Two weeks from St. Michael’s Day, in the fifth year of Edward II [13 October 1311] a Plea of Covenant was heard at Westminster to decide upon the ownership of some land in Scheuesby [Shearsby]. The result was that Robert Hychekok’ acknowledged the tenements [land holdings] to be the right of Robert de Brantyngthorp’ [Bruntingthorpe] and his heirs as tenants. For this Robert Hychekok’ was given 40 shillings of silver. The land amounted to 1 acre, 1 rood and a fourth part of 1 virgate of land and a moiety [one half] of 1 messuage [a dwelling with any outbuildings and adjacent land].
The record of land transactions like this can provide insights into who lived in an area and their relationships with others. Although the documents use words that hint of conflict ‘querent’ [a complainant or plaintiff: OED], deforciant [one who ‘deforces’ another or keeps him wrongly out of possession of an estate: OED], in fact most of the agreements had already been resolved to mutual benefit. Nor, though these records are known as the Feet of Fines, is any money handed over the result of punishment against one of the parties. Rather they are only ‘fines’ in the modern-English sense of being finished. Each agreement was written out three times and cut in such a way that putting two halves together would authenticate them as originals. Each party would take their parts home with them, with the remaing part, at the foot of the document, remaining with the authorities in case of any further dispute.
Transcriptions of the Feet of Fines can be found on the Medieval English Genealogy website, and images of the documents can be found on the University of Houston Law Center’s Anglo-American Legal Tradition site
Earlier that year, the same Robert de Brantyngthorp’ had settled an agreement for a similar sized land holding with Ranulph Hutte and Amice, his wife, though this had cost him only 10 pounds sterling.
In April 1319 Roger le Longe, the chaplain of Shearsby, had his rights to some land in Whetstone acknowledged by Robert Pollard.
In November 1315 ownership of a larger tract, involving 12 messuages, 16 virgates and 1 acre of land worth 6 shillings and 3 pence of rent and a rent of 2 grains of pepper and 1 rose flower was resolved between William de Charneles and Joan, his wife and Robert de Sadyngton’ and Robert de Charneles.