A 1904 transcript of a Custumal for Bosbury originally drawn up in 1647. This transcript is held in the Herefordshire Archive and Records Centre, ref. AA26/I/5. It consists of 10 ruled pages, folded in half and the spine tied together with green ribbon.

A ‘Customal’ is a medieval document setting out the social and economic customs of a manor, town or ecclesiastical estate in the 17th century. The word comes from old French ‘costumal’, customary or usual, via medieval Latin ‘liber custumalis’, customs book.

    Custom of the Manor of Bosbury, Colwall and Coddington,
    [then added in pencil] 1674 [sic] Q” 22d year of Charles 1st.

    Bosbury part — Colwall Manor

Possessions of the Bishop of Hereford in Herefordshire (written on page at left) [sic].

[Latin] Court held 8 April 23 King Charles [1647] before Anthony Palmer gent. Richard Nicholletts gent. Richard Marston and Francis Eade gent. survey of land in Worcs. and Herefs.


James Powell, John Allen, Giles Powell, Henry Bray, William Nash, Edward Dangerfield, John Deven, Roger Brooke, Robert Houlder, Owen Williams, William Gilding, John Gilding, John Houlder, Peter Houlder, Richard Hill

The Custom of the Manors of Bosbury, Colwall and Coddington presented by the Homage above written.

1. Imprimis. We say and present that the Copyholders of the said Manors have, time out of mind, and ought to have in and to their Copyhold Land and Ten[eme]nts holden of the the said Manors, a Customary Estate of Inheritance according to the custom of the said Manors have ever been used and is the custom of the said Manor to be granted by Copy of Court Roll to the party that ought to have the same Copyhold Land by these words sibi et suis secundum consuet Manorii 2. The which words sibi et suis and after this word suis, having reference to any party or person named in the Copyhold, do create an Estate of Inheritance in and to whom the word suis is referred or hath relation.

2. Item. That after the death of any Tenant that hath such a Customary Estate of Inheritance, his son or next heir ought to have and enjoy the same Lands and Tenements immediately after the decease of his father or ancestor, into the said Copyhold Lands and Tenements enter and receive the profit thereof before any Admittance or Copy to him made or death of his said father presented and that as heir and next in blood to the Tenant deceased. But such son and next heir ought after the decease of his ancestor to pay the Lord of the said Manors a fine for his Admittance if such son or next heir shall be thereunto reasonable [reasonably] required. And such son and next heir shall of right also, at some Court to be holden for the said Manors requiring Admittance to the same Copyhold premises whereof his said father or ancestor died, seized be by the Steward of the said Manors pro tempore existentem [existente] 3 Admitted Tenants accordingly and after such Admittance and fealty performed if capable thereof at the time of his Admittance. If not, then his fealty until he shall be capable thereof be respited ought to hand a copy of Court Roll of the said Lands granted to him upon the death or decease of his said father or ancestor, wherein these words, sibi et suis, ought and is of custom to be inserted for the better manifestation of the said customary Estate or Inheritance of such son or next heir unto the said Customary Lands and Premises as are to be admitted.

3. Item. That upon any such grant made unto the said son or next in blood as aforesaid or any surrender to be testified of any Copyhold Lands or Tenements and a grant by the Steward thereunto made, there is a fine due unto the said Lord of the Manors for Admittance of the son or heir next in blood or tenant so newly admitted which fine ought to be reasonable or as it was or as it is contained in the precedent Copy for the same land. And that the Tenant hath not and ought not nor is not by custom compellable to pay any greater sum or sums of money than is expressed in the precedent Copies the which most usually hath not nor did exceed half a years rent of the value of the said Customary Premises so granted unto the said heir or next in blood requiring the same.

4. Item. If any Tenant dieth seized of any Customary Lands or Tenements of a Customary Estate of Inheritance and hath issue daughters more than one and no son, then the eldest daughter ought to inherit and enjoy the said Customary Lands for the eldest daughter is only heir by the Custom.

5. Item. If any Customary Tenant who hath a Customary Estate of Inheritance die seized of any Customary Lands or Tenements and hath a wife at the time of his decease, the same wife ought to have the same Customary Lands at her freebench4 for term of her life and ought at the next Court of the said Manors after her husband’s decease to come into the court aforesaid and crave admittance to her freebench and ask leave to marry and there to tender one penny to the said Steward for her admittance to her freebench and to pray admittance to the said Land whereof her husband died seized of and the Steward ought to admit her accordingly without any further fine, than the said penny, to be paid and there is not nor ought not to be any Herriott due or to be paid by or upon the death of any such woman which holdeth by her freebench. Neither doth the taking of a new husband of the said widow make void her free bench but if the husband of the said wife at the time of his decease have any child or issue then living either son or daughter and that by a former venter [uterus i.e. mother] she is to have no freebench. But the second or third wife is to have her freebench if there is not any children, child or issue by a former wife at the time of her husband’s decease.

6. Item. That if any Customary Tenant who hath any Estate of Inheritance in his Copyhold Lands be disposed to surrender his copyhold land to the use of his child or any other, he may come into the Court of the said Manors and surrender the same and require the Steward to accept and to receive the same, the which the steward ought to do to make Admittance as accordingly as is desired for a certain fine in sort as aforesaid is expressed, being paid for the same grant and, if the Tenant doth not take again an Estate for terms of life by the new Copy or by virtue of any use expressed in his surrender with remainder or remainders over, when there is an Herriott due upon such surrender for that he by the surrender becometh Dead unto the Estate. But is such Tenant surrendering do take an Estate again unto the premises so surrendered for term of life by the new Copy then there is no Herriott due until the time of his decease, neither then unless there be a messuage passed by the occurrence.

7. Item. That if any Customary Tenant who hath a Customary Estate of Inheritance may out of court surrender all or any part of his Customary Lands into the hands of two Customary Tenants of the said manors as into the hands of the said Lord to the use of any person or persons whatsoever to have and to hold for life or otherwise, with the remainder over, to the uses of such person as shall be agreed upon between the parties surrendering and he, to whose the same is to have and take which surrender being testified by the said Copyholders or the survivors for them within one year and a day next after such surrender, is good and warrantable by custom and the Steward ought to accept thereof. But in case the Copyholders in whose hands the same Customary Premises are surrendered as aforesaid are not required by the party to whose use the same is to be testified to ?waie into the Court within the year and a day and testify the surrender as aforesaid, then that surrender is void and doth revert to the party surrendering and such testification after the year and a day lapsed must not be expected [?accepted] by the Steward.

8. That if any Customary Land within the said Manors be brought to trial within the Court of the said Manors by way of magis ius or otherwise such trials ought to be by Customary Tenants of the said Manors and none others tried and for want of such tenants to make a full jury or homage then the Steward by warrant to precept a ?talis out of the next adjoining Manor and there of Customary Tenants and as they are not allied unto nor any way interested unto the lands or parties in controversy for the same.

9. Item. That the Customary Tenants of the said Manors that have any Customary Estate of Inheritance within the said Manors may manure and occupy such their Customary Lands to their best advantage and as to them shall seem best by plowings and ?caring the same or any part thereof be it meadow or pasture; and may also cut down grub and stock up any underwoods whatever growing upon the said Customary Lands and dig for stone any part thereof as shall seem fit to the said Copyholders without asking Licence for the same.

10. Item. That if any Customary Tenants of and in the said Manors seised of any Estate of Inheritance be convicted of felony, the said land after such conviction immediately ought to come and remain to his next heir in blood for no Tenant can forfeit any other Estate by way of forfeiture but that which is his own and that he holdeth for his own time or life and the Lords in that case by our ancient custom ought immediately to come to him or her who ought to have the immediate estate thereof; And in case the Tenant who made the forfeiture had naturally died, and his Estate thereby absolutely ended and determined and in such case there is an Herriott due to the Lord if it be herriottable.

11. Item. We do present that the Copyhold Tenants of this Manor may not let or set his Copyhold Lands or any part thereof for any longer time than a year and a day without licence of the lord upon pain of forfeiture of so much as he lets the fine of which licence doth not usually exceed the sum of six shillings and eight pence but oftentimes it is under the sum proportionably to the value of the land so let.

12. Item. We do present that if any Tenant doth exchange any Copyhold Land or acknowledge a fine of any of his Copyhold Lands and make it free, it is a forfeiture.

13. Item. We do present if any Tenant do take up any strays or seize of any wafed goods5 and keep the same a year and a day according to the law and as it is apprised by the Bailiff and some Tenants that the one half of the said prize is for the Lord and the other for the party so possessed of the said goods.

14. Item. We present that by our custom, all the Copyholders as they are Copyholders be free from doing any service at Assizes and Sessions and appearing before the Clerk of the Market and from paying toll at any Market within the Bishopric.

15. Item. If any Customary Tenants do or shall commit any waste in cutting down or selling any timber trees growing or being upon any part of his Copyhold Lands without.

16. [missing]

17. [missing]

18. Item. We present that the bounds of our Manors of Bosbury, Colwall and Coddington do stand by a river side upward towards the north and east called Leadon where are certain parcels of Customary Lands on both sides the river and so from thence to the top of the hill called Beacon Hill, from thence to the top of certain grounds called Burchwood [Birchwood], from thence to a small river called Norbridge, from thence to a place called Woodfield bridge and so by a little small stream adjoining into a well in Malvern Hill called St. Thomas’ Well and so along the top of the hill to a place called Brands Green and from thence to a place called Bradley Green, from thence to Lockebsters healty [?Heath], from thence to John Bray’s Mill, from thence by the brookside to the river of Leadon close and to by the side of the river to Bosbury Town, only there are small parcels of Copyhold Land on the further side the said River of Leadon within which boundary there are very many estates holden in free socccage and upon Malvern Hills the parishioners of Colwall have time out of mind had commonly pasture sannce member. [sic]

19. Item. If any Tenant doth trespass one another if the Tenant trespassed do happen to pound6 the others Cattle then it hath been the usual custom that two Copyholders shall repleavie7 the said Cattle so pounded as aforesaid and if neighbours cannot end the same trespass then those two Customary Tenants ought to return the said Action for the Cattle to replevied into the Lord’s Court which heretofore was called the Knighton Court.

20. Item. Lastly we say and present that all and every the aforesaid Articles and Presentments are, and time out of mind have been the known, Ancient and Lawful Customs of and in the said several Manors and have been or at least ought to have been, inviolated, observed and kept. And we do humbly desire and pray that the same may be still continued by the succeeding of the said Manors without any manner of violation, alteration or innovation to be committed either by Lord or Tenant and as touching all other inquiries made at the foresaid Court we do refer ourselves schedules by the Commissioners aforesaid taken and hereunto annexed, the which do contain the portion, value and chief Court of all or the greatest part of the said Customary Tenants of Inheritance or otherwise written [of] the aforesaid Manors. And this survey containeth all Houses, manors, Lands, Messuages and Tenements whatsoever belonging to the Manor[s] of Bosbury, Colwall and Coddington besides the Tithe.

William Hall holdeth by copy of Court Roll dated the third day of April [in the] 22nd year of the reign of our sovereign lady Elizabeth [1580] several parcels of Land called Copy Land containing six acres of meadow and Pasture and about 54 acres of Arable and Layes worth above the Rent per annum ?10s.

1 Representatives of the Copyholders or Tenants of the Manors.
2 Translated from Latin: himself and his own, according to manorial custom.
3 Translated from Latin: existing for the time being - Thomas Taylor, The Law Glossary, 1833.
4 The widow’s right to a Copyhold. It is not a dower or gift, but a free right, independent of the will of the husband. Called ‘bench’ because, upon acceding to the Estate, she becomes a Tenant of the Manor, and one of the persons who sit on the bench occupied by the pares curiæ or Peers of Court. She was usually allowed her freebench so long as she preserved her chastity but, if any evidence appeared against her or she declared an intention of remarrying, she sually had to forfeit her lands.
5 Goods which have been abandoned and are unclaimed.
6 To place the cattle in the village pound, a small walled enclosure.
7 To regain possession of personal property, said or claimed to be unlawfully taken, by issuing a writ of ‘replevin’.

Research and Latin translation courtesy of Dr. Sylvia Pinches. The transcription has been punctuated to improve clarity, use of capital letters has been made consistent and explanatory notes added by Barry Sharples, October 2014. The search for the original document continues.
Typeface: Garamond, 1528.

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