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In the same court he was amerced for causing damage estimated at three sheaves of beans in the lord's crop, but his amercement was waived because he was, according to the roll, poor.(58) A year previously, a jury had presented that he had secretly leased an acre to Robert, which may also have been a gage for a loan.(59) By the late 1290s, Nicholas seems once again to have been in a spiral of debt, possibly the ever-tightening coils of the same spiral.
In a court held at Hinderclay in November 1301, Nicholas was amerced the extraordinarily large sum of 4 [pounds sterling] because `he impleaded Robert the son of Adam, neif of the lord [villein], by a certain writ of trespass (per quoddam brevem de transgressione) and others of the lord's villeins and also that he had harvested and carried crops of seven rods of wheat against the express wish (defensum) of the lord'.(70) The `certain writ of trespass' indicates that Nicholas had brought his case to the king's court, possibly in the first half of 1299,(71) and probably to the shire court.(72) Almost certainly, the writ had led to the violent incursion by Nicholas and a gang of men earlier in the year, events reported in this and the previous court.
Jean Scammell notes that, by the end of the thirteenth century, villeins who paid a fine to the priest to avoid a punishment beating for some moral offence might also be amerced in the manor court for alienating their lord's goods.(90) The lord might also penalize the villein who `dragged' other of the lord's tenants through the ecclesiastical courts.(91) Historians have speculated about the use to which the peasantry put these courts; both Hyams and Scammell have suggested that they offered an immediate and fearfully keen tool for those who had both genuine and malicious axes to grind.
In the manor court held in June 1290 the chief pledges reported that both Robert and Alice had been `indicted in the presence of the ordinary', a reference to their appearance at an ecclesiastical court, possibly the rural chapter held by the archdeacon's official, and Nicholas was amerced for paying the ordinary 10s.
Robert initiated a process of attaint in response to an earlier successful plea of trespass made by Nicholas Wodeward in 1298, but the jury of twenty-four men confirmed the judgement of the previous twelve and Robert was amerced 13s.
Although Nicholas claimed damages of 100 [pounds sterling], he only recovered 40s.; Robert was amerced 3s.
The inquest on oath [declared] that the abovesaid Robert had no wool from the said Nicholas and so it was considered that the said Nicholas should receive nothing for his plea but should be amerced 6d.'.
Therefore each of them is amerced' (`Item presentatum est per magnam inquisitionem supradictam quod Gillam de Bretton (3s.
"for selling wheat at a price other than the one he had agreed with the bailiffs."(37) In 1482 Oliver van Cach and John John were heavily amerced for coming to market with fish at Hythe and fixing the price at will without the bailiffs' licence.(38) Announcements conceming available wares in Colchester were made publicly by a beadle.
In 1380 it was reported in a Colchester court that three dealers had bought most of their fish while it was still at sea and had refused to allow other townsmen their share.(66) In 1406 five men were severely amerced for forestalling fish in bulk and then refusing to allow a share to any townsman who would not invest 1s.
2d.(71) In 1408 John Bakere was amerced in Colchester for buying up wheat in the surrounding countryside at a price that was 1d.
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