Friday 20 September 1661

Will Stankes and I set out in the morning betimes for Gravely, where to an ale-house and drank, and then, going towards the Court House, met my uncle Thomas and his son Thomas, with Bradly, the rogue that had betrayed us, and one Young, a cunning fellow, who guides them. There passed no unkind words at all between us, but I seemed fair and went to drink with them. I said little till by and by that we come to the Court, which was a simple meeting of a company of country rogues, with the Steward, and two Fellows of Jesus College, that are lords of the town where the jury were sworn; and I producing no surrender, though I told them I was sure there is and must be one somewhere, they found my uncle Thomas heir at law, as he is, and so, though I did tell him and his son that they would find themselves abused by these fellows, and did advise them to forbear being admitted this Court (which they could have done, but that these rogues did persuade them to do it now), my uncle was admitted, and his son also, in reversion after his father, which he did well in to secure his money. The father paid a year and a half for his fine, and the son half a year, in all 48l., besides about 3l. fees; so that I do believe the charges of his journeys, and what he gives those two rogues, and other expenses herein, cannot be less than 70l., which will be a sad thing for them if a surrender be found. After all was done, I openly wished them joy in it, and so rode to Offord with them and there parted fairly without any words. I took occasion to bid them money for their half acre of land, which I had a mind to do that in the surrender I might secure Piggott’s, which otherwise I should be forced to lose. So with Stankes home and supped, and after telling my father how things went, I went to bed with my mind in good temper, because I see the matter and manner of the Court and the bottom of my business, wherein I was before and should always have been ignorant.

11 Annotations

Glyn   Link to this

Can a lawyer or anyone else explain this? All I think that I understand is that there was some sort of court case that Pepys lost because he didn't have the appropriate document (the 'surrender') to establish ownership. Thomas won the case, but it cost him a lot in expenses, and if Pepys does find the surrender-document then Pepys will regain the property or land that they are in court about. Is this correct?

Vincent Bell   Link to this

Thanks Glyn, that's my understanding - it is not just me who is in the dark then - the only thing I can add is that I think this is about Pepy's uncle's will & perhaps a judgement is required establishing what land the uncle owned or did not own, there being competing claims on the land - perhaps I have got this wrong though?! Can anyone out there enlighten us...

dirk   Link to this

"[Uncle Thomas] paid a year and a half for his fine, and the son half a year, in all 48£, besides about 3£ fees.”

Could that “anyone out there” also clear up why Thomas & son, who seem to have won the case, have to pay fines? Does it have anything to do with their not being able to produce the “surrender” either?

Australian Susan   Link to this

Thomas is the heir-at-law, so as there is no documentary evidence, Sam cannot get the Graveley copy hold lands (much to his chagrin!). The heir-at-law and his heir (the reversionary) have to pay to have their claim made law in the Court (which Sam thinks is a very dubious Court) and it will be nothing *if* Sam can get his hands on this wretched lost surrender document which has plagued his mind for weeks in the diary!Thomas and son don't need a surrender document, all they have to do is prove they are the heir at law and the reversionary heir, which they can, and therefore they have the Graveley land rights (in copy hold). It is very human of Sam to record his pleasure at all their outlays!!

Harry   Link to this

Uncle Thomas] paid a year and a half for his fine

I don’t know whether this is relevant, but from the middle ages until the second half of the 19th century the “fine” was a key element of lease contracts, at least for ecclesiastical property. It worked somewhat like this: the owner of the freehold,for instance a cathedral chapter, would rent out property at below-market rates under very long leases (often several “lives”) against payment of a substantial down-payment at the start of the lease and every time it was renewed called a “fine”. Fines collected in any given year were considered part of the chapter’s revenue and available for the annual sharing out of net chapter income between the members of the chapter. The authorities frowned on this system which in theory was detrimental to future members of the chapter, who would draw much less than the market (or “rack”) rent for the property, but in practice they would merely perpetuate the arrangement and in turn benefit from fines on the renewal of other chapter properties.

At the Restoration, cathedrals and bishops recovered properties which had been disposed of during the Interregnum. This of course could be a severe hardship for those who had purchased the properties in good faith. In many cases they were allowed to stay as tenants under long leases against payment of a fine on terms which were not too harsh, which may explain why the recovery process did not cause too much of a public outcry. The chapters could afford to be lenient since they were levying fines on many properties at the same time, a windfall which helped finance repairs to cathedral fabric and chapter property seriously damaged during the Civil War. (This subject, the restitution of church property at the Restoration is of special interest to me, but I have been unable to find much reading material relating to it. Can anyone make any suggestion?)

Returning to Uncle Thomas. If he did not inherit the freehold to the property, he might have had to pay a fine on taking up a new lease, in particular if it was church property in the process of being recovered.

Gus Spier   Link to this

Can anyone explain the concept of "copy hold" ?? The term, free hold, seems self-evident; but what does does one hold a copy of?

A. Hamilton   Link to this

met my uncle Thomas and his son Thomas, with Bradly, the rogue that had betrayed us, and one Young, a cunning fellow, who guides them.

Here (along with the controversy over possession of Gravely) is an arresting plot! While I'm grateful for the elucidation provided by Australian Susan, it would be nice to hear more of the story. How did Bradly, the rogue, betray Sam & his father? Anyone in the know?

Philip   Link to this

"Copyhold" is a tenure by copy of court-roll according to the particular custom of the manor. It was originally an estate at the will of the lord in accordance with certain customs evidenced by entries on the roll of the baronial court. It was a vestige of the feudal ages. The "court" that Pepys is contending with is not a law court but a collection of the influential locals acting as the lord's court (in the sense of a "royal court"), or, "a simple meeting of a company of country rogues," as Pepys puts it. The "fine" was merely a tariff or fee for the court's acknowledgement that Uncle Thomas was the heir at law and documenting that fact on the roll, thereby settling the matter in controversy. Pepys has no quarrel with the outcome because he knows that without the surrender document the estate passed to the heir at law. A copyhold estate did not pass by will unless it had been surrendered to the "use of the will." The concept of copyhold has no application in the US.

Philip   Link to this

A further note re Pepys's copyhold problem. There are undoubtedly several parcels of land that passed under the will to Pepys and his father. Some of the titles are properly documented and some not so. He references making a bid to the heir at law after the proceeding "for their half acre of land." If they had accepted, the heir at law would have produced a surrender, which apparently would have given Pepys some advantage or other in also acquiring "Piggott's," whch I take to ba a reference to another parcel that is a source of difficulty. I gather that the departed uncle left a core property with good title and a myriad of scattered little pieces picked up from time to time on which he collected rents. Pepys's problems are with titles to some of these pieces. That is my impression. I speak with no authority or special knowledge.

Pedro.   Link to this

The other mention of Piggott in the Diay.

"Then Sir Robert and I fell to talk about the money due to us upon surrender from Piggott, 164l., which he tells me will go with debts to the heir at law, which breaks my heart on the other side"

http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1661/07/20/

David A. Smith   Link to this

"see the ... manner of the Court and the bottom of my business"
First of all, we readers would be helpless without the (considerable) distributed intelligence of our commenters (Glyn, Australian Susan, Harry, and Philip) -- so for that, immense thanks.
One has the sense that Sam too has made a similar intellectual journey, picking up bits and pieces of the 'rules of engagement' concerning this estate fiasco, but now, he finallly understands the relationships involved, who has to do what to achieve various results, and an end to his uncertainty. I too would feel some relief at that!

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