The Mediaevel times were the hey-day of the manorial system and the ordinary man was a man
under authority. The manors arose from the custom of grants of land to individuals by a king who
held them by conquest or descent. In Sussex some of these areas were named "Rapes" and
within these large areas smaller ones were called "Hides" or "Whists". These were administered
by the Lord of the Manor who distributed the lands amongst the villeins in his service upon whom
he had claims in the time of war. Under him the office of receiver and reeve for the oversight of
the use of land, distribution of seed harvesting, the cutting of wood and the grinding of corn was
granted by the Lord to his servitors. One of the Manors within the Rape of Hastings was the Manor of Bibleham or Bivelham and it is in the Court Rolls of that Manor that we find the first references to land and people bearing the name Wenbourne. Some of the ancientCourt Rolls are still preserved in the British Museum and the East Sussex Archives. There are continuous references from 1388 through to 1489 which name Willia, John and Laurence followed by another generation of John and William and a Richard and Thomas. All these names recur down through the centuries with this family.
The Parish of Wadhurst was formerly divided into six areas or "quarters" of which one was named " Bibleham Quarter" presumably because it lay within the Manor to the South of the village. Apart from its legal usage the only reminder of the Manor is in the names of two farms, Bivelham Farm and Bivelham Forge Farm, both of which lie almost due South of a property still bearing the name "Wenbans".
The first references to men and lands connected with the name occur in the list of Sussex subsidies in 1296, in which Gilibro, Walto and Hugon "de Waneburn are listed. In 1327 and subsequently John and Laurence are listed. Also in 1320 in documents referring to those who held lands by "knights service" under King Edward II reference is made to John ate Halle and John Grigori each holding "half a wiste in Waneburn"
( Authors note: This leads me to believe that the property was already known by the name "Waneburn or Wenna's Bourn" and these ancestors of ours, having lived there became known as Wenna bourn" which gradually over the years became formalised as "Wenban" Just my theory of course)
The earliest references in the Court Rolls of the Manor occur in 1407 when the "wiste of Wenbourne" is named. Reference to buildings occur earlier in connection with persons, for instance at the Court held on Wednesday after the Feast of the Epiphany in the 12th year of the reign of Richard II it was noted that " John Wenbourne had a day to repair his house which was in ruin until the Feast of Easter under the pain of half a mark". In the record of 18th October 1394 " John ate Halle and William Wenbourne are in mercy iiij d. for not making fealty to the Lord and paying a relief for one parcel of land and wood which formerly Johanna Oteway held..." Two months later at the Court held Thursday before the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, 18th year of Richard II " Item.. presentment that the tenement of William Wenbourne is in ruin therefore he was ordered to repair it before the next Court.." At Court held Wednesday the morrow of the Apostles Peter and Paul 30th June 1395 "John Wenbourne is in mercy ij. d. for not coming to the Lords mill and he is ordered to use the mill under pain". Item... " presented that John Wenbourne cut down wood without the lord's licence". Both of these instances illustrate the rules under which the peasant and smallholder had to live or pay a fine to the lord.
Usually upon transfer of land, or the death of a tenant and the reversion of the land to the lord, a "Heriot" was claimed. This sometimes took the form of a beast, since the lord set up his tenant with some stockin the first instance or could be redeemed in money. For instance " at the Court held 19th October 1407, the morrow of the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, John Crothole came and surrendered into the hands of the lord all the lands and tenements of the wiste of Wenbourne ... to the behoof of John Wenbourne... and Agnes his wife ... said John making and paying the customary rent and service and they were admitted and made fealty and gave the lord a fine as well for a heriott as for entry of 3/4d."
On the 6th December 1416 " it was presented that William Wenbourne surrendered into the hands of the beadle all his bond lands and tenements to the behoof Joanna his wife to have and to hold same for the term of her life... as relief for said lands and tenements a heriott of one mare price x 1d., and she was admitted..." This was clearly a death bed act for later Johanna is mentioned as wife of one John Wevere when her brother-in-law John inherits. About the same time William Birchet is mentioned, there is still a Birchett's Wood on land nearby.
In November 1429 two men (named) " surrendered into the hand of the lord a moiety of the hall of the said message, viz. the East part of the said hall with chamber in the same part, as well the lower as the higher, and all the barn therein called Newebery, two gardens... and two pieces of the land in the wiste of Wenbourne... containing by estimation 20 acres of land to the behoof of John Wenban and Amicia his wife..." In October 1434 the death of Johanna (Wevere) is reported and John Wenbourne, brother of her former husband came and petitioned admission to the lands she had held and it was granted. However he died the following year and " a herriot fell to the lord of one grey horse price Vs." It is in 1447 that the record states "William Birchett has died seised of land in Wenbourne".
Finally the lands passed into the hands of Richard Wenbourne and Thomasin his wife. At the Court held 21st July 1470, 10th year of Edward IV., the lord "by John Westburn his steward granted out of his hands... one bond tenement with appurts. called Wenbourn and Kentewiste." Then followed details of the charges and how they were to be paid and "moreover said Richard and Thomasin and their heirs and assigns shall permit... John Hamond during his life to have, peaceably hold, occupy and enjoy in the tenement aforesaid the high chamber and the low chamber built in the lower part of the house or hall of the tenement with free entry and egress to or from the said chambers at all times"... this echo of the 1429 record in referring to a building of two levels is interesting as few were more than one floor. It raises the question of the age of exsisting property still standing on the lands bearing the name.
Richard Wenbourne seems to have been the last of the name to holds the lands which passed into the hands of a family named Whitfield who came from the North, and later still into the possession of the iron- founders.
The Court Rolls of the neighbouring manor of Mayfield covered part of the Parish of Wadhurst, and the Parishes adjoined. Thus the Manor of Mayfield also records in September 1546 a Robert and John Wenborne. In December of the same year "to this Court came John Barham and surrendered... one croft of land called Fayrefield.... to the use of John Lukes of Dorgattes, Edward Lukes and Robert Wenbourne... etc." At a Court held at Wadhurst in March 1547 a reference is made to the death of John Wenbourne and refers to land called "Brodfeld" which is also mentioned in his Will. In the same year Robert Wenbourne and two others surrendered land to John Barham the elder and after his decease to his sons and his heirs. These are the first occasions when the names of Wenbourne and Barham are linked an association that was to continue over many years as was that of the Maunsers. Both of these families were associated with the iron-making in the Parish of Wadhurst during it's prosperous times, and each were linked with the Wenbourne lands.
© 2008 Wenban Family. Website by Myles design.
Here again I quote from Archie Wenban's Fine work. "Rude Forefathers"
Thanks again to the kindness of Peter Wenban for sending me the book.
King John signing the Magna Carta