We are regularly asked questions about the previous owner of the lordship title. This is one of the most difficult things to explain. Most people’s mind-set is that there is a person who was the last owner. This is simply not the case with manorial lordships. We really do have absolutely no idea who would be the previous owner. In most cases we could not even create a short list.
- Before the Conveyancing Act 1881 if an owner of the lordship wished to transfer the rights with the physical land they had to specifically list it, but they may have intended to sell them
- From the other perspective, an owner may have just wanted to sell the land and no rights however the purchaser starts to enforce the rights, as if they owned them
- It was not a legal requirement to keep deeds until 1922
- Prior to the Limitation Act 1939, in theory one could claim adverse possession of a manorial title, so it didn’t matter if you lost your deeds
- Manorial titles were not regarded as worth anything for the last few hundred years so no one bothered with who owned the rights, it was the land they were interested in
- The use of a lordship and its courts have been in decline since the 16th Century, so it did not matter who owned the lordship
- Rights have not been enforced for many years and therefore the lordship was not perceived as relevant in modern times
- Without physical deeds we could potentially rely on historians to help us. Unfortunately far too often historic records contradict each other
- Of the few cases that have come to court both sides can sometimes have equally as good a history that each party owns the lordship? The law states one party has to be awarded the case and therefore judges have been awarding the case to the “most likely” owner instead of confirming who is the owner
- A significant portion of the recorded lordships do not have any history in the last couple of hundred years, so we have even less clues
- Where Manors were merged with others and then pieces sold it is almost impossible to tell whether the lordship rights were transferred or not
- If a family has held a lordship for hundreds of years, without the deeds, there is nothing to say whether they came by the lordship rights by a legal method. We would never suggest they had been stolen however history is littered with family disputes where not all the time did the legal owner ended up with the rights.
All of these points create doubt over who is the owner and without a definitive set of deeds/paperwork it is impossible to tell what the intention was at the time, 100 years ago or 1,000 years ago. It is because of all these issues that the law insists on a complete, correctly executed and consecutive set of deeds to justify any historic owner.
As the most valuable pieces of the lordship (seigniory) are not touched, the law enables us to bring back into use/ownership of just the lordship title.