In recent years the economic activities of the gentry have attracted an increasing amount of attention, especially from historians concerned with the economic organisation of the great ecclesiastical estates on which the knights figure prominently amongst the most substantial tenants. Such studies have shown in fine detail the operation and exploitation of both large and small estates, often pursuing individual families over several generations and charting with great accuracy the rise and fall of their fortunes. Unfortunately the fine detail seen through the sharp focus of the archives of clerical landlords and royal bailiffs blurs instantly into myopic confusion when enlarged to take in a wider angle of view. Any general regional study of the gentry in the thirteenth century is almost hopelessly compromised by the capriciousness of the records available. Detailed qualitative analysis and comparison of the estates of knights holding of lay lords slides very rapidly into an evaluation of the few well documented individuals whilst the remainder may be assessed only superficially. Because of this loss of focus it is scarcely possible to produce a satisfactory comparative analysis of the economic activities of the thirteenth century gentry as a group, though as Professor Coss [1] has shown it is possible to extract considerable mileage from a few uncharacteristically well documented individuals. Whether they can be taken as paradigms is another matter. The present chapter is therefore concerned more with the general topography of a very impressionistic economic landscape, than with the detailed analysis of individual estates and will simply examine  the number and general distribution of gentry estates in late thirteenth century Essex. The next following chapter will attempt to examine the quality, value and organisation of these estates,

I. The Selection of the Sample

The selection of the sample in itself raises serious problems, since the criteria of knighthood at this period were nothing if not confused and obscure. For the purposes of the survey forty two knights were selected according to three distinct criteria, and subdivided into four basic groups- The first two groups, A and B, consist respectively of those knights known to have been returned to parliament during the reign of Edward Ist, and those known to have been nominated as assessors and collectors of taxation during the same period. These two groups are therefore defined by function alone, and the parliamentary group forms the core of the survey as a whole. For the remaining groups, C and D, which are intended to be comparative control groups an approximately equal sample of non-parliamentary knights has been selected from knights known to have been armigerous, militarily active, and either resident or attached to Essex during the period 1275 - 1307. The source and general characteristics of each of these groups will be considered in rather more detail.

The parliamentary group consists of twelve knights known to have attended at least one parliament during the reign of Edward I. At least five of the knights in this group also attended some parliaments in the reign of Edward II. [2] The knights in group A and the parliament to which they were returned in the reign of Edward 1 are as follows [3]


Knight Parliament Place
Ralph de Ardern  Nov.27. 1295. Westminster
Oct.14. 1302.  Westminster
John de Beauchamp of Fifield.  Ju1.15. 1290. Westminster
Ralph le Bigod.  May.30. 1306.  Westminster
Hugh le Blount  May.25. 1298.  York
March. 6. 1300.  London
Jan 2O. 13O1.  Lincoln.
John le Breton.  Ju1.15. 1290.  Westminster.
Jollan de Duresme.  May.25. 1298.  York.
Oct.14. 1302.  Westminster.
John Fillol.  Ju1.15.1290.  Westminster
Nov.27. 1295.  Westminster.
September 30. 1297.  London.
Mar. 6. 1300.  London.
Jan. 20. 301.  Lincoln.
Henry Grapinel.  July 15. 1290.  Westminster.
Sep.30. 1297.  London.
John de la Lee.  Jan.20.1307.  Carlisle.
John Sutton.  May.30. 1306.  Westminster.
John de Tany.  Feb.28. 1305.  Westminster.
Jan.20. 1307.  Carlisle.
William de Wauton.  Feb.28. 1305.  Westminster. 

The second group consists of Assessors and Collectors of taxation employed in Essex during the reign of Edward Ist. The justification for including these officials as a distinct group arises partly from their close relationship in function with the parliamentary knights, and partly from the controversy aroused by L.R. Riess [4] in his discussion of the use of representatives as Assessors and Collectors subsequent to their attendance at a tax granting parliament. His conclusions are certainly valid for the two parliaments used as evidence [5]but as Pasquet [6]points out there is scarcely sufficient evidence to support Riess' s contention that it was a general principle to appoint assessors and collectors from amongst the representatives attending the granting parliament. Only three of the Essex parliamentary knights also acted as assessors and collectors during the period in question and only two of these did so after attending a tax granting parliament [7] . On the other hand at least six non parliamentary knights of Essex origin acted as Assessors and Collectors in that county between 1272 and 1307, and two other knights with holdings in Essex collected taxes in Suffolk [8] . The Essex evidence, therefore, does not support Riess. Nevertheless the activities of the assessors and collectors were by definition closely related to the granting of taxes, and together with the parliamentary knights they may be postulated as the possible nucleus of the shire administrators. Whether or not this was in fact the case will be examined in the course of subsequent chapters. The names of the Assessors and Collectors, Group B, are as follows [9] :

Knight  Tax Date  Reference
Walter le Baud.  1/15.  1301 P.W.I. p.107.
Barhholomew de Brianzun.  1/15.  1275.  P.W.I. p.3.
William le Gros.  1/15.  1301.  P.W.I. p.107
1/30.  1306.  P.W.I. p.178-9
Robert de St.Clare.  1/10.  1294.  P.W.I. p.27.
Thoman de Twinstead.  1/9.  1297.  P.W.I. p.63
l/30.  1306.  P.W.I. p.178-9
John de Wascoil.  1/11  1295.  P.W.I. p.46

The first two groups, defined by function alone, are virtually self selecting. The selection of a comparative or control sample is more complicated since it requires the application of some reliable criterion of knighthood. Purely feudal documents such as Feudal Aids or the Book of Fees, are of no great help in a period when tenurial qualifications had ceased to be a reliable guide to status. There were many genuine knights who held less than an integral knight's fee, whilst others, with no pretensions to knighthood, were theoretically liable to distraint of knighthood if they held lands worth more than 20 per annum. Yet other knights held lands and fees in many counties and cannot be exclusively identified with Essex. Fortunately this problem may be partially solved, at least for the reign of Edward Ist, by referrring to the Great Parliamentary Roll of Arms, which N Denholm Young has dated at around 1307 [10] . This particular roll is almost unique in that it is an apparently official list of something like 1,100 armigerous knights, most of whom are arranged in order of counties of origin. It may be assumed that the possession of a coat of arms was itself sufficient evidence of knightly status, independent of tenure or income, and also of probably military and dynastic ambition [11] . The P.R.A. subsumes 57 armigerous knights under Essex, of whom eight appear also in Group A and three in Group B. The remainder provide the basis for the selection of a comparative sample, subject to two further qualifications. Firstly, since the P.R.A. was probably drawn up at the end of the reign of Edward Ist it undoubtedly included many knights who were principally active in the reign of Edward IInd. In order to minimize this generation gap the only knights selected from the P.R.A. other than those in Groups A and B, are those who received a military summons from their county during the reign of Edward Ist, and who were, therefore, most probably active during that period. This selection reduced the P.R.A. list for Essex from 57 to 27, of whom 11 belong to groups A and B, leaving 16 probably suitable for comparison. Secondly, the P.R.A. list for Essex may be compared with a list drawn up in 1295 of all the knights available for the defence of the coast in Essex [12] . This list names 101 knights, of whom 65 held lands in Essex but were not resident in the county, 25 were residents and 11 were described as 'impotens', making 36 residents in all. When this list is compared with the P.R.A. certain anomalies appear which suggest a further subdivision of the comparative sample into two groups. The first, Group C, consists of all the knights said to be resident and active in Essex in 1295, with the exception of those already appearing in Groups A and B [13] , and with the addition of two anomalous knights, namely, Ralph de Boxted who appears in the P.R.A. but was 'impotens' in the 1295 list [14] , and John de Watevile who does not appear in the 1295 list but is in the P.R.A., and is therefore assumed to have been an Essex resident. Group C, therefore, includes those knights who may be reliably described as Essex residents. The second group, Group D, consists of the remaining knights in the Essex P.R.A. who are either described as non resident or not mentioned at all in the 1295 list, plus Alan de Goldingham who was described as resident in 1295 but appears under Suffolk in the P.R.A. and is therefore supposed to have been an Essex non-resident, and excluding Alexander de C1avering who, like St.Omer, cannot be positively identified with any lands or activities in Essex [15].

Thus 9 of the 14 knights in Group C were armigerous the remainder being described as knights by the ordinance of 1295, and each of the knights in Group D was armigerous. Their names are as follows:

Group C. Residents  Group D. Non-Resident
Richard de Barew.  John de Beauchamp of Horseham
Nicholas de Barrington.  Alan de Goldingham.
Ralph de Boxted.  William de Haningfield.
Geoffrey de Burnham.  Ralph de Coggeshall. 
Hugh de Crepping  John Heyron.
William Gernon  William de Lambourne
Thomas de Mandeville.  John de la Mare
Geoffrey Morel,  John de Merk
John de Pratellis.  Robert de Merk
John de Rochford.  Ernauf de Monteny.
Richard de Tany;  
John de Watevile.  
Gilbert Fitz Warin.  
Nicholas de Wockingdon.  

The sample thus selected is certainly incomplete, it does not include, for example, many of the non-resident knights mentioned in the 1295 list, but it does, probably, include the majority of the more active knights living in Essex around the last quarter of the thirteenth century. Nor is the distinction between residents and non-residents intended to be definitive, since anomalies can be discovered in both categories, but it serves only to indicate an initial and primary characteristic which might be a major factor in determining any knight's interest in a particular county. The division of the sample as a whole into four groups corresponding to four primary characteristics is intended only to provide a starting point. In subsequent chapters the four basic groups will be shuffled and restructured according to the dictates of the data under consideration, with the ultimate objective of distilling out of the sample as a whole a new group of knights whose overall characteristics might identify them as the Buzones of the county.

Before proceeding to a discussion of the estates held by these knights it is worth considering this modest list of 41 men with the returns made by the major Essex barons to the inquest of 1166 in which Geoffrey de Mandeville and Walter Fitz Robert alone returned more than 95 knights who in turn owed service for more than 200 fees [17]. Moreover, very few of the names familiar in the late thirteenth century appear to have any antecedents ln these early returns. Only Ardern and Beauchamp in Group A, Gernon and Mandevill in Group C, and Heyron and Monteny in Group D, appear to have any potential ancestors in 1166 [18] . The knights of the late twelfth century were indeed a different breed from those of the late thirteenth.

The Sources.

The sources used in this chapter consist of two major groups of documents. The first and most valuable single source of topographical and tenurial information is the Inquisition Post Mortem, where available. Inquisitions Post Mortem may be said to be static data; they represent a concentration of several different kinds of information at a given point in time. In addition to statements of descent which are of obvious genealogical value, the best I.P.M.'s give a more or less comprehensive extent of the demesne lands held by an individual at the time of his death [19], including statements of manors and messuages, acreage totals, and land values for arable and other kinds of land, appurtenances such as mills and turbaries , details of assized and other rents, conditions of tenure and immediate superior lord. The topographical information given ln I.P.M.s may be used to plot the distribution of estates throughout the county and where a series of such inquisitions is available over several generations it is possible to trace the fortunes of families through the disposition of their estates. Mandates ordering the taking of Inquisitions Post Mortem, and the transference of estates to heirs, were generally enrolled in the Fine Rolls, which thus serve as further corroborative evidence.

In practice Inquisitions Post Mortem raise two serious problems. Firstly they apply only to the estates of tenants in chief and therefore introduce a documentary bias in favour of knights who might be thought to be superior in status to knights holding be mesne tenancy. This objection cannot be overcome. Secondly, the Inquisition, when taken, may not accurately reflect the total amount of land held by a tenant in chief 'die quo obiit', either because they evaluate only the land held in demesne, or because they fail to account for parcels of land separately identified with the tenant from other sources. [20]

Inquisitions Post Mortem may be augmented, supplemented or contradicted, by another series of documents known as Final Concords or tripartite indentures, which record the conveyancing of land as secured be a court of record. The information available for Final Concords is basically similar to that available from IPMs but it is usually less comprehensive, and, except for occasional cases, it is dynamic in character, according to the aims and ambitions of the parties involved. This kind of information generally requires corroboration where possible, either from IPMs or from other dynamic sources. Since fines of this kind generally record the sale or all or part of some pre-existing estate, or the purchase of new lands in addition to existing estates, they necessarily present an incomplete picture of the overall pattern of estates held by an individual. The manor value of Feet of Fines lies in their testimony to individual cases of aggregation, dissolution, or redistribution of estates through purchase, sale, marriage, or family partition.

The second major category of sources consists of dynamic records offering limited information taken at random intervals over an extended period. These include Feudal Aids and the Book of Fees, which relate specifically to tenure by knight service. By the later thirteenth century this kind of feudal information was largely fixed in form and represents little more than an exchequer abstract of the fiscal liabilities of certain Categories of tenure. Feudal Aids and the Book of Fees may, however, supplement or corroborate topographical evidence from other sources, including evidence from Miscellaneous Inquisitions, Charter Rolls, Close and Patent Rolls, Hundred Rolls and Assize Rolls.

Because of both the similarity and the variety in the spelling of medieval surnames dynamic records of the latter kind cannot be generally accepted as valid unless supplemented by alternative sources, or supported by internal references to an indisputable name or place. In the course of the following discussion it has occasionally been necessary to distinguish between degrees of probability in the presentation of certain categories of evidence.

II The General Distribution of Estates.

If allowance is made for the wide range in the quality of the available data, from the mere location of fees to the full extent of estates, the 41 knights in the sample may be identified with something in the order 196 possible tenements held in about 153 vills or parishes in Essex [22] giving a rough distribution of slightly more than four estates per knight, or approximately one knight for every four parishes. This ratio corresponds quite closely with that adduced by R.E. Hilton in the West Midlands [23] , but it must be remembered that Domesday Essex contained some 440 vills out of which P.H Reany has identified about 432 modern place names. This would give a ratio of one knight for every ten vills, but, if the 101 knights identified with Essex in the 1295 enrolment are also counted, the ratio returns to about 1 to 4. The resident gentry, then, were spread rather thinly and the great majority of parishes apparently escaped their more direct interests

The distribution of probable estates between the four comparative groups reveals no startling differences. The 18 knights in Groups A and B had interests in some 83 distinct estates, compared with 56 held by the 14 residents, and 57 held by the 9 non-residents. More than half of the sample [26] held 4 or less probable estates, whilst only 3 held more than 8 probable estates. In terms of the numbers of estates held the ten most significant knights in the sample were as follows

Knight GROUP  Estates
Coggeshall R.  Non Resident  22
Pratellis J.  Resident  13
Tany R.  Resident  11
Grapinel H.  Parliamentary  8
Heyron J.  Non Resident  8
St. Clare R.  Assessors  8
Brianzon B.  Assessors  7
Haningfield R.  Non Resident  7
Lee J Parliamentary  7
Again, these knights are divided fairly evenly between the four groups, and might appear to represent the upper echelons in each group.

The Distribution of Estates by Hundreds

At the time of the 1274 Hundredal Inquests 10 of the 19 Essex Hundreds were held by the King. The Hundreds of Barstable, Clavering, Harlow and Ongar were held by William Giffard, Robert Fitz Roger, Robert de Bruce and John de Rivers respectively [25] , whilst the Hundred of Lexden was held by the C group knight William Gernon, at fee for 4 marks. The four remaining hundred of Becontree, Waltham, Winstree and Witham were held by the abbess of Barking, the Abbot of Waltham, the Prior of Mersea, and the Maser of the Temple respectively. [26]

The most populous, and therefore presumably the most popular, Hundred was Hinckford in which 14 of the knights in the sample held tenements in 27 parishes, followed by Witham and Chelmsford in each of which 10 knights held in 12 parishes. Dunmow, Rochford and Ongar follow closely, each with 10 knights holding in 11 parishes. In the remaining hundreds between 1 and 5 knights held in between 1 and 11 parishes, namely;

Hundred Knights 
estates in
Parishes Hundred Knights
estates in
Tendring  11  Uttlesford.
Chafford  Thurstable 4
Barstable  Becontree.  1
Dengie  Clavering.  1
Freshwell  Winstree .  1
Harlow  5

To a great extent this distribution is consistent with the geography of Essex. Hinckford, Chelmford, Lexden, Tendring and Dunmow each contained more parighes than the other hundreds. Hinckford and Dunow both had high Domesday populations and, together with Witham and Tendring, a correspondingly high density of Domesday plough teams [27] . With the exception of Tendring all were on the higher ground West of the Roman Road running between Colchester and Chelmsford. Together with Uttlesford, Freshwell, Harlow and Winstree they probably accounted for best arable land in the county [28] .The general distribution of estates as between the North Western and the South Eastern Hundreds is as follows: [29]

Group  North West South East
Parliamentary  39 estates  18 estates
Assessors  10  16
Resident  38  19
Non Resident 41  18

There was therefore a distinct concentration of gentry estates on the better arable land in the North West. Roughly the same distribution is apparent if a distinction is made between the number of knights holding in each of the two areas, rather than the number of estates held. Thus:

Group  North West  South East South East Only
Parliamentary  12 out of 12  7 out of 12
Assessors  4 out of 6  2 out of 4  2
Resident  12 out of 14  4 out of 12  2
Non Resident  9 out of 10  5 out of 9  1

Again there is an almost universal preference for the North Western Hundreds; only Rochford and Tendring Hundreds in the South and North East hade a comparable distribution, and Tendring, at least, was also an area of high density of Domesday plough teams. The more easily worked boulder clay of the North West and the higher density of woodland and meadow encouraged early settlement, and a correspondingly high density of Domesday population. [30] By contrast much of the South East was flat and marshy suitable for lucrative but less labour intensive sheep farming, which figure largely in the Domesday survey of the Eastern Hundreds, [31] and less susceptible to manorial forms of agriculture. By the thirteenth century, of course, sheep were an extremely valuable crop and it would be most unwise to dismiss the south Eastern areas as agriculturally backward. Nevertheless only five of the knights in the sample held their lands exclusively in this area, and two of these, Burnham and Barew appear to have been amongst the poorest in the sample. [32]

Only the Hundreds of Becontree, Clavering and Winstree had less than 3 knights, resident or non-resident, but the Hundred of Waltham did not apparently include any estates held by knights in the sample, the Abbey of Waltham which held the Hundred, was summoned for military service between 1244 and 1385, [33] but may have relied on mercenaries; or fined for service. Similarly about one quarter of the knights in the sample held all their estates within one hundred, but 4 of them also held estates in other counties, [34]and 5 of the remainder came from amongst the non residents in group D. At the other end of the scale 12 knights each held estates in four or more hundreds, namely Fillol, Sutton, Tany and Wauton in Group A, St. Clare in Group B, Pratellis, Rochford and Tany R. in Group C, Coggeshall, Haningfield, Heyron and Lambourne in Group D.

The concentration of knightly estates in certain preferential Hundreds probably raised the taxable value of those Hundreds, and the measure of this wealth might have been discernible in the Essex subsidy rolls, had they survived. Unfortunately the only two extant rolls covering the whole of the county are separated by almost 100 years. These are a roll for the thirtieth of the 1237 which itemises only payments by vills, and the roll for the twelfth and eighteenth of 1320 which includes names, but is otherwise in rather poor condition and leaves a number of gaps. The five most valuable Hundreds in 1237 were as follows; their taxable value is expressed as a multiple of the thirtieth raised: [35]

Hundred 1237 Subsidy Value
Hinkford  2,640
Uttlesford  1,740
Lexden  1,380
Chelmsford 1,350
Dunmow 1,260

Unfortunately the returns for Uttlesford and Lexden are obliterated on the roll of the twelfth and thirteenth of 1320, [36] but Hincksford apparently increased in value over this period, and was assessed in 1320 at 3,366. Most of the central and Western Hundreds increased slightly in value between 1237 and 1320, but some declined slightly, for example Chelmsford, Dunmow and the half Hundred of Clavering. [37] In these cases the margin of change was relatively small, in the order of 25% either way, whereas four of the Eastern Hundreds increased their taxable value between 50-300% [38] . This increase may well represent a decline the rate of expansion on the better arable land, by comparison with continued reclamation and expansion of the marshy lands in the apparently poorer Eastern Hundreds, augmented, perhaps, by increasingly intensive sheep farming coupled with some rural industry.

Hinckford, then, contained the most knights, the most estates, and the best land. It was apparently the wealthiest hundred with Chelmsford, Dunmow and Uttlesford close behind.

One factor which remains to be considered in the general distribution of estates is the distance of individual estates from Chelmsford, since knightly interest in the affairs of the county might well be influenced by ease of access to the county court. The relative distance of individual parishes from Chelmsford can be plotted as follows: [39]

Within 5 miles
Parliamentary  Assessors Resident Non Resident
Tany Twinsted Mandevill  Haningfield
Fillol  St Clare Tany R Heron
Within 10 miles
Parliamentary  Assessors Resident Non Resident
Beauchamp  Baud F Fitzwarin  Monteny
Wauton  Wascoil  Pratellis  Merk J
Duresme  Wokingdon  Coggeshall
Within 15 miles 
Parliamentary  Assessors Resident Non Resident
Sutton  Brianzon  Rochford  Lambourne
Ardeme  Wateville  Merk R
Lee  Crepping
Bigod Morel

In a period when the journey from Westminster to Cambridge took a whole day, a local journey of five miles there and five miles back would be considered an easy day's travelling by horse, allowing plenty of time for business to be undertaken between arriving and returning [40] Those knights with estates within five miles of Chelmsford might thus be expected to have easy access to the county court and those within ten to fifteen miles would scarcely find the journey burdensome. All of the A group knights held estates within fifteen miles of Chelmsfor, and 7 of them held within ten miles, compared with 5 out of 14 group C knights add 5 out of 10 in group D holding estates in the 10 mile range. How far this advantage favoured the interests of the A group knights remains to be seen.

The general distribution of knightly estates thus provides a rough guide to the extent of each knight's stake in the county, both in terms of the number of estates held, and in terms of the their general location.

The Distribution of Grouped Estates.

The distribution of estates throughout Hundreds necessarily reflects the territorial interests and aspirations of individual knights. As a general rule knights who held groups of estates tended to keep their interests within one hundred, occasionally extending into adjacent parishes in the next Hundred. William. de Haningfield, for example, held land in Ulting in Witham Hundred, and also in Langford less than 1.5 miles away in Thurstable Hundred. John de Sutton held in Halstead and Stisted in Hinckford Hundred, and in Markshall in Lexden; John de la Lee held land in Hatfield and Matching in Harlow half hundred, and in White Roding in Dunmow Hundred. In these cases land and tenements were sufficiently close together to be managed, in principle, as one unit. By way of contrast John de la Lee also held another. quite distinct group in Hinckford Hundred, at Ovington, Belchamp St Pauls, Tilbury by Clare and Great Yeldham [41] . This latter pattern was rather more common than that of estates built up over hundred boundaries, but the initial grouping of estates must have been largely fortuitous, depending on individual ambitions, resources, and opportunities. Ralph de Coggeshall. For example, built up a remarkable complex of estates in each of five hundreds, with single tenements in another three hundreds. Less fortunate, or ambitious men, tended to have a group of estates within one hundred, probably consciously and opportunistically constructed, and odd single estates in other hundreds, often remote from the main group. As will be seen, there is some evidence that such men tended to concentrate their attention on their principal grouping of estates, leasing out or demising their more remote interests.

About half of the knights in the sample held estates which were apparently grouped in adjacent parishes, and which could, in principle, be managed as one economic unit. It is, of course, extremely unlikely that such groups were exactly contiguous and they cannot, in any case, be located more accurately than to the nearest parish. The pattern of distribution of grouped estates is also uniform between the four comparative groups in the sample Five knights in group A held estates in adjacent parishes, 5 in group B, 6 in group C, and 5 in group D [42] In the parliamentary group Henry Grapinel held in Little Wakering, Gt Stambridge, Latchingdon and Prittlewell, John de la Lee in the two groups already mentioned above, John de Sutton also in two groups, in Stapelford Tany , Navestock and in Halsted, Markshall and Stisted. John de Tany, two groups, in Wennington, Rainham, Aveley and Stifford, and in Springfield, Terling, Borham and Little Baddow. Lastly William de Wauton held one group in Thaxted and Broxted. Of the remaining three resident knights in Group A only John Fillol held more than one estate in Essex, and these were widely separated geographically . [43]

With the exception of Thomas Twinstead, whose alleged holdings at Springfield and Twinstead were some 18 miles apart, all of the knights in group B held some estates in adjacent parishes. Baud held in Shenfield and Southweald, Brianzon at Aveley and West Thurrock, Gros at Little Bentley and Tendring, St Clare at Vange, Fobbing and Corringham, and Wascoil at Great Henny and Lamarsh.

In group C, Geoffrey de Burnham held at Frinton and Kirby le Soken, Hugh le Crepping at Hatfield and Matching, William Gernon as Easthorpe and Birch, Mandevill at Broomfield and Great Waldheim, Pratellis, superficially a very substantial knight, held four groups, at Ulting, Langford and Maldon, at Belchmap Walter and Gestingthorpe, at Messing and Inworth, and at Tolleshunt and Tollesbury. Richard de Tany, also above average in substance, held two groups, at Stapleford Tawny and an Lambourne, and at Elmstead and Great Bromley. Lastly Nicholas de Wokingdon held at Faulkborn and Witham. With the exception of Rochford, who held quite extensive, but dispersed, estates, the remaining knights in Group C held between one and three dispersed estates and may be considered to be relatively small fry.

Lastly, Group D includes the considerable complex of estate built up by Ralph de Coggeshall, too extensive to be itemised here [44]William de Haningfield held two groups, at East and West Haningfield, and at Hatfield Peverel, Ulting and Langford. Similarly John de Heron held in Latchingdon and Althorne, and at High Easter, Good Easter and Mashbury. William de Lambourne held one group at Lambourne and Chigwell, and, lastly, Monteny held in Elmdon and Chrishall. The remainder of the knights in his group held either single of dispersed estates in Essex, together with other estates in other counties.

It is evident, then hat a significant proportion of the knights in the sample held their estates in adjacent parishes and might thus be able to manage them economically as one unit. The evidence for such groupings comes largely from the land transactions charted in Tripartite Indentures or Final Concords, which testify to a desire to convey land with the protection of a legal instrument, whereas the evidence for single or dispersed estates tends to come from Inquisitions Post Mortem. It might be argued that the construction of grouped estates reflected the ambitions or opportunistic mesne tenants, whilst the tenants in chief documented in IPMs merely maintained their holdings. The nature of the evidence tends to suggest that grouping of estates was part of an active policy of economic consolidation. However the present discussion is concerned only with the quantitative distribution of lands. The actual construction of grouped estates will be considered qualitatively in the next chapter.

The incidence of estates grouped in adjacent parishes is mirrored by the incidence of knights holding together in one parish. This occurred in 38 of the parishes covered in the sample, though one 17 of these can be corroborated with any accuracy. [45] Most of these 38 parishes included the possible estates of two knights only, but White Roding and Wakering both contained three separate knightly holdings, and Great Dunmow and Stambridge each included four such estates. The distribution between comparative Groups shows no significant correlation. The most common pattern was for knights from Groups A and D to hold together [10 cases] . Or from Groups C and D [9 cases] . Group A knights held estates alongside other Group A knights in only 5 parishes group D together in only 3, and group B in 1. Although the incidence is higher in the case of the Group A knights there is no reason to believe that they constituted a distinct territorial group of like minded neighbours.

Estates held in Other Counties. [46]

In general the distinction already made between residents and non residents in the 1295 Ordinance for the Defence of the Essex Coast is corroborated by the available evidence. Only three of the resident knights in Group C held estates in other counties; similarly only three of the Non residents in Group D cannot be shown to have had estates outside Essex [47]. When the same distinction is applied to the Parliamentary knights in Group A it is immediately evident that those knights who held some estates in counties other than Essex held correspondingly fewer estates within that county, by comparison with their fellows who were resident in Essex alone. The four parliamentary knights who held lands outside Essex were Beachamp of Fifield who held lands in neighbouring Sussex and Cambridge; Bigod with estates in Norfolk; Blount with estates in Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire and more distantly in Staffordshire; and Breton with possible estates in Northampton, Cambridge and Norfolk [48]

If these extra comital holdings are added to the total number of the estates held in Essex by the parliamentary knights the average number of estates per knight rises from around 4 to something like 5.5. Similarly the average for group B knights rises from 4 to 5, and for Group C rises only marginally from 4 to 4.5, and even this is anomalous because by definition these knights are assumed to have held lands only in Essex. If the disproportionate number of estates held y Pratellis and Tany is excluded the overall average for Group C falls to around three estates per knight for those resident only in Essex. By contrast the average for Group D knights rises from 4 to 7. [49]

Figures of this order bring the standing of the parliamentary knights in a slightly sharper focus, suggesting that they can be further divided into two subgroups. Firstly a group of eight resident in Essex each holding on average about 5 estates in various parts of the county. Secondly a smaller group of four knights each holding on average about 4 estates dispersed over a number of counties. These may be compared in turn with the 10 resident C Group knights, excluding Pratellis and Rochford, holding on average only three estates each, and the non resident D Group holding on average 7 estates each, in Essex and elsewhere. Two tentative conclusion may be advanced. Firstly the evident subdivision within the group of parliamentary suggests a modification of the supposition that representatives were selected from amongst the knights with weighty territorial interests in one given county. Clearly the majority of the knights returned for Essex during the reign of Edward Ist were apparently more substantial, in terms of numbers of estates, than other resident knights. But their duties of representation were also shared with four other knights who were substantial by virtue of the estates they held outside Essex, but were minor landholders within the county. One of these latter, Hugh le Blount, was also returned form Berkshire, where he also had lands [50]. It may be that the county caucus of parliamentary and administrative knights constituted an economic or social group distinct from other less fortunate, or strenuous, local knights, but this group was also accessible to knights with an equivalent status based on their holdings both in Essex and elsewhere.

Secondly, this distinct 'social class' may have formed a middle rung, superior to other resident knights, but inferior to most of the non resident knights in Group D who were apparently much more substantial landholders with interests spread over several counties. It is difficult to determine whether such men were ever permanently resident in any one of the counties in which they held their lands, or whether, like the barons above them they itinerated between their dispersed manors. More importantly from the point of view of local government the very fact of the dispersal of their estates might obstruct involvement, so that the duties of local government would tend to devolve on the middle range of substantial and mostly resident knights. As will be seen some of the knights in group D may have had more in common with baronial patterns of occupation, as indeed might Rochford and Pratellis, major landholders in Group C who took little interest in the local affairs of Essex.

Estates Constructed across County Borders.

Although there is plenty of evidence to suggest that certain knights., often fortuitously, built up estates across hundred boundaries it is not apparent that estates were similarly grouped across county boundaries. Probably this was simply a matter of chance. Many Essex knights held lands in other counties, just as knights from other counties held lands in Essex, the casual beneficiaries of the random subinfeudation of estates in the generations after the Conquest. The only knight in the sample to have estates which definitely spanned county boundaries was the non resident knight John de Beachamp of Horesham, who constitutes, in every respect, a borderline case. His estates were at Horesham in Helions Bumstead in Essex, just across the border at Castle and Shudy Camps in Cambridgeshire, and a little further, across the Suffolk border at Haverhill and Withersfield [51]. Since no one of these estates was more than four miles from another there in no reason why they should not have been treated as one unity. Beauchamp's estates were later divided between his daughters, and presumably, ceased to be managed as one unit [52].

Simple quantitative analysis thus deals in a few basic factors common to all the knights in the sample, including the number, location and distribution of their lands. It suggests possible questions worthy of more detailed investigation, and eliminated others which seem potentially less helpful. In the latter category, for example, it is clear that the parliamentary knights did not constitute anything which might be described as a neighbourhood group. In the former category there is some evidence to suggest that proximity to the county court in Chelmsford might have been a significant factor. Similarly there is some suggestion of more complex hierarchy within the social and economic structure of the knightly class, in which the parliamentary knights emerge as a middle group, between a sub baronial group of knights, mostly non resident in Essex, with aspirations to, and perhaps affinities with the baronial classes, and a minor group of resident knights with more modest economic resources. It is possible, also, to make a crude evaluation of potential status by ranking the knights in the sample in order of the number of estates held by each, pointing in turn to latent distinctions in status between residents and non residents. This kind of quantitative analysis, whilst acceptable as a rather tedious opening gambit, ignores the quality and value of the estates and the recorded activities of their lords. Its value lies in creating a preliminary hypothesis which may be tested by the more detailed and specific examination which follows.