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La dette et le juge

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Julie Claustre

Peasant debt in English manorial courts: form and nature

La dette paysanne dans les cours manoriales anglaises : forme et nature

Phillipp R. Schofield

Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 See, for instance, C. D. Briggs, “Creditors and debtors and their relationships at Oakington, Cotte (...)

1Investigation of the evidence of indebtedness in English manorial courts of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, has, to date, presented us with a seemingly unavoidable truth, namely that the majority of debts escape the record.1 For the greater part, the record of debt in these courts is essentially that –a record of debt not of credit, a record of attempts to recover debt far more than a record of credit extended at or proximate to the moment that it was extended. That said, and allowing for the fact, which seems almost certain, that the majority of debts created in the medieval village were created orally, it may be the case that a small number, likely a very small number, of debts were established as credit agreements in a written form and were identified and recorded in the manor court at their inception. In this paper, I wish to analyse –for a series of roles of a seigneurial court for the manor of Hinderclay, a manor of the abbey of Bury St Edmunds in the county of Suffolk– credit and debt recorded in the manor court. If it is impossible to establish the proportion of types of debt created in the village, it may at least be possible to suggest a proportion of loans registered at the inception of the debt (recognisances registered in the manorial rolls) in relation to the number of debt cases recorded in the manorial court over a particular period. But even in this limited aspiration we can do no more than propose since, as Julie Mayade-Claustre has written in the orientations scientifiques for this round table, the distinction between a juridiction gracieuse and a juridiction contentieuse is often extremely difficult to identify in the manor court, a point to which we shall return. The attempt to make this distinction is, however, appropriate and worthwhile for students of the manor court and of the village economy in the middle ages. It is particularly important for historians of credit and indebtedness, of course, since the establishment of a clear distinction between the inception of debt and its recovery, as recorded in the manor court rolls, encourages renewed and nuanced reflection on the nature of that local economy and processes of change within it. It also, of course, permits a greater comprehension of law and of legal mechanisms, including a stronger sense of when and why medieval peasants turned to law as part of dispute settlement or, in the case of enrolled debts at inception, in anticipation of dispute settlement.

  1. I would like to begin with some few examples of those entries that come closest to being identifiably court roll recognisances. These are very rare in the manorial court rolls and most clearly meet our sense of a juridiction gracieuse.

  2. We should also consider the possibility that a proportion of all debts recorded in the manor court and which, unlike “true” recognizances, appear to be the products of a juridiction contentieuse, were actually also the products of that same juridiction gracieuse. In order to test this identity of jurisdiction and the place and role of indebtedness within it, it will be necessary to offer a close analysis of debt cases; this will include both an attempt to establish a chronology for the recording of debt in the manor court as well as an exploration of the nature of the debt agreements found in the manor court rolls for the period c. 1250 to c. 1320.

i) Juridiction gracieuse: the extension of credit and the court-roll recognizance

2We can certainly find the occasional example of what appears to be a credit agreement recorded in the manor court rolls at its inception. These entries appear to meet our expectations of what a recognizance should be, that is a recognition of a debt at or near the point of its inception and for which the creditor is not yet seeking recovery but is securing, through the recognizance, a record which can be set against future recovery. In this detailed form they are extremely rare in the record; in fact, only three possible examples survive from the extant Hinderclay manor court rolls for the period of this investigation. In two of the three instances the abbreviation cogn’[cognotio] is inscribed in the margin to the left of the full entry; this clearly adds force to the identification of these two entries, at least, as true recognizances.

  • 2 Hinderclay, court of 17 January 1282, Adam Toly cognouit in plena curia se teneri Willelmum Jilium (...)
  • 3 Hinderclay, court of 14 January 1284, Cogn’. Thomas Buton cognovit in plena curia se teneri Robertu (...)
  • 4 Hinderclay, court of 24 February 1323, Cogn’. Adam atte Grop venit in plena curia et cognouit se te (...)

3In an entry in the January court of 1282, Adam Toly cognovit se teneri –conceded that he should pay– a certain quantity of wheat to William and Simon. Important in this entry, in that it presents us with a sense of future performance on the part of both parties and third parties to the contract, is the stipulation relating to repayment.2 In January 1284, Thomas Buton recognised in full court that he owed Robert the son of Luke a sum of money which was to be repaid at the feast of the Blessed Mary next coming. Two pledges stood as security.3 More than forty years after this example we find another example in the Hinderclay rolls, where Adam atte Grop recognised a debt of 30s. in silver owed to a William Duke.4

4While these very few and relatively elaborate instances may well be actual recognisances, they share certain features with other entries in the manor court rolls, and especially for entries recorded in the court rolls from c. 1280. These other entries, however, typically lack some of the most important elements we have identified above: in particular, the stipulation of detailed terms of future recovery, terms which suggest the establishment of a contract and not recovery arising from a failed contract, and a marginal label of “recognizance”. But are these “thinner” entries in the court rolls also written evidence for the establishment of a contract in the manorial court or do they describe something other than the establishment of a debt, namely its recovery?

(ii) The development of personal pleas in debt in the manor court in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries

  • 5 On presentment, see J.S. Beckerman, “Procedural innovation and institutional change in medieval Eng (...)
  • 6 Hinderclay, court of 4 Nov. 1258, xiid. Walterus le Rede in misericordia quia non invenit Ricardo T (...)

5References to inter-personal debt and credit are scant in the Hinderclay court rolls from the third quartile of the thirteenth century. In the earliest surviving rolls of the manor court at Hinderclay, there are, in fact, no personal actions for debt recorded. Instead, we find, with no great frequency, presentments of obligations and these are recorded in the most summary of fashion.5 They are not, however, without value or information. In particular, the record of presentment of debt, the earliest examples of which are given below, prove in the record the existence of debts which were not registered in the rolls at their inception.6 Presentments for debt look to be clear indications of post factum reference to credit contracts; presentments for debt in this form are much less evident in the rolls after c.1280.

  • 7 Hinderclay, court of 21 December 1268, Datus est dies Waltero le Rede cum lege una se ui manu quod (...)
  • 8 For instance, three years later, in December 1271, a P? Manclere and Willelmus Hubert acknowledged (...)
  • 9 Hinderclay, court of 20 March 1273, iiid. de Roberto le Brun iiid. pro auxilio ad recuperandum debi (...)
  • 10 Hinderclay, court of 25 October 1283, Nicholus le Wodeward in misericordia pro iniusta detencione b (...)

6The first instance of a personal plea which makes reference to debt occurs in the rolls of court for December 1268, when Walter le Rede defended himself with witnesses in a plea of debt for 7d.7 In the years that follow this first instance, we find, increasingly, a number of examples where the manorial court at Hinderclay was employed as a forum for the commencement of interpersonal litigation involving peasant suitors.8 For example, in a court held in March 1273, one Robert le Brun paid 3d. for aid (auxilium) from the lord in recovering a debt of undisclosed amount.9 A decade later, in October 1283, John le King found two pledges, Nicholas le Wodeward and Ralph Faber, that he would pay Robert the son of Luke a sum of malt worth 2s. 6d. by the following Christmas; if he failed the lord of the manor court would receive a penalty of 2s. Preceding entries relating to pleas in debt also in the same court may indicate a heightening of recourse to litigation by this decade.10

  • 11 Hinderclay, court of 6 Nov. 1280,... cognovit se debere... iis vid et habet diem usque ad festum sa (...)
  • 12 P. R. Schofield, “L’endettement et le credit dans la campagne anglaise au Moyen Âge”, in Endettemen (...)
  • 13 Above, nn. 2-4.
  • 14 Hinderclay, court of 19 Oct. 1277, Walter Wydewel queritur de Thomam bercarius quod iniuste detinet (...)
  • 15 Hinderclay, court of 18 Oct. 1280, Robertus Brun cognovit se debere Emmam Molend’iis. vid. et habet (...)
  • 16 [A.] Hinderclay, court of 23 Feb. 1281, Adam Toly cognovit in plena curia quod tenet Willelmo filio (...)
  • 17 See above, n. 3, Thomas Butun versus Robert son of Luke.

7From c. 1280 we are aware for the first time of the appearance of undefended pleas of debt in the rolls of the manor court at Hinderlcay.11 Undefended pleas of the kind exemplified here, and in numerous other court roll series,12 present the historian of credit with a series of not insignificant problems. Is an entry written in this form, where the defendant “recognises that he owes” (cognovit se debere) evidence of “l’écriture judiciare de la plainte du créancier” or of “l’écriture de la reconnaissance de dette”? After all, as will be obvious from a comparison with examples of putative court roll recognisances, given earlier,13 the distinction between the apparent recognisance and the undefended plea in debt is far from clearcut. Should we, then, in identifying undefended pleas of this kind, distinguish between the types of entry which clearly reveal a history of dispute arising from a credit agreement14 and those entries in the manor court which suggest no such history?15 May, indeed, the latter, lacking reference to prior contract and failure of the debtor, be as correctly identified as recognisances as they may undefended pleas? Consider, for instance, the example of two entries relating to the indebtedness of Adam Toly, where a detailed entry of a debt owed by Adam in January 1282, described above as a putative recognizance, [B], and which established provision for recovery, may do no more than establish a sequence of repayments on a debt first encountered in the manorial courts as an apparent undefended plea in February 1281 [A].16 Alternatively, the entries may, conceivably, relate to two separate contracts, both recorded in the manor court at their inception, the first in summary detail, the second in a more substantial form. We have already seen how some entries which are identified in the record as recognizances could be short in detail.17

  • 18 Hinderclay, court of 8 Nov. 1279, Matilda Marsilie queritur de Aynes le Webistere quod iniuste deti (...)
  • 19 Hinderclay, court of 10 January 1295, de RB pro licencia concordandi cum St et RW executores AS et (...)
  • 20 Hinderclay, court of 22 Sept. 1282, xiid. Adam Toly cognovit in plena curia se debere Roberto Crane (...)

8From time to time, however, we encounter clear indication that the “undefended plea” is unequivocally that, a plea and not a recognisance. Note, for example, the plea between Matilda Marsilie and Agnes le Webstere, where the use of the verb “cognoscere” is made not in order to identify a new debt but in order to establish a programme of reimbursement.18 In this instance, the detail of the plea illustrates that the debt had already been established and that an attempt was underway to recover it. The same is true of cases involving the execution of wills, where the executors, as de facto creditors, sought recovery of debts from the debtors of the deceased, the original creditor.19 We have further indication that an entry describes an undefended plea and not a summary recognizance where, from time to time, the creditor-plaintiff has also, in the same entry, sought, through payment, the aid of the lord in recovering the debt.20 In all such instances, it seems reasonably clear that a debt is not being established but recovered.

  • 21 The chronology of development has a potentially revealing consonance with contemporary developments (...)

9While a significant proportion of “undefended pleas” lacks the circumstantial detail that might permit us to identify them as pleas rather than recognizances, there is, therefore, some clear indication that far from all such entries were the record of credit agreements. Most importantly, the formula of the undefended plea, x cognovit se debere/tenere, was relatively short-lived at Hinderclay; it fairly soon gave way to a style of recording that appears to force a distinction between the juridiction gracieuse and the juridiction contentieuse.21

10The actual number of undefended pleas in debt in the manor court rolls increased slightly in the last decades of the thirteenth century, but this increase was slight in comparison to the growth in number of defended pleas in debt. Between 1291 and 1307, there were almost sixty pleas explicitly identified as in debt (placitum debiti), of which a minority were undefended pleas (a maximum of eight) and a greater number were defended pleas (at least fifty).

  • 22 Two instances of the formula cognovit se teneri, here counted as recognition of debt by the debtor, (...)
  • 23 Hinderclay, court of 1 Oct. 1293, de Thomas King quia incidit per concessionem versus Gilbertum Ber (...)
  • 24 Hinderclay, court of 27 June 1307, Robertus filius Ade queritur de Willelmo le Wollemonger’de placi (...)

11A significant development in the last decade of the thirteenth century, which allows us to make the above distinction between “defended” and “undefended”, involves the virtual disappearance from the rolls of entries in the form x cognovit se teneri / quod tenet22 and the appearance of a novel formula indicating that “x has lost against y” or “has been attainted” (incidit / attingatur) or, in fuller detail, that x has lost against y in one of four ways: per concessionem, recognicionem, inquisitionem, legem.23 Here, in this formulation, we find a combination of undefended pleas [per concessionem/ recognicionem] and defended pleas [per inquisitionem/legem]. Finally, we are aware of one further development in the Hinderclay court rolls: in the first years of the fourteenth century we find an additional form of entry to initiate a plea of debt, one where the plaintiff seeks recovery from the plaintiff from the defendant, x queritur de y.24

  • 25 See also Schofield, “Intestat et testaments paysans”, art. cit.; id., “L’endettement et le credit” (...)

12Developments in the form and structure of debt pleas recorded in the Hinderclay manor court have more than antiquarian interest. They illustrate an evolution of language in relation to the use of credit; in particular, in the preponderance of a terminology of defence and of recovery, but not of recognizance and establishment of contract, we may observe the typicality of debt in the rural community. Above all, the instances observable in the manor court rolls for Hinderclay suggest that the majority of debts entered into on this manor were created orally and not by recognizance or by other written form.25

Inter-personal litigation and process in the manor court

  • 26 Hinderclay, court of 4 Sept. 1291, Robertus Cappellanus attachiatus est ad respondendum Ricardum de (...)
  • 27 Schofield, “L’endettement et le crédit”, art. cit., 81, and references there. For the persistance o (...)

13This impression is strengthened when we consider information contained in the more detailed litigation recorded in the manor court rolls. In the first place, we note that, while pleas in debt were seldom decided by witness proof or compurgation (there are only three instances of debt cases resolved per legem between 1291 and 1307), those that were so resolved often involved contracts for large sums of money or kind and yet, by the very nature of their proof, appear to have been unsupported by documentary evidence26. The existence of witness proof is strong indication, then, of the reliance upon oral contracts concluded in the presence of third parties.27

  • 28 On key issues in determining the use of inquisition or wager of law, see R.L. Henry, Contracts in t (...)
  • 29 Beckerman, “Procedural innovation”, art. cit., 209; Schofield, “L’endettement et le credit”, art. c (...)
  • 30 For general discussion and examples, Schofield, “L’endettement et le credit”, art. cit., p. 80; id. (...)
  • 31 Hinderclay, court of 12 Sept. 1292, De Ade Belsent qui fecit quoddam scriptum inter ipsum et Henric (...)

14While the same cannot automatically be claimed for pleas resolved per inquisitionem, there is also no indication in the pleas of debt recorded at Hinderclay that litigants supported their pleas with written evidence when presenting to an inquest jury.28 In common law the manor court lacked the authority to handle cases involving written instruments of the kind we might identify as “specialty”.29 That said, it is quite clear that plaintiff-creditors did, on occasion, base their proof upon written instruments, including sealed written instruments.30 At Hinderclay there are sufficient examples of villagers employing written instruments, including sealed documents, to suggest that creditors were both familiar with a written and sealed document as proof of a transaction and were prepared to use such as circumstance required and/or permitted. However, circumstance is unlikely always to have permitted; our examples of peasants, and unfree peasants at that, using written instruments typically arise from moments of censure and penalty in instances where the lord had reprimanded his unfree tenantry for employing sealed documents in manners contrary to and, de iure if not necessarily de facto, challenging of their legal condition.31 It may be, therefore, for reasons of seigneurial policy and legal status that peasants appear to have been reluctant to use written instruments in credit agreements; where they did use them, it may have been beyond the manor, in agreements with outsiders. In such circumstances, which could involve larger transactions conducted between relative strangers and without the support of known witnesses and/or pledges, the need for written security was also more obvious.

  • 32 On the financial advantages that dealing, in land in this instance, could bring to the lord, see, f (...)
  • 33 Bacon Ms 119, court of 9 Aug. 1307, for an instance involving both Robert the son of Adam and Nicho (...)

15If tenants, especially villein tenants, were reluctant or unable to use sealed written instruments in the manor court, it is not unreasonable to assume that they might have been inclined to use the manor court as an alternative source of security. The enrollment of larger debts in the manorial rolls would have met some of their own expectations and, we might also suppose, the fiscal designs of the lord.32 It is also worth noting in this context that, by c. 1300, it was increasingly common for litigants, especially in disputes over land, to “vouch” the court rolls, requesting that they be searched for precedent or matter of particular relevance to the case in hand. While, however, examples of the vouching of the rolls can be found at Hinderclay, they are not to be found in debt cases.33

  • 34 The extent of the survival of court rolls can be calculated for years where contemporary manorial a (...)
  • 35 A Suffolk hundred in the year 1283. The assessment of the hundred of Blackbourne for a tax of one t (...)
  • 36 Hinderclay, Court of 17 July 1298, Nicholus le Wodeward queritur de Robertofilio Ade de placito tra (...)
  • 37 Hinderclay, court of 19 October 1318, Compertum est per inquisitionem quod Alicia le Wodeward inius (...)

16That, villagers, even where they concluded involved and expensive credit agreements with one another, neither employed written instruments nor sought to record the contract in the manorial court is sometimes clearly evidenced in the manor court rolls. On some very few occasions we find entries in the rolls which come a little closer to illustrating the form in which the contract was actually created. In a plea between Robert son of Adam and Nicholas Wodeward, for example, we find clear indication of a preceding agreement between the two men but no indication of the actual form of such a contract. We also know that the original contract was created in 1294/1295, for which years we also know that the survival of the court rolls is complete.34 In the courts for these years we find no indication of a contract, which was after all substantial [the loan was for 2 marks or 26s. 8d., the equivalent of c. fifteen per cent of the moveable wealth of the wealthiest peasants in the village]35, conducted between the two men36]. [It seems, since no reference is made to written instrument of any kind and the men proceeded to an inquiry which Robert lost on the facts, that they had reached their initial agreement by oral contract. A similar instance may, with a degree less confidence, be noted in October 1318, where an inquest jury found that Alice le Wodeward (as a matter of fact, the widow of the Nicholas Wodeward of the previous example) had unjustly detained one quarter of oats, four bushels of wheat, and four bushels of beans for a period of eight years from one Walter Butun. Damages were estimated ar 4s., a large sum in itself. Again, there is no indication of any written record of this/these agreement(s).37

  • 38 On the size of peasant debts at Hinderclay, see “Peasants and contract in the thirteenth century: v (...)
  • 39 It is quite probable that larger contracts conducted between villagers and outsiders were supported (...)

17If contracts of this magnitude were contracted orally we are left with the strong impression that the majority of credit contracts found in the manor court at Hinderclay, typically much smaller than the agreement between Robert and Nicholas were similarly contracted; it follows from this that most, if not all entries, which indicate an element of recognition of debt (in fact, a declining category as our earlier survey of the development of debt pleas has shown) are likely to have been undefended pleas and not recognizances.38 What is more it also highly likely that most credit agreements, or failed credit agreements, were initiated as sale credits rather than as loans, [table] It is, therefore, improbable that small-scale sale credits would have been recorded in the manor court as recognizances; instead, it is the failure of repayment that drives our view of credit and not the expectation of registration at inception.39

18Finally, we should also note that only just over one third of all debt cases between 1291 and 1307 were concluded by a judgement in the manor court; in some instances we are aware only of an initiation of the process or we encounter the plea at one particular moment only to lose sight of it once more in the record. Further, some debt cases were recorded only as payments by one or other of the parties to settle the case outside of the manor court, pro licencia concordandi. In all, licences to agree (20), false claims (6) and incomplete cases (11) account for 37 of 58 debt cases (63.7%) recorded in the manor court between 1291 and 1307. An additional analysis of the nineteen “incomplete cases” shows that these involved payments by the plaintiff for aid in recovery of debt (1), and orders for distraint (4) and attachment (11), while three cases were held over until a later court but never reappeared in the record. Therefore, the combined information on cases which did not arrive at judgement in the manor court, dominated as these instances are by indications of the process of dispute settlement and further evinced here by indicators of pressure placed upon the debtor, adds to our impression both that the majority of debt cases appearing in the manor court arose from failed credit agreements and that these cases were, more often than not, contested.

Conclusion

  • 40 The importance in the local economy of these larger credit transactions may well have been inversel (...)
  • 41 Such findings have important implications for studies of, for instance, the responsiveness of villa (...)
  • 42 Or at least at Hinderclay; this is an issue that, amongst others, will be explored across a range o (...)

19In examining the record of credit and of debt in English manorial courts of the thirteenth-and early fourteenth-centuries, we need to keep in mind a series of important questions: what type of debt are we encountering? Are we seeing its extension or its recovery? The debt that we see, is it typical or is it exceptional? To these questions our responses are likely to vary in some measure from court roll series to court roll series, but a set of general responses, though they require much more substantive testing, may hold good. For the present we may propose the following: most debts that we find in manorial court rolls are likely to be small in size and probably the product of sale credits conducted orally. Some very few large-scale loans do appear in the manor court roll, though, again, typically at point of recovery.40 It is therefore more often than not the recovery of debt that we witness in manor court rolls, and not its extension.41 At Hinderclay, the form of entry in the manorial court roll encourages us at particular moments to consider the possibility that certain of the debts recorded there were not the product of failed credit agreements but evidence for the creation of credit agreements which were secured by the record of the manor court itself. This putative evidence for a juridiction gracieuse has to be set against consistent evidence for a juridiction contentieuse which appears to have predominated in the manor court at Hinderclay. The ubiquity of entries which are clearly responses to failed credit agreements –including presentments for failure to honour debts, undefended pleas where the contract has evidently been long established and has failed, and defended pleas– and the use of oral proof even in, relatively speaking, larger credit agreements both speak against the likelihood that the manor court was consistently, or even seldom, used as a court of record for credit agreements.42

Notes

1 See, for instance, C. D. Briggs, “Creditors and debtors and their relationships at Oakington, Cottenham and Dry Drayton (Cambridgeshire), 1291-1350”, in Credit and Debt in Medieval England, c. 1180-c. 1350, P. R. Schofield and N. J. Mayhew (dir.) (Oxford: Oxbow), 129-30; for similar comment for a later period, E. Clark, “Debt Litigation in a Late Medieval English Vill”, in Pathways to Medieval Peasants, J.A. Raftis (dir.) (Toronto: Pontifical Institute, 1981), 255.

2 Hinderclay, court of 17 January 1282, Adam Toly cognouit in plena curia se teneri Willelmum Jilium Lucie et Simonem filium Willelmi Messor in x onibus ordei eisdem soluendum annuatim i onius ordei per x annos proximos sequentes viz. adfestum sancti Michaeli et ad istam convencionem factam invenit pleg.... Et si dictus Adam defaciat in solvione etusdem blad soluendum...ad terminos predictos obligauitse distringere per bona sua mobilia et immobilia infra dominium et extra dominium etc. Bacon Ms 115.

3 Hinderclay, court of 14 January 1284, Cogn’. Thomas Buton cognovit in plena curia se teneri Robertum filium Lucie in xviiid [?] solvendo eidem Roberto adfestum Natale Beate Marie proximum sequente. Inde invenit pleg’, Bacon Ms 115.

4 Hinderclay, court of 24 February 1323, Cogn’. Adam atte Grop venit in plena curia et cognouit se teneri domino Willelmo Duke triginta solidos argenti soluendo eidem Willelmo ad terminos infrascriptos uidelicet adfestum sancti Michaelis proximum sequentem post diem huius recognicionis decern solidos et ad festum Natalis Domini proximum sequentem decern solidos et adfestum Pasche proximum sequentem decern solidos. Et super hoc dictus Adam inuenit pleggiagos... qui se pro predicto Ade cognouerunt principales debitores et unumquemque eorum insolidum. Et nisi fecerunt tam predictus Adam quam predicti pleg’concedunt quod balliui domini qui pro tempore fuerint fieri facere denarios illos de bonis et catallis illorum etc. Bacon MS 120.

5 On presentment, see J.S. Beckerman, “Procedural innovation and institutional change in medieval English manorial courts”, Law and History Review, 10 (1992), 226 sq., espec., 231 for discussion of presentment in the thirteenth century.

6 Hinderclay, court of 4 Nov. 1258, xiid. Walterus le Rede in misericordia quia non invenit Ricardo Torlad necessaria sua sicut conventio fuit inter eos... Bacon Ms 114
Hinderclay, court of 4 Nov. 1258,
xiid. Willelmus Tachere in misericordia quia iniuste detinuit et aspor tavit I trisobe a Lucia uxore Henrici prec’iiid. Bacon Ms 114.
Hinderclay, court of 21 December 1258,
vid. Gilbertus Capellanus in misericordia quia retinuit R? de Hildercle vi den’.... Bacon Ms 114.
Hinderclay, court of 21 December 1258,
vid. Gilbertus Capellanus in misericordia quia retinuit Marga rie de Hilderde xii d.... Bacon Ms 114.
Hinderclay, court of November 1271,
iis. De Waltero le Tharett'iis. eo quod retinuit Rad’Fabro i ancer’malicione.... Bacon Ms 114.
Hinderclay, court ofNov. 1272,
vid. Walterus le Huberd retinuit uersus Walterum le Rede xviiid et iii q’et pro iniusta detentia Walterus le Rede in misericordia.... Bacon Ms 114A.
Hinderclay, court of June 1273,
vid. Gilbertus Swift retinuit uersus Walterum Mandrak’ixd ob'et iiiid de uno sacco et est in misericordia. Item Robertus Wysman.... Bacon Ms 114A.
Hinderclay, court of 9 Oct. 1276,
vid. Adam Faber in misericordia quia conuictus fuit per inquisicionem de iniusta detencione uis. a festo sancti Micbaeli usque ad festum sancti Eadmund’Margar’Wydewel ad dampnum dicte Margarie vid. Bacon Ms 115.

7 Hinderclay, court of 21 December 1268, Datus est dies Waltero le Rede cum lege una se ui manu quod soluit W. le Messor uiid. ad Pascam de R[?] quos dictus W. dicit eos sibi debere, Bacon Ms 114A.

8 For instance, three years later, in December 1271, a P? Manclere and Willelmus Hubert acknowledged (concedunt) that they pay (solvent and not soluerent) Thomas de Wlferth half a marc (6s. 8d.) (dimidiam marcam) at an agreed date and that, if they failed to do this, they were to be distrained of goods (distring ere); Hinderclay, court of November 1271, Preceptum est distringere P’Manclere et Willelmum Hubert ad respondendum Thomam le Wlferth. Bacon Ms 114A; Hinderclay, court of 21 December 1271, P? Manclere et Willelmus Hubert cognoscunt quod solvent Thomam de Wlferth dimidiam marcam argenti in octab’Purificacionis et nisi fecerint concedunt quod distrigantur [sic] etc. Bacon Ms 114A. That the dispute had more than a single level of complexity is also suggested by other near contemporaneous entries in the record which indicate that co-plaintiffs in one plea were also parties to a separate but perhaps related dispute, Hinderclay, court of November 1271, Dies datus est... P’Manclere et Cristiane uxore eius querentibus et Willelmo Hubert et Alicia matri eius usque etc. Bacon Ms 114A.

9 Hinderclay, court of 20 March 1273, iiid. de Roberto le Brun iiid. pro auxilio ad recuperandum debitum versus Ricardum Ede. Bacon Ms 114A m. 1.

10 Hinderclay, court of 25 October 1283, Nicholus le Wodeward in misericordia pro iniusta detencione bladorum versus matremsuam...
Nicholus predictus [le Wodeward], et Adam Breton et Willelmus Mercator pleggiagi Nicholi in misericordia versus Robertum filium Luce de debito blad’ord’ [12d.]
Johannes le King invenit pleggiagos scilicet Nicholas le Wodeward et Radulphus Faber adsolvendum Rober tum filium Luce i cumb’brasei pro iis. vid. ad Natalem proximum sequentem sub pena iis. ad opus domini, Bacon Ms 114A.

11 Hinderclay, court of 6 Nov. 1280,... cognovit se debere... iis vid et habet diem usque ad festum sancti Eadmundi sub pena xiid ad opus domini camerarii, Bacon Ms 114A.

12 P. R. Schofield, “L’endettement et le credit dans la campagne anglaise au Moyen Âge”, in Endettement paysan et credit rural dans l’Europe médiévale et moderne. Actes des xviie s jourinées internationales d’histoire de l’abbaye de Flaran (septembre 1995), M. Berthe (dir.) (Toulouse: Presses universitaires du Mi rail, 1998), 74-5, especially n. 26.

13 Above, nn. 2-4.

14 Hinderclay, court of 19 Oct. 1277, Walter Wydewel queritur de Thomam bercarius quod iniuste detinet ei i bussellum frumenti quod ei debuaset [sic] ad festum Natalis domini uno anno elapso. Item dictus Thomas bercarius uenit et defendit de verbo ad verbum et est ad legem cum tertia manu ad proximam curiam... Bacon 115 m. 9.

15 Hinderclay, court of 18 Oct. 1280, Robertus Brun cognovit se debere Emmam Molend’iis. vid. et habet diem usque ad festum sancti Eadmundi sub pena xiid ad opus domini camerarii. Bacon Ms 115.

16 [A.] Hinderclay, court of 23 Feb. 1281, Adam Toly cognovit in plena curia quod tenet Willelmo filio Luce in x. cub’ ordei et vis. aryenti. Bacon Ms115.
[B.] Hinderclay, court of 17 January 1282, Adam Toly coynouit in plena curia se teneri Willelmum filium Lucie et Simonem filium Willelmi Messor’in x onibus ordei eisdem solvendum annuatim i onius ordei per x annos proximos sequentes viz. ad festum sancti Michaeli et ad istam convencionem factam inuenit pleg’.... Et si dictus Adam defaciat in soluione eiusdem blad'soluendum... ad terminos predictos obligavit se distrinyere per bona sua mobilia et immobilia infra dominium et extra dominium etc. Bacon Ms 115.

17 See above, n. 3, Thomas Butun versus Robert son of Luke.

18 Hinderclay, court of 8 Nov. 1279, Matilda Marsilie queritur de Aynes le Webistere quod iniuste detinet ei iiiis uiiid pro una summa ordei quam sibi tradidit adversiandum et dicta Agnes coynouit in plena curia tantum debere sibi et ideo indicatus est sibi soluere ei tantum et A habet diem ad soluendum medietatem ad Jestum sancti Eadmundi et medietatem adjestum sancti Nicholi, Bacon Ms 115.

19 Hinderclay, court of 10 January 1295, de RB pro licencia concordandi cum St et RW executores AS et idem R cognovit se tenere in quatuor buss ordei et i buss jabar solvendum ad Pascham proximum sequentem, Bacon Ms 117.
Hinderclay, court of 28 November 1301,
de Nicholo le Wodeward pro iniusta detencione Roberto filio Ade iis. de mutuo viid. de quadam falce et xvid de forag et palea prout cognovit in plena curia, Bacon Ms 117. For the execution of peasant wills in this period, see P.R. Schofield, “Intestat et testaments paysans en Angleterre et Pays de Galles au xiiie siècle et au début du xive siècle”, in Sociétés rurales françaises et britanniques, histoire comparée, N. Vivier (dir.) (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2004) (forthcoming).

20 Hinderclay, court of 22 Sept. 1282, xiid. Adam Toly cognovit in plena curia se debere Roberto Crane vi buss’ordei et ixd. Et ideo etc. Dictus Robertus dat domino xiid. pro catall’ sui recupere. Bacon Ms 115.

21 The chronology of development has a potentially revealing consonance with contemporary developments in statute; as McNall has shown, the late 1270s and 1280s, and especially the period post-1283, were years of change in relation to the mode and place of debt. In particular, these years saw the growth in use and reorganisation, by central government, of the recognizance, though at a higher level of commerce than that discussed here, C. Mcnall, “The business of statutory debt registries, 1283-1307”, in Credit and debt in medieval England, c. 1180-c. 1350, P.R. Schofield et N.J. Mayhew (dir.) (Oxford: Oxbow), 71-3.

22 Two instances of the formula cognovit se teneri, here counted as recognition of debt by the debtor, surface in 1305 and 1307 but, by the early fourteenth century at Hinderclay, these were quite exceptional uses of this form of wording; see also for one further late example, Bacon Ms 119 [13/1], court of 6 March 1311.

23 Hinderclay, court of 1 Oct. 1293, de Thomas King quia incidit per concessionem versus Gilbertum Bercarius. Et dictus Gilbertus recuperat versus eundem Thomam xxiiid quart... Bacon Ms 117.
Hinderclay, court of 1 Oct. 1293,
de Thomas King quia incidit per concessionem versus Gilbertum Bercarius. Et dictus Gilbertus recuperat versus eundem Thomam viid ob, Bacon Ms 117.
Hinderclay, court of 13 Jan. 1294,
de Radulpho Berard quia incidit per legem viz quod Robertus Lylye non debuit dicto Radulpho unam summam ordei nec octo denarios sicut ei imponit, Bacon Ms 117.
Hinderclay, court of 7 Dec. 1295,
de... quia incidit per recognicionem versus Johannem Costyn de placito debiti. Et idem Johannes recuperavit versus predictam...? iid de uno quarterio et vi bussel’ordi in quibus eidem Johannem tenebatur. [amercement missing: wrip] Bacon Ms 116.
Hinderclay, court of 15 Oct.
1296, de Simone Osbern [3d], Waltero le King [3d], Waltero Botun [3d], Ade Botun [3d], Nicolo le Reve [3d] et Ricardo Folkemer [3d] qui inciderunt per inquisicionem versus Sarram Botun de placito debiti etc unde receperunt i quart'et ii bussellos multur’molendini etc... Bacon Ms117.
Hinderclay, court of 11 Sept. 1311,
de Roberto filio Ade qui incidit contra Willelmum Osebern in placito debiti quia dictus Willelmus perfecit legem utrum promittur, Bacon Ms 117.

24 Hinderclay, court of 27 June 1307, Robertus filius Ade queritur de Willelmo le Wollemonger’de placito debiti. Et preceptum est atachiare dictum Willelmum ad respondendum etc., Bacon Ms 117.

25 See also Schofield, “Intestat et testaments paysans”, art. cit.; id., “L’endettement et le credit” art. cit., 79.

26 Hinderclay, court of 4 Sept. 1291, Robertus Cappellanus attachiatus est ad respondendum Ricardum de la Dale de placito debiti. Et unde queritur quod iniuste detinet ei ii quart'order prec'viiis et ideo iniuste cum infra/quindenam Sancti Petri ad Invincula uno anno elapso dictus Robertus fuit plegiagius Edmundi rector'ecclesie de Hyldercle una cum Roberto de Botolinsdale cappellano de / viii quart'ordei prec'xxvis et debuit soluisse adfestum Annunciationis Beate Marie proximum sequentem qui non soluit nisi iiii quarterios et dictus Robertus de Botolinsdale it quart et / sic aretro sunt ii quart'ut supra ad dampnum etc. Et hoc offert etc.
Et Rob [Capellanus] venit et defendit de verbo ad verbum et est ad legem, Bacon Ms 117.

27 Schofield, “L’endettement et le crédit”, art. cit., 81, and references there. For the persistance of compurgation in pleas of debt, see Beckerman, “Procedural innovation”, art. cit., 208.

28 On key issues in determining the use of inquisition or wager of law, see R.L. Henry, Contracts in the local courts of medieual England (London: Longmans, 1926), 41,101-3; see also, in this respect, Beckerman, “Procedural innovation”, art. cit., 204, especially n. 32 (Ingoldmells, Lincolnshire, 1313).

29 Beckerman, “Procedural innovation”, art. cit., 209; Schofield, “L’endettement et le credit”, art. cit., 80.

30 For general discussion and examples, Schofield, “L’endettement et le credit”, art. cit., p. 80; id., “Access to credit in the medieval English countryside”, in Credit and debt in medieual England, c. 1180-c. 1350, P.R. Schofield and N.J. Mayhew (dir.) (Oxford: Oxbow, 2002), 117; Henry, Contract in local courts..., op. cit.

31 Hinderclay, court of 12 Sept. 1292, De Ade Belsent qui fecit quoddam scriptum inter ipsum et Henricum Crane ad modum sirograffi indentati et dictum scriptum quadam die dominica coram omnibus parochiis pupplicatum sine assensu et voluntate domini seu eius ballivorum. Bacon Ms 117. See also P.R. Hyams, Kinqs, Lords and Peasants in Medieval Enqland. The Common Law of Villeinaqe in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries (Oxford, 1980).

32 On the financial advantages that dealing, in land in this instance, could bring to the lord, see, for example, R.M. Smith, “Some thoughts on ‘Hereditary’ and ‘Proprietary’ rights in land under customary law in thirteenth and early fourteenth century England”, Law and History Review, 1 (1983).

33 Bacon Ms 119, court of 9 Aug. 1307, for an instance involving both Robert the son of Adam and Nicholas Wodeward; see P.R. Schofield, “Peasants and the manor court. Gossip and litigation in a Suffolk village at the close of the thirteenth century”, Past and Present, 159 (1998), 37; also Beckerman, “Procedural Innovation”, art. cit., 224.

34 The extent of the survival of court rolls can be calculated for years where contemporary manorial accounts survive and where those accounts include a detailed section relating to “Perquisites of Courts”. For 1294 and 1295 see Bacon MSS 428, 429.

35 A Suffolk hundred in the year 1283. The assessment of the hundred of Blackbourne for a tax of one thirtieth, and a return showing the land tenure there, E. Powell (dir.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910); also P.R. Schofield, “Dearth, debt and the local land market in a late thirteenth-century Suffolk community”, Agricultural History Review, 45 (1997).

36 Hinderclay, Court of 17 July 1298, Nicholus le Wodeward queritur de Robertofilio Ade de placito trangressionis unde queritur quod iniuste ei detinet iiii acre terre arabile et i pedant prati in Hydercle et eo iniuste quod cum conventii inter predictos Nicholum et Robertum ad Natalem domini anno Regni Regis Edwardi nunc xxiiio in villata de Hildercle quod predictus Robertus comodaret dicto Nicholo duas marcas argenti a Natale domini usque ad festum sancti Michaelis proximam sequentem... Et dictus Robertus venit... et dicit quod recepit de predicto Nicholo dictam peciam prati et ii acras et i rodam terram ad Purificacionem anno Edwardi regni regis nunc xxiii ad quod festum ambo computaverunt et fuerunt in cetero de vi marc'us uiiid in quibus dictus Nicholus dicto Roberto tenebatur et pro eadem pecunia dictas ii acras et i rodam terram et pratum predictum ad terminum xu[?-tear] annorum | dimisit [inserted] | viz acras | quolibet terras [inserted] | per xviiid et pratum per iis per annum etc et hoc petit inquiri etc. Bacon Ms 117.

37 Hinderclay, court of 19 October 1318, Compertum est per inquisitionem quod Alicia le Wodeward iniuste per octo annos detinuit Waltero Butoun i quarterium ordei et iiii bussellos frumenti et iiii bussellos brasei ad dampna qui taxantur ad iiiis. Ideo consideratus est quod predictus Walterus recuperet principale cum dampnum. Et quod predicta Alicia sit in misericordia [vid.], Bacon Ms 120.

38 On the size of peasant debts at Hinderclay, see “Peasants and contract in the thirteenth century: village elites and the land market in eastern England” (forthcoming).

39 It is quite probable that larger contracts conducted between villagers and outsiders were supported by written evidence, including written obligations; Schofield, “Access to credit” art. cit., 117; Id., “Peasants and contract” art. cit. (forthcoming).

40 The importance in the local economy of these larger credit transactions may well have been inversely proportionate to their frequency, Schofield, “Peasants and contract” (forthcoming).

41 Such findings have important implications for studies of, for instance, the responsiveness of village economies to crisis, and notably a failure of food supply. The identification of manorial court roll entries as illustrative of the withdrawal of credit rather than its extension clearly influences our view of social economy at such moments.

42 Or at least at Hinderclay; this is an issue that, amongst others, will be explored across a range of court roll series as part of a project presently being undertaken by the author and Dr C.D. Briggs, University of Cambridge, to analyse debt litigation in manorial courts, c. 1250c. 1350; the project will be published by the Selden Society.

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