Lord of the Manor
Overview
 
The Lordship of a Manor is recognised today in England and Wales as a form of property and one of three elements of a manor
Manorialism
Manorialism, an essential element of feudal society, was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire, was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe, and was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market...

 that may exist separately or be combined and may be held in moieties
Moiety title
Moiety title is legal term describing a portion other than a whole of ownership of property. The word derives from Old French moitié meaning "half" , from Latin medietas "middle", from medius....

. A title, similar to Lord of the Manor, in French would be Seigneur du Manoir, Schloßherr ("Lord of the Castle") in German and godsherre in Norwegian and Swedish.

Historically a Lord of the Manor might be a tenant-in-chief
Tenant-in-chief
In medieval and early modern European society the term tenant-in-chief, sometimes vassal-in-chief, denoted the nobles who held their lands as tenants directly from king or territorial prince to whom they did homage, as opposed to holding them from another nobleman or senior member of the clergy....

 if they held a capital manor directly from the Crown; otherwise they were mesne lord
Mesne lord
A mesne lord was a lord in the feudal system who had vassals who held land from him, but who was himself the vassal of a higher lord. A mesne lord did not hold land directly of the king, that is to say he was not a tenant-in-chief. His subinfeudated estate was called a "mesne estate"...

s if they did not hold directly from the Crown, yet had their own tenants.
Encyclopedia
The Lordship of a Manor is recognised today in England and Wales as a form of property and one of three elements of a manor
Manorialism
Manorialism, an essential element of feudal society, was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire, was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe, and was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market...

 that may exist separately or be combined and may be held in moieties
Moiety title
Moiety title is legal term describing a portion other than a whole of ownership of property. The word derives from Old French moitié meaning "half" , from Latin medietas "middle", from medius....

. A title, similar to Lord of the Manor, in French would be Seigneur du Manoir, Schloßherr ("Lord of the Castle") in German and godsherre in Norwegian and Swedish.

Historically a Lord of the Manor might be a tenant-in-chief
Tenant-in-chief
In medieval and early modern European society the term tenant-in-chief, sometimes vassal-in-chief, denoted the nobles who held their lands as tenants directly from king or territorial prince to whom they did homage, as opposed to holding them from another nobleman or senior member of the clergy....

 if they held a capital manor directly from the Crown; otherwise they were mesne lord
Mesne lord
A mesne lord was a lord in the feudal system who had vassals who held land from him, but who was himself the vassal of a higher lord. A mesne lord did not hold land directly of the king, that is to say he was not a tenant-in-chief. His subinfeudated estate was called a "mesne estate"...

s if they did not hold directly from the Crown, yet had their own tenants. The origins of the lordship of manors arose in the Anglo-Saxon system of manorialism
Manorialism
Manorialism, an essential element of feudal society, was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire, was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe, and was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market...

, following the Norman Conquest
Norman conquest of England
The Norman conquest of England began on 28 September 1066 with the invasion of England by William, Duke of Normandy. William became known as William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, defeating King Harold II of England...

. Land at the manorial level was recorded in the Domesday book
Domesday Book
Domesday Book , now held at The National Archives, Kew, Richmond upon Thames in South West London, is the record of the great survey of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086...

 of 1086. The title cannot be subdivided. This has been prohibited since 1290 in the Statute of Quia Emptores
Quia Emptores
Quia Emptores of 1290 was a statute passed by Edward I of England that prevented tenants from alienating their lands to others by subinfeudation, instead requiring all tenants wishing to alienate their land to do so by substitution...

that prevents tenants
Tenement (law)
A tenement , in law, is anything that is held, rather than owned. This usage is a holdover from feudalism, which still forms the basis of all real-estate law in the English-speaking world, in which the monarch alone owned the allodial title to all the land within his kingdom.Under feudalism, land...

 from alienating their lands to others by subinfeudation
Subinfeudation
In English law, subinfeudation is the practice by which tenants, holding land under the king or other superior lord, carved out new and distinct tenures in their turn by sub-letting or alienating a part of their lands....

, instead requiring all tenants wishing to alienate their land to do so by substitution
Substitution
Substitution may refer to:- Sciences :* Substitution , a syntactic transformation on strings of symbols of a formal language* Substitution of variables* Substitution cipher, a method of encryption...

.

The owner of a lordship of the manor can be described as [Personal Name], Lord/Lady of the Manor of [Placename],
sometimes shortened to Lord or Lady of [Placename]. In modern times any person may choose to use a name that is not the property of another. Under English common law a person may choose to be known by any name they see fit as long as it is not done to commit fraud or evade an obligation, such changes are often made by deed poll
Deed poll
A deed poll is a legal document binding only to a single person or several persons acting jointly to express an active intention...

. John Martin Robinson
John Martin Robinson
John Martin Robinson, FSA is a British architectural historian and officer of arms.He was born in Preston, Lancashire and educated at the Benedictine school at Fort Augustus, the University of St Andrews and matriculated to Oriel College, Oxford University for his DPhil in 1970...

, Maltravers Herald Extraordinary
Maltravers Herald Extraordinary
Maltravers Herald of Arms Extraordinary is a current officer of arms extraordinary in England. As such, Maltravers is a royal herald, but is not a member of the College of Arms in London. The present office was created in 1887 by the Earl Marshal, who was also the Duke of Norfolk and Baron...

 and co-author of The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, gave his opinion that "Lordship of this or that manor is no more a title than Landlord of The Dog and Duck". A manorial lordship is not an aristocratic title, but a semi-extinct form of landed property. Lordship in this sense is a synonym for ownership, although this ownership involved an historic legal jurisdiction in the form of the Court Baron
Court baron
A Court baron is an English or Scottish manorial court dating from the Middle Ages.It was laid down by Sir Edward Coke that a manor had two courts, "the first by the common law, and is called a court baron," the freeholders being its suitors; the other a customary court for the copyholders...

. The journal Justice of the Peace Local Government Law advises that the position is unclear as to whether a lordship of a manor is a title of honour or a dignity, as this is yet to be tested by the courts.

Lord Denning, in Corpus Christi College Oxford v Gloucestershire County Council [1983] QB 360, described the manor thus: "In mediaeval times the manor was the nucleus of English rural life. It was an administrative unit of an extensive area of land. The whole of it was owned originally by the lord of the manor. He lived in the big house called the manor house. Attached to it were many acres of grassland and woodlands called the park. These were the “demesne lands” which were for the personal use of the lord of the manor. Dotted all round were the enclosed homes and land occupied by the “tenants of the manor”."

There have been cases where manors have been sold and the seller has unknowingly parted with rights to unregistered land in England and Wales.

Manorial rights or incidents

Before the Land Registration Act 2002 it was possible for Manors to be registered with HM Land Registry. Manorial incidents, which are the rights that a Lord of the Manor may exercise over other people's land, are due to lapse on 12 October 2013 if not registered before land they affect is conveyed after that date. This is a separate issue to the registration of lordships of manors, since both registered and unregistered lordships will continue to exist after that date. It is only their practical rights that will lose what is called 'overriding interest', or in other words the ability to affect land even if the interests or rights are not registered against that land, as of 12 October 2013. Manorial incidents can still be recorded for either registered or unregistered manors, however proof of existence of the rights may need to be submitted to the Land Registry before they will be noted and they may not be registered at all after affected land is sold after 12 October 2013. This issue does not affect the existence of the title of Lord of the Manor.

Tenancy

In England in the Middle Ages
England in the Middle Ages
England in the Middle Ages concerns the history of England during the Medieval period — from the end of Roman rule in Britain through to the Early Modern period...

, land was held of the English monarch or ruler by a powerful local supporter, who gave protection in return. The people who had sworn homage to the lord were known as vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

s. Vassals were nobles who served loyalty for the king, in return for being given the use of land. After the Norman conquest of England, however, all the land of England was owned by the monarch who then granted the use of it by means of a transaction known as enfeoffment
Enfeoffment
Under the European feudal system, enfeoffment was the deed by which a person was given land in exchange for a pledge of service. This mechanism was later used to avoid restrictions on the passage of title in land by a system in which a landowner would give land to one person for the use of another...

, to earls, barons, and others, in return for military service. The person who held feudal land directly from the king was known as a 'tenant-in-chief
Tenant-in-chief
In medieval and early modern European society the term tenant-in-chief, sometimes vassal-in-chief, denoted the nobles who held their lands as tenants directly from king or territorial prince to whom they did homage, as opposed to holding them from another nobleman or senior member of the clergy....

' (see also Land tenure
Land tenure
Land tenure is the name given, particularly in common law systems, to the legal regime in which land is owned by an individual, who is said to "hold" the land . The sovereign monarch, known as The Crown, held land in its own right. All private owners are either its tenants or sub-tenants...

).

Sub-tenancy

Military service was based upon units of ten knights (see Knight-service
Knight-service
Knight-service was a form of Feudal land tenure under which a knight held a fief or estate of land termed a knight's fee from an overlord conditional on him as tenant performing military service for his overlord....

). An important tenant-in-chief might be expected to provide all ten knights, and lesser tenants-in-chief, half of one. Some tenants-in-chief 'sub-infeuded
Subinfeudation
In English law, subinfeudation is the practice by which tenants, holding land under the king or other superior lord, carved out new and distinct tenures in their turn by sub-letting or alienating a part of their lands....

', that is, granted, some of their land to a sub-tenant. Further sub-infeudation could occur down to the level of a lord of a single manor, which in itself might represent only a fraction of a knight's fee. A mesne lord
Mesne lord
A mesne lord was a lord in the feudal system who had vassals who held land from him, but who was himself the vassal of a higher lord. A mesne lord did not hold land directly of the king, that is to say he was not a tenant-in-chief. His subinfeudated estate was called a "mesne estate"...

 was the level of lord in the middle holding several manors, between the lords of a manor and the superior lord. The sub-tenant might have to provide knight service, or finance just a portion of it, or pay something purely nominal. Any further sub-infeudation was prohibited by the Statute of Quia Emptores
Quia Emptores
Quia Emptores of 1290 was a statute passed by Edward I of England that prevented tenants from alienating their lands to others by subinfeudation, instead requiring all tenants wishing to alienate their land to do so by substitution...

 in 1290. Knight service was abolished by the Tenures Abolition Act 1660
Tenures Abolition Act 1660
The Tenures Abolition Act 1660 was an Act of Parliament of the Parliament of England passed in 1660. The long title of the Act was An act for taking away the Court of Wards and liveries, and tenures in capite, and by knights-service, and purveyance, and for settling a revenue upon his Majesty in...

.

Manorial courts

Manors were defined as an area of land and became closely associated to the advowson
Advowson
Advowson is the right in English law of a patron to present or appoint a nominee to a vacant ecclesiastical benefice or church living, a process known as presentation. In effect this means the right to nominate a person to hold a church office in a parish...

 of the church and often by default the advowson was appended to the rights of the Manor, sometimes separated into moieties. Many lords of the manor were known as Squires, at a time when land ownership was the basis of power. Some of the inhabitants were serfs and were bound to the land, others were freeholders, known as 'franklins', who were free from feudal service. Periodically all the tenants met at a 'manorial court', with the lord of the manor (or Squire), or a steward, as chairman. These courts, known as Courts Baron
Court baron
A Court baron is an English or Scottish manorial court dating from the Middle Ages.It was laid down by Sir Edward Coke that a manor had two courts, "the first by the common law, and is called a court baron," the freeholders being its suitors; the other a customary court for the copyholders...

, dealt with the tenants' rights and duties, changes of occupancy, and disputes between tenants. Some manorial courts also had the status of a court leet
Court leet
The court leet was a historical court baron of England and Wales and Ireland that exercised the "view of frankpledge" and its attendant police jurisdiction, which was normally restricted to the hundred courts.-History:...

, and so they elected constables and other officials and were effectively Magistrate
Magistrate
A magistrate is an officer of the state; in modern usage the term usually refers to a judge or prosecutor. This was not always the case; in ancient Rome, a magistratus was one of the highest government officers and possessed both judicial and executive powers. Today, in common law systems, a...

s Courts for minor offences.

Later history

The tenure of the freeholders was protected by the royal courts. After the Black Death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

, labour was in demand and so it became difficult for the lords of manors to impose duties on serfs. However their customary tenure continued and in the 16th century the royal courts also began to protect these customary tenants, who became known as copyhold
Copyhold
At its origin in medieval England, copyhold tenure was tenure of land according to the custom of the manor, the "title deeds" being a copy of the record of the manorial court....

ers. The name arises because the tenant was given a copy of the court's record of the fact as a title deed. During the 19th century manor courts were phased out. In 1925, copyhold tenure formally ended with the enactment of Law of Property Acts, 1922 and 1924, converting copyhold to fee simple
Fee simple
In English law, a fee simple is an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership. It is the most common way that real estate is owned in common law countries, and is ordinarily the most complete ownership interest that can be had in real property short of allodial title, which is often reserved...

. Although copyhold was abolished, the title of Lord of the Manor remains, and some of the property rights attached to it will also remain if registered under the Land Registration Act 2002, the act which ends manorial incidents not protected by registration at HM Land Registry by October 2013. The Land Registration Act 2002 does not affect the existence of unregistered lordships after October 2013, only the rights that would have previously been attached to the same.

During the latter part of the 20th century, many of these titles were sold to wealthy individuals seeking a distinction. However, some of the purchasers, such as Mark Roberts
Mark Roberts (businessman)
Mark Roberts is a Welsh businessman notable for the purchase of approximately sixty United Kingdom titles as Lord of the Manor or Marcher Lord and his legal claims to historical rights associated with them...

, went on controversially to exploit the right to claim unregistered land.

Current status

There are three elements to a Manor (collectively called an Honour):
  1. the Lordship or Dignity - this is the title granted by the manor,
  2. the Manorial - this is the manor and its land,
  3. the Seignory
    Seignory
    In English law, Seignory or seigniory , the lordship remaining to a grantor after the grant of an estate in fee simple....

    - these are the rights granted to the holder of the Manor.


These three elements may exist separately or be combined, the first element being the title may be held in moieties
Moiety title
Moiety title is legal term describing a portion other than a whole of ownership of property. The word derives from Old French moitié meaning "half" , from Latin medietas "middle", from medius....

 and may not be subdivided
Fee tail
At common law, fee tail or entail is an estate of inheritance in real property which cannot be sold, devised by will, or otherwise alienated by the owner, but which passes by operation of law to the owner's heirs upon his death...

, this is prohibited by the Statute of Quia Emptores
Quia Emptores
Quia Emptores of 1290 was a statute passed by Edward I of England that prevented tenants from alienating their lands to others by subinfeudation, instead requiring all tenants wishing to alienate their land to do so by substitution...

preventing subinfeudation
Subinfeudation
In English law, subinfeudation is the practice by which tenants, holding land under the king or other superior lord, carved out new and distinct tenures in their turn by sub-letting or alienating a part of their lands....

 whereas the second and third elements can be subdivided.

The Historical Manuscripts Commission maintains two Manorial Documents Registers that cover southern England. One register is arranged under parishes, the other is arranged under manors and shows the last-known whereabouts of the manorial records, the records are often very limited. The National Archives at Kew, London and County Record Offices maintain many documents that mention manors or manorial rights, in some cases manorial court rolls have survived, such documents are now protected by law.

The issues of land claims were raised in the UK Parliament in 2004 and were debated with a reply on the subject from The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs acknowledging 'need for reform of the remnants of feudal and manorial law' as a case was highlighted in Peterstone Wentloog, Wales where villagers were being charged excessive fees to cross manorial land to access their homes.

In 2007, a caution against first registration caused houses to stop selling in Alstonefield
Alstonefield
Alstonefield is a village and civil parish in the Peak District National Park and the Staffordshire Moorlands district of Staffordshire, England. It is about to the North of Ashbourne, drive East from Leek and south from Buxton...

 after Mark Roberts
Mark Roberts (businessman)
Mark Roberts is a Welsh businessman notable for the purchase of approximately sixty United Kingdom titles as Lord of the Manor or Marcher Lord and his legal claims to historical rights associated with them...

, a businessman from Wales also previously involved in the Peterstone Wentloog case registered a caution against first registration for 25000 acres (101.2 km²) after purchasing the lordship of the manor of Alstonefield for £10,000 in 1999. Judith Bray, land law expert from Buckingham University, speaking to BBC about the case said: "This is a long way from the feudal system in the 13th Century, the legal situation is very confusing because a piece of legislation in the 1920s separated manorial rights from the ownership of land".

In reports about the Alstonefield case, the BBC stated that scores of titles are bought and sold every year, some like the one Chris Eubank
Chris Eubank
Chris Eubank, Lord of the Manor of Brighton is a retired British boxer who held world titles at middleweight and super middleweight...

 bought for fun, others seen as a business opportunity. It is entirely lawful, and there is no doubt the titles can be valuable. As well as rights to land like wastes and commons, they can also give the holder rights over land. In response, the report goes on to say that the Law Commission in England and Wales were considering a project to abolish feudal land law but would not review manorial rights.

In many cases, the title of Lord of the Manor may not have any land or rights, and in such cases the title is known as an 'incorporeal hereditament'. Before the Land Registration Act 2002 it was possible to volunteer to register lordship titles with HM Land Registry
HM Land Registry
Land Registry is a non-ministerial government department and executive agency of the Government of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1862 to register the ownership of land and property in England and Wales...

; most did not seek to register. Dealings in previously registered Manors are subject to compulsory registration, however lords of manors may opt to de-register their titles and they will continue to exist unregistered. Manorial rights, such as mineral rights will no longer be able to become registerable after midnight 12 October 2013 after an affected property is sold or transferred after that date.

A manorial lordship or ladyship is not connected to the British honours system, but rather the feudal system. Ownership of a manorial
Manorialism
Manorialism, an essential element of feudal society, was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire, was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe, and was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market...

lordship will be noted on request in British passports through an official observation worded, 'THE HOLDER IS THE LORD OF THE MANOR OF ................', although a Manorial title (i.e. Lord of the Manor) is not a title of nobility, and as stated in the journal Justice of the Peace Local Government Law the courts are yet to determine whether it is a title of honour or a dignity.

External links

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