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By Charles Cooper

During this superbly crafted historical past, Charles Cooper explores the advance of the industry city Kingston-near-Lewes, from the time of the Norman conquest to the tip of the 19th century, studying how its medieval previous formed the borders and bounds of its current.

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Example text

Did the village, as a community, have a bigger say in agricultural decisions than it might have done had there been but one manor court? Unfortunately, there is no evidence for this. One can only speculate, remembering, however, that the multiplicity of manors in Kingston – given the particular form the manorial holdings took – need not have led to conflicts of interest between lords about basic agricultural decisions. Certainly not all the manors had direct interests in the ordering of the agricultural year in the village.

Whether or not Norman manors conformed to this pattern, it is plain that they changed radically with the times. The changes are part of Kingston’s story, but their broad outlines are easy to sketch. Villein service was slowly ‘commuted’ into the payment of money rents as the markets for lordly surpluses grew. The process was slow and uneven. There were times of actual or attempted regression to customary labour service, but by the end of the OPEN FIELDS AND MANORS 29 medieval period – say in the fifteenth century – a labour market had come into being and was to remain.

If they and the post-1567 assarts are left out, it would mean that the Conquest open fields were about 80 per cent of the area of the 1773 fields, not a great deal of change in 700, or nearly 800 years, for the lands Marchant drew in 1773 were substantially unchanged in 1831 when the village was at last enclosed. So far we have explored the lands of Kingston in isolation from the lands that lay around. To round out the story, let us take a broader look – a bird’s eye view of the village and its neighbours.

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