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Hemyock Castle
Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

Feudal, Medieval and Castle Terms (F to H)




Market held at regular intervals, usually once to twice a year. Fairs tended to offer a wider range of goods than normal markets. They were generally licensed by either the King, a local lord, or a chartered town, hence the "Charter Fairs" still held in Britain. In later centuries, especially after the 1351 "Statute of Labourers" was brought in to combat the severe labour shortages following the "Black Death;" Hiring, Mop or Statute Fairs became the common way of hiring workers and labourers for the next year. Often, a second fair would be held about a month later, to permit the re-hiring of workers unsuited to their original jobs.

Often, workers and labourers would carry a symbol of their trade. Sucking a straw is said to have been the signal used by agricultural labourers who were looking for work.

Bridgwater's 1200 charter allowed an annual fair lasting eight days from the day of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24th), with toll, paage, pontage, passage, lastage, stallage and with all other liberties and free customs pertaining to a free borough and to a market and fair.


Fixed sum, usually paid annually, for the right to collect all revenues from land; in effect, rent. Lords could farm land to vassals, receiving a fixed annual rent in place of the normal feudal obligation. Many sheriffs farmed out their shires, contracting in advance to pay a fixed annual sum to the crown, thus obtaining the right to collect any additional royal revenues for their own profit. The resulting extortion became widely unpopular.

Fealty (Oath of):

Oath by which a vassal swore loyalty to his lord, usually on a Relic of Saints or on The Bible.


See Fief.


Administrative unit of land. Fourth part of a hundred. (Not necessarily exactly a quarter.)

Ferling, Ferthing or Quarter:

Literally, quarter of a quarter; normally quarter of a Virgate, itself a quarter of a Hide. But seems to have varied between about two and eight ferlings to the virgate.


In feudal law, any grave violation of the feudal contract between lord and vassal. Later it was expanded in common law to include any crime against the King's peace, and has come to mean any serious crime. Example: Murder is now a Felony, taking the burden of prosecution from the victim's family and giving it to the crown.


See Fief.


System of governing whereby semi-autonomous landed nobility had certain well defined responsibilities to the King, in return for the use of grants of land (fiefs) exploited with the labour of a semi-free peasantry (serfs).


Land. Term used in continental Europe. A holding of land or land held through a special grant; normally by an Earl or a tenant-in-chief. Similar to an Honor.

Fief (also called fee or feoff):

Normally, land held by a vassal of a lord in return for stipulated services, chiefly military. Can also apply to an official position. Often called a Holding. Sometimes, unusual requirements were stipulated for transferring a fief. For example: Henry de la Wade held 42 acres of land in Oxford by the service of carrying a gyrfalcon (a falconry bird) whenever Kind Edward I wished to go hawking.

Fief de Haubert:

11th century French term equivalent to the term Knight's Fee because of the coat of mail (hauberk) which it entitled and required every tenant to own and wear when his services were needed. This provided a definite estate in France, because only persons who held this estate or greater were allowed to wear hauberks.


Money paid annually by a lord to a vassal in return for homage, fealty, and military service (usually knight service). It could include various things other than money, such as wine, cheese, providing chickens, or wood.

Fifth Column:

20th century term. Infiltrators. Subversive or hostile people in one's midst. Originally during the Spanish Civil War, the group of Franco's Falangist sympathisers inside Madrid who were prepared to help the four columns of troops attacking Madrid.


Historically, a sum of money paid to the Crown to obtain some grant, concession, or privilege. Unlike an amercement, a fine was not a penalty, although failure to offer and pay a customary fine for some right, would undoubtedly lead to an amercement. These days, a financial penalty.

Fine of Lands (also called Final Concord or Fine):

A type of Property Conveyance (transfer of ownership of land) used in England and later in Wales, from about the 12th Century until its abolition by the Fines and Recoveries Act in 1833:

Using a fictitious lawsuit, the claimant alleged that the original owner had broken their agreement to transfer the property; the two parties then compromised and agreed that the property now belonged to the claimant; A fine was said to be levied; The court recorded the agreement as two identical copies on the same membrane of parchment, tore this in half and gave half to each party. The purchaser's part of the document became their "deed of title" to the property.

See also: Foot of Fine.


A slender piece of stone used to decorate the tops of the Merlons. Also, as a Ridge Finial made from straw (sometimes loosely called a Corn Dolly), often used to decorate thatched roofs and thatched haystacks.

First Past The Post:

Electoral system, particularly in single member constituencies, where (only) the candidate who gets the most votes, is elected. All other candidates lose. Simple to administer, rapidly produces a clear winner, usually leads to a stable government formed from a single political party. But excludes minority parties. See also: Proportional Representation.


Anglo Norman prefix meaning son.

Sometimes said to denote the family branch which was descended from an illegitimate son. (Possibly invented as an English insult aimed at haughty Norman conquerors, based on Fitzroy - ie. Fitz Roi - (illegitimate) son of French King.)


Weight. See: Fother.

Foot of Fine, Feet of Fines:

The third, identical copy of a Fine of Lands Property Conveyance, kept by the Treasury. The court recorded all three identical copies on the face of the same parchment membrane; The copies for the seller & buyer were written on opposite sides, the official copy was written across the bottom (the foot) of the membrane. The parchment membrane was then torn into its three pieces.


Additional building against a Keep containing the stair to the doorway, and sometimes a chapel.


Right of a feudal lord to recover a fief when a vassal failed to honour his obligations under the feudal contract.

Formariage (also called merchet):

The sum commonly paid by a serf to his lord when the serf's daughter married a man from another manor.


Ditch or moat.

Fosse Way:

The Roman road between Lincoln and Exeter via Bath, built with a fosse on each side.

Fother (also called fodder, foder, fodur, cart-load, load, wain, waine, wey, etc.):

Weight. A cart-load. About 19½ hundredweight, dependent upon material. Also, six sacks where each sack is five fotmal, depending upon material.

Volume. 40 bushels or 320 gallons.

Also, "lots of," "a large quantity," "a huge amount," etc.

Fotmal (also called fotmæl, fotmel, fotte, fowte, foyrw, fut, vot, votmel, etc.):

Length. One foot (foot-length, foot-print or foot-space).

Weight. About 70 pounds of lead. (Definitions varied between 70 and 72. Weight also depended upon material.) A thirtieth of a fother. A fifth of a sack. 5 stone.

Comment: A fotmal of lead would occupy about one tenth of a cubic foot. This could form an ingot about 12 x 5 x 3 inches. A man could lift and carry this weight a short distance. A pack animal could carry two fotmal as a balanced load – one on each side of its back.

In 1391, each votmel of old lead roof sheets taken from the roof of Marlborough Castle was valued at 4 shillings.

Lead sheeting a tenth of an inch thick weighs 6 pounds per square foot. At this thickness, a fotmal of lead would produce about 12 square feet of lead sheets.

Comment: This unit does not seem to match the Roman practice: Lindsey Davis's entertaining novel "The Silver Pigs" is set during the Roman occupation of Britain. These Silver Pigs are actually lead ingots made from British lead ore which also contained about 130 ounces per ton of valuable silver. The ingots are said to be 20 x 5 x 4 inches with the Emperor's name and date stamped on one long edge, to weigh 200 Roman pounds, and to contain 24 ladles of molten ore.


Religious orders of mendicant friars and nuns founded by St. Francis of Assisi. See also Grey friars.


Legal condition under which every male member of a tithing (district) over the age of twelve was responsible for the good conduct of all other members of the tithing. Failure to control tithing members could lead to amercement of the entire tithing.


(Anglo-Saxon field.) 220 yards or 40 rods. The length of a plough furrow - ie. Furrow-long. In the strip field farming system, the length of the field strip ploughed before turning the ox team to plough the next furrow.

Also, sometimes a measure of area, apparently meaning square furlongs. So, when the Hemyock entry in the Domesday Book refers to 8 furlongs of woodland, it probably means 8 square furlongs: eg. 8 x 1 or 4 x 2 etc.

Sometimes confused with or a mistranslation of ferling.


Anglo Saxon Militia. Special King's Peace prevailed while to or from or during Fyrd service.



The languages and customs of the Celtic inhabitants of Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. Also closely related to parts of Cornwall and Brittany.


Small latrine or toilet either built into the thickness of the wall or projected out from it. It is said that garments were stored in the Garderobe in the belief that the smell and draughts would deter clothes-moths.


Enclosed yard or garden.

Gate House:

The complex of towers, bridges, and barriers built to protect each entrance through a castle or town wall.

Geld or Gelt:

The main tax owed to the King. Normally due as a number of pence per hide. As in Danegeld, the money raised and paid by Anglo-Saxon Britain to persuade the Danes to not invade the South and West.


Land granted to a clergyman as part of his benefice. Used to provide his food or an income.

Glorious Revolution:

The overthrow of King James II of England (James VII of Scotland) by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III, Prince of Orange, & his wife Mary II.

Led to the 1689 Declaration of Right and then the 1689 Bill of Rights which established Britain's system of Parliament & Constitutional Monarchy, as well as some rights for individuals. But saw Roman Catholics barred from the British throne. Other measures from this period such as the 1689 Toleration Act repealed many previous restrictive religious measures and tolerated worship by some Protestant non-conformists but largely continued to act against people who did not follow the mainstream Protestant religion.

God's Acre:

Colloquial term for a churchyard or graveyard.

Government of National Unity:

Type of coalition government, usually formed during severe national crises, where people from several political parties agree to cooperate "in the national interest."

Great Hall:

The building in the inner ward that housed the main meeting and dining area for the castle's residents. Long ago, the great hall at Hemyock was converted into the present manor house.

Great Reform Bill:

See Reform Bill.

Grey Friar:

Common name for a Franciscan Friar, derived from the colour of their habit.


Term applied to trade associations whose chief aims were:

  • To protect members from the competition of foreign merchants.
  • To maintain commercial standards.

The first guilds were merchant guilds. Later, as industry became more specialized, craft guilds were formed. Guilds maintained a system of education whereby apprentices served a master for five to seven years before becoming a journeyman at about age nineteen. Journeymen worked in the shop of a master until they could demonstrate to the leaders of the guild that they were ready for master status.

Guild members were forbidden from competing with each other, and merchants were required to sell at a "just price".

In many English towns and cities, the principal public building is still called the "Guildhall."



The common form of medieval construction in which walls were made of a wood frame structure filled with Wattle and Daub. Buildings within the castle would often be of this form.


Principal room in a medieval house, used for meeting and dining. Often, servants would sleep in the hall. It often extended up to the roof. Before chimneys were introduced, there would be an open fire, often in the middle of the floor. The smoke would vent through gaps in the roof. Later, high status buildings were fitted with Louvres - pottery vents in the roof designed to extract the smoke. Pieces of a Louvre have been found at Hemyock Castle. The old medieval ceiling, roof beams, and walls of the great hall at Hemyock Castle are blackened by soot from open fires. See also Solar.

Hanseatic League:

Association of merchants and towns of northern Germany.


Coat of mail (armour). See also Fief de Haubert.


Riverside meadow.

Heptarchy (Seven Kingdoms of the):

Names given to the seven pre-Viking Kingdoms of England. Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria, Kent, East Anglia, Essex and Sussex.


Any religious doctrine inconsistent with, or inimical to, the then prevailing orthodox beliefs of the church.


A payment which a feudal lord could claim from the possessions of a dead serf or other tenant, essentially a death tax. There were various forms of heriot. Generally if a tenant died in battle, the heriot was forgiven.


A unit of measurement for assessment of tax, theoretically 120 acres, although it could vary between 40 and 240 acres. Equivalent to a carucate. By the late Anglo-Saxon, early Norman period, the hide was chiefly a unit for taxation, rather than an actual area of land.

By custom it was the land that could be cultivated by a plough team of eight oxen in one year, or rather during the annual ploughing season; or alternatively the amount of land required to support one peasant household. (Sometimes ten families.) Hides seem to have been larger in eastern England than in the west. In the Devonshire Domesday Book, it seemed to average about 64 acres., although many were as small as 48 acres.

Hoard, Hoarde, Hoarding, Hourd, Hourde:

Covered wooden balcony suspended outside from the tops of walls and towers, allowing defenders to climb through the crenellations to drop missiles and fire arrows accurately on any attackers at the base of the wall. Horizontal Putlog Holes for the wooden supporting brackets are still visible in the walls of Hemyock Castle.


Ceremony by which a vassal pledged his fealty to his liege and acknowledged all other feudal obligations, in return for a grant of land.


Land. Holding or group of holdings forming a large estate, such as the land held by an Earl or a tenant-in-chief. Similar to a European feudum. At times, Hemyock was within the Honor of Plympton.

Hook or Crook (By hook or by crook):

Dispensation permitting villagers to gather firewood from woodlands, but using only their hook and crook. Effectively permitted the collection of dead branches from the trees.


Forts strategically placed on a craggy precipice. Hadrian's wall has many examples.


A college of secular priests.

Hue and Cry:

Requirement for all members of a village to pursue a criminal with horn and voice. It was the duty of any person discovering a felony to raise the hue and cry. His neighbours were bound to assist him in pursuit and capture of the offender.


Anglo Saxon institution. Subdivision of a Shire. Theoretically, but hardly ever, equalled one hundred hides. Generally has its own court which met monthly to handle civil and criminal law. Equivalent to the ancient Norse Wapentake. There was a Hemyock Hundred.


Weight. 4 quarters ie. 8 stones or 112 pounds.

Hundred Years War:

The interminable series of conflicts between England and France which lasted from May 1337 to October 1453. Although it was initiated by a clash over control of the Flemish wool trade, the roots of this conflict dated back to William the Conqueror with competing claims over the French crown and territory.

During this miserable 116 year period, there were at least 68 years of "official peace" interspersed with periods of conflict and full scale war.

The war finally ended in 1453 when the French regained Aquitaine after the battle of Castillon. They had previously regained Normandy in 1450 at the battle of Formigny. However, England retained the port city of Calais until 1558.

Other Hemyock Glossaries:

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Hemyock Castle, Hemyock, CULLOMPTON, Devon, EX15 3RJ, UK.
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