Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

dress “ To the Reader,” enough at once to justify our encomium, and to prosecute our plan of laying before the public, in the words of those who are now actually embarked in undertakings of this description, the priocipal requisites for their performance.

“A general view," he says, “ of the various public and private sources which form the basis of the present work, will more appropriately accompany the termination of the author's labours; whilst, by presenting the leading outline of his plan with the first portion, the expectations of his readers will be regulated, and he may escape much censure for having omitted what he never intended to supply. The rapid accumulation of his materials from continued research in the public offices, and the freedom of access so liberally offered him to valuable MS. collections and private evidences, rendered compression a necessary but increasingly difficult task; and he could, with infinitely more ease, and (paradoxical as it may appear) in much less time, have swelled his work to double the size, than have reduced it within its present limits. In the disposition of his matter he has pursued the order which, after mature deliberation, seemed most natural and consistent; and, by an undeviating adherence to this systematic uniformity, a facility of reference is produced which will supersede any parochial index beyond a list of the places described."

The methodical distribution of the subject in each successive parish, or other local division in which it may suit the topographer to arrange the order of his work, is a point of such obvious convenience and utility, that it may be thought to require little argument to enforce it. Yet it has been much neglected by topographical writers,—and the neglect of it is the principal source of that obscurity and want of visible connexion which render the perusal of works on topography, so generally uninviting and difficult to be followed. But to proceed with the method which Mr. Baker has recommended by his example :

“ The etymology of a parish (he continues) is the first object of inquiry: the most obvious or probable derivations are suggested with diffidence; but he disclaims the talents, had he the space, for etymological disquisitious.

“On the present state of a parish, whether open or enclosed, its extent, principal proprietors, boundaries, soil, and all other points of local information, he has been guided by, and spared no assiduity in procuring the best resident authorities ; but for the uniform accuracy of the statements he ought not, perhaps, to be held personally responsible. In the summary of landed proprietors he has fixed the minimum at 100 acres; and when the aggregate number of acres in a parish exceeds those given in detail, the residue is distributed in smaller estates."

- He next speaks of natural history—a branch of science which we are disposed to consider as not falling (except incidentally) within the legitimate province of the county historianan opinion in which we are glad to find that Mr. Baker upon the whole coincides with us, notwithstanding he has been induced to give it a place in the general arrangement of his subject.* He then proceeds to another branch, which constitutes perhaps the greatest portion of the public utility, while it certainly forms the most difficult and drily laborious department, of a topographical work—the local history of the soil, its territorial divisions, and the succession of its proprietors.

“In the deduction of a manorial property, he has studied to combine perspicuity with brevity. Many parishes were originally composed of different fees, and much confusion and error have arisen from the paramount and mesne interests being blended in the same narrative. He has endeavoured, therefore, to keep them perfectly distinct, and has pursued each fee separately in succession from doomsday to the present time; or, till merging in others, it ceased to be necessary; or, being alienated in parcels, it ceased to be practicable. The heading prefixed serves not only as an index to the doomsday lord, but to the intermediate signories which grew out of successive subinfeudations. Though the paramouncy lost its beneficial value on the abolition of the feudal system, and of the numerous privileges of the superior lord, scarcely any now remain beyond the barren suit and service of a courtleet; yet to the county historian its descent is still of the utmost im

* Nothing seems to us more desirable than that the objects of topographical research should be properly defined and limited; and with this view we should suggest, that whatever tends to render more vivid our recollections of the past, or our impressions of the present historical condition, and local aspect of the territory, is most immediately within the scope of these objects; but the peculiar description and properties of plants, animals, or minerals, common to that district with many others, or to the kingdom at large, are altogether foreign from them, and should no more find a place in a work of this nature than the whole body of the statutes of the realm, or the great scenes acted on the theatre of the world, in which some natives of the district may have performed a part, or by which, in their remote consequences, its interests may have been affected. This is now much better understood than formerly, when it was thought necessary to introduce a mere county history by a memoir on the Druids (at latest) if not a disquisition on the commerce of the Phænicians, or the progress of conquest and civilization westward from Armenia and Scythia, speculations all (doubtless) most entertaining and profitable in themselves, but having no nearer connection with English topography, than the Syriac Versionwith a recipe of Mrs. Rundeil's for making a “ Damascene Pudding." portance, as the tenure frequently furnishes a correct, and indeed the only clue, to the appropriation of the different co-existent manors in a

parish.”

We are not aware that it is possible for the greatest professional learning and accuracy to convey with more precision than is done in these few sentences, the legal definition of the term “manor" in its different bearings upon the soil to which it attaches itself. Every thing, however, is made clearer by exemplification, and we shall take the first instance which presents itself of this manorial subinfeudation in the work before us, to render obvious the lucid and satisfactory nature of the author's arrangement. He is treating of the parish of “ Great Billing," in which, after propounding its etymology, describing its extent and boundaries, the character of its soil and modern improvements in cultivation, giving a list of its plants, and noticing its ancient bridges and corn-mills, he proceeds to its “ MANORIAL HISTORY.” He here informs us that “in the time of Edward the Confessor, Thor held Bellinge and Warped freely, by which it appears that they were Allodial or Folkland, subject to no superior in a feudal, and to the King only in a political capacity.” His estate was confiscated by William the Conqueror, who bestowed it on “ Gilbert the Cook;” but shortly (ówhether," as our author says, “ this distinguished and useful officer died issueless, or his interest in his possessions was merely commensurate with his culinary services,”) it reverted to the Crown, and became subsequently split into two portions or moieties.We next have the history of one of these moieties, distinguished by the name of the “ Meschines or Courcy Fee,” which was obtained by William Meschines, Baron of Coupland and Egremont, and brother to Randle (or Ranulph) Earl of Chester, and are informed that, in the return of Knights' fees (14 Hen. II.) among the feudatories of William Courcy, dapifer, of the barony of Meschines, of his mother's part, William Barre is certified to hold one fee. For this we are referred to the authority of the Liber Niger Scaccarii,"* and are moreover told (in case it

* This book, the Liber Niger, or Black Book of the Exchequer, is one of the most venerable of the many important records preserved in the “ Exchequer of Account," and contains a list of the Knights' fees in several Counties, besides the will of Henry the Second, and several charters of his reign.--(See The first Report on Public Records, p. 139.)

The Liber Rubeus, or Red Book, preserved in the same office, relates to various matters, principally of a later date, and was compiled under Henry III.

should be objected that the barony of Courcy is placed in Somersetshire, and therefore the fee in question cannot be appropriated to the county of Northampton) of numerous instances

This is not the place to enter into an analytical explanation of the nature and objects of the various public records which form the principal store-house of local antiquities; nor would the bare catalogue of them afford any knowledge or gratification. But we may incidentally notice the chief of those which have been lately rendered accessible to public use by the well-directed labours of the Commissioners, to whom our acknowledgments are not more justly due for what they have already accomplished, than from a justifiable anticipation of future and yet more substantial benefits. Not to mention those great and extensive works, the publication of the Statutes at Large, the Federa, and the Parliament Rolls, the nature of which are too generally understood to require explanation, we will briefly advert to those of less universal notoriety, and of which the bare titles do not furnish sufficient notice of the contents. Of these we have

1.-The Abbreviatio Placitorum, containing abstracts of pleadings in causes between individuals, from the reign of the first Richard down to Edward the Second. The earlier of these relate to proceedings in the Curia Regis, which appears to have ceased its functions, or rather branched off into separate judicatures, about the commencement of Henry the Third ; after which, the proceedings here abridged are mostly in the King's Bench. This volume affords insight (as may be expected) into many very curious points of ancient law and parliamentary history.

II. III.—The Calendarium Rotulorum Patentium and Chartarum; being indexes to the Patent and Charter Rolls in the Tower of London, from the reign of John to Edward the Fourth-containing grants from the Crown of offices and lands, restitutions of temporalities to ecclesiastical bodies, fee farms, special liveries, patents of peerage, &c. grants of privileges to corporations, and of markets, fairs, and freewarrens, besides a number of other particulars, of which the above are similar instances.

IV. The Calendarium Rotulurum Originalium-i. e. of the writs called Originalia, the originals of which are preserved in the Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer's Office in the Exchequer,—consisting of extracts transmitted out of Chancery of all Crown grants enrolled, whereon rents are reserved, salaries payable, or services to be performed. They begin with Henry the Third, and go down to a very late date, so low as the Commonwealth. But they are at present published only as far as Edward the Third.

V. Calend. Inquisitionum post Mortem ;. the nature of which sufficiently speaks for itself. The objects of these inquisitions were to enquire of what lands any person died seized, and by what rent or service held; who was the heir, and of what age; whether attaint of treason, aliens, &c. These at present go no farther than Henry the

occurring, in which, lands being parcel of a barony in a distant county, yet for the mutual convenience of the Crown and the subject, as well as to prevent confusion or evasion, the scutage

Fourth, but the original calendars continue to Richard the Third. They are preserved in the Tower,

VI.- Rotuli Hundredorum, or Hundred Rolls. The returns to inquisitions taken under commission (2. Edward I.) for inquiring into abuses alleged to have been committed during the troubles of the preceding reign, from which the treasures of the Crown had sustained considerable injury. The returns so made furnish evidence of all demesne laws, whether ancient or newly acquired, by descent or purchase; of manors formerly in the Crown, how alienated, and by what authority ; of tenants in capite, and lands in ancient demesne; of losses in military service, &c. by subinfeudations; alienations under pretence of frankalmoigne, wardships, marriages, escheats, &c. subtracted or withholden, &c. &c.

VII. Placita de quo warranto. Abstract of proceedings instituted under the statute of Gloucester (6. Edward I.) which statute is founded on the inquisitions taken under the last mentioned commission. The nature of these extremely valuable documents may be judged from what has been said in the preceding article.

VIII.-Testa de Nevill (called also the Liber Feodorum),-containing Nomina Villarum, lands held by Serjeantry and Knights' fees, holden either immediately of the Crown, or under individuals who themselves held of the King in capite ; whether de antiquo or de novo; estates by frankalmoigne; marriages, aids, and scutages, &c. These were taken by inquisition in the times of Henry the Third and Edward the First. Wherein they derived the name of Nevill is uncertain.

IX.-Calendarium Inquisitionum ad quod damnum. These inquisitions were taken by virtue of writs directed to the Escheator of every County, directing him to enquire whether it would be to the prejudice of the Crown to make certain grants (as of fairs, markets, &c.) at the solicitation of individuals. They extend from Edward the Second to 38. Henry VI. and the originals are preserved in the Tower.

X.-Nonarum Inquisitiones. These were founded on statute 14. and 15. Edward III. for a subsidy, whereon an assessment was made in every county of the value of wool, lambs, and corn, and (in cities and boroughs) of the amount of personal goods and chattels, In this collection several entire counties are deficient.

To these may be added the Taxation of Pope Nicholas and the Ecclesiastical Taxation under Henry the Eighth, besides the several Rolls, &c. exclusively relating to Scotland. But the short sketch we here give will be sufficient for the instruction of those who, not having the publications at hand to refer to, must frequently be perplexed by references in books of county history and topography to original documents, of the nature of which they must be incapable of forming any idea.

« AnteriorContinuar »