Michel is first styled a manor (manerium) in 1301 and a borough (burgus) in 1305, but both these titles were in process of creation in the earlier part of the thirteenth century. It is evident that the community was in its infancy at this time and we need not look in Domesday for any reference to it. In 1239 Walter de Ralegh and Isabel his wife (in whose right he was lord of the Manor of Degembris) obtained a royal charter for a yearly fair on St Francis’ day and a weekly market at Meideshol. It is probable that the chapel of ease at Michell dedicated to St Francis was erected by Walter de Ralegh at this time. We find it mentioned in a deed of 1292, and its dedication shows that it could hardly have been erected before the canonization of St Francis in 1222 and probably dates from about 1239. St Francis was the patron of the community and the chief Court Leet was held on the day after his feast.
In the early thirteenth century we can picture the infant community of Michell as a mere appendage to the Manor of Degembris. In 1284, however, Peter de Ralegh sold that manor to Sir John de Pello Prato. Michell was at this time cut adrift from the manor and sold separately to Sir Reynfry Arundell, who died lord of it in 1288. Once separated from the parent manor, the new Manor and Borough of Michell could hope to develop as an independent community. In 1283 it had sent its own representatives, a jury of six, to the Eyre at Launceston, thereby showing its right to a separate representation from the Hundred of Pydar. It did the same in 1301 and 1305. In 1283 and 1301 it bears the humble title of ‘villa’ but in 1305 the style ‘burgus’ is used to the first time. Sir Reynfry Arundell probably purchased Michell as a speculation. His son in 1289, regardless of the laws of political economy, raised the tolls at the fair, to the great hurt of the whole country. For this he was punished at the Eyre of 1301. At the same time he was compelled to show by what warrant he claimed ‘emendation of the assize of bread and ale when broken’, in his Manor of Medeshole.
Michell never became wholly exempt from its duties as a tithing of the Hundred of Pydar, despite its separate representation at the Eyre. It had to pay 13s. 4d. as smoke-silver and also maintain a thing-man at the Hundred Courts. In 1327 the ‘villa de Medeshole’ pays the subsidy apart from the parishes of St Enoder and Newlyn in which it was situated. In later rolls, however, no distinction of this kind is made.
Besides the actual village, the limits of the co-extensive ‘Manor and Borough’ included the tenements of Goonmarth and Nantellion. The greater part lay in St Enoder parish, the residue in Newlyn.
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries there were probably some eight free burgesses, holding burgages of the lord (freeholders). Some of these holdings were amalgamated and their holders at the end of the eighteenth century became the five ‘Mesne-Lords’ of the borough, who were created by the chief lord of the manor by lease and release; and it was from among these that the portreeve or returning office had to be chosen. The lord of the manor had become the ‘chief lord’. In 1552, when the borough acquired parliamentary representation, these offices and titles gained a real importance. After constant disputes the House of Commons finally decided that the mesne-lord (including the portreeve), and the inhabitants who paid scot and lot (i.e. Rates), were alone entitled to vote. In 1829 there were four mesne-lords and three rate-payers!
Michell was probably at the zenith of its prosperity in the fourteenth century, before the Black Death. It sank in the fifteenth to rise again under Henry VII. Parliamentary representation failed to do more than keep it a living and increasingly corrupt corpse. After 1832 it became a peaceful country hamlet.