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.

The privileges granted to each tenant, and the exact services he was to render to the Lord of the Manor in return for them, were described in a book kept by the Steward, who gave a copy of the same to the tenant; consequently these tenants were afterwards called copyholders in contrast to freeholders.[1]

Two main kinds of copyhold tenure developed:

  1. Copyhold of Inheritance: with one main tenant landholder who paid rent and undertook duties to the Lord. When they died, the holding normally passed to their next heir - who might be the eldest son/daughter (primogeniture); or youngest son/daughter (Borough English or ultimogeniture); or a division between children (partible inheritance), depending upon the custom of that particular manor. During their life the tenant could usually 'sell' the holding to another person by formally surrendering it to the Lord to be regranted to them. This was recorded in the court roll and formed the new 'copyhold' for the purchaser.
  2. Copyhold for Lives: three named persons were nominated, the first-named was the holder tenant and held for the duration of their life. The other two were said to be 'in reversion and remainder' and effectively formed a queue. When the first life died, the second-named inherited the property and nominated a new third life for the end of the new queue. These were recorded in the court rolls as the 'copyhold' for this type of tenant. It was not usually possible for these holdings to be sold, as there were three lives with an entitlement. Copyhold for Lives is therefore regarded as a less secure tenancy than Copyhold for Inheritance.

Genealogists may find it helpful to note that copyhold land often did not appear in a will. This is because its inheritance was already pre-determined, as just described. It could not therefore be given or devised in a will to any other person.

Copyholds were gradually enfranchised (turned into ordinary holdings of land – either freehold or 999-year leasehold) as a result of the Copyhold Acts during the 19th century. By this time, servitude to the Lord of the Manor was merely token, discharged on purchasing the copyhold by payment of a "fine in respite of fealty". Part V of the Law of Property Act 1922 finally extinguished the last of them.


See also

Tenure in feu (the general name for the following)
Tenure by grand sergeanty
Tenure by petty sergeanty
Tenure of Knight-service
Tenure by frankalmoin or free alms
Tenure by socage (including such forms as)
borough English
Tenure of villeinage (which preceded copyhold).



Further reading

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Copyhold — Cop y*hold , n. (Eng. Law) (a) A tenure of estate by copy of court roll; or a tenure for which the tenant has nothing to show, except the rolls made by the steward of the lord s court. Blackstone. (b) Land held in copyhold. Milton. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Copyhold —   [ kɔpɪhəʊld] das, s, im 14. Jahrhundert in England gewohnheitsrechtlich entwickelte Form der bald als erblich betrachteten Landleihe. Dabei erhielten die Pächter von Bauerngütern, die zu einer Grundherrschaft (Manor) gehörten, zur Sicherung… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • copyhold — [käp′ēhōld΄] n. Eng. Law tenure of property less than a freehold, proved by a written transcript or record in the rolls of a manorial court …   English World dictionary

  • copyhold — /kop ee hohld /, n. 1. (formerly) a type of ownership of land in England, evidenced by a copy of the manor roll establishing the title. 2. an estate held under such ownership. [1400 50; late ME; see COPY, HOLD1] * * * In English law, a form of… …   Universalium

  • copyhold — In England a species of estate at will, or customary estate, the only visible title to which consisted of the copies of the court rolls, which were made out by the steward of the manor, on a tenant s being admitted to any parcel of land, or… …   Black's law dictionary

  • copyhold — noun Date: 15th century 1. a former tenure of land in England and Ireland by right of being recorded in the court of the manor 2. an estate held by copyhold …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • copyhold — noun A former form of tenure in which the title deeds were a copy of the manorial roll [...]this quiz with all the strange old terms in it, curtilage and messuage and socage and fee simple and fee tail and feoffee and copyhold and customary… …   Wiktionary

  • copyhold — cop•y•hold [[t]ˈkɒp iˌhoʊld[/t]] n. 1) why (formerly) a type of ownership of land in England, evidenced by a copy of the manor roll establishing the title 2) why an estate held in copyhold • Etymology: 1400–50 …   From formal English to slang

  • copyhold — See copyhold estate …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • Copyhold — Land held of the lord of a *manor but according to local custom custom being defined and recorded in the manorial court records. The copy referred to the manorial record of which a copy might be held; or referral could be made to the original. By …   Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases

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