The Manorial Documents Register Project has just entered its second month. At this stage, the focus is on developing definitive lists of the hundreds of manors in Worcestershire and Herefordshire.
This is not as straightforward as it might seem. Not every place that has or used to have the word 'manor' in the title actually fulfils the definition of a manor. The key definition for the purposes of the Manorial Documents Register is 'a piece of landed property with tenants over whom the landlord exercised rights of jurisdiction in a private court'. This means that if records of a manorial court survive, or the history of the manor is extensively documented in other sources, a manor is considered as having been proved to exist. Other landholdings, about which we are not so sure, will be considered unproven unless new evidence comes to light.
Sometimes, particularly in the 16th century following the dissolution of the monasteries, servants of the Crown and other families acquired land or part of an estate and referred to it as a manor, perhaps because they felt a manorial title would increase their status—even though legally no new manors should have been created after 1290! For instance, Redditch was first referred to as a manor when it was granted to Edward Lord Windsor following the dissolution of Bordesley Abbey.
Manors could also have aliases, and these will need to be added to the Register so that people can search using these different names. A good example is Ab Lench, which was also known as Abbot's Lench or Hob Lench.
Even more confusingly, sometimes there was more than one manor with the same name within the same parish. The Roculf family held the manor of Church Lench under the Beauchamp family (the tenants in chief, who held the manor from the king), and so it was also sometimes known as Lench Roculf. To complicate matters further, the Roculf family granted some land to the abbey of Halesowen, and this land seems to have become a manor in its own right, also called Church Lench.
Other manors were divided between heirs and changed names. When the lord of Kidderminster died in 1241, the manor was divided between his daughters. One portion became known as Kidderminster Biset, and another as Kidderminster Burnell. During the 18th century, after many inheritances, conveyances and settlements, the manors were called Kidderminster Borough and Foreign, both held by Lord Foley if Kidderminster.
This stage of the project involves lots of research using secondary sources such as the Victoria County History, which is really helpful for untangling the often complicated histories of individual manors, and providing clues as to whether an estate was actually a manor. The secondary sources will then be checked with reference to original records.
Soon, we will be looking for volunteers to help write some 'potted histories' of the manors on the list, so check back for updates.
 P.D.A. Harvey, Manorial Records, British Records Association Archives and the User No. 5, Revised ed. (London, 1999).
, p. 2.
 'Parishes: Tardebigge', A History of the County of Worcestershire, volume 3 (1913), pp. 223-230.
 'Parishes: Fladbury', A History of the County of Worcestershire, volume 3 (1913), pp. 352-364.
 'Parishes: Church Lench', A History of the County of Worcestershire, volume 3 (1913), pp. 45-50.
 'Kidderminster: Introduction, borough and manors', A History of the County of Worcestershire, volume 3 (1913), pp. 158-173. The manors of Kidderminster Borough and Foreign did not coincide exactly with Kidderminster Biset and Burnell, nor with the parishes of Kidderminster Borough and Foreign.