Lordship Rights

Lord of the Manor – Lordship Rights in Law

Lordship Rights

Lordship rights can be split into two categories and were enforced by two different manorial courts.  The first court held by all lords was the Court baron.  This settled disputes between tenants and issues of compliance relating to the lords rights.  The second was only available if the lordship/manor was held within a liberty.  This would provide the lord with the powers to punish criminal activity.  In non-liberty manors the Sheriff of the County held this authority.

Lordship rights varied from lord to lord.  Some of these were included in the grant of the lordship such as the right of corporal and capital punishment.  Corporal punishment would normally be exercised using stocks, pillory and cucking stool all centred on humiliating the convicted.  Capital punishment was referred to as ‘Right of Gallows’ however some lords used other methods with the same effect!

Another important grant of right would be to hold a market within the manor.  This would benefit the lord who taxed the stall holders, but also the residents of the manor would benefit as they could trade their surplus with each other.  A manor without market rights meant that this trade had to go to another lordship and valuable income would be lost for both the lord and his tenants.

A key element of the rights given to the lord would be to tax the residents for certain activities.  These were not normally granted to the lord but had developed over many years.  Examples of these taxes are; Merchet (a fine paid by a tenant to the lord for permission for one of their children to marry), Chevage (the right given by the lord for a villain to live outside of the manor), Aid (a payment that had to be made by a vassal to his lord, normally for specific occasions such as the marriage of the lord’s eldest daughter), Heriot (a form of death duty payable to the lord from the estate of the deceased, normally the best animal.  In addition to these that required a payment the lord would normally have Boonwork, which was a seasonal labour owed to the lord’s demesne, often attracting the provision of food and ale by the lord in reparation.

The third type of lordship rights were for the tenants to undertake certain actions.  These included; Foldage, Free Boar and Free Bull (tenants had to graze their sheep, boar and bulls on the lord’s land so that the manure produced by the sheep would improve the lord’s crops), Mill Suit (villagers to grind their corn at the lord’s mill), Estovers, Botes, Furze and Turbary (take natural fuel from the land used by his tenants), Pannage or Mast (take acorns from oak trees – the staple diet of pigs), Forestall (for stall holders to trade among themselves prior to the market opening – in modern terminology this was like a wholesale market) and Wainage (the right of the lord to have his goods transported by his villeins).

Although this might seem one sided the lord also had certain responsibilities.

One further right which all lords and ladies took for granted was the use of their titles.  These were acquired in the same way as many of these other rights through custom.  Until 40 years ago these were regarded as having no value however in modern society title holders are still treated in a different way, and some title holders act in a different way.

There are no rights with these titles today, historically a Lordship / Manor came in three parts; 1. Land, 2. Rights over the land, 3. The lordship title itself (power to collect fealty {services} and taxes). To convey all three rights they had to be specifically listed in the Deeds of Transfer.  Titles became separate from the physical land in 1922.

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