« PreviousContinue »
sweeping with a double curvature away from the ancient road downwards towards the ings and carrs. To every oxgang belonged a definite portion of the common meadows that lay beyond the arable fields, and the right of grazing a definite number of cattle over the mown meadows, the reaped cornfields, the fallows, and the rough pastures and marshes that bordered the isle. Thus the shares of ploughland, meadow, and pasturage were practically inseparable, being alike essential to the free tenant, or farmer, who, out of his stock of cattle, had to provide for each oxgang one ox to yoke to the common plough.
The embankment of the Humber and of the River Hull transformed the great waste of mud and water into something which, in time, would turn to meadow, or pasture, or improvable marsh, when Sutton, no longer an island, would find itself encircled with thousands of acres of green ings and carrs. Of this new territory the lion's share would go to whosoever may have held the manor and carried out the embankment. Thus we find an irregular fringe of land extending nearly the whole length of the River Hull, enclosed and appropriated, presumably by the lords of the manor, who held also a great breadth of the new unenclosed meadows, with an ample share of the pasturage. The rest of the meadow and pasture was divided amongst the free tenants on the manor, the holders of the old lands, to every oxgang a definite and liberal share. But there was no permanent or necessary attachment of these new lands to the ancient customary system of the manor; they might be given, sold, or bequeathed, as we shall see they actually were, without disturbing the old agricultural routine.
In 1150, perhaps half a century or more after the acquisition of this new inheritance, but before its value could be fully appreciated, William, Earl of Albemarle, the over-lord of Holderness, founded, on the further side of Wawne, the Abbey of Melsa, or Meaux. The Cistercian monks were then distinguished above all others for piety and self-discipline; before long they were recognised, also, as the most considerable sheep-farmers of the time. As they soon came in contact with the lords of Sutton, a list of those important personages will help us to follow the transactions between them and the monks.
Siward de Sutton, living
in the time of the Conqueror C.1156 Sayer de Sutton, the first 1173 William de Sutton 1186 Amandus de Sutton 1211 Sir Sayer de Sutton, senr., whose son and heir, Sir Amandus, died before him
1269 Sir Sayer de Sutton, jun.
One of the first acquisitions of the monks of Meaux was the land at the southern corner of Wawne, where they made a fish-house with fish-ponds, and afterwards watermills at the river-bank. Soon after 1150, Adam, their first Abbot, obtained by exchange from the first Sayer de Sutton a dwelling-place called Herney's Croft, near the northern end of that fringe of enclosed land which stretched along the riverside, together with pasturage in the west marsh for forty cows with their young calves. From his successors, William and Amandus, and from other persons, they succeeded in enlarging their property here by gifts, purchases, and exchanges, until they possessed two separate estates, called Hirncroft and Southowscroft (now Frog Hall), each containing about thirty-six acres of enclosed lands, of which at least a part had belonged to Siward. There they had at first their cowhouses, but these were afterwards made into sheepcots in view of the rising demand for wool.
At the end of his life Amandus de Sutton gave or bequeathed to them "whatever he had" in the northern part of the west marsh, between their fish-house and Southowse, and between the river and the meadows of Sepholme. Their account of this transaction, and of their subsequent proceedings, clearly disclosed the plan which they had formed for increasing their property in this quarter. Besides the lord of the manor, the free tenants in Sutton, or some of them, had rights of pasturage over this part of the west marsh in respect of their arable land. The monks hoped that by acquiring all these rights in detail they would become the sole owners, and might enclose this pasture by ditch and bank, and improve it for their own advantage.
Thus they obtained by gift, from Thomas the Clerk,
the brother of Robert de Melsa (Meaux), his right of pasturage in respect of the third part of three oxgangs in Sutton: from his nephew, John de Melsa, they got by an exchange as much pasturage as appertained to ten oxgangs and a half on Sepholme, and from other persons they obtained similar grants. But Sayer, the son of Amandus, had an eye on their method. He was a vigorous and important personage, who for some sixty years held the manor of Sutton, and was always on the watch. to improve his property by drainage and in other ways. At one time he was the bailiff of King Henry III, in respect of the port then growing up at the mouth of the river. It was he who turned the course of the Hull, near its mouth, into the present channel, in order to drain his wide-spreading lands in Sutton and the neighbourhood.
He was not likely to permit the monks to create for themselves an estate out of an important part of his family property. Although he is said to have assented at the time, he afterwards refused to confirm his father's death-bed gift, and took prompt and violent measures against the monks. The chronicle does not state the particular occasion of his anger-perhaps they may have relied too much on their sacred character, and attempted to assert their claims by making the desired enclosure. But the old reverence for the Cistercian Order, if he had ever shared it, was now somewhat on the wane, and he treated them as unceremoniously as he might have treated a smuggling crew on his river. With armed men he seized the corn, money, and other effects in their houses, pillaged their sheepfolds, and turned them out of the west marsh. He even assisted at the abstraction of the body of a dead neighbour who had bequeathed it, together with some lands, to their monastery.
There was practically no law for them in England against such a man as this, so they appealed to the Pope, who sent the Abbots of Jervaulx and Easby, with their neighbour the Dean of Richmond, to settle the dispute. In the result the monks got the right to turn out on the marsh forty more cows, besides the forty included in their original grant; but, as this would be largely in consideration of the grazing rights which they had been acquiring
from the aforesaid owners of the ancient ox-gangs, it is not clear that they were much better off than before. The worst of it was that they got no confirmation of the gift or bequest by Amandus of all that he had in the marsh; and so there was an end, for the time, of their plan for acquiring exclusive possession.
They were always planning with more or less success, always dissatisfied, and never very prosperous. But we must remember that, besides the hospitality which they were bound to keep up, they were engaged during the thirteenth century in the erection of their splendid abbey, which, judging from its scanty remains, must have been an enormously costly building, and was, no doubt, the architectural glory of Holderness.
Sayer de Sutton had schemes of his own for the improvement of his estate. In the time of Abbot Richard of Ottringham, between 1221 and 1235, by an agreement between him and his near neighbours with their tenants in Sutton and the monks, a wide ditch was made, called Forthdyk, extending from the fish-house, by the river, along the north side of the west marsh, and beyond, so as to drain the lands of the several parties. It was also to form a boundary between Sutton and the mother parish of Wawne, the advowson of the chapel of Sutton being granted, in 1297, to Sayer, by Archbishop Walter de Grey. It was also to be used as a canal for haulage by boat, as a place for fishing with nets, and as an adjunct to the pool that was made at Fishouse for working the abbey mills. As some of these uses would interfere with each other, Sayer and his free tenants were allowed to make another ditch, called Suttondyk, in the west marsh, along the side of Forthdyk, with sluices so arranged that when the water of Forthdyk was being used to work the mills, Suttondyk would be available for the traffic by boat. The space between the ditches was to be used as a road to the mills from the highway at Sepholme, where a small hamlet once existed, but is now forgotten. This was really an elaborate engineering project, clear evidence of which is still to be traced upon the ground by ditches and excavations which have hitherto been a puzzle to the few who are familiar with this deserted and lonely spot. Not long after this amicable arrangement the monks
were again in a serious dispute with the lord of the manor. Sayer's son and heir, Amandus, had grown up and received knighthood, and, in anticipation of his marriage, his father had given him, with other gifts, seven oxgangs and a half of land, but he had entered the convent at Meaux as a novice, bestowing upon the monks the lands which had been given to him for a very different purpose. Sayer was not likely to agree to an arrangement by which his estate would be permanently diminished by more than a hundred acres of ploughiand, with its accompanying meadows and rights of pasturage, so, when Amandus died, he disputed the gift. But by the help of William, Earl of Albemarle, the Seigneur of Holderness, the monks kept the lands until, in an evil hour, they seized upon a meadow belonging to Sayer, and in some struggle that ensued one of his sergeants was killed. So he brought them before the King's Justices at York, the family of the dead man also charged them with manslaughter, and to save themselves from worse trouble, they were glad to make a compromise by paying down sixty marks and giving up half the land with some of the other gifts they had received from Amandus.
Soon after 1260, towards the end of the long life of Sayer, the convent seems to have joined in a rebellion of the men of Holderness against Prince Edward, who was acting on behalf of his father, Henry III. When the King's forces were sent to bring them to reason it was at the Abbot's Grange, in Sutton, that the Sheriff of Holderness posted his men, who, for two nights, watched to prevent the passage of the river from Cottingham by the Royal troops. The monks had to feed a hungry host both there and at the Abbey, but, fortunately, they were able to make peace with the King.
They got on rather better with Sayer Junr., who by 1269 had succeeded his father. In his time that part of the west marsh in which the monks had rights was found to be over-stocked, especially when sheep were turned out upon it instead of horned cattle, the proportion being about four hundred sheep for their fixed number of eighty cows. Sayer thereupon-by their accountgranted them all that he had in demesne in that pasture, with liberty to enclose it by a ditch running from