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Accounts, Audits, Inquiries

If law was one ‘hard’ means of control that the Leges Henrici Primi connected with the problem of manorial officials’ tenure, conduct, and accountability so too were accounts, audits, and inquiries. The Leges, it was noted, give a checklist for when an estate is returned, following immediately from the discussion of jurisdictional problems in judging reeves who are not their lords’ men. The Leges are asking about how theprepositus has done his job:

And in returning the manor the shepherds should be questioned about the beasts, their number and state. From the other servants each about his office, whether all things are held fully and at their value; about the availability of men and of livestock; if there has been any deterioration of the manor in demesne or men, in pastures, woods; if anyone has increased his rent, if anyone has wrongly withheld them; what is in the granaries, what sown.[1]

This implies a regular re-evaluation of an estate/manor’s value. The approach seems comparable to, if less detailed, that taken by later manuals. The following comes from a late thirteenth-/early fourteenth-century manuscript and sets out the annual headings for the manorial audit. The layout retains the format of the manuscript (including the lines drawn in to connect different items, but not the alternating red-blue colouring of the gallow marks).

The beginning of what to inquire into—first headings regarding bailiffs, sub-bailiffs, reeves, haywards, shepherds, and other ministers of the court—how they have conducted themselves [qualiter se habent] in their office, and whether they are people the lord should keep in his service.

CONCERNING lands, how well-cultivated they are [lucrantur], how they are sown, and how they are composted by both sheepdung [falda] and cart [carecta]. f About the sheep, whether those that ought to lie in the lord’s sheepfold, lie as they ought to or not, and if they do not so lie, then on whose account and to what loss.[2]

  • 5 Of pasture sales, etc
  • - - , , , if they are well sold or not
  • 5 Or hshpond sales etc I 1
  • 5 Of the safekeeping of hay in autumn, done well or not 5 Of hay threshing, done well or not
  • 5 Of the measurement made by the reeve outside the grange
  • 5 Of sales of the same, if it is badly sold or not and on whose account and to what loss etc
  • 5 Of seed how it is guarded in the fields 5 Of hay sold, etc as above
  • 5 Of ploughs and carts, in whose interests it is kept and on whose say-so and to what loss etc
  • 5 Of straw and chaff sold 1
  • - - • - as above
  • 5 Of pasture sold etc
  • 5 Of wood sold and how many acres in the great wood and the underwood etc 5 Of turf sales etc as above
  • 5 Of custody by whomever of stock and of murrain to the same and by whose stupidity etc 5 Of rose sales etc 5 Of sales of bracken etc
  • 5 Of stock sales etc - as above
  • 5 Of straw sold etc
  • 5 Of [rabbit] warrens, how they are guarded etc 5 Of furze sold etc
  • 5 Of guarding of the liberty, how it is guarded etc, and if homages are taken as they ought to be taken, and if badly by whom etc 5 Of sheep from ewes having two lambs and from cows having two calves, whether they are [both] in the account etc
  • 5 Of all other things and profits [proficuis] of the lord, pertaining to sales; if they are sold in the lord’s interest [ad commodum domini] or not and if they are in the account etc.

The end regarding the actions of servants.244

It is worth noticing that while sales, profits, and growth are the refrain of such lists, they are not the only concern. Competence and conduct are also audited even at this modest level.245 In the same way, the Leges after setting out its audit headings move on associatively to complaints about the reeve’s conduct in office.

Concern about manorial officers’ accountability reached a peak in the ‘new writ of account’ of 1259/60 and its later elaborations. At some level, as we have seen, these legal developments were a product of the c. 1259—c.1261 ‘reform movement’. Concurrently, a ‘management revolution’246 occurred in the mid-thirteenth century, work on manuscript layout and memory to this very interesting class of ‘miscellaneous’ manuscripts. Cf. Matteoni, ‘Verifier, corriger, juger’, 55 n. 113.

  • 244 BL Royal MS 9 A. VII fos. 227r-v = ‘Oschinsky’ MS 25, App. VI 467—8. I am grateful to Paul Brand for help with some terms.
  • 245 Cf. Bernard Williams on the question ‘what should the lawyer do?’ vs. ‘how should the lawyer be?’ in relation to ‘Professional Morality and its Dispositions’, in his Making Sense of Humanity and Other Philosophical Papers 1982—1993 (Cambridge, 1995), 192—202 at 200.
  • 246 Prestwich, Plantagenet England, 429.

manifested by both a highly distinctive genre of English manorial manuals and a change in demesne accounting which Harvey, doyen of English manorial specialists, has characterized as ‘phase 2’.[3] The transition from ‘phase 1’ to ‘phase 2’ is relevant.[4] The typology can be summarized as follows. Phase 1 characterizes the records from the first half of the thirteenth century and consists of agreed, final accounts centrally produced by the lord’s men.[5] They correlate with the early phase of concentrated demesne farming (in the Midlands and southern and eastern England) and show the hierarchy of demesne workers at its most elaborate. The accounts themselves tend to have a greater variety of forms at the start than at the end of the period. ‘Phase 2’ characterizes records from the mid-thirteenth century through to the mid-fourteenth, the height of English demesne farming. The tendency for the reeve and bailiff to account together (with the reeve holding sole financial liability) disappears as the levels of manorial officials decrease. The audit itself provides the main supervisory function.[6] Phase 2 are uniform, unagreed accounts, produced locally by manorial officials. That is, they represent the accounts manorial officers have compiled before audit, and often include notations showing the negotiated changes made during the course of the audit. Phase 2 accounts have notably similar structures, with the accountants’ cash incomes, dues, and debits on the front and the corn and stock account on the dorse. Harvey’s stress on the negotiated nature of the account is important.[7] Just as we will see at the Exchequer, the accounts and their content furnished the weapons for a conflictus between accountant and auditor.[8]

There are two broad groups of manorial treatises, one focusing on management, the other on financial controls. Harvey criticized Oschinsky’s association of the two because she connected the accounting manuals with demesne cultivation, which in turn produced the need for the estate manuals.[9] Harvey has argued that there is no ‘essential link between the treatises on husbandry, written for estate owners and their stewards, and the treatises on accounting, written for the clerks who drew up the manorial accounts’.[10] But the difference rather implies the complementarity of the two types. Treatises on the conduct of officials and those on accounting and auditing are functionally the two halves of the same tally. Each approaches the same problem of bailiffs’ accountability with a different stick. One seeks to guide land-lords and agents to the problems of managing people and the likely temptations arising from doing particular jobs. The other seeks to overcome the question of individuals through accounting and auditing.

The latter broadly correlates with phase 2 accounting, which sought to reduce hierarchy by placing greater weight on the audit. An interesting, if late, Durham text of c. 1380—1 illustrates this simply in relation to tallies themselves. The text is a set of instructions on how to manage the clerk used by the manorial officer. After the bailiff/reeve had secured his clerk at the start of the year,

Then the clerk should give to the reeve or the bailiff a stick [baculum][11] on which he may put receipts in one side and disbursements on the other [recepta. . . delibera- ciones]; he ought either to teach himself to make the tally or other sign for the court regarding granary calculations or [do so] by some other means so that he can securely enroll receipts and disbursements. And thus that reeve will always be in a good state and not in arrears.[12]

The same text makes clear that the manorial professionals were perfectly capable of ranking qualitatively the effectiveness of different techniques for ensuring reeves’/ bailiffs’ accountability.

There are three ways in which the reeve or bailiff is liable [onerari] for the quality [genere] of corn, namely via reckoning [estimacionem] of the sheaves, and this is poor reckoning [mala oneracio] for the lord and by the bailiff[13] because therein can lie great deception, but should he be liable for a reckoning [estimacionem] of this sort particular sheaves should be threshed and winnowed under the bailiff’s eyes so that he knows what he has. The second form of reckoning is to answer for the grain to a quarter, fifth, or sixth and a half, according to the custom of the manor or place, and this is a better form of reckoning for the lord and by the bailiff[14] and orders everything so that he answers for a fixed amount [certum]. If it is really answered to the grain [vero oneretur adgranum], there is not a good surplus of seed to put [aside] because they will reply for the seed in the second year according to the custom of the land or place. The third form of reckoning is that someone should answer for the tallies of the counter-tally holder [contratalliatoris] and as with one thief there will be sometimes two thieves notwithstanding that they may have sworn [to be faithful] since everyone will prove [prestabit] his oath with a counter-tally; the reeve or bailiff should always have tallies against whoever has an office [officium] on the manor, because if a reeve says that he handed over money or corn or whatever, unless he has a letter or tally for himself he may well be bound by his hands and feet on the say-so of the auditor [per preceptum auditoris] until he has completely satisfied his lord for his arrears.259

The author of this text is no fool. Sampling is hit and miss.[15] Setting a fixed threshold guarantees a return, but will allow officers to benefit from any surplus accruing (since they don’t have to answer for it). Tallies work, but only if the foils are held centrally by the bailiff, otherwise they are a licence to gull the reeves/bailiffs.

The longest item in the c.1301 St Peter’s Gloucester text aggressively sets out this style of securing officers’ accountability. Here is the text that reeves were supposed individually to swear before each other, at least monthly. It concerned their own propensity for fraud and the cooking of books.[16]

Item. Because of those who subvert and cook [correatores] accounts the truth is suppressed many times and falsehood set down in the reeves’ accounts; [so] it is ordained and ordered that any reeve should receive in his official capacity two or more rolls of parchment [rotulos percameni] from the steward’s hand, in which rolls will be set down the heading [titulus], written in the steward’s clerk’s hand, or the hand of another, namely, ‘This heading is the roll of such a reeve for his account of that manor etc’. And in this roll clearly and openly should be set down in itemised detail [per particulas] what he receives, spends, or to whomsoever he hands [anything] over, and this by tallies and testimony, and in the same rolls [is to be set down] once a month or more according to his need his expenses, but not on wax, nor some scrap [in cedula], nor in any other such place, except for those rolls, should it be written before that person who is deputed to tally against him [coram illo qui ad talliandum contra illum deputatur], and before whom [i.e. those two] it is to be recited at least once monthly [quolibet mense recitetur ad minus semel] whatever they have set down in those rolls. And by no other covering order [ordine dealbato] are the accounts of the reeves to be heard except by those rolls, nor is anything beyond those rolls to be allowed in the accounting of any reeve, and the same form is to be observed for the checking and reconciling of tallies at least once every fortnight [de talliis ad minus infra quin- denam semel visitandis et concordandis], and the reeve should know that nothing will be allowed him in his account unless he can produce the aforementioned rolls and tallies in testimony.[17]

This lengthy and complex passage well illustrates the policy of relying principally on routinized procedure to ensure accountability. The original accounting system has not produced the responsible conduct it ought. A further more complicated intervention is therefore introduced to overcome the earlier manipulations. The mutual swearing is intended presumably to have the sort of 360-degree effect Bentham later

aimed for in his Panopticon.

Accounting is expensive, and dealing with the fallout of poor accounting, poor systems, or bad accountants even more so. It is expensive both for the landlords who have to police a system and the officials who have to comply with it, so good reasons are needed for it.[18] Monstravit de compoto shows that barons considered these costs acceptable. How might a bailiffrespond to the legal changes of 1259/60 and 1285?

He would certainly wish to avoid the application of these severe sanctions to him. As we have seen, the new writs were pro-landlord, especially with respect to the use of lordly auditors and the sanctions of imprisonment and (from 1285), outlawry. That is irrespective of the legal cost of contesting an action or of the disruption and displacement it could entail (John de Valle’s case moves from Ireland to London). Bailiffs will not have been complacent about such risks.

What could they do to protect themselves against them? ‘Cultivate good relationships with their masters and mistresses’ is one answer (see pp. 76—82). But with masters like Geoffrey of Lusignan or Gilbert de Clare this would not always be easy. A second approach would be more bureaucratic: furnish themselves with the documentary proof that as bailiffs they had accounted, did have receipts, and had been acquitted of their charges. At least by so doing bailiffs could arm themselves against malicious or ‘bad faith’ attempts by their masters to offload costs that were not rightly theirs. A John de Valle would thereby have his receipts from the English, Hainault, Brabantine, and Lombard merchants he had contracted with. The problem of what constituted ‘reasonable expenses’ might also be rendered more soluble. For bailiffs then, better accountancy on their part might protect them against the action of account (although not against masters who sought to destroy these records or make their officials eat them). Such records might also seem attractive from a landlord’s perspective, in so far as they offered greater discouragement to bailiffs who might well try to inflate ‘reasonable’ expenses into private profits.[19]

There is a chronological correlation between a change in manorial accounting and the growing profile of actions of account. The change to phase 2 accounts occurs mid-century, the same decade in which landlords’ concern about bailiffs produced the action of account.[20] But such accounts may indicate a different strategy of land- lordly control, rather than decentralization.[21] It is credible to suggest that as the sanctions increased against bailiffs who lacked written proofs of account it should be of interest both to bailiffs and lords to address this. It makes particular sense in this context that accounts should be produced locally and include some acknowledgement of the debate between lordly auditors and local accountants of what the latter sought by way of expenses and what the former allowed. The stress on ‘reasonable exp enses’ should be recalled. Audit ‘workings’ might later be needed in court, as they are in de Valle’s case or the action between Bogo de Clare and Walter de Reygni (see p. 68 n. 231). Further, the sanction of the new writs of account firmly placed the burden of proof on accountant-bailiffs. It was they who undertook business for their lord, they who contracted with third parties, and they who needed to claim their expenses, deliveries, and profits. A shift from central accounting to local accounting and from final to pre-audited accounts makes sense in the context of the legislation. Whichever side this impetus to experiment with accounting models came from, it fitted very well into the manorial legal and political economy, both from bailiffs’ and lords’ perspectives. It need imply no decentralized slackening of lordly interest. The action of account, accounting traditions, and estate management treatises need taking together to understand the way in which law, administration, and agriculture were likely to have interacted.

  • [1] LHP, cap. 56.3.
  • [2] I try to give a sense of how the MS works by reproducing deliberate breaks and marks, putting in bold illuminated words, interlinear notes with pointing lines, etc. In the MS gallows marks alternate in red and blue. Such lists were really intended to be of practical application in the field.Oschinsky’s edition masks this by running edited text as a continuous block. The same considerationswould apply to, say, Bod. Barlow MS 49 (SC 6414) (the Faringdon accounts of Beaulieu Abbey,1269-70) whose elaborate coloured hierarchy of lines provides a visual flowchart for following theRegule compotis rules (fos. 59r-65r and the 90r-v ‘tabula quantitatis mercedis mercennariorum’). Itwould be instructive to apply Malcolm Parkess ideas of ordinatio et compilatio or Mary Carrutherss
  • [3] For a recent summary, Harvey, Manorial Records.
  • [4] The typology was first set out in Manorial Records of Cuxham, 16—34. I draw on Harvey’s morerecent Manorial Records, 29—37.
  • [5] See e.g. The Pipe Roll of the Bishopric of Winchester for the Fourth Year of the Pontificate of Peterdes Roches, 1208—1209, ed. Hubert Hall (London, 1903); The Pipe Roll of the Bishopric of Winchester
  • [6] 1210—1211, ed. N. R. Holt (Manchester, 1964), and The Winchester Pipe Rolls and Medieval EnglishSociety, ed. Richard Britnell (Woodbridge, 2003), passim.
  • [7] 250 The fact that the action of account concentrates on bailiffs liabilities while phase 2 manorialaccounts themselves do not require a ‘bailiff’ per se to account reinforces the earlier argument that abailiff is better defined as an agent with a particular liability rather than an agent with a particular job.
  • [8] 251 Harvey, Manorial Records, 33 , 34. 252 See Ch. 3.
  • [9] 253 Walter of Henley, 3-4, 213—15, 233—4.
  • [10] ‘Agricultural Treatises and Manorial Accounting’, 179—80.
  • [11] Cf. on the verges of royal county officials Britton, i. 21; the steward’s rod for admission intotenancies, Harvey Manorial Records, 50; use of rods of office for conveyancing, Bisson, Crisis of theTwelfth Century, 122. The encyclopedia Omne bonum illustrates its bailiff entry with a trio holdingrods that could as well be spears (BL Royal MS 6 E. VI (i), fo. 208r).
  • [12] 256 Durham Dean and Chapter Library MS Loc. 2. 15, cited from the edn. in Walter of Henley, 464—7 at 464—5 (=Oschinsky MS 83).
  • [13] baillivo, could be ‘for the bailiff’. 258 baillivo, could be ‘for the bailiff.
  • [14] 259 Durham Dean and Chapter Library MS Loc. 2. 15, cited from the edn. in Walter of Henley, 465.
  • [15] cf. Walter of Henley s caps. 55—8 (Walter of Henley, 324).
  • [16] The oath is clearly closed by the instruction: ‘Ista sunt injugenda prepositis non tameniuranda’, i.e. what follows (TNA C 150/1 fo. 328r). The opening passage (fo. 326v) had stipulatedthat ‘Prepositus quolibet mense semel ad minus articulos istius | scripti distincte coram eo et sociosuo messore aperte fa|ciat recitare et formam preceptorum in eo contentam cum summa | diligentia etsollicitudine sub pena restitutionis omnium obmitten|dorum pro posse suo ad plenum observabit. . .’Cf. on seigneurial officers’ oaths, Lachaud, Ethique du pouvoir, 491—5.
  • [17] TNA C 150/1 fo. 328r (=Historia Sancti Petri Gloucestriae, iii. 216).
  • [18] Comments from twentieth-century and early medieval accounting perspectives in respectivelyMichael Power, The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification (Oxford, 1997), passim, and Chris Wickham,Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean 400—800 (Oxford, 2005), 264—72.
  • [19] The value from lords’ perspective: Harvey, Manorial Records of Cuxham, EHR 93 (1978), 15—16.
  • [20] For various instances as well as an ‘archaic’ set of obedientiary accounts in BL Harley MS 645 fos.193—9, 252—3, 260—5 (for 1247—50 and 1256—7) see P. D. A. Harvey, ‘Mid-Thirteenth Century Accountsfrom Bury St Edmunds Abbey’, in Antonia Gransden (ed.), Bury St. Edmunds: Medieval Art, Architecture,Archaeology, and Economy (Leeds, 1998), 128—38; Gransden, A History of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds1182—1256: Samson of Tottingham to Edmund of Walpole, Studies in the History of Medieval Religion31 (Woodbridge, 2007), App. III. Some manors/lords produce both actions of account and accountingexperiments, such as Isabella de Forz and Gilbert de Clare. Denholm-Young, Seignorial Administration,159—60, Brand, Kings, Barons and Justices, 314; Manorial Records of Cuxham, 20, 22—3, 26.
  • [21] A point made by Kershaw reviewing Harvey, Manorial Records of Cuxham in EHR 93 (1978),863^.
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