The Manorial Society
of Great Britain
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Glossary of Manorial Terms


Abbey: Monastery or Nunnery

Ancient Demesne: MANORS held by the King in 1086, the VILLAGERs of which later successfully asserted the right to special protection and privileges.

Arrayer: royal official responsible in later medieval and early modern England for assembling military forces.

Baron: a Lord, especially in the 11th and 12th centuries, a TENANT-IN-CHIEF holding an HONOR or capital manor in return for military service, later a peer called to Parliament by a WRIT OF SUMMONS.

Bastard feudalism: later medieval version of the FEUDAL SYSTEM in which the LORD rewarded his VASSAL with a money payment rather than a grant of land.

Bend: broad diagonal line in HERALDRY

Boldon Book: compiled in 1183 for the Bishop of Durham.

Bordar: SMALLHOLDER, usually holding between five and fifteen acres in a MANOR, but sometimes identical with a COTTAGER.

Borough English: succession by the youngest (son)

Bovate: same as yardland.

Breviate: a 13th-century summary of DOMESDAY BOOK, usually containing only the names of the landholder and his tenant (if any) for each MANOR, and its assessment to the DANGELD in terms of a CARUCATE, HIDE or SULONG.

Byzantine: relating to the Byzantine (earlier the Eastern Roman) Empire ruled from Byzantium (Istanbul).

Cadet Line: junior branch of a family.

Canon Law: law of medieval Catholic Church.

Capital Manor: one held direct of the King with no mesne Lord

Carolingian: relating to the Empire ruled by Charlemagne and his successors.

Carolingian Renaissance: intellectual and cultural revival of the CAROLINGIAN period.

Carucate: the equivalent of the HIDE, both as a unit of 120 acres for assessing DANGELD in DOMESDAY BOOK and as a real land measure, in the DANELAW; also used elsewhere in ENGLAND in DOMESDAY BOOK as a real measure of land exempt from DANEGELD

Chancery: royal secretariat of late Anglo-Saxon and subsequent medieval kings.

Charter: a formal document witnessing the grant of land or of special privileges by a LORD, especially the King to a VASSAL.

Chausses: legging made of MAIL

Chief point: a location in the upper third of a shield of HERALDRY.

Circuit: a group of three to six counties surveyed by one set of COMMISSIONERS in the DOMESDAY INQUEST.

Coats armour, coats of arms: insignia in HERALDRY, relating to a specific family or branch of a family, borne on shields or standards.

Coif: cap or under-helmet made of MAIL

Colibert: West Country: freeman

Commot: A Welsh landholding, a division of a cantrefi (hundred), implying a superiority, but less institutionalised than those Manors or Lordships along the southern coast of Wales which were occupied by the Normans at an early date.

Commendation: the act by which a VASSAL acknowledged the superiority of his LORD in Anglo-Saxon times; the equivalent of FEALTY in Norman times.

Commissioners: groups of BARONs and royal officials sent to survey the CIRCUITs and to check the returns made by manorial officials and the juries of each HUNDRED or WAPENTAKE.

Common Land Act: Act of Parliament, 1965, under which all those with an interest in Common Land, mainly LORDS, should register

Compoti: accounts

Consanguinity: close family relationship forming the "forbidden degrees" within which marriage was forbidden without special permission from the Pope.

Copyhold: holding land by title of copy of COURT ROLL

Cotise: a narrow diagonal line in HERALDRY.

Cottager: person normally holding a cottage and four acres or less in a MANOR.

Counties of the Empire: provinces of the CAROLINGIAN Empire, usually larger than many English counties.
Court Books, or Rolls: lists of the proceedings at the Manorial Court

Courts: LEET and BARON, CUSTOMARY COURTS: Courts of the Manor presided over by the Steward or Bailiff. The Leet was the determination of minor crimes and civil affairs within the Manor. The Court Baron was the Court of the freeholders of the Manor. Many Courts are still held for traditional purposes today: eg Henley-in-Arden, Altrincham, Heaton, Alcester, Bromsgrove, Langport, Warwick.

Crucks: curved vertical roof-timbers joining at the ridge of a roof.

Curia Regis: Royal Court; the royal household in its capacity as the administrative and especially judicial machinery of Anglo-Norman central government.

Custom, customary: traditional landholdings, rights, and rents on a MANOR which were invariable

Danegeld: a land tax levied on the CARUCATE, HIDE or SULONG, originally to buy off Danish attacks on late Anglo-Saxon England; in Norman times a normal peace-time tax raised almost every year.

Danelaw: East Anglia, the East, North Midland, Yorkshire, Cheshire, and Lancashire: the areas settled by Danes or Norsemen and under Danish law rather than the laws of Wessex or Mercia.

Demesne: the land in a MANOR held by its LORD and worked by his men for his benefit, or held on lease from him: the later "home farm".

Dissolution: Henry VIII's abolition of Roman Catholicism and the taking of Church land into the Crown.
Domesday Book: strictly speaking, only the EXCHEQUER DOMESDAY OR GREAT DOMESDAY, but this is often termed Volume I, LITTLE DOMESDAY being Volume II; the final product of the DOMESDAY INQUEST.
Domesday inquest: the inquiry started in January 1086, in which England was divided into CIRCUITS surveyed by sets of COMMISSIONERS whose returns, after checking and at least two stages of abbreviation, became the EXCHEQUER DOMESDAY.

Ealdom: A governorship of an Anglo-Saxon area, held by appointment by an Ealdoman; this may be a root of the Norman EARLDOM as may also be derived from Danish Jarl (pron Yarl); not an hereditary office originally, but becoming so in the rein of Edward the Confessor.

Earldom: the territory administered by an earl, normally comprising several counties, often previously an ancient kingdom, eg Mercia, Northumbria or Wessex.

Enfeoffment: a grant of land, forming a FIEF or HONOR according to its size by a LORD to his VASSAL to be held in return for FEUDAL SERVICE.

Engrailed: with an indented edge in HERALDRY.

Entail: system of fixed succession to land which cannot be altered by a will.

Escallop: scallop-shell ornament in HERALDRY.

Escheator: a royal official administering the lands of
any TENANT-IN-CHIEF which were in royal custody because he was a minor.

Estreat: an exact copy.

Exchequer: financial accounting department of Anglo-Norman central government from Henry I's reign.

Exchequer Domesday (also GREAT DOMESDAY or DOMESDAY BOOK, Volume I): the final summary of the results of the DOMESDAY INQUEST, compiled at Winchester probably under the direction of Samson, later Bishop of Worcester, probably in 1086-7.

Exemplification: an official copy or extract by royal officials of another document, eg DOMESDAY BOOK.

Fealty: oath of loyalty sworn by a VASSAL to his LORD after the LORD had accepted the VASSAL's HOMAGE.

Feudalization: the process by which the personal links of LORDSHIP became the territorial links of the FEUDAL SYSTEM and TENURE.

Feudal service: duties rendered by a VASSAL to his LORD in return for the land granted by means of ENFEOFFMENT, which could be military (knight service), administrative (serjeanty) or ecclesiastical (frankalmoign or free alms).

Feudal system: the reconstruction by historians of the links between LORD and VASSAL, begun by HOMAGE and FEALTY, followed by ENFEOFFMENT, continued by FEUDAL SERVICE subject to the INCIDENTS of TENURE; expression first coined in C18th

Fief: a MANOR or Manors granted to a VASSAL by his LORD by means of ENFEOFFMENT to be held in return for FEUDAL SERVICE.

Folio: a sheet of parchment, folded in two or four before being sewn into a GATHERING.

Franklin: a freeman or yeoman in later medieval England.

Frankpledge, View of: Assembly of the tenants of the Manor at which they swore to uphold the custom of the Manor

Freeman: before the Norman Conquest, a man who could transfer himself and his land from one LORD to another by

COMMENDATION: after the Norman Conquest, a man holding lands within a MANOR in return for rent and very light services, unlike the VILLAGER who owed regular labour services on the DEMESNE, with access to the protection of the royal courts.

Free warren: charter of sporting rights.

Frenchmen: superior manorial tenants of French origin in DOMESDAY BOOK.

Gathering: a group of FOLIOS sewn together before binding.

Geld: see DANEGELD.

Gonfalon: banner or standard.

Gothic Revival: the period of fashionable building in REVIVAL GOTHIC, mainly in the 19th century.

Great Domesday: see EXCHEQUER DOMESDAY.

Gules: red in HERALDRY.

Halley's Comet: a COMET named after Edmond Halley, d. 1742, who observed it in 1682 and calculated its orbit round the Sun to be approximately every 76 years: illustrated in the Bayeux Tapestry

Hauberk: knee-length tunic made of MAIL.

Heraldry: system of personal identification of knights by means of insignia (COAT ARMOUR, COATS OF ARMS) on shields or standards.

Heriot: due to Lord on death of a tenant - usually his best beast.

Hide: originally a unit, varying between 40 and 1000
acres, thought sufficient to support one family. In DOMESDAY BOOK a fiscal unit on which DANEGELD was levied, and generally assumed to contain 120 acres.

High Justice: power to inflict death.

Homage: act of submission by a new VASSAL to his LORD.

Honor: land, normally comprising MANORs in several counties, held by a BARON or TENANT-IN-CHIEF.

Housecarl: a member of an élite 'Guards' infantry unit serving a King or Earl in Anglo-Saxon England.

Hundred: a unit of fiscal assessment and local government outside the DANELAW, originally containing 100 HIDEs, intermediate between the county and the MANOR, roughly equivalent in size to the modern District; cantrefi in Wales

Incidents: the payments and services to be rendered by a VASSAL to his LORD in addition to regular rent and FEUDAL SERVICE: these usually included an inheritance tax (relief) and a death duty (heriot).

Infangenthef: the power of a LORD to inflict capital punishment on his tenants, OUTFANGENTHEF

Keep: central tower of a Norman castle.

Letters patent: royal letters conferring a privilege on an individual or corporate body, sent open with a visible seal.

Lineage: authenticated genealogy or pedigree.

Lion rampant: a lion standing on its hind-quarters with its front legs in the air, in HERALDRY.

Little Domesday (also DOMESDAY BOOK, Volume II): the final CIRCUIT return for East Anglia (Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk), never summarized for inclusion in the EXCHEQUER DOMESDAY.

Lord: feudal superior of a VASSAL: always a Manorial Lord

Lordship: the mutual loyalty and support joining LORD and VASSAL.

Mail: flexible armour made of interlocking iron rings.

Manor: a landed estate, usually comprising a DEMESNE and lands held by VILLAGERs, BORDARs, or COTTAGERs and sometimes also FREE MEN, FRENCHMEN, RIDING MEN etc, which could vary in size from part of one village to several villages over a wide area; power over men (and women), ranging from civil to criminal jurisdiction; an estate in land giving authority and prestige; a land title giving superiority and gentility

Mesne tenant: a VASSAL of a TENANT-IN-CHIEF.

Minster: originally a monastery but by late Anglo-Saxon times often simply a large and important church.

Missus Dominicus (plural Missi Dominici): a Minster of the CAROLINGIAN Empire.

Nasal: metal nose-piece attached to a helmet.

Open fields: the major divisions, normally two or three, of the cultivated arable area of a medieval village outside the Highland Zone of England and Wales, in which one field each year in succession was left in rotation-fallow, the other one or two being communally ploughed and sown with winter and spring grains.

Or: gold or yellow in HERALDRY.

Outfangenthef: power to inflict capital punishment within the MANOR on non-tenants without recourse to Royal justice

Palisade: fence of pointed stakes firmly fixed in the ground.

Pannage: right to pasture swine.

Pennon: long narrow flag carried on the end of a spear or lance.

Perambulation: a survey made by walking the boundary of the Manor. Still continued in some Manors

Perpendicular: style of Gothic architecture in vogue from the mid-14th to the 16th century.

Piscaries: fishing rights.

Plain: blank, uncoloured space in HERALDRY.

Plough ( team): a team of six to twelve oxen, yoked in pairs, pulling a plough; in DOMESDAY BOOK usually eight oxen.

Presentment: to introduce into court.

Priory: a monastery or nunnery dependent on an ABBEY or Cathedral.

Proper: natural colours in HERALDRY

Property Act: 1922-5, a series of legislative measures regulating the ownership of land, including MANORS

Quota: the number of knights required to serve a LORD on behalf of a VASSAL, especially to serve the King.

Rape: An area of jurisdiction in Sussex

Reformation: the period 1529-59 in which England first rejected the religious authority of the Pope and then changed from Catholic to Protestant doctrine and beliefs.

Revival Gothic: Gothic architecture as revived from the late 18th century onwards.

Revival Norman: Norman architecture as revived in the 19th century.

Riding men: Anglo-Saxon free tenants rendering escort-duty and messenger-service to their LORD.

Rolls of Arms: records of the COATS OF ARMS borne by different families, especially those made by an authority in HERALDRY.

Sable: black in HERALDRY.

Saracenic: relating to the Arabs of Syria or Palestine.

Satellites: records preserving copies of parts of the earlier stages of the DOMESDAY INQUEST.

Scutage: a tax levied in place of personal military service by VASSALs - a cash payment

Secular arm: the Royal criminal jurisdiction to which a heretic or other person guilty of a serious offence under CANON LAW was transferred for serious punishment, especially execution.

Sheriff: principal official administering a shire or county in the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods for the Crown

Smallholder: see BORDAR.

Soc and Sac: similar to the French oyer and terminer, to hear and decide in OE, usually in the Court of the LORD

Sokemen: free tenants subject to the jurisdiction of the MANOR but owing little or no service to its LORD.

Sub-tenants: tenants holding land from a TENANT-IN-CHIEF or a Manorial Lord

Sulong: the Kentish equivalent of the CARUCATE or HIDE, both as a fiscal unit and as a land measure, but usually double the size of the HIDE.

Survey: a written description of the boundaries of a Manor and the fields and properties within the Manor. It is not a map.

Teamland ('land for one plough'): a Norman-French term for the English

Carucate or hide: used as a measure of land area of no fixed acreage.

Tenant-in-chief: a LORD holding his land directly from the King.

Tenure: the conditions upon which land was held under the FEUDAL SYSTEM by a VASSAL from a LORD who was a MESNE TENANT, a TENANT-IN-CHIEF or the King.

Terrier: register of landed estate.

Testamentary causes: cases concerning the probate of wills or the administration of the effects of those who died without making a will.

Thegn: a VASSAL, usually a manorial LORD, holding land by military or administrative services in Anglo-Saxon and early Norman England.

Treasury: the main financial department of late Anglo-Saxon and early Anglo-Norman government, located at Winchester.

Turbary: Manorial right to cut turf.

Valor: valuation

Vassal: a feudal inferior of tenant or a MESNE TENANT, of a TENANT-IN-CHIEF or of the King.

Vert: green in HERALDRY.

Villager: the normal peasant farmer of Anglo-Norman England, usually holding between 1 and 3 YARDLANDs from the LORD of a MANOR in 1086.

Wapentake: the equivalent of the HUNDRED in parts of the DANELAW.

Wergild: money-payment in compensation for death, injury or loss, graduated according to the social standing of the victim.

Witan: Anglo-Saxon and early Norman Royal Council.

Writ: royal letter conveying orders and information in a summary form.

Writ of summons: WRIT addressed to a named recipient to attend Parliament; as such, generally held to confer peerage status.

Yardland: a quarter of a HIDE.

Yoke: Kentish and East Anglia - same as plough.

NA: National Archives formerly Public Record Office
BL Cat: Catalogue of the British Library
BExtP: Burke's Extinct Peerage
BLG: Burke's Landed Gentry
Bod: Bodleian Library
BP: Burke's Peerage
BRS: British Record Society
Bull IHR: Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research
Bull MSGB: Bulletin of the Manorial Society of Great Britain
C: century
c : circa
Close R: Letters from the Close Rolls
CR: Charter Rolls
d : died
dau: daughter
dsp : died without issue
dvp : died in life of father
ex : executed
HA: Historical Association
infra : below
k: killed
kn: knighted
m : murdered
NLI: National Library of Ireland
NRA: National Register of Archives
PR: Patent Rolls
PRO: Public Record Office, see NA
qv : which see
Rec Com: Record Commision
Rec Soc: Record Society
RO: Record Office
Rot Parl: Rolls of Parliament
RS: Rolls Series
SQE: Statute Quia Emptores (1290)
SR: Statutes of the Realm
supra : above
temp : in the time of
TRHistS: Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
vide : see