1100 to 1500

The Medieval Village

Nothing remains of the Medieval village of Great Addington apart from the Church, the earliest part of which dates to about 1150. 

Great Addington Manor is a relatively modern building, the earliest part of which dates to circa 1609, and is not located on the site of the Medieval Manor House. The Iron-Age, Romano-British, and Anglo-Saxon sites we know about were all discovered as farming practices changed in the late Georgian and early Victorian periods with deeper ploughing; plus gravel and ironstone extraction in the area leading to deeper layers of the soil being exposed.  The reality is that much of Medieval Great Addington lies directly under the modern village. 

Following the end of the Medieval period (1485) a significant amount of rebuilding took place across England as the population as a whole become relatively more affluent. Buildings were extensively modified - chimneys were added to most homes, windows were added, walls built up to add extra rooms, staircases used to replace earlier ladders. 

In many cases it was simpler to start again with buildings being completely rebuilt, though often taller and larger. So much construction took place that the period between 1570 and 1640 has been labelled "the Great Rebuilding"

In areas such as Great Addington much of the stone of earlier buildings would likely to have been reused, and therefore many of the stone built houses, and walls, of Great Addington that we see today are likely to be constructed from the remains of the medieval village. 

The rebuilding of Great Addington carried on into the modern era, and today the houses of Great Addington span 400 years of development from 1609 to the modern day. Even within the last 100 years the village has change significantly with many 17th, 18th and 19th century buildings being swept aside and replaced. 

The Parish

Gradually introduced following the Norman Conquest and firmly established by circa 1200, the whole country had been divided into parishes. The parish was originally established for ecclesiastical purposes. Each parish usually had a church, and appointed churchwardens to oversee the building and when necessary to raise funds to pay for repairs and upkeep. All people in the parish - Parishioners - paid tithes (church tax) in crops, goods, or coin for the upkeep of the clergyman and the church. The standard was set at 10% of the parishioners products or earnings.

How the precise shape of Great Addington Parish boundary came about is unclear but it is probably small family groups working together to clear as much scrub land as was necessary for cultivation and pasture. Many of the Parish boundaries in England actually date back to the Anglo-Saxon period, though is some instance it has been possible to go as far back as the Bronze Age. The boundary of Great Addington is roughly rectangular with the eastern short length lying along the centre of the river Nene. The three other sides have pronounced zig-zag shapes along their lengths, though the reasons for this are unknown but are probably related to a landscape feature such as woodland which has now been lost. The fields we see around the village were laid out much later (1803 in Great Addington, 1837 in Little Addington) and were fitted into the parish boundaries that had existed for at least 800 years.

Despite the Peasants Revolt of 1381 and the (relative) increase in wealth amongst the rural population that occurred over the 14th and 15th centuries the Parish system was not fundamentally altered, but the decline in influence of the manor led 16th century Tudor governments to shift local government powers to the parish. This meant that the parish appointed civil officials such as the overseers of the poor and the highways and the parish constable. As the role of the manor continued to decline, civil powers were further shifted from the manor court to the parish, and when the Poor Law was introduced in 1834 the unit of administration was the parish not the manor. As such the parish now exercised both ecclesiastical and civil powers through its different officers.

This combined role lasted until the nineteenth century when central government began to relieve the ecclesiastical parish of its civil powers. After 1834 the administration of poor relief was moved to the newly created Poor Law Unions (not to be confused with trade unions) with their Boards of Guardians, and roads became a county commitment. In 1888 the government abolished the old quarter sessions in favour of elected county councils - Northamptonshire County Council was created at this time

Today in Great Addington the division is between the locally elected parish councils - which Great Addington has - which exercise some civil powers, and the Parochial Church Council which, with the churchwardens, continue to run the church.

Life and the Land in Medieval Great Addington

Northamptonshire was an important location during the Medieval period. Its geographical location and the fact that the main north -south road networks travelled through the county meant that it was a valuable strategical area for government and a convenient meeting place for political, social, ecclesiastical and military events. Thomas Beckett was tried in Northampton in 1164. In 1205, King John moved the Treasury to Northampton, and in 1215 he gave Northampton its own mayor which emphasised its importance of Northampton as only London, York and King's Lynn had mayors. There were a number of royal residences within the county and Northampton Castle itself was both a royal residence and also regularly hosted  parliament, including in 1380 when the Poll Tax law that sparked the peasants Revolt of 1381 was voted on. Northampton Castle was besieged in the First Barons War (1215-17) and badly damaged, and two later battle took place at Northampton, in 1264 at the castle, and then in 1460 just to the south of Northampton. 

Chivalric tournaments would also have been held at Northampton, its location at the centre of England making it ideal for these large gatherings of knights and supporters to fight enormous mock battles. Contemporary accounts give estimates at typical tournaments of as many as 4,000 people involved either as participants or as supporting staff. There is historical records showing that a number of tournaments were banned by a successions of Kings, no doubt concerned that such large groups could be used to threaten the crown. 

The transport network of rivers and roads was important not only for the movement of goods but also for the control of the kingdom. As the lands to the east and west of England were not that easy for travel throughout the year, the main routes north and south all went through Northamptonshire, with the road from Northampton to Stamford being part of the key route to the north of England. The rivers and in particular the Nene, continued to be highly important for the movement of bulky or heavy items to the coast and onwards shipment to other coastal towns or across to the continent.

But away from the governance of England and the major towns, the majority of the English population lived in small rural communities in a feudal structure; working the open-fields of England in close knit communities with life determined by the seasons as much as by the local lord. Life was short with the average life span being only 32 years, however this average is distorted by the high mortality rate of children - only 50% of children reached their 10th birthday - so if somebody managed to survive into their late teens there was a good chance they could live to be 45, and if they reached 30 then they might live to be 55.

Most of the land around communities was held as "open fields" which had developed during the late Anglo-Saxon period as farming moved from subsistence farming by small family groups, to a communal endeavour organised around the whole community. Rather than the patchwork of fields with hedges, walls and fences we see today, the Medieval landscape around Great Addington was comprised of just one or two enormous fields with no hedges or boundaries. Nearly the whole parish would have been given over to this arrangement, with just meadow along the rivers edge left unploughed. These enormous open-fields were then farmed in long thin strips, each strip being on average 22 feet wide (7 meters) and 220 yards (201 meters) long. Each strip belonging to a different individual or family. These strips were within enormous fields, most villages having 2 or 3 such fields, and each of these fields would be several hundred acres in size. If you consider that an acre is roughly the same size as a football field then you start to get an idea of the sheer size of the open-field. There were no fences, walls or hedges - hence the name open-field.

Change from open-fields farmed in strips to enclosed fields with hedges were to start as early as the 14th century in some areas, but in Great Addington these open-fields were to stay in place until the Great Addington enclosures of 1803 – representing nearly a 1,000 years of continuity. What we see as traditional fields and hedgerows around the village were actually introduced in the late Georgian period.

As the quality of the land would vary across the field - some areas dryer, some wetter, some chalky, some clay etc - then to ensure fairness each family would be allocated a number of strips in different areas of the field to ensure that each got a fair share of the different soil conditions. The total strips for a family were known as a yardland.

To ensure that the a family did not plough another families strip each strip was marked and would be the same for year after year. The ploughing of the strips, where the soil is heaped by the plough towards the centre of the strip led to the distinctive ridge & furrow shape that we can still see in some of the land around Great Addington (see image below). The furrow is the dip between each ridge which would be where the water drained off the land. At either the end of the strips was an area called the headland where the plough would be turned.

Non-arable land was allocated to common pasture land or waste, where the villagers would graze their livestock throughout the year, woodland for pigs and timber, and also some private fenced land (paddocks, orchards and gardens), called closes. The ploughed fields and the meadows were used for livestock grazing when fallowed or after the grain was harvested. Animals were also grazed on the headlands at the end of the open fields.

The villagers did not have equal holdings of land. About one-half of adults living on a manor had no land at all and had to work for larger landholders for their livelihood. A survey of 13th-century manors in England found that, among the landholding tenants, 45 percent had less than 3 acres (1 ha). To survive, they also had to work for larger landowners. 22 percent of tenants had a virgate of land which varied in size between 24 acres (10 ha) and 32 acres (13 ha) and 31 percent had one-half virgate. To rely on the land for a livelihood a tenant family needed at least 10 acres (4 ha). 

Whilst the open-fields system encouraged a sense of community with every-one working together and the quality of the land distributed equally, it had major disadvantages in that there was no space for innovation, the scattered holdings of individual farmers increased the time needed to travel to and from the different strips. However, for a thousand years and with a growing population the system was perhaps the best method at the time.

The right hand image is a satellite laser scan (LIDAR) of the fields around Great Addington. The map on the left is an Ordnance Survey map from the 19th century for comparison. 

The LIDAR image clearly shows the ridge and furrow patterns in the field near the manor (centre of image), and also adjacent to the Ringstead Road on the far right of the image. Additional ridge & furrow patterns can be seen towards the centre top near Rectory Farm. 

The Medieval open-field system was still in place in Great Addington in 1803 and has been preserved in the landscape.

Land being ploughed by Oxen

Circa 15th century medieval Cruck House in Didbrook, Glucestershire. 

Low stone walls support the "A" shaped cruck frame. The door is modern.

By Michael Dibb, CC BY-SA 2.0

Section of 1802 village plan showing possible Medieval parallel lane at rear of crofts (green)

Also shown is lost footpath to Little Addington (yellow) 

There are detailed records for Elton further along the Nene valley in Cambridgeshire which give a good idea of what Great Addington would have been like. The manor had 13 hides of arable land of six virgates each. The acreage of a hide and virgate varied; but at Elton, a hide was 144 acres (58 ha) and a virgate was 24 acres (10 ha). Thus, the total of arable land amounted to 1,872 acres (758 ha). The Lord's demesne land consisted of three hides plus 16 acres (6.5 ha) of meadow and 3 acres (1 ha) of pasture. The remainder of the land was cultivated by 113 tenants who lived in a village on the manor. Counting spouses, children, and other dependents, plus landless people, the total population resident in the manor village was probably 500 to 600.

In Elton the Lord also owned two water mills for grinding grain, a fulling mill for finishing cloth, and a millpond on the manor. The village contained a church, a manor house, a village green. The tenants' houses lined a road rather than being grouped in a cluster. Some of the village houses were fairly large, 50 feet (15 m) long by 14 feet (4.3 m) wide. Others were only 20 feet (6 m) long and 10 feet (3 m) wide. All were insubstantial and required frequent reconstruction. At the front of the villagers houses was the toft, an area of land that fronted on the road. Typically enclosed by ditch, wall, fence, or hedge, it was the land on which the dwelling, barn, and other outbuildings were located. Behind it was the croft, a separate enclosed field, used as a garden for vegetables and herbs, or pasture, or to grow crops.  

While the farming of the larger fields surrounding the villages was well-organized and carefully controlled, the holder of toft and croft could do what he or she wished on that land. It was on this land that herb, flower, and vegetable gardens might be found. Archaeologists have found 11th century garden remains of elderberry, sloe, poppy, hemp, linseed, celery, raspberry, strawberry, cherry, apple, plum, and medlar. 

Great Addington would have been very typical of the Nene valley villages, a cluster of dependent and semi-dependent families living in simple open plan houses clustered around the church and near the manor house. There may have been a village green though there is no evidence of one, but it would have been more likely use for grazing, and there would have been at least one village alehouse. The English alehouse has its origins in the Romano-British period and continued to flourish through the Anglo-Saxon period and into the Medieval. Earlier in 970 AD, the Anglo-Saxon king, Edgar, had attempted to limit the number of alehouses per village. 

Great Addingtons layout during the Medieval period was probably not that much different from today, being based on rows following the roads rather than clustered around a green.

We know there was a manor house (more about that later) and all the houses from the medieval period are now gone from the village (as far as we know), so what was a typical “peasants” house like. Actually, as with today there were probably a whole range of different types of house. Some of them may have been perhaps not that different from the Anglo-Saxon dwellings – a simple wood framed, wattle and daub structure. Wattle and daub is a woven willow panel in a wooden frames, smeared in a mix of clay, animal dung, hair and straw. 

There may have been a type of building referred to as a “cruck” house. Built on a foundation of stone – and there is evidence that sometimes the “foundation” would have risen to make low stone wall -  large wooden beams (crucks) would have then been raised to make an “A” frame shape. Wooden beams would have been added to give rigidity and the gaps filled with either wattle and daub or stone.

Often these medieval cruck houses still remain across England but have simply been extended and modified over the centuries, to the extent that the cruck frame has all but disappeared in the later works and they can be mistaken for buildings of later centuries. Cruck houses are common in the Midlands and some are found within some parts of Northamptonshire, but are surprisingly absent from the eastern counties.


We know from excavations at West Cotton across the Nene that earlier Anglo-Saxon wooden buildings has been rebuilt using stone in the later Anglo-Saxon period; and given that limestones is quite easily extracted in the area it is not unreasonable to suppose that many of the houses in the village would have been made at least in part of stone. As stone is quite often reused when buildings are demolished and rebuilt or extended, then it is perfectly possible that much of the stone used in walls and houses within the village today has been recycled over generations.

Inside the villagers homes there may have been up to 2 or 3 “rooms”, though simply divided by wooden dividers rather than solid walls and there would have been no internal doors. A raised platform or second floor mezzanine would have been used for sleeping, and would have been accessed by a ladder. There would have been very few, if any windows, and any window would have had a hide sheet across the opening rather than glass. Chimneys would not have existed, simple holes in the ridge would allow some smoke out, but in reality the interior – especially in the area where the fire was – would have been very smoky and dark. It would have been quite common for the more expensive animals to have been kept at night within the building, with the family on a sleeping platform or mezzanine floor.

Lower Street in Great Addington has marked difference in height between the road surface and the houses, nearly two meters in some places, and is what is known as a holloway; where the continued usage of a path or track - which would have been unpaved - plus the effects of water runoff has eroded the land over many centuries. This erosion was assisted by the fact that there are a number of springs between the church and the bottom of Lower street and a stream probably ran down the hill. The springs now feed into drains under the road and empty into the stream at the bottom of lower street.

The main roads in the village were actually set out in 1803 as part of the enclosures though they did follow existing routes Prior to the establishment of these roads there were more routes than we have today. One of these included a footpath directly to Little Addington that cut across the fields behind Shooters Hill.

It was common for a row of tenants properties to have access to the land at the front and at the back of the properties. This often leads in village to parallel lanes. Lower Street is the only place in the village where there is such a lane and runs at the back of where the tenant crofts may have been. All the other footpaths and bridle routes within the village head away from towards specific destinations.

Events in Great Addington

The Domesday Survey of 1086 firmly establish the new ownership of lands following twenty years of destruction and chaos of the Norman conquest and documents the feudal system which was to govern life for the majority of the population for the next 400 years.

Until the Census of 1841 onwards the majority of the records of events in the village are related to land transactions and occasional court records. Unfortunately the records of the medieval manor which would have given great insight have as yet not been identified, though they may still lie in some dusty archive.  

However we do have some fragments of information scattered across different documents that provide glimpses of village life.

The entries from 1202-3 are from the work The earliest Northamptonshire assize rolls, A.D. 1202 and 1203, by Doris Mary Parsons Stenton, 1930. This book is no longer in print. The information shown was gathered by Brian Duncan in 1990.

The references to those claiming sanctuary in the church are taken from THE THIRTY-SECOND REPORT OF THE ARCHITECTURAL SOCIETY OF THE ARCHDEACONRIES OF NORTHAMPTON AND OAKHAM which states they are in the Assize Roll Number 632 from Edward III in 1330. This document is now difficult to locate, but the information shown was gathered by Brian Duncan in 1990.

*To abjure the realm, the person taking the oath swore to leave the country directly and promptly, never to return to the kingdom unless by permission of the sovereign. This was often taken by fugitives who had taken sanctuary in a church. "I swear on the Holy Book that I will leave the realm of England and never return without the express permission of my Lord the King or his heirs. I will hasten by the direct road to the port allotted to me and not leave the King's highway under pain of arrest or execution. I will not stay at one place more than one night and will seek diligently for a passage across the sea as soon as I arrive, delaying only one tide if possible. If I cannot secure such passage, I will walk into the sea up to my knees every day as a token of my desire to cross. And if I fail in all this, then peril shall be my lot."

1301 The Northamptonshire Assesment

Much of the information given in this section is based on Medieval Northamptonshire: the 1301 Assessment for a Fifteenth by Stephen Swailes (2010). 

Aside from the individual court cases and land charters mentioned earlier, the most significant historical document is the Northamptonshire Assessment of 1301, an tax assessment for the purpose of raising money across England to fund the wars in Scotland being waged by Edward I (Longshanks). The Assessment may have been aproved in 1301 but not actually completed until 1303.

For the very first time we see the names not only of the land owners, but also of many of the villagers, though not everyone who lived in the village is listed, as the tax assessment was only of certain types of wealth or possessions. For instance a carpenters tools would not be given a value and would not form part of the assessment. Whilst assessments seem to have varied in different areas, the general rule seems to have been that people should not be taxed to the point that they would of a means with which to earn a living.

Chief collectors summoned local men to value the possessions of residents in each place. The local collectors assessed the value of taxpayers’ moveable goods and the amount of tax that was due before collecting and delivering it. The amounts due from each person were written by a clerk onto a roll. The chief collectors examined the rolls and would identify local collectors who had allowed under-valuation or avoidance.

Many of the records for the 1301 show two “taxators” for each village, so these are probably the local men summoned to value the possession of the residents.

The assessment simply record the names of those people found liable to pay tax. The lists are mostly of men although some women are usually named in all but the smallest of places. Missing from the lists, therefore, are most women and an unknown proportion of men who fell outside the assessment.

As previously mentioned the Hundreds of Navisland and Huxloe had been merged by this time. The table show here gives the Huxloe Hundred villages and the number of people assessed to pay tax per village.

In the Domesday Survey the number of households across the two Addingtons was given as 37, giving a total population of circa 150. The number of assessed individuals across the two villages in 1301 is 86, as most, though not all, are men it is therefore reasonable to assume that the population of the villages is circa 300-400. This was a high point of the population in England with an estimate of 4-5million people, up from circa 2 million at Domesday. The famines that were to strike England in 1316-17, and then the plagues of the late 14th Century, and later in the 17th Century mean that the population of England did not recover to these pre-plague highs until the start of the industrial revolution in the late 18th century.

Peasants harvesting. Circa 1310 manuscript. They are being directed by the Reeve (prepositos)

As mentioned earlier not everybody would have been assessed for tax as the poorest agricultural workers and those with only their hand tools and skills would have been excluded. It is not possible to state how many more families lived in Great Addington but it is reasonable to suspect that as many as 30% of the village population was not assessed.

The assessment was based on the principle of a “fifteenth” i.e. based on a fifteenth of their “wealth”, meaning that those in Great Addington who were assessed at 4pence (4d) had a wealth of 5shillings (5s).

Certain items were exempt from assessment including armour, riding horses, jewels, the clothing of knights, gentlemen and their wives and vessels of gold silver and brass. In the peasantry clothes, hand-tools, certain household goods, and food seem to have also been exempt. Items that were assessed included pans, pots, beds, animals, boats, fishing nets, carts, firewood, thatch (spare bundles presumably), crops, and stocks of goods held for trade. Typical goods include hay, straw, wheat, barley, peas, beans, and fish in ponds (it would have been interesting to know how they would have been counted!).

It is useful to understand how much people earned and how much things cost at this time. In 1301 an unskilled manual labourer would earn 2d (pence) a day, a servant 1d, a female servant 0.3d (a third of a penny), a master carpenter could earn 4d a day. Typical prices for common items are 1.5d for a gallon of good beer; 3d a gallon of rough wine (I think I would stick to the good beer!); 2 dozen eggs would be 1d; a cow would cost you 72d; and a cottage would be 60d rent per year. 

With regard to beer, most people would have brewed their own "small beer" at this time a water was unsafe to drink. Small beer was a low alcohol beer of about 1%, compared to modern beers which are about 3.5%. Everyone, regardless of age drank small beer.

Items that could be made locally, wooden furniture for instance, was cheap; however anything that was made elsewhere or imported was expensive. Even woollen clothes was expensive, as at this time wool was exported and then reimported as cloth.

It is likely that the villagers of 1301 were likely to have been christened in the same font as is still used today. The font is dated to the 13th century – so was in place before the tax assessment. In addition, many of the changes made to the church occurred in the late 13th and early 14th century. Perhaps William and Geoffery (see below, were the stone masons who worked on the church. Only 40 generations separate us from the Great Addington villagers of 1301. Indeed, to a large extent, apart from the Victorian pews and organ, the church would have appeared largely the same then as it is today. Whilst some names as translated appear unusual to us, many could be people living here today and with occupations – miller, baker, clerk, etc - we recognise.

I have taken the literal translation, such as Gilbert le Espenser, and shown what we would use as their surname and, where possible, occupation. For instance, Gilbert the Steward was most definintely a steward (man servant), probably of Lord Robert de Vere.  At this time the use of surnames was not well established and people tended to have  a descriptive name, either before or after their “Christian” name. The descriptive was to differentiate them from others with the same name; or to describe where they were from, for instance Robert of Northampton, or their occupation, John the Miller, or sometimes just to differentiate from others of a similar name, hence Little William.  

There are none of the names that are later associated with Great Addington - Bolney, Beeby, Abbot, Hackney et;. however in Little Addington amongst the names one stands out:

Henry supa villam Robert ad Grena~ William le Do

Robert at the spring Hugh Alger Simon son of Gosselyn

Adam above the village Simon H(yne) Robert Preposito

William son of R Preposito Robert Broun Robert Felan

Walter at the mount Simon son of Avice Henry ky(nn)ount

William Pikot William Levenok John Schadue

Adam (above the church?) Robert at the river bank Nicholas Schadue

Robert Watervile Abelot Watervile Nicholas Watervile

John Bosse Hugh Gerard Hugh Pykot

John Abbot Simon son of Nicholas Warin engane

Robert kimioun John le Maceoun Alice Puttok

William Pistor' Robert le Walker Henry le Do

William clerico John Freman William son of William

This is the earliest found reference to the surname Abbot in the Addingtons and at a time when surnames were still not in common usage. There would be Abbots' living in the village for nearly 700 years.

The Black Death

The Hundred Years War. Battle of Crecy 1346

Earliest surviving portrait of Richard III

War of the Roses

Henry VII

End of an Era

The period from 1301 to 1485 is a long protracted end to the Medieval era. The 1301 Assessment (see above) marks a point in time which can be seen as the highpoint of the Medieval period. The population was booming - fueled by a warm shift in the climate which led to higher crop yields; slavery had been abolished, though the feudal system was still very much in place; and the era of chivalry, knights and tournaments were perhaps only just starting to fade. England had faced setbacks, the civil war of the 12th century had been a period of chaos; later writers referred to it as "the Anarchy", and the English Kings had already started to lose their land holdings in France.  King John lost Normandy and Anjou to France in 1204.

However, this long period of plenty from 1200 to 1300 was about to come to an end with a series of natural disasters and wars. 

The Great Famine

In the spring of 1315, unusually heavy rain began in much of Europe. Throughout the spring and the summer, it continued to rain, and the temperature remained cool. Grain would not ripen, leading to widespread crop failures. The straw and hay for the animals could not dry, so there was no fodder for the livestock. The price of food began to rise; prices in England doubled between spring and midsummer. Salt, the only way to cure and preserve meat, was difficult to obtain because brine could not be effectively evaporated in wet weather; its price increased from 30 to 40 shillings. Because of the population pressures, even lower-than-average harvests meant some people would go hungry; there was little margin for failure. People began to harvest wild edible roots, grasses, nuts, and bark in the forests.

In the spring of 1316, it continued to rain on a population deprived of energy and reserves to sustain itself. All segments of society from nobles to peasants were affected but especially the peasants, who represented 95% of the population and who had no reserve food supplies. People began to take drastic measures, slaughtering draft animals and eating the seed grain.

The height of the famine was in 1317, as the wet weather continued. In that summer, the weather returned to its normal patterns but by then people were so weakened by diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis and tuberculosis and so much of the seed stock had been eaten, that it was not until 1325 that the food supply returned to normal levels and the population began to increase again. It is estimated that 10–25% of the population of many cities and towns died. 

Following the Great Famine, England was in an economic downturn which lasted till about 1340.


Under Edward I (1272-1307) England had already became engaged in a number of long running wars in Scotland, Wales, Flanders and Aquitaine. Edward II (1307-1327) inherited the war with Scotland from his father and faced rebellion at home following military failures and favouritism, which led to the Dispenser War (1321-22). Edward II was other thrown and murdered in a coup. Edward III claimed the crown in 1330.

The Hundred Years war between England and France over English lands in France entered its first phase between 1337–1360. Following a truce, conflict broke out again between 1369–1389, and then again between 1415–1453. 

Black Death

In 1348 the Black Death, a plaque pandemic, which had been spreading across Europe from the East, arrived in England. The first known case in England was a seaman who arrived at Weymouth, Dorset, from Gascony in June 1348. 

By autumn, the plague had reached London, and by summer 1349 it covered the entire country, before dying down by December. Mortality rates are now generally accepted to be between 40–60 per cent of the population, about 3 million people.

Further outbreaks of plague were to follow in 1360–63 - when another 20% of the population are believed to have died; and then again in 1374; 1400; 1438–39; 1456–57; 1464–66; and 1481–85. It was to appear again and again in England until the 18th century.

In the long term, the decrease in population caused a shortage of labour, with subsequent rise in wages, which was resisted by the landowners, and which caused deep resentment among the lower classes. The Peasants Revolt of 1381 (see below) was largely a result of this resentment, and even though the rebellion was suppressed, in the long term feudalism was ended in England. 

We have no records relating to Great Addington at this time, but across the Nene in Raunds the annual accounts for 1349 rents were diminished because of the pestilence. There were still many empty properties and untenanted lands at Raunds in 1464, more than a century later.

In Higham Ferrers, the town records show that of 51 individuals involved in the business of the town court on 26 April 1349, that within three weeks 19 were now dead, including the court clerk. In one case in Ecton, not only were the two parties in the court case dead, but so were two of the jurors. 

Across Northamptonshire there was shrinkage of villages and abandonment of marginal agricultural land, animals were abandoned as their owners were dead. This was a massive economic recession with decay of most villages and market towns.  

With the later outbreaks in 1360-63 and 1374 it is estimated that areas such as Northamptonshire would have lost as much of 60% of its population.

Peasants Revolt of 1381

The Peasants Revolt was a major uprising across large parts of England in 1381. The revolt had various causes, including the socio-economic and political tensions generated by the Black Death pandemic in the 1340s, the high taxes resulting from the conflict with France during the Hundred Years War, and instability within the local leadership of London. 

Parliament met in Northampton in November 1380 and granted the King a third poll tax to support the war funds. Many refused to pay the tax. Six months later, the final trigger for the revolt was the intervention of a royal official, John Bampton, in Essex on 30 May 1381. His attempts to collect unpaid poll taxes in Brentwood ended in a violent confrontation, which rapidly spread across the country. A wide spectrum of rural society, including many local artisans and village officials, rose up in protest, burning court records and opening the local prisons. The rebels sought a reduction in taxation, an end to the system of unfree labour (serfdom), and the removal of the King's senior officials and law courts.

On 13 June, the rebels entered London and, joined by many local townsfolk, attacked the prisons, set fire to law books and buildings, and killed anyone associated with the royal government. Rebels also entered the Tower of London, killing the Lord Chancellor and the Lord High Treasurer, whom they found inside.

The revolt was brought under control in London when troops under Richard II and a local militia killed the rebel leaders in London. The revolt had however also spread into East Anglia, where the University of Cambridge was attacked and many royal officials were killed. Unrest continued until the intervention of Henry Despenser, who defeated a rebel army at the Battle of North Walsham on in June. Troubles extended north to York and as far west as Somerset. Richard mobilised 4,000 soldiers to restore order. Most of the rebel leaders were tracked down and executed; by November, at least 1,500 rebels had been killed.

There were no further attempts by Parliament to impose a poll tax or to reform England's fiscal system. The Commons instead concluded at the end of 1381 that the military effort on the Continent - the Hundred Years War - should be "carefully but substantially reduced". Unable to raise new taxes, the government had to curtail its foreign policy and military expeditions and began to examine the options for peace. The institution of serfdom declined after 1381, but primarily for economic rather than political reasons as rural wages continued to increase, and lords increasingly sold their serfs' freedom in exchange for cash, or converted traditional forms of tenure to new leasehold arrangements. During the 15th century serfdom vanished in England.

The War of the Roses

The Wars of the Roses in the 15th Century for control of the throne of England, fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster, represented by a red rose, and the House of York, represented by a white rose

Ironically, the wars eliminated the male lines of both families. 

The conflict lasted through many sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487, but there was related fighting before and after this period between the parties. The power struggle ignited around social and financial troubles following the Hundred Years' War, the collapse of serfdom and the long period of economic decline and death as detailed above. This was combined with the mental infirmity and weak rule of King Henry VI.

A significant battle was at Northampton in July 1460. The opposing forces were an army led by nobles loyal to King Henry VI of the House of Lancaster, his Queen Margaret of Anjou and their then seven-year-old son Edward, Prince of Wales on one side, and the army of Edward, Earl of March and Warwick the Kingmaker on the other. The battle was the first in which artillery was used in England. 

With Richard of York's death in 1460, the claim transferred to his heir, Edward. After a Lancastrian counterattack in 1461, Edward claimed the throne, and the last serious Lancastrian resistance ended at the decisive Battle of Towton. Edward was thus unopposed as the first Yorkist king of England, as Edward IV. Resistance smouldered in the North of England until 1464, but the early part of his reign remained relatively peaceful.

A new phase of the wars broke out in 1469 after the Earl of Warwick withdrew his support for Edward and threw it behind the Lancastrian cause. Fortunes changed many times as the Yorkist and Lancastrian forces exchanged victories throughout 1469–70 (and Edward was even captured for a time in 1469). When Edward fled to Flanders in 1470, Henry VI was re-installed as king, but his resumption of rule was short-lived, and he was deposed again the following year with the defeat of his forces at the Battle of Tewkesbury. Shortly afterwards, Edward entered London unopposed, resumed the throne, and probably had Henry killed. With all significant Lancastrian leaders now banished or killed, Edward ruled unopposed until his sudden death in 1483. His 12-year-old son reigned for 78 days as Edward V. He was then deposed by his uncle, Edward IV's brother Richard, who became Richard III in 1483

Richard III, had been born in Fotheringhay Northamptonshire in 1452. In 1476 he brought the bodies of his father Richard Duke of York and brother Edmund, Earl of Rutland there for reburial. Their tombs - later rebuilt on teh order of Queen Elizabeth I - are still in Fotheringhay church.

The accession of Richard III occurred under a cloud of controversy, and shortly after assuming the throne, rebellion broke out again as many Yorkists abandoned Richard to join Lancastrians. While the rebellions lacked central coordination, in the chaos the exiled Henry Tudor, son of Henry VI's half-brother Edmund Earl of Richmond, returned to the country from exile in Brittany at the head of an army of combined Breton, French and English forces. Richard avoided direct conflict with Henry until the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. 

After Richard III was killed and his forces defeated at Bosworth Field, Henry assumed the throne as Henry VII and married Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter and heir of Edward IV, thereby uniting the two claims. The House of Tudor ruled until 1603, with the death of Elizabeth I, granddaughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.

End of the Medieval Period

The end of the 15th century is widely regarded as the end of the Medieval period. It was not a single event but rather 200 years of famine, plague, war and social upheaval. The feudal system was ended, peasants were wealthier. With the new found wealth, more and more were able to buy their own lands. The curious mix of chivalrous knights and peasants locked into servitude was over.  

Henry de Vere

Henry de Vere, Lord of Addington, was at the Battle of Bosworth. He was a Lancastrian supporter and cousin of the Earl of Oxford, Henry VII leading military advisor. In many ways his death at this point in time and the fact that he was the last of a long line of feudal overlords of Addington, really does provide a end point to the Medieval history of Great Addington..

Henry was the last in the line of de Veres' of Northamptonshire who had been Lords of Manors of Great Addington, Drayton, Thrapston, Twywell, Slipton and other villages for nearly 400 years. He died in 1493 and we are fortunate in having a number of fascinating documents relating to his life.

He died leaving four daughters by his wife, Isabella Tresham. Two of the daughters married into the Mordaunt family and through that connection the Great Addington manor and other estates came to be owned by the Mordaunts, later Earls of Peterborough.

Henry de Vere's wife, Isabella, whom he married in about 1482,  was connected with John Stafford, Earl of Wiltshire – who lived at Lowick Hall nearby. Henry possessed a "Stafford knot amulet of silver", valued at 1shilling, which was probably a family keepsake.

Connected by marriage with families as the Segraves, Treshams, Wakes, Staffords, and Watervilles - Little Addington was owned by the Waterville family at one point; de Vere of Addington was a typical Northamptonshire lord of the manor. He had been Sheriff of Northamptonshire and also a justice of the peace. As well as Great Addington his lands included the manor of Thrapston, Slipton, Twywell, and at one point the family had held Drayton, near Lowick. The family also seemed to have, through marriage, other lands outside of Northamptonshire.

De Vere was a benefactor to the parish church of All Saints, founding a chantry chapel – basically establishing a fund  to ensure that prayers and hymns were sung in his memory after his death in a dedicated area of the church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The first chaplain to this chantry was John Bloxham, who died in 1519, and whose memorial brass is also in the church, originally in the chantry chapel, but moved at some point to its current position.

Halstead Geneaology of 1685, has a lot of information regarding the de Vere's and their descendants. The book was written 200 years after the events of the War of the Roses, refers to the events of the Battle of Bosworth, where Richard III was killed, and to Henry  de Vere's own disputes with Richard III: 

"Henry the eldest Son of Sir Richard Vere, with the Estate of his Father inherited the Suit and Difference (a legal dispute over lands) with the Lord Abbot of Croyland, and by his endeavours to defend his interests in that affair, he incurr'd the displeasure of King Richard III which was particularly testified in a Letter to himself, and in some others from certain Lords of his Council. 

Several rigours he suffered from this King, joyn'd to the indignation of Mankind, that had been drawn upon him by his injustice and cruelty, incited Sir Henry Vere to be particularly active in the introducing of King Henry the Seventh, to whose service he brought a resolute Band of his Tenants and Country-men, at whose Head he fought himself, in that decisive Day, where at Bosworth the unhappy Richard lost both his Kingdom and his Life: 

He thereupon received the Honour of Knighthood, at the hands of the victorious King; and because of his fidelity and interest, was made High Sheriff of Northamptonshire in that first year of his Reign. 

He married Isabella Tresham, the Daughter of Sir Thomas Tresham, who was Lord of Rushton, and of a Family at that time very considerable in the Country where they lived, for their Riches and Authority, by whom he left only five Daughters"

*The extract from Halstead's Genreaology mentions five daughters, but we know of only four.

Henry de Vere (d 1493) Tomb in All Saints Church, Great Addington

Henry De Vere letters from the King, Family, Friends & Enemies

Detailed below are a number of letters sent to Henry de Vere, including one from the King, though which King? It was known that Henry de Vere had no love for Richard III and fought against him at Bosworth, but though a supporter of Henry VII, even the King could not ignore complaints from the great Abbey of Croyland - which still held lands in Great Addington.  Based on the date of the letter and the location it was sent from it is most likely to be from Henry VII and sent in March 1486. The letter shown is probably the only personal letter from a monarch of England discussing the people of Addington.

Other letters are a mixture of personal and official from friends, family, and enemies. All spelling shown below is as per the original letters.

The first document is a letter of wittness for Henry de Vere against a complain raised by a certain Thomas Watts. The letter is from Nicholas Vaux, 1st Baron Vaux of Harrowden (c. 1460 – 14 May 1523) a soldier and courtier in England and an early member of the House of Commons. The Vaux family had connections to the de Vere's. Nicholas Vaux was also a supporter of Henry VII. 

The original complaint by Thomas Watts cannot be found, but it is clear by Nicholas's letter that it was serious, including an allegation that Nicholas had been sent to murder Thomas by Henry de Vere. The letter is addressed to my Lord Chancellor, though as it is not dated it is unclear which Lord Chancellor it is.

To the Right Honourable and my singular good Lord, my Lord Chancellor of England.

Right honourable and my most singular good Lord, I recommend me to your good Lordship in as humble manner as I can. Please it your good Lordship to understand, That where one Thomas Watts hath compleyned afore your Lordship and other of the Kings Councel ayenst Harry Vere Squyer, of divers injuries and wrongs supposed that he shuld doe to him in the coming of the Kings Grace into this Lond, for the whyche injuries and wronges the said Thomas had at that tyme a Privy Seal, and of his own offer and desire prayed me to sett him and the said Harry at accord; And the said Harry Vere to appear. And the said Thomas kept still his Privy Seal. And for soe much as he was my Servaunt att the tyme, I, att a Sessions in the second Yere of our said Soveraigne Lord at Northampton, afore Sir Thomas Greene, John Throgmorton, Richard Knightly, and other Gentilmen there present, made a their own agreement and accorde of matters, desires and greves depending betwix the said partyes, from the beginning of the World unto that day of accord, as well of the part of the said Harry as of the said Thomas. And alsoe whereas the said Thomas shuld late surmiis unto your Lordship, that the said Henry should desire me to goe to the house of the said Thomas in Rothewell att my goeing toward the King att his last Journay Northwarde, to slee or destroye (kill) the said Thomas; It was never soe desired by the said Henry, nor noon of his, of me, nor of noon of myne, nor I never thought no suche entent to him, nor to noon other, but according to the Kings comandement, and his Lawes, and thereto I shall be ready to answer as well for my declaration, as for the declaration of the said Henry in all the premisses, whansoever it pleas the Kings Highnes, and your Lordship to comande me. And Almighty God ever preserve your good Lordship to your most hertes pleasure.

Written at Haroweden the fower and twentyeth Day of October

By your own Servant, Nicholas Vaus.

The Answer of Henry de Vere to the Bill of Complaint of Thomas Watts. This appears to be a either a written statement, or more likely a verbal statement given in person at court. In it Henry claims that Thomas Watts and a group of 30  of armed men had taken money and property from Henery de Vere, and that Henry had been commanded by the King to arrest Thomas Watts. My favourite line is "desired the said Henry to take some reasonable weye, and end with the said Thomas in eschewing further expences and troubles", meaning that at the time other told Henry that he should kill Thomas Watts and save time and money!

The said Henry saith by protestation, That the said Bill of Complaint is insufficient, and compriseth matter slaunderous. For the declaration of the trouth of the premisses, the said Henry saith, That the said Thomas Watts, before the said twentye sixthe day of August specified in the said Bill, that the said Compleynent in the dayes of King Richard (late in dede and not in right) King of England, took from the said Henry riotously with thirty persons defensibly arrayed certeyn Timber, Hey-Rekes, Peese-Rekes, with much other Stuff of Howshold, to the value of eleven Marks, and more; And alsoe the said Thomas in lyke riotous wise resevyd of the Rents of the said Henry ten Mark in Ekton, Barton and Wouleston within the Counte of Northampton, for the whyche the said Henry compleyned to the Kings Grace imediately after his first feld; And it pleased the Kings Grace among other of his Highnes Comandemens, to comand the said Henry to bring the same Thomas to him to answer to the premisses. And the said Henry by reason of the same Comandement, with two persons harnessed (wearing armour and carrying weapons) came from his first Feld unto the House of the said Thomas, to the entent to execute the Kings said Comandements, then and there being John Tresham Esquier (Henry de Vere's brother-in-law), the Viccar of the said Town of Rothewell, John Dove, and one Cowper, and many others, and they knowing the premisses, and knowing for trouth, that the said Thomas of and in the premisses and many other had offended the said Henry, desired the said Henry to take some reasonable weye, and end with the said Thomas in eschewing further expences and troubles. At the whych time the said Viccar and John Dove, by the special desire of the said Thomas, brought unto the said Henry ten Mark; And the said Thomas by his Servant sent the same Black Horse specified in his said Bill to the said Henry in full recompence of such injuries as been afore rehersed. All which matters, and every eche one of them the said Henry is ready to prove, as this Court will award, and prayeth to be dismissed out of this Court with his reasonable Costs and expence for his wrongful vexation.

*King Richard (late in dede and not in right) King of England - means King Richard, recently deceased and not rightfully King of England.

**a mark - was worth about 160 pence, or 13shillings and 4pence. About two-thirds of a pound. It was not a coin as such, more of a unit of accounting. It was a term used in England after being introduced by the Danes in the 10th century.

To Henry from his brother Baldwyn de Vere. The Master Catesby mentioned in the document could be William Catesby (1450 - 1485) who was was one of Richard III of England's principal councillors. He also served as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Speaker of the House of Commons during Richard's reign. He fought alongside Richard III at teh Battle of Bosworth, was captured and was the only man of importance who was executed. If this is correct then this would date this letter earlier than 1485.

To his Worshipful Brother Henry Vere be this Bill delivered at Addington.

Ryght Worshipful Brodyr, I recommend me unto yow and to my Sister your Wife, hertily desiring to here of your welfares, the which Almightie God preserve to his plesure and yowr hertes desire. Sure I have spokyn with Maister Catesby, and he hath promissed me to be as frendly to yow in yowr matter as he can. He is ryding with my Lord Chamberlyn this Morning toward the Kyng. Watts (presumebly the Thomas Watts in the earlier documents) calleth for the processe, and therefore I went to Maister Catesby this morning when he took his Horse, and fete a Tokyn from him to Watts, that he shuld cale noe more on the processe till he come to Towne ayene, and that shall be when the King come, and that shall be within fourteen dayes; and if ye come up then, he will see an end betwix you and the other Gentilman the Jewe; and so I think best yow doe, for anoder man cannot labour your mattir soe well to yowr intent as yowr self sure. As for your Suite against Beke, they have geven yow none Answere as yet. There is an Exigent out against Parson Edward Davy sure. I pray yow remember my Brother Barners, for I sent him word, That ye would send him ten Pounds within fourteen dayes after Alhallow-Day. Brother, whereas yow wrote unto me, that ye were not in hertes ese, ye have made me very hevye of that tydings; but I trust to God, in the next Bill ye shall send me better comforte. And sure at the reverence of God, whatsoever adverfityes befall yow, take them lytely, and set them not to yowr herte, and then remedye them as ye think best: for if ye set them to yowr herte, ye shall hurt your selfe, and that shall plese syche as be the causes thereof, and all syche as love yow not, and shall discomforte all syche as be yowr frendes and Lovers. Wherefore I will avise yow to take that way that may comforte yowr frendes and lovers, and displese yowr foes. No more to yow at this tyme but, I shall be at yowr comandement both here and elswhere be God's Grace, who have yow in his kepeing.

At London on Symond Jude is Evyn.

Be your Brother and Servant, Baldwyn Vere.

To Henry from Francis Lovell, one of Richard III's most ardent supporters.

To my Right Trusty and Welbeloved Henry Vere Gentilman.

Ryght Trusty and Welbeloved, I commend me unto yow; And whereas I have perceived by my Right Welbeloved Sir Thomas Thornton Parson of Addington in the County of Northampton, how that he of late hath permuted a Benefice that he had in Northbeneflete in Essex for the said Benefice in Addington with oon Master John Ovyn late Parson there, and as he saith ye doe now pretend, that a Graunt was made unto yow by the said Master John Ovyn in his time of the Ferme of the said Parsonage of Addington for the space of a Yere, which pretence I understand the said Master John Ovyn utterly denyeth, saying, that he never was agreable thereunto, and how that ye have no writing thereof, but onely that ye intend with strong hand to keep the said Ferme against the will of the Parson there, and contrary to all good reason and conscience: Wherefore I pray yow as hertely as I can, that as well for my sake, as in discharge of your owne conscience, ye woll deal favorably with the said Parson, and to suffer him to occupy and enjoy his Benefice according to Right without your interruption, wherein yow shall give me cause to be good Lord unto yow in eny thing ye reasonably can desire me: And if ye doe the contrary, the matter will be ferther attempted against yow to your trouble and charge.

Written the third day of March.

Franceys Lovell.

To Henry from John Viscount Welles a Lancastrian supporter. Henry VII knighted John Welles on 7 August 1485 and he was created Viscount in 1486 and given substantial grants. Shene Manor where the letter is sent from was a favourite royal residence in Kew, London. Though both supporters of Henry VII, it is clear that complaints by the Abbey of Crowland (previously known as Croyland) regarding Henry de Vere's treatment of certain tenants within the village had reached the King.

To my Trusty and Welbeloved Henry Vere Squier.

Trusty and Welbeloved, I grete yow welle, and let yow wite, that I am credi∣bly informed how ye grevously and contrarie to all right vexe and trouble the Tennants and Inhabitants of the Towne of Addyngton in the County of Northampton belonging unto the Abbot of Crowland, whereof I am Steward, and had not I have been, the said Abbot had ere this time shewed it unto the Kings Grace, my Lady his Modre, and alsoe unto my Lord of Oxford, in as moche as he is Chappellaine unto them, which as I suppose would have been to yow none ease gif he had so doon. Wherefore I advise yow from hencesorth no more to vexe ne troble the said Tennants and Inhabitants, but to leave such your wrongful dealing among them, and suffre them to have their Comunes and Herdes as they have had in times past, for drede of that may ensue thereof; And that yow will surcease of any more troubling with them, as I may say unto yow gramercy at our next metyng. And if I understand that ye doe the contrary, I shall provide a convenient remedy therefore. And alsoe as for such mattris as been depending betwix yow and my Servant Richard Clerc, I shall, when we next speke togedyre, see a remedy therein. Moreover that you will give credence unto the Bringer hereof, whych is a Servant of the Kinges and myne.

Yeven under my Signet at the Mannor of Shene the three and twentyeth day of May.

John Viscount Welles.

To Henry from the King. It is sent from Stamford and dated 14th March. It is known that Henry VII travelled from London to York in March 1486 and stopped at Stamford. Therefore it is probable that this letter is from Henry VII, only 4 months after his coronation and 7 months since the events at Bosworth. Henry VII gave Colyweston Palace near Stamford to his mother in the same year. The Palace of Collyweston was a centre of power; a royal manor house under the Lady Margaret’s ownership, Collyweston became the administrative centre for the Midlands.

A Letter from King Henry VII to Henry Vere.

To Our Trusty and Welbeloved Henry Vere Squier.

By the King.


Trusty and Welbeloved, we grete yow wel; And wot ye wel, grevouse Compleynt hath be made unto us on the behalf our trusty and welbeloved in God th'Abbot of our Monastery of Crowland, how, where he in the right of the said Monastery hath a Fermor and certeyn Tennants in the Towne of Addington, ye without matter or cause sufficient, of your pure malice, not onely at divers times heretofore have by your sinister menes vexed and trobled the said Fermor and Tennants, that they ne are of sufficient power, defending their life, to pay and content to him their Fermes due unto the said Monastery for their termes in the same; but as well put them dayly in such feare of new trouble, that he is like to be destitute of any sufficient Fermor and Tennants to occupy the Mannor and Tenements lying in the said Towne at any time hereafter, to the utter impoverishing of our said Monastery, as we be informed.

Wherefore we willing the said Abbot peasibly to enjoy the profits of our said Monastery as far as he ought of right to doe, by reason of his Dignity there, most specially, in consideration of that it is of our foundation, whom we are bound to defend in all the right of the same, woll and straightly charge yow, if it be as is surmised unto us in this parte, that ye not onely dispose you lawfully to compound with the said Abbot for such injuryes and offences as ye have attempted in this partie contrarie our Lawes and good conscience, but alsoe at all times hereafter to suffer the said Fermors and Tennants now being and hereafter for to be, peceably to occupy their tenors in the same without eny vexation, inquieting, or trouble of you or other in your name, or for you into the contrary, so that the said Abbot have no cause of reason eftsoons to pursue unto us in the premisses, as ye woll answer unto us at your uttermost perill.

 Geven under our Signet at our Towne of Stamford the fourteenth day of March.

A letter from John Tresham, Henry's brother-in-law. Probably written sometime after 1485.

John Tresham's father, Thomas, Speaker of the House of Parliament, fought at the Battle of Northampton in 1460 and at the Second Battle of St Albans, where he was knighted. He fought at the Battle of Towton and was captured. He secured a pardon in 1464 and again represented Northamptonshire in Parliament in 1467, but failed to regain his lands and possessions. As a result, he took part in the plots of John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford - a distant relation of the de Veres of Northamptonshire, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London from 1468 until Henry VI regained the throne in 1470. He was rewarded for his services and loyalty with various grants, including that of Huntingdon Castle, to be held for seven years. After the Battle of Barnet he fled to meet Margaret of Anjou but was captured and executed on 6 May 1471 on teh orders of Edward IV. His children by Mary, daughter of William, Lord Zouche of Harringworth, included a son, John, who was born in 1462. John was restored to his father's estates by Henry VII in 1485. Thomas and Marys' daughter, Isabella, was born in 1460 and married Sir Henry de Vere of Addington.

To his Right Worshipful and Welbeloved Brother Sir Henry Vere be this delivered.

Ryght Worshipful Brodyr, in the most herty wise I commend me unto yow; and Brodyr, I have sent unto yow your Aporne and Gussets of Mayse, I trust not appaired, and I thanke yow right hertely for them; and if it like yow not to have them againe, ye shall have for them what ye will think reasonable. And Brodyr, I have sent yow be this the Bringer hereof the Copye of the evidence of Barton and Sywell, and I will be with you with the Grace of God on Tewesday or Wednesday next coming, and bring to you all the dedys concerning the Mannor of Sywell with th' appurtenances. And Brodyr, I pray yow to lend to me be the Bringer hereof five Marcks, that ye promissed I should have had at the first payment; for ye promissed me twenty Marcks, and I had but ten Pounds; And I pray yow of all gentilnesse that I may have this five Marcks now, or els that ye will send me forty Shillings, for it would doe me great ease now, and I have nede thereof, and ye shall finde me in all behalfes as I have promissed yow with the Grace of Jhesu, who preserve yow. 

Written at Little Okely in haste on Sainct Peters Eve. And I pray yow that this Bill may recomend me to my Sister.

Your loveing Brodyr, John Tresham.

A second letter from John Tresham, Henry's brother-in-law. 

To his Right Worshipful Brodyr Sir Henry Vere be this delivered.

Ryght Worshipful Brodyr, in the most loving wise I recomend me unto yow and unto my Sister your Wife. And Brodyr, whereas I sent yow word by your Servaunt to have been with yow as this day, I pray yow to take it for noon unkindnesse that I come not, for I have such a sorenesse in my Throat that hit grevys me to speake or to swallow any thing, and the Wether is soe farvent colde that I dare not aventure forth. And alsoe your Servaunt shewed me that ye should understand, that I have sold more Londs in Northampton to Chauncey, and for certein so have I done. And though I help and ease my selfe with parte of myne inheritance that is fee-simple, to bring me out of dette and danger, I pray yow think not but that I hope and trust to God to have a Heire or Heires of my Body lawfully begotten, though it fortune me not to have any by this Woman: And that I think not nor intend not if God fortune me to have such Issue, to disinheryte them nor noon other that shall fortune to be myne next Heire. But if God fortune me live, I purpose to leve them as moche as I found, and more of myne owne purchase with the Grace of Jhesu, who preserve yow and yours both Body and Soule.

Your loveing Brodyr, John Tresham.

A letter from (John)Oxynford

This is taken to be John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford and one of Henry VII main supporters. He was a key figure through the War of the Roses and was involved in numerous battles. He had success, but was also captured in a battle. He manged to escape imprisonment at the castle in Calais by climbing the walls and jumping into the moat. He returned to England. At the Battle of Bosworth, Oxford commanded the archers and Henry's vanguard.  Using a wedge formation they penetrated Richard's army and held Richmond's vanguard in fierce fighting in which John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and the first cousin of Oxford's mother, who was leading the vanguard of Richard III, was killed. Following the death of Richard III, as Lord Great Chamberlain he officiated at the coronations of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, bearing the king's train at the coronation and setting the crown upon the king's head at the coronation banquet. 

To my Right Welbeloved Cousen Sir Harry Vere, Sheriff of the County of Northampton.

Ryght Welbeloved, I comend me to yow. Forasmuch as I am enformed that John Robyns of Multon is vexed and troubled by certeyn persons there wrongfully and against Conscience, I will and desire ye that ye will succour the same John in his Right, and not suffer him soe to be wronged, otherwise than may accorde with Lawe and Conscience, soe that he may have and enjoy that he hath Right to, in quiet, rest, and peace.

Written at London the two and twentyeth day of February.


Second letter from (John)Oxynford. This letter seems to be asking Henry to be ready to be called to gve service to the King as part of John's company (soldiers).

To my Right Welbeloved Cousyn Sir Henry Vere.

Ryght Welbeloved Cousyn, I comende me to yow, thankyng yow for yowr good will and disposition shew'd to me by your Servant this Berer, whereby I understand that ye haveing knowleche that I sent for my Frendes and Lovers, thought that I shuld have sent for yow in like manner. I have therein shewed my mynde and entent to yowr seyd Servant, to whom ye may yeve credence in that behalfe, not doubtyng but myne entent was, at soche tyme as I would call such as be towards and reteyned to me, to have then sent for yow; And soo hereafter I entend to doo, as well for yow, as for all suche other there as be towards me, whereto I desyre yow and theym to shewe yowr good willes, and to be ready to do the King service in my Company when ye shall thereto be desired.

Written at the Abbay of Stretford the four and twentyeth day of February.


Third letter from (John)Oxynford. Written when Henery is unwell and offering to look after his daughters should he not survive. It is written from Colne in Essex, ancestral home of the de Veres'. Thgough not dated, it may be that this was written to Henry shortly before his death in 1493. Henry's will states that he wishes William Marbury of Lowick to look after his daughters and not John Oxynford.

To my right entirely beloved Cousen Henry Vere Squier.

Ryght intirely beloved Cousyn, I comende me hertely to yow. And forasmoche as I truste that ye think I take yow for my Kynnesman, as ye may certeynly be sure that I so do, and that I here by reporte that ye be gretely greved and vexed with sikenes, whereof I am right sory, howbeit I think by Godis Grace ye shall do right well. Neverthelesse I understand that ye have yong Gentilwomen to yowr Daughters, whych be my Kynneswomen, I therefore woll think that howsoevyr God dispose for yow, that ye shuld be content that I myght have the Rule and Governaunce of theym, or some of theym, consydering that they be of my blode, desyring yow especially, that ye wyll soe dispofe yowr selfe, not doubting but that I shall be as gode Lorde to theym that ye wylle putt in my Rule, and cherish theym, as I wolde doe myne owne, delyverryng the same to my right trusty Servaunt Thomas Lowthe, by him to be conveyed to me, yevyng him credence alsoe in that he shall shewe to yow ferther, according to my mynd in this behalfe. And Almighty God preserve yow.

Written at Colnethe last day of April.

Yowr Cosen, Oxynford.

Henry de Vere died in 1493, he was around 33 years of age. The tomb in Great Addington church reads:

Here lyeth the Body of Sr Henry Vere Knight. who was once Lord of this manor . He was Father of Elizabeth, Wife to Iohn the first Lord Mordaunt unto whom his eldest Daughter & Coheire did decend the Greatest part of his Ancient & (?) In heritance. On whose Soule God have Mercy.

There is no mention of his other daughters, there were four in total - Elizabeth, Anne, Constance, and Audrey; nor of his wife who it is believed may have died 3 years earlier in 1490. Though a wife is mentioned in his will but we do not know when the will was written, though the National Archives dates it to June 1493.

Image of Henry de Vere's Will from the National Archives. Copyright Public Domain

John Bloxham, Chantry Priest, Died 1519

The Will of Henry de Vere

Below is the full translation of Henry de Vere's last will and testament:

Testamentum & ultima Voluntas Henrici Vere.

To all trew Christen pepul, to whom this present Writing shall come, see or here, Henry Vere of Addington Knight sendeth greteing in our Lord evalersting. Know ye, Me the foreseyd Henry my last Will and Testament is, That the Will of my Fadyr be performed, if any be behynd. Alsoe I will, that six Pounds yerely be paid out of my Fee-simple-Land to my Chantre, for a Preste there to sing for ever, for me and my Auncestors; I will, that my Obsequies be performyd yerely be the same Preste, and five Pence to be delivered to five poor men in the Worshepe of the five wounds of Christ, and once in the Yere a....... for all my Auncestors, and to dele five Pence to five poor pepul in the Worchepe of the five sorrows of our Lady. I will, that my Chantre Preste say daily in the seid Cherch or Cherchyard Placebo and Dirige, and our Ladys Psalter, except a lawful scuse lett him. Alsoe I will, that my Tombe be made in our Ladys Chappell, with a Vault in the Wall, of Alybaster, and the Tombe of the same, with a Picter insolid on them. I will, that III(3) Trantalls be song for me be my seventh day, whensoever it plese God that I depart the World. Alsoe I will, that if I owe any man any money, that it be payed; And alsoe if any man can or will say that I have done him wrong, or withhould any money from him in the way of bargaynyng or communing, let him be agreed with as ye here the Cause.

Alsoe I will, that my Wyfe have twenty five Marks of Quit-Rent out of the Mannor of Thrapston, Lands and Tenements, or twenty Pounds in Land during hyr life, and that she have twenty Mark in money for hyr Chambre, so that she aske, ne take no stofe, out of the Mannor of Addington.

Alsoe I will, that as in Shepe, Nete and allodyr Cattell she have hyr part accordyng to the Lawe, and let hyr chuse whedyr she will have twenty Pound in Land or the said Quit-Rente. Alsoe I will, that she have the two littel Salts that goe daily abroad, with the Silver Spones, and a Pese that Thomas Ashe have. Alsoe I will, that all such Goods as I have in the Mannor of Addington unbequest, remayne to the said Mannor while the World last, or the said Goods endure, that is to say, Bedding, Chests, Tables, Brasse, Pewter, and a Coffer of Plate, with Harnesse, Gold Rings, Owches, and a Chene of Gold, with other Jewels in the same Coffer. Alsoe I will, that my Dawter Elizabeth have the same Mannor in parte of hyr Chose, and all my purchased Land in the same Towne, and also in Addington parva more than hyr chose, to meynteyn the seyd Mannor. Alsoe I will, that my Dawters, Anne, Constance and Audre have an odyr Coffer called a Gardewyn, with certain Plate, a Chene, Girdyll, and odyr Stoffe, to be partyd among them, when they come to Age; and if the one dye, the t' other to depart it; than if one dye, the t'other to have all; if they all depart, the said Coffer to remain to the Mannor again.

Alsoe I will, that William Marbyry have the Rule and the gyding of my Children, till they come to Age to gyde themselves. Alsoe I will, that the said William have the Receits of my Land till the said Children come to lawful Age, alsoe the kepyng of all other moveable Goods, that I have bequeathed to them; and when they come to lawful Age, or els happyn to be marry'd, then to deliver to them syche as I have besett them, as he think most profit to them.

Alsoe if it happe the said William Marbyry decesse ere all this be fulfilled and perform∣ed, then I will that the foresaid William Marbyry to chose or to assigne such a person or persons as he can bethink best, with the avise of Mr. John Bloxham, if he be then alive, or els of Sir Thomas Thornton now Parson of Addington.

Alsoe I will, that if it happe my Children all decesse and noe Issue of them, then I will that my Goods and Stoffe in my Mannor of Addington, and odyr not delivered to them be sould, and done for my soule, and the soules of my Fadyr and my Modyr and all Christen soules: and if there be any of nere kin, that have need in their Marriage, I will that they be hopyd, and succuryd before odyrs.

Alsoe I will, that eche of my Sisters have ten Shillings, and eche of their Children six Shillings eight Pence; alsoe William Marbyry during his life three Pounds six Shillings eight Pence. Alsoe Robert Marbyry to be Steward of all my Lands, haveing for his Fee six and twenty Shillings eight Pence for terme of life. Alsoe I will, that my Servaunts that will byde till our Lady Day shall have their Wages, and eche of them three Shillings four Pence over their Wages.

Alsoe I will, that John Daundely have every Yere three Shillings four Pence to pray for me dureing his life.

Alsoe any Preste that comes to the Day of my Beriall, seventh Day, or Months, every one six Pence a pese: Alsoe every odyr Clarke two Pence.

Alsoe I will, and I charge my Children, that they nor none of them, nor no odyr shall troble ne vex William Marbyry whom I have made Receyver of my Londes and of all odyr Goods, for to call him to accompt or reckynnyng, but to make it after his owne Conscience, and soe I put my trust in him.

Alsoe I will, that there be given twenty Shillings to the Abbey of Crowland to pray for me. Item, to Sir Thomas Whotton six Shillings eight Pence besides his Wages.

Alsoe I will, that if that Maister William Marbyry may not have the Rule ne the Marriage of my Children to syche as he will with his counseil, so if any of my Children will not be rulyd be him, then my Executors shall have my purchased Land in their kepeing and possession unto the time that my Will be fulfilled, and than to gyff hit to them, or one of them, as they think best in all manner of things, the Stoffe both Plate and all odyr to dispose them for my soule.

Alsoe I will, that William Dounhall have the Lond that I shuld have in Harawld, for the Wyfe of William Milner terme of hyr life, as they of Harawld and I have agre.

Alsoe I will, that myn Executors be suffred to receyve the profitts as well of all my Londs in Fee-tayl, as of my Londs in Fee-simple, ....... my Children to be kept and maryed be their assents, then I will all such Goods as I have assigned to remaine in the Mannor of Addington aforesaid, be taken and kept be my said Executors, and the profitts of my Londs in Fee-simple unto the time my Children be of reasonable Age, and then to dispose the said Goods and profitts of Londs after their discretion, as they find cause and se my Childrens disposition.

Provided alway, that and my said Executors may not have and receyve the revenue and profitts of Londs aforesaid to performe this my last Will, then I will they see it performyd with my moveable Goods, and the revenues and profitts of my Fee-simpul Lands.

seal of Henry de Vere]


Lower Brockhampton House, Herefordshire

Built in the late 13thCentury it is a rare example of largely unchanged medieval manor house 

Image courtesy of The National Trust

14th century Kinwarton Dovecote, Warwickshire

Able to house 580 birds and with a pivoting ladder

Image courtesy of the National Trust

The Medieval Manor 1493

Though the medieval manor does not survive we are fortunate in that a detailed inventory was taken of the manor house at the end of the life of Henry de Vere, Lord of the Manor, in 1493. This gives us not only detailed information about the rooms within the manor house but also an insight into the man and the wealth of a Northamptonshire land owner. The inventory is part of the records of the Stopford-Sackville collection from Drayton House, also formerly a de Vere family estate.

In 1954, P. A. Kennedy produced a detailed and thoroughly researched article regarding the inventory, which was published in the Northamptonshire Records Society, journal “Northamptonshire Past & Present” of that year. Much of the following information is taken from that article. The original article can be found at NP & P, Vol 2, No 1 (1954)

Henry had lived through the Wars of the Roses and had fought at the Battle of Bosworth Field, where King Richard III died and England was moving from the medieval into an era of enlightenment. He even possessed two printed books, printed books had only been produced in England since 1490, so was clearly a “modern” man.

The manor house that Henry de Vere and his ancestors had lived in must have undergone many changes over the centuries, indeed there is nothing to say that the manor house of 1493 was even in the same place as the earlier presumed Saxon hall. The remains could even be under the existing manor. What we do know is that the house consisted of 16 separate rooms so clearly was not insubstantial.

From the details of the inventory and from earlier records, the Manor at this time would therefore appear to be a two storey house with a third floor, garret (or attic) chamber. 

There were gardens, outbuildings - stables etc -  and a dovecote. A dovecote would most likely to have been a substantial stone or part wooden building, able to house hundreds of birds. Example still standing are large, solidly built structures.

There is a lot of circumstantial evidence pointing to the area around Home Farm as being the site of the original Medieval manor, and most likely the earlier Anglo-Saxon hall. However in 1719 John Bridges started work on his History of Northamptonshire, however he died in 1724 before it was completed; and the first volume of his work was not published until 1761. The house which we refer to as Great Addington Manor was built in 1609, however in Bridges's history there is an interresting entry:

"Between this (Great Addington) and Little Addington is the manor house, inhabited by a tenant, pleasantly seated amongst woods, with a stream of water running by it."

This is only written reference to a manor house that gives specific location information. It clearly pinpoints the location to be between the two villages and near a stream. It also makes clear that the house is occupied by a tenant and not the local land owner. This is most likely therefore to be site at Home Farm. 

The Property & Possession of Henry de Vere

Great Addington Manor Inventory 1493

This inventory, produced in 1493 by Richard Russell, general apparitor,  not only gives us a list of all his possessions, it also gives a detailed insight to enable us to understand how the family lived, eat and slept. As such it is one of, if not the most, illuminating documents in the history of Great Addington.

The inventory shows the riches of the family, “a chain of gold with a St. Anthony cross, a necklace set with pearls and gold”, and also through the centuries comes a glimpse of normality, with references to some mattresses and bedlinen being “sore worn”, or such ordinariness of a cupboard of broken pots and pans. The inventory is a thorough and practical assessment of the worldly goods at the end of the knights life.

John Bloxham, the Chantry and family priest, must have been close to de Vere, for Bloxham had his own room, "Master Blokesomes chamber" in the house. When he died Henry de Vere owed him 51 shillings . Henry by his will bequeathed £6 yearly to the chantry priest to sing masses for his soul, which Bloxham would have received for nearly 30 years. 

Henry had made his own arrangement for his memorial in addition to the chantry, his will states  "Also I will that my tombe be made in our Lady's Chappell, with a vault in the wall of alybaster, and tomb of the same with a Picter in solid on them". The “picture in solid” is the carved alabaster recumbent figure.

The term “chamber” is used throughout the inventory to describe any room that could function as a combination of both living or sleeping room.  A bed with a mattress, sheets, and blankets, was the most expensive piece of furniture in most homes and they were often mentioned in wills as in this case. The best beds often occupied a prominent position in the area we would call a living room. This room was the family gathering place, where the master and mistress slept, ate, and worked during the winter. It would be unusual to have a room specifically only for sleeping in.

Household Furniture & Decoration

One of the most noticeable thing about the furniture in the house is the number of beds and chests, and the great shortage of every other item. There were 15 bedsteads in most of the upstairs rooms, and there were 15 chests scattered through the house - one in the chapel, three in the closet, four in the parlour-chamber, and seven in the great chamber. There were two almeries, but these are cupboards used to store food.

The chests were the only storage pieces available in the whole house, and it is obvious that the chests had to contain many things such as the clothing, linen and silver. Tables were not at all common, there being two trestle tables in the hall and another two in the parlour, but there are none elsewhere; tables were used solely for meals, and none are supplied for bedrooms or even in the kitchen premises.

Another thing that is odd to us is the lack of chairs or seating in the building. There is a single chair in the hall, but probably there were fixed benches running the length of the walls which would not be listed in an inventory of as they were not moveable – any fixed shelving in rooms would also have not been included in the inventory. Five joined (held together with wood and not nails) stools were in the parlour, but there are none elsewhere, and these five would have been used at the table for meals. There are single chairs in the hall, parlour chamber, and also in Master Marbury's chamber. The chair in the hall and parlour were most likely for the use of the master of the house.

As late as 1580 chairs were nearly always made singly, and were reserved solely for the master and the mistress of the house, sets of chairs becoming popular in the seventeenth century.

With this great shortage of chairs, stools, and forms, it is clear that a chest, if large enough, was used on occasion as a spare seat. In all other rooms there was nothing else at-all to sit on. If you were not working or eating, you either attended the master of the house in the parlour or in his great chamber, or else you went to bed.

Soft furnishings were relatively plentiful though expensive in most rooms, especially bedrooms, but there were definite exceptions. Though “carpets” are mentioned in a number of rooms, these were not placed on the floor as rushes or matting was undoubtedly used in the hall, but was of too little worth to be mentioned separately in the inventory. Carpets were instead placed on top of tables or cupboards to protect the wooden surface. The bedrooms and probably the parlour, as well as the kitchen premises, would have had bare floors.  

There was a good supply of "hangings” which were quite large pieces of cloth hanging on the walls, though not covering the complete wall, and often at this date painted with religious subjects, a saint, a martyr, or a story from the Gospels. In this house hangings are found in nearly every bedroom and were fairly valuable, about 5shillings worth in each room, but unfortunately no detail as to their patterns or images is supplied. Only in the great chamber is "stained cloth" mentioned, which was a common type-of wall hanging, often called" bastard staining", of linen or coarser material painted in imitation of tapestry; it is reasonable to assume that the hangings in the other rooms were quite plain. These wall hangings greatly decreased the draughts in the bedrooms.

Cushions are to be found in two rooms, six for the hall and twelve for the great chamber-the principal bedroom which was always used as an audience chamber. Though some of these may have been stored in the chests, it is probable that they would have been laid on the top of the seven chests, which were used for seats. A " banker" is mentioned in the hall, which is a long and hard form of cushion, and must have been on a fixed bench.

Bedsteads at this period were very simple affairs. Resting on a net of cord threaded between the sides of the bedstead were the featherbed (an expensive mattress), bolster, sheets and blankets, with a coverlet of arras (cloth made at Arras in France) or tapestry for the principal beds, and quilted coverlet for the rest.

Featherbeds and bedsteads (particularly good quality ones) and associated bed linen were expensive items and often appear in wills at this time. Examination of the inventory shows that there were more -sheets and coverlets than were necessary for the number of bedsteads, and it is probable that here as in many other houses of the period there were also cheap truckle beds on which were placed mattresses, used for less important persons of the household, and children.

Cooking and Eating

It is impossible here to describe the uses of all the pots and pans, but it is worthwhile to draw attention to the five spits. It would have been normal to have a number of different shape spits for the different types of meat to be roasted. There would have been one or two "cage" spits, where a bird would be placed inside the iron cage at the centre of the spit axle, so that it would not be ruined by being skewered through on the spit itself. In open hearth cooking everything that was not boiled or fried was roasted, and the spits dealt with every size, from pig to pigeon. In De Vere's time all spits were turned by hand. Because of the heat from the open fire, posnets, frying-pans, spoons and ladles all had very long handles.

The eating utensils listed are relatively simple, because food was eaten largely by hand. Everybody would have had their own pocket knife and spoon and would have kept them on their person. There are some ginger forks, ginger being a very popular delicacy, but there are no other forks. Forks as personal eating implement was not adopted until the 18th century in England. There were two sets of pewter tableware, consisting of chargers, large plates or platters, to carry the food, plates, dishes, and “saucers” - these were sauceboats to contain different sauces served during the meal. Food was mainly eaten by hand, therefore it was also necessary to be able to clean your hands so it is not surprising to find pewter ewers and "laver basins". All these items are to be found in the brass chamber. The nine diaper towels (with the other linen in the parlour chamber) were used to dry the hands after washing in the laver basins.

Land, Animals and Crops

At this time inventories such as this did not include the land that was owned or managed by the individual, so we do not have the details of the de Vere land holdings at this time. 

Silver & Valuables

The last inventory items to examine are the valuables which are grouped together and not listed per room.

The inventory shows what to us is a great amount of silver, though chiefly in drinking cups. Undoubtedly these cups were used on special occasions, but a very high proportion of the total value of the goods and chattells of Henry is devoted to silver. The simple reason is that silver was a usable way to store accumulated wealth. There were no banks at this time and so surplus wealth would be stored in the form of silver or gold, and in every inventory of persons of any means there is always to be found far a lot of silver. The silversmith's labour was fairly cheap, silver was not, and there was a constant melting down and re-using of the silver as wealth passed from one hand to another.

Firstly there is over £95 in cash, this would be worth about £65,000 today! Enough to buy 68 horses or provide the wages for a skilled craftsmen for ten years. To us this seems a huge amount to have in the house, but as previously mentioned there were no banks operating in a manner we would understand until the 17th century.

The inventory also records that Henry de Vere was owed £50 (circa £34,000) by a John Trussell and £6 14shillings and 4pence (£3,500) by a Nicholas Chambers.

Henry also owed money to others, a total of £62 11s 1d (circa £42,00) and again we have their names and the amounts:

The rest of the valuables in the inventory are recorded in some detail and are treasures indeed, the valuation amounts to over £74,000 today: