Securing our history for the future

The Manor of Bawdrip

The Domesday Book 1086 reads “Renewald holds of Walter, Bagetrepe,  Merlesuain held it in the time of King Edward and gelded for two hides.  The arable is eight carucates.  In demesne is one hide and one plough and six serfs, eleven villeins and seven bordars and three cottagers with five ploughs and one virgate.  There are 1 riding horse, 7 beasts and 20 swine.  There is a mill of four shillings rent and one hundred acres of meadow and forty acres of pasture.  It was worth fifty shillings, now sixty shillings.”

King Edward refers to Edward the Confessor.  Merlesuain was a Saxon thane and Walter refers to Walter of Douai  of Norman descent (Lille), who had fought at the Battle of Hastings.  He also held another 36 manors, including Bradney, Crook and Horsey.  Renewald would have been his Reeve (manager).  From the Domesday entry there appear to have been 28 people, including the Lord of the Manor.  As a rule of thumb it is necessary to multiply that number by 4 or 5 to get the total number of inhabitants in the village at that time.  For Bawdrip we can guestimate that there were approximately 126 inhabitants.

To help understand the Domesday entry, the following is a guide to the meanings of some of the unfamiliar words

Geld = Annual land tax, usually 6s per hide

Hide = usually about 120 acres of land.  Bawdrip was paying tax on 2 hides, so approx.. 240 acres.

Carucate = as much land as could by tilled by a team of 8 oxen in a year.  Again this usually equates to approx.. 120 acres.

Virgate = approx.. 30 acres of land

Demesne = land belonging to the Lord of the Manor and worked for him by his serfs.

Villein = a feudal tenant to the Manor.  He did not own the land he worked and was slightly higher in status than a serf (slave).  Normally when the Estate was sold the villeins would be sold as part and parcel of that Estate.

Bordar = next up the hierarchy list

Cottager = He was given a hut for service to the Lord of the Manor’s estate.

For more information on the other Domesday  holdings for Bawdrip Parish e.g. Crandon, Bradney, Crook I suggest the website domesdaymap.co.uk.

Under the feudal system that prevailed in medieval England, serfs and villeins, together with all their belongings, including their houses, clothes and even their food were owned by the Lord of the Manor.  They were required to perform various duties for their Lord, including serving in his private army when called on.

The peasants were bound to work for their Lord, who allowed them to farm their own piece of land in return.  Their lives were ones of constant toil.  Most struggled to produce enough food for their own families.  Forbidden from leaving the manor without permission, the only way for a peasant to gain their freedom was by saving enough money to buy a plot of land, or by marrying a free person.  Peasants worked hard every day of their lives, except for Sundays and holy days.  Bad weather and a typically poor diet meant that most European peasants died way before they reached middle age.  Peasants made some of their own tools and utensils, although skilled craftsmen produced their pottery, leatherwork and iron.

Besides wood and leather, the most important material was horn from cattle and sheep.  Being both light and strong, horn did not absorb flavours like wood and did not require much effort to shape.  Horn spoons saved on washing-up, because, according to one writer “with a little licking they will always be kept as clean as a die”.

Clothes, like tools, were mostly home-spun and made from local materials.  Peasant women spent much of their time spinning wool into coarse thread, which was then woven into cloth and made into garments.  Sheepskin cloaks were worn in winter to keep out the cold and rain, and wooden pattens could be put on over leather boots in muddy conditions.  Although outer clothes were never washed, linen underwear was laundered regularly.  People’s clothes generally smelled of wood smoke, which had a deodorising effect.

Following the ravages of the Black Death plague, which took hold in 1386, many lords found it increasingly difficult to find enough workers to tend their land.  Those peasants who had survived the plague knew they would be in demand no matter where they went.  Some of them started to wander the countryside looking for the best paid work.  The countryside became unsettled and the feudal relationship that the peasants had been in up until then began to destabilise.  Unknown newcomers began to work in the fields and people were no longer willing to accept the old divisions between free and unfree.  Preachers, such as Wycliffe, taught that everyone was created equal and anyone who claimed otherwise should be opposed.  Throughout Europe simmering resentment began to oil over into violence.  Everywhere that a peasant revolt started they were put down by the King and the instigators were punished.  Though none of the revolts succeeded they did help to bring an end to the feudal society.  We’re not sure if anyone from Bawdrip had any involvement with the Peasants’ Revolt of 1377, but the records show that 15 men from Bawdrip were involved in a rebellion in 1497 and subsequently tried and fined.

If peasants somehow managed to acquire land they would then be taxed by the Estate.  When the head of the household died his heirs would be fined by means of a Heriot (the right of the Lord of the Manor to seize his tenant’s best beast or other chattel on the tenant’s death).This fine was part of the tenancy agreement and usually meant the best beast(s) would be forfeit to the Manor.  The fine was imposed because, theoretically, the Lord of the Manor had lost a valuable work resource.  If the daughter of the family married, the villain would be subject to another fine.  The manorial system will still in force legally until 1922, when copyhold tenure was abolished, although in Bawdrip it probably ended with the sale of the estate in 1903 by Jeffreys Allen.  The old Copyhold and leasehold system meant that a property could be held by the tenants in perpetuity and is the reason why rentals did not increase.  In order to obtain a Copyhold the tenant had to agree with the Landowner an entry payment, called a fine, and then also agree the annual rent (or Lord’s rent).  These rents may not have reflected the true rental value and could not be varied, having been established by the custom in the 14th and 15th centuries, during the transition from feudal tenure (see Court Farm rental as an example).  Occasionally the Lord’s rent could include token amounts such as “two Silver Spurs” as paid by Lord Temple for Temple Farm, Bradney.

Manorial Courts were held at the Manor House, which was Tudor Court in Eastside Lane.  The Manor Courts were normally held every 3 weeks and Bawdrip is lucky that some of those Court Rolls  (1550-1634) have survived and are available at the Public Records Office in Kew.  We have been able to obtain copies of these Rolls from the PRO and have spent many hours translating them.  Some of them are written in Latin with a smattering of old English thrown in and other are entirely in Old English. 

Through the Courts the Lord controlled his tenants, granted them leases, recorded their rents, issued orders for farming practices, enforced local  customs, settled local disputes, transferred property rights, and, generally, ensured his rights and financial interests were preserved.  All tenants were expected to attend these courts and could be fined if they didn’t turn up.  However, they were able to send a written excuse to the Court, or sent a representative in their stead.  These were referred to as essions.  If complaints were upheld then the defendant was “in mercy” and a fine was payable to the Lord.  Through these Rolls we have been able to match the copyhold and rentals to later leases, which has been a considerable help in identifying individual properties and holdings.  Some of the field names mentioned in the Court Rolls are the same as those appear on the 1841 Tithe Map, which, again, has aided identification of properties.


From the Court Rolls and early leases we have found out that part of the land in Bawdrip village was known as Combe.  Combe is mentioned in the transfer of lands in several of the early Court Rolls of the Elizabethan period.  I.e. October 1589 Nicholas Shooe re Combe Hay.

1590 John Tuxwell re a messuage at Combe.

1590 Gyles Gilbert “the gate of the Combe is in decay”

April 1610 “Combe gate is in default and is to be repaired.”

A lease dated 1583, in the name of Richard Tuxwell relates to a “messuage at Combe, the site of a cottage, orchard and garden etc.”.  We have to visualize the landscape as being quite different to what we see now.  There were lots more trees and the hill leading from the ancient tracks, which runs along the ridgeway down to the village was covered in pine trees.  We know this because one of the court rolls dated October 1588 gives an order that “John Symons, als Boucher) shall scowre his ditch leading from the wydded pynes down to the North End of Richard Shooe’s close corner called Treane, between this and St. Andrews tyde nexte or be fined 2s3d”.  Treane was still a field name on the 1841 Tithe Map and is situated to the West of the Old Farmhouse in New Road.  The village, therefore, may have sat in a kind of “combe” and this may be why Crancombe Lane is so called, as it was the Lane which led from Crandon, situated at the top of the hill, to Combe at the bottom.

In 1327 a Johanne ate Combe is recorded in the Lay Subsidy Returns for Bawdrip, paying a tax of 12d.  Combe may also have some relevance to the John Combe(s) who held the Manor in 1360-1403 (see below).  The name Combe is derived from the Saxon word ‘cumb’ which meant valley.

In addition to the Manor of Bawdrip there were also the Manors of Bradney, Ford, Crook and Crandon, but for the purposes of this research we have, in the main, concentrated on Bawdrip.

The Manor passed through numerous hands, as follows:-

1066 Merlesuain

1086 Renewald the Reeve held it from Walter of Douai

1154  Robert of Bawdrip

1243 Robert of Bawdrip (possibly grandson of above)

C1280 Adam of Bawdrip, who died in 1296

1303 William Martin, who was acting as guardian for Adam’s son, John of Bawdrip

1316 John of Bawdrip

1333 John of Bawdrip by this time had died and Joan, his sister held the Manor in dower[1] until she remarried.  Sometime in between Hugh of Bawdrip, who may have been John’s brother, held the Manor.

11.6.1351 A grant in dower to orange of Bawdrip, widow of Hugh of Bawdrip, by her son John.  The grant states that John assigns her all the lands and tenements in Baudripp, including rents and services, as well as villain with all their chattels, together with the advowson of the Church of Baudripp and the dovecotes, meadows, pastures and woods.  Orange later married a John Cadehay.

1355 Orange assigned to dower to John Osborn, who gave her an annuity in return.

1360 John of Bawdrip regained the Manor, granted the returns from two-thirds of the Estate to John Combe, knight.  This may have been in payment of a debt, but a condition of the agreement was that John of Bawdrip retained a life tenancy.

1363 John Combe died.  He left a son, his heir, John Combe Jnr and there then appears to have been a legal wrangle over the Manor[2].  John of Bawdrip seems to have agreed to assign the Estate to a Robert Hamelyn and Walter Byke (chaplain).  On hearing this, John Combe Jnr entered the Manor on 6 January 1365 to secure his inheritance.  On the following day John of Bawdrip re-entered and expelled the heir by force.  He took possession and received all returns from the Estate until 20 April 1366 when he demised them to a William Style.  William Style received all the issues from the Manor until 15 April 1369 when Edmund Cheyne, Sherriff of Somerset, decreed that the Estate be returned to Margaret, the widow of John Combe Snr.  The Sheriff took this decision because Margaret was able to prove possession by a Statute Merchant in favour of her late husband by the said John of Bawdrip.  Please see final paragraph relating to the Bawdrip family.

1372 John Combe Jnr attains the age of 21 and takes over two-thirds of the Estate.

1403 John Combe Jnr has died and the manor reverted again to his mother, Margaret Combe, who, by this time, had remarried.  Her second husband was Thomas Beaupyne.  They gave the Manor to their daughter, Margaret, wife of William Wroughton.  The Manor remained with the Wroughton family for 200 years and it is from their Lordship that the Manor Court Rolls have survived.

1594 the Manor is mortgaged to Henry Long

1598 Indenture from Giles Wroughton to Henry Long in the sum of £1200 for the Manor of Bawdrip,

1634 the Longs sold the Estate  to Samuel and Henry Rolle and their brother-in-law Hugh Fortescue.  The manor passed down through the Rolle family until eventually it came under the Lordship of Denys Rolle.  He undertook a disastrous expedition to Florida in 1768 with 40 people from Castle Cary.  When he returned, some two years later, with only four survivors from the expedition, he was penniless.  The Exchequer demanded the sale of the estate in 1770.  In memory of the tragedy, which claimed the lives of 36 people from Castle Cary, a house was built there called the Florida House in 1818.

Some of the property was sold in separate lots and the Lordship and the remains of the Estate were sold to Mary Jefferies.

1785 the Estate is left to Jeffreys Allen, son of Mary Jefferies’ sister, Ann.

1903 the Estate was up for sale again and most of it sold by 1910.

In 1650 Crandon was held by Admiral Blake and Bradney by Thomas Muttlebury.  Bradney Manor was purchased by Joseph Bradney in 1793, but Lordship was not recorded after the late 1790s.  Joseph was followed by his second son, the Reverend Joseph Bradney, who died in 1868, and is son, also Joseph, sold the Estate c 1919.

The Bawdrip family do not feature again in village history, following the dispute with the Combes over ownership of the Manor.  However, circa 1470 research from the International Genealogical Index reveals that they may have gone to Penmark in South Glamorgan.  If you look at the map, Penmark lies almost in a direct line from Dunball, across Bridgwater Bay into South Wales.  The Bawdrips held Penmark Castle until the end of the 16th century.  Then in 1596 William Bawdrippe built a fair house at the Splott and made the same his chief residence[3].   Part of the family may have returned to Somerset, as in 1604 a Bartholomew Bawdrip married in Stogursey and the family may have gone to live in North Petherton.  Again, the ITI have records of a christening for Edith Bawdrip of 18 September 1625 in North Petherton, with other Bawdrip family entries for North Petherton up until 1836.

 [1]Dower = portion of an Estate claimed by a widow until she married
[2]Calendar of Inquisitions – Writ of Mandamus dated 7 January 1372
[3]Cardiff Records.  Vol II, Chapter 1.  Splott is now part of Cardiff

The History Articles reproduced are owned and were researched and produced by Suzie Lewis and her father (now deceased), John Jenkins.