Glossary
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Landholding
Medieval

Glossary of Saxon and Feudal Terms

Acre. 4840 square yards.  In a common field it would be a strip of land one furlong (220 yards) long and 22 yards wide.

Advowson. The right to appoint a vicar to a church - patronage.

AEscingas. The early Saxon sovereigns of Kent.

Aits, Eyots, or Eylts. Osier beds in river islands.

Annates. First fruits. The first year's profit of a benefice, claimed by the head of the Church.

Anniversaries. Solemn days commemorated yearly, on which men were wont to pray for the souls of special departed friends or patrons.

Appanage. A dependent establishment, provision for which was furnished by the parent monastery.

Appropriation. The annexation of an ecclesiastical benefice to the perpetual use of some religious house.

Armiger. An esquire. A title of dignity belonging to gentlemen who bear arms.  

ASSART: To convert woodland into pasture or arable land. A fee, and perhaps rent, would be required by the lord.  Assarted land is not anciently cultivated land and so does not usually have customary services to the lord attached to it. To assart lands within a royal forest with out license is a grave offence.

Barrow. A funerary mound.

BENEFICE: (L. beneficium): A grant of land given to a member of the aristocracy, a Bishop, or a monastery, for limited or hereditary use in exchange for services. In ecclesiastic terms, a benefice is a church office that returns revenue. Also known as a the fee, feud, or fief coming from the Germanic feofum which comes from the Frankish "fehu" and "od" meaning live stock and movable possessions or property "chattel".

Berewyke. A village or hamlet, belonging to some town or manor.  

Boc. A charter.

BOOKLAND or Bocland. Terra hereditarii. That possession of land which can produce the Charter or Book by which it is created.  A Saxon landholding arrangement whereby land is granted in perpetuity free of most secular obligations, with the right to bequeath the land away.  Specifically created to facilitate transfer of land to monasteries.  The distinction between bookland and inherited land had disappeared by the time of the Norman conquest.

Bosci. Woods.  

Bull, from bulla, a stud or boss. A brief or mandate from the Pope of Rome, sealed with the lead or gold seal, the image of S. Paul on one side of the Cross and S. Peter on the other; and on the reverse the Pope's name and year of pontificate.

Calends or Kalends. Date, reckoned from the first day of the month.  

Camerarius. Chamberlain.

Canonicus. Those living according to rule.

Canon Law. Ecclesiastical law, sanctioned by the church of Rome. It borrows from Roman law many of its regulations.

Canon Religiosorum. Conventual book containing the rules of their order, offices of devotion and days of commemoration. Caritas. or Karite. A grace-cup, a special allowance of wine or liquor.

Cartulary. A receptacle for Charters or Records, the place where they are kept.  

CARUCATE: A measurement of land, equal to a hide (used in Danelaw); approximately 100 acres.  

Cellerarius or Cellarer. A butler or caterer for the monastery.

Cess. An assignment or tax.

Cessavit. A writ to recover lands from religious houses if the spiritual services required had been neglected for two years together. Statute of Gloucester, 1278.

Chantry. A little church, chapel, or particular altar, endowed for the maintenance of one or more priests, daily to sing mass, and perform divine service for the souls of the donors.

Chapel. Capella. A church separate from, yet belonging to, a monastery or a mother-church.

Church-scot. The laws of Ini enforced the payment of Church≠scot for Divine service.  

Clause or Close Rolls. Royal Letters under the Great Seal not intended for public inspection.

Comendators. Secular persons to whom benefices were en≠trusted for oversight.

Comput. Ministrorum (Henry VIII.). Accounts of monastic revenues.

Confirmation of Charters. Ratification of their validity.

COPYHOLD: in English law, a form of landholding defined as a "holding at the will of the lord according to the custom of the manor." Its origin is found in the occupation by villeins, or non freemen, of portions of land belonging to the manor of the feudal lord. A portion of the manor reserved for the lord was cultivated by labourers who were bound to the land; their service was obligatory, and they could not leave the manor. They were allowed, however, to cultivate land for their own use. This copyhold was mere occupation at the pleasure of the lord, but in time it grew into an occupation by right, called villenagium, that was recognized first by custom and later by law. The records of the court baron constituted the title of the villein tenant to the land held by copy of the court roll (hence the term copyhold); and the customs of the manor recorded therein formed the real property law applicable to his case. In 1926 all copyhold land became freehold land, though the lords of manors retained mineral and sporting rights.

COTTAGER: A peasant of lower class, with a cottage, but with little or no land.

Court-leet. A court held by the possessors of large estates for the redressing of the wrongs of those living in the immediate neighbourhood.

Croft. A little close, adjoining a homestead, enclosed for cultivation.

Curia Regis. Court established by Wm. the Conqueror, com≠posed of the great officers of state who followed the King's household in all his expeditions. Held in Westminster Hall by provision of Magna Charta.

Curtarius. An officer in charge of the secular buildings of the monastery. He gave out bread, beer, &c.

Curtilage. A yard, courtyard, or piece of ground, included within the fence surrounding a dwelling house.

Decimae Tithes or tenths.  

demesne in English feudal law, that portion of a manor not granted to freehold tenants but either retained by the lord for his own use and occupation or occupied by his villeins or leasehold tenants. When villein tenure developed into the more secure copyhold and leaseholders became protected against premature eviction, the "lord's demesne" came to be restricted and usually denoted the lord's house and the park and surrounding lands. Demesne of the crown, or royal demesne, was that part of the crown lands not granted to feudal tenants but managed by crown stewards until it was later surrendered to Parliament in return for an annual sum. Ancient demesne was land vested in the crown in 1066, the tenants of such land having a number of privileges, such as freedom from tolls.

The part of the lord's manorial lands reserved for his own use an not allocated to his serfs or freeholder tenants. Serfs work the demesne for a specified numbers of days per week. The demesne may either be scattered among the serfs land, or a separate area, the latter being more common for meadow and orchard lands.

DENARIUS: The English silver penny, hence the abbreviation "d" and the coin most common circulation.

Disseise. To dispossess or deprive. Eleenzosynarius. Almoner. Enfeoffment. The act of investing with any dignity or possession.  

ESCHEAT: The right of a feudal lord to the return of lands held by his vassal, or the holding of a serf, should either die with out lawful heirs or suffer outlawry.

FEALTY: (Oath of): The oath by which a vassal swore loyalty to his lord, usually on a relic of saints or on the bible.

Feodum militis. A knight's fee.

Feriae Holidays, free days.

Ferry. A franchise of the Crown giving the right to carry persons and their goods in boats across a river for toll.

feudal land tenure system by which land was held by tenants from lords. As developed in medieval England and France, the king was lord paramount with numerous levels of lesser lords down to the occupying tenant. Tenures were divided into free and unfree. Of the free tenures, the first was tenure in chivalry, principally grand sergeanty and knight service. The former obliged the tenant to perform some honourable and often personal service; knight service entailed performing military duties for the king or other lord, though by the middle of the 12th century such service was usually commuted for a payment called scutage. Another type of free tenure was socage, primarily customary socage, the principal service of which was usually agricultural in nature, such as performing so many days' ploughing each year for the lord. In addition to the principal service, all these tenures were subject to a number of conditions, such as relief, the payment made on transfer of a fief to an heir, and escheat, the return of the fief to the lord when the vassal died without an heir. Chivalric tenures were also subject to wardship, the guardianship of a fief of a minor, and marriage, payment made in lieu of marriage of the vassal's daughter to the lord.

The main type of unfree tenancy was villenage, initially a modified form of servitude. Whereas the mark of free tenants was that their services were always predetermined, in unfree tenure they were not; the unfree tenant never knew what he might be called to do for his lord. Although at first the villein tenant held his land entirely at the will of the lord and might be ejected at any time, the royal courts later protected him to the extent that he held tenancy at the will of the lord and according to the custom of the manor, so that he could not be ejected in breach of existing customs. Moreover, an unfree tenant could not leave without his lord's approval. Tenure in villenage in England then became known as copyhold tenure (abolished after 1925), in which the holder was personally free and paid rent in lieu of services.

Another form of free tenure was the spiritual tenure of bishops or monasteries, their sole obligation being to pray for the souls of the grantor and his heirs. Some ecclesiastics also held temporal lands for which they performed the required services.

FIEF: Heritable lands held under feudal tenure; the lands of a tenant in chief. Sometimes this can apply to an official position. Often called a Holding.

Normally a land held by a vassal of a lord in return for stipulated services, chiefly military. Sometimes unusual requirements were stipulated for transferring a fief. For example: Henry de la Wade held 42 acres of land in Oxfordby the service of carrying a gyrfalcon (see: falconry birds) when ever Kind Edward I wished to go hawking.

FIEF-RENTE: money paid by a lord in an annual manner to a vassal in return for homage*, fealty*, and military service (usually knight service) and it could include various other things than money, such as wine, cheese. provide chickens, or wood

FINE: A sum of money paid to the lord of the manor to obtain some grant, concession, or privilege. Unlike amercement, a fine is not a monetary penalty, although failure to offer and pay a customary fine for some right, will undoubtedly lead to an amercement.

Flemene frit. The reception or relief of a fugitive or outlaw. (Flem=an outlaw.)

Flemeswite. The possession of the goods of fugitives.  

FORFEITURE: The right of a feudal lord to recover a fief when a vassal fails to honor his obligations under the feudal contract.

Gaol delivery. A commission to the judges to try, and deliver every prisoner who may be in gaol when they arrive in the town.

Grange. A monastic farm furnished with barns, animal houses and a granary.  

Ham. A place for dwelling. A home close.

Hamsoca. A fine for entering a house.  

Hand-grith. Peace or protection given by the King with his own hand.

Haugh. A green spot in a valley.

Haw. A small parcel of land. (Ham-Haw.)  

Here. A lord. (Wulf-here.)

Here-straete. The military road, probably one of the great Roman streets.

Herdewich (Hardwick). A grange, a place for cattle and husbandry.  

HERIOT: A payment which a feudal lord may claim from the possessions of a dead serf or other tenant, essentially a death tax. In the Godley Hundred the heriot usually consisted of the tenants best beast.  The heriot was one of the most despised taxes and the first to be abolished at the Reformation.

HIDE:  Traditionally defined as the land that can be cultivated by one eight-ox plough in one year or would support one family. However, modern thought suggests a unit of Saxon land tax that may have been based on both defensive and revenue needs. The Burghal Hidage suggests a link to the length of the burgh defences (in the 10th century, most southern counties had defensive burghs, the length, in feet, of the perimeter walls equalling the number of hides in the county). It appears that hidage was assessed at the county level first.  The county was then divided up into the number of blocks of land where each block was roughly 100 hides - a 'hundred'. So, for instance, Surrey was divided into 14 hundreds. Hundreds enclosing productive land, such as along the Thames, were smaller than hundreds which included poor land such as heathland.  The hundred was then sub-divided into vills. However, the reoccurrence of vills of 5, 10 and 30 hides etc indicate that this was crudely done. A hide may vary between 60 and 240 acres. Hidage thus remains a crude indication of estate size or wealth but one would usually use it alongside comparative material and other measures such as size of demesne, tenant and plough numbers, ploughlands etc. In late Saxon times each hide was required to provide one man (part-time) for defence of the burgh; later the chief landowner was required to provide fully-equipped knights.

Holt. A wood.

HOMAGE: The ceremony by which a vassal pledges his fealty to his liege, and acknowledges all other feudal obligations, in return for a grant of land.

Homesoken. Burglary ; assaulting a man in his own house.

Honorarium. A voluntary fee.

Hordarius. The Kitchener.

Horderium. Repository-Barn-Treasury. 

Hostiarius. The Guest-master. 

Hospitium. Visitation money.  

Hullus. A hill (Wintredshulle, modern Childown).

HUNDRED: Anglo Saxon institution. Subdivision of a Shire. Theoretically comprises one hundred hides but hardly ever does. Generally has their own court that meets monthly to handle civil and criminal law. In Danish is called a wapentakes (weapons taking?).

Hythe. A port, or little haven (Egham Hythe, Queenhithe).  

In commendam. A commendarn is the power of receiving and holding a benefice contrary to positive law by supreme authority, c.;. Papal provisions.

Infangenthef. A privilege of lords of certain manors to judge any thief taken within their fee.

Infirmaries. The officer of the sick-house.

Ingressus. The relief which was paid upon entering into a fee.  

KNIGHTíS FEE: In theory, a fief which provides sufficient revenue to equip and support one knight. This is approximately five to twelve hides or about 1500 acres, although the terms applies more to revenue a fief can generate than its size; it requires about thirty marks (£20) per year to support a knight.  The knight would be required to attend his lord for 40 days per year in wars.  Sometimes smaller holdings attracted a fraction of a knights fee; i.e. half knights fee would be 20 days per year.

Laet. i. One of a class between servile and free. 2. Personally free, but compelled to have a lord. 3. A landless tenant. Court-leet-for tenants.

Land-boc. The deed or charter by which lands were held.

Landimers. Measures of land.

Lardarius. A clerk of the kitchen.

Law of the Staple. Merchandise regulations.

Ledger Book. A book in the prerogative courts which is con≠sidered as their rolls.

Legatine Council. That of Chelsea in A. D. 787. So-called from the two first Roman legates having been received in England. The payment of tithe to the Church was enforced at this time. Church≠scot had been included in the laws of Inc.

Liturgy. The Gallican or Moz-Arabic Liturgy had continued in use (more or less) until 747, when the Roman Liturgy was gener≠ally adopted in accordance with the Council of Cloveshoo.  

Magna or Mancus. A square piece of gold coin commonly valued at thirty pence.

Mandati Dies. Maundy Thursday.

Mandato, panes de. Loaves of bread given to the poor on Maundy Thursday.  

Manentes. Tenants. A manor is called from manendo, a seat. Mansa. A mansion or house.  

MANOR: A holding of land, with its own court and probably its own hall, but not necessarily having a manor house. The manor as a unit of land is generally held by a knight (knight's fee) or managed by a bailiff for some other holder.

Mansus. A farm.  

MARK: A measure of silver, generally eight ounces, accepted throughout Western Europe. In England is worth thirteen shillings and four pence, two thirds of one pound.

Molendinum. A mill. Nundincae. Fairs, markets.  

Monasticon. A book giving an account of monasteries and religious houses.

Mortmain. A statute of Edward I in 1279 that attempted to limit the amount of land being donated to monasteries and therefore loss of feudal duties to the King. In effect the King was happy to approve licences to donate land - for a price. 

MORTUARY: a payment to the church on the death of a parishioner.  It was in addition to burial fees so essentially a death tax.  In 1529, this reviled tax was abolished for those leaving an estate worth less than 10 marks.

Muniments. The evidences or writings whereby a man is able to defend the title of his estate. Muniment-house. A house or room of strength in cathedrals, &c. made for keeping deeds, charters, &c.

Mynster-ham. Monastic habitation, perhaps the part of a monastery set apart for hospitality or for sanctuary.

Outfangthef. A liberty or privilege, whereby a lord was enabled to call any man, dwelling in his manor and taken for felony in another place out of his fee, to judgment in his own court. Pannos de cannabium. Canvas shoes.

Pannage. Food that swine feed on in the woods.

Pannus. A garment made with skins.

Patent Letters. Open or public records, with seal affixed, showing authority of issue.

Patent Bolls. Registers in which letters-patent are recorded.

Pension of churches. Certain sums of money paid to the clergy in lieu of tithes.

Pie poudre Court. A court incident to every fair or market, the judge in which is the steward of the lord of the market or fair. The administration only lasts for the day or days on which the fair is being held.

Pipe Rolls. Parchment schedules.

Pontage. Duty paid for repairing bridges.

Purprestura. An enclosure of waste or common land. Usually a very small area for building.

Protection. An immunity granted by the Crown to a certain person to be free from suits at law. Also, from being arrested. Quelmes. Gallows.

REEVE: A royal official, or a manor official appointed by the lord or elected by the peasants.  The reeve for the shire became to be known as the sheriff.

RELIEF: The fee paid by the heir of a deceased person on securing possession of a fief. Tradition determines the amount demanded.

Rood. A measure of length - 5.5 yards; of area - forty square rods or quarter of an acre

Scyre-man. A judge of the county by whom trials for land were determined.

Schire-man. A sheriff. Ancient name for an earl.

Scutage. The tenure of a knight.

SERF: A Semi-free peasant who works his lord's demesne and pays him certain dues in return for the use of land, the possession (not ownership) of which is heritable. These dues, usually called corvee, are almost in the form of labor on the lord's land. Generally this averages to three days a week. Generally subdivided into classes called: Cottagers, small holders, or villeins although the later originally meant a free peasant who was burdened with additional rents and services.

SHILLING: Measure of money used only for accounting purposes and equal to 12 pennies.

SOCAGE Another type of free tenure was socage, primarily customary socage, the principal service of which was usually agricultural in nature, such as performing so many days' ploughing each year for the lord.

SOKEMAN: Another name for a free villager.

TALLAGE  The tax introduced by the Norman kings as a partial substitute for the Danegeld , was levied by the kings and lords on their demesne lands; under Richard I and John it became a common source of royal revenue. As other means of raising money grew common, tallage disappeared in the reign of Edward III.

Terminus ad quem. The terminating point.

Terminus a quo. The starting point.

Terra warennata. Land that has the liberty of free warren. 

Thesaurus. The treasury.  

TITHE: A tax of one tenth of a personís income.  Originally given to support the church and poor; but later taken by the lord of the manor.

TITHING: Created by Anglo-Saxon law, a body of men, notionally ten - hence its name - but usually a good deal larger, which collectively maintained public order, vouched for its members and collectively 'presented' any delinquents amongst them before the court of the hundred.

Uffingas. Sovereigns of East Anglia descended from Uffa. 

Venella. An alley.  

VILLEIN: The wealthiest class of peasant. They usually cultivate 20-40 acres of land, often in isolated strips.

VIRGATE: Literally, one quarter of a "hide". Within the common fields of a particular manor virgates did tend to be of fixed area.  However, outside the common fields, where the quality of land could vary greatly, 'virgate' often came to indicate not a fixed amount of land but an amount of customary service attached to a piece of land.

Vivarium. A fish-pond, or a warren or park. Where live animals are preserved.

Wapentake. e. A hundred.

Warren. A franchise or place privileged by grant from the Crown for keeping beasts or fowls of warren.