Manors and their Records
Using Manorial Records
Cumbrian Superior Lordships
History Department
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
Cumbrian Manorial Records



Admittance: a copy of an entry in a court roll, admitting an individual to a copyhold or customary tenancy in the manor. More and Example

Affeeror: an officer appointed by the court to fix the actual sum taken from a transgressor by way of amercement.  Two affeerors were normally appointed; they often mitigated amercements to a sum much lower than that set by the court. Example

Amercement: the 'fine' imposed by the court for breach of a byelaw or order.  In origin the word reflects the fact that the offender was deemed by his offence to have placed himself 'at the lord's mercy', from which the payment of the amercement freed him. Example


Bailiff:  the manorial official in charge of one or more manors.  Distinguished from a reeve by being paid a stipend.

Barleyman: literally 'byrlaw man', an official appointed by a manor court to uphold the byelaws and orders of the court and to present those breaching them.

Byfire: a lodger or undertenant.  The term was used in Cumbria as an alternative to the more usual 'inmate'.

Byrlaw court: a local court, deriving its name from the Old Norse byjar-log ('law community' or 'law district') and probably suggesting an origin in a village meeting.  Byrlaw courts were found in Scotland and parts of northern England, including southern Cumbria.  More


Cattle-gate: a stinted pasture right; the right to graze one cow on the common grazing. Formulae (which varied from manor to manor) were applied to convert this measure into rights for other types of livestock (for example, one cattle-gate might give you the right to graze ten sheep). Example

Call Book: an attendance register for a manor court, listing the tenants who were required to attend, including free tenants who held their land by 'suit of court'. More and Example

Common rights: the rights exercised by tenants of a manor on common land within the manor.  The rights most frequently encountered are common of pasture, common of turbary and common of estovers.

Copyhold: The form of tenure which descended from the unfree, villein tenures of the middle ages.  Copyhold land was defined legally as land held 'by copy of court roll [hence the term 'copyhold'] at the will of the lord, according to the custom of the manor.' More

Court baron: (Latin curia baronis). The basic manorial court, held by a manorial lord for his tenants, both free and villein. More

Court capital: (Latin curia capitalis, literally 'head court'). The principal meeting of a court leet, normally held twice a year in spring and autumn.

Court leet: (Latin curia leta cum visu franciplegii). A manorial court with the right to deal with a wider range of matters than a court baron, specifically with minor criminal offences.  Leet rights included maintaining the quality of bread and ale (the 'assizes of bread and ale') and some courts leet continued to appoint ale tasters. More

Court of Dimissions: Separate courts to which tenants came to surrender their tenancies and be admitted tenant.  They were held, for example, for the manors of the extensive estates of the earls of Northumberland (and their successors) in western Cumberland.

Court of Survey: a special meeting of a manor court, called to produce a written survey, listing the tenants, their holdings and the terms of their tenures.

Customary tenantright: a form of tenure akin to copyhold, which was common throughout Cumbria and adjacent counties, and gave the tenant a security akin to a freehold (in that he could devise or sell his property freely) but required the payment of both an entry fine on change of tenant and a general fine on change of lord, as well as other customary dues, such as the payment of a heriot. More

Custumal: a survey or rental which includes details of the rents, services and customs by which tenants held their land. Example


Demesne: the land farmed directly on behalf of the lord himself as a 'home' farm.

Dimissions: changes of tenancy, recorded by the manor court: see admittance; court of dimissions; surrender.

Dropping fine: another term for entry fine.


Enfranchisement: the granting of a freehold interest, specifically the conversion of a customary tenantright tenancy into a freehold.  The tenant paid a lump sum based on the value of the property to acquire the freehold. More and Example

Entry fine: a sum of money paid to the lord by a tenant entering a property.  These were of two types, a 'certain fine', which was a fixed sum, usually related to the ancient yearly rent of a property; and the 'arbitrary fine', which was variable and was usually calculated on the basis of the annual rental value of the property.

Essoined: excused; where a tenant who owed suit to a court had tendered an 'apology for absence'.

Estovers: originally, the right to take wood for necessary repairs or fuel, it came to refer to the right to take a variety of vegetation (such as bracken, heather, rushes) from the common for necessary uses, such as thatching.

Estreat: a list, extracted from the court roll, detailing the fines and amercements imposed by the court at a particular sitting. Example

Extent: a valuation of a manor, listing the value of each element from which the lord derived income: demesne lands, mills, woods, tenants' rents and services, etc.  Extents give a financial bird's eye view of a manor and are the commonest form of manorial survey in the medieval period. Example


Fine: a payment to the lord, usually as a condition of tenancy rather than a penalty.  Example. See Entry fine; General fine

Foldbreak: the act of removing impounded livestock from the manorial pound or pinfold without paying the required due, sometimes called 'pound loose'.

Frankpledge: a surety or pledge by a group of freemen.  The term originated in the Anglo-Saxon system of tithings, which were groups of ten free men who pledged to be mutually responsible for good behaviour.  In manorial records, the term survived in the phrase 'court leet with view of frankpledge', reflecting the peace-keeping role of the court leet.  'View of frankpledge' was a shorthand for the franchises enjoyed by courts leet which differentiated them from courts baron.

Freehold: land held in fee simple, that is 'for ever', by rendering homage and service to the lord of the manor.  More


General fine: a sum paid by tenants on the death of the lord of the manor.  It was one of the characteristics of customary tenantright tenure.

Grave/greave: see Reeve


Heriot: a payment, usually of the best beast, which was due to the lord on the death of a tenant.


Inmate: a lodger; see also 'byfire'.



-looker (as in fencelooker; houselooker): an official appointed by the manor court jury to oversee the subject in question and to present offenders.  The 'fencelooker' ensured that field boundaries were kept in good repair; the 'houselooker' that tenants kept their houses in repair. See example of appointment of officers.


Moor reeve: an official appointed by the court to oversee the exercise of common rights on open moorland.

Moss reeve: an official appointed by the court to oversee the exercise of turbary rights in a peat moss.

Multure: mill toll; a payment for grinding corn at the lord's mill.  As tenants were generally bound to take their grain to the manorial mill, multure formed an integral part of the lord's income.



Pain(e): (Latin pena, literally 'penalty').  Used to refer to the orders and byelaws imposed by the manor court.  A jury was said to 'lay a pain' (i.e. make an order). More and Example

Pannage: payment for the right to graze pigs in woodland.

Pasture, common of: the right to graze livestock on common land, whether this is the open fields and meadows after the crop has been harvested or the common pasture or waste.

Perambulation: a description of the boundaries of a manor, often recording the boundaries as 'beaten' or perambulated by members of the manor court.  More and Example

Pinder/pounder: the manorial officer who impounded livestock in the pound or pinfold.  By virtue of this, he might also have general oversight of the exercise of pasture rights on the common (see also Moor reeve). See example of appointment of officers.

Pleas: a court baron had the power to hear civil cases arising from disputes between tenants, where the damages claimed were under 40 shillings.  These pleas (or 'plaints' as they were sometimes termed in the vernacular) mainly consisted of cases of debt and trespass, though the courts also had the right to hear cases of breach of covenant and 'detinue' (the withholding of goods rather than money). Example

Pound loose: a sum paid to reclaim livestock impounded in the manorial pound or pinfold.

Presentment: a statement on oath by the jury or by an officer of the manor court, accusing an individual of breaching a rule or byelaw ('paine'). More and Example



Receiver: the lord of the manor's treasurer, to whom the income from each manor was paid.

Rectory manor: where a parish church had a substantial endowment of land, this was often administered in the same way as a conventional manor.  After the Dissolution of the monasteries, the rectories which had been appropriated to monastic houses were granted out to individuals and institutions, so that many rectory manors were in the hands of laymen from the 16th century.

Reeve: (Latin prepositus) A tenant of the manor, chosen either by the lord or from among his fellows to be responsible for the management of the manor, rendering an account annually.  Where the demesne was no longer farmed directly, the reeve became, in effect, the lord's rent collector.  In northern England, the vernacular name for the reeve was usually 'greave' or 'grave'.

Rental: a list of tenants, recording the amount of rent due from each. Example

Rescue (or 'rescous'): the act of physically repossessing livestock being taken to the manorial pound or pinfold.  This was a serious offence, punishable by a substantial amercement in the manor court.


Steward: (Latin senescallus). The lord's officer whose duties included presiding at the sittings of the manor court.  By the 16th century most stewards were trained lawyers. More and Example

Stint: a numerical limit placed on the size of a pasture right.  Often expressed in terms of a 'beastgate' or 'cattlegate', the right to graze one horned beast.  Formulae were used to convert beastgates into rights for other categories of livestock (10 sheep to one beastgate, for example).

Surrender: when a copyholder or customary tenant sold his property he had to surrender it to the lord, who would then admit the purchaser.  This was a technicality which ensured that the entry fine was paid and the change of tenancy recorded. Example

Survey: a written description of a manor or manors, usually giving details of manorial boundaries and customs and detailing each holding of land.  More and Example


Taverning: subletting, where this could result in the division of a tenant's holding into smaller parcels.  Byelaws forbidding taverning appear to have been common.

Terrier: a survey arranged topographically, field by field (or, in the case of open arable fields, strip by strip). Example

Turbary, common of: the right to cut turves and dig peat on the common.



Valor: a summary valuation of a manor, laying out the income and expenses with a view to showing how much profit a manor could be expected to provide.  Valors were based on information in manorial accounts. Example

Vert: (Latin viridis, 'green). The right to cut green wood, for which payments are often recorded in manor court records.  In Cumbria the vernacular term was 'greenhew.' More and Example


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