The first of a series of articles by Gerald Wynne Rushton which will be published fortnightly in these columns.
There is romance in pretty nearly everything--even in rent collecting. True it is that it seldom falls to the average person to pay his rent in terms that recall Feudal England and the Wars of the Rocs—but then most of us live in houses that have too recent an origin for that. But up and down the country are tuckedaway farms, and remote Manors, besides lordly and lovely estates, the owners of which pay rent to the Crown in kind for their land.
Here the taste and humour of long dead kings and lords is annually recalled; and life is momentarily the brighter for a return to customs of a less sophisticated age.
Payment in Gloves
And so it happens that two farms, at Carlcoats in Yorkshire, rendered " the one a left-hand, the other a right-hand glove" as rent every year; while in Nottingham we find an instance of " two pairs of gloves, a pound of cummin seed and a steel needle" forming the rent. Cumin or Cumrnin, as it is spelt in the Bible, recalls the herb garden of our great-grandmothers' days, wherein myrrh, and hyssop, and mint, and costmary, and dittany could be gathcred—and, most important of all, Cumrnin.
Its red flower and jagged leaves are seldom seen to-day—but from the earliest times it was held to be a rare physic, since it possessed the power of making healthy faces pale, pale faces rosy; while as a love'potion it prevents fickleness. Hence its inclusion in the rents of Elston!
A Horse at 5s.
Many of the annual dues have to do with horses. Thus at Rode, Northampton, " One horse at the price of five shillings, and one sack of the price of fourpence halfpenny with one • small pin for forty days" is the rent every year; while the Manor of Cherburgh in Dorset was held " by the service of one horse comb, price fourpence, to be paid yearly." One very often finds a curry comb as " the rent."
Needles and pins suffice, for this office. One Roger " Some time tailor to Our Lord the King" held an estate in Essex " by service of paying at the King's Exchequer one silver needle yearly."
A Tablecloth But a number of Crown rents suggest in the terms of their enactment a pretty sense of the useful. Pushill in Oxfordshire pays annually a tablecloth of the value of three shillings—while King's Brame in Warwickshire renders a pair of tongs every year as rent. A pair of scarlet hose, a pound of honey, a fur hat, fourteen heifers and a young bull, are other items revealed by a study of old rent rolls—while at Maplescomb in Kent, the tenant must provide a coin for an oblation for the King whenever His Majesty should attend service in the Parish Church. As the Sovereign has never yet done so, anti the church is now in ruins it is highly uniikely ;hat rent will ever be paid!
I like vastly a detail connected with the Manor of Chittington in Shropshire, where one Roger Corbel was obliged to find "one footman in time of war in the King's Army in Wales, with one bow and three arrows and one pale, and carrying with him one bacon or salted hog, and when he comes to the Army, delivering to the King's Marshal a moiety of the bacon; and thence the Marshal shall deliver to him daily some of that moiety for his dinner so long as he stays in the army, and he is to follow the army so long as the half of that bacon shall last."
I would like to have "joined up" in 1914 on those terms; the Sergeant-Major's face would have been a study!
Property in the Strand
But it is not merely these " haunts of ancient peace" that render rentals, or quitrent, of the symbolically infinitesimal. London Town has her ancientry in these mat ters, and every year, in the Royal Courts of Justice, the Sheriffs of the City of London render service to the Crown, for certain property in the Strand and in the county of Shropshire.
The records, which go back to the thirteenth century are quite explicit on the
subject. Although the forge has disappeared since the reign of Richard II, in the reign of Henry Ill, a smithy in the Strand, occupying a site in the parish of St. Clement Danes, was held by one Walter le Brun.
For the forge he had to render an annual tribute to the Crown of six horseshoes and sixty-one nails. Likewise certain lands in Shropshire, known as the Moors, were held by on Nicholas de Mora — and he paid rent by cutting two faggots one with a hatchet, the other with a billhook.
These properties long ago passed into
the possession of the City--but the Crown has exacted its rent annually for 600 years. And so every year—before the King's Remembrancer, a hatchet and a billhook are produced, and two little faggots are solemnly chopped up;---and sixty immense horseshoes of apparently great antiquity, and sixty-one nails, are solemnly counted out. "Sixty nails and one over" says the City Solicitor, " Good Number " solemnly replies the King's Remernbrancer, and adds " I accept and hold these quit rents at the disposal of His Majesty."
Thus the service is performed, and ac cepted by our Liege Lord King Edward VIII to-day, in the same manner and probably with the very same words and formalities as by King Henry TT1 from 1235 to 1246. These things, trivial as they may seem, are truly the very patina of history.
GERALD WYNNE RUSHTON.