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Halesowen Abbey


Tenants held their farms for life, paying an annual rent, plus an entry fine recorded in the court rolls of the year they purchased or inherited their property. They were given a copy of the court roll as title to the land and were therefore called copyholders.
According to an enquiry made in 1301, Romsley had 26 farmers, of whom eight were freeholders and 18 were copyholders. A typical 30 acre farm comprising upwards of 60 strips dispersed in three common arable fields, was called a virgate or yardland. Rents were 3s 4d per yardland, with twice that sum paid as an entry fine. Smaller farms were styled half yardlands, or quarter yardlands and paid proportionally less. Some smallholders or cottagers managed with landholdings of just one or two strips.

Tenants could pasture their pigs in the woods and also take timber for house building and for fuel. The large trees were used for structural timber and pollarded trees for firewood The Abbot would sell any surplus at markets in the neighbouring towns.
Each tenant was obliged to give up several days a year to cultivate the Abbot's own land, which was also scattered in strips in the open fields. In 1301, a yardland tenant called Thomas Squire was expected to spend three days ploughing, three days sowing and three days harvesting on the Abbot's land. When a copyhold tenant died, his family had to pay the Abbot a heriot, usually the best beast in his herd. If a member of his family wanted to leave the manor, a fine was paid to the Abbot, and further fines were paid for permission to marry or if a daughter bore an illegitimate child. The exact services the tenants owed to the Abbot and the rides governing the common arable fields were carefully recorded and were known as the customs of the manor. Copyholders are therefore called customary tenants in some accounts.

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