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The Armburgh Roll

or Mancetter Manuscript, English, mid-fifteenth century, written on parchment

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This six-metre manuscript roll is made from six separate membranes fastened together, and contains transcripts of approximately 100 letters and memoranda written to and by the Armburgh family of Mancetter, Warwickshire from c. 1430 to c. 1450.

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The letters represent an unusually detailed account of a fifteenth-century property dispute concerning the Brokholes inheritance, mainly in Warwickshire, Huntingdonshire, Hertfordshire and Essex. Much of the material concerns one of the claimants, Joan Armburgh, and her husband Robert, and the roll also contains some love letters in French, Latin and English.

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In 1660 the manuscript was in the possession of Sir William Dugdale, the historian of Warwickshire, and was lent to a Rochdale gentleman. It probably ended up in Manchester by error, as the principal property at issue is Mancetter in east Warwickshire, rather than an alternative spelling of Manchester.

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The roll was presented to Chetham’s by local historian F.R. Raines in the mid-nineteenth century, but remained undisturbed until a few years ago. The text of the manuscript was published as The Armburgh Papers by Dr Christine Carpenter of New Hall, Cambridge (Woodbridge, 1998). She writes:

‘The letters provide insights on local politics, the networks of bastard feudalism which bound the gentry to their lords and to each other, on the impact of lengthy litigation on a gentry family (especially its finances), and, more generally, on the management of their lands and business affairs.’