It's not something you hear about much these days ... but back in 1436 cattle rustling was a major problem.
And crimes like this are revealed in a new book published by Yorkshire Archaeological Society.
Behind the somewhat dry title of Wakefield Court Roll 1436-37 it gives a snapshot of daily life at that time.
The book includes the records of the courts of the Manor of Wakefield from October 1436 to September 1437. The Manor, owned at the time by Richard Plantagenet (1411-1460) Duke of York, stretched from Normanton in the east to Todmorden in the west. Most of the 23 sessions included were held in Wakefield where there was a Moot Hall, but two took place in Brighouse and two in Kirkburton.
The business at these four sessions focused on minor criminal activity with township constables bringing their accusations before a jury. On October 23, 1436, William Oxlee cited a number of people who had ‘made affray’, or picked a fight, before going on to his most significant charge. A gang of 12 men, most of them living outside the Manor, had come “by night, in force, arms and warlike array into the lordship to Cumberworth” and had taken 19 oxen and cows belonging to local people.
The principal charge brought to these courts was against those (usually women) who brewed and sold ale ‘against the statute’ but this appears to be a form of licensing. But a case came before the court in Brighouse on October 22, 1436, of one William Holdsworth who had dug out stone from the lord’s land to use for roofing purposes. Six months later, in April 1437, John Brave junior was accused of throwing down a market-stall in Kirburton – and throwing it down violently.
The same month two men were accused of poaching. They took ‘kippers’ (breeding salmon) from the upper reaches of the Calder.
Take a look below to see a gallery of criminals nabbed around 100 years ago - and the crimes (and punishments) that were peculiarly of their time.
Court rolls are a significant source for economic, family, legal and social historians. The medieval rolls are written in Latin and on parchment. Their publication in modern English, with a scholarly introduction to each volume, is a major enterprise.
The 1436-7 roll is the 17th volume in a series overseen by the Yorkshire Archaeological Society’s Court Rolls Section which was founded in 1974 with the specific task of bringing to publication the Society’s highly valuable archive of Wakefield Manor Court Rolls.
It was prepared for publication by the late Dr Constance Fraser (1928-2013), a founder member of the section and, from 1984, the general editor of the series. The book serves as a memorial to Dr Fraser and includes her biography and an extensive bibliography of her work on other important medieval records.
Wakefield Court Roll 1436-37 is available from Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Claremont, 23 Clarendon Road, Leeds, LS2 9NZ at £22.25p including UK postage and packing.