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In the 1700s, Britain was predominantly rural and population growth was kept in check by harvest failures and diseases like influenza and typhus throughout the century. At this time in the country, there was a new interest in variety and consumerism developing, with people beginning to buy more.

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, all land in the country was owned by the Crown, with the Crown granting land to earls and barons who in turn began to grant land to the knights. Someone who held the land from the crown was known as a tenant in chief, and if he held several villages he can sublet them to other men. If there were administrative courts in these villages, then these villages were called manors, and the lord of the manor would be responsible for the behaviour of his tenants. The lord of the manor would have a court leet and a court baron, the latter of which would lease land from the manor by copyhold and allow villagers to have it.

Transferring Of Freehold Land

The normal method in early 1700s and earlier would be a symbolic act of transfer of a piece of property known as livery by seisin. A rod or want would be transferred from the Lord of the manor to the new tenant. This made it difficult to avoid any land fees after such a public display. Slowly, the evidence of ownership of a property would come to be called title deeds. Anyone selling, mortgaging or transferring land to another transferred it with the title deeds acquired when they originally bought the land. This would include documents of former conveyances, deeds of bargain and sale, manor roll forms, probate copies of wills and marriage settlements.


While property was granted rather than bought in the 1700s, we’ve seen this process rapidly evolve over the years, and more luxurious houses were built. In the 18th century, a small minority of people would live in luxury by building their own great country houses, but it would be these people who were already tenants of the land, and could afford to pay the fees. The leading architect in England in the 18th century was Robert Adam who created the neo-classical style and designed many of the country houses that were built during this period.

Modern Day Comparison

While purchasing your own property in the 1700s was unheard of due to all of the land being owned by the Crown (in fact the first mortgage was introduced in the 1930s), the modern day comparison would be having an office to rent or a home to rent in the UK today. While fees were paid from the tenants of the land to the lords of the manor who were granted the land by the Crown, this is similar to the way that rent is paid to landlords in modern times. While property can be bought and houses can be owned by the individuals living there they can choose to rent this out to tenants, in a similar way land was rented in the 1700s.