Burgage is a medieval land term used in England and Scotland, well established by the 13th century. A burgage was a town ("borough") rental property (to use modern terms), owned by a king or lord. The property ("burgage tenament") usually, and distinctly, consisted of a house on a long and narrow plot of land, with the narrow end facing the street. Rental payment ("tenure") was usually in the form of money, but each "burgage tenure" arrangement was unique, and could include services. As populations grew, "burgage plots" could be split into smaller additional units. Burgage tenures were usually monetary based, in contrast to rural tenures which were usually services based. In Saxon times the rent was called a landgable or hawgable.
Burgage was used as the basis of the franchise in many boroughs sending members to the Unreformed House of Commons before 1832. In these boroughs the right to vote was attached to the occupation of particular burgage tenements. Since these could be freely bought and sold, and since the owner of the tenement was perfectly entitled to convey it for the election period to a reliable nominee, who could then vote, it was possible to purchase the majority of the burgages and thereby the absolute power to nominate the members of Parliament. Most of the burgage boroughs became pocket boroughs in this way. The practice was abolished by the Great Reform Act which applied a uniform franchise to all boroughs.
- Medieval English Towns - Glossary
- The Local Historian's Encyclopedia by John Richardson - ISBN 0-9503656-7-X