People in Settle, 1547 to 1553

Michael Slater
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

The records for the manor court in Settle held during the reign of Edward VI have been translated from medieval Latin and made available on the NCHT website, courtesy of a grant made to Simon Neal in 2020 by NCHT from the Historical and Archaeological Projects fund. The documents are held at Chatsworth House, home of the Duke of Devonshire, current lord of the manor. Pages are missing, parts are torn and the record is by no means complete, being bound together some time later – consider that the documents are 470 years old! This project has allowed detailed consideration of some of the lives of the ordinary inhabitants of Settle in this period when combined with other sources of information such as the national taxation data, the Clifford family papers listing rentals, wills, and to a slight extent parish registers starting in 1558.

Edward VI succeeded to the throne when Henry VIII died on 28 Jan 1547. Edward reigned for only six years and died in 1553. When did the inhabitants of Settle find out that they had a new king, aged 9? Information spread via the church, bishops disseminating important news to priests. Merchants also carried news around England; the state could write to town councils to order the proclamation of such news. Letters needed only a few days to travel long distances as shown by the letters of the Paston family in the 15th century. It would have taken longer for local people to know what their new monarch looked like.

Local lives were affected. The change of church matters to Protestantism proceeded in a managed fashion. The currency was debased between 1542 and 1552; there were periods of harvest failure in 1545 and between 1549 and 1551 [Hoyle, 1998].

The lord of the manor of the two separate manors of Settle and Giggleswick was Henry Clifford, 12th Lord, 2nd Earl of Cumberland (1517-1570). He inherited the Percy fee manors, including Settle and Giggleswick, in 1537. He may never have met his tenants but their lives were subject to his control.

The manor court stewards were Sir Ingram Clifford, chief steward, (second son of the 1st Earl), and Christopher Marton, gent., steward (seneschal), ‘skilled in writing’. Courts were held twice yearly, each on a single day. The Settle proceedings were followed by the Giggleswick court on the next day. The lord of the manor did not attend but left matters in the hands of stewards. They are assumed here to have travelled from Skipton, by horse, 16 miles, and stayed overnight somewhere for two or three nights. It is likely that they were hosted by one of the more wealthy tenants, for dinner, bed, breakfast, horse fodder and stabling but we do not know where. Expenses were claimed so perhaps they stayed in a hostelry. There was no manor house in Settle or Giggleswick. Giggleswick church may have been the only place large enough to host 87 tenants plus court officials in the absence of a court house.

In June 1550 the expenses were 4s 4d for the Settle court. In August 1550 the expenses were ‘paid from the toll of Settill’. In October 1551 the record notes ‘Expenses of the court by the steward and his servants for two (days?) 13s 15s 8d. Item for the sale of capons 2s 7d’.

Settle population

An estimate of population size can be made using the numbers of tenants in the court records and this is the best source of information for that purpose. The total number of free and at-will manorial tenants was about 87 averaged over six years – with a few names appearing both as free and unfree at-will tenants. There are 57 different family names. The free tenants owed rent but no services to the lord, but at-will tenants were subject to some control. A typical family size at this time was about 4.5 persons, making the population of Settle about 400. This assumes that all tenants lived in Settle, but some may just have held some land there and so owed rent or services to the lord. There were some others of servile status who might be added to this estimate. At this time, medieval services to the lord had generally lapsed, and been replaced by money rents. The current area of Settle civil parish is 7 square miles (4500 acres). This would be sufficient to serve the subsistence needs of the tenants at 30 acres per family. Giggleswick’s population was slightly smaller at about 360, based on the manor having about 80 tenants.

Life-expectancy at birth was just over 30 years, estimated using a new technique comparing patterns of baptisms and burials some years later [Slater, 2020]. Many children died within a few years, some few people reached the age of 70.

The Court

The court organized various officer posts such as constable, but the details are lacking in these records, apart from a mention of ale tasters John Hulson and William Brown. Miles Wildman, John Cookson and James Iveson sold their ale before the tasters had given their approval so were fined 12d each.

At each sitting the court had much work to do. The records are clearly incomplete, but between 11 and 55 names are found at different times being involved as complainants or defendants in matters brought before the court for the jury of 13, sometimes 12 men, to deliberate. Some of those named lived elsewhere in Craven. Often cases were tit-for-tat suggesting mutual annoyance between neighbours in the fields. If you lost your case it might cost you 4d at least. Matters involving damage of 40s and above had to go to a higher court – so one finds claims for damage for one farthing less at 39s 11 3/4 d.

The court laid down by-laws and fined those who disobeyed.

Wills and religious belief

The acceptance of Protestantism and the new Book of Common Prayer was slow and reluctant. Belief in Catholic doctrine continued, supported by clerics and a conservative gentry. Church goods, endowments and chantry chapels were concealed from the authorities, facilitated by the remoteness of the region [Spence, 2017].

In wills made during Edward’s Protestant reign, compared to those made in Henry VIII’s time, there is a decrease in expressed devotion to Saint Mary and fewer requests for masses, and a marked increase in references to the company in heaven and a notable number of wills saying nothing concerning the testator’s beliefs. Three out of the 16 free tenants are known to have made wills, as did 20 out of 71 at-will tenants (including 11 widows). It was not just the better-off who made wills.

Several gave money to the priest to pray for their soul (4d), to funeral attendees (4d), and to the poor man’s box (4d, 12d). Richard Browne in 1548 left 6s 8d for the poor folk. Robert Somerscales in 1553 left 3s 4d for the mending of Settle bridge. Joan Watkinson, in 1552, also allowed for bread and cheese and meal for those attending her funeral. Thomas Foster (1553) gave 12d for the mending of ‘claishouse lane’ (Closehouse) if neighbours also contributed. Curiously, John Foster of Rathmell in his will dated 16th September 1547 said that ‘I … bequeathe my soule to almightie god and my bodie to the kings warres’. This was a period of Anglo-Scottish wars. In 1547 men were recruited in Yorkshire for service on the Borders [Goring, 1955] so perhaps he served as a soldier.

These wills show a generous, charitable spirit to the poor and the community by a few.

Money matters

In the court records we see that tenants were fined (amerced) for non-attendance but mainly for what seem petty offences of cutting greenwood and taking wood from the lord’s wood (pro amputat virid et bosci domini), trespass in the lord’s wood, a warrant or permission for some agreement, and sometimes simply a fine for everything (pro omnibus), twice a year. This was usually 1d, 2d, or 4d and the amount may have increased if there had been default on an earlier occasion. This was not a fine for any major offence but a means for the lord to obtain revenue of a few more shillings beyond rents or fines for serious transgressions or misbehaviour. The tenants needed wood for their fires and it could not necessarily all be got from the commons or waste. The deputy officer of the lord was excused, (quittus est), as were paupers. Hugh Carre simply fled the manor to avoid payment. The list of tenants is peppered with the abbreviation pro conli (= consimilis = for the like (offence)).

Bearing in mind a typical income of a few pounds a year (one pound = 240d) these payments were not onerous. However, actual income in cash was probably limited, since many families may only have obtained cash by selling surplus agricultural produce in the market. Others may have obtained income from trade in wool, animals, cloth, and blacksmithing, for example. There are many cases of default on loans.

The offence of Affray brought in substantial monies to the lord. Over six years about 17 cases are recorded, which is not a large number considering that there were about 87 tenants. Typically the fine was 3s 4d, but if blood was drawn the amount was 6s 8d. Brawling attracted a penalty of 12d, 20d or 2s. There are no repeat offenders so perhaps the fines were a real deterrent. Richard Sommerscales attacked William (or Thomas) Tailor – ‘against the peace of the lord king’. Richard seemed to have little regard for the law as noted below. Thomas Tailor, John Hulson, Richard Heyton, John Wildman and Roger Medhope made ‘an assault between themselves’ which cost them fines from 12d to 3s 4d each. Richard Ratclyff attacked the lord’s official – fine 3s 4d.

The king had to obtain his income by taxing inhabitants in order to run the country and make war. The tax data for Craven for 1510 to 1547 have been published by Hoyle [1987].

In 1543, just before Edward VI’s accession, a lay subsidy was imposed. William Middop, gent., was appointed ‘high collector’, required to receive the monies from subcollectors – Lawrence Lister, Peter Scarborough, William Watkinson and Anthony Young. The Villat de Settle had 49 taxpayers and raised 37s 2d (about 9d each, but near 5d if two wealthy persons are discounted); Villat de Rauthmelle had 27 taxpayers who paid 6s 8d (3d each). Langclyff had 20 taxpayers who paid 6s 6d (4d each). Giggleswick had 42 taxpayers, total 15s 6d (about 4 1/2d each). It is notable that in Settle John Banke paid 16d, Robert Sommerscale 2s 8d, Miles Wyldman 6s 8d, and William Watkinson a remarkable 9s 4d. These men we shall meet again, particularly William Watkinson a relatively wealthy and presumably a trustworthy man as subcollector!

A third tax collection was made in 1545 under the assessment of 1543. The wealthy taxpayers had already been solicited or encouraged to pay in advance, so some of the names in the 1543 list are missing in 1545. In 1547 tax was collected for the 1545 subsidy act (made by Henry VIII). William Watkinson senior is worth more than anyone else in Settle at £20.

Edward VI imposed taxes in March 1549 (sheep tax), May and October 1549, and March 1553. The 1549 Sheep Tax was a ‘Relief on Sheep and cloth’, [E179/208/211], i.e. relieving the inhabitants of some cash. Relief is actually the term for a succession duty which a lord could demand of a vassal.

‘Pasture men, because ther cattell (animals) is bothe greater and carieth more wolle, to paie for every sheere sheep thre half pens … and for every Ewe after two pens’.

The rules were in fact more complicated. Ewes kept on enclosed pastures were rated at 3d a head, wethers and other shear-sheep on enclosed pastures were 2d a head, and shear-sheep kept on commons or enclosed grounds not used for tillage 11/2d a head. With 10 sheep or fewer, owners were assessed at 1/2d per sheep, between 10 and 20, 1d a head. Other sheep grazing on commons or fallow were charged at 1d a head because of a lesser yield on such animals. Sheep were counted by the long hundred of six score. It was really a hated poll tax on sheep; there were very few returns in the North Riding. The tax was repealed in 1550 and no money seems to have been collected locally. Not an easy job for the tax collector.

In addition there was a subsidy tax on personal goods. Those with property worth more than £10 paid 1s/£1 and an extra amount if the sheep tax was greater. We have a record in 1551 [E179/217/121]:

SettleWilliam Watkinson in bon
 x li x s (i.e. in goods, £10 and 10s)
Staynforth William Bancke in bon
 x li x s
Hugh Franckland
 xj li xj s
GygleswekeMargaret Curor vid in bon
 x li x s (widow, in goods)
[Adolph, 2004; Beresford, 1953 and 1954]

Most people in this period were rated as having goods worth a pound or two and some few were worth up to £7. Some were exempt if not worth a specified amount. The number of taxpayers listed in each of the 1522, 1543 and 1545 records is just over 50 whereas the number of tenants in Settle manor at this time was about 87 – so only about 60% of the tenants had enough wealth to be made to pay tax. Comparison of names in the 1545 subsidy tax list with the May 1547 manor court list gives a close match with 55% tax payers out of the 85 tenants. Some few who are not on the tax list also defaulted on payment of fines for taking wood, suggesting poverty.

Bearing in mind that the taxpayers were somewhat reticent in co-operating with assessors the valuations of wealth are somewhat notional rounded estimates. A modern auditor would have trouble with many of these records.

The Church and School

The parish church and Giggleswick school were connected since the vicars and priests were headmasters and schoolmasters. Education was an ecclesiastical matter.

James Procter was vicar of Giggleswick parish (of which Settle was part) from 1546 [Brayshaw, 1932, p230]. From 1548 John Nowell became vicar until 1556. He does not appear in the list of Settle tenants but Thomas Husteler, chantry priest, does. Margaret Sailbanke refers to James Foster, curate, in her will of 1551.

When in 1548 the living for Giggleswick church became vacant, Edward VI appointed one of his chaplains, John Nowell, to be vicar of Giggleswick. Thomas Husteler was a chantry priest in Giggleswick Church and headmaster of Giggleswick school in 1546, followed by Richard Carr in 1548 after Thomas’ death. Thomas Husteler was assisted for a time by Thomas Iveson, teaching in the small building provided by James Carr, his uncle and school founder; as a stipend Iveson was receiving annually £5 6s 8d. In 1553 Edward VI granted a Charter to the School and endowed it with property. This he did at the humble petition of John Nowell, vicar, Henry Tennant, gentleman, and other inhabitants of the town and parish of Giggleswick in Craven.

The school register has no entries for this time [] but we could presume that some students lived in Settle.

The church also had authority over cases of immorality detailed in Cause Papers but there are no records relating to Settle in the time of Edward VI.

Thomas Husteler

Thomas Husteler is named as a free tenant in Settle in May and August 1547, ‘infirmus Clericus’. In 1546 he is headmaster of Giggleswick School [Brayshaw, 1932, p248]. In 1546 the royal commissioners found that Thomas Husteler, priest of the Rood Chantry and schoolmaster, was receiving a rental of £6 1s, income from land at Otterburn - James Carr’s endowment [Brayshaw, 1932, p239]. Chantries were abolished in 1549.

In addition to his chantry duties Thomas had to perform the double office of Grammar and Song Schoolmaster, and the work proving too heavy for him, he left money to provide the maintenance of a second Master. Thomas died in 1547 or 1548. He left £24 13s 4d to pay for a schoolmaster which then maintained Thomas Iveson, priest, at £4 a year for six years [Brayshaw, 1932, p65]. A stipend of £5 a year was considered a minimum for a priest in the early 16th century [Slater, 2007].

William Watkinson (senior) and William Watkinson (junior)

We do not have baptism dates for these two people because the Parish Register for Giggleswick does not start until 1558. From the tenant lists William Watkinson senior and William junior appear both as free tenants and tenants-at-will until May 1553 when the name William Watkinson is crossed out in the free tenants list but appears in the at-will list. However, William Watkinson senior then is named as free tenant until at least 1558. Hugh Lawson made an affray on William junior in 1547 and Hugh was fined 3s 4d. However, in 1550 William was fined 6s 8d because he ‘overthrew and knocked down two walls at Hudgappe and Tendlayth Gappe at all lawful and accustomed times of the year’. He seems to have owed money on a few occasions when the complainants were awarded damages of 4d. In 1553 William had bought woollen cloth from Anthony Knolles for which he still owed 18d. This is a hint that William junior was engaged in the cloth business. In 1554 William junior is said to be infirm and in 1556 we see the relict (widow) of William listed plus William senior. So William junior died in about 1555.

In 1522 William Watkinson is listed in the Loan Book as paying 6s 8d, a relatively modest amount. In the 1543 tax subsidy he paid the large amount of 9s 4d. His wealth was judged at £14, with tax due at 8d in the pound. In 1549 he was judged to have wealth of £10 taxed at 10s (1s in the pound). These are very large sums of money since typical annual incomes were say £5 p.a. Why does he allow his brother Hugh (noted in his will) to become a pauper (called so in 1549)?

The Muster Roll of 1538 lists William Watkinson senior and junior armed with bows. The Clifford rentals show that William held a cottage and garden in Settle for which he paid rent in about 1550 [Clifford papers, DD121/29/2]. Brayshaw mentions a conveyance of 1572 [1932, p66] of a ‘chapel, a messuage and a fulling mill, with lands in Settell’ from Henry and Isabel Bankes to William Watkynson. This information is thought to be in the Clifford papers [DD/121/31/5] dated 1572.

In the court records we find that in 1551 William senior did not keep his part of the wall sufficiently around Newclose and was fined 4d. He served as a juror several times.

We have a will of William Watkinson of Settle in 1575 in which he mentions six daughters and brother Hugh. Hugh appears in the at-will lists from 1549 until at least 1558. There is nothing in this will suggesting substantial wealth, but such may already have been disposed of earlier. He gives to ‘every servant I have xij d of good English money’. But how did William become relatively wealthy? He does not have sheep. Perhaps he was a merchant of wool or cloth.

Margaret Cletherall

In May 1547 Roger Cletherall is in the list of free tenants, but noted as ‘mort’. The relict (widow) of Roger is noted in the tenants-at-will as paying a fine of 1d. She next appears when in 1551 Thomas Watkinson complains that Margaret Cledero has depastured cattle at Bygg Gapp, resulting in 20s damage. Then again, in 1552 he complains that she, with John Morehouse, unjustly occupies one parcel of land in the fields of Settle at Bygg Gapp, depasturing her beasts there. The defendants say that they are not guilty but the matter is respited to the next court. In 1553 Thomas Watkinson again complains in a plea of trespass that John and Margaret overthrew walls at Bygg Gapp doing 20s worth of damage. However, the defendants were found not guilty and Thomas was fined 4d for making a false claim.

The spelling of Margaret’s surname is consistently written as Cletherall by the court steward, (apart from one Cledero), he being ‘skilled in writing’. The tax lists, however, give Cletherall, Clederall, Clederow, Clitheroo, Clitherowe, all essentially a variant of Clitheroe.

Richard Sommerscales

Richard Sommerscales seems to have been an awkward character, with little regard for authority, being frequently the subject of court matters. His behaviour shows that use of the fields was well-regulated by the court and its by-laws and edicts about cash fines (pains) for breaking laws. ‘He keeps scabious horses upon the common pasture contrary to … the statute thereupon provided’, fine 20d, and few years later another fine of 6s 8d. ‘He keeps his geese in the fields contrary to the order of the plebiscite’, fine 20d. ‘He mowed his hay within the fields before the usual day contrary to the pain and order of the plebiscite’. For a rescue from the plebiscite, fine 3s 4d. Fined 4d because ‘he did not keep his part of the wall sufficiently around Newclose’. ‘He keeps three fires upon one tenement (with Thomas and Hugh Sommerscales) contrary to the order and custom used from ancient times to the serious damage of the lord’s tenants’, all fined 3s 4d. Even the number of fires in a house was regulated since firewood was needed by everyone and custom of collection should not be abused, although subject to the bi-annual levy of 1d or 2d.

He also complains about the widow of Thomas Sommerscales ‘in a plea of trespass on account that the defendant destroyed his goods to the damage of 30s, as he is prepared to declare’. The jury found the complainant to be in the lord’s mercy (i.e. fined by the jury) for a false claim. He was fined 2d for ‘bayttyng’ his horse (i.e. allowing it to graze) in Newclose contrary to the by-law. He was indebted to Robert Sommerscales for 21s and amerced (fined) 3d because the case reached the court; he also acknowledged a debt of 33s 4d. Perhaps he had to borrow money to pay all his fines.

Bad behaviour

The court carries the title ‘with View of Frankpledge’ which was a system of compulsory sharing of responsibility for reporting crime or unsociable behaviour. Thus we see that ‘The wife of Christopher Lauson and the wife of Thomas Lauson of Lodge have litigated between themselves with dishonourable words against the peace of the lord king’ and ‘… the daughter of Christopher Lawson of Lodge is not of good behaviour and conversation, but behaves secretly … or is to be removed outside the lordship by the steward’. ‘The jurors say that the wives of Thomas Lawson and Christopher Lawson of Lodge are common scolds to the very great disturbance of their neighbours’.

They also present ‘James Yveson because he harboured one unknown woman which the same woman stole two … at Settle’. ‘Richard Melling is a common scold and disturbs the peace of the lord king to the very great disquieting of his neighbours’.

William Carr kept an unruly cow which broke the door (fine 3d).

Henry Kinge unjustly marked his sheep with the same sign as John Coykson … the complainant lost divers of his aforesaid sheep. The complainant will mark with ryddle and tarre and the defendant with kelowe’ (mustard yellow).

Under the lord’s thumb

Someone might have felt aggrieved when the lord took the best fleece at clipping time and the best wether on St Laurence Day for making his dinner because the flock had liberty to have drunk at the ‘sowth bank beck’.


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