Thursday 18 June 2020

"A rose by any other name…" can be a Peppercorn Rent!

Over a series of blog posts we will be sharing with you what we have been doing whilst working from home, and giving you an insight into some of the interesting collections and items we have come across whilst the Record Office has been closed.

Look up ‘
peppercorn rent’ online and you will see it defined as a very low or nominal amount of money to be paid as rent, often used when renting to a family member or friend. This type of charge is not related to the value of the piece of land or building being rented, but is enough of an exchange for the purposes of a legal contract and maintains a formal landlord/tenant relationship.


One of the projects we have been working on over the past few weeks is improving and updating our online listings and while updating descriptions for of some of our earliest deeds I came across this in the DDX collection, where a rose was the charge for services:


Having asked colleagues if it was unusual for a flower to be used as payment (answer: No), I had a look for some other examples in our collections. It was not uncommon for a nominal rent payment to be requested in the form of a peppercorn, a red rose or a pair of white gloves. Here in DDS 17/13 from 1497, the initial rent is payable by a red rose at Midsummer (21st June) and a peppercorn at Martinmas (11th November):


In this document from the late C12th early C13th payment of two white gloves or one penny is requested:



And in this deed from 1291, the land owner has asked for a pair of white gloves, a rose and a barbed arrow:



If you want to see how common these forms of peppercorn rent were, particularly in Medieval times, you can find more examples by searching our online catalogue. Go to Advanced Search and type peppercorn, red rose, white gloves or barbed arrow into the Any Text box.



If you would like to read some other amusing examples of peppercorn rents and the feudal system of land ownership, take a look at this JSTOR Daily article. Maybe that’s why sprouts became a popular Christmas vegetable..?

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