A Glossary of some more Terms used in Old Documents 


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AFFORCIAMENTUM - The coercive powers of a court.

AMERCIAMENTA - Amercements, fines imposed by manorial courts

APPROPRIATION - The grant by a Bishop or the Pope of a Rectory to an ecclesiastical body "In proprios usus" (in perpetuity), the spiritual duties being assigned to a resident Vicar.



BAILIFF - Before the commutation of service rents, it was the duty of the bailiff to supervise the work of the villein tenants upon the lord's demesne. In the 17th century he seems to have been a go-between for the steward and the homage. The office was one, which might be held for a period of years.

BALK/BAULK - A strip of ground left unploughed as a boundary line between two ploughed portions.

BEDEL - The town crier, Summoner and Messenger of the Manor.

BEDRISES - Boon Days - (Days reaping the lord's harvest)

BEDELING - The office of the Bedel

BOVATE - An Oxgang or as much land as one Ox could plough in one year. An 1/8 of a carucate or plough-land, varying in amount from 10 to 18 acres according to the system of tillage.

BRECHIA - A strip of ground, size not named. Note 1

BURLEYMAN/BYRLAWMAN - An officer appointed at a court leet for various local duties. Note 14

BUTT - A ridge when it is short of its full length owing to the irregular shape of the boundary of the field. Note 15



CARCUCATE - A measure of land, varying with the nature of the soil etc; being as much as could be tilled with one plough in a year. The team would consist of up to 8 oxen. (A Ploughland)

COLUMPRIA - A claim or challenge

CAMPO - A common field

CAUSE - A causeway.

CLERK - Used, not as now, for all ranks of the clergy, but only for the lowest.

COMMENDA - The committal of a vacant church or office to temporary care for a period of 6 months.

CONSTABLE - Also the his Deputy; usually two were called Thirdboroughs until 1754 at Loxton in Somerset. Rarely held office for more than one year.

COTSETLE - A class of tenants with defined rights and liabilities, representing the coterii, cotterells, or cotsets of Domesday.

COURT-BARON - The assembly of the freehold tenants of a manor under the presidency of the lord or his steward.   Note 16

COURT-LEET - A Court of record held periodically in a hundred, lordship or manor, before the lord or his steward, and attended by the residents of the district. It had jurisdiction over petty offences and performed a number of administration functions. Note 17

CROFT - A piece of enclosed ground, used for tillage or pasture; in most localities a small piece of arable land adjacent to a house.

CURIA - The Manor Court-House, still called in Somerset the Court. Sometimes used of other houses.

CURTILLAGIUM; CURTILLUM - The garden or yard surrounding a dwelling.



DEFENSO, IN - Open ground enclosed for a season.

de CAMERA; de SCRINIP; de ARCHIVIS - Private finds, on which the Bishop frequently made changes in favour of retainers, ceasing with his own life.

(How these are distinguished from one another is not known)

DISSEISN - When a man invades the possession of another, and by force or surprise, turns him out of the occupation of his lands. Note 22

DOCINNA - Misspelling of DECENNA , a tithing (Tything).

DOLE - A share or small portion.

DOMINICUM - The portion of a manor reserved for the lord's use, stocked by him and cultivated by his free and bond tenants under the reeve. Note 2

DROVA; DRIVIA; DROWA - A drove or road for driving cattle to and from the moor.

DUELLUM - Wages of battle, a legal process for trial of land claims.

DYKING - (Of the Well) Lining it with stone, now called in Wessex "steaning".

DYKING - (Of the Yeo) Ditching, making good the banks.



ESCAETA - A feudal forfeiture, due to the mesne or chief lord of a fee. Note 3

ESCAMBIUIM - Any kind of exchange.

ESSOIN - The allegation of an excuse for non-appearance in court at the appointed time; the excuse itself.

EXCLUSAE - Sluices



FALLOW - Ground that is well ploughed and harrowed, but left uncropped for a whole year or more.

FEODUM - Used very widely for any kind of office held under settled conditions of duty and emolument.

FERDELLUS; FERLINGUS - A furlong square and 1/4 Virgate or 10 acres Glaston measure Note 4

FLAKS - Hurdles for scaffolding, also split rods for making hurdles. Note 10

FLAT[T] - One of the larger portions into which the common field was divided

FORDELLUS - Same area "Largier et anglier quam ferdellus"

FRANKPLEDGE - The system by which every member of a tithing was answerable form the good conduct of or the damage done by, any one of the other members. Note 18

FURLONG - There are four interpretations of this measure of land Note 19



GATE (GATE RIGHTS) - A right to a run or pasturage for a cow or horse etc; on a common field, representing a share of the joint ownership of the field; on private ground. (Let for an annual rent)

GORE-ACRE; GORE-BUTT - A tapering strip of land into which the corners are divided.

GUERDIA - Wardship



HEADLAND - A Strip of land in a ploughed field, left for convenience in  turning the plough at the end of the furrows or near the border. In old times used as a boundary. The headland itself was ploughed lengthways across the lands' ends when the rest of the field was finished.

HELE - To cover (Helyer a Tiler)

HERIOT - The lord's right to the best chattel or beast of a deceased tenant.

HOBBLER - The Wessex term for a dock worker.

HOGGLER - The lowest class of Labourer including miners, in Wessex. Note11

HOMAGE - A body of persons owing allegiances. The body of tenants attending a manorial court.

HUCBOTE - Tenants right to cut wood for the repair of his house.

HUNDREDMAN - The Constable of the Hundred, who served the writs of the court.

HUNDREDUM - The court of the Hundred. Note 5



ING - One of the strips into which a cornfield or a pasture field that hs been ploughed, is divided by water furrows.

INLAND - The Demesne Lands.




LAK; LAKE - Always running water, as in Somerset.



MAINPORT - A small tribute (commonly loaves of bread) which in some places the parishioners pay to the rector of their church, in recompense for certain tithes.

MED-GAVEL - Money-rent paid for a meadow.

MERESTONE - A boundary; also an objecting indicety, a boundary, a landmark.

MESSUAGE - A dwelling-house with the adjacent buildings and curtilage.

MISERICORDIA - A Manor Court term for one who threw himself on the mercy of the court and awaited his penalty.

MAR-GAVEL - Money-rent paid for a moor. (An enclosed piece of a moor)

MODUS - A money payment in lieu of tithe. In full "Modus Decimandi"

MOTURA - There are three meanings. Note 6



NEIF - One born in a state of bondage or serfdom.



OPERARIUAS - Each tenant so-called and his task days on manorial work.

OPERARI QUALIBET ESDOMADA iii DIES - He does farm work on 3 days in the week

ORDINATIO - An authoritative settlement. (The apportionment of a Vicar's endowment)

OXGANG - The eighth part of the carucate or ploughland. Varied from 10 to 18 acres or more widely, according to the system of tillage Etc; a Bovate.


PAINE - A By-law.

PAROCHIANUS - Any member of a diocese; used in the earlier sense of "parochia" when imported by Archbishop Theodore to express the area of a Bishop's oversight.

PINDER - An officer of the manor, having the duty of impounding stray beasts. Note 20

PINFOLD - A place for confining stray or distrained cattle, horses, sheep etc; a pound.

PORTIONIST - The incumbent of one moiety of a benefice, like Backwell, where the advowson like the manor, had been parted by co-heiresses, but with only one church.

POSSESSIONER - A pluralist or other person found in questionable possession of a benefice and challenged to show title; sometimes stamped as detested". (SRS 1, Drokenford)

POTERIA - A Pottery; Is also a Hamlet in Longbridge Deverill so-called.

POTURA (DOMINI) - Drinking at the lord's cost - a tenant's right.

PREBENDA - Stated allowance of fodder to certain officers of the Abbey, thence called Prebendarii.

PRATO DOMINI IN - On the demesne.



QUIETUM CLAMARE - To quit the claim or declare a man quit.

QUIETUS - Quit of any claim.

QUIETUS ERIT de HANDAYNE - He will be let off one day's work.



RELEVUS - Chattels or sums paid to a lord on a tenant's entry into possession.

RIDGE; RIGG - A raised or rounded strip of arable land, usually one of a series (with intermediate opne furrows) into which a field is divided by ploughing in a special manner.


SCUTAGIUM - Money-payment to the crown in lieu of Knight service done in person.

SELION - A portion of land of intermediate area comprising a ridge or narrow strip lying between 2 furrows in dividing an open field.

SERGENTERIA - Sergentry. A tenure of land or office by virtue of some honourable service. Note 7

SHOT[T] - A division of land.

SIKE - A gully; a dip or hollow. A stretch of meadow

STITCH - A strip of ploughman land between 2 furrows.

STRAPPER; STROPPER; STRIPPER - A cow that yields but little milk. A day cow.

(The teat has to be drawn between the fingers rather than be squeezed.)



TENEMENT - Everything that may be held, provided it be of a permanent nature - lands, houses, an advowson, a franchise or peerage Etc;

THIRDBOROUGH - Probably a middle English corruption of FRIDBORGH. The  petty constable of a township or manor.

TITHING-MAN; THETHINGA - The Tythingman or Constable of the Tything.

TOFT - Originally a homestead. The site of a house and its out buildings. A house site. Note 21

TOLNETUM - The customary toll of a manor. Note 8



VIRGATE - An early English land measure, varying greatly in extent, but in many cases averaging 30 acres.



WALLUM - A Sea wall. Note 9

WONG; WOUNG - A piece of meadow land. A portion of unenclosed land under the open-fields system.

WALSHE - Foreign wainscot. Welsh in Wessex, as in German. 


YEO - The main drain of a level in Wessex Note 12

YERE - A sluice gate. Note 13




These terms have been found in various genealogical documents, mostly from the West Country of the United Kingdom.

Their meanings were looked up from various references and recorded - this is a copy of those records.


Note 1---In Worcester Priory Report the Breca equaled 1/2 a Virgate.

Note 2---In the 13th century it began to dwindle through grants and leases and perhaps by the decay of serf labour.

Note 3---Used in a secondary sense as a perquisite.

Note 4---The word 'glaston - Glastonbury?' may not be the correct spelling as the writing was unclear.

Note 5---The chief courts were held twice a year. At Hockday a fortnight after Easter and Martinmas 11th November

Note 6---1. The lord's right to make his tenants grind at the manor mill.

               2. The fee payable by the tenant for grinding.

               3. The corn carried to the mill and the grist brought back.

Note 7---For example - Guarding the Island of Glaston in war.

Note 8---Extracted from the Somerset Record Society 5, pp.246/57

Note 9---The writer states: -"At Esthay, Butleigh, Sturminster Newton)

Note 10--Known also as 'Wattling' and used for preserving sea-walls.

Note 11--There existed at one time a "Hoggler's Guild".

Note 12--In the case of the rivers Ivel and Wring, the term has superseded the ancient river name.

Note 13--See in Ordnance Survey Map of Wessex, [Hook Year] -[New Yar], on the Yeo. Perhaps is a Wessex pronunciation of "Weir", dropping the 'W'.

Note 14--This was the forerunner of today's council system covering the framing and execution of by-laws, looking after nuisances, administration of justice in miner matters, arbitration in agricultural disputes etc;

Note 15--The division of a furlong into lands for ploughing necessitated sometimes, cutting off an odd bit in which the land set out was very short. Commonly known as "Butts".

Note 16--In modern times, lawyers have distinguished between the Court-Baron, which was the Court of the freehold tenants and the customary Court, which was the Court for the copy-hold tenants. The only history of this distinction is obscure.

Note 17--From "Table Talk" by Selden 1654 (Arb) 42 - "Court-Leet, where they have power to make by-laws, as they call them; as that a man shall put so many Cows or Sheep on The common"

Note 18--View of Frankpledge. A court held periodically for the protection of the members of a tithing.

Note 19

1. Originally the length of the furrow in the common filed, which was theoretically regarded as a square containing 10 acres.

2. An area of land - "A furlong each way containing 10 acres"

3. The headline of a common field

4. An indefinite division of an unenclosed field.

Note 20--Named and sworn nearly every year, but might hold office for a term of years upon confirmation of his appointment by each succeeding Court.

Note 21--Often the expression "Toft & Croft", denoting then whole holding, consisted of the homestead and attached piece of arable land. A Toft was also "A house which carried grazing rights upon the wastes of the manor"

Note 22--This is termed a "Disseisin", being a derivation of the actual SEESEIN or corporal freehold of the lands, which the tenant before engaged.



Page Last Updated: - 05/04/2016