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Indentures

The document in the picture is an 1802 Indenture (legal agreement/contract) between Samuel Sankey, a butcher from Eythorne and William Weekes, a Yeoman, also of Eythorne. It is hand written on a large piece of parchment (between modern A2 and A1 size), has a wax seal and it has a wavy top edge to indicate it’s an indenture. It is a very wordy document and not easy to read, at least initially. The reason for the former is that lawyers in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were paid by the line. Therefore the longer and wordier a document was, the more they got paid. The reason for the latter is that we read by looking at words shapes and spacings and also by understanding the context of words. A handwritten document can have letter shapes and spacings far removed from what we are used to in typed text, making words hard to read and if we can’t read many words initially we lose the context of the words making it hard to work out what is being said.


Understanding is not helped by use of words we now consider archaic and a more or less complete lack of punctuation in the entire document. Often the clerks that wrote these document had all sorts of writing idiosyncrasies, especially when writing capitals. For example the clerk here had a capital S that looks like a swan (or sometimes a heart). To take such a document and transcribe it into typed text takes a fair few hours and even then not all words can be clarified if the context is unclear but usually greater than 95% of the document can be transcribed. Hence the first three lines of this Indenture are “This Indenture made the eleventh day of October in the forty second year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland King Defender of the Faith and in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and two Between Samuel Sankey of the Parish of Eythorne in the County of Kent Butcher of the one part and William Weekes of the said Parish of Eythorne Yeoman of the other part.”


The indenture concerns a “Messauge (a dwelling house with outbuildings and land assigned to its use) or tenement, shop, slaughterhouse, stable, outhouses, garden, hereditaments (an item of property that can be inherited), premises and appurtenances” (an incidental right (e.g. a right-of-way) attached to a principal property right and passing in possession with it). There is no information as to where in Eythorne this land is situated, almost certainly because the documents concerns the raising of money to make the purchase and not with the original purchase itself, which was done earlier by a process called Lease and Release on April 5th and 6th. Lease and Release was the most popular way to record simple sales of property from the seventeenth century up to 1845. After 1845 the process became simpler and more similar to the one we have today. Hence, we do not know if the sum in this document of £450 is the full purchase price or just the remainder of the cost after some money has initially been paid.


The agreement in this indenture is a “Mortgage by Demise” which was a temporary transfer of property for a very long time (usually 500 or 1,000 years) in order to secure a loan of money. When a mortgage by demise was fully paid off, the lease of 500 or 1,000 years still had to be properly terminated. This was done by assigning the mortgaged premises to a trustee for the owner for the remainder of the term of years. This deed would look quite like an assignment of a lease, but it will include recitals explaining the history of the mortgage. There will be a rent payable to the lessor at specified times during the year The rent will not be a real payment. It is more likely to be a nominal sum such as a peppercorn, or 5 shillings.


In this Indenture the rent is actually specified to be one peppercorn (to William Weekes) and the term of the Mortgage is five hundred years. Interest was to be paid at a rate of £5.00 per hundred per year, due on April 11th. There is a clause in the indenture relating to access to water. The land formerly “occupied by Mr James Wicks and now by James Pingle” (adjacent to the Sankey properties) is allowed access to the Sankey land to take water from a well. They will provide a bucket for the purpose. This for a payment of one shilling per year. Samuel Sankey died in 1809. His executors (William Sankey, Edward Augustus Giraud (1771-1827, Surgeon and “Man Midwife”) and John Mourilyan) paid one hundred and fifty pounds of the principal sum to William Weekes in May 1810. It is likely that William Weekes was happy for the mortgage not to be paid off in full so he could continue to receive the interest as an income stream.

Vince Croud

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