manorial customs

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In folklore writing, the term ‘manorial custom’ is used to refer to customs which originated, or are thought to have originated, in the practices of the medieval manor or manor courts. The origins of the system of manors in England are unclear, but they were firmly established by the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, and it is difficult to generalize as differences between them were legion, and much depended on local practice. The manor involved a hierarchy of loyalty and duty which each level owed to those above, sometimes payable in services, sometimes in money, and also a complex of economically important rights enjoyed by tenants and other occupants, such as taking wood from the Lord's forest, grazing-rights for cattle, or acorns for pigs. Over the years numerous local customary practices evolved, a handful of which survived in isolation after the manorial system became replaced by other forms of local organization. The day-to-day business of the manor was ruled by courts—court leet and court baron—which also developed their own ways of proceeding, and again some of these lived on into modern times, particularly where administration of common land was necessary. Examples of customs which have, or probably have, manorial connections are: Hungerford Hocktide; Wroth Silver; Wishford Magna; Whitby Penny Hedge.

David Hey, The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History (1996), 118–19, 296–7;William Figg, ‘Manorial Customs of Southese-with-Heighton, Near Lewes’, Sussex Archaeological Collections 3 (1850), 249–52;Harland and Wilkinson, 1882: 277–302.

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