Early References to Pooty Pools Farm in Documentary Sources

extracts from: English Ancestry of the Pettypool Family of Colonial Virginia

©Carolyn Hartsough

The earliest known mention of both Pooty Pools Farm as well as an individual called by the name appears in an Essex record over 800 years old. The effort to understand this record provides an opportunity to introduce several medieval legal and dating issues that aid in understanding the remainder of the story. In England, as was to be the case in the American colonies, records regarding land, including its uses, acquisition and disposal, constitute one of the surest avenues for productive genealogical research. As pointed out by F. W. Maitland in his distinguished history of English common law, “in the Middle Ages land law is the basis of all public law.” 1

The system whereby land law assumed such importance in English society arose out of the medieval English legal and social arrangement that has come to be known as feudalism. Briefly, feudalism as practiced in England rested on the governing premise that the King held title to all of the land in his dominion. In turn, he awarded large allotments to his great barons (or lords), who in turn leased plots to their sub-tenants (lesser lords). These sub-tenants, in turn, created their own sub-tenants. Accordingly, for the periods during which we will explore records about Pooty Pools Farm and the Pettypool family, England was divided into manors (estates) of various sizes.

Because of the confusion in title that frequently resulted from the possibly lengthy chain of sub-tenancies created by the feudal system, medieval English civil court records are largely concerned with validation of land titles in one form or another. It is, therefore, not surprising that little over a decade after the first central recording of English law cases began, Pooty Pools Farm is the center of a title dispute. Thus from autumn of the year 1206 we read,

Michaelmas Term 8 John 1206.
Essex: Michael de St Philiberto seeks against Richard de Putepoll four shillings of rent and other customs from his land, which he holds of him in Putipoll’: and Richard says that he does not hold any tenement from him, because Thomas, son of Abraham, deraigned 2 his land, which he held, against him in the county3 of Essex; and Thomas comes and says that he, himself, deraigned that land against the same Richard by writ de recto and against the same Michael similarly by writ de recto in the county by default: and Michael says that he was never impleaded in the county, nor did he have a summons. Whereupon it is considered that it is to be sent to the sheriff and that he causes to be made a record of that dispute as to the manner by which it was deduced between them in the county; and he is to cause the justices to know this by four knights, who were present at that judgment, in the octave of St Hilary.4

A still later thirteenth century reference to Pooty Pools Farm appears in a volume of deeds, including mortgages, that fell under the jurisdiction of the Exchequer of the Jews.5 The following citation (taken from No. 1197, dated 1235, and held by the British Museum), is translated from the Latin, continues for several pages and describes a transaction in which

The Lessor, Ralph de la Newelond, passes to Hugh of London certain lands lying in his manor of Newland in Roxwell in the County of Essex; the Lessee acquitting Ralph of his debt to the Jews.6

A detailed description of the Newland Manor land includes reference to several adjacent properties, among them

Seventeen acres of meadow from the meadow which lies between Kadipol and Pootepools.7

© R. Metson

A long period ensues before we encounter records allowing us to learn more about the ownership of Pooty Pools Farm. The next chronological evidence comes from documents associated with nearby Skreens Estate, of which Pooty Pools Farm is listed among its holdings from as early as 1795.8 It may be that Pooty Pools came under the ownership of the estate somewhat earlier since George Branston, a member of the family that owned Skreens had bought a group of Essex properties in 1735 that included Pooty Pools.9 The absence of eighteenth century maps of the Skreens Estate properties makes the inclusion of Pooty Pools hard to prove, and earlier maps (from 1635 and 1639) of the Skreens holdings do not reveal its presence. Sale catalogues and deeds do show that Pooty Pools Farm continued as part of Skreens into the early twentieth century.10

Modern Times

Pooty Pools Farm entered the twenty-first century under the stewardship of the Ralph Metson family. Under the ownership of the Metsons, the farm plays a dynamic role in Roxwell parish community life. Housing a steel fabrication business, in June, 2012 the farm was host to a local parish celebration marking Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee11 and more recently was the site of a regional ploughing competition. 12 Of note, the farmhouse and farm buildings on the site have been “grade II listed,” a designation indicating their historical importance as part of the two percent of the English building stock that are “buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them”. 13

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This page contains excerpts from English Ancestry of the Pettypool Family of Colonial Virginia by Carolyn Hartsough. To read the complete document:


[1] F. W. Maitland. The Constitutional History of England. (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1908, reprinted 1963), 38.

[2] The translator believes this to mean ‘established a title to’.

[3] The translator believes this means ‘county court’.

[4] Great Britain, Public Record Office, Flowers, C. T. (Transcriber). Curia Regis Rolls of the Reign of Richard I and John Preserved in the Public Record Office. 7-8 John, Vol. IV. (London: Public Record Office, 1929; reprinted by Kraus Reprint, Nendeln/Leichtenstein, 1971), 293.

[5] I. Abraham, H. P. Stokes, and H. Loewe. Starrs and Jewish Charters Preserved in the British Musuem, Volume I. (Cambridge: At The University Press, 1930), 88-94.

[6] Abraham, Stokes and Loewe, Starrs and Jewish Charters, 94.

[7] Abraham, Stokes and Loewe, Starrs and Jewish Charters, 90.

[8] Essex Record Office. Document D/DU 497/58, accessed 9 Jan 2014.

[9] Essex Record Office. Document D/DU 334/2., accessed 12 Jan 2014.

[10] Essex Record Office. Document D/DU 524/1, accessed 12 Jan 2014.

[11] Held during the week of 2 June, 2012, the jubilee celebrated the 60th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the British throne.

[12] See news story from the September 29, 2013 edition of Essex Chronicle Only female ploughing competitor 'not predjudiced', accessed 10 Jan 2014).

[13]See Listed Buildings in the Chelmsford Borough, accessed 11 January 2014. Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Listed_building_(United_Kingdom), accessed 11 January 2014.

[14]Paul Chambers, Medieval Genealogy,164-167.