Page:English Historical Review Volume 37.djvu/414

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


406 COMMUNITAS VILLAE July Communitas Villae THE indenture printed below was bought last year by the Public Library Committee of Northampton Borough Council, together with other documents relating to the Lumley estates in Northamp- tonshire. It is one of the few documents that have come to light recording an agreement between the lords and men of a village concerning the cultivation of the common fields. 1 This is especially interesting, because we already know a good deal about Harlestone from the Estate Book of Henry de Bray, edited by Miss Willis in 1916. 2 Harlestone lies four miles north-west of Northampton on each side of the high road to Rugby, and is neither borough nor market town. Like many other Northamptonshire villages, it had been under divided lordship. Four fees were represented here in 1086 ; four c. 1310, in the time of Henry de Bray ; and a century later, when the present agreement was made, the men of Harlestone had six lords to reckon with. 3 It is evident from the Estate Book that in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries the two-field system was in operation at Harlestone, as in Henry de Bray's exchanges of land, and hi the lists of lands in his mother Matilda's dowry, the acres and half acres are described as lying in the North Field and in the South Field of the village. 4 From the present document it is clear that the village arable is being cultivated under the three-field system, and a new East field accordingly appears. There is no men- tion of an East Field in the Estate Book, and we can infer that the three-field system was introduced at Harlestone between 1310 and 1410, the date of the present indenture. It is probable that in the division too small an area had been reserved for the third field, and that the object of the agreement of 1410 was to increase the amount of land under cultivation for wheat in each third year. It rarely happens that a change of this kind can be dated within such narrow limits, but a similar change has been traced at Kislingbury, 5 only two miles from Harlestone, between some date in the thirteenth century and the fourteenth year of 1 A similar document of c. 1425 relating to Wymeswold in north Leicestershire is printed in Hist. MSS. Comm., Wollaton Report, pp. 106-9.

  • The Estate Book of Henry de Bray (c. 1289-1340), edited for the Royal Historical

Society by Dorothy Willis. 8 It was not till the beginning of the nineteenth century that, apart from the glebe, the different estates in Harlestone were consolidated in the hands of one family. Estate Book, pp. 33, 34, 65, 69, 83, 85, 111, 119, 127. 5 H. L. Gray, English Field Systems, pp. 79, 479, 483. Gray thinks that in the middle ages the villages under the two-field system and the three-field system in Northamptonshire were about equally divided. See p. 70.