Change and decay : the Warwickshire manors of the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield from the late thirteenth to the late sixteenth centuries
This thesis consists of an in-depth study of the medieval Warwickshire manors of the bishop of Coventry and Lichfield: Chadshunt and Nether Itchington which succumbed to depopulation and Gaydon, Upper Itchington and Tachbrook which continue to thrive. Chapter 2 sets the scene with an examination of the early history of the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield; and the topographical setting and field system of each manor. In Chapters 3 and 4 evidence of weaknesses and incipient problems or otherwise in both the rural economy and social structure in the late-thirteenth and early-fourteenth centuries is investigated in order to find early signs of the later problems which beset Chadshunt and Nether Itchington. In Chapter 5 agrarian by-laws are discussed and the transition from a two- to a three-field system at Gaydon, peasant cultivation of crops and ownership of livestock analysed. In Chapter 6 the final century of episcopal lordship is explored, before moving on to Thomas Fisher's tenure -as lord from 1547. Fisher has long been viewed as the depopulator of Nether Itchington and demolisher of its parish church. The blame is moved from his shoulders and laid on a decline in ale-brewing, a lack of heirs at Nether Itchington from 1550s, a seigneurial policy whereby tenants were encouraged by very favourable terms to take up holdings in Upper Itchington, and the turbulence caused by the Reformation. Fisher was also not responsible for the decline of Chadshunt, the seeds of whose decline were probably sown by the Newsarn family and their enclosing activities. In Chapter 7 non-agrarian by-laws, land transfers, the landless, population turnover and contacts made beyond the manor are discussed.