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  • The manorial courts were the lowest courts of law in England during the feudal period. They had a civil jurisdiction limited both in subject matter and geographically. They dealt with matters over which the Lord of the Manor had jurisdiction, primarily torts, local contracts and land tenure, and their powers only extended to those who lived within the lands of the manor, i.e. both the demesne and such lands as the lord had enfeoffed to others, and to those who held land therein. Historians have divided manorial courts into those that were primarily seignorial – based on feudal responsibilities – and those based on separate delegation of authority from the monarch. There were three types of seignorial court: the court of the honour; the court baron; and the court customary, also known as the halmote court. Each manor had its own laws promulgated in a document called the custumal, and anyone in breach of those laws could be tried in a manorial court. The earlier Saxon method of trial by ordeal or of compurgation was modified by the Normans into trial by a jury made up of 12 local freemen.

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