Henry de Bray.

The estate book of Henry de Bray of Harleston, co. Northants (c. 1289-1340) online

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Preface vij

Introduction . ix

Analysis of Text xxxj

List of Pedigrees extracted from Text xxxvij

Contemporary Table of Contents (Lansdown MS ) . xxxviij

Text I

Pedigrees 133

Index 145




Drawing of the House built by Henry de Bray in 1291, with

later additions ....... Frontispiece

Reputed Effigies of Henry and Mabel de Bray .... xxj

Seal of Ralph Dive, 46 Hen. Ill xxij


The late Miss Mary Bateson examined the Estate Book of Henry
de Bray, and in view of the fact that the author was a layman of the
late thirteenth century, she regarded this compilation as almost,
if not quite, unique. In any case she was strongly of opinion that the
MSS. should prove of value as a source of medieval and economic
history. In 1909 I had the honour of reading a paper on the
MSS. before the Royal Historical Society. Since then some further
investigations have been made; but there remain several miss-
ing links, which the skill of more experienced antiquaries will
probably supply.

My grateful thanks are due to Mr W. J. Corbett for much help on
points of land tenure; I am also indebted to the late Miss P. Steele
Hutton for several valuable references ; to Mr D. T. B. Wood, of the
Manuscript Department, British Museum, for deciphering the pre-
scription for the plague and the view of frankpledge ; and to Mr
Wilham Page, General Editor of the Victoria County History, for
access to some of his notes on topographical sources.

D. S. W.


The two MSS. comprising the " Harlestone Register " are quite
well known. They are both in the British Museum, one in the Cotton/
the other in the Lansdown^ Collection. Bridges and Baker in their
histories of Northamptonshire quote largely from them, also they are
quoted in Churches of the Archdeaconry of Northampton, ed. J. H.
Parker, but no one has treated them as a whole. Some sort of estate
book was kept for every lord of a manor either by a baihff or clerk,
and many such records have come down to us ; but the distinctive
and special interest of this Estate Book is that it was compiled by a
layman owning a small estate, partly from documents in his posses-
sion and partly from memory. The MSS. are full of intimate
touches and personal allusions, which not only bring out the per-
sonahty of the author, but throw some hght on the various elements
of a medieval village which was probably typical of many places.

In the Cotton MS., consisting of twenty-six folios, the first folio is
missing, and therefore the introductory remarks are lost, but from
internal evidence it is clear that it was written after 1309. It contains
a summary of the author's landed possessions, giving some account
of how they were obtained and noting his relations with his overlords
and tenants up to 1309, and his expenses from 1289 to 1309. It
includes a short description of the world, lists of the kings, counties,
and bishoprics of England, and of the parsons of Harlestone Church.
It is evident that several folios are missing from the end of this MS.,
for the writer refers to folio No. 33, and the last foho of the MS. in
its present condition is numbered 26.

The Lansdown MS., of eighty-eight folios, is complete in that there
are no fohos missing, but there is no definite end to it.

In two foHos blank spaces have been filled in by a much later
hand, which from internal evidence can be dated later than 1542,
and the fohos which deal with the Brampton estates may have been
added by another scribe. On the last folio there is appended a
recipe of herbal remedies for the plague in a writing which is
possibly of Henry de Bray's time, but more probably that of a
later scribe.

The following introductory note is prefixed to the compilation by
the author :^

" In the year 1322, the fifty-second year of Henry de Bray, who

» Cott. Nero, C. xii. ' Lans. 761. » p. 3-



with his own hand writes this book, the same Henry arranged this
present brief as evidence to his heirs; that is, transcriptions of
charters and memoranda arising from the time of the said Henry."

The Lansdown MS. has also a Hst of contents, and it is difficult to
know what relation it bears to the other MS. It is more than three
times as long and contains duplicates of many transactions, but it
contains no general information or Hst of expenses. Henry's own
scheme seems to have been to treat the land of Harlestone under
its different fees, naming the tenants of the different overlords
and explaining conveyances or exchanges of land chronologically
under each fee. But as he writes changes are made, so that he
cannot be consistent in his arrangement, as he has not left enough
blank spaces to allow for future change and by degrees the arrange-
ment ceases to be clear.

It has seemed ' best to collect this varied information under
subject titles, as the overlordship of many pieces of land is not easily
ascertained. In the case of family transactions spreading over many
years the arrangement is chronological under the family name.
Where duplicate accounts of the same matter occur in both MSS.
one only is here reproduced, reference being made to the other
in a footnote. In certain cases Henry's system of compilation
is found to be fairly exhaustive. It includes the pedigrees of present
and former owners, and sometimes of overlords as well, with the
reasons for any previous transfers of the same land. The author
then transcribes his own deed of purchase and the quitclaims of
any persons who did claim or might claim rights in the same land.
As an instance of this method, reference may be made to ten lengthy
entries in connection with the dowry of Henry's grandmother,
Isabella de Linley, in Lansdown, ff. 38b to 43d ; Cotton, ff . 15a to 17b.
These deal with one of the minor concerns of Henry de Bray's life,
and they give a fair idea of the bewildering mass of information
contained in the Estate Book, from which it would appear that
its compiler was involved in more than thirty exchanges or purchases
with nineteen different sets of people.

The MSS. of the Estate Book are both written in Latin, with occa-
sional lapses into the French of Stratford-atte-Bowe. The writing
of both is very clear, but in the later MS. it is considerably larger,
and the letters are not so neatly formed, a circumstance which sug-
gests failing eyesight. The latest year mentioned by the author is
1340, when he was seventy-one years of age. His only child, Alice,


married John Dyve; and as the later additions to the book are late
pedigrees of the Dyve family, it is obvious that the book became
one of the muniments of that family.

The name Henry de Bray appears fairly often in the public records,
but it is not possible to connect many of these entries with the author
of the Estate Book. The most important man of the name was
Master Henry de Bray, whose public life as escheator south of the
Trent under Edward I began in 1254, and at different times he held
the offices of justice to the Jews and keeper of Abergavenny Castle.
This great officer may have had some connection with Harlestone,
as in 1279, in company with Adam le Werrour, who became our
author's stepfather six years later, Master Henry de Bray was
attorney to John de PateshuU.^

Thirty-five years later, when the name occurs again in connection
ynth Harlestone, it is recorded in the Estate Book that he was
witness to an agreement made in 1315 between the community of
the vill on the one hand and the author of this Estate Book on the
other. The community gave up all its rights in certain acres of land
in exchange for our Henry de Bray's rights of bull and boar in the
common fields of Harlestone. ^

A very interesting notice of the Escheator occurs in the Assize
Rolls. ^ Here one Sylvester de Swyneford, who had married an
Emma de Bray, possibly Henry's niece, just before his death left
all his property and land to Henry, stating in public that if all the
land in Northampton belonged to him, there was no one rather than
Henry to whom he would prefer to leave it. His younger brother
vainly sued John de Bray, Emma's brother, to whom Henry after-
wards gave the lands.* This tribute can be balanced on the other
side by grave charges of extortion and embezzlement which fill the
Patent Rolls, and finally Henry was imprisoned for extortion of the
Jews, and only released on paying a fine.^ That Henry was deeply
conscious of his guilt seems clear from a note from Bartholomew
Cotton's Historia Anglicana, ed. Luard, p. 175, quoted in the
introduction to The State Trials of Edward P as follows: " As the
King's guards were taking him (Master Henry de Bray) in a boat
by water to the Tower of London, in the anguish of his heart he
leapt up in the boat and would have drowned himself in the stream.

^ Close R. 7 Edw. I 9b, m. 10, lod. * pp. 13, 14. *Assize R. 624, m. 14.

* Close R. 17 Edw. I, 106, m. 8d.
^Annals of Dunstable, Rolls Series, p. 357.

• Camden Series III, vol. ix (ed. H. Johnson), p. xxxiii. See also Red Book
of the Exchequer (ed. H. Hall), vol. iii, p. cccxxvi.



But his guards would not have it so, and kept him straitly and
brought him to the Tower. There he would have slain himself by
dashing his head first against a certain wall."

Master Henry's relationship to our Henry is nowhere elucidated,
but from the general evidence it may be inferred that there was
some connection, and that the younger Henry may well have profited
by the example of Master Henry's business capacity. The other
Henry de Brays of the neighbourhood were men whose rude habits
must have dissociated them from Henry de Bray of Harlestone even
if they were akin. Between the years 1316 and 1320, whilst their
namesake was working out his respectable career as a landowner,
executor of a will,^ steward of a priory,^ and even coming to London
as witness in a case of demised land,^ Henry de Bray of Charwelton,'*
Henry de Bray of Berchiston,* and Henry de Bray of Amynton^
were being publicly complained of in the Patent Rolls as taking part
in assaults with violence.

In 1323 our Henry de Bray was among the half-dozen good and
legal men who asserted on their oath in reply to an inquisition
ad quod damnum that the Castle of Northampton was greatly in need
of repair, and the items of repair and cost are all enumerated.' In
the Estate Book there is much evidence as to Henry's experience in
building, which will be brought forward below. It is possibly a tribute
to his capacities in this direction that he should have had any part
in this matter. It is clear that the absence of Henry's name from the
public records except in these three instances probably proves that
he was of no great account in the greater world of affairs, and his
interest in pohtical affairs cannot have been at all strong, or he would
surely have made some allusion to the Scotch wars or to the agita-
tions of the King's visit to Northampton in 1318. Henry's overlords
with one exception were summoned to Scotland on military service
time after time, but he is utterly silent on the subject. The only
events of political importance that caught his attention were the
execution of Piers Gaveston,^ the hanging and quartering of the
Despensers,^ the extinction of the order of TemplaJs.^*^

*PP- 58, 59.

* pp. 59, 60 ; Pat. R., 9 Edw. II, 102, pt. n, m. 18.
•Close R 10 Edw. II, 134, m. sd.

* Pat. 10 Edw. II. 147, pt. ii, m. 276..
*Pat. 12 Edw. II, pt. ii, 151. m. 25d.

* Pat. 9 Edw. II, pt. i, 144, m. 25d (schedule).
' Misc. Inquis. File 89, No. 15.

»p. 61. 'p. 62. "P- 51-


Henry's absorption in his own affairs seems to have been largely

due to inherited feuds about land ownership. To make these clear

it will be necessary to give some account of the distribution of land

in Harlestone.

In the Domesday Survey there are four entries relating to Harle-
stone— that is to say, the land in the village was divided between four
different estates. The estates referred to are as follows :

(i) An estate of three teamlands part of the royal manor of Upton,
which was the chief vill of the hundred of Nobottlegrove.^

(2) An estate of two teamlands held as soke of the adjoining
Peverel manor of Neubottle.^

(3) An estate of three teamlands held of the honour of Mortain
by WilUam de Cahanges of Dodford.'

(4) A small estate, reckoned at only a quarter of a teamland, also
held of the honour of Mortain by Humfrey lord of Althorp.*

There is little difficulty in tracing the descent of these estates.
At the date when the first MS. was compiled by Henry de Bray-
that is, probably about 1310 — these estates had come to be known
as follows :

(i) The serjeanty of Upton which was held by Thomas de
Chaunceus (De Cancellis) of the king.^

(2) The soke of Neubottle which was held by William de Ferrers. «

(3) The fee of Dodford which was held by the coheirs Roger de
Lumley and Ralph de Buknere as of the honour of Leicester of the
de Keynes family."

(4) The fee of Berkhamstead, the manor of Althorp being held of
that honour by Hamo de Vieleston of Geoffrey de Lucy.^

Henry gives the following account of the distribution of land in
his own time :

(i) Of the serjeanty of Upton he held by paternal inheritance
three virgates twenty-one acres in free socage of Nicholas de

1 Domesday Book, f. 219b. * Domesday Book, f. 225b.

* Domesday Book, f . 223b. * Domesday Book, f . 223.

* p. 24 ; p. 25 note, Chanc. Inq. p.m. file 37 (8) ; Assize R. 631, m. gd- :
Feudal Aids, iv, p. 9.

« Assize R. 631, m. 5 ; Fend. Aids, iw, -p. S; Chanc. Inq. p.m. C. Edw. I, file
50 (27).

' Chanc. Inq. p.m. Edw. I, file 81, No. 29 ; Assize R. 631, m. 12 ; Feud. Aids,
iv, p. 8.

* Chanc. Inq. p.m. Edw. I, file 38 (8) ; p. 76 ; Feud. Aids, iv, p. 8.


Chaunceus.^ This was not the whole of that estate in Harlestone;

freeholders held one virgate^ and the abbot of St James, North-
ampton, held half a virgate and some acres. ^

(2) Of the soke of Neubottle Henry had inherited one and a half
virgates through his father,^ one virgate and twelve and a half acres
through his mother,^ and he had two tenants in another virgate,^
which were all held of Thomas de Staunton. Of the remainder of
the ten and a half virgates belonging to this soke the abbot of
St James held two and a quarter,' and certain freeholders two and
three-quarter virgates.^

(3) In the fee of Dodford under the honour of Leicester Henry
seems to have held no arable land, but he had some pasture rights,
to which he alludes as capita herbagii, by ancient exchange between
his ancestors and the ancestors of Roger de Lumley and Ralph de
Bulmere.^ Ten virgates of this fee were in demesne and one and a half
were held by freeholders.

(4) In the fee of Berkhamstead Henry held one virgate by paternal
inheritance of Roger de Lumley and Ralph de Bulmere;^*^ the abbot
of St James held another virgate in this fee ;ii Roger de Lumley
held some land in it also, but the amount is not stated. ^^

Putting these data together, we see that the village was supposed
to contain twenty-seven virgates altogether. Henry in reckoning
the number of virgates also notes that the circumference of the vill
of Harlestone is two and a quarter leagues; each league contains
twelve furlongs and each furlong forty perches, each perch sixteen
feet according to the measure of a perch on the gable outside the
chancel at Harlestone. The circumference of all the fields of Harle-
stone was seven and a half leagues and half a furlong.^''

There is a marginal note in a cramped handwriting which may or
may not be Henry de Bray's autograph. It contains a table of
measures, and, as these do not tally with those above, perhaps the
note was added by one of the Dy\'e family at a later date.^^

Of the twenty-seven virgates in Harlestone nearly eight were
included in Henry de Bray's estate. ^^ In the Lansdown rental of 1329

1 p. 8 ; Assize R. 622, m. 49d. * pp. 8, 23. ^ pp. 7, 8.

* PP- 33-40. 63, 64 ; Cott. 7b-8b. * pp. 55, 7. « p. 7.

' Ibid. On p. 45 the abbot's land in this fee is estimated at 3 virgates and
again on pp. 7, 8 and 45 at 6 J virgates when including tenants.
« p. 8. 'p. 99- '° P- 28

"p. 45. "P-32- ^2 p. 10.

i« p. 10. ^' See above and p. xiij.


Henry enumerates his tenants as twenty-four, who held a hundred
and ninety-seven acres and three half-virgates.^

Throughout the Estate Book the number of acres assigned to a
virgate is variable, but the average comes out at sixty-six, and by
that computation Henry's whole estate makes a total of four
hundred and ninety-five acres, so that his demesne land comprised
roughly some two hundred and fifty acres. He received annually
;^ii i6s. io|d. from his tenants besides the services of eleven
" Bedrips " and nineteen " Hedrips," one pound of pepper and eight
fowls. 2

It is not very clear how much Henry paid out to his overlords,
but it was at least ;^i 4s., probably more in actual rent. He says that
he pays per annum to Nicholas de Chaunceus four shiUings and a
penny; to the convent of St Leonards sixpence; to the lord of
Neubottle nineteen shillings and fivepence.^

The suits which he owed were to the court of Neubottle, where
Richard de Brochole represented him and was paid twelve shilHngs
for this service,' and to the court of Upton, where Henry represented
four other tenants of that fee, for which they paid him respectively
4d., 4d., 3d. and id. per annum. ^ His suit at the court of Berkham-
stead had been delegated to a brother-in-law.*^ At this time the normal
qualification for the status of a knight was a rent roll of £20 per
annum, and Henry's property only produced £11 i6s. lojd. according
to his rent roll.'' It is not clear whether in Henry's own time his
estate was known as a manor. He does not himself use the term,
though he speaks of Roger de Lumley's manor of Harlestone,^ and
he notes the fact that he holds a court for his tenants.^ There is an
entry in the Close Rolls of some interest in 1320 : " To the sheriff of
Northampton. Order to cause a coroner for that county to be
elected in place of Henry de Bray, who has no lands in the county
except those whereof he was enfeoffed jointly with Mabel his wife,
so that he is insufficiently quaUfied.""^

A hundred years later John Dyve, a descendant of Henry's daugh-
ter and heiress, is holding a manor in Harlestone.^^ And the Dyve
family continued to hold the manor until the property of Sir Lewis
Dive was confiscated in 1652.^-

' PP- 52, 53- Lans. f. 13a, p. 9. ' pp. 52, 53.

'PP-53. 54- «p. 28.

* pp. 54, 55. ° P- 55-

♦ p. 55. »» Close R. 13 Edw. II, 137, m. 3.
' pp. 55, 129. " Ancient Deeds IV, A. 9178-

• p. 70. '^ Close K. 3686, m. 23; see also p. 58.


To return to Henry's relations with his overlords, we find him on
good terms with Roger de Lumley and Ralph de Bulmere/ the co-
heirs in the subtenancy of the fee of Dodford, also with Hamo de
Vieleston, who held the manor of Althorp; but he carried on violent
controversies with his two other overlords, Thomas de Staunton, lord
of the estate in the soke of Neubottle, who held of William de Ferrers,
and with Hugh de Chaunceus, lord of Upton. In the soke of Neu-
bottle Henry's great-great-grandfather, Brixtanus Darmenters, had
held of William de Ferrers six messuages, eight cottages, four and a
half virgates and appurtenances for four shillings per annum and
the service of doing suit at the court of Neubottle. Brixtanus' daugh-
ter Quena married when a minor without her guardian's consent,
and thus forfeited her lands, which were granted to William de
Staunton.^ This William disposed of most of the land to the Thener-
chebrays. Henry de Bray makes a characteristic note about this
transaction. He says: " This William did not wish to bind himself
in the above deed by the clause of warranty because he well knew
that it (that is, the property) was the right of Henry de Bray, and for
the same reason also he (that is, William) was willing to receive such
a small sum in cash payment— namely, half a mark."^ This Henry de
Bray was the writer's grandfather, who married Quena's daughter
Emma and with his wife espoused her cause. He recovered part of
the estate from Peter de Thenerchebray by a writ de recto in some
year between 20 and 30 Henry HI, and he also began a suit against
Hugh and Clementia de Staunton respecting that part of their land
which had belonged to Quena. The suit dragged on for years till
Henry and his son John and also Hugh de Staunton had died.
John's son, the writer of the Estate Book, continued the suit against
Thomas de Staunton, and a compromise was effected in 1301. Thomas
kept the land, but remitted three out of the four shillings rent per
annum due from Henry .^

In 1325 Henry paid twenty shilHngs to get this rent of one shilling
reduced to sixpence per annum. Three years later he paid four marks
and ten shiUings to reduce it still further to the nominal rent of one
penny per annum with homage and fealty.^

In 1338 Henry makes a note of doing homage to William de
Staunton on the death of his father, and the Bray estate held of the
de Stauntons is described as a capital messuage, two other messuages,

' See Feud. Aids, Northants, pp. 6, 20, 34 ; Pavl. Writs, Part II, 389, No. 3.
*P-63. *P-57-

«pp. 64, 32, 33. 'pp-38. 39-


one hundred acres of meadow and pasture, half a virgate and a
quarter of land.^ It is interesting to note that Henry made great
efforts to reconstruct the estate as Quena had originally held it.
He managed eventually to recover the one piece of land that had
remained in possession of the Thenerchebrays — namely, a garden
called the Neweyerde which Joan Sebode held.'^

During Henry's minority there was considerable trouble over his
portion of the fee of Upton. His own account is as follows-^ :

" Memorandum that Hugh de Cancellis son of Sir John de
Cancelhs lord of Upton seized the land of Henry son of John de Bray
in Harlestone after the death of the said John de Bray his father
the eighth day of July 1282 and kept all the land held of him in
his own hands for nine years unjustly because it was held by service
of soke; and because the same Henry was under age. Matilda his
mother to whom his wardship rightly belonged purchased a writ of
mort d'ancestor in the name of the said Henry against the said
Hugh de Cancellis and on account of the absence of the justices
assigned to take the assize being John de Metingham and Elias de
Bokyngham who did not come to these parts for four years, they
compromised in the following manner. Henry was to hold his estate
of five messuages and three virgates of land in free socage as of the
manor of Upton without homage for thirteen shilhngs a year and
bedrip that is six men for one day in the autumn with food ; and suit
at the court of Upton every three weeks ; the proceeds of frankpledge
at Michaelmas to be halved between Hugh and Henry, "^ This
agreement lasted until 1306, when Henry paid ^^20 los. for an
inquisition ad quod damnum besides the compensation to Hugh for
reducing his annual rent from thirteen shillings to ninepence.^
The payment of such a large sum, at a time too when Henry was
involved in heavy building expenses, shows that his affairs had pros-
pered, though an entry on another subject shows that it cannot have
been so difficult to amass £20 as might be supposed. One Agnes le
Megre made Ralph Burgess free and enfeoffed him of half a virgate
and received from him £20.*^

In the pages of the Estate Book Henry also transcribed the various

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