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Help and advice for Morchard Arundell

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Notes on the

Court Rolls of the Manor of Morchard Arundell

The manor of Morchard Arundell was held of the Bishop of Exeter and brought into the Arundell family, together with the manor of Uton Arundell near Crediton, on the marriage of Alice daughter of John de Lanhern with Remfrey Arundell II before June 1268 [1]. The manor was dispersed in the early 17th century.

A number of court rolls for the manor of Morchard Arundell in the period 1575 - 1601 (table 1) are to be found in the Cornwall Record Office, Truro [AR2/827-836]. They are written mostly in Latin on parchment. References in them to courts held within the above period for which there are no rolls, and to courts in the reigns of Mary and Philip & Mary, indicate that they are only a small part of a much larger record of the manor which may no longer exist. A few are in poor condition with faded ink. The rolls also contain court records of Uton Arundell and sometimes of other Devon manors held by the Arundells.

Within the rolls there is information on:

  • the officials of the manor (table 1),
  • the free tenancies and their tenants (table 2),
  • copyhold tenements and tenants (table 3),
  • cottages and cottagers (table 4),
  • some named fields (table 5),
  • some references to land held and farmed by the lord of the manor (table 6)
  • named free tenants (table 7)
  • customary/conventional tenants (table 8).

While it is now possible to say with some certainty which tenements were part of the manor of Morchard Arundell, it is not possible to say that tenements not named in the rolls were part of the manor of Morchard Episcopi, even if it is probable. Given that the records are fragmentary, these might by chance not have received an entry or might not have existed at that period. There is only one direct reference in the rolls to the Manor of Morchard Episcopi and that is to the boundary between the two manors in fields on the Common Hill at Week and Southcott.

There are surveys and extents of the Cornish manors of the Arundells but none in the Cornwall Record Office for their Devon holdings and no estate maps, so it is impossible to say exactly how much land or how many buildings each tenement contained or exactly what land was farmed directly by the Arundells. . Place name spelling is very variable. Comparison of field names with those of the Tithe Records of 1840 is disappointing; many field names no longer exist and others, eg Ryxhey, Gratton, and Elland, are names common to several farms in the parish. However, a Pepper Lake field does exist in 1840 between Woodgate and Middlecot, and there is a Chapmans Cottage and Great and Little Chapmans Fields are recorded near what is now Merchants Corner.

Entries on the rolls are of four kinds: election of court officers; regular payments into court by tenants or their agents; changes in tenancies; regulation of manorial land and property.

Court officers.

The Port, or Reeve, and the Woodward were elected annually in the Manor of Morchard Arundell. The Port would be in charge of collecting rents and supervising agricultural arrangements, while the Woodward supervised the management of the woodland [2]. Where two successive annual elections are recorded it would seem that in Morchard Arundell the Port of one year became the Woodward of the next year.

Changes in tenancies.

These can be interesting, since they tie people to a particular property and with the introduction of tenancies for three lives there is the potential for information on family relationships not available elsewhere. On the death of a tenant, heriot of the best beast was due but more often a fine was paid. A fine was also paid to enter into a property or to add a new life to those remaining on a lease.

The tenancy records also show the size of Middlecot hamlet at this period - at least five, and possibly seven, separate tenements, one of which was new in 1588. Also interesting to note is that one Middlecot tenement in 1586 was held by Matthew Wreyford, his son Richard and wife Rabiegen and that a holding in Middlecot in 1840 Tithe Records was called Wreyford's Middlecot.

Regulation of manorial land and property.

The entries relating to fines for infringements and licences give some indication of current agricultural practices and the obligations of those living on the manor who were not free tenants. There was still open common land and woodland to which tenants had rights although times of access and purpose of access was controlled by the lord of the manor, eg cutting trees without licence was punished with a fine. There was some arable land, but the lord of the manor had the right to decide what fields could be ploughed, what seed could be sewn and what common land could be enclosed or built upon. Tenants had obligations to maintain hedges, ditches, buildings and roads. Many leases issued in 1586 and 1587 required tenants to use the lord's mill at Wigham.


  1. The Cornish Lands of the Arundells of Lanherne, Fourteenth to Sixteenth Centuries, eds Fox H.S.A. & Padel, O.J., Devon & Cornwall Record Society, NS Vol 41, 1998, Intro. Chapter 2.
  2. The Local Historian's Encyclopedia, Richardson J.,1975, Hampton Press

Penny Whicher
July 2002


Brian Randell, 27 Aug 2002