Hethpool : Population And Extent
The documentary evidence relating to population and the number of tenancies was summarised by Dixon (1985, II, 331). The most detailed evidence is provided by a series of Inquisitions Post Mortem (IPMs) and law suits.
The IPM of Robert de Muschamp III, the feudal overlord, held in1254 listed his manorial holdings in Hethpool as follows (CalDocScot, I, 371; cf. NCH XI (1922), 252):
The site of the court, the herbage of which was worth 20d.
Eleven cottars each with a toft and croft paying 16s. yearly, and bound to fold the lord's horses, which was worth 22d.
Two bovates held by a widow in drengage, worth 4s. in rent.
Two other drengage holdings paying 4 marks at Martinmas.
The demesne meadow worth half a mark.
The brewery which returns 13s. 4d.
The total rent whereof £3 10s. 2d.
This represents that portion of the vill kept in Robert's hands, which would imply the cottars (unfree smallholder tenants) enumerated here represented only a fraction (a quarter?) of the total number of tenants in the township. This would seem to be confirmed by the extent of the holdings in Hethpool possessed in 1293 by Gilbert Heron of Ford, who was heir to the quarter of the vill held by Odinell de Ford in 1242. Thus Gilbert held twelve messuages, fifty-four acres of arable and fourteen acres of pasture in Hethpool, whilst his father William Heron still held another messuage and 12 acres of land (i.e. one bovate) there, which he had not released to his son (NCH XI (1922), 263). In 1356, Thomas and Robert Heron, descendents of William and Gilbert named in 1293, brought a law suit over damage to their property in Hethpool which was listed as follows (op. cit., 264):
6 carucates of (plough)land (about 600-720 acres)
80 acres of meadow
The 1296 Lay Subsidy records eighteen taxpayers in Hethpool (Fraser 1968, no 298; see Selected Sources and Surveys no 2). These would have represented the wealthier members of community, found on assessment to have sufficient disposable goods to be eligible for the tax. A total of seventy adults were listed in the Poll Tax Return of 1377 (PRO E179/158/12). This may represent a lower figure than would have been recorded in an equivalent tax a century earlier, after repeated outbreaks of the plague.
By 1541, when the Border commissioners, Sir Robert Bowes and Sir Ralph Ellerker, recorded only six husbandlands, all 'newe plenyshed', belonging to Ralph Gray and other freeholders in the township (Bates 1891, 32; Selected Sources and Surveys no. 3), it is evident that the number of tenancies had declined markedly. The combined pressures of Scottish raids, outbreaks of disease and economic recession over the previous two and a half centuries meant the intensive exploitation of the Cheviot valleys and slopes through widespread arable cultivation was simply no longer profitably worthwhile (Dixon 1985, II, chap. 4).