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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: July 2013

5 - Peasant Women, Agency and Status in Mid-Thirteenth- to Late Fourteenth-Century England: Some Reconsiderations


There are many things we will never know about Agnes de Schonedon. We will never be able to find out how old she was when she first started to appear in manorial court rolls in December 1276. We will also never know what she looked like, nor what her likes or dislikes were. However, we can reconstruct quite a lot of other information about her from the surviving court records of the coastal manor of Heacham, located on the Norfolk Wash, and under the lordship of the Priory and Convent of Lewes in Sussex. These records paint a picture of a woman with a determined nature and, at least to some degree, her own economic means. In December 1276 Agnes was involved in four separate lawsuits against four men: Stephen Berre, John de Redham, Radulf de Redham and John Elnoth. Agnes claimed that Stephen, John Elnoth and John de Redham were indebted to her, while a court inquiry had just proven that Radulf did owe Agnes a total of 11d. In January 1277 it emerged that the debt Agnes claimed from John de Redham involved 22d. for ale purchased from Agnes. Indeed, the records for the next few years reveal that Agnes was an occasional brewer. However, Agnes's brewing activities were not her only source of income, as is clear from the year of 1277, throughout which Agnes brought various suits of debt against a variety of individuals.