VII.—PROPERTY IN TILE WEST COUNTRY.
THE great era of the foundation of monastic houses about coin- ' cides with the conquest of Cornwall by the Saxons. A few indeed have an earlier origin assigned to them, that at Bath being placed as far back as the year 676, Athelney, in 878, &c. Exeter, however, is assigned to the year 905, Tavistock to 961, and Abbotebury to 1026. These three were the only great monastic houses in Devonshire during the Saxon period, and in Cornwall we find only St. Germain's and Bodmin of any importance. On the other hand, the small county of Dorset had, we have seen, no less than 6 large monastic houses during the,pame period. The Church held at the time of the Domesday Survey in Devonshire 31 manors in demesne and 6 by under-tenants, besides manors there held personally by two Churchmen, the Bishop of Exeter and the Bishop of Constance. Devonshire, at any rate, therefore cannot be called zealous in an ecclesiastical point of view, yet one great function of the monasteries—the cultivation of the waste land—was more needed here at that time than in most parts of the island. Except in the neighbourhood of Exeter and Tavistock, the Church can scarcely be said to have exercised great influence over the inhabitants of the West Country, as we have defined its boun- daries. The great Abbey of Tavistock indeed stands out in bold relief to the general blank in ecclesiastical rule. The bishopric of Exeter was generally in the possession of a scion of some great landed family, such as the Courtenaya, one of whom is memorable for bearding John of Gaunt in the first stage of the Lollard con- troversy. It is to the land therefore that we turn as the other great influence (besides the urban) within the West Country.
Land, it need hardly be said, was the basis of the feudal system, of which some indications were perceptible among the Saxons, though the service then was to the State rather than to a person. But the Normans, with their strong individuality, which overrode the Saxon classes, by what became virtually the broad dis- tinctions of free and servile, the former being graduatedaccording to a standard of personal rather than class distinction, bound man to man by a mutual obligation of protection and service, and in a per- sonal service to an individual suzerain, the head of the -State. The Ketlic element in the West Country, one would think, must have felt more kindly to this personal system than to the impersonal relation to the State under the Saxon system, but its natural impatience of systematic control must have often rebelled against the rigid, unbending requirements of feudalism, while the free spirit of the West Saxons must have chafed severely under the insolent disregard of law and justice displayed by the Norman nobles and their followers. It is interesting, then, to endeavour to obtain any glimpse, however slight, of the actual feudalism of the West Country, and this we get from the Domesday Survey. In Cornwall the land was chiefly divided between the King, his half-brother Robert, Earl of Mertain and Cornwall, and those who held under him ; the Bishop of Exeter, the Prior and Convent of Bodmin, the Abbot and Convent of Tavistock, and a few other monasteries and colleges. The Earl of Mertain had 285 manors in fee in Cornwall, but of these he had only 36 in his own hands, the rest being held by tenants ; and of these 36, 10 are said to be held by "comes et villani," the Earl and his tenants in villenage. He had numerous manors in 18 other counties, and was then probably the greatest landholder in the kingdom. The greatest tenant under him was Rainald or Reginald, who held 39 manors, including the manor and castle of Trematon. This seems to have been Reginald de Valletort, who certainly held Trematon a very little later. Hamelin (whom the Trelawnys claim as their ancestor) held 22 manors under the Earl (one of them being Trelsen) ; 'f urstan the Sheriff (a Saxon name), 27 ; Nigell, 11 ; Offers or Osferd, 10; Bernerus, 12; and Joinus, 13. Several Saxon names occur, Alured and Bristle holding 7 manors each, Algar, 6 ; and Dodo, 2. Several of these Saxons, especially Alger and Dodo, held much larger possessions here during Edward the Confessor's reign. In Devonshire the King held 78 manors. Nearly the largest landowner, but not the largest holder in his own hands, was Baldwin the Sheriff, who had 181 manors, but 17 only out of them in demesne (in his own hands), the rest being held by under-tenants. He was one of the sons of Gilbert, Earl of Brion (who was murdered in Normandy). He was called variously Baldwin de Molls, Baldwin de Brion, Baldwin de Sap, and later, Baldwin de Exeter. He had, as we have seen, the barony and seat of Oakhampton and the .castle of Exeter. He was the grandson of Geoffrey, Earl of Ewe, a natural son of Richard, Duke of Normandy, the grandfather of the Conqueror, and was one of the commanders at Hastings. Some relatives held under him in Devonshire. The greatest holders of land in demesne were the Bishop of Exeter, who had 20 manors in demesne, but only four in the hands of under- tenants; Walter de Claville, who had -22 manors in demesne, and nine by under-tenants, and whose male descendants continued in Dorsetshire down to the year 1774, when the last heir male died ; Ralph de Pomeroi, ancestor of the baronial family seated at Berry-Pomeroy till the reign of Edward VI., had 27 manors in demesne, and 27 by under-tenants ; William Capra, or Chievre, who had 19 manors in demesne, and 25 by under-tenants ; and Judhael or Juhel de Totenais, or Totneis, who held in demesne 14 . manors besides the manor and borough of Totness, the seat of his barony, and by sab-tenants no less than 92 manors. Among other considerable landholders appears Jeffrey, bishop of Con- stance, Chief Justiciary of England, who had five manors in demesne, and 86 by under-tenants, but of these latter 73 were held by Drogo or Dru, a noble Norman, son of Walter de Ponz, and brother of Richard, from whom the family of Clifford profess to trace. This DROGO seems to have had the largest possessions of any person in Devonshire. We find also Robert, Earl of Mor- tain, half-brother of the Conqueror ; Rudd Adobed, or Adobat ; Tetbald Fitz-Berner, ancestor of a family who possessed Holcombe- Burnell ; Alured Brito (either a Breton or a Briton) ; Odo Fitz- Gaudin, Godbold Baliatarius ; and William de Poilgi, or Poillei, all holding several manors, and constituting with the preceding the chief landowning aristocracy of the county. Besides these we have a very interesting class, called King's Thanes, or in the Exeter Domesday English Thanes, who all held in demesne ; the largest holders of whom are Godwin and Colvin, holding respectively eleven and eight manors ; and three Saxon ladies, one of whom is the mother of Earl Mortar, and another the widow of Metric; and these twenty manors represent the old Saxon and British landowners of Devonshire. The rest are the Northmen and Wigots or Bigots (Visi- Goths) of Normandy, with their inter- mixture of Kelto-Roman blood, and their companions, the adven- turers of all Christian Europe. Brave and enterprising, but avaricious and iron-hearted, temperate in diet, and strong friends as well as implacable enemies, these brought into the West Country a third and still different element of race, and shaped and wielded with all the energy of their administrative character the blended mass of their Saxo-British subjects. How they acted, what sufferings they inflicted, and what good they wrought, we have little left us to indicate. We see the fruit, but we cannot analyze the process of its creation. All we know is that the Norman gradually changed into the Anglo-Norman, aad he, again, into the Englishman, till every distinction of race was lost in a mixed blood and new and common interests. It is, we believe, a fact that there does not exist any document to prove that there is a single estate in Devonshire, at any rate, remaining in the possession of a descendant of any person who held it at the time of the Domesday Survey, though of course there may be some undiscover- able descendants of the long lists of simple Christian names which fill that document. Hosts of names now forgotten and families long extinct fill the annals of the next centuries, till from the names of Rivers, Courtenay, and Zouch, we find ourselves among the still familiar names of Fulford, Edgcumbe, Fortescue, Trefusis, Clifford (cadets of the great Cumberland House), Rolle, Grenville, Mohun, Prideaux, Pole, Seymour, Wrey, Arundell, Bampfylde, Northcote, Chichester, Davie, Acland, Carew, Buller, Killigrew, Drake, Chudleigh, Pollard, Strode, Yonge, Raleigh, Tremayne, Eliot, Godolphin, St. Aubyn, and Trelawny, &c., &c.
Domesday Book is not a full record of the population of Eng- land at the time of the Survey, but only so far as concerned the amount of the geld. Still, it gives us a curious insight into the social condition of the country at that time. Making use of Sir Henry Ellis's valuable summaries, we find that of the 1,400 tenants-in-capite, there were in Devonshire, 77 ; in Cornwall, 7 ; in Dorset, 146 ; in Somerset, 80; while of the 7,871 under-tenants, Devon had 402 ; Cornwall, 97 ; Dorset, 195 ; and Somerset, 368. Devon and Somerset are therefore very similar in this distribution, while Dorset presents a most striking preponderance of tenants- in-capite. The small number of tenants-in-capite in Cornwall is accounted for by its being chiefly one great earldom. Passing to the class of Villani, the cultivators of the villas, attached to the soil, but free, and corresponding in a somewhat degraded form to the Saxon ceorls, we find the distribution in the West Country, of the whole number in the kingdom, 108,407, to be as follows :—Devonshire, 8,070; Cornwall, 1,730 ; Dorset, 2,613 ; Somerset, 5,298. The 25,156 Servi absolute out slaves, are thus distributed :—Devon, 3,294 ; Cornwall, 1,160 ; Dorset, 1,231; Somerset, 2,110. Devonshire contained, therefore, nearly one- eighth of the total absolute slaves of England enumerated in Domes- day. Besides these great classes of English society, we find another large one, which bears the name of Bordarii. The meaning of this term has been much disputed, but it is derived from the word " bord," " cottage," and being sometimes used interchangeably with the word " cottarii," may be translated " cottagers." They appear to have had a free socage tenure, but to have paid a " ferm " rent in provisions or money, with some customary service. There were 82,119 Bordarii in England, besides 490 who are called " Bordarii Pauperes" (poor cottages), and 15 Demidii Bordarii(half cottagera). Now of the Bordarii there were in Devon 4,847 (besides 19 called Cottarii) ; in Cornwall, 2,355; in Dorsetshire, 2,941 (Cott:aril,' 188) ; in Somerset, 4,770 (Cottarii, 327). The number of these " cottagers" varied very greatly in different counties ; Norfolk, Essex, and Suffolk present the greatest number, Devonshire stand- ing fourth, Somerset fifth, Dorset tenth, and Cornwall thirteenth. The whole population, so far as enumerated in Domesday Book, is 283,242; to which Devon contributes 17,434,; Cornwall, 5,438; Dorset, 7,807 ; and Somerset, 13,764. We find, then, that of the inhabitants of Devon enumerated in Domesday Book somewhat lees than 1- were absolute slaves, nearly k villeins, and more than
cottagers ; in Cornwall, more than 1. slaves, about "villeins,"
and somewhat less than cottagers. The remaining denomi- nations of the population are each very small in number. There are, however, 263 burgesses mentioned in Devonshire, of whom Totnes has no less than 110 ; Barnstaple, 67 ; and Exeter only 13. It would be quite beyond the scale of our present plan to attempt to give any detailed or systematic account of the social condition of the population of the West Country, thus composed at the end of the reign of William the Conqueror, during the centuries which followed. Mr. Roberts, in his valuable Social History of the People of the Southern Counties of England," has produced the nearest approach to the realization of such a history. The works of Eden and others on the condition of the poor and on the rate of prices, &c., give us additional materials, but we must here confine ourselves to much more limited and incidental details.
On the accession of William Rufus the partizans of Robert of Normandy took up arms, and Exeter was sacked by Robert Fitz- Baldwin. In the civil wars between Stephen and Matilda the West Country went strongly with the Angevin party, and Baldwin de Rivers, Earl of Devon, stood a long siege in Exeter Castle against Stephen's forces, but at last, through want of water, was compelled to surrender. The knights who held Plympton Castle also compounded with the King, and the castle being des- troyed, the Earl's extensive manors were laid waste. During the captivity of King Richard in Germany, Henry de la Pomeroi, having large possessions in Cornwall, seized on St. Michael's Mount, in the interest of Prince John, Earl of Cornwall, then endeavouring to obtain the Crown. But on hearing of the King's release, Pomeroi surrendered the place without a struggle in 1194, and is said to have died of fear on hearing of Richard's arrival in England. We mentioned that the fleet for the Holy Land started from a Western port. Perhaps the country rumour consequent on this event, and the subsequent expeditions Eastward from these ports, may explain the following incident : —In the year 1322 a great mul- titude of the Cornish men, women, and children, in a fit of religious enthusiasm, left their country for the conquest of the Holy Land, and wandering about on the Continent, some were executed for various offences, others imprisoned, and we are told that those whO escaped returned home, not a little ashamed of their folly. The religious enthusiasm of the day must, however, have been kept alive in them by proceedings of a very similar character. Besides con- tributing to the Royal fleets, the ships of the Western ports had another call made upon them. In the following century the Pope, having proclaimed a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Jago de Compostella, in Spain, the shipping of the West was called into constant requisition for many years for carrying over pilgrims ; and a curious list of these early pilgrim ships is given by Mr. Roberts.
Meanwhile, before Edward III.'s reign the mineral districts of Dartmoor and Cornwall had been fora long time Crown lands, but in 1333 Edward settled them on his son, the Black Prince, and his heirs, eldest sons of the Kings of England, for ever. They were by this charter constituted into the Duchy of Cornwall, including ten castles, nine parks, fifty-three manors, thirteen boroughs and towns, nine hundreds, and a forest abounding in wild deer. But the tenure being dependent on the life of the Sovereign, the authorities had no power of granting leases, so the lands lay barren till the reign of James I. But then (in 1622) Parliament took the Duchy in hand, " and empowered tenants to hold lands in perpetuity by renewable leases, so giving encouragement to
outlay." The plan of granting leases for lives and in reversion and of commuting the greater part of the rents for fines, soon reduced the actual income of the Duchy to an amount which was no just measure of its fair annual value. But under the late Prince Consort's management in his son's minority great improve-
ments were effected. " No leases are now granted for lives ; a fixed term of years is in all cases substituted, and life leases have been exchanged for holdings on the more certain tenure, the old fines taking the more regular form of rent. The present income of the Duchy is 46,0001. In the unsettled times which followed the departure of the Romans, the mines of Cornwall and Devon, are believed to have been much neglected." And although church bells came into use in the sixth and seventh centuries, the demand for tin in connection with them must have been greatly limited by the prolonged struggle for independence in the West of Eng- land, which must have absorbed the energies and time of most of the mining population. Under the Normans the trade revived and there were great improvements in its regulations. In the reign of King John, who was Earl of Cornwall, " when Bruges was the great tin emporium, Devonshire produced more tin than Cornwall, but the trade was inconsiderable and entirely engrossed by the Jews (whose ancient smelting furnaces exist at this day under the name of Jews Houses), the right of working the mines being wholly in the King, as Earl of Cornwall. The exports, however, greatly increased under the auspices of his son, Richard, Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans, the Spanish mines having stopped" working, in consequence of the struggle with the Moors. In Edward's reign the Jews were expelled from the country and the mines again fell into neglect, but a few years subsequently Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, granted a charter to the tinners, which con- tained the important privilege of holding plea of all actions relat- ing to the mines, "those of life, limb, and land excepted," and declared that the prisons for offending tinners should be at Lidford (then a place of some importance) and Lostwithiel. On condition of these privileges the gentlemen tinners bound them- selves to pay to the Earl and his successors a certain duty (after- wards fixed at 4s.) upon every hundredweight of tin, and certain towns were named to which the blocks of tin should be brought to be coined or assayed, and kept until the dues were paid. The miners of Cornwall were now separated from those of Devon, whom they used previously to meet every seventh or eighth year on Hingston Down, near Callington ; and from this time the Stannary Parlia- ments on Crockern Tor, a wild hill in the centre of Dartmoor, are probably to be dated. " The mines continued henceforth to flourish till the reign of Mary, when they so much declined that Elizabeth sent for Germans to assist and instruct the miners." Risdon speaks thus of the miner then :—" His apparel is coarse, his diet slender, his lodging hard, his drink water, and for lack of a cup he generally drinketh out of a spade." Under Elizabeth's care the mines again flourished, and particularly those of silver and lead at Combe- Martin and Beer-Ferrers. The regulations of the Stannaries had also been improved. A Warden was appointed to do justice in law and equity, from whom there was an appeal to the Duke of Cornwall in Council, or in default of him to the Crown. Henry VII. " had enacted that no law relating to the tinners should be enacted without the consent of the Stannary Parliament, consisting of twenty-four gentlemen, a certain number being chosen by a mayor and council in each of the Stannary divisions. Whatever is enacted by this body must be signed by the Stannators, the Lord Warden or his Deputy, the Vice-Warden, and afterwards by the Duke of Cornwall or the Sovereign," and then has all the force of an Act of Parliament as respects tin affairs. The Devonshire Stan- naries were last assembled on Crockern 'for in 1749, the Cornish at Truro in 1752-53. In 1836 the Stannary Courts were re- modelled. The jurisdiction was extended to all minerals, the equitable jurisdiction of the Vice-Wardens confirmed, and the Courts of common law and equity, being united, were placed under their presidency, one Vice-Warden for each county, a barrister of at least five years' standing. Hence there is an appeal to the Lord Warden, assisted by at least three of the Privy Council, and thence to the House of Lords."