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Copyhold in United Kingdom

Definition of Copyhold

In accordance with the work A Dictionary of Law, this is a description of Copyhold :

Formerly, ownership of land enforceable only in the court of the lord of the manor and not protected by the sovereign’s courts (See about the feudal system here). The owner’s title comprised a copy of an entry in the rolls of the lord’s court. By the Law of Property Act 1922 copyhold tenure was abolished and existing copyholds were converted into freeholds.


Heriot, by derivation the arms and equipment (geatwa) of a soldier or army (here); the O. Eng. word is thus here-geatwa. The lord of a fee provided his tenant with arms and a horse, either as a gift or loan, which he was to use in the military service paid by him. On the death of the tenant the lord claimed the return of the equipment. When by the 10th century land was being given instead of arms, the heriot was still paid, but more in the nature of a “relief” (see more information here).

There seems to have been some connexion between the payment of the heriot and the power of making a will (F. W. Maitland, Domesday Book and Beyond, p. 298). By the 13th century the payment was made either in money or in kind by the handing over of the best beast or of the best other chattel of the tenant (see Pollock and Maitland, History of English Law, i. 270 sq.). For the manorial law relating to heriots, see above in this entry.

Meaning of Copyhold

The following is an old definition of Copyhold [1]: Lords of manors, from time out of mind, having permitted villains to enjoy their possessions without interruption, in a regular course of descent, the common law, of which custom is the life, gave the villains title to prescribe against the lords, and, on performance of the same services, to hold the lands under the lord’s will, that being in conformity with the customs of the manor as preserved and evidenced by the rolls of the courts-baron. In England, to-day, a copyhold, in a general way, distinguishes a customary tenure from a freehold.


Notes and References

  1. Concept of Copyhold provided by the Anderson Dictionary of Law (1889) (Dictionary of Law consisting of Judicial Definitions and Explanations of Words, Phrases and Maxims and an Exposition of the Principles of Law: Comprising a Dictionary and Compendium of American and English Jurisprudence; William C. Anderson; T. H. Flood and Company, Law Publishers, Chicago, United States)

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(2017, 05). Copyhold lawi.org.uk Retrieved 07, 2021, from https://lawi.org.uk/copyhold/

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Agostino Von Hassell, 'Copyhold' (lawi.org.uk 2017) <https://lawi.org.uk/copyhold/> accesed 2021 July 30

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Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Copyhold
  • Author: Agostino Von Hassell
  • Description: Definition of Copyhold In accordance with the work A Dictionary of Law, this is a description of Copyhold : Formerly, [...]

This entry was last updated: May 17, 2017


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