The ‘mesne’, or manor, was the mid-point in the feudal hierarchy. The Bishop of Winchester, as lord of the manor, held the lands from the monarch and either farmed them directly ‘in demesne’ or let them to tenants. Tenant farmers, or villeins, paid rent either in the form of grain, carted from the fields to ‘manorial’ barn in the curia of the Court Hall, or of milk, meat, hides and other farm produce; some were also obliged to provide labour services (‘boon’ work) on ‘the lord’s land’; some were ‘freemen’ who only paid rent. The lowest rung of the social ladder were the ‘servii ‘or serfs, unfree men who worked the demesne lands full time. Villeins could act as a collective, or ‘homage’, to lease pasture and even bargain with the lord for the commutation of services; they also chose the local reeve, in rotation, from among their own number.
East Meon comprised two manors, Mene Manor and Mene Ecclesia. We don’t know the precise boundaries of Mene Ecclesia, which was completely surrounded by the much larger Mene Manor. This map shows the lands on which tithes were not paid in later centuries; which probably comprise land which the Diocese farmed itself and which had formed ‘Church Manor’, though medieval surveys were not consistent: Oxenbourne tithing was listed in a 1567 rental survey as ‘Oxenbourne & Ecclesia’.
Mene Manor, was restored by King Stephen in the 1140s to the Bishop of Winchester, his younger brother Bishop Henry of Blois. The bishops were lords of both manors for the next seven centuries. The bishops themselves seldom visited East Meon, but their stewards held twice-yearly courts leet in The Court Hall of East Meon.
For more about The Court Hall, click here
For a ‘House History’ of The Court Hall, click here.