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MANOR-HOUSE

To these important officials may be added a number of smaller ones, the shepherd, the swineherd, the beekeeper, the cowherd, the ploughman and so on, mostly selected from the cotters, and occupying their small holdings by the services expressed in their titles. The number varies with the constitution and needs of each estate, and they are often replaced by hired labour.

The most complicated structure in the system is the manor court. The complication is, indeed, partly the work of lawyers interpreting institutions they did not understand by formulae not adapted to describe them. But beyond this there remain the facts that the court was Manor Court. the meeting-point of the lord and the tenants both free and unfree, that any question touching on the power and constitution of the court was bound to affect the interests of the lord and the tenants, and that there was no external power capable of settling such questions as did arise. Amid this maze a few clear lines can be laid down. In the first place, so far as the 13th century goes, all the discussion that has collected about the terms court leet, court baron and court customary may be put aside; it relates to questions which in the 13th century were only just emerging. The manor court at that date exercised its criminal, civil, or manorial jurisdiction as one court; its names may differ, the parties before it may be free or unfree, but the court is the same. Its president was the lord’s steward; the bailiff was the lord’s representative and the public prosecutor; and the tenants of the manor, both free and unfree, attended at the court and gave judgment in the cases brought before it. To modern ears the constitution sounds unfamiliar. The president of the court settled the procedure of the court, carried it out, and gave the final sentence, but over the law of the court he had no power. All that is comprised in the word “judgment” was settled by the body of tenants present at the court. This attendance was, indeed, compulsory, and absence subjected to a fine any tenant owing and refusing the service known as “suit of court.” It may be asked who in these courts settled questions of fact. The answer must be that disputed questions of fact could only be settled in one way, by ordeal; and that in most manorial courts the method employed was the wager of law. The business of the court may be divided into criminal, manorial and civil. Its powers under the first head depended on the franchises enjoyed by the lord in the particular manor; for the most part only petty offences were triable, such as small thefts, breaches of the assize of bread and ale, assaults, and the like; except under special conditions, the justice of great offences remained in the king. But offences against the custom of the manor, such as bad ploughing, improper taking of wood from the lord’s woods, and the like, were of course the staple criminal business of the court. Under the head of manorial business the court dealt with the choice of the manorial officers, and had some power of making regulations for the management of the manor; but its most important function was the recording of the surrenders and admittances of the villein tenants. Into the history and meaning of this form of land transfer it is not necessary to enter here. But it must be noted that the conveyance of a villein’s holding was effected by the vendor surrendering his land to the lord, who thereupon admitted the purchaser to the holding. The same procedure was employed in all cases of transfer of land, and the transaction was regularly recorded upon the rolls of the court among the records of all the other business transacted there. Finally, the court dealt with all suits as to land within the manor, questions of dower and inheritance, and with civil suits not connected with land. But it need hardly be said that in an ordinary rural manor very few of these would occur.

It will be clear on consideration that the manor court as here described consisted of conflicting elements of very different origin and history. Founded partly on express grants of franchises, partly on the inherent right of a feudal lord to hold a court for his free tenants, partly on the obscure community traceable among the unfree inhabitants of the manor, it is incapable of strict legal definition. All these elements, moreover, contain in themselves reasons for the decay which gradually came over the system. The history of the decay of the manorial jurisdictions in England has not yet been written. On the one hand were the king’s courts, with new and improved processes of law; on the other hand the gradual disintegration which marks the history of the manor during the 14th and 15th centuries. The criminal jurisdiction was the first to disappear, and was closely followed by the civil jurisdiction over the free tenants; and in modern times all that is left is the jurisdiction over the customary tenants and their holdings, and that in an attenuated form.

A few words must be given to the legal theories of the 15th century on the manor court. It would seem to have become the law that to the existence of the manor two courts were necessary—a court customary for customary tenants, and a court baron for free tenants. In the court customary the lord’s steward is the judge; in the court baron the freeholders are the judges. If the freeholders in the manor diminish to less than two in number the court baron cannot be held, and the manor perishes. Nor can it be revived by the grant of new freehold tenures, because under the statute of Quia Emptores such new freeholders would hold not of the lord of the manor, but of his lord. The customary tenants and the court customary may survive, but the manor is only a reputed manor. Of the 13th century all this is untrue, but even at that date the existence of free tenants was in a measure essential to the existence of the manor court. If there were none the jurisdiction of the court over free tenants of course collapsed; but in addition to this the lord also lost his power of exercising the highest criminal franchises, even if he otherwise possessed them; he could, for instance, no longer hang a murderer on his own gallows. Perhaps it may be said that to the exercise of the feudal power and of the royal franchises the presence of free tenants was necessary. But it is clear that no such condition was necessary to the existence of the manor.

Apart from the change in the court of the manor, the most important thread in its history is the process which converted the villein into the copyholder. Here again the subject is imperfectly explored, and part of it is still subject to controversy. In the strict view of contemporary lawyers the holding of the villein tenant of the 13th century was at the will of the lord, and the king’s courts of law would not protect him in his possession. If, however, the villein were a tenant on the king’s ancient demesne his condition was improved. The writs of monstraverunt and the little writ of right close protected him from the improper exaction of services and from ejection by the lord. But in ordinary manors there was no such immunity. That ejection was common cannot be believed, but it was legally possible; and it was not until the well-known decision of Danby, C. J., and Bryan, C. J., in 7 Edw. IV., that the courts of law would entertain an action of trespass brought against his lord by a customary tenant. From that date the courts, both of law and equity, begin to intervene; and the records of the Courts of Star Chamber and Requests show that in the Tudor period equitable suits brought by tenants against their lords are not infrequent. Side by side with the alteration in the legal condition of the manor there went on an economic change. The labour rents and other services slowly disappeared, and were replaced by money payments. The field divisions gave way before inclosures, effected sometimes by the lords and sometimes by the tenants. Change in legal and agricultural practice went on side by side, and finally the manor ceased to be an important social form, and became only a peculiar form of land tenure and the abode of antiquarian curiosities.

See G. L. von Maurer, Einleitung in die Geschichte der Hof-, Mark-, Dorf- und Stadtverfassung in Deutschland (Erlangen, 1856); G. Nasse, Zur Geschichte der mittelälterlichen Feldgemeinschaft in England (Bonn, 1869); H. S. Maine, Village Communities in the East and West (Cambridge, 1872); F. Seebohm, The English Village Community (1883); W. J. Ashley, English Economic History, pts. i. ii. (1888–1893); F. W. Maitland, Select Pleas in Manorial Courts (London, Selden Society, 1888); P. Vinogradoff, Villainage in England (Cambridge, 1892); The Growth of the Manor (1905) and English Society in the 11th Century (1908); A. Meitzen, Siedelung und Agrarwesen der Westgermanen und Ostgermanen (Berlin, 1896); W. Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce (Cambridge, 1896); F. Pollock and F. W. Maitland, History of English Law (Cambridge, 1896); F. W. Maitland, Doomsday Book and Beyond (Cambridge, 1897); and C. M. Andrews, The Old English Manor (1892).  (C. G. Cr.) 


MANOR-HOUSE (Lat. manerium; Fr. manoir), in architecture, the name given to the dwelling-house of the lord of the manor. The manor-house was generally arranged for defence against robbers and thieves and was often surrounded by a moat with drawbridge, but was not provided with a keep or with towers or lofty curtain walls so as to stand a siege. The early buildings were comparatively small, square in plan, comprising a hall with one or two adjacent chambers; at a later period wings were added, thus forming three sides of a quadrangle, like the house designed by John Thorpe as his residence, the plan of which is among his drawings in the Soane Museum. One of