MEE

This name frequently occurs in the Parish Registers of Leicestershire, instituted by Royal Injunction in 1538, and at a later date the name appears in the Parish Registers of the adjoining county of Derbyshire. It occurs more especially in the district, included within the boundaries of the river Trent, and its tributaries the Soar and the Mease. The whole of this district formerly formed part of the Saxon Kingdom of Mercia, the ancient town of Repton being at one time the residence and burial place of the Mercian Princes. At a subsequent date this district was, from 878 to 901, by the treaty of Wedmore, included in the Danelagh. The Rev. Dom Antonio Staerk, O.S.B., rejects the theory that this name is in any way akin to the Saxon name Mede or Meade, signifying a meadow, on the ground that the French prefix “Le” in the earlier documents points to either a Norman or possibly a Breton origin. This celebrated antiquary was born in Germany in the year AD 1871. Receiving his earliest education in a Benedictine monastery of his native country, he subsequently removed, with other members of the confraternity, about the year AD 1883, to the then newly re-established Benedictine abbey of Buckfast, South Devon. At a very early age, evincing an extraordinary aptitude for acquiring languages, twenty-five of which he learnt to converse in and fifteen of which he could read and write, he specialized in Hebrew and Sanskrit, and more especially in the ancient Celtic and Saxon languages. His extraordinary abilities attracting the attention of the Holy See, he received a commission with plenary powers to search and examine all the most ancient records, some of them dating from the fourth and even the third century. These priceless documents relating to the Early History of the Catholic Church, and recording evidences of the most ancient families of Europe, their tenures of lands, endowments of abbeys and religious houses, and other historical matters, were in many instances, during the disturbed period of the French Revolution and subsequently, removed from their original depositories in various countries t Petersburg, and have since been preserved among the Imperial Archives of the Russian Empire. During a residence of eight years in that city the Reverend Father minutely examined all these documents, copied and photographed them. His researches have been further extended to other historic libraries and muniment buildings in Europe, in which valuable ancient documents were known, or suspected, to be conserved. Known by repute, and in the majority of instances personally know, to every crowned head, ruling prince and diplomat, free access has been readily accorded to him in his researches, and his advise eagerly sought after, and his decision with regard to any matters dealing with those subjects in which he has so brilliantly specialized may safely be regarded as final. When revisiting Buckfast Abbey for further local researches there, and in the Domesday Book of the Library of Exeter Cathedral, he evinced a personal and friendly interest in the researches which have been made concerning the early history of the Mee family, and other families subsequently to be dealt with , with regard to which he generously offered to gratuitously supply further information as the opportunity occurred, and which it would otherwise be impossible to obtain. Spelt in various forms, it is occasionally met with as ME, MEY, MEA, MIE, in the Parish Registers which directly refer to this family. The Parish Register of Castle Donnington, co. Leicester, dating from 1539, is one of the earliest authentic records, and proves that several members of the Mee family were living there, some of whom are mentioned as children in the will of John Mee, 1552, and others whose exact degree of relationship it is impossible to ascertain. It is probable that they were established there, or in the vicinity, at a very early period. Nichols, the greatest historian of modern times concerning the county of Leicester, makes several allusions to individuals of the names of Mey, Meye, otherwise Mecum or Meysham, which appear to have been the more ancient forms of this name. Maye apparently is also another form of the names Mey, Meye and Mee. The earliest information afforded by Nichols appears under the heading 'Over Seale or Upper Seale,'* Vol. III, part II, page 989, and is as follows-- 'Over Seale or Upper Seale, called also Little Seile and Spital Seile, was one of the Lordships given to Nigel de Albani, who was ‘seized; of it at the time of the general survey completed AD 1086/7. It consisted of two or three Manors or small Seignories, all of which we soon find of the Fee of Ferrers; one of them sometime the inheritance of William the son of Ralph of Meisham, who in the time of Henry III, AD 1216-1272, gave part of it, probably the best, in frank marriage with Godehouda,his eldest daughter, unto William the son of Robert de Appleby (living in AD 1205; see Vol. IV, part II, page 442), together with a park, a mill, and a wood, called Woodlondes (the Manor of Appleby is about two miles south of Measham.)“To the Abbot of Merivale (co. Warwick) the same William de Meisham afterwards gave the service and homage of William heir of William de Appleby, and of the heirs of Osbert the son of Lucian Disert of Little Seyle. The witnesses named are--Lord Hugh de Mesnill, at that time seneschal to William Earl of Ferrers and Earl of Derby; Lord William de Gresell; Thomas de Ednesorre; Serlone de Munsay; Henry de Mavasyne; soldiers of the same Earl. This was about AD 1250 or nearly, for Mesnil, first witness here, witnesses also, by the same style of seneschal, two deeds in the Rydeware Chartulary Nos. 56,119; one expressly dated AD 1253, and the other manifestly executed at the same time. We see that Meisham, besides the services of what he had bestowed on Appleby, gives the abbot, moreover, those of the heirs of Osbert Disert of Little Seyle, which shows that he had not so bestowed his whole manor. Osbert Disert, or his father Lucian, was not merely a subordinate vassal of Meisham, he held other Over Seile lands immediately from the Earl, as is shown in an agreement with William the Parson of Seile before AD 1205 (Rydeware Chartulary No. 43; and original, at Seile). He appears throughout co-ordinate with Meisham, the latter has merely precedence in the naming; they grant each other two quadrigates out of their wood of Uver Scheyl, and the Parson releases to them and their heirs. This Parson, William, was Rector there perhaps fifty years, for he had been so some time when the Papal Delegates made their award before AD 1179, and he was still there as Rector in the Matriculus of AD 1220. When in AD 1346, 20 Edward III, the Abbot of Merevall was assessed 20/- for half a knight’s fee in Spital Sheile, on the aid then granted for knighting Edward of Woodstock, the King’s eldest son, Richard Earl of Warwick and Salesbury, Grett Chamberlayne of England, Captain of Calleys and Cheff Stuerd of the Duchie of Lancaster, stated that,-- ‘We have seen the evidence of our welbeloved the abbot of Mirevalle, wher it appeareth that one William of Meysham gave to their predecessors, lands and rents in Seyle, which lands the sayd William held of William Ferrers Earle of Derbie by Knights Service with sute at his Court of Tuttebury (co. Stafford).’”Under the heading “Willesley” it is stated by Nichols that this manor was the Lordship of the family of Ingwardby. The earliest member of this family of record was Michael of Wivelesley (Willesley) living in the reign of Henry I (AD 1100-54). He appears to have been the father of another Michael, to whom succeeded John, whose son Nicholas married Cecilia, widow of Nicholas, the son of Henry Wychard. Cecilia appears to have been, if not the daughter, at any rate a close relative of Sir William of Meysham, Kt., who was living in 46 Henry III, AD 1261-2. Nichols reproduces extracts numbered 1 - 33 from Willesley deeds, mostly relative to the family of Ingwardby, and he draws attention to the fact that in the twenty-one instances in which this name occurs, it is spelt in nineteen different ways. In extracts 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,17,19,23 the name of William of Meysham occurs with others, as a witness or testator to these deeds. Male heirs of this family failing at the beginning of the 15th century, the Manor was conveyed by one of the two heiresses of Ingwardby to John Abney. This Manor is situated two miles north-west of Ashby-de-la-Zouche; and Measham is a little more than a mile west of Willesley; all within the Hundred of West Goscote. Measham or Meyham is situated about one mile from the River Mease, anciently spelt Meesse, a tributary of the Trent. Ham, the second syllable of the name, signifies in the Saxon language place or home. The name probably signifies the place on the river Mease, and the surname Measham, which frequently occurs in the Registers of Repton and other parishes in the vicinity, is probably borne by families originally settled in that Saxon hamlet and subsequent Norman manor. In Domesday Book it is registered as a Hamlet or “Berwite” of the Priory of Repton, and is said to have at one time belonged to the Bishops of Lichfield. By the return to Parliament in 1801, it contained 215 houses, 5 uninhabited. A population of 1,136 inhabitants, of which 540 were males. Nichols further states that in an Inquisition of 7 Edward I (AD 1279), Willielmus le Mey, or William the Mey of Donington of the Heath, in the parish of Ibstock--presumably the Sir William of Meysham previously referred to--is registered as holding three virgates (90 Acres) of the Prior of Cherley. The Prior held of the Honour of the Earldom of Chester, and the Honour of Chester held of the King. Donginton-on-the-Heath is five miles south-east of Ashby-de-la-Zouche, the same distance from Measham, and ten miles south of Castle Donington. In 1 Edward III, AD 1327-8 a subsidy was granted by Parliament to the King for the purpose of meeting the expenses of the Wars with Scotland. This document, preserved in the Public Record Office, is called--The Lay Subsidy Roll of 1 Edward III, and in that portion of it called The Leicestershire Exchequer Lay Subsidy Roll occur these entries--

Joh’ne le Mey of Newton Burgoland ... ... ... ... ... ij s

Henricus le Mey of Normanton on the Heath ... xviij s

Joh’ne Hacluth of Alexton ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ..iiij s

Joh’ne Bakeputz of Alexton .. ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...iij s

This subsidy was levied at the rate of 10 per cent on the moveable goods of all the King’s subjects, and is said to be the earliest Subsidy Roll now known to be in existence at the Public Record Office. Newton Burgoland is two and a half miles south-east of Measham, and four and three-quarter miles south of Ashby-de-la-Zouche. Normanton on the Heath, formerly a Chapelry of Nailstone, is two and a quarter miles east of Measham and three miles south of Ashby-de-la-Zouche. Preserved in the Public Record Office are many hundreds of Rolls of a similar description. The valuable information contained in them is at present unknown, and a search would be a costly and very long and tedious affair. When, however, the Custodians of the Public Records, at some future date, have completed the search and indexed the contents, they will no doubt furnish further information concerning members of this family. The only subsequent Roll which at present affords any further information is The Benevolence or Subsidy Roll of County Leicester--reference number 133/147 of 36 Henry VIII, AD 1544-5. The rate of the assessment is not recorded. The following is the complete list of the names of those assessed in the Town of Castell Donyngton, co. Leicester.

CASTELL DONYNGTON *

William Bower (presently referred to as “Vicar and Curate” in the Will of Jhon Mee of Castel Donyngton) ... ... ...   xs Hugh Hasilrigg ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... xx s

 Robert Osborne ... ... ... ... ... ... ... vj s viii

d Thomas Robie ... ... ... ... ... ... ... viij s

Thomas Parsons ... ... ... ... ... ... ...xvj s

William Newberye ... ... ... ... ... ...  xij s

 Jhon Nychollson ... ... ... ... ... ... . xvj s

Jhon Shere ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...  vj s viii d

Jhon Maye (presently referred to as Jhon Mee of Castell Donyngton) ... ... ... ... ... ... x s

 Link to copy of John Mee's Will 1552

Note: The detail in John Mee's willl would suggest that he would have been required to perform 'Knight-Service',see below.

In another part of the same Roll--

CASTELL DONYNGTON

Allen Clerke ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... vj s viii d

Rauf Bentley ... ... ... ... ... ... ...   x s

Under the heading “Allexton” Nichols further states that in an Inquisition 48 Edward III, AD 1374-5, it was found that William Hackluit died 45 Edward III, AD 1371-2, and that Sir John Mecum, Kt. (Meysham), aged 24, and John Trusell, aged 24, were his heirs to the Manor of Hackluit--escheat 47 Edward III, Memb. 38. By another Inquisition of 50 Edward III, (AD 1376-7), it was found that William Hakeluit died, “seized” of a certain Manor, with its appurtenances in Allexton, which he held of Sir William Bakepuiz, Kt., in capite, by the service of 6d. or one pair of gilt spurs a year; and that John Meye of Lodington--presumably the Sir John Mecum, Kt., before mentioned--was the next heir in blood of the said William de Hakeluit, escheat 49 Edward III, Pars. 1, No. 66 Leicester. Lodington is about twenty-eight miles south-east of Ashby-de-la-Zouche, Measham, and Castle Donington, and near to the border of the adjacent county of Rutland. Nichols quotes the statement of the historian Burton, to the effect that at Hallaton there existed in the chancel-window,

 

 the arms; Argent, on a bend cottized gules, three mullets, for Hakluit; and that the same arms were displayed at Medbourne. At Allexton, in AD 1592, Mr. Wyrley the antiquary found in the lowest north window, the arms; Gules two bars argent, in chief three horseshoes or; for John Bakepuiz, living in the time of Edward II,; and Gules, three pole axes or, for Hakeluit. The family of Bakepuiz were patrons of Allexton from AD 1220 to AD 1385. Henry Bakepuiz was Rector AD 1225-1274. previous to which it appears that Peter Bakepuiz was Rector , instituted by Hugh Wallys, who was consecrated Bishop of Lincoln 12th AD 1209, and died 8th February, AD 1234. It should be borne in mind that Knight service, otherwise the obligation to assume Knighthood, and to serve the Sovereign in the field for a certain period when necessary, at the Knight’s personal expense, was compulsory with all those who held lands to the extent of a knight’s fee or fief. A knight’s fee consisted of four hides--a hide was equivalent to about 120 acres. Sir William of Measham and Sir John Mecum, otherwise William Mey and Jhon Meye, must have held severally not less than 480 acres. They may of course have held other fees or portions of fees in addition, all part of the same manor or elsewhere, in which case they would be obliged to render further military services in proportion to the lands that they held. The Episcopal Records of Lichfield mention a John Me, who was instituted, with Ralph Aleyn, a First Priest of Chaddesden, county Derby--a village distant eight miles from Castle Donington--in 1404, the fifth year of the reign of Henry IV. Whatever ecclesiastical records there may have been prior to 1538 referring to the inhabitants of Castle Donington and the vicinity, disappeared at the suppression of the Religious Houses, and the consequent destruction and spoliation of all their property; previous to which period the monks and clergy entered marriages and burials in the missals and psalters in use in the churches, priories and monasteries, and kept registers of public and private transactions in books called 'Chartularies,' 'Leiger Books,' 'Obituary Chronicles,' &c. The Church held nearly one-third of all the land in the country. It was the chief and almost the only repository of learning. Its revenues could be counted by millions. It controlled the settlement and the full transmission of the land of the laymen, for in its hands rested the drawing up and carrying out of wills and other social arrangements. The first Royal injunction for keeping Parish Registers of baptisms, marriages and burials in England was issued to the Clergy by Thomas Cromwell, Vicar-General to Henry VIII, and bears the date 29th September, 1538. It is quite the exception to find registers of this earl date extant, many parishes have lost their earlier records , and some, it appears, did not observe the original command. The injunction was confirmed in 1547, and in 1558 Queen Elizabeth vigorously renewed it. During the Civil Wars of Charles I and the Commonwealth, 1640-60, the system of registration almost entirely failed. Most Parish Registers are found imperfect, many are altogether deficient, and the registration was given over to the laymen, often a village tradesman. In 1653 another ordnance respecting Parish Registers was passed. As a rule baptisms were ignored, and only births recorded; banns were either published on three successive Sundays in parish churches, or, more often, in the nearest market place, on three successive market days between eleven and two o’clock. Marriages were prohibited without the certificate of the Registrar, and the parties vested with the certificate presented themselves before a Justice of the Peace, who had power to marry them. In 1660, the accession of Charles II, this system ceased, and registration by the clergy was again resumed; but at the same time, civil marriages by justices were legalized. It should be noted that in 1752 the new style was introduced, previous to which New Year’s Day was march 25th. Various other Acts relating to registers were passed in 1666, 1678, 1694, 1695, 1754, 1812 and 1836. Bishop’s transcripts (or copies of the Parish Registers) were instituted in 1597. An injunction directed the parish clergy, yearly, within one month of March 25th, to transmit a copy of the past entries in the register, to the Bishop’s Registry. This not being regularly done, a similar mandate was issued in 1603. There are, however, some of an earlier date at Leicester, the earliest dated 1561, the reason for which cannot be clearly explained. During the contest between Charles I and the Parliamentary forces, registration was greatly neglected, no transcripts were sent to the Bishop’s Registry during the period of the Civil Wars, or the Interregnum which followed, and the Act of Parliament passed during the commonwealth regarding Parish Registers made no provision for the transmission of transcripts by the lay Registrars, and it was not until the Restoration in 1660 that the practice of sending in yearly transcripts was again resumed.


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    Knight-Service

Knight-service was a form of feudal land tenure under which a knight held a fief or estate of land termed a knight's-fee (fee being synonymous with fief) from an overlord conditional on him as tenant performing military service for his overlord. It is associated in its origin with that development in warfare which made the mailed horseman, armed with lance and sword, the most important factor in battle. It was long believed that knight-service was developed out of the liability, under the English system, of every five hides of land to provide one soldier in war. It is now held that, on the contrary, it was a novel system in England when it was introduced after the Conquest by the Normans, who relied essentially on their mounted knights, while the English fought on foot. It existed in Normandy where a knight held a fiefs termed a fief du haubert, from the hauberk or coat of mail (Latin: lorica) worn by knights. Allusion is made to this in the coronation charter of Henry I (1100), which speaks of those holding by knight-service as "milites qui per loricam terras sues deserviunt." The Conqueror divided the lay lands of England among his magnates in the form of "honours" or great blocks of land. These were subdivided by the magnates into smaller manors and yet smaller divisions or fiefs just large enough to support one knight, termed knight's-fees. The knight paid homage to his overlord by taking a vow of loyalty and accepting the obligation to perform military service for his overlord. The same system was adopted in Ireland when that country was conquered under Henry II. The magnate who had been enfeoffed by his sovereign for his honour of land could provide the knights required either by hiring them for pay or, more conveniently when wealth was mainly represented by land, by a process of subinfeudation, analogous to that by which he himself had been enfeoffed. That is to say, he could assign to an under-tenant a certain portion of his fief to be held by direct military service or the service of providing a mercenary knight. The land so held would then be described as consisting of one or more knight's-fees, but the knight's-fee had not any fixed area, as different soils and climates required differing acreages to produce a given profit requisite to support a knight and his entourage. This process could be carried farther till there was a chain of mesne lords between the tenant-in-chief and the actual occupier of the land. The liability for performance of the knight-service was however always carefully defined. The primary obligation incumbent on every knight was service in the field, when called upon, for forty days a year, with specified armour and arms. There was, however, a standing dispute as to whether he could be called upon to perform this service outside the realm, nor was the question of his expenses free from difficulty. In addition to this primary duty he had, in numerous cases at least, to perform that of castle ward at his lords chief castle for a fixed number of days in the year. On certain baronies also was incumbent the duty of providing knights for the guard of royal castles, such as Windsor, Rockingham and Dover. Under the feudal system the tenant by knight-service had also the same pecuniary obligations to his lord as had his lord to the king. These consisted of: 1. relief, which he paid on succeeding to his lands; 2. wardship, that is, the profits from his lands during a minority; 3. marriage, that is, the right of giving in marriage, unless bought off, his heiress, his heir (if a minor) and his widow; and also of the three aids. The chief sources of information for the extent and development of knight-service are the returns (cartae) of the barons (i.e. the tenants-in-chief) in 1166, informing the king, at his request, of the names of their tenants by knight-service with the number of fees they held, supplemented by the payments for scutage recorded on the pipe rolls, by the later returns printed in the Book of Fees, and by the still later ones collected in Feudal Aids. In the returns made in 1166 some of the barons appear as having enfeoffed more and some less than the number of knights they had to find. In the latter case they described the balance as being chargeable on their demesne, that is, on the portion of their fief which remained in their own hands. These returns further prove that lands had already been granted for the service of a fraction of a knight, such service being in practice already commuted for a proportionate money payment; and they show that the total number of knights with which land held by military service was charged was not, as was formerly supposed, sixty thousand, but, probably, somewhere between five and six thousand. Similar returns were made for Normandy, and are valuable for the light they throw on its system of knightservice. [edit] Denaturation The principle of commuting for money the obligation of military service struck at the root of the whole system, and so complete was the change of conception that tenure by knightservice of a mesne lord becomes, first in fact and then in law, tenure by escuage (i.e. scutage). By the time of Henry III, as Bracton states, the test of tenure was scutage; liability, however small, to scutage payment made the tenure military. The disintegration of the system was carried farther in the latter half of the 13th century as a consequence of changes in warfare, which were increasing the importance of foot soldiers and making the service of a knight for forty days of less value to the king. The barons, instead of paying scutage, compounded for their service by the payment of lump sums, and, by a process which is still obscure, the nominal quotas of knight-service due from each had, by the time of Edward I, been largely reduced. The knight's fee, however, remained a knight's fee, and the pecuniary incidents of military tenure, especially wardship, marriage, and fines on alienation, long continued to be a source of revenue to the crown. But at the Restoration (1660) tenure by knight-service was abolished by the Tenures Abolition Act 1660, and with it these vexatious exactions were abolished. [edit] Sources and bibliography * This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press. The returns of 1166 are preserved in the Liber Niger (13th cent.), edited by Hearne, and the Liber Rubeus or Red Book of the Exchequer (13th c.), edited by H. Hall for the Rolls Series in 1896. The later returns are in the Book of Fees and in the Record Office volumes of Feudal Aids, arranged under counties. For the financial side of knight-service the early pipe rolls have been printed by the Record Commission and the Pipe Roll Society, and abstracts of later ones will be found in The Red Book of the Exchequer, which may be studied on the whole question; but the editors view must be received with caution and checked by JH Round's Studies on the Red Book of the Exchequer (for private circulation). The Baronia Anglica of Madox may also be consulted. The existing theory on knight-service was enunciated by Mr Round in English Historical Review, vi., vii, and reissued by him in his Feudal England (1895). It is accepted by Pollock and Maitland (History of English Law), who discuss the question at length; by Mr JF Baldwin in his Scutage and Knight-service in England (University of Chicago Press, 1897), a valuable monograph with bibliography; and by Petit-Dutaillis, in his Studies supplementary to Stubbs' Constitutional History (Manchester University Series, 1908).