Bibliography: very concise


These texts have been selected because they contain intrinsically interesting cases. Later this year (1997) should appear the second Selden Society volume of select pleas in manorial courts, edited by L.R. Poos and L. Bonfield, relating to 'family law'.

Development of manorial and franchisal courts

The development of written court rolls

Reasons for written records

Smith and Razi, but more particularly the former, further consider that there was a constant impact of the common law particularly on land transactions, such that the Edwardian Statutes, for example De Donis Condicionalibus of Westminster II (1285) and Quia Emptores Terrarum of 1290, led to the proliferation of entails (by the former statute) and changes in diplomatic (by the latter).

Some contested areas

Jurisdictional arrangements


What was a liberty or franchise? A liberty or franchise basically consisted of regalian rights which had been devolved into private hands. Such liberties might involve some degree of immunity from royal officials -- sheriffs and hundred bailiffs -- through the principle of non intromittas, excluding these officials. The officials could thus only deliver writs to the franchisal officers and receive the return of the writ. Whilst some franchises extended to criminal jurisdiction -- for felonies (such as the liberty of the Bishop of Ely), such higher private jurisdiction was declining by the late fourteenth century. The principle franchises thus comprised lower matters such as the administration of the assizes of bread and ale, battery, and the raising of the hue and cry, with, in addition, the organisation of the view of frankpledge, the collective system of security by which all males over twelve had to be in a tithing for collective responsibility. These matters were, in public hands, hundredal responsibilities, so that some of the jurisdiction of the hundred had been passed into seignorial hands. The hundred business was technically to be administered by the lord at the view of frankpledge courts to be held twice a year, Hockday (second Tuesday after Easter) and Michaelmas or Martinmas, by contrast with the lord's manorial courts which were often held every three weeks. Where the business was still a public responsibility, the sheriff passed through the hundreds twice a year, the sheriff's tourn. Consequently, some franchisal courts in private hands, such as those of Glastonbury Abbey, were described as the tourn. One effect of this dual responsibility on some estates was to reduce the frequency (ostensibly) of manorial courts, for manorial business only survives on the same rolls as the franchisal courts, that is twice a year, as on manors of Glastonbury Abbey and Ramsey Abbey. These twice-yearly records begin with the franchisal business of the tourn or view of frankpledge followed by the business of the hallmoot or manorial court. But surely the peasants must have had their personal actions judged more frequently than twice a year?

Court baron/customary/hallmootView of frankpledge, leet, tourn, great court
1290 Statute of Quo Warranto
every three weeks theoretically -- de tribus septimanis in tres septimanastwice a year -- Hockday and Michaelmas/Martinmas
Land -- surrender and admission -- customary tenuretithing -- frankpledge -- males over 12
'criminal' misdemeanours -- battery, hue and cry, in some franchises felonious crimes but dying out by late 14th cent (the King's peace)
Personal actions:Regulatory -- assize of bread; assize of ale -- but effectively a licensing system
debt; detinue; trespass; covenant; defamation (only at this level -- otherwise in ecclesiastical courts -- manorial courts the only exception at this time to ecclesiastical courts' control over defamation)
40s jurisdictional limit on personal actions -- more particularly for debt than trespass -- removal to royal courts -- except in case of manorial courts on ancient demesne which retained cognisance of such cases
Lordship over the unfree:
merchet; chevage; leyrwite; entry fines
Election of manorial officials:
reeve; reapreeve; affeerors (taxatores or afferatores); sometimes the famuli elected

Change in diplomatic

Before the 1260s, the diplomatic for transferring customary tenures or unfree land was inchoate, but the phrase sibi et heredibus suis was insinuated into the language of transfers. Theoretically, such a clause was an implied manumission since only free tenures were hereditary. To obviate this problem, it has been suggested, lords introduced a more standardised terminology for these transfers, the surrender and admission and the surrender ad opus.


transgressiotrespass (personal action)
detenciodetinue (personal action) (technically of chattels)
convencio covenant, agreement (personal action)
debitumdebt (personal action) (technically of cash)
placitum, loquelaplea, suit, action (e.g. placitum debiti -- plea of debt)
queriturs/he impleads
curia tentacourt held
de communifrom the common suit
in misericordiain mercy (fined)
plegiuspledge (surety by a person)
optulit ses/he came forward
reddidit sursumsurrendered (of land) (to the lord)
ad opusto the use of
attachiareto secure (a defendant)
respondereto reply, answer
pro licencia concordandifor licence to agree, compromise
narraciocount, pleading of the case (ME talu)
non prosecutus estdidn't proceed (i.e. a non-suit)
essoniaessoin (legitimate excuse for non-appearance)
distringereto distrain -- impound chattels
districtus ests/he was distrained
distringitur s/he is to be distrained
preceptum estit is ordered
homagiumhomage -- the male jurors of the court
vadiavit legemwaged his/her law (compurgation -- oath-helpers)
decennarius, capitalis plegiustithing man (head of a tithing)
decenna tithing
secta (Curie)suit of court

This is the basic vocabulary, but more will be encountered along the way.

Some issues

These are just some brief notes about the issues surrounding court rolls or the way in which court rolls are or have been exploited.