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During the middle ages in England the economic system was manorialism with manors covering most of the land. They supplied food, clothing, shelter and nearly every thing else needed by the lords and peasants or serfs.
Most manors were made up of the lordís land and small plots held by the peasants. The lord lived in a manor house, which was usually surrounded by a garden, an orchard, and farm buildings. Most manors also included a church, a mill for grinding grain into flour, and a press for making wine.
The peasants depended on the lord for protection from enemies, for justice, and for what little government there was. The peasants farmed both the lordís land and their own. They were bound to the soil. This means they were part of the property, and they remained on the land if a new lord acquired it. Unlike slaves, they could not be sold apart from the land. Peasants rarely travel far from the manor.
A serfís holding usually included a crude house, the adjoining plot of ground, a share of the surrounding fields, and a few animals. Part of his crops went to the lord of the manor as rent payment. The serf also worked on the lordís land and made special payments to him. The land they held was often handed down from father to son until the family acquired a right to it from long use. The serfs sole title to the land was a copy of the entries on the manor court roll.
The manorial system began to decline when trade and industry revived. This revival brought back an economic system based on payment with money for goods and services. Many serfs escaped to towns. Others rose in revolt against the lords. In some cases, landlords found it more profitable to give the serfs money for their labour. In the process, the serfs obtained their freedom. Other serfs began to sell their holdings and leave the estates. In time, their liberty was recognised by English law which ended serfdom in the 1600ís. Manorialism ended first in western Europe. It remained as late as the 1800ís in some parts of central and eastern Europe. Large family estates in Great Britain still exist as remainders of manorialaism.
In the north east of Cornwall where our very early ancestors lived there were a number of manors as follows:-
Some Very Early Trevethans of Porthcothan.
Although the records that record the births and deaths of our family only go back to the late 1600ís there are older records that mention our family name of various spellings in the Porthcothan area going back many more hundreds of years. Unfortunately our early families earlier forbearers can not be connected together but it is interesting none the less to try and discover items that relate to the very early Trevethan family name.
An Inquisition 1388.
One such document was the record of an Inquisition carried out under a writ from the King of England of the time Richard II to the sheriff of Cornwall who appointed William Rykhill and John Cassy as commissioners. The date was Thursday the 30th of July 1388 and the inquisition was carried out at Launceston. They were assigned to enquire as to the right and estate of Thomas Treythyan in two messuages (dewelling houses with out buildings and land) and lands in Mighelstowe (probably Michaelstow a parish a little east of St. Merryn), of Ralph Nevil in a messuage, a mill and 20 shillings rent in Rugok (a manor in St. Kew also near St. Merryn) and Trencruk (a place name in St. Issey). Also of John Poly of Tregonan in three messuages and lands in Tresilian, Tregonan and Padestowe (Padstow beside St. Merryn). This Thomas Treythyan therefore owned quite a lot of land in the area that we can trace our earliest ancestors to and maybe one of the very early people with the name of Trevethan.
Prideaux Brune Court Rolls.
As you can see some of the manors mentioned above were very large and covered parts of several parishes. The ancient parish of Luxulyan is of interest to us being a little south of St Breock. In this parish was the manor of Prideaux Brune whoís manor court rolls are held today by the Cornwall Records Office. Although these records run to many volummes listed below are the records relating to the Trevethans of that time.
Prideaux Brune Court Roll No. 1
Wednesday before Feast of St Dionysius 29 Henry VI (7 October 1450).
Prideaux Brune Court Roll No. 2 (i), (ii) and (iii).
Wednesday before Feast of SS. Simon and Jude 31 Henry VI (27 October
Prideaux Brune Court Roll No. 3.
Tuesday Feast of Discovery of the Holy Cross 37 Henry. VI (3 May
Wednesday in the vigils of SS Peter and Paul 37 Henry VI (28 June
Prideaux Brune Court Roll No. 4.
Monday after Feast St Michael the Archangel 7 Edward IV (5 October
Monday day after Feast of St Luke the evangelist 7 Edward IV (19
Prideaux Brune Court Roll No. 5.
Wednesday Feast St Luke 9 Edward IV (18 October 1469).
Feast of the decollation of St John the Baptist 10 Edward IV (29
Prideaux Brune Court Roll No 6.
Saturday day after Feast of Exaltation of the Holy Cross 10 Edward IV
(15 September 1470).
Prideaux Brune Court Roll No 7.
No Trevethan entries at all, 1473-4.
Prideaux Brune Court Roll No 8.
Thursday before Feast of Holy Trinity, 15 Edward IV.
Prideaux Brune Court Roll No 9.
8 October 16 Edward IV (1476)
Prideaux Brune Roll No 10.
Thursday after Michaelmas 21 Edward IV (4 October 1481)
Walter Trevethan v. John Richards Martyn for a plea of trespass.
Walter Trevethan v. John Richards Martyn for plea of trespass.
In the following two courts, both entries repeated, the dates being Wednesday after Feast of St Katherine Virgin (28 November 1481) and Wednesday before Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle (19 December 1481).
Tuesday after St. Hilary 21 Edward IV (15 January 1482)
Prideaux Brune Court Roll No 11.
Monday before All Saints 22 Edward IV (28 October 1482).
Prideaux Brune Court Roll No 12.
5 October I Henry (1483).
Prideaux Brune Court Roll No 13.
20 October 5 Henry VII (1489).
The reeve is in mercy for not levying 5s. from Walter Trevethan and
These court records from Prideaux Brune start of by recording that Ralph Trevethen who was a land owner in Trevethan died in 1450 and releif of 12d was excused. Is this the place at Porthcothan, where today there is now a farm on a hill known as Trevethan? Later on the 16th of Apeil 1452 his heirs were ordered to pay 3d homage to the lord of the manor.
Two other Trevethans are mention in 1453 with John Trevarthian being fined 2d for breaking the assize of bread and Richard who may have been his brother being find the same amount for breaking the assize of ale.
It would appear that Walter Raulyn Trevethan, who may well have been the son of Ralph Trevethan, was not a very good manager of his money as he appeared before the court between 1451 and 1482 on seven occiasions for pleas of debt againest him. However he also sought to recover money owed to him by Warin Ebryn and John Jamyn in 1451 and later in 1483 and 1484 debt owed by Walter Pomeray. Walter would appear to have been in trouble on a number of occasions and there was certainly some bad blood between him and Thomas Payn, for in 1470 he was accused of killing one of the sheep belonging to Thomas Payn with his dog. Not to be out done Thomas Payn accused Walter of killing one of his sheep valued at 26s 8d. Just two weeks later these two accused each other of trepass so there was obviously an ongoing feud between these two men. I found it interesting that more than five hundred years ago that sheep had such a high value.
However Walter also had a better side to him. In 1476 he was a juror
when Richard Engoyf was convicted of assaulting Peter Gaskyn and his
wife Margaret. It was Walter Trevethan who put up the required surety
along wiith John Nicolys.On the same day Richard Dey was also found
guilty of assaulting Johanna Whytcherche and once again Walter provided
When Claricia Trevethan died in approximatly 1475 the court seised
her house and garden that was within the town of Padstow as she had
owing relief and rent to the lord of the manor.
The Court Leet was a manorial Court dealing with petty offences such as common nuisances, highway or ditch disrepair and breaking the Assize of Bread and Ale. The indictable offences went to the Assizes. It was presided over by the Lord or his steward. Every man over the age of 12 some places and 16 in others, with residence of a year and a day, was obliged to attend although in practice it was only the main tenants. Although it appears to have met more frequently in Padstow, the Court met in theory, twice a year, and as well as considering allegation on offences, elected various officers including the Reeve. The word reeve means chief magistrate of the town. He was usually a man of villein status elected by his fellow tenants to organise the daily business of the manor.
This often made him responsible for speaking for the manor in negotiation with the Lord or his stewart. He received a manor payment from the villagers and sometimes a remission of rent and a remission of fundal dues.
The Court Leet at Padstow met normally in April and again in late September or early October. It contains several references to the Trevethan family. One of the earliest is from the reign of Henry VIII in 1539 when Thomas Trevethan is among those in debt, probably not paying his contribution to the Reeveís expenses. At the same Court Leet held on the Friday after Michaelmas 1539 George Trevythaven is noted amoung the Free Tenants. The same Thomas became Reeve in 1558 at the end of the reign of Mary 1, however he did not carry out his office to the satisfaction of other tentants and was presented to the Court for allowing little pigs of the inhabitants of the borough to run at large against the law and custom of the town. He was fined 3/4d. Pigs wandering around were the biggest nuisance on manorial land. They often scavenged food from other people and even in some areas rooted out bodies from the churchyard. He was again Reeve in 1570 where he is described as Thomas Trevythan gentleman. This did not stop him being involved in a foray which ended with him being presented some two years before the Court for assaulting, wounding and drawing blood of John and William, sons of Peter William.
It was in this tight knit community of Elizabethan Padstow that our ancestors the Trevethans lived and were obviously much involved in the community.
In The Time of King Henry VIII
In The Time of King Henry VIII
At the time when King Henry VIII was King of England he had musters
of Cornwall taken 1522, 1524 and 1543 so that he would know who and what
he had available in the case of war. All included Trevethans some of
whom would have been born in the 1400ís. Our Trevethans lived in the
hundredth(1) of Pydar on the north coast of Cornwall. In this hundredth
we find recorded eleven Trevethans most of whom would have been
ancestors of us here in New Zealand.
Of the other eight hundredths in Cornwall, Kerrier (which includes the Helston and Falmouth area) included eight abled body Trevethans and Penwith (which includes the St Hilary area) had five Trevethans available.
For defence against arrows, the army had wooden shields, and against horsemen, by most remarkable reasoning or instinct, it had already thought of the means of defence that was still in use seven hundred and fifty years later at Waterloo, and that was to stand in close ranks with spears pointed up and outwards (ie the weapons of pikemen and billemen).
Click the link below to view the family tree relating to the Prideaux Brune Court Rolls above which is in PDF format. If you need a PDF reader then click the link below to go to the Adobe site.
This site was last updated 10-Mar-2008