Manuscripts and Special Collections

Property Ownership: View Documents

Click on the links to view images of the original document, alongside transcripts and translations where available.

Transcripts and translations for manuscript items are also available for download:


Document 1

Me D 4/5: Lease of property in Skegby, Nottinghamshire, from Matilda (Maud) de Nevill to John le Bret (undated, c.1275-1300, Latin) 
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Matilda’s beautiful seal is in the oval shape normally used by women to authenticate deeds. It shows a standing woman holding a bird of prey, and is attached to the deed by an original textile thong, probably silk. Matilda (known as Maud or Maude in English) was the sister of Sir John de Eyvill. According to the Nottinghamshire historian Robert Thoroton, Sir John de Eyvill, knight, of Egmanton, was one of the lords of Skegby in 1315/6. He was perhaps the son of the first Sir John de Eyvill. Matilda was probably a widow when she made this deed. One of her husbands was Gilbert de Norss’, father of her son Thomas, but the first name of her Nevill husband is not known.


Document 2

Ne D 742: Agreement in French relating to dower, between Joan, widow of Ralph Cromwell, and their son Ralph (2 May 1417, French) 
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Under the common law in England, widows were entitled to receive the proceeds of one-third of all the land owned by their late husbands, as their ‘dower’. However, some families preferred to make agreements giving the widow specific estates instead. All the dower lands would normally pass to the eldest son after the widow’s death. Women receiving dower were known as ‘dowagers’, and could be very wealthy.

This agreement was made after the death of Ralph, 2nd Baron Cromwell (d 1416), by his widow Joan and son Ralph, 3rd Baron Cromwell (1393?-1456). Ralph, 3rd Baron Cromwell, also features in document Pa L 2 .

It is interesting that the deed is written in French. The family were prominent landowners in the English Midlands. Educated people in the early 15th century normally used Latin or French to record important things, although English was becoming more common. It took another three centuries before English was used for all legal documents.


Document 3

Ne D 4716: Extract from a gift from Maude Brewes to Geoffrey and Agnes Bristowe of five shops and a garden in St Clement Danes, London (8 March 1388, Latin)   
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This deed shows a woman buying and selling commercial property in London. The boundaries of the property are clearly given, placing the shops on the north side of the Strand. The names of the parties in the original deed are given in their Latin forms (Matilda, Galfridus and Agneta), rather than the English or French versions (Maude, Geoffrey and Agnes) which the people would probably have used in speech. 


Document 4

Pa D 29: Extract from a deed by Joanna, daughter of Nicholas de Rudyngton and widow of Stephen de Boneye (29 July 1380, Latin) 
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The elderly and infirm had no welfare state to turn to in the medieval period. The woman making this deed was luckier than many, because she had property at her disposal. She was able to make an agreement with a trusted friend or neighbour, John Attestyle of Radcliffe, giving him the bulk of her land in Bunny and Bradmore, Nottinghamshire, in return for board and lodging in his household for the rest of her life. This form of ‘sheltered housing’ was a common way to ensure that people who were unable to take care of their landholding could grow old in dignity and comfort. The mention of keys to the stores reminds us of St Zita.


Document 5

WLC/LM/9, f. 257v: Inscription on the final folio of a volume containing ‘Speculum Vitae’ and ‘The Lay Folks’ Catechism’ (15th century, English)   
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Objects such as clothes, jewellery, furniture and books were treasured possessions in the medieval period because everything was hand-made, and therefore expensive. Wills and inventories are a good research source for finding out what a person owned.

The notation shown here is in the hand of William Fletcher, and reads ‘God safe my lady fyssyheu & all hyr wymmen god saue master wylle’. This is evidence that this book may have been owned in the late 15th or early 16th century by Elizabeth (d 1507), wife of Sir Richard Fitzhugh, 6th Lord Fitzhugh of Ravensworth, North Yorkshire (c.1458-1487). In 1491 Elizabeth married Sir Henry Willoughby of Middleton and Wollaton as his second out of four wives. She may have brought the book with her.


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Manuscripts and Special Collections

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