During 2023, NorAH has helped the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) acquire some seventeenth-century court rolls for the Manor of Lopham in Norfolk (NRO ACC 2022/166). The Manor is mainly located in North Lopham, which is situated in South Norfolk, just west of Diss. Manor court rolls are an incredibly important resource for local, topographical, social, family, and economic history. Manors were landed estates originating in the Middle Ages. They were administered by and for their lords, with dependent tenants living on the land. Court rolls are the main record of the manor and deal with matters over which the lord of the manor had jurisdiction. Information contained in manorial court rolls can include details of land-use and occupation, minor disputes and crimes, and the election of local officials.
Dating the Document
Auction catalogues can vary in their detail and accuracy. The Manor of Lopham court rolls were dated in the auction catalogue as ‘from 1655’. However, as can be seen from the image above, one of the rolls is dated as being made the nineteenth day of the month of March (decimonono die mensis Martii) in the thirteenth (decimotercio) year of the reign of King James (Jacobi). Though 1615 is written on the document, this is using the old style of dating whereby a new year starts on 25 March. Using new style dating, the document was actually created in 1616. Other rolls within the auction lot are dated 1655 through to 1661. The Lopham Manor court rolls are of the ‘Exchequer-style’, whereby several rotulets, each containing one or more membranes sewn end-to-end, are stitched together at their heads.
Lopham Manor and its Records
The Howard family, Dukes of Norfolk were Lords of the Manor of Lopham. According to the Manorial Documents Register, records created by the Manor are held by several different archive repositories, including the British Library, The National Archives, Arundel Castle, Cambridge University Library, and the NRO. How these court rolls relate to the records listed on the MDR will become clearer once they are catalogued. The fact that the Manor of Lopham archive is distributed so widely is an indication it has fallen out of custody of the record creators.
NorAH Supporting the Purchase of Norfolk’s Archives
Supporting the purchase of Norfolk’s archives, is one of the main ways NorAH meets its charitable objectives. It has enabled the NRO to be successful at several recent auctions. A consequence of this success is NorAH’s funds are low. This means its ability to help the NRO with any forthcoming purchases is reduced. However, it is inevitable that more archives will appear for sale. By becoming a Norfolk Archive Supporter you will improve NorAH’s chances of helping the NRO in the future to secure Norfolk’s archives for the benefit of everyone.