The break up of the ancient manor of Morchard Episcopi started when Edward VI forced the Bishop of Exeter to sell the manor. Parts of the manor were subsequently sold off with the result that by the eighteenth century the majority of the parish was owned by non-resident landlords, the most important of these was the Raddon Estate which held the rump of the once large Manor of Morchard Bishop. The small manor at the heart of the parish, the Rectory Manor of Morchard Bishop, was held by the Rector and was, at this time, in the gift of the Tuckfield family.
The manuscript Court Roll for the Manor for the period 1720 to 1800 is held in the Devon Heritage Centre and gives an insight into the activities of the manor. The roll records the transfer of tenancies with their annual rentals and fees that the tenant had to pay. In this Manor there were two types of tenancies, customary or copyhold and conventionary or leasehold. Leases were originally for three lives but later became 99 year leases. The purchase cost of the lease was high but the annual rent very low. A fine or heriot was payable to the landlord on the change of tenant and is specified in the lease and was either cash or an animal, 'the best beast' is frequently quoted. An extract of the Court Roll for the 1st September 1767 is a good example.
To this Court came Mary Churchill Daughter of Christopher Churchill Clerk and took of Nutcombe Quicke Chancellor Lord of the Manor aforesaid of his own proper grant the Reversion of one Tenement or cottage called Tatepath and Thirty acres of Ground be it more or less with the Appurtonances situate laying and being within the Manor aforesaid which Christopher Churchill and William Churchill his brother now hold for the term of their lives and the longer liver of them by Copy of Court Roll according to the customs of the said Manor. To Have and to hold the reversion aforesaid and the aforesaid Tenement or Cottage called Tatepath and also the aforesaid Thirty acres of Ground with the Appurtonances unto the said Mary Churchill for the term of her life.......Yearly Rent of Ten shillings and the best Beast in the name of an Heriot or farliou when it shall happen and for such Estate in Reversion....... she hath given the said Lord for a fine Twenty one Pounds before hand paid and so she is admitted Tenant.....
A Manor Court was held shortly after the beginning of each Ecclesiastical year (25 March), when the tenants sat as jurors. Whenever matters arose that required the Court to sit at other times, a jury of only three members was required. Jurors for these intermediate courts would be selected from those in good standing in the manor with a good knowledge of who lived where and who did what. The jurors from 1720 to 1799 are included in the list of personalities.
The annual Manor Court elected a Reeve to act as a link between the Lord of the Manor, or his steward, and the tenants. The Reeves for the period 1731 to 1799 are also included in the list of personalities.
The manor extended to an area of 250 to 300 acres and included the farms of Longmarsh (90 acres) and Tatepath (30 acres). The remainder of the manor covered what is now the centre of Morchard Bishop and some outlying blocks of land. The majority of the tenants were husbandmen, tradesmen or day labourers although some held farms outside the manor renting fields or cottages within the manor.
The manor, part of the Raddon Estate, had always been owned by non-resident landlords and therefore there is no central Manor House. This Manor is considerably larger than the Rectory Manor and includes many of the major farms in the parish. The Court Roll does not appear to have survived although many of the supporting documents, such as estate surveys and rental records have done so and are held in the Devon Heritage Centre. Some of the data recorded is once again included in the list of personalities.
The records show that some of the major farms were held as "Free Tenants", while many of the leasehold tenancies were for 1000 years rather than the usual 99 years.