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The Inquisitions Post Mortem of William, Cecily and Joan Bolle (1326-1332)

Back to The Bolles of Swineshead and The Question of the Bolles as Lords of Swineshead


When William Bolle of Swineshead died in 1326 he left his wife Joan and a young daughter Cecily but no male heir. 

William’s Land Taken Into the King’s Hands

On July 18, 1326 the king ordered Matthew Broun, the escheator in the counties of Lincoln, Northampton and Rutland to take into the king’s hands the lands late of William Bolle, deceased, tenant in chief.  (Fine Rolls 20 Edward II)

King Edward II then ordered the escheator in Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland, Matthew Broun, to hold an inquisition post mortem (ipm) to establish exactly what property William had at the time of his death and who his rightful heir was. 

William Bolle’s Inquisition Post Mortem

1326 C134-101

The ipm was held at Horncastle on January 15, 1327 and found that on the day of his death William Bolle, tenant in chief held:

in his demesne as of fee on the day he died a pl--- (likely plot) of land in Coningesby of the king in chief as parcel of the manor of Scriuelby, which manor is held of the king in chief by grand sergeanty, and it is worth yearly 12d; 

in his demesne as of fee 12 a. 3 r. of land, 20 a. of meadow, and a moiety of a messuage in Swyneshed of the earl of Richemund by knight service, which land is worth yearly 13s. 9d., at 12d. per acre, and the said meadow is worth yearly 13s. 4d., at 8d. per acre, and no more because it is poor marshy meadow, and the said moiety of the messuage is worth yearly 12d.

in his demesne as of fee 11 ½ a. of arable land and a moiety of a messuage in Swyneshed of John de Hoyland by service of 5s. 4d. yearly at the 4 principle terms, and the land is worth yearly 11s. --- --- --- --- (illegible, see note 1 below) and the moiety of the messuage is worth yearly 12d.

2 a. 1 r. of land and 1/3 of a salt yard in Wiketoft of the earl of Richem’ by service of 4 ½ d. yearly, and the 2a. 1r. are worth yearly 2s. 3d, at --- per acre ---, the 1/3 of the yard is worth yearly 3s. 4d.

there is there a certain free tenant who renders yearly [15 or 17d.] at --- yearly terms;

and that his daughter Cecily, aged about 1 ½ years is his heir.

Note 1: We know from other ipm’s (below) that the land William held from John de Holand was in Estevening (the Holand’s estate).  Another catalogue of William’s ipm states that the holding from Holand included a property called Le Frith, an 80 a. marsh held jointly with his brother John.  According to Wikipedia the name Le Frith or ‘the King’s Frith’ is first found in a record from 1323 on the edge of the Holand Fen and is today called Frithville.  However, that is far from the other properties mentioned in this holding.  There may have been many places in these fens called ‘frith’ as it was a common family name in the Bicker/Wygtoft area.  A grant in the Brownlow Collection (BNLW 1/1/5/75) in the Lincolnshire Archives from 1447 involves five pieces of arable land and pasture in Bicker, ‘the fifth piece of pasture contains 3r called Heychete and is situated between escheated land of the Honour of Richmond and land of John Gebon on the east and land of the heirs of Richard Fryth on the west and south, abutting land of William Bolle on the north’.  It’s more likely that William’s shared holding with his brother John called Le Frith in 1327 was  in Bicker parish directly adjacent to another property in Bicker which the Bolles still held in 1447.  William’s widow Joan’s ipm which was held to set her dower rights refers to this property as Holdefrith held under Steveninge Manor (which was held by John de Holand).

William’s ipm states the very important fact that he held one parcel of land, at Coningesby, directly from the king and therefore had the right to the title tenant-in-chief, a title at the Baronial level which would make him, in theory,  the Lord of that one plot of land although normally that would also require a manor and sub-tenants.  Despite the fact that he held all of his other lands under others, the one plot that he held in chief allowed him the very prestigious honor of being addressed as William Bolle of Swineshead, Tenant-in-chief.  These references may have been the basis for the belief that the Bolles were Lords of Swineshead.  William was ‘of Swineshead’ and held a title equivalent to Lord but he was not the Lord of Swineshead nor was Thomas Bolle or Alan of Swineshead before him.  That title belonged to Sir John la Warre in 1326 and to members of the Gresle family before that.  See The Lords of Swineshead  and  The Early History of Swineshead

Assignment of ‘the keeping’ of William Bolle’s Lands in Swineshead (only, not his other lands)


In Feb. 17, 1327 King Edward III issued a grant to John de Holand and his wife Margaret at the request of the king’s kinswoman, the Lady of Beaumont, of the keeping of the lands in Swineshead late of William Bolle, tenant in chief of Edward II (who had died just the month before), which were then in the king’s hands because of Cecily’s minority, to hold until Cecily reached the lawful age (21).    (Calendar of Fine Rolls of Edward III)

Despite Farquhar’s statement in ‘The History of the Bowles Family’ that “the distinction of royal wardship was accorded only to those minors whose families held rank at least equal to that of a knight” in fact the lands of every minor heir of a tenant-in-chief were automatically seized by the king who had the right to then retain the lands as his own. NOTE  He might then make the child his ward until the child reached the age of majority and then return the lands to him or if the child was a girl he would have arranged a marriage for her and then return the land to her husband.  Other times the child would be entrusted to a close relation who could be depended on to look after the lands on the minor’s behalf but sometimes they were just sold to whoever offered the most money for them or were given to someone whom the king wished to reward for some reason.



Assignment of Keeping of Cecily and Their Rights to Marriage


On March 23, 1327 William’s widow Joan was granted the right of marriage for both herself and for Cecily. (Patent Rolls of Edward III, Vol. 1, p. 35; this entry was catalogued as Belle but is clearly Bolle)

The second clause is interesting, Joan requested and paid a 20s fine (fee) to have the right to remarry whoever she wished as long as they were loyal to the king.  She probably would not have done that if she did not hope to remarry.  A land grant in 1348 shows that Joan married secondly John de Meres in a family alliance reflected in many future Bolle and de Mere land transactions.

The first clause in the above confirms that while Cecily’s lands had been put into John de Holand’s hands, Cecily remained in her mother’s care.  The order to the Holand’s doesn’t refer to Joan’s dower rights which by law gave her a 1/3 share for life of any of her husband’s property of which he was solely seised.  The obvious question would be how Joan would support herself and her daughter if she didn’t receive the income from her husband’s lands.  This expectation that her dower rights would just be looked after without requiring a legal order is an indication that the de Holands were close relatives of the Bolles.  It has been suggested that John de Holand’s wife Margaret may have been William Bowles’ sister but I have not found any supporting evidence for that.


But someone was not happy with this situation and it did not last for long.


William’s estate Seized by the King


On April 26. 1327 the escheator on this side Trent was again ordered to take into the king's hand the lands late of William Bolle, deceased, tenant in chief, until further orders.

For some reason the de Holands lost the right to hold Cecily’s land.  There may have been a dispute between the de Holands and William’s widow Joan who had been given responsibility for her daughter Cecily but no provision had been made in the February 17th order for any income from William’s land to go to Joan and Cecily’s maintenance.   Possibly she was not receiving her full dower rights.  This order would have resulted in all of William’s holdings being seized by the king not just the land in Coningesby which he had held in-chief.  The royal prerogative said that if any portion of a person’s land at all was held from the king then the king’s rights extended to all that person’s lands.   (Calendar of Fine Rolls of Edward III)


Assignment of Dower for William’s widow Joan Bolle


In an indication of what the problem may have been, a month later another inquisition was held at Swineshead on May 30, 1327 in which a local jury defined Joan’s dower rights (following her death it would revert to William’s heir or whoever owned that right at that time) and the share that would be kept in trust for their daughter Cecily.  If William had left sufficient assets, the dower would be enough to provide her with a place to live and enough income from William’s former lands to allow her to support herself.  This order now was probably to make up for the first ipm which gave the keeping of all of William’s land to John de Holand without specifying that Joan’s dower should be upheld.



The Full Text of this document

1327  C135-8-001


The jury ruled that she should have:


Those 3 new houses under one roof on the south side with right of entry through the gate of the messuage (property)


A barn in the same part towards the west


The solar and cellar at the west head of the hall with the kitchen and bakehouse under one roof which extends similarly to the east with those two enclosed plots on either side of the kitchen with free ingress and egress to all the aforesaid houses assigned to her


A way 12 feet wide from the exterior gate to the barn door


A plot within the door of the barn ‘as the metes and bounds identify’


The northern third of the garden, curtilage and orchard with free ingress and egress from the aforesaid chamber assigned to her between the fences as far (as her third)


1/3 of the plot in Coningesby which is held from the king in chief


8 acres and 13 perches of arable land in various parcels of land to the east, west, south and north


6 ½ acres and 1/3 of a half acre of meadow as a 1/3 part of 20 acres of meadow in Swineshead towards the south and north


1 and 1/3 acres of meadow as a 1/3 part of 4 acres in Swineshead towards the south


1/3 of a toft in Swineshead lying beside Thomas Bonde’s toft


5d received every year from various tenants in Swineshead as a 1/3 part of 15d yearly rent


All the common of pasture in the marsh of Steveninge and Holdefrith at all times of the year for pasturing all types of beasts and all the common of pasture in a meadow called Crakestevene with all types of beasts except pigs from Michaelmas (Sept. 29) until the feast of the apostles Philip and James (May 1) every year as William Bolle was used to have it according to his charter which is assigned to Joan in exchange for a third part of a salt yard in Wiktoft which is assigned wholly to Cecily, daughter and heir of William Bolle


A marsh in Swineshead as a 1/3 part of 129 acres of marsh which William Bolle held by the gift and enfeoffment of John de Holand


3 roods of land in Wigtoft for a 1/3 part of (illegible)


A 1/3 part of 4 swathes of meadow in ‘le Southpark’ of Donington


This assignment was made in the presence of Cecily (who was almost 2 years old at this point), daughter and heir of William Bolle and Nicholas de Holand brother of John de Holand and his attorney, Lord John de Holand and his wife Margaret having been sufficiently warned.




Joan’s 1/3 share of a residence with barn, solar (the living and sleeping quarters in an upper floor of the house over the hall), cellar, kitchen and bakehouse with right of entry to the residence and the barn from the front gate and garden, curtilage (courtyard) and orchard is probably a description of William’s hall near Holfleet (but still in Swineshead parish) which would later be known as Bolle Hall.  It is describing a typical medieval hall house which would be appropriate for a local landholder or merchant, the main floor being a great hall with the private living area on the second floor, cellar underneath and a kitchen and bakehouse at one end of the hall.  The three new houses under one roof nearby may have been servant quarters although servants would typically have slept in the hall.


This also implies that while Cecily became a ward of the king after her father’s death, she remained living at home with her mother and was legally the owner of their house and grounds of which a 1/3 share was held by her mother during her lifetime.


Something like one of these, based on the above description probably most like the middle one:


After the order establishing Joan’s dower rights, the escheator continued to hold the balance of William’s holdings as he had been ordered to do ‘until further notice’ and the king had not sent any further orders.


John Bolle Challenged Joan’s Dowry

From about November 1327 until July 1328 William’s brother John Bolle brought a series of ‘Detention of Charters’ court actions against Joan. 


I am still struggling to understand these but could use some help working through this medieval Latin.  As I understand it, a ‘Detention of Charters’ was filed by a rightful heir (in this case William’s brother John Bolle) against a widow who was claiming a legal right that the complainant was challenging and this order was for the widow (Joan) to produce William’s charters, which she would be holding as the occupant of William’s former home.


Here are the plea roll entries which should tell the whole story but I haven’t sorted it all out just yet.



The case seems not to have concluded in John’s favor as shortly after the conclusion of his charges in July 1328, we have the following.


From Edward III Plea Rolls:

Second assignment of the keeping of William’s lands during Cecily’s minority


Aug. 7, 1328  The king issued an order to Simon de Bereford, escheator beyond Trent, “to deliver to John de Holand (Jollan de Holaund) and wife Margaret all the lands of William Bolle, tenant in chief of the late king, in Swineshead together with the issues thereof from 17 February, in the first year of the king’s reign, when the king at the request of the Lady de Beaumont, granted to Jollan and Margaret the custody of William’s lands in Swineshead which are in the king’s hands by reason of the minority of Cicely, William’s daughter and heiress, to have during Cicely’s minority, rendering the extent thereof to the exchequer (i.e. they were responsible for paying the taxes on the income from the land)”.   (Calendar of Close Rolls, 1327-30, p. 308) 


Cecily Bolle’s IPM


Cecily died in 1332 at about age 7.  As she had died while in the king’s wardship, on Oct. 15, 1332 the king ordered the escheator for the county of Lincolnshire, Gilbert de Ledred, to hold an ipm to identify her holdings which were in the king’s hands by reason of Cecily’s minority and to establish her rightful heir. (CCR 1333-37, p. 10)


Note: Cecily’s property in Swineshead had been held in trust by John de Holland since Aug. 7, 1328 but her other properties at Coningesby and Wigtoft had been kept in the king’s hands since her father’s death.


The ipm was held in Lincoln on Dec. 15, 1332.  The jury found that Cecily held:


At Coningesby, 2 parts of a plot held of Henry Illar (Hillary) as of the manor of Scryvelby by service of 1d yearly


At Swineshead, 2 parts of a moiety of a messuage held of the Earl of Richmond by knight’s service; 8 ½ acres land and 14 acres meadow held of the same Earl by knight’s service; 2 parts (i.e. 2/3 of another moiety of the said messuage held of John son of John de Holland by service of 3d yearly and 8 acres land held of the same John by service of 2d yearly


At Wygetoft (Wigtoft), 2 acres land and a 1/3 part of a salt area with a salt pit held of the Earl of Richmond by service of 4d yearly; and 10d rent held of the same Earl by service of 1/2d yearly


That the aforesaid lands and tenements are in the king’s hands on account of Cecily’s minority and that no parcel of the same is held of the king in chief but only of the said Lords


Her heir is her uncle, John Bolle of Swineshead, aged 60


After the jury’s ruling that none of the lands had been held in chief, on Dec. 16, 1332 the king ordered that the escheator, now Matthew Broun, not involve himself any further with the lands that were taken into the king’s hands on Cecily Bolle’s death and that the rightful heir was John Bolle (Cal of Close Rolls 1330-33, p. 517)


2nd IPM of Cecily Bolle


However, someone in the king’s court (perhaps Broun) was aware that Cecily Bolle’s father had held some parcel of land as tenant-in-chief and the king issued a ‘writ of certiorari’ on Feb. 1, 1333 for the new escheator of the area, Matthew Broun, to enquire whether Cecily held land in Coningesby of the king in chief or not as the ‘late’ escheator, de Ledred, had held an inquisition which found that she held no land at her death in chief as of fee to the king but now the king understood that Cecily held land in Coningesby as of fee to the king by which the lands now ought to belong to the king and if he shall find that was true to seize any that were.  (CCR 1333-37, p. 234)


(Note: that same day, the king had removed Broun from office and de Ledred was again the escheator so de Ledred was being asked to review his own ruling.  There seems to have been a power struggle going on between Broun and de Ledred or the factions supporting them to the king and the Bolle ipm’s seem to have been caught up in it.)


That inquest was held on the Friday after St Matthias 1333 and found that Cecily’s 2 parts (which means 2 thirds, the other third being held in dower by her mother, Joan) of a plot of land in Coningesby was indeed held of the king in chief as a parcel of the manor of Scrivelby which is held of the king in chief by grand serjeantry, that is ‘finding on the day of the coronation of the king for the time being, an armed knight on horseback, to prove by his body if necessary against all comers that the king who is crowned that day is the true and right heir of the kingdom’.


(Note: the Manor of Scrivelby was the hereditary home of the Champion of England. Philip Marmyon held that title in 1292.  His ipm states that he held all of Scrivelby in chief by barony and that he had 50 bond tenants on the land so William did not hold his land at Coningesby then. After Philip’s death Coningesby was left to his daughter Joan whose third husband Henry Hillary, who outlived her, then sold it to Joan’s daughter (by her 2nd husband) Margaret  and her husband John Dymock sometime before his death in 1349.  Since Cecily’s first ipm in 1332 claimed incorrectly that her land at Coningesby was held under Henry Hillary, William may have purchased his tenancy-in-chief from Henry Hillary, which would have required the king’s approval, in exchange for the 1d annual fee mentioned in Cecily’s IPM.  In 1327 Henry Hillary and Joan his wife did make an application to alienate land in several places including Coningesby.  That was 1 year after William’s death but it shows that the Hillary’s did alienate land in Coningesby in another case.  C 143/192/12)


Order to Deliver William Bolle’s Land to his Brother John Bolle

On July 8, 1333 the king ordered the escheator, who was again Gilbert de Ledred, to deliver to John Bolle of Swynesheved, kinsman and heir of Cecily, daughter of William Bolle of Swynesheved, tenant in chief, the lands late of his said kinswoman, he having done fealty.


After Joan’s death her 1/3 share of William (1)’s land, which she only held as a dower right within her own lifetime, would have reverted to John Bolle (1).  In fact she lived longer than John and probably longer than John’s eldest son and heir, William (2), who granted his rights to these Bolle properties to his younger brother John (2) in 1348 after which he is not mentioned again in any references that I have been able to check.


John de Holland and wife Margaret appealed their fees on Cecily’s land while it was in the king’s hands

On July 3, 1334 the king ordered the Treasurer and the Barons of the Exchequer to view Matthew Broun’s accounts from when he was escheator of Lincoln, Northampton and Rutland and to release John de Holland and Margaret his wife from the fees charged to them during the time that the king had instructed the escheator to seize the lands of William Bolle until further orders.


Summary of William Bolle’s Landholdings


William Bolle’s Landholdings                          Joan Bolle’s dowery


Coningesby                                                 1/3 share of Coningesby

(worth 12d but held in-chief

by grand sergeantry)


Swineshead                                                        1/3 share of Bolle Hall and other land in

(12a land, 20a meadow, ½ messuage)           Swineshead

(under Earl of Richmond)

(worth 27s)


Swineshead                                                        Steveninge (Estevening) and Holdefrith

(11a land, ½ messuage)                               (Stevening Manor was held by John de

(under John de Holand)                                        Holand); 1/3 share of 129 acres (huge)

(worth 16s)                                                of meadow in Swineshead parish held

(included land in Estevening and Bicker)         under John de Holand, land in Wigtoft and



2a land, 1/3 Salt yard in Wigtoft                    (which went entirely to Cecily)

(under Earl of Richmond)

(worth 6s)



This site was last updated 04/03/19