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Court of Wards and Liveries

The Court of Wards and Liveries was created to take over the duties of the Escheator  which had been established by the Normans  to deal with legal right of ownership of land when somebody died. The Court was established in the reign of Henry VIII to improve the collection of  a number of  feudal dues and taxes as well as dealing with the estates of people who inherited wealth and titles in their childhood.
The children of wealthy people who inherited before they were 21 would be made a  ‘ward of court’ and their financial interests were supposed to have been protected by the court. A feodary was  an officer of the Court of Wards appointed to receive rents and had the duty to seek out estates where people inherted  as minors so somebody could be appointed to ‘mangage’ the estate.
The legal system was still self financing and the individuals involved in the administration were supposed to pay themselves by charging a fee but some fees were exorbitant. What was worse is that some transactions done in the name of the ward were more for the benefit of the manager than the ward. Managing the estate of a ward was so profitable that the wardship was sold to the highest bidder.
 A livery was a badge or symbol that denoted status which was protected by law. Noblemen had coats of arms whilst tradesmen would be members of a guild and each guild had their own ‘logo’. They all needed symbols that a mainly illiterate population could understand and the usage of these symbol had to be protected.
A number of people involved with the history of Chewton Mendip were subject to the tender mercies of the Wards of Court. Roger Manners may have been but wards of court whilst members of the Kingsmill and Hippisley families definitely were. It is possible that it was Richard Kingsmill’s role of surveyor of the court that bought that family to Somerset.
The court was abolished by the Tenures Abolition Act 1660 as part of the reforms that included the restoration of Charles II.
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