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Hemyock Castle
Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

Feudal, Medieval and Castle Terms (I to O)




Remission from punishment for a sin after it has been forgiven. In medieval times the selling of indulgences, sometimes even in advance of a sin being committed, brought parts of the Church into serious disrepute.


Anyone having a strong aversion to the prevailing religion; eg. a non-Christian in a Christian country, or a non-Moslem in a Moslem country.

Inner Curtain:

High wall surrounding the Inner Ward of a castle.

Inner Ward:

The open area in the centre of a castle.


The ecclesiastical banning of all sacraments, except for baptism and extreme unction, throughout a geographical area. High feast days were usually not banned. A sanction used to force persons, institutions, communities or secular lords to accept an unpopular view dictated by the church or pope.


(A term with several conflicting meanings.) Generally, the nucleus of the lord's estate, usually the demesne, especially that part which supported his own household, which was exempt from tax. After the Domesday Inquest showed the extent of this relief from taxation it was removed.

In modern Britain and USA, Inland Revenue taxes relate to a person's personal income and wealth.

See also Outland and Sokeland.



Tournament or combat of two mounted knights, tilting using lances.

Jus Primae Noctis:

The (rather exaggerated) right by which a lord could (reputedly) sleep the first night with the bride of a newly married serf, although the custom could be avoided by the payment of a fine.


Head of the royal judicial system and the King's viceroy during his absence from the country.



Toll paid on loading or unloading goods, especially at a market town or wharf.


Main tower; final defensive refuge.

Kiddle, Kydell:

Fishing weir, fishgarth or fish trap. Usually a large wattle or fence obstruction placed in tidal waters or rivers to trap & catch fish.

Largely outlawed by the 1215 Magna Carta.


The retainer of a feudal lord who owed military service for his fief, usually the service of one fully equipped, mounted warrior. They were the medieval equivalent of modern day battle tanks. Traditionally, knights aspired to the ideals of prowess, loyalty, generosity and courtesy.

Knight's Fee:

In theory, a Fief which provided sufficient revenue to equip and support one knight. This was approximately twelve hides or 1500 acres, although the terms applied more to revenue a fief could generate than its size; it required about thirty marks per year to support a knight.

Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem:

Holy order of knights pledged to minister to the sick and protect the Holy places in the Middle East. Forerunners of the present day St. John's Ambulance Brigade. There are still knights of this order.

Knights of the Round Table:

Legendary order of knights created by King Arthur to protect his kingdom. They are reputed to be sleeping under a mountain, ready to awaken if Albion (Britain) is ever threatened.

Knights of the Temple of Solomon:

Knights Templar. Holy order of knights pledged to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land. They also helped rich patrons to transfer money between countries. The order became very wealthy by effectively becoming an international financial organization.

The order became the target of envy, fell into disfavour and was accused of many heinous crimes and obscenities. Eventually in 1309, a Papal Bull was issued to dissolve the order. Their wealth was confiscated and distributed, some to the Knights Hospitaller. The order, its practices and its "lost treasures" remain the centre of many myths and legends. The success of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown demonstrates the continuing appeal.

The violent dissolution of this order on Friday 13th may account for any "Friday 13th" still being thought unlucky.


See: Kiddle.


Lady Day:

25th March. Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin. A quarter day.


Tall narrow window with pointed head.


2 wey. Definitions varied, usually about 2 tons, or 60 fotmal, or 80 bushels, or 640 gallons.


Tolls (taxes) levied on freight or lading.


In the Devonshire Domesday Book, usually 1½ miles; elsewhere, often approx. 3 miles. Traditionally, the distance a person or horse can walk in one hour. So the Devonshire definition presumably allows for Devon's hilly, winding lanes!

Note. The Roman League has been about 1½ English miles. Perhaps this old definition had remained popular in Devon?

Also a measure of area, where a "league" is one square league.

Lease for Three Lives:

A term of lease of land, usually for the life of its holder, his son or wife, and a grandson.


Term used in Kent for a subdivision of land equivalent to a hundred.


Protective coating applied to walls, to protect the mortar from weather. The outer walls of Hemyock Castle were rendered and lime-washed, forming a smooth white surface, making them harder to climb - and more imposing to outsiders!


Enclosed field of combat for a tournament. Also, the barriers enclosing the field.


Modified form of a lord's coat of arms displayed as a badge on his property and the uniforms of his servants.

Livery Company:

One of the chartered companies of the City of London. These originate from the craft guilds.

Load (also called cart-load):

Weight. See: fother.

Long Ton:

Weight. See ton.


Pottery vent in the roof of a high status building to extract smoke from the open fire. Pieces of a louvre have been found at Hemyock Castle. See also: Hall.



Opening between the corbels of a parapet or in the floor, used for attacking besiegers. See also Murder Holes.


In this sense to be a lord's man, to owe obligations to him in the forms of labour or service. A woman could be someone's man.


Soldier holding his land, generally 60-120 acres, specifically in exchange for military service. Sometimes called a Yeoman.


Official responsible for buying & storing supplies for an institution such as a monastery, college, or court of law.


War engine for throwing stones.


Small holding, typically 1200-1800 acres, with its own court and probably its own hall, but not necessarily having a manor house. The manor as a unit of land was generally held by a knight (knight's fee) or managed by a bailiff for some other holder. In later years, the power of the manor declined progressively in favour of the vill.

Marcher Lords:

Name commonly given to Norman landholders on the Welsh border.


Frontier territory, especially the Welsh Marches and the Scottish Marches. In medieval times they were subject to continual feuding.

The East, Middle, and West Marches on the Scottish border were the administrative districts on both the Scottish and English sides of the border. Each March had a Warden who was responsible for keeping the peace.


Money. Normally means the silver mark, a measure of silver, generally eight ounces, accepted throughout medieval western Europe. Although they were sometimes "clipped" or "debased," the English silver penny contained a standard weight of silver and so could be traded across Europe. In England the mark was worth thirteen shillings and four pence, ie. two thirds of £1. Equivalent to present value of the Euro.

The gold mark was worth £6.


Place where goods could be bought or sold, established in a village or town with the authorisation of a King or lord. This noble extended his protection to the market for a fee, and allowed its merchants various economic and judicial privileges. See also fair.

Market Cross:

Originally the prominent place where monks would preach, before a church building was later built. Soon, this place would have been marked with a cross. Later, this became the location of a market: Traders would sit on the steps of the cross to sell their produce. After worship moved to a newly-built church building, some of these crosses were converted into market cross buildings to house markets. Usually such buildings incorporated shambles communal sales tables, so were sometimes called "shambles."

Maundy Money:

Ceremonial coins given to the poor by the British Monarch, on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter. Consists of silver 4, 3, 2, and 1 pence coins. Each recipient is given coins which total the Monarch's age.


Wine made by fermenting a solution of honey. Spices were often added. Also another name for a meadow.


In agriculture: eg. Hay Meadow, where grass is grown to be harvested and fed to animals. Normally, this land is enclosed & managed; often, domesticated animals will be grazed there after the hay has been harvested. More generally, land where domesticated animals are not grazed, so the vegetation is allowed to grow naturally; such as in a Wild-Flower Meadow. See also Pasture. & Rangeland.


Mock battle between teams of mounted knights.


Beggar. Member of a religious order dependent upon alms for sustenance. Mendicant friar. See also Franciscans.

Merchet (also called formariage):

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


The high segment of alternating high and low segments of a battlement, sometimes pierced with slits.

Mesne Lord:

Feudal System term. A lord in the feudal system who has vassals who held land from him, but who himself was a vassal to a higher lord.

Michaelmas Day:

29th September. Feast of St. Michael the Archangel. A quarter day.


Rubbish pit (beloved by archaeologists).

Midsummer Day:

24th June. Feast of St. John the Baptist. A quarter day.

Military Religious Orders:

See Knights Templar and Hospitaler.


Poet and singer, also called a jongleur, who lived and travelled on the largess of the aristocracy.


Small projecting ledge on the underside of a hinged seat in the choir stall of a church. When the seat is hinged up, this ledge gives some support to a standing person - until they fall asleep.


A deep trench dug around a castle to impede attack from the surrounding land. It could be either left dry or filled with water. Water filled moats made it more difficult for attackers to dig tunnels. The moat at Hemyock was fed by two streams. A large part still remains.


Place where Monks or Nuns live a religious life in seclusion from secular society. Apart from their religious role, some medieval monasteries became centres of learning and industry. Partly out of the need for extra funds to support their religious duties, some orders, especially the Cistercians, used their overseas connections to import novel industrial processes and to develop overseas markets.

Recent research in Yorkshire suggests that one Cistercian community was close to developing a blast furnace for smelting iron, hundreds of years before this technology powered the Industrial Revolution.


Person licensed by the crown to strike coins, receiving the dies from the crown, and keeping 1/240 of the money coined for himself.


Gaelic Title (Great Steward) given to the rulers of the seven provinces of Celtic Scotland.


A mixture of sand, water, and lime used to bind stones together permanently. The lime mortar retained its flexibility and so resisted the shocks of battering.

Also: A muzzle-loading cannon with a wide bore, short barrel. Mortars normally fire bursting or explosive projectiles, normally on a high trajectory so that they pass over defences and fall onto the target. As siege engines they were much feared.


Man-made or natural mound on which a keep or donjon was built.

Murder Holes:

Openings in walls or ceiling of gate house, used for attacking the enemy.



Centre post of winding or spiral staircase.

New Year's Day (New Years Day):

Much confusion is caused by the different calendars, especially for any date between 1st January and 24th March:

Until 13th century, the Church of England reckoned the year from Christmas Day. In 12th century, the Church of England changed and adopted the feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin (ie. Lady Day, 25th March) as the start of the year. In the 14th Century, the English civil and legal calendars followed suit. However, because the historical year started on 1st January, some documents show any date between 1st January and 24th March in both calendar systems.

Most European countries and Scotland subsequently adopted 1st January as the first day of the new year.

Eleven Lost Days: The English calendar was reformed in September 1752: 3rd September was reckoned as 14th September. There was widespread protest at the "loss" of 11 days, partly because the common payment system meant that many people lost substantial amounts of their wages. Some people still refer to 6th January as Old Christmas Day – hence "The Twelve Days of Christmas" ending on the feast of the Epiphany.

At the same time, the official first day of the civil year was moved to 1st January. However, the English tax year which had started on Lady Day, the official first day of the old civil and legal year, just moved 11 days to the 6th April. This is still the official start of the tax year (although some parts of government use other dates).

See also Quarter Days and Scottish Term Days.


Woman dedicated to the religious life usually a member of a religious order.


One Person One Vote:

Electoral system where each voter in an election has one, & only one, vote. Until quite recently, some voters in British elections had extra votes, eg. because they owned a business.


A method of trial in which the accused was given a physical test (usually painful and/or dangerous) which could be met successfully only if they were innocent. Eg. Ordeal by fire.


Concealed dungeon having a trap door in its ceiling as its only opening, where prisoners were often left to starve to death, sometimes in total darkness.

Outer Curtain:

Wall enclosing the outer ward.

Outer Ward:

The area around the outside of and adjacent to the inner curtain.


Peasant's land, similar to German Bauergeit. See also Inland and Sokeland.

Outlaw, Outlawry, Waived:

Criminal declared to be outside the protection of the law, under a "writ of outlawry" (Caput lupinum: May he bear a wolfish head). Legally, such a person could be persecuted or even killed "like a wolf." Women could be declared "waived."


Dane law term. A measure of land: The area that could be cultivated by a plough drawn by one ox in one year, or rather during the annual ploughing season. Varied in different regions and different soil types. Approx. 15 acres. Similar to the Anglo Saxon term: Bovate.

Other Hemyock Glossaries:

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