Image of Henry VI

In 1442 King Henry VI succeeded to the thrones of England and France on the death of his father King Henry V and inherited his property. He was only 8 months old.

In 1440, when he was 18, King Henry VI founded the King's College of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Eton in fulfilment of an earlier vow he had made. He endowed it with 67 of his properties including "a farm and rent of £14.8.4d of Hynepidell otherwise called Pydelhyngton with its appurtenances". This property had already been granted by the King to the parson, Robert Parfite, for his life. It became the property of his new college on Robert Parfite's death in 1455.

In 1446 King Henry VI obtained parliamentary ratification of the many grants of land he had made to his College by a Consolidation Charter. The illumination of its opening letters, shown below, is a beautiful example of English 15th century art; it is probably the first representation of the Parliament of England, Lords and Commons together. In it the King kneels to offer his charter on the altar with the Cardinals, Bishops, Lords and Commons behind him.

the opening illumination of the Charter

By the time that the Provost and Fellows of Eton College became Lords of the Manor of Piddlehinton, the relationship between the Lord of a Manor and the people living on manorial land had evolved to the stage where rents had replaced services as the basis for granting land.

The land in the Manor of Piddlehinton was of 2 categories:

1. The Lord's demesne, or Manor Farm as we know it, comprising by far the largest acreage, let on a lease usually of 21 years. The tenant needed to be a man of some means and the tenancy carried certain duties.

2. The holdings granted for fixed rents with hereditary rights to the villagers. These were entered in the manorial records. A copy of the entry was given to the tenant whose holding was then referred to as a 'copyhold'. An 'heriot' was paid to Eton College when a tenant surrendered his tenancy or died and a 'fine' or down payment was due when the College regranted the land to the next owner.

In 1632, for example it is recorded in the Court Roll - "upon the death of Thomas Symonds a customary tenant of this manour there happned to the Lord for an herriot one hogg apprized at 25s[=£1.25] . and Jane the relict of the said Thomas Symonds to be admitted the next tenant for her widowhood". And in 1838 - "of John Dunning a fine on a renewal at the mills £39.0.0d ".

For a long time copyhold tenants based the length of their leases on the longest of 3 lives nominated by them. In the Court Roll for 1750 is recorded that William Rogers, blacksmith, of Piddlehinton aged 28 had delivered unto him by the steward - "a toft of land whereon a cottage sometime since was built". "And also unto Robert Rogers of Bridport in the County of Dorset shoemaker aged 30 years the brother of the said William Rogers and unto Samuel Rogers the son of the same Robert Rogers aged 5 years for the term of their lives and the life of the longest liver of them successively at the will of the Lords according to the custom of the said Manor". Gradually this form of copyhold tenancy gave way to annual tenancies. The last copyhold tenancy in Piddlehinton was given in 1893.

For an absentee landlord like Eton College, the chief advantage of owning the manor of Piddlehinton was the drawing of income from the estate. They also appointed the Rector. But they had obligations too. They were responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the village through their Manorial Court, carrying out many of the roles of Justices of the Peace and local Councillors today. They also had some financial responsibilities. In 1837 Joseph Lovelace was paid by Eton's steward for - "44 perch Hedging 11s and penny halfpenny [=55.5p for 221m] and 62 perch [of] Ditching 5s 2d [=311m for 26p] " as part of Eton's responsibility under the Enclosure Act. The steward, Francis Ingram's account to the college in 1838 included "Paid Blacksmith's bill for repairing Pound and parish Stocks 1s 7d [=8p] ". "Allowed Thomas Sansom towards the repair of Well 1s 0d.[=5p] " "Mr Martin's Bill for Map of Piddlehinton £34.10.0 [=£34.50p] " In 1846 Joseph Cozens rendered to "The Proverson Feeloue of Edon Colage" a bill for "Work dun" mending a bridge.

Lordship of the manor of Piddlehinton did not include ownership of all the land in the village. There were a few freeholders who were not obliged to attend the manorial Court and who were subject to the common law of the Royal Courts. They paid only a token rent to Eton College. Among the recorded freemen in Piddlehinton were:

1632 George Romayne and Joseph Beck

1725 Christopher White and William Beck

1750 Christopher White

1811 Stephen Iles and Thomas Harris

1812 Robert Devenish

1814 The Rev WRH Churchill and John Baverstock Knight

1871 General Charles Astell and Rev WRH Churchill


To convene the Court, Eton sent a Steward and a Clerk to Piddlehinton and gave notice that a Court would be held. In later years they appointed a local steward, often a lawyer from Dorchester, to act for them. Records show that they took place once in most years, in late autumn at the turn of the farming year. Every male over the age of 12 had a duty to be present. Anyone who failed to do so was fined.

The Manorial Court was divided into 2 parts. The Court Leet dealt with petty offences, highway and ditch disrepair, enforcement of the law relating to the sale of ale etc. The Court Baron enforced the customs of the Manor on the Lord's Property. These customs varied from Manor to Manor and were seldom committed to paper: they rested on oral tradition. They covered the surrender and renewal of tenancies, the use of the common fields and many other aspects of village life. Through these Courts the Lord of the manor controlled the economic life of the villagers down to the most homely details.

Each year when the Court met, a Jury of 12 men was elected. It had the duty to appoint 2 Constables, a Tithing Man (whose duty was to ensure that every male over the age of 12 years was put into a Tithe of 10 men: each Tithe elected its own headman and if any one member of a Tithe committed a crime, all the others were responsible for him), a Hayward (who had to supervise the good repair of the fences, the proper use of the common fields and many other duties connected with the regulation of the farming year on the manorial land including impounding stray cattle) and 2 people described as the Viewer of Hedges and the Teller of Cattle. Among the holders of these officers in Piddlehinton, the same surnames appear frequently over the period 1683-1871: Lowman, Beck, Day, Tizard, Adams, Kellaway, White, Payne, Iles, Maggs, Kiddle, Squires, Nelson, Stone, Alner, Lovelace, Dowding, Jeanes, Lockett.

It was for the Jury to present to the Steward those who had committed petty crimes. Fines were imposed, swelling the Lord's coffers. A great many of the items presented to the Court were connected with ensuring that the unwritten farming customs of the community were followed. Here are a few examples:


"Wee present that our high wayes and bridges are well repaired except the bridge in the Court Close which belongs to Nicholas Kelway to bee repaired. Ordered that the said Nicholas Kelway putt a sufficient planck over the river for passage by Allhallowtide upon paine of 12d[=5p] ".

"Wee present that Thomas Raungers' chimney is not yet amended, whereby 10s is forfeited and now ordered it be sufficiently done by Christmas next on further paine of 10s- [=50p] ".


"We present that the wheat stubble fields of and belonging to the said manor shall be yearly fed with our horses and cows on the 7th day of September and not before and that Barley Fields and Wheat Fields shall be fed with our sheep one week before the feast day of St Luke yearly and not before on pain of 20/- [£1] for every offence".

"We present that no tenant shall feed his cows in our stubbles at any time after the setting of the sun on pain of 1/-.[=1 shilling, or 5p] .


"We present John Cole for annoying our watercourse by placing a hogstye across the same and not removing this stye though formerly by us presented and ordered that he remove the stye therefrom in a month on payment of 22s [=£1.10] ".

"We present George Pope for plowing up Lannings wall contrary to our custom".


"We present all our ancient customs of this manor to be duly observed and kept by every tenant of this manor on payne of any one offending contrary to our presentment".


"We present the common watercourse of the manour to be scoured and repaired by the tenants of the said manour according to their several and respective proportions on or before the 5th day of November next on payment of each tenant neglecting the same 5d [=2p] ".


"We present that it is contrary to the customs of this manor for any tenant to suffer piggs, goose or ducks to run about the streets or common lands of the manor on payment of any tenants offending therein 10d [=4p] ".


"We present the common Pound of our Manour to be in great decay and though formerly presented it is not yet amended".


"Also we agree that all the tenants of the said Manor are to meet to settle all grievances concerning the Bounds of the Lands in the Tillage field Saint Michael's Day next under the penalty of 10d [=4p] each person not appearing to the said agreement".


"We present that no person shall cut any furze in the poor lots except the poor themselves under penalty of 5d [=2p] every offence".


"We present that no Horse, Mare or Gelding or Colt (except a sucking colt) shall be put upon the Downs unless the same is fettered with proper fetters or tied until the corn is carried from the common arable fields under penalty of 5s [=25p] for every such Horse, Mare, Gelding or Colt".


"We present Charles Grey a Copyhold tenant of this Liberty and manor and also hayward of the same who owes suit and service at this Court and hath made default in attending same and we amend him in the sum of 6d [=2.5p] ".


The other important function of the Manorial Court was to record the surrender and admittance to tenancies. The Manor Farm was usually let on a 21 year lease and the same family often renewed the tenancy as this list shows.

1529-1568 John, Owen, Elizabeth and Henry Hyllary

1568-1622 Henry and Edward Lowman

1630-1786 Nicholas, Christopher, John, James and Elizabeth Kellaway

1786-1821 Thomas Meggs

1842-1861 William Mayo

1861-1871 George Mayo

1871-1880 Charles and George Mayo

1880-1885 Joseph Roper

1885-1890 Levi Riggs

1890-1927 Joseph Riggs

1927-1931 VE de Meric

1939-1945 Captain Thomas Fellowes

1945-1966 Rex Lovelace (also tenant of East Farm)

Not all of them lived in the village, some installed sub-tenants to run their farm for them, but they all were closely involved with the affairs of Piddlehinton.

The tenancy of the Demesne lands also carried certain obligations. These included the provision of lodgings for visiting Eton officials and their horses.

Edward Lowman's lease in 1609 described the rent as "41s 9d and 3 Quarters 3 Bushels of wheat and 4 Quarters 4 Bushels of malt [=£2.09 and 0.9tonne wheat and 1.03tonne barley] or their money value at the current rate of the Windsor market. Lessee to provide lodging for the lessors and their officers for 2 days and 3 nights not more than twice in one year".

James Kellaway wrote to the Provost of Eton on behalf of his brother Nicholas Kellaway, the demesne tenant 'who s gone to sea', on this subject June 24th 1738:

"We think it very hard that the College insists upon having any part of the Forty Shillings [=£2] since their Courts have been duly kept and their Steward etc handsomely entertain'd at our Costs ev'ry one of those Six Years. You must be sensible, when any of your Society comes down, the Charge of Entertaining 'em must far exceed Forty Shillings, is it not reasonable. We should have something when They do not come?- "

Another obligation was the collection of rents from the copyhold tenants of the cottages.

In the same letter of June 1738 James Kellaway also wrote:

"There's another great Hardship upon us. In collecting the Tennts, Rents, We loose ev'ry Year £1.9.6d These Rents are charged by the College £13.12.10d Our Rent Role amounts to £12.3.4d. If You please to examine Mr. Crow's Survey. You will find ev'ry one's Lord's rent upon their respective Copies exactly agree with the Rent Role wch. I send you inclos'd. I assure you We do not collect one Farthing [=a quarter penny, or 0.1p] more nay often loose sevral Shillings of that through the poverty of the Cottagery".


The 'cottagery' in Piddlehinton had long been poor and were to remain so for a further 200 years. Furthermore, as it became increasingly difficult to wrest a living from a very small acreage, the more prosperous yeomen farmers took over several smaller holdings increasing the proportion of farm labourers to farmers in the village. In 1620, when the village had a population of approximately 216, there were 32 farms, including the manor farm and the Rector's glebe farm, and 16 cottages. By 1749 only 17 tenants had farms of 20 acres or more (just enough for a viable farm). There were 40 cottages, with very small holdings, mostly 0.5 acre or less. A century later the 1851 census shows only 6 farms, 95 agricultural labourers and 25 others with occupations directly connected with farming, such as shepherds, dairymen and carters. The rest of the population of 391 were working in crafts such as shoemaking, tailoring, thatching, button making and mop making or in servicing the village as bakers, millers, shopkeepers, and servants. There were 19 listed as scholars at that date.

The rents, and the fines imposed by the Court provided Eton with revenue. Inevitably the steward and his clerk who conducted these courts were unpopular in the village.


Gradually the Lord of the Manor ceased to have such social and economic importance in the lives of the villagers as the administration of justice and local government passed to other bodies. The few remaining duties and privileges were ended by Act of Parliament in 1922.

In 1939, at the invitation of Mrs Millicent Lovelace, the vice-Provost of Eton - Mr CHK Marten - came to explain to an Open Meeting, run by the Women's Institute, how Eton came to own Piddlehinton. The meeting was held on the lawn at East Farm. Mrs Chute introduced the speaker and a vote of thanks was given by Mrs Lovelace and Mrs Sybil Belgrave. Mr Marten said it was the first time he had visited the village to address the inhabitants. He outlined the early history of the village and the system of manorial courts quoting examples of presentments from 1249 when a shepherd was fined 2 shillings for striking his sister in the night with a knife and when women who brewed beer illegally were also fined. He brought the original Court Roll of 1734 to show to his audience.

In 1966 Eton College sold its land in Piddlehinton, and many of its houses, to Mr Ingram Spencer of Hanford Farms. Eton College had owned the Manor of Piddlehinton for 524 years. We do not know how different were the boundaries of the Manor they sold from those of the Manor given to them by King Henry VI, but the village itself had changed a great deal. After 1966 Eton College retained the right only to appoint the Rector, which it still has.