Milton Abbey Customary 1317

I am so excited by the fantastic progress one of our translators is making on this strange, but interesting document.

It gives the terms of the tenancies for the villeins on the estates of Milton Abbey in 1317.

These were turbulent times with the country in meltdown. Edward II had his favourites and advisers (the greedy Gaveston and the Despensers) and there were many disagreements with the rest of his barons. Not to mention the battles with the Scots, including Bannockburn, 1314.

In addition, the great famine of 1315 – 1317, which struck the whole of Europe, left many people in England starving and dying. This is just the time when our customary (aka custumal) was written.

part of the entry for the manor of Wydecombe, now Whitcombe, near Dorchester, Dorset

The terms of the tenancy are very surprising to a modern outlook, but this was still a feudal society, and the tenants had to provide many days of work for the lord of the manor, that is the Abbot of Milton in our case.

As an example, Alice Cutches holds one messuage & half a virgate of land: “…she will mow half an acre in Wyldemede & receive nothing & the value of the work is 2d. And if necessary she will be responsible for stacking into cocks a quarter of the lord’s corn & she will receive 8d for a sheaf, which is the customary receipt. And in death she will give a Heriot as is aforesaid for a virgators. And she will have one son quit of chevage as long as he remains with her. And she will prepare 3 bushels of barley against the Nativity or after & she will dry them with the lord’s straw…”

This is a tiny fraction of the commitments she and other half virgaters had to make. Her entry in the customary extends over several pages.

We are researching to compare the terms of the Milton Abbey estates with other monastic estates, and the estates of other nobility in the first half of the 14th century.

If anyone can help our research then please contact us.

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