Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Copyhold, a term applied to lands held by tenure of Copy of Court Roll (as the name partly denotes) and according to the custom of the manor. In the reign of Edward I. copyholders were still in the aboriginal state of villenage, cultivating the demesne lands of the lord merely as serfs, and having no certainty of tenure. In the reign of Edward III. they obtained a comparative certainty of tenure, so long as they performed the accustomed services; finally, in Edward IV.'s reign, they could maintain an action against their lord for trespass or wrongful ejection. The essentials of a copyhold tenure, according to Blackstone, are - (1) That the lands be parcel of and situate within that manor under which they are held; (2) that they have been demised or demisable by Copy of Court Poll immemorially. To the present day copyholds retain some traces of their frail original. Thus for some purposes the copyholder is still a mere tenant-at-will of his lands, the freehold therein remaining in his lord, who, therefore, is owner of all the mines and minerals under the land (though he cannot work them without the tenant's consent, except by a local custom), and also of the timber upon it; and the copyholder cannot without licence lease the lands for a longer term than one year, or commit any waste. Nevertheless, the copyholder when admitted is possessed of a quasi seizin of his lands; in other words, he is seised of them as against all the world except his lord. There may be all variety of estates in copyhold lands - for life, pur autre vie in tail, or in fee simple; but with reference to estate tail in copyholds there is some distinction, all manors not admitting this tenure. Copyholds were first made liable for the debts of the owner after his decease in 1833, and, in 1838, during his life. They are also liable, in bankruptcy, to the same extent as freeholds. They are devisable without any previous surrender to the use of the will, but if the owner dies intestate, they descend to his customary heir. Upon the death of a tenant, his lord is entitled to seize his best beast, and he is also entitled to many other fines and perquisites on death, alienation, etc.

Enfranchisement of copyholds, voluntary and compulsory, has been provided for by several statutes. The effect of enfranchisement is that the lands become freehold, but with the saving of all commonable rights and beneficial limitations. Enfranchisement is now carried out in the office of the Land Commissioners, 3, St. James's Square, London, where scales of compensation, etc., can be obtained.