An Abstract of Feet of Fines For the County of Sussex: Vol. 1, 1190-1248. Originally published by Sussex Record Society, Lewes, 1903.
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As an introduction to this Calendar of Feet of Fines we can hardly do better than transcribe a portion of the description of that class of document given in Scargill Bird's "Guide to the Public Records."
"A Fine (Finis, or Finalis Concordia), so called from the words with which it begins, and also from its effect in putting a final end to all suits and contentions, was an amicable agreement or composition of a suit (whether real or fictitious) made between the parties with the consent of the judges, and enrolled amongst the Records of the Court in which the suit was commenced, by which freehold property might be transferred, settled or limited. These Fines are said to be of equal antiquity with the first rudiments of the law, instances having been produced of them even prior to the Norman invasion, and they, no doubt, originated in actual suits for recovering the possession of lands or other hereditaments, the possession thus gained being found so sure and effectual that fictitious actions were soon introduced for the sake of obtaining the same security. The Records of these actions exist in an almost unbroken series from the reign of Richard I. to the year 1834, when a statute was passed 'For the abolition of Fines and Recoveries.'"
"The Foot, or conclusion of the Fine, sometimes called the Chirograph, begins with the words Haec est finalis concordia, and recites the whole proceedings. . . . In addition to the Foot, two Indentures, or transcripts thereof, were engrossed by the Chirographer on the same piece of parchment, which was then divided into three indented portions, the Foot, between which and the two Indentures the word 'Cyrographum' was written, being retained by the Custos Brevium, and the Indentures being given to the respective parties to the Fine."
Having considered the nature of a Fine we may next examine its form. In the subjoined example, of which a translation is given, I have divided the formula into six portions:—a. The statement of date and place of the Court in which the Fine was levied. b. The names of the judges before whom it was levied. c. The names of the parties concerned, and of their attorneys, if any; and the statement of the property in question. d. The nature of the action brought. e. The composition made by one of the two parties. f. The compensatory payment made for the grant or lease of the property.
e. Scilicet quod predictus Ricardus recognovit predictam terram esse jus predictorum Johannis et Alicie, tenendam de predicto Ricardo et heredibus suis ipsis Johanni et Alicie et heredibus Alicie in perpetuum, reddendo inde per annum unum denarium ad Pascha pro omni servicio salvo forinseco servicio.
(a). This is the final composition made in the court of the lord King at Westminster on the Thursday next after the Octave of All Saints in the first year of the reign of King John (b) before Master Thomas de Husseburn William de Warenne and Simon de Pateshill, judges, and other faithful servants of the same lord King then present there (c) between John A. and Alice his wife demandants, by the same John put in the place of the same Alice to gain or lose, and Richard B. tenant; concerning one acre of land in N. (d) about which there has been a suit between them in the said court; (e) (this is the composition) namely that the said Richard acknowledges the said land to be the right of the said John and Alice, to be held of the said Richard and his heirs to the said John and Alice and the heirs of the said Alice in perpetuity, paying therefor yearly one penny at Easter for all service except forinsec service; (f) and for this fine and composition and quitclaim the said John and Alice have given the said Richard one mark of silver.
d may read "Unde recognicio mortis antecessoris summonita fuit inter eos;" and other variants are also met with which present no particular features except that if d. reads "Unde placitum warantie carte summonitum fuit inter eos" then e will read "Scilicet quod predictus Ricardus recognovit predictam terram esse jus predictorum Johannis et Alicie ut illam quam habent de dono ipsius Ricardi et illam eis warantizavit tenendam &c."
e may read "Scilicet quod predictus Ricardus remisit et quietum clamavit totum jus et clamium quod habuit in predicta terra de se et heredibus suis predictis Johanni et Alicie et heredibus Alicie in perpetuum."
Instead of "pro omni servicio salvo forinseco servicio" we may have "pro omni servicio quod predicto Ricardo et heredibus suis pertinet, et faciendo capitalibus dominis illius feodi omnia servicia que pertinent ad unam acram terre ipsius feodi in predicta villa."
With regard to the Calendar here printed much need not be said. In order to economise space a certain number of contractions have been used and the formal phrases common to all the Fines have been much shortened by the omission of all the words printed above in italics, the reconstruction of any Fine with the aid of the key should present little difficulty. The place names have been identified as far as possible in the Index Locorum. A List of the Contractions and a Glossary of the more unusual words follows this Introduction.