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Mildenhall Court Rolls


The town of Mildenhall is a pretty, old-fashioned market town of some 3,700 inhabitants, lying in the Hundred of Lackford, in the/county of Suffolk. It is situated on the river Lark, which, now that its navigation has been resuscitated, affords good water communication both with Bury and King's Lynn. The church is good even among Suffolk churches, and is especially remarkable for the wood carving of the roof. The hamlet of West Row lies some two miles to the west of Mildenhall. Here the chief industry is fruit-farming, which seems to prosper, some of the land being exceedingly good.

The manor of Mildenhall, or Myldenhale, in which the two smaller manors of Aspals and Twamhyll have now been merged, was granted by Edward the Confessor to the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds ; and was one of the hundred and fifty-nine manors which that institution at one time possessed in Suffolk alone. After the dissolution of the monasteries it passed into the Duchy of Lancaster, and is now in the possession of Sir Edward Bunbury, of Great Barton Hall, who has kindly allowed me to examine such rolls of the manor as are still to be found in his Muniment Room.

Those still extant of the earlier Rolls refer to the following periods :—
6 and 27 Ed. I.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    1278 and 1299
3 and 5 Hen. IV.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    1402 and 1404
10 Hen. V.—10 Hen. VI.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    1422-1432
39 Hen. VI.-2 Ric. III.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    1461-1484
11 Hen. VIII.-24 Hen. VIII.    .    .    .    .    .    .    1519-1533
1 Ed. VI.- 5 and 6 Ph. and M.    .    .    .    .    .    .    1547-1558
24 Eliz. — 13 Jac. I.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    1582-1615

I have gone carefully through the above Rolls, but did not meet with the name of Powle till at the Court Leet held in July, 17 Ed. IV. (1477). On this skin there occurs a paragraph containing twenty names, among which are Thomas Powle and Richard Poule. On the margin of the Roll, against a bracket embracing the names, are the words " Deceñ Inrot," and at the end of the paragraph " ad hanc diem jurati sant in deceñ dñi Regis." Here we have an instance of the enrolment of individuals into a " Decenna."

The Decenna, or Tithing,. was the unit of local government in early times, and


formed a part of the Frank Pledge system. It has been described by Bishop Stubbs as a " compulsory organisation of collective responsibility," the members of the Tithing being pledges or sureties for one another's good behaviour.
From each Decenna was chosen a Decennarius, or head man of the Tithing, and these Decennarii, called also " Capitales Plegii," or Chief Pledges, formed the Manorial Court, of which the Seneschal was the Judge. Various, indeed, were the offences presented and suits tried before this Court, and disposed of in, perhaps, a more expeditious manner than by the more cumbrous methods of modern times. The records of the Courts Leet, though showing us only the dark side of the picture, throw considerable light on the life of a village community in days gone by. Qne is struck by the frequency in the earlier rolls of such offences as " blood drawing" and " insulting ; " and the curious custom of " raising the hue and cry " on a person (levare hutesium), from which one gathers that what we should call the " rowdy " element was certainly not wanting in those times. The public welfare was also carefully guarded by this Court, for we not unfrequently find some unscrupulous purveyor fined for selling meat or fish which was unfit for food, " ad magnum detrimentum-populi Regis." The manufacture of bread and beer was governed by statutory regulations known as " assizes " (assisæ), which the Court, it would seem, was also very particular in enforcing. Many less serious irregularities were also duly presented to the Court, down to what would seem to us the almost pardonable offence of poor " Marrian Dixon vidua," who got into trouble at Barton in 1599 for carrying off some gorse, and was fined 6s. 8d., as the scribe quaintly tells us, " quia asportavit jampnas quodam curriculo, anglice a wheele barrowe,' contra ordinationem."

By the law of Hen. I. the age of twelve years was that at which every freeman was to be enrolled in a Tithing. Though it is possible that by 1477 the age for enrolment may have been raised, we shall be right in supposing that a person so enrolled must at least have accomplished twelve years. But to return to our Rolls.
At a Court Leet held in July, 22 Ed. IV. (1482), we find Thomas Poule is fined 3d. together with others, " quia comoraverunt infra purcinctis (sic) hujus lete per unum (    ?) diem et non sunt jurati in decennam domini Regis ; " from which it would appear that the swearing in of members of a Tithing had to be repeated on certain occasions.

At the General Court in July, 1482, it was presented that Isabella Powle, John Spencer, and Thomas Costyn " sunt communes pistores panis equini et fregerunt assisam," for which the fine was 3d. each. And at the Leet for 9th Jan., 1482, Robert Sygo, the beer-taster, presents that Isabella Poule and others, " sunt communes brasiatores et vendiderunt cervisiam contra assisam "—(anglice : are the common brewers, and sold beer contrary to the assise of beer), for which her fine was 4d.


Thomas Poule appears again on the last roll of this set, at a Court held Nov., 1484, as " Pistor panis equini," together with John Spencer and Nichus Baghot, who were associated with him in the office.

During the reign of Hen. VII. and the earlier years of Hen. VIII. occurs a " hiatus valde deflendus " in the manorial documents, the only one existing being a rental of the manor in 1501, which is described in the title as " renovatum anno regni regis Henrici Septimi sexto decimo Tempore venerabilis viri Richardi Fouldon Cellerarii Monasterii Sancti Edmundi de Bury et Tempore Willielmi Powle subsenes-calli sui ibi."

In this Rental the occurrences of the name are as follow

"Thomas Powle tenet ad firmam "- 21 acres in various parts of Mildenhall, one of the acres being " ad finem orientem ville de Mildenhale ; " rent 21s. 10d.

" Thomas Powle tenet per copiam Rotuli curiæ cum Johanna uxore ejus de anno 9 Henrici, unum tenementum custumarium in Market Lane—rent 4s."

" Thomas Powle tenet unum tenementum in Curles Lane et unum messuagium vocatum le Swan in Mylle Strete et tres acras in peterburgh field—rent 12s. Id."

The next series of manorial records is contained in a paper book, probably the rough draft made in Court by the scribe, which also contains records of Courts held at Barton Parva, and Heringswell, and covers a period, 11th to 24th Hen. VIII. (1520-33). In this book the name occurs as under :—

May, 1519 (I2 Hen. VIII.), Robert Powle is sworn into a Tithing.

July, 1523 (15 Hen. VIII.). Leet, Robert Powle appears as plaintiff in a plea of debt against Robert Sigo for 3s. 4d.

Jan., 1526 (18 Hen. VIII.), Robert Powle appears again as plaintiff in a suit against one Robert Sparhawke, " quod reddat ix. cumb. ordei pretii xviii.s quos ei injuste detinet."

In 1528 the land of John Bury in Myl Strete is said to abut on premises " nuper Johannis Powle ut . . . in anno II Hen. 7. (1495)."

At the Court Leet of 22 Hen. VIII. (1530), we find Simon Heynes sues John Chiston de Bek in a plea of trespass, " per Robt Polle atturnatum suum."

At the Court held 1533 (24. Hen. VIII.), mention is made of a tenement, " vocatum le Swan" in Mildenhall, " nuper concessum Thome Powle per indenturam sub sigillo Conventi."

Thomas Powle is commanded to repair the said tenement, which is described as " valde ruinosum et devastatum."


The next record extant is for a Court held September, 1547, after which the rolls are continuous till 1558, but in this set there is no mention of the name of Powle at all. In 1557, at the Leet, it was presented that "John Webbe ats Clarke habet unum tenementum nativum apud West rowe quod est valde ruinosum pro defectu reparationis tam meerenni quam tecture. Et preceptum est ei emendare citra festum pentecoste sub poenâ 20S."

In the next series, which begins 1582, the only entries of any interest for our present purpose occur as under :-

1582, 16th July, Leet. Robert Powle and several others are fined 3d. each for making " passagia et vias vocatas Carte wayes in communibus paludibus.'

1583, 22nd July, Leet. William Powle (with others) is fined 6d. " quia interfecit ad vendendum unum vitulum existentem infra ætatem quinque septimanarum tempore ejusdem interfectionis contra formam statuti."

1583. At the General Court. John Dobson ats Dyer surrenders 3 rods, which he had at the death of Robert Dobson, his father, to the use of Simon Suckerman.

1584. General Court. Edmund Poole, husband of Agnes, daughter and heiress of Johane Suckerman, late wife of Andrew Suckerman, is admitted to one-third of 19 acres.

1586, 13th July. General Court. It was presented that William Powle since last Court surrendered into the hands of our Ladye the Queen a cottage in Mill Street, which he had from John Parkyn, as more clearly appears on the Court Roll, 16th July, 1577

(A conditional surrender or mortgage for    2 to Edward Elsing.)

1588, 22nd July. Edward Elsing surrenders the above-mentioned cottage to William Powle, who thereupon surrenders it to Thomas Cabycke, who is admitted tenant.

1605, 17th July, Leet. Verdict of the " Fenn Reves." William Powle and James Walker are fined 6d. each, " quia foderunt curses super powles waye in le town delf ubi non debuerunt."

Also, in the verdict of the Clerks of the Market, Robert Powle and Francis Powle are fined 6d. each, for concealing some offence not specified.

1607, 14th July. At this Court it was presented that Margareta Wood, relict of William Wood, died since the last Court, seized of a piece of land containing by estimation 3 rods, lying in Westfyld in Mildenhall, which she lately had to herself and her heirs at the death of John Fayerware, as appears by the Rolls of the Court held


19th July, 38 Eliz., and that Robert Powle " est consanguineus et proximus heres et plene tatis," and is admitted tenant to the land.

1612, 15th July. Robert Powle surrenders a piece of land containing 3 rods in West row field, which he had on the death of Margaret Wood, to the use of James Suckerman.

1617. Aug. (15 Jac. I.). A survey of the Manor taken at the date is among the Books and Surveys transferred from the Duchy of Lancaster (Div. xviii., No. 17), in the Record Qffice, London. In this document there are complete lists of freeholders and copyholders of the Manor, in neither of which does the name occur.

In 1649 Adam Powell was admitted to a tenement in Myl strete ; and during the eighteenth century the name occurs several times.'

Of the Rolls subsequent to 1615 I only made a cursory examination, but they seem to be fairly complete.

Of the manors of Aspals and Twamhyll very few records are extant.; for the former there is a Roll of a Court held loth Qct., 35 Eliz. (1593), in which the name Ric: Powill occurs as one of the " Inquisitores ex officio," but I found no other mention of the name.


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