The communities of the manor of Epworth in the seventeenth century
The manor of Epworth in the Isle of Axholme experienced protracted resistance to drainage and enclosure schemes in the seventeenth century. The thesis places the disputes in the context of the wider social and economic development of the manor during the period, while also comparing the experiences of the manor's member parishes. The history of the drainage is outlined in the introduction. Chapter one surveys the economy and demographic history of the manor, concluding that the wealth of local resources and flexible agrarian system protected the manor from subsistence crises. In chapter two, wills, church court records and parish registers are used to investigate marriage and the role of family, neighbours and kin in forming and sustaining households. The third chapter makes use of wills to examine inheritance strategies as a means of providing for the perpetuation of viable households. Inheritance patterns varied with wealth and proved an important mechanism for social mobility in the manor. Chapter four shows how the flexibility of the manor's economy and inheritance strategies allowed social mobility, resulting in growing social differentiation and some differences between parishes. The fifth chapter explores the religious history of the manor via the church court records, noting the different experiences and reactions to religious change in each parish and revealing something of the unity or divisions among their leading groups. Chapter six details the course of the drainage disputes in the context of changing patterns of social relations within the manor. The conclusion discusses the concentric, intersecting and overlapping communities of the manor, within which the drainage disputes produced their own shifting alliances and loyalties, impinging on other solidarities and cleavages and contributing to the diverging experiences of the manor during the century.