Online Medieval Sources Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography of Printed and Online Primary Sources for the Middle Ages

Source Details

Woodruff, Charles Eveleigh, ed., "The Custumal." In A History of the Town and Port of Fordwich: With a Transcription of the XVth Century Copy of the Custumal (Canterbury: Cross & Jackman, pp. 215-281)

Text name(s): 

Number of pages of primary source text: 67


Dates: 1450 - 1500

Archival Reference: Canterbury Cathedral Archive MS U4/26, pp. 41-109 (paginated in pencil)

Original Language(s): 

  • Latin
  • Anglo-Norman


  • Translated into English.
  • Original language included.

Translation Comments: 

Geopolitical Region(s): 

  • England

County/Region: Fordwich; Kent

Record Types: 

  • Law - Local Ordinances
  • Custumal

Subject Headings: 

  • Towns / Cities
  • Maritime
  • Law - Secular
  • Government
  • Family / Children
  • Economy - Trade
  • Women / Gender


  • Index
  • Introduction


Borough custumals recorded the local, or customary, laws of a town. They were compiled for a practical purpose: to guide, and even educate, successive generations of civic officials tasked with keeping law and order within their boroughs. Custumals may have been modified to reflect the changing needs of the community, but they also may have been copies of local laws from neighboring towns, and can shed light on social and economic practices in a medieval town. The custumal of Sandwich is one of many that have survived for the Cinque Ports, all of which share many similarities. The custumal of Fordwich seems to have borrowed extensively from Sandwich in particular, and the author, in the interest of saving time, did not transcribe the passages that could be found in the printed edition of the Sandwich custumal (which appears in William Boys’ edition of the History of Sandwich). The Fordwich custumal is divided into 31 clauses covering a wide range of topics, including: regulations governing victualers and their trades; holding a hundred court; drawing weapons and assault; inheritance and selling land; purchasing stolen goods; freemen and freewomen; custody of orphans; withernam; recognizances; jurisdiction of the abbot; pleas of debt, trespass, and covenant; maritime laws; pleas of the crown; and elections.

Introduction Summary: 

A short introduction (pp. 212-215) that compares the custumal of Fordwich with that of Sandwich, as well as the provenance and preservation of the original manuscript.

Cataloger: ELC