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Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 57 - 1944 page 21

A FARNBOROUGH (KENT) COURT ROLL OF 1408. 
 
Transcribed and extended by M. F. Bond, M.A.

THE Court Roll printed below is the first of a series which has recently been deposited in the Museum of Beaumont College, Old Windsor, Berks. It is printed separately here because it stands apart from the remaining rolls both in date and in interest. It belongs to the year 1408, whereas all but one of the remainder date from 1617 to 1755, and it represents the manorial court in possession of real judicial and administrative powers whereas the later rolls tell of desuetude with a final "Gothic Revival".
   In 1408 the Court is given the name of "View of Frankpledge". This name refers to the practice dating at least from the eleventh century,1 by which all men were bound to form themselves into groups of ten, and each group to have a Headman or "bors-ealdor". If one man broke the law the other nine were held responsible for his production in court. The supervision and maintenance of these groups became one of the chief duties of the local court of petty criminal jurisdiction which was consequently given the name of "View of Frankpledge", even after the actual grouping had ceased and the Headman was simply the village constable.2
   The Farnborough roll depicts firstly the appearance of the Headman with all those who owe suit of court.3 He pays the "common fine"—a contribution towards the expenses 

of holding the court, and then presents to the Court those who have neither appeared in person nor made their excuses for non-appearance. After these have been fined the criminal cases are heard: one man has been brawling, another has overcharged for leather or the use of his mill; women have been breaking the Assize of Ale. They are all fined by the common judgment of the suitors4 and the sums they are to pay are fixed by the "Affeerers" whose names are added at the foot of the Roll.
   The Roll thus reveals the normal working of mediæval village life. As Vinogradoff has said, "The local unity does not act through the personality of the lord of the manor, but through chosen or customary representatives of a community ......... there is no question of enforcing
  1 See Select Pleas in Manorial Courts, Vol. I, ed. F. W. Maitland, Introduction, p. xxxvi.
   2 At the end of the Middle Ages, and still more in the seventeenth century under the influence of Coke, the title "View of Frankpledge" yielded to the title of "Court Leet", cf. op. cit., Appendix A.
   3 This, in spite of the fact that normally either the chief pledges or the reeve and four men represented the township (op. cit., p. xxx).
  Maitland's considered view was that "the whole body of suitors both free and unfree found the judgments".

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