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Feet of Fines/Final Concords (Medieval) (Land & Property)

Nature of Source

Final agreement or judgment on freehold ownership and transfer of land and property following a fictitious lawsuit. The suit centred around a fictitious claim by the plaintiff against the deforciant who was claimed to be preventing the rightful owner from occupying the property. The settlement or final agreement was recorded on one single membrane of vellum and divided into three copies. Two were given to respective parties and one, the ‘foot’, of the fine kept by the court. This Fine and Common Recovery method allowed a landowner to record a title on a property by means of fictitious suit filed on close rolls at the Court of Common Pleas, Court of King's Bench and Court of Chancery. At a time when no formal register of property titles existed, this method allowed for some degree of legal recognition and conveyance of freehold property.

The agreement confirmed legal freehold ownership of a piece of land or property and blocked others from claiming tenure under the notoriously complicated mediaeval system of property ownership Final concords were eventually abolished by the Fines and Recoveries Act 1833.

Until 1733 the records were in Latin and are not to be confused with Fine Rolls at the Court of Chancery. The Fine might not necessarily state the actual nature of the property transaction so these property records should not be seen in isolation but as part of a wider set of documents detailing land transfers. Always refer to other freehold land tenure documents which along with feet of fines may be found amongst estate papers at County Record Offices.

The Fines could be of importance where property passed from a family to other persons outside of the family. The method of ensuring that property passed down the family generations was known as entail or fee tail. The mechanism of a bringing a fictitious case to the court of common pleas and obtaining a successful ruling effectively barred an entail on a piece of land or property. Other legal measures such as common recovery could also be employed to bar entails and these documents should also be consulted in cases of disputed freehold issues.

Also see
Land and Property Records including Title Deeds

Where Found

The National Archives (CP 25/2, Court of Common Pleas: Feet of Fines Files, Henry VIII - Victoria; CHES 31, Records of the courts of the Palatinate of Chester; DURH 12, Records of the Palatinate of Durham; PL 17, Records of the Palatinate of Lancaster. Calendars are available covering 1509 to 1798)
County Record Offices
Pipe Roll Society (Published early fines)
Local Record Societies (Published calendars)

Period Covered

1182 - 1834

Genealogical Value

Names of vendor (defendant) and buyer (plaintiff); Location or address and description of land and property under offer; Family relationships, sometimes including the names of wives and sons. Useful for house histories.

Further References

Alcock, Nathaniel Warren. Old Title Deeds: Phillimore, 2001  
Chambers, Paul. Medieval Genealogy: Sutton, 2005  
Westcott, Brooke. Making Sense Of Latin Documents For Family And Local Historians: Family History Partnership, 2014  

TNA Research Guide: Land Conveyances by Feet of Fines 1182-1833

Websites (Abstracts of Feet of Fines: Format of the records, 1360-1509) (Introduction and guide to Final Concords) (Family History Archives: A calendar to the feet of fines for London & Middlesex. The site also has other calendars of feet of fines covering other counties. The Family History Archive is a collection of searchable published genealogy and family history books brought to you by FamilySearch) (Medieval Glossary) (Foundation for Medieval Genealogy : The Foundation was established in 2001 by a group of British genealogists and historians with a special interest in the medieval period. The Library Catalogue provides a bibliographic catalogue of secondary source material for medieval genealogy and heraldry) (Guide to land records) (Dictionary of terms found in Land Records)

Online Databases

British History Online (The site consists of a digital library of British historical sources developed by Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust including some Feet of Fines transcriptions. The site is free to use with a search facility linking users to full transcripts of various sources) (Abstracts of Feet of Fines. The aim of this project is to provide abstracts of the medieval feet of fines that have not yet been published initially for the period 1360-1509. A county list gives details of the feet of fines that have been published for each county)
The Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England (PASE) (An online database that aims to register every recorded individual who lived in Anglo-Saxon England from late sixth to the end of the eleventh century. The database is a collaboration between King's College, London and the University of Cambridge and include sources such as chronicles, saints' lives, charters, inscriptions and coins)
(SoG Data Online: Worcestershire feet of fines 1649-1714) (Anglo-American Legal Tradition: Digital images of documents from Medieval and Early Modern England from The National Archives, 1200 to 1650. Series covered include CP 40 (Court of common pleas plea rolls), KB 27 (Court of king's bench plea rolls), E 159 and E 368 (Memoranda rolls), E 13 (Exchequer plea rolls), C 33 (Chancery orders and decrees), JUST 1, (Records of the General Eyre and commissions of assize), CP 25 (Feet of Fines)
(University of Sheffield: Lands of the Normans in England, 1204-1244: The database contains details of over 2,000 individual documents collected from over 100 historical sources. Nearly 3,000 different people and places appear in the database, and there are over 13,500 links describing the relationships between these people and places including. For a full list of historical sources see here)

CD Roms

Anguline Research Archives (Yorkshire Fines 1486-1570; 1583-1593; 1614-1625, Published between 1887-1917; Lancashire Fines, 1196-1377 published by the Chechire Record Society between 1899 and 1903)