Robert Schillberg Gift

This document was donated to the Gallagher Law Library by UW School of Law alumnus Robert Schillberg ’59. It is dated August 17-18, 1814, and appears to be a manorial court document associated with the Manor of Wix, Park Hall, in Essex County in England. It is probably a copy of a manor court record of the admittance of one James Sexton to a “copyhold tenancy” on the Manor of Wix. (More information about copyhold tenancies and about manorial courts can be found below.)

Please contact Law Library Administration to arrange to see the original document: 206/543-4089.

A reading of the text seems to reveal that Joseph William Cutting, a resident of the nearbyRobert Schillberg town of Bradfield, inherited the tenancy on the land of the Manor of Wix on September 26, 1808. It was passed down to him through the will of his late father, Thomas Cutting, who previously had held the tenancy. On August 18, 1814, Joseph Cutting surrendered his tenancy to the lord of the manor, Nathaniel Garland, Esquire. James Sexton then paid 600 pounds for the surrendered tenancy, a transaction that was formalized in the Court Baron at the Manor of Wix. As a condition of admittance to this copyhold tenancy, James Sexton was to pay a yearly rent of nine shillings to the lord of the manor. The signature of the manor lord’s steward, Rees Goring Thomas (who likely oversaw this court proceeding), appears in the bottom right-hand corner of the document.

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Historical Context and Related Legal Concepts

England in the Nineteenth Century

Below is a brief outline of some major events in English history from the early nineteenth century, the era when this document was created [1]:

  • January 1, 1801: Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and Ireland are formally united under the Act of Union, creating the United Kingdom.
  • March 25, 1807: Britain abolishes the slave trade, after over 200 years of slave trading.
  • c. 1803-1815: The period of the Napoleonic Wars. On October 21, 1805, the British Royal Navy defeats the French and Spanish navies at the Battle of Trafalgar. The Wars ended on June 18, 1815 following the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.
  • January 29, 1820: King George III dies after 60 years on the throne. His oldest son, George IV, succeeds him.
  • September 27, 1825: The world’s first steam locomotive passenger service begins in England.

The Manor of Wix, Park Hall

Wix is a small town approximately 73 miles northeast of London. (The text in the upper left-hand corner refers to the manor as the “Manor of Weeks”; Weeks was an older name for Wix that was commonly used in the seventeenth century.)

The manor house was first built circa 1150 A.D., and was then known as the Wix Manor house. It later came to be known as the Manor of Park Hall. The “Park Hall” appellation derives from a 400-acre deer park created as part of the manor grounds around 1250. The manor house was rebuilt in 1650, and was apparently demolished in 1955. [2]

Manorial Courts

Historically, English manors were large pieces of land presided over by a lord, who admitted individuals to tenancies on the manor. [3] Manors often had their own courts, called manorial courts, which were the lowest courts of law in England and handled local matters within the manor. They were usually presided over by a steward, who could be a lawyer or someone legally trained who was appointed by the manor lord. [4]

The principal type of manorial court was a “court baron.” Below is an excerpt of a definition of court barons from the website of the National Archives, the official archives of the UK government:

“[The court baron] was the court of the chief tenants of the manor. It was responsible for the internal regulation of local affairs within the manor…. These courts dealt with a range of matters affecting the local community, including the regulation of agricultural affairs such as the allocation of strips of land, the enforcement of bye-laws about common land, ditches and crops, the enforcement of labour services, the transfer of manorial land, petty crime within the manor, and the election of local officials. [5]

Copyhold Tenancies

Regarding matters of tenancy, the court baron was responsible for handling the admission and surrender of tenants to “copyhold land. [6] “Copyhold” was a form of landholding that was unique to manors. Below is a more detailed description of copyhold by the National Archives:

“Copyhold tenants were restricted in what they could do with their land and needed permission from the manorial court to inherit, sell, sublet, buy or mortgage their copyhold property. These transactions, referred to as admissions and surrenders, were written down in the formal record of the court, that is the court roll or court book, and a copy of the entry given to the new tenant as proof of title. The term copyhold therefore derives from the fact that the land was held by copy of the court roll. Copyhold tenants were also subject to certain customary payments. For example, when a new tenant took over copyhold property he had to pay an entry fine to the lord of the manor and when a copyhold tenant died a payment called a ‘heriot’ had to be made. Copyhold was abolished by the Law of Property Act 1922. [7]

It is possible that this document donated by Mr. Schillberg is the actual copy of entry of the transaction in the Manor of Wix’s court roll. If so, it would have been given to James Sexton as proof of his new title to the copyhold tenancy on the manor land.

  1. BBC, British History Timeline: Empire and Sea Power.
  2. Don Budds, A History of Wix Priory, reprinted in History of Wix Priory (last updated Mar. 9, 2003). 
  3. The National Archives, Manorial Documents Register – Frequently Asked Questions (last visited Nov. 2, 2010).
  4. Anita Travers, Manorial Documents, 21 Genealogists’ Magazine 1-19, 1983, reprinted in Ludshott Manor Court Rolls, 1400-1833 (Laurence C. Giles ed., 1991) (last visited Nov. 2, 2010).
  5. The National Archives, Manor and Other Local Court Rolls, 13th Century to 1922 (last visited Nov. 2, 2010).
  6. Rotherham Archives and Local Studies Service, Using Manorial Records for Family History (last visited Nov. 2, 2010).
  7. The National Archives, Manorial Documents Register – Frequently Asked Questions (last visited Nov. 2, 2010).


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