|Feudal land tenure in England|
The manorial courts were the lowest courts of law in England during the feudal period. They had a civil jurisdiction limited both in subject matter and geography. They dealt with matters over which the lord of the manor had jurisdiction, primarily torts, local contracts and land tenure, and their powers only extended to those who lived within the lands of the manor: the demesne and such lands as the lord had enfeoffed to others, and to those who held land therein. Historians have divided manorial courts into those that were primarily seignorial – based on feudal responsibilities – and those based on separate delegation of authority from the monarch. There were three types of manorial court: the court of the honour; the court baron; and the court customary, also known as the halmote court.
Each manor had its own laws promulgated in a document called the custumal, and anyone in breach of those laws could be tried in a manorial court. The earlier Anglo-Saxon method of trial by ordeal or of compurgation was modified by the Normans into trial by a jury made up of 12 local freemen. The lord or his steward would be the chairman, whilst the parish clerk would write the record on the manorial rolls.
The three types of manorial court were distinguished by the importance of those who made use of them. The court of honour was for the manor's chief tenants, the court baron for other free tenants, and the court customary was for unfree tenants.
The honour court, also known as the curia ducis ("duke's court") or curia militum ("soldiers' court"), was made up of the most important of a lord's tenants, particularly those who owed him knight service. Unlike the other two types of manorial court its jurisdiction could extend over a number of manors.Dealing as it did with the most important of the lord's tenants it was initially the principal manorial court, and may have acted as a superior court of appeal for the lower manorial courts, at least until 1267.
The main business of the court baron was the resolution of disputes involving a lord's free tenants within a single manor, to enforce the feudal services owed to the lord of the manor by his tenants,and to admit new tenants who had acquired copyholds by inheritance or purchase, for which they were obliged to pay a fine to the lord of the manor. The English jurist Edward Coke described the court in his The Compleate Copyholder (1644) as "the chief prope and pillar of a manor which no sooner faileth than the manor falleth to the ground". The court baron was constituted by the lord of the manor or his steward and a representative group of tenants known as the manorial homage, whose job was to make presentations to the court and act as a jury.
The court baron was originally held every three weeks, although its sittings became increasingly infrequent during the 14th century, and by the 15th century it was often convened only twice a year. Those required to attend were summoned to appear, often by an announcement in church on Sunday or by a notice pinned to the church door. "Reasonable notice" had to be given, usually three days. Attendance at the court was a feudal duty, and those who failed to appear could be amerced,i.e. arbitrarily fined. After 1267 however, generally only a manor's unfree tenants could be compelled to attend.
By the 13th century compilations of precedents such as Le Court de Baron had begun to appear, partly to standardise and formalise the proceedings of the courts baron, but also in response to increasing competition from the common law courts,which were administered nationwide under the authority of the monarch. As it became increasingly acknowledged by the legal establishment during the 15th and 16th centuries that custom had "a secure place in law", plaintiffs were able to resort to the common law courts to resolve their differences over tenure rather than the court baron.
The court customary, or halmote court, was the equivalent of the court baron for the lord's unfree tenants.As the use of the court baron declined, the court customary became the predominant type of manorial court, and gradually the court's distinction between free and unfree tenants disappeared.
In some cases the manorial court functioned as a de facto court leet.
The lord of the manor could be given a post by the central government, such as sheriff or officer in charge of the county, in return for a small payment. In these cases the manorial court's jurisdiction could in effect become county-wide.[ citation needed ]
Alternatively, the lord could acquire a franchise of the Crown to hold court for criminal matters. This jurisdiction was that of court leet and view of frankpledge (the two terms define the same assembly), the manor freemen being the jury of a "crown" court within the manor's area.
Manorialism, also known as the manor system or manorial system, was the method of land ownership in parts of Europe, notably France and later England, during the Middle Ages. Its defining features included a large, sometimes fortified manor house in which the lord of the manor and his dependents lived and administered a rural estate, and a population of labourers who worked the surrounding land to support themselves and the lord. These labourers fulfilled their obligations with labour time or in-kind produce at first, and later by cash payment as commercial activity increased. Manorialism is sometimes included as part of the feudal system.
Copyhold was a form of customary land ownership common from the Late Middle Ages into modern times in England. The name for this type of land tenure is derived from the act of giving a copy of the relevant title deed that is recorded in the manorial court roll to the tenant; not the actual land deed itself. The legal owner of the manor land remained the mesne lord, who was legally the copyholder, according to the titles and customs written down in the manorial roll. In return for being given land, a copyhold tenant was required to carry out specific manorial duties or services. The specific rights and duties of copyhold tenants varied greatly from one manor to another and many were established by custom. By the 19th century, many customary duties had been replaced with the payment of rent.
Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power over others, acting as a master, chief, or ruler. The appellation can also denote certain persons who hold a title of the peerage in the United Kingdom, or are entitled to courtesy titles. The collective "Lords" can refer to a group or body of peers.
Baron is a rank of nobility or title of honour, often hereditary, in various European countries, either current or historical. The female equivalent is baroness. Typically, the title denotes an aristocrat who ranks higher than a lord or knight, but lower than a viscount or count. Often, barons hold their fief – their lands and income – directly from the monarch. Barons are less often the vassals of other nobles. In many kingdoms, they were entitled to wear a smaller form of a crown called a coronet.
Serfdom was the status of many peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism, and similar systems. It was a condition of debt bondage and indentured servitude with similarities to and differences from slavery, which developed during the Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages in Europe and lasted in some countries until the mid-19th century.
Enclosure or Inclosure is a term, used in English landownership, that refers to the appropriation of "waste" or "common land" enclosing it and by doing so depriving commoners of their rights of access and privilege. Agreements to enclose land could be either through a "formal" or "informal" process. The process could normally be accomplished in three ways. First there was the creation of "closes", taken out of larger common fields by their owners. Secondly, there was enclosure by proprietors, owners who acted together, usually small farmers or squires, leading to the enclosure of whole parishes. Finally there were enclosures by Acts of Parliament.
Wingrave is a village in Buckinghamshire, England, about four miles north east of Aylesbury and three miles south west of Wing.
Lord of the Manor is a title that, in Anglo-Saxon England, referred to the landholder of a rural estate. The lord enjoyed manorial rights as well as seignory, the right to grant or draw benefit from the estate. The title continues in modern England and Wales as a legally recognised form of property that can be held independently of its historical rights. It may belong entirely to one person or be a moiety shared with other people.
In medieval and early modern Europe, the term tenant-in-chief denoted a person who held his lands under various forms of feudal land tenure directly from the king or territorial prince to whom he did homage, as opposed to holding them from another nobleman or senior member of the clergy. The tenure was one which denoted great honour, but also carried heavy responsibilities. The tenants-in-chief were originally responsible for providing knights and soldiers for the king's feudal army.
The court leet was a historical court baron of England and Wales and Ireland that exercised the "view of frankpledge" and its attendant police jurisdiction, which was normally restricted to the hundred courts.
High, middle and low justices are notions dating from Western feudalism to indicate descending degrees of judicial power to administer justice by the maximal punishment the holders could inflict upon their subjects and other dependents.
"Free bench" is a legal term referring to an ancient manorial custom in parts of England whereby a widow, until she remarried, could retain tenure of her late husband's land.
A heerlijkheid was a landed estate that served as the lowest administrative and judicial unit in rural areas in the Dutch-speaking Low Countries before 1800. It originated as a unit of lordship under the feudal system during the Middle Ages. The English equivalents are manor, seigniory and lordship. The German equivalent is Herrschaft. The heerlijkheid system was the Dutch version of manorialism that prevailed in the Low Countries and was the precursor to the modern municipality system in the Netherlands and Flemish Belgium.
A villein, otherwise known as cottar or crofter, is a serf tied to the land in the feudal system. Villeins had more rights and social status than those in slavery, but were under a number of legal restrictions which differentiated them from the freeman.
The Honour of Clitheroe is an ancient grouping of manors and royal forests centred on Clitheroe Castle in Lancashire, England; an honour traditionally being the grant of a large landholding complex, not all of whose parts are contiguous. In the case of Clitheroe, this complex was loosely clustered around the ancient wapentake of Blackburnshire.
In the kingdom of England, a feudal barony or barony by tenure was the highest degree of feudal land tenure, namely per baroniam, under which the land-holder owed the service of being one of the king's barons. The duties owed by and the privileges granted to feudal barons are not exactly defined, but they involved the duty of providing soldiers to the royal feudal army on demand by the king, and the privilege of attendance at the king's feudal court, the precursor of parliament.
A manorial roll or court roll is the roll or record kept of the activities of a manorial court, in particular containing entries relating to the rents and holdings, deaths, alienations, and successions of the customary tenants or copyholders. The records were invariably kept in roll form in the Middle Ages, but in the post-medieval period were more usually entered into volumes. Despite this change of format, the records often continued to be known as court rolls, although the term court books is also found.
Feudalism as practiced in the Kingdoms of England during the medieval period was a state of human society that organized political and military leadership and force around a stratified formal structure based on land tenure. As a military defense and socio-economic paradigm designed to direct the wealth of the land to the king while it levied military troops to his causes, feudal society was ordered around relationships derived from the holding of land. Such landholdings are termed fiefdoms, traders, fiefs, or fees.
Guildable Manor is a Court Leet in Southwark under the authority of the City of London, along with the King's Manor, Southwark, and the Great Liberty. The name of 'Guildable' first recorded in 1377 refers to the collection of taxes there and was adopted to distinguish this from the other manors of the Southwark area. Its legal title, according to a Royal charter granted to the City by King Edward III in 1327, is 'the ville of Southwark' i.e. 'ville = 'town'; in the more substantive charter of Edward VI it is designated 'The Town and Borough of Southwark' as is stated on its Seal. It is a preserved limited jurisdiction under the Administration of Justice Act 1977. Although neither a guild nor a livery company, the Guildable Manor does have a permanent organization, consisting of Officers and Jurors.
The palatine courts of Durham were a set of courts that exercised jurisdiction within the County Palatine of Durham. The bishop purchased the wapentake of Sadberge in 1189, and Sadberge's initially separate institutions were eventually merged with those of the County Palatine.