THE PEASANT LAND MARKET IN SOUTHERN ENGLAND, 1260-1350
A PROJECT FUNDED BY THE ESRC (R000236499)
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The research for this project was carried out by Dr. Mark Page between 1996 and 1999 under the supervision of Professor P.D.A. Harvey and Dr. R.H. Britnell. It was based in Winchester, because of its dependence upon the estate accounts of the bishops of Winchester (the Winchester pipe rolls), and benefited greatly from the activeand materal support of Hampshire County Council and Hampshire County Record Office.
1. To collect information relating to the peasant land market on the estate of the bishopric of Winchester in the later thirteenth and earlier fourteenth centuries.
2. To determine the number and variety of transactions in land on this estate, and their fluctuations over time, in order to provide important information about medieval rural society.
3. To resolve whether individual property rights in southern England were well developed in this period or whether they were circumscribed by seignorial interference and custom.
1 In most years between 1263 and 1349 the number of entry fines recorded fell within a band ranging from 400 to 600 and there is no evidence of sustained growth (Figure 1). Only exceptional events such as the famines of 1316-18 and the Black Death caused much alteration to this figure. However, population growth may be indicated by an increase in extra-familial transfers in the latter part of the period. The data confirms J.Z. Titows conclusions that continuing existence of population pressure is indicated by the frequency of marriages to widows and by the ability of the lord, in some contexts, to exploit entry fines.
2 Population was not the most important factor in determining the level of land market activity on a manor; the amount and type of land available was more decisive, as was the number of smallholders resident on the demesne, as the contrast drawn between Farnham and Witney in 1316-17 makes clear. Witney by no means possessed the largest number of tenants but the number of entry fines paid was usually the highest of any manor as a result of the constant traffic of small plots of assarted land - cleared from woodland - among the smallholders. Beginning in the 1250s, as much as 50 or 60 acres might change hands in a single year. On manors with only customary land, unable to expand into the waste, the land market tended to be muted because the customary holdings remained intact and were transferred within the family or outside it by marriage, as at Bishopstoke. Even at Witney, the virgate holdings tended to remain within the family or were transferred by marriage, and only a tiny percentage of the entry fines paid on this manor concerned customary land.
3 The amount of assart and purpresture available to tenants fluctuated greatly from one manor to the next and this affected the land market on these manors. However, the availability of additional land had variable effects. Both Farnham and Witney were colonizing manors, but at Farnham purpresture tended to be acquired by the customary tenants and added to their virgated holdings. By contrast, at Witney virgate holders did not acquire assart in any significant quantities. Instead many peasants who held no villein land built up holdings of assart alone. Furthermore, while most virgated holdings descended by inheritance or were transferred by marriage, assart tended to be exchanged inter vivos on the land market. On the estate as a whole between 1263 and 1349, the transfer of assart and purpresture, whether alone or attached to customary land, accounted for about 18 per cent of all entry fines recorded. At Witney, the figure was closer to 60 percent, at Farnham only half as much.
4 Most heritable transfers were to sons, with daughters in third place behind widows. In all, the inheritance of sons, widows and daughters accounts for about 85% of all heritable transfers. There was no common inheritance custom across the estate for inheriting children. On some manors primogeniture was practised, on others Borough English, with the latter widespread on the western manors of the estate, in Somerset, Wiltshire and south-west Hampshire. On all the manors of the Winchester estate, on the death of a male customary tenant, custom decreed that the family holding would pass in the first instance to his widow, though the custom varied in detail from manor to manor. This delayed, in some cases for many years, the descent of holdings to the next generation.
5 The normal patterns of inheritance were disrupted by the unprecedented levels of mortality in the Black Death of 1348-9, when more remote relatives than usual inherited property. Half of all the recorded cases of nephews inheriting land took place that year.
6 The number of inter-vivos grants to sons was considerably smaller than the corresponding number of heritable transfers. In the three years 1328-30, for instance, there were 49 inter vivos transfers compared to 190 by inheritance. There was little difference in the likelihood that sons would receive these grants of land from their fathers rather than their mothers. Daughters, on the other hand, were more likely to receive inter vivos grants of land from their parents than they were to inherit, and they were much more likely to receive these grants from their fathers than from their mothers. These figures appear to confirm that it was the fathers responsibility to provide land for his unmarried daughter so that she could have a dowry to pass on to her future husband.
7 The peak in the number of marriage fines paid occurred during the decade 1310-19, chiefly because of the Great Famine. Of those cases where the appropriate information is stated, a majority of marriage fines were for marriage within the manor. A majority of marriage fines were paid by the father of the bride, though it was common for fines to be paid by the woman herself or her mother. More distant relatives fined much less often.
8 It is relatively easy to identify regular buyers and sellers of land on those manors with an active land market. An abundance of available land, combined with the sheer volume of transfers, mainly in small parcels lying outside the standard customary holdings, created conditions favourable to the speculator, who could buy or sell as opportunity or circumstance dictated. This was certainly the case at Witney. A noticeable buyer and seller was Roger Herring. A detailed profile of his activity (too lengthy to be detailed in this report) has been prepared from the details of his acquisitions and transfers.
9 On most manors the lord retained the right to interfere in the land transfers of his tenants. His capacity to intervene had more to do with local custom and the social structure of individual manors than with seigniorial policies. There was no uniformity of practice across the estate. With regard to non-customary land, property rights were much more highly developed and land was bought and sold at will.
The research is based on the premise that the extent to which the development of the medieval land market represents the prevalence of commercial values can be assessed by studying changes in the volume of transfers over time and the response of the market to different circumstances. In addition, the constraint of tradition can be assessed by (a) the role of the family in land transfers, and (b) the interests and operations of landlord policy.
All the entry and marriage fines from the 73 pipe rolls of the bishopric of Winchester between 1262-3 and 1348-9 were extracted and entered into a computer database (using Microsoft Access). Over the years 1263-1349 these amount to 36,515 entry fines (paid to the bishop every time a change in the tenancy of unfree land occurred) and 5,488 marriage fines. In each case Dr Page recorded the name(s) of the incoming tenant(s); the name(s) of the previous tenant(s); the relationship(s) (if any) between the various parties involved in the transaction; the amount and type of land being transferred; the location of that land; the amount paid to the bishop as entry fine; any noteworthy circumstances surrounding the transfer; and any conditions under which the transfer was said to have taken place, including stipulations made by the bishop. Other information relating to the tenants, including the payment of court fines (recorded in detail only for the years 1282-1303), the payment of heriots, fines of manumission, permission to migrate, and commutation of labour services, were sampled. The published pipe roll of 1301-2 was employed to provide illustrative and contextual material. Some sources of secondary importance (most notably a collection of thirteenth-century custumals, which survive for about 35 of the bishoprics manors) were used to augment the information found in the pipe rolls.
The first part of the project, the data entry, was completed as anticipated at the end of the second year. The remaining twelve months were spent analysing this information, writing and presenting papers detailing aspects of the research and preparing in draft the final monograph.
How did the number and variety of transactions in land on this estate fluctuate over time, and what do the details imply about the characteristics of medieval rural society?
Only at times of severe crisis did the number of entry fines paid rise dramatically. In most years the number of entry fines recorded fell within a band ranging from 400 to 600. Famine in 1316-17 caused a an increase in the number of entry fines paid. Heritable transfers of land rose from 204 in 1315-16 to 377 in 1316-17. But there was also a significant rise in the number of inter-vivos transfers outside the family, from 250 in 1315-16 to 324 in 1316-17, indicating that peasants were forced to sell their land in order to raise cash to buy food. These harvest-sensitive land transfers have previously been documented by Campbell and by Schofield on East Anglian manors, but not on manors in southern England. A flurry of sales was most visible at the Oxfordshire manor of Witney, where large amounts of marginal land were held by smallholders with few other resources. By contrast, at Farnham in Surrey, where the land was held by wealthier customary tenants, there was a slight rise in heritable transfers in 1316-17 but no increase in inter vivos sales outside the family. The effects of the Black Death in 1348-9 were rather different. Land transfers by inheritance numbered 1,830 in 1348-9 compared with 170 the previous year and post mortem transfers outside the family 215 compared with 10 in 1347-8. But inter vivos transfers outside the family showed very little increase anywhere, rising in total from 200 in 1347-8 to 223 in 1348-9. This is because mortality in 1348-9 was associated with disease, not destitution. The troughs visible for the years 1305, 1320, 1323 and 1346 were the result of administrative disruption during vacancies of the see. The apparent trough of 1270 is the result of damage to the document. The slight depression visible in the years around 1300 may have been related to the abundant harvests of 1299-1300 and the resulting fall in the price of grain; individuals were less likely to sell land in times of plenty. Detailed work has not so far been carried out to see whether holding size changed over time.
Though no population growth on the Winchester estate is registered in the crude volume of land transactions, it perhaps explains a changing volume of extra-familial transactions. Across the estate as a whole, about 46.5% of the land transfers recorded between 1269 and 1349 were intra-familial, and about 34.5% represented the inheritance of a holding (Table 1). The remaining land transfers were unevenly divided between extra-familial transfers and entry fines in which only the incoming tenant was named. After about 1300 this latter form of record can be assumed to represent a transfer directly from lord to tenant, usually of waste ground or demesne. In the four decades before the Black Death such fines constitute between five and ten per cent of the whole. In the thirteenth century, by contrast, especially in the 1260s and to a lesser extent in the 1270s, the pipe rolls often recorded only the name of the payer of the entry fine, without any indication of the origin of the land transferred. In the years 1263-8 over 90 per cent of fines were of this kind. In the early 1270s this figure fell to about 25 per cent. Even so, this almost certainly explains the rather low percentage of intra-familial and heritable transfers in the periods 1269-78, 1283-9 and 1290-9. The steady decline in the percentages of these two categories over the first four decades of the fourteenth century is more interesting and seems to result from a slight quickening of the land market among non-kin - this accounted for 34% of entry fines in the 1320s and 36% in the 1330s - and an even weaker rise in the transfer of land by marriage (Table 2). This trend continued into the 1340s but was stopped by the Black Death which led to an enormous increase in transfers by inheritance. The explanation for this trend may lie in the continuing pressure of population upon the land at this time. Improvements in conveyancing procedures may also have played a part in it.
Pressure of population and availability of land were key determinants of the lords ability to exploit the peasants obligation to pay an entry fine. One further factor influencing the level of entry fines was also the quality of the land being transacted. Titow found that on some manors the lord was unable to raise fines very steeply, despite the pressure of population and the lack of colonizable resources, because the arable had become so impoverished. The fertility of the soil was thus a third element affecting the behaviour of the bishop in his relations to the tenants and their land. The arguments of Titow are on the whole convincing, offering a plausible explanation for the overall trends in the movement of entry fines, and finding a good deal of support from the documentary evidence. The bishop was only able to exact what the market would bear; he was restrained in his demands by the availability of alternative sources of supply and the relative impoverishment of the land. He was also limited by the villagers attachment to custom and to what they deemed to be a customary or reasonable fine. Although it is possible that the bishop, and village communities, might seek to use entry fines as a means of manipulating the access of tenants to land, in practice this is hard to prove.
Continuing existence of population pressure is indicated by the frequency of marriages to widows. The right of widows on the Winchester estate to inherit the whole of a customary holding was a more generous provision than was permitted on many estates in the later middle ages. Moreover, the right to transmit that holding to a second husband, whilst a lucrative source of income to the bishop, must frequently have disappointed the immediate expectations of the widows heir. The competing pressures brought to bear upon a widowed tenant from those with an interest in her land made for a potential source of conflict within the family and the wider village community. Particularly in an era of widespread land shortage, on many manors of the estate the widow became a figure of pivotal importance.
How did family interests affect the operation of the land market?
On all the manors of the Winchester estate, on the death of a male customary tenant, custom decreed that the family holding would pass in the first instance to his widow. The custumal for Farnham, for instance, stated that a wife whilst she lived single and chaste after the death of her husband is able to hold the lands of which her husband died seised without fine. But if she has fined she is able to take another husband and hold the land during the term of her life. Only on one manor, Rimpton, was this element of choice not expressed and a fixed entry fine, of a full years rent, made compulsory. The payment of entry fines by widows constitutes a significant proportion of all the heritable transfers recorded in the Winchester pipe rolls (Table 3). These figures do not include some transfers to widows for which no entry fine was payable. Widows were excused from paying entry fines for the land of their husbands on nine of the Winchester manors: Adderbury, Bishops Fonthill, Brightwell, Crawley, East Knoyle, Harwell, North Waltham, Overton and Witney.
The right of a widow to retain her husbands land delayed, in some cases for many years, the descent of holdings to the next generation. On some manors, moreover, the remarriage of widows could delay an inheritance still further, where a widower too was entitled to retain his wifes land for his life as long as he remained single. It is very difficult to show empirically whether the heirs of a second husband by such a marriage were entitled to inherit their mothers land, either jointly with or to the exclusion of the heirs of a first marriage. The terse accounts offered by the entry fines rarely provide any clue as to the marital history of an heirs parents, and family reconstitution can be a hazardous affair given the tendency of men, and particularly of second husbands, to adopt the surnames of their wives. There is evidence to show that the heir of a second marriage could inherit the family holding in its entirety, but it is not known in these cases whether any children resulted from the first marriage.
As Table 4 and Table 5 make clear, most heritable transfers were to sons, with daughters in third place behind widows. In all, the inheritance of sons, widows and daughters accounts for about 85% of all heritable transfers. Nevertheless, the inheritance of land by sons and daughters constituted a large proportion of all the transfers recorded in the Winchester pipe rolls. Both sons and daughters appear to have been much more likely to inherit land from their fathers than from their mothers. However, to some extent the documents are misleading. In some cases it is known that a widow retained the holding of her husband which she then passed to her son, yet it is the fathers name and not the mothers which appeared in the entry fine paid by the heir. The exact scale of this occurrence is not yet clear, but certainly it underestimates the number of mother-heir transfers.
Just as custom varied from one manor to the next with respect to the retention of land by widows, so too was there variety in the rights of inheritance of children. The custumal informs us that on some manors primogeniture was practised, on others Borough English, with the latter widespread on the western manors of the estate, in Somerset, Wiltshire and south-west Hampshire. The manors of a particular bailiwick, with the exception of that of Fareham, appear to have adhered to one custom or the other, whilst on perhaps half a dozen manors both primogeniture and Borough English were applied, depending on whether the tenure in question was of customary land or purpresture.
Land was not only passed to sons and daughters on the death of their parents. It was also transferred inter-vivos. Examples can be found of both stepmothers and mothers surrendering land to the heir during their widowhood. In some cases the provision to be made to the grantor of a property was more carefully, indeed sometimes scrupulously, detailed. The terms of these maintenance agreements varied enormously. Residential agreements, whereby a son or daughter agreed to provide a possibly aged or infirm parent with food, clothes and accommodation, were much less common on the Winchester estate than a straightforward division of the inheritance, with the widow receiving back for the remainder of her life part of the holding which she had just surrendered to the heir. A great deal of information exists in the Winchester pipe rolls concerning the arrangements for heirs to enter their holdings before the death of their parents, and the terms of the agreements sometimes allow us to speculate that old age, infirmity and a wish to retire were among the deciding factors.
The number of inter-vivos grants to sons was considerably smaller than the corresponding number of heritable transfers. In the three years 1328-30, for instance, there were 49 inter vivos transfers compared to 190 by inheritance. There was little difference in the likelihood that sons would receive these grants of land from their fathers rather than their mothers; of the 49 inter-vivos transfers made between 1328 and 1330, 24 were from mothers and 25 from fathers. Daughters, on the other hand, were more likely to receive inter vivos grants of land from their parents than they were to inherit; during the same period 1328-30 there were 45 inter vivos transfers compared to 38 by inheritance. Moreover, daughters were much more likely to receive these grants from their fathers than from their mothers. Of the 45 inter vivos grants 28 (62%) were from fathers and 17 (38%) from mothers. These figures appear to confirm long-held beliefs about the family and inheritance in medieval English rural society. It was the fathers responsibility to provide land for his unmarried daughter so that she could have a dowry to pass on to her future husband. There is no doubt a considerable degree of truth in these assertions, although family reconstitution sometimes reveals more complicated patterns of land transfer, involving both kin and non-kin.
It has already been noted that inheritance by sons, widows and daughters was dominant on the Winchester estate. Only in one year was this pattern temporarily undermined: 1348-9, the year of the Black Death (Table 6). The dislocation to the normal patterns of inheritance which the unprecedented levels of mortality provoked was evident on many manors. At Bishopstoke in Hampshire, the only instances of grandsons and nieces inheriting property in the 80 years before the Black Death occurred in 1348-9. Half of all the cases of nephews inheriting land took place in the same year.
What proportion of marriages were specifically within or outside the manor?
The marriage fine, or merchet, was payable every time an unfree female tenant of the estate wished to marry, either by a relative of the bride or by the woman herself. The peak in the number of marriage fines paid occurred during the decade 1310-19, at the time of the Great Famine (Table 7). A majority of marriage fines were paid by the father of the bride, followed by the woman herself or her mother; more distant relatives fined much less often. In some cases the marriage fine did not specify whether the woman was to marry within the manor or outside it. This was especially the case in the period before 1300, after which an increasing amount of detail in the accounts makes this distinction more apparent. Of those marriages where the relevant information is given, however, 55 per cent were within the manor and 45 outside. In a few exceptional cases - less than 1 per cent - licence was acquired for marriage wheresoever (Table 8).
Were individual property rights in southern England well developed in this period or were they were circumscribed by seigniorial interference and custom?
The estate officials of the bishopric of Winchester, with or without the direct instructions of the bishop himself, can be shown to have interfered in the land transactions of their tenants for a number of reasons, especially the accumulation or fragmentation of customary holdings, the forfeiture of land, and the election of tenants. However, conditions varied very considerably across the estate, and the research demonstrated the difficulty administrators had in imposing any particular estate policy.
On the Winchester estate before the Black Death, the bishops remained steadfastly opposed to any attempts by the peasantry to possess more than one villein holding. The reasons for this hostility are never fully expounded in the surviving records but their reluctance to sanction the engrossment of customary tenements is relatively easy to appreciate and straightforward to explain. Holdings which remained separate generated more income than those which were combined and buildings were less likely to be run down. Labour services, especially week-work, and other customary dues were attached to each individual holding, and the lord had an interest in preserving these both as recognized tokens of serfdom and for the practical requirements of the demesne economy.
In the Winchester pipe rolls, the number of recorded statements explicitly forbidding the accumulation of customary holdings is not large, given the enormous number of entry fines from which they have been extracted. No more than 15 have been found. This may suggest that attempts to engross land were uncommon before the Black Death and that the bishop was required to clamp down on the practice only occasionally. In almost all cases in which the bishop was forced to intervene to prevent its occurrence, the accumulation was the accidental result of customary patterns of inheritance. For example, at Farnham in 1313-14, John Godwin was refused permission to inherit the messuage and virgate of his father, which he ought to have held but was not allowed because he holds another tenement of the same status and they were always accustomed to be separate. Instead Johns younger brother, William, inherited the family holding. John Godwin had been granted a messuage and virgate by his father in 1300-1. The provision of the heir as a young man thus prevented his inheritance of his patrimony on the death of his father. Similar problems were encountered at Bentley in 1310, Bishops Waltham in 1349, Burghclere in 1299, Droxford in 1313, Fareham in 1302, Ivinghoe in 1278, North Waltham in 1317, Wield in 1302, West Wycombe in 1275, 1293 and 1302, and Witney in 1348.
The success of the bishops in preventing accumulation varied considerably. On some manors such as Bishops Waltham and Fareham the battle was lost by the time of the Black Death and the engrossment of customary holdings was relatively common, and this trend continued after 1349. By contrast, at Ivinghoe and elsewhere multiple tenements appear to have been more fragile, which again seems to have continued after 1349. Lordship does not appear to have been a major factor in either preventing or encouraging engrossment. This seems to have had much more to do with the social structure of the villages and the opportunities which accumulation offered to tenants.
Fragmentation of holdings was also opposed by the bishop, on the grounds that the tenants of these lands existed to provide rents and labour services to their lord; if they were unable to do so because their tenements had become so fragmented that they were no longer large enough to sustain a family in its obligations then the manorial economy would be threatened. One of the clearest expressions of this opposition was made at Esher in 1314-15 when William Wexford recovered one acre from Henry Firth which was his land of old and which he surrendered into the lords hands for the use of Henry, which surrender was not allowed because it represented dismemberment. Similarly, at Poundisford in 1325-6 Walter Coffin recovered half an acre from Adam Archer as parcel of one ferling, because according to the custom of the manor it is not able to be dismembered. A considerable number of the recoveries of land recorded in the pipe rolls were said to have restored previously fragmented tenements. At Bishops Waltham in 1347-8, for example, Adam Scott secured the surrender of a messuage and ferling from John Caker, after it was found that Johns ferling was part of Adams tenement because the messuage and ferling which Adam holds and the said ferling now surrendered were one whole tenement in the time of Adams grandfather, Richard.
The bishop made fewer pronouncements against fragmentation compared with accumulation and was perhaps even less successful in preventing the practice. The subdivision of holdings was often expedient in an era of peasant impoverishment and land hunger. Any pressures to reintegrate holdings came more effectively from the tenants themselves, who recognised the advantages of restoring fragmented tenements to their former size where they had the means to do so. Numerous examples of the recovery of land were effected through the manorial court, which was dominated by the customary tenants.
In certain circumstances, prescribed by custom, the tenants of villein holdings were exposed to the bleak prospect of forfeiting their lands. Women appear to have been particularly vulnerable in this respect; the forfeiture of land for fornication, which affected women exclusively, accounted fully for a quarter of all recorded forfeitures between 1286 and 1350, and forfeiture for marrying against custom also bore heavily upon women. Men too were subject to the proscriptions of custom. At Wargrave at the very end of the thirteenth century, Reginald, son of Hugh Chapman, who ought to be heir according to his expectations, forfeited his right to claim the land of his deceased wife, Christina Siggers, because he remarried outside the manor.
Land could also be forfeited if it was illegally bought or sold. A basic tenet of the peasant land market was that transfers were authorized by the lord, most commonly, from the 1290s, by the procedure of surrender and admittance, whereby land was surrendered to the lord by the outgoing tenant who would then at once admit the incoming tenant. The principal advantage of bypassing this process was that the entry fine due to the bishop could thereby be avoided. The extent of this illegal trade in land is, by its very nature, hidden from us because no record of these clandestine transfers were made in the Winchester pipe rolls. Only when the perpetrators were caught do the documents reveal the existence of the practice. At Witney in 1308-9 three properties were declared forfeit because the tenants had endeavoured to alienate them without first making a surrender to the lord. But such illegal transfers were probably difficult to conceal for any length of time, and their number is unlikely to affect the statistical evidence of the pipe rolls severely.
On other occasions the bishop stood to lose more than simply an entry fine. Some tenants sought to sell their villein land by treating it as though it were free. Thus, at Bishops Waltham in 1331-2 Hugh Balhorn forfeited three acres which he had attempted to alienate by his charter to hold freely which before he held at the lords will. A similar case was recorded at Waltham St Lawrence in 1335-6 when John Prinkenham, who held his land at will, demised it by charter, disinheriting the lord, as was found by an inquest taken in the presence of John. Only on one occasion was the illegal alienation of land forgiven. At Bentley in 1313-14 Richard Archer paid 6s. 8d. to recover a house and curtilage which he had forfeited through alienation.
The bishop occasionally intervened to have tenants elected to holdings (Table 9). The origins of this practice are unknown but the earliest examples of it in the pipe rolls suggest that it was designed to keep the land fully tenanted, to ensure that the bishop received the maximum amount of rent and service which was due to him from a particular manor. Some examples imply that collective responsibility had been imposed on local communities to make sure that lands were occupied, rents were paid, and that tenants behaved responsibly. Thus, at Farnham in 1285-6 the tithing of Runwick paid 12d. to be able to elect a tenant to two acres of land which lay vacant. It is likely that there was an element of compulsion in many of these elections, and occasionally the documents make this explicit. At Bitterne, for example, in 1297-8 Ascelina, daughter of Gilbert Snell leased a ferling by election of the whole hundred and by compulsion. At Ivinghoe in 1330-1 John, son of Rose Havescombe was elected to a messuage and virgate by the whole homage; therefore, the record stated, there is no fine. The reasons given for a holding requiring the election of another tenant varied considerably. Sometimes tenants were said to have been elected to land which was vacant or which had passed into the possession of the lord, having escheated from want of kin or from want of tenants. Sometimes a tenant did not want to continue holding the tenement on account of poverty or destitution, the weakness of the land, a general incapability, or indeed a combination of all three. On other occasions tenants forfeited land involuntarily on account of waste and destruction that they had caused, and the bishop sought a new tenant. Above all, however, lands were repeatedly said simply to have been abandoned. In an age when demand for land so patently outstripped supply, there can be no more graphic illustration of the desperation of peasants for whom subsistence had become a near impossibility on their unproductive holdings.
Election to holdings did not occur on every manor of the estate nor were they spread evenly over time. There are very marked concentrations. Geographically, the number of elections to holdings was greatest on a clutch of manors in central Hampshire. Indeed, a third (39) of the 117 recorded elections occurred on the three manors of Bishops Sutton, Cheriton and North Waltham. In all, two-thirds (78) of elections took place on 15 manors in Hampshire, the remaining third on 12 manors scattered across the rest of the estate. The concentration at Bishops Sutton, Cheriton and North Waltham was due primarily to the abandonment of holdings and the reluctance of tenants to fine for them. Entry fines at Cheriton and North Waltham for virgated holdings were among the lowest for any manor of the estate, suggesting a lack of demand. On all three manors yields of wheat were not high, those for Bishops Sutton being very low indeed. The poor fertility of the soil no doubt goes a long way towards explaining the difficulties experienced by the bishop in filling vacant tenements on these manors. Chronologically, the bulk of elections occurred during the period of the Great Famine in the mid-1310s, and especially during the 1330s (see Table 9).
The report as published on the REGARD website