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Medieval Property Law

Citing specific evidence from the feudal document (not from the textbook), what did this document reveal about medieval society? You can begin by analyzing the first word, "Lawday.")

Feudal Document
From the Internet Medieval Source book, The Abbot of Battle's Court at Brithwaltham, edited by F. W. Maitland from Select Pleas in Manorial and Other Seignorial Courts. Volume 1: Reigns of Henry III and Edward I. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1889. Although the primary function of a manor court was to hear cases involving property and inter-tenant disputes, manorial court rolls are especially useful to social historians who want to study the daily lives of medieval people.

Lawday. Court of Brightwaltham holden on Monday next after Ascension Day in the twenty-first year of King Edward (A.D. 1293).

The tithingman of Conholt with his whole tithing present that all is well save that William of Mescombe has stopped up a . . . [the word is indecipherable in the manuscript, but Maitland thinks it is a watercourse] wrongfully. Therefore he is in mercy (12 d.). Also they say that Edith of Upton has cut down trees in the enclosure and the seisin of the lord contrary to a prohibition, and they say that she has no property and has fled into foreign parts, (amercement, 12 d.).

Adam Scot is made tithingman and sworn to a faithful exercise of his office.

John son of Hugh Poleyn enters on the land which Randolph Tailor held saving the right of everyone and gives for entry-money 4 marks and will pay 1 mark at Michaelmas in the twenty-second year of King Edward, 1 mark at Christmas next following, 1 mark at Easter, and 1 mark at Michaelmas next following, and for the due making of all these payments the said Hugh Poleyn finds sureties, to wit, Adam Scot, John Gosselyn, William of Mescombe, John Gyote. And because the said John is a minor the wardship of the said lands and tenements is delivered to his father the said Hugh Poleyn until he be of full age, on the terms of his performing the services due and accustomed for the same. Also there is granted to the said Hugh the crop now growing on the sown land, and the heriot due on this entry, for a half-mark payable at Michaelmas next on the security of the above-named sureties.
(a) Hugh Poleyn gives the lord 2 s. that he may have the judgment of the court as to his right in a certain tenement in Upton which J. son of Randolph Tailor claims as his right. And upon this the whole township of Brightwaltham sworn along with the whole township of Conholt say upon their oath that Hugh Poleyn has better right to hold the said tenement than anyone else has, and that he is the next heir by right of blood.

(The Conholt case as to the tenure of Edith wife of Robert Tailor according to the inquest made by the jurors. One Alan Poleyn held a tenement in Conholt upon servile terms and had a wife Cristina by name. The said Alan died when Richard was the farmer [of the manor]. Thereupon came the friends of the said Cristina and procured for her a part of the land by way of dower making a false suggestion and as though [the land] were of free condition, and this was to the great prejudice of the lord Abbot. Upon this came one Richard Aleyn and espoused the said Cristina and begot upon her one Randolph. Then Richard died, and the said Cristina of her own motion enfeoffed Randolph her son of the said tenement. Then Cristina died, and Randolph being in seisin of the said tenement espoused Edith the present demanding; and after Randolph's death Edith married Robert Tailor. Now you can see and give your counsel about the right of the said Edith. And know this, that if I had at hand the court-rolls of the time when William of Lewes [was steward] I could certify the facts and I could show you many strange things that were improvidently done.)

The whole tithing of Hartley comes as it ought to come and presents that all is well.

Solution Preview

Lawday, was the day twice a year when the Lord of the Manor would hear minor cases from his villeins/retainers and others that lived on his estate. Source:

The posted dispute is essentially one of landownership and the diversion of the watercourse and supposed cutting down of trees is at the heart of it. Essentially the document say that William of Mescombe and Edith Upton have made unlawful use of Manor land in spite of an existing prohibition of such use and that ...

Solution Summary

A discussion of medieval property law and how it compares to modern practice