Notes on customs to do with granting land in 1335

Around this time people did not have fixed surnames. They might be identified by the Christian name of their father, the place where they lived in the town (Hall, Green) or village, or their occupation (Baker, Smith, Chandler). In this example there may be two Williams the sons of different Thomas’ living in Fenny Bentley. So the name of Thomas’ father, Richard, is also included to avoid confusion. Further down in the document there is Richard fil Herbert, ie Richard the son of Herbert which is transcribed here as Richard FitzHerbert. He may not be part of that family but that is how the FitzHerbert surname came about.

Simon probably came from a place called Octerdon, but that place is unknown today. John de Crakemarsh is mentioned and Crakemarsh is two miles north of Uttoxeter. In the witness list there is Robert de Underwood, which is self-explanatory. They may be a couple of explanations why Henry de Mapleton of Ashbourne has two place identify him,
Robert the Iboneris and William the Baxter (Baker) are probably occupational names as is William cleric. Often the last-named witness is styled cleric and it is accepted that this is the person who wrote the document.

The land granted is made up of several parcels. There are two separate acres of land and a further half acre which are arable. In addition there are four butts of meadow and a separate third part of a piece of meadow.
Boundaries were defined by reference to the owners of the adjacent properties or geographic features. The boundaries of other Ashbourne deeds refer to Church St as a boundary or The Scolebook. The problem of using the name of the occupier of the adjacent plot is that they might be dead in six months’ time.
Charters were a formal record of a ceremony that had taken place transferring land from Person A to Person B. Originally this transfer of land from one person to another one was done publicly and witnessed by other local inhabitants. It was only later that this formal record, (charter) was produced afterwards. The same was the case for marriages and baptisms. The need to have a written record of granting land was established centuries before a written record of the ceremonies of marriages and births were made. (This was with the introduction of Parish Registers in 1550s.)
The parchment on which this was written was an expensive commodity and so abbreviations were used wherever possible to keep the length of the text short. Small squiggles and lines were added above, or below, or to letters. Each had it own meaning. Many words begin with the prefixes of pre, pro, per, par and each can be found as the letter ‘p’ with a specific ‘additional mark. One of these medieval abbreviations which has still survived is ‘&’ meaning et cetera.
The witness list was an important part of the deed so that, if there was a dispute, they could be called to give evidence. It is an important source of information. It can be useful in dating if the given date is not too precise.

Dating of medieval deeds used a different system to that used today. We have the date of the month in a specific year. Years were often defined by using the length of the reign of the monarch. The 20thJune 2023 would be styled as 20th June in the first year of the reign of King Charles III. This document is dated to the ninth year of the reign of King Edward the third since the Conquest. The reference to the Conquest is significant because there were three Edwards who were Kings of England before the Conquest, including Edward the Confessor. This is King Edward III (after the Conquest) 1327 – 1377.

Likewise the day and month were not usually used. Instead it would be counted as so many days either before, on, during or after a Saint’s Day. This document is dated ‘on the day of Jove in the feast of St Edmund the Bishop’. Jove is Thursday. The reference to Bishop is to differentiate between St Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, died in 1240 and St Edmund, King and Martyr who died in 869. The latter’s shrine is at Bury St Edmunds.