Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire


by Sir Henry Chauncy Vol I pages 253 to 260 first published in 1700

Days, that is to say, on the Vigills,, the Day of St. Bartholemew the Apostle, and six Days following, and also Free Warren in all their Lordships, which they had then in the Counties of Hertford, Kent, and Middlesex all Liberties and Free Customs belonging to the Market and Fair.

But upon the Dissolution of Monasteries this Mannor came to King Henry VIII. who Anno 33 Regai sui, granted the Rectory of Layston, and the Mannor of Corneybury and Milkley the Jurisdiction of holding Court Leet and Baron, and the Profits of Courts, to Sir Thomas Audley, Kt. Chancellor of England, and his Heirs.

All those who in the time of the Saxons had Sake and Soke, were generally Lords, who had Courts; but when William the Conqueror seiz'd all the Lands in England into his own Hands, he granted them to his most valiant Normans, whom he constituted his greater Barons, impowering them to hold Court Leets, where Matters touching Life and Loss of Member were determin'd ; and Court Barons, where Controversies arising between the Tenants residing within the Mannor were decided.

Those Lords held these Courts in the Halls of ther Houses within their Mannors, their Tenants were bound to tend there every three Weeks; but generally at the Feast of the Anunciation of the blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Michael the Archangel, from whence the Courts held at these times were called Curiae Generales, where all the Tenants performed their Services, all Titles and Actions arising within the Mannor, between the Tenants or Residents there were determined; Bargains and Sale for Lands were enroll'd, Fines levy'd. This was the Reason why all Writs of Right were first brought in the Lord's Court of Whom the Lands were held; and the Tenants could not bring a Writ of Right in the King's Court, without the Lord's License, which was always inserted in the Close of the Writ, and such Cause could not thence have been remov'd into the County, unless it was proved the Lord would not do Right, and without such Proof the Lord might notwithstanding proceed and pass Judgment in his Court; but if the Tenant claim'd to hold his Land of Divers Lords, then the Cause was determin'd in the Court of the chief Lord, or in the County Court, in the Presence of the Lords of whom he claim'd to hold, who were summon'd to be present at the Tryal.

In the time of the Saxons all Wills were proved in these Courts; which Custome has since been continued in some few Mannors to this Day ; all Actions of Trespass, Debt,&c. which happened between Persons residing within the Jurisdiction of one and the same Mannor, were determined in the same Court; if the Parties resided in several Mannors, in the Hundred Court; if in several Hundreds, then in the Tithing, Lathe, or County; and this Jurisdiction did support the Grandeur of the Lords among their Tenants and did draw a great Respect and Reverence from them.

There are others who have Power of holding Courts, and Jurisdictions over their Vassals; but could not determine Matters of Life and Loss of Member, only those things which belonged to their Farmes, from whence these Courts were called Base Courts; thus Antiquity distinguished the greater Barons from the less, attributing to these the lowest; to them the highest and Regal Justice.

But the Inconstancy of Man's Estate, and the Mutability of time has wrought a great Change in these Mannors; for many of them are now deriv'd from those great Barons, either by Descent in Coparcinery, or by Sale to inferior Persons; who have retain'd mean and unskilful Men in the Law for their Stewards, not qualify'd to exercise that Office; this drew many Inconveniences and Mischiefs upon such Lords and their Tenants, for Prevention whereof the Power and Jurisdiction of these Courts were restrained by the Stat, of Magna Charta, for now they cannot hold Plea of Trespass, Debt, Detinue, Covenant, or any like Action, where the Damage laid in the Declaration amounts to the Value of 40s. or more; however several great Lords and Barons of the Realm for the Support of their Dignity, divers eminent Clergymen for the Honour of their Church, and sundry Gentlemen for the Reputation of themselves, and the Right and Justice due to their Suitors and Tenants, have retain'd such Persons for their Stewards, who were qualify'd by Law and Experience to hold Courts, maintain the Rights of the Lord, advise the Draughts of Surrenders, preserve the Titles of the Tenants, resolve all Doubts, and Points in Law, which may at any time touch the Interest of the Lord or the Right of his Tenants, and execute all Things there, with that Solemnity and Order which is necessary for a Court, and suitable to Justice; to that Purpose let me give the Advice of Old Fleta, which Sir Edward Coke recommends to the Lord of every Mannor. Provideat sibi Dominus de Seneschallo, &c. Let every Lord provide himself of a Steward, circumspect and faithful, a Man provident and discreet, courteous and humble, honest, quiet, and modest, learned in the Laws of the Realm, and Customs of the Mannor, and in the Office of a Steward, careful to maintain the Rights of the Lord in all things, able to instruct the Bailiffs in all doubtful Matters wherein they may err. and will not deviate a Tittle from Justice nor judge wrongfully ; the Residue which belongs to the Office of a Steward, is set forth in Fleta, to which I refer the Reader: Copyholds are a considerable Part of


Select page number:  Page 255   Page 256