The manors, Prince’s, Bishop’s and Bayllol’s (or Brounz’s), enjoyed during the medieval period a very important position in the village, owning much of the land, with the right of jurisdiction over their tenants in fining them lasting until Stuart times. We can look at these houses and properties, too, and find them substantially the same as they were six or seven hundred years ago.
The manor of Prince’s, variously called Upper Manor, or Prince’s Harwell (also a term meaning the whole village) has always been connected with the church, and stands close to it. The manor (territory) was granted by William the Conqueror to Robert d’Oily, who in turn gave it, with others in Oxfordshire, to his comrade Roger d’Iveri. In about 1157, the d’Iveri line became extinct, and the honour was granted to the family of St Valery; these Norman lords owned the land and enjoyed its resources, while living elsewhere, but, some freeholders did live in the village, holding property in the area of Wellshead after 1200, of about fifty acres each; the deeds of these properties are held by Magdalen College, Oxford. Prince’s Manor takes its name from the Black Prince, who granted it in 1361 to the College of St Nicholas, at Wallingford Castle, who had complained that they had insufficient funds to support their establishment.
Figure 2.3 Prince’s Manor.
After the Black Death (1348 – 49), which killed about four million people, or half the population of England, manor demesnes were farmed by tenants; there is evidence that this happened at Prince’s Manor as early as 1350, and one can imagine that at Harwell anyone fit would work. The name of the husbandman who farmed the land later, and built much of the present house, was Bartolin. The sale of the property by agents who had bought seven manors formerly belonging to the College of St Nicholas, from the Crown, is recorded in 1557; the buyer was a Harwell man, already the tenant: Richard Loder; he bought it for his son, John.
Middle Farm (recently renamed King’s Manor) stands back from the main street, next to Grove Road (formerly Talbot’s Lane). This was a manor occupied by Bayllols from about 1200 to 1350, and by Brounzs from about 1350 to 1437. The oldest part of the house to survive is the rectangular south range dating from about 1280. Tenure by the Bayllols ceased when William Bayllol died in 1349, presumably from the Black Death, but the first to be mentioned is Jocelyn de Bayllol; the Bayllols were the most important residents in Harwell, because the other two manors were held by the Earl of Cornwall and the Bishop of Winchester, who lived elsewhere; a Bayllol was usually the first name in the list of witnesses to Harwell deeds.
Figure 2.4 Middle Farm.
When William Bayllol died in 1349, the family of Brounz, derived from Richard Brounz (c.l320 – 1392) occupied the manor, and spelt their name variously Brunce, Bruns, Bronz, Brounz, Brounts, Brunz. Richard Brounz became Sheriff of Berkshire and Oxfordshire, but this family’s occupation of the manor ended when Richard’s son John died in 1437, and the manor passed, through the marriage of his daughter, Alice, to John Stokes; on Alice’s death in 1479 ownership was shared by various descendants of Richard Brounz; Bishop William Waynflete bought the manor in 1484 and endowed it to his new foundation, Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1486 – 7, and again in 1590, members of the college moved to Harwell to avoid the plague.
For a further description of Prince’s and Brounz’s manors, see Three Medieval Farmhouses in Harwell, by John Fletcher. (Berks.Arch. J vo1.62, 1965 – 6, pp. 45-69).
The farmhouse known today as Bishop’s Manor Farm stands beside the old road to Sutton, at Townsend; it was the Grange of the Bishop of Winchester’s manor of about a thousand acres; the present house has a seventeenth century front; the Bishop’s Manor court rolls, from 1687 – 1777, listing tenancies and tenants’ misdemeanours, can be seen in the Records room at the Shire Hall, Reading. From the thirteenth to the fifteenth century this manor, known as Lower Manor or Bishop’s Harwell, was administered by one of the Bishop’s officials, whose duties included making an annual return of expenditure and profit. Most of these returns from 1209 to 1450 survive.
Figure 2.5 Bishops Manor.
The Bishop of Winchester or members of his household would only have lodged in the village. For this purpose the timbered hall now known as Lime Tree House was rebuilt in the thirteenth century, parallel to and slightly back from the High Street. Now a two-storey building, this house was one of many manor houses “conveniently situated to provide accommodation for the Bishop or members of his household on journeys within the diocese or other parts of the kingdom. Most of these manor houses have disappeared.” Its early role was rediscovered in 1967.
Figure 2.6 Lime Tree House, Photographed in January 1968, once the guest hall of the Bishop of Winchester.
Peter des Roches, the much disliked Poitevin Bishop of Winchester from 1206 – 1238, stayed at Harwell on three occasions in 1217; John de Pontoise, Bishop from 1282 -1304 (whose harvester was troublesome) stayed in the village in May and June 1283. The earliest reference to stays by members of the Bishop’s household concerns his knights, who were entertained here on their return from the wars in Scotland in 1209. Harwell was not a backwater:
“The villagers would notice the comings and goings of the chief officers of the Bishop of Winchester when they stayed on their journeys about the country in his manor house in the High Street. In October 1283 all would have seen the newly elected Bishop when his visit included a mighty feast for which 91 geese, 68 hens and 2,000 eggs were provided.”
- Margery of Bayllol’s descendant
Deborah Jarrett –
14 Feb 2013 Hello,I have recently discovered that I am a direct descendant of Margery of Bayllol through her marriage to Master John atta Harwell and I am totally enthralled with the discovery of this website. This story is very interesting, and I would truly love to stroll the house/grounds of Middle Farm. Perhaps someday The Good Lord will permit my son and I to walk the same land as John and Margery.
Thank you for this information!