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Abingdon Buildings and People Glossary

 

Affinity  

Technical term for the group of allies, associates and followers that a medieval magnate can call upon for support. These normally include but are not limited to his relatives by blood or marriage.

 

Amyce's survey

 

A survey produced by Roger Amyce in 1554 which listed all landed properties in Abingdon with their current owners or lessees, and their rental values. It was one of a series that covered all of Berkshire.

 

Antinomianism

 

The religious doctrine embraced by extreme Calvinists that rejects the need to obey the Old Testament moral law in order to gain salvation. It follows from their views of predestination. If the elect are free of the guilt of sin, their salvation does not depend on personal behaviour. Equally, the non-elect cannot gain salvation through good deeds.

 
Armigerous   Having the right to bear heraldic arms. A sign of belonging to the gentry class, implying a readiness to accept various social and civic duties.  

Ashlar stone

 

Stone blocks with smooth faces and square edges laid in horizontal courses.

 
Baroque  

Style of architecture adopted in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in England and characterised by three-dimensional large-scale decoration and the use of classical elements. It took a different form in other European countries, where the use of curved surfaces was particularly characteristic of the style.

 
Billmen  

Soldiers armed with a long-handled battle-axe, used for guarding the regimental standard and in pursuit of a fleeing enemy.

 
Calendar  

an index to a series of historical documents, with a summary of each item.

 

Chantry

 

A religious institution whose purpose was chanting masses for the dead.  Also the building, part of a church, or an altar endowed and dedicated for this use.

 

Charter 

 

A legal document that creates a corporation, in the general sense of a legal entity that can make contracts.

 

Christ’s Hospital of Abingdon

 

A charity set up under government auspices in 1553. It took on most of the functions of the Fraternity of the Holy Cross that had been dissolved five years earlier, and was given properties as endowment. It still exists.

 
Corporation   

(as in Abingdon Corporation)Corporation was an earlier name for what is now called a town council.

 
Cross-wing  

Wing of a building at right angles to the main structure.

 
Culvert  

Underground water channel.

 

Dissenters

 

Also known as nonconformists. They were (and are) Protestants outside the Church of England. ‘Old Dissent’ includes Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists and Quakers; ‘New Dissent’ the various varieties of Methodism.

 

Dissolution

 

The monasteries and abbeys, including Abingdon Abbey, were dissolved in the late 1530s, and their properties taken over by Henry VIII. Chantries and guilds, including the Fraternity of the Holy Cross in Abingdon, followed a decade later in the reign of Edward VI.

 
Enfeoff  

In feudal practice, to grant someone a landed estate from which he could provide soldiers whenever required to do so.

 
Feoffee  

A trustee, holding property on behalf of an unchartered institution.

 
Fraternity  

– see Guild.

 

Fraternity of the Holy Cross

 

The Fraternity of the Holy Cross was one of the two medieval guilds or fraternities in Abingdon for which we have documentary evidence.  It was already well-established by 1441 when it was granted a royal charter which imposed on it certain civic duties, such as bridge maintenance and the care for the poor, but also enabled it to assume some of the more general functions of a town council.

 

Freeman

 

Originally, one who has the right to carry on a business in a town, and the duty to take on a civic function if asked.

 
Gable  

The triangular upper part of the wall at the end of a pitched roof. 

 

Gauged (of bricks)

 

Bricks that have been cut or rubbed to an accurate size and shape, as in, for example, fine brickwork using slightly wedge-shaped bricks at the tops of rectangular or rounded window or door openings.

 
Gothic  

Style characterised by pointed arches and ribbed vaults allowing larger windows and doors than were possible with round-arched Norman openings. Used in England from the late twelfth century and developed into the sixteenth.  Revived in the nineteenth century as the Victorian Gothic style.

 
Gothick  

An eighteenth century architectural and decorative style employing pointed arches and other features of medieval Gothic, as well as elements of Chinoiserie and other exotic fashions.  Architects often copied these from pattern books and deployed them individualistically for effect.  The style is sometimes called Strawberry Hill Gothic after perhaps its most famous English exemplar.

 

Guild of Our Lady

 

The Guild of Our Lady was one of the two medieval guilds or fraternities in Abingdon for which we have documentary evidence.  It built the Lady Chapel in St Helen’s Church and commissioned its painted ceiling. 

 

Guild or Fraternity

 

Guilds or fraternities were medieval associations which existed in all towns and many villages. They were all dissolved by Act of Parliament in 1547 and any property they had was taken over by the Crown. We know of two such associations in Abingdon, the Fraternity of the Holy Cross and the Guild of Our Lady.

 

Hearth Tax

 

A tax levied on occupiers, whether owners or tenants of their houses, from 1662 to 1689. It was assessed on the number of stoves or hearths. In Abingdon, the median number of hearths was three.  A number of hearths above six indicates either an unusually rich resident, or an inn.

 
High Steward  

Originally, an influential nobleman who would help the town in any problems it might have with the political authorities. Since the nineteenth century, the position has been purely ceremonial.

 
Hipped roof  

A pitched roof which has sloping ends that come down to wall height.

 
Incept  

Of a master or doctor in a medieval university, to go through a formal ceremony at the start of a teaching career. 

 

Indulgence

 
 

A grant of exemption from the pains of purgatory either for a specified time or completely. This was usually in the form of a document which would be sold to provide income for the church. 

 
Jetty  

In a timber-framed building, the projection of an upper storey over the storey below.

 
Jubilee  

A year proclaimed by the pope in which pilgrims coming to Rome would gain indulgences.

 
Legate de latere  

A high-ranking envoy of the pope, whose decisions within his terms of reference are to be taken as those of the pope himself.

 
Lollards  

A heretical sect of the 15th and early 16th centuries, which followed the teaching of John Wycliffe (1320-84). Lollards rejected priesthood and the sacraments. They saw the Church as a fellowship of believers, and emphasized the Bible as the true basis of Christianity.

 
Lord Keeper  

A legal official who, in the absence for any reason of a Lord Chancellor, held the seals that authenticated government documents. Unlike the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Keeper did not have to be a peer of the realm, but nonetheless sat ex officio in the House of Lords.

 
Louvre  

A roof opening to let out the smoke from an open hearth. It could be enclosed by slanting boards to keep out the rain.

 

Notary

 

A lawyer concerned with recording events and transactions.

 
Nuncio  

A papal ambassador.

 
Nuncupative will  

An oral will made by a person who is too ill to organise and sign a written will. It is dictated in the presence of witnesses and later written out.

 
Oriel window  

A projecting window on an upper floor, often supported by brackets.

 
Patriline  

A line of descent through the male parents. In England, this normally implies that a family is defined and limited by its surname.

 
PCC  

Prerogative Court of Canterbury. Wills registered there were generally those of relatively wealthy people.

 
Pediment  

In classical architecture, a low-pitched, ornamental triangular form above a portico, doorway or window opening.

 

Perpendicular 

 

Type of Gothic architecture characterised straight verticals and horizontals and large, tall windows with slender supports. Prevalent in England during the fifteenth century.

 
Pitched roof  

Roof with two slopes that meet at a ridge. The walls at both ends finish in triangular gables that enclose the roof space.

 
Pounds, shillings and pence (£ s d) – ‘old money’  

The current pounds and pence decimal currency was introduced in 1971. For over a thousand years before that the units of money had been pounds, shillings and pence, written as £ s d. There were twelve pence to a shilling and twenty shillings to a pound. There is no easy way to say what a sum of money mentioned in an old document would be worth today because of the inflation in the value of money and the increase in the standard of living over time. For more information, and some different conversion schemes, see http://www.measuringworth.com/ukcompare/#

 
Prebend  

An estate or other source of income which supports a member of a cathedral chapter.

 

Predestination

 

The religious doctrine that people are saved or damned by divine decisions taken once and for all, and their personal behaviour cannot influence their fate. ‘Double predestination’ emphasizes that this affects both the elect, who are to be saved, and the non-elect, who are to be damned.

 

Presbyterian

 

A type of church organisation with congregations led by their minister and elders and joining in regional assemblies called presbyteries or classes. In seventeenth century politics, Presbyterians worked for a weak monarchy under their own control.

 

Principal burgess            

 

Member of the 12-man ruling council of Abingdon from the charter of 1556 to the reorganisation of 1835.

 
Purgatory  

A place where a sinful soul would be punished for a long but finite time, before being admitted to spend the rest of eternity in heaven.

 
Puritan  

A range of religious principles and lifestyle choices that was prevalent in the late 16th to 17th centuries. Puritans were against ceremonial in religion and for self-discipline and a bible-based morality in behaviour. Puritanism was politically dominant after the Civil War and until the Restoration.

 
Purlin   

 A longitudinal horizontal timber in a roof structure that links the roof trusses and supports the common rafters.

 
Quoin  

Dressed stone or brickwork at the corner of a building.

 

Rafter

 

An inclined roof timber, usually one of a pair, which carries the laths supporting the roof covering.

 

Recorder

 

Originally the legal advisor to a municipal corporation, who would also officiate at its court sessions.

 
Relieving arch  

An arch built into a wall above an opening to take the weight of the wall above.

 
Secondary burgess  

One of sixteen or more members of a lower tier of the ruling council of Abingdon from the charter of 1556 to the reorganisation of 1835, from among whom principal burgesses would normally be selected.

 
Sequestration  

In the Civil War, the Parliamentarian authorities ‘sequestrated’ landed estates belonging to Royalists, appropriating the rents and other income from them. To lift this, the owner was expected to ‘compound’, paying a proportion of the value of the estate calculated according to his perceived degree of opposition to Parliament.

 
Sheriff (or High Sheriff)  

In the early modern period, an administrative official for the county, serving for one year only, and responsible for the smooth running of the assize courts and of parliamentary elections.

 
Shrievalty  

The office of sheriff.

 
Spine beam  

Ceiling beam across the length of a room carrying floor joists on each side.

 
Stonesfield slates  

Limestone roofing slates mined in and around the village of Stonesfield near Woodstock  in Oxfordshire.  They were split by frost action and are thinner than the more common Cotswold stone slates that were split by a pick. They were widely used as a roofing material in the Abingdon area.

 
Sunken-featured building
 
 

A type of small early to mid-Anglo-Saxon building consisting of a pit dug into the ground, thought to have been covered by a tent-like superstructure of wood and thatch.

 
Tie-beam trusses  

Tie beams are the main horizontal transverse beams that link the tops of opposite walls of a building and carry the roof timbers. They support trusses which are frameworks that carry the roof structure and covering.

 
Tories  

After about 1680, the political party of the landed as against the moneyed interest, favouring a powerful monarchy and a monopoly for the Church of England in religion.

 
Tracery  

Ornamental intersecting stonework in Gothic architecture used principally in windows.

 

Truss

 

In a timber-framed building, a frame that bridges a space and carries other timbers. In a stone or brick building, a frame that supports the roof.

 
Venetian window  

Symmetrical window with three openings, the outer two flat headed and the inner taller, wider and with an arched head.

 
Whigs  

After about 1680, the political party of the moneyed as against the landed interest, favouring limited monarchy and toleration for Protestant dissenters, and fanatically anti-Catholic.

 
       
       

 

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