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Sir George Middleton of Leighton and his Tenants in the Civil War Period

Christopher O'Riordan
© the author 1989

Issues and Conflicts Before the Civil War
Civil War and Tenant-Revolution in the Sixteen-Forties
Sir George's Counter-Offensive and the Tenants' Continued Rebellion
The Agreement of 1658 and the Aftermath
Conclusion: the Broader Perspective
Notes (individually linked in text)

The tenants of the Lancashire Royalist Sir George Middleton took advantage of the Revolution of the sixteen-forties and fifties, and in particular of his absence and the sequestration of his estates, to overthrow his authority. Claiming that the tenure fines exacted by him and his father before him were extortionate and uncustomary, they refused to pay them after the death of the father in 1640. Rents, heriots and boons also went unpaid. After the Parliamentarian conquest of Lancashire in 1643 and the departure of Sir George, the tenants (many of whom were in arms for Parliament) were implicated in the plundering of his house and the removal of the deeds and papers from it. They also seized demesne and other lands and helped themselves to his timber and deer, again claiming custom as their justification for much of this. The tenants' movement was led by the yeomanry or `middle class', but the bulk of the tenantry was involved in it.

   The tenants had launched a suit against Sir George in the chancery court of the duchy of Lancaster in 1642. Sir George, returned from the fighting by the late sixteen-forties, slowly began to regain the initiative, commencing counter-suits against them in the duchy and elsewhere. The duchy, unable to resolve the rights and wrongs of the dispute, referred the case to local arbiters. In 1658 a comprehensive settlement was made. It was weighted heavily in Sir George's favour, and the tenants had to pay a large sum of money for it.

   The Middletons' estates were centred on the parish of Warton on the northern border of Lancashire. In Warton the Middletons held the manors of Yealand Redmayne, Yealand Conyers and Yealand Storrs, and Leighton where they lived. They also had lands in Silverdale and Lindeth. Bordering on the parish were their manors of Over Kellett (on the south-eastern side), and Burton, just over the county border in Westmorland. They also had miscellaneous parcels of land scattered throughout Lancashire and Westmorland.[1] But it is for Sir George's tenants in Warton parish that the evidence of disputes and upheaval occurs, and it is with this that I shall be dealing in this article. Leighton Hall, the Middletons' mansion house, contained twenty-four firehearths in 1664; most of the other dwellings in the parish had only one.[2]

   The manors of Yealand and Leighton were originally all one, but after the Middle Ages they became separated as a result of property deals and inheritance. The Middleton interest first appeared in 1489, when Sir Robert Middleton was assigned Yealand Conyers with Leighton after his father's marriage into the family of the then owners, the Crofts. Thenceforth these manors descended through the Middletons. George Middleton (the grandfather of Sir George) bought Yealand Redmayne in 1566. Yealand Storrs, which had become separated from Redmayne, was also obtained by the Middletons. The Yealands were held of the sovereign as of the duchy of Lancaster by the fourth part of a knight's fee, while Leighton was held of the barony of Kendal as a `Marquess fee'.[3]

   The Middletons had strong Catholic affiliations. Under the Stuart monarchs, annual fines ere levied on recusants in lieu of the confiscation of their estates. Some of the Middletons temporized with the Protestant status quo; Thomas, the father of Sir George, did not. In 1629 he was paying a yearly fine of £100. Thomas died in May 1640 and Sir George (as yet to receive his title at this time) inherited his estates. Sir George was outwardly a Protestant (although his wife Anne and some of his servants were Catholics), and so in the Civil War the Parliamentarians sequestered his estates for his royalism only.[4]

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Issues and Conflicts Before the Civil War

The tenantry waged their struggle over conditions of tenure under the banner of 'customary rights', rights which they consistently championed over a long period and which the Middletons just as consistently denied. The actual rights and wrongs of the case cannot be decided. In several suits in the duchy of Lancaster court the Yealands tenants claimed that Thomas and Sir George Middleton had broken with ancient custom in regard to their status of tenure, entry fines for tenements, timber-cutting rights and so forth; but, by the sixteen-fifties, the court was unable to decide on the justice of the case and it was referred to local arbiters for a reconciliation. The following comment may be made. In traditional societies, before the modern concept of progress had arisen, it was normal to phrase quests for reform and improvement in terms of a return to an ideal aboriginal status quo ante. The English Civil War itself was fought on such terms. Whether or not such a state of affairs had ever really existed is another matter. If it had, it had almost certainly been idealized over and above the original reality. This, I suggest, was the pre-modern idea which equates to our modern concept of progress.

   The earliest disputes, at least in the seventeenth century, were over status of tenure and wood- and turf-cutting rights, but size of fines was to become the more outstanding issue by the sixteen-forties.

   The Yealands tenantry claimed that they were customary tenants with the right to hold their tenements for life and pass them to their heirs, in return for certain payments and duties rendered to the landlord, including variable but low entry fines.[5] This the Middletons denied, saying that they were merely tenants-at-will, and had had `nothing to show for their tenements' (viz. no counterparts or copies of court roll) and no security of tenure before Thomas Middleton had begun the practice of granting them leases for the joint life of landlord and tenant.[6]

   The rents on the Yealands manors were, generally speaking, very low, being of the nature of the `old' or `ancient' rents which had been fixed in the Middle Ages. Sir George's claims that the rents were something like a sixteenth or a twentieth of the gross productive income of a tenement are entirely credible.[7] The inflation of the sixteenth and earlier seventeenth centuries had sharply reduced the value of such rents, and in many places they had been replaced by the much higher `rack rents'. But there is no evidence that the Middletons ever questioned or tried to raise the level of the rents on their own estates. If they had, this would have been one more bone-of-contention between themselves and their tenantry, who would undoubtedly have claimed the old level to be fixed by custom. Rather, they sought to supplement the diminished income by increasing fines.

   The Middletons did insist that the fines were arbitrary. The tenants agreed in principle, but said that, before Thomas Middleton's time, they had nevertheless been kept within reasonable low limits. Basically, two types of fine were payable: a `general fine' due from every tenant upon the death of the lord, and a `particular fine' payable upon the death of a tenant or the alienation of his tenement. According to the tenants in their 1642 bill of complaint, the general fine had been `sometimes two years, sometimes three, and sometimes even four years' ancient rent, but this last has always been deemed very grievous because of the poverty of the country and the barrenness of the land'. But Thomas Middleton, upon his accession, `endeavoured to form a precedent by exacting a general fine of seven years' ancient rent. The tenants were obliged to pay this because they were too poor to defend themselves, and this encouraged Thomas Middleton to exact very heavy particular fines. ...' Sir George did not deny this. On the contrary, he even pointed out that some tenants had paid considerably higher general fines to his father. Since the precedent had been set, the alleged custom was ipso facto invalid! (In law it was only necessary to prove a single instance that fines had varied in the past to show that they were arbitrary still.) He used a similar argument for the particular fines.[8]

   The tenants also complained that Thomas, assisted by his son George, had exacted very heavy particular fines. `On the death of a tenant he would demand ten, sixteen, and even thirty years' rent, `twice as much as his father extorted', and particular fines of sixteen, twenty, and thirty years' rent.[9] (Few had in fact paid Sir George's fines by the time of the 1658 agreement, when all fines, backdated to 1640, were standardized at eight years' rent.) Actual surviving copies of leases illustrated the rents and fines. The following table of examples was compiled by B. G. Blackwood (Table 1):-

Table 1


                                                Fine as
Year      Tenant           Fine       Rent      multiple
                                                of rent
                         £  s. d.   £  s. d.
1624   Matthew Watson    3  0  0       3  4       18
1624   Thomas Watson    17  0  0    1  2  0       15
1626   Wm Jackson        3 10  0       3  4       21
1632   Gilbert Browne   20  0  0      13  0       30
1635   Wm Browne         2  0  0       1  9       22
1637   Francis Masheter 24  3  4       9  0       53
1637   Robert Stainton     16  0       1  0       16
1638   James Barker     12  0  0       4  5       16
1638   Thomas Barker    17  0  0       8  6       40
1638   Wm Parkinson      5  0  0       4  8       21
1649   Chris. Lockey    27  4  6    1  4  9       22

Sources: L.R.O., DDTo H/2, DDTo O/(1), DDTo Q/1.
(Reproduced from B. G. Blackwood, `The Lancashire Cavaliers and their Tenants', T.H.S.L.C., CXVII (1966), p.25)

   Daughters were singled out for tougher treatment. If a tenant died leaving a daughter the lord would take a higher fine than otherwise, and would take a part of the tenement if she could not pay. Where there was more than one daughter, he would choose which daughter would have the tenement. In the case of Mason's tenement in 1612 - 13 he selected Mason's youngest daughter, who had married one Chornley, and an £80 fine was paid.[10] The tenants complained that if the `heir were a daughter he [Thomas Middleton] would sometimes seize the half and sometimes the two parts [i.e. the whole] of the tenement, and would keep the same to himself and his heirs forever, pretending this to be in satisfaction of his particular fine.'[11]

   But, generally speaking, the Middletons were not the ruthless landlords that their tenants, and some subsequent historians, made them out to be. In all the above arguments, one critical factor is ignored: the great inflation of the sixteenth and earlier seventeenth centuries. Between the beginning of the sixteenth century and the middle of the seventeenth, the prices of agricultural commodities rose nearly six-and-a-half times, and those of industrial products three times. The greatest single spurt occurred in the mid-sixteenth century, when agricultural prices doubled and industrial prices went up nearly as much.[12] Landlords were slow to react, and the peasantry initially became better off as a result. But between the later 1500s and the mid 1600s landlords raised tents, fines, or both, often to levels which more than compensated for the preceding inflation.[13] The Middletons' tenantry, while taking for granted the raised standards of living which they had probably inherited from their sixteenth-century predecessors, would have felt the pinch as Thomas and Sir George attempted both to recoup the reduced value of their estate revenues and to keep up with continuing inflation. This `recoupment' was at the root of the tenants' grievances. Increasing the rents does not seem to have been an option in the case of the Middletons. Therefore in raising the fines they would have wanted to make up not only for the effect of currency depreciation on the fines, but to try to compensate for the loss in value of the rents too. But it seems very doubtful, in view of the degree of inflation which occurred, that they fully succeeded in both of these aims.

   Sir George did not phrase the question in terms of currency depreciation, but spoke rather of the `improved value' of the tenements. It is likely, however, that such improvements were mainly monetary in nature rather than representing an intrinsic increase of productivity. Sir George believed that his tenants had never paid a fine of more than four years' improved value.[14] If `value' is taken to mean gross annual income, this would still represent a hefty increase in the absolute value of the fines (the maximum traditional fine was supposed to be four years' rent, but the rent could never have been more than a fraction of the gross income). But on the other side of the coin the rents had not risen at all. In the case of the tenant Robert Chornley (or Charnley, who incidentally seems to have been one of the few tenants on Sir George's side) Sir George could `prove 24s. rent is worth 17li per annum soe that 20 yeares rent is not a yeare and a halfes value'.[15] Generally speaking, then, it does not appear that the Middletons' monetary exactions were nearly so burdensome as the tenants made out. The Middletons, in the face of inflation and tenacious `customs', were attempting to carry on doing what landlords have always done: to extract a significant proportion of their tenants' income. In challenging this the tenants, while formally fighting for the survival of their `customary rights', were in reality attacking the economics of landlordism.

   Having said this, it is possible that fines fell more heavily on poorer tenants. In 1626 William Jackson was admitted to a tenement of one acre of arable and meadow for a rent of 3s. 4d. per annum - no slight amount. His entry fine was twenty-one times the rent at £3 10s., a very sizable amount for so small a holding.[16]

   In any case a fine was often too large a sum to be paid off in one go, and some tenants compounded with the lord to pay it in instalments. In 1632 Gilbert Browne was admitted to his father's tenement for a fine of £20. He evidently had not paid it by 16 January 1642, for he then compounded to pay the sum in two equal instalments at Martinmas 1642 and Martinmas 1643.[17] But by 1657 the money had still not been paid.[18] Similarly William Hodgson and John Lindley were still behindhand in 1657 for fines for which they had compounded with Thomas Middleton.[19]

   The Middletons also had at their disposal `inflation-proofed' methods of extracting income from their tenantry. It was customary for the[?] landlords to make under-age heirs their wards and to take the `nonages', i.e. the profits of the tenement. In 1642 the tenants complained that Thomas Middleton would `enter into the inheritance of an heir under age and take the profits for himself, and when the heir came of age he would demand as unreasonable a fine as if he had not enjoyed such profits.'[20]

   Heriots were payable in many manors. A heriot was the best beast or other good, due to the lord upon the death of a tenant. They were naturally unpopular. For the Yealands at least, the Middletons insisted that they were payable in all cases. This the tenants denied, saying that a heriot was only due when a tenant died leaving a widow, and that it was given in lieu of a fine. The Yealands tenants protested in 1642 that George demanded a heriot whether the heir was a widow or not.[21]

   Boons and services were another material exaction. They were a heritage of the food rents and labour duties of medieval times, and were levied according to the tenant's status and capacity to render them. Capons, hens, eggs etc. were paid to the lord; ploughing and harrowing were to be carried out on his demesnes; his sheep were to be sheared and his corn carried to and from the mill. The tenants were also to grind their own corn at his mill. Rent capons were apparently due for access paths across the lord's demesnes.[22] The weight of these duties was probably not very great when compared to all the other exactions, but it was nevertheless one more source of grievance. The tenants admitted that certain (unspecified) services were owing to the lord, but denied that the ones cited by Sir George were due.[23] In 1653 witnesses for the tenants deposed that the so-called boons were in fact voluntary (they termed them `love boons') and that while a few gave them out of love and respect for the lord, most did not give them.[24]

   As with the fines, the tenants tool advantage of the Revolution to stop paying nonages, heriots (at least where no widow was left) and boons. But the settlement of 1658 was fully to reconfirm the pre-Civil War position in respect of heriots and boons.

   Another source of grievance was the deer which the Middletons kept in their park at Leighton and elsewhere. Leighton Park, adjacent to the Middletons' manor house, was an `ancient' park and had been stocked with deer from time immemorial. The tenants complained that Thomas Middleton `continually kept the said Park overcharged with multitudes of red and fallow deer, and allowed these to feed and depasture on the grounds and land of the tenants, so that they were unable to preserve their crops of corn and grain ...'. Sir George replied, with what seems like cool insolence, that it was the Lord's right for the deer to feed and depasture of all of the tenements. But he denied that any such `spoil' had been made under him or his father. The tenants also complained of similar damage caused by deer kept unfenced in the Yealands `far distant from Leighton Parke'.[25] The tenants were to have their revenge in the Revolution with the destruction of the deer.

   On the Middletons' estates, as throughout the country, the tenants were aggrieved by their landlords' enclosures of the commons and wastes for their own use. For the tenants this meant the loss of opportunities for pasture and wood-cutting on the formerly open land. They were also `debarred' from several highways leading from their dwellings to the church and market towns, and from several wells and springs in the wastes and commons which they and their ancestors had always enjoyed.[26] Sir George admitted that he continued his father's enclosures, but said that they only amounted to ten acres and were taken out of 500 acres of the waste.[27]

   The tenants stated that rent was payable to the King for certain commons and wastes, `but never did [Thomas and George] pay it, but suffered the [tenants'] cattle to be distrained for it.'[28] In May 1642 they said that `there are certain commons or waste lands for which the tenants pay yearly to the King a quit rent of thirteen pence. The said Thomas enclosed with a wall a large portion of these, the portion being the most fertile part thereof'.[29] This apparently referred to the commons and wastes of Yealand.[30] It is unclear whether there was any connexion between this and an area known as `St John's land of Jerusalem'. Sir George stated that, for this land, the `free rent' of twelve pence had always been paid by the lord of the manor (as he could show from acquittances). The tenants only started to pay it in the `times of trouble',[31] i.e. the Civil War period, thus usurping their landlord's tenure.

   The disputes over wood-cutting rights went back to the early seventeenth century if not earlier. The Yealands tenantry claimed the right to fell timber on their tenements and on the commons and wastes for the building and repair of their dwellings, barns, fences and ploughs (`house-boot', `hedge-boot', `plough-boot' etc.) and also to gather the `loppings and croppings' of wood for fuel and the like.[32] The Middletons denied these rights, saying that they could do none of these things without the licence of the lord. `[T]he Commons wasts and woods are the Lords & the Tennantes have beene Fyned for cuttinge downe woodes to pay trible damages ever since Ph[ilip] & Mary',[33] i.e. the fifteen-fifties. Further orders against wood-cutting were issued in 1617.[34]

   Turf was used as fuel by the local inhabitants. Lucas, the historian of Warton parish, wrote in the early eighteenth century that `dryed Turf ... is the only Fuel they have in this Parish (except Wood, which they rarely burn) and wherewith they are plentifully furnished out of their own Mosses'.[35] In 1615 -16 Thomas Middleton complained to the court of the duchy of Lancaster that a number of his tenants, having got hold of certain deeds, were cutting wood and turf against his will; they had cut and sold trees worth £100, as well as `great quantities of turfes and peat'.[36] The accused replied that it was their right to take woods and `underwoods' from their tenements and the wastes and commons for their own use, as also turf and peat from certain mosses to dispose of as they pleased.[37] The tenants involved were stated to have subsequently come to an agreement with Thomas. This was biased entirely in the latter's favour.[38]

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Civil War and Tenant-Revoluton in the Sixteen-Forties

George Middleton played a leading role in organizing the Royalist movement in Lancashire in 1642. He was present in the June of that year at the meeting in Preston which raised troops for King Charles, and it was apparently for services rendered here that the King then made him knight and baronet. Parliament, on the contrary, named him as a `delinquent'. He was now Sir George - a title which was not recognized under the Cromwellian Commonwealth of the sixteen-fifties. He became a colonel of horse in the Civil War. He served under the Earl of Derby in 1642 - 43, but by the middle of 1643 the Royalists had largely been defeated in Lancashire. Sir George crossed the Pennines to serve under the Earl of Newcastle. He was at the battle of Marston Moor, 2 July 1644, but after that disastrous Royalist defeat he left for Ireland. He was eventually captured at the surrender of Dublin in 1647.[39]

   In 1642 or 1643 Sir George, with his fellow Royalist Sir John Girlington and their troops, threatened to plunder his tenants. He also imprisoned Richard Robinson, the paramount leader of the anti-landlord rebellion. By these means most of the tenants were bullied into entering into bonds of £100 apiece conditioned to the payment of the general fine due upon the death of Thomas Middleton. Sir George did not succeed in getting many of them to actually pay the fine at this time, however. They remained largely unpaid by 1658. In 1644 Sir George actually did plunder his rebel tenants, who were now `in Actuall Service for the Parliament', seizing their animals, agricultural produce and household goods. In addition, the tenants strongly hinted, he was responsible for burning down the house of Jarvis Watson, one of the most active of the rebel tenants. The tenants subsequently commenced a lawsuit against Sir George for the plunder.[40]

   One matter should be mentioned here In 1650 a Major General Thompson brought an `information' to the Committee for Advance of Money. It alleged that Sir George's tenants had served as Royalist soldiers under his command in 1642 and 1643. The list of the accused is a virtually complete inventory of Sir George's Yealands tenantry.[41] It was alleged that they all gave moneys to buy arms, and that (going in person or sending their sons or servants) they had marched to Preston and Manchester under the commands of Sir George and the earl of Derby, and were at the plundering of Colonel Shuttleworth's writings, `and that they went out under the Commaund of Sir John Girlington who marcht to take ould Mr Shuttleworth and from thence they marcht to Ingleton in Yorkshire'. In addition William `Hoghson' (Hodgson) of Yealand Conyers `confest he kild one of the Parliamts souldiers at Manchester', while John Lindley (also of Conyers) was said to have plundered two horses and £16 in money from Parliamentarian supporters. It may be that the threat of force from Middleton and Girlington had terrorized some of the tenants into enlisting in the Royalist armies. But it is hard to imagine that these men, later Parliamentarian soldiers, had all served their landlord's Royalist cause so long and so faithfully - even going out of Lancashire when the Royalists fled the county. It should be remembered that, in 1650, Sir George's legal battles against his tenantry were in full swing; it is entirely possible that this `information' was an at-least-partly-fraudulent device got up by Sir George to discredit his tenants in the eyes of the then authorities. He had nothing to lose by being named as a Royalist himself, since the fact was already generally known. No proof of the allegations ever appeared.[42] In fact, the only tenant who appears to have been prosecuted for royalism was Robert Chornley of Yealand Conyers,[43] who was one of Sir George's few supporters, and who was one of the very few tenants whose name does not appear in the allegation of 1650.

   The tenants' anti-landlord action of the revolutionary period may be divided into three phases: the `lower-level' action of the early sixteen-forties (refusal to pay fines, rents and other dues); the `higher-level' action of the mid sixteen-forties (plundering of Sir George's house and seizure of the deeds, seizures of land, timber, deer etc.) depending on Sir George's departure from Lancashire and the sequestration of his estates; and a third `residual' phase from the later sixteen-forties to the late sixteen-fifties, when Middleton was fighting back against his tenants by means of the law and otherwise, who nevertheless continued to expropriate some resources and refuse to pay dues.

   The rebellion against Sir George's authority as a landlord can be said to have started as soon as he inherited his father's lands. Few of the tenants paid the fine due upon the death of Thomas Middleton. By 1648, according to Sir George's information, only Robert Chornley, John Lindley, Robert Stainton, Richard Backhouse and William Hodgson had compounded to pay it. Others would have compounded `without suit', Sir George believed, had it not been for the persuasion of his former (in 1648) bailiff Richard Robinson.[44] As mentioned above, Sir George's tactic of military threats largely failed to extract the money from them. John Lindley and Thomas Hodgson may have had difficulty in finding the money for the general fine (they still owed money for fines due to Thomas Middleton, as we have seen). Hodgson had mortgaged his tenement to Sir George.[45] In about 1640 or 1641 Lindley, being in debt, `did earnestly sollicite and importune' Sir George for money in exchange for either a mortgage of his whole tenement or an outright sale of part of it; Sir George accepted the latter option. (Lindley's son subsequently denied these allegations.) Lindley later took advantage of Sir George's flight from Lancashire to seize back the land. (see below).[46]

   There is not much evidence on the rents during the Revolution. Sir George complained in the sixteen-fifties that his tenants had been refusing to pay them, but he did not elaborate.[47] He was in this period in a lawsuit with the tenants over the rents.[48] In 1652 it was stated that Sir George had only received a `mean rent' over the last ten years, obtaining no `increase' of them by fines or otherwise.[49] However, even this cannot strictly be true, since the rents would have been received by the sequestrators during the time the estates were under sequestration (c. 1643 - 1648), not by Middleton. In November 1649 Sir George was complaining that, notwithstanding his composition, the sequestration agent still refused to pay him the rents. The Compounding Committee issued an order for the rents to be released to him[50] (rents were in fact due to him from the time he began composition proceedings, in December 1647).

   Heriots, nonages, and boons and services were all refused or evaded as the tenants saw fit. Sir George's complaints of the sixteen-fifties provide some evidence on these matters. Tenants refused to give heriots where no widow was left after a tenant's death. They also evaded them by selling or removing the best animal at or near the death of a tenant, leaving the lord to take an inferior beast. Thomas Clerkson saved a `stoned horse' worth £20 by these means, and Lancelot Robinson spirited away a gelding valued at £8 - £10 until after the heriot had been taken. George Robinson forcibly sized back a heriot from one of Sir George's demesnes.[51] On nonages, Sir George complained that `some have pretended to be come to age before the[y] were to deceive the Lord and afterwards, when they came to pay their Fyne, which they had agreed to pay the Lord, pleaded non-age to the next Lord'. Thomas and Sir George are evidently the lords referred to. According to Sir George this device was `to avoyd the de[b]t the[y] borrowed of mee'.[52] In 1651 he said that John Lindley (who might fairly be described as the second-in-command of the tenants' rebellion) had usurped his right by presuming to take nonages himself, `and at this present time keeps one Tho. Hubberstey whoe is about some 13 years of age'.[53]

   When Richard Robinson leased Sir George's sequestered estate he enforced the payment of boons and services, stopping the way to the moss in Yealand Hall demesne unless the tenants paid their rent capons, `yet', moaned Sir George, `they refuse to pay me any'.[54] In 1651 a Yealand manor court denied that boons and services were payable.[55] In 1657 - 8 Sir George noted that they had in fact gone unpaid for the last fifteen years.[56] At the same time he said that the tenants had refuse to appear at his manor courts-baron since the beginning of the `differences'.[57]

   When the tide of war in Lancashire turned in favour of the Roundheads, Middleton's rebel tenants enlisted as Parliamentarian soldiers. The tenants stated that in 1644 they were all `in Actuall service for the Parliament'.[58] Sir George said that they had really done so as a means of overthrowing his rule: `... in truth [his rebel tenants] did arme themselves against this Repliant their Landlord to oppose him and his familie under pretence of serving the Parliament'.[59] It may be said that this, rather than the formal sequestration, was the real means by which the tenants seized Leighton Hall and Sir George's estate. According to Sir George it was the rebel tenant `confederates' who were responsible for taking the Hall; by another account it was Parliamentarian soldiers. The solution seems to be that some of the tenants were among the soldiers who took the Hall. We actually have very few details about the sequestration; the local sequestrators' records which would have provided information on it do not survive. It is known that Richard Robinson leased the estate when it was under sequestration,[60] but it does not appear whether he did so purely for himself or on behalf of the tenants (it seems probable that it was the latter in fact, if not in form). Previously, soldiers had entered Leighton Hall, either as an act of occupation in `mopping-up' operations after the Royalist defeat, or at the behest of the sequestration commissioners to enforce the sequestration. Sir George stated in his bill of complaint to the duchy of Lancaster in 1650 that

under colour of your Orators [viz. Sir George's] absence from the said Capitall messuage called Leighton Hall in theis late distracted tymes of warr & uppon pre[t]ence that your Orator was a delinquent to the Parliament they the said Richard Robinson & John Lindley togeather with [the rest of the Confe]derates aforementioned & divers other persons unknown to your Orator forcibly entered into the said Capitall messsuage, Parke and demesne lands at Leighton, plundering the house of its deeds, evidences, writings and court rolls relating to the estate, and of its household goods and fittings. This was followed by the demolition and removal of farm buildings, felling of timber, destruction of Sir George's deer, etc.[61]
The tenants in their reply simply denied all the charges, denials which Sir George dismissed as mostly very untrue and insufficient.[62] How are these differences to be reconciled? The evidence of Jarvis Ireland, a witness for Sir George in the 1653 proceedings, sheds some further light on the matter:
in the late time of warres .. Leighton Hall was broken up [i.e. into] and plundered by severall souldiers and ... the said souldiers tooke out of the said house soe many writeings & evidences, in parchment and paper, in a sacke as were to the quantitye of halfe a windle [probably about one-and-a-half bushels], which the said souldiers caryed to the late house of one Richard Robinson and divers others of the tenantes of Yeallandes. The souldiers wished the tennantes to take such writinges as concerned them if there were any such and to burne the rest ...
Ireland was present and a witness to this at Robinson's house.[63] Now in one specific instance we know that one of the soldiers was one of the tenants. There is the evidence of Sir George on John Lindley who, following the former's departure from Lancashire (in 1643) took up arms as a Parliamentarian soldier and took part in the `invasion' of Sir George's mansion and the seizure of his papers and household goods. This included (as Sir George `verily believed') the deed of sale of Lindley's own land.[64] It thus seems likely that, while Middleton's generalization on the involvement of the entire `confederacy' is too broad, at least some of the tenants were members of the `invading' soldiery, and that they invaded Leighton Hall by virtue of their role as executors of Parliamentarian authority - but obviously took advantage to achieve their own ends as well. Other tenants, notably the leader Richard Robinson, may not have been directly involved, but received the benefit from those who were - and may have been directing things from behind the scenes.

   By the loss of his documents Sir George was deprived of evidence by which he might have countered the claimed rights of his tenantry.[65] He became involved in a Chancery suit with the Robinson family for the return of the papers. By 1657 this had cost him (by his own account) £10,000 with the related costs arising therefrom.[66]

   Sir George complained that the `confederates' took `all or the greatest parte of the howsehold goods [which they found in Leighton Hall] and particularly all the beddstockes boards Tables dores wainscott, glasse in the windowes & all the iron affixe[ments] either to the windowes chimneys or other partes of the said dwelling howse & utterly wasted & destroyed the same soe as that it was made unhabitable & unfitt to bee dwelt in'.[67] Depositions from the 1653 proceedings fill in a little detail, and provide some information on the people involved. Jarvis Watson (a tenant of Yealand Storrs)[68] had several items from the Hall, but some of these came into his hands by means other than `plunder'. These included `a Chist [chest], pewter, [and a] wooden pessell'.[69] Margaret Ward, servant at the Hall, stated that after Sir George had fled she `carryed severall wooden vessel[s] & other household goods of the Compl[ainan]te [Sir George] to the house of the said Jarvis Watsonne for more safe keepinge, which she left their, and which the said Jarvis detaineth to his owne use'.[70] Watson also apparently obtained a `Hewen beame of wood' from the back of the dovecote at Leighton Hall, while Richard Robinson took a similar beam from Yealand Hall.[71] Jarvis and Thomas Watson, John Lindley, Anthony Comming and others helped themselves to Sir George's wainscot or panel work and to his wood, hewn and unhewn, during the `times of trouble'.[72] Two outsiders, Robert Troughton and William Gardner of Overton, took `two longe Tables' from Leighton for their own use.[73]

   Once in control of the estate, the tenants proceeded to take over farm buildings or demolish them and carry away the materials for their own use. While anticipating that Sir George was motivated to exaggerate the costs of such losses and damage in subsequent accounting to his legal arbitrators, his own estimates of them should nevertheless be cited. `Some of Yeallands' seized the corn in his barns, for which he was `damnified' £400.[74] Richard Robinson and others pulled down his ox house at Yealand Hall and his barn in the park, costing him £100.[75] Thomas Watson demolished his ox house and granary at his demesne of Hyning; Watson and Comming took away the wood, at a cost to him of over £40.[76] John Lindley pulled down Sir George's `house or sh[i]ppen' (i.e. cowshed), also in Hyning, `and laid the lattes and spannes in the Barne their beinge then in the said Lyndleyes occupacion'.[77]

   There appears to have been some exploitation of Sir George's demesne lands by his tenants. But, as with timber-cutting on his demesnes (see below), Sir George failed to produce satisfactory independent testimony of it. Robinson, Jarvis Watson and Thomas Clerkson were lessees of Leighton demesne and park under the sequestration.[78] Sir George accused his tenants of `detaining' certain demesne lands, specifically Waitholme and Lower Thornbarrow;[79] `Waitholme', he complained as late as 1657, `they keep forcibly from me, which I can prove to be demesne land'. This they did by holding on to two cattle gates.[80] The tenants simply denied that they held these lands from him, and Sir George did not produce any testimony of witnesses in the 1653 proceedings to back up his statements.[81] Which does not mean to say, of course, that they were thereby untrue. Sir George also complained that his tenants had dug up many acres of his demesne meadows for turf and peat so that they would `not bear corn or grass to the quantity of 40 acres'. Some, such as Clerkson, had also `digged great holes', possibly for mining.[82] Tenants pastured their animals in his demesnes against his will.[83]

   Tenants also seized back non-demesne lands which they had been forced to sell or mortgage to their landlord. James Hobkin, who had mortgaged his tenement to Sir George before the `troublesome times', kept it from him ever after, refusing to pay back the loan.[84] In 1640 - 41 John Lindley was `lawfully possessed' of lands of 37 acres in Yealand Conyers at a rent of 39s. per annum (plus heriots and other dues). Being in debt he sold part of his holding, the `new close' consisting of fourteen or fifteen acres, and a croft, to Sir George for about £140. Middleton held this property for about two years. Then at harvest time in 1642 or 1643 Lindley `earnestly importuned' Sir George to sell him the corn on this land, which he did for £5 per acre, or about £70. But `the troubles of the Kingdome immediately after encreaseinge, & your orator [Sir George] beinge engaged in his late Ma[jes]ties service and Armes, the said John Lindley takeing advantage thereof did neglect and upon demand refused to pay the money and price agreed upon for the said Corne'. When Sir George left Lancashire Lindley took up arms as a Parliamentarian soldier and took part in the storming of Leighton Hall, seizing (as Sir George `verily believed') the deed of sale for the `new close'. He also seized back the `new close' itself, and for the remainder of his life held on to this land. In the early sixteen-sixties Sir George launched an action in the palatinate of Lancaster against Lindley's widow and son. The latter denied all of Middleton's allegations. The case was still not settled when it was transferred to the duchy of Lancaster in 1671, being now an `action of £100'.[85]

   There was widespread felling of timber against Sir George's will. But most of the independent evidence for this is for the commons and wastes, areas where the tenants had long claimed such rights and now freely admitted to doing it. For the demesne lands, there is little separate testimony to support Sir George's statements, and the tenants denied it (which does not mean to say that it did not happen there). In the parks, tenants took timber by the authority of the local sequestration agents. We must take the usual caution over possible exaggeration on the part of Sir George; he made fairly sweeping statements in his bill of complaint of 1650. According to him the tenant `confederates' and other unknown people had, during the `late troubles', cut down the greatest part of `woods, timber trees and underwoods' in Leighton demesne and park and also in his other lands, including the commons of Dikedale and Trowbarrow. One thousand oak trees had been lost, and the underwoods were almost completely destroyed.[86] There is ample evidence for wood-felling on the commons and wastes (as well as the tenants' own tenements), where the tenants admitted to acting according to their `customary rights'.[87] In about 1646 most of the tenants were involved in felling the entire woods in Dikedale. The wood so felled was variously valued at £40 and £60. Wood taken from `Rostood' was worth £20, and from Trowbarrow, £5.[88] A carpenter testified that in Dikedale he had cut £8 worth of wood for John Lindley and £2 worth for Anthony Comming.[89] In Silverdale, in about 1645 oak trees and other wood to the value of £140 were felled and taken, both by tenants and outsiders. According to one deponent these had grown on land possessed by one William Bradley and claimed by Sir George. Two `outsiders' of Overton and three of Middleton (one a `gent.') took thirty-two oak trees worth a total of £5 6s. 8d.[90] There is some independent evidence of tree-felling in Snape, land within the demesne of Hyning. Peter Jackson of Yealands testified that numbers of tenants had taken wood in Snaipe, amongst other places, though he could not remember who was involved.[91] John Wilson, carpenter, deposed that in about 1646 he had felled three or four ash trees for William Hodgson in Snaipe.[92] Jarvis Watson had timber assigned to him from Leighton Park by the sequestration agents for the repair of his house burned down during the war (for which, the tenants hinted, Sir George was responsible). Watson was also licensed to sell some felled wood from the park, the income from which he surrendered to the sequestrators.[93]

   Sir George claimed in 1650 that the `confederates' had wiped put the entire stock of deer in his park and grounds, `soe that of one thousand deere or thereabouts ... therein at the beginning of these troubles there is not now left one'.[94] If this statement seems extreme, the tenants' reply takes the prize for audacity: so far from having killed all the deer, some of them had been imprisoned for having tried to preserve them from the depredations of the soldiery![95] It may well be that some had tried to preserve them for their own use. As for actual deer-taking, there is specific evidence in the case of Jarvis Watson and his brother Richard. The former at least seems to have made something of a business from deer poaching. One witness deposed that she had seen Richard Watson `carrye two deere to the house of the said Jarvis out of Leighton Parke, And ... she hath heard a report that there were as many deere skinnes in the house of the said Jarvis Watson in the late time of warres as were worth nyne poundes which had beene of Leighton deere ...'[96] Margaret Ward, the servant at Leighton Hall, stated that after Sir George left, she lived for a time at Jarvis Watson's house, `dureinge all which time ... their was great store of venisonne provided & eaten in the said house being as shee verily believeth of Leighton deere, & divers of the deere there were killed by the said Jarvis Watson.'[97]

   Hunting was a privilege traditionally reserved to the upper classes. Beside the attack on deer, Middleton's tenants took advantage of the `troubles' to breach this privilege in respect to other game too. In 1657 Sir George complained that `The tenants usually hunt, shut guns and fish within my liberties, killing haires, and pigeons and other fowle contrary to the statute ... as if the royaltie belonged them, which time out of minde hath belonged to me and my predicessors as by a charter formerly granted may appeare'.[98]

The rebel `confederacy' represented a broad social spectrum of Sir George's tenantry, not being confined to any particular social stratum, and in fact involved the bulk of his tenants.[99] It seems probable that sub-tenants and local landless labourers would also have taken advantage of the situation; Sir George, however, did not allude to this in his bill of complaint. As far as actual numbers are concerned, Sir George listed fifteen `confederates' for Yealand Redmayne, ten for Yealand Conyers and Storrs together and six for Silverdale and Lindeth.[100] But it was the upper echelons of the tenantry, the yeomanry or `middle class', who played the leading roles in the movement. Richard Robinson of Yealand Redmayne was the paramount leader. He had been Sir George's bailiff at one time, and had encouraged the tenants not to pay their fines; he is the first-named in Sir George's list of `confederates' and he apparently headed the tenants' legal battle against their landlord;[101] he leased the sequestered estate and so forth. John Lindley is the second-named of the `confederates'[102] and it was he who `assumed to take nonages' or wardships in the Revolution. Jarvis Watson was also a leading `activist', at least in the sense of helping himself. These men, as also others who played notable roles in the movement, were from the social upper crust of the tenantry. John Lindley and Jarvis Watson, as well as George Robinson (the probable grandson of Richard), were among the highest payers of rent on Sir George's manors.[103] Hearth tax rolls of the sixteen-sixties show that Watson had three firehearths, while George Robinson and Thomas Lindley (John's son) had two. These were quite outstanding in a community where most people had only one firehearth.[104] Nevertheless, all ranks benefited, including the poorest. In the sixteen-fifties Thomas Clerkson and Mathew Watson, cottagers with little land of their own, were among those who continued to help themselves to Sir George's woods.[105]

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Sir George's Counter-Offensive and the Tenants' Continued Rebellion

Immediately after his return from captivity Sir George began proceedings to regain his estate and to subdue his tenantry. In late 1647 he petitioned the Committee for Compounding in London for the return of the estate.[106] (All except the most hardened Royalists were eligible to `compound' for their sequestered property, paying a fine reckoned at a fraction of the estate's capital value.) Simultaneously his wife Anne complained to the London Committee for Sequestrations of the `waste' committed on his estates in respect to timber-felling, mining and the like.[107] In late 1648, after Sir George had sorted out his affairs, the fine on his real estate was set at a sixth of the value, or £855 8s. (later increased to £1.1015 1s. 4d. to take account of other property), and the sequestration ordered to be suspended.[108] Orders against timber-felling were issued, by the London Sequestration Committee in January 1648 and the Compounding Committee in February 1649.[109] Nevertheless the `confederates' continued to cut down the woods.[110]

   At the same time as his composition, Sir George joined legal battle with his tenants in the court of the duchy of Lancaster. His first task was to respond to the bill of complaint they had lodged in 1642. Initially he replied with a `demurrer' (January 1648), on the grounds that the bill was `utterly insufficient in the law' for him to make answer.[111] This, however, was ruled unacceptable and Sir George subsequently produced an `answer', which the tenants counterposed their `replication' (June 1648).[112] He then moved on to the offensive, bringing his own bill of complaint against the tenantry (February 1650).[113] The immediate result was that the duchy issued an injunction prohibiting the committing of `waste' in regard to timber and wood. Three tenants were later arraigned for breaking the injunction (see below).[114] The tenants made their answer to Sir George's bill (May 1650) and Sir George responded with a replication (July).[115] The two cases, Middleton versus his tenants and vice versa, tended to become merged in the duchy's proceedings. The duchy, finding the points of the case `very intricate', attempted to resolve it by referring it to local arbiters, but nothing came of the attempt at this time.[116]

   The tenantry forcibly resisted the attempts of Sir George's servants to reassert the status quo ante on the estate. To prevent Sir George from `hindering' them in timber-felling and the like, they `armed themselves with swords staves gunnes & pistolls & threatened to kill & slay your orator [Sir George] & his servants ... and did beat and wound some of your orators servants'.[117] At least some of these arms were those acquired during the tenants' Civil War service. The tenants denied Sir George's accusation in general. But John Lindley stated that, in about the spring of 1649, he cut down some decayed trees on his tenement for fuel, as he conceived lawful by the custom. Sir George with eight or nine assistants came to carry off the trees; and Lindley

having notice thereof did presently repair thither himself alone ..., and there being on horse backe with such Armes as hee had used in the Parliaments Service did keepe of[f] [Sir George and his assistants] from taking & carrying away the said trees And did ... cause them to depart ...[118]
Another account apparently refers to a later incident, but may in fact apply to the same time. John Rigmaiden and John Mollinoux, servants of Sir George, `sent to demand some duties due to [Sir George] ... from one widdow Bainbrigge in Yealand Conyers'. Thereupon John Lindley, his wife, Bainbrigge and her daughter, and eleven other locals, men and women, `did all of them make an assault upon [Rigmaiden and Mollinoux and] did beate & wound them & tear their Clothes'.[119]

   In the winter of 1650 -51 three of the tenants, two husbandmen and a labourer, were arrested for breaking the injunction against `waste' of timber and wood. In subsequent hearings they stated that they had only taken firewood from the commons, apart from one who had also felled three small trees near his house for repair of storm damage to his barn. But a case against two of them had been going on since 1642.[120] The tenants continued to take wood into the sixteen-fifties. As late as 1657 Sir George was complaining that

Robert Stable contrary to [the tenants'] own orders made in [the manor] Court, contrary to my Lord Fairfax order, and to orders from [the Compounding Committee at] goldsmith hall, and from the major Generall, and contrary to an injunction out of the Duchye, hath cut downe both ashes and oake at this present, one oake being worth 50s. or 3li. Severall hath done the like as John Barker and others; and Mathew Watson cuts down wood onely to burne into ashes & to sell the ashes.[121]
   And of course, as we have seen, they continued to defy their landlord in many other ways, refusing to pay dues, pasturing animals on his demesnes and so forth.

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The Agreement of 1658 and the Aftermath

There is little evidence of progress towards a settlement in the earlier sixteen-fifties, but by 1657 there was one in the pipeline. Sir George prepared his notes `Remembrances for my Arbitrators' (26 September 1657) setting out his grievances against the tenants, and a Mr Rawlinson drew up a summary of the case favourable to Sir George.[122] Another short paper set out Sir George's standpoint for a settlement on certain key issues.[123]

   Rawlinson considered the case regarding fines, heriots, nonages, and boons and services proven in Sir George's favour. Indeed there could be no doubt that the fines levied in Thomas and Sir George Middleton's times had far exceeded the four years' old rent claimed by the tenants as the maximum customary level. This was the basis for Rawlinson's argument that the fines were totally arbitrary at the will of the lord. But by now Sir George was asking a `mere' twelve years' rent as a fine. Similarly Sir George had `proved by many witnesses' that heriots were payable even when no widow was left and that nonages, and boons and services, were payable. The tenants were able to produce but few witnesses to support their side of the argument. Faced by these `facts', the tenants should have to pay their landlord compensation if they wanted to obtain favourable concessions from him. They had reason to pay a weighty sum, especially as they had `not onely unjustly gained great sommes of money from their landlord, but also almost ruined & undone him with their false & wicked Conspiracies against him'.[124]

   Further negotiations between the two sides evidently occurred, because Sir George's position in regard to the fines became further modified. In return for a payment of twenty-two and a half years' rent from the tenants, he was now willing to make all fines `certain', i.e. fixed, at a value of eight years' rent. This was to be made retrospective to cover all the fines outstanding but withheld since 1640, including the general fine due upon Thomas Middleton's death. He also offered concessions on heriots, suggesting a £5 payment from each `dyinge Tenant' in lieu of a heriot.[125] The latter suggestion, however, came to nothing. The tenants probably could not afford to pay anything more than the `compensation' they were already to pay for fixed fines.

   In March 1658 the two parties entered into bonds pending an agreement. This Agreement or `Award' was drawn up by the arbitrators, Alexander Rigby of Preston, esq., William West of Middleton, esq., Ralph Baines of Meweth, Yorks., esq., and George Pigot of Preston, gent., and was dated 18 September 1658. The original paper does not appear to survive, but it is fully quoted in two subsequent bills of complaint to the palatinate of Lancaster court.[126] The Agreement stated that there were several actions at law (of replevin, trover and conversion, assault and battery) pending between the parties, and these were now to be withdrawn. It was now agreed that the tenants were to be called customary tenants of tenant-right from ancient time. As stated above, in return for a `composition' fine of twenty-two and a half years' rent all fines, including the outstanding ones, were to be `made certain' at eight years' rent. A table attached to the bills shows the rents of each of the tenant `confederates', the number and value of the fines each of them owed, and the composition fine due from each of them. All the tenants owed at least one fine, some as many as three or four. On heriots, the old position was reasserted, a heriot being payable on the death of every tenant, and not from widows only. Boons and services were laid out. A compromise was made on tenants' rights to timber. They could freely take timber from their tenements (but not from the commons and wastes) for the specified customary repairs. They could similarly take turf and stones, for fuel, building and repair, from certain specified areas.

   The Agreement of 1658 was a compromise in which the tenants won some improvements over their pre-Civil War position, but they had to find a large sum of money to meet the agreement on fines. Besides the composition fine, which totalled £1,214, all the outstanding fines had to be paid, albeit at the reduced rate. William Hodgson, whose tenement had an annual rental value of 17s. 4d., and who owed one fine, was to pay a total of £26 8s. 8d., for example, while Robert Causfeild, whose rent was 2s. per annum and who owed four fines, was required to pay £5 9s. It is evident, though, that Sir George considered the Agreement too liberal, as he tried to go back on it after the Restoration, saying it had been forced on him by his tenants.

   In April 1659 Sir George and the tenants brought bills of complaint against each other in the chancery court of the palatinate of Lancaster. Each party complained that the other had conspired to deprive it of the benefit of the Agreement, and asked to be relieved by a decree of the court. The bills were identically worded, and it may be guessed that they were in fact a legal formality undertaken by the tacit mutual consent of the parties, as a means of having the Agreement `enshrined' as a decree of the palatinate. Such a decree was issued on 5 May 1659.[127]

   Disputes continued into the sixteen-sixties. In 1661 - 63 Sir George was suing some of the tenants in the duchy of Lancaster court (the reason does not appear), but as he did not bother to pursue the case it was eventually dismissed (in November 1663).[128] In 1661 Thomas Lindley, holder of a customary tenement, complained to the palatinate of Lancaster that, notwithstanding the palatinate decree of 5 May 1659, `Sir Geo. Midleton very often disturbeth his possession by distreineing his catle'. This of course referred to the disputed `new close' which Lindley's father John had seized back. Both sides were slow in dealing with the case, and in the meantime the palatinate court ordered that Lindley should continue to hold the property.[129] In May 1663 Sir George entered his own bill of complaint against Lindley and his mother over the `new close'.[130] In their answer the Lindleys stated that Thomas, upon reaching age, had subscribed to the Agreement of 1658 and was `in actuall and peacable possession of the said Newe close', and subsequently paid all the money owing from him in satisfaction of the Agreement. The Agreement, they stated, nullified all actions of trespass previously pending.[131] Sir George replied that the Agreement was never intended to cover the `new close', which he had purchased from John Lindley. But, much more significantly, he denied that the Agreement itself was valid:

in case there was any such Submission to the pretended Award or Arbitrament, ... hee this Rep[liant] was necessitated and forced thereunto by the menaces and threats of his this Replyants Tenants and for feare of not onely haveing his Estate, but alsoe his life taken from him by the Combinacion and Confederacy of his said Tenants they being then in Great favour and Esteeme with the then Usurp[ers] of Authority ...
and the tenants had also exhibited several `false informations' to procure the Agreement. Sir George hoped that the palatinate court would not now compel him to observe the Agreement.[132] But the Lindleys believed and hoped to prove that the Agreement of September 1658 and decree of May 1659 were indeed valid, as they had been advised by their counsel, not being obtained as Sir George alleged, but rather upon consideration of the composition fine (of twenty-two and a half years' rent), which Sir George had received.[133] There is no further evidence on Sir George's attempts to go back on the Agreement, but it does not seem likely that the palatinate court, which had itself `enshrined' it in a decree, would have accepted Sir George's unreasonable excuses on the matter. As for the `new close', as we have seen, the matter was still going on in 1671, and it is not clear whether Sir George ever managed to get it back. As he himself admitted, he had lost the primary piece of evidence on its ownership - the deed of sale itself.

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Conclusion: The Broader Perspective

The affair of Sir George Middleton and his tenants is but one well-documented example of a more widespread upsetting of the social order in the Civil War period. The popular classes, taking advantage of the disrupted conditions in general, made economic and political gains, and sometimes held on to a modicum of them into the sixteen-fifties and beyond. When they sought to justify these gains, they often did so in the quasi-conservative terms of a return to an idealized status quo ante. As has been suggested, this was a pre-modernist expression for de facto revolutionary changes.

   Certain specific categories of popular appropriations are already well-known. Before (and after) the Civil War landlords were busily engaged in enclosing commons and wastes for their own purposes, reducing the opportunities of local people for pasture, wood-cutting and so forth on the formerly open land. During the sixteen-forties and -fifties there was widespread destruction of these enclosures as the commoners reasserted their traditional rights on these lands. Dr Morrill found evidence of anti-enclosure rioting in twenty-six English counties in the period 1640 - 44.[134] No evidence appears of Middleton's tenants actually breaking down the walls of their enclosures, but whether they did so or not they nevertheless reasserted their traditional practices on the lands. Of course, all this is merely the recoupment of rights which had recently been lost, not the making of fresh gains. There was also a widespread reduction in landlords' rents during the Civil War. This was most frequent and greatest in the areas directly affected by the fighting. Landlords were forced to allow for the effects of increased taxation on the tenants, and of the free quartering plundering of the soldiery on them. While many refusals to pay rent stemmed from genuine hardship, it is also clear that many tenants took advantage of the situation.[135] Rental incomes began a return to normal after the end of the War in 1646.

   Also widespread were popular depredations of landlords' deer and timber. While anti-enclosure riots and rent refusals appear to have affected all categories of landlord, regardless of their political affiliation, attacks on deer and timber occurred particularly on the estates of those deemed to be or actually in opposition to the Parliamentarian cause - the lands of `papists' and Royalists, the church hierarchy and the royal family. Attacks on deer began in the King's forests in 1641 and in 1642 spread to the parks of other great landowners, merging into the popular assaults on the houses of `papists' and `delinquents' (see below). In some instances the deer were wiped out wholesale.[136] Many examples can be found in the archives of the House of Lords of popular depredations of timber and other woods in the sixteen-forties.[137] They had already begun in 1641 - 42. The Royalist occupation of northern England in the early years of the Civil War cut off the south's coal supply, and in October 1643 Parliament passed an ordinance permitting suitable wood to be taken for the supply of the London region from the surrounding lands of papists and delinquents. The religious hierarchy (archbishops, bishops, deans and chapters) and the King and Queen. The aim was to prevent the destruction of the timber-quality trees which had already occurred. Only the appointed authorities were to remove the wood, and priority in supply was to be given to the poor.[138] Regional authorities like the Staffordshire county committee issued their own orders modelled on this.[139] But the common people took encouragement from such legislation to extend their unauthorized depredations still further. Popular expropriation of timber resources remained widespread throughout the Civil War and Commonwealth period.

   Examples can also be found on these lands of the all-round expropriation of landlords' resources, where the evidence shows an underlying unity in the popular actions. The best-documented case is the present one, that of Sir George's tenants. But a similar one occurred on the estate of the Catholic and alleged Royalist Sir Basil Brooke at Madeley in Shropshire. The estate was sequestered in 1645 and tenants took advantage of the resulting power vacuum to take over the estate and its iron works, reduce rents and make other economic gains. They were accused of helping themselves to their landlord's timber. There is no evidence in this case that they tried to justify their actions in terms of `customary rights'; they simply helped themselves. The leaders of this movement were of the yeomanry or `middle class', but those of lesser social degrees participated in it too. Because of the particular nature of the evidence in this case, we only know of the involvement of a small number of the tenants; we do not know if it was a mass movement, although this seems fairly probable. In 1649 a relative of Sir Basil's acquired the lease of the estate and proceeded to restore the status quo ante.[140] In County Durham, the estate of some minor Catholic gentry was sequestered in 1644 and leased out to the shepherd Thomas Ellison as a reward for his services as an army messenger. Ellison did well out of his tenure, and continued to hold the bulk of the estate until the Restoration.[141]

   In 1642 mobs attacked the houses of papists and `malignants', looting them and destroying or removing estate documents.[142] Morrill and Walter noted that, for the Civil War period, `[t]here are isolated examples of attacks by tenants on manor houses and detailed local research may provide more, but the frequency with which a few familiar examples are cited raises doubts as to how common they were'.[143] To these, we can at least now add the case of Leighton Hall. Morrill and Walter wrote that `[m]ost of the known attacks on muniment rooms seem to have occurred just after a fortified manor house was taken over by besieging parliamentary troops'.[144] This was true too of Leighton where, moreover, some of the soldiers appear to have been local tenants.[145]

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Abbreviations used in notes

P.R.O. ---- Public Record Office

DL ---- P.R.O., duchy of Lancaster records

DL 4/103/22 ---- interrogatories and depositions in the case of George Middleton versus Jarvis Watson et al, 17 May 1653

PL ---- P.R.O., palatinate of Lancaster records

L.R.O. ---- Lancashire Record Office

DDTo ---- L.R.O., Towneley of Towneley muniments

Remembrances, 23 Jan. 1649/50 ---- DDTo, O/(1), box 2, `Remembrances', 23 Jan. 1649/50

Remembr. for my Arbs ---- DDTo, O/(1), box 2, `Remembrances for my Arbitrators ...', 26 Sept. 1657 (erroneously endorsed `Mr Rawlinsons Abridgement ...'

Tenants' bill ---- DL1/370, bill of complaint of Richard Robinson et al to the chancery court of the duchy of Lancaster, 20 May 1642

Sir George's bill ---- bill of complaint of (Sir) George Middleton to the same court, 11 Feb. 1649/50 (two copies: in DL 1/382 and in DDTo I/14 & 15)

Tenants' answer ---- DL 1/383, answers of Richard Robinson et al to the above bill in the same court, 20 May 1650

Rawlinson Ford ---- J. Rawlinson Ford, `The Customary Tenant-right of the Manors of Yealand', Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, new series, ix (1909), pp.147-60.

T.H.S.L.C. ---- Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

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1. DL 7/29/64, inquisition post mortem on Thomas Middleton of Leighton, 29 April 1641; Victoria County History of Lancashire, ed. W. Farrer and J, Brownhill, viii (1914), maps on pp. 127, 152.

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2. P.R.O., E 179/250/11, Lonsdale Hundred, 1664, Yealand with Silverdale. Back to text

3. V.C.H. Lancs.viii, pp.176, 178-9 and n.31. Back to text

4. Ibid., pp.178-9. Back to text

5. Tenants' bill quoted in Rawlinson Ford, p.151; DL 1/265, answer of Robt Watson et al to Thomas Middleton, Hillary 1615/16.

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6. DDTo H/2, bill of complaint of Thomas Middleton to duchy of Lancaster, `1616' (but evidently the bill to which the above answer was a response); DL 1/267, replication of Thomas Middleton, 31 May 1616; DL 1/383, replication of Sir George Middleton, 6 July 1650; Remembrances, 23 Jan. 1649/50; Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1a.

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7. DL 1/377, answer of Sir George to Richard Robinson et al (1648); DDTo O/(1), box *, `Mr Rawlinsons Abridgement ...'; Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1a (the case of Robert Chornley for which see below in this article). Cf. PL 6/23, no. 186, bill of complaint of Sir George Middleton against Jenet and Thomas Lindley, 6 May 1663; PL 7/40, no. 48, answer of the Lindleys, 28 Aug: John Lindley held a tenement of 37 acres for a rent of 39s. per annum, or slightly over 1s. per acre (see below).

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8. Tenants' bill quoted in Rawlinson Ford, p.151; Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1a; Brian Manning, The English People and the English Revolution (Penguin edn, 1978), pp. 129-30; DDTo O/(1), box *, `Mr Rawlinsons Abridgement ...'. Evidence was also scraped up of two cases in which fines of five years' rent had been paid as early as 16 Henry VIII (1525-26) (ibid.).

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9. Tenants' bill quoted in Rawlinson Ford, pp.151-2. Back to text

10. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1a; DDTo O/(1), box *, `Mr Rawlinsons Abridgement ...'.

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11. Tenants' bill quoted in Rawlinson Ford, pp.151-2. Back to text

12. Joan Thirsk, ed., The Agrarian History of England and Wales, iv (Cambridge, 1967), pp.594-5.

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13. Manning, English People, pp.128-33. Back to text

14. DL 1/377, answer of Sir George (1648). Back to text

15. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1a. Back to text

16. DDTo Q/1, admittance of William Jackson, 1626. Back to text

17. L.R.O., Richmond wills (Kendal), will of William Browne of Lindeth, 14 May 1632; DDTo Q/1, admittance of Gilbert Browne, 1632.

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18. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1a. Browne had died in 1646: L.R.O., Richmond wills (Kendal), will of Gilbert Browne.

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19. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1a. Hodgson still owed £42 out of £63; Lindley owed £31.

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20. Remembrances, 23 Jan. 1649/50; tenants' bill quoted in Rawlinson Ford, p.151.

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21. Remembrances, 23 Jan. 1649/50; Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1a; tenants' bill quoted in Rawlinson Ford, pp.151, 152.

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22. Remembrances, 23 Jan. 1649/50; Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1a&b. Cf. the terms of the 1658 Agreement (Rawlinson Ford, p.155).

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23. Tenants' bill quoted in Rawlinson Ford, p.151; tenants' answer. In 1651 the Yealands manor court denied that boons and services were renderable (DDTo H/9, Yealands court roll, 9 Nov. 1651; see below.

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24. DL 4/103/22, `defence' deps of Leonard Johnson, Anne Jackson and Robert Backhouse on 44th interr.

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25. Tenants' bill quoted in Rawlinson Ford, pp.151-2; DL 1/377, answer of Sir George (1648); DL 4/103/22, `defence' interr. no. 16.

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26. DL 4/103/22, `defence' interr. no. 17 (no deps thereon); tenants' bill quoted in Rawlinson Ford, p.152.

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27. DL 1/377, answer of Sir George (1648). Back to text

28. DL 1/379, replication of Richard Robinson et al to Sir George, 9 June 1648.

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29. Tenants' bill quoted in Rawlinson Ford, p.152. Back to text

30. DL 4/103/22, `defence' interr. no. 35. Back to text

31. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1b. Back to text

32. DL 1/265, answer of Robert Watson et al, Hillary 1615/16; DL 4/103/22, `defence' interr. no. 21.

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33. DL 1/267, replication of Thomas Middleton, 31 May 1616; Remembrances, 23 Jan. 1649/50; Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1b.

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34. DDTo O/(1), box 2, agreement between Thomas Middleton and seventeen named tenants, 24 Jan. 1616/17.

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35. John Lucas, The History of Warton (1931), p.2. Back to text

36. DDTo H/2, bill of complaint of Thomas Middleton to duchy of Lancaster, `1616'. Back to text

37. DL 1/265, answer of Robert Watson et al, Hillary 1615/16. Back to text.

38. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1b. Back to text

39. R. Hutton, `The Failure of the Lancashire Cavaliers', T.H.S.L.C., cxxix (1980?), pp.48-9; H(istorical) M(anuscripts) C(ommission), Fifth Report, p.32; P. R. Newman, Royalist Officers in England and Wales, 1642 - 1660: a Bibliographical Dictionary (1981), p.254; V.C.H. Lancs.viii, p.179.

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40. DL 4/103/22, `defence' interrs nos 24, 25 and 28; tenants' answer; Remembr. for my Arbs, f.2a; PL 6/23, no. 91, bill of complaint of Sir George Middleton against Robert Watson et al, 23 July 1662.

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41. P.R.O., SP 19/145, piece 16, f.30a; piece 19, ff.32-3; SP 19/22, p.97. The essential information, including the list of names, is reproduced in Calendar of the Committee for Advance of Money, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (1888), part iii, p.1275. Comparison with the tenants listed in the Yealands manor roll for 9 Nov., 1651 (DDTo H/9) shows that the people named by Thompson included all the Yealands tenantry.

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42. Col. Thompson was required to produce proof of his statement 9SP 19/145), piece 19, ff.32-3, but no proof appears in the papers of the Committee for Advance of Money.

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43. Calendar of the Proceedings of the Committee for Compounding, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (1888 - 93) (hereafter CCC), part v, p.3224; name given as `Chorley'.

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44. DL 1/377, answer of Sir George (1649). Back to text

45. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1b. Back to text

46. PL 6/23, no. 186, bill of complaint of Sir George against Jenett and Thomas Lindley, 6 May 1663; PL 7/40, no. 48, answer of Jenett and Thomas, 8 Aug. 1663.

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47. Sir George's bill; Remembrances, 23 Jan. 1649/50. Back to text

48. SP 23/105, p.621, dep. of John Rigmaiden, Sir George's agent in this matter.

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49. Ibid., p.619, Rigmaiden's dep. Back to text

50. CCC, part iii, p.1784. The agent was Thomas Gardner.

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51. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1a&b. Back to text

52. Remembrances, 23 Jan. 1649/50; Remembr. for my Arbs, f.2a. Back to text

53. DDTo L/8 (1-18), `Remembrances', Easter Term 1651. Back to text

54. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1a. Back to text

55. DDTo H/9, Yealands manor court roll, Nov. 1651. Back to text

56. DDTo O/(1), box *, `Sir George is Contented as Followeth'. Back to text

57. Ibid. Back to text

58. Tenants' answer. Back to text

59. DL 1/383, replication of Sir George Middleton, 16 July 1650. Back to text

60. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1a. Back to text

61. Sir George's bill. Back to text

62. Tenants' answer; DL 1/383, replication of Sir George Middleton, 6 July 1650.

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63. DL 4/103/22, `prosecution' interrs and deps, dep. of Jarvis Ireland on 16th interr.

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64. PL 6/23, no. 186, Sir George's bill against Jenett and Thomas Lindley, 6 May 1663.

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65. Sir George's bill. Back to text

66. Lancelot Robinson in his will of 1654 charged his son George to `discharge all suites & trobles depending betwixt the Landlord and my father [Richard Robinson?]' (L.R.O, Richmond wills, Barony of Kendall, R 281 wd+, will of Lancelot Robinson, 24 Aug. 1654). But in 1657 the matter was still continuing between Sir George on the one hand and George Robinson and his brothers on the other (Remembr. for my Arbs, f.2a).

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67. Sir George's bill. Back to text

68. DDTo H/9, Yealands court roll, Nov. 1651. Back to text

69. DL 4/103/22, `prosecution' interrs and deps, dep. of Eliz Parkinson on 3rd and 16th interrs.

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70. Ibid., dep. of Margaret Ward on 3rd and 16th interrs. Back to text

71. Ibid., deps of Robt `Backhus' (Backhouse) on 10th interr. and Jarvis Ireland on 16th interr.

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72. Ibid., deps of Margaret Ward on 3rd and 16th interrs, and of Edm. Hoggard on 10th interr.

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73. Ibid., dep. of Wm Heighsham on 16th interr. Back to text

74. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.2a. Back to text

75. Ibid. Back to text

76. Ibid. Back to text

77. DL 4/103/22, `prosecution' interrs and deps, dep. of Tho. Dawson on 17th interr.

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78. Ibid., `defence' interrs and deps, dep. of Robt Backhouse on 44th and 45th interrs.

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79. Sir George's bill; DL 4/103/22, `prosecution' interr. no. 19. Back to text

80. Remembr. for my Arbs, ff.1a, 2a. Back to text

81. Tenants' answer; cf. DL 4/103/22, where no deps appear on the 19th prosec. interr.

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82. P.R.O., SP 23/105, p.625; Remembrances, 23 Jan. 1649/50; Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1b. Cf. DDTo I/14 & 15, petition to Parliament of Anne Middleton.

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83. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.2a. Back to text

84. Ibid., f.1b. Back to text

85. Ibid.; PL 6/23, no. 186, bill of Sir George against Jennett and Thomas Lindley, 6 May 1663; PL 7/40, no. 48, answer of Jennett and Thomas, 28 Aug. 1663; PL 8/6, replication of Sir George, 26 Sept. 1663; DL 5/38, f.371a. John Lindley died in 1650 or 1651.

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86. Sir George's bill. Back to text

87. tenants' answer. Back to text

88. DL 4/103/22, `prosecution' interrs and deps, deps of Robt Charnley (Chornley), Rich. Bacchus (Backhouse) and Edw. Wurrell on 10th interr.

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89. Ibid., dep. of Edw. Wurrell. Back to text

90. Ibid., deps of Wm Heisham, Robt Hadwen and Tho. Barker on 10th and 16th interrs.

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91. Ibid., dep. of Peter Jackson on 10th interr. Back to text

92. Ibid., dep. of John Wilson on 10th interr. Back to text

93. Tenants' answer; DL 4/103/22, `defence' interrs and deps, deps of Richard Walker and Tho. Gardner (a sequestration agent) on 28th and 29th interrs.

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94. Sir George's bill. Back to text

95. Tenants' answer. Back to text

96. DL 4/103/22, `prosecution' interrs and deps, dep. of Eliz. Parkinson on 3rd and 16th interrs.

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97. Ibid., dep. of Margaret Ward on 3rd and 16th interrs. Back to text

98. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1a. Back to text

99. A comparison of the names of the `confederates' given in Sir George's bill of Feb. 1649/50 with the Yealands court roll for Nov. 1651 (DDTo H/9) shows that, for the Yealands, almost all the tenantry was involved.

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100. Sir George's bill. Back to text

101. Sir George's bill; Robinson is the first-named in both the tenants' `prosecuting'' and `defence' cases (tenants' bill; Sir George's bill).

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102. Sir George's bill. Back to text

103. PL 6/22, no. 31 (or [?also] no. 32), annexed table table of rents etc. See above, n.7, for John Lindley's rent.

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104. P.R.O., E 179/250/11, Lancs. hearth tax, 1664; E 179/250/9, do., 1666.

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105. See below, including n. 120. DDTo H/9, Yealands court roll, Nov. 1651, shows Mathew Watson was a cottager. Thomas Watson was a labourer (below, n. 120). There are two Thomas Watsons on the court roll, one a cottager, the other a (landed) tenant. Presumably the one concerned here was the former. The Thomas Watson who shared in the lease of Leighton Park and demesne in the sixteen-forties (see above in article) was doubtless the latter. [Thomas Clerkson was one of the lessees of the demesne & park (above in article) - see n. 120 for Tho. Clerkson, labourer]

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106. CCC, part iii, p.1783. Back to text

107. DDTo I/14 & 15, petition of Anne Middleton to Parliament; an attached order thereon is dated 12 Jan. 1647/8.

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108. CCC, part iii, pp.1783-4. Back to text

109. See n. 107; CCC, part iii, p.1783. Back to text

110. Sir George's bill (11 Feb. 1649/50). Back to text

111. DL 1/377, demurrer of Sir George, 25 Jan. 1647/8. Back to text

112. DL 5/34, ff.277, 281; DL 1/377, answer of Sir George (no date apparent); DL 1/379, replication of Richard Robinson et al, 9 June 1648. These proceedings gave rise to two sets of interrogatories and depositions: DL 4/101/18/24 CHAS I (15 Nov. 1648) and DL 4/101/2/1649 (1 Feb. 1649/50).

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113. Sir George's bill. Back to text

114. No copy of this injunction appears to survive, but its import can be gathered from the subsequent proceedings against the tenants. See DL 9/10 (affidavits, etc, 1639 -53), summary of proceedings in case of (Sir) George against Robt Browne and Tho. Clerkson; DL 4/101/25/1650, interrs and deps in case of (Sir) George against Browne, Clerkson and Robt Lawrence.

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115. Tenants' answer; DL 1/383, replication of Sir George, 6 July 1650.

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116. DL 5/34, ff.424a-425a; DL 5/35, ff.19a-20a. Back to text

117. Sir George's bill. Back to text

118. Tenants' answer. Back to text

119. DL 4/103/22, `prosecution' interrs and deps, dep of John Rigmaiden on 18th interr. The deponent referred to the incident as occurring `about twoe yeares since', i.e. c. Jan. 1650/1, but it is possible that his memory was faulty on this point.

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120. DL 9/10 (affidavits, etc, 1639 - 53), summary of proceedings against Robt Browne and Tho. Clerkson, 1642 - 1650/1; DL 4/101/25/1650, interrs and deps in the case of (Sir) George Middleton against Browne, Clerkson and Robt Lawrence. Robert Browne of Lindeth, husbandman, held a house and eight acres of land of Sir George; Thomas Clerkson of Yealand Redmayne, labourer, similarly held a cottage and a rood of land and `freedome of Yealand commons'; Robert Lawrence of Yealand Redmayne, husbandman, similarly held a house and sixteen acres (ibid.).

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121. Remembr. for my Arbs, f.1b. Back to text

122. Remembr. for my Arbs; DDTo O/(1), box 2, `Mr Rawlinsons Abridgement of ye whole Business twixt Sr Geo. and his tenants in yeallands'.

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123. DDTo O/(1), box 123, `Sir George is Contented as Followeth'.

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124. `Mr Rawlinsons Abridgement'. Back to text

125. `Sir George is Contented as Followeth'. Back to text

126. PL 6/22, nos 31 and 32, 14 Apr. 1659. A detailed survey of the `Award' is contained in Rawlinson Ford.

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127. PL 6/22, no. 31, bill of complaint of (Sir) George Middleton against William Hodgson et al, 14 Apr. 1659; no.32, bill of complaint of Hodgson et al against Middleton, same date; Rawlinson Ford, p.147.

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128. DL 5/36, ff.56b, 97a, 102b, 121b, 138a, 144a, 182a, 329a. Back to text

129. PL 11/20 (no. fol), 5 Sept, 20 Dec. 1661; 14 Mar. 1661/2; 15 Apr., 2 July, 15 Oct. 1662; 10 Mar. 1662/3; 25 Mar. 1663.

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130. PL 6/23, no. 186, 6 May 1663. Back to text

131. PL 7/40, no. 48, answer of Jenet and Thomas Lindley, 28 Aug. 1663. Back to text

132. PL 8/6, replication of Sir George, 26 Sept. 1663. Back to text

133. Ibid., rejoinder of Jenet and Tho. Lindley, 6 Dec. 1663. Back to text

134. Manning, English People, pp.134-54, 202-7; J. S. Morrill, The Revolt of the Provinces: Conservatives and Radicals in the English Civil War 1630 -1650 (1976), p.34.

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135. Manning, English People, pp.212-15. Back to text

136. Ibid., pp.207-12. Back to text

137. H(ouse) of L(ords) R(ecord) O(ffice). See H.M.C., Fifth Report. Back to text

138. Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642 - 1660, ed. C. H. firth and R. S. Rait, i, pp.303-5.

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139. D. H. Pennington and I. A. Roots, ed, The Committee at Stafford, 1643 - 1645 (Manchester, 1957), pp.xliv - xlv.

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140. Christopher O'Riordan, `Sequestration and Social Upheaval: Madeley, Shropshire and the English Revolution', West Midlands Studies, xviii (1985), pp.21-31. The basic source material on this only provides information on the eight tenants who tried to lease the estate in 1650.

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141. Christopher O'Riordan, `Thomas Ellison, the Hixon Estate and the Civil War', Durham County Local History Society, Bulletin, xxxix (Dec. 1987), pp.3-11.

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142. Manning, English People, pp.189-96. Back to text

143. J. S. Morrill and J. D. Walter, `Order and Disorder in the English Revolution', in Anthony Fletcher and John Stevenson, eds, Order and Disorder in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1985), p.144.

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144. Ibid., p.144n. Back to text

145. There are also instances where the poor were accommodated in the property of the rich, often at the instigation of local Parliamentarian officials. See my articles `Civil War Squatters in the Middlewich House of Correction', Cheshire History, xviii (autumn 1986), pp.21-3, and `The Story of a Gentleman's House in the English Revolution', Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, xxxviii (1987). The Queen's house in Greenwich was occupied, with the help of one William Gunn, by eighty families in the later sixteen-fifties, thirty of them `lewd disorderly persons' (H. L. R. O., Lords MSS, petition of Uriah Babington, 2 May 1660). See H. M. C., Seventh Report, p.79b; Lords Journals, xi, p.12; Commons Journals, viii, p.73.

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