At the same time sheriffs were in a position of showing favour
or hostility to the people of the county. Complaints about
sheriffs and bailiffs are found throughout the Middle Ages, from
the Inquest of Sheriffs of 1170 to the demands put forward by
the rebels in Cade’s rebellion of 1450. The complaints of the
Hundred Rolls echo those found in Hugh Bigod’s eyre of 1259.
In view of the infrequency of eyres, there was no effective
check on officials’ activities. The jurors only tell one side
of the story but there is little doubt that offences occurred.
According to the Provisions of Oxford of 1258, at
the start of the baronial reform period, the sheriff was to be a
substantial landholder (vavassour) of the county. He was to take
no reward and only to hold office for a year. The reformers
considered that his landholding would provide him with the money
needed for his duties, so that he would not be tempted to resort
to corruption. Fulk Payforer served as sheriff in 1258-9, 1264-5
(between the battles of Lewes and Evesham when Simon de Montfort
was ruling the country) and 1267-8. He was also appointed a
collector of the twentieth. Many of the sheriffs of the 1260s,
such as Roger de Leyburn, John de Cobeham and Stephen de
Penecestre, held land in Kent but also had connections with the
court; Roger acted as Edward’s lieutenant in Kent after the
battle of Evesham, while Stephen became Warden of the Cinque
Lathes and hundreds were generally held at farm and
there were widespread complaints about increases in the farm.
Roger Viniter of Malling was said to have farmed Aylesford lathe
from John de Wattun, described as sheriff, for £10 a year, but
in 1273-4 the present bailiff, Thomas de Ho, farmed it for over
£25. John de Wattun handed over the lathe of Shepway to John de
Kemesing for £16 who is said to have committed many evil deeds.
It was farmed for £30 in the early 1270s. John de Wattun handed
over the lathe of Scray to his bailiffs for £20, whereas the
sum had earlier been £10, and all subsequent sheriffs had taken
the higher sum. Sutton at Hone lathe used to be demised at £12
but in 1274-5 at £18.24 All this looks like a case of outright
oppression, but the king, by demanding increments on the county
farm from the sheriff, was putting pressure on him to produce
more money. The thirteenth century was an age of inflation, war
and costly foreign projects, and, although the county farm only
comprised a small proportion of the royal revenue, the king was
anxious to secure what he could.
Juries were increasingly used in the thirteenth
century to present suspects, provide information for royal
assizes (concerning freehold property), and determine guilt or
innocence; in addition, juries were used in private courts.
Crimes were presented at the tourn by twelve lawful men of the
hundred. A hundred jury of twelve appeared before the justices
in eyre to answer the questions posed in the articles of the
eyre; a similar procedure was adopted for the Hundred Rolls.25