From 13 October 2013, rights reserved to the lord of the manor will cease to be legally overriding interests when that land is sold, unless they are registered at the Land Registry. This means that once an arm's length purchaser has paid to buy the property over which the lord of the manor could exercise the rights, the lord's rights will be lost forever.
Manorial rights are not the rights which might have been expressly reserved out of sales from Estates. Those rights are of a different legal type and are not affected by the 2013 date. The rights to be registered are those relating to freehold land which used to be held as ‘copyhold'. Copyhold is an ancient form of land tenure where the occupant held the land as a tenant of the lord of the manor. After 1840, most copyholders were able to obtain the freehold of their land, a process known as enfranchisement. During the enfranchisement, some lords of the manor, although not all of them, reserved rights over the copyhold land to themselves. The rights reserved of particular interest to modern landowners are mineral and sporting rights.
We have been approached by several Estates who are interested in investigating whether they have manorial rights worth registering. The first step is to establish what rights, if any, exist and are documented. This requires:
- a brief review of the Settled Land Act vesting deeds for the Estate to see if any manors are listed;
- an investigation at the public records office at Kew or online to see if there are any court books for the manors for the relevant period (post 1840). The records are online for some counties, but not all;
- a review of the court books at the county records office or in the Estate archives, if held there, to look for possible copyhold land; and
- a review of a selection of the copyhold records to see if the manor was one which by custom reserved rights such as mineral or sporting rights.
Assuming the initial steps are successful, the next stage would involve going through the individual records and matching the copyhold land against modern OS plans so that title could be deduced to the Land Registry and the rights registered. This is a more time consuming exercise than the initial review. However, it would be worth carrying out the registration if it looked as though there were significant parcels of open land with manorial minerals or other valuable rights reserved to the lord of the manor.