Custom of the Manor – A Glossary: Homage

In common modern usage paying homage is to respectfully acknowledge superiority of someone or something. In the context of the manor, homage has more specific meanings. To do or make homage was a formal and public acknowledgement of the feudal relationship of a vassal (tenant) with the lord of the manor, a form of allegiance. Such an allegiance was one of the terms under which a tenant may hold land from his lord. The service of homage could only be made by tenants with an estate greater than for life and only be made directly to the lord himself.

Coke describes the oath taking ceremony. The unarmed and unguarded, bare headed tenant kneels on both knees and holds both hands up to the lord (symbolic of reverence and subjection). The lord incloses the tenant’s hands between his own (symbolic of protection and defense) while the tenant says:

” I become your man from this day forward of life and limb, and of earthly worship, and unto you shall be true and faithful, and bear you faith for the tenements that I claim to hold of you, saving the faith that I owe unto our sovereign lord the king”

Churchmen and unattached women (femme sole, single women or widows) could not become the lord’s man or woman, because they had commitments to God or a potential future husband. So they did an partial homage, swearing to be true and faithful only.

Homage ceremony

Homage ceremony (Wikimedia commons)

What did becoming the lord’s man entail? In the Court Baron or Customary Court, the lord’s men or homage, which acted as judges or jury, depending on the type of case. Duties included attendance at the court, reporting events affecting property rights (e.g. deaths of tenants), reporting breaches of the lord’s rights (e.g. encroachment of common land) and resolving disputes between tenants.

The legal Latin term for homage is homagium or humagium.


© Sue Adams 2015

Custom of the Manor – A Glossary: Court Baron

A court baron was the principal civil court that was attached to every manorial estate.  The jurisdiction of the manor was said to exist only if the manor had such a court.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a court baron as an assembly of the freehold tenants of the manor presided over by the lord or his steward, and distinguishes it from the customary court, the court of copyhold tenants.

The Victoria County History makes no distinction between courts baron and customary, implying all tenants attended the same court.

Which is right?  A practical treatise on copyhold tenure provides helpful clarification, based on practices around 1800.  Although technically separate courts, in practice both were commonly held together and the proceedings entered in the same court rolls.  In a court baron, the freehold tenants acted as judges and jury, with the steward providing guidance.  In the customary court, the lord or steward served as judge.  As a  private court it was not bound by the Common Law, so cases were decided on the equity (fairness) of the case, or the local custom or rules.

Matters that the court baron or customary court dealt with were originally those concerned with the relationship between the lord and the manor’s tenants, as well as civil disputes between tenants.  These included the regulation of the manor’s customs, land tenure and use (e.g. agricultural practices), and enforcement of payment of dues and services owed by the tenants to the lord.  Over time the ancient powers of the court were eroded by other courts and institutions.  By the early 1700s only the functions relating to land tenure and transfer remained.  The 1922 Law of Property abolished manorial land tenure, so the last functions of the court baron ceased when it became law in 1926.

The legal Latin term for a court baron is curia baronis or curia parva.

© Sue Adams 2014

The Wife’s Whisper – Indirect Evidence from the Manorial Court

This week’s entry in the 50 Marriage Mondays series features my 7x great grand-parents, the parents of Mary Pearman who featured in Women in the Property Records of Clent Manor.  Their marriage is recorded in the parish register:

Bride: Sara Waldren
Groom: Nicholas Pearman
Date: 16 July 1679
Location: Clent

Nicholas Pearman owned copyhold land in Clent, which was regulated by the manorial Court Baron.  Clent’s manorial court records three collections of land parcels, called a copy, numbered 3, 5 and 35, by the steward (the main court official)[1].

The Latin Court Record

On 21 October 1718, Nicholas transferred copy no 5 to John Raybold junior and copy no 3 to John Wight senior[2].  A challenge of reading manorial court record before 1733 is that they are in Latin.  Legal Latin is often heavily abbreviated.  In the example below I have denoted expanded abbreviations by enclosing them in <>.  The entry for 1718 transfer of copy no 5 commences:

Ad hanc Cur<iam> vener<unt> Nicolaus Pearman e<t> Ric<ard>us Pearman filium e<t> hered<em> apparen<tis> p<re>d<ictum> Nicholai in propriis p<er>sonis suis e<t> sursum reddider<unt> in manus D<omi>ni pr<e>d<icte> p<er> sene<sca>ll<u>m suum pr<e>d<itus> sec<undu>m consuetud<inem> man<er>ii pr<e>d<icte>  Totum illud messuagium sive tenementum in quo Joh<ann>es Raybold Jun nunc inhabitat

Which translates as:

To this Court came Nicholas Pearman and Richard Pearman, son and heir apparent of the aforesaid Nicholas, in their own persons, and they gave up [surrendered] into the hands of the Lord aforesaid by his steward aforesaid according to the custom of the manor aforesaid:  All those messuage or tenement where John Raybold now dwells in

The entry goes on to describe the property (a house, garden, workshop, one and a half acres of land called Ashfurlong) and its location in relation to properties owned or occupied by neighbours Joseph and Samuel Penn, Benjamin Tristram, John Jones, Samuel Welch, Richard Cox, and mentions the Bell Inn and Hollow Cross.  Working out exactly where it was is a whole other problem to be investigated another time.  Finally, the entry includes the legal transfer of ownership to John Raybold.

The Wife Whispers

Where is Nicholas’ wife Sarah?  Why is Nicholas’ son, Richard, involved?

The custom (i.e. law) of Clent manor dictated that property was inherited according to the ‘Rules of Descent of Common Law’ i.e. the eldest son or other male heir, and wives were entitled to a third of the estate as her ‘Customary Dower’.  What does this record tell us about family relationships?

As Richard was the son and heir apparent, we know that he was:

  • legitimate – Nicholas was married to his mother
  • the eldest surviving son
  • an adult (over 21) – he was acting in his own right

So, Nicholas at one time had a wife, with whom he had a son, Richard, born in 1697 or earlier.  At the time of the 1718 transaction only Richard was still alive to give up his rights to the property so it could be transferred.  We have indirect evidence of a marriage that occurred before Richard’s birth, even though Sarah whispers nameless from the grave.

The Son’s Inheritance

When Nicholas died in 1724, his remaining land, copy no 35, was inherited by his heir[3].  You are thinking that should be Richard, aren’t you?  However, the court records that Richard had died, so the property he would have inherited passed to the next male heir, his brother John.  What does this tell us about Richard?  It tells us he had no surviving wife or son, but not whether he was widowed or had daughters.

The son-in-law

This property transfer is very much a family affair.  John Raybold married Mary Pearman, daughter of Nicholas and Sarah, in 1714.  Note that the house (messauge or tenement) described in the 1718 copy no 5 transfer was already occupied by John Raybold.  I would not be surprised if John Wight, the other property recipient also turns out to be a relative.

Does the information from the property records agree with the parish registers[4]?

Year Event
1679 Nicholas Pearman and Sarah Waldron were married July 16
1680 Richard the son of Nicholas Perman and Sara his wife was baptised May 31
1683 John the son of Nich. Pearman and Sara his wife was Bapt. Sept. 30
1694 Mary daughter of Nich. Pearman and Sara his wife bapt. June 10
1710 Ri: Pearman a child bur. May 21
1713 Sara wife of Nich. Pearman bur’d Jul 19
1714 John Raybould and Mary Pearman were married Feb. 12
21 Oct 1718 Nicholas Pearman & son Richard transferred property to John Raybold junr and John Wight sen
1721 Richard Pearman was buried May the 8th
1724 Nicolas Pearman was buried Apr 9th
5 Jun 1724 Nicholas Pearman died, his remaining property passed to son John

Fits like a glove!  Putting it all together, I conclude:

Nicholas Pearman property relationships

Nicholas Pearman property relationships

© Sue Adams 2013

[1] Manor of Clent, Abstracts of admissions and surrenders (1716 – 1927), pp. 3, 5, 35; 705:550/5085/1; Marcy, Hemingway and Son, Bewdley; Worcestershire County Records Office, Worcester.

[2] Manor of Clent, Court rolls. (1716 – 1752), pp. 53-54 [penned], session 21 October 1718, cases 2 & 3; 705:550/5085/2; Marcy, Hemingway and Son, Bewdley; Worcestershire County Records Office, Worcester.

[3] Manor of Clent, Court rolls. (1716 – 1752), session 5 June 1724, cases 1 & 2; 705:550/5085/2; Marcy, Hemingway and Son, Bewdley; Worcestershire County Records Office, Worcester.

[4] Church of England. Clent Parish Register 1636-1729. microfilm. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, USA. Film no 1042160, items no 7 & 8.