The Colkyns of Esol in Nonington-the final years.

The following is the last section of a larger article “The Knight’s Fee of Essewelle: Wischards, Hotots, and Colkyns at the Manors of Esol and Freydevill’-revised 14.08.19”, which recently reviewed information and further thought has made it necessary to revise. I have posted these revisions as a self contained post for the benefit of readers.

The Colkyns at Essewelle-the final years.

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 (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. However, at the time John’s over-lord, Geoffrey de Say was also a minor and accordingly a ward of the Crown.

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, which meant that Sir Henry had control of John’s property until he came of age. At this time Sir Henry was owed a considerable amount of money by King Edward II in connection with Sir Henry’s military service in the King’s ill fated Scottish campaigns, and so most likely received the young John Colkyn’s wardship as part payment of these debts.

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  proved he had reached his majority, indicating that he had been born around 1316. 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 in the sale of moiety of Essewell to Roger de Kennardington in the early 1240’s.
If the messuage and land held in desmesne by John Colkyn were the same as that later held by Sir John de Beauchamp at Esol, then this would have amounted to around 136 or so acres. Sir John presumably held the messuage and land previously held by the Colkyns, but not the knight’s fee of Essewelle or manorial rights at Esol. After the Colkyns tenure ended the knight’s fee of Essewelle had reverted back to the Barony of Say and the manorial rights were held by the Abbot of St. Alban’s.

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, an additional 65 acres of land, and what appears to be a part of the knight’s fee of Essewelle yielding manorial rents and dues. Sir Henry appears to have acquired a part of the Manor of Esol’s moiety of Essewelle, but unfortunately there is at present no known record of any such transaction.
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. This responsibility appears to accrue from the 1326 purchase made by the elder Richard de Retlyng.

Richard de Retlyng (1) [who should not to be confused with Sir Richard de Retlyn(g) of Retlyng/Ratling Manor, a kinsman 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]”.

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

John Colkyn (3) died shortly after regaining possession of his inheritance, his Post Mortem Inquiry was held in September of 1338 and recorded holdings in “Frydewill, Esole, Nunyngton”. He appears to have been only 22 or so when he died and left as his heir John Colkyn (4), who must therefore have been an infant or very young child when he inherited the holdings at Freydevill, Esole and Nunynton from his father.
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.].

Richard de Retlyng’s (2) father’s 1326 purchase from Alice de Plumpton of: “70s.[£3.50] rent, and rent of 2 cocks, 20 hens, and 200 eggs, with appurtenences in Nonynton”  appears to be what made Richard de Retlyng (2) one of the four joint holders of the Knight’s Fee of Essewelle previously in the sole possession of  the Colkyn family. The Abbot of St. Alban’s, Edmund de Acholt  and the other  unknown “parceners”  also seem to have acquired a part of the fee either before or after the death of John Colkyn [3] in late 1338.

The property returned to John Colkyn [3] in 1338 was recorded as being 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. However, there is no mention of the knight’s fee of Essewelle or the manors of Esol and Fredvill’, so there is no indication as to how much of the knight’s fee or what manorial rights and revenues he still retained.

John Colkyn [4] was the last Colkyn male to hold the knight’s fee of Essewelle. Why the family actually gave up the knight’s fee is, at present, a matter for speculation. Possibly the infant inheritor died from one of the many diseases then fatal to an infant, or perhaps the young Colkyn heir may have been one of the tens of thousands of victims of the Black Death which swept through England between 1348 and 1450 with sporadic outbreaks continuing into the 1360’s, and his heirs decided that in the aftermath of the Black Death that the knight’s fee, manors of Fredvill’ and Esol, and the Esol messuage and land were no longer of any financial or other benefit? Another possibility is that the infant heir lived on and that his guardians had come to the same decision and sold up to give the young John some financial security.

The Black Death killed up to a half of the population of England in the late 1340's.
The Black Death killed up to a half of the population of England in the late 1340’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.

There were potential heirs to the infant John Colkyn’s property living close by. Thomas Colkyn, the infant John’s paternal uncle, lived nearby at Ratling until at least 1345, when he sold land in Nonington to Thomas de Retlyngge, although it is possible Thomas predeceased the infant John.
However, there are indications that Thomas Colkyn and his wife, Alma, themselves had heirs. There there are 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.

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

When the Colkyns gave up possession of the knight’s fee of Essewelle, apparently after 1346 but before the early to mid-1350’s, it reverted back to the Barony of Say, as did the manor of Freydevill. These facts are known as at some time prior to 1356 Sir Geoffrey de Say, Lord Say, awarded a lifetime interest in the manor of Freydvill’ to Sir John Harleston, with the interest to revert to the de Says or their heirs when Sir John died. This award of a lifetime interest could not have been made unless the manor of Fredvill’ had been in exclusive possession of Sir Geoffrey de Say, so it must have therefore reverted to him by the time of the award. After the death of Sir Geoffrey de Say in 1360 the knight’s fee of Essewelle and the manor of Fredville remained in the possession of his heirs until five-sixths of the manor of Fredville was sold by various inheritors to John Quadryng, a London mercer, in the early 1400’s.

It is therefore possible that the Colkyns retained possession of the Manor of Freydvill’, perhaps until just before 1356, but that possession of the Manor of Esol had at sometime previously, been transferred to other people, possibly commencing in the early 1320’s when Sir Henry de Beaufuiz had the wardship of John Colkyn [III] and appears to have obtained manorial rights and rents of “70s. rent, and rent of 2 cocks, 20 hens, and 200 eggs, with appurtenences in Nonynton” which were sold after his death in 1326 by Alice de Plumpton, his daughter and heiress, to Richard de Retlyng the Elder.
If this were so, then it would explain the divided ownership referred to above in the Eastry Hundred Rolls of 1346. The most likely scenario is that the Colkyns retained ownership of the entirety of the manor of Freydevill and its rights and revenues, and that at some time after the death of John Colkyn [3] the ownership of the manor of Esol and its rights and revenues was further divided by sale or other means between the Abbot of St. Alban’s; who held the majority share; Edmund de Acholt; and other lesser holders, with Richard de Retlyng the Younger already holding a portion obtained in 1326.

The Colkyns of Essewelle and Esol, or their heirs, must also have sold or in other ways transferred ownership of the messuage and lands pertaining to Esol at some time between 1338 and 1349 as the the Abbey of St. Alban’s manorial rent roll for Esol for 1349 confirms that the Abbot then held the manorial rights and rents for the manor of Esol, and that messuage and land that John Colkyn [4] had inherited from his father in 1338 was in the possession of Sir John de Beauchamp, who accordingly paid the manorial rents due to the Abbot as Lord of the Manor of Esol.

Whatever ended of the Colkyns tenure of Essewelle and its constituent manors of Esol and Fredvill’, the Abbot of St. Alban’s Abbey obviously thought that the Manor of Esol, along with its revenues and rights, was worth acquiring. This may well have been because it was contiguous with the Abbey’s own Manor of Eswalt and also had the added financial benefit that its manorial rents and dues had to be paid whether agriculture for the manorial tenants was profitable or not and therefore guaranteed a known annual revenue stream.

Sir John de Beauchamp must also have thought that the messuage and land at Esol was a good prospect, most likely due to 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. Despite a tenure  of probably less than thirty years at Esol  the ruins of the manor house and the surrounding land still retain his family name nearly 700 years after he bought them.

Over the succeeding years the Abbey’s old manor of Eswalt and the new manor of Esole gradually merged into a single entity which by the early part of the 1500’s was generally known as the “Manor of Esole otherwise Seynt Albons Court”. The assimilation of the two names into Esole has caused a lot of confusion over the centuries with Eswalt being confused with Esole, and vice versa.

As the Lord of the Manor of Esol the Abbot of St. Alban’s owed payment on a half of the knight’s fee for Essewelle,  a liability transferred to subsequent owners of the manor. In 1540 the fees became Crown revenue and as such were eventually sold to private individual as fee farm rents.
The fees for the “Manner of Eastwell alias Essoles alias St. Albans Court [in Nonington] were “extinguished by purchase” by William Hammond in 1738. A
t the same time the fees for the “Manner of Eastwell alias ffredvile [Fredville in Nonington] were also “extinguished by purchase”  by the Duke of Newcastle, the then owner of the manor.

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