By the beginning of the fourteenth century, the class of landlord pre-eminent in the localities were the knights and esquires. Much debate has occurred over whether these lords were primarily identified as a county elite or whether the county is a false construct. This thesis proposes that the knights and esquires resident and with primary interests in Hampshire formed a landed and political community within a county of communities. They were a close-knit group of some fifty families who held the major county offices sometimes for many generations and formed marriage alliances within their group. The nature of this community was determined by the domination of the county by the Winchester Bishopric and other ecclesiastical lords who held the richest estates and had done so since before the Conquest and would continue to do so until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. There were no great estates belonging to the crown or to the nobility in Hampshire. As a result of this pattern of landholding, many landowners looked to the counties bordering Hampshire, particularly Wiltshire, and this fostered a regional, rather than purely county, outlook. The resident knights and esquires co-existed with other communities in the county. Many landholders with knightly status had estates in Hampshire even though they were based in other counties. Most of them did not hold office in Hampshire, but nevertheless formed a permanent presence alongside those resident lords. These lords had estates from all over England, though most from neighbouring counties, reinforcing the regional, rather than county, outlook most landlords had. This thesis covers two centuries. Continuity is a key theme. The long view illustrates how important heiresses were to the survival and dispersal of the family estate. In line with national trends, the numbers of Hampshire knights and esquires decreased; several estates suffered dispersal. The resultant parcels of land were not enough to support knightly status. Dispersal and wastage were not, however, means by which outsiders and self-made men could enter this county community. With very few exceptions, most of the families at the start of the sixteenth century owed their status to marriages based on social parity and careful accumulation. The wealthiest estate remained in the hands of the Church; buyers could not amass and maintain blocs of territory. This ended when the Dissolution of the Monasteries opened up the land market and the nature of Hampshire landed society changed irrevocably.
|Date of Award||Jun 2001|
- University of Southampton
|Supervisor||Michael Hicks (Supervisor)|