Copyhold and Customary Survivals

  • R. H. Hilton
Part of the Studies in Economic History book series


CUSTOMARY tenure remained strong. The development of various forms of leasehold in demesne and tenant land may have had an importance greater than the amount of land in such tenure would at first suggest, perhaps as a back door to free status for those peasants able to pay the required entry fines. But in fact as customary tenures were turned into copyhold, as was general by the beginning of the fifteenth century, the servility associated with them seemed, at any rate in some places, to melt away. The possession of a deed implying a contract between landowner and tenant was thought by some servile tenants as early as the thirteenth century to make them free (Natives qui tenet aliquam terram per cartam incontinenti dicit se liberum),2 so the issue to customary tenants of a copy of the entry on the court roll recording their tenure no doubt gave the feeling of the freedom of a contractual relationship between lord and man. This was accepted on some estates. In the late fifteenth century references to the servility and bondage of copyhold disappear from the court rolls of Ramsey Abbey. After 1440 the distinction between serf and non-serf on the Pelham estates no longer mattered.


Tenant Land Thirteenth Century Fifteenth Century Fourteenth Century Contractual Relationship 
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  1. 1.
    W. O. Massingberd, The Ingoldmells Court Rolls (1902).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Economic History Society 1969

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. H. Hilton
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BirminghamUK

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