Part 2 out of 7
several tenures. For instance, A, holding by barons's service of
the King, may enfeoff B, a church, to hold of him on the terms
of praying for the souls of his ancestors, and B may enfeoff a
freeman C to hold of the church by giving it a certain
percentage of his crops every year. There were about 200 barons
who held land directly of the King. Other fighting men were the
knights, who were tenants or subtenants of a baron. Knighthood
began as a reward for valor on the field of battle by the King
or a noble. Altogether there were about 5000 fighting men
The essence of Norman feudalism was that the land remained under
the lord, whatever the vassal might do. The lord had the duty to
defend the vassals on his land. The vassal owed military service
to the lord and also the service of attending the courts of the
hundred and the shire, which were courts of the King,
administering old customary law. They were the King's courts on
the principle that a crime anywhere was a breach of the King's
This feudal bond based on occupancy of land rather than on
personal ties was uniform throughout the realm. No longer could
a man choose his lord and transfer his land with him to a new
lord. He held his land at the will of his lord, to be terminated
anytime the lord decided to do so. In later eras, tenancies would
be held for the life of the tenant, and even later, for his life
and those of his heirs.
This uniformity of land organization plus the new requirement of
every freeman to take an oath of loyalty directly to the King
that would supersede any oath to any other man gave the nation a
English villani, bordarii, cottarii, and servi on the land of the
barons were subjugated into a condition of "villeinage"
servitude and became "tied to the land" so that they could not
leave the land without their lord's permission. The villeins
formed a new bottom class as the population's percentage of
slaves declined dramatically. They held their land of their
lord, the baron. To guard against uprisings of the conquered
people, the barons used villein labor to build about a hundred
great stone castles, with moats and walls with towers around
them, at easily defensible positions such as hilltops all over
A castle could be built only with permission of the King. A
typical castle had a stone building of about four floors on a
small, steep hill. Later it also had an open area surrounded by
a stone wall with towers at the corners. Around the wall were
ditches and banks and perhaps a moat. One traveled over these via
a drawbridge let down at the gatehouse of the enclosing wall. On
either side of the gatehouse were chambers for the guards.
Arrows could be shot through slits in the enclosing walls.
Inside the enclosed area might be stables, a granary, barracks
for the soldiers, and workshops.
The castle building was entered by an outer wood staircase to the
guard room on the second floor. The first floor had a well and
was used as a storehouse and/or dungeons for prisoners. The
second floor had a two-storied great hall, with small rooms and
aisles around it within the thick walls. There was also a chapel
area on the second floor. There were small areas of the third
floor which could be used for sleeping. The floors were wood and
were reached by a spiral stone staircase in one corner of the
building. Sometimes there was a reservoir of water on an upper
level with pipes carrying the water to floors below. Each floor
had a fireplace with a slanted flue going through the wall to the
outside. There were toilets in the walls with a pit or shaft
down the exterior of the wall. The first floor had only arrow
slits in the walls, but the higher floors had small windows.
The great hall was the main room of the castle. It was used for
meals and meetings at which the lord received homages, recovered
fees, and held the view of frankpledge. At the main table, the
lord and his lady sat on chairs. Everyone else sat on benches at
trestle tables, which could be folded up, e.g. at night.
Lighting was by oil lamps or candles on stands or on wall
fixtures. The residence of the lord's family and guests was at a
screened off area at the extreme end of the hall or on a higher
floor. Chests stored garments and jewels. Iron keys and locks
were used for chests and doors. The great bed had a wooden frame
and springs made of interlaced rope or strips of leather. It was
covered with a feather mattress, sheets, quilts, fur covers, and
pillows. Drapery around the bed kept out cold drafts and
provided privacy. There was a water bowl for washing in the
morning. A chamber pot was kept under the bed for nighttime use.
Hay was used as toilet paper. The lord's personal servants slept
nearby on benches or trundle beds. The floor of the hall was
strewn with straw, on which common folk could sleep at night.
There were stools on which to sit. Cup boards (boards on which
to store cups) and chests stored spices and plate. Cooking was
done outside on an open fire, roasting on spits and boiling in
post. One-piece iron shears were available to cut cloth. Hand
held spindles were used for weaving. On the roof there were
rampart walks for sentry patrols and parapets from which to
shoot arrows or throw things at besiegers. Each tenant of the
demesne of the King where he had a castle had to perform a
certain amount of castle-guard duty for its continuing defense.
These knights performing castle- guard duty slept at their posts.
Bathing was done in a wooden tub located in the garden in the
summer and indoors near the fire in winter. The great bed and tub
for bathing were taken on trips with the lord.
Markets grew up outside castle walls. Any trade on a lord's land
was subject to "passage", a payment on goods passing through,
"stallage", a payment for setting up a stall or booth in a
market, and "pontage", a payment for taking goods across a
The Norman man was clean-shaven and wore his hair short. He wore
a long-sleeved under-tunic of linen or wool that reached to his
ankles. Over this the Norman noble wore a tunic without sleeves,
open at the sides, and fastened with a belt. Over one shoulder
was his cloak, which was fastened on the opposite shoulder by
being drawn through a ring brooch and knotted. He wore thick
cloth stockings and leather shoes. Common men wore tunics to the
knee so as not to impede them in their work. They could roll up
their stockings when working in the fields. A lady also wore a
long-sleeved linen or wool tunic fitted at the waist and laced
at the side, but full in the skirt. She wore a jeweled belt,
passed twice around her waist and knotted in front. Her hair was
often in two long braids, and her head covered with a white
round cloth held in place by a metal circlet like a small crown.
Over her tunic was a cloak fastened at the front with a cord. The
Norman knight wore an over-tunic of leather or heavy linen on
which were sewn flat rings or iron and a conical iron helmet
with nose cover. He wore a sword at his waist and a metal shield
on his back, or he wore his sword and his accompanying retainers
carried spear and shield.
Norman customs were adopted by the nation. As a whole,
Anglo-Saxon men shaved their beards and whiskers from their
faces, but they kept their custom of long hair flowing from
their heads. But a few kept their whiskers and beards in protest
of the Normans. Everyone had a permanent surname indicating
parentage, place of birth, or residence, such as Field, Pitt,
Lane, Bridge, Ford, Stone, Burn, Church, Hill, Brook, Green.
Other names came from occupations such as Shepherd, Carter,
Parker, Fowler, Hunter, Forester, Smith. Still other came from
personal characteristics such as Black, Brown, and White, Short,
Round, and Long. Some took their names from animals such as
Wolf, Fox, Lamb, Bull, Hogg, Sparrow, Crow, and Swan. Others
were called after the men they served, such as King, Bishop,
Abbot, Prior, Knight. A man's surname was passed on to his son.
The Normans washed their hands before and after meals and ate
with their fingers. Feasts were stately occasions with costly
tables and splendid apparel. There were practical jokes,
innocent frolics, and witty verbal debating with repartee.
Those few coerls whose land was not taken by a baron remained
free and held their land "in socage" and became known as
Great stone cathedrals were built in fortified towns for
William's Norman bishops, who replaced the English bishops. Most
of the existing and new monasteries functioned as training
grounds for scholars, bishops, and statesmen rather than as
retreats from the world's problems to the security of religious
observance. The number of monks grew as the best minds were
recruited into the monasteries.
William made the church subordinate to him. Bishops were elected
only subject to the King's consent. Homage was exacted from
them. William imposed knight's service on bishoprics, abbeys,
and monasteries, which was commuted to a monetary amount.
Bishops had to attend the King's court. Bishops could not leave
the realm without the King's consent. No royal tenant or royal
servant could be excommunicated, nor his lands be placed under
interdict, without the King's consent. Interdict could demand,
for instance, that the church be closed and the dead buried in
unconsecrated ground. No church rules could be made without his
agreement to their terms. No letters from the Pope could be
received without the King's permission.
Men continued to give land to the church for their souls, such as
this grant which started the town of Sandwich: "William, King of
the English, to Lanfranc the Archbishop and Hugoni de Montfort
and Richard son of Earl Gilbert and Haimo the sheriff and all the
thegns of Kent, French and English, greeting. Know ye that the
Bishop of Bayeux my brother for the love of God and for the
salvation of my soul and his own, has given to St. Trinity all
houses with their appurtances which he has at Sandwich and that
he has given what he has given by my license."
When the land was all divided out, the barons had about 3/7 of it
and the church 2/7. The King retained 2/7, including forests for
hunting, for himself and his household, on which he built many
royal castles and hundreds of manor houses throughout the
nation. He built the White Tower in London. He and his household
slept on the upper floors and there was a chapel on the second
floor and a dungeon below the first floor for prisoners. The
other castles were often built at the old fortification burhs of
Alfred. Barons and earls had castle-guard duty in them. William
was constantly moving about the land from castle to castle,
where he entertained his magnates and conducted public business,
such as deciding disputes about holding of land. Near these
castles and other of his property, he designated many areas as
royal hunting forests. Anyone who killed a deer in these forests
was mutilated, for instance by blinding. People living within
the boundaries of the designated forestland could no longer go
into nearby woods to get meat or honey, dead wood for firing, or
live wood for building. Swineherds could no longer drive pigs
into these woods to eat acorns they beat down from oak trees.
Making clearings and grazing livestock in the designated
forestland were prohibited. Most of the nation was either wooded
or bog at this time.
London was a walled town of one and two story houses made of mud,
twigs, and straw, with thatched roofs. There were churches, a
goods market, a fish market, quays on the river, and a bridge
over the river. Streets probably named by this time include
Bread Street, Milk Street, Honey Lane, Wood Street, and
Ironmonger Lane. Fairs and games were held outside the town
walls in a field called "Smithfield". The freemen were a small
percentage of London's population. There was a butchers' guild,
a pepperers' guild, a goldsmiths' guild, the guild of St.
Lazarus, which was probably a leper charity, the Pilgrims' guild,
which helped people going on pilgrimages, and four bridge
guilds, probably for keeping the wooden London Bridge in repair.
Men told the time by sundials, some of which were portable and
could be carried in one's pocket. London could defend itself,
and a ringing of the bell of St. Paul's Church could shut every
shop and fill the streets with armed horsemen and soldiers led
by a soldier port-reeve.
William did not interfere with landholding in London, but
recognized it's independence as a borough in this writ:
"William the King greets William, Bishop of London, and Gosfrith
the portreeve, and all the burgesses of London friendly. Know
that I will that you be worthy of all the laws you were worthy
of in the time of King Edward. And I will that every child shall
be his father's heir after his father's day. And I will not
suffer any man to do you wrong. God preserve you."
So London was not subjected to the Norman feudal system. It had
neither villeins nor slaves. Whenever Kings asserted authority
over it, the citizens reacted until the King "granted" a charter
reaffirming the freedoms of the city and its independence.
William's reign was a time of tentative expedients and simple
solutions. He administered by issuing writs with commands or
prohibitions. These were read aloud by the sheriffs in the
county courts and other locations. Administration was by the
personal servants of his royal household, such as the
Chancellor, steward, butler, chamberlain, and constable. The
constable was in charge of the knights of the royal household.
Under pressure from the ecclesiastical judges, William replaced
the death penalty by that of the mutilation of blinding,
chopping off hands, and castrating offenders. Castration was the
punishment for rape. But these mutilations usually led to a slow
death by gangrene.
The Normans used the Anglo-Saxon concepts of jurisdictional
powers. Thus when William confirmed "customs" to the abbot of
Ely, these were understood to include the following: 1) sac and
soke - the right to hold a court of private jurisdiction and
enjoy its profits, 2) toll - a payment in towns, markets, and
fairs for goods and chattel bought and sold, 3) team - persons
might be vouched to warranty in the court, the grant of which
made a court capable of hearing suits arising from the transfer
of land, 4) infangenthef - right of trying and executing thieves
on one's land, 4) hamsocne, 5) grithbrice - violation of the
grantees' special peace, for instance that of the sheriff, 6)
fihtwite - fine for a general breach of the peace, 7) fyrdwite -
fine for failure to appear in the fyrd [national militia].
Every shire had at least one burh, or defensible town. Kings had
appointed a royal moneyer in each to mint silver coins for local
use. On one side was the King's head in profile and on the other
side was the name of the moneyer. When a new coinage was issued,
all moneyers had to go to London to get the new dies. William's
head faced frontally on his dies, instead of the usual profile
used by former Kings.
William held and presided over his council three times a year, as
was the custom, at Easter, Christmas, and Whitsuntide. This was
an advisory council and consisted of earls, greater barons,
officers of the King's household, archbishops, and bishops. It's
functions were largely ceremonial. William's will was the motive
force which under lay all its action. When it was administering
royal justice, it was called the Royal Court. The justiciar was
the head of all legal matters and represented the King in his
absence from the realm. The Treasurer was responsible for the
collection and distribution of revenue. The Chancellor headed
the Chancery and the chapel.
Sheriffs became powerful figures as the primary agents for
enforcing royal edicts. They collected the royal taxes, executed
royal justice, and presided over and controlled the hundred and
shire courts. They also took part in the keeping of castles and
often managed the estates of the King. Most royal writs were
addressed to the sheriff and shire courts. They also led the
shire militia in time of war or rebellion.
Royal income came from customary dues, profits of coinage and of
justice, and revenues from the King's own estates. For war, a
man with five hides of land was required to furnish one
heavy-armed horseman for forty days service in a year. A threat
of a Viking invasion caused William to reinstitute the danegeld
tax. To impose this uniformly, he sent commissioners to conduct
surveys by sworn verdicts of appointed groups of local men. A
detailed survey of land holdings and the productive worth of
each was made in 1086. The English called it the "Doomsday Book"
because there was no appeal from it.
The survey revealed, for instance, that one estate had "on the
home farm five plough teams: there are also 25 villeins and 6
cotters with 14 teams among them. There is a mill worth 2s. a
year and one fishery, a church and four acres of meadow, wood
for 150 pigs and two stone quarries, each worth 2s. a year, and
two nests of hawks in the wood and 10 slaves." This estate was
deemed to be worth 480s. a year.
Laxton "had 2 carucates of land [assessed] to the geld. [There
is] land for 6 ploughs. There Walter, a man of [the lord]
Geoffrey Alselin's has 1 plough and 22 villeins and 7 bordars [a
bordar had a cottage and a small amount land in return for
supplying small provisions to his lord] having 5 ploughs and 5
serfs and 1 female serf and 40 acres of meadow. Wood [land] for
pannage [foraging by pigs] 1 league in length and half a league
in breadth. In King Edward's time it was worth 9 pounds; now [it
is worth] 6 pounds."
Ilbert de Laci has now this land, where he has twelve ploughs in
the demesne; and forty-eight villani, and twelve bordars with
fifteen ploughs, and three churches and three priests, and three
mills of ten shillings. Wood pastures two miles long, and one
broad. The whole manor five miles long and two broad. Value in
King Edward's time sixteen pounds, the same now.
That manor of the town of Coventry which was individually held
was that of the Countess of Coventry, who was the wife of the
earl of Mercia. "The Countess held in Coventry. There are 5
hides. The arable land employs 20 ploughs. In the demesne lands
there are 3 ploughs and 7 ploughs. In the demesne lands there are
3 ploughs and 7 bondmen. There are 50 villeins and 12 bordars
with 20 ploughs. The mill there pay[s] 3 shillings. The
woodlands are 2 miles long and the same broad. In King Edward's
time and afterwards, it was worth 22 pounds [440 s.], now only
11 pounds by weight. These lands of the Countess Godiva Nicholas
holds to farm of the King."
The survey shows a few manors and monasteries owned a salt-house
or salt-pit in the local saltworks, from which they were
entitled to obtain salt.
This survey resulted in the first national tax system of about
6s. per hide of land.
The survey also provided William with a summary of customs of
areas. For instance, in Oxfordshire, "Anyone breaking the King's
peace given under his hand and seal to the extent of committing
homicide shall be at the King's mercy in respect of his life and
members. That is if he be captured. And if he cannot be
captured, he shall be considered as an outlaw, and anyone who
kills him shall have all his possessions. The King shall take
the possessions of any stranger who has elected to live in
Oxford and who dies in possession of a house in that town, and
without any kinfolk. The King shall be entitled to the body and
the possessions of any man who kills another within his own
court or house excepting always the dower of his wife, if he has
a wife who has received dower.
The courts of the King and barons became schools of chivalry
wherein seven year old noble boys became as pages or valets,
wore a dagger and waited upon the ladies of the household. At
age fourteen, they were advanced to squires and admitted into
more familiar association with the knights and ladies of the
court. They perfected their skills in dancing, riding, fencing,
hawking, hunting and jousting. Before knighthood, they played
team sports in which one team tried to put the other team to
rout. A knight usually selected a wife from the court at which
he grew up.
These incidents of land tenure began (but were not firmly
established until the reign of Henry II). Each tenant, whether
baron or subtenant, had to pay an "aid" in money for ransom if
his lord was captured in war, for the knighthood of his lord's
eldest son, and for the marriage of his lord's eldest daughter.
Land could be held by an heir only if he could fight. The eldest
son began to succeed to the whole of the lands in all military
tenures. An heir of a tenant had to pay a heavy "relief" on
succession to his estate. If there was a delay in proving
heirship or paying relief, the lord would hold the land and
receive its income in the meantime, often a year. If an heir was
still a minor or female, he or she passed into his lord's
wardship, in which the lord had guardianship of the heir and
possession of the estate, with all its profits. A female heir was
expected to marry a man acceptable to the lord. The estate of an
heiress and her land was generally sold to the highest bidder.
If there were no heirs, the land escheated to the lord. If a
tenant committed felony, his land escheated to his lord.
Astrologers resided with the families of the barons. People went
to fortune tellers' shops. There was horse racing, steeple
races, and chess for recreation. Girls had dolls; boys had toy
soldiers, spinning tops, toy horses, ships, and wooden models.
The state of medicine is indicated by this medical advice brought
to the nation by William's son after treatment on the continent:
"If thou would have health and vigor Shun cares and avoid anger.
Be temperate in eating And in the use of wine. After a heavy meal
Rise and take the air Sleep not with an overloaded stomach And
above all thou must Respond to Nature when she calls."
Many free sokemen were caught up in the subjugation by baron
landlords and were reduced almost to the condition of the unfree
villein. The services they performed for their lords were often
indistinguishable. They might also hold their land by villein
tenure, although free as a person with the legal rights of a
free man. The free man still had a place in court proceedings
which the unfree villein did not.
William allowed Jewish traders to follow him from Normandy and
settle in separate sections of the main towns. They loaned money
for the building of castles and cathedrals. Christians were not
allowed by the church to engage in this usury. The Jews could
not become citizens nor could they have standing in the local
courts. Instead, a royal justiciar secured justice for them. The
Jews could practice their own religion. Only Jews could wear
William was succeeded as King by his son William II, who imposed
on many of the customs of the nation to get more money for
The Norman conquerors brought no written law, but affirmed the
laws of the nation. Two they especially enforced were:
Anyone caught in the act of digging up the King's road, felling a
tree across it, or attacking someone so that his blood spilled
on it shall pay a fine to the King.
All freemen shall have a surety who would hand him over to
justice for his offenses or pay the damages or fines due. Also,
the entire hundred was the ultimate surety for murder and would
have to pay a "murdrum" fine.
William made these decrees:
No cattle shall be sold except in towns and before three
For the sale of ancient chattels, there must be a surety and a
No man shall be sold over the sea. (This ended the slave trade at
the port of Bristol.)
The death penalty for persons tried by court is abolished.
"Ecclesiastical" courts were created for bishops to preside over
issues concerning the cure of souls and criminal cases in which
the ordeal was used. When William did not preside over this
court, an appeal could be made to him.
The hundred and shire courts now sat without a bishop and handled
only "civil" cases. They were conducted by the King's own
appointed sheriff. Only freemen and not bound villeins had
standing in this court.
William held court or sent the justiciar or commissioners to hold
his Royal Court [Curia Regis] in the various districts. The
commissioner appointed groups of local men to give a collective
verdict upon oath for each trial he conducted. A person could
spend months trying to catch up with the Royal Court to present a
William allowed, on an ad hoc basis, certain high-level people
such as bishops and abbots and those who made a large payment,
to have land disputes decided by an inquiry of recognitors.
A dispute between a Norman and an English man over land or a
criminal act could be decided by trial by battle. Each combatant
first swore to the truth of his cause and undertook to prove by
his body the truth of his cause by making the other surrender by
crying "craven" [craving forgiveness]. The combatants used
weapons like pick-axes and shields. Presumably the man in the
wrong would not fight as well because he was burdened with a
guilty conscience. Although this trial was thought to reflect
God's will, it favored the physically fit and adept person.
London had its own traditions. All London citizens met at its
folkmoot, which was held three times a year to determine its
public officers, to raise matters of public concern, and to make
ordinances. It's criminal court had the power of outlawry as did
the shire courts. Trade, land, and other civil issues were dealt
with by the Hustings Court, which met every Monday in the
Guildhall. The city was divided into wards, each of which was
under the charge of an elected alderman [elder man]. (This was
not a popular election.) The aldermen had special knowledge of
the law and a duty to declare it at the Hustings Court. Each
alderman also conducted wardmoots in his ward and decided
criminal and civil issues between its residents. Within the
wards were the guilds of the city.
William made the hundred responsible for paying a murder fine for
the murder of any of his men, if the murderer was not
apprehended by his lord within a few days. The reaction to this
was that the murderer mutilated the corpse to make identification
of nationality impossible. So William ordered
that every murder victim was assumed to be Norman unless proven
English. This began a court custom in murder cases of first
proving the victim to be English.
The Royal Court decided this case: "At length both parties were
summoned before the King's court, in which there sat many of the
nobles of the land of whom Geoffrey, bishop of Coutances, was
delegated by the King's authority as judge of the dispute, with
Ranulf the Vicomte, Neel, son of Neel, Robert de Usepont, and
many other capable judges who diligently and fully examined the
origin of the dispute, and delivered judgment that the mill
ought to belong to St. Michael and his monks forever. The most
victorious King William approved and confirmed this decision."
The Times: 1100-1154
King Henry I, son of William of Normandy, furthered peace between
the Normans and native English by his marriage to a niece of
King Edward the Confessor called Matilda. She married him on
condition that he grant a charter of rights undoing some
practices of the past reigns of William I and William II. Peace
was also furthered by the fact that Henry I had been born in
England and English was his native tongue. Private wars were now
replaced by mock battles.
Henry was a shrewd judge of character and of the course of
events, cautious before taking action, but decisive in carrying
out his plans. He was faithful and generous to his friends. He
showed a strong practical element of calculation and foresight.
He was intelligent and a good administrator. He had an efficient
intelligence gathering network and an uncanny knack of detecting
hidden plans before they became conspiratorial action. He made
many able men of inferior social position nobles, thus creating
a class of career judges and administrators in opposition to the
extant hereditary aristocracy. He loved books and built a palace
at Oxford to which he invited scholars for lively discussion.
Queen Matilda served as regent in Henry's absence. She was
literate and a literary patron. Her compassion was great and her
charities extensive. She founded a care-giving hospital and had
new roads and bridges built.
Henry issued charters restoring customs which had been
subordinated to royal impositions by previous Kings, which set a
precedent for later Kings. His coronation charter describes
certain property rights he restored after the oppressive reign
of his brother.
"Henry, King of the English, to Samson the bishop, and Urse of
Abbetot, and to all his barons and faithful vassals, both French
and English, in Worcestershire, greeting.
[1.] Know that by the mercy of God and by the common counsel of
the barons of the whole kingdom of England I have been crowned
king of this realm. And because the kingdom has been oppressed
by unjust exactions, I now, being moved by reverence towards God
and by the love I bear you all, make free the Church of God; so
that I will neither sell nor lease its property; nor on the death
of an archbishop or a bishop or an abbot will I take anything
from the demesne of the Church or from its vassals during the
period which elapses before a successor is installed. I abolish
all the evil customs by which the kingdom of England has been
unjustly oppressed. Some of those evil customs are here set
[2.] If any of my barons or of my earls or of any other of my
tenants shall die his heir shall not redeem his land as he was
wont to do in the time of my brother [William II (Rufus)], but
he shall henceforth redeem it by means of a just and lawful
'relief`. Similarly the men of my barons shall redeem their
lands from their lords by means of a just and lawful 'relief`.
[3.] If any of my barons or of my tenants shall wish to give in
marriage his daughter or his sister or his niece or his cousin,
he shall consult me about the matter; but I will neither seek
payment for my consent, nor will I refuse my permission, unless
he wishes to give her in marriage to one of my enemies. And if,
on the death of one of my barons or of one of my tenants, a
daughter should be his heir, I will dispose of her in marriage
and of her lands according to the counsel given me by my barons.
And if the wife of one of my tenants shall survive her husband
and be without children, she shall have her dower and her
marriage portion [that given to her by her father], and I will
not give her in marriage unless she herself consents.
[4.] If a widow survives with children under age, she shall have
her dower and her marriage portion, so long as she keeps her
body chaste; and I will not give her in marriage except with her
consent. And the guardian of the land, and of the children,
shall be either the widow or another of their relations, as may
seem more proper. And I order that my barons shall act likewise
towards the sons and daughters and widows of their men.
[5.] I utterly forbid that the common mintage [a forced levy to
prevent loss to the King from depreciation of the coinage],
which has been taken from the towns and shires, shall henceforth
be levied, since it was not so levied in the time of King Edward
[the Confessor, before the Norman conquest]. If any moneyer or
other person be taken with false money in his possession, let
true justice be visited upon him.
[6.] I forgive all pleas and all debts which were owing to my
brother [William II], except my own proper dues, and except
those things which were agreed to belong to the inheritance of
others, or to concern the property which justly belonged to
others. And if anyone had promised anything for his heritage, I
remit it, and I also remit all 'reliefs` which were promised for
[7.] If any of my barons or of my men, being ill, shall give away
or bequeath his movable property, I will allow that it shall be
bestowed according to this desires. But if, prevented either by
violence or through sickness, he shall die intestate as far as
concerns his movable property, his widow or his children, or his
relatives or one his true men shall make such division for the
sake of his soul, as may seem best to them.
[8.] If any of my barons or of my men shall incur a forfeit, he
shall not be compelled to pledge his movable property to an
unlimited amount, as was done in the time of my father [William
I] and my brother; but he shall only make payment according to
the extent of his legal forfeiture, as was done before the time
of my father and in the time of my earlier predecessors.
Nevertheless, if he be convicted of breach of faith or of crime,
he shall suffer such penalty as is just.
[9.] I remit all murder-fines which were incurred before the day
on which I was crowned King; and such murder-fines as shall now
be incurred shall be paid justly according to the law of King
Edward [by sureties].
[10.] By the common counsel of my barons I have retained the
forests in my own hands as my father did before me.
[11.] The knights, who in return for their estates perform
military service equipped with a hauberk [long coat] of mail,
shall hold their demesne lands quit of all gelds [money
payments] and all work; I make this concession as my own free
gift in order that, being thus relieved of so great a burden,
they may furnish themselves so well with horses and arms that
they may be properly equipped to discharge my service and to
defend my kingdom.
[12.] I establish a firm peace in all my kingdom, and I order
that this peace shall henceforth be kept.
[13.] I restore to you the law of King Edward together with such
emendations to it as my father [William I] made with the counsel
of his barons.
[14.] If since the death of my brother, King William [II], anyone
shall have seized any of my property, or the property of any
other man, let him speedily return the whole of it. If he does
this no penalty will be exacted, but if he retains any part of
it he shall, when discovered, pay a heavy penalty to me.
Witness: Maurice, bishop of London; William, bishop-elect of
Winchester; Gerard, bishop of Herefore; Henry the earl; Simon the
earl; Walter Giffard; Robert of Montfort-sur-Risle; Roger Bigot;
Eudo the steward; Robert, son of Haimo; and Robert Malet.
At London when I was crowned. Farewell."
Henry took these promises seriously, which resulted in peace and
justice. Royal justice became a force to be reckoned with by the
multiplication of justices. Henry had a great respect for
legality and the forms of judicial action. He became known as
the "Lion of Justice".
The center of government was a collection of tenants-in-chief
whose feudal duty included attendance when summoned and certain
selected household servants of the King. When it met for
financial purposes, Henry called it the Exchequer and it became
a separate body. It received yearly from the sheriffs of the
counties taxes, fines, treasure trove, goods from wrecks,
deodands, and movable property of felons, of persons executed,
of fugitives, and of outlaws due to the Crown. The payments in
kind, such as grain or manual services, from the royal demesnes
had been turned into money payments. This income from royal
estates was also received by the Exchequer and then commingled
with the other funds. Each payment was indicated by notches on a
stick, which was then split so that the payer and the receiver
each had a half showing the notches. The Chancellor managed the
domestic matters of the Crown's castles and lands. Henry brought
sheriffs under his strict control, free from influence by the
A woman could inherit a fief if she married. The primary way for
a man to acquire land was to marry an heiress. If a man were in
a lower station than she was, he had to pay for his new social
status as well as have royal permission. A man could also be
awarded land which had escheated to the King. If a noble woman
wanted to hold land in her own right, she had to make a payment
to the King. Many widows bought their freedom from guardianship
or remarriage from the King. Women whose husbands were at war
also ran the land of their husbands.
Barons were lords of large holdings of farmland called "manors".
Many of the lesser barons left their dark castles to live in
semi-fortified stone houses, which usually were of two rooms
with rug hangings for drafts, as well as the sparse furniture
that had been common to the castle. There were shuttered windows
to allow in light, but which also let in the wind and rain when
open. The roof was of thatch or narrow overlapping wood
shingles. The floor was strewn with hay and there was a hearth
near the center of the floor, with a louvered smoke hole in the
timber roof for escape of smoke. There were barns for grain and
animals. Beyond this area was a garden, orchard, and sometimes a
vineyard. The area was circumscribed by a moat over which there
was a drawbridge to a gatehouse.
The smaller room was the lord and lady's bedroom. It had a
canopied bed, chests for clothing, and wood frames on which
clothes could be hung. Life on the manor revolved around the
larger room, or hall, where the public life of the household was
passed. There, meals were served. The daily diet typically
consisted of milk, soup, porridge, fish, vegetables, and bread.
Open hospitality accompanied this communal living. There was
little privacy. Manor household villeins carried the lord's
sheaves of grain to the manor barn, shore his sheep, malted his
grain, and chopped wood for his fire. At night some slept on the
floor of the hall and others, cottars and bordars, had there
own dwellings nearby.
Games with dice were sometimes played. In winter, youths
ice-skated with bones fastened to their shoes. They propelled
themselves by striking the ice with staves shod with iron. On
summer holydays, they exercised in leaping, shooting with the
bow, wrestling, throwing stones, and darting a thrown spear. The
maidens danced with timbrels. Since at least 1133, children's
toys included dolls, drums, hobby horses, pop guns, trumpets,
The cold, indoors as well as outdoors, necessitated that people
wear ample and warm garments. Men and women of position dressed
in long full cloaks reaching to their feet, sometimes having
short full sleeves. The cloak generally had a hood and was
fastened at the neck with a brooch. Underneath the cloak was a
simple gown with sleeves tight at the wrist but full at the
arm-hole, as if cut from the same piece of cloth. A girdle or
belt was worn at the waist. When the men were hunting or
working, they wore gown and cloak of knee length. Humble folk
also wore knee-length garments, with a band about the waist.
There was woodland, common pasture land, arable land, meadow
land, and wasteland on the manor. The arable land was allotted
to the villeins in strips to equalize the best and worst land
and their distance from the village where the villeins lived.
There was three-way rotation of wheat or rye, oats or barley, and
fallow land. Cows, pigs, sheep, and fowl were kept. The meadow
was allocated for hay for the lord's household and each
villein's. The villeins held land of their lord for various
services such as agricultural labor or raising domestic animals.
The villeins, who worked the farm land as their ancestor ceorls
had, now were so bound to the land that they could not leave or
marry or sell an ox without their lord's consent. If the manor
was sold, the villein was sold as a part of the manor. The
villeins worked about half of their time on their lord's fields
[his demesne land], which was about a third of the farmland. This
work was primarily to gather the harvest and to plough with
oxen, using a yoke over their shoulders, and to sow in autumn
and Lent. They threshed grain on barn floors with flails cut
from holly or thorn, and removed the kernels from the shafts by
hand. Work lasted from sunrise to sunset and included women and
children. Life expectancy was probably below thirty-five.
The villeins of a manor elected a reeve to communicate their
interests to their lord, usually through a bailiff, who directed
the labor. Sometimes there was a steward in charge of several of
a lord's manors, who also held the manorial court for the lord.
The steward held his land of the lord by serjeanty, which was a
specific service to the lord. Other serjeanty services were
helping in the lord's hunting expeditions and looking after his
hounds. The Woodward preserved the timber. The Messer supervised
the harvesting. The Hayward removed any fences from the fields
after harvest to allow grazing by cattle and sheep. The Coward,
Bullard, and Calvert tended the cows, bulls, and calves; the
Shepherd, the sheep; and the Swineherds the pigs. The Ponder
impounded stray stock.
The majority of manors were co-extensive with a single village.
The villeins lived in the village in one-room huts enclosed by a
wood fence, hedge, or stone wall. In this yard was a garden of
onions, leeks, mustard, peas, beans, parsley, garlic, herbs, and
cabbage and apple, pear, cherry, quince, and plum trees, and
bee-hives. The hut had a high-pitched roof thatched with reeds or
straw and low eaves reaching almost to the ground. The walls are
built of wood-framing overlaid with mud or plaster. Narrow slits
in the walls serve as windows, which have shutters and are
sometimes covered with coarse cloth. The floor is dirt and may
be covered with straw or rushes for warmth, but usually no
hearth. At one end of the hut was the family living area, where
the family ate on a collapsible trestle table with stools or
benches and used drinking horns and wooden bowls and spoons,
along with jars and other earthenware. Their usual food was beans
and peas, and some bacon, butter, cheese, and vegetables, rough
bread made from a mixture of wheat, barley, and rye flour,
honey, and herrings or other salt fish. They drank water, milk,
buttermilk, apple cider, mead, ale made from barley malt, and
bean and vegetable broth. Cooking was done over a fire with iron
tripod, pots, and kettle. Most of the food was boiled. They slept
on straw mattresses or sacks on the floor or on benches. The
villein regarded his bed area as the safest place in the house,
as did people of all ranks, and kept his treasures there, which
included his farm implements, as well as hens on the beams,
roaming pigs, and perhaps stalled oxen. Around the room are a
couple of chests to store salt, meal, flour, a broom made of
birch trigs, some woven baskets, the distaff and spindle for
spinning, and a simple loom for weaving. All clothes were
homemade. They were often coarse, greasy wool and leather made
from their own animals. The man wore a tunic of coarse linen
embroidered on the sleeves and breast, around with he wore a
girdle of rope, leather, or folded cloth. Sometimes he also wore
breeches reaching below the knee. The woman wore a loose
short-sleeved gown, under which was a tight fitting garment with
long loose sleeves. If they wore shoes, they were clumsy and
patched. Some wore a hood-like cap. At the other end of the hut
were the horses, cattle, pigs, and poultry. In the middle is a
wood fire burning on a hearthstone. The smoke rises through a
hole in the roof.
The villein and his wife and children worked from daybreak to
dusk in the fields, except for Sundays and holydays. He had
certain land to farm for his own family, but had to have his
grain milled at his lord's mill at the lord's price. He had to
retrieve his wandering cattle from his lord's pound at the lord's
price. He was expected to give a certain portion of his own
produce, whether grain or livestock, to his lord. However, if he
fell short, he was not put off his land. When his daughter or
son married, he had to pay a "merchet" to his lord. He could not
have a son educated without the lord's permission, and this
usually involved a fee to the lord. His best beast at his death,
or "heriot", went to his lord. If he wanted permission to live
outside the manor, he paid "chevage" yearly. Woodpenny was a
yearly payment for gathering dead wood. Sometimes a "tallage"
payment was taken at the lord's will. The villein's oldest son
usually took his place on his land and followed the same customs
with respect to the lord. For an heir to take his dead
ancestor's land, the lord demanded payment of a "relief", which
was usually the amount of a year's income but sometimes as much
as the heir was willing to pay to have the land. The usual aids
were also expected to be paid.
A large village also had a smith, a wheelwright, a millwright, a
tiler and thatcher, a shoemaker and tanner, a carpenter
wainwright and carter.
Markets were about twenty miles apart because a farmer from the
outlying area could then carry his produce to the nearest town
and walk back again in the daylight hours of one day. In this
local market he could buy foodstuffs, livestock, household
goods, fuels, skins, and certain varieties of cloth.
The cloth was crafted by local weavers, dyers, and fullers, who
made the cloth full and dense by washing, soaping, beating, and
agitating it. Then its surface could be raised with teazle-heads
and cropped or sheared to make a nap. Some cloth was sold to
tailors to make into clothes. Butchers bought, slaughtered, and
cut up animals to sell as meat. Some was sold to cooks, who sold
prepared foods. The hide was bought by the tanner to make into
leather. The leather was sold to shoemakers and glovemakers.
Millers bought harvested grain to make into flour. Flour was
sold to bakers to make into breads. Wood was bought by
carpenters and by coopers, who made barrels, buckets, tubs, and
pails. Tilers, oil-makers and rope-makers also bought raw
material to make into finished goods for sale. Wheelwrights made
ploughs, harrows, carts, and later waggons. Smiths and
locksmiths worked over their hot fires.
The nation grew with the increase of population, the development
of towns, and the growing mechanization of craft industries.
There were watermills for crafts in all parts of the nation.
There were also some iron furnaces.
Stone bridges over rivers could accommodate one person traveling
by foot or by horseback and were steep and narrow.
Merchants, who had come from the low end of the knightly class or
high end of the villein class, settled around the open market
areas, where main roads joined. They had plots narrow in
frontage along the road and deep. Their shops faced the road,
with living space behind or above their stores. Town buildings
were typically part stone and part timber as a compromise between
fire precautions and expense.
Towns, as distinct from villages, had permanent markets. As towns
grew, they paid a fee to obtain a charter for self-government
from the King giving the town judicial and commercial freedom.
These various rights were typically expanded in future times.
Such a town was called a "borough" and its citizens or
landholding freemen "burgesses". They were literate enough to do
accounts. Selling wholesale could take place only in a borough.
The King assessed a tallage [ad hoc tax] usually at ten per cent
of property or income. Henry standardized the yard as the length
of his own arm.
London had at least twenty wards, each governed by its own
alderman. Most of them were named after people. London was ruled
by sixteen families linked by business and marriage ties. These
businesses supplied luxury goods to the rich and included the
goldsmiths [sold cups, dishes, girdles, mirrors, purses knives,
and metal wine containers with handle and spout], vintners [wine
merchants], mercers [sold textiles, haberdashery, combs,
mirrors, knives, toys, spices, ointments, and drugs], drapers,
and pepperers, which later merged with the spicerers to become
the "grocers". These businesses had in common four fears: royal
interference, foreign competition, displacement by new crafts,
and violence by the poor and escaped villeins who found their
way to the city.
London in Middlesex county received this charter for
self-government and freedom from the financial and judicial
organization of the shire:
"Henry, by the grace of God, King of England, to the Archbishop
of Canterbury and the bishops, abbots, earls, barons,
justiciars, sheriffs and all his loyal subjects, both French and
English, throughout the whole of England - greeting.
1. Be it known to you that I have granted Middlesex to my
citizens of London to be held on lease by them and their heirs
of me and my heirs for 300 pounds paid by tale [yearly], upon
these terms: that the citizens themselves [may] appoint a
sheriff, such as they desire, from among themselves, and a
justiciar, such as they desire, from among themselves, to
safeguard the pleas of my Crown [criminal cases] and to conduct
such pleas. And there shall be no other justiciar over the men
2. And the citizens shall not take part in any [civil] case
whatsoever outside the City walls.
1) And they shall be exempt from the payment of scot and
danegeld and the murder fine.
2) And none of them shall take part in trial by combat.
3) And if any of the citizens has become involved in a plea
of the Crown, he shall clear himself, as a citizen of London, by
an oath which has been decreed in the city.
4) And no one shall be billeted [lodged in a person's house
by order of the King] within the walls of the city nor shall
hospitality be forcibly exacted for anyone belonging to my
household or to any other.
5) And all the citizens of London and all their effects
[goods] shall be exempt and free, both throughout England and in
the seaports, from toll and fees for transit and market fees and
all other dues.
6) And the churches and barons and citizens shall have and
hold in peace and security their rights of jurisdiction [in
civil and criminal matters] along with all their dues, in such a
way that lessees who occupy property in districts under private
jurisdiction shall pay dues to no one except the man to whom the
jurisdiction belongs, or to the official whom he has placed
7) And a citizen of London shall not be amerced [fined by a
court when the penalty for an offense is not designated by
statute] to forfeiture of a sum greater than his wergeld,
[hereby assessed as] 100 shillings, in a case involving money.
8) And further there shall be no miskenning [false plea
causing a person to be summoned to court] in a husting or in a
folkmoot [meeting of the community], or in any other court
within the City.
9) And the Hustings [court] shall sit once a week on Monday.
10) And I assure to my citizens their lands and the property
mortgaged to them and the debts due to them both within the City
11) And with regard to lands about which they have plead in
suit before me, I shall maintain justice on their behalf,
according to the law of the City.
12) And if anyone has exacted toll or tax from citizens of
London, the citizens of London within the city shall [have the
right to] seize [by process of law] from the town or village
where the toll or tax was exacted a sum equivalent to that which
the citizen of London gave as toll and hence sustained as loss.
13) And all those who owe debts to citizens shall pay them or
shall clear themselves in London from the charge of being in
debt to them.
14) But if they have refused to pay or to come to clear
themselves, then the citizens to whom they are in debt shall
[have the right to] seize [by process of law] their goods
[including those in the hands of a third party, and bring them]
into the city from the [town, village or] county in which the
debtor lives [as pledges to compel appearance in court].
15) And the citizens shall enjoy as good and full hunting
rights as their ancestors ever did, namely, in the Chilterns, in
Middlesex, and in Surrey.
Witnessed at Westminster."
The above right not to take part in any case outside the city
relieved London citizens from the burden of traveling to
wherever the King's court happened to be, the disadvantage of
not knowing local customs, and the difficulty of speaking in the
language of the King's court rather than in English. The right
of redress for tolls exacted was new because the state of the law
was that the property of the inhabitants was liable to the King
or superior lord for the common debt.
Craft guilds grew up in the towns, such as the tanners at Oxford,
which later merged with the shoemakers into a cordwainers'
guild. There were weavers' guilds in several towns given royal
sanction. They paid an annual tribute and were given a monopoly
of weaving cloth within a radius of several miles. Guild rules
covered attendance of the members at church services, the
promotion of pilgrimages, celebration of masses for the dead,
common meals, relief of poor brethren and sisters, the hours of
labor, the process of manufacture, the wages of workmen, and
Newcastle-on-Tyne was recognized by the King as having certain
customs, so the following was not called a grant:
"These are the laws and customs which the burgesses of Newcastle
upon Tyne had in the time of Henry King of England and ought to
 Burgesses can distrain [take property of another until the
other performs his obligation] upon foreigners within, or
without their own market, within or without their own houses,
and within or without their own borough without the leave of the
reeve, unless the county court is being held in the borough, and
unless [the foreigners are] on military service or guarding the
 A burgess cannot distrain upon a burgess without the leave of
 If a burgess have lent anything of his to a foreigner, let
the debtor restore it in the borough if he admits the debt, if
he denies it, let him justify himself in the borough.
 Pleas which arise in the borough shall be held and concluded
there, except pleas of the Crown.
 If any burgess be appealed [sued] of any plaint, he shall not
plead without the borough, unless for default of [the borough]
 Nor ought he to answer without day and term, unless he have
fallen into 'miskenning'[error in pleading], except in matters
which pertain to the Crown.
 If a ship have put in at Tynemouth and wishes to depart, the
burgesses may buy what they will [from it].
 If a plea arise between a burgess and a merchant, it shall be
concluded before the third ebb of the tide.
 Whatever merchandise a ship has brought by sea must be
landed, except salt; and herring ought to be sold in the ship.
 If any man have held land in burgage for a year and a day,
lawfully and without claim, he shall not answer a claimant,
unless the claimant have been without the realm of England, or a
child not of age to plead.
 If a burgess have a son, he shall be included in his
father's freedom if he be with his father.
 If a villein come to dwell in the borough, and dwell there a
year and a day as a burgess, he shall abide altogether, unless
notice has been given by him or by his master that he is
dwelling for a term.
 If any man appeal [sue] a burgess of any thing, he cannot do
battle with the burgess, but the burgess shall defend himself by
his law, unless it be of treason, whereof he is bound to defend
himself by battle.
 Neither can a burgess do battle against a foreigner, unless
he first go out of the borough.
 No merchant, unless he be a burgess, may buy [outside] the
town either wool or leather or other merchandise, nor within the
borough except [from] burgesses.
 If a burgess incur forfeit, he shall give six ounces [10s.]
to the reeve.
 In the borough there is no merchet [payment for marrying off
a daughter] nor heriot nor bloodwite [fine for drawing blood]
nor stengesdint [fine for striking with a stick].
 Every burgess may have his own oven and hand-mill if he
will, saving the right of the King's oven.
 If a woman be in forfeit for bread or beer, no one ought to
interfere but the reeve. If she forfeit twice, she shall be
chastised by her forfeit. If three times, let justice be done on
 No one but a burgess may buy webs [woven fabrics just taken
off the loom] to dye, nor make nor cut them.
 A burgess may give and sell his land and go whither he will
freely and quietly unless there be a claim against him."
In the boroughs, merchant and manufacturing guilds controlled
prices and assured quality. The head officer of the guild
usually controlled the borough, which excluded rival merchant
guilds. A man might belong to more than one guild, e.g. one for
his trade and another for religion.
Trades and crafts, each of which had to be licensed, grouped
together by specialty in the town. Cloth-makers, dyers, tanners,
and fullers were near an accessible supply of running water,
upon which their trade depended. Streets were often named by the
trade located there, such as Butcher Row, Pot Row, Cordwainer
Row, Ironmonger Row, Wheeler Row, and Fish Row. Hirers of labor
and sellers of wheat, hay, livestock, dairy products, apples and
wine, meat, poultry, fish and pies, timber and cloth all had a
distinct location. Some young men were apprenticed to craftsmen
to assist them and learn their craft.
The nation produced sufficient iron, but a primitive steel [iron
with carbon added] was imported. Steel was used for tools,
instruments, weapons and armor. Ships could carry about 300
Plays about miracles wrought by holy men or the sufferings and
fortitude of martyrs were performed. Most nobles could read,
though writing was still a specialized craft. There were books
on animals, plants, and stones. The lives of the saints as told
in the book "The Golden Legend" were popular. The story of the
early King Arthur was told in the book "The History of the Kings
of England". The story at this time stressed Arthur as a hero
and went as follows: Arthur became King at age 15. He had an
inborn goodness and generosity as well as courage. He and his
knights won battles against foreign settlers and neighboring
clans. Once, he and his men surrounded a camp of foreigners until
they gave up their gold and silver rather than starve. Arthur
married Guenevere and established a court and retinue. Leaving
Britain in the charge of his nephew Modred, he fought battles on
the continent for land to give to his noblemen who did him
service in his household and fought with him. When Arthur
returned to Britain, he made battle with his nephew Modred who
had crowned himself King. Arthur's knight Gawain, the son of his
sister, and the enemy Modred were killed and Arthur was severely
wounded. Arthur told his kinsman Constantine to rule Britain as
King in his place.
The intellectual world included art, secular literature, law, and
medicine. There were about 90 physicians.
Forests were still retained by Kings for their hunting of boars
and stags. The bounds of the Forest were enlarged. They
comprised almost one-third of the kingdom.
Barons and their tenants and sub-tenants were offered an
alternative of paying shield money ["scutage"] of 26s.8d. per
fee in commutation for and instead of military service for their
fiefs. This enabled Henry to hire soldiers who would be more
directly under his own control and to organize a more efficient
A substantial number of barons and monasteries were heavily in
debt to the Jews. The King taxed the Jews at will.
During rivalry for the throne after Henry I's reign, the bishops
gained some independence from the Crown and strengthened their
ties with the Pope.
Henry restored the death penalty for thievery and robbery, but
maintained William I's punishment of the mutilation of blinding
and severing of limbs for other offenses.
The forest law stated that: "he that doth hunt a wild beast and
doth make him pant, shall pay 10 shillings: If he be a free man,
then he shall pay double. If he be a bound man, he shall lose
his skin." A "verderer" was responsible for enforcing this law,
which also stated that: "If anyone does offer force to a
Verderer, if he be a freeman, he shall lose his freedom, and all
that he hath. And if he be a villein, he shall lose his right
hand." Further, "If such an offender does offend so again, he
shall lose his life."
A wife's dower is one-third of all her husband's freehold land,
unless his endowment of her at their marriage was less than
Counterfeiting law required that "If any one be caught carrying
false coin, the reeve shall give the bad money to the King
however much there is, and it shall be charged in the render of
his farm [payment] as good, and the body of the offender shall
be handed over to the King for judgment, and the serjeants who
took him shall have his clothes."
Debts to townsmen were recoverable by this law: "If a burgess has
a gage [a valuable object held as security for carrying out an
agreement] for money lent and holds this for a whole year and a
day, and the debtor will not deny the debt or deliver the gage,
and this is proved, the burgess may sell the gage before good
witnesses for as much as he can, and deduct his money from the
sum. If any money is over he shall return it to the debtor. But
if there is not enough to pay him, he shall take distress again
for the amount that is lacking."
Past due rent in a borough was punishable by payment of 10s. as
There are legal maxims which are becoming so well established and
known that there will never be a need to write them down as
statutes. As delineated by St. Germain in "Doctor and Student"
in 1518, they are:
1. If a man steals goods to the value of 12d., or above, it is
felony, and he shall die for it. If it is under the value of
12d., then it is but petit larceny, and he shall not die for it,
but shall be punished at the discretion of the judges. This not
apply to goods taken from the person, which is robbery, a felony
punishable by death.
2. If an exigent, in case of felony, is awarded against a man, he
has thereby forthwith forfeited his goods to the King.
3. If the son is attainted [convicted of treason or felony with
the death penalty and forfeiture of all lands and goods] in the
life of the father, and after he purchases his charter of pardon
of the King, and after the father dies; in this case the land
shall escheat to the lord of the fee, insomuch that though he
has a younger brother, yet the land shall not descend to him: for
by the attainder of the elder brother the blood is corrupt, and
the father-in-law died without heir.
4. A man declared outlaw forfeits his profits from land and his
goods to the King.
5. He who is arraigned upon an indictment of felony shall be
admitted, in favor of life, to challenge the number of inquirers
for three whole inquests peremptorily. With cause, he may
challenge as many as he has cause to challenge. Such peremptory
challenge shall not be admitted in a private suit because it is
a suit of the party.
6. An accessory shall not be put to answer before the principal.
7. If a man commands another to commit a trespass, and he does
it, the one who made the command is a trespasser.
8. The land of every man is in the law enclosed from other,
though it lies in the open field and a trespasser in it may be
brought to court.
9. Every man is bound to make recompense for such hurt as his
beasts do in the growing grain or grass of his neighbor, though
he didn't know that they were there.
10. He who has possession of land, though it is by disseisin, has
right against all men but against him who has right.
11. The rents, commons of pasture, of turbary [digging turf],
reversions, remainders, nor such other things which lie not in
manual occupation, may not be given or granted to another
12. If a villein purchase lands, and the lord enter, he shall
enjoy the land as his own. But if the villein alienates before
the lord enters, he alienation is good. And the same law is of
13. Escuage [shield service for 40 days] uncertain makes knight's
service. Escuage certain makes socage.
14. He who holds by castle-guard, holds by knight's service, but
he does not hold by escuage. He that holds by 20s. to the guard
of a castle holds by socage.
15. A descent takes away an entry.
16. No prescription [assertion of a right or title to the
enjoyment of a thing, on the ground of having had the
uninterrupted and immemorial enjoyment of it] in lands makes a
17. A prescription of rent and profits out of land makes a right.
18. The limitation of a prescription generally taken is from the
time that no man's mind runs to the contrary.
19. Assigns may be made upon lands given in fee, for term of
life, or for term of years, though no mention be made of
assigns; and the same law is of a rent that is granted; but
otherwise it is of a warranty, and of a covenant.
20. He who recovers debt or damages in the King's court when the
person charged is not in custody, may within a year after the
judgment take the body of the defendant, and commit him to
prison until he has paid the debt and damages.
21. If a release or confirmation is made to him who, at the time
of the release made, had nothing in the land, the release or
confirmation is void, except in certain cases, such as to vouch.
22. A condition to avoid a freehold cannot be pleaded without a
deed; but to avoid a gift of chattel, it may be pleaded without
23. A release or confirmation made by him, that at the time of
the release or confirmation made had no right, is void in law,
though a right comes to him after; except if it is with
warranty, and then it shall bar him to all right that he shall
have after the warranty is made.
24. If land and rent that is going out of the same land, comes
into one man's hand of like estate, and like surety of title,
the rent is extinct.
25. If land descends to him who has right to the same land
before, he shall be remitted to his better title, if he will.
26. If two titles are concurrent together, the oldest title shall
27. If a real action be sued against any man who has nothing in
the thing demanded, the writ shall abate at the common law.
28. If the demandant or plaintiff, hanging his writ, will enter
into the thing demanded, his writ shall abate.
29. By the alienation of the tenant, hanging the writ, or his
entry into religion, or if he is made a knight, or she is a
woman, and takes a husband hanging the writ, the writ shall not
30. A right or title of action that only depends in action,
cannot be given or granted to none other but only to the tenant
of the ground, or to him who has the reversion or remainder of
the same land.
31. In an action of debt upon an agreement, the defendant may
wage his law: but otherwise it is upon a lease of lands for term
of years, or at will.
32. The King may disseise no man and no man may disseise the
King, nor pull any reversion or remainder out of him.
33. The King's excellency is so high in the law, that no freehold
may be given to the King, nor be derived from him, but by matter
34. If an abbot or prior, an abbot's chief assistant, alienate
the lands of his house, and dies, though his successor has right
to the lands, yet he may not enter, but he must take legal
35. If an abbot buys a thing that comes to the use of the house,
and dies, then his successor shall be charged.
Judicial activity encouraged the recording of royal legislation
in writing which both looked to the past and attempted to set
down law current in Henry's own day. The "Liberi Quadripartitus"
aimed to include all English law of the time. This showed an
awareness of the ideal of written law as a statement of judicial
principles as well as of the practice of kingship. In this way,
concepts of Roman law used by the Normans found their way into
Church law required that only consent between a man and woman was
necessary for marriage. There needn't be witnesses, ceremony,
nor consummation. Consent could not be coerced. Penalties in
marriage contracts were deemed invalid. Villeins and slaves
could marry without their lords' or owners' permission. A couple
living together could be deemed married. Relatives descended from
the same great great grandfather could not marry, nor could
relatives by marriage of the same degree of closeness. A legal
separation could be given for adultery, cruelty, or heresy.
Fathers were usually ordered to provide some sustenance and
support for their illegitimate children. The court punished
infanticide and abortion.
Courts extant now are the Royal Court, the King's Court of the
Exchequer, shire courts, and hundred courts, which were under
the control of the King. His appointed justices administered
justice in these courts on regular circuits. Also there are
manor courts, borough courts, and ecclesiastical courts.
The King's Royal Court heard issues concerning the Crown and
breaches of the King's peace, which included almost all criminal
matters. The most serious offenses: murder, robbery, rape,
abduction, arson, treason, and breach of fealty, were now called
felonies. Other offenses were: housebreaking, ambush, certain
kinds of theft, premeditated assault, and harboring outlaws or
excommunicants. Henry personally presided over hearings of
important legal cases. He punished crime severely. Offenders
were brought to justice not only by the complaint of an
individual or local community action, but by official
prosecutors. A prosecutor was now at trials as well as a judge.
Trial is still by compurgation.
These offenses against the King placed merely personal property
and sometimes land at the King's mercy. Thus the Crown increased
the range of offenses subject to its jurisdiction and arrogated
to itself profits from the penalties imposed.
The Royal Court also heard these offenses against the King:
fighting in his dwelling, contempt of his writs or commands,
encompassing the death or injury of his servants, contempt or
slander of the King, and violation of his protection or his law.
It heard these offenses against royal authority: complaints of
default of justice or unjust judgment, pleas of shipwrecks,
coinage, treasure- trove [money buried when danger approached],
forest prerogatives, and control of castle building.
Henry began the use of writs to intervene in civil matters. These
writs allowed people to come to the Royal Court on certain
issues. He had some locally based justices, called justiciars.
Also, he sent justices out on eyres [journeys],with wide
responsibilities, to hear and decide all manner of Crown pleas.
This brought royal authority into the localities and served to
check baronial power over the common people. He created the
office of chief justiciar, which carried out judicial and
The Royal Court also decided land disputes between barons. There
was a vigorous interventionism in the land law subsequent to
appeals to the King in landlord- tenant relations, brought by a
lord or by an undertenant. Assizes [those who sit together] of
local people who knew relevant facts were put together to assist
Records of the verdicts of the Royal Court were sent with
traveling justices for use as precedent in shire and hundred
The King's Court of the Exchequer reviewed the accounts of
sheriffs, including receipts and expenditures on the Crown's
behalf as well as sums due to the Treasury, located still at
Winchester. These sums included rent from royal estates, the
Danegeld land tax, the fines from local courts, and aid from
baronial estates. It was called the "Exchequer" because it used a
chequered cloth on the table to facilitate calculation in Roman
numerals of the amount due and the amount paid. It's records
were the "Pipe Rolls", so named because sheets of parchment were
fastened at the top, each of which dropped into a roll at the
bottom and so assumed the shape of a pipe.
The shire and hundred courts assessed the personal property of
individuals and their taxes due to the King. The shire court
decided land disputes between people who had different barons as
their respective lords.
The Crown used its superior coercive power to enforce the legal
decisions of other courts.
The shire courts heard cases of theft, brawling, beating, and
wounding, for which the penalties could be exposure in the
pillory or stocks where the public could scorn and hit the
offender. It met twice yearly. If an accused failed to appear
after four successive shire courts, he was declared outlaw at the
fifth and forfeited his civil rights and all his property. He
could be slain by anyone at will.
The hundred court heard neighborhood disputes, for instance
concerning pastures, meadows and harvests. It policed the duty
of frankpledge, which was required for those who did not have a
lord to answer for him. It met once a month.
The free landholders were expected to attend shire, hundred, and
baronage courts. They owed "suit" to it. The suitors found the
dooms [laws] by which the presiding officer pronounced the
The barons held court on their manors for issues arising between
people living on the manor, such as bad ploughing on the lord's
land or letting a cow get loose on the lord's land, and land
disputes. They also made the decision of whether or not a person
was a villein or free. The manor court took over issues which
had once been heard in the vill or hundred court. The baron
charged a fee for hearing a case and received any fines he
imposed, which amounted to significant "profits of justice".
Boroughs held court on trading and marketing issues in their
towns such as measures and weights, as well as issues between
people who lived in the borough. The borough court was presided
over by a reeve who was a burgess as well as a royal official.
Wealthy men could employ professional pleaders to advise them and
to speak for them in a court.
The ecclesiastical courts dealt with family matters such as
marriage, annulments, marriage portions, legitimacy,
wife-beating, child abuse, orphans, bigamy, adultery, incest,
fornication, personal possessions, slander, usury, mortuaries,
sanctuary, sacrilege, blasphemy, heresy, tithe payments, church
fees, certain offences on consecrated ground, and breaches of
promises under oath, e.g. to pay a debt, provide services, or
deliver goods. It decided inheritance and will issues which did
not concern land, but only personal property. This developed
from the practice of a priest usually hearing a dying person's
will as to the disposition of his goods and chattel when he made
his last confession. It provided guardianship of infants during
probate of their personal property. Trial was by compurgation.
An alleged offender could be required to answer questions under
oath, thus giving evidence against himself. The ecclesiastical
court's penalties were intended to reform and determined on a
case-by-case basis. They could include confession and public
repentance of the sin before the parish, making apologies and
reparation to persons affected, public embarrassment such as
being dunked in water (e.g. for women scolds), walking a route
barefoot and clad only in one's underwear, whippings, extra
work, fines, and imprisonment in a "penitentiary" to do penance.
The ultimate punishment was excommunication with social
ostracism. Then no one could give the person drink, food, or
shelter and the only people he could speak to were his spouse
and servants. Excommunication included denial of the sacraments
of baptism, penance, eucharist, and extreme unction at death;
which were necessary for salvation of the soul; and the
sacrament of confirmation. However, the person could still marry
and make a will. Excommunication was usually imposed for failure
to obey an order or showing contempt of the law or of the courts.
It required a due process hearing and a written reason. If this
measure failed, it was possible to turn the offender over to the
state for punishment, e.g. for blasphemy or heresy. Blasphemy
[speaking ill of God] was thought to cause God's wrath expressed
in famine, pestilence, and earthquake and was usually punished
by a fine or corporal punishment, e.g. perforation or amputation
of the tongue. It was tacitly understood that the punishment for
heresy was death by burning. The state usually assured itself
the sentence was just before imposing it. The court of the rural
dean was the ecclesiastical parallel of the hundred court of
secular jurisdiction and usually had the same land boundaries.
The Times: 1154-1215
King Henry II and Queen Eleanor, who was twelve years older, were
both intelligent, educated, energetic, well-traveled, and
experienced in affairs of state. Henry was the first Norman King
to be fully literate. Eleanor often served as regent during
Henry's reign and the reigns of their two sons: Richard, the
Lion-Hearted, and John. Henry II was a modest, courteous, and
patient man with an astonishing memory and strong personality.
He was indifferent to rank and impatient of pomp to the point of
being careless about his appearance. He usually dressed in
riding clothes and was often unkempt. He was thrifty, but
generous to the poor.
Henry revived and augmented the laws and institutions of his
grandfather, Henry I, and developed them to a new perfection.
Almost all legal and fiscal institutions appear in their first
effective form during his reign. For instance, he
institutionalized the assize for a specific function in judicial
proceedings, whereas before it had been an ad hoc body used for
Henry's government practiced a strict economy and he never
exploited the growing wealth of the nation. He abhorred
bloodshed and the sacrifice of men's lives. So he strove
diligently to keep the peace, when possible by gifts of money,
but otherwise with armed force. Foreign merchants with precious
goods could journey safely through the land from fair to fair.
These fairs were usually held in the early fall, after
sheep-shearing and harvesting. Frankpledge was revived. No
stranger could stay overnight (except for one night in a
borough), unless sureties were given for his good behavior. A
list of such strangers was to be given to itinerant judges.
Henry had character and the foresight to build up a centralized
system of government that would survive him. He learned about
the shires' and villages' varying laws and customs. Then, using
the model of Roman law, he gave to English institutions that
unity and system which in their casual patch-work development
had been lacking. Henry's government and courts forged permanent
direct links between the King and his subjects which cut through
the feudal structure of lords and vassals.
He developed the methods and structure of government so that
there was a great increase in the scope of administrative
activity without a concurrent increase of personal power of the
officials who discharged it. The government was self- regulating,
with methods of accounting and control which meant that no
official, however exalted, could entirely escape the
surveillance of his colleagues and the King. At the same time,
administrative and judicial procedures were perfected so that
much which had previously required the King's personal attention
was reduced to routine.
The royal household translated the royal will into action. In the
early 1100s, there had been very little machinery of central
government that was not closely associated with the royal
household. Royal government was largely built upon what had once
been purely domestic offices. Kings had called upon their
chaplains to pen letters for them. By Henry II's reign, the
Chancery was a highly efficient writing office through which the
King's will was expressed in a flow of writs, and the Chancellor
an important and highly rewarded official, but he was still
responsible for organizing the services in the royal chapel.
Similarly, the chamberlains ran the household's financial
departments. They arranged to have money brought in from a
convenient castle-treasury, collected money from sheriffs or the
King's debtors, arranged loans with the usurers, and supervised
the spending of it. It was spent for daily domestic needs, the
King's almsgiving, and the mounting of a military campaign. But
they were still responsible for personal attendance upon the
King in his privy chamber, taking care of his valuable furs,
jewels, and documents, and changing his bedlinens. There were
four other departments of the household. The steward presided
over the hall and kitchens and was responsible for supplying the
household and guests with food supplies. The butler had duties
in the hall and cellars and was responsible for the supply of
wine and ale. The marshall arranged lodgings for the King's
court as it moved about from palaces to hunting lodges, arranged
the pay of the household servants, and supervised the work of
ushers, watchmen, fire-tenders, messengers and huntsmen. The
constable organized the bodyguard and escorts, arranged for the
supply of castles, and mustered the royal army.
Henry brought order and unity by making the King's Royal Court
the common court of the land. Its purpose was to guard the
King's peace by protecting all people of free status throughout
the nation and correct the disparity in punishments given by
local courts. Heretofore, the scope of the King's peace had
varied to as little as the King's presence, his land, and his
highway. The royal demesne had shrunk to about 5% of the land.
The Common Law for all the nation was established by example of
the King's Royal Court.
A system of writs originated well-defined actions in the royal
courts. This system determined the Royal Court's jurisdiction as
against the church, lords, and sheriffs. It limited the
jurisdiction of all other courts and subordinated them to the
Royal Court. Inquests into any misdeeds of sheriffs were held,
which could result in their dismissal.
Before Henry's reign, the church had become more powerful and
asserted more authority. Henry tried to return to the concept of
the King being appointed by God and as he head of the church as
well as of the state, as in Henry I's time. Toward this end, he
published the Constitutions of Clarendon. But the Archbishop of
Canterbury, Thomas Becket, refused to agree to them. The
disageement came to a head in Henry's attempt to establish the
principle of "one law to all" by having church clerics punished
by the civil courts as before, instead of having "benefit of
clergy" to be tried only in ecclesiastical courts, even for
secular crimes. Clerics composed about one-sixth the population.
The church courts had characteristically punished with a fine or
a penance, and at most defrocking, and never imposed a death
penalty, even for murder. When Archbishop Becket was murdered
and became a martyr, "benefit of clergy" became a standard right.
Appeals could be made to the Pope without the King's permission.
The King could take a criminal cleric's chattels, but not his
life. However, though theoretically the bishops were elective,
as a practical matter, the King appointed the bishops and the
Henry and Eleanor spoke many languages and liked discussing law,
philosophy, and history. So they gathered wise and learned man
about them, who became known as courtiers, rather than people of
social rank. They lived in the great and strong Tower of London,
which had been extended as had other castles, so that the whole
castle and grounds were defended instead of just the main
building. On the west were two strongly fortified castles
surrounded by a high and deeply entrenched wall, which had seven
double gates. Towers were spaced along the north wall and the
Thames River flowed below the south wall. To the west was the
city, where royal friends had residences with adjoining gardens
near the royal palace at Westminster. The court was a center of
culture as well as of government. The game of backgammon was
played. People wore belts with buckles, usually brass, instead
of knotting their belts.
London extended about a mile along the river and about half a
mile inland. Most of its houses were two stories, the ground
floor having booths and workshops, and the upper floor living
space. Most of the houses were wooden structures. The richer
merchants' and knights' houses were built of stone. Walls between
houses had to be stone and thatched roofs were banned because
there had been many fires. So roofs were tiled with red-brick
tiles. There were over a hundred churches in the city, which
celebrated feast days, gave alms and hospitality to strangers,
confirmed betrothals, contracted marriages, celebrated weddings,
conducted funerals, and buried the dead. Fish and no meat was
eaten on Fridays and during lent. There was dark rye bread and
expensive white wheat bread. Vegetables included onions, leeks,
and cabbage. Fruits included apples, pears, plums, cherries, and
strawberries. Water was obtained from streams running through
the town to the river and from springs. There were craft guilds
of bakers, butchers, clothworkers, and saddlers, as well as of
weavers. Vendors, craftsmen, and laborers had their customary
places, which they took up every morning. Some vendors walked
the streets announcing their wares for sale.
In London, bells heralded the start and finish of all organized
business. At sunset, the gates of the town were closed for the
night. Only the rich could afford wax candles; others had
home-made tallow or fat lights which smelled and gave off smoke.
Most people washed their bodies. Few babies survived childhood.
If a man reached 30, he could expect to live until age 50. The
sellers of merchandise and hirers of labor were distributed
every morning into their several localities according to their
trade. Outside one of the gates, a horse market was held every
week. They wore horseshoes made of iron or of a crude steel. In
other fields, countryfolk sold pigs, cows, oxen and sheep. London
Bridge was built of stone for the first time. It was supported by
a series of stone arches standing on small man-made islands. It
had such a width that a row of wood houses and a chapel was
built on top of it. In the spring it was impassable by ships
because the flow of water under it varied in height on either
side of the bridge by several feet at half tide.
Men began weaving cloth, which formerly had been done by women.
Some of the cloth was exported.
The weavers guild of London received a charter by the King in
1155, the first granted to any London craft: "Know that I have
conceded to the Weavers of London to hold their guild in London
with all the liberties and customs which they had in the time of
King Henry [I], my grandfather; and that none may intermeddle
with the craft within the city, nor in Southwark, nor in other
places pertaining to London except through them and except he be
in their guild, otherwise than was accustomed to be done in the
time of King Henry, my grandfather ...So that each year they
render thence to me two marks [26s.8d.] of gold at the feast of
St. Michael. And I forbid that any shall do injury or contumely
to them on this account under penalty of 10 pounds [200s.].
Witness T[homas], Chancellor, and Warinus, son of Gerard,
Chamberlain, at Winchester." The liberties obtained were: 1) The
weavers may elect bailiffs to supervise the work of the craft, to
punish defaulters, and to collect the ferm [amount owed to the
King]. The bailiffs were chosen from year to year and swore
before the mayor of London to do and keep their office well and
truly. 2) The bailiffs may hold court from week to week on pleas
of debt, agreements, covenants, and minor trespasses. 3) If any
of the guild members are sued in any other court on any of the
above pleas, the guild may challenge that plea to bring it to
the guild court. 4) If any member is behind in his share of the
payment to the King, the bailiffs may distrain his loom until he
has paid this.
Paying an annual payment freed the weavers from liability to
inconsequent royal fines. Failure to make this payment promptly
might have led to loss of the right, hence the rigorous penalty
of distraint upon the looms of individual weavers who fell into
The weavers' guild punished members who used bad thread in their
weaving or did defective weaving by showing the default to the
mayor, with opportunity for the workman to make entreaty, and
the mayor and twelve members of the guild then made a verdict of
amercement of 1/2 mark [6s. 8d.] and the workman of the cloth
was also punished by the guild bailiffs according to guild
The weavers' guild tradition of brotherliness among members meant
that injury to a fellow weaver incurred a severe penalty. If a
weaver stole or eloigned [removed them to a distance where they
were unreachable] any other weaver's goods falsely and
maliciously, then he was dismissed from the guild and his loom
was taken by the guild to fulfill his portion of the annual
payment to the King. The weavers were allowed to buy and to sell
in London freely and quietly. They had all the rights of other
freemen of the city.
Thus from the middle of the 1100s A.D., the weavers enjoyed the
monopoly of their craft, rights of supervision which ensured a
high standard of workmanship, power to punish infractions of
their privileges, and full control of their members. In this
they stand as the prototype of English medieval guilds. These
rights represented the standard which all bodies of craftsmen
desired to attain. The right of independent jurisdiction was
On the north side of the city was a great forest with fields and
wells where students and other young men from the city took
walks in the fresh evening air. Vendors on the river bank sold
cooked fish caught from the river and wine from ships and wine
London's chief magistrate was the port-reeve, who was appointed
by the King, until 1191. Then the port-reeve was replaced by a
mayor, who was elected yearly by the city wards. Each ward was
headed by an alderman and there were city sheriffs and
councilors. The mayors were typically rich merchant princes.
There were three ways to become a citizen of London: being the
son of a citizen, apprenticeship in a craft for seven years, and
purchase of citizenship. London growth led to its replacing
Winchester as the capital. Over its history, it generally chose
or elected its own mayor every year. (This was not a popular
election.) But there were many periods when royal authority was
asserted over it.
St. Barthomew hospital was established in London for the care of
sick pilgrims traveling to the shrine of Becket in Canterbury.
Trading was facilitated by the stabilization of the amount of
silver metallic content of the English coinage, which was called
"sterling" [strong] silver. The compass assisted the navigation
of ships and London became a major trading center for foreign
goods from many lands.
About 5% of the knights were literate. Wealthy men sent their
sons to school in monasteries to prepare them for a livelihood
in a profession or in trade or to the town of Oxford, whose
individual teachers had attracted disciples for a long time.
These schools grew up around St. Mary's Church, but had not been
started by the church as there was no cathedral school in
Oxford. Oxford had started as a burh and had a royal residence
and many tradesmen. It was given its basic charter in 1155 by
the King. This confirmed to it all the customs, laws and
liberties [rights] as those enjoyed by London. If became a model
charter for other towns.
Bachelors at Oxford studied the arts of grammar, rhetoric, and
logic, and then music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy,
until they mastered their discipline and therefore were
authorized to teach it. Teaching would then provide an income
sufficient to support a wife. The master of arts was analogous to
the master craftsman of a guild. From 1190, the civil law was
studied, and shortly thereafter, canon law. Later came the study
of medicine. The use of paper supplemented the use of parchment
for writing. Irregular edged paper was made from linen, cotton,
straw, and/or wood beaten to a pulp and then spread out over a
wire mesh to dry.
In this era, the English national race and character was formed.
Stories of good King Arthur were popular and set ideals for
behavior and justice in an otherwise barbaric age where force
was supreme. His last battle in which he lay wounded and told a
kinsman to rule in his place and uphold his laws was written in
poem ("Layamon's Brut"). Romantic stories were written and read
The only people distinguishable as Anglo-Saxon by their look and
speech were manor villeins who worked the farm land, who
composed over half the population. Intermarriage had destroyed
any distinction of Normans by look or speech alone. Although the
villeins could not buy their freedom or be freed by their lord,
they became less numerous because of the preference of
landholders for tenants motivated to perform work by potential
loss of tenure. Also, the Crown's protection of all its subjects
in criminal matters blurred the distinction between free and
The boroughs were dominated by lords of local manors, who usually
had a house in the borough. Similarly, burgesses usually had
farmland outside the borough. Many boroughs were granted the
right to have a common seal for the common business of the town.
Each borough was represented by twelve reputable burgesses. Each
vill was represented by a reeve and four reputable men. Certain
towns sponsored great seasonal fairs for special goods, such as
cloth. Less than 5% of the population lived in towns. Some
windmills were used.
London guilds of craftsmen such as weavers, fullers, bakers,
loriners (makers of bit, spurs, and metal mountings of bridles
and saddles), cordwainers (makers of leather goods such as
shoes), pepperers, and goldsmiths were licensed by the King, for
which they paid him a yearly fee. There were also five Bridge
Guilds (probably raising money for the future construction of
London Bridge in stone) and St. Lazarus' Guild. The wealthy
guilds, which included the goldsmiths, the pepperers, and three
bridge guilds had landholding members who had been thegnes or
knights and now became a class of royal officials: the King's
minters, his chamberlain, his takers of wines, his collectors of
Sandwich was confirmed in its port rights by this charter:
"Henry II to his sheriff and bailiffs of Kent, greeting. I will
and order that the monks of the Holy Trinity of Canterbury shall
have fully all those liberties and customs in Sandwich which
they had in the time of King Henry my grandfather, as it was
adjudged in pursuance of his command by the oath of twelve men of
Dover and twelve men of Sandwich, to wit, that the aforesaid
monks ought to have the port and the toll and all maritime
customs in the same port, on either side of the water from
Eadburge-gate as far as markesfliete and a ferry-boat for
passage. And no man has there any right except they and their
ministers. Wherefore I will and firmly command you and the men
of Sandwich that ye cause the aforesaid monks to have all their
customs both in the port and in the town of Sandwich, and I
forbid any from vexing them on this account." "And they shall
have my firm peace."
Henry gave this charter to the town of Bristol in 1164: "Know ye,
that I have granted to my burgesses of Bristol, that they shall
be quit both of toll [a reasonable sum of money or portion of
the thing sold, due to the owner of the fair or market on the
sale of things tollable therein. It was claimed by the lord of
the fee where the fair or market was held, by virtue of a grant
from the Crown either ostensible or presumed] and passage [money
paid for crossing a river or for crossing the sea as might be
due to the Crown] and all custom [customary payments] throughout
my whole land of England, Normandy, and Wales, wherever they
shall come, they and their goods. Wherefore I will and strictly
command, that they shall have all their liberties and
acquittances and free customs fully and honorable, as my free
and faithful men, and that they shall be quit of toll and
passage and of every other customs: and I forbid any one to
disturb them on this account contrary to this my charter, on
forfeiture of ten pounds [200s.]."
John, when he was an earl and before he became King, granted
these liberties to Bristol about 1188:
1) No burgess may sue or be sued out of Bristol.
2) The burgesses are excused from the murder fine (imposed by the
King or lord from the hundred or town where the murder was
committed when the murderer had not been apprehended).
3) No burgess may wage duel, unless sued for death of a stranger.
4) No one may take possession of a lodging house by assignment
or by livery of the Marshall of the Earl of Gloucester against
the will of the burgesses (so that the town would not be
responsible for the good behavior of a stranger lodging in the
town without first accepting the possessor of the lodging house).
5) No one shall be condemned in a matter of money, unless
according to the law of the hundred, that is, forfeiture of 40s.
6) The hundred court shall be held only once a week.
7) No one in any plea may argue his cause in miskenning.
8) They may lawfully have their lands and tenures and mortgages
and debts throughout my whole land, [from] whoever owes them
9) With regard to debts which have been lent in Bristol, and
mortgages theremade, pleas shall be held in the town according
to the custom of the town.
10) If any one in any other place in my land shall take toll of
the men of Bristol, if he does not restore it after he is
required to, the Prepositor of Bristol may take from him a
distress at Bristol, and force him to restore it.
11) No stranger-tradesman may buy within the town from a man who
is a stranger, leather, grain, or wool, but only from a burgess.
12) No stranger may have a shop, including one for selling wine,
unless in a ship, nor shall sell cloth for cutting except at the
13) No stranger may remain in the town with his goods for the
purpose of selling his goods, but for forty days.
14) No burgess may be confined or distrained any where else
within my land or power for any debt, unless he is a debtor or
surety (to avoid a person owed a debt from distraining another
person of the town of the debtor).
15) They shall be able to marry themselves, their sons, their
daughters and their widows, without the license of their lords.
(Lords had the right of preventing their tenants and mesne lords
and their families from marrying without his consent.)
16) No one of their lords shall have the wardship or the disposal
of their sons or daughters on account of their lands out of the
town, but only the wardship of their tenements which belong to
their own fee, until they become of age.
17) There shall be no recognition [acknowledgement that something
done by another person in one's name had one's authority] in the
18) No one shall take tyne [wooden barrel with a certain quantity
of ale, payable by the townsmen to the constable for the use of
the castle] unless for the use of the lord Earl, and that
according to the custom of the town.