Unpublished IPMs: dower for Constance, who was the wife of Thomas lord Despenser, 1415

This document is apparently the only surviving assignment of dower for Constance, wife of Thomas Despenser, who (Thomas) was executed in 1400 after his involvement in the Epiphany rising of January that year. [1. For Constance's biography, see Rosemary Horrox, ‘Despenser, Constance, Lady Despenser (c.1375–1416)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 (, accessed 27 Feb 2013; subscription required).] Writs for assignment of dower, directed to  the escheators of 23 counties and London, were only issued after a very lengthy interval, on 18 February 1415. Constance's dower holdings were summarized in a series of inquisitions taken in 1416-17 (CIPM xix.621-31), including one for Yorkshire which supplements the information given here (CIPM xix.631). As is usual, however, the original assignment contains more information than appears in the later inquisition.

Unpublished IPMs: John Chitewode, 1412

This inquisition for John Chitewode (or Chetwode) survives only as a copy in the Exchequer archive. [1. For his biography, see] It is not clear why it was omitted from CIPM xix. No other IPMs survive for John, whose manors in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire were not held in chief. Nor does the current IPM give a full record of his holdings in Northamptonshire, since he also held the manor of Warkworth, which was held of the bishop of Lincoln. Possibly this inquisition did not record lands held of others than the king because it was realised that, since John held of the king only de honore, of the duchy of Lancaster, the crown (in theory at least) had no right of primer seisin. All the same, this document is an interesting example of how tenants who held of the duchy could be drawn into the IPM system after Henry IV's accession, despite the duchy's administrative independence (again, at least in theory).

The jurors: a cautionary tale

Almost all IPMs list the names of at least twelve jurors on whose testimony - at least in theory - the IPM was based. In the language of the inquisitions, the jurors say 'on their oath' what lands a tenant held,  what day he died, and so on. The names of these jurors were omitted from most of the printed calendars and only appear in the volumes covering the period from 1422 to 1447. The editors of those volumes rightly judged that the identity of the jurors could have a significant bearing on an IPM's reliability, for example if the locality of the jurors (and hence the extent of their local knowledge) could be ascertained, or if they could be shown to be retainers or servants of an interested party. The jurors were also judged to be worthy of research in their own right, as the men (they were of course all men) through whom royal government operated at a local level, representatives of a 'middling sort' in rural society that had not received the attention it deserved from historians. [1. For a general summary of work on the jurors, see M. Holford, ' 'Thrifty men of the country?': The jurors and their role', in Companion, ed. Hicks, which also provides references for several of the examples discussed below.]

Enhancement of dates and places in CIPM 1-21

We are pleased to announce that a part-time research assistant, Gordon McKelvie of the University of Winchester, has been appointed to the project. Mr McKelvie will work primarily on providing modern calendar equivalents for the dates in CIPM volumes 3-17. Those volumes preserved the dating of the original IPMs, by regnal years and (often) liturgical feasts, e.g. Monday after SS. Peter and Paul, 17 Richard II. Converting such dates to modern forms (date-month-year) can be difficult and is often time-consuming; providing modern forms alongside the original dates will make the volumes significantly more accessible and user-friendly. Categorization of different sorts of date (writ date, inquisition date, date of tenant's death and so on) will also facilitate analysis of the inquisitions themselves. At a later stage it is hoped to amend the dates in the already digitised volumes 1 and 2 on British History Online.

CIPM xxiii.538: markets and fairs in the IPMs

Among much else the Lincolnshire IPM of Thomas de Roos, knight, taken in 1430, recorded the existence at Wragby of a weekly market on Wednesdays, and an annual fair on the feast of the Ascension. Both had also been recorded in 1421. [1. CIPM xxi.845, xxiii.548.] The Wednesday market is known from other sources and is listed in a comprehensive Gazetteer of markets and fairs. [2.; print version, S. Letters et al., Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516, List and Index Society Special Series 32-33 (2003). Information on fairs and markets is drawn from the online text unless otherwise noted.] The fair is not listed, although its existence is confirmed by an account of 1423-4. [3. SC 6/1121/16 m. 17.] This is not unusual: the IPMs are a significant source of information on markets and fairs, and they are particularly valuable for the fifteenth century when the history of many such institutions is obscure. IPMs can shed light on the decline and disappearance of markets, and consequently on economic contraction and changing patterns of trade. As is often the case, though, the inquisitions need to be used with caution: detailed study of markets and fairs in the IPMs tells us not only about those institutions but about the value and reliability of the inquisitions themselves.