Friday, 22 March 2013

A little bit of Tudor England revealed today

Most of us are familiar with the Domesday Book that great survey of England and parts of Wales which was completed in 1086.

And I guess lots of us have been curious enough to go looking for where we live and trying to get a sense of what the place was like just over 900 years ago.
But until recently I was totally unaware of the Wooton survey of 1560.

“The Wotton family of Boughton Malherbe owned substantial lands in Kent in the sixteenth century. At the time of the Survey their estates totalled about six thousand acres, scattered over every part of the county. 

The Survey was carried out between 1557 and 1560 on the initiative of Thomas Wotton. Its purpose was to establish precisely what lands he held, where they were, how they were used, what feudal obligations they carried and, especially, whether they were ‘of the custom, nature and tenure of gavelkind.’ This was the particular inheritance custom of Kent whereby lands were partitioned equally between all heirs instead of descending in their entirety to the eldest son.”*

And what the survey offers up is a wonderful picture of this part of Kent in the sixteenth century.
The document remained in the hands of the family until it disappeared in 1929 only to turn up again in a London sale when it was bought by the British Museum.

The story appears in this months edition of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, in an article written by Alan Crosby who describes how the survey

“has now been transcribed by a team of volunteers from the Kent Archaeological Society and has been put online with free access together with exceptionally informative essays on the manuscript itself, explaining the methods the transcribers employed, the Wooton family and the evidence which the survey gives for the landscape, economy, architecture and social structure at the beginning of Elizabeth 1’st reign.”**

Now I have never seen the point of retelling a story when it has already been done by the people who put in the work.

So I will say no more about Wooton other than suggest you visit the Kent Archaeological Society at and follow the links to the survey.

Kent Archaeological Society, the oldest and largest society devoted to the history and archaeology of the ancient county of Kent.

And also highlight Alan Crosby’s article “Our volunteers have made a rare Tudor survey available to all.” Who Do You Think You Are?  April 2013 which first drew my attention to the Tudor survey.

* Jacqueline Bower,

**Alan Crosby “Our volunteers have made a rare Tudor survey available to all.” Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, April 2013

Pictures; from

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