On the one hand, the Saxon ceorls (twihyndemen), although considered as including the typical freemen in the earlier laws (1Ethelberht, Hlothhere and Edric, Ine), gradually became differentiated through the action of political and economic causes, and many of them had to recognize the patronage of magnates or to seek livelihood as tenants on the estates of the latter.
Villeins are opposed to socmen and freemen on one hand, to bordarii, cottagers and slaves on the other.
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.
These commoners might be the several owners, the inhabitants of a parish, freemen of a borough, tenants of a manor, &c. The opening of the fields by throwing down the fences took place on Lammas Day (12th of August) for corn-lands and on Old Midsummer Day (6th of July) for grass.
The members of the town council had to be freemen, born in lawful wedlock, in the enjoyment of estates in freehold and of unstained repute.