Wara terre: an obscure Staffordshire landholding unit in Margaret de Bromley's Assignment of Dower, 1420

The 1420 assignment of dower to Margaret, widow of Thomas de Bromley, esquire, has been calendared in CIPM xxi, as document 173, but with a number of gaps.  The head and foot of the original inquisition are damaged and parts of the rest were too faded to read.  However the faded sections can mostly be made out with effort, especially with the aid of an ultra-violet lamp, and they have been added to the updated calendar text below, which is now complete save for the introduction and a part of the final section lost from the original. Additionally, a mistranslation of the name of an uncommon landholding unit, the wara terre, has been corrected.

Margaret Bromley's dower lands in the Staffordshire manors of Bromley, Winnington and Ashley[1. All three manors lay in west central Staffordshire. Bromley is Gerards Bromley, in the wooded northwestern corner of the vast parish of Eccleshall; Winnington is a township in the parish of Muckleston.] included five landholdings described as tenementum cum dimidia wara terre - a tenement with half a wara of land, or perhaps a half wara of land. Two were held freely by individuals surnamed Bromley, presumably relatives; the other three were probably customary tenancies. Her lands in Winnington and Ashley also included three other tenements each with half a virgate of land.

In CIPM xxi.173 dimidia wara terre has been translated as “ ½‘war-land' ”, presumably meaning, in the elided style of the calendar, ‘half a war-land' or ‘a half war-land'. But warland was a type of land or tenure, not a unit of landholding. Most commonly found in East Anglia, though it also turns up further west (notably in early 12th-century surveys of the estates of Burton Abbey), warland was land which was subject to geld, as opposed to non-taxable inland. Significantly, when not Latinised simply as terra warlanda it is always referred to in forms like terra de ware, acra de ware and virgata de ware.[2. P. Vinogradoff, Villainage in England (1892), pp. 241-3;  D.C. Douglas, The Social Structure of Medieval East Anglia (1927), pp. 107-8, 186-8, 225-7;  R. Faith, The English Peasantry and the Growth of Lordship (1997), ch. 4.]  Clearly, terra de ware is not the same thing as una wara terre - the former describes the type of land, the latter describes how large a landholding it is.

That this is so is evident from the earliest recorded instances of the term, in two Burton Abbey surveys dating from 1114x18 and 1116x33. These record many instances of warlanda and inlanda but also, in the entries for Darlaston and Whiston in central Staffordshire, subdivide the warland into landholding units called ware. Phrases such as Terra warlanda se defendit pro i hida, et sunt in ea vi ware clearly show the different meanings of the two terms.[3. C.G.O. Bridgeman, ‘The Burton Abbey Twelfth Century Surveys', Collections for a History of Staffordshire, New Series 1916 (1918), pp. 209-300, at pp. 227-8, and see also pp. 274-7. Vinogradoff, Villainage in England, p. 243, thought that in the surveys wara meant geldable land, but J.H. Round, Feudal England (London, 1895), p. 117, pointed out that the Burton ‘ware have quite another meaning, and are spoken of as virgates would elsewhere be.']

The wara terre was not a commonly found landholding unit, in fact it is difficult to find other occurrences of it. A few other examples can be collected, however, all from within or just outside Staffordshire. A 1402 rental of Blithfield, Bagot's Bromley and Yeatsall in central Staffordshire mentions nine landholdings comprising messuages with full or half waras terre et prati. An extent of the manor of Audley in northern Staffordshire, contained in the 1308 IPM of Thomas de Audley, mentions four holdings containing either a full or half wara terre. From just outside Staffordshire, a 1302 court roll of the manor of Halesowen records a grant of land to be held pro dimidia wara terre.[4. Maj. Gen. G. Wrottesley, ‘A History of the Bagot Family', Collections, New Series xi (1908), pp. 1-224, at pp. 200 (1402 rentals); J. Wedgwood, ‘Inquests on the Staffordshire estates of the Audleys', Collections, New Series xi (1908), pp. 231-70 (Audley extent); J. Amphlett and S.G. Hamilton, Court Rolls of the Manor of Hales 1270-1307, ii, Worcestershire Historical Society 59 (1912), p. 451 (Halesowen court roll).  Thomas de Audley's IPM (now C 134/5/1 at TNA) was published in CIPM v.62, but of course with the extents omitted. It must be likely that when the extents omitted from the 13th- and 14th-century IPMs are eventually published further examples of ware terre will be found.]

But how big was a wara? The Burton surveys imply that in Darlaston it was one third of a virgate (terra hominum se defendit pro iij virgatis in quibus sunt ix ware) and in Whiston two thirds of a virgate (assuming the local hide contained four virgates: if it had six, then its wara was equal to a virgate). Latham's Medieval Latin Wordlist offers an unsourced suggestion that it might be equal to a virgate, and Dr Nigel Tringham of Keele University has provided evidence that this is probably correct. The Trentham priory archive in Staffordshire Record Office contains two early 13th-century deeds from Longton in Stoke-upon-Trent parish. In the first William de Fenton, vicar of Audley, gave Trentham priory two half waras of land in Longton which he held of Ralph de Bevile (then the lord of Longton), one held of William by Simon the miller and the other by Christine de Bosco. The other deed is of the same date and is a confirmation to Trentham priory by Robert de Bevile, son of William de Bevile (presumably related to Ralph, the lord of Longton) of William de Fenton's gift of one virgata of land in Longton. This second deed is endorsed 'charter ... super duabus dimidiis waris terre'. So it seems that in this part of north Staffordshire at least a wara was an alternative term for a virgate.[5. SRO, D. 593/B/1/23/4/1/1 and D. 593/B/1/23/4/2/11.  They have been calendared in F. Parker, 'A Chartulary of the Augustine Priory of Trentham', Collections xi (1890), p. 321, but without the crucial endorsement.  We are indebted to Dr Tringham for providing this information.]


[Writ de dote assignanda. 1 Feb. 1420: CCR 1419-22, p. 31.]

STAFFORDSHIRE. Assignment of Dower. ?3 June 1420. [Lee]

Assigned, in the presence of the next … John Bromley …

From the manor of Bromley with its members, a house under a loft (tectum) called ‘le yatehouse' and a granary (orreum) next to it; ⅓ chapel, dovecote, garden called ‘le Mynteyarde', and orchard; a tenement with half a wara of land which Maud Bromley holds freely to herself and her heirs; a cottage which John Potter holds, ⅓ mill; from the demesne lands a plot called ‘le Crystynges' and 2 plots called ‘le Overhethlee' and ‘le Netherhethlee' with the wood growing there; ⅓ plot of land called ‘le Milnerrudyng', a plot of land called ‘le Mareheye' and ‘le Held', a plot of land called ‘Bradmore'; ⅓ pond called ‘le Mylnepole'.
From the manor of Winnington, ½ tenement and lands which John Tranayle holds freely; a parcel of land which he holds at will; a tenement with half a wara of land late in the tenure of Thomas Lokesley; a cottage late in the tenure of Hugh Huchynson; a tenement with half a wara of land which Hugh Baron holds; a tenement with half a wara of land which John Pere late held; a tenement with ½ virgate of land which John Pere holds freely; ⅓ mill; from the demesne lands a parcel of land called ‘le Hallefeldes'; a meadow, an assart in ‘le mersshe', a garden (ortum); a parcel of wood called ‘Brendhurst'; ⅓ ‘Lyteldepemore'.
From the manor of Ashley, a tenement with half a wara of land that the heir of John Bromley, knight, deceased, held freely;  … … Richard Davyson holds freely;  a tenement with half a virgate of land which John Smert holds; a tenement with half a v.. … … Margaret holds; a parcel of land called ‘le Stokkyng; ⅓, both pasture and … … called ‘Wylotbrugge Park'; ⅓ wood called ‘Wo.. ..yne. …

C138/36/9 m. 1 (to be published in extension of CIPM xxi.173).