Location of holdings
The holdings can be loosely identified. As one might suspect from its title, Over Rochester is Hillock farm. The two are equated in a document confirming the sale of part of Sir Edward Widdrington's sequestered estate to John Rushworth in 1654 (Compounding Records, 372).
The name Hillock itself first appears in 1629 when Cuthbert Milburne, alias Cuddy of the Leam, was sentenced at Newcastle assizes to be sent to the wars with Captain Clarke for - amongst other crimes - stealing a colt and breaking into the house of John Dunn of the Hillock (Hodgson 1822b, 159-160, 162; 1827: 76-77). It subsequently figures in compounding documents of 1654-1655, which also preserve a deed of 1632 (Compounding Records, 371-372), and was clearly a well-established settlement by the time the earliest surviving parish records start in the 1670's.
Nether Rochester similarly figures in the parish records at the end of the 17th century, but is known as Low Rochester by the later 18th century. Since Petty Knowes, to the east of Low Rochester, occurs separately in the earliest parish records it is conceivable that one of the 1604/1618 Nether Rochester farmsteads was located there and one somewhere in the area of Low Rochester, where Rochester House, Hopesley House and South Chester now stand. Alternatively both may have lain at Low Rochester, with Petty Knowes only being established after 1618.
Thus by a process of elimination Rochester itself is likely to represent the hamlet within the fort, comprising in all probability two of the 1604 tenancies, that of Roger and Robert Hall. This gives a total of five buildings in the fort. It is also possible that one of the buildings of the third Thomas Hall's 1604 holding was also sited within the fort and later became the seat of Michael Hall. It is tempting to equate these buildings with the two bastles and the ruined cottages still visible within the fort or known from 19th-century illustrations,and further, to identify each of the two bastles as the seat of one of the earlier 1604 tenements.
Finally what of the leasehold lands apparently carved out of the pre-existing tenements between 1614/1618 and representing a third of the farmland at Rochester? A preceding passage in the lease lands section (1618 Rental, 338), which refers to lease lands at Stewartshiels - 'two ptes of Stewartsheels as it is divided by years' - might suggest that up until that point the arable and meadowland associated with each holding was not permanently fixed on the ground, but reallocated in proportion each year as former arable was left fallow etc. Establishment of the leaseholding may have brought about a gradual formalisation and consolidation of the various tenancies.
Moreover, there is an intriguing suggestion in Percy Hedley's notes (NRO 542.59) that the leasehold lands may equate to the modern farm of Dykehead. Dykehead is first referred to in 1655 when Michael Hall of that place was suspected of being a royalist (NRO 542.17), and, like Hillock and Petty Knowes, it is present in the earliest parish records (e.g. EPR, 14).
Over 40 years later, in 1698, two freeholders were registered as residing in the Rochester farmsteads: John Hall of Rochester and William Hall of Dykehead. It is possible that John and William's freeholds represent the former lease farms, divided into a Rochester property (derived from Roger's share?) and a Dykehead one (Ralph's portion?) and purchased outright at some point during the upheaval of the mid-17th century.