The Cantelowes Court Rolls
by John Richardson
The Highgate Records
Transcribed from the original Court Rolls in the 1930s by Percy Lovell and William McB. Marcham
Retyped and edited by John Richardson of the Camden History Society in 2018.
Area covered by Cantelowes Manor and St Pancras Parish
Cantelowes manor lay in the eastern part of the parish of St Pancras, now part of the London Borough of Camden. It included part of Highgate Village, much of Kentish Town and some of what became Camden Town. From the southern side of Highgate High Street it stretched south to Crowndale Road in Camden Town, keeping east of the parish’s main highways, while the St Pancras manor of Tottenhall generally kept to the western side of these roads. The northern side of Highgate High Street was part of Hornsey manor. The eastern perimeter of Cantelowes, now Dartmouth Park Hill, Brecknock Road and York Way, was and is shared with the parish of Islington.
Throughout the period of these Court Rolls, Cantelowes was a Prebendal manor of St Paul’s Cathedral. However, in its Court Rolls there are many instances in which the Court dealt also with matters pertaining to the Prebendal Manor of St Pancras, a very small manor adjoining the south of Cantelowes which included the area now covered by King’s Cross station and its lands, and contained the ancient parish church of St Pancras. As both these Prebendal manors were owned by St Paul’s it was probably convenient to have one court deal with both manors simultaneously.
The 1930s transcription notes were divided into two. One part we have called the Cantelowes Court Rolls and contains the transcripts which covered the entire manor including south Highgate and the Prebendal Manor of St Pancras.. The other, The Highgate Records, includes the material compiled by the transcribers as a basis for their volume on Highgate. This includes the appropriate items from the Cantelowes Court Rolls but also material from other sources, such as wills, burial records, Highgate School records etc. There is thus some duplication of Court Roll material relating to Highgate in these records.
The Cantelowes Court Rolls exist from 1480 to 1750 with some gaps. They deal with land and building sales and transfers, inheritance, the maintenance of ditches, paths and roads, including the king’s highway, minor criminal offences, illegal residents, the appointment of headboroughs, collectors of rents, constables, inspectors of bread and ale, the impounding of stray animals and the customs of the manor. Today, the original Rolls are held by the London Metropolitan Archives.
Lovell and Marcham did not record any Court Rolls from 1541-1593 inclusive and 1595-1609 inclusive. There are also a number of short gaps elsewhere. Although the Court business of 1649, 1665 and 1666 is recorded, no reference is made to the notable events in London in those years.
Transcription of the Court Rolls
The transcription of the Court Rolls, which are mostly on parchment and in Latin, was undertaken by historians Percy W. Lovell and William McB. Marcham in the 1930s as a basis for their Survey of London volumes on the parish of St Pancras. These included Survey of London Vol XIX (Old St Pancras and Kentish Town 1938), and Vol. XVII (The Village of Highgate, 1936). A useful map of the St Pancras manors appears in Vol. XIX.
The typed transcriptions made by Lovell and Marcham were loosely bound by ribbon in five foolscap volumes with buff manila covers. Three of these contained all the transcriptions of the Rolls in chronological order including those relating to the southern part of Highgate and the Prebendal Manor of St Pancras. The other two volumes contained items from the same Court Rolls relating to Highgate but with additional material about the village and its residents from other sources. In these two Highgate volumes the data was presented property by property and it is thus possible to trace the building history and ownership of the older houses in the St Pancras part of Highgate. None of these transcripts had an index.
In the early 1960s the Lovell/Marcham transcriptions were held by the St Pancras Borough Archives Department in Chester Road Library, Highgate: presumably they had been donated to the Council by the transcribers in the later 1930s after their books on St Pancras had been published.
At that time I became interested in the history of the parish and borough of St Pancras and examined the five volumes at the Library. Many Saturdays thereon I spent in the Library copying the transcriptions by hand and then typing them out at home on my manual typewriter. This was tedious of course, and the Librarian, Paul Ricard, eventually let me take home the volumes one by one so that I could type the text straight from the transcriptions at times convenient to me. This produced a private dossier for my own use, and I saved time by using a handful of easy abbreviations such as Wm for William, Ez for Elizabeth, pow for parcel of waste, htf for heretofore etc. I also thinned out unnecessary legal verbiage. At the same time I indexed the personal and field names and anything else of interest. This typed version of the transcriptions eventually occupied a number of loose- leaf binders and they have been of use to me since then.
However, when I enquired in 2017 as to the whereabouts of the five volumes of Lovell/Marcham transcriptions they could not be found in Camden’s archives. It seemed to me that if they really were lost then the scholarship and dedication of the authors was lost to future researchers. I have therefore retyped, in a better format, my own version of the entire transcriptions for use via the Camden History Society website. In doing so I have spelled out all the abbreviations I had previously made.
To enable indexing, the Rolls have been divided into eight parts, and each decision or issue discussed at the Courts has been given an Item number. Personal and place names are indexed at the end of each Part. Part One contains the Rolls for 1480-1499, with Item numbers 1-232, plus its own index. Part Two has the Rolls for 1500-1524 and Item numbers 233-458, plus index, and so on.
Contents of the Cantelowes Court Rolls:
Item numbers 1-232
Item numbers 233-458
Item numbers 459-588
Item numbers 589-783
Item numbers 784-1023
Item numbers 1024-1438
Item numbers 1439-1837
Item numbers 1838-2164