Discovery help Accessing the records of the Manorial Documents Register

The Manorial Documents Register (MDR) is the official index to English and Welsh manorial records and provides brief descriptions of documents and details of their locations in public and private hands. A number of counties have been revised and made available online.

For the remaining counties you can visit us to access the MDR on microfilm at The National Archives, or email us.

You can search the data held within the MDR by using the new Manorial Documents Register home page within Discovery, our catalogue.

For more information about the Manorial Documents Register, read our web page on the Manorial Documents Register

1. How do I search for manorial records?

You can search by:

  • manor name
  • parish (for England only)
  • historic county
  • document type
  • date

There are two search types on the homepage for the Manorial Documents Register. You can:

  • search by manor
  • searching for manorial documents

You can also browse our alphabetical list of manors.

How to search by manor

If you select ‘search by manor’, you can search by:

  • standard manor name e.g. Bengeo
  • alternative manor name e.g. Richmond
  • parish (English counties only)
  • historic county (using the drop down list)

Alternatively you can use a combination of the above.

Search by manor name

Use the manor name search box to search by standard manor name or by a variant name. A search using a recognised variant name or alias will bring up results under the standard manor name. For instance, a search for Richmond will bring up results for the Hertfordshire manor of Bengeo.

Find manors within a parish

Use the parish search box to return results relating to a specific parish.

The parish field exists for England in the Manorial Documents Register to enable manors to be identified separately and to distinguish between manors with the same or very similar names, in the same county.

Each manor name is linked to one parish only. This is the ancient ecclesiastical parish in which the demesne lands of the manor lay or the majority of the manor lands were located. However, the counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire have used civil parishes to help researchers due to the sheer size of the ancient ecclesiastical parishes.

No attempt has been made to link a manor name to all the parishes in which lands belonging to the manor may have been located. Where there are several parishes with identical names within one county, a distinction is made between them by adding a further reference in brackets to the parish name.

Manor names in the Manorial Documents Register for Wales are not linked to a parish. This information has not been compiled due to its complexity and the lack of sources.

Find manors within a historic county

Use the county search box to return results relating to a specific historic county by selecting a county from the drop down list. This drop down list provides a list of the historic counties which have been revised and made available online.

For any English counties missing from this list, you can access the MDR on microfilm at The National Archives or email us.

2. Understanding the search results for ‘Search by manor’

Any of the above searches will return a list of manor names, which match your search terms. If you have more than one manor in the search results you can sort by ‘Title – ascending’ to see them arranged alphabetically.

The initial search results will provide the name of the manor with its location (parish and county) and if no records are known to survive for a manor, at this stage you will see the following phrase “No records known to survive”.

The next stage is to select a manor by clicking on the link.

Once you have selected a manor the information is divided into two sections:

  • View details of this record creator
  • Collections

View details of this record creator

This provides details about the location (place and county) of the manor and (if available) the history of the manor with links to any online related resources.

Collections

This section provides a list of all the documents associated with this manor name. It is arranged in chronological order with the earliest first.

A typical manorial record entry will contain the following information:

  • a short description of the document(s)
  • where the document is held
  • the date range of the document(s)
  • a unique catalogue reference – the format of the reference will be different for different archives and institutions but is usually the key to requesting and viewing records

The following references may also be included:

  • ‘Annual Return’ means the information drawn from The National Archives’ Accessions to Repositories survey (many archives regularly take in new records to add to their collections – this process is known as accessioning. Every year, The National Archives collects information about new accessions from 250 archives across Britain and Ireland. This is known as the annual Accessions to Repositories’ survey)
  • MI [Manorial Information] means that the information regarding the location of the document is held on file. For further information, please contact the MDR team OR private: enquiries to The National Archives: Archives Sector Development
  • NRA number e.g. NRA 18628. This indicates that a catalogue of the collection including the document is filed in the National Register of Archives (NRA) located at The National Archives. Users of the MDR researching a particular topographical area may find it helpful to consult the NRA lists, as they may contain references to records which, although not strictly manorial in nature and therefore not included in the MDR, may nevertheless prove useful to their research

What can I do now?

Not every document noted on the MDR will be available for research. You should always check with the relevant repository first before making a visit to view the document.

3. How to search for manorial documents

If you select ‘searching for manorial documents’, you can search by:

  • standard manor name
  • alternative manor name
  • historic county (using the drop down list)
  • parish (English counties only)
  • date (must be used alongside one other search option)
  • type of document (using the drop down menu)

Alternatively you can use a combination of the above.

Search options

You will see a number of fields to help structure your search:

‘Find records of manors containing all these words’

Enter keywords in the search field to search descriptions of the manorial documents as well as the record creator information. You can use this field to search by standard or alternative manor name.

Find records within a historic county

Use the parish search box to return results relating to a specific parish.

Use the county search box to return results relating to a specific historic county by selecting a county from the drop down county list. This drop down lists all of the historic counties in alphabetical order which have been revised and are available online.

For any English counties missing from this list, you can access the MDR on microfilm at The National Archives, orcontact us with your enquiry.

Find specific document types

Select a document type from the drop down menu to search for a specific type of manorial document. For an explanation for each type of manorial document, click on the link “document types” next to the document type drop down menu. The link directs you to the glossary page providing an explanation for each type of manorial document noted in the drop down list.

Search for manorial documents by date

You can search for documents by date range or by specific date. Two fields must be completed for this search to work and the date field should be completed alongside one other field, either “Find records within a county or parish” or “types of documents” or “Find records of manors containing”.

For example if you want to search:

  • all documents dated 1250-1300 noted in the MDR, enter the dates you require in the dates field and add the word ‘MANOR’ in the ‘Find records of manors containing all these words’ search field. This will return the desired results
  • all court rolls dated 1250-1300 noted in the MDR, enter the dates you require in the dates field and select “court roll” from the drop down menu in the “types of documents” field.  This will return results that match your criteria
  • all manorial document dated 1250-1300 for the historic county of Essex noted in the MDR, enter the dates you require in the dates field and select the historic county of Essex from the historic county drop down list, found under “Find records within a county or parish”. This will return results that match your criteria

4. Understanding your search results for ‘Searching for manorial documents’

Search results will be displayed under the ‘Records’ tab which means that record entries or ‘documents’ matching the search criteria will be presented individually rather than grouped together under the manor name.

Once you have selected your search criteria, you can sort your results using the drop down menu above the search results. You can sort by:

  • relevance
  • reference
  • title (ascending and descending)
  • date (ascending and descending)

Sorting is only enabled when there are fewer than 10,000 results. Refine the search (using the filters) to reduce the number of results and enable sorting.

You can use the filters to narrow your search results by date and/or by location (whether it is held by other archives or The National Archives).

What can I do now?

Not every document noted on the MDR will be available for research. You should always check with the relevant repository first before making a visit to view the document.

5. Glossary for Manorial Documents Register

Below is a list of definitions for the types of documents you can find in the Manorial Documents Register.

Document type Definition Descriptive term
Account Manorial accounts of various officials such as reeves, bedells and bailiffs. They are often described in the Latin as compoti. Where the official is not identified, the documents are described as ‘ministers’ accounts’. Accounts of receivers, chamberlains and farmers have not be included on the Manorial Documents Register since these officials presented their accounts under the administration of estates rather than manors. Therefore, they are not manorial documents. Later accounting records, such as cash books, day books and ledgers if they relate to an individual manor are included. Manorial accounts are usually in Latin and use many abbreviations. They are unlikely to contain information about specific individuals. account(s), account roll(s), ministers’ account(s), (named official’s) account(s) eg reeve’s account, account book(s), cash book(s), ledger(s), particular of accounts
Artefact Objects such as steward’s rods and rattles which may have survived with manorial records or have been deposited in repositories individually. steward’s rod (or the name of the specific object)
Boundaries Descriptions of boundaries and papers, correspondence and notes relating to manorial boundaries. Used where the record is not a formal perambulation. See also: Perambulation, Inquisition, Legal papers, Map bounds, boundaries, description of boundaries, papers/notes/agreement/corresp rel to boundaries
Call Call rolls and call books, a type of manor court attendance register. See also: Suit call roll(s), call book(s)
Correspondence Correspondence, usually stewards correspondence, occurring as more than a single item. The subject(s) of the correspondence must be included in the description field. Correspondence relating to the title to the manor is not included on the Manorial Documents Register. correspondence rel to + subject
Court book Formal record of the manorial courts when kept in a volume. Documents describing themselves as court books may only be minutes (rather than formal records) or documents which do not include the record of sessions of the manor court. These have still been described as court books. See also: Court roll, Court file, Minutes, Presentment,Verdict court book(s), index(es) to court books
Court file Formal record of the manor court in file form. The file should include the other papers relating to that particular session of the court e.g. warrant(s), suit roll, jury list, presentments, returns of petty constable. See also: Court roll, Court book, Minutes, Presentment,Verdict court file(s)
Court procedures Volumes and papers containing forms of oaths of officers, forms of keeping court, articles of enquiry to be used at all courts, specimen documents. formulary book, form(s) of oaths of officers, form(s) of keeping courts, forms of articles of enquiry…
Court Roll Formal record of the manor court, whether in roll-form or on sheets of paper. See also: Court book, Court file, Minutes, Presentment,Verdict court roll(s), index(es) to court rolls
Customs Lists of customs and papers, notes and extracts relating to customs. Used where the record is not a formal custumal. See also: Custumal, Survey, Inquisition, Legal papers list of customs, papers/notes/extracts/abstract rel to customs
Custumal An early type of survey which consists of a list of the manor’s tenants with the customs under which each held his house and lands. See also: Customs, Survey custumal(s)
Enfranchisement Papers, files and deeds relating to enfranchisement of copyhold land, resulting from a series of permissive Acts of Parliament in the 19th century, and also to 20th century compulsory enfranchisement. Used for records in The National Archives in series MAF 9 and MAF 20. Although specifically excluded from the Manorial Documents Rules, these have now been included for the sake of completeness. See also: Incidents For papers in private collections – papers and correspondence rel to enfranchisement, deed(s) of enfranchisement
For MAF 9 – deed(s) and award(s) of enfranchisement of copyhold land
For MAF 20 – file(s) of evidence relating to enfranchisement of copyhold land
Essoin Documents separate from the court roll, listing the essoins, or excuses for non-attendance at court. See also: Call, Suit essoins
Estreat Documents which list the fines (customary payments) and amercements (penalty payments) imposed by the manor court to be collected by one of the manorial officials. estreat(s), estreat roll(s)
Extent A type of survey in which every item has a valuation attached to it. Extents take their form from the extenta manerii, and will always describe themselves as extents. They date mainly from the mid-13th century until about the mid-14th century. After this date they are rare but may still be found. Extents attached to Inquisitions post mortem are not included in the Manorial Documents Register. See also: Survey extent(s)
Incidents After compulsory enfranchisement of copyhold land in the 1920s, certain charges and interests in the lands still remained. They were known as manorial incidents. These could be extinguished by payment of compensation by the tenant or copyholder to the lord of the manor. Used for papers relating to manorial incidents, particularly papers relating to compensation for extinguishment of manorial incidents. Used for records in The National Archives in classes MAF 13 and MAF 27. Although specifically excluded from the Manorial Documents Rules, these have now been included for the sake of completeness. See also: Enfranchisement For papers in private collections – papers and correspondence relating to extinguishment of manorial incidents
For MAF 13 – certificate(s)/agreement(s) of compensation for extinguishment of manorial incidents
For MAF 27 – certificate(s) of determination of compensation for extinguishment of manorial incidents
Inquisition Enquiries into specific matters for example, boundaries, commons, or customs, other than the court of survey. The subject of the inquisition must be included in the description field. Inquisitions post mortem are not manorial documents and are not included. See also: Survey, Boundaries, Customs inquisition(s) rel to + subject
Jury Lists of jury in the manorial court. Also used for charges to the jury which are articles of enquiry for a routine court rather than a court of survey or inquisition. See also: Suit, Call jury list, charge to jury
Lease Used for registers of leases and bundles of leases which are only included on the Manorial Documents Register when they occur as a bundle or small group. Leases of the manor as a whole are not included on the Manorial Documents Register. See also: Surrender and Admission leases, register(s) of leases/leaseholders
Legal papers Papers relating to legal matters such as disputes between the tenants and lord over rights and customs. The subject of the dispute should appear in the description field. Disputes over title to a manor are not included. See also: Customs, Boundaries legal papers rel to + subject, incl …(eg case for opinion, case and opinion, depositions)
Map Maps and plans of a manor. The basic description is ‘map’ and no other details such as scale or surveyor are given. If the map has been drawn up to illustrate a particular aspect of the manor such as the location of commons or the extent of encroachments this has been added to the basic description. Maps may accompany surveys or rentals. Numbers included on maps often relate to tables of references which list field names, tenants and acreages. Ordnance Survey maps, although not manorial documents, have been included where they have been marked to show manor boundaries. Volumes of estate maps have not be trawled for maps of manors or parts of manors. See also: Survey, Boundaries, Rental map(s)
Minutes Minutes taken at sessions of the manor court. See also: Court roll, Court book, Court file minutes, minute book(s)
Pains Documents containing a list of ordinances or orders upon the breaking of which, an amercement (payment), or ‘pain’, is imposed. For example, “that the beck which runs between the lordships of Scampston and Wintringham shall be sufficiently scoured and dressed…..as often as it is necessary, by those who ought to do the same on pain for every rood thereof in default 6d”. These documents are sometimes catalogued as ‘ordinances’ in repository lists. By-laws, serve a similar purpose to pains but are more general. By-laws list the ordinances but do not include a specific pain or penalty. For example, “No one shall let their pig roam on the crops”. By-laws are included under the keyword pains but described as by-laws in the description field. See also: Customs pains, pains book(s), list of pains laid, by-laws
Particular A description of the manor often written by the steward, and accompanied by a valuation. It is distinct from a survey made by a court of survey. Printed sale particulars of manors are not included on the Manorial Documents Register. See also: Survey, Valuation particular(s), particular and valuation(s)
Perambulation A document created as a result of the practice of perambulation, or ‘beating’ the bounds of a manor. See also: Boundaries, Survey perambulation
Presentment List of matters to be dealt with by the court. Drawn up by the jury, sometimes in advance of the court. Includes the phrase “we present that…..”. Used for presentments which are separate from the court roll. Because the headings of both types of documents may be very similar, care must be taken to distinguish presentments from court rolls. See also: Court roll, Court book, Court file presentments(s)
Probate Used for documents including wills, inventories and administrations created when a manor had its own probate jurisdiction; in other words was a ‘peculiar’ of probate jurisdiction. See also: Will wills, inventories, administrations, probate register(s), probate act book(s), papers rel to probate
Rent Used for a document which lists tenants and their rent taken in a given year. These terms should be used for accounts of rents due/received, and arrears of rent/chief rent due/received. See also: Rental, Survey, Tenants, Residents rent roll(s), account(s) of rents due/received, account(s) of arrears of rent(s) due/received
Rental A rental is a document listing tenants and rents payable, often used repeatedly over a period of years. Where an estate contained a group of manors, estate rentals, although not manorial documents, have been included for the information they may contain on manorial tenants. A further description of the subject of the rental may be included. For example, copyhold, cottage rents. See also: Rent, Survey, Tenants, Residents rental(s)
Residents Resiant rolls, lists of resiants (residents) and lists of inhabitants. See also: Rental, Rent, Tenants, Suit, Call resiant roll(s), list(s) of resiants/residents, list(s) of inhabitants
Steward Use for documents created by the steward of a manor including steward’s memoranda books. steward’s memoranda book(s), steward’s papers incl…
Suit Lists and rolls of tenants who owe suit to the court. See also: Jury, Call, Tenants suit roll(s), list(s) of suitors
Surrender and Admission Surrender and admission was the process by which transfers of copyhold land were made in the manorial courts. Tenants of copyhold land were not free to do as they wished with their land. Copyhold tenants had to seek the lord’s permission to buy, sell, inherit, sublet, exchange or mortage their land. Land would be surrendered into the hands of the lord and the next tenant admitted. This procedure was written down in the court roll, and the tenant given a copy of the relevant entry as proof of his tenure. Hence the name ‘copyhold’ for land held by copy of the court roll. The keyword is used for bundles, or groups of surrenders only, admissions only, and surrenders and admissions together, which may also include conditional surrenders and powers of attorney to surrender. It is also used for registers of surrenders and admissions, indexes to such registers and lists of surrenders and admissions. Only where this type of document appears in numbers of more than 10 have the been included in the Manorial Documents Register. In this number they may be regarded as working papers, perhaps gathered together by the steward. Documents in smaller numbers and single items have not been included and are regarded as title deeds. Surrenders and admissions may copy court roll and estreat. Most documents so listed will have been checked to ensure that they were not copies of court rolls or estreats of fines and amercements. surrenders, admissions, surrenders and admissions, register(s)/list(s) of surrenders and admissions conditional surrenders, powers of attorney to surrender, index(es) to register(s) of surrenders and admissions list(s)/register(s) of surrenders to the use of a will
Survey A survey is a written description of a manor consisting of descriptions of boundaries, customs and a rent roll. A special court called a court of survey was held, a jury empanelled and a list of questions or “articles of enquiry” drawn up. The presence of these components of the survey is included in the Manorial Documents Register in the document description. The documents mainly follow the format suggested by Fitzherbert and Norden. ‘Survey’ has not be used as a generic descriptive term. ‘Custumal’ and ‘extent’, which both describe types of surveys, appear as keywords in their own right. Commissions to survey and articles of enquiry for survey, where these survive as separate documents, have been noted on the Manorial Documents Register. See also: Map, Survey, Parliamentary, Extent, Terrier,Particular, Perambulation, Custumal, Rental, Rent,Inquisition, Valor survey(s) + (presentment, bounds, rent roll), commission to survey, articles of enquiry for survey.
Survey, Parliamentary Surveys of Crown and escheated manors made during the Commonwealth period, in preparation for the sale of Crown lands. The documents are in The National Archives but copies will occasionally be found among collections of family and estate records. They are in English as opposed to Latin and follow a standard format. They are not manorial documents but have been included in the Manorial Documents Register because of their usefulness. See also: Survey survey
Tenants Used for lists of tenants, including lists of copyholders or freeholders. See also: Residents, Rental, Rent, Suit, Call, Jury list(s) of tenants, list of copyhold tenants, list of freehold tenants
Terrier A terrier is a description of a manor which follows a topographical arrangement. See also: Survey, Extent, Rental, Rent, Map, Particular terrier(s)
Valor A valor is a document which sets out the income and expenses of an estate in summary form, sometimes showing how much each manor could be expected to provide. Valors were based on manorial and receivers’ accounts. See also: Valuation valor(s)
Valuation Use for documents found separately from, although often alongside, particulars. See also: Valor valuation(s)
Verdict Documents containing the verdict, or conclusion of the jury after deliberations on court business. Files or bundles separate from the court rolls. They often relate to ownership or inheritance of land. For example, “we the jury aforesaid find that Jane Dewes died since the last court and that Jane Dixon is next heir to all that messuage…..” verdict(s)
Will Registers of wills or bundles of wills which have been used in the administration of copyhold land. In particular, where a will has been used in the process of a surrender to the uses of a will. Single wills are not included. See also: Probate will(s), register(s) of wills, index(es) of wills
Wreck Used for papers and volumes which contain details of wrecks and the profits thereof. wreck book(s), papers rel to right of wreck