Glossary of terms used in this website

Ableman An able-bodied man fit for military service.

Acater A provisioner, chiefly of food.

Accomptant An accountant.

Acre One acre equals 0.0015625 square miles, 4,840 square yards, 43,560 square feet or about 4,047 square metres (0.405 hectare). Originally, an acre was understood as a selion of land sized at forty perches (qv) (660 ft or 1 furlong) long and four perches (66 ft wide); this may have also been understood as an approximation of the amount of land a yoke of oxen could plough in one day.

Acreman / Ackerman A ploughman or oxherd.

An account keeper. An officer or a mercantile or insurance company. Skilled in statistics, especially on the expectancy of life and the average proportion of losses by fire and other accidents.


A person appointed by the court to settle the estate of a deceased person who died intestate or without naming an executor.

Advowson The right in English law of presenting a nominee to a vacant ecclesiastical benefice. Originally it had meant the relation of a patron (advocatus) or protector of a benefice, and thus privileged to nominate or present to it.

Aglettes Pendant dress ornaments.

Alchemist A medieval chemist.

Alderman A senior councillor, one position down from Mayor.

Ale Draper A seller of ale.

Ale Tunner Employed by a brewery to fill ale casks (tuns) with ale.

Alewife A female alehouse keeper.

Almaine rivet An Almaine rivet is a type of flexible plate armour originating in Germany around 1500. It was designed to be manufactured easily whilst still affording considerable protection to the wearer. It consisted of a breastplate and backplate with laminated thigh-guards called tassets. Almain rivets were generally of fairly low quality, but they were relatively cheap.

Almoner A distributor of food and money to the poor on behalf of the parish.

Almsman Receiver of Alms.

Ancere Tub for washing, etc.

Angel Medieval English gold coin worth 6s 8d (33p).

Annuitant Receiver of an Annuity - an annuity is income paid to a beneficiary at regular intervals, for a fixed period or ascertainable period (usually the lifetime of a nominee) in return for a lump sum payment having been previously made into the scheme by a subscriber - i.e. a spouse, benefactor or employer.

Apothecary Prepared and sold medicines and drugs. A pharmacist.

Apprentice Trainee bound to a skilled worker (Master) or Company for a specified time to learn the trade.

Appurtenances Appurtenances is a term for what belongs to and goes with something else, with the appurtenance being less significant than what it belongs to - for example a garden would be the appurtenance to a house.

Arable Land upon which crops are cultivated.

Artificer A highly skilled worker or craftsman.

Assign A person appointed to act for another.

Badger A licensed pauper who wore a badge with the letter P on it and could only work in a defined area (the term 'badgering' derives from this).

Bagniokeeper In charge of a brothel.

Bailiff Local official or agent. An officer of the court who maintained order in the courtroom, or in charge of a manor, town, castle, county etc. with the power to collect fines or take people into custody.

Bairman / Bareman A pauper or beggar.

Bang Beggar An officer of the parish who controlled the length of stay of any stranger to the parish.

Banke / Banker A bed cover or a chair cover.

Cut hair and also a surgeon. In the 18th Century, an Act was passed, limiting Barbers to hair cutting, shaving, dentistry and bloodletting.

Barker A worker of, and a dealer in, leather (Medieval).

Basil Worker
Workers who used bark to tan the skins of lambs and sheep. The leather was called basil.

Battledore Maker A maker of the beaters used on clothes, carpets, etc. to remove dust.

Bawdricke Leather gear for suspending the clapper of a church bell.

Beadman / Beadsman or Bedesman 1) Manorial tenant employed for a specific purpose
2) Inhabitant of a Poorhouse, Almshouse or Hospital
3) One employed to pray for others

Bear-ward The owner of a performing bear.

Sexton whose main job in the church was to dig the graves.

Behoof Benefit or advantage.

Bell Metal Bell metal or bell bronze - An alloy, a form of bronze with a higher tin content than most other bronzes, usually in approximately a 4:1 ratio of copper to tin. The higher tin content increases the rigidity of the metal.

a permanent Church appointment, typically that of a rector or vicar, for which property and income are provided in respect of pastoral duties.

Billman A billman was a soldier who used a bill - a polearm weapon used by infantry in medieval Europe.

Blackletter Blackletter, also known as Gothic script or Gothic minuscule, was a script used throughout Western Europe from approximately 1150 to well into the 17th century.

Blank-manger Unlike the sweet pudding of today (blancmange) this was made from pounded poultry or other white meat boiled with rice and almond milk and sweetened with honey.

Boarder Term used for a lodger although a boarder usually dined with the family whereas a lodger did not.

Boardwright A carpenter.
Bolen Wax used to make tapers.

Bondman As for apprentice - bonded to his Master to learn a skill or trade.

Bondsman Stood the bond or surety for a bonded person.

A 'surgeon' - non qualified practitioner who sets fractured and dislocated bones.

Bookman A student.

later Boots

A servant at an inn who pulled off traveller's boots.

Boothman One who sells grains.

Bordar A term found in the Domesday Book of 1086. Bordars, or smallholders, were a middle class of peasant and were tenants of smaller farms of about ten acres, with services and rights in proportion to their holding.

Borough A term (from the Old English burh) used to denote a place with urban characteristics and therefore likely to contain commercial institutions, including a market. The term originally indicated the defended character of the place but acquired additional connotations, including the distinctive legal customs, taxation rates and rights to representation enjoyed by the inhabitants of towns in contrast to those of the countryside. The privileged inhabitants of towns were known as burgesses. Not all settlements which functioned economically or socially as towns were recognised as boroughs.

Braies Short underpants tied at the waist.

Brazier A worker in brass.

Bricksetter Worked in a brick works. He worked in the kilns, stacking or 'setting' the bricks ready for firing.

Brightsmith A metal worker, often a silversmith.

Broche Spike of which to stick a candle; a spit.

Bronde A stand for supporting a pot or kettle over a fire.

Bucking Mill
A saw mill.

Buckram Maker
Worker with buckram (a coarse linen cloth stiffened with glue) used in stiffening materials such as belts, lapels and collars.

Burgage Burgage is a Medieval land term, well established by the 13th century. A burgage was a town or 'borough' rental property, owned by the king, the lord of the manor or the church. The property ("burgage tenement") usually, and distinctly, consisted of a house on a long and narrow plot of land with a narrow street frontage.

Burye Man A grave digger.

Bushell Eight gallons.

Butte A generic Middle English name for a flatfish. This was combined with the Middle English haly meaning holy to give the name for the largest flatfish which was a favourite dish on holy days - the halybutte (halibut).

Buttery Storage for wet goods, such as ale, beer and wine. (see also Pantry)

Bygon A child's bonnet or nightcap.

Cadger A beggar.

Cafender A carpenter.

Calendar A published summary in English of the contents of a document or a series of documents. For example, the charter rolls are the manuscript record of charters granted by the king; they are written in Latin in a contemporary hand. The calendar of the charter rolls is a summary of their contents with some information, such as the witness lists, left out.

Canonical Hours The church bell was rung eight times at each of the following -
midnight (matins), 3 am (lauds), 6 am (prime), 9 am (tierce),
midday (sext), 3 pm (nones), 6 pm (vespers) and 9 pm (compline).

Carman / Carrier /
Carter / Cartman
Driver of horse-drawn vehicles for transporting goods. Carmen were often employed by railway companies for local deliveries and collections of goods and parcels. A Carter typically drove a light two wheeled carriage. Also someone who drove horse-drawn trams was called a Carman.

Cartwright A maker of carts and wagons.

Chafur A saucepan.

A two-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage that could carry up to four passengers and was driven by a servant. The top was convertible and could drop down for fine weather.

Chapel of Ease A chapel of ease is a church building other than the parish church, built within the bounds of a parish for the attendance of those who cannot reach the parish church conveniently, generally due to distance away.

Charter Document recording a grant. A royal charter is distinguished from other forms of royal instrument as it has a witness list and notifies specific groups of the royal act.

Catchpole Literally meaning 'chicken-catcher', a catchpole was one who found and brought in debtors.

Chapman A dealer or peddler of goods usually itinerant going from village to village. Often sold fabrics such as wool and cotton. Peddler or hawker.

Charwoman A woman hired by the day to do odd jobs, usually cleaning, in a house - as still used today and in use as early as 1596. The word "chare" or "char" was used to describe an odd job.

Chief Rent Also known as a 'rentcharge', a Chief Rent is an annual sum payable on some freehold property.

Chirurgeon A doctor or surgeon. From the Middle English cirurgien, in turn from Old French from Latin chīrurgia meaning surgery (often learned by apprenticeship).

Citation Writ served by the apparitor to appear in court.

Clerk Medieval (or later) clergyman or cleric.

Clevis Iron shackles.

Clod Hopper A ploughman.

A large, four-wheeled carriage that could carry up to six passengers in addition to a driver that sat high in front of them.

Cobbler A repairer of footwear as opposed to a maker of footwear (Cordwainer).

Cocket The cheapest white wheat bread (see also Pain Demain and Wastel).

Cockloft A small upper loft under the ridge of a roof.

Coif A cap made of linen which covers the head.

Colporteur A seller of religious books.

The final agreement, especially of land or property, as in for example the Feet of Fines.

Confirmation A charter which reiterates the terms of a previous grant and perhaps grants additional rights. Most confirmations were made by the king.

Constable An old position originally responsible to the Manor Court Leet. The parish constable, otherwise known as Petty Constable, would enforce various orders from the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor. He would be responsible for all manner of task including ale houses, beggars, bastardy payments, church and poor rate collection, maintenance of pillories and stocks and the village lock up. He was unpaid but allowed expenses.

Cordwainer Shoemaker. Originally, a leather worker using high quality Cordovan leather from Spain for such things as harness, gloves and riding boots. By the nineteenth century it had reduced to a shoemaker - as distinct from a cobbler, who repaired shoes.

Cotrell An adjustable pot-hook.

A tenant who leased a cottage and plot of land where they grew their own produce and often kept a small amount of livestock.

Court Leet The court leet was historically a manorial court that exercised the "view of frankpledge" and its attendant police jurisdiction, which was normally restricted to the hundred courts.

Court of Piepowders A Court of Piepowders was a special tribunal organised by a borough on the occasion of a market or fair. These courts had unlimited jurisdiction over personal actions for events taking place in the market, including disputes between merchants, theft, and acts of violence.

Cottar A term found in the Domesday Book of 1086. The cottar was the lowest and smallest class of peasant usually with a smallholding in the region of some five acres.

Coverture Coverture was a legal doctrine in English common law in which a married woman's legal existence was considered to be merged with that of her husband, so that she had no independent legal existence of her own. 

Cresse cloth Cyprus cloth, a fine linen.

Crib A rack, or manger, for animal fodder.

Crib House
A small stable or barn, usually open and in a field, containing a manger for animal fodder.

Cruse / Cryson A small vessel for wine.

Curia regis Literally the King's Court, this was a royal court which progressed in circuits around the country. The cases which were brought before the court are useful as they occasionally contain information regarding markets and fairs.

Currier / Curryer A person who dresses and colours leather after it is tanned.

Day Man
Casual worker, usually employed by the day.

The seller, especially of land or property, as in for example the Feet of Fines.
See also Querant

Demesne Land retained by a lord for his own use; royal demesne was the land retained by the king.

Distraint The seizure of someone's property in order to obtain payment of money owed.

Domesday Book Detailed survey of England, conducted in 1086 on the order of King William I.

Donkey In gloving, a wooden stand to hold gloves for sewing - see here.

Dorcas A seamstress.

Dosser Ornamental cloth on a chair.

Dowager A widow's thirds; on the death of an owner of substance the estate usually was passed to the eldest son or, failing that, to the daughters in common. A widow was, by common law, entitled to a third of the estate for the remainder of her life. It was usually assumed that this right was forfeit when, or if, she remarried.

Ell A measure of length for cloth equal to one and a quarter yards.

Typically refers to funds structured in such a way as to consistently provide an income to a given individual, family or organisation.

To limit the inheritance of property to a specific succession of heirs, usually male. If a home was under entailment to the next male heir, a father with only daughters would not be able to provide a home for those daughters after his death. This practice kept the property in the family line and name.

Enumerator Collected and recorded census data from households.

Escheat Reversion of a holding to a lord, or ultimately to the Crown. This often happened if there was an absence of legitimate heirs.

Esquire / Esq. A knight's attendant or companion, the term later referred to a gentleman of standing in society.

Exciseman Tax collector.

Eyre A circuit (composed of several counties) by royal judges who were known as Justices-in-Eyre. Eyres were not held every year. A phrase like ‘at the eyre of 1244’ denotes business conducted on the circuit in that year.

Factor An agent employed by merchants to transact business of buying and selling.

Fair A trading institution held annually. In medieval England and Wales, a fair was held on a set date, normally associated with the feast of a particular saint. A fair might last only a single day or over a number of days, ranging from two or three days to a week or more.

Faker Photographer's assistant - added hand colouring to monochrome photographs before colour film was invented.

Fancy Man
A pimp. An agent for prostitutes who collects part of their earnings for services rendered.

Fancy Woman
A prostitute. Offering sexual favours for money.

Feast An annual religious festival, often a saint’s day, on which fairs were held.

Fee Simple
In English law, a fee simple or fee simple absolute is an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership. A "fee" is a vested, inheritable, present possessory interest in land. (In other words, Fee Simple = you own the house and land, as opposed to leasehold where you just own the house while the lease holder owns the land.)

Feet of Fines Also known as final concords, this was a means of settling a dispute, commonly with the purpose of conveying real property. The 'foot' was the copy of the agreement filed centrally, the others being kept by the two parties. For Feet of Fines pertaining to Yeovil - click here.

Fell Animal hide or skin with hair; thick or matted hair or wool, fleece.

Fellmonger Dealer in hides, skins and furs. Also recycled inedible animal parts for glue, fertiliser, offal, horn, bone, gut etc. Basically, he ran the "knacker's yard".

Feudal System The Feudal System was a system of landholding in which rather than being owned, as is the case today, land was held from a member of society higher up the social scale in return for service, usually military.

Fief An estate which could be anything from a small plot of land to a whole country which is held by homage and service to a lord.

Field Master A parish position, the Field Master's duties included inspecting the hedges and fences of the parish, tending fields set aside to produce hay and also to impound stray animals. The position was also known as the Grass Hayward.

Fine This was a payment to the Crown in return for a royal grant. The fines proffered each year were recorded on the Fine Rolls; some were also noted on the Pipe Rolls.

Fistmeile A measurement derived from making a fist with the thumb raised. The distance between the lower part of the little finger and the tip of the thumb when spread out.

Fleshmonger 1) Tannery worker   2) Butcher

Flummery Another name for frumenty a dish made from wheat meal boiled with water or milk and seasoned.

A thief who preys on pedestrians. A highwayman who robs on foot.

Forset A spigot or tap for barrels.

Formerly Prescriptive A prescriptive market or fair which was subsequently formalised in a charter.

Forrel / Fozzel A kind of parchment used for covering books.

Fourchette Fourchettes are the inside panels on the fingers of some glove styles.

Fowler One who hunts for wildfowl.

Frankpledge Frankpledge was the compulsory sharing of responsibility and 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. If the man did not appear, the entire group could be fined.

Frieze is a Middle English term for a coarse woollen, plain weave cloth with a nap on one side.

Friseur Hairdresser

Frontlet A headband.

Frumenty A dish made from wheat meal boiled with water or milk and seasoned.

A person able to support themselves financially from their own savings or investments, for example stocks and shares. See also Annuitant.

Ganger, Gangsman or Gaffer

Overseer or Foreman.

Garnish A set of vessels for table use.

Gaunter Glove maker.

Gawdys of glasse Glass beads.

Gongfarmer A person who cleaned out privvies or outhouses.

A woman hired to educate the children of a household. She was usually a gentlewoman that had to resort to working due to lack of financial support (from a husband or family). Though educated herself, she was considered lower in rank to the family she worked for, but higher in rank compared to the rest of the house servants.

Grantee The person or institution who received a grant.

Grantor The person or institution who made a grant.

Grass Hayward A parish position, the Grass Hayward's duties included inspecting the hedges and fences of the parish, tending fields set aside to produce hay and also to impound stray animals. The position was also known as the Field Master.

Groat English silver coin worth 4d (about 1½d).

Gudgin Pivot on which a bell works (modern Gudgeon).


A comb for dressing flax or hemp.

Half Angel English gold coin worth 3s 4d (17p).

Halfendeale A half portion of something or in a manner that is to the amount of a half.

Half Groat English silver coin worth 2d (about 1p).

Half Noble English gold coin worth 3s 4d (17p).

Half Penny Also known as a ha'penny (pronounced haypenny). English silver coin worth ½d.

Half Ryal English gold coin worth 5 shillings (25p).

Hanop A two-handled drinking cup.

Haulage Toll, or tax, on the transportation of goods.

Hayward A parish or town officer in charge of fences, enclosures, commons etc, and who is responsible for the impounding of stray cattle etc.

Any item of property, either a corporeal hereditament (land or a building) or an incorporeal hereditament (such as a rent), that can be inherited.

Heriot A tribute or service rendered to a feudal lord on the death of a tenant.

Hide Measurement of land. A variable unit but usually taken to mean about 120 acres. Originally the hide represented the amount of land which could be ploughed in a day by one plough team of eight oxen.

Huckaback A strong linen or cotton fabric with a rough surface, used for towelling and glass cloths.

Husbandman A tenant farmer. Engaged in cultivation of the land and in status below a yeoman; one who farms to support himself and his family and who may engage in paid work for larger owners. The meaning of "husband" in this term is "master of house" rather than "married man".

Imprimis Middle English imprimis, from Latin in primis, meaning among the first (things) - used to introduce a list of items or considerations, especially in wills.

Impropriator. A person to whom a benefice is granted as their property. For example, tithes given to a priest.

Indenture A written legal agreement so called because two copies were made on a single sheet and these were cut in an indented pattern so that they could be shown to fit together. This was necessary in a time when only a few could read and the fact that the indents fitted was proof of agreement.

In ernest Money in part payment, especially to bind a bargain.

In parage A term found in the Domesday Book of 1086. It means in equality of condition, blood or dignity. It can also mean equality in the partition of an inheritance.

inquisition post mortem When a tenant who held directly from the king died, an inquest was held to determine the nature and extent of his estates. The inquest was conducted by means of sworn testimony. The findings of these inquisitions post mortem often include information regarding markets and fairs.

Inseam In gloving, the glove is turned inside out and seamed.

Interdiction In Catholic canon law, an interdict is an ecclesiastical censure, or ban that prohibits persons, certain active Church individuals or groups from participating in certain rites, or that the rites and services of the church are banished from having validity in certain territories for a limited or extended time.

A master craftsman. One who has served his apprenticeship and mastered his craft, but usually works for another, possibly hired day to day.

Kirtle A long gown or outer petticoat.

Lady Day
25 March - see 'Quarter Days'

Lastage A fee paid for the storage of goods.

Latten The term latten referred loosely to the copper alloys such as brass or bronze that appeared in the Middle Ages and through to the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Lawmoot General court session for the presenting of offences against the community.

Lay Subsidy of 1334 The tax levied in 1334 was novel in that it replaced the previous system of direct tax on the wealth of individuals by a ‘fixed quota’ system in which every community agreed upon the sum it was to pay. Rural areas paid a fifteenth of their assessed wealth, whilst boroughs paid a tenth.

Lectern A lectern (from the Latin lectus, past participle of legere, "to read") is a reading desk with a slanted top, placed on a stand, on which books or documents are placed as support for reading aloud, as in a scripture reading, lecture, or sermon.

Letters Close A means of sending a royal instruction, often to a member of the administration. The letter was closed, that is, folded and sealed, so that its contents remained private. Letters close are usually instructions by the king to a sheriff, ordering him to establish, publicise or close a market or fair in his county. During the minority of King Henry III (1216–1227), grants of markets and fairs were made by letter close, as the king was under age and therefore could not issue charters in hereditary right.

Letters Patent A means of sending a royal instruction: an open letter, with the seal attached to the bottom. Letters patent were occasionally used to record royal grants of markets and fairs. The use of letters patent for such grants often occurs during exceptional circumstances, for example when the king was overseas on campaign. However, from 1517 onwards, all grants which had previously been made using royal charters were made with letters patent.

Linen Draper Sold linens, calicos, flannels, blankets, sheets, bed ticks, gloves, ribbons, fancy ties, scarves, etc.

Linman A Linman was a wholesale dealer in Flax/Hemp. The name is derived from Linen, which is made from these materials.

Liripipe The elongated point of a hood, sometimes extremely elongated.

Livery The provision of food and clothing to retainers. Also refers to the distinctive clothing worn by retainers.

Livery Cupboard A free-standing cupboard used for the storage of food and drink.

Lockram A cheap linen fabric.

Malster A maker of malt for use in brewing or disrtilling.

Mandate An order; usually an order from the king to a royal official such as a sheriff.

Mark Money of account (not a physical coin). The silver mark had a value of 160 pence (about 66p)

Market A trading institution held weekly. At most places in medieval England a market was held on a set day, once a week. The larger towns had several markets on several days a week.

Maslin Bread made from a mix of rye and wheat.

Mazer A silver-bound drinking vessel.

Mead Alcoholic drink made from fermenting honey and water, sometimes flavoured with the meadowsweet plant.

Meadow Grassland not regularly grazed by livestock but allowed to grow unchecked in order to produce hay.

Mercer A dealer in cloth and fabrics.

Messuage A dwelling house and its adjacent buildings and the adjacent land used by the household.

29 September - See 'Quarter Days'

Midsummer Day
24 June - see 'Quarter Days'

An army composed of ordinary citizens rather than professional soldiers. Commissions in the militia could be purchased.

Minority Period when an individual was under age (i.e. less than 21) and therefore could not possess or control his or her inheritance. A royal minority occurred when the king was succeeded by an heir (usually) under 21. For example, in 1216 King John was succeeded by Henry III, who was only 9 years old. During a minority, the heir and his or her estates were normally under the control of an appointed guardian.

Monthly Nurse An attending woman during the first month after childbirth. Also known as 'Confinement Nurse'. May also have the initials S.M.S. (Subsidiary Medical Services) that is, not a doctor, but trained in some way.

Morrow The day after a feast.

Mummers' Plays Mummers' plays were folk plays performed by troupes of amateur actors, traditionally all male, known as mummers or guisers. The word Mummer can be traced back to ancient Greece and is derived from Momus, the personification of satire and mockery. It's also found in an old English word mommer, which relates to miming, masking and frolicking.

Napery Napery is linen used for household purposes, such as table linen.

Noble (1) An English gold coin worth 6s 8d (about 33p).
(2) A person of high birth.

Nova oblata Meaning new offerings, this was a heading on the Pipe Roll under which new fines were recorded. A fine enrolled under this heading had been paid for a recent charter or grant. The amount owed by the grantee is sometimes recorded, for example 5 marks for a charter.

Nysett A shawl.

Oblation is "the act of offering" and by extension "the thing offered", is a term used, particularly in ecclesiastical use, for a solemn offering, sacrifice or presentation to God, to the Church for use in God's service, or to the faithful, such as giving alms to the poor.

Octave The eighth day after a feast (the feast day itself is counted).

Ostiary The church doorkeeper. Usually a man who wished to progress to holy orders. He would ensure that no unbaptised people entered the church during the Eucharist.

Ostler One who looks after horses.

Overseer Overseer of the Poor - Although appointed by the Vestry in Easter week, the Overseers were the only parish officers bound by civil law (except the Constable after 1842). Created by statute in January 1601 they were appointed after election under the seal of two Justices of the Peace. Working closely with the Churchwardens they were responsible for setting and collecting the poor rate and distributing benefits to those requiring relief. They were required by law to keep detailed account books of income against expenditure and where possible were elected from substantial householders. The overseers would also endorse settlement certificates and bastardy bonds, present settlement queries to the justices for examination and effect removal orders. Along with the wardens they would arrange parish apprenticeships for deserving poor children.

Pain Demain The finest white wheat bread (see also Cocket and Wastel).

Palfrey A horse used for everyday riding (as opposed to a war horse). Late twelfth and thirteenth century fines were often expressed as ‘5 marks or a palfrey’.

Palmer A pilgrim who has been to the Holy Land.

Pannage A toll on imported cloth.

Pantler One who prepared bread for trenchers and soft bread for sopping up food.

Pantry Storage for dry goods such as bread, spices, table linen. (see also Buttery).

Pap Pane A bowl or dish for bread and milk, etc.

Parchment Parchment is a material made from processed animal skin and used for writing on. Parchment is most commonly made of calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin. It was historically used for writing documents, notes, or the pages of a book. Parchment is limed, scraped and dried under tension. It is not tanned and is thus different from leather. This makes it more suitable for writing on, but leaves it very reactive to changes in relative humidity and makes it revert to rawhide if overly wet. Increasingly, it is called animal membrane by libraries and museums, to avoid distinguishing between "parchment" and the more restricted term "vellum". (see also Vellum).

Partlet A woman's garment covering the neck and shoulders, worn especially during the 16th century.

Pasture Land used for grazing domesticated livestock.

Patten An undersole usually of wood which was strapped under the normal footwear to protect it in wet conditions

Pavage A toll to pay for upkeep of the streets paid by visitors.

Payntyd cloth
(ie 'painted')
A cheap substitute for tapestry, used for wall hangings to keep out draughts and also as bed covers.

Perch, Square As a unit of area, a square perch (the perch being standardized to equal 16½ feet, or 5½ yards) is equal to a square rod, 30¼ square yards (25.29 square metres) or 0.00625 acre, or 1/160 acre. 40 square perches, or rods, equals one rood (qv).

Per stirpes Per stirpes is a legal term from Latin used in the law of inheritance and estates. An estate of a decedent is distributed per stirpes if each branch of the family is to receive an equal share of an estate.

A wig, or periwig, especially one of a type popular from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth century.

Perukemaker A wig maker.

Piepowder Court A Court of Piepowders was a special tribunal organised by a borough on the occasion of a market or fair. These courts had unlimited jurisdiction over personal actions for events taking place in the market, including disputes between merchants, theft, and acts of violence.

Pipe A barrel containing 105 gallons.

Pipe Roll Name given to the Great Roll of the Exchequer on account of its shape when rolled up. Records of the audit of the annual accounts of the sheriff of each county made in the Exchequer. They often record the fine made by a grantee in return for a charter.

Piqué In gloving, piqué is where one edge of the leather is lapped over the other and sewn.

Pissprophet A doctor who diagnosed disease from the sight, smell and taste of a patient's urine. Also known as a Water-Scriger.

Pistor A baker.

Pontage A toll paid to cross a bridge.

A small bowl, typically with a handle, used for soup, stew, or similar dishes. The form originated in the medieval period in Europe and was made in wood, ceramic, pewter and silver. They had flat, horizontal handles.

Portmote A Portmote was a court of an English borough but also meant a town's administrative assembly.

Portreeve Historically a portreeve or port warden was the title of an official possessing political, administrative and/or fiscal authority over a town. The degree of authority wielded by the portreeve has varied considerably through history and location. The term derives from the word port which originally meant a market town or walled town and not specifically a seaport; and the word reeve, meaning a high-ranking supervisory official.

Posnett A porringer (qv) or small pot with handle.

Possett A drink made from hot milk curdled with wine and sweetened, considered a delicacy.

Potel A measure of liquid equal to four pints, half a gallon.

Prescriptive A prescriptive market or fair was held by custom (i.e. it was not set up by a grant or charter). They were usually the oldest markets and fairs.

Presentment A formal charge.

Pricke Songs Written songs.

The legal right of the eldest son to inherit the entire estate of his parents. Subsequent sons had to make a living by choosing an occupation fitting for a gentleman (clergy, solicitor/lawyer, etc.).

Private Baptism If a new-born infant was sickly and thought unlikely to survive, its fate in heaven required it to be baptised urgently. So, usually, any available clergyman was persuaded to attend the family home and baptised the child there, and hence the baptism was done “privately” and recorded as such in the church's register.

Prixseam (PXM) In gloving, a variation of the outseam, made on a special machine, in which the stitches run horizontally.

Provost The steward or bailiff of a medieval manor or an officer of a medieval administrative district.

Pyncas A hinge.

Quarter Days
The quarter days were the four dates in each year on which servants were hired, school terms started, and rents were due. They fell on four religious festivals roughly three months apart and close to the two solstices and two equinoxes. The four days were -
   Lady Day (25 March)
   Midsummer Day (24 June)
   Michaelmas (29 September)
   St Thomas Day (21 December)

Quarter Noble English gold coin worth 1s 8d (about 8p).

Quarter Ryal English gold coin worth 2s 6d (about 13p).

The purchaser, especially of land or property, as in for example the Feet of Fines.
See also Deforciant

Quintel Another term for hundredweight, a measurement which, in Medieval times, was exactly 100 pounds.

Quitclaim To add or remove someone from the title of property.

Quo warranto This refers to a series of enquiries held by royal judges who were sent on circuits around the country, chiefly in the reigns of King Edward I and King Edward II (1272–1327). In an attempt to assert royal rights, the justices attempted to discover by what right (quo warranto) individuals or institutions were holding markets and fairs.

Rack-rent Rack-rent denotes two different concepts:
1. an excessive or extortionate rent, or
2. the full rent of a property, including both land and improvements if it were subject to an immediate open-market rental review.

The second definition is equivalent to the economic rent of the land plus interest on capital improvements plus depreciation and maintenance - the normal market rent of a property - and is not inherently excessive or extortionate. Also, this may be different from the rent actually being received. Historically, however, rack-rent has often been a term of protest used to denote an unjustly excessive rent (the word "rack" evoking the medieval torture device), usually one paid by a tenant farmer.  

Reeve The chief magistrate of a town or the supervisor of an estate.

Relict Usually a widow, but sometimes applied to a widower.

Remainder Interest Remainder interest is where a person receives a gift or an inheritance of property after an intervening life interest. (see also 'Reversion').

Rent Resolute also
Resolute Rent
Late Middle English in the sense of rent resolved, that is, 'paid'.
Also, crown rents from lands formerly in possession of now-dissolved religious bodies.

Replevy To restore, following confiscation.


To soak (flax or hemp) in water to soften it.

A small handbag for ladies made of fine fabric (silk, satin) that cinches closed at the opening with a fine cord.

Reversion A reversion is an interest in property which at some future time is to revert to the original owner of the property. (see also 'Remainder')

Rood A rood is a unit of area, equal to one quarter of an acre. A rectangular area with edges of one furlong (i.e. 10 chains, or 40 rods) and one rod respectively is one rood, as is an area consisting of 40 perches (square rods). The rood was an important measure in surveying on account of its easy conversion to acres.

Roofless Tenement A plot of land without a building upon it.

Ryal The gold Ryal or Rose Noble of Queen Elizabeth I, of fifteen shillings face value, is one of the rarest and most desirable coins of this reign.

Sacristan A person in charge of the relics and religious items of a church.

Scrivener Able to write original material (unlike a scribe who was usually just a copier). Usually employed as a clerk or accountant.

Scutage A tax or fee paid by wealthy sons in order to forego military service.


To dress flax by beating.

Seam A carthorse load, especially of hay or wood (equals three hundredweight).

Second Poor Those poor people not receiving assistance, financial or otherwise, from the Parish.

Sendal A very fine silk.

Seneschal The chief steward or butler in the houses of princes and dignitaries, in the Middle Ages, who had the superintendence of feasts and domestic ceremonies. Sometimes the seneschal had the dispensing of justice, and was given high military commands.

Serf A person in a condition of servitude, required to render services to a lord, commonly attached to the lord's land and transferred with it from one owner to another.

Sheriff The Sheriff was an important official of a shire or county responsible for the administration and finances of a specific county but primarily charged with judicial duties such as executing the processes and orders of courts and judges. It derives from Middle English shirreve or shire reeve.

Silking In gloving, sewing of the decorative stitching found on the back of most gloves.

Slave A term found in the Domesday Book of 1086. The servi, or slaves, who held no land and were fully occupied in cultivating the lord's demesne. They were not free and were unable to move home or work or change allegiance, or buy or to sell, without permission. Later equated to serfs.

Slop A smock-frock; any kind of outer garment made of linen.

Soulscot In old ecclesiastical law, a funeral payment, formerly made at the grave, usually to the parish priest in whose church service for the departed had been said; a mortuary.

Sprigge Small headless nail, a brad.

St Thomas Day
21 December - see 'Quarter Days'

Stallage A fee paid to have a stall at a market.

Tail General An entailed interest under which the class of descendants who can succeed to the land is not limited to the issue of a specified spouse of the first tenant in tail.

Tail Male
An entailed interest under which only male descendant of the original tenant in tail can succeed to the land. If the male line dies out, the land goes to the person next entitled in remainder or reversion.

Tawer A dresser of white leather without the use of tannin, especially by soaking it in a solution of alum and salt.

Taxing In gloving, determining the number of gloves that can be cut from a skin. Allowances must be made for imperfections.

Tenant-in-Chief A term found in the Domesday Book of 1086. King William granted land to tenants-in-chief, who were usually lords or members of the Church, in return for their assistance in the Norman Conquest and the promise of continued military or other support.

Tenement The term "tenement" originally referred to tenancy and therefore to any rented accommodation.

Tenter An unskilled workman's assistant.

Tithe One tenth of a persons income, in cash or kind, given to the church.

Thane A thane was a man ranking above an ordinary freeman and below a noble in Anglo-Saxon England, especially one who gave military service in exchange for land.

Trank In gloving, the palm, back and fingers of the glove.

Toft A homestead or an entire holding consisting of a homestead and the attached arable land. Particularly a long, narrow plot of land, containing a house.

A tontine is an investment linked to a living person which provides an income for as long as that person is alive. Such schemes originated as plans for governments to raise capital in the 17th century and became relatively widespread in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Torne A spinning wheel.

Trencher A large slice of hard bread used as a platter for food. Later became the term for wooden or other platters.

Trendle A round box to hold tapers, also a large wooden tub.

Tribute Payment by a vassal to his lord usually to ensure protection.

Tronage A fee or toll for the weighing of bulk merchandise.

Tunnegar / Tinnegar A funnel.

Turbary The legal right to cut turf or peat for fuel on common ground or on another person's ground.

Tyne A large bucket resembling a barrel with handles.

Under-tenant A term found in the Domesday Book of 1086. Under-tenants held land from the tenants-in-chief and, in turn, owed their tenant-in-chief the promise of continued military or other support.

Uttering Uttering is a crime involving a person with the intent to defraud that knowingly sells, publishes or passes a forged or counterfeited document. More specifically, forgery creates a falsified document and uttering is the act of knowingly passing on or using the forged document.

Vassal A feudal tenant. In the feudal system a person granted the use of land, in return for rendering homage, fealty, and usually military service or its equivalent to a lord or other superior.

Vellum Vellum is derived from the Latin word vitulinum meaning "made from calf", leading to Old French vélin (calfskin). The term often refers to a parchment made from calf skin, as opposed to that from other animals. It is prepared for writing or printing on, to produce single pages, scrolls, codices or books. The term is sometimes used with a more general meaning referring to finer-quality parchments made from a variety of animal skins. See also Parchment.

Vigil The eve, or day before, a feast.

Vill In Saxon terms, a vill was a small collection of houses, in other words a village. A statute of Exeter, 14 Edward I (1286 AD) mentions entire-vills, demivills, and hamlets.

Villein At Domesday a tenant farmer usually with a holding of about a quarter of a hide, or one virgate - usually be about 40 acres of arable in the common fields, plus a share in the common meadow and pasture. As the Feudal System evolved it meant, less specifically, a member of a class of partially free persons, who were serfs with respect to their lord but had the rights and privileges of freemen with respect to others.

Virgate A measurement of land equating to a quarter of a hide, or about 40 acres.

Wardship Control of an estate by its landlord during the minority of an heir.

Wastel Second best white wheat bread (see also Cocket and Pain Demain).

Water-Scriger A doctor who diagnosed disease from the sight, smell and taste of a patient's urine. Also known as a Pissprophet.

Wether A castrated ram.

A woman who breastfeeds another woman's infant. Usually she was employed by a wealthy family and was responsible for feeding the infant, allowing the birth mother to sleep through the night. The wet nurse would have also recently had her own child as milk ducts dry up if not consistently used. Once the child was weaned, the wet nurse would no longer be needed.

Wharfage A fee paid to use a wharf.

Whirligig Apparatus for revolving bells. Also referred to as a gig.

Whittle A whittle was also sometimes called a mantle and occasionally a cloak.

Wool Stapler A person who buys wool wholesale from a producer, grades it, and sells it to a manufacturer.

Wringhouse A building to house a cider press.

Yeoman Early references usually refer to Knights' retainers but later the term came to mean a freeholder or tenant engaged in agriculture. The major difference from the minor gentry was that a yeoman would put his own hand to work rather than employ servants. Economically yeomen could, and many did, acquire substantial wealth and in the 16th and 17th centuries were the backbone of the rural economy.