In Context

Appleby In Focus

Alan Roberts' History Articles

Memories of Appleby

A Tour of the Village


Parish Records & Censuses

Search the Site


Contact Us

Appleby Village Web Site

parchment logo

Appleby History > Alan Roberts > Connections

Appleby Connections to Neighbouring Towns and Villages

by Alan Roberts

Marriage Outside the Parish

Probate wills and inventories, marriage registrations and other administrative records from the early modern period suggest that the Appleby inhabitants' closest social connections were to local market towns and villages within a five mile radius. The domiciles or home parishes of ‘outside’ marriage partners are recorded in the Leicester Archdeaconry court register of Marriage Licence Bonds and Allegations, and from entries in the parish registers. Although home parishes are seldom recorded in the Appleby register before the institution of civil marriages in 1653, these sources help us to identify outside partners for about twenty per cent of recorded marriages in the late seventeenth century. They tend to suggest that Appleby's pre-industrial marriage catchment area broadly conforms to the pattern observed in other closely-settled parts of the country. ie. approximately half of the partners came from parishes within a five-mile radius - a distance that could be comfortably walked once or twice a week by suitors - and a further quarter from parishes five to ten miles away. As in other parts of the midlands the registers suggest that most of the outside partners were single men entering the parish to marry local girls and then departing with their brides. As one seventeenth-century clerk wrote on the flyleaf of the Marriage Licence book:

 “I argue not of her estate but sett my rest on this,
that opportunitie can win the coyest she that is”

“Opportunity” or proximity was the crucial factor governing the selection of marriage partners. Most of the marriage connections were with residents of nearby parishes, in particular, Twycross, Stretton-en-le-field, Polesworth, and Newton Regis, although some partners came from local market towns as far away as Hinckley.  With such small numbers recorded it is difficult to come to any firm conclusions as to customary contacts. While only two of the marriage partners listed in the Appleby register are identified as residents of Ashby, the closest market town, its clear that the local market towns provided opportunities for matchmaking for  the inhabitants of surrounding villages. Many Appleby inhabitants who married partners from outside the parish probably met their partners at local markets and fairs. Appleby’s position on the overlap of several marketing areas helps to explain the dispersed marriage catchment area.

There is some evidence of segregation along county lines. In Tamworth for instance an overwhelming proportion of those recorded in the town register between 1558-1635 (where there is a particularly good record of domiciles) came from local chapelries or townships within a five or six mile radius. Yet the register does not mention a single Appleby inhabitant being married, baptised or buried in the town.

Kinship Connections Outside the Parish

The geographical pattern of bequests to kinsmen in the wills closely matches that of the marriage catchment area, suggesting that the most active family connections were concentrated within a comparatively small area (less than 5 miles), although again some contacts were maintained as far as thirty to forty miles away. Three of the Appleby residents gave bequests to kinsmen in Kingston Great Park, Fillongley and Nottingham, twenty, fifteen and twenty-five miles away respectively. The siting of the parish on the edge of four county boundaries with no physical impediments to the movement of livestock, people and produce, accounts for the absence of any clear county demarcation between kinship areas. However in the light of evidence of county segregation (from places like Lutterworth and Clayworth) its interesting to see that 72 per cent of the external legatees lived in Sparkenhoe Hundred. The strong representation of gentry families in the wills provides a plausible explanation for the high proportion of kinship connections across county boundaries.  Ann Hughes suggests that 36 per cent of Warwickshire’s pre-war gentry had economic or social connections outside the county.  Those living near county boundaries often held office, maintained social contacts or owned lands in other shires.  Thomas Leving of Grendon, who held lands in Austrey in the early Stuart period is held up as a model of such men. He seems to have had little difficulty combining his role as an official of the Court of Wards with property interests in both Warwickshire and Derbyshire.  Henry Kendall is also cited for naming two Leicestershire residents, Thomas Hill the minister of Orton and Thomas Charnells, a Snarestone attorney as his overseers. Although Hughes uses these examples to argue against the idea of an insular "county community" it would be hazardous to read too much into them. A certain overlap of friendships, property holdings and official responsibilities between neighbouring shires is only to be expected irrespective of local and regional loyalties.

Debts and Landholdings Bequests

Fragmentary references to outside economic links such as debt, landholdings and apprenticeship indentures provide further indication of the pattern of social interaction between Appleby and its surrounding area.  About a third of the Appleby inventories from 1550-1700 record debts owing to or owed by the decedent although only a handful of these documents give the debtor's place of residence, and fewer still record the reason why the debt was incurred. One of the few inventories that does provide such information is an Appleby  inventory drawn up in 1694 listing the worldly goods and chattels of John Mould, a yeoman. His dozen creditors include Jonathon Kendall of Austrey, Mrs Charnells of Snarestone, Thomas Wetton of Measham, William Peak of Burton-on-Trent and Joseph Erpe of Findern, in south-east Derbyshire. John’s extension of credit to people as far as twenty miles away attests to a remarkably wide area of trading contacts and indicates fairly frequent communication or journeys outside the parish.

The ease with which the farming inhabitants were able to conduct personal dealings at a distance is seen in references to landholding and leases in their wills.  The gentry and immigrant yeomen had the closest contacts outside the parish, but it was not unknown for a smallholder to retain an interest in his native parish after purchasing a holding in another parish.  When drawing up his will in 1588 for instance, Richard Wright of Appleby who describes himself as a husbandman, was careful to include his leases and his mare at Packington.  Ralph Swinfield, a retired gentleman who moved into Appleby with his son George after the Civil War, retained his house and lands at Ticknall in Derbyshire.  Landholding provided intimate and permanent bonds of association between villages in separate parishes since rents had to be collected regularly and fines levied when tenements became vacant.  Residual tenancies and leaseholds belonging to migratory landlords thus kept alive kinship connections and promoted social interaction while social contacts and family alliances encouraged economic dealings. Economic and social ties were thus intertwined with no clear distinction between the two types of relationship. Together, all these different types of contact blurred distinctions between economic and social relationships. 

Local wills and estate papers reveal that most of the Appleby residents owning lands outside the parish held lands either in Leicestershire or Derbyshire. The pattern is repeated for absentee landowners, two most prominent being the Dixies of Market Bosworth and the Harpurs of Swarkeston. Wolstan Dixie, a younger son of the onetime lord mayor of London who founded the grammar school at Bosworth, acquired a substantial interest in Appleby through his purchase of the manor of Great Appleby and his subsequent position as a trustee of the school lands. The Harpurs of Swarkeston in Derbyshire, headed in 1636 by Sir John Harpur the high sheriff of Derbyshire, had suzerainty over the other Appleby manor held in fee by the Moores. All of these connections tended to consolidate social and trading links north of Watling Street.

The presence or absence of absentee landlords was important as far as the inhabitants themselves were concerned. Sales of absentee-owned land within the parish appear to have caused little disruption to the tenants, serving often merely to exchange one absentee landlord for another, equally distant. But the difficulties of negotiating rents or leases at a distance provided the tenants with opportunities to exert pressure on their landlords by alliances and other stratagems.  An exchange of letters between the Marchioness of Bath, the absentee landlord who had bought the rights to Austrey tithes, and John Crowther, her representative in nearby Drayton manor, shows how tenants sought advantage.  In June 1673 when the Marchioness asked Mr Crowther what rent he had charged, she was told:

"There is such a combination between the farmers and the takers, notwithstanding the seasonable weather and the rise of corn and I believe the goodness of the pennyworth too, that despite all efforts I cannot let Austrey tithes for above £130".

 The tenant farmers were well aware of their strong bargaining position. In this instance they seem to have found ways of combining together to gain an advantage over their absentee landlord.

The Movement of Servants and Apprentices

 Although the destinations and origins of servants and apprentices for each individual parish are sparsely documented, there can be no doubt that they formed a substantial proportion of the migratory population. Their pattern of movement from one township to appears to conform to the general pattern of trade and social communication outside the parish.  Most of the servants seem to have been drawn from towns and villages within a five or ten mile radius, as has already been suggested by Thomas Mould’s allusion to his "maid servant from Stretton".  Apprenticeships by contrast, show a general southerly trend towards London and Coventry which exerted a powerful influence upon those who wished to set up their sons in high status occupations and the prestigious merchant and trading guilds. There is further evidence to suggest that Leicestershire yeomen apprenticed their sons through a process of "chain migration" to the brewers, bricklayers and tilers companies in London. The surviving records relating to apprenticeship rarely provide tangible evidence of these connections, however there is an occasional hint in letters and wills of kinsmen with connections in the City.  In the early 1684 the elder George Moore almost certainly conferred with his nephew, who was by then Lord Mayor of London to arrange apprenticeships for his two younger sons, Robert then thirteen and Thomas who was nine, in the City. Robert, the elder of the two boys, may well have gained a placement in London through his cousin for there is a record of his burial in Cripplegate. Further stray references to apprenticeships in local market towns tend to suggest that sons indentured in the less prestigious crafts, to carpenters, coopers and cordwainers, remained within their native shire.

The ‘Social Area’ of the Parish

In their study of Terling, Levine and Wrightson found that the parish’s social area was shaped by the competing "pull" of local market towns and the "multifaceted influence" of London. The local social area centred around Appleby tends to conform to this model.  However, rather than being seen as the hub of an extended area of social interaction, the parish can also be seen as part of a wider network of association and contact centred on a larger economic unit of production and distribution, that of the local market town.  Regional analyses by J.D. Goodacre and David Fleming show how from the early 1600s agricultural parishes became more and more integrated into the marketing economy or social orbit of these local market towns.  As Fleming observes (in respect of Terling), "the market towns rather than the village ... represented the significant points in any social systems which might have been present". Appleby was not really large enough to have its own marketing area: it was the local market towns like Ashby and Tamworth, on the next rung of the trading hierarchy, which acted as the social and economic centres.

Some markets were obviously more important than others.  This is apparent in the range of contacts including marriage, landholdings, debts and apprenticeships.  Distinctions are drawn between townships connected by a single link (a marriage partner, landholding or debt connection) which Wrightson calls “primary linked townships”, and those linked by a combination of several different types of social interaction,  described as “multiple-linked townships" (The multiple links suggesting a greater range of social interaction between their inhabitants),

Assuming that parishes with several layers of contact were more closely connected that those with only one type of contact, the documentary evidence tends to suggest that Appleby's inhabitants had particularly close ties to the three neighbouring parishes of Stretton, Norton and Orton-juxta-Twycross. The siting of Appleby on the overlap of three marketing areas also gave the villagers easy access to the local market towns of Ashby, Atherstone and Tamworth, so the villagers’ "net of social interaction" – as for Terling - extended over an area several times larger than their home parish. At the same time there is some indication in the probate documents of a territorial segregation of social contacts along the Leicestershire-Warwickshire county boundary.

Sources and Notes

The citation on “opportunitie”, is inscribed on the flyleaf of Leicester Marriage Licence Bonds and Allegations, 1631-1632. L.R.O. 1D 41/38

P. Laslett, ‘Mean household size in England since the sixteenth century’, in Household and Family in Past Time, eds.  P. Laslett and R. Wall (Cambridge, 1972); D. Hey, Myddle, pg 209; K. Wrightson, Poverty and Piety, pg 109. V.B. Elliott, ‘Widows in Late Elizabethan London: remarriage, economic opportunity and family orientations’, paper presented to the Australian Historical Association, Melbourne, 1984.

A.J. Macfarlane, Diary of Ralph Josselin, 153-60, English Individualism, pp 78, 86, 198 ‘Social linkage theory’ with relation to Terling in Wrightson, Poverty and Piety, chp. 4. 20 out of 101 marriages in Appleby marriages were between local girls and males from outside the parishes. Wrightson, Poverty and Piety, 77; J. Cornwall, 'Population Mobility', loc.cit., 150; D. Fleming, Melton thesis, pg 245.

At Claybrook, just inside the Leicestershire border, 77.8% of marriage partners came from parishes east of Watling street and only 22.2% from west of the county line.  Ex inf. C.V. Phythian Adams, 1981.

Figures relating to the place of origin of those registering baptisms, burials and marriages in the Tamworth in P.W.L. Adams, Tamworth Parish Register (Part 1), 1558-1614 and S.R.O. microfilm of Tamworth Parish Register.

For gentry connections, A.L. Hughes, ‘Warwickshire on the eve of the Civil War: a County Community?’ Midland History, 7 (1982), pp 47-48

Economic considerations usually provided a sound foundation to a successful marriage, 'feelings might be more rather than less tender or intense because relations are ‘economic’ and critical to mutual survival: E.P. Thompson, ‘Happy Families’, a review of Lawrence Stone’s, Family Sex and Marriage, in New Society (8.9.1977): pp. 499-501.

L.R.O. PR/1/99/121, wills, Richard Wright, 1588/64.

P.R.O. wills, Ralph Swinfield, PROB 11/336/69 (1669); George Swinfield, PROB 11/365134 (1680).

Letters regarding Austrey tithes in HMC Marquess of Bath, pp 266-7, 275.

L.R.O. wills, Thomas Mould, 1642. (ref. maidservant from Stretton).

Robert Moore’s Cripplegate burial in Nichols IV, pp 443-4. Robert is mentioned in Sir John's will. John’s wife was Elizabeth Moss of St. Mary's Hill, London.

Local apprenticeships in K.J. Smith, Warwick Apprentices, pg 136.

For influence of market towns see K. Wrightson, Poverty and Piety, pp. 78-9,

D. Fleming, Melton Mowbray thesis, pg 8.

© Alan Roberts, November 2000

Back to Top