Tudor Monkton Farleigh

Monkton Farleigh, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


A search for field-names in Monkton Farleigh’s Court Rolls has unexpectedly shone a light on village life in Elizabethan times. The rolls, dating from 1574 to 1600, are written in Latin with occasional English and French words.

Monkton Farleigh Court roll

The head of the Monkton Farleigh Court Leet Roll of 1581; the Cornwallis family (highlit in red) leased the manor at the time (Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre WSHC 34/19)


The court proceedings are split between the Court Leet and the Court Baron. The Court Leet appointed manorial officials such as the constable, tithingman and supervisors of cattle on the common field. It acted as a small claims court and appointed two men to enforce the Assize of Bread and Ale, which regulated the size and price of loaves and the sale of beer. The Court Leet also fined the whole tithing for failure to obey national statutes such as the wearing of a certain type of hat, the killing of crows, and the requirement of all citizens to practise archery. There was a 3d (3 old pence) fine for playing football, which was banned between 1314 and 1667.

The Court Baron administered the Customs of the Manor and the rolls record the payment of a heriot (gift) of the son’s best beast so that he could succeed his father. A copy of the entry in the court roll provided evidence of ownership leading to the term copyhold. Offences against the Customs of the Manor, such as failure to scour ditches or cut hedges, led to a fine. A typical annual house rent was 2s 8d (2 shillings and 8 pence) and two chickens. Tenants were frequently required to repair their houses, barns and farm buildings and from this we can deduce that most houses were thatched and had timber frames.

Eight houses needed repairs in 1587, but tenants were allowed up to two years to carry them out before being fined. The manor provided stone and wood for repairs free of charge, which tempted some wily tenants to sell them on. John Baker was fined twelve pence in 1579 for taking a cartload of stone outside the manor and in 1588 John Grant, whose house had burnt down, was fined 2 shillings for selling 4 posts and 5 rails allocated for its rebuilding. Areas of life which we would regard as personal were also subject to court scrutiny. In 1582 Richard Sorter was fined 3s 4d  for living with a pregnant woman who was not his wife. Fines were a lucrative source of income for the Queen and in 1584 totalled 24s 4d.

map of Elizabethan Monkton Farleigh

The 16th century manor consisted of a mixture of enclosed and common fields and included property in Box and South Wraxall. The common fields were the Overfield, the Netherfield and the Little Field