A girl called Edith…

In the late winter of 1318 a child appeared before the court of the manor of Halesowen, an 11 year old girl, called Edith, the sole heir of her father Henry who had died recently. She was considered far too young to be held responsible for her own holding and the court decided to find her a guardian by the name of John who paid the lord 12d to have custody of the heir and her property. Edith came from a poor family, all the girl had to her name was a cottage. She had no significant acreages and no livestock is mentioned. She was not the only child who was left orphaned in that year at the manor. Her property is also quite typical. A smallholding left to a child in the middle of the famine years, when repeated harvest failures due to torrential rainfalls drove up grain prices and peasant families were often forced to eat into their seedgrain to survive the winter. Poor families like Edith’s were the most vulnerable at that time. Did Edith’s parents die from hunger or malnutrition were they weakened and could not withstand a common illness like flu? Did the girl survive because they starved themselves to feed her? Just two short lines in a manorial court roll, and yet, it has so much to tell us, and keep so much more still hidden.WP_20141228_10_11_48_Pro


2 thoughts on “A girl called Edith…

    1. interesting question, but I am not sure this is necessarily so. The 12d would have gone to the lord, not anybody else. Lords certainly made profits of all transactions through the manorial court. it is perhaps more difficult to see moral motives within the wider community from such transactions.


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