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The Manor of Cleygate

From medieval times, until various reforms were enacted during the 19th century, the main unit of government in rural areas was the Manor Court. Manors varied greatly in size, some being confined to a single parish whilst others extended over several. There was very little correspondence between Manors and Ecclesiastical parishes. A large part of what is now the Civil Parish of Normandy was included within the boundaries of the Manor of Cleygate.

Although no map or plan of the Manor has so far been found it has been possible to roughly estimate its boundaries. At its greatest extent the Manor probably reached north as far as the Basingstoke Canal. On the east it bordered the Manor of Pirbright where the boundary ran over Standing Hill east of Henley Park. It stretched south as far as the boundary with Wanborough Manor which is now represented by Flexford Road. On the west it marched with the other main constituent of the present Normandy parish, the Manor of Wyke. There were also outlying portions, represented for example by land in Ash, recognised now as "Longacre".

This Manor was of comparatively late foundation having been carved out of the much more ancient Manor of Henley in the 14th century. The first written reference was when in 1399 a grant was made to Richard Rayle and Nicholas Churchill of "lands called Cleygate lying at Henley". The earliest mention as a Manor occurs during the reign of Henry VI who granted it to his uterine brother Jasper, Earl of Pembroke. He was attainted among Lancastrians by Edward IV and his estates were forfeited.
Richard III gave custody of the Manor to William Mistelbrooke for life. The Manor was returned into the possession of Jasper Tudor, then Duke of Bedford, on the reversal of his attainder in 1485. From then on the Manor passed through various hands often reverting to the Crown.

The last private Lord of the Manor was Mrs Rose Mangles who sold the Manor to the War Department in 1876. By that time much of the land had been sold off to private individuals and that remaining, amounting to about 1200 acres, lay mainly north of the Pirbright Road and now forms part of Ash Ranges. As the War Department wished to exclude the public from its acquisition the remaining Commoners who had the right to graze livestock, extract sand and gravel and dig peat had to be compensated and negotiations continued and were not finally settled until the 1930s.

The powers of the Lord of the Manor were gradually eroded over the years until a major reform of land tenure was passed in 1925 when the title became purely nominal. In its heyday the Manor Court dealt with matters both judicial and administrative. Each Court had two aspects: the Court Baron was concerned with administrative matters and disputes between tenants and the Court Leet, also called the View of Frankpledge covered election of officials and disturbances of the Peace. Grave offences such as murder were passed to the County Court of Assize.

The business of the Court was conducted by the Steward on behalf of the Lord of the Manor who in the case of Cleygate was almost always an absentee landlord. The Manor of Cleygate originally contained two tithings called Frimelsworth and Henley. A tithing was a group of nominally ten households who was held responsible for its members' good conduct. Their elected representative was a decenar or tithingman. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I the tithingman for Frimelsworth rejoiced in the name of John Plonker! All tenants were required to attend the Court. Permitted absences were called Essoins. Others were called Defaults and were punished by a fine. A number of tenants usually ten or twelve were sworn to act as a jury called The Homage. By 1609 the tithings had been amalgamated under one tithingman and in 1620 the tithingman for Cleygate Manor was called "The decenar in this place".

Throughout the period covered by the surviving records the conduct of the Manor, whilst mainly concerned with the transfer of holdings and complaints such as obstructions and blocked ditches, was occasionally disturbed by reports of cattle rustling and fights between tenants, now and then resulting in blood being shed.

Normandy Parish Boundary
This map illustrates the Normandy Parish Boundary at the present time, but it does serve to indicate the huge area of the ancient Manor of Cleygate

Jack Kinder

Records of the Manor Court of Cleygate
The Local Historian's Encyclopedia, John Richardson, Historical Publications Ltd; 1993
Wikipedia links
Manor Court
Court Baron
Lord of the Manor
Court Leet
County Court of Assize
Jasper Tudor

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