Old units of measurement, feudal dues & customs

Modern pre-metrification units.
For Measuring Area.
1 acre = 4840 square yards (sq.yds).
1 rod or rood = ¼ acre = 1210 sq.yds.
1 square perch or pole = 30 ¼ sq.yds x 40 = 1 rod x 4 = 1 acre.

For Linear Measurement.
1 furlong =220 linear yards (8 furlongs = I mile).
1 chain = 22 linear yards x 10.
1 pole or perch = ¼ chain or 5 ½ yds.
( 1 furlong x 1 chain = 1 acre).

Ancient units of measurement.
1 virgate = ¼ acre = 1210 sq.yds.
1 rod or rood = ¼ acre = 1210 sq.yds.
1 day work = 1/10 virgate = 121 sq.yds.
1 ‘foot’ = circa 1/16 virgate = c 75 sq.yds.
1 siclus = same as 1 ‘foot’.
1 sq. Perch = ¼ day work = 30 ¼ sq.yds.

Ancient Accounting Units.
1 sulung = 160 to 200 acres (nominal).
1 yoke = ¼ sulung = 40 to 52 acres (nominal).
1 virgate = ¼ yoke = 10 to 13 acres (nominal).
1 ferling = 1 virgate.
1 ‘Yard’ = 1 virgate.
1 ‘Foot’ = 1/16 virgate = c ¾ acre.

Rent days for quarterly payment.
Easter Day: between 22nd March and 25th April.
Nativity of St. John the Baptist: 24th June.
St. Michael the Archangel (Michaelmas) 29th September.
Christmas Day “5th December.
Free holders (Gavel men) paid at mid-Lent (4th Sunday of Lent, between 1st March and 4th April).

General feudal duties & customs-in alphabetical order.
Assart = the clearing of woodland.
Averagium = the carriage of goods by pack horse.
Averman = tenant liable to undertake Averagium.

Benerth = boon ploughing. One acre of demesne land had to be ploughed for every plough team held by the lords tenants and a further acre ploughed could be required in years when the ground could not be prepared in time.
Berc(h)aria = a sheep run.
Borg(h):= a Kentish term for a tithing, which was ten families bound to the King for each others goods behaviour. An ancient administrative unit of ten households living close together, often co-tenants on a manor.
It could also mean a hamlet or township.
Borow= see Borg(h).
Burg(h) yard = the court yard of a manor house.

Baron= a usually annual court to resolve small civil disputes consisting of the free-holders of a manor under the chairman ship of the manorial steward. The manorial court  dealt with the transfer of copyhold landupon inheritance or sale,  determined the customs of the manor, and enforced payment of services which were due to the lord. It was normally held every three weeks.
Leet = the manorial court which dealt with petty law and order and administered communal agriculture. By the late Middle Ages the court leet and the view of frankenpledge were viewed as alternative names for the same jurisdiction.
Manorial = every lord of the manor had the right to hold a court for his tenants, whether or not free holders attended depended on local practise. The courts, consisting of twelve homagers, were presided over by the lords steward. After Manorial juries selected from a manors chief tenants, who’s first duty was to deal with the lords financial interests within the manor, were sworn in they would appoint manorial officers, such as the constable, judge individuals pleas, and lay fixed penalties, or pains, on categories of petty offences. Neither the lord or his steward imposed decisions, this was done by the jury. By early modern times most manorial courts had either declined or disappeared, a few still survive, mainly to supervise remaining common land.

Cotland=inferior type of land tenure, usually in wood land, some rights such as grazing attached.
Cottage= a dwelling, originally occupied by a yeoman, small-holder or trades-man and of a fairly substantial nature. An Act of 1559 insisted a cottage had at least four acres of land attached. It later came to mean a small, low status dwelling, usually occupied by the rural poor.

Demesne = the land worked directly by the lord or holder of the manor and not tenanted and later called in-hand land.

Foot-averagium = the service of carrying goods, messages or other documents by foot.
Forstall = Kent dialect; a piece of land in front of a building , usually a farm or manor house. E.g. A small green.
Freeland = land free of customary manorial dues and services. Used principally of knights fees.
Franchise=the most menial tenancy, was granted from the lord’s demesne subject to certain conditions usually menial labour in return for food.
Frankenpledge = In Anglo-Saxon society a mans kindred were responsible for any offences he committed. The laws of Athelstan (924-940), Edgar (959-975) and Canute (1016-35) systemise the notion of collective responsibility by requiring every man to have a borh or surety. Frankenpledge had fully evolved by William I. Time, in the north it was known as tenmannetalle. Every freeman had to enrole in a group of ten (tithing) who were then bound to produce any of their number wanted by the law, for example, to give evidence or pay penalty. Twice yearly the Sheriff held a ‘view to frankenpledge’ in the Hundred court to ensure men were enrolled. View rights were sometimes given to individual lords or boroughs.
Court leets were used where lords enjoyed the rights of ‘soc and sac,’ which were rights enjoyed by the lords who held estates where jurisdiction was in private hands. These courts were independent of the Hundred courts but not the Shire courts.

Gavelerth = the requirement of Gavelmen to plough, sow and harrow land for the lord of the Manor, in the case of Nonnington in the 13th and 14th centuries the Archbishop of Canterbury, half an acre of his demesne land for every 100 acres they held.
Gavelkind = the principle freehold land tenure in Kent existing into the early 20th century. The custom of inheritance insisting on equal division of property amongst male , and in the absence of male heirs, female heirs. Led to the fragmentation of land holdings.
Gavel land = land held by payment of gavel rent, usually 1d per acre, usually little by way of service.
Gavelmen = free holders of land under Gavelkind.

Knight’s fee = After the Norman Conquest all land was held from the King, ‘the Lord Paramount’, either by ‘tenants-in-chief’, the barons,  and their sub-tenants. In return these land holders were bound to provide  certain services, one of which was to provide a specified number of knights to the king for annual military service.
To fulfil this obligation the barons divided their land into knight’s fees with each fee being held from the baron in return for an obligation of annual military service, as well as other payments and services. The amount of land making up a  knight’s fee varied and was dependent on the location and type of land held. The richer the land, the smaller the fee.
A knight’s fee was a fiscal unit of land value held by a knight from an over-lord in return for specified military service, usually forty days a year.  In theory a knights fee was a fief which provided sufficient revenue to equip and support one knight and was approximately twelve hides or 1500 acres, although the terms applies more to the revenue a fief can generate than its size; it required about thirty marks (£20) per year to support a knight.

Often an early knight’s fee was created by the process of subinfeudation, the division of the initial grant of land by the King, in to two or more smaller fees, which in their turn could be divided into smaller units by the over-lord or the holder of the fee. This meant that a knight holding a fee could create his own feudal retainer who would pledge fealty to him rather than to the overlord. This type of holding was known as a sub-fee.

The practice of sub-division by over-lords was outlawed by the statute of “Quia Emptores” in 1290, but sub-division through inheritance by the daughters of a fee holder in the absence of a sole male heir continued. Each heiress would inherit a moiety or part of the fee, three heiresses would therefore inherit a one third moiety. If each heiress in turn had two daughters, then they would in turn inherit one half of a one third moiety, equal to a one sixth share. Over the years it became common for a knight’s fee to have several co-owners or parceners either through inheritance, gift or sale.

Inhand = see demesne.
Inland = a dependant tenure, so named because the earlier holdings of this type were clustered closely around the arable demesne.
Inland men = inland tenants.

Messuage=originally a portion of land intended to be occupied or actually occupied, as a site for a dwelling house and its appurtainences, originally of a substantial size and occupied by a yeoman or small-holder as either a free-holder or lease-holder. In modern legal language, a dwelling house and its out buildings and cartilages and the adjacent land assigned to its use.

Pethamlode = the delivery of 20 or so loads wood yearly to the lord. Applied to heavily wooded areas. Locally this would have been the heavily wooded areas on the fringe of Wingham manor, Curleswood, (Ratling), Oxenden, Womenswold and Woollege, all heavily wooded in the 13th and 14th centuries. The loads had to be delivered to specified places and were usually for fencing or building purposes.

Seam = a measure of capacity, variable depending on the type of product. Statutorily defined as ‘a good horse load’. For corn and salt it equalled 8 bushels. For faggots, then used for fuel, were fixed at rates varying from manor to manor.
Sharn wattle = a large cattle wattle approx. 9’ x 5 ½’ in dimension. There were few permanent hedges in medieval Kent, fields were divided by temporary fences made from stakes with lathes woven between or by movable wattles. These temporary fences were taken down after the harvest to allow livestock to wander freely over the stubble.
Shireland = an elevated form of gavelkind tenure carrying special representational duties, i.e. At shire courts and gave a status verging on that of knight’s fees.
Shireman = shireland tenant.
Suit of court = a tenants duty to attend the lord of the Manors court.

Telework = the service owed for ploughing.
Tenement= originally any rented property. The buildings of yeoman and husbandmen (tenant small-holders), smaller than a farm, but larger than a cottagers property.
Tithes= originally a tax of a tenth of all produce payable in kind to Church. After the Reformation some tithes were sold by the Crown to individuals. Tithes were generally defunct by the mid-nineteenth century but were not finally abolished until 1936.
Tithing = a medieval system whereby groups of ten households were responsible to the court leet for the good conduct of its members. (see frankenpledge).
Tithingman = a tithings elected representative responsible for presenting to the manor court leet the misdemeanours of a tithings members and families.

Vill = usually the main settlement in the parish. A document of 1498 refers to ‘the villata of Essole within the liberty of the manor of St. Alban’. This would appear to indicate that at this time Easole Street near St. Alban’s Court was the main settled area of Nonnington parish.

Glossary from The Kilwardby Survey 1273-74.

Amercement: money-fine, levied in the manor or hundred court, for a misdemeanour.

Assise of bread/ale: jurisdiction over the price and quality of bread and ale.

Barton: a distinct geographical part of a manor or town.

Benerthe: a ploughing service, voluntary in name but in practice routinely exacted.

Boon-work: normally ploughing and harvest work, required of tenants at busiest times of farming year; rewarded by payments in kind i.e. food and ale.

Clove: unit of weight measurement – of wool or cheese 7 or 8 lbs; of nails, unknown.

Collectorate: a sub-division of a large manor, being a grouping of outlying portions of the manor’s lands, administered by a local bailiff.

Corrody: the right to receive an agreed quantity of victuals, usually for life; a lump sum was often paid by the beneficiary when the agreement was made.

Counter-tallier: official checking yields of the harvest.

Dry boon-work: where no ale is provided.

Ell: unit of measurement of fabrics – equivalent to 45 inches.

Forinsec: expenses outside the manor (e.g. the monies delivered to Sir Thomas, the Treasurer).

Gavelbord: due, found mostly in the Weald, for occupiers of dens to supply the lord with a prescribed number of boards of specific dimensions.

Gavelherth: standard ploughing service owed by tenants.

Gavelsester: rent paid in ale.

Gavelswine: fee paid in kind for pannaging pigs (letting them feed in autumn in the lord’s wood land on acorns ect.): customarily, a levy of a tenth on those sent into the dens (woodland pig pasture).

Gerserthe: extra ploughing service exacted for entry of tenants’ animals onto lord’s demesne in the ‘open’ season between harvest and winter ploughing.

Herbage: payment due from tenants for their animals grazing on the lord’s pasture, parks, woods.

Heriot, Old English: heregeat (“war-gear”), originally a death-duty in late Anglo-Saxon England,  at death, a nobleman provided to his king a given set of military equipment, often including horses, swords, shields, spears and helmets. It later developed into a kind of tenurial  relief due from villeins. By the 13th century the payment was made either in money or in kind by handing over the best beast or chattel of the tenant.

Hogget: two-year old sheep.

Honigavel: land paying rent of honey, or of money in commutation of this.

Hope: enclosed marshland.

Housbot: payment for taking lord’s timber for repairs to buildings.

Inland: dependent tenure, so-called because holdings of this type generally cluster around the lord’s arable demesnes.

Lawday: the occasion twice a year when the view of frankpledge was held and minor crimes dealt with.

Lefgavel: payment by occupier of a den for right to plough during pannage season.

Livery: allowance of food, normally in the form of grain in this Survey, made by lord to servant.

Maslin: mixed grain, often wheat and rye.

Medescot: payment made in commutation of mowing services.

Mortuary: a payment to the Church at death, usually the second bestbeast.

Murrain: disease(s) of all types which affected animals.

Palm barley: Kentish name for spring-sown barley

Pinfold: pound, where stray animals held.

Pottage: a porridge-like mixture, usually of cereals and vegetables.

Reliefs: payment on succession to land (mainly tenures by military service).

Saucery: room(s) where sauces were made and stored.

Scots: payments.

Seam: measure of capacity, for grains and salt reckoned at eight bushels equivalent.

Seisin: possession, usually of land.

Serjeant: lesser official manorial official, junior to bailiff.

Stallage: fee paid for stall at market or fair.

Steer: young male ox or a castrated bullock.

Telwood: firewood

View of frankpledge: the occasion for checking that all males over 12 were members of a tithing.

Vill: the main settlement of a parish.

Virgate: linear measure, 20 ft.

Wether: castrated ram

Wodelode: service of carrying loads of firewood from demesne woods to lord’s curia.

Woolfell: sheepskin with wool still attached.

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