Manors and their Records
Using Manorial Records
Cumbrian Superior Lordships
§ Account
§ Admittance
§ Call book
§ Court books and court rolls
§ Custumal
§ Enfranchisement papers
§ Estreats
§ Fines (gressums)
§ Pain List
§ Perambulation
§ Petition
§ Rental
§ Signatures and marks
§ Stewards' papers
§ Survey
§ Terrier
§ Valor
§ Verdict Sheet
History Department
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
Cumbrian Manorial Records

Signatures and Marks

Signatures and marks: Liddell Barony Enfranchisement Agreement, 1758

Picture of signatures and marks on enfranchisement paper, Liddell barony, 1758

Source: Cumbria Record Office, Carlisle, D/GN/2/6


It is not uncommon to find original signatures of tenants of the manor in manorial records, notably on jury verdicts, presentments, and on papers concerning tenures.  This example comes from the papers drawn up in connection with the enfranchisement of property in the manors of Bewcastle, Nichol Forest and Solport in Liddell barony in the far north of Cumberland in 1758 (see another extract from these papers).  Not only do such signatures bring us closer to the lives of ordinary people, they can also be used to shed light on literacy levels.  In this extract, the first three names are the bold, confident signatures of men who were apparently used to writing.  Richard Lowry's signature is less steady: writing appears to have been an effort for him, perhaps through illness or age or perhaps because he only wrote infrequently.  Two of the tenants (George Armstrong and Thomas Graham) have signed with their mark (a crudely scratched 'X' in Armstrong's case; a shaky initial 'G' in Graham's), suggesting that they were unable to write - but, again, we cannot tell whether this was because they were illiterate or the result of age or infirmity.

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