The National Archives
Search our website
  • Search our website
  • Search our records
Latin Palaeography

Glossary

Amercement

A fine or penalty used as a form of punishment for minor offences. 

Ampersand

&  A symbol which represents ‘and’.

Ancient correspondence

A collection of miscellaneous documents including official and private correspondence, writs, draft instruments and memoranda, mostly of the 13th and 14th centuries, drawn principally from the files of chancery, exchequer and privy seal office and dealing with both foreign and domestic business.

Ancient petitions

A collection of original and duplicate petitions addressed to the king found in The National Archives.

Annuity

A payment made annually.

Ascender

A stroke in a letter which goes above the line, such as in a b or d.

Bequest

A gift of personal property left to someone in a will.

Bill of complaint

A document summarising the plaintiff’s case against a defendant.

Bordar A person who holds land from his lord in return for menial work

Burgess

An urban dweller, usually from the upper ranks of townsmen, whose tenure was based on a financial payment.

Carmelite

A Roman Catholic religious order founded during the 12th century by a group of hermits on Mount Carmel. 

Cartulary

A collection of deeds for an estate or monastery.

Close roll

letters which have been closed by the great seal and enrolled on the close roll.  These letters were usually of an executive nature, conveying private and personal orders and instructions.

Contraction

A type of abbreviation where some letters in the middle of a word are missed out.

Defendant

A person against whom a plaintiff brings a complaint.

Descender

A stroke of a letter which goes below the line, such as in a p or q.

Dissolution

The closing down of monasteries in England and Wales during the 16th century.

Dominican friars

A Roman Catholic religious order founded in 1216 by Saint Dominic de Guzman.

Enfeoffment

A deed which exchanged a pledge of service for land.

Essoins roll

A list of persons required to attend court but who had an essoin (excuse) delivered in writing by proxy not to attend.

Executrix

A female executor, in charge of distributing a deceased person's property.

Final concord

A formal agreement to land property transfer.  The document comprised three parts, all fitting together like a jigsaw.  A dispute could quickly be resolved by authenticating the fit of the three documents.

Fine roll

A roll on which are enrolled payments offered to the king in money or kind by way of fine for the passing or renewal of charters or grants.

Freeman

A landholder who is free, not a slave or a serf.

Inquisition post mortem

A local enquiry into the lands held by deceased people of status, to discover what income and rights were due to the crown and who the heir was.

Justiciar The King’s regent or viceroy

Letters patent

Open letters (not closed with a seal) issued by the monarch or the government, often to grant an office or title to someone. These letters were enrolled on the patent roll.

Little Domesday Book

The first draft or ‘circuit summary’ covering the counties of Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.  The information from Little Domesday was never entered into Great Domesday.  Little Domesday was kept as the final record for East Anglia.

Minims

A downward stroke of the pen needed to form the letters i, m, n, u and v. So, for example, the word ‘minim’ has ten minims.

Manorial extent

A survey which values everything associated with a manorial property, for example, land and labour services.

Parliament roll

The official records of the meetings of the English parliament from 1272 to 1509 covering the reigns of Edward I to Henry VII. 

Patent roll

A roll containing the monarch’s open or public letters.  Amongst other things, they included charters, grants of land and patents for inventions.

Plaintiff

A person who initiates a lawsuit.

Pipe roll

A roll containing records of the king’s income and expenses for one financial year, from Michaelmas (29 September) to Michaelmas.

Prerogative Court

The courts of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York responsible for proving wills.  These were called the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury (PCC) and the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of York (PCY).

Sore hawk A hawk in its first year, before moulting

Superscript mark or letter

A code used by a scribe to indicate that a word has been abbreviated. It sits just above the word to which it relates.

Suspension

A type of abbreviation where some letters at the end of a word are missed out.

Tithes

Payments by parishioners for the support of their parish church and its clergy.  These were often made in kind and comprised an agreed proportion, often one tenth of the yearly profits or products of cultivation or farming.

Tithing

A group of ten householders.  The population of a manor was divided into the requisite number of tithings.

Tithingman

He who presided over a collection of households and was responsible for keeping good conduct within the tithing.

View of frankpledge

A court which gathered to judge the minor offences of men within certain tithing groups.

Villein

An unfree peasant who laboured for his lord as well as farming his own land.  The villein was the wealthiest of the unfree peasants.

Warren Land reserved for rearing game or hunting rabbits

Writ of subpoena

A document which orders someone to appear in court at a designated time to give testimony.