This year, Easter falls early with Good Friday being celebrated on the 25th March. This date has other significance, as, prior to 1752, it marked the first day of the new year, roughly coinciding with the spring equinox. It is known as Lady Day (Feast of the Annunciation) and was a day when accounts were settled, being one of the quarter days used in England for financial and legal proceedings, the others being Midsummer (Feast of St John the Baptist) 24th June, Michaelmas (Feast of St Michael and All Angels) 29th September and Christmas Day (Feast of the Nativity) 25th December.
In Scotland, the quarter days are Candlemas (Feast of the Purification) 2nd February, Whitsuntide (Pentecost) 15th May, Lammas (Long Mass) 1st August and Martinmas (Feast of St Martin) 11th November.
One example from the Graham collection provides details of tenants on the Nunington Estate and records the half year rent payments made on Lady Day in 1656. The document itself is dated 19th June 1656.
The initial statement reads ‘A perfect particular of the severall rents that the severall tenants of Nunnington, Stonegrave and West Ness paid accordingly as every one agreed with the Lord of the Mannor for there severall farmes and cot[tages] for a yeare or three yeares from Lady Day last and what every one paid for the halfe yeare from [torn] Michaelmas 1655 till Lady Day last 1656 and what and which of them is in arrears.’ The Lord of the Manor at this time was Ranald Graham, uncle to Richard Graham, 1st Bt of Norton Conyers. Named tenants include John Blackbeard who rents 4 oxganges (a land measurement equal to 60-80 acres, based on fertility rather than purely size) for 07-00-00 (£756), but he is in arrears for this amount. Robert Mansell has paid his rent in full for his cottage and Elizabeth Ranard has paid for her cottage in West Ness.
Needless to say other sources (such as maps for example) need to be consulted in tandem to identify where exactly these places/properties were located which, in turn, helps to build up an exact picture of who was living where, what monies were being paid and how this was administered. Even so a document such as this gives a solid starting point from which to continue.