The Manor of Essewelle: Esol and Freydevill’ under the Colkyns

The Colkyns, also Kulkin, Kalkyn, Calkin, Colekin, ect, were not members of the Anglo-Norman knightly land-owning class but wealthy Canterbury merchants who are believed to have held at least a part of the Knights Fee of Essewelle as early as the reign of King John, 1199-1216.

One of early Colkyn holders of Essewelle appears to have divided the fee into two parts which became known as Esol and Freydevill’ during the course of the 13th century. This division most probably came about through subinfeudation, a common occurrence until it was abolished by Edward I in 1290.
The knights fee of Essewelle was a possession of the Barony of Say, and the Colkyns held the tenancy of Essewelle from the barony. What appears to have happened is that the Colkyns granted a sub-tenancy and in effect granted a smaller estate or estates out of Essewelle which was held of the Colkyns themselves as inferior lords on similar terms to those with which the Colkyns held Essewelle from the Barony of Say.
When and to whom this sub-tenancy was granted is not clear but in 1242 it is recorded that Hamo Colkyn (Kalkyn) held half of the knights fee for Essewelle and Geoffrey Conquestor and William Nicola held the other half.
In January of 1244 [1245] Geoffrey Conquestor and the heirs of William Nichola, who appears to have died in the preceding two years, sold their half of the Essewelle fee to Rogerus de Kynardinton (Roger de Kennardington), a member of a West Kent knightly landowning family.  The 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 fees purchase brought about the not unusual situation of a member of the knightly class having a member of a lower class as his over-lord.
The half fee at Essewelle was held in payment of annual scutage of 42/-, with half paid at Easter and half paid at Michaelmas [29th September]. Holders of a knights fee, or part thereof, originally had had to carry out specified military services for their over-lord, usually a maximum of 40 days service a year for the holder of a full fee. 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. There was also an annual charge of 10/- for “ward of Dover Castle”, which was payment in lieu of the service and exactions of providing guards for Dover Castle for eight months of the year.

The payment of scutage in lieu of military service also allowed knights fees to be held by non-members of the knightly class, and from the early part of the 1200’s many of the growing number of wealthy merchants purchased knights fees, manors, and land. The Colkyns of Essewelle were themselves originally wealthy Canterbury merchants and early purchasers of a knights fee to enhance their status and become lords of the manor, something wealthy merchants and bankers continue to do to into the 21st century.

Not long after de Kynardinton’s purchase the Kent Rolls of 1242-3 recorded: “Hamo Colekyn, Rogerus de Kynardinton’ j. feodum in Essewelle de Willelmo de Say, ipse de domino rege”,  [“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, his tenant!

In 1249 Roger de Kynardinton’ had borrowed money from the Prior and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral Priory using the £10 annual revenue he received from Freydevill’ in part security for the loan. 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.

The following year Hamo Colkyn (Kalkin) was summoned to court by William de Say, his 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’. The over-lord stated that it was for Hamo to pay the dues owed and obtain recompense from Roger de Kynardinton’. This further indicates that Roger was in fact a sub-tenant of part of the Freydevill’ part of the manor of Essewelle, and not the tenant in his own right holding the half-fee and manor directly from the over-lord.

At the same time John, son of William de Frogham, and Richard Prit also laid 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 was made. William de Frogham may in turn have been a sub-tenant of Roger de Kynardinton’, as Frogham was, and still is, in Freydevill’ manor. The Prit family also held land in and around Frogham.

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 Radulf Colkyn, Hamo’s successor, held three parts of one fee and Roger de Kenardynton’ held one part of one fee in the Manor of Eswall (Essewelle) from Willelm de Say. This was presumably still that part of the manor known as Freydevill’.

The Kent Hundred Rolls of 1274-75 record, “Item Radulfus Kalekin tenet dimidiam feodi in Freydevile de Willelmo de Say et idem Willelmus de rege in capite ad quod servicium nesciunt”
[” 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”]. Who held the other half of Freydevile is not recorded, although it is strange that the type of service by which William de Say held Freydevile of the King is said to be unknown as it was still held for service for Dover Castle.

Just over a quarter of a century later the 1303 Aids and Scutages Roll for Eastry Hundred refer to one fee held by “Johan (John) Colkyn”, presumably the son of Ralph Kalekin,  at “Esol and Fredevill” from Galfrid (Geoffrey) de Say. This indicates that John Colkyn was by then in sole holder of the old knight’s fee of Essewelle which had long been  divided into the half fees and constituent manors  of Esol and Freydevill’. John Colkyn died a couple of years after the 1303 roll and his Post Mortem Inquisition of 1306 records him as having “ died possessed property at Esol and Freydevill’” which was inherited by his son, also called John.

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