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The Ancient Feudal Manor and Lordship
of Winterbourne St. Martin (Dorsetshire)

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the nine families
Fitz Grip
de Lincoln
fitz Pain

Glossary of Terms
The History of Lordships of the Manor and associated titles

This website was created in 2002 following the offer for sale of a bogus title referred to as the Barony of Winterbourne Saint Martin. No such title exists. In December 2008, the London based solicitor involved in the sale of this and many other fake titles faced a Solicitors Disiplinary Tribunal hearing. He was subsequently suspended as a solicitor with effect from March 2009 and ordered to pay fixed costs of £80,000.00 for his part in an international scam selling bogus titles as invesments. (go to Fake Titles website for more detail)

Once again (24.02.12) this fake Barony is for sale on an internet site. To the uninitiated this website looks credible but is certainly likely to lead to criminal action for fraud and most probably another Solicitors Disiplinary Tribunal hearing and striking off of another unwitting legal practice that may have become involved in these title sales.

A registered title that continues is the Lordship of the Manor of Winterborne Saint Martin in Dorset (known today simply as Martinstown).

This website traces the last one thousand years of the history of the Lords of the Manor and follows some of the events and people closely associated with them. Links have been included in this website that lead to further sites of associated local history and places of interest as well as to sites offering sales of doubtful titles and to others warnings of these scams.

If a Barony can be shown to exisit, the present Lord of the Manor has been advised that he may claim the title.

Since the Norman Conquest in 1066 the Manor has been held by just nine families; These are the families of fitz Grip, de Lincoln, fitz Pain, Maltravers, Stafford, Howard, Napier, Sturt (to become Alington) and Duke

The Backgound to the Feudal System

For a BBC Today Programme news report and interview broadcast on 1st October 2002 regarding title sales press the following links

Today Programme

Today Programme interview with Lord Bradford

BBC copyright 2002

Firstly, a brief background to the institutions of the early Feudal System may be helpful. The Manor was the pivot of the Feudal System, defined by the 11th century by various ecclesiastics who promoted the theory that human society was divided into three orders, the oratores, the bellatores, and the laboratores: those who protected it with their prayers and their swords, and those who tilled the earth to support the first two classes.

By the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-66), the Lord of the Manor, was the local leader and was the most important person in village affairs, whether it be collecting taxes for the King or dispensing "high justice", with the power to inflict the death sentence in his courts.

The Normans institutionalised the Manorial System in the Domesday Book, compiled for William the Conqueror in 1086 and listing 13,418 Manors and their owners. It was an inventory of the wealth of the new kingdom and, as such, is still a Government document, housed at the Public Record Office at Kew where it is known as Public Record No 1.

In return for the protection of the Lord of the Manor and the land he gave them, the people on the Manor, from slaves to freemen, owed their Lord certain services, ranging from money rents to working so many days a week on the Lord's "home farm", without pay (week-work).

If the tenants of the Manor disagreed, they went before the manorial court, presided over by one of the Lord's officers, usually the Bailiff, who decided and imposed fines often called "arbitrary" though, in fact, usually determined by custom. If there were some crime committed, the Lord could arrest, try, and punish upto "pit and gallows", gibbet, and mutilation.

The Dorset estates anciently belonging to King Edward, including Portland, Bere Regis, Dorchester, Fordington, Gillingham and others amounting to some 70,000 acres, were claimed by the King William. The king also claimed the land formerly belonging to Harold as Earl of Dorset; Queen Matilda, and to Goda, Countess of Boulogne, King Edward's sister that amounted to a further 38,000 acres.

At the time the Church and monastic communities owned more than a third of the county. They were not alienated from their religious dedication but were reassigned by King William. William also got rid of all English bishops and abbots who were replaced by ecclesiastical leaders from Normandy.

The largest Norman grantee of land in Dorset was the Earl of Mortain, whose share of the county exceeded 46,000 acres. His manors included a large part of the Cerne Valley, Martinstown, Upwey, Child Okeford and many small estates scattered about the county. The second largest land owner in 1085 was the widow of the former sheriff, Hugh fitz Grip. She held some 27,000 acres. It is likely that many of the old landowners lived and remained as occupiers of the land that formally belonged to them.

The earliest written reference to Winterborne St. Martin is to be found in the Domesday Book. The Domesday Book records that nine thanes held Martinstown jointly before 1066; it refers to a mill, a meadow of 13 acres, pasture, ploughs, pigs and sheep, and says the value was 10.00 before the conquest,

From the time of the Domesday Book, there was a continual decline in population. The many causes of the desertion and shrinkage of villages all but rival the number of settlements themselves. Much pillaging took place after the Norman Conquest at the hand of the Sheriff of Dorset, Hugh Fitz Grip during which many manors between Dorchester and Exeter to the west were sacked. It is likely Martinstown was one such Manor. They also seized half of Dorchester's houses.

Hugh Fitz Grip and his wife also seized land of the Abbot of Abbotsbury to whom Martinstown was held. The lawlessness of the following century must inevitably have caused local food shortages. But Dorset's wide range of agricultural soils are likely to have saved its population from the worse effects of famine; in any case unorganised human movement was almost impossible within the practical limitations of medieval life, nor did it offer a satisfactory remedy for famine.

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Copyright Gerald Duke 2002 - 2012