Town v. Manor: Specifics of Administrative Development of Monastic Towns in Medieval England

Publication type Article
Status Published
EditionVolume 5 Issue 6 (29)
AbstractThe article deals with peculiarities of administration system of small towns, based on the example of monastic towns of medieval England. The main focus is on the correlation between emerging urban settlements and manorial system, when the latter is considered only in its administrative aspect. Small town existed within this system, regardless of having a borough status. The Berkshire towns (Abingdon, Faringdon, Reading, and Thatcham) are used as examples of different urban development in terms of relationship of their administration with manorial system and holding of formal borough (burghal) status. The towns under consideration demonstrate that a detachment into a separate manor did not play a crucial role in the town’s development (although it was a part of it) and also could not be considered as a measure of this development. Two towns (Faringdon and Thatcham) that went through the process of separation ceased to be urban settlements towards the end of the Middle Ages, whereas Abingdon that continued to be a part of the manor of Barton till the 16th century evolved more dynamically and successfully. At the same time the separation of town from manor does not appear to be an indicator of the townspeople’s activities in their quest for the independence (or rather autonomy) of their lords-monasteries. Nevertheless, the towns succeeded in actual (even if nor formal) extraction out of manor due to appearance of their own officials and town court. This was what the townsmen looked for in particular. Admittedly, this court was still under the control of monastic officials and coexisted with manorial court that retained some of its functions in the town. The article also brings up the issue of significance of a ‘burghal’ status for a settlement.
Keywordsmedieval town, manor, medieval England, monastic town, small towns, urban government
Publication date10.11.2014
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