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Glossary of Terms used in Wills

Most of the terms on this page were originally published by Dave & Sue Tylcoat at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/dave_tylcoat/gloss.htm, but that page seems to have gone offline. Other definitions come from a glossary of property terms by Period PROFILE. For more occupations, try here.

Word Definition
Almeric See OED Almere & Ambry - probably a corruption of Almry or Ambry Close, Westminster, - was originally Almonry Close.
Ambry (See also almeric). Large cupboard.
Appurtenances The rights and duties attached to the holding of manorial land. The most important were submission to the manor court, grazing rights and the payment of various fines to the lord of the manor. A pew, or part of a pew, in church was often an 'appurtenance' of a specific house in the parish. (Dict. Gen., Fitzhugh).
Armiger An armiger is someone entitled to bear heraldic arms.
Backsyde Back yard, outbuildings etc. attached to a dwelling.
Bailiff (a) The manorial lord's representative and estate manager, but subordinate to the steward.(b) In Colchester, at least, the name of the town's two leading citizens until 1635. (Local Hist. Enc., John Richardson).
Baymaker See Bays & Says.
Bays & Says A type of woolcloth made around Colchester with wool from Leicester.
Behoofe Use, benefit, advantage.
Bishops Transcript (BT) A copy of one year's entries in a Parish register, sent by the incumbent to his bishop, usually at Easter. Sometimes the actual register has not survived but the BT has.
Calendar In 1752 the year start was moved from March 25th to preceding January 1st. Transcribing pre-1752 copy '5 Feb 1626' as '5 Feb 1626/7'. September sometimes written 7ber, October - 8ber etc - not to be confused with present month numbers.
Chaffing dish Chaffer. Small enclosed brazier containing hot coals, usually charcoal, for heating food and drink.
Chandler Candle maker. Candles were often made from tallow.
Chapman A dealer in small items e.g. haberdasher. Sometimes travelling. Unh 1638.
Clerk of the Market From 1640 his power was restricted to the Verge (within 12 miles of the residence of the Court). On market days the Clerk attended from 10am to sunset, and trading commenced and ceased on his announcement.
Close A small, enclosed field.
Codicil An addition to a will to record changes.
Coniger Conygrye etc. Rabbit Warren.
Cony Rabbit. Kept in conigers for food.
Copyhold

A form of tenure for land held from the lord of the manor in return for service or payment. The tenure could only be transferred by surrender to the lord who held the fee simple, and then the new tenant was admitted on payment of a fine. Each admission was recorded on the Court Rolls and a copy given to the tenant as a form of title deed - hence the name. Finally abolished in 1926.

Cordwainer Pronounced 'cordner'. Generally a shoemaker or cobbler.
Cornet OED: - The fifth commissioned officer in a troop of cavalry, who carried the colours; corresponding to the ensign in infantry. Cornet. Dict.Gen: - The lowest commissioned rank in a cavalry regiment, equivalent to the present 2nd Lieutenant. 1260
Court Leet The term usually refers to a manorial court although it could also apply to a Hundred court. It dealt with petty offences such as common nuisances or public affray.
Cousin German First cousin i.e. the child of an uncle or aunt.
Culler A person who grades animals for killing. Wm. Havens, culler.
Deforciant Defendant who deforces another or prevents him from inheriting an estate.
Demesne Those parts of the land and rights of a manor that the lord retained for himself, as distinct from those used by his tenants.
Demise To convey by will or lease an estate either 'in Fee' i.e. hereditarily, or for a term.
Deponent One who makes a statement on oath (verbal or written) in connection with a legal case.
Devise To leave, by will, land as distinct from personal property. 'Bequeath' is used for the latter.
Duitsh man Probably Dutchman (DJT). From Essex RO info on other non-parochial churches - "In the second half of the 16th century, a considerable number of refugees from the Low Countries settled in Colchester where they established their own church".
Feet of Fines These records contain judgements as to the ownership of land and property, quite often the result of collusive actions brought by parties to establish title in the absence of documents.
Feoffment Transfer of land from one person to another.
Fleakes (fleacks, felks) Hurdles, presumably for fence making.
Flock Wool refuse used for stuffing mattresses and pillows.
Freehold Land held on a non-servile tenure either for life or in fee simple.
Freemen There are three meanings to this word: a man who was free of trade taxes and who shared in the profits of the borough in which he lived and traded, a tenant who was free of feudal service and a man who had served his apprenticeship and who could then work at his trade in his own right. In the city of London nearly all freemen became so by virtue of being freemen of a City Guild. On attaining company freedom, a man would automatically apply for the freedom of the City. He was entitled to call himself 'Citizen' and, (for example), 'Tallow Chandler'. (Dict Gen Fitzhugh).
Gaol Delivery A judicial hearing of the charges against all prisoners awaiting trial in the area prisons. By a Commission of Gaol Delivery, the king appointed certain persons justices and empowered them to deliver his gaols at certain places of the prisoners held within them. This commission was first issued to Justices in Eyre, but later to Justices of Assize and of Gaol Delivery. It ordered them to meet at a certain place and at a time which they themselves could appoint, when the sheriff of the county would bring all the prisoners of the area before them.
Garnish A set of vessels for table use, especially of pewter. Garnish of pewter - complete set of twelve each of platters, dishes, saucers, cups and small flat plates. Often displayed on the cupboard head.
Gearing Harness for horses, presumably to pull the wagons, harrows & plough.
Gredyron A gridiron, a platform of iron bars, with short feet and a long handle, for cooking meat over a fire.
Haberdasher A dealer in, or maker of hats and caps. Later a dealer in thread, ribbons and other small wares.
Hatchment Funeral board with Arms painted on.
Hearth Tax Tax on fireplaces, from 1662, abolished 1689.
Hereditament Property which may be inherited. Various wills.
Hovel Open shed; outhouse for cattle, storing grain, tools etc.
Husbandman Usually a smallholder who may also have to work on others land to support himself, i.e. one below the status of yeoman.
Husslements (Hustylment, hushelles, husoulment, householdments) Minor household goods of little value; odds and ends.
Jacobi James I.
Journeyman A qualified tradesman working for someone else.
Joyned (E.g. 'joyned stoole' & other furniture). Made by a joiner.
Kettle An open cooking pot or pan with semi-circular handles fixed to both sides, not the modern type.
Lay Subsidy A tax on movable property.
Meet Suitable, fit, proper.
Messuage A dwelling house with the ground around it and any outbuildings.
Moiety A half.
Moot Hall Hallmoot. Another name for a manor court, Dict. Gen. Fitzhugh
Naked See Wool. A note made in a burial register when the corpse was unshrouded and the coffin unlined. This was sometimes the case with a poor family who could not afford the expense of a woollen shroud, or the payment of a fine for using any other type of cloth. Dict. Gen., Fitzhugh.
Pale A stake for fence making.
Perambulation of the Bounds The Vestry had the responsibility of walking the bounds of the parish at Rogationtide - the three days before Ascension Day. The Incumbent, parish officers, prominent vestrymen and a good many schoolchildren employed for the occasion, armed with the authority of a wand of office, checked that boundary stones were in position and that no buildings encroached, unrated, on parish territory.
Pillow beers (Also pillow codds & pillow drawers) - Pillow cases.
Porringer Bowl for soup or porridge.
Quicksett Hedge.
Quissions Cushions.
Shopps House or building where goods are made or prepared for sale and sold (workshop - DJT).
Skomar Skimmer; either of iron for taking the ashes from the hearth, or of other metal for use as a cooking ladle.
Sollars Upper room in house etc. e.g. attic.
Spytt A spit. For roasting meat over a fire.
Stirk Usually between one & two years old, also sterke & styrke (applying to a heifer).
Surveyor of the Highways (Overseer of the Highways, Boonmaster, Stonewarden, Waywarden etc.). A parish officer established by the Highways Act 1555. He was unpaid and appointed from among the parishioners. Obliged to survey the highways three times a year and organise the statute labour that was provided by landholders to repair the roads, or else collect the money commutations.
Tainters Wooden framework on which cloth was stretched after milling, so that it would dry evenly and without shrinking.
Tallow Chandler A person dealing in Tallow, possibly a Candle maker, using animal fat.
Tenement A parcel of land usually including a dwelling house. Term later used for the house itself.
Tithingman Tithing. A group of men or boys held responsible to the manor court for its members' good conduct. The elected representative of the tithing was the Tithingman.
Trade Tokens Tokens issued by traders in times of coin shortage, usually brass or copper.
Trammel A series of rings or links, or other device, to bear a crook at different heights over a fire; the whole being suspended from a transverse bar (the crook tree), built in the chimney.
Treen Ware Wooden ware - made from trees.
Trevytt A trivet.
Virginalls (pair of) Keyed musical instrument, popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, similar to a spinet but without legs, played on a table.
Visitation Heralds visitations took place from 1530 onwards to check on peoples claims to bear arms. Ecclesiastical visitations by archdeacons or bishops checking on the conduct etc of their parishioners.
Water bailiff An officer in seaport towns who was empowered to search ships for contraband etc.
Waynscotte Wooden panelling used to line the walls of a room. The word also used for panelled chests, chairs etc.
Wool Burying in Woollen Act, passed in 1660 and reinforced in 1678, to support the woollen trade by making it an offence to wrap corpses or line coffins in any material other than wool. The only bodies exempt were those of people who had died of plague.
Woolstapler A merchant who buys wool from the producer, grades it, and sells it to the manufacturer.
Yeoman Farmers who would work on their own land as either freeholders or tenants. Husbandmen would tend to have less land.

 

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