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Manorial Lordships
The following briefing on manorial lordships is produced here with the permission of the Manorial Society of Great Britain. (This is not to be confused with the "Manorial Society of England", an organisation too closely associated with bogus titles.)
Under the laws of real property (real estate) in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, Lordships of the Manor are known as 'estates in land' and in Courts, where they may appear in cases connected with real property, they are often simply called 'land'.

They are technically 'incorporeal hereditaments' (literally, property without body) and are well glossed from the English and Welsh point of view in Halsbury's 'Laws of England', vol viii, title 'Copyholds', which is available in most solicitors' offices and central reference libraries.

Manors cover an immutable area of land and may include rights over and under that land, such as rights to exploit minerals under the soil, manorial waste (e.g. the verges of roads), commons and greens. While it has always been the case that manorial rights can sometimes have a high value, this is rare because rights are frequently unknown and unresearched (or are just not commercial), and purchasers should not expect a manorial Eldorado.

To some extent, potential rights are unexploited simply because Manorial Lords do not know what they have. This is particularly so of what is left of the great estates where land has been sold off in the last 100 years but the Manors retained because, until the last 30 years, there was little perceived value in them.

Consequently, like other real property, they belong to someone and may be conveyed in precisely the same way as you would convey a house. But just as you would not contemplate the purchase of a house without legal advice, so you would be unwise to contemplate the purchase of a Manor without legal advice, and you should appoint an independent solicitor (attorney).

He or she will be looking principally for one thing: whether the person or company is the legal owner of the Manor. 'Legal owner' is an important expression in law, and is quite different from a similar sounding expression, 'beneficial owner' (such as a beneficiary under a Will where the legal owner is the Executor or Trustee).

The legal owner is also different from someone who claims, via divers purported searches or Copyrights, or Trade Marks, to be Lord of the Manor. Such assertions are bogus insofar as Lordships are concerned. (It is also unlawful in Britain to buy and sell Copyrights or Trade Marks, except in the context of a corporate change of ownership where brand names pass with the enterprise being sold.)

Once instructed in a purchase, your solicitor will ask the vendor's solicitor for what is known as Epitome of Title: i.e. proof of ownership over not less than 15 years (20 years in Ireland). Proof of ownership is normally found in family or estate documents (such as Assents, Probates, Wills, Settlements) and sometimes in Statutory Declarations, the latter supported by persuasive secondary sources, such as county histories, Copyhold enfranchisements, etc.

Your solicitor will check also by searches that there are no cautions on the Land Register, that the seller is not bankrupt or (if a company) where it is incorporated, and whether it has been struck off or is in receivership.

Location of an incorporated company may be important if some matter concerned with the sale or with rights should come to Court. Essentially, it is easier to deal with such matters in the legal jurisdiction in which the Manor is found, and not through a Virgin Islands, or US company.

Your solicitor will also check that the Manor is purchased 'unencumbered' (i.e. that there are no hidden costs, such as the duty to repair the chancel of the local church, known as the 'lay rectorship', or to maintain the village green).

It is not a very complicated job for your solicitor, but it is worth spending £300 or £400 with him to ask the right questions of the seller's solicitor and to get the correct paperwork. We mentioned commercial rights: do not forget that if by chance there are potentially valuable rights on the Manor, the first thing you need to prove your legal entitlement to them is accurate (legal) title and conveyance.
© 2000 The Manorial Society of Great Britain
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