The Knight’s Fee of Essewelle: Wischards, Hotots, and Colkyns at the Manors of Esol and Freydevill’

New information and a re-interpretation of information already available has shed new light on  the chain of ownership and occupation of Essewelle from around 1215 to the mid-1340’s. This article supersedes the previous one regarding the tenure of the Colkyns at Essewelle.

The Wischards at Essewelle
In 1166 King Henry II commanded that persons holding knights fees by barony were required to certify them in the Exchequer. The tenants in chief were instructed to clearly distinguish between fees of old feoffment, a fee in existence before the death of King Henry I in December, 1135, and of new feoffment.

Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine holding court.

A knight’s fee was a fiscal unit of land value held by a knight from an over-lord in return for specified military service, usually forty days a year After the Norman Conquest all land was owned by the King, who then allocated land to his barons in return for the provision by each baron of a specified number of knights for annual military service. To fulfill this quota that barons divided their land amongst their followers with each division being held from the baron in return for annual military service. The amount of land needed to support a knight was dependent on the location and type of land held. The richer the land, the smaller the fee.
A knight’s fee was created by the process of subinfeudation, the division of the initial grant of land by the King, in to two or more smaller fees, which in their turn could be divided into smaller units by the over-lord or the holder of the fee. This meant that a knight holding a fee could create his own feudal retainer who would pledge fealty to him rather than to the overlord. This type of holding was known as a sub-fee.
The practice of sub-division by over-lords was outlawed by the statute of Quia Emptores in 1290, but sub-division through inheritance by the daughters of a fee holder in the absence of a sole male heir continued.

After the certification of knights fees by the Exchequer the Barony of Maminot became one of eight baronies owing duty of Castleguard to Dover Castle with the Barony of Maminot duty bound to provide three knights for four week periods of service.  This duty of thirty-two weeks annual service at Dover Castle service was shared by knights who held fees from the Barony of Maminot knights of whom some fifteen were from Kent with the remainder coming from other parts of the kingdom.
These knight’s fees were mainly derived from the estates confiscated from Bishop Odo by King William II in 1088 and redistributed amongst the English barons and Essewelle was one such property.

The Exchequer return for the Barony of Maminot in 1166 recorded that Alan Wisc’ [Wischard] held one knight’s fee which, although not recorded by name, was the knight’s fee of Essewelle. Either he or an heir of the same name continued to hold Essewelle until the early 1200’s as this name appears in connection with a civil case in Kent brought before the King John’s Justices of the Bench at Easter of 1203. Alan Wischard and other members of his family also held land in Bedfordshire.
Alan Wischard died at some time after 1203 leaving a widow, Dionisia [Dionysia] Wischard, who held Essewelle in her own right from the Barony of Say, and two daughters. These two daughters were joint heiresses of Dionisia and therefore each entitled to one half [moiety] of the fee.  Isobel, the elder of the two daughters, married Hugh de Hotot [Hotoft] with whom she had a daughter named Nichola. Hugh de Hotot appears to have become the principal tenant of Dionisia’s knight’s fee of Essewelle through his marriage to the eldest of Dionisia’s daughters, and he also held land in his own right in Bedfordshire where in April of 1219 he made a grant of land to Geoffrey Conquest [Conquestor, Cunquest] when Geoffrey married Nichola.

The name of Alan and Dionisia Wischard’s younger daughter is not at present known, but she married Ralph [Ranulph] Colkyn [Colekyn,Colekin, Calkin, Kulkin, Kalkyn], a member of a wealthy Canterbury mercantile family, and through this marriage to the youngest of Dionisia’s daughters Ralph became the sub-tenant of Hugh de Hotot at Essewelle. Ralph and his wife had a son, Hugo, heir his mother’s Essewelle inheritance.

The Hotots and Colkyns inherit
Hugh de Hotot was summoned to appear before the Justices at Westminster on Kent on the Morrow of All Souls [3rd November] of 1219 as “chargeable as tenant of lands in Eswell [Essewelle] that had belonged to Dionisia Wischard, with part of a debt due by her to the King upon Jewish account”. This meant that Dionisia was indebted to a Jew, most likely from Canterbury, and the debt had been seized by the king in payment of taxes owed to the King by the Jewish lender. The fact that it is stated that is was property that had [in the past] belonged to Dionisia Wischard in Essewelle [Eswell], and that Dionisia did not appear before the Justices in person indicates that she had died and a claim for payment of the debt had been made against her estate by the King.
Ralph Colkyn produced evidence that he had himself paid the money claimed by the King to Reginald de Cornhill, one of King John’s administrators, and Robert the Clerk who were in turn summoned to reimburse the King for this and other money they had collected on his behalf but had retained for their own use. This they failed to do and their property was distrained.
Thomas de Retling, who had bought 216 acres of land at Estretling [Old Court] in 1196 and was therefore a close neighbour of Ralph Colkyn’s, was also alleged to owe a debt to the King upon Jewish account at the same time as Ralph. Quite possibly he had borrowed money from a Jewish moneylender to purchase the land at Estretling.  Fortunately for Thomas he was also able to show that he had settled his debt to the King by paying Reginald de Cornhill who once again had kept it for his own use. These thefts of Royal revenue were made possible by the widespread loss of King John’s authority brought about by the First Baron’s War.

For further information about the First Barons War, please go to
:The Knight’s Fee of Essewelle-from Domesday to the end of the First Barons War.

The Jews in England.
The Jews were legally the personal property of the King and enjoyed royal protection, and as wards of the crown they had the freedom of the King’s highways and could hold property directly from the King. At this time Jews were barred from virtually all professions and Christians were prohibited from the business of usury, the charging of interest on loans, so usury was left to Jewish merchants whose financial acumen as bankers soon made the loaning of money a very profitable business. Their legal status left Jews open to the seizure of taxation [tallage] by the King, and this taxation could be very heavy and was often arbitrary with the King taxing the Jews whenever he needed money. Around the time that Hugh de Hotot was summoned before the Justices at Westminster the Jewish community made up less than 0.25 per cent of the population, but provided some 8 per cent of the King’s income.
There is no evidence of Jews in England before the invasion and conquest by William the Conqueror in 1066.  Jews from Rouen, in William’s Duchy of Normandy, arrived soon after the conquest and quickly established a network of credit and trading links between William’s English and French possessions.
After the outbreak of the English Civil War between the Empress  Matilda and Stephen of Blois the subsequent breakdown of centralized law and order made travel for trade purposes extremely dangerous and it is thought that Jews abandoned trade almost entirely in favour of banking and loaning money during this time.  Christians at this time were prohibited from the business of “usury”, the charging of interest on loans, so it was left to Jewish merchants whose financial acumen as bankers soon made the loaning of money a very profitable business. After the end of “The Anarchy” successive English kings profited greatly from the wealth generated by Jewish financiers.
Borrowing money from Jews was by no means unusual for members of the landed classes at this time, and even the Church borrowed money from them. Many of the great Christian cathedrals and churches of the time were built with money borrowed from Jews.

Jews being expelled from England in 1290

However, the increasing indebtedness of the landed classes and the Church to the Jews led to great resentment resulting in sporadic orchestrated outbursts of anti-Semitism which, despite their supposed royal protection, often resulted in massacres of the Jews and the destruction of their loan records. During the reign of Edward I the Lombard bankers from Northern Italy became more prominent in the international banking business and the King became less dependent on Jewish financiers for loads and taxation. Edward also brought in more legislation which restricted the Jews ability to make any profits from business which greatly reduced the usefulness of the Jews to him. Eventually political pressure and huge financial inducements from his barons led to Edward I expelling the Jews from the kingdom in 1290, and Jews were not officially re-admitted to England until 1655, during Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth.

The end of the First Barons War and beyond

King Henry III, born 1207, reigned 1216–1272. He succeeded King John, his father, at the age of nine.

After the end of the First Barons War in 1217 changes had been made to the fabric and administration of Dover Castle, one of the principal changes being that Castleguard, whereby the holder of a knight’s fee owed a period of military service at the castle, became “ward of Dover Castle” or Castleward rent. This discharged a fee holder from all personal service and attendance and enabled the King to use the rent money received to garrison the castle with professional soldiers. The rent payment was 120 pence (10 shillings, now 50 new pence) which was payment in lieu of the service and exactions of providing guards for Dover Castle, which in the case of the Barony of Say, which included Essewelle, was for eight months every year.
This commutation of military service into cash payments allowed wealthy  non-members of the knightly class, such as merchants,  to purchase estates held by knight‘s fee which they had previously been barred from owning as they could not perform the relevant military service owed. Many wealthy town based merchants and tradesmen took advantage of this and purchased country estates they were then able to own in their own right.

Although Geoffrey Conquest [Conquestor, Cunquest] was married to Isobel de Hotot’s daughter Isobel and her son-in-law appear not to have got on at times. They were at odds in 1223 when Geoffrey was involved in a suit against Isobel concerning her laying waste to land he owned in Houghton, Bedfordshire.
However, their differences appear to have been resolved by 1227 as that year Isabel de Hotoft used Geoffrey Cunquest as her attorney to petition against Hamo Colkyn [Colekyn], the heir to Ralph Colkyn and his Wischard wife’s property at Essewelle. Isabel claimed that Hamo should pay service to her for the customs of the tenement he held from her in Esewaut [Esole at Essewelle] as she was the elder sister and Hamo was the child of the [unknown] younger sister.
This seems to confirm that  Hamo had inherited what became the manor of Esole, and that Isobel de Hotot, and later her daughter Nichola, held that moiety of the fee that became the manor of Freydevill’.

Around 1240 to 1242 Geoffrey Conquestor and Nichola’s heirs, the date of Nichola’s death is not at present known and neither are the names of the heirs, sold their half of the Essewelle fee to Roger de Kennardington [Rogerus de Kynardinton], a member of a West Kent landowning family whose Manor of Kynardinton, from which the family took their name, lay on the borders of the Weald of Kent between Tenterden and Romney Marsh. The half sold may have actually been a moiety of the Essewelle fee, which is a half but not necessarily an equal half. Roger may have in fact bought one quarter of the fee with three-quarters remaining in the possession of Hamo Colkyn, something which the later Kent knight’s list of 1253-54 appears to confirm.
The sale document records that this half fee at Essewelle was held in payment to the Barony of Say as Essewelle’s over-lord of annual scutage of 42/-, with half paid at Easter and half paid at Michaelmas [29th September]. The holder of the half fee was also liable for the previously mentioned annual charge of 120 pence [10/-] for “ward of Dover Castle”.
Holders of a knight’s fee, or part thereof, originally had had to carry out specified military services for their over-lord. However, by early to mid-13th century the payment of scutage, literally shield money, had generally replaced military service and over-lords used the revenue from scutage to employ professional full time soldiers to replace the previously “part-time” knights who held their knights fees.

The Colkyns of Essewelle
Not long after de Kynardinton’s purchase of the half fee at Essewelle the Kent Rolls of 1242-3 recorded: “Hamo Colekin and Roger de Kynardinton’, hold one fee at Esewelle from William de Say, who holds it from the King”. However, it was not to be a happy relationship between Hamo and Roger.

In 1249 Roger de Kynardinton’ borrowed money from the Prior and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral Priory and used the £10 annual revenue he received from Freydevill’, the moiety of the knight’s fee of Essewelle he had purchased in 1244, in part security for the loan. This revenue appears to have derived from manorial rents and fines. This loan document contains the earliest known use of Freydevill’, or any of its many variant, to describe the one of the two manors that made up the knights fee of Essewelle and confirms that Nicola Conquest had inherited the part of Essewelle that constituted the manor of Fredydevill’.

The following year Hamo Colkyn [Kalkin] was summoned to court by William de Say, Baron of Say and Hamo’s over-lord, for the non-payment of feudal dues owed for tenure of Freydevill’. Hamo asked William to acquit him of this debt as it was in fact owed by Roger de Kynardinton’ who was actually in possession of Freydevill’. This appears to show that Roger was in fact the sub-tenant of Hamo, the holder of the fee of Essewelle from the Barony of Say.
William de Say stated that Hamo should pay the dues for the whole fee and it was up to Hamo to get payment from Roger de Kynardinton’ for the dues owed on the sub-fee of Freydevill’ that he held.
Hamo was not the only person pursuing Roger for payment. At the same time John, the son of William de Frogham, and Richard Prit were also pursuing a claim against Roger, but unfortunately the claim was not specified in the court records. Roger did not turn up in court, despite being given time to do so, and an attachment on Roger’s property was made in favour of his creditors.

Roger de Kynardinton’ appears to have at least temporarily resolved his problems and retained his holding as the 1253-54 Kent lists of knight’s fees records that Ralf [Radulf] Colkyn, presumably Hamo’s son, held three parts of one fee and Roger de Kenardynton’ held one part of one fee in the Manor of Essewelle [Eswall] from Willelm de Say. 

In 1268 Ralph Colkyn was summoned by King Henry to appear before the Exchequer of Jewry, as had his late grand-father and namesake Ralph Colkyn in 1219, but this time the charges were much more serious. Ralph was accused of being was one of nineteen men that, in April of 1264, “came and entered the house of Simon Paable at Canterbury [bailiff (‘Ballivus’) of Canterbury], and by force and arms thence took and carried away the King’s Chirograph-Chest against the King’s peace”. Ralph’s alleged crime had taken place during the Massacre of the Jews of Canterbury in April of 1264 which had been instigated by Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford and 7th Earl of Gloucester. During this bloody event many of the city’s Jewish inhabitants were killed and a lot of Jewish property was looted and destroyed. Those Jews who survived fled the city.
A chirograph was a medieval document, which has been written in duplicate, triplicate or very occasionally quadruplicate (four times) on a single piece of parchment, with the Latin word “chirographum” (occasionally replaced by some other term) written across the middle, and then cut through to separate the parts.
The King’s chirograph chest, or archa, contained records of transactions between Jews and Christians under the provisions of the 1233 Statute concerning Jews which specified that: “Loans contracted with Jews shall be by “chirograph only, not tally”. The Jew shall have the 1st part, with the seal of the Christian debtor attached; the Christian debtor the 2nd part; the 3rd part, the pes [foot] shall be put in the chest for safe keeping by both Christian and Jewish chirographers. A chirograph whose foot is not in the chest shall be invalid”. An archa had three padlocks and three sets of seals. Orignally archae were located in six or seven towns in England, including London, Oxford, and Canterbury.

Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford and 7th Earl of Gloucester

At this time of the massacre Gilbert de Clare was an ally of Simon de Montford, Earl of Leicester, in his rebellion against King Henry III. Simon de Montford was the initial instigator of widespread attacks on Jewish communities by supporters such as Gilbert de Clare. The main cause of these widespread attacks was the fact that de Montford, de Clare, and many other barons had large outstanding loans with Jewish financiers which were cleared when the lenders were killed and their loan records destroyed.
Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford and 7th Earl of Gloucester, was one of the most powerful and brutal of all English nobles and held the castle at Tunbridge in Kent. He was known as “Red” Gilbert de Clare or “the Red Earl”, probably because of his hair colour and also for his  terrible temper and bloodthirsty demeanor. Although at the time of the Canterbury massacre  he was a supporter of Simon de Montford in his rebellion against Henry III, de Clare fell out with de Montford and went over to the King’s side just before the Battle of Evesham in August 1265 where de Montford was killed and the rebellion ended.

Despite exhaustive inquiries at the time of the alleged offence the Sheriff of Kent failed to apprehend any of the culprits, nor were any of the contents of the chest ever found.
The trial of the Ralph Colkyn and the other nineteen accused began some four years after the crime was committed and the proceedings finally ended in 1270 when no evidence was offered against the defendants.  As the chest and contents were never recovered any debts that Ralph Colkyn or any  other of the accused owed to Canterbury’s Jews were therefore erased.

King Henry III died in November of 1272 and was succeeded by King Edward I. The last years of his father’s reign had been very tumultuous due to the Second Barons War and its aftermath and the new king wanted to restore law and order and begin to raise revenue from taxation.

Edward I, also known as Longshanks and Malleus Scotorum-the Hammer of the Scots

In order to do this the Hundred Rolls were commissioned by King Edward I to inquire into the rights of land holders. The Kent Hundred Rolls of 1274-75 recorded: “Item: Then Ralph Kalekin holds half a fee in Freydevile of William de Say and the same William of the king in chief, by what service they do not know”.
This inquiry took place only a few years after the breakdown of law and order caused by the Second Barons War and many records had been destroyed in the ensuing prolonged disruption of civil administration and tax gathering. Possibly only half a fee at Freydevile is referred to because of inaccurate recording, or perhaps there was a deliberate effort on behalf of Ralph Colkyn to evade taxation on a whole fee which also included Esol.

Some thirty years later the Aids and Scutages Roll for Marrying The King’s Eldest Daughter for Eastry Hundred of 1303 records one [knight’s] fee held by John [Johan] Colkyn at Esol and Fredevill’ from Geoffrey [Galfrid] de Say. This John Colkyn was presumably the son and heir of Ralph Colkyn and had inherited the one unified fee from Ralf.
John Colkyn [1] died three years after the inquiry and his Post Mortem Inquisition of 1306 recorded his having “died possessed of property at Esol and Freydevill’” which was to be inherited by his son, also called John.
Inquisitions post mortem, usually written as Post Mortem Inquisition [PMI], were local inquiries into valuable properties, in order to discover what income and rights were due to the crown and who the heir should be. These inquiries took place when people were known or believed to have held lands of the crown, and therefore involved individuals of considerable wealth and status.

John Colkyn (2), held property at Freydvill’, Esol and Nonyngton during the early 1300’s until his death, the exact date which is not known but it is believed to have been between 1316 and 1326. The Nonyngton property would have been in the North and South Nonington manors of the Manor of Wingham.
The heir to John Colkyn’s (2) was his son, another John Colkyn (3), who was in his minority when he inherited his father’s property. As a minor inheriting property held from an over-lord John (3) became a ward of his over-lord.

Edward II, a weak king defeated by the Scots at Bannockburn in 1314

In 1315 Sir Henry Beaufuiz [Beaufitz, Beaufiz], a King’s Justice, purchased by enrolment of grant a messuage and 25 acres in Esewele from Walter atte Bergh [Walter Abarowe] who had inherited the  property from family members. The exact location of this messuage is at present not certain, but it would have made Sir Henry a near neighbour of the Colkyns at their Esol manor house.
After the death of John Colkyn (2) Sir Henry appears to have acquired the wardship of the minor John Colkyn (3) in the following way.
Geoffrey de Say was the overlord of the knight’s fee of Essewelle which he in turn held, as tenant-in-chief, directly from the King as part of the Castleward Barony of Say. De Say died and left a son and heir, Geoffrey de Say, who was in his minority, and as a minor Geoffrey became a ward of his over-lord, the King.
The situation now becomes more complex. The young John Colkyn inherited the knight’s fee of Essewelle from his father but due to his minority became the ward of his over-lord, who in this case was the young Geoffrey de Say, who was himself in his minority and therefore a ward of his over-lord, the King. Therefore, when Sir Henry acquired the wardship of the young Geoffrey de Say, he also acquired control of the wardship of the young John Colkyn.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines the rights of an over-lord [lord of a fief] regarding wardship as follows:
“Wardship and marriage, in feudal law, rights belonging to the lord of a fief with respect to the personal lives of his vassals. The right of wardship allowed the lord to take control of a fief and of a minor heir until the heir came of age. The right of marriage allowed the lord to have some say as to whom the daughter or widow of a vassal would marry. Both rights brought the lord increased revenue. In the right of marriage a woman would often pay to have a suitor accepted by the lord or to get out of marrying the lord’s choice for her. This was particularly true in medieval England, where these rights became increasingly commercial and were often sold. Wardship rights were generally exercised in fiefs held by military service but sometimes also in fiefs held by socage, or agricultural service. The lord received the income of a fief belonging to an heir in his minority until the heir was old enough to render the military and other services required of him, at which time the lord released the fief to him in the material condition in which the lord had originally received it.
“In theory, the rights of wardship were instituted to protect a minor heir or a widow from unscrupulous relatives who might wish to gain control of the property. In France, for example, the lands of a minor heir were often administered by those who might later inherit them. Custody, on the other hand, went to someone who could not inherit the property and who would, therefore, have no interest in seeing the heir lose the land or die. Elsewhere in Europe a system of simple guardianship by close relatives prevailed. Gradually, however, the system of wardship began to take hold, particularly in Normandy and England, under the theory that since the minor could not provide military service, the lord should be able to use the revenues of the fief to provide it.
“The lord could control the marriages of both male and female wards, as well as those of widows and daughters of tenants. Marriage without the lord’s consent was not void, but certain legal rights over the land were then open to challenge. In general, if a tenant wished to marry off his daughter, he had to have the approval of his lord or of the king. A widow could not, however, be forced to marry against her will”.
The overlord enjoyed the profits of the estate until the wardship ended, which was the ages of twenty-one for a male ward and sixteen for a female ward.

Edward III, first English king to claim the throne of France

Sir Henry died in 1325 but John Colkyn (3) did not have his property returned to him until Sir Henry’s executors were ordered to do so by King Edward III in February of 1337 [1338] when John Colkyn (3) proved he had reached his majority. The property returned was a messuage and a carucate of land  held in his demesne [the land retained on a manor by the lord of the manor for his own use] in Freydevill, Esole and Nunynton and held as of fee  from Geoffrey de Say by the service of a moiety of a knight’s fee, possibly the same moiety [three parts of the whole] referred to above in the sale of moiety of Essewell to Roger de Kennardington in the early 1240’s.
If the land held in desmesne was the same as that held by Sir John de Beauchamp, who held the land, but not the knight’s fee or manor at Esol after the Colkyns, then this would have amounted to around 136 acres.

Geoffrey de Say, over-lord of Essewelle, at the Battle of Crecy, 1346

The year after Sir Henry’s death Alice, his daughter and sole heiress, and her husband Sir William de Plumpton, a Yorkshire knight, sold “2 messuages, 90 acres of land, 70s. rent, and rent of 2 cocks, 20 hens, and 200 eggs, with appurtenences in Nonynton” to Richard de Retlyng (1), these were presumably her father’s Esewele property with another messuage and some 65 acres of land and what appears to be a part of the knight’s fee of Essewelle along with manorial rents and dues. Sir Henry could well have purchased a large part, if not all, of the Manor of Fredville moiety of Essewelle and the rights pertaining to it previously held by Roger de Kennardington, which must have changed ownership at some time over the previous eighty years or so. Unfortunately no records of any such sale or sales are known at present.

Some twenty years later Richard (2), son of Richard de Retlyng, (1) was recorded as being one of several people responsible for payments owed for the Essewelle fee in the Eastry Hundred Rolls of 1346.
Richard de Retlyng (1) [who should not to be confused with Sir Richard de Retlyn(g) of Retlyng/Ratling Manor, a relative but not directly connected to the following events] was a trusted servant of the Crown and served Edward II and Edward III from the 1320’s until his death around 1349. Royal service was well rewarded and Richard’s Post Mortem Inquiry records holdings in “Staple; Nonyngton; Kyngeston [Kingston]; Berfraiston [Barfreston], and Godwyneston juxta Wyngeham [Goodnestone-next-Wingham]”.

John Colkyn (3) appears to have died shortly after regaining possession of his inheritance as his Post Mortem Inquiry was held in September of 1338 and recorded holdings in “Frydewill, Esole, Nunyngton”. After the death of John Colkyn (3) the manorial and land tenure becomes a bit confused as it is not very well recorded.

It would seem that John Colkyn (4) was probably still a minor when he inherited the holdings at Freydevill, Esole and Nunynton from his father in 1338. The 1346 Eastry Hundred Rolls record  that John (4), son of John Colkyn (3); the Abbot of St. Alban’s;  Edmund de Acholt; Richard (2), son of Richard de Retlyng(1);  and their co-owners [parceners] as being responsible for the fee that John Colkyn (3) had held at Esoll and Freydevill from Geoffrey de Say for 40s (£2) annually.
[De Johanne filio Johannis Colkyn, abbate de Sancto Albano, Edmundo de Acholt, Ricardo filio Ricardi de Retlyng, et parcenariis suis, pro j. f. quod Johannes Colkyn tenuit apud Esol et Freydevill de Galfrido de Say    –    xl. s.].

It’s already known that due Richard de Retlyng’s (2) father’s purchase from Alice de Plumpton of the property she had inherited from Sir Henry de Beaufuiz that Richard de Retlyng (2) was in possession of: “70s. rent, and rent of 2 cocks, 20 hens, and 200 eggs” in manorial rents, almost certainly from Freydevill’, and most likely held as a subtenant of the young John Colkyn [4]. The Abbot of St. Alban’s, Edmund de Acholt  and the other  unknown “parceners” could also have purchased a part of the fee over the years.

John Colkyn [4] was the last Colkyn male to hold the knight’s fee of Essewelle. It appears that John Colkyn [4] no longer held any part of the fee of Essewelle or the Manor of Esol and its manorial revenues very soon after the 1346 roll. The 1349 Abbey of St. Alban’s manorial rent roll for Esol confirms that the manorial rights and rents were by then in the possession of the Abbot of St. Alban’s whose Eswalt estate [later St. Alban’s Court] bordered directly on to Esol, and that the Abbot therefore held the moiety of the knight’s fee for Esol. The rent roll also confirms that the messuage and land that John Colkyn [4] had inherited from his father in 1338 was by then in the possession of Sir John de Beauchamp who paid the manorial rents due to the Abbot. The Fredvill’ manorial rights and rents reverted back at this time to the Barony of de Say where they remained until the early 1400’s.

What happened in the case of John Colkyn [4] is unclear.  There were family heirs to his property living close by, his father’s brother Thomas lived nearby at Ratling until at least 1345, when he sold land in Nonington to Thomas de Retlyngge. There are also records of “Isabella filia de Retling de Nonington”, the daughter of Richard de Retling “by the daughter and heir of Colkin” marrying “Johannes Oxenden de Wingham” later in the century. So it’s possible that John Colkyn [4] had a sister married to Richard de Retlyng [Retling] who was his heiress and who sold his holdings, or that the unnamed daughter of Colkin was the heiress to Thomas and Alma Colkyn of Ratling.

It’s quite possible that John Colkyn [4] was a victim of the Black Death which swept through England between 1348 and 1450 with sporadic outbreaks continuing into the 1360’s. The Black Death killed between one third and a half of the population of England and as a result of this high mortality land was readily available, but the returns from agriculture were greatly diminished as the cost of employing a now scarce labour force rapidly increased and the market for agricultural produce correspondingly shrank. To counteract this state of affairs the Statute of Labourers was passed in 1351 in an effort to stop labourers taking advantage of the shortage of workers and demanding more money. The statute forced them to work for the same wages as before the Black Death and allowed landowners to insist on labour services being performed instead of accepting money (commutation) in lieu of service. Landowners accordingly profited from the food shortages, whilst the labourers standard of living declined due to substantial increases in the price of basic food stuffs such as bread and ale. A consequence of the shortage of labour was that much of the land previously used in food production was used to rear sheep as wool became more profitable, especially when shipped to Continental markets.

Accordingly, John’s heirs, whoever they were, may have come to the conclusion that the inheritance was not worth keeping due to economic circumstances in the aftermath of the Black Death and simply sold up.

Whatever happened, the Abbot obviously thought that the Manor of Esol and its revenues and rights was worth purchasing, most likely because it was contiguous with the Abbey’s own Manor of Eswalt and its manorial rents had to be paid whether farming was profitable or not and were therefore a guaranteed regular revenue stream.
Sir John de Beauchamp must also have thought that the messuage and land was a good prospect, but probably more for its location near to the ports of Sandwich and Dover than for its revenues. The manorial rent rolls showed Sir John de Beauchamp’s holding at Esol [Esole] as:-‘one messuage with dovecot, 60a arable, 12a pasture at a total annual manorial rental of 52 s.6d payable to the Abbot of St. Alban’s’. This messuage and land became known as Bechams, which in  recent times has reverted to Beauchamps, so the ruins of the manor house and the surrounding land still retain his family name nearly 700 years after he bought them.
As the Lord of the Manor of Esol the Abbot of St. Alban’s owed a half of the knight’s fee for Essewelle, a liability transferred to subsequent owners of the manor up until such fees for the “Manner of Eastwell alias Essoles alias St. Albans Court [in Nonington]” were “extinguished by purchase” by William Hammond in 1738.

Please feel free to comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Return to top of page
%d bloggers like this: