The Hadleigh SocietyMay 2012
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Nominations are invited from any member of the Hadleigh Society for an award to be made in recognition of ‘Outstanding improvements to, or conservation of, Hadleigh’s buildings or environment’

In deciding to make an award the Society’s Executive Committee and any expert they may wish to consult, will be considering how sympathetic the work is with its surroundings and how well it integrates with them. They will expect all work to display a high quality of workmanship and to be an example of good practice.

Nominations should include details of the improvement made or of work carried out and should be sent to the Hon. Secretary.


The Medieval Manor of Hadleigh

Summary of the talk given by Margaret Woods on 12 December 2011


N.B. The information relating specifically to Hadleigh & its people in the 13th & 14th centuries comes from Margaret’s translations of the original documents relating to the medieval manor of Hadleigh

In the Middle Ages Hadleigh Manor was the chief manor within the Hadleigh area. All manors had the right to hold manorial courts - dealing with manorial misdemeanours e.g. tenants not paying rent or not performing their specified labour services – but the chief manor was authorised by royal decree to hold leet courts on behalf of the whole parish and all its manors. Hadleigh Manor, through its leet court, was responsible for justice in relation to minor criminal activities such as assault, robbery, highway offences, breaches of the peace and retail infringements; it also managed the ale and bread assizes. Additionally the leet conducted checks on the frankpledge system whereby all males over 12 had to be in a tithing  (a group of 10) with responsibility for each other’s actions and fines. The chief manor was also duty bound to build and maintain the parish gallows, ducking stool (which for Hadleigh was in the pond of the corn mill), stocks and pillory (situated opposite St Mary’s Church).  The resulting leet court fines brought considerable extra income to the chief manor.

Margaret then traced the lordship of the Manor of Hadleigh from the earliest documented lord, Ealdorman Byrhtnoth, who in AD 991 bequeathed the manor to the Church of the Saviour of Canterbury (the Cathedral) in fact, as Margaret’s most recent research had shown, the bequest was almost certainly to the community of secular clergy and monks attached to the cathedral.  At this stage the Archbishops of Canterbury were the lords of Hadleigh manor. The priory or monastery of the Church of Christ of Canterbury was formally established a century or so later, with the Prior and the Convent i.e. the community of monks, becoming the lords of Hadleigh manor until the time of the priory’s dissolution. Responsibility for all the priory’s manors duly passed to the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral (the new Lords of the Manor) until 1862 when Hadleigh manor was sold into private ownership.

Next came a brief account of the Manor of Hadleigh during the mid 13th to the late 14th  century. The day to day management of our manor, or what to a large extent was a farm, was undertaken by 2 or 3 reeves until the 14th century when serjeants assumed the role; the latter  were paid but also retained the assistance of reeves. Being reeve was an unpopular post because there was a great deal of responsibility with no salary, although there were several perks attached. Other servants involved in the running of the manor were the hay-ward, reap-reeve, shepherd, cowman, swineherd and housemaid – all were paid a wage and given tips at Christmas and Easter.

A description followed of Hadleigh manorial enclosure with the medieval manor house, which had been rebuilt in 1297. According to our Hadleigh Society President (JB) this 13th century house was on the actual site of today’s Hadleigh Hall although the medieval enclosure was considerably larger at around 4 acres from the river to the king’s highway (the current High Street). Margaret had drawn a map of what, at this stage in her research and translations, she believed the enclosure might have looked like. Firstly there were walls made of wattle and daub all around; these had tiled roofs with ridged tiles along the centre. There were 3 gates – the great gate or main entrance possibly opening onto what is now Pound Lane, the second gate opened onto the churchyard to the north of St Mary’s Church and the third onto the Tyefield where the Brett Works are today. All three gates had tiled and crested roofs and the manorial accounts suggest their locks were kept in good repair.

Also within the enclosure was a courtyard, seemingly on the northern side of the manor hall. The garden with its pond was at the rear of the house on the southern side towards the river as was the detached kitchen which was completely rebuilt and refurbished in 1334. A detached chapel containing its own vestments, missal and chalice was close by the pound in front of the manor house.  Several farm buildings were present on the site – these included 5 barns, a pig-sty, cattle shed, cart-house, hen house and 2 stables – one for visitors’ palfreys and the other presumably for the work horses. The dovecote on the site was a privilege only accorded to lords of the manor. Every single one of these buildings, even the hen and pig houses, prestigiously had a tiled roof with ridge tiles. The pound, appearing to be within the manorial enclosure at the end of what is now Pound Lane, provided a secure lock-up for stray beasts and animals or chattels impounded when folks could not pay their fines in court.

In her translations Margaret had come across other manorial buildings outside Hadleigh manor house enclosure. Most important were the two watermills – one for fulling cloth and the other for grinding corn; both were kept in excellent repair and brought a very respectable income to the manor. Seven shops were leased out by the manor and there was a salt-house for storing salt to preserve meat and fish; salters Agnes, John and Richard presumably worked there. Dye houses were rented out to dyers along Hadleigh river banks – on the Tyefield (now the allotments and the Brett Works site), at Benton and also at Bradfield. Very importantly mention of Nicholas the Master of Scholars in a 1276 court roll indicates that Hadleigh (though not necessarily the manor) had a very early grammar school.

The talk continued with Margaret describing the different types of demesne land within Hadleigh Manor acreage – arable, woodland, pasture and meadow; her translations had also revealed two commons and a great deal of tenanted land held by the free and customary tenants; the latter unfree tenants had to undertake labour services several days a week i.e. ploughing, digging, reaping, mowing threshing carting etc as well as paying rent and regularly attending court.

Animals owned by the manor were listed next - sheep, cows, oxen, cart horses, draught horses, pigs, various types of poultry and doves - flocks and herds were never allowed to increase, any surplus was always sold. The tenants also kept animals; Margaret gave a few examples extracted from the manuscripts:

-           John of Eweney was fined 3d for trespassing in the lord’s corn with his sheep & 3 bullocks;

-          Richard Firy was fined 6d for taking & detaining 14 of Adam Basset’s sheep;

-          rather cheekily Stephen  Cornloader was found in the night pasturing his horse in Isabel Sugge’s pasture.


The presentation was brought to an end with Margaret introducing some of the ordinary folks living in medieval Hadleigh through consideration of their surnames e.g. telling their

-          place of residence or origin e.g   Hugh of Benton, Bartholomew of Sudbury;

-          location within Hadleigh e.g.   William ate Hill, Letitia ate Church;

-          profession/occupation e.g.  Nicholas the Clerk, Gerard the Carpenter, Luke the Baker, Richard the Smith, William the Dyer, Vincent the Fuller, Geoffrey the Weaver. 

Lastly a few individuals were identified having been named for a personal characteristic or given a nickname e.g. Petronella Bigeleg, John le Devil, Hugh le Halte (Hugh the Lame); Richard the Little, Bartholomew the Long and Nicholas Garleberd.