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The National Archives
Map of Ashburton Manor, Devon, 1605 (Catalogue reference: MPB 1/7)

This is a brief guide to researching records of manors. Manorial records are incomplete and are kept in a variety of archives. This guide will help you to find out if the information you are looking for exists, and if it does where to find it.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the name of the manor
      • the name of the parish and county
  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Manorial documents

      Search the Manorial Documents Register for the location of all known surviving manorial records for England and Wales. It is partially available online but for areas where the register has not been digitised you will need to visit The National Archives.

    • Records held locally

      Search the Access to Archives (A2A) and National Register of Archives (NRA) databases to find records held in local archives.

  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Websites

      Search the British History Online website. This is a digital library created by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust containing core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles.

      Look at the Lancaster University and Nottingham University guides to using manorial records.

    • Books

      Read Using Manorial Records by Mary Ellis (Public Record Office, 1994)

Did you know?

The manor was the principal administrative unit of medieval landed estates and its business was carried out in the manor court before the steward. Manors varied in size but were administered by their lords as a single unit.

Manorial records are a vital source for local, social, family and economic history. They hold information on local agriculture, the resolution of disagreements between tenants and the transfer of property amongst tenants.

In the case of urban manors, records contain details of markets, trade and industrial developments. They can also tell us a great deal about the community living in the manor, its social structure, households and the local economy.

The survival rate and comprehensiveness of manorial records varies. Records from one manor alone can be scattered across a number of archives and institutions as well as being held by private individuals and organisations.

Until 1733, manorial records are likely to be in Latin and, both before and after that date, in handwriting that can be difficult to read.

The Manorial Documents Register identifies the nature and location of manorial records. Sections of the register relating to the following areas are available online: Wales, the Isle of Wight, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, the three Ridings of Yorkshire, Surrey, Middlesex, Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire North of the Sands (the Furness area, part of Cumbria since 1974), Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.