The land was divided into vast demesnes known as fiefs. Every fief was required to provide a knight's fee in subsistence, with a level of support dependent upon the social and economic importance of the landholder. The level of support was proportionally higher for a landholder than an ordinary serf (or copyholder).
Given the burgeoning population of the 13th century, a plot of land was not sufficient to sustain a knight, so several plots of land were grouped and connected to create a manor (or plural manors) known as a manor-house or more commonly a manor house. Although lords of manors had been developed in earlier times, manors became more important towards the end of the Middle Ages as the number of small demesnes declined. Manors were usually owned by a single powerful lord, as the largest landowners, such as the Earls of Lancaster and the Dukes of Cornwall. In earlier times, since the land was in the hands of the crown, manors were owned by the crown and administered by the king's justices. Privileges were granted to the inhabitants in return for services, especially in royal forests, (see Justice of the Forest).
Manor houses were first built in the Anglo-Saxon period. The main purpose of manor houses was to provide the lord of the manor and his family with accommodation, although sometimes, if one functions as a grange, some storage was provided for the grange. Some manor houses, such as Caen, were granges. Many manors in the countryside, especially in the West Midlands of England, were built during the 13th century. A large number of surviving manors are those of the powerful Earls of Lancaster. Some 18 of Lancaster's 19 manors have survived, many in good condition. Other medieval manors of note include Woodeaton Manor in Berkshire, Woodroffe Manor in Herefordshire and Horsted Keynes in Kent. Some 13th-century manor houses are mausoleums: there is little trace of domestic life. By the 15th century, manor houses came to be more generally called manor houses. d2c66b5586