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Burgage

Burgage

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Burgage is a medieval land term
Medieval land terms
The feudal system, in which the land was owned by a monarch, who in exchange for homage and military service granted its use to tenants-in-chief, who in their turn granted its use to sub-tenants in return for further services, gave rise to several terms, particular to Britain, for subdivisions of...

 used in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, well established by the 13th century. A burgage was a town ("borough
Borough
A borough is an administrative division in various countries. In principle, the term borough designates a self-governing township although, in practice, official use of the term varies widely....

") rental property (to use modern terms), owned by a king or lord. The property ("burgage tenement") usually, and distinctly, consisted of a house on a long and narrow plot of land, with the narrow end facing the street. Rental payment ("tenure") was usually in the form of money, but each "burgage tenure" arrangement was unique, and could include services. As populations grew, "burgage plots" could be split into smaller additional units. Burgage tenures were usually monetary based, in contrast to rural tenures which were usually services based. In Saxon times the rent was called a landgable or hawgable.

Burgage was used as the basis of the franchise in many boroughs sending members
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 to the Unreformed House of Commons
Unreformed House of Commons
The unreformed House of Commons is the name generally given to the British House of Commons as it existed before the Reform Act 1832.Until the Act of Union of 1707 joining the Kingdoms of Scotland and England , Scotland had its own Parliament, and the term refers to the House of Commons of England...

 before 1832. In these boroughs the right to vote was attached to the occupation of particular burgage tenements. Since these could be freely bought and sold, and since the owner of the tenement was perfectly entitled to convey it for the election period to a reliable nominee, who could then vote, it was possible to purchase the majority of the burgages and thereby the absolute power to nominate the members of Parliament. Most of the burgage boroughs became pocket boroughs in this way. The practice was abolished by the Great Reform Act 1832
Reform Act 1832
The Representation of the People Act 1832 was an Act of Parliament that introduced wide-ranging changes to the electoral system of England and Wales...

 which applied a uniform franchise to all boroughs.

In medieval England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, and some parts of the Welsh Marches
Welsh Marches
The Welsh Marches is a term which, in modern usage, denotes an imprecisely defined area along and around the border between England and Wales in the United Kingdom. The precise meaning of the term has varied at different periods...

, burgage plots or burgage tenements were inclosed fields extending the confines of a medieval town, established by the lord of the manor, as divisions of the 'open' manorial fields. The burgesses (equivalents of "burghers") to whom these tracts were allotted, as tenants of the enclosed lands, paid a cash rent instead of, as previously, occupying land by virtue of having given feudal service. In 1207, for instance, Maurice Paynell, the Lord of the Manor of Leeds, granted a charter to 'his burgesses of Leeds' to build a 'new town', and so created the first borough of Leeds, Briggate, a street running north from the River Aire.

These burgesses had to be freemen: those who were entitled to practise a trade within the town and to participate in electing members of the town’s ruling council.

In the very earliest chartered foundations, predating the Norman Conquest, the burgage plots were simply the ploughland strips of pre-existing agrarian settlements: in towns like Burford
Burford
Burford is a small town on the River Windrush in the Cotswold hills in west Oxfordshire, England, about west of Oxford, southeast of Cheltenham and only from the Gloucestershire boundary...

 and Chipping Campden
Chipping Campden
Chipping Campden is a small market town within the Cotswold district of Gloucestershire, England. It is notable for its elegant terraced High Street, dating from the 14th century to the 17th century...

 in Oxford or Cricklade
Cricklade
Cricklade is a town and civil parish on the River Thames in north Wiltshire in England, midway between Swindon and Cirencester.On 25 September 2011 Cricklade was awarded The Royal Horticultural Society's 'Champion of Champions' award in the Britain in Bloom competition.Cricklade is twinned with...

 in Wiltshire, the property on the road frontage extends in a very long garden plot behind the dwelling even today, as English property lines have remained very stable.

The basic unit of measurement was the perch which was 5.5 yards (5 m) and the plots can be identified today because they are in multiples of perches: at Cricklade most were 2 by 12 perches (10 by 60 m), while at Charmouth in Dorset, a charter of 1320 provided plots 4 by 20 perches long (20 by 100 m), giving a typical plot size of half an acre (2,000 m²), held at an annual rent of 6d.

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