Dictionary of terms

List of words used and meanings:



To fix or settle the amount of an amercement, to assess. To reduce to a fair and equitable amount.


To levy a money penalty for an offence, at a manorial court. The culprit being said to be “in mercy”. The penalty itself was said to be an amercement the amount being left to the “mercy” of the inflictor.

Ancient Demesne

(pronounced demean) was land that belonged to the crown in 1066. By the 13th century tenants of such lands were afforded special privileges


A secondary or less significant thing or part : accessories or a minor right, interest or privilege which passes when the principal property is transferred.

Articles of Agreement

Same as the modern contract of sale.

Assart or Essart

Given as “Arable land cleared from forest.”


A manorial lord’s local manager, appointed from outside the tenants. He watched his lord’s interests and conducted relations with the tenants through their representative – the Reeve.


Outliers of a manor.(e.g. Sandal and Midgley were berewicks of Wakefield)


Bovate or Virgate or Yardland is a division of a hide or carucate initially signifying a fixed quantity of land in the common fields with appurtenant rights to common meadow and pasture. Usually 20/30 acres according to the custom of the district, but sometimes very much larger. In the north of England the term bovate was preferred to the other two. The norm was 8 bovates to 1 carucate.


Before the Norman Conquest it was called a hide in Yorkshire. In theory it was the amount of land which a single eight ox plough team could plough in a year. EITHER 90 to 120 acres or 120 to 180 acres (see HIDE below).


A collection of a set of charters, title deeds and like documents etc belonging to a monastery, corporation or other land owner. A keeper of the archives.

Committee of Compounding

A body empowered to offer terms of settlement instead of prosecution. Used by the Commonwealth against Royalists.


“a piece of friable land”


In history a name applied by the Parliamentary Party to those who assisted Charles I or II by arms, money or personal service in levying war 1642 – 1660. As it practically included all Royalists it became common parlance almost synonymous with “Cavalier”.


Those parts of the land and rights of a manor that the lord retained for himself as distinct from that held by his tenants. In the modern parlance it was equivalent to “the home farm”. In it’s widest sense it applied to land held by people other than freehold tenants i.e. villeins or copyhold tenants. In a narrower sense it excluded land held by villeins or copyholders and applied only to land actually used by the lord himself.


Mixed corn.


One who holds lands of an overlord on condition of homage and     service.


To put in legal possession. To feoff to the use of another – to invest with the legal estate, subject to an obligation to allow the use to the other person.


The person to whom a freehold estate in land is conveyed by a feoffment


One who makes a feoffment to another


The act of investing a person with a feof or fee – a mode of conveyance in which a person is invested with a freehold estate in lands by livery of seisin.


Verb:  to castrate (a horse or other animal)
Noun:  A tax on land levied in late Anglo-Saxon and Norman England


Another name for a carucate. The Dictionary of Genealogy gives a hide as being between 90 and 120 acres. BUT the same book gives a carucate as being between 120 and 180 acres although the two names are cross referenced.

NOTE Adam is reputed to have left 120 carucates of land. To use the smaller of the above figures he would have left 10,800 acres and to use the largest – 21,600 acres. A huge figure in England even now but truly enormous in the 1100’s.


A large estate held by a single lord, usually consisting of several scattered manors. Subtenants had to attend the Honour Court.

Knight’s Fee

Knights were the fighting men who came with the Conquerer. They were rewarded with grants of lands (knight’s fees) which they held either directly from the King or, more often, through his barons.

Knight Service

Initially the knights rewarded with grants of land had to perform knight service to the king and his barons but over a few generations this military service was separated from the holding of land and the military service was commuted to a money payment known as “shield money” (scutage) and with these fees the king was able to pay fighting men.


Dependant or household


A money of account, originally representing the value of a mark weight of pure silver. In England after the conquest, the ratio of 20 sterling pennies to an ounce was the basis of computation – hence the value of the mark became fixed at 160 pence = 13s. 4d. or two thirds of the £ Sterling.


A half. In law – moiety related chiefly to ecclesiastical benefices Mesne lord    A     lord who holds an estate of a superior lord


Tenants representative


Possession – especially of real estate.

Soke(or Liberty)

A manor or group of manors or other area outside the jurisdiction of the sheriff and having a separate Commission of the Peace. A right of local jurisdiction. A district under local jurisdiction : a local division of a minor character.


A form of feudal tenure in which the land was held in return for money rent. Although no knight service was required, the tenant still had to do fealty to the King. Also called Scutage (shield money) where the owner of the land paid instead of fighting for the king.


The granting of lands by a feudatory to an inferior to be held of himself, on the same terms as he held them of his superior.

Thane land

Land granted to their thanes by Saxon Kings which were held with all immunities, except the threefold necessity of expeditions, repair of castles, and of bridges.


a European plant, Isatis tinctoria, formerly cultivated for its leaves, which yield a blue dye: family Brassicaceae (crucifers). The dye obtained from this plant, used esp by the ancient Britons, as a body dye


Until 1751/52 the year ran from 25th March to 24th March following.