Author: Mark Gardiner and Christopher Whittick
Volume: Volume 92
ISBN: 978 0 85445 074 9
The accounts of the manor of Mote provide an exceptional insight into provincial society towards the end of the Middle Ages set against the background of national affairs. In 1460 Sir John Scott, a minor Kent lord, bought the Sussex manor of Mote. In that same year, he made the momentous decision to support the landing of the Yorkist lords, opened the gates of Canterbury and paved the way for the accession of Edward IV. Scott subsequently emerged as a close servant of the new king and was showered with offices and the properties of attainted Lancastrians.
The creation of a fashionable brick ‘castle’ at Mote to proclaim Scott’s new status is detailed in these accounts. The decision to start work was taken in 1466 and building continued for a decade. The establishment of a brick kiln, the supply of stone from Eastbourne and Cranbrook, ironwork from Woodchurch and glass from Calais are all recorded. Scott also re-organized agriculture at Mote, digging up woodland to create new fields and building his herd of cattle. He built a dock near Rye to ship firewood to the English enclave of Calais, where he was himself established as Marshal. The accounts also record the purchases made to sustain a gentry household, and contain a wealth of information about supplies and provisioning in the hinterland of Rye and Romney Marsh.
The accounts record the local business of the Scott household in the broader context of the struggles of the Yorkists and Lancastrians. Echoes of the Readeption crisis of 1470 are found here: Sir John was briefly exiled and Lady Agnes Scott took over the running of the estate, and struggled to collect the rents from tenants uncertain of the future. Perhaps in expectation of a siege, she also stocked the manor with meat and wheat and had her husband’s armour cleaned.
The Mote accounts are complemented by near-contemporary coin rolls and rentals of 1478 and 1673, the latter supported by maps. The context of these records is explained by a detailed introduction which discusses the accounts, the manor and its lords from the 13th to the 20th century, including its tenure by the Catholic Scotts and Puritan Powells. It concludes with a wider study, supported by appendix, of feudal tenure in the Weald of Sussex.
Mark Gardiner is a Senior Lecturer in medieval archaeology Queen’s University Belfast. He has a long-standing interest in medieval Sussex and first consulted the Mote accounts more than a decade ago when writing his doctoral thesis on medieval settlement and society in the Weald. He has excavated widely in the South-East. His current research includes the inter-disciplinary study of the history of buildings and the medieval landscape.
Christopher Whittick is Senior Archivist at the East Sussex Record Office, Lewes. He teaches palaeography and administrative history at the universities of Keele and Sussex, and is a part-time lecturer on the training-course for new archivists at University College London. He is interested in medieval legal history, manorial records and the application of documentary sources to the study of standing buildings.
Cover illustration: Reconstruction of the site of the manor in about 1490, by Gerald Wood (1999)