The royal courts refused to entertain suits of villeins against their lords, although there was a good deal of vacillation before this position was definitely taken up. Bracton still speaks in his treatise of the possibility for the courts to interfere against intolerable cruelty on the part of the lord involving the destruction of the villein's waynage, that is, of his ploughteam, and in the Notebook of Bracton there are a couple of cases which prove that r3th-century judges occasionally allowed themselves to entertain actions by persons holding in villenage against their lords.
Economically the institution of villenage was bound tip with the manorial organization - that is, with the fact that the country was.divided into a number of districts in which central home farms were cultivated by the help of work supplied by villein households.
While the occasional services, even when agricultural, in no way established a presumption of villenage, and many socmen, freemen and holders by serjeanty submitted to them, agricultural week-work was primarily considered as a trait of villenage and must have played an important part in the process of classification of early Norman society.
Still, even at that time it might happen that a freeholder owned some land in villenage by the side of his free tenement, and that a villein held some land freely by agreement with his lord or with a third person.
This increase of villenage morally depressed the peasantry, and widened still further the breach between the yeomanry and the gentry.
Ashley's Economic History, while Vinogradoff's Villenage in England and The Growth of the Manor, as well as Maitland's Domesday Studies, are of great importance to the student of early economic institutions.
Bracton fits his definition of villenage into the Romanesque scheme of Azo's Summa of the Institutes, and the judges of the royal courts made sweeping inferences from this general position.