North Craven Historical Research Group
Outreach and Education Resources

School Project: Burgage Plots

In Richmond, the earliest burgage plots were probably those laid out around the outer bailey, according to Fieldhouse and Jennings [2] p14 et seq; between 1136 and 1145 for an annual rent of £29 the occupiers of burgage houses were free of interference from their overlord and virtually free of feudal obligations. Indeed, in Richmond only the owners of the ancient burgage houses were included in the electorate right through until 1832.

Grenville [1] defines a burgage plot as a long narrow plot of land running at right angles from the street frontage in a town (p198) . She reports on p161 that there is archaeological evidence from excavations in Chester of the existence of such plots in the 12th and 13th centuries but not the 10th, while some plots in Coppergate at York and at Worcester were laid out in the 10th century. Post conquest town charters specified the dimensions of burgage plots as 3 or 3.5 perches (16 or 18 metres) by 12 perches (60 metres) which amounts to about one quarter of an acre and until the 13th century, at least, this was the primary unit of rentable property though subdivision of these units for subletting was becoming commonplace.

The capacity to build parallel to the road in a town indicated access to an undivided burgage plot or perhaps acquisition of more than one ([1] p165). The Bishop of Salisbury in 1225 laid out the new town of Salisbury with uniform burgage plots of size 3 perches by 7 perches whereas at Sherborne in Dorset three burgage plot sizes were used in 1227-28: 4 by 20 perches, 4 by 24 perches and 2 by 4 perches, according to the size of tenement, from Hoskins [3] p90.

Reference to burgage plots at Burton in Lonsdale may be found in [5,6]. There is reported that a document [7] dated 8 Edward II (1314/15) gave mention of the existence of a burgage when a:

‘feoffment by John de Burton to Thomas de Thornton and Isabel his wife and heirs, of two burgages in Burton in Lonsdale’.

Evidence of location of the burgages is given in the 1316 document [8]:

‘ feoffment by John de Holm, of his whole burgage in the town of Burton, between the highway and the ditch of Briseselmyre’

and this latter field name is presumed to be Breastfield (field 8847) on present maps. Higham and Stephens are of the view that one of the present two long narrow fields (0734 and 0934) behind The Manor House/The Cross and Bull Farm House is the burgage plot transferred to John de Holm in 1316. See Documentation in Project Description for map and photos.


What is a burgage plot?
Google links to burgage plots
Burgage plots in borough of Kidwelly
On-line History Learning Reference Site
On-line National Grid For Learning: Burgage
British History Online
On-line National Archives: Manorial Documents Register
On-line National Archives: Manorial Documents Glossary
Magna Carta
On-line dictionary

Project Description
The object of the project is to discover from your local area maps examples of possible burgage plots, obtain estimates of dimensions and any available historical information concerning their origins.

A link below is given to an on-line dictionary which includes many old legal terms and comments on etymology, but you may wish to look up elsewhere other words and usage to obtain more information to elaborate meanings and to make notes about the historical origins of the legal terminology---see for example On-line National Archives: Manorial Documents Glossary.

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