Manorial Terms

Manorial law has brought a large number of terms to define elements within it. This glossary provides you with an index of the most popular terms. It has been taken from a work by the University of Nottingham and the book “The Law of the Manor” by Christopher Jessel.

Accidental Services

Occasional payments to the lord, such as due on the death of a tenant.


An area that could be ploughed in a day.  This varied considerably depending on the beasts and equipment that were available.  Many manors relied on plough sets that were owned by the lord.


A right of the lord automatically adjoined (next to) the manor.


The procedure by which a new copyholder (forerunner to freeholder) to take up their holding from the lord.


The lord’s right to appoint an incumbent (employee) to a benefice (a church post such as rector or vicar).

Allodial land

Land held by the lord with a senior lord in tenure.  So the lord provided service to the crown and not to a mesne (middle) or over lord.


The right to put down anchor overnight in a port and the right for the port owner (Lord of the Manor the port is contained in) to charge for that.


A right that becomes attached to the manor.  On most occasions this would be for the benefit of the lord but sometimes for the benefit of the copyholders/freeholders.

Appendant right

A right which may become held with a manor.  Whilst many rights pre-date the Norman Conquest if a custom occurred over decades it could become a right held as part of the lordship/manor.

Assizes of Bread and Ale

Right for the lord to levy tax on the sale of these items.


A deputy to the steward of the manor.  A steward was appointed by the lord to administer the manor on their behalf.


The space between two strips of land.  In early times residents of the manor who did not own acreage would be assigned a strip of land in a field.

Bare Lordship

Lordship which carried no other rights – The Lord was still responsible for collecting taxes from the residents of the manor.


A holding of grazing land held in common for the benefit of the lord and the freeholders.  Also know as common land.


An unfree tenant bound usually to the soil (manor), but sometimes to the lord himself.  The tenant was effectively a slave of the lord/manor.


A right to take wood from common land.

Canon Law

The law of the church. The church held their own courts to administer it and covered all issues affecting church held lordships/manors.

Castle guard

A type of military tenure.  Many lords owed military service to their overlord or the crown.  This generally would be to provide fighting men in times of war.  This military service would have been to report to a specified castle for its defence.


The holding of grazing land in common.  For the use of the lord and his freeholders.  Also known as common land.

Champion (coronation)

A duty performed at coronations, usually by only the most senior lords of the land.  This was originally called a service in grand sergeanty.

Champion (landscape)

A region (area of land) that comprised the open fields system (fields that were divided into strips for arable crops).


A right held by a subject relating to a forest, without a forest court.  Forests used to have their own jurisdiction, and be granted to lords as offices.


Personal property (not land) which included goods, debts and interestingly leases.


A toll charged by the lord for a right of way across a manor.

Civil law

This dates back to Roman times in England (four century backwards).


The surrender of allod (ownership without a superior lord) to a new lord and taking it back in fee.

Common land

Land subject to rights of common (now for the purposes of the Commons Registration Act 1965) which includes the waste of the manor (land not granted or farmed by the lord).


The settlement of rights for a fixed money payment.


An officer appointed to keep the peace, normally working under the sheriff of the county.

Copyhold (pure)

Land held by the will of the lord according to the custom of the manor.

Court Baron

Held by the Lord and Lady of the manor for their tenants to administer the customs of the manor and enforce payment of dues and services. The name “court baron” means court of the men of the lordship/manor.  So in Saxon and early Norman times men were known as barons.

Court Leet

A local public court for a vill (village) or tithing (church manor).


A law of uncertain and usually ancient origin or a payment of like origin.  Lordship Titles are classified as customs as they date back to Roman times.

Customary freehold

Land held according to the custom of the manor but NOT at the will of the lord.


A formal legal document which is sealed.  Deeds were/are used to transfer land, rights in land, lordships and rights.


Land under direct control of the lord, so not farmed by a copyholder/freeholder.


The granting of a lease over land.


The process by which copyhold land (held by a tenant of the manor proved their ownership by a copy of the court roll) became freehold land (no longer held by a tenant paying rent).


The right to occupy land or take its fruits or revenues.


A means of restricting ownership of land to member of a family, usually in the senior male line.


In modern times most property will escheat (convey) to the crown if someone dies with no heir. However lordships/manors do not necessarily escheat to the crown. If there is an overlordship between the lord and the crown then the lordship/manor will escheat to them.


A right to wood and plant life for building or fuel.


The lord’s right of unclaimed straying beasts within the manor.


A right or land not included in a grant of a right or land.


The duty of being faithful (loyal) owed to a tenurial (lordship) superior.

Fief or Fee

Land held in return for service of fealty.  The most common was knight’s service (providing fighting men in time of war).


Seventeenth century term for the system of grant of land for service and fealty which had been current in previous centuries – So the term feudal is far younger than the system it names.

Foldage or Faldage

A right to force the lord’s tenants to pasture their sheep on the lord’s land. This meant that the lord would have all the manure from the sheep.


Nothing to do with singing. This is an Anglo Saxon tenure for various ancient dues to the King.


An area under the jurisdiction of a forest court which limited hunting and certain other exploitation to the crown.  A forest in a manor can be exempt from crown court by the granting of “free warren”.


A grant of perogative (right or privilege) in the hands of a subject.


A system of mutual responsibility of a members of a tithing (normally ten households).  This was a clever way for the lord to stop crime as it would not be just the perpetrator who was liable to to punished.


A legal estate held by a free man, hence free tenement.


Roman – Landed estate under the Roman empire

Sea – Bed below low watermark of tides.


The right of the lord to sentence a tenant of the manor to capital punishment (death) if found guilty at the court leet.

Grand Sergeanty

A form of military tenure for highly honourable service to the king, typically at the coronation eg. carrying one of the swords.


The place of residence of an Anglo-Saxon lord.


An officer responsible for the maintenance of hedges.


A possession (usually the best beast)  due on death (usually of the copyholder) to the lord.  Also known as heriot service or heriot custom.

Homage Ceremony

The placing of hands between those of the lord and agreeing to be his “man”.


An administrative area of land similar to todays boroughs. It measures 100 hides (120 acres) of land, and is a subdivision of a shire.

Incorporeal Hereditaments

Intangible property including manors/lordships, lordship titles, franchises and servitudes, etc

In Common

Land or rights shared among several owners who each have a separately owned interest without being divided.

In Gross

A right held that is separate from the land or manor such as the Lordship Title.


Manorial rights or dues owed to the lord.


A burden on property, such as charge, easement or right.

Keyage or Quayage

A toll due to the lord of the manor for the use of a quay within the manor.

Knight’s Fee

The holding of one knight in fee. Manorial land granted in return for the production of a knight for so many days a year in time of war. Where a lord did not have a knight to offer, he would sometimes attend himself or provide other fighting men such as archers.

Legal manor

A manor which retains full legal status including two independent freeholders to serve as suitors at the court baron.

Legal Memory

The origin of rights arising since 1189 usually had to be specifically proven by grant. A lawful origin was presumed for those shown to be older.


A private jurisdiction where the letter of the law can be applied, free from the supervision of the sheriff.

Livery and Maintenance

An arrangement in the late Middle Ages for a powerful man to protect from the law those who served him and wore his uniform.


A toll due to the lord of the manor for the  loading of goods.


A collection of rights belonging to a lord, often a synonym for manor.

Manorial Court

An assembly to advise a Lord, make regulations and determine disputes. Contrary to popular belief NOT where the Lord makes judgements.

Manorial Incident

A right contained within the lordship eg, sporting, mineral etc.

Manorial Right

The right connected with a manor/lordship by custom (normally exercised for at least decades), such as revenues or minerals. These may be in favour of both the Lord, the tenants or the freeholders.


A county or military district on the border of a royal territory with defence needs.  England had two marches for Scotland and Wales.

Medieval Acre

A fictional unit like a foot. It was the area that could be ploughed in a day. This varied enormously depending on who was doing the ploughing and what equipment or beasts they had.


If the daughter of a serf was to marry someone from another manor her father needed the permission of the lord. If she married someone from the lord’s manor the children would belong to the lord. Lords always gave permission but charged a fee for his loss. Many lords charged a fee for marrying a man from their own manor.


The toll a Lord may charge for the cost of repairing walls.

Nudum Dominium

A bare lordship without direct rights over the land itself.

Open field

An area divided into strips, usually commonable but sometimes common.

Open Manor or Village

Where control was weak because the tenants had free rights or there were many lords and no central control.


A territory, honour or barony with special liberties (rights).  An English type of march eg. Durham.

Pannage or mast

The right to acorns. This sounds like a strange benefit however acorns were a valuable food for pigs.


Is a defined tenement (estate with an easement) or portion of a tenement, hence land comprised in a grant of assurance.


An area of local church jurisdiction.


A franchise with an enclosed area of land held by the lord for private hunting of deer.


The legal description of property, usually in a sales contract.


Also known as peage or payage.  A toll of charging persons passing over land within the manor.


The profit (or right) of taking grass through the mouths of beasts.


A toll to recover the cost of paving a way.


A toll the lord may charge for persons passing on foot across their manor.


A right which can be enforced against identifiable persons.


The toll a lord can charge to put posts in the ground to erect a market booth.


The toll a lord can charge for the services of a pilot.


A right of common (for all freeholders/copyholders and lord) to take fish.


The toll a lord can charge for the use of a bridge in the manor.


The toll a lord can charge for the carriage of goods.  In early times some manors would only have one cart owned by the lord.


Originally a simple idea (as seisin). Later a right to immediate occupation or use of or income from land (or other right).


Another example of where a common word has come from a manorial source. A servitude of taking a substance from the land of another.

Prescriptive right

A right originating in exercise over many years, strictly before legal memory (1189), as distinct from a grant.


A right that can be enforced against anyone.

Real property

Freehold land and certain incorporeal hereditaments (inheritable rights).


The standard by which behaviour or claimed rights is tested by both lord and tenant. The law will not authorise something held to be unreasonable.


An official responsible for administration of villages or shires. In fact the word sheriff is a slurring of the words shire-reeve.


An sum payable by an heir upon taking possession of a manor.

Reputed Manor

A manor which has ceased to be a legal manor (has less than two tenants to create a court) and is now by reputation only.


The minutes of proceedings in court.  Originally kept literally on a rolled-up membrane.  The term is later applied to bound volumes.

Royal demesne

Lands held by the crown, either allodially (held without feudal obligations) or as freehold.

Scavage (Shewage)

The toll for displaying goods at a market. Markets were a valuable right held by some lords to supplement the income from the land.


Another term for a Lordship/Manor.


Originally like possession, this was a statement of fact.  Later refined into a legal status which defined who could take certain types of proceedings to recover land.


A Lordship/Manor granted for a service normally military. The amount of service agreed was measured in knight’s fees.


Duties performed in return for a grant of land, including rentservice.


A right to do (or restrain doing of) something on land of another, comprising easements (rights) and profits.

Settlement (trust)

An arrangement for land to be passed down within a family.


Royal Office responsible for the shire (replaced by county) , shire-reeve.


A tenure for base or agricultural services eg. days of labour ploughing.


An official appointed by the lord over the manor and also president of the manor court.


The grant of an inferior common freehold before 1290. Where a Lord becomes an Overlord by granting a inferior Lordship.

Sub-manor (subordinate manor)

A manor/lordship granted before 1290 out of a manor carrying the right to hold a court baron.


Manorial freeholders that attended a court baron.


Land or other hereditament (inheritable entity).


Literally it means a tenth. It is the fee charged on land due to the Church.


A subdivision of a hundred, possibly 10 hides.


Legal evidence of a right to property.


A franchise of right to charge members of the public in return for provision of a common service eg. use of a quay.


Arrangement whereby one person holds or administers land or other property on behalf of others.


The right to cut turf or peat for fuel.

View of Frankpledge

A system of mutual responsibility for the maintenance of law and order, usually consisting of around ten households.


A settlement.

Village green

A piece of land within a village where customary activities could be carried on eg. a village fair.


A franchise of right to unclaimed property dropped by a thief in flight.


A franchise of right to take certain types of game.


A legally expressed intention during life or after death.


Waste in uncultivated, unoccupied land, often subject to rights of common.