The composite manor of Brent: a study of a large wetland-edge estate up to 1350



A fascinating alluvial landscape dominated by Brent Knoll, plus surviving surveys from 1189,1235,1260 and 1307, intermittent account-rolls from 1257 and court-rolls from 1265, together render the ancient estate of Brent with its component manors of East Brent, Lympsham, Berrow and South Brent, worthy of investigation into its medieval landscape, demesne economy and people up to 1350. The perspective is widened in Chapter 2 to consider the implications of archaeological evidence for the exploitation of the landscape prior to c. 500 AD, while charter evidence, place-names and Domesday are used to illumine the integrity of the estate prior to 1189. Chapter 3 examines the nature of the landscape and the implications of its wetland, giving a context for the analysis of demesne and people. Chapter 4 commences with an analysis of demesne inputs such as expenditure, labour and land, and outputs such as rents, perquisites and sales. An evaluation of productivity enables the diminishing significance of demesne cultivation to be measured against the increase in overall income, especially from rents. Among the factors behind this economic shift are poor yields, population growth and the demand for land. The ability to raise income from rents gives the lord a strong interest in enhancing his tenants' ability to produce that income.
In Chapter 5 examination of landholdings indicates an increase in land supply in excess of population growth. Models of income based on the size of a ferdel are considered, leading to investigations into the significance of pastoral income for these and smaller holdings as well as the real size of tenancies. The demand for land is reflected by levels of entry fines and also in the large number of landless males, whose presence in the court rolls assists in a short demographic study, followed by a consideration of the opportunities for employment. A favourable impression is gained of the economy of the people of Brent, based, inter alia, on lay subsidies, the availability of land, minimal evidence for hardship and the significance of Brent's place in the wider economy of the Glastonbury barony. The concluding chapter deals with the nature of the partnership between lord and tenant, both of whom had a mutual interest in the sustainability of the estate, and by working in tandem enhanced their potency to improve their prosperity.





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Harrison, J. D., “The composite manor of Brent: a study of a large wetland-edge estate up to 1350,” Centre for Regional and Local History Theses and Papers, accessed February 4, 2023,