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Lordship Titles and Manorial Law

Lordship titles and Manorial Law

As we discussed in our last blog ‘Manorialism – where did it all begin’ Lordship Titles originate from the Roman occupation of Britain, about 39AD.

Roman Law

Roman law of property was extremely simple.  If you were in control and/or in possession of a piece of property you owned it.  This was the same for rights as physical property as they made not distinction.

Legal rights were created through a practice being used and enforced over a considerable period of time.  This created a custom or legal right.  This was known as custom law.

Saxon/Danish Law

With the Roman withdrawal in the 4th century the Saxons claimed Britain as theirs.  They were not as sophisticated a race as the Romans and it is believed, but cannot be categorically proved, that the Saxons merely adopted the Roman law.  Historians refer back to this period as being Saxon or Danelaw.

Norman Law

After the Norman Conquest a new land legal system was introduced using much of the existing British/Saxon system.  The principle change was that the Crown owned all property and land in England.  Crown land required no proof of ownership but where the Crown wished land to be managed by a lord a grant would be issued subject to the Crown remaining the only true owner.  In return for the grants of land the Crown would require a service or sum in tax.

The grant would be written into a deed and therein proof of ownership was identified.  Prior to this time and even after it lords would swap or convey lordships/manors with a ceremony on the edge of the manor.  A twig or turf from the manor being handed to the new lord as a symbol that the transaction had taken place.  This practice was still seen as late as the 13th century.

Lordships and manors regularly changed hands and a conveyance was drawn up in writing confirming the transactions.  With the conveyance the deeds that already existed proving ownership were passed to the recipient.  The one relinquishing title would keep a copy of the deeds and conveyance to prove he was no longer liable for the taxes and fealty.  In addition a record was made in the manorial court to confirm the transaction had occurred and the new lord appointed.  This system of land management was called copyhold.

Each transaction involved three legal entities; the physical land, rights against the land, the lordship (responsibility to collect taxes and fealty).  If the land and/or rights against the land were conveyed away from the lordship then this was defined at subinfeudation.  The lord conveying the parts would become an overlord and stand between the lord who owned the land and the Crown.

Modern Law

This section will be divided by the various acts of Parliament that changed the law affecting the rights (incorporeal property) pertaining to a manorial lordship (including the right to the titles).

Statute of Merton 1235

This enabled occupiers of manors/lordships to gain good title.  The statute limited actions for recovery of land by writ to 70 years.  This also included the rights that came with a lordship.

Statute of Westminster 1275

Defines the date of living memory (also time immemorial or legal memory) as 3rd September 1189 (the date of the coronation of King Richard I).  Lordships and manorial rights could therefore be claimed if deeds dated back to this date.

Statute of Quia Emptores 1290

A lordship could no longer be created from an existing one.  The only exception to this is where a lord leaves only daughters and then the lordship may be split into moieties (portions) of the original lordship.

Abolition of Tenures Act 1660

Convert the fealty/service that some lords had to pay into taxes.  The lordship titles were not affected by the act.

Conveyancing Act 1881

Enabled the lordship and land rights to be assumed to be conveyed if the land of the manor was.  This could not be assumed before this date and each of the three elements had to be listed separately.  This was removed with the Law of Property Act 1922.

Law of Property Acts 1922/5

Abolished copyhold title and converted it into freehold.  All manorial rights relating to the land and the lordships were disconnected from the physical land in preparation for land registration.  Land rights and lordships could no longer be assumed to be attached to the physical land and also must be conveyed by a separate deed to the physical land.

Limitations Act 1939

This Act removed a limitation period for recovery of any rights relating to a manor/lordship for rights owned by anyone except the Crown.

Statute Law Repeals Act 1986

This Act removed a limitation period for recovery of any rights relating to a manor/lordship for rights owned by anyone except the Crown.

Land Registration Act 2002

This closed the manorial lordship register maintained by the HM Land Registry in 2003 and manorial rights 2013.

The result of the legislation above means a set of deeds are required back to 1189 (or a later Crown grant) to prove ownership of a lordship.  This means that nearly all lordships cannot be proved to any particular owner.

Lordship Titles as legal entities have been created by the existence of the lordship and the owner of the lordship (and their spouse) being referred to as lord and lady.  Like the other manorial rights they can be dealt with separately to all other manorial rights.  This means that a set of lordship titles can be traded like any other property.

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