Cosgrove Glossary

A.R.P Standard abbreviation for Acres - Roods - Poles (all three explained below) : the usual expression for the measurement of an area of land
Abstract of Title Summary of prior ownership. Prepared when a property was about to be sold.
Acre A measure of land area: made up of 4 Roods or 160 Poles (see below for these terms). The metric equivalent is 0.4 hectares, i.e. there are 2.5 acres in a hectare. The rough equivalent of an acre would be a good-sized soccer pitch!
Advowson The right to present or nominate a clergyman to a church living such as a rectory, vicarage or deanery. An advowson is held by a patron, who may he an individual or institution, clerical or secular. The patron presents the candidate to the appropriate Bishop for institution and induction, though the nomination may he refused. An advowson is a form  of property which may he bought, sold or given away and is subject to civil law.  An advowson appendant  is one annexed to a manor or estate, an advowson in gross is in the gift of an individual.
Aletaster A manorial official who tested the quality and measurement of ale and beer within the manor. He was the forerunner of the Inspector of Weights & Measures. Quite often his responsibilities included the testing of the quality or weight of bread
Allotment In this context, a term which referred to land distributed by the Enclosure Commissioners in exchange for rights and holdings held in the open-field system. It could also mean land given to a parish or manor official.
Altar Frontal The coloured front panel on the altar indicating the church season
Assart A forest clearing; assarted land was where the trees and bushes had been grubbed up.
Assignment Transfer of a right, usually a lease, or mortgage.
Assize court Civil court, which sat in county towns one a year to try serious crimes, including theft, murder and rape.
Bailywick The jurisdiction of a bailiff.
Balk A ridge left unploughed between furrows
Bargain & Sale Deed (usually 16th century) transferring property.
Baronet An hereditary title created in 1611, superior to that of a knight, but not of peerage rank. He is addressed as 'Sir' and after his surname the abbreviation 'Bart.' is used. His wife is addressed as Lady and his children as Mr, Miss or Mrs
Bart See - Baronet
Bordar A villein cottager and one of the lowest ranks in feudal society. He had some land for subsistence but he was obliged to perform agricultural and menial services for the lord free or for a fixed sum.
Burse Square cloth case to carry the corporal during Communion service - corporal case
C The letter representing the Roman number 100. See - Roman Numerals
Chain Old measurement of length : 22 yards (about 20 metres). The equivalent is the traditional length between the stumps on a cricket pitch.
Chasuble The top vestment worn by the officiating priest - in red, green, white or purple
Chapel of Ease These were provided for the ease and comfort of those living some distance from the main parish church. Many served the dual purpose of Chantry Chapels and were served by the monasteries. Marriages and christenings as well as other services could be performed but few enjoyed the rights of sepulchra (burial). Many chapels of ease were abolished in 1547 by the Chantries Act.
Coppice A small wood consisting of underwood and small trees grown for the purpose of periodic cutting.
Copy of Court Roll Copy of entry on a roll of manor court proceedings, recording admission of a tenant to his holding, and serving as a title deed. See Copyhold
Copyhold Property held by copy of a court roll. Originally a tenure dependent upon custom and the lord's will, carrying obligations to perform certain services for the lord. The Black Death in the 14th century brought about a scarcity of labour and hastened the commutation of these feudal services to money payments. The tenant was protected not by national law but by title written on the manor court rolls, of which he was provided with a copy - hence the name of the tenure. When transferring the property the tenant first surrendered it to the lord who held the fee-simple, and then the new tenant was admitted on payment of a fine. Copyhold tenure was abolished in 1922. Alternatively called Tenancy by Copy and Tenancy by the Verge.
Corporal White cloth on which Communion bread and wine are placed
Cottar A cottager, sometimes with a smallholding. He was obliged to labour on the lord's land either free or for a fixed sum.
Counterpart The second half of an indenture, precisely matching the first part; usually used for the second copy of a lease, signed by the tenant and retained by the grantor.
Covenant An agreement entered into by one of the parties to a deed; a covenant for production of title deeds is an agreement to produce deeds not being handed over to a purchaser
Curtilage Yard or court associated with a dwelling house
Cwt See Hundredweight
D The letter representing the Roman number 500. See - Roman Numerals
Demesne A manor house with lands adjacent to it not let out to tenants: any estate in hand. Land of the manor held in the lord's own hands. The villein tenants, as part of their obligations in return for their own land holdings, had to work regularly on the demesne lands.
Drover One whose occupation it is to drive cattle or sheep
Duke The first Dukedom in England was created in 1337 when the Black Prince was created Duke of Cornwall. The title then took precedence over other noble titles. His wife is known as a duchess, his eldest son takes his father's second title, and the younger children are addressed as Lord or Lady before their Christian names. The term Duke derives from the word dux, meaning leader of an army. See also - Nobility
Earl Before the Norman Conquest the Earl was the highest rank of nobility and acted as the king's representative in charge of a shire; subsequently the title denoted a dignity rather than a function. The wife of an earl is a countess but except on formal occasions he and his wife are addressed as Lord and Lady. His eldest son takes his father's second title, the younger sons are styled 'Honourable', and the daughters as Lady before their Christian names. See also - Nobility
Easement The right to use something (especially land) which is not one's own
Ell A varying measure of length, originally taken from the arm; a measurement of cloth equivalent to 1.25 yards
Enclosure See - Inclosure
Engrossment The drawing together of two or more holdings into one
Entail The settlement of property so that it must descend to the owner's heirs in a specified fashion, and not be sold or otherwise dispersed. The current owner of entailed property is then a tenant for life.
Esquire Originally an attendant to a knight or lord and responsible for carrying shield and armour. The term later denoted a status above that of a Gentleman, but in the 19th century became merely a courtesy title
Executor/Executrix The male/female person appointed to carry out the provisions of a will.
Eyre A itinerant court of justice
Fee Land or freehold property which could be inherited
Fee Simple A freehold estate which passes without restriction to the lawful heir
Feoffee See - Trustee
Feoffment A simple grant of property. See also Joint Enfeoffment
Fine Entry Fine: sum of money paid for the granting of a lease or for admission to a copyhold tenement.
Franklin A free tenant, usually of the wealthier sort; the predecessor of the Yeoman
Frankpledge In medieval England all householders were grouped into tithings of 10 or 12 householders. They had a mutual responsibility for the behaviour of everyone within their group and presenting wrong-doers to the manorial court leet. The right to ensure that everyone was included in such a grouping was termed a View of Frankpledge. The lord of the manor's right to all fines meted by such a court, (Royalty), was a considerable source of income.
Freehold Tenure in fee simple, i.e. absolute and unlimited, though possibly paying a fixed rent (a chief rent or fee-farm rent). A tenure which was not subject to the customs of the manor or the will of the lord and which could be disposed of without restriction. Alternatively called Frank Tenement or Freeland.
Furlong Measurement of length: 10 Chains (see above) or 200 yards (roughly 200 metres). A furlong was traditionally the length of a furrow on ploughed land.
Garth An enclosure or yard: a garden.
Gentleman In this context, a well-born man above the rank of yeoman, usually entitled to bear a coat of arms. It was assumed that a Gentleman did not do manual work and the term gradually encompassed all those in the professions
Glebe Land assigned to the incumbent of a parish as part of his benefice and the endowment of the church
Gnomon The pin of a dial whose shadow points to the hour
Grange Cistercian monasteries of the 12th and 13th centuries acquired vast amounts of land from Norman magnates who were themselves preoccupied with eternal salvation. These lands were fragmented and difficult to administer from a central base therefore a system of outlying farms were set up (grangia)  staffed by lay brethren. After the black death in the 14th century the recruitment of lay brethren became increasingly difficult and local peasant labour dried up. The granges became an embarrassment and were liable to be let to local landowners.
Grazier One who pastures cattle and rears them for market.
Hayward Originally a person who guarded the corn and farm-yard in the night-time, and gave warning by a horn in case of alarm from robbers. The term was afterwards applied to a person who looked after the cattle, and prevented them from breaking down the fences.
Headborow "Signifies him that is a chief of the Frankpledge, and that is the principal government of them within his own pledge" . A constable.
Hide Measurement of area, made up of 4 Virgates (see below) - in reality the term was used to denote the area of land sufficient to support a family. The exact size varied according to locality and the quality of the land
Higgler A bargainer
Homestall A homestead: a farmyard
Honor, Honour A group of Manors
Hundred In England, etc.:A subdivision of a county or shire, having its own court. It was originally supposed to denote an area which contained a hundred families
Hundredweight A common measure of produce or retail weight. A hundredweight was made up of 8 stones or 112 pounds. 20 stones made a ton. Sacks of potatoes were commonly sold by the "half-hundredweight" ie 4 stone/56 pound sacks. the usual abbreviation for hundredweight was "cwt".
Husbandman A tenant farmer
Inclosure The process by which common land and open fields, together with the Glebe lands of the church, were divided up into allotments and distributed amongst relevant claimants. The process was designed to make agriculture more efficient by replacing the open countryside that had been there since Norman times, and created the patchwork landscape with which we are familiar today.
Indenture A form of contract between 2 parties in which each kept a half cut along an indented line.
Ingrosser The conduct of those whose buy merchandise in large quantities, to obtain command of the market
Joint Enfeoffment

The settlement of a property jointly on a man and his wife, a device which allowed a widow to escape paying an entry fee for the tenure on the death of her husband.

Kerver Carver
L Depending on the context, this may be an abbreviation for Librum (one pound in money - see L.s.d) or it represents the Roman letter for the number 50 (see - Roman Numerals)
Li Seen on sixteenth century Subsidy lists as an abbreviation for Librum - One pound in money, see L.s.d
L.s.d The system of currency before the decimal system coinage was introduced in February 1971. The letters are based on the Latin: Libra - Solidi - Denarii and stand for pounds, shillings and pence. 12 pennies (or pence) made a shilling (5p in decimal money); 20 shillings made a pound
Lady Day The 25th day of March
Lavabo Ceremony in which priest washes his hands; basin for the ceremony
Lawn Enclosed pasture within forest, originally to provide grazing and hay for deer.
Lease Grant of property to a tenant for a specified period, usually a term of years; types of lease include life lease: lease for the life of the tenant; three-life lease: lease until the deaths have occurred of three named people ( with an upper limit of 99 years)
Leasehold Tenure by lease (see - Tenure), sometimes for a fixed number of years, or for a certain number of 'lives' recorded in the original lease. When one of the lives' died a new name could be inserted into the lease on payment of a fee.
Lectern Fall The coloured cloth in front of the church lectern
Letters Patent Royal grant, enrolled on the Patent Rolls
Ley A lea, or pasture - land, often open field strips temporarily under grass
Malster, Maltster One whose occupation it is to make malt
Marquess The first Marquess was appointed in 1385. Except on formal occasions he and his wife are referred to as Lord and Lady, and their children as Lord and Lady before their Christian names. The term Marquess (Marquis in France ) is derived from those barons who held and guarded lands on the borders or marches of a kingdom. See also - Nobility
Messuage A dwelling house and its appurtenances i.e. outbuildings, garden and in some cases land.
Michaelmas The 25th day of September
Moiety Half of a property, often undivided moiety, when the shares of the two owners have not been marked out separately
Moo The phrase "with other moo" means "with other men"
Nobility The five ranks of peerage in descending order of precedence are Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount and Baron (Lord).
NRO Northamptonshire Record Office
Nuncupative A type of will made orally, and backed up by written witness testimony as to its validity
Pall Covering cloth laid upon Communion chalice
Pannage Pig fodder
Perambulation Beating the bounds: the district within which a person had the right of inspection - the established boundaries being usually walked round annually.
Perpresture An unlicensed inclosure or building, especially a new house within the forest.
Pightle A small enclosure; a croft
Planches The planks of a floor
Plough How much land a team could plough in a year
Pole A Pole was both a linear and an area measurement. As a linear meaurement it was 5.5 yards (about 5 metres) and was also called a Rod or a Perch

As a measurement of area, a Square Pole (usually abbreviated to Pole) was 30.5 square yards. 40 (Square) Poles made a Rood; 160 made an Acre

Pound (1) Unit of currency still used today, but prior to 1971 it was made up of 20 Shillings, or 240 pre-decimal pence, rather than 100 pence as today. See L.s.d.

(2) A measurement of weight equivalent to 454 grammes. The so-called "metric pound" is 500 grammes. A pond was made up of 16 ounces; 14 pounds made a stone; 112 pounds (8 stone) made a hundredweight. The common abbreviation for the pound weight was lb or lbs for the plural form. Loose sweets like toffees or mint humbugs were commonly priced and sold in measures of a quarter pound (also commonly called "a quarter") which was 4 ounces.

PRO Public Record Office (now called The National Archives)
Probate The establishment of the validity of a will in a church court, recorded in the grant of probate
Purificator Cloth used to wipe Eucharist chalice
Purlieus Land deforested by Edward I but still subject to certain restrictions on hunting.
Pyx Box or vessel in which coins or consecrated Eucharist are kept
Quarter Days These are 25th March Lady Day, 24th June Midsummer, 29th September Michaelmas, 25th December Christmas.
Quartern A quarter, especially of a measure of weight such as a peck, a stone or a pound
Quitclaim Deed renouncing any possible right to a property
Quitrent A rent paid in lieu of services. A fixed annual rent which released a tenant from feudal services to a manorial lord
Recognizance A legal obligation entered into before a magistrate to do or not to do some particular act
Regnal Year The currant year of a king's reign, counting from his accession, used as the means of dating deeds until the mid-17th century
Regrater One who buys and sells again in or near the same market, thus raising the price - once a criminal offence in England
Revertion Also spelt Reversion. Grant of property (usually a lease) to start after some specified time or event, e.g. the termination of a previous lease
Roman Numerals The Romans used a system of letters to represent numbers. I = 1, V = 5, X = 10, L = 50, C = 100, D = 500, M = 1000. Repeats of a letter indicate multiples of the equivalent number, thus III = 3, XX = 20, CC = 200. Dates and complex numbers are usually expressed in and array of letters representing thousands, hundreds, fifties, tens and units, as relevant. Thus 1763 in Roman numerals is MDCCLXIII; 1808 is MDCCCVIII; 235 is CCXXXV; 56 is LVI

A letter indicating a smaller number than the letter following it, and placed apparently out of sequence before the larger figure, generally indicates that it should be subtracted from the following letter/figure. Thus IV = 4, XL = 40

Rood A measure of land area: 40 square Poles or one quarter of an Acre
Seisin The freehold possession of land
Sentence of A judgement; decision
Shilling A unit of currency in the pre-decimal age (pre-February 1971). Twelve pence made a shilling, twenty shiilings made a pound. The abbreviation for sums like twelve shillings and six pence was usually in the form 12/6 on price labels, notices, etc.
Squire A common term for a lord of the manor, or a principal landowner
Stole The long scarf round the neck of a priest when taking a service
Stone A measurement of weight, equivalent to just over 6 kilos. It was used to measure arable root crops such as potatoes, sweded, turnips and kohl rabi. See also Pound and Hundredweight
Swanimote The local forest court responsible for judicial and administrative regulation of the forest.
Tail Usually used in the phrase "in tail male" - a ruling where only male descendants of the original tenant in tail can succeed to the land. If the male line dies out, the land goes to the person next entitled. [sometimes this counting system appears as "by tale" in reference to land measures]
Tenancy at Will A tenure granted by the lord and at his disposal. It was mainly granted by the Crown to reward servants
Tenement A formal description of any type of property, but particularly property including a building
Tenure The form of right by which property is held
Terrier A register of landed property, formerly including lists of vassals and tenants, with particulars of their holdings, services, and rents; a rent roll; in later use, a book in which the lands of a private person, or a corporation civil or ecclesiastical, are described by their site boundaries, acreages, etc. Also a tithingman, a deputy constable
Third-Borough A constable. Lambarde says, " In some shires, where every third borrow hath a constable, there the officers of the other two be called thirdborows."
Tithe Tithes were typically a local tax of one tenth of the years product of land and labour. A tithe was levied on a parish basis to support the parish priest, maintain the fabric of the church and support the poor of the parish. It was originally a voluntary contribution and had its roots in the Anglo Saxon Frankpledge where groups of ten persons were largely responsible for each other within the group. It was made compulsory in 10th century  and was enforced both through the civil and ecclesiastical courts. Tithes were divided into greater (rectorial) tithes, the product of the arable fields and value of stock, and lesser (vicarial) tithes, raised from labour and minor produce i.e. the day laborers and cottagers. Where the rector was not the incumbent he took a share of the greater tithes and his appointed vicar would have to survive on the lesser tithes supplemented by the glebe income and the freehold of the churchyard.
TNA The National Archive (formerly called The Public Records Office)
Ton The imperial measure of a ton was 2240 pounds or 20 hundredweight. The metric ton or "tonne" is 1000 kilos (about 2200 pounds).
Uses The purpose for which property is held by a trustee, in a marriage or family settlement
V The letter representing the Roman number 5. See - Roman Numerals
Verderer A foreset official who had charge of the vert and venison
Vicar A clerk in holy orders appointed by a rector to administer a parish.
Vill A manor or tithing
Villein A general term to describe an unfree tenant after the Norman Conquest. He held his land subject to a range of agricultural services and fines. He was above the status of a slave but was, excepting the Regardant Villein, usually annexed to the lord's person, in which case he was termed a Villein in Gross. Neither he nor his daughter could marry without the lord's permission, nor could he bring a suit in the king's court, or acquire land that would not be taxed. Upon his death a heriot (fine) was paid by his heirs. In return he had a landholding and the right to graze a fixed number of cattle on the common pastures and to take hay from the common meadow. The loss of population resulting from the Black Death put the Villein into a better bargaining position and his tenure gradually became Copyhold
Virgate See - Yardland
Viscount The first Viscount in the English nobility was created in 1440, but previously the term denoted a sheriff of a county acting as deputy to the Earl of the shire; the word derived from the Latin vicecomes. A Viscount and his wife are styled Lord and Lady. See also - Nobility
Walk A district of the forest under the oversight of the Keeper.
Waste Waste land - areas of uncultivated land outside closes, allotments, enclosures and common fields. A typical example would be roadside verges. Where enough space permitted, cottages were sometimes built there, and the tenants were said to be living "on the waste".
Woodward An officer appointed for the management and sale of Crown wood and timber
X The letter representing the Roman number 10. See - Roman Numerals
Yard Common measure of length: 36 inches or 3 feet (equivalent to c.91cm)
Yardland or Virgate An area of land (usually in common fields), conventionally of 32 acres, but in reality varying very much from place to place; holdings are often described by the number of yardlands they contain
Yeoman A free tenant, usually a prominent farmer. As he worked with his hands he could not be styled a Gentleman but his status was above that of most other copyhold tenants. He was qualified to serve on juries and vote in county elections. Was then later more usually used to mean a small or medium farmer








4 farthings = 1 penny

half penny



2 halfpennies = 1 penny




12 pennies = 1 shilling
240 pennies = £1

three pence



4 x three pence = 1 shilling

six pence



2 x six pence = 1 shilling




12 pence = 1 shilling
20 shillings = £1




24 pence = a florin
2 shillings = a florin

half crown



8 half crowns = £1




4 crowns - £1


in or "

2.54 cm

12 inches = 1 foot


ft or '

30.48 cm

3 feet = 1 yard



91.44 cm

1760 yards = 1 mile


mi or m

1.61 km

1760 yards = 1 mile



201.17 m

8 furlongs = 1 mile
220 yards = 1 furlong



20.12 m

10 chains = 1 furlong
100 links = 1 chain
22 yards = 1 chain



20.12 cm

7.92 inches = 1 link

rod, pole or perch (all the same thing)

r, p, p

5.03 m

40 poles = 1 furlong
4 poles = 1 chain
5.5 yards = 1 pole

(square) rod, pole or perch

Sq r, p, p

25.29 sq m

1 pole x 1 pole = 1 (square) pole
40 (square) poles = 1 rood



1011.71 sq m

1210 square yards = 1 rood
1 furlong x 1 pole = 1 rood
4 roods = 1 acre


a, ac

0.4 hectares

1 furlong x 1 chain = 1 acre
10 square chains = 1 acre
640 acres = 1 square mile



48 hectares

120 acres = 1 hide



142.07 ml

5 fluid ounce = 1 gill
4 gills = 1 pint



9.09 litres

2 gallons = 1 peck



36.37 litres

4 pecks = 1 bushel



28.35 g

16 oz = 1 lb



453.59 g

14 lb = 1 stone



6.35 kg

2 stone = 1 quarter



12.7 kg

4 quarters = 1 hundredweight



50.8 kg

112 lb = 1 hundredweight
20 hundredweight = 1 ton


1016 kg

2240 lb = 1 ton