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parish of Leckhampstead is marked by the most dispersed pattern of
settlement found within the Whittlewood Project area. Although there
is no evidence to suggest medieval usage of the modern ‘End’
place-names, it is clear that conditions in the Middle Ages were such
as to encourage the development of a number of settlements scattered
across the landscape. In particular, Leckhampstead was a parish of
high population, divided lordship and a large number of free tenants.
There were three
manors at Leckhampstead in 1086. The largest was held by Gilbert
Maminot of the bishop of Bayeux. It was assessed at 18 hides, had
seven ploughs in operation (out of a possible 12), and possessed a
recorded population of 26 (18 villeins, 6 bordars and 2 slaves).
There was sufficient woodland to support 400 pigs and enough meadow
for 12 ploughs. The value of the manor had fallen from £8 before the
Conquest, when it was held by Earl Leofwin, to £6 in 1086.
The two remaining
manors at Leckhampstead may have formed a single estate before 1066.
Both were held by Swarting, a man of Asgar the Constable. In 1086 Hugh
held two hides of Walter Giffard. There was a single plough in
operation, a recorded population of four (one villein, two bordars and
one slave), a mill valued at 20d., meadow for one plough, and
woodland for 50 pigs. The remaining three hides of Swarting’s
pre-Conquest estate were held by Osbert of Geoffrey de Mandeville in
1086. There were 2½ ploughs in operation (out of a possible three),
an unrecorded number of villeins, and enough woodland to support 150
pigs. Both manors were valued at 30s.
manor, which soon became known as Great Leckhampstead, was
subinfeudated to the Chastilun family in the 12th century. In 1279
Hugh de Chastilun held four hides in demesne, together with 28 acres
of assart, nine acres of wood, and the advowson of the church. In
addition, 16½ virgates were held of Hugh by 19 tenants in villeinage.
Another seven tenants held cottages. A further 13½ virgates, four
messuages, one cottage, and a mill, were held of Hugh by 19 free
tenants, and the parson of Leckhampstead church held one hide.
A separate estate, of
four hides and two virgates, was held of Hugh by Adam le Vavasour.
Adam held seven virgates in demesne and one virgate in villeinage,
divided between two tenants. A third tenant held a cottage. A further
9¼ virgates were held of Adam by 11 free tenants. At least two of
these leased land to their own sub-tenants (parvi tenentes).
Four of Adam’s free tenants also held land of Hugh de Chastilun. One
of Adam’s free tenants, John Pollard, also held land from him in
In the 13th century
the pre-Conquest estate of Swarting, which had been divided between
Hugh and Osbert in 1086, was once again in the hands of a single
tenant. This manor became known as Little Leckhampstead and later as
Lymes End, after William de Leaume who held the manor in the late 13th
century. In 1279 William held two hides and half a virgate in demesne,
together with 17¼ acres of assart and seven acres of wood. A further
seven virgates were held in villeinage by 13 tenants, and six tenants
held cottages. Five free tenants held 4½ virgates, one cottage, and a
watermill. One of William’s free tenants leased land to his own
sub-tenants, and three of them also held land in Great Leckhampstead.
In total, 55 tenants
of Hugh de Chastilun were listed by the Hundred Rolls commissioners in
Great Leckhampstead in 1279, and a further 21 tenants held land in
Little Leckhampstead. This figure of 76 tenants needs to be multiplied
by as much as 10 to take account of the sub-tenants, servants,
landless labourers, wives and children who were also resident on the
two manors at this time. Certainly a combined population in excess of
500 seems likely.
The complex tenurial
pattern at Leckhampstead revealed in the survey of 1279 provides a
plausible context for the growth of a number of separate settlements
and manorial sites. Elsewhere in the region, rival property interests
in a single parish encouraged the development of several settlement
foci, each associated with the manor house of a different lord. The
earthwork survey conducted in 2002 found evidence of a large fishpond
at Weatherhead Farm. Fishponds were a mark of high social status in
the Middle Ages. They were expensive to construct and maintain, and
freshwater fish played an important part in aristocratic diet. The
pond surveyed at Weatherhead Farm proclaimed the elevated social
standing of its owners, or perhaps an aspiration to such a position in
the face of local seigneurial competition. To whom, therefore, did the
There is little to
suggest that the fishpond at Weatherhead Farm belonged to the
Chastilun family. Fishponds recorded in two Chastilun dower agreements
of 1206 and 1280 were probably located in Church End, to the
south-east of Manor Farm, close to the presumed site of the manor
house of Great Leckhampstead. Instead, the Weatherhead pond may have
pertained to Little Leckhampstead, the site of which manor apparently
lay to the west of the Leck, in the present-day South End and Barretts
End. In this area, house platforms and pottery scatters reveal the
presence of a severely shrunken medieval settlement.
The Leaume family may
have sought to enhance their position in the parish by constructing a
fishpond to rival those maintained by their Chastilun neighbours.
Evidence from the 14th century suggests that considerable hostility
existed between the two families. In 1333, for example, Alan de Leaume
and his sons, John and Thomas, were accused of stealing goods
belonging to Malcolm de Chastilun. On the other hand, in 1345, Richard
de Chastilun and his sons, Hugh, Richard, John and William, were
charged with maiming and imprisoning John de Leaume at Little
Leckhampstead, to the point that his life was in peril, and with
mowing and carrying away his crops.
was held by the Leaume family until the early 15th century. Their
departure may have been a factor in the retreat of settlement from
Barretts End, although the chronology of desertion cannot accurately
be traced from documentary sources. In 1492, however, it was claimed
that Richard Empson, who held Little Leckhampstead until 1512,
enclosed 20 acres of arable which he converted to pasture. Other
landholders in the parish followed suit, leading to the unemployment
of 12 workers according to the inquiry of 1517-18. A later holder of
Little Leckhampstead, George Tyrell, possessed seven messuages, 40
acres of arable and 200 acres of meadow and pasture on his death in
1570. The conversion of tillage to pasture may well have hastened the
depopulation of Little Leckhampstead in the 16th century.
Surviving traces of
medieval ridge and furrow suggest that arable cultivation was
concentrated in the centre of the parish in the Middle Ages, close to
the areas of settlement, with extensive areas of woodland to the north
and meadow to the south. However, only one reference to the
organization of the fields has been found for the medieval period. In
1280 Hugh de Chastilun granted his widowed (?step)mother, Rose, land
in the three fields of Morsladefeld (called the east field in 1440),
Longeneham Sladefeld, and Northfeld. Three-field systems appear to
have been characteristic of the Whittlewood area in the later Middle
In the late 13th and
early 14th centuries, both lords and peasants in Leckhampstead appear
to have grown mostly wheat and oats, with smaller quantities of barley
and dredge. The same documents also reveal that both horses and oxen
were used for draught, that herds of cows, pigs and goats were kept,
and that there were relatively few sheep. Sheepfarming probably became
of greater significance, however, following the enclosures of the 15th
and 16th centuries.