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Mind your manors!

06 July 2012

What are ‘manorial rights’?

They are rights an estate may possess by virtue of owning the lordship of the manor. Sporting rights, mineral rights, the right to hold fairs and markets on property are just a few.

Mineral and sporting rights are distinct in that they, because of their value, are usually explicitly dealt with in a conveyance or transfer. Therefore, where they arise, they will have been expressly granted or reserved and picked up by the Land Registry as a registerable disposition of the land.

Historical background

Manorial rights stem from feudal times when Lords of the Manor enjoyed certain privileges and rights that came with, and were attached to, the Lordship of the Manor. ‘Land of the manor’ was held by copyhold tenants with the Lord of the Manor holding the superior or freehold title. The term ‘copyhold’ originates from the tenant’s attendance at the manorial court where the tenant would receive confirmation of his tenancy by ‘copy’ of the court roll from the Lord of the Manor or his steward.

The copyhold tenant had possession of the land but ownership of the mineral and sporting rights over the copyhold remained with the Lord of the Manor. With the land reforms of the nineteenth century, copyhold tenants were given the right to acquire the freehold under various Acts of Parliament culminating in the Law of Property Act 1922. This automatically enfranchised all remaining copyhold land in the country, turning it into freehold. However, even after the copyhold tenant acquired the freehold title to his land, often the Lord of the Manor’s interest in the mineral and sporting rights remained with the Lord.

Land that might also retain interests of the Lord of the Manor is land that was enclosed as a result of an enclosure award. When the commons and wastes of manors were enclosed in the 18th and 19th centuries and allotted to new owners, the enclosure award sometimes reserved sporting and mineral rights back to the Lord.

Rights continue

Traditionally manorial rights continued to bind the surface owner of the land because of their designation as ‘of overriding interests’. That is to say they took precedence over any other property interest. These interests overrode both first registration of the title and the disposal of registered land. So, the purchaser of the surface land would have acquired the land subject to the manorial rights even if they are not shown on the register of title.

This is where a change in the law is about to occur.

Land Registration Act 2002

 One of the aims of this Act was to make the registered title more comprehensive and complete so that purchasers would have full knowledge of what they were buying, up front.

The Act reduced the classes of overriding interests – those rights which bind property without a need for registration – and required those with the benefit of manorial rights to register them in order to bring them to the attention of prospective purchasers.

Action

This registration must be done before 13 October 2013 in order to ensure they are protected. After that date, if a purchaser buys a property and there is no notice on the registered title excluding the mineral or sporting rights, then the purchaser will acquire the property inclusive of such rights. It will be too late for the Lord of the Manor to subsequently register his interest!

As always, if you need commercial and pragmatic legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.

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Adam Hale BA (Hons), TEP, FALA
Senior associate, solicitor
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Adam Hale
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