Glossary of Terms used in past times

From assarts through heriots, messuages and tofts to virgates, etc this is what they mean

Assart = land reclaimed from waste for agriculture [from 'to hoe, or weed']

Bondman = person bound to provide labour, etc, to the lord of the manor, or other master

Close = (generally) small area of enclosed land

Common = area of land over which certain householders had defined rights of usage in the 1965 Common Land Registration Act, people who thought they still held common rights had to register them

Copyhold = land held by possession of a copy made by the steward of a manor from the court-roll of the manor enfranchised [ended] in 1925 [Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable]

Curtilage = a Court, Yard, Backside, or piece of Ground lying near, and belonging to, a Dwelling house [Sir Thomas Gatehouse, 1774]

Customary acre = or Saxon acre, was half a statute (normal) acre, ie. 2,420 sq yards

Customary tenant = one who has a right to occupy property continuously at a reasonable rent

Demesne = the 'home farm' of the Lord of the Manor (ie. not let out to tenants)

Enclosure (see Inclosure)

Fine = fee paid when conveying property recorded in 'Fines Books', these form a means of tracing the changing ownership of houses and land over the years

Heriot = the best beast, given to the Lord of the Manor on the death of a tenant

Hide = area of land on which a family was supposed to be able to exist the actual area varied according to the locality or quality of the land, but was often considered to be 4 virgates (about 120 acres) used as a measure for collecting taxes in the Domesday Book

Hundred = administrative unit deriving from 100 'tithings'

Inclosure = land enclosed from the 'waste' typically by an Inclosure Act of Parliament

Manor = the district over which the court of a Lord of the Manor had authority

Messuage = a dwelling and offices with the adjoining lands appropriated to the household [legal definition]

Parcel = a continuous stretch of land typically given a reference number on 25 inch Ordnance Survey maps

Pipe Roll = the Great Roll of the Exchequer, containing yearly accounts of sheriffs, etc [named from the pipe-like appearance of the rolled documents]

Purpresture = land that has been obtained by encroachment on either common land, waste land or woodland

Tithe = a tenth of the produce of land and stock (ie. payment in kind), allotted originally for church purposes later commuted to a rent-charge (ie. payment in money) finally commuted to a lump-sum redeemable by instalments up to AD 2000

Tithing = derived from 'ten householders', each of whom lived on a 'hide' of land historically there were then 100 tithings to a 'hundred'

Toft = a Messuage, or rather a Place or Piece of Ground, where an House formerly stood, but is decayed or Casually burnt, and not re-erected [Sir Thomas Gatehouse, 1774]

Virgate = area of about 30 acres [name derives from the Latin word for a rod]

Waste = an uncultivated area of land


General list of Useful Historical DatesOld Measurements – more about the compiler, John Owen Smith