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Norfolk, Depwade District, Forncett St.Peter, Parish Information, 1400-1565

Document Reference: A record of Bonded families in the manor of Forncett

Transcribed by: Richard Green
Date Added: March 19, 2002

These extracts are taken from "The Economic Development of a Norfolk Manor" by F G Davenport, published by Augustus M Kelly, New York 1906. They refer to the manor of Forncett, encompassing the parishes of Forncett St Mary and Forncett St Peter.

Their origins lie in the manor rolls which may be seen at the Norwich Records Office and the family descriptions are sketchy in this account: those who wish to look closer should visit the rolls.

Notes: Some definitions may be helpful to the reader unfamiliar with the times:

Alienating - People who held land direct from the Crown had to obtain a licence to dispose of such property; this was known as a licence to alienate - the records of which are held by the Public Record Office.

Attachment was seizure or taking into custody by virtue of a legal process or the writ or percept commanding such seizure or taking.

Bondsmen were tied to the manor, and were only allowed to leave if they had a license from the lord of the manor and paid chevage - a sum in lieu of work which they would otherwise have provided for the lord.

Demesne was land reserved by the lord of a manor for the use of himself and household.

Manumission was freeing from bondage by law.

A Messuage was a dwelling house with outbuildings and land assigned to its use.

Seizin was possession of land coupled with the right to possess it. Thus to be siezed of land meant that the right to possess it was recognised. It was granted from the previous owner by cutting a sod of grass from the land and handing it to the new owner.

There were 19 bond families holding land of Forncett Manor after 1400, as follows:


In 1404 John, son of the bondman William AUNFREY was remaining away from Forncett manor without license fron the lord. A few years later, his father sold the land and joined his son. Apparently neither father nor son paid chevage or returned to the manor. It looks as if they had freed themselves by withdrawing from Forncett.


From 1400 to 1444 Nicholas BAKFYN dwelt in Norwich and paid chevage. His father died in 1408 seized of 7 acres of land which passed to Nicholas. This land Nicholas seems to have alienated within a few years of his father¹s death. After 1444 the name of Nicholas ceases to appear on the list of those tenants paying chevage, so that his death probably occurred about this time. Either he left no descendants or in some way the ties had been severed which would have bound them as serfs to Forncett Manor.


About the year 1422 five bondmen of this name were connected with the manor. Of these, two died without male descendants; a third dwelt outside the manor for several years and paid chevage until his death; a fourth fled, and though the order to ³attach² him was repeated at several courts it never seems to have been executed. Thus, in consequence of the failure of male heirs and of withdrawal from the manor, only one branch of the family retained its servile status.

The mambers of this family held from 10 to 20 acres apiece. The wills of John BAXTER who died in 1544 and of his widow who died 6 years later are both recorded in the rolls, and indicate that the family were in comfortable circumstances. John¹s real property consisted of two messuages and ten and a half acres; his chattels were valued at £8 -5s - 4d. His widow bequeathed two mares, a colt, nine cows, two bullocks, pigs, fowls, clothing and various household furnishings. John left a son, Thomas. The references that are made to Thomas in his parents¹ wills give us an unfavourable impression of his character. In 1556 it is recorded that Thomas had been convicted of felonies, and that by reason of his attainture all his land had escheated to the lord. For one year he paid chevage, and after that we hear no more of him.

In the latter part of the 15th century there were two chevage-paying bondmen of this name. William BAXTER is also named as remaining in London from 1524 to 1527.
Bteween 1525 and 1556 John BAXTER of Tivetshall and his children paid chevage. In 1556 a writ of manumission was granted by the Duke which freed John, his children and all their descendants "from the yoke of servitude" At the same time 4 other families were freed besides the Baxters, the writs of manumission being practically the same in all cases. Each writ was said to have been granted "in consideration of certain sums of money.2

We have a probable clue to the amount paid in one instance: for just before his manumission one of the manumitted serfs surrendered his lands to two tenants on condition they pay to the Duke the sum of £120.


In 1443 Roger BOLE died, siezed of one messuage and one and threequarter acres. The rather small fines paid by his children for licence to marry are explained on the ground of poverty. Shortly before his death in 1467 Roger¹s son Robert was seized of four and a half acres which passed to Walter BOLE. Walter seems to have alienated this land. What became of him afterwards does not appear. His son paid chevage from 1446 to 1472. Between 1428 and 1506 three other bondmen paid chevage.

A second son of Roger BOLE died in 1477, seized of a messuage and 22 acres. He was also a lessee of the manor of Williams for which a yearly rent of £8 6s 8d was paid. Apparently this branch became extinct in the male line early in the sixteenth century.


The most noteworthy circumstances of this family in the 15th century are the relatively large amounts of land held by some of its members. Thus in 1410 one tenant had 78 acres and 4 messuages, and two others, possibly heirs of the first had 44 acres in 1425 and 1474 respectively. Most of the other tenants held from 4 - 6 acres although one held as much as 16 and another less than 2 acres.

In 1500 there were 4 tenants of this name. Of these one appears to have left the manor and to have become a chevage paying tenant. A second also surrendered his land and paid chevage from a neighbouring village.

In 1524, a few months before his death, the third tenant, Walter BOLITOUT held land to the value of £40. At this time he had two married daughters but no sons and bargained with his son-in-law John CRANE, with a view to transferring to John all his lands and tenements. But Walter¹s other son-in-law, John ROO, felt that he would be injured by this transaction and tried to prove that the bargain had not been effected...

The fourth tenant, William BOLITOUT, held at least 30 acres at his death in 1551. One of his sons died in 1538. His goods were valued at £4 4s 2d. He left two infant sons who never became tenants of the manor. Williams second son, a carpenter, held a messuage and 3 acres, and in 1556 he and his descendants were manumitted.

After 1556 the only chevage paying serfs were of the family of Robert Bolitout. In 1575, Robert Bolitout and his children paid chevage for the last time; that year serfdom came to an end in Forncett.


In 1428 William BREAKEST died, siezed of one messuage and 14 acres. Richard, his brother and heir took the land but in the same court alienated it to a tenant of a different family, after which Richard did not leave the vill and although still living in Forncett he paid chevage because he was not a tenant of the manor. Two years late he paid 6d for a license to live in Metfield, Suffolk. In 1432 he had fled from Metfield and paid no chevage. It was therefore ordered that he be attached: the next year the order was repeated and this is the last record in Forncett relating to the BREAKEST family.


In 1404 Christina, daughter of Robert COLIOUR, paid a fine for a license to marry. Robert had died before 1400 and his land had passed to his daughters.


A member of this family, R. DOSY, died in 1447, siezed of 5 messuages and 52 acres. In 1487 his son John DOSY died siezed of 5 messuages, two half messuages and 60 acres. In 1500 there were three tenants of the name DOSY. John died 1506 without descendants. He held two messuages and 110 acres to . His money bequests amounted to between £9 and £10. He left a legacy to a woman servant.

The second tenant, Thomas, held at his death one messuage and 5 1/4 acres. His son seems to have been one of the chevage paying serfs.

The third was seized of 7 messuages, two half messuages and 86 acres. It was the oldest son of this tenant who in 1556 was manumitted, together with his children.


Just before his death in 1429, a tenant of this name surrendered to his daughter one messuage and 15 acres. In 1435 another of this name alienated one and a half acres. This is the last time someone of this name appears - no one of the name ever paid chevage.


William GREY died in 1412, seized of one messuage, two pightles (meadows) and ten and a half acres. His land was inherited by his daughter.


One member of this family paid chevage in 1400 and 1401. In the 15th century three tenants held small quantities of land. In 1501 the last of these, Johannis HAUGHNE, died seized of 13 1/2 acres which passed to his daughter and heir. He left to his wife Annys a croft and two and a half acres.


Within the first half of the 15th century three tenants of this name held from four and a half acres to thirteen and a half acres. The branch seems to have failed in the male line by 1444 - at any rate the land did not pass to male heirs. In the early years of the 15th century 3 serfs paid chevage. One returned to the manor as a tenant, one fled, and the orders to attach him seem never have been executed.


Members of this family held thirteen and a quarter acres in 1433, eighteen and a half acres in 1469 and twenty and three quarters acres in 1493. The last male representative, Roger HYLLING, died in 1506 holding land of 5 different manors, 25 of which were of Forncett Manor.

A HYLLING died in 1536 without male heirs. In 1556 the members of the family were manumitted.


There were three male tenants of this name each of whom held between 25 and 30 acres. The holding of thr first went to his son Peter; the greater part of the land held by Peter passed to his daughter. The third tenant surrendered his 25 acres in 1461 and he cannot be further traced.

Later, 4 bondmen paid chevage. One of these died in 1505 holding land, though not of Forncett Manor, one of his sons ceasing to pay chevage because he had suddenly left the country, and another failed to pay chevage on account of poverty.


Robert HELOT who died in 1401 is probably ... the man of the same name who in 1378 leased the manor of Williams and the demesne of Forncett Manor. Shortly before his death he was seized of 6 messuages and 160 acres. After his death it was ordered to seize 236 acres that had passed through his hands and were held by divers tenants whose title was not clear. His widow was fined £6 13s for having withdrawn the goods and chattels of Robert out of the lord¹s domain.

HOULOT's property passed to his daughter and heir, Margaret. In 1408, Margaret and her husband surrendered a small amount of land on condition that incoming tenants should make cloth for them and their servant during their lives, or else pay 2s yearly.


Three generations of this family lived in the latter part of the 15th century, holding respectively two messuages and seventeen and a half acres, two messuages and 28 acres and 25 acres. In 1501 the last of these sold his land, remained in Forncett with the rector and paid chevage until his death in 1503.

At the same time two bondmen and in the 16th century two or three bondmen, one of whom was poor, paid chevage.


In 1401 it was ordered to attach a serf of this name who was in Norwich.

A tenant called LOUND died in 1447, siezed of 8 acres. The land passed to his daughter who was poor.

Between 1447 and 1556 5 serfs paid chevage, and in 1555, Thomas LOUND , dwelling in Martham paid chevage for the last time. It would appear that he or a descendant was living in Martham 20 years later, for Sir Henry LEE, of the Manor of Forncett claimed Thomas LOUND of Martham as a bondman, and doubtless compelled him to buy his freedom.


In 1404 account is rendered of the issue of one acre "quam Robertus PALLE recusavit tenere et reliquit in manus domine". In 1405 Robert, described as 'nativus' surrendered two acres to the use of another tenant. In a roll of 1432 it is recorded that one acre that had escheated upon the death of Robert PALLE, nativus, without heir had been let to farm.


In the fifteenth century some six tenants of this name held land - from 4 to 8 acres. One tenant leased 12 1/2 acres and afterwards his son leased the same. Later 14 acres of demesne land was leased by a father and son. In 1500 a PELET was seized of 4 messuages and 24 acres. The last to hold land in Forncett surrendered it in 1527 and shortly thereafter fled to Essex, paying no chevage.

© Copyright 2001-2017, Andrew Rivett, Geoff Lowe