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Legal history: England & common law tradition: Manors

Manorial documents: archival treasures

Not all survive, but there are some outstanding examples such as those belonging to Wakefield, the earliest of which is from 1274, but most are from 1322 right through to the abolition of copyhold tenure in 1925

Related works

Commentary and printed sources

The Selden Society has published some relevant volumes (2, 4, 5, 114): the physical volumes are shelved at Legal Hist S464.4a on Level 2. Holders of an Oxford SSO can access them below via the title links.

Searches to use in SOLO to find more commentary:

Courts  baron and  courts  leet   England
Manorial courts England

Landlord and tenant -- England -- History
Real property -- England -- History

Real estate management -- England -- History

Basic Definitions

Manor (from the Latin manerium

  • a unit of landholding (not necessarily always the same extent as a village or township and its lands)
  • how it was administered (rent collection, accounting etc)
  • the rights held by the lord of the manor
  • the jurisdiction the lord of the manor had over his tenants freeholders or bond, customary or unfree tenure the villeins/copyholders. 
  • demesne land: the land farmed directly on behalf of the lord himself
  • manor house or hall (not all manors had a resident lord of the manor so these buidings varied in grandeur and complexity)

The principal manorial court was the Court Baron which [dealt] " ... largely with internal matters on the estate, including infringements of the lord's rights and prerogatives, agrarian disputes between tenants and changes of tenancy.  At the heart of the court baron's work lay the customs of the manor, which varied from manor to manor and governed the details of how tenants held their land (hence the term 'customary tenure').  Courts baron also had the power to hear civil pleas involving sums of up to 40s.  Some courts baron met every three weeks, particularly where pleas formed the core of their business." Definition from Cumbrian Manorial Records. accessed 10 January 2020 see link below.

Court Leet  with view of frankpledge (Latin: visus franciplegii): policed the 'assize of bread and ale' by appointing ale-tasters, to ensure that standards were maintained, appointed township constables and dealt with with minor breaches of the peace and public order and administering the provisions of a series of Tudor statutes.