Medieval Rishton

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Part 4, Medieval Times

Most manors in England in the 14th Century worked on "The Three Field System", which means that all the land in the manor was divided into 3 great blocks, each block being known as a field.

These fields were divided further into strips of land, and each tenant owned a certain number of strips in each of the blocks. No man had his strips lying side by side. His acres consisted of strips scattered over the whole field, so that each man might share both good and bad land.

On strip after strip over the whole field would be grown wheat, the next having barley or oats, the third fallow, covered with the summers growth was used by the manors cattle for grazing. The common plan for the land was to grow wheat on the previous years fallow land, oats or barley on the previous years wheat land, and the previous years oats land was left fallow.

A closer study of our local documentation revealed that Rishton was outside the area where the fields were left fallow.

In 1452 Henry de Rishton of the Dunkenhalgh and Sidebeet, tells us that the manor now consists of four parts; 3 belonging to Edmund Talbot, and the other "is the inheritance and ryght of the said beseker". The four parts are "oxgange (1 oxgange = 15 acres) lande and line mene (lies common) dalte in lande doles and medew doles, saving the Townhey that lieth undisservered". The Townhey is the only common block, or field, mentioned at any time. This field was the heyfield until the 1st of August each year, when it became the common land for all the cattle on the estate.

"Lande doles and medew doles" were the doles, or strips, on which the men grew their supplies of corn and hay. These strips were placed near the manor house of the estate and after the crops were harvested the cattle belonging to the men on the estate were allowed to graze there also. There was other land as well which was used as permanent common. On the hillsides, moors, woods, and roadside verges, the grass would also be used. One man was appointed to tend the cattle and make sure they did not break into the medew doles and lande doles, and at a later time he was spoken of as the pinder. The Townhey occupied a large part of the village, and probably stretched from somewhere around the reservoir area to were the canal bridge is now on Hermitage and High Street.

Where the strips touched the common land they were cut at right angles to them, and were known as "Buttes". this word is still in use today in Rishton, Stourton Street, York Mill, and Livesey Street having been built on part of the Goosiebutts land.

The strips which met the Townhey at this point were cut to run down Norden valley. Other similar strips meeting the Townhey were then known as "Wetbuttes" and "Drybuttes", and still another, covered with brambles this time, was known as "Brerybuttes".

Goosiebutts is of doubtful meaning, it is open to question if Goosie is the name of a bird or a personal noun of Saxon days. Geese, like doves, have played an important part in the domestic economy of our ancestors, especially during the winter months, and it is only natural that the rights of feeding in this or that place should find a record in the names.

Rents for land were paid in various ways during these times, In a document dated the 20th January 1320, we find "Henry de Rishton yields one fourth of Rishton (Sidebeet) to Richard (who was also a de Rishton). Richard holds it of Henry for the life of Henry, and pays rent of one rose, and does all services". The rose was possibly a rose noble, a coin which was in use at that time.

In the document of 1295, Adam, the son of Utred de Churche, gives Gilbert de Riston all his land of Chirche, to be held of de Lacy at a rent of one grain of pepper.

Later still in another document of 1390 we find "a half a rent of 1d, or a pair of gloves" for one oxgang of land.

Early documentation from the 13th Century shows us that "housbote" and "heybote"were often granted along with the land. This enabled the tenants to gather up certain types of timber to patch up their one room dwellings (housbote), and also gave them the privilege of using branches to form a rough fence round the land on which the crops were growing (heybote).

It is somewhat strange that these times include no information about any peasants revolt around 1381, does this mean the villagers were peaceful and happy? Nor do we obtain any mention of the "Black Death", did Rishton avoid the plague?

The doles or strips of land, belonging to the de Rishtons of Dunkenhalgh are given in a document of 1348 as lying together, this tells us that perhaps strips of land were being exchanged so that their strips all lied at the side of each other, this would have formed a small field or enclosure. This was called "making a close" and was unusual in this period of time. It became more common in the 16th Century, mainly because of its many advantages.

The word Close suggests some advantages from this kind of land arrangement. In the "close" crops were sheltered from the cold North winds, straying cattle, and the seeds of thistles and dandelions which are carried in the wind.

Our Close Nook, Close Brow, and Close Nook Farm derive from this, although it is improbable a farm was here so early. The farm may have been built around the 16th Century when the demand for wool started growing.


Parish Church and School Jubilee 1927 by Carlton Noble.