Lay Fee – a fee interest in land held by ordinary feudal tenure, generally for use in agricultural labor

lay fee:

1. Hist. A fee interest in land held by ordinary feudal tenure, such as socage, rather than by ecclesiastical tenure through frankalmoin.  See FRANKALMOIN; SOCAGE. 


1. (14c) Hist. A type of lay tenure in which a tenant held lands in exchange for providing the lord husbandry-related (rather than military) service.  *  Socage, the great residuary tenure, was any free tenure that did not fall within the definition of knight-service, serjeanty, or frankalmoin. 


1. Agriculture or farming; cultivation of the soil for food.  *  In some states, tools and equipment used in farming are exempt from forced sale for collection of a debt.

2. Generally, care of a household; careful management of resources. 

     Excerpt from J.H. Baker’s An Introduction to English Legal History (3d ed. 1990):

     “If they [the peasant’s duties] were fixed -for instance, helping the lord with sowing or reaping at specified times ~the tenure was usually called socage.  This was originally the tenure of socmen; but it became . . . a generic term for all free services other than knight-service, serjeanty, or spiritual service. [2]

free socage:

1. Socage in which the services were both certain and honorable.  *  By the statute 12 Car. 2, ch. 24 (1660), all the tenures by knight-service were, with minor exceptions, converted into free socage. — aka free and common socage; liberum socagium. [1]

     Excerpt from Thomas Pitt Taswell-Langmead’s English Constitutional History: From the Teutonic Conquest to the Present Time (Theodore F.T. Plucknett ed., 11th ed. 1960):

     “Tenure in free socage (which still subsists under the modern denomination of freehold) denotes, in its most general and extensive signification, a tenure by any certain and determinate but non-military service, as to pay a fixed money rent, or to plough the lord’s land for a fixed number of days in the year. In this sense it is constantly opposed, by our ancient legal writers, to tenure by knight’s service, where the service, though esteemed more honourable, was more onerous. Not being held by military service, socage tenure lacked one of the elements of a fief, but the spirit of feudalism was all-embracing and affected every tenure and every institution. Thus we find that tenure in socage, like that by knight-service, was created by words of pure donation accompanied by livery of seisin, and was liable to the obligation of fealty invariably, sometimes of homage; and was in like manner subject, but in a modified form, to many of the incidents of tenure by knight’s service. Though considered less honourable than the latter, socage was practically much more beneficial, especially in its freedom from the grievous burdens of scutage, feudal wardship and marriage. [3]

villein socage:

1. Socage in which the services, though certain, were of a baser nature than those provided under free socage. 


1. A tenant by socage; SOCMAN. [1]


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: J.H. Baker, An Introduction to English Legal History 260 (3d ed. 1990).

[3]: Thomas Pitt Taswell-Langmead, English Constitutional History: From the Teutonic Conquest to the Present Time 39 (Theodore F.T. Plucknett ed., 11th ed. 1960).


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