Feet of fines (property agreements)
Feet of Fines (collected as part of Charnwood Roots Project 2015 – 2016)
Feet of fines are court copies of agreements following disputes over property. In reality, the disputes were mostly fictitious and were simply a way of having the transfer of ownership of land recorded officially by the king’s court. The agreements were normally written out three times on a single sheet of parchment – two copies side by side and one copy across the bottom (the foot) of the sheet, separated by an indented or wavy line.
The purchaser kept one copy, the seller the other and the final copy – ‘the foot of the fine’- was kept by the king’s court as a central record of the conveyance. Using one piece of parchment separated in this way gave protection against fraud or forgery as only the genuine copies would fit together – like a jigsaw.
Information in a foot of fine :-
The property description is formal and not intended for use as a detailed guide to property boundaries. The sum of money given is, by the 14th century, no longer the actual purchase price but a guide price to the value of the property on the open market. After 1489, the date on which the fine was ‘proclaimed’ (announced in court) is endorsed on the back of the fine.
Terms you might come across
Querent – purchaser
Deforciant – seller
Concord – final agreement