1) In monasteries, keepers of cattle.

In the OED the word ‘feeman’ is said to mean ‘a vassal’, and that may be a possible explanation in the single example quoted. However, these words were used repeatedly in connection with important monasteries where they clearly refer to the keeping of ‘cattle’. The feeman was responsible for the running of the ‘feehouse’, but came under the authority of the ‘feemaster’ who was in charge of all the feehouses. ‘Feeman’ was active into the seventeenth century at least: 1512 servauntes, loigers ande feamen, Bouthwaite

1567 The femans chamber, Well

1615 hyered to come as a husbandman or fee man, Brandsby. Feemaster was also a frequent term: in 1508, the tenants of Morker Grange had their lease on the understanding that they keep all the cattle sent to them by the abbey, making yerely trewe accompte and trewly make awnser and delyveraunce of all the styrkes that shall cume of the seide kye yerely to the feamayster at the burnynge tyme. The terms were in use in other monasteries: in 1533 Richard Aluerton, femast[er] at Rievaulx gave evidence in a Starchamber case and Black quoted several Scottish examples in his account of the surname Femister.

spellings feemaster
dates 1508 1512 1533 1567 1615

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