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The terminology used in the Medieval period can often cause confusion & dismay amongst both amateur historians & enthusiastic general readers alike!

On the following pages we hope to demystify some of the more common terms that were in current use in the fifteenth century

Eventually, the Glossary will be sub divided into categories such the law, title holders, land, the Church, money, heraldry, buildings etc, some of which will be arbitrary as land, possession & inheritance of land all tended to overlap. Most of the litigation in the Fifteenth century seemingly involved  the possession of land either by inheritance or seizure!

Building the Glossary is a slow 'work in progress'  so for the time being,  until the Glossary grows it will be divided alphabetically, starting with....

 

     A

ABATEMENT               

The taking of possession of an inheritance by someone who has no right to do so

ABBEY 

Monastic community of monks or nuns, ruled by an Abbot  or Abbess

ABEYANCE                   

Suspension of a title when the right is not vested in one direct heir

ACHIEVEMENT

A full display of a full coat of arms

ACTION REAL             

Action brought to recover possession of lands etc

ACTION PERSONAL  

Action brought to recover debt, damages or personal injury

ADVOCATE          

A cleric with a doctorate in Canon Law who pleads in Curch courts.

ADVOWSON              

The right to appoint the incumbent of a church or benefice

ALIENATION            

Transfer of interest in property from one person to another

ALIEN PRIORY         

A religious house subject to the control of a Mother house on the Continent

ALIEN SUBSIDIES     

Taxes levied  between 1440 - 1487 on foreign nationals living in England

AMERCEMENT           

In English law a financial penalty for a minor offence.

ANGEL                        

Gold coin worth 6s 8d (33p)

APPEAL                     

Private accusations brought by an injured party or his/her kinsman for a criminal offence.

APPURTENANCES     

A right belonging to a property

ARMINGER           

A person who has been granted the right to bear  a coat of arms.

ASSIZE             

Inquiry into matters brought under an Assize law eg Assize of weights & Measures

ATTAINDER               

The penalty for treason, the confiscation of a person's  goods, titles, land & in many cases his life

ATTONEY            

Represented clients in aspects of formal litigation taking out writs, instructing pleaders

AUGUSTINIAN CANONS  

Ordained clerical monks who followed the Rule of St Augustine - called Black Canons from the colour of their habit

AZURE

Blue in heraldry

B

BARON                       

Not a title but a description of a Tenant in Chief holding from the Crown - a member of the nobility

BASTARD FEUDALISM  

Evolved in later Medieval period - payment in money instead of granting land for military service

BAILEY

An enclosed courtyard

BALDAQUIN

A canopy over the highest place on teh top table in dining

BANKER

Embroidered cover for bench or chair

BENEDICTINE MONK     

Member of the monastic Order of St Benedict. Called black monks from the colour of theri habit

BENEFICE   

A grant of land given to a monastery, a noble or bishop for limited service. Alternatively,  a Church office that returns revenue

BILL                   

A pole type weapon, based on a hedging tool, with one straight & maybe two hook type blades

BLA & BLOT      

Black & Blue - an offence

BLANK - MANGER

Dish made from pounded poultry or other white meat boiled with rice, almond milk and sweetened with honey

BLAZON                  

The description of an armorial bearing

BODGER

One who makes rough and ready items from rough hewn timber

BOOK OF HOURS    

A book of prayers for every hour of the day. usually commissioned by a single person

BOROUGH       

A town that has been granted a Royal Charter conferring on it the right to self government

BURGAGE        

A town plot including dwelling, often long & narrow with the narrow end facing the street

BUSHELL     

Eight gallons

BUTTE

Generic middle English name for a flat fish. This was combined with the middle English haly meaning holy to give the name to the largest flatfish, halybutte or halibut a favourite on Holy Days

BUTTERY

Place for storing wet goods such as ale, wine and beer. Hence the name of Butler given to the person who served such.

 

C

CALTROP     

A device with upward presenting spikes used to impede horses

CANON   

A member of a cathedral chapter, colliegate church or a religious order of canons

CANON LAW  

System of governing clerics & lay persons who came under the jurisdiction of the church. Also covered cases of family dispute, marriage, bastardy, divorce, slander & the making of wills

CANONICAL HOURS

The church bell would be rung eight times at each of the following; midnight(matins), 3am (lauds), 6am (prime), 9am (tierce), midday (sext), 3pm (nones), 6pm (vespers) and 9pm (compline)

CARTULARY      

Collections of deeds, charters & other lagal documents involved with the title to property  to a monastery

CATHEDRAL     

Principal church of the diocese where the bishop had his throne (cathedra)

CENOBITIC  LIFE   

Monastic life lived in a community

CHAMBERLAIN   

Officer of the royal household responsible for 'the chamber'. He controlled access to the king, administered the household & royal estates.

CHANCELLOR      

Officer of the royal household who acted as the king's notary, responsible for dealing with domestic & foreign affairs.

CHANTRY  

The endowment of a priest often in perpetuity for the saying of mass for the soul of the donor & kinsman

CHAPTER           

The daily meeting of monks of the Benedictine Order to hear a 'chapter' from the Rule & discuss monastic business. Alternatively a group of clerics serving a cathedral.

CHARTER    

A public document issued by the donor, recording the title of a gift of property

CHIVALRIC CODE       

Code of conduct pertaining to knighthood, especialy the idealised virtues of honour & courtly love.

CISTERCIAN MONKS 

A reformed austere Order of the rule of St Benedict. White Monks

COBBLER      

A repairer of footwear as opposed to a maker of footwear

COCKET      

The cheapest white bread

COFFER       

A metal chest also known as an Ark

COMMON LAW   

The body of law built on custom & judicial decisions rather than statutes.

CONSTABLE  

The principal officer of the king, lord, or town

COPYHOLD

A form of Feudal land tenure  where land is held at the will of the lord according to the custom of the manor as copied' in the Manor Court Rolls. Opposing condition is Freehold, free from any Feudal ties

CORDWAINER   

A maker of fine shoes

COURT OF COMMON PLEAS 

A common law court that heard pleas between individuals

COUVERT DE BARON   

A women whose property was all in the hands of her husband to whom she owed absolute obedience and who was responsible for her conduct. Opposite condition Femme Sole

CRANAGE       

The fee paid to unload or load a ship using a winch

CRENELLATE     

Licence to - add battlements ie fortify a manor house

CRESSET LAMP     

A  stone that has been hollowed out to be filled with oil & a wick. Sometimes projecting from a wall