The Doctor and Student (1518)

Christopher St. Germain

Of the fifth ground of the law of England

The fifth ground of the law of England standeth in divers particular customs, used in divers counties, towns, cities, and lordships in this realm: the which particular customs, because they be not against the law of reason, nor the law of God, though they be against the said general customs or maxims of the law, yet nevertheless they stand in effect, and be taken for law: but if it rise in question in the king’s courts, whether there be any such particular custom or not, it shall be tried by twelve men, and not by the judges, except the same particular custom be of record in the same court. Of which particular customs I have hereafter noted some for an example.

First, there is a custom in Kent that is called Gavelkind, that all the brethren shall inherit together, as sisters at the common law.

Also, there is another particular custom that is called Burgh-english, where the younger son shall inherit before the eldest; and that custom is in Nottingham.

Also, there is a custom in the city of London, that freemen there may, by their testament inrolled, bequeath their lands that they be seised of to whom they will, except to mortmain: and if they be citizens and freemen, that they may also bequeath their lands to mortmain.

Also, in Gavelkind, though the father be hanged the son shall inherit. For their custom is, The father to the bough, the son to the plough.

Also, in some countries the wife shall have the half of the husband’s land in the name of her dowry, as long as she liveth sole.

And in some country the husband shall have the half of the inheritance of his wife, though he have no issue by her.

Also, in some country an infant when he is of the age of fifteen years may make a feoffment, and the feoffment good: and in some country, when he can mete an ell of cloth.