‘Launch of the Manor’ - new register documents rural life in Northumberland

Cllr Cath Homer, cabinet member for culture, arts, leisure and tourism at Northumberland County Council; His Grace the Duke of Northumberland; Professor Paul Harvey, chair of the national advisory panel for manorial records; and Sue Wood, head of collections at Northumberland Archives.
Cllr Cath Homer, cabinet member for culture, arts, leisure and tourism at Northumberland County Council; His Grace the Duke of Northumberland; Professor Paul Harvey, chair of the national advisory panel for manorial records; and Sue Wood, head of collections at Northumberland Archives.

A comprehensive register of details about hundreds of ‘Manors’ in Northumberland has been launched this week by Northumberland Archives.

The Manorial Documents Register for Northumberland was launched in The Great Hall at Hexham Abbey in the presence of invited guests including His Grace the Duke of Northumberland and Professor Paul Harvey, chair of the national advisory panel for manorial records.

Bringing the register up to date has been part of a national project, carried out locally by Northumberland Archies and funded by The National Archives and The Federation of Family History Societies.

The manorial system began in the 11th century and provided a framework for the lives of much of the rural population of England. The lord of the manor had the right to hold a court for his local tenants to facilitate management of the manor as a social and economic unit.

The court business was recorded on the court roll and early manorial courts used pieces of parchment which were stitched together to form the roll. Many other manorial documents were produced which have been identified and recorded during this project.

Records date from the 13th century and contain information on family and social change, industrial and agricultural development, local government, land ownership, crime, housing and property.

Northumberland had 396 manors and 39 baronies and records have been documented for 274 of these. The Register remains open so that newly discovered documents can continue to be added.

Coun Cath Homer, cabinet member for culture, arts, leisure and tourism at Northumberland County Council welcomed guests to the launch of the Manorial Documents Register.

She said: “The launch of the register for Northumberland is the culmination of three years of work by Northumberland Archives staff, and has led to the discovery of many fascinating and previously unknown records

“The register holds a wealth of information on social and urban development, business, family names, land and property ownership, finance, diet, agriculture and even crime, from medieval times to the twentieth century.

“These will be of interest to many people from academics to private researchers, which is why we have invited people from a number of areas, including Universities and community history groups to the launch.

“We are also grateful to many depositors of information for the register, some of whom are also in the audience today.

“We are very keen to promote these collections and increase awareness of the manorial records as an important resource for the history of the people and communities of Northumberland. That is why work doesn’t stop here, and we are in the process of submitting a funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund to support an outreach project that would involve workshops, volunteer transcription, social media, a travelling exhibition and school activities.”

The register is fully accessible online on The National Archives Discovery site at discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/manor-search as well as in a catalogue at Northumberland Archives, where a dedicated manorial space is planned in the searchroom.

For more information about Northumberland Archives visit: www.northumberlandarchives.com