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Copyhold Tenants of the Manor of Newcastle under Lyme, 1700-1832

The manor of Newcastle under Lyme

The earliest known reference to the manor of Newcastle under Lyme is in 1215, when it was granted by King John to Ranulf de Blundeville, Earl of Chester. Since 1267 the manor has formed part of the estates of the Earldom (later Duchy) of Lancaster. The Duchy was united with the Crown in 1399, when Henry of Lancaster succeeded as King Henry IV, but it has always been administered as a separate estate.

During the period that concerns us here the manor of Newcastle was composed of two types of land, copyhold and freehold. The copyhold land was concentrated in the nucleus of the manor in the townships of Penkhull and Boothen, Clayton and Seabridge, Hanford, Hanley, Shelton, and Wolstanton. Freehold land of the manor lay to the east, in Fenton Vivian, and Lane End (Longton), and to the west in the borough of Newcastle, Knutton, and Dimsdale. In some areas, such as Hanley, there was intermingling of both kinds of property.

Copyhold tenure

The distinguishing feature of copyhold tenure was that proof of ownership was by a copy of the entry in the court roll recording the transfer of the property from one tenant to another. The records of court business, whether court rolls or court minutes, are invaluable in tracing the descent of property through the various members of a family, or from family to family.

Copyhold tenants might be male or female, adult or child, tenants in their own right or trustees for another person, persons or corporate body. Trusteeships were varied - a person might be admitted as a tenant because of their appointment as a trustee of a marriage settlement, as the executor of a will, or as a trustee for the sale of property.

The manor court procedure for the transfer of property consisted of two distinct parts – the surrender of the property to the lord of the manor and the admission of the new tenant to the property. When a tenant died their death was recorded, and if they had left a will it was enrolled following probate.

If a copyhold tenant mortgaged their property they had to surrender their property and the mortgagor was admitted, until the mortgage was repaid, or the property remortgaged. The mortgagee retained day-to-day use of the property.

Finally, some transactions in the court records relate to recoveries, whereby a complex fictitious legal process was gone through in order that the owner might overcome the provisions of a deed of entail (which placed restrictions on the disposal of inherited land).

About this Index

This Index has been compiled by a team from the Northern Ceramic Society, in the course of Peter Roden’s research for his book "Copyhold Potworks and Housing in the Staffordshire Potteries, 1700-1832" (2008). The following manuscript sources in the records of the Duchy of Lancaster at The National Archives (TNA) were indexed.

  • Index to court minute books, 1 volume, 1733-1795 (TNA ref.: DL30/508/1). Contains names of parties only.
  • Court minute book, 1 volume, 1699/00-1702 (TNA ref.: DL30/507/1)
  • Court rolls, 2 rolls, 1702-1707/08 (TNA ref.: DL30/245/1-2)
  • Court minute books, 38 volumes, 1707/08-1833 (TNA ref.: DL30/507/2-37)

Please visit the National Archives website ( for further information about visiting to view original records.Note: Links to external sites will open in a new window.

See also collection 857/1-69 at Staffordshire Record Office for later Court Books of the Manor of Newcastle-under-Lyme 1878-1913. These include plans of properties from 1887.

This index contains around 23,000 entries.


We are pleased to acknowledge the generosity of Mr Peter Roden in making the data in this online index available. Thanks are also due to Mr Harold Blakey and Ms Mollie Hosking who assisted with the original indexing.