Manorial History

The Royal Manor of Penkhull and Newcastle-under-Lyme.

If the Domesday Book had not been compiled a detailed insight into many hamlets, villages and towns would be denied to us. Domesday records the first documented evidence we have for Penkhull and its importance with regard to its higher recorded monetary value than that of many other villages in North Staffordshire during that period. Penkhull, as we know it today, is a small rural suburb overlooking the town of Stoke, whereas for hundreds of years Penkhull comprised a huge slice of Stoke-on-Trent stretching from Parliament Row, Hanley to Hanford, and incorporated around half of what is today considered the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme.

We have already discussed and explored the significance of Domesday when Penkhull was recorded as a Royal Manor but to further the task of exploring its significance within the context of North Staffordshire it is necessary to view other records that can identify Penkhull as a place of importance and integrity.

The Royal Manor of Penkhull retained its own title and independence for some time after 1086, indicating its value to the crown. The Pipe Rolls of 1168/9 inform us that Penkhull men pay seven marcs as ‘aid’, amounting to £4 13s 4d on the marriage of Princess Matilda to the Duke of Saxony. To place this sum into context, the men of Newcastle paid slightly less at £4 6s 8d and by further comparison, the men of Wolverhampton paid £2 13s 4d. The tax paid by Penkhull during the same year to the crown amounted to £1 4s 8d. Various amounts of tax were paid by the villagers of Penkhull: 1185 – 24s 6d, 1195 – 20s, 1198 four marks, 1205 – £9 9s 4d and in 1206 – £7 0s 0d. These sums reflect the agricultural wealth of an area and show that Penkhull’s monetary worth was substantial compared with most areas, which today greatly exceed the size of Penkhull.

The Pipe Roll of II Richard I and 1 John is dated Michaelmas, 1195. (King John’s Coronation took place on Ascension Day May 27th 1199. Therefore, the Pipe Roll is entitled ‘first of John’) This document lists the Royal estates of Penkhull, Wolstanton, Meertown, Tettenhall, and Alrewas which had all been supplied with fresh stock at the expense of the crown. From the fact that Penkhull is included in this pipe roll it is clear that Penkhull and other manors remained in the Sheriff’s care and were of ancient escheat (land reverted back to the Lord or Crown when a tenant died without heirs, or where the heir had not reached his majority, or else where the tenant had committed an offence which involved the forfeiture of his estate)

It is not known why the king decided to re-stock the manor of Penkhull, in 1198/9. It might have been because it contributed such high taxes that it was considered necessary to invest in its wealth to produce even more tax: at the King’s expense with sixteen oxen the sheriff charges 48s for two cart horses; 6s, for twenty-five cows; 75s one bull; 3s for fifteen sows and 1 boar 16s.

It was in 1212 that the first list appears recording that military service was part of the duty of the men of Newcastle manor. In the great inquest of service included in this register entitled ‘Testa de Neville’, there is no specific entry for Penkhull of military service to the castle at Newcastle, even though King John had requested all such service to be accounted for. Nor in this document is Penkhull listed as paying rent to the King, even though the surrounding districts did under the title of ‘ancient right’. Those that did pay are estates belonging to the castle at Newcastle; which include Knutton; Dimsdale; Hanchurch; Clayton; Hanford; Whitmore; Longton; Hanley; Fenton; Chatterley; Normacot; Tunstall; Bradwell and Thursfield. It may be assumed therefore, that Penkhull at this point in history could still be regarded as a Royal Manor in its own right and not a part of the larger community incorporated in the Manor of Newcastle-under-Lyme. The Plea Rolls of 1227/8 confirm that Penkhull retained its independent title as a manor: The Manor of Penkhull appeared by twelve jurors at the assizes at Lichfield.

An inquisition into the lands held, introduced by Henry III in 1249, recorded the following: also, they say that the Lord the King has in the demesne of the vill of Penchul, one carucate of land with appurtenances, which the men of the same vill render 15 shillings. In addition, the men of the same vill hold 8½ virgates of land and render yearly 34 shillings. Also, the men of Penchul hold eight bovates of bondmen land (a man bound to service without wages) for 20s 8d. Also, William Muriel holds the vill of Penchul the fields of Caldhock in the King’s demesne and renders by the year 11s and 4s. (Murial was also keeper of the King’s Park at Cliffe Vale and his name recurs in Merrial Street, Newcastle).

In 1251 a further record confirms the independent status of Penkhull: The Abbot of Hulton has entered into the Manor of Bradenop and of Mixen, which was a Royal domain of the King, through Henry de Audley, after the time of the death of Earl Ranulf (1232). Item: the service of Bradenop and Mixen which was of the Royal domain of the King is subtracted, that is to say 5s 2d and four loads of hay, which used to be rendered yearly to the Royal Manor of Penkhull.

A full account of Penkhull manorial history is covered in The Royal Manor of Penkhull book which is still available.