Parishes save 600-year-old document

A medieval document that opens a window to 15th century society will be on display for the first time in 600 years after being saved from disappearing into a private collection.

The parchment, from 1438, is the oldest complete land deed in the Cambridgeshire area and details the transfer of land in Whaddon during the reign of King Henry VI.

Written in Latin, it was rescued from going to a personal dealer by Cambridgeshire Archives after the parish councils of Bassingbourn, Whaddon and Meldreth clubbed together to raise £360 to buy it.

Philip Saunders, principal archivist at Cambridgeshire Archives, said its discovery allowed a glimpse of medieval life.

“It’s a great piece of history for the local area and gives a fascinating insight into the 15th century legal system, agriculture and society,” he said.

“These texts are the basis of local history and it’s so important to conserve them.

“It is virtually impossible to deduce what the estate in question was, but as it spread across three parishes it was evidently a substantial one.

“The interest in the deed is mainly for its early date, showing some of those who must have been important in the parish in the 15th century.

“Robert Burton, the buyer, must have been a man of some means to be termed esquire, of superior status to ‘gentleman’.”

The document has now been re-united with a similar deed almost certainly from the same transaction.

It has been authenticated with wax seals particular to the buyer as signatures would not appear for another hundred years.

Nigel Strudwick, chairman of Whaddon Parish Council, who was involved with the purchase last year, said: “We are very lucky to have found this document, and raised the money to buy it.

“The county found out about the deed but being short of money they asked if the parish councils could split the cost.

“If we hadn’t managed it, it could have sat on someone’s living room mantelpiece for years. Now people can see it. It is a piece of history that has come back to the area.”

It will be displayed at Whaddon Village Hall next Tuesday evening.

Source: Royston News

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