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eels (1). By the laws, a ceorl, who had gafol lande, was estimated at two hundred shillings (2).
The Burdens to which Lands were liable, and their Privileges.
The oldest Saxon grants we have contain reservations of services which the possessor of the land had to perform; and, from the language of those which have survived to our times, we perceive that certain burdens, though varying in kind and quantity, were attached to estates in every age. Some few were exempted from any; a larger proportion were freed from all but the three great necessities, which in one charter are described to be, "what it is necessary that all people should do, and from which work none can be excused (3)."
These three common labours, or universal necessities, as they are frequently styled, are the fyrd-færelde; the bryge-geweorc; and the weal, or fæsten-geweorc.
The fyrd-færelde was the military service to which all the Saxon lands appear to have been subject, excepting those which the king, with the consent of his witena, or sometimes the king alone, expressly exempted from the obligation. This military service consisted in providing a certain number of armed men, proportioned to the rated quantity of land, who were to attend the king or his officers on expeditions made for the public safety, or against invading enemies. What number of men a given quantity of land was to furnish cannot now be precisely stated; though it would seem, from Domesday-book, that five hides found one soldier in most counties. In the year 821 a grant of various lands was made, with the specified condition, that the owner should attend the public expedition with twelve vassals and as many shields (4). Even church lands were not exempt from this general obligation of military service. We find a person mentioned as a witness, who was "the leader of the army of the same bishop to the king's service (5)." Egelwin, prior of a monastery, gave to a miles the villa of Crohlea for life, on the condition that he should serve for the monastery in the expeditions by sea and land (6).
There are many grants of lands to monasteries in which the military service is expressly preserved. It is almost always spoken of as a general, known, and established thing. It is mentioned in Domesday-book, of the burg of Lideford, in Devonshire, that when an expedition is on foot, either by land or sea, the burg has to render the same amount of service as should be required from Totness.
Of Totness it is said, that when expeditions are enjoined, as much service is to be rendered from Totness, Barnstaple, and Lideford, as from Exeter; and Exeter was to serve as for five hides of land (7). The laws of Ethelred provided that for every plough two men, well horsed, should be furnished (8).
(1) 3 Gale's Script. p. 477. (3) Heming. Chart. p. 109. (5) Heming. Chart. p. 81.
(7) Domesday-book, con. Devenscire.
(2) Wilk. Leg. Sax. p. 47.
(8) Wilk. Leg. p. 59.
It is from Domesday-book that we may collect the most precise information on this curious topic. It is said of Berkshire, that, "if the king should send an army any where, only one soldier should go for five hides; and for his victuals and pay, every hide was to give him four shillings for two months. This money was not to be sent to the king, but to be given to the soldiers (1).”
Of the city of Oxford it is said, that when the king should go on an expedition, twenty burghers should go with him for all the others, or that twenty pounds should be paid, that all might be free (2).
This curious article shows, that the military service might be commuted by a pecuniary mulct.
In Worcestershire it is declared, that "when the king goes against the enemy, if any one, after summoned by his mandate, should remain, he should (if he was a freeman having his sac, and able to go where he pleased) forfeit all his land at the pleasure of the king." But if he was a freeman under another lord, his lord should carry another man for him, and the offender should pay his lord forty shillings. But if no one at all went for him, he was to pay his lord that sum, who was to be answerable for as much to the king (3).
On these expeditions it was the privilege of the men serving for Herefordshire, that they should form the advanced guard in the progress, and the rear guard in a retreat (4).
From Leicester twelve burghers were to go with the king when he went with an army by land. If the expedition was maritime, they were to send him four horses from the same burg, as far as London, to carry their arms and necessaries (5).
The custom of Warwick was, that ten burghers should go on the expedition for the rest. Whoever did not go after his summons, forfeited to the king one hundred shillings. When the king went by sea against his enemies, this burg was to send him four batsueins, or four pounds of pennies (6).
The fyrde, or expedition, is mentioned so early as in the laws of Ina. If a sith-cund man owning land abstained from the fyrde, he was to pay one hundred and twenty shillings, and lose his land. If he were not a land-owner, he was to pay sixty shillings, and a ceorl sixty shillings, for the fyrde mulct (7). In the laws of Ethelred the fyrde is ordered to take place as often as there be need, and the scyp-fyrdrunga, or naval expedition, was directed to be so diligently prepared as to be ready every year soon after Easter. It is added, that if any depart from the fyrde where the king himself is, both his life and goods should be the forfeit if he in any other case quitted it, he was fined one hundred and twenty shillings (8).
In one of the grants it is mentioned, that a land-owner had lost his rus of ten cassatos, because he had rebelled with the king's soldiers in his expedition, and had committed much rapine and other crimes (9).
The other two great services to which land was generally liable were, the construction or reparation of bridges and fortresses or walls. These
(1) Domesday-book, con. Berockescire. (2) Ibid. Oxenefordscire.
(4) Ibid. com. Herefordscire.
(3) Ibid. Wirecestrescire.
(8) Wilk, Leg. Sax. p. 109.
are enjoined to be done in almost every grant. In Domesday-book it is said of Chester, that the prepositus should cause one man for every hide to come to rebuild the wall and bridge of the city; or if the man should fail to come, his lord was to pay forty shillings (1).
Besides these three great services, which later writers have called the trinoda necessitas, there were many other burdens to which the landed interest was more or less liable in the hands of the sub-proprietors.
A careful provision is made in many grants against royal tributes and impositions, and those of the great and powerful. In one it is mentioned, that the king should not require his pasture, nor the entertainment of those men called Fæsting-men, nor of those who carry hawks, falcons, horses, or dogs (2). In another it is agreed, that the wood should not be cut for the buildings of either king or prince (3). It is elsewhere expressed, that the land should be free from the pasture and refection of those men called in Saxon Walhfæreld, and their feasting, and of all Englishmen or foreigners, noble and ignoble (4). This burden of being compelled to entertain others, is mentioned in several grants. In one, the pasture of the king's horses and grooms (5), and of his swine, which was called fearn leswe (6), is noticed.
It is probable that these royal impositions attached only to the lands which were or had been of the royal demesne. The pecuniary payments which resulted to the king from the landed estates in England are enumerated in Domesday-book.
When the original proprietors aliened or demised their lands to others, they annexed a variety of conditions to their grants, which subsequent transfers either repeated or discharged. Some of these may be stated. One contract was, that the person to whom the land was given should plough, sow, reap, and gather in the harvest of two acres of it, for the use of the church (7). Another was, that the tenant should go with all his craft twice a year, once to plough, and at the other time to reap, for the grantors (8). Another grant reserves two bushels of pure grain. Another the right of feeding one hundred swine. Another exacts the ploughing and reaping of a field (9). In others a ship, in others lead is reserved (10). Offa gave the land of twenty manentium to the church at Worcester, on the terms of receiving a specified gafol from the produce of the land (11). The services and customs attached to the possession of burghs, houses, and lands, which are mentioned in the Domesday Survey, may be consulted as giving much illustration to this topic. Sometimes an imposition was made on the land of a province by general consent. Thus, for building Saint Edmund's church, four denarii were put annually on every carucata of earth, by the consent of the landholders (12). There were also ecclesiastical duties attached to land.
It is said by Lord Coke, that the first kings of this realm had all the lands
(1) Domesday, Cestrescire.
(3) MS. Claud.
(5) Heming. Chart. 58.
(7) Ibid. 134.
(2) MS. Claud. c. 9. p. 104. Thorpe, R. R. 22. (4) Heming. Chart. 31.
(6) Ibid. 86.
(8) Ibid. 189.
(9) Ibid. 144. p. 174. 208. I quote Hearne's edition of this book; but cannot avoid saying, that the Saxon passages are badly printed. Either the transcript was made, or the press set and corrected, by a person ignorant of Saxon.
(11) Ibid. 101.
(10) Dugdale, Mon. i. p. 19, 20. 141. (12) Ibid. p. 291.
of England in demesne, and that they reserved to themselves the grand manors and royalties, and enfeoffed the barons of the realm with the remainder, for the defence of the realm, with such jurisdiction as the courts baron now have, and instituted the freeholders to be judges of the court baron (1). Much of this statement may be true; but it can be only made inferentially, for no positive information has descended to modern times of what lands the Saxon chieftains possessed themselves, nor how they disposed of them. We may recollect, that, according to the laws of the Britons in Wales, in the ninth century, all the land of the kingdom was declared to belong to the king (2); and we may safely believe that the same law prevailed while the Britons occupied the whole island.
It is highly probable that the Saxon war-cyning succeeded to all the rights of the monarch he dispossessed; and, in rewarding his companions and warriors with the division of the spoil, it can be as little doubted, that from those to whom the cyning or the witena gave the lands of the British landholders a certain portion of military service was exacted, in order to maintain the conquest they had achieved. This was indispensable, as nearly a century elapsed before the struggle was completely terminated between the Britons and the invaders. It was also a law among the Britons, that all should be compelled to build castles when the king pleased (3). But that the lands in the hands of the Anglo-Saxon proprietors were subject to the fyrde, as a general and inevitable burden, and that this military service was rigorously exacted, and its neglect severely punished, and was to be performed when called for by the king, the facts already adduced have abundantly proved. Enough has been also said to show that custom, or the will of individuals, had imposed on many estates personal services, pecuniary rents, and other troublesome exactions. Hence there can be no doubt that the most essential part of what has been called the feudal system actually prevailed among the Anglo-Saxons. The term vassals was also used by them. Asser, the friend of Alfred, has the expression nobilibus vassalis (4); and grants of kings to their vassals are not unfrequent.
The Anglo-Saxon proprietors of land in demesne were, in many respects, the little sovereigns of their territories, from the legal privileges which, according to the grants, and to the customs of the times, they possessed and were entitled to exercise. Their privileges consisted of their civil and criminal jurisdictions, their pecuniary profits and gafols, and their power over the servile part of their tenantry and domestics.
is an appendage to many grants of land, that the possessors should have the sac and soc, or a certain extent of civil and criminal jurisdiction. Thus Edward the Confessor gave to the abbot of Abbendon sace and socne, toll and team, infangenetheof binnan burgan, and butan burgan; ham socne, grithbrice and (5) foresteal. Similar privileges are given, with many additions, in various grants; and they conveyed, not only the right of holding courts within the limits of the estate, to determine the causes and offences arising within it, but also the fines and payments, or part of them, with which the crimes were punished. In some grants these fines were shared with the king (6). Sometimes the liberty of holding markets, and of receiving toll, is allowed, and sometimes an exemption from toll.
(1) Coke on Littleton, 58.
(2) Leges Wallicæ Hoel, cap. 337.
(4) Asser, Vit. Alfredi, p. 33.
(6) Ibid. p. 104.
There seems to be no doubt that the Anglo-Saxons took lands by inheritance. The peculiar modes of inheritance, called gavelkind, where all the children inherited; and borough-english, where the youngest son was the heir; have been referred to the Saxon times.
We have several of their grants of land without any pecuniary consideration; of their conveyances on purchase; of their deeds of exchange; their testamentary devises, and their leases. These are all short and simple-as short and as simple as they might always be made, if the ingenuity of mankind were less directed to evade their legal contracts by critical discussions of their construction.
The Saxon conveyances consisted principally of these things:
1st, The grantor's name and title are stated. In the older charters the description is very simple. It is more full in those of a later period; but the grants of Edgar are generally distinguished from those of other kings by a pompous and inflated commencement.
2d, A recital is usually inserted, in many instances preceding the donor's name. Sometimes it states his title, or some circumstances connected with it. Sometimes the recital is on the brevity and uncertainty of life, and on the utility of committing deeds to writing-sometimes of the charitable or friendly feelings which occasioned the grant; and one recital states that the former land-boc, or conveyance, had been destroyed by fire, and that the owner had applied for new ones.
3d, The conveying words follow, which are usually "Do et concedo; donare decrevimus; concedimus et donamus; dabo; trado:" or other terms of equivalent import, either of Latin or Saxon.
4th, The person's name then occurs to whom the land is granted. The name is sometimes given without any addition, and sometimes the quality or parentage is simply mentioned, as, Eadredo, Liaban fili Birgwines; meo fideli ministro Ethelwezde; Æthelnotho præfecto meo; Ealdberhto ministro meo, atque Selethrythe sorori tuæ, etc.
5th, What lawyers call the consideration of a deed is commonly inserted. This is sometimes pro intimo caritatis affectu, pro ejus humili obedientia, pro redemptione animæ meæ, and such like. Often it is for money paid, or a valuable consideration.
6th, Another circumstance frequently mentioned in the royal grants is, that it was done with the consent of the witena or nobles.
7th, The premises are then mentioned. They are described shortly in the body of the grant by their measured or estimated quantity of land, and the name of the place where they were situate. Some general words then follow, often very like those annexed to the description of premises in our modern conveyances. The grants show that the land of the country was in a state of cultivated divisions, and was known by its divisional appellations. Sometimes the name given to it is expressed to be that by which it was locally known among the inhabitants of the district. At others the