A Readable Edition of Coke Upon Littleton

Chapter X. Section 162: Tenure in Burgage.

Tenure in burgage is, where in an ancient borough the king is lord, and they who have tenements within the borough hold of the king their tenements at a certain rent by the year. And such tenure is but tenure in socage.


Section 164.

And it is to wit, that the ancient towns called boroughs are the most ancient towns in England; and from these towns come the burgesses of parliament, when the king has summoned his parliament. Every borough incorporate that had a bishop within time of memory, is a city, albeit the bishopric be dissolved; as Westminster had of late a bishop, and therefore it yet remains a city. The burgh of Cambridge, an ancient city, as it appears by a judicial accord (which is to be preferred before all others) where mos civitatis Cantabrigiae is found by the oath of twelve men, the recognitors of assize; which (omitting many others) I thought good to mention, in remembrance of my love and duty alma matri academiae Cantabrigiae. There are within England two archbishoprics, and twenty-three other bishoprics. Therefore so many cities there are; and Cambridge and Westminster being added, there are in all twenty-seven cities within this realm, and may be more than at this time I can call to memory. It is not necessary that a city be a county of itself; as Cambridge, Ely, Westminster &c. are cities, but are no counties of themselves, but are part of the counties where they are


Section 170.

Time out of mind.] Is where there is no memory of man to the contrary. But if there be any sufficient proof of record or writing to the contrary, albeit it exceed the memory, or proper knowledge of any man living, yet is it within the memory of man. And this is the reason, that regularly a man cannot prescribe or allege a custom against a statute, because that is matter of record, and is the highest proof and matter of record in law. But yet a man may prescribe against an act of parliament when his prescription or custom is saved or preserved by another act of parliament.

Common law] The law of England is divided, as hath been said before, into three parts; 1st. The common law, which is the most general and ancient law of the realm, of part whereof Littleton wrote. 2dly. Statutes or acts of parliament. And 3dly. Particular customs (whereof Littleton also makes some mention). I say particular, for if it be the general custom of the realm, it is part of the common law. The common law has no controller in any part of it, but the high court of parliament; and if it be not abrogated or altered by parliament, it remains still. The common law appears in the statute of Magna Charta and other ancient statutes (which for the most part are affirmations of the common law) in the original writs, in judicial records, and in our books of terms and years. Acts of parliament appear in the rolls of parliament, and for the most part are in print. Particular customs are to be proved.


Section 171.

Also, every borough is a town, but not e converso. More shall he said of customs in the tenure of villeinage.


Chapter XI. Section 172.

Of Villeinage.

Tenure in villeinage is most properly, when a villein holds of his Tenure in villeinage is where lord to whom he is a villein, certain lands or tenements according the service is to the custom of the manor, or otherwise, at the will of his lord, and to do to his lord, villein service; as to carry and recarry the dung of his lord out of the city, or out of his lord’s manor unto the land of his lord, and to spread the same upon the land, and such like. And some freemen hold their tenements according to the custom of certain manors, by such services. And their tenure also is called tenure in villeinage, and yet they are not villeins; for no land holden in villeinage, or villein land, nor any custom arising out of the land, shall ever make a freeman villein. But a villein may make free land to be villein land to his lord; as where a villein purchases land in fee-simple, or in fee-tail, the lord of the villein may enter into the land, and oust the villein and his heirs for ever; and after, the lord (if he will) may let the same land to the villein, to hold in villeinage.

Villeinage is the service of a bondman. And yet a free man may do the service of him that is bond. And therefore a tenure in villeinage is twofold; one, where the person of the tenant is bond, and the tenure servile; the other, where the person is free, and the tenure servile.


Section 175.

Also, every villein is either a villein by title of prescription, to wit, that he and his ancestors have been villeins time out of mind of man; or he is a villein by his own confession in a court of record.

Littleton, Sir Thomas; Coventry, Thomas; Coke, Edward. “A Readable Edition of Coke Upon Littleton” [Saunders] 1830. https://archive.org/details/areadableeditio00cokegoog