In the medieval period (1066-1500) the dominant form of land ownership was the manor, which was concerned with land, with rights and with civil administration. The manor is not the same as the village or the parish, in modern terms the manor was an estate of lands and buildings. In some places manors shared the same boundaries as parishes, but this was rare in the former Danelaw territories of the Midlands. As a result, there might be several parishes in a manor, or alternatively several manors within a parish. A manor might spread across more than one parish. It might be a single piece of land, or several fragmented pieces which were not physically connected.
We know from the Domesday Survey in 1086 that there were 4 separate land holdings across Great & Little Addington. We also know that there was a medieval manor house, perhaps on the site of an earlier Saxon hall that predated the existing manor house which was built in 1610. The manor house would have had fish ponds, a dovecote, stockyard, barns, granary, stables and other sheds for animals and equipment. We know that in Great Addington the Medieval Manor also had a mill.
The manor was an administrative and economic unit of landed estate, which included the demesne - the land used to supply food for the manor - which the lord farmed by paying wages or by requiring labour services. Produce of the demesne would be used to feed the lord and his family, while any surplus grain or livestock would be sold at the market. The rest of the land was farmed by tenants or used as common pasture and waste. Villagers occupied their lands in return for certain defined services to the lord, and freemen paid a nominal money rent to the lord. The system of labour services - known as feudalism - declined from the mid-14th century.
There was a manor court to uphold the customs, rights, obligations, and rules which governed the manor, such as pasture rights, the maintenance of roads and bridges, resolved disputes over property rights, damage, trespass, debt and defamation, and also regulated local agricultural practices where this was appropriate. Punishments were imposed for failure to perform services or disputes, or simply failure to attend the court. Manor courts would be held at least once a year, and sometimes more often on large manors. The Court would have a jury, sometimes known as the homage, and anyone who was unable to attend had to pay a fine. Jurors were drawn from among the leading tenants, and they could demand that their lord carry out duties such as repairing the animal pound or repair the roads.
Some manors also had a court leet which dealt with community business such as nuisances or disputes; and dealt with local policing and more serious offences such as breach of the King’s peace. It was also responsible for regulating the price, quality and the measure of bread and ale.
During the Tudor period many of the civil administrative functions of the manor were transferred to the parish. As a result, from about 1600, the main benefits enjoyed by lords of manors were land (the ‘demesne’), sporting and mineral rights, and the revenue from tenants. The decline of the manorial system forced the Elizabethan central government to give civil responsibilities to the townships and parishes - care of the poor, maintenance of highways, law and order. Feudal tenures were formally abolished in 1660 and all remaining manorial rights in 1926