This section attempts to explain some of the common historical terms that you may find elsewhere in the Virtual Museum:

Appurtenance: Belonging, appendage, accessory.

Borough: an administrative division designates a self-governing township.

The word borough derives from common Germanic burgs, meaning fort (compare bury in England) Towns or cities ending in “bury” (e.g., Newbury, Canterbury) usually indicates that they were once fortified settlements.

In the Middle Ages, boroughs were settlements in England that were granted some self-government. In medieval England, boroughs were also entitled to elect members of parliament. The use of the word borough probably derives from the burghal system of Alfred the Great. Alfred set up a system of defensive strong points (Burhs); in order to maintain these settlements, he granted them a degree of autonomy. After the Norman Conquest, when certain towns were granted self-governance, the concept of the burh/borough seems to have been reused to mean a self-governing settlement.

Brick Tax: The Brick Tax was imposed in 1784 as one of a number of taxes on production designed to help fund the interest of the increased national debt due to the defeat of Britain in the War of American Independence. The Brick Tax was repealed in 1850 as it was unfair because brick was only used in the eastern part of England as the common building material; stone, used in the western part, had ceased to attract a tax some years earlier. It is generally thought that the Brick Tax had zero effect on the use of bricks for building because competition between brickyards kept the price of bricks down. See also Coal Tax, Hearth Tax, Window Tax.

Burgage tenure: The arrangement whereby property owners could own the dwelling as freehold (rather than the previous usual copyhold arrangement, i.e. dependent on the lord's manorial court). Under burgage tenure, he would be free to sell or lease the property as and when he chose, paying only a fixed nominal quit rent (q.v.) which released him from all other services to his feudal lord. Burgage tenure was a feature of the new (c.1200) "model" vill or town which ran along the line of present-day Bridge Street and High Street, and was an indication of freehold rights within the manor of Hungerford.

Buried in Woollen Acts, 1666-80: See Buried in Woollen.

Carucate: an old English unit of land-area, normally considered to represent about 120 acres. It was a unit of assessment for tax used in most Danelaw counties of England, and is found for example in Domesday Book. The carucate was based on the area a plough team of eight oxen could till in a single annual season. See also Virgate.

Chantry: A service which arose from an endowment for a priest to sing masses or obits for the souls of the dead. Often involved a cantarist or chantry priest and a place where these obits might be sung. The phrase "former Chantry property" means that, prior to the dissolution of chantries in the reign of Henry VIII, the property belonged either to the Chantry of the Holy Trinity or to the Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary (qv).

Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary (B.V.M.): Chantry of Blessed Virgin Mary (sometimes referred to as "Our Lady Chantry" and "the chantry of the burgesses"). A license for the foundation of this chantry in the parish church was granted in 1457. Dissolved 1548.

Chantry of Holy Trinity (H.T.): This chantry in the parish church of Hungerford was founded in 1325 by Sir Robert Hungerford (then owner of the [later known as] Hopgrass estate). It was essentially a private memorial to the glory of the Hungerford family, sustained by income from the estates granted to it by that family. Dissolved 1548.

Chantry of St. Mary: The earliest chantry in Hungerford, pre-dating the two chantries already noted above – for whoever set up "one wax light before the altar of St. Anne in Hungerford church". No licence now exists for this chantry, but an early reference of 1273 mentions John Blundel, chaplain of the Blessed Mary of Hungerford".

Coal Tax: One of the key taxes introduced by Charles II to help pay for the rebuilding of the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666. Coal Tax acts were passed in 1667 and in 1670. The tax was eventually repealed in 1889. See also Brick Tax, Hearth Tax, Window Tax.

County: now synonymous with “shire”(see below). Originally the term was brought to Britain from the mainland continent, where it arose as a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count. When the Normans conquered England, they brought the term with them.

But the Vikings had already introduced the term earl (from Old Norse, jarl) to the British Isles. Thus, "earl" and "earldom" were taken as equivalent to the continental use of "count" and "county".

Since a shire was an administrative division of the kingdom, the term "county" evolved to designate an administrative division of national government in most modern uses.

Conveyance: Communication of ideas, etc, document effecting transference of property, carriage, vehicle.

Copyhold: A type of ownership of land in England, evidenced by a copy of the manor roll establishing the title. An estate held under such ownership.

Curtilage: the enclosed area immediately surrounding a house or dwelling.

D.C.W.: Dean and Canons of Windsor (qv)

D.S.: Dean of Sarum (usually relating to wills).

Dean & Canons of Windsor: A number of properties originally belonged to the D.C.W.

Devise: To assign or transmit (property) by will. The act of disposing of property by will. A will or clause in a will disposing of property. The property so disposed of. Devisee: One to whom a devise is made.

Easements: Right of way or similar right over another's ground. Supplementary building, shed, etc.

Ecclesiastical Visitations: Archdeacons were supposed to visit their archdeaconries once a year, and bishops their dioceses every three years. The Visitor would send out a Citation Mandate to all incumbents, who read it out in church, calling upon them and the church officials to appear before him at a date and place named. The latter would be a church either in a central position or in the most important town. At about the same time he would issue his Visitation Articles, listing the subjects into which he wished to enquire. These would include the church, the living, the clergy, hospitals, the parish, the parishioners and the ecclesiastical officers. All those people summoned would be required to obtain a copy of the Articles beforehand.

The Archdeacon arrived with his Register, bringing his Call Book and Fees Book to record attendances, absences and fees collected. The visited included the clergy, churchwardens, parish clerks, schoolmasters, surgeons and midwives, unless excused. The clergy brought their Letters of Orders proving their right to their cures (spiritual charges), with dispensations when they held more than one living. The parish clerks, schoolmasters, surgeons and midwives, brought their licences. The clergy and churchwardens had certain fees to pay.

The clergy and churchwardens then handed in their presentments, reporting on the conduct of their parishioners since the last Visitation and answering the points in the Visitation Articles. Executors and administrators of people who had lately died were also required to come and prove the wills, or take administration, a function that at other times was performed at the relevant ecclesiastical court. The presentments were discussed and some verdicts given on the spot; the Visitation ended with the Archdeacon's Charge, an address delivered during a service in the church.

After the visitation, the Archdeacon issued, through his Registrar's office, a number of Injunctions setting out in detail, in numbered paragraphs, his orders for the amendment of any faults revealed. Among these were penances imposed, together with a certificate to be signed by the incumbent and a churchwarden that the penance had been performed. After the mid sixteenth century, the penance was normally just a Declaration Penance, which was a confession to be read publicly, usually in church, reciting the offence and expressing penitence. Sometimes the incumbent or churchwardens would give a certificate that the offender was of a sufficiently good general character - or perhaps social standing - to be allowed to perform his penance privately.

Other documents kept by the Registrar for permanent reference included the "detecta" and "comperta" volumes, containing copies of all the presentments with a few brief additional notes; copies of Citation Mandates, summoning the more serious offenders to appear before the Archdeacon's Court; and the Act Book, recording the action taken against them there. This last overlaps the records of the court. Exhibitions list the licences and other documents produced in court.

Though visitations began in the tenth century, the records are only numerous from the reign of Elizabeth I. Bishops' three-yearly visitations are similar to those of Archdeacons, but less numerous. The presentments are usually written in English and the originals sometimes survive on single sheets of paper. They are full of human interest, naming and reporting on the most important parish functionaries. People who neglected or refused to receive Holy Communion (Recusants) were presented; they might be Protestant nonconformists or Roman Catholics. The state of the church might also be given in some detail, mentioning any 'popish monuments of superstition' such as candlesticks, a crucifix, handbells or banner cloths. Rogationtide perambulations of the parish are sometimes mentioned, with the boundaries described. Non-payment of tithe is always mentioned. The morals of the parishioners form the largest subject of the presentments. Not even the parson was exempt from presentment.

Edifice: Building, especially large one.

Fee simple and fee tail: an estate of inheritance in land, either absolute and without limitation to any particular class of heirs (fee simple) or limited to a particular class of heirs (fee tail).

Feet of fine: A foot of fine is the record of an agreement, also called a final concord or fine that resolved a dispute, real or pretended, commonly about the ownership of land. One of the parties to the dispute purchased a writ to bring the dispute into the king's court, thereby becoming the plaintiff, but before the suit came to judgement the parties sought permission to reach an agreement (or concord). When the agreement had been approved by the court it was written out three times on a single sheet of parchment, the first two head to head on the upper two thirds of the sheet and the third across the lower third to form the foot of fine. The parchment was cut into three with indented lines, the fit of the three parts being a test of authenticity. The two upper parts were given to the parties to the agreement and the third, the foot, was retained by the court. The approval of the agreement by the king's court and the permanence of the record gave the final concord an authority and fixity which a private agreement could not attain, so that the procedure was increasingly used in the conveyance and settlement of land. The files of feet now preserved in the Public Record Office provide an incomparable record of landed property and its owners from the twelfth century to the nineteenth.

Feoffment: A grant of lands as a fee. The historical method of granting a freehold estate in land by actual delivery of possession originally by livery of seisin (see below).

Frankpledge: was an English institution in which units (often referred to as a tithing) of ten households were bound together and held responsible for one another's conduct. All men over 12 years of age were joined in groups of approximately ten households. This unit, under a leader known as the chief-pledge or tithing-man, was then responsible for producing any man of that tithing suspected of a crime. The system originated in Anglo-Saxon times, but continued into the Norman period. In modern times, "frankpledge" was superseded by "tithing".

Free suitor: A person who makes a petition or request. A person who sues in court; a plaintiff; a petitioner.

Freehold: An estate in land, inherited or held for life. A form of tenure by which an estate is held in fee simple, fee tail, or for life.

Garner: Storehouse for corn, granary.

Glass Tax: The glass tax was introduced in Great Britain in 1746, during the reign of King George II. Glass was at that time sold by weight, and manufacturers responded by producing smaller, more highly decorated objects, often with hollow stems, known today as "Excise glasses". In 1780, the government granted Ireland free trade in glass without taxation, resulting in the establishment of new glassworks in Cork and Waterford. In 1825, the tax in Ireland was restored, and gradually the industry declined, until the glass tax was abolished by Sir Robert Peel's government in 1845.

A contemporary account in The Lancet ("The Duty on Glass", The Lancet 1: 214–215, 22 February 1845) described the glass tax as an "absurd impost on light": "In a hygienic point of view, the enormous tax on glass, amounting to more than three hundred per cent on its value, is one of the most cruel a Government could inflict on the nation ... The deficiency of light in town habitations, in a great measure caused by the enormous cost of glass, is universally admitted to be one of the principal causes of the unhealthiness of cities ..."
See also Brick Tax, Coal Tax, Hearth Tax, Window Tax.

Gregorian Calendar: This was the calendar introduced in 1752, when New Year's Day changed from 25th March to 1st January. Prior to this, the calendar was the Julian calendar.

Hearth Tax: The Hearth Tax was imposed by Parliament in 1662 to support the Royal Household of King Charles II. It was repealed by William and Mary in 1689.

Follow this link for the Museum section covering the Hearth Tax. See also Brick Tax, Coal Tax, Window Tax.

Hide: A unit of land measurement used in the Domesday book – roughly equivalent to 60 to 120 old acres (15-30 modern acres, 6 to 12 hectares) or more, depending upon local usage.

Hundred: A hundred was the division of a shire for administrative, military and judicial purposes under the common law. Originally, when introduced by the Saxons between 613 and 1017, a hundred had enough land to sustain approximately one hundred households headed by a hundred-man or hundred eolder. He was responsible for administration, justice, and supplying military troops, as well as leading its forces. The office was not hereditary, but by the 10th century the office was selected from among a few outstanding families. In England, specifically, it has been suggested that 'hundred' referred to the amount of land sufficient to sustain one hundred families, defined as the land covered by one hundred "hides".

All hundreds were divided into tithings, which contained ten households. Below that, the basic unit of land was called the hide, which was enough land to support one family and varied in size from 60 to 120 old acres, or 15 to 30 modern acres (6 to 12 ha) depending on the quality and fertility of the land.

Above the hundred was the shire under the control of a shire-reeve (or sheriff). Hundred boundaries were independent of both parish and county boundaries, although often aligned, meaning that a hundred could be split between counties (usually only a fraction), or a parish could be split between hundreds.

Over time, the principal functions of the hundred became the administration of law and the keeping of the peace. By the twelfth century the hundred court was held twelve times a year. This was later increased to being held fortnightly, although an ordinance of 1234 reduced the frequency to once every three weeks. In some hundreds, courts were held at a fixed place; while in others, courts moved with each sitting to a different location. The main duties of the hundred court were the maintenance of the frankpledge system. Where the hundred was under the jurisdiction of the crown, the chief magistrate was a sheriff. However, many hundreds were in private hands, with the lordship of the hundred being attached to the principal manor of the area and becoming hereditary. Where a hundred was under a lord, a steward was appointed in place of a sheriff. The importance of the hundred courts declined from the seventeenth century.

Indenture: Indented document. Any sealed agreement or contract, especially that which binds an apprentice to his master.

Innholder: normally implies ownership; as distinct from innkeeper which implies management.

Indenture: a deed or agreement executed in two or more copies with edges correspondingly indented as a means of identification.

Julian Calendar: This was the calendar in use in England prior to 1752. It was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC.

Livery of seisin: an ancient ceremony for conveyance of land by the symbolic transfer of a relevant item (as a key, twig, or turf) or by symbolic entry of the grantee called also investiture.

Manor: Manorialism, an essential element of feudal society, was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire, was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe, and was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market economy and new forms of agrarian contract. Manorialism was characterised by the vesting of legal and economic power in a lord, supported economically from his own direct landholding and from the obligatory contributions of a legally subject part of the peasant population under his jurisdiction. These obligations could be payable in several ways, in labor (the French term corvée is conventionally applied), in kind, or, on rare occasions, in coin.
In examining the origins of the monastic cloister, Walter Horn found that "as a manorial entity the Carolingian monastery... differed little from the fabric of a feudal estate, save that the corporate community of men for whose sustenance this organization was maintained consisted of monks who served God in chant and spent much of their time in reading and writing."

Manorialism died slowly and piecemeal, along with its most vivid feature in the landscape, the open field system. It outlasted serfdom as it outlasted feudalism: "primarily an economic organization, it could maintain a warrior, but it could equally well maintain a capitalist landlord. It could be self-sufficient, yield produce for the market, or it could yield a money rent."[4] The last feudal dues in France were abolished at the French Revolution. In parts of eastern Germany, the Rittergut manors of Junkers remained until World War II.

The word derives from traditional inherited divisions of the countryside, reassigned as local jurisdictions known as manors or seigneuries; each manor being subject to a lord (French seigneur), usually holding his position in return for undertakings offered to a higher lord (see Feudalism). The lord held a manor court, governed by public law and local custom. Not all territorial seigneurs were secular; bishops and abbots also held lands that entailed similar obligations.

By extension, the word manor is sometimes used in England to mean any home area or territory in which authority is held, often in a police or criminal context.

In the generic plan of a medieval manor from Shepherd's Historical Atlas, the strips of individually-worked land in the open field system are immediately apparent. In this plan, the manor house is set slightly apart from the village, but equally often the village grew up around the forecourt of the manor, formerly walled, while the manor lands stretched away outside, as still may be seen at Petworth House. As concerns for privacy increased in the 18th century, manor houses were often located a farther distance from the village. For example, when a grand new house was required by the new owner of Harlaxton Manor, Lincolnshire, in the 1830s, the site of the existing manor house at the edge of its village was abandoned for a new one, isolated in its park, with the village out of view.

Manors each consisted of up to three classes of land:
1. Demesne, the part directly controlled by the lord and used for the benefit of his household and dependents;
2. Dependent (serf or villein) holdings carrying the obligation that the peasant household supply the lord with specified labour services or a part of its output (or cash in lieu thereof), subject to the custom attached to the holding; and
3. Free peasant land, without such obligation but otherwise subject to manorial jurisdiction and custom, and owing money rent fixed at the time of the lease.

Additional sources of income for the lord included charges for use of his mill, bakery or wine-press, or for the right to hunt or to let pigs feed in his woodland, as well as court revenues and single payments on each change of tenant. On the other side of the account, manorial administration involved significant expenses, perhaps a reason why smaller manors tended to rely less on villein tenure.

Dependent holdings were held nominally by arrangement of lord and tenant, but tenure became in practice almost universally hereditary, with a payment made to the lord on each succession of another member of the family. Villein land could not be abandoned, at least until demographic and economic circumstances made flight a viable proposition; nor could they be passed to a third party without the lord's permission, and the customary payment.

Though not free, villeins were by no means in the same position as slaves: they enjoyed legal rights, subject to local custom, and had recourse to the law, subject to court charges which were an additional source of manorial income. Sub-letting of villein holdings was common, and labour on the demesne might be commuted into an additional money payment, as happened increasingly from the 13th century.

Mantua: A woman's garment (like a loose robe) of the 17th and 18th centuries consisting of a bodice and full skirt cut from a single length of fabric, with the skirt designed to part in front to reveal a contrasting underskirt.[Alteration (influenced by Mantua in Italy), of manteau.]

Messuage: a dwelling house with its adjacent buildings and the lands appropriated to the use of the household. (1350-1400: Medieval English from Anglo-French misreading (n taken as u) of Old French mesnage (ménage – dwelling house, ultimately from Latin mansion = habitation,, dwelling)

Obit: (Obsolete) a Requiem mass (said or sung in a chantry chapel for example).

Priory of St. John the Baptist: a priory established on the "island" in what is now known as Bridge Street in 1232. It lasted for over 300 years until it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1548. The ex-Priory property was granted by Henry VIII to Sir John Thynne of Longleat, who later leased them to various tenants. When Sir John Thynne died, the Priory properties reverted back to the Crown, and were purchased by Anthony Hidden - Lord of the Manor of Hidden cum Eddington. In 1740 a new road incorporating two bridges was built for easier access to town from Charnham Street, replacing old road in front of the Tannery (stood to rear of Riverside house) and the ford (by Forge Cottage). Several properties in that part of Bridge Street are associated with the old Priory, e.g. Chapel barn, Great Priory House and Little Priory House. Click here for more on the Priory of St John the Baptist.

Quit rent: rent (usually a small sum) paid by a freeholder or copyholder in lieu of services that might otherwise have been required. (from Medieval English quite (=free) + rent). In Hungerford these came to be a rent paid to the Portrieve yearly for use of Common Rights etc. Most central Hungerford property owners were able to pay nominal quit rents under their burgage tenure arrangements (qv). However, we have quit rent rolls for only the manor of Hungerford properties, and not for the manor of Hungerford Engleford. Quit rents were abolished in the early 20th century.

Seisin: Legal possession of land, as a freehold estate. The act or an instance of taking legal possession of land. Property thus possessed.

Shire: the traditional term for a division of land in the United Kingdom, the original term for what is usually known as a county; the word county having been introduced at the Norman Conquest of England. The two are synonymous.
The word derives from the Old English, scir, and appears to be allied to shear, shore, "share" as it is a division of the land. The system was first used in Wessex from the earliest settlement period, and spread to most of the rest of England in the tenth century, along with West Saxon political control.

The shire in early days was governed by an Ealdorman and in the later Anglo-Saxon period by royal official known as a "shire reeve" or sheriff. The shires were divided into hundreds or wapentakes, although other less common sub-divisions existed. An alternative name for a shire was a "sheriffdom" until sheriff court reforms separated the two concepts. Although "county" appears in some texts, "shire" was the normal name until counties for statutory purposes were created in the nineteenth century.

Tenant: One that pays rent to use or occupy land, a building, or other property owned by another. Law. One who holds or possesses lands, tenements, or sometimes personal property by any kind of title. (Middle English, from Old French, from present participle of tenir, to hold, from Latin tenere.)

Tenure: Kind of right or title by which property is held.

Terrier: A book or document in which are described the site, boundaries, acreage, tenants etc. of certain lands. (Origin 1470-80; from Medieval French, short for register terrier – register of land)

Tithing: The English land division called the tithing was one tenth of a hundred, or equal to ten (Scandinavian: ten = ti, assembly = thing ). Hungerford Parish contains the Town Tithing, Sanden Fee Tithing, Eddington Tithing and Charnham Street Tithing.

Allied to this concept was a local administrative unit also called a tithing, with essentially legal responsibilities, exercised by a "tithingman" or "headborough".

Nearly every commoner (those living as part of the household of a Lord were excepted) was required to be part of a "tithing", a group of about ten persons (who later became known as a "frankpledge").

The tithing was in some senses a primitive form of a self governing police force. Members of it were required to report any crimes committed within their group. Each tithing had a leader and the leaders of all the local tithings acted together as a jury.

"Views of frankpledge" were held periodically to ensure that all adult males in the community belonged to a tithing.

Local groups of tithings were associated together in "leets" (or wards). A leet might act as a court or it might merely bring cases to the attention of a "Hundred" court.

Both meanings originated in Anglo-Saxon times, through arrangements for the management of estates, taxation and criminal law, for example in the procedure known as "view of frankpledge (qv)." They continued in use until modern times.

Virgate: A unit of land area measurement used in medieval England, representing about 30 acres, the amount of land that a team of two oxen could plough in a single annual season. It was equivalent to a quarter of a hide. See also Carucate.

Window Tax: The Window Tax was introduced under the Act of Making Good the Deficiency of the Clipped Money in 1696 under King William III and was designed to impose tax relative to the prosperity of the taxpayer, but without the controversy that then surrounded the idea of income tax.

When it was introduced, it consisted of two parts: a flat-rate house tax of 2 shillings per house and a variable tax for the number of windows above ten windows. Properties with between ten and twenty windows paid a total of four shillings, and those above twenty windows paid eight shillings. The number of windows that incurred tax was changed to seven in 1766 and eight in 1825. The flat-rate tax was changed to a variable rate, dependent on the property value, in 1778. People who were ineligible for church or poor rates, for reasons of poverty, were exempt from the window tax. Window tax was relatively unintrusive and easy to assess. However, the tax was unpopular, because it was seen by some as a tax on "light and air". The tax was not repealed until 1851, when it was replaced by House Duty. See also Brick Tax, Coal Tax, Glass Tax, Hearth Tax.

Yeoman: A member of the former class of small (lesser) freeholders, below the gentry, who cultivated his own land, early admitted in England to political rights. Often implies some form of self-employment. (Origin: 1300-1500 Medieval English yeman, yoman, probably reduced forms of yengman, yongman, yungman, with similar sense (young man).

See also:

- Glossary of historic terms and phrases, by Norman Hidden