THE BIG RED BOOK 9

EBSWORTHY TOWN

EBSWORTHY TOWN AND FREESABEARE

 

 

ETBOLDUS WRDA

 

About 13 miles to the north of Buckland Monachorum, in the parish of Bridestowe, lies a property known as Ebsworthy, which has played such an important part in the Tapson story that it seems appropriate to devote a whole chapter to it, to the family which by early in the Seventeenth

Century had owned it for many generations, and to the branch of the Tapson family to which it was then about to pass. On this property there had grown up a hamlet which became known as Ebsworthy Town; Ebsworthy Town is nearly a mile north-west of Bridestowe village down a long country lane which is little more than a farm track.

 

The ancient name of the farm known as Ebsworthy is said to come from the Anglo-Saxon Ecgbeald’s Worðig, meaning Ecgbeald’s Enclosure, the earliest recorded mention of the property being in the Domesday Book of 1086. [The Anglo-Saxon letter ð is pronounced as -th.]

Quickly after 1066 William, the Conqueror, had set in motion a very full survey of his newly-acquired realm; for the five western shires this Domesday survey is epitomized in his Exchequer Book and also

in another volume known as the Exeter Book. The following extract relating to the Manor of

Bridestowe is a translation from the Latin based on the Exeter Book….the six properties mentioned are all shown on modern Ordnance Survey maps.

 

A hide, referred to in this extract, was originally the amount of land considered sufficient to support one family; it was defined at an early date as being as much land as could be tilled by one plough, and it could measure anything between 90 and 120 acres, according to the type of soil and the lie of the land…a ferling was usually taken to be a quarter of a hide.

 

Extract from the Domesday Book of 1086

 

THE LAND OF BALDWIN THE SHERIFF IN DEVENESIRA (DEVONSHIRE)

 

Baldwin has a manor called BRIDESTOU [Bridestowe] which Edmer held on the day on which King Edward was alive and dead [5 January 1066] and it paid geld for half a hide and half a ferling. This six ploughs can till. Now Ralf de Pomaria [Pomeroy] holds it of Baldwin. There Ralf has two ploughs in demesne and the villeins four. There Rjalfj has nine villeins, four bordars, eight serfs, one rouncey [pack-horse], six beasts, ten swine, one hundred and thirty Eve sheep, twenty goats, forty acres of woodland, twelve acres of meadow and thirty acres of pasture. Worth four pounds and was worth sixty shillings when Baldwin received it.

 

Along with this manor Baldwin holds the land of six thanes which did not belong to the aforesaid manor on the day on which King Edward was alive and dead. In King Edward]’s time it paid geld for half a hide and one and a half ferlings. This six ploughs can till. One of these six lands is called CARSFORDA [Kersford] which Sawin Topa held. Another is called BATESILLA [Battishill] which Dodo held. A third COMBA [Combe] which Dodo held. A fourth ETBOLDUS WRDA [Ebsworthy] which Godwin held. A Fifth FERNEURDA [Fernworthy] which Godwin held. And the sixth WEIA [Way] which Abbot Suatric held. These thanes could go with that land to any lord they liked. That land is worth sixty shillings all but twenty pence, and was worth thirty shillings when Baldwin received it.

 

The Conqueror granted lands to his barons conditional upon their providing knights for the King’s service. In turn the knights were granted manors under the barons, many holding as much land as some of the minor barons. By 1205 some 4000 knights had secured exemption from military service on payment of a fine or tax known as scutage, and knight service had been replaced by a paid army, the scutage being used to pay the fighting knights.

 

The Domesday manor consisted of demesne (the home farm of the lord of the manor), freeholders’ land, and villagers’ land. A thane was a freeman who could change his lord at will. A villein was a tenant of manorial land which he held on condition of particular amounts of labour service, known as socage, on the lord’s demesne; he was free in regard to everyone except his feudal lord, which meant that he could not be bought or sold but he was bound to his holding. A bordar was a villein of the lowest rank — a smallholder — and the status of serf was even lower, in that even his body belonged to his lord.

 

In England serfdom, common at the time of Domesday, soon thereafter became extinct, the division then being into freemen and villeins. However, the distinction was not absolute: a freeman might acquire land to which a liability attached for villein services, and intermarriage was frequent, though the offspring of a free woman by a villein was a villein. Between 1300 and 1500 the villeins’ obligation to work in the lord’s fields was by degrees abolished in favour of the payment of a money rent in lieu of socage. Before 1400 villeins were proving their legal right to their property by producing copies of the court roll (page 112) of the manor, this type of tenure therefore being known as copyhold, and on a villein’s death his eldest son became the legal heir to the property. At about the same period the terms husbandman and yeoman came to be applied to workers of the land. At first the husbandman was usually a villein, whereas a yeoman was always a freeman; but by the Sixteenth Century the distinction seems to have been more a matter of wealth, and the terms husbandman and yeoman might even be applied to the same person.

 

Until about 1400 the term gentleman was used to describe any man of noble birth — a baron, a knight or a squire, the title squire or esquire being given to an apprentice knight, usually a descendant of a knight, before he was dubbed on coming of age. But in the Fifteenth Century gentleman came to be used to describe a person who had not been knighted but was a substantial landowner whose status was higher than that of a yeoman in that he did not himself have to work with his hands.

 

By the Sixteenth Century many yeomen had acquired much land and could sometimes be far better off than their neighbouring gentry, who were gentry less by their wealth than by their status, their descent from an armorial bearing family, or their way of life. By the Seventeenth Century a humble tradesman could be a gentleman if he had descended from an ancient gentle family, whilst a successful yeoman could be leading the life of a gentleman, never needing to put is hand to the soil; and there was much intermarriage between the gentry and the yeomanry. Members of such professions as the army, the navy, the law and the church were regarded as gentlemen, some even being entitled to use the description esquire.

 

….

besides the property from which they took their name, the Ebsworthys also owned, by 1445, the adjoining property of Easter Bidlake (sometimes referred to in later documents as Lower or Little Bidlake) as well as Gnattor (on the moors a good half dozen miles south in Peter Tavy parish, mid-way between Buckland Monachorum and Bridestowe, variously spelt Nattor or Knattor) and Wadeston (perhaps Waddlestone in the adjoining parish of Lewtrenchard, spelt Wadeleston in the Book of Fees of 1242). And if Esterlake, mentioned in the 1317 deed, refers to Easter Bidlake, as seems probable, then the Ebsworthys must already have acquired that property by 1317.

 

[THE RISE OF THE EBSWORTHYS WILL BE CONTINUED IN POST 10]

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