so on, to the damage of the plaintiff's freehold, was by a writ of Nuisance, which was merely a variety of Novel Disseisin, and is embraced in that Assize. The Writ of Entry approaches more closely to the Writ of Right, and is a proprietary action. There are two writs dealing with villeinage: the one, De Nativitate, on the part of the lord claiming his villein; the other, De libertate probanda, brought against the lord by the man who would be free. In relation to land tenure we have writs of Mesne and of Suit at Mill, of Homage and Quod permit tat habre, and many more; while other forms deal with Debt and Dower, Warranty and Covenant, and so forth.

The system that has been adopted in compiling this Calendar is one which excludes as far as possible super fluous matter and gives every detail that is of consequence. Possibly even more excision would have been better, especially when dealing with Essoins: but the error is on the right side. The following example from Assize Roll 1238 will best explain the method of calendaring an ordinary action. Here is the full record:—

An Assize comes to ascertain whether Richard de la Croyz unjustly and without Judgment disseised Richard de Bikerstath of his common of pasture in Lathom which belongs to his free tenement in the same vill, after the first [coming of King Henry father of the now King into Brittany] and whereof he complains that he disseised him of his common in 60 acres of land in which he was wont to common with his beasts of all sorts in open time and of his common in 6 acres of wood in which he was wont to common with his beasts of all sorts for the whole year.

And Richard de la Croiz comes and says that he did no injury or disseisin for he says that the said Richard de Biherstath was never in seisin of the said common so that he could thereof be disseised. For he says that his father and he likewise in all his time have held the said land and wood in their own severalty and further than this that the said Richard de Bickerstath has not any common in the same and that such is the case he puts himself on the Assize. And Richard de Bickerstath says that he stood in good and peaceable seisin of the said common of which view has been made until the said Richard de la Croiz him thereof unjustly [and without Judgment] disseised and as to this he puts himself on the Assize.

The Jury say on their oath that the said Richard de la Croiz did not disseise the said Richard de Bickerstath of the said common, for they say that he was never in seisin of the said common which he put in their view. And so it is considered that the said Richard de la Croiz [go] thence without a day and that Richard de Bickerstath take nothing by that Assize but be in mercy for false claim.

The above has been calendared as follows (p. 170):—

Novel disseisin—Richard de Bickerstath v. [versus] Richard de la Croyz re a common of pasture in 60 acres of land, in an open time, and 6 acres of wood, all the year, in Lathom.

Defendant says that plaintiff was never seised, for he and his father held the said land and wood to their separate use. Verdict for defendant. Judgment accordingly.

It will be noted that the Calendar, as such, would have been complete without the matter in small type. But so much interesting and important detail is contained in the proceedings in many of the actions that it was found best to give a precis of each case. Only in a few instances has it been noted that the losing side was amerced or, as we moderns should say, fined. The word Juror has been used instead of Recognitor in connection with fines for absence; an error, no doubt, but one that should not mislead, for no absentee could be sworn in and the name Juror itself precludes absence.

The abbreviations on these Rolls are for the most part clear. The letters i.e. placed after an award of damages at the end of several cases proved a temporary stumblingblock; but the full word "clericis" was met with on Assize Roll 1265. Another difficulty—the letters n (novus) or v (vetus) followed by a sign like S or [symbol 'divided by'] (est)—is explained by Mr. Haydon in his Introduction to the Calendar of the Patent Rolls for 2 Edward I (43rd Report). The letters "Aff.," which also occur in the lists of Essoins may mean "Affered"—that is to say that the party essoined paid a reduced fine, fixed by the Official Afferers. On the other hand, they more probably indicate that this party pledged his faith (Affidare) that the Essoin was warranted. This pledging of faith was frequently resorted to by plaintiffs, and saved the necessity and expense of sureties. "No sureties quia fides in brevi" is quite a common entry on the Assize Roll for 13 Edward I. The faith, to judge from the number of those who failed to prosecute, does not appear to have been a very binding engagement.

The various spellings of the same name—of place names in particular—lead to some confusion, and owing to similarity of some letters (such as c and t) it has not always been possible to decide between them. Such names as Acton and Atton, for example, are undistinguishable, but these are but variants of Aighton. Another variety of the spelling of this place—Autton—has been misread as Dutton in a local history. Again, a word like Dunum is often difficult to read, for there are nothing but up-and-down strokes after the D, and they are capable of various interpretations. But the Editor must not be blamed for all such errors. The differences of spelling etc. between Assize Roll 1238 and its duplicate Assize Roll 1239, which are given in the footnotes to the former Roll, show that the Justices' clerks were not free from blame. The Hon. Secretary has pointed out that Simon Truppe and Margery de la Bure (p. 163) should read Simon Tipuppe and Margery de la More—but neither of the two Rolls supports this (correct) contention. It is hoped that the Index to this volume will smooth away some of the difficulties arising from clerical and editorial errors.

The Editor desires to express his deep indebtedness to Mr. William Farrer for much valuable help in preparing this Calendar. It is at Mr. Farrer's suggestion that Appendix II. has been inserted, with a view to bringing together into one volume all records of these early Assizes: and to that end he placed his transcripts at the Editor's disposal.

The completion of this work would have been impossible but for the unvarying kindness and courtesy of the officials of the Record Office, extending over the many years that have elapsed since the task was first undertaken. For its many shortcomings the Editor craves indulgence and accepts the blame: for the delay in publication he cannot be held responsible. Having turned his sword into a ploughshare, he little thought that, just as this volume was in the printer's hands, he would be called upon to proceed on active service to South Africa: an absence of over two years has caused a break in the home life and made it difficult to take up the threads of such a task as this. Now that the volume is at last finished, the Editor can only sigh his relief and express a hope that his selfimposed labour has not been in vain.

J. P.

Browsholme

27 June, 1904