Enfeoffment in the Middle Ages

Enfeoffment. The Plumpton’s and Earl of Warwick

Land rights played a major role in the governance of the land and regularly resulted in claims and counterclaims for manors or smallholdings. The frequency of such contests is one reason why so many enfeoffments were recorded on the Close Rolls in the Chancery records: that was a clear and binding record of the enfeoffment, removing any doubt.

Enfeoffment. The Plumpton’s and Earl of Warwick

The claims often resulted in the nobility stepping in and acting as arbitrators. Here we see the Earl of Warwick asking (telling) Sir William Plumpton that he is enfeoffed onto lands that Sir William is claiming and that he should do nothing concerning those lands until the rights are determined, presumably by a court. The following letter was dated 19th September 1465.

The Earl of Warwick wrote to Sir William Plumpton.

Right trustie and well beloued I grete you well. And whereas I am enformed ye pretend claim and title to a close called Spencer Close belonging to my wellbeloved Thomas Scarborough, whearin with others I stand infeoffed. I therefore desire and you that you will suffer the said Thomas the ssid close in peaceable wise to haue and occupie without vexation or trouble vunto time that, by such persons therevpon by your both assets being elect and chosen, the matter be thouroughly determined whether of you the same owth to have right. And our Lord haue you in his keeping. Written at Topcliffe the nineteenth day of September. Therle of Warwick and Salisbury, grete chamberlaine of England and captain of Calais. R. Warwick

Endorsed: to my right trustie and wellbeloved Sir William Plompton. Knight

Image Credit

The image is a later example of a feoffment agreement that is held in the University of Nottingham’s Manuscripts and Special Collections. The University provides a guide to feoffment documents, from which this image is taken, which can be accessed here.


An example of the Paston Family using enfeoffment. This is from the 16th century but the legal method is the same. Borthwick Library, York.

Inquisitions post mortem: land ownership and inheritance in the medieval and early modern periods. A National Archives Guide.

Plumpton Letters and papers. Archive.org