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This is a brief explanation of the meaning of some of the archaic and unusual terms that you might come across in the Worcester City Archives.

  • Appurtenances
    Appurtenances: land, property and rights that belong to something else of more importance or greater worth, e.g. a house with appurtenances could be a house with a small garden.
  • Assizes
    Assizes: were periodic criminal courts that tried capital cases. They were heard by judges who travelled around the seven assize circuits in England and Wales. They could only set up court at specific Assize Towns, normally the county town. Worcester was one such Assize Town, on the Oxford circuit. It is the equivalent of the Crown Court. Abolished in 1971.
  • Chamber Order Book
    Chamber Order Books were an early form of the council's (Chamber's) minutes. Early versions are not a record of matters discussed, but of those where a course of action was decided (i.e. an Order).
  • Frankpledge
    Frankpledge was an institution in which a tithing of ten households were bound together and held responsible for one another's conduct. All males over 12 years were joined in groups of approximately ten households. This unit, under a leader known as the chief-pledge or tithing-man, was then responsible for producing any man of that tithing suspected of a crime.
  • Freemen
    Freemen are granted specific privileges in a borough by the ruling council of that borough. Criteria vary depending on place and time, but generally freedom is granted by patrimony (inheritance, such as son born to a man after he became free) or 'servitude' (serving an apprenticeship). Worcester also allows freedom to be gifted to notable people. Freeman had specific trading rights and until 1835, only freemen could vote in elections. In Worcester, arrested Freemen had the right to be held in the cells under the Guildhall rather than in the gaol. In 1835, approximately 10 percent of the 27,000 residents of the town and suburbs had been granted freedom.
  • Liber Recorda
    Liber Recorda were literally 'books of records', the earliest Liber Recorda were once thought to have been council minutes. They relate to the administration of Worcester and the duties of the Corporation officers, including copies of important documents.
  • Messuage
    A dwelling house.
  • Petty Sessions
    Petty Sessions were courts that dealt with low-level offences, and were sometimes known as police courts. They are the equivalent of Magistrates Courts and the case was heard by the Justices of the Peace, without a jury. Abolished in 1971.
  • Purprestures
    Purpresture is a wrongful encroachment on, or enclosure of, public land.
  • Quarter Sessions
    Quarter Sessions were courts that heard cases deemed too serious to be dealt with by Petty Sessions, but not where the defendant could be sentenced to capital punishment (or life imprisonment). They had a limited jurisdiction over civil matters, such as highways, setting of certain tolls and rates, and awarding licenses to public houses. The court consisted of three Justices of the Peace (or a single Recorder) and a jury. They were held four times a year, i.e. quarterly. Abolished in 1971.
  • Recognisance
    A bond entered into a court whereby a person promises to appear in court on a certain day, pay a sum of money, or perform a particular action.

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This page was last reviewed 15 May 2013 at 21:33.
The page is next due for review 11 November 2014.