A history of Halesworth, Suffolk, UK, through the ages.


Volume 1


The Feudal System

When Reginald Argentein died in 1307, a survey of his possessions included the Manor of Halesworth, which he held from the Crown by the service of one knight's fee. This practice of providing the King with armed soldiers in times ot trouble is one part of the feudal system which was introduced by William at the time of his invasion of England. The Barons were not given their lands for nothing, as they had in return to promise to provide mounted knights whenever he needed them. He made exact arrangements, requesting a specific number of knights from each of his nobles, depending on the size of their lands.

All lands in the kingdom belonged to the King, but those estates handed out to the Barons, Earls or Bishops made them 'tenants-in-Chief' and they swore a promise of homage saying 'I promise to become your man, to hold these lands faithfully and perform my due service'.

These Barons, as tenants-in-Chief in turn granted small estates to their more faithful knights, which were manors, usually containing a village in each. These knights became the 'under-tenants' and they too swore homage to their lord, in the same way he had sworn homage to the King. These under-tenants kept some land in their manor for their own use, known as the 'demesne' and divided the rest of their land among the peasants of the manor, either for rent or for services. So each man was responsible to the one above him, and he in turn to the next, but William made sure that everyone realised that they must be faithful to the king first of all, before any other person in the realm.


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