Manorial document record project

The Manorial Documents Register (MDR) is an index to English and Welsh manorial records, providing brief descriptions of documents and details of their locations in public and private hands.  It was started in the 1920s, to ensure the preservation of manorial documents after the abolition of copyhold tenure in 1922. It contains information about the location of manorial records throughout England and Wales.

Records covered by the Register include court rolls, surveys, maps and terriers and all other documents relating to the boundaries, franchises, wastes, customs or courts of a manor. Many date from the Middle Ages, some from as early as the 13th century. A very rough survey of the information in the Manorial Documents Register for Kent suggests that there are between 1300 and 1400 manors, covering all areas of the county, including those parts of Kent which are now in London.

The Manorial Documents Register (MDR) is maintained by The National Archives, on behalf of the Master of the Rolls, as a record of the whereabouts of manorial documents.  Work began on computerising the Manorial Documents Register in 1995 and now Kent is one of only a very few counties whose entries are not available online.

The project will begin by checking the existing information in the Manorial Documents Register and amending and updating it where necessary. Information about other manorial records held at the Kent History and Library Centre and Canterbury Cathedral Archives will be added. Records at a number of other record offices, including the National Archives, the British Library, Lambeth Palace Library and Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre will also be examined and the information they contain will be added to the Register.

Another part of the project will involve researching the history of manors and compiling lists of lords of manors.  At the end of the project all the data will be added to the online Manorial Documents Register and it will be possible to search for information about Kent’s manorial records by manor name, parish and document type.

Manorial documents are a wonderful source for local and family history. To learn more look at our manorial record collection guide.