In 1837-1839 and 1842, my 3rd great grandfather Thomas Hitchcox was listed as a voter living at Wheaton Aston in the Parish of Lapley, Staffordshire, England and was qualified to vote by owning Freehold Estate/Land with entries in the UK Poll Books and Electoral Registers like that below:

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However, in every year from 1843-1849, although Thomas is still qualified to vote by his Freehold House and Land, occupied by Self, his eldest son William Hitchcox (born 1821) also starts to be listed as a Lapley voter, qualified by his Copyhold House and Land, which was occupied by Thomas Hitchcox and others. William himself is working as a druggist (or pharmacist) and initially living at Dale-end, Birmingham (1843-1844) and later (1845-1849) at Red Lion Street, Wolverhampton.

The entries in the UK Poll Books and Electoral Registers for those years are like that below:

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Although a number of letters between William and Thomas survive from the period, none talk about their properties, and I am keen to understand more about the Freehold house and land of Thomas, and the Copyhold house and land of his son William (that was occupied by his father Thomas and others). It looks to me like Thomas continues to own the same freehold house and land while William makes a copyhold purchase of a new house and land.

From Freehold and copyhold land in 18th century England? and Wikipedia etc, I have learned about the difference between Copyhold and Freehold and am assuming that there must have been two properties (probably adjacent) that Thomas was farming and living on while his son pursued his profession as a druggist.

To try and clarify this I think my next logical step will be to try and determine if the manorial records might still exist to provide a record of how the Copyhold came into William's hands and I have found some useful advice at Finding records from the 'manor house'.

Does anybody know whether manorial records for this part of Staffordshire are likely to exist, whether they are likely/certain to contain Copyhold information, and how to best access them from Australia (where both William and Thomas end up a few years later after selling up in Staffordshire)?

2 Answers 2


In locating records relating to copyhold, the first thing is to work out which manor or manors may be involved. The boundaries of a manor were often not the same as that of the parish. The advanced search (or beta search) of the Manorial Documents Register allows searching on parish. For the parish of Lapley the search gives just one manor, named Lapley Manor. Trade directories and parish histories can provide corroboration of the manors in a parish and also extra information such as who the Lords of the Manor and major land owners were.

There are currently (Aug 2015) 14 entries from 4 archives in the online Manorial Documents Register for Lapley. Sadly the records for Lapley are fragmentary, with nothing around the 1840s. The Manorial Documents Register is not a complete listing of all manorial documents. It was originally compiled in the 1920s-1930s in compliance with legislation expressed in the Manorial Documents Rules (covering only the documents belonging to the manor). Although the register is being updated and expanded, not all relevant documents have been identified or catalogued. Manorial records are often in estate or family records of the Lords of the Manor, or legal deposits from the lord's steward. Checking catalogues at archives in Staffordshire and The National Archives, and enquiring about un-catalogued material may reveal more documents.

As you do not know when William Hitchcock acquired or deposed of the copyhold property, you should look at a broad date range. If William did not sell the property, the time of his death and a few years after should yield the transfer to his heirs.

The Court Baron recorded copyhold property transactions. Those who sold property or died surrendered it to the lord of the manor, who then admitted new tennants, the purchaser or heir. The proceedings were recorded in court books or court rolls. Look out for abstracts of admissions and surrenders produced by the steward of the manor (the lawyer who ran the court), as this can be a quick way to access information. Enfranchisements, the process of converting copyhold to freehold, may also be worth checking, as these transactions sometimes include a detailed history of the property.

Knowing the location and extent of property holdings is helpful in determining which records apply to it. The poll books give no indication of where the property was, and it is not safe to assume property owned by relatives was in close proximity. The tithe map (The National Archives IR 30/32/137), dated 1838, and apportionments (IR 29/32/137) give detailed information on who owned and occupied land.

In general, manorial records are not online, and are not indexed, so a visit to the archive is neccessary. I would recommend hiring a professional with experience as manorial records are complex and present challenges in interpreting handwriting and legal language.


As is often the case, taking the time to write a question, seems to put me some way along the path to an answer.

Please feel free to provide a better answer but I found these useful references:

    – Sue Adams
    Aug 15, 2015 at 10:01
  • @SueAdams I've updated the link
    – Harry V.
    Aug 15, 2015 at 20:31
  • Thanks @vervet - you saved me trying to find it this morning
    – PolyGeo
    Aug 15, 2015 at 20:48

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