An Award in the Northam Cause (1716)

Document drawn up 20 July 1716 entitled ‘An Award in the Northam Cause’, by John Benson merchant of Northam, and George Buck of Bideford.

To clarify the rights, customs and privileges which Roger Melhuish Lord of the Manor at Northam, and the people of Northam had over the land in Northam.

North Devon Record Office ref: 2863/4

Transcribed by David Carter 2018

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To all Christian People to whom these presents shall come. We George Buck of Bideford in the County of Devon, esq. and John Benson the younger of Northam in the said County, merchant, send greetings.

Whereas divers suits and controversies have been moved, laid presented and now depending between Roger Melhuish as Lord of the Manor of Northam and Richard Vernon and others concerned in trade and interested in the said parish of Northam on behalf of themselves and others in relation to the customs and privileges of the said manor. And whereas for ascertaining and explaining and settling the ancient customs, and determining the said law suit and preventing future controversy the said parties, complainants and defendants have by their instruments under their hands and seals dated the twentieth day of July in the year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixteen authorised and empowered the said George Buck and John Benson to inspect and inform ourselves of the nature of the said customs and usages in the said parish and to make such award thereon as in one prudence and judgement shall seem meet and with that end and in just manner of the aforesaid power we having considered the matter aforesaid do award as follows and declare that the Lord of the Manor shall enjoy the privileges thereon, and all other persons their rights and immunities as is hereinafter expressed according to ancient usage and custom upon which this Agreement is founded, that is to say:

First. That all persons being seized or possessed of lands in the said parish lying towards the River Torridge shall enjoy the same in full right down to low water without molestation to use or convert the same into building at their own will and pleasure as they may to any part of their estates, as far as the law will admit. But not to prejudice or stop the accustomed ways from one place to another or hinder the placing of posts in the ground for the mooring or fastening of ships or vessels, nor shall they incommode any parts of such piers and places as ships or vessels usually ride in or lie upon, nor render inconvenient the landing or unloading piers, goods, graving, and repair anywhere within the said parish without leave let interruption or payment of or to any person whatsoever for so doing.

Secondly. That no demand shall be made by any person or persons on any other person or persons for the laying of limestones on any place within the said parish by the Lord of the Manor only and that any person or persons may bring his or their ship, barque, or boats to any place for her safe lying or riding and moor her or them to any post or place used for mooring without any tolls let hindrance or molestation of any person or persons whatsoever where ships or vessels usually lie and moor and that barques or vessels bringing limestones and unloading them within the said manor shall have free liberty to do so in the usual place for so doing for every barque or vessels load thereof and for each time shall be paid to the lord of the Manor the sum of two pence and no more.

Thirdly. That no ship or vessel belonging to Bideford, Barnstaple, or Appledore or any place other within the manor or parish shall pay Topage, Keelage, Anchorage, or Mooridge within the said parish either in whole, or if concerned in any part of any ship or vessels whatsoever. But for foreigners and strangers may pay for their ship and vessel and for their parts of such ship or vessel as is customary.

Fourthly. That all vessels laden with coals or culms breaking bulk and discharging the same within the manor shall pay one bushel of coals or culm containing one and twenty and half gallons to the Lord of the Manor for the use of his bushel, but if the vessel be laden with both sorts, the Lord of the Manor shall then have but one bushel of what the greatest part of the cargo consists of whether coals or culm and finding proper measure for measuring same.

Fifthly. Any ship discharging salt shall deliver to the Lord of the Manor, if demanded one bushel of salt of eighty-four pounds weight, he paying the duties by law.

Sixthly. Any vessel belonging to Northam discharging corn or grain within the manor shall pay to the Lord of the Manor for the use of his bushel one bushel of eight gallons if demanded, he paying the duties thereof if any is or shall be demanded but any other vessel discharging corn or grain to pay fourteen gallons, the lord of the Manor providing all weights and measures requisite and supplying same to all vessels so discharging without any neglect, refusal or delay for so doing and that all other person and persons to be debarred from keeping Bushels for the said purpose.

Seventhly. Any vessel belonging to any person or persons of the parish of Northam importing corn or grain under forty bushels, the rest of the cargo being coals or culm the lord of the manor not to have bushel due for the corn but for the coals or culm only, and any vessel as aforesaid shall only pay one bushel of the sorts of which the cargo does mostly consist.

Eighthly. That it shall be free for all persons without leave to break ground in all such places as is usual for the refitting or repairing of their ships or vessels, filling up same after they have done, for all of which nothing shall be demanded or paid for any ship or vessel belonging to the said parish of Northam and no more than three pence for each time shall be paid to the Lord of the Manor only for all ships or vessels belonging to any other port or place.

Ninthly. That it shall be free for all persons whatsoever to take any ballast for any sort at and from the usual places of taking ballast within the said port harbour or parish of Northam without any leave let denial or refusal from the Lord of the Manor, or any other person whatsoever, and that without paying no manner of acknowledgement for so doing, but whereas the taking of large stones from Greason Hill has been of prejudice to the Burrows and to the lands within side, for which reason one shilling per boat has been paid to the Lord of the Manor, it is considered that the same shall be continued to be paid. But whereas the taking of stones from the Pulleys by Greason is of service to the clearing of the port, it is agreed that nothing shall be paid or demanded for any stones taken or brought from them by any persons whatsoever; but we do hereby award that all or any of the inhabitants of the said parish of Northam shall or may at any time or times hereafter take and carry away stones from Greason Hill or from the Pulleys for their own use occasion to be used within the said parish without anything to be paid craved or demanded for same.

Tenthly. It is agreed between all the parties that the Burrows commonly called Northam Burrows or Common is and shall be enjoyed by the inhabitants of the said parish as hath been the ancient enjoyment and custom (neither shall any person whatsoever have claim or be entitled to privilege or benefit, interest or enjoyment upon or out of the said Burrows or Common but as and in common with the inhabitants of the said parish) and that no person shall be permitted to take any sod turfs or soils from the said Burrows for his own use, but this shall not be understood to hinder any person from taking any sand freely for manuring land so that the same is taken from outside the Chissol Ridge or the sand and gravel near Greason Lake where it is usually taken for that purpose; and where as it is usually pronounced to be an ancient custom for the parish to be under the government or direction of twenty four men, and there have been rules or methods kept up for the better preservation of the said Commons to elect four by the majority of the 24 as overseers to see the boundaries, roads and fences to be kept and preserved for the better security of the said Burrows or Commons, and not to be overstinted or overstocked with cattle, horses, sheep etc, we do consider this a very laudable custom and ought to be continued for time to come.

Eleventhly. That all persons shall have free liberty to moor passage boats for carrying persons, horses, goods for hire etc, to and from Appledore over the Taw and Torridge paying the Lord of the Manor of Northam two shillings and sixpence per annum and no more, and all persons shall have free liberty without payment to the Lord of the Manor to use their own boats for such passage for their own use.

Twelfthly. That free tenants of the said Manor holdings of and paying high and chief rent to the Lord of the Manor and dying within the same shall pay on death of such free tenants for a release as much as such rent is for one year and no more. And because alienations have been from time to time presented in the Lord's Court, and nothing paid thereupon to the Lord, we do apprehend there in none due but that such presentments served to no other purpose than that the lord of the Manor might thereby be informed who are his tenants and from whom to receive rents.

Thirteenthly. Free tenants of the said manor holding of and enjoying lands within the said manor and paying high and chief rents to the Lord thereof, and dying out of the said manor shall pay for a period on the death of such person one bushel of wheat in such manner and for such estates as have formerly and rightfully paid the same on the death of such free tenants, and no more.

Fourteenthly. That no herriott or best beast shall become due to the Lord from any free tenant dying within the manor but for such estates within the said manor as can be made appear have within eighty years last past rightfully paid a best beast for a herriott for the same estate or estates, and where any such herriott or best beast shall become due or payable, such tenant or tenants (liable to pay herriotts) shall be exempted from paying the high and chief rent for a releife expressed in the twelfth article. And where any messuage or tenement hath been or shall be divided or branched out into several parts no herriott or best beast shall be demanded or paid by or from any of the said branches or part so divided but from such mansion house or tenement only from which the said branches or parts were taken and severed.

Fifteenthly and Lastly. We do award that each party complainants and defendants shall stand to and bear their own costs and charges whatsoever in the law which may have been at, and that from the time forward all proceedings in the law (for the suits) shall cease and that this award these articles and orders shall be forthwith drawn up in order to be registered and enrolled in such manner and in such Court as council shall advise as also to be laid up in the vestry of the said parish to have recourse thereto on any occasion of dispute or difference hereafter between the Lord and parishioners or tenants or merchants and traders concerned within the manor and the said enrolment to serve for the preferring the same. And for as much as there my have been several arrears and other dues the receiving thereof may have been omitted by the Lord during the present dispute in law, the same shall not hereafter be brought in question nor ever demanded by the Lord or any other person whatsoever but the same shall be utterly lost and remitted home to the day or the date of this present award as if never had been due (rents, hire for passage, suits of court, amercements, boatidge for stones and bushelage only excepted). In consideration whereof the said defendants shall pay all the future charges of drawing these Instruments, counsels fees thereon, copying and engrossing, registering and enrolling and all incidents thereon, so as the same be done without further suit in law or equity and to the intent that this one award may be duly observed by all parties concerned herein from time to time and at all times forever hereafter we do therefore hereby order and direct the said complainants and defendants within one week next after the publication hereof to seal and execute his judgement & issue consent and approval for to the same. But if either of the said parties should refuse to seal the said instrument of award yet still it shall stand and remain in its full force and virtue.

In Witness whereof we the said arbitrators have hereunto set our hands and seals in Bideford this three and twentieth day of July one thousand seven hundred and sixteen 1716.

Signed sealed and delivered by the within named: George Buck esq and John Benson the arbitrators within named as their award in the presence of us: Hartwell Buck, Narcissus Hatherly.

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