|Wrington Village Records
Studies of the history of a Somerset Village
Manorial accounts, 1343-4 and 1491-2
Pages 18 - 19
Source: Xerox copies of original MSS. at Bristol Records Office, Ref: AC/MIO/5 & 14.
The account rolls of Wrington for 1343-4 and 1491-2 are in the usual form of a long roll made up of pieces of vellum sewn together. The stitches joining the pieces together could easily be seen in the Xerox copies. Both have elaborate, ornate lettering at the head of the front of each roll. They are dated in each case by the year of office of the current Abbot of Glastonbury: the earlier one being "the first year of Abbot WaIter de Monyngton" (1343) and the later one "the 35th year of Lord John Selwood, Abbot" (1491). Each account is for one year from the Feast of St. Michael (29th September).
Each account was probably dictated by the reeve (the official, usually a local villager, in charge of agricultural routine on the manor) using tallies as an "aide memoire", to a professional scribe-in this instance, probably a monk from Glastonbury, since the standard of writing is very high. Each entry is in Latin, while the figures, not in columns but placed at random in the text, are all in Roman numerals.
Such accounts were made by the reeve for the inspection of the bailiff (professional "estate manager" and chief resident official of the manor). The account, when drawn up, was examined by auditors who compared it with last year's account, and with those of other estates; made corrections, crossed out any items or figures which they thought unreasonable or incorrect, and altered them to what they thought they should have been, before adding up and entering the totals in the spaces left for them. Each account was, therefore, more a "state of affairs" than an accurate profit and loss account. The reeve and bailiff were expected to pay any profits over to Glastonbury, but to meet any losses themselves.
The account for 1491 has an entry recording something of this process : "Item to the new reeve and the son of William Triwbody, 3s. 4d., to each of them 20d. Given to the External Cellarer and the auditors of the account, 4 clerks, 13s. 4d., to each of them 3s. 4d. And to Henry Edwards, servant to the said Cellarer, 6s. 8d."
Each roll follows a set layout, with the front giving the name of the manor, date, officials, arrears of rent, etc., from last year, and then the cash income and expenditure during the year. The back of each roll comprises a full list of stock and produce of the manor, noting changes and yields over the year; with an inventory of live and dead stock on the lord's demesne, much of which can be cross-referenced to the corresponding cash values given on the front of the roll. The rolls are each about seven feet long.
It will be seen that these manorial accounts are complicated documents to handle: particularly as the original handwriting and Latin - often abbreviated almost to shorthand - had first to be reduced to a coherent English text. This in fact formed the major part of the project. Nonetheless, the value of the accounts becomes clear when the reeve's concern for his pocket is carried to fractions of a penny, to the last piglet, or the final egg paid in as church-scot. Where the 1238 Custumal aimed to lay down the rights and duties of tenants as a precedent for all time, these accounts record the actual ups and downs of a year on the manor. It is these details of life and work which have been studied on this occasion, rather than the purely financial aspect of the accounts.
1343-4 ACCOUNT ROLL.
The main fact which emerges from the 1343-4 account is that at this time Wrington is an integral part of the internal economy of Glastonbury Abbey. It is, in fact, very little more independent than during the time of the Custumal of 1238. Payments and donations are still made in kind to the Lardarium. Some of these are rather amusing: "Item received 300 eggs as the rent of the Hayward of Wrington to Easter. ...And accounted for by grant to the Lardarium of Glastonbury, 300 eggs by tally," - a somewhat difficult commodity to transport, one would imagine, under the conditions of the day.
This is the first year of a new Abbot, Walter de Monyngton, and he came on a visit which lasted two weeks and caused such a bustle and stir, and had such far-reaching effects on the life of the Manor during the year, that a detailed analysis has been made of it.