Sunday 5 April 2015

A short history of the Manor of Eton cum Stockdale and Colenorton.

In 1204 there were only daughters to inherit the manor, Christiana and Gunnora de Windsor, and within two years it was officially recorded that their husbands had paid livery for their wives' halves of the divided manor.  For a few decades the connection between the two manors and the Castle was broken; but when the heir was a minor, according to custom, he was made a ward of court and his lands administered by the Crown, through the Castle. Then in the middle of the fourteenth century the manor which had been inherited by Christiana a century and a half earlier was exchanged by Edward III for land and privileges in Berkshire. For the next six centuries the manor, now the Royal Manor of Eton, was to remain with the Crown and be administered for much of that time as part of the honour and jurisdiction of Windsor Castle.

The inheritance by the daughters of Walter de Windsor had divided the original manor into two smaller manors, but not many decades were to pass before Christiana's son had granted part of his area of Eton, together with that of Cippenham, to Prince Richard, the younger son of King John, thus creating a third manor stretching into Eton. Almost certainly the tenants of this manor had to attend the manor courts at Cippenham. In the fourteenth century it was acquired by the de Moleyns family of Stoke Poges. Sir John de Moleyns already owned land in Eton, part of which was granted to Burnham Abbey in 1339. The remainder seems to have been transferred to the Crown in 1447 and was then granted to Eton College. This appears to have been a fourth manor in Eton and known simply as 'Moleyn's fee' or 'Brigstreef’. The Royal Manor of Eton at this date had the name 'Church fee' since the right of advowson was held by the lord, or 'Bordeux's fee' after the previous lord of the manor. (See chart).

The part of Eton and Eton Wick which had been attached to Cippenham Manor and then Stoke Poges continued to be administered by the lord of that manor, and courts were held at least as late as the mid sixteenth century.

It is more difficult to understand how the other manor, the half originally inherited by Gunnora and known for many years as the Manor of Huntercombe, came in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to take on the names Colenorton and Stockdales. Colenorton was first mentioned in connection with the manor in 1526 after the manor had passed into the hands of the Crispe family through marriage. It may be that it represented land of John Crispe rather than his wife Margaret, who had inherited the Eton Manor.  Certainly even a century later when Andrew Windsor was lord of the manor the court for the Colenorton portion was held a day later than the Manor of Eton with Stockdales. Where the manor house stood is unknown, though there was one; the demesne land included seventy four acres of arable and pasture spread over the parish, and a house at Eton Wick.

The name Stockdales was first used in 1610 and again appears to have been a separate estate, but when John Penn bought the Eton Manor in 1793 the three were amalgamated; in future the name Eton cum Stockdales and Colenorton was applied to the whole property. This is the name by which it is still officially known.  The last Court Baron was held in 1948 soon after the Provost and Fellows of Eton College became the Lords of the Manor. The College had already bought the Royal estates in Eton and so after some seven centuries the various manors were once more reunited.
Whether they were king, baron, knight or plain Mr or Miss, none of the lords or ladies of the manor even lived in the parish, let alone Eton Wick, with the sole exception of the Provosts and Fellows of Eton College, who held the Royal Manor for a short period in late medieval times and again this century when the two manors were once more united under one lord. But how much did it   matter to the people of the village who was the lord of the manor and where he lived? There is no simple answer, but it could have mattered a good deal, for the lord of the manor was often a considerable landowner and in the early centuries the manor was the main unit of local government. The affairs of the manor were conducted through the manor courts, the Court Baron and the Court Leet. Through these courts the village officials were appointed, dues exacted, misdemeanours punished and the regulations governing the use of the common fields and commons enforced. These courts were presided over by the lord's right-hand man, or steward, and the lot of the villagers would depend upon his character and that of the Lord of the Manor himself.

Only a few of the records of these courts of the Eton manors have survived, parchment rolls written in Latin of the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries and printed leaflets from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The full title of the court often incorporated the phrase, 'View of Frankpledge', which refers to the medieval system of grouping households into tithings (originally ten families). Each tithing was responsible for the good behaviour of its members and represented by one or more tithingmen at the court when cases of lawbreaking were considered.

Those who were liable for punishment were said to be 'in mercy' and were frequently fined, the money being kept by the lord of the manor.

Read the rest of this article here.  

 This is an extract from The Story of a Village: Eton Wick 1217 to 1977 by Judith Hunter.

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