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the land should be faithfully served and supported by him to whom the land was granted.
The Anglo-Saxons, in common with other Teutonic nations, were divided into various castes or ranks. The highest of these was that from whence the king was chosen ; the second were the nobility who were earls or thane born; the third rank was composed of the remainder of the people, and consisted of the ceorls or villains.
The theowes—the servi of Doomsday—were entirely destitute of political right; they did not rank among the people. Some of them were no doubt the offspring of the British serfs, but the majority consisted of free men who had forfeited their liberty by their crimes.
The bordarii, or borderers, appear in a great measure to correspond with these latter; the only difference that can be discovered between them being, that the theowes were slaves from the commission of crime, the borderers slaves by right of conquest or purchase. The different classes were all subject unto the king, who was elected from the first order, and claimed descent from the deified monarch of the Asi, Odin or Woden.
The Conquest of Britain by the Normans produced no improvement in the feudal system, but on the contrary strengthened it greatly, as thereby the conquerors were the better enabled to keep the Saxons in subjection. But what gave the crown the most influence, and produced the largest revenue, were the profits arising from the manors, fourteen of which belonged exclusively to the king. The servants of the crown, placed in these strongholds—up and down the country, and throughout the length and breadth of the land -proved a formidable police, and served as well to keep the impetuous spirit of the various chieftains in check, as, also, to observe and report whatever might be going on in the
provinces. These manors, with that of Wednesbury, were, with the crown, ceded to the Conqueror, who exercised the same authority over them as the ancient kings had done before.*
An interesting survey of the whole of England, with the exception of the four northern counties, viz.:—Westmoreland, Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland, and part of Lancashire, was made by the order of King William the Norman. It was commenced in the year 1080, and completed in 1086, the commissioners appointed for the purpose having fully and faithfully accomplished their task. The result is found in “ Doomsday Book,” from which the following extract has been taken, viz. :-" The king retains Wadnesberrie, with the appurtenances. It contains three hides.f The arable land is nine carucates 1-one in demesne, and one servant, and sixteen villains, and eleven borderers, have seven carucates. There is a mill of 2s. rent, and one acre of meadow ; also a wood, two miles in length and one in breadth.'|| According to the same authority there were, in the county of Stafford, 330 towns, villages, or hamlets; whereof the king retained 55 of the best, granting to the clergy 97, and to the laity 178.
The manor of Wednesbury remained in the possession of the crown until about the reign of Henry II., when it was transferred to the ancestors of William Heronville, in exchange for the town of Stuntsfield, in Oxfordshire. This interesting fact agrees with what is more fully recorded in the curious tenure roll of the hundred of Offlow, in the time of Henry III., (A.D. 1255,) which states that “Simon de Heronyille holds the manor of Wednesbury of the heir of Henry d'Oylli, and was aforetime a demesne of the king, and given in exchange, to the ancestors of the said Simon, for the town of Stuntsfield, near Woodstock, and pays annually to the lord the king 20s. 20d.; for the manor of Wonnesbury was worth so much more than Stuntsfield when the exchange was made. It has a free court and view of frankpledge, * but it is not known by what warrant; and pays 3s. to the sheriff for view of frankpledge, and owes suit at the 2 hundred courts to ask for its own free court. There is in the said manor one hide, and it is worth £12 per annum.”
* Pictorial History of England. + Hide. An uncertain quantity of land, generally about 120 acres.
Carucate, carve, or ploughland. Generally 100 acres.
|| Bloxwich was a member of the same manor.
The manor next passed to William Leventhorpe, by virtue of his marriage with Joan, daughter and heiress of Henry Heronville, about A.D. 1421. Their daughter Joan carried this and other estates in marriage to Sir Henry Beaumont, Knight, brother to John Viscount Beaumont, slain at Northampton A.D. 1460, and was descended from that very ancient family, whose ancestor was son of Louis VIII. King of France.
The manor then came into the possession of the Comberford family, by the marriage of Humphrey Comberford, of Comberford, with Dorothy, second daughter of John Beaumont, who died A.D. 1502. At this time the manor and estate were valued at £13 14s. 4d.
A person of the name of Gilpin having purchased the manor from the Comberfords, sold it shortly after to John Shelton, of Birmingham.
About the year 1710, the son of John Shelton sold it to John Hoo, of Bradley, sergeant-at-law. From him the inheritance fell into the hands of his brother Joseph, who contracting marriage with Jane Vaughton, widow, had issue two sons, John and Thomas. John Hoo, dying without issue,
* Appendix A.
1749, was succeeded by his brother Thomas, of Barr, who died, childless, September, 1791 :—thence the manor descended, in the female line, to Mrs. Whitby and the Honourable Mrs. Foley, who are now represented by Sir Francis Scott, of Great Barr, Bart., and Lady Emily Foley, of Stoke Edith, widow of the late E. T. Foley, Esq., and daughter of the third Duke of Montrose, a nobleman representing one of the oldest and best of the Scottish families.
The ancient Manor House is situated near the parish church, to the north-east, and is now converted into a farm house, retaining nothing of its former magnificence. It is at the present time the property of Sir H. St. Paul, Bart.
Wednesbury is governed by a constable, chosen annually, at a manorial court, held in October, together with headboroughs, overseers of fields and hedges, and victual and ale tasters.
Appendix to the Manor.
Record Office, Tower of London.
Inquisitio post mortem, 8th Edward II., No. 34. INQUISICIO de terris et tenementis de quibus Johannes de Heronvill fuit seisitus in dominico suo ut de feodo die quo obiit, videlicet quantum terre idem Johannes tenuit de herede Hugonis de Plessetis defuncti, qui de Domino Edwardo quondam Rege Anglie patre Domini Regis qui nunc est, tenuit in capite infra etatem et in custodia Domini Regis existente tenuit per servicium militare et quantum de aliis et per quod servicium, et quantum terre et tenementa illa valeant per annum in omnibus exitibus et quis propinquior heres ejus sit et cujus etatis, Facta coram Escaetore apud Wodnesbury vij die Februarii anno regni Regis Edwardi octavo, per sacramentum Willielmi de Wanore, Willielmi atte Wode, Willielmi de Honesworthe, Willielmi de Derlastone, Thome Hyllary, Ricardi le Rugaker, Ade atte Ree, Nicholai Golde, Ricardi le Grete, Ade Torel, Willielmi Moysaunt et Nicholai de Luttelham Juratorum, Qui dicunt super sacramentum suum quod predictus Johannes nihil tenuit die quo obiit de predicto herede Hugonis de Plessetis qui in custodia Domini Regis existit sed tenuit die quo obiit manerium de Wodnesbury de Domino Rege in capite in exscambio pro manerio de Stuntesfeld in Comitatu Oxonie, et quia manerium de Wodnesbury plus valuit quam manerium de Stuntesfeld, servatur manerium de Wodnesbury de xx. solidis ad Saccarium Domini Regis solvendis per manus vice comitis Staffordie per annum. Et sic tenuit manerium predictum sine aliquo servicio inde faciendo preterquam illos xx solidos per annum. In quo manerio capitale messuagium cum gardinis et curtilagiis valet per annum ijs. et sunt ibidem due carucate terre arrabilis que continent vixx acras terre que valent per annum xx solidos precium acre ij denarij, et habuit in eodem Manerio unum Messuagium