Stamford Papers re Wilmslow (Cheshire)

Scope and Content

A collection of leases for three lives, and a handful of court records for the manor of Bollin cum Norcliffe in Wilmslow parish, Cheshire. The leases for lives relate to Dean Row in the township of Bollin Fee and to Styal in the township of Pownall Fee, both in the parish of Wilmslow. The lease for three lives was the commonest form of tenure on the Dunham Massey estates from the seventeenth century, when it replaced copyhold or tenancy at will, until the mid-nineteenth century. Tenants held their property for the duration of three lives, who were named in the lease, rather than for a fixed term of years. It was not necessary for the lives to be related to the lessee, though they frequently were, and lessees often chose themselves as one of the lives.

The leases contain many standard clauses, and from the early 1730s onwards they were pre-printed, with spaces left blank for particulars to be entered by hand. The tenant covenanted to pay the rent and heriot as required, on pain of forfeiture; to keep the property in good repair; to grind all malt and grain at the lord's mills and to pay the toll for so doing; to keep a hound, pointer, spaniel or other dog for the use of the lord; and to do suit of court at the manorial courts held by the owners of Dunham Massey. The tenant also promised not to assign, sell or let the premises without written consent, and not to commit voluntary waste or to fell or crop timber trees. During the lifetimes of the 2nd Earl of Warrington and his daughter, Mary Countess of Stamford, tenants were also required to plant a fixed number of oak, elm and ash trees yearly up to a maximum number, and to protect them from damage.

In the earliest leases tenants were required to spend several days each year reaping, ploughing, manuring and performing other tasks for the lord. Tenants were also obliged to serve with the lord in time of war, furnished with a particular weapon. Military service and most labour services were abolished or commuted in the early eighteenth century. Leases for lives contain detailed information on field names and rural topography, land use, agricultural practices, urban development and demography. Because of the information they provide on family relationships they are also invaluable to genealogical studies.

Acquisition Information

Rylands accession no. R85528. Presented to the John Rylands Library by Roger Grey (1896-1976), 10th Earl of Stamford, in March 1942.

Separated Material

The bulk of the personal and estate papers from Dunham Massey Hall and the Stamford Estates Office in Altrincham was retained by Roger Grey, 10th Earl of Stamford during his lifetime. He bequeathed them with the Hall and estate to the National Trust in 1976. The National Trust deposited them at the John Rylands University Library between 1978 and 1995: see GB-0133-EGR . These include hundred of leases for lives (EGR14/1) and manorial court records (EGR2).

Custodial History

The collection was formerly in the possession of the Grey family, Earls of Stamford, and prior to them the Booth family, Earls of Warrington, of Dunham Massey in Cheshire. The bulk of the personal and estate papers from Dunham Massey and the Stamford Estates Office in Altrincham was bequeathed by Roger Grey, 10th Earl of Stamford, to the National Trust, who subsequently deposited them at the John Rylands University Library. For further information on their custodial history, see GB-133-EGR .