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Hemyock Castle
Ancient Heart of the Blackdowns

Feudal, Medieval and Castle Terms (T to Z)




Tax levied on boroughs and on the tenants living on royal estates.

Tally Stick:

Small wooden stick, often hazel, with special notches which denoted the amount of money. Originally, accounts were verified by placing wooden tallies in the boxes marked on a check table cloth, hence the Exchequer.

Although Treasury officials had been instructed in 1726 to use paper records rather than tallies, wooden tallies were still used until the dissolution of the Court of Exchequer, in 1826. On 16th October 1834, two officials burning obsolete tally sticks in the cellars caused a fire which burned down most of the British Houses of Parliament. The Houses of Parliament were finally rebuilt between 1852 and 1870. They were bombed in 1941 and rebuilt after WWII.

Tenant in Chief:

Lord or institution (often the Church) holding land directly from the King. All Earls were Tenants in Chief.

Teutonic Knights:

German Fighting Order with main bases in Prussia, Hungary and Germany. Recruited almost exclusively from German speaking peoples of Europe.


Originally meaning a Military Companion to the King. Came to mean a land-holding administrative office.

Third Penny:

The local earl's one-third share of fines in shire or hundred courts, often allocated afterwards to a particular manor or church as income.


One tenth of a person's produce and income, due as a tax to support the church.

Ton (weight):

20 hundredweight or 2240 pounds. The "Long Ton."


Rite of shaving the crown of the head of the person joining a monastic order or the secular clergy. It symbolised admission to the clerical state.


Tournament. Mock combat for knights.

Town Air is Free Air:

Words used in the charters of many towns, to proclaim the freedom of any escaped serf who lived there for a year and a day without being claimed by his lord.

T.R.E. (tempora regis Eduardis):

Abbreviation in the Domesday Book meaning in the time of King Edward the Confessor – the last King recognised as lawful by William the Conqueror – whose death on 5th January 1066 initiated the events leading to the Norman Conquest. So, the Domesday Book uses the reign of King Edward – not King Harrold – as the lawful baseline for land holdings and taxation.


Chief financial officer of the realm, and senior officer of the Exchequer.


Siege engine in the form of a giant sling.

Trial by Combat (Also Trial by Battle):

Medieval process of determining guilt, or a dispute, by combat between the accuser and the accused. Sometimes, champions were permitted. The assumption was that God would intervene and decide the case. Officially abolished in Britain in 1819.


One of the timber frames built to support the roof over the great hall.


The right to cut peat or turf, also the place where these are cut. Most of the hills around Hemyock had turbaries.


Type of wooden drawbridge pivoted on an axle and working like a see-saw, with a counter-weight attached to the end nearer the gateway. This required a large chamber below the bridge to receive the counterweight. The Hemyock drawbridge is believed to have been the simpler hinged type with counter-weights on the hoisting cables.


A small tower rising above and resting on one of the main towers, usually used as a look out point.



Term meaning that the youngest son would inherit the estate or office of his father. This was customary in some Devon farming families until modern times. The logic was that the older sons would marry and be helped to move away onto new lands, leaving the youngest son to stay at home, help his parents and eventually inherit. See also Borough-english.


Cellar, crypt, or basement under a building.

Universal Suffrage:

Electoral system where all adults from all backgrounds who meet the same basic qualifying conditions, have the right to vote in elections; meaning that men & women, rich & poor, have an equal right to vote. Some small groups of people such as felons may be excluded, but there should be no onerous obstacles or qualifying conditions which prevent ordinary people from registering or voting.

Widely regarded as the best & fairest electoral system, but can result in the larger number of poorer voters voting for unsustainable levels of taxation on the smaller number of richer voters; leading eventually to problems.

Also, despite pressure to reduce the minimum voting age, there are fears that some younger people would not have the maturity, life experience, or independence from the influence of teachers & parents etc. necessary to cast an informed vote.


The interest charged on a loan. Forbidden by medieval Christian church law (based upon an interpretation of the Bible), and also for some Moslems.

This led to the growing importance of Jews as money lenders to all including the State. Later, the resulting debts owed to such Jews, when deliberately highlighted for political reasons, probably contributed much to the widespread hostility to and the subsequent massacres of whole Jewish communities.

The medieval Knights Templar were given special dispensation from law against usury. As a result they became very wealthy during the crusades, effectively forming themselves into an international financial organization. The order was later suppressed, notably by the King of France who seized its wealth.



Free man who held land (fief) from a lord to whom he paid homage and swore fealty. He owed various services and obligations. These were primarily military but he was also required to advise his lord and pay him the traditional feudal aids required on the knighting of the lord's eldest son, the marriage of the lord's eldest daughter and the ransoming of the lord should he be held captive.


Administrative unit containing about 5 to 10 Hides and inhabitants. Equivalent to the secular parish. The vill usually contained several manors. As the feudal system declined, the vill took over importance from the hundred and manor. Later, the parish took on the duties and responsibilities, for example during the nineteenth century, the sick, poor, and destitute sometimes relied on the parish for aid.

In Devonshire at the time of the Domesday Book there were 980 vills containing about 9000 hamlets or farms.

Ideas return! The UK government policy in recent years has been to devolve many duties and responsibilities to secular parish councils. (Note. These secular parish councils may share common boundaries with the Church of England parishes, but are different institutions.)


Wealthiest class of peasant. They usually cultivated 20-40 acres of land (sometimes as much as 100 acres), often as separate strips in different fields. He was also required to work on his lord's land or to provide a service to his lord.


One quarter of a hide, or two oxgangs. The amount of land that could be tilled during the ploughing season using two oxen. Varied in different regions and soil types. Approx. 30 acres.

However, in the Devonshire Domesday Book, was used as a unit of tax rather than of land area. Hemyock was assessed as paying Geld for one Virgate.

Also called a yardland or yard of land.


Weight. About 70 pounds of lead. See: Fotmal.


Wain (also called cart-load, load, wain, etc.):

Weight. See: Cart-load. About 19½ hundredweight, dependent upon material. Also, six sacks where each sack is five fotmal.

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

Wall Walk:

The area along the tops of the walls from which soldiers defend both castle and town.

Wars of the Roses 1455 to 1487:

The series of conflicts for control of the throne of England, between two rival English branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: The House of Lancaster (Red Rose); House of York (White Rose).

Note. These two royal Houses were not actually based in those cities, and did not usually use those "rose" symbols in battle: Most used their immediate lords's livery badges. The title Wars of the Roses became popular during the 19th century.

Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1639 to 1651:

The series of interlinked British civil war conflicts which affected England, Ireland & Scotland mostly between about 1639 & 1651; principally:

  • First Bishops' War (1639), mostly involving Scotland.
  • Second Bishops' War (1640), mostly involving Scotland.
  • Irish Rebellion (1641-42).
  • The Confederates' War (1642–48), mostly involving Ireland.
  • The Cromwellian War (1649–53), mostly involving Ireland.
  • First English Civil War (1642-46).
  • Second English Civil War (1648-49).
  • Third English Civil War (1650).

This period of conflict ended with the 1660 Restoration of the British Monarchy, under King Charles II, and the suppression of Venner's Uprising in London in 1661.


Weapon-taking. Sub-division of land in areas formerly under Norse control - including Northern and Eastern areas of Britain - equivalent to Anglo Saxon Hundred.


Enclosed, defensive courtyard or bailey. Also a child under the protection of a guardian. See wardship.


The right of a feudal lord to the income of a fief during the minority of its heir. The lord was required to maintain the fief and to take care of the material needs of the ward. When the ward came of age, the lord was required to release the fief to them in the same condition in which it had been received.

Wassail, Wassailing:

Traditional fertility ceremony & celebration, probably dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, often taking place on "Twelfth Night" after Christmas, sometimes led by a wassail king & queen. Two forms, although they get merged: In House-Wassailing, revellers go from house to house, particularly to the local lord's house; in Orchard Wassailing, revellers gather around a tree in cider orchards. In some areas, revellers drink warm cider; in others they drink ale or wine. Honey, spices & possibly eggs are mixed into these drinks.

Our webpage shows 2002 Wassail in NT Killerton House's cider orchard.


Term generally given to land which was unusable or un-cultivated within a holding. It was not taxed. It sometimes referred to land destroyed by war or raids, which likewise was not subject to tax. Land around the site of the Battle of Hastings (1066), took many years to recover from the predations of the armies who had camped there.

Watling Street:

Roman road from London, via Wroxeter, to Chester.

Wattle, Wattle and Daub:

A mat (wattle) of woven sticks and twigs used in walls and fences. When plastered with mud (daub), forming wattle and daub, often used in the walls of dwellings. Recent repairs to a modest 17th century farm labourer's house near here uncovered the (slightly) more modern technique of lath and plaster.


Weight or volume. See: Cart-load. About 19½ hundredweight, dependent upon material. Also, 320 gallons, or 40 bushels, or 30 fotmal.

White Monk:

Common name for member of the Cistercian Order, derived from the colour of their habit.


A few straws, a handful, used to tie around the centre of a bundle. A wisp is cheaper and more effective than string. It also causes less damage to the straws.

Witan (also called the Witenagemot):

Council composed of nobles and ecclesiastics which advised the Anglo Saxon Kings of England. Also chose the successor to the throne. Resembles the commune concilium.

Wool Sack:

Weight of wool, used for trade and for taxation. 364 pounds.


"The Woolsack" is the large cushion seat for the Lord Speaker of the British House of Lords. This signifies the time when the nation's wealth was based largely on the wool trade. The modern Woolsack is stuffed with wool brought from around the Commonwealth. The larger "Judges' Woolsack" nearby, is for the "Law Lords."



See Man-at-Arms.


A measurement of land in Kent equal to one quarter of a sulong. Roughly equal to two virgates, although still considered to be the area of land which could be cultivated using two oxen.

Other Hemyock Glossaries:

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