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NEWCASTLE, part of the DUCHY OF LANCASTER. 317
times of the year, except in Lent, have ready in his hall of Wichnor, a bacon flitch, to be given to any married man, who, after a twelvemonth's trial, was prepared to make oath that he preferred his wife above all other women, and to undergo the solemn, but whimsical ceremonial prescribed, for claiming and carrying away the flitch.* Thus did John of Gaunt seek to enliven the seclusion of his royal consort during his absence (for she shared little of his domestic attentions), and here she chiefly resided until the period of her death in 1390, having borne to the Duke one daughter only, married to Henry Prince of Castile. Tutbury was neglected by the Duke after the death of Queen Constance, and its dependency, Newcastle, shared in its adverse fortune. The Duke lived till the beginning of the year 1399, when his honours and possessions descended to his son Henry, who, in the month of September following, was raised to the throne of England, by the title of Henry IV., upon the deposition of Richard II., his
King Henry, in the first year of his reign, took the precaution of procuring an Act of Parliament, to secure to himself and his heirs the valuable Palatinate of the Duchy of Lancaster, and all his hereditary estates, so that if he lost the crown, he might enjoy the estates and franchise: under the authority of which act and two others, passed in the first year of Edward IV. and the first of Henry VII., the Duchy property is annexed in perpetuity to the person of the reigning sovereign, and independently of the controul of Parliament. In the early part of the reign of Henry IV., a rebellion, headed by the Earl of Northumberland, took place, in the issue of which the Earl was slain; but his Staffordshire confederates, under the direction of Hugh de Erdeswyck and Thomas de Swynnerton, two gentlemen of good families in that county, made an attack upon Newcastle, which was holden for the King by
Plot's History, p. 440; and Spectator, No. 607.
John Blount, the then steward and constable of the manor and castle. The mayor of the town was suspected of having favoured the assailants, and he afterwards declined to investigate the outrage on behalf of the government, pretending-perhaps justly-his own danger. Erdeswyck and his band pursued the unfortunate steward to Lichfield, where he barely escaped with his life; afterwards they returned to Newcastle, with the intention of killing one of the principal persons there, John Boghay, Esq., who had dared to present these desperadoes in the Court Leet of the manor,* where they might have met with the punishment of the Furce (the gallows) due to their crimes.†
During the fifteenth century, the castle of Newcastle went to decay, but whether it suffered by the disasters inflicted on the country in general during the wars between the rival houses of Lancaster and York, we are unable to state. Its situation and unsubstantial construction ren◄ dered it altogether untenable against the assaults of artillery, then brought into use, and the main structure had wholly disappeared before Leland visited it, about 1530, as previously mentioned. Lord Stanley, with his Cheshire forces, halted at Newcastle on his march to meet Henry Earl of Richmond, on the eve of the battle of Bosworth,‡ (which was fought the 22d August, 1485) but the castle was probably then dilapidated. It stood It stood upon a small island, of about two acres, surrounded by a large pool,
* Hist. Tutbury, p. 123.
+ See p. 309. Note, Dr. Plot mentions an instance of an entire skull of a man being found embedded in stone, in a place called Gallows Field, near the town of Newcastle, being the place where malefactors were formerly executed. (See Plot, p. 171.)
It is said that the latest instance of capital punishment inflicted by a Baronial Court, was in the year 1598, in the manor of Kinderton (Cheshire.) One Mr. Croxden, who held a particular field under the tenure of hanging all the felons within that fee, hired an executioner for the occasion.
Nicholls's Leicestershire, Vol. IV., p. 252.
OLD DESCRIPTION OF THE CASTLE.
which had been principally formed by a dam or weir, constructed across the rivulet adjoining, and supplied the mills erected or re-edified by King John, as already intimated. These mills had the prescriptive right of grinding corn for all the tenants of the manor, until the exercise of the right became too burthensome to be tolerated by the leiges, and the corporation of Newcastle entered into a legal contest on the subject with the King's Lessee, Ralph Sneyd, Esq., in the reign of Charles II., which terminated (we suppose) by a compromise, as the claim has been since abandoned.
The following account of what the castle formerly was, is given on the authority of an entry, written in an edition of Chaucer's Poems, and copied above thirty years ago from the book (printed in 1602,) belonging to Mr. John Smith, an Alderman of Newcastle, whose character, as an intelligent and highly-respectable bookseller, is yet well remembered. We are unable to assign the precise date of the entry, but conjecture it to have been written shortly after the site of the castle, and the mills were granted to Ralph Sneyd, Esq., in or about 1610.
"There be manie that need be tould what John of Gaunt his New"castle was, and will sore lament it now is not, to give the needy "sojourner largess of bread, beef, and beer. Our grandames doe say "that theire grandames did delight to tell what it had been, and how "well it was counted off before theire daye; althof they say onlie of it "what they had beene tould; as how that the Newcastle was no more
nor 150 paces fro south to north, but well nigh two hundred from est "to west; and had two transepts and four bays with dungen tower of "twentie paces square, which rose in three storys of the full height of 66 seventy feet that it did stand over all the knoll in the middest of the "picturesque vale and gentle riseing hills, verie delightful and riche in "pastur and woodlandes, and to the west and north remnants of diverse "parkes belonginge. A low portal, and not well lighted passage, did "admit to the halle, very large and spacious, with roof loftie, and "painted with devices, gallerie for the minstrels, and the walls clothed "with geer of warfare, helmets, coates of mail armour, buff jerkins, "like shirtes, and such like doublets. Wending a gloomy staircase did "lead to the state rooms and bedd-chamber of the Prince, and other on
"the upper for companie. The Drawbridge to the north did approche "into the Court, ninetie paces in length, with thirtie in the width, and "south and west were two lesser. The walls outer had good buttresses "to the height of thirty feet, and the whole was moer fytt as a statelie "comfortable dwellinge then as a fortress of defence, cause of the rising landes south and este. It almoste now is all carryed away, "and Measter Sneyde doth hold the ground, and the mote, and the "mills."
From the preceding account, it will appear that the manor of Newcastle is one of the most ancient and honourable demesnes of the crown of England, appendant to the Duchy of Lancaster. Having been held by the Earls and Dukes of Lancaster, along with the Honour of Tutbury, where they fixed their principal seat, Newcastle has been generally reckoned to be a member of Tutbury; but its ancient history fully establishes for it an independent character, far more remote, as a royal possession, than Tutbury itself. It has, however, for some centuries now past been under the survey and receivership of that part of the Duchy estates which embraces Tutbury as its head; and for this reason alone, can Newcastle have been mistaken for an ancient member, and portion of the Honour of Tutbury ; and the jurisdiction which the Stewards of the Baronial Court of Tutbury have, of late years, presumed to usurp over the manor of Newcastle, for the recovery of debts under forty shillings, is not more arrogant than it is illegal and unwarranted. The manor of Newcastle has a similar court of its own, as will appear by a document we have given in the Appendix,* in which the ancient customs of the manor are verified by a special jury, at a Court of Survey; but this petty local tribunal has, happily, long lain dormant, and will, it is hoped, be speedily either swept away, or remodelled, along with all similar cumbrous machinery for recovering trifling debts, by means of the vexatious, dilatory, and costly processes of a bye-gone age.
* No. XXIII.
TENURE OF LANDS.-REMARKS ON
SLAVERY-ORIGIN OF COPYHOLDS.SERVICES RESERVED.-COMMUTATION FOR MONEY.-CHANGES IN VILLENAGE TENURES.-ORIGIN AND DESIGNATION OF COPYHOLDS. THE KING'S COPYHOLDERS.-INCIDENTS OF VILLENAGE.-DECLINE OF THE SYSTEM.-TRANSITION STATE.-DISPUTED CUSTOMS IN THE MANOR OF WHITMORE.-ANCIENT RIGOUR AND GRADUAL EXTINCTION OF VILLENAGE. COPYHOLDS IN NEWCASTLE.-RIGHTS OF THE CROWN. SUIT RESPECTING THEM.-COMPOSITION AND DECREE.-CUSTOMS AND COPYHOLD RIGHTS DECREED.-SCHEDULE OF COPYHOLDS.-DEMESNE LANDS. CROWN RENTS. PRESENTMENT OF CUSTOMS. PROBABLE ENFRANCHISEMENT. - GRANTEES OF THE CASTLE, POOL, MANOR, MINES, &c.-SALE OF DEMESNE LANDS. MINERAL RIGHTS.-NUMBER OF COPYHOLDERS.-STEWARDS OF THE MANOR.
THE TENURE OF LANDS within the manor of Newcastle, and the condition of those on whom they were originally bestowed, necessarily calls for our attention, and will lead us into some consideration of the state of vassalage, or villenage, in which the rural population of England was formerly held.
Slavery, in its more severe or mitigated form, appears to have been the condition of the larger portion of the human race in all the nations of antiquity,—even in those states and countries whose citizens were most impatient of despotic rule. The bond service of the offspring of the Canaanites under the wise and glorious Solomon ;* the Helots of Sparta; the Roman Servi; the Theow-men of
1 Kings, c. ix., v. 21.