Freemen’s Dictionary and Glossary of Terms

Freemen’s Dictionary and Glossary of Terms

(Old English Trade Descriptions)

As a result of a question raised in the Open Forum at the 2012 FEW AGM as to what the difference between a Freeman and a Burgess was, I produced the following paper. To this I have added a dictionary of olden terms relating to civic and trade descriptions for ease of reference.

Burgess or Freeman – is there a difference? Some confusion arises out of the use of these two expressions. The terms can be considered as synonymous. Historically a burgess dates back from Saxon times when its meaning referred to a citizen (burgher) free of the borough. In later years he/she may be simply referred to as a freeman.

 A burgess was the term given to a recognised citizen usually living in a burgage (tenements normally each of a similar size and facing onto a street). The properties were copyhold and for which the burgess paid his dues and did certain duties. As a citizen he would have given his oath to support the borough and its officers and in return he was a privileged member of the community, enjoying the protection and freedom to work and trade within the town. Hence, we will often see the term ‘free-burgess’.

 As the years have gone by and populations have increased the tight knit burgage system has given way to freemen becoming property holders or as tenants outside of the burgages but remaining within the overall town boundaries. Hence, the broader term of ‘freeman’ has become more applicable.

 Of course, ‘freeman’ has a wider application, in as much that it may also refer to members made ‘free’ of independent gilds formed within the borough. Such membership is of little value without the freedom of the borough. This is the principal feature. A borough freeman would normally be required to gain membership (freedom) of a trade or craft gild and to whose company an additional oath would have been given. Normally in the past, an apprentice would be entered into a gild register, and on completion (and maturity) the individual would be eligible from the gild to be admitted (after taking the oath) to borough freedom.*

 Freedom of London is now, following the amendments resulting from the 1835 Municipal Corporations Act, the only place where it is possible to purchase borough freedom. Freemen take an oath to support the officers of the City and for which they are recognised as citizens.

Liverymen, as citizens, take an oath to support their worshipful company and thereby are privileged with the powers to vote for the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs.

 Other than the freedom of the boroughs and the trade and craft companies there are associations such as the ‘free-miners’, freemasons etc. These emanate from fraternal and local customs with social and religious origins.

 In Conclusion: if an admission to freedom has been conducted under oath and by a proper borough authority, an individual entitled a freeman, or a free burgess should be considered technically in terms as being one and the same. It may be necessary to say that any other term, such as ‘associate freeman’ is irrelevant and has no recognition.

 Alan Shelley, 4th October 2012 

* Procedures between gilds and towns may vary, but the principal subject is that of Borough Freedom.

 Freeman by Any Other Name (Liberi homines) GLOSSARY of terms associated with Freemen

NB.- Freedom (or privilege) is the subject of rights enjoyed by entitlement based upon old precedents, liberties and customs. The word ‘freeman’ was not used before the fourteenth century.

 Alderman          Senior freeman, town magistrate, warden of a gild

 Bailiff               In late Middle Ages sometimes chief officer of a town (junior officer of Sheriff)

 Burgess            Free citizen of the borough/ burgher or MP in Parliament

 Burghmote        Synonymous with common council

 Chamberlain      Principal financial officer of town; alternatively called steward

 Chapman          Trader or dealer in various commodities

 Common Council The main consultative and legislation body of a town, elected by the freemen

 Commoning       Freedom over land with common rights

 Cordwainer        Master craftsman dressing leather after it has been tanned

 Corviser            Master Shoemaker

 Court Baron       Manorial court attended by tenants of a manor with jurisdiction in civil actions

 Court Leet         Manorial court with some criminal jurisdiction. Most importance in towns without charters of incorporation

 Engrosser         Someone who buys up a commodity before it is brought to market – a Forestaller or Regrator

 Fee farm           Perpetual rent to the Crown or its assigns, usually associated with royal grant of borough status

 Freeman           Admitted to freedom of a town and able to exercise political and trading rights

 Gildsman          Master of craft and trade – derived from the 12th century origins from religious fraternities

 Gild Merchant    Nominally a company of merchants; but in towns before corporation it functioned as a quasi-corporation in control of the town

 Incorporation     A royal grant to a borough granting it continuous corporate existence in law

 Jurat                 A sworn in jury member/officer of a Court Leet.

 Liveryman         Gildsman linked to crafts and trades and includes Gild of Watermen and Lightermen and a Fraternity of Parish Clerks

 Mayor               Principal of a town; sometimes head of a craft company

 Mystery            A craft company

 Pasture master Freeman appointed to manage common pasture

Pentice court     Held for the admittance of new freemen. May also deal with matters concerning debt or trespass and if not resolved such cases were dealt with by a Passage court

 Piepowder Court            Town court with summary jurisdiction over market and trading cases

 Port                  Old English term for a town or harbour (Portman = townsman)

 Portmote           In some towns synonymous with common council; elsewhere the local court of civil actions

 Portreeve          Mayor

 Raffman            Dealer in foreign timber

 Recorder           Principal legal officer in a town, often a barrister

 Reeve               A foreman and a minor legal officer

 Scot and lot       Local town taxes

 Sheriff               Originally the king’s principal agent in a shire; also, an officer of a borough with county status; by the 16thcentury mainly exercising routine legal or judicious duties. Presiding officer at elections to Parliament

 Steward            Judicial, or more often financial officer of a town, generally a senior magistrate

 Wardmote         A meeting or court of a city ward usually held by an alderman

 Wool chapman Dealer in wool


 Free Miner         Born in the hundred of St Briavels in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, with rights secured under the Dean Forest Mines Act of 1838.

 Free Warrener   Holding a franchise from the Crown, with rights under Forest Law.

 At Haverfordwest – Freemen’s rights are secured by the PortfieldEnclosure and Allotment Act of 1838.

 At Godmanchester/Huntingdon there are Grasshirers, a Pinder concerned with stray animals, and a

                        Hayward in charge of fences and enclosures.

 At Newcastle upon Tyne there are Hostmen who acted as middlemen with the supplies of coal. It is a group within the Company of Merchant Adventurers of Newcastle. The Hostmen controlled the ‘keels’ (keelmen) the large boats transporting the coal.

 A Franklin         Reference has been made to a social class of ‘freeholder’ in the Middle Ages who was free of duties to any lord or master – possibly ‘freeborn’ (francus or Frankbeing a reference to a freeman. NB This term is unlikely to be applied to a borough freeman or to a free burgess.

Alan Shelley, Officer Without Portfolio, 8th October 2012

 Ancient Trades and Mysteries A List of Historical Occupations and Associate Terms

This is a very brief and simple description of the early ‘free’ activities and their applications. It comprehensively covers most occupations but will inevitably have limitations and some activities may be described differently by changes in dialect. Many additional occupational terms (not included) have arisen following the mechanised practices of the Industrial Revolution.

 Alnagar             Ulnager an officer who inspected and measured cloth and affixed a seal

 Apothecaries     Practitioners of medicine

 Armourers         Makers of armour

 Bakers              Makers of bread, cakes and confectionery

 Barbers             Skilled in the uses of a razor, they let blood, practiced surgery and dentistry

                        Generally known as the Barber-Surgeons from the Middle Ages

 Basketmakers   Weavers of baskets and chair seats

 Beadle              Officer of the parish to keep order and the town crier

 Beagle              Officer of the law (policeman)

 Blacksmiths      Makers of objects from ferrous metal – tools, agricultural implements, cooking utensils and weapons (they were also tooth-drawers, anchor-makers, spurriers, clockmakers and gunsmiths

 Bladesmith        Sword and knife/weapon maker

 Boothman         Corn Merchant

 Bowyers            Originally the makers of the ‘Longbow’

 Brasiers            Workers in brass

 Brewers            Brewers of ale or beer

 Broderers          Embroiderers of cloth and clothing

 Butchers           Slaughterers, prepares and sellers of meat

 Cappers            Capmakers sometimes associated with the Feltmakers

 Carmen             Originally the carriers of goods. They were historically responsible for traffic

 Carpenters        Initially responsible for the construction of all buildings

 Cartwright          Maker of carts and wagons

 Catchpole          Sheriff’s officer or sergeant/bailiff who makes arrests for debt

 Clockmakers     Makers of clockworks and watches. Originally a part of the Blacksmiths gild before breaking away into their own trade

 Clogger             Maker of wooden shoes – clogs

 Clothworkers     Association of craftworkers engaged in clothworking – finishing and dealing in woollen cloth

Coachmakers and Coach-Harness Makers – makers of coaches and their harnesses

 Collier               Coal miner and coal merchant

 Conner              Inspector and tester of standards

 Cooks               Cooks and caterers

 Coopers            Makers of casks and wooden containers

 Cordwainers      Workers in fine leather – particularly in fine footwear (shoemaker)

 Costermonger    Fruit seller

 Curriers             Treating and preparing (suede) colouring leather after tanning

 Cutlers              Makers of artefacts having a sharp edge including swords and surgical instruments

Daubers            House painters

 Distillers            Gild regulating distillers

 Drapers             Merchants in woollen cloth

 Dubbere            Cloth dubber who raises the nap of cloth

 Dyers                Dyers of cloth and leather with expertise in colouring

 Faber                Name given to skilled experienced craftsmen (carpenter, wheelwright, shipwright working in wood)

 Fan Makers       Makers of lady’s fans

 Farriers             Shoers of horses and their regulation

 Fellmonger        Prepares (and deals) skins for the tanner

 Feltmakers        Makers of hats and headwear

 Fishmongers     Regulators of the fish trade

 Fletchers           Makers of arrows with flights for archery

 Founders           Workers in metals, particularly brass and regulators by stamping of weights

 Framework Knitters – Workers I the knitting industry

 Fruiterers          Regulators of standards within the fruit industry

 Fuller                Woollen cloth worker who fulls cloth (shrinks, beats and presses the cloth (Walker)

 Furrier               Worker/seller dealer in furs

 Gardeners         Gild of garden crafts and horticulture

 Girdlers             Makers of girdles or belts, especially those associated with metalwork

 Glass Sellers     Specialising in glass and lead crystal

 Glaziers and Painters – Making and colouring glass (stained glass windows)

Glovers             Makers of gloves

 Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers – Makers of gold and silver braid for uniforms and ceremonial clothes

 Goldsmiths        The Company that tests and marks gold, silver and platinum wares in the Assay Office. Annual testing of the nation’s coinage – known as the “Trial of the Pyx”

 Grocers             Importers of spices – developed into wholesale merchant traders dealing “in Gross” (Grossers)

 Gunmakers       Makers of guns, testing and awarding proof marks

 Haberdashers    Makers/suppliers of the clothing worn beneath armour (a name also given to someone dealing in small wares such as pins, needles thread, linen hats)

 Hammermen      Composite title for blacksmiths and whitesmiths and other forge workers

 Horners             Workers in horn

 Hosier               A dealer or maker of knitted goods (stockings, socks, gloves and night caps)

 Hostler              Or Ostler a stableman, groom originally associated with Inns to stable the traveller’s horses

 Innholders         Gild association of owners of inns and hotels

 Ironmongers      Iron merchants

 Joiners and Ceilers – Craftsmen in joinery and wood carving

 Journeyman      Master craftsman (an employee, apprenticeship completed) usually so called before setting up a business on their own

 Kedger              Term given to some fishermen

 Keeler               Keelman – a bargeman, see also Lighterman and Waterman

 Kember/ Kempster (Comber) – Wool comber

 Leathersellers    Workers dealing in leather

 Loriners             Makers of bits, stirrups, spurs and harnesses

 Makers of Playing Cards – A London Livery Company continuing today

 Mariners            Company of Master Mariners

 Masons             Workers in the craft of stonemasonry

 Mercator           Merchant

 Mercers            Merchants exporting wool and woollen cloth and importing luxury fabrics

 Merchant Taylors – Gild of craft tailors and linen armourers

 Miller                Corn miller, cloth miller, saw miller

 Milliner              Hat maker and seller

 Monger             Term given to dealers

Musicians         Makers and players of musical instruments

 Needlemakers   Makers of needles, including surgical needles and sutures (also ‘Nedeller’)

 Papping            The process of soaking cloth before bleaching

 Painter-Stainers – Stainers on cloth and painters of wood and other materials

 Patternmakers   Makers of a style of wooden clog footwear

 Paviors             Pavers of roads and highway construction

 Pewters            Control over the pewter trade

 Pinder               Officer of the parish – impounder of stray beasts

 Pinner               Maker of pins

 Plaisterers         Workers in the craft of plastering

 Plaiter               Plaiter of braid and of straw plaited hats

 Plumbers          Workers in lead and the regulation of weights and scales of lead

 Poulterers         Traders in poultry, eggs and game

 Quarrel Picker   Term sometimes given to a glazier

 Quiller               One who used a machine to wind yarn onto spools

 Quister              A person who bleached things

 Raffman            Dealer in fibre used to make raffia bags etc 

 Redsmith          Copper smith

 Ropemakers      Workers binding hemp into ropes

 Saddlers           Makers of saddles, harnesses and bridles

 Salters              Dealers in salt

 Sawyers            Wood workers associated with the Carpenters

 Scriveners         Writers of legal documents

 Scutcher           Or Swingler – a beater of flax into bundles

 Sheermen         Clothworker/craftsman who shears superfluous nap from cloth

 Sempster          Or Sewster – Worker employed sewing cloth or leather

 Sexton              Officer of the church caring for its upkeep along with the bells and the graves

 Shipwrights       Designers and builders of ships

 Skinners           Traders in pelts and treated animal skins for fur dressing

 Spinners           Spinsters spinning yarn prior to weaving

 Stationers         Paper makers, printers, bookbinders and booksellers

Staymaker        Maker of stays – the reed of a weaver’s loom

 Sumpter            Term given to the driver of a packhorse

 Swain               Broad term given to a herdsman

 Tallage              A tax levied by the Norman and Angevin kings on their demesne lands and towns, or by a feudal lord on his tenants

 Tallow Chandlers – Dealers in tallow (animal fat) candles, sauces, oils and early street lighting

 Tanner              Or Tanney – preparing leather

 Tapiter              Or Tapicer – Weaver of worsted cloth

 Tin Plate and Wire Workers – Workers in plate and wire

 Toll                   Tax for liberty/access (charges for passage) These include anchorage (and wharfage) for anchoring, Lastage a toll paid by traders at fairs or markets and Pontage a toll for crossing a bridge.

 Tawer               Or Tawyer – Bleacher of skins and maker of white leather

 Tozer                Employed to toze or tease cloth

 Troner               Weighing official at markets or fairs

 Tucker              Wool worker who draws cloth similar to a Fuller

 Turners             Makers of bowls, chair-legs and ornaments turned on lathes

 Tylers and Bricklayers – Workers with bricks, slates, wall and floor tiles

 Upholders          Upholsterers, makers and repairers of soft furnishings

 Victualler           Innkeeper and seller of food and drink

 Vintners            Importers and regulators of wine and spirits

 Wainwright        Builder of wagons

 Waitman           Watchman to guard city gates and marking the hours by ringing a bell

 Wax Chandlers Producers of beeswax products, candles and wax for sealing documents.

 Weavers           Producers of woven fabrics in the textile industry

 Webster            Name given to a male weaver

 Wharfinger        Manager/overseer of a wharf

 Wheelwright      Makers of wheels for all forms of carriage

 Whiffler             Herald usher – the leader of a ceremonial procession

 Woolman          General term for people involved in the wool trade from keeping sheep to the finished product.

 Alan Shelley, 8th November 2012


 The following definitions are taken from a list at Berwick kindly supplied by Jim Evans

 Achate & Reechate        Liberty to buy and sell merchandise

 Ae                                One

 Akhis                            Turkish Guilds of artisans and merchants

 Amerce                         To fine

 Anker                            Dutch liquid measure of ten gallons

 Bawbee                        Scottish coin originally worth six Scots pennies

 Baxtar (Baxter)              Baker

 Bekenage                      Contribution towards upkeep of beacon/lighthouse

 Bodle                            Scottish coin originally valued at one sixth of an English penny

 Brieve                           Writ

 Canagium                      Liberty to lay or alter conduit pipe through any man’s ground

 Cannage                       Custom duty

 Cartilage                       Structure

 Certiorari                       Appeal to the King’s Bench from a lower Court

 Coroner                         Originally a person who brought an accused before the magistrate. Has evolved into an officer conducting a court enquiry of a death

 Court of Oyer &Terminer  Court of Common Law

 Court of Goal Delivery    Court which could try capital offences

 Court of Pie Poudre        Literally dusty feet. Special courts to deal with fairs and markets

 Court of Pleas               Court covering civil cases

 Crocket                         Seal required to mark goods before export

 Cranage                        Toll for loading and unloading

 Croft                             Enclosure of pasture or tillable land

 Cruives                         Whicker baskets used to catch fish

 Customar                      Persons responsible for marking goods for export (normally two, each carrying half the seal). Responsible for collecting export taxes

 Dempster                      Court official who pronounced a judge’s sentence. Later Clerk to the Court

 Distraint                        Right to seize goods or chattels for rent or service arrears

 Escheat                        Forfeited property – for a minor or for lack of ownership or felony

 Escheator                     Officer confiscating property on behalf of the Crown

Eyre                             From the Roman iter meaning journey – An itinerant court of justice, replaced by assize in the 13 century

 Fang                             Stolen goods found in a thief’s possession

 Fealty                           Obligation of fidelity to the monarch or lord

 Ferme Fee                    Fixed sum paid annually to the Crown in place of the taxes normally collected by the King’s officers

 Ferynemen                    In 12 &13th centuries, the inner council of the Freemen’s Guild, elected annually usually 12, but at Berwick there were 24

 Feu                               Tenure of property in perpetuity or annual rent of same

 Flesher                         Butcher

 Forreyns                       Non resident

 Forestalling                   Buying goods before the market sale to avoid toll

 Frankpledge                  Surety of behaviour

 Gate                             Old term for street

 Groundage                    Fee for berthing

 Hanaper                        Office in the royal chancery where fees were paid for enrolling charters and letters patent

 Infangthef                      Right to try and hang a thief caught on the land

 Ius Commune                Common Law

 Kain                              Duty paid to landlord in produce, eggs, fowl etc

 Kieage                          Toll for unloading goods on a quay

 Kieagium                       Discharge from kieage

 Lastage                         Payment for carriage of goods

 Lastagium                     Discharge from lastage

 Leal                              True

 Leipers                          Basket makers

 Leistering                      Catch of fish with pronged spear

 Lese-majesty                 Treason

 Liner (Lyner)                  An inspector of demarcations between properties

 Lock                             Handful, small quantity, sometimes due as a toll

Lot                                Burgesses requirement to undertake administrative duties of the Guild and Town

 Martinmas                     Feast of St Martin, 11th November

Marches                        Boundaries

 Merket                          Market

 Mercat Cross                 Symbolising centre of the town where a market was held, can be a cross, a stone or a pole

 Merk (Mark)                   Money value or weight of silver of 8oz

 Michaelmas                   Feast of St Michael, 29th September

 Murage                         Tax paid for erection/repair of Town Walls

 Muragium                      Discharge from murage

 Oyer and Terminer         To hear and determine

 Passagium                    Discharge for passage over a causeway or other highway

 Pavage                         Toll or tax for paving streets

 Pavagium                      Discharge from pavage

 Petty Court                    Private court

 Picage                          Payment for setting up booths or setting of stakes

 Picagium                       Discharge from picage

 Plack                            Scottish copper coin, four penny Scots or one third English penny

 Plura Curia Plackitorum             Common or local court

 Pounders                      Keepers of the town fields

 Pressage                      Right to import wine

 Quarter Sessions of the Peace  Court to try felonies or other demeanours

 Regrate                         Buying to hold and sell at a higher price when supply was short

 Render of Coin               Paid in kind or later money

 Sac and soc                  Right to the fines from local or private courts of law

 Sacca                           To hold plea and correction in the Court

 Sack of Wool                Measure of forty stones troy

 Scot                             Local tax

 Seisin                           Feudal fealty to a lord for lands

 Soc (Scot)                     Tax for administration and upkeep of the Town

 Socca                           Surety of men for the Court according to custom

 Soutar                           Shoemaker or maker of horse leather brogues

 Stallanger                      Right of a non-freeman to a market stall

 Staple Goods                Goods upon which an export tax has been levied

 Staple Port                    Designated port for staple goods

 Stents                           Local taxes

 Toft                              An area of land

 Tollbooth                       Town House /Town Hall

 Town Ferme                  Town lands providing income for the town

 Tron                              Weighing beam for the sale of wholesale goods

 Vinage                          Tax or Custom duties on wines

 Vinagium                       Discharge from vinage

 Warde                           Watch

 Ward Penny                  Discharge from any payment for watching the walls

 Watch and Ward            To protect the town from attack

 Woolfells                       Skins of sheep with the wool still attached

 Yard                             Vegetable garden

 Alan Shelley, 18th February 2013

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