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Archaeologia Cantiana -  Vol. 73 - 1959  pages 116

Late-Continued Demesne Farming at Otford. By F. R. H. Du Boulay, M.A., F.R.Hist.S.

As it is not very usual to find a demesne continuously exploited by its lord as late as the mid-fifteenth century, with detailed accounts of the process, the manor of Otford is worth a short paper to show how an attenuated cultivation by the archbishop was carried on until 1444.
   The numerous demesnes of the archbishopric, mostly lying in Kent, Sussex and Surrey, had with few exceptions been leased out by 1422 when a surviving valor gives a fairly comprehensive view of the estates.1 The Cathedral Priory had gone over to rents as a matter of policy in the 1390’s, and it is not unlikely that the archbishop’s council had the same policy in train. The fact that a few widely-spaced manors like Tarring, Stoneham and possibly Wadhurst in Sussex, Otford, Wingham Barton, and possibly Teynham in Kent were still directly exploited, in whole or in part, as late as 1422 strengthens the impression that the supply of the archbishop’s itinerant household was one reason for continued demesne-farming on selected manors.
   It should be noted at the outset, however, that the demesne lands on the archbishop’s manors were often rather small in comparison with the lands of the tenants. To
 put it another way, the major part of the archbishop’s income from land, throughout the medieval period, was from rents. So the interest of his demesne exploitation

derives less from watching a "high-farming" policy like that of certain monasteries than from the information its records give us about farming methods and, indeed, the local communities.
   In the thirteenth century the issues of Otford demesne and the rents of tenants were jointly answered for by a bailiff and a reeve in one great undifferentiated account.2 Accounts of the same sort survive from 1315-16 and 1322-3, where the accounting officer is called a serjeant (serviens), andfrom 1355-6 where he is called reeve (prepositus)3 But from 1382-3, when something like a consecutive series begins again, the demesne is always left to the serjeant,4 the collection of the tenants’ rents to the reeve.5 This process of differentiating accounts is con-
   1 Lambeth Palace Library, Cartae Miscellanae, vol. xi, no. 89. It is hoped to discuss the whole problems of farming the demesnes in a forthcoming book on the archbishop’s estates in the middle ages.
   
2 Brit. Mus. Add MS 29,794 (account of 1273-4); Lambeth Court Roll collection (abbreviated L.R.) no. 831 (account of 1296-7).
   
3 L.R. 832-4.
   
4 L.R., 835-6, 838, 841, 846, 846a, 849, 850, 853, 857-8,860, 863, 865, 868, 871.
   
5 L.R., 839, 842, 844-845a, 847, 854, 854a, 859, 861, 864, 866, 869-70, 872, 874.

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