This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more

Law Notes History of English Law Notes

Introduction To History Of Land Law Notes

Updated Introduction To History Of Land Law Notes

History of English Law Notes

History of English Law

Approximately 129 pages

History of English Law notes fully updated for recent exams at Cambridge, UK. The notes cover all the major History of English Law cases and so are perfect for anyone studying law in the UK or a great supplement for those doing legal history studies abroad, whether that be in Ireland, Canada, Hong Kong or Malaysia (University of London). These notes are formed from a reading of the cases and numerous textbooks and are vigorous and concise. Every major topic is dealt with in three ways:

A) Sho...

The following is a more accessible plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our History of English Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:

History of Land Law

Writ of right patent:

Assize of Windsor and Magna Carta

Petty assizes:

  1. Novel disseisin

  2. Mort d’ancestor

Writs of entry:

Replevin: Lords enforcing rights to services

Incidents of Tenure

  1. Aids

  2. Fines on alienation

  3. Relief and primer seisin

  4. Escheat

  5. Customary dues

  6. Wardship and marriage


  1. Mortmain

  2. Method of conveyance - substitution and subinfeudation


  1. Statute de Viris Religiosis (1279)

  2. Quia Emptores

Fee Simple

Protection of widows

  1. Dower

Protection of younger sons and daughters

  1. Entail

  2. Maritagium


  1. Statute de Donis – protects intentions of donors

  2. Attempts to bar entails:

  • Warranty Conveyance

  • Right of re-entry

  • Common recovery

  • Final concord

  1. Perpetual settlements not possible


Pre-Conquest: Anglo Saxon

The Conquest

Conquest made little change at peasant level – Normans came to exploit the peasantry. However, at upper levels of society (regional kings and barons) the Conquest makes a break. They were all displaced and replaced by Lords. Only a few Anglo-Saxon people remained significant land holders and William the Conqueror rewarded people with land, not money.


Bookland provided for a grant of land from the king in perpetuity to one who would be liable for military service, and to forfeiture of the land for failure to perform that service. The book was a royal charter recording the grant, which can be contrasted with folk land, held on customary terms.

What was the influence of bookland on the higher class after the invasion? Merges in Norman feudal tenure and the term disappears. The importance of bookland:

  1. Bookland was subjected to and protected by royal authority; so if (as some argue) in decades immediately after Conquest there was significant royal influence in relation to land holding, that may have its roots in the pre-conquest period. The Norman conquerors happy not to treat their new acquisition as a clean slate. The proprietary of royal involvement in land holding was carried across into the Anglo-Norman period.

  2. Bookland appears to approach ‘property’ even in a strict legal sense. Given the fulfilment of limited and specific requirements (i.e. military service) the holding of bookland was clear. It could be alienated and inherited. And could be left by will. Look like lawyer’s property ownership of land.


Post Conquest: 1066 - 1290

Political Developments

  • Last Anglo-Saxon Wessex king was Edward the Confessor who died childless in 1066. Was succeeded by brother in law, Harold Godwinson. Defeated in October 1066 by William Duke of Normandy.

  • William I (the Conqueror), reigned from 1066 until 1087. Claimed throne by rightful grant. Upon his death he was succeeded by his son William II (‘Rufus’), who died in 1100.

  • William II was succeeded by his younger brother Henry I, who died in 1135. Henry I wished to be succeeded by his daughter Matilda, widow of the Emperor Henry V. He failed to grant her lands or castles or crown her.

  • The Anarchy - Within weeks of Henry I’s death the throne had been seized by Matilda’s cousin, Stephen, son of Henry I’s sister Adela. Stephen’s kingship was shortly confirmed by the pope, but ‘[f]rom then on it was steadily down hill’ (+ David Carpenter, The Struggle for Mastery, Britain 1066-1284), and there followed a period of disorder (‘the anarchy’) as Stephen and Matilda and their respective supporters struggled for the throne. Intermittent civil war. War ended in stalemate.

  • Under the Treaty of Winchester 1153, Henry II, Matilda’s son, came to the throne upon Stephen’s death in 1154. Treaty provided Stephen retain the throne for life and then be succeeded.

  • Henry II came to the throne in 1154 against a background of anarchy. The Great Statute 1290.



Substitution vs. Subinfeudation - Not just alternative forms of conveyance, but different kinds of arrangement:

  • ‘Subinfeudation’: A ‘vertical’ transaction by which original tenant remains in place as lord’s tenant and creates a new tenure so the grantee will hold of him. Describes transaction whereby a grantee of land was admitted to hold it as tenant of the grantor – to ‘enter in the fee’ ofgrantor. Does not disturb relationship between the vendor and his lord on alienation. Alienation by subinfeudation was ended in 1290.

E.g. The tenant-in-chief wishing to provide himself with a fighting man to satisfy his obligations to the king will make a subinfeudation.

A subinfeudation can be made without the participation of the grantor’s lord. However, the lord does have an interest in the matter because there could be impairment in either his services or his incidents.

  • ‘Substitution’: A ‘horizontal’ transaction by which the grantee is substituted as the lord’s tenant and the original tenant just drops out of the picture. Alienation of the land by replacing one tenant with another. On feudal principle this could never be done without the lord’s consent. It was common for unfree tenures (the lord’s consent could be paid for), but rare for free tenures.

E.g. A tenant who has acquired lands elsewhere, perhaps by marriage, may prefer to sell his present tenement outright for a capital sum rather than subinfeudate it for rent or services.

+ Milsom: Argued that in reality this was not one ‘horizontal’ transaction, but two ‘vertical’ ones: Tom who is now Harry’s tenant must surrender the tenement to Harry, and Harry must make a new grant to Dick.

Distinction: Note distinction between subinfeudation (downwards – creates a relationship of lord and tenant) and substitution (horizontal – steps into T’s shoes, T drops out of picture) is significant: they are not merely alternative modes of conveyance. These two are different, one more appropriate than another in given situations.


Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our History of English Law Notes.