This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
A grant by the crown of a certain portion of territory conferred rights of jurisdiction and other sovereign rights or franchises within such territory, by which it was constituted a "manor." The exact characteristics which were necessary to constitute a manor seem to have been somewhat indefinite, but the typical manor presented certain features which demand a brief consideration.
The most important characteristic of the manor was the manorial court, called the "court baron," composed of the freeholders of the manor. This court exercised certain governmental functions in connection with the various tenancies of the manor, and also had a limited jurisdiction of personal actions between the various tenants. It furthermore had jurisdiction of litigation between the lord and his tenant, and of disputes both as to freehold land in the manor and villein tenements. Except, however, as to questions of the title to villein tenements, which was based, as will hereafter appear, on the custom of the manor, the jurisdiction of the court baron was early curtailed by the organization of the crown courts, to which suits in the court baron could be removed.13
Of the land comprised in the manor, a part was usually retained by the lord himself as demesne land, actually cultivated by him, or by others under contract with him, and on this he had a mansion or manor house, or a homestead of some sort. Other land in the manor was granted by him to free men, some of whom would be tenants by knight service, and others tenants in socage, bound to render service of a certain character, as by payment of rent, or attendance at the lord's court, or perhaps by aiding in the cultivation of the lord's demesne land. Land not in occupation for the purpose of cultivation was termed "waste" land, and this the tenants of the manor might use in common for pasturage and like purposes, though it still belonged to the lord. Besides the free men on the manor who held of the lord by one of the recognized forms of free tenure, and those persons who might cultivate a part of the demesne lands of the lord under contracts of lease, there were always on a manor a large and important class of persons who were not free men. The chief duties of this class of persons, who were called "tenants in villeinage," consisted in the cultivation of the lord's demesne lands, and the services of a "villein" character so rendered appear to have been to a certain degree uncertain, and at the will of the lord.14
12. Litt. Sec.Sec. 159-169; 2 Blackst. Comm. 79 et seq.; Challis, Real Prop. (3rd Ed.) 11.
13. 1 Pollock & Maitland, Hist. Eng. Law, 574 et seq.; 3 Blackst. Comm. 33; Digby, Hist. Real Prop. 52-54.
These unfree or villein tenants had allotted to them for their dwellings and maintenance parcels of the lord's demesne land. Originally these holdings of land were regarded as being at the will of the lord, but, as time went on, the usage of the manor, under the control and influence of the general law of the land, imposed restrictions upon the right of the lord to dispossess such tenants, and finally they acquired absolute fixity of tenure, together with absolute freedom of person and certainty of services. The amount and character of the services rendered in return for the holding came to be determined by what was known as the custom of the manor, and such custom was settled by the rolls of the manorial court, on which were entered all transactions as to the surrender of the holding by a tenant who had sold it, or as to the admittance by the lord to the land of a purchaser of the holding, or of the heir of a previous tenant. Copies of the rolls were delivered to the tenants as evidence of their title, and accordingly such tenants by "customary tenure" are also spoken of as "copyholders," and their lands as "copyholds." Tenancies of this character exist in England at the present day.15
14. 1 Pollock & Maltland, Hist. Eng. Law, 582 et seq.; Digby,
Hist. Real Prop. 43-51.