Medieval Rothley, Leicestershire: manor, soke and parish
McLoughlin, Vanessa (University of Leicester)
PhD Thesis, Philosophy, University of Leicester (2006)
The aim of this thesis is to examine the origins and function of medieval Rothley, Leicestershire, its manorial holdings, its soke and its parish. Later maps and both later and earlier written sources were examined to elucidate these elements and answer the questions posed. Documents from a number of sources have been used, primarily from the Rothley Temple Manuscripts held in the Records Office for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, but also from printed volumes of documents from national archives. Evidence contained within these sources has been used to elucidate some of the anomalies found within the landscape, and to give an indication of the sequence of events which helped to form the fields and townships within the soke. Parochial documents have been used to attempt to establish the origins of Rothley parish, and the nature of the ministry of Rothley church as a Hundredal minster has been postulated and examined. The documentary evidence suggests that Rothley was a parish of some importance in the tenth century, and that this parish may have arisen in association with the formation of the Hundred of Goscote. The settlement of Rothley offers some insights into these postulated origins, and the chapels serve to exemplify the extent of the parochial, manorial and soke jurisdiction. Further evidence of the nature of Rothley soke as a royal jurisdiction are examined through the rights which the tenants negotiated with their superior lords. The special privileges which the tenants of the ancient demesne enjoyed were strengthened by their ability to work co-operatively to achieve favourable outcomes in manorial disputes. These relationships will be examined in the course of the thesis, and conclusions on their significance will be reached.
Introduction: In 1882 George Clark gave a paper on the manor and soke of Rothley which he described as ancient demesne, and he saw the soke as a place of safety enfranchised by the king for the holding of a court for tenants who held in socage. The soke at Domesday consisted of twenty-two members which were subordinate to the manor of Rothley, and all members came under its jurisdiction. He believed that the soke was possibly a result of a gradual process of acquisition by some great English family. The soke court was held every three weeks, or more often if necessary, and fines were defined and limited. He examined the custumal of the soke and identified a separate inquisition regarding the church at Rothley with its five attached chapels, which raised a large payment compared with the secular rent. The customs of the manor were brief and included reference to the demesne of the lord king which amounted to two carucates of land, from which the men of Rothley were to carry the corn into the king’s barns using their own carts on one day in the year. This complex royal holding reviewed by Clark appears to have consisted of three main elements: a manor, a soke and a parish.