The area covered by the Society contains many parishes - and even more manors, for some parishes enclosed more than one manor. A manor, quite simply, is an estate of land and from early times local government was purveyed through the manor. In our area we have researched the records of these manors:- Alcester, Arrow, Coughton, Kinwarton, Haselor, Upton, Oversley and Spernall.
Every manor had a Court Baron, which legislated for the customs applying to the land, its use and its family descent; and each court upheld the rights of both its lord and its tenants. The court was the lord's court and was chaired normally by his official, the steward. For matters over and beyond such agricultural concerns, the manor was represented at the Hundred Court, in our case Barlichway Hundred, an open-air forum on the border of Haselor parish.
There were manors which were granted the jurisdiction of the Hundred Court within their own boundaries: this was the Court Leet, in which the lord received legal authority over non-estate matters such as affray, selling of merchandise, the instruments of punishment and general unsocial conduct. The granting of a court leet came from the monarch to the manorial lord, who usually applied for it. Of the manors named above, Alcester, Coughton, Upton, Spernall and Oversley had courts leet added to the courts baron. In practice, they were often united, the estate problems being added to the twice a year meetings of the leet. The parishes around Alcester were mostly held by the Throckmortons of Coughton, who received leets in the time of Henry VIII but it was not until 1632 that Charles 1 renewed this provision and from then on the court rolls are so styled.
The three manors of Kinwarton, Arrow and Haselor.continued to the end as courts baron and attended the Hundred Court for matters outside their remit.
The Alcester manor court has left more documents than any manor so far examined and one reason is not far to find: its weekly market and several annual fairs needed many by-laws and the officials to enforce them. As well as bailiffs, constable, hayward, pinder, we find there were officials to examine the quality and weight of bread, fish and ale as well as leather goods. The local villages had few shops and no markets. There were manors which elected only the constable; Spernall, even though it was of court leet status, was one of these, so perhaps the constable aid the work of several officials. Arrow has left us no court documents at all and we can only suppose that constable and overseers of various kinds were elected by an annual parish meeting
What documents there are remaining in the manors which we have not yet examined we will not know, until someone can spend time at the Record offices in Warwick and Stratford and transcribe what is there. The places we have not researched are:-Weethley, Morton Bagot, Great Alne, Sambourne, Studley,Bidford and Salford Priors.
(N.B. The manor of Oversley included Exhall, Wixford and Broom, so these will have no separate manor rolls).
Manor court records are primary evidence for the history of a place and our Society exists to write up the story of the area, based not on legends but on documentary evidence. Much has been done but the challenge of the future is to complete the work.
Spernall 1699: An explanation to the court baron officers on the way to conduct the court - perhaps the court had ceased to function for some time before. Due to technical difficulties ,the image of this document has not been reproduced.
Summer 1995 Index