The 1263 Surrey Eyre

2006/4 pp5–6

 

The 1263 Surrey Eyre

 

The 1263 Surrey Eyre has recently been published by the Surrey Record Society. The eyre was a judicial visitation in which a team of judges travelled on a circuit allotted to them, setting up court in certain towns to hear complaints about abuse of power by sheriffs and bailiffs and to administer justice in a variety of cases. The Surrey Eyre opened at Guildford on 14 January 1263 with a team of four justices commissioned to make the visitation. They brought with them a staff of clerks and court officials who kept the records and acted as ushers in the court hearings. All important county officials and persons involved in the cases to be tried were summoned to attend, a total of many hundreds of people. The eyre was in session at Guildford for three weeks. The main roll of the 1263 Surrey Eyre has survived and consists of 33 membranes sewn into a linen cover. The records are clearly written in a number of different hands. They have been transcribed and translated from the Latin by Dr. Susan Steward, who has added an introduction that provides not only a comprehensive background to the eyre, but also describes the troubled politics in the reign of Henry III. (The differences between king and barons of the previous reign had not been entirely resolved by the Magna Carta). There is a special chapter on women in the eyre, drawing attention to their disadvantaged position.

 

In the text of the book more than 700 cases are given and, according to the index, five relate to Epsom and eight to Ewell. Of the five Epsom cases, all but one are concerned with disputes over relatively small pieces of land up to 10 acres or so. In the exception (no. 645), Walter in the Hale, Sampson de Wymer and William de la Hoke of Epsom had been charged with larcenies, robberies and other crimes. They had ‘absconded and are suspected, so they are to be exacted and outlawed’.

 

With regard to the entries for Ewell, they mostly concerned small pieces of land, although one (no. 71) was a dispute over part ownership of a mill, while in another (no. 208) Philip le Juvene of Ewell acknowledges that he owes the prior of Merton 40s. No. 583 is of more interest. A group of men went out to catch birds and came to the courtyard of Gervase of Kingswood. ‘Gervase came out of his house and with a stake struck Robert Tropyn, one of the men, in the head, whereof the next day he died. Gervase immediately fled and was suspected so he is to be exacted and outlawed’. Ewell was involved because Gervase ‘was in the tithing of Richer Rowe in Ewell, so it is in mercy’, i.e. subject to a fine. Kingswood was a detached part of Ewell parish.

 

In no. 584, ‘Athelina daughter of William de Kingswood was crushed by a certain tree in a wood in Boregrove by misadventure and Ralph Heued of Ewell, first finder, does not come nor is suspected and was attached by Walter Heued and Henry Hubert of the same, so they are in mercy. Price of the tree 6d. (deodand, 6d) for which the sheriff is to answer’. This relates to the custom of declaring any object causing death a deodand, the value of which had to be donated to the Church.

 

The 1263 Surrey Eyre is published by Surrey Record Society as volume 40, 2006.

 

Charles Abdy