The Lucke family in the Mayfield Manor Court Rolls

In recent posts I’ve been attempting to trace my links to the Lucke family of Mayfield, Sussex. I’m now fairly sure that my 12 x great grandmother Alice Fowle, the wife of Magnus Fowle, was the daughter of Richard Lucke of Mayfield, who probably died some time in the 1550s. It also seems apparent that there was some link between Richard and the John Lucke of Mayfield who died in 1549, though the latter makes no mention of Richard, or indeed of any other relatives beyond his immediate family, in his will. And there were almost certainly connections between the Mayfield Luckes and those with the same surname in nearby Wadhurst.

Ruins of Mayfield Palace in the 18th century (via theweald.org)

Ruins of Mayfield Palace in the 18th century (via theweald.org)

Thanks to some generous assistance from a fellow researcher, I’ve come across a number of references to members of the Lucke family in the Manor Court Rolls of Mayfield from the late 1540s and early 1550s. For example, in the court held at Mayfield on 1st December 1546, in the thirty-eighth year of Henry VIII’s reign, John Barham ‘surrendered into the lord’s hands one croft of land called Fair field containing by estimation 10 acres of land of old assart lying with its appurtenances in Mayfield in Bakehese ward, to the use of John Luck of Durgates, Edward Luck and Robert Wembourne who were admitted.’

There are a number of connections between my ancestors and the Barham family, and the Barhams would later be linked by marriage with both the Fowle and Byne families. Closer to the date of this court case, the first wife of my 13 x great grandfather Christopher Maunser of Hightown, Wadhurst, was Mildred Barham, and she was in all probability a relative (perhaps a daughter or a sister?) of the John Barham mentioned here. As for Robert Wembourne or Wenborne, he was Christopher Maunser’s son-in-law, the husband of his daughter Mildred. In my last post, I noted that Robert’s father John and Christopher Maunser had something in common: their wills were both witnessed by Thomas Hoth, a priest who may have been an itinerant protestant preacher and possible martyr under Queen Mary.

16th century manorial court rolls

16th century manorial court rolls

We’ve come across the two members of the Lucke family mentioned in this record before: or rather, two men with the same names. ‘John Lucke of Dargatte’ was one of the beneficiaries of the will of Nicholas Fowle of Wadhurst, who died in 1600 (as well as being related to my ancestor Magnus Fowle, Nicholas was married to a member of the Maunser or Manser family). The ‘John Lucke of Durgates’ who appears in the manor court rolls half a century before must belong to an earlier generation of the same family. (Nicholas Fowle also bequeaths property to a John Barham, presumably a descendant of the person of that name in the same court rolls.) Durgates was a property in Wadhurst, and still appears on modern maps as an area to the west of the town. I believe that this John Lucke is not identical with the John Lucke of Mayfield who died in 1549, and that the reference to his property is made in order to distinguish him from his Mayfield namesake, whose name appears in other records of the manorial court. For example, on 12th January 1546/7, just over a month after the case cited above, ‘John Luck’ came to the Mayfield court and ‘submitted himself to the lord’s pardon because he has cut down two willow trees upon the lord’s common at Ryden and Byshetwood.’ Perhaps this is the ‘other’ John Lucke – the one who died in 1549?

As for Edward Lucke, the only person of this name that I’ve come across before is the brother of Richard Lucke of Wadhurst, who died in 1593, but once again this was more than fifty years after the manorial court case.

In the court held at Mayfield on 10th April 1547, in the first year of the reign of Edward VI (his father Henry VIII had died at the end of January), there is a reference to a Richard Luck, mentioned as owning land close to some property that is the subject of the case. A number of other landowners came to court at this time to surrender six and a half acres of land ‘into the lord’s hands…to the use of Richard and John Luck who were admitted.’ This seems to suggest a close relationship between Richard and John: were they brothers, cousins, or father and son?

At the same session of the Mayfield court, Richard Lucke was involved, together with William Penkhurst, in a separate case concerning another plot of land. Penkhurst would be named some years later as a defendant in the Chancery case brought by Magnus and Alice Fowle concerning Richard Lucke’s will.

Farms at Mayfield (via geograph)

Farms at Mayfield (via geograph)

On 10th December 1547 the Mayfield Hundred was held and twelve men appointed to a jury ‘for the lord king’. The list includes Richard Luck and ‘John Luk of Dorgatts’, as well as other familiar names such as John Barham, William Penkherst and John Maynard.

‘John Luck of Durgates’ is mentioned again in the record of the manorial court held on 10th April 1548. The record of the court session held just over a month later, on 16th May 1548, is intriguing. Three ‘amercements’ (fines imposed by a court or by peers) are listed, all of them involving the sum of three pence, and two of them involving Richard and John Luck. In one, ‘John starts proceedings with Richard Luck in a plea of taking away and the illegal detention of draught animals. In another ‘Richard Luck starts proceedings himself with John Luck, in a plea of taking away and the illegal detention of draught animals’. In other words, both men seem to be accusing the other of the same offence. Was this a dispute and a falling out between brothers, perhaps? And if so, does it explain the absence of Richard’s name from the will of the John Lucke who died in 1549?

In the record of the court held on 12th January 1550/1, ‘John Luck of Dorgats’ is listed among the tenants of ‘Hadley virgate’. At the same court session it was noted that in the previous December a widow named Alice Boniface ‘surrendered into the lord’s hands one messuage with a garden adjoining with the appurtenances in Mayfield, to the use of Richard Luck and his wife Agnes who were admitted’. The record goes on:

To hold by them, the heirs and assigns of the same Agnes at the lord’s will according to the customs of the manor through the rents and services there owing and customary and they paid 4d as relief and they give the lord 6d as a fine and they made fidelity and have seisin through the rod. Then nothing comes to the lord as a heriot because they have no animals.

(A ‘heriot’ was a death duty, usually in the form of a horse, owed by a tenant to a nobleman.) So these manorial court rolls have provided me with at least one significant new piece of information: the name of my 13 x great grandmother, Agnes Lucke. This might explain why Magnus and Alice Fowle gave their only daughter, my 11 x great grandmother, the name Agnes (though Magnus also had a sister of that name).

John Luck of Dorgates and Edward Luck are mentioned together in the record of the manorial court held on the following day, 13th January 1550/1, suggesting that these two men may have been related, and perhaps connecting Edward to the Wadhurst rather than the Mayfield Luckes.

At the Mayfield Hundred held on 30th April 1551, Richard Luck’s name appears in a list of eight men ‘amerced’ the princely sum of twenty shillings ‘which has been exacted from each at the taking the oath before the jury of 12 and they absolutely refused’. Was it the fine they refused – or the oath? The record is tantalisingly brief, and I would be interested to know more about this act of defiance on the part of my ancestor.

Significantly, none of the eight men thus fined appears in the list of twelve men ‘for the lord king’ (presumably the jury) that follows. However, a certain ‘John Luke of Fair chorche’ is among the twelve. Who exactly is this John Lucke? And where was ‘Fair chorche’ – or perhaps Fairchurch? Could he be the son of the John Lucke who died in 1549? Although the latter failed to mention a son in his will, he does describe himself as John Lucke ‘thelder’ (i.e. the elder).

Richard Lucke and William Penkhurst are again mentioned together in the record of the manor court held on the same day, 30th April 1551. Richard obviously overcame his resistance to serving on the manorial jury, as his name is included in the list of twelve men ‘appointed for the lord king’ at the hundred held on 4th October that year. Among his fellow jurors are both ‘John Luck of Dorgates’ and ‘John Luck of Fayrechorche’, thus confirming that these were two different men. The jury also included Richard Maynard, the son-in-law of the John Lucke who died in 1549, as well as Robert Wenbourne and John Thorpe, both sons-in-law of my 13 x great grandfather Christopher Maunser of Hightown (a rider to this record notes that John Thorpe and two others were ‘sellers of ale in Wadhurst’ who were to be ‘amerced’ for two pence each.)

This seems to be the last reference to Richard Lucke in the Mayfield manorial court rolls. It tallies with my own theory that Richard died some time in the early 1550s and that the Chancery case in which his will is mentioned dates from some time in the middle years of that decade.

What else can we conclude from these valuable records? Besides the important information about his wife’s name, these court rolls also tell us something about Richard Lucke’s property and status in the Mayfield community in the 1540s and early 1550s. He was obviously one of a small group of local yeoman farmers and a closer analysis of his properties might, in time, help us to understand more about him and his family. John Lucke (of Mayfield, not Durgates) was clearly a close relative, but the precise nature of their relationship remains unclear, and while it seems likely that he is the person whose will was proved in 1549, this can’t yet be confirmed.

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