Feet of Fines have long been one of the standard sources used by English local historians, but very few of those relating to Gloucestershire have previously been published.
A foot of fine is the record of an agreement, also called a final concord or fine, that resolved a dispute, real or pretended, commonly about ownership of land. One of the parties to the dispute purchased a writ to bring the dispute to the king's court, thereby becoming the plaintiff, but before the suit came to judgement the parties sort permission to reach an agreement (or concord). When the agreement had been approved by the court it was written out three times on a single sheet of parchment, the first two head to head on the upper two thirds of the sheet and the third across the lower third to form the foot of fine. The parchment was cut into three with indented lines, the fit of the three parts being a test of authenticity. The two upper parts were given to the parties to the agreement and the third, the foot, was retained by the court.
The approval of the agreement by the king's court and the permanence of the record gave the final concord an authority and fixity which a private agreement could not attain, so that the procedure was increasingly used in the conveyance and settlement of land. The files of feet now preserved in the Public Record Office provide an incomparable record of landed property and its owners from the twelfth century to the nineteenth. Two further volumes of abstracts of Feet of Fines relating to Gloucestershire, continuing the series to the end of the reign of Henry VII, are in preparation, and it is intended that they will be published in the Gloucestershire Record Series.