Conisbrough Court Rolls

The Conisbrough Manor Court Rolls are written records of court sittings in
Conisbrough between 1265 and 1935. The documents offer an insight into the lives of ordinary people across parts of South Yorkshire in medieval and early modern times.

In 2018, a project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund brought the rolls into the ownership of Heritage Doncaster. This enabled us to digitise, research and translate the Conisbrough Court Rolls.

During the project, a conservator worked on the rolls to fix damage from water, smoke, human handling, and rodents.

The records would have spent most of their existence at Conisbrough Castle. 148 parchment rolls survive for individual years from 1265 to 1634; three more rolls cover most of the period 1634-1716; and from the year 1717, a series of 15 registers takes the record up to the last days of the court in 1935

Close up image of a court roll

Conisbrough Court Rolls have been described as ‘nationally significant’ by the National Archives. They are very important records from our area’s medieval and early-modern past, recording the decisions and actions of the lowest form of local administration.

The rolls record the dealings with residents brought before the court for debt, brewing poor quality ale, baking substandard bread, gambling, failing to maintain highways and drains, and letting their livestock trample crops. More serious offences such as theft, ambush, and abduction make brief appearances before transferring to higher courts.

It isn’t just the type of offence that makes these documents such a wonderful resource, though: it is the fact that we see here people at the lower end of society going about their daily business – and, for once, we get to know them by name.

Families can be traced through the rolls and other supporting documents (such as the 1379 Poll Tax) with some fascinating local surnames brought to light – such as the Costnoght family – or some evidence of Scandinavian naming practices with Elizabeth Bendoghter. You can find out more about the surnames in the court rolls in this document featuring research carried out by Carolyn Dalton.

Explore the project in more detail on this website and discover how the Conisbrough Court Rolls have been conserved, digitised, transcribed, and shared with the public.

Get in touch with Doncaster Archives if you have any questions or want to know more.