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Source material: Manor court rolls

During the Middle Ages, the manorial system was a central feature of social and economic life. Records of manorial courts show in great detail the workings of feudal society at a local level, indicating how petty crimes were dealt with and the changes that took place in the tenancy of manorial property. By the mid 17th century the manor locally was in decline, but, nevertheless, records of the courts continue to provide a detailed picture of Halifax life and shed a great deal of light on such questions as public health, law and order and land use.

Local manors

The records of the manor of Wakefield, which covered most of Calderdale, have survived from the late 13th century. Records of the various sub-manors, including Halifax, are also available from late medieval period onwards, but are distributed throughout many collections in several record offices, due to their association with different families and estates.


The most important record of the manor is the court roll, usually comprising a series of parchment membranes stitched together at the head. The handwriting - a cursive court hand - is difficult for the modern eye to decipher, and up to 1733 (except for the period 1649-1660) is in abbreviated Latin. Fortunately, however, some of the surviving rolls for the Calderdale area have been transcribed and translated and have been published in scholarly editions by the Yorkshire Archaeological Society and the Halifax Antiquarian Society.

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