Manorial Court Rolls
Court rolls are the record of the proceedings of the manor courts, whether Court Baron, Court Customary, or Court Leet (or in the case of Conisbrough, all three). The Court Leet was usually joined with the View of Frankpledge, at which all men over the age of twelve were bound to appear and make their 'pledge' to keep the King's peace. This gave the Lord of the Manor some independence of the Sheriffs in the King's Courts of the ancient Hundreds (or Wapentakes as they were known in Yorkshire). In addition to the homage sworn by tenants (for which a suit roll was kept - if absent, then fines could be imposed), this court also dealt with the election of officers for the townships such as the Constables (responsible for law and order) and pinders (responsible for stray cattle) and their presentments of persons alleged to have committed petty misdemenours and nuisances e.g. affrays, failure to maintain watercourses. By the 18th century, such offences were more likely to be dealt with in the Quarter Sessions.
At the Court Baron, which was the freeholders' court, a variety of offences and legal formalities were dealt with. The manor court roll served as a registry for all copyhold properties, of buildings as well as land. Before anyone could enter into possession, they had to appear before the court and prove their succession, by descent or by a will. On acknowledgement of his rightful tenure and payment of a 'relief' or 'fine' to the Lord, he was 'admitted' to his property. If tenants wished to sell or mortgage holdings, then a 'surrender' of the land to the Lord had to be made before the new purchaser or mortgage could be admitted. The value of such entries to family historians can readily be seen with a wealth of genealogical information given on each changeover of tenancy.
So too, topographical details of the township abound - field names, mills, shops and cottages, streets and lanes, woods and quarries : all these are described in the extracts from deeds which are recorded in the court rolls in the many admissions and surrenders, and copies of wills enrolled in the rolls and registers.
Notes on the history of the Lordship of Conisbrough
Even prior to the Norman Conquest, Conisbrough was the centre of an important administrative unit; its position of importance was enhanced by its location on a hill overlooking and controlling a crossing of the River Don. Its name means "the King's stronghold" and at the time of the invasion by William the Conqueror in 1066, it was owned by King Harold.
In 1086 at the time of the Domesday Survey, the lordship of Conisbrough included lands in 28 townships scattered throughout South Yorkshire, including Anston, Aston, Aughton, Barnburgh, Bilham, Braithwell, Bramley Bramwith, Clifton, Cusworth, Dalton, Dinnington, Edenthorpe, Fishlake, Greasbrough, Hatfield, Harthill, Hoyland, Kirk Sandall, Long Sandall, Ravenfield, Stainforth, Thorne, Tudworth, Wales, Whiston and Wilsic. Of these, those which are underlined had churches dependent on the mother church of St. Peter's Conisbrough.
After the Norman Conquest, King Harold's possessions were given to William de Warrenne who kept the lordship as a military centre and a base for hunting in the surrounding park. Little attempt seems to have been made to develop Conisbrough as a commercial centre as there is no evidence of markets and fairs being held there. In later times, it was held by a succession of non-resident lords, of which the following have been identified:
Henry Carey, 1st Ld. Hunsdon 1561 - 1596
George Carey, 2nd Ld. Hunsdon 1596 - 1603
John Carey, 3rd Ld. Hunsdon 1603 - 1617
Henry Carey, 1st Earl of Dover 1617 - 1647
John Carey, 2nd Earl of Dover 1648 - 1677
Mary (Carey) Heveningham 1677 - 1696
Edward and Carey Newton 1696 - 1705
John Newton, Guardian of Edward Coke. 1708 - 1722
Edward Coke, esq. 1722 - 1733
Penniston and Matthew Lamb 1733 - 1737
Thomas 4th Duke of Leeds 1737 - 1788
Francis 5th Duke of Leeds 1789 - 1798
George William Frederick 6th Duke of Leeds 1799 - 1838
Sackville Walter Lane Fox, esq. 1839 - 1874
Sackville George, Lord Conyers 1874 - 1889
Charles Alfred Worsley, 4th Earl of Yarborough 1889 - 1935
And Marcia Amelia Mary, Countess of Yarborough and Baroness Conyers
Before the grant of the manor of Conisbrough to her cousin by Queen Elizabeth I, the Crown had held the manor for over 100 years.
In 1347, the line of the Warrenes, Earls of Surrey, who had held the manor since the time of the Conquest, came to an end, and the inheritance their lands fell to the crown in reversion. The following were grantees of the manor and castle by the Crown:
Edmund of Langley
Earl of Cambridge, Duke of York 1347 - 1402
Edward, Duke of York 1402 - 1415
Richard, Earl of Cambridge 1415 - 1415
Matilda Countess of Cambridge 1415 - 1446
Richard, Duke of York 1446 - 1460
Edward, Earl March (EIV) 1460 - 1483
By an act of parliament in 1496, all the lands of Edmund of Langley were declared to be resumed and annexed to the Crown. The period 1300 to 1485 was the most important in the history of the castle and lordship of Conisbrough, for not only did its strategic position make it an important place to secure in the struggles of the Earl of Lancaster in the reign of Edward II and of the Yorkists against the Lancastrians in the 15th century "Wars of the Roses", but several scions of the Royal House were born at Conisbrough and its dependency Hatfield, including the ill fated Earl of Cambridge who was beheaded by King Henry V in 1415 for his part in an alleged treasonable conspiracy.
After this time, the princes of the House of Tudor rarely visited the North and the fortress of Conisbrough fell into disuse; when Leland visited the area in the reign of Henry VIII and reported that "He saw no notable thing at Conisbrough but the castle, standing on a rokket of stone, and ditched. The walls of it hath been strong and full of towers". So it was that Queen Elizabeth granted the castle and lordship to her kinsman, Henry Carey 1561.
By the middle of the 14th century, the original extent of the lordship of Conisbrough had shrunk. At the Great Tourn held at Michaelmas 1347, the following places were mentioned with tenants owing suit of court to the Lord:
In the 17th & 18th centuries, these places were still governed by the lordship of Conisbrough, illustrating the survival of manorial rights over a long period of time, helped by the continuity of families.