Term : The Manor
The Manor was a territorial unit of lordship and the basic unit of seigneurial estate administration. Jurisdiction was exercised by the manorial lord over the estate, its assets, economic activities and customary and legal rights, through his manor court sometimes termed the court baron.
Manorial lordship thus represented only one link in the chain of feudal and tenurial relationships, which extended from the lowly peasant through to the baronial superior lord and ultimately right up to the king himself. In its simplest form a township would be encapsulated within a single manor and would therefore have the same territorial limits.
However such ‘classic’ manors were much rarer than primary school history lessons might have us believe. Then as now, the processes of succession and inheritance and the inevitable variability in human fortunes resulted in the amalgamation or, more often, fragmentation of estates. Most townships therefore were divided between a number of manorial landholders.
Thus a parish, township and manor could all be coterminous, with a small parish serving the spiritual needs of a single township community whose landed resources formed a single manorial estate and whose members were bound by a variety of personal and tenurial relationships to a single lord. However this simple arrangement was highly unusual in Northumberland, and particularly so in the upland areas of the county, where, as we have seen, the parishes were often very large (e.g. Simonburn, Elsdon, Alwinton-Holystone, and Kirknewton). Thus there were only 63 parishes in the county in 1295, whilst the total number of townships at the same time, although not precisely quantifiable, was probably not far short of 450 (Lomas 1996, 71, 108-10). The number of manors would have been greater still.