England Court of Augmentations, Fines, Mortgages, Private Estate Acts of Parliament, Quit Claims, Regnal Years (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Land and Property Records including Manorial Documents and Maps  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Related Matters (cont.)

Court of Augmentations

The Court of Augmentations of the King’s Revenues ran from 1536-1553 to oversee the properties that had come to the crown from the dissolved religious houses. They describe and value the lands and goods and also show the later sales to private people, including the land speculators of the day (see Spufford (The Gentry and the Genealogist. Genealogists’ Magazine Vol 14 #5, page 129-137) and Lawes (The Dissolution of the Monasteries and Chantries. Sources in the National Archives. Genealogist’s Magazine Vol 27 #11, page 483-491)).


An endorsement is the writing on the outside of a deed which explains what it is and from the 19th century gives the date, type of deed, the two principal parties and the property involved. It thus acts as a finding aid when wading through a bundle of deeds, or indeed when scrolling through a film of them where, as it is on the outside of a folded document it is a smaller item and can be easily recognized, see below .

Chart: An Endorsement

[from Pearson]

Mr. James
Richard KEEN

-- to --

John CANN esqre

By Demise of 2 Leasehold
Messuages situate and being
Nos 9 + 10 Lambeth Terrace
Milton Road Water Lane
---------- Brixton ----------

Earlier deeds were not always endorsed at the time they were made, but subsequent clerks may have done so in order to simplify their own work. Occasionally there is reference to a court case, for example examined and produced in the case of A versus B, so further records of this can be pursued.


The term fine was also used to describe the sum of money paid at the conclusion of an agreement by the person favoured. In the accounts for the manor of Tillingham, Essex about 1660 FHL film 1593870 the following fines appear:

Chart: Fines in Tillingham, Essex

Wm DRAKE was admitted, hee died Anno 1659, his wife called Beautee, for a fine and heriots shee paid in Acct £60

When Ric’d EVERETT took up the land having married Ann DRAKE the tenant, was admitted and paid a fine £30

Three Co-heiresses Daughters of Ralph ROYSSON deceased were admitted jointly or severally and paid their fines accordingly £60

Gifts versus Grants

The main mediaeval deed for the transfer of property (land) was the gift this was not a free gift, but a deed conveying the property for a price, although the latter may not be stated on the deed.

Goods and rights (for example to tithes) were conveyed by means of deed called a grant.

Inquisitions ad Quod Damnum

An enquiry made by the county escheators regarding possible effect on the king’s rights of an application to alienate land, or for the grant of a market of fair. Examples of their rather limited use in genealogy are given by Unett and Tanner (Making a Pedigree: An Introduction to Sources for Early Genealogy, 1997).


A mortgage is defined as the pledging of land as security against the advance of money. If the mortgagor (borrower) defaults on repayment, the mortgagee (lender) can enter the estate and sell it in order to recoup his money. Long terms of 500–1,000 years and peppercorn rents were typical.

Chart: A Mortgage in Leicestershire

Castle Donington, Leicestershire
DG8/6 on
FHL film 0477390
20 Sep 1717
(i) William WALTON of Castle Donington, clerk
(ii) Mary MOORE of Derby, spinster.
William, for £100, bargains and sells to Mary 3 acres 3 roods of land [see DG8/5 in Chart 36].

To hold to Mary MOORE for the term of 500 years at peppercorn rent, unless the said William WALTON or his heirs and assigns pay to Mary MOORE £10 per annum for 99 years if she shall live so long.

Seal and part of Signature of William Walton torn away.

Witnesses to Sealing: Hugh Bateman, John BIRDS junior

Endorsed Receipts for annual payments to Mary MOORE 1717-1722.

If the mortgagee wanted his money back, he could not foreclose, but instead found someone else to take over the mortgage; this is termed an assignment of a mortgage. There are other deeds of a similar type called assignments of a term in trust to attend the freehold and inheritance, which redeem mortgages. Mortgages and assignments often had multiple parties to them, and many may be noted as trustees to the main parties. Cornwall explains that this is normal as mortgages were a good form of investment, especially of monies held in trust

Private Estate Acts of Parliament

From 1512 parliament could regulate the tenure of property by private legislative record. Many problems were caused by the strict settlement caused by entailing of family estates and thus the private acts became a method of overcoming these. The most common problem was the inability to raise large sums of money for an immediate need, such as farm improvements, development of new uses such as mining, or to pay off debts. The private Act of Parliament or Estate Act provided a solution to such problems, and from 1660 these increased rapidly in number until 1882 when the Settled Land Act allowed life-tenants to sell their land.

An example from Surrey is described by Bond in which an indebted estate was rescued by a private act of parliament. In 1717 at age 11, Richard HEATH had inherited both his father, Sir Thomas HEATH’s, lands including the manor of East Clandon and debts of over £6,000 with a personal estate of only £1,022 with which to pay it. The widow Dorothy HEATH and two other relatives were charged by a private Act of Parliament enacted 22 June 1717 with selling certain parts of the estate (all described in detail) and paying the debts to the various named creditors, for example Henry Quennell butcher and Thomas MARTIN yeoman. Acts did not only relate to the nobility of wealthier gentry, but petitions for Acts were also received from doctors, clergymen, business men and impoverished widows.

Other reasons for Estate Acts included provisions for charitable institutions, church livings, the disabled, parish boundary changes, and trustee appointments and Bond has further details of these. The Estate Acts had to pass through the House of Lords in great detail (and whose records survived the fire in 1834), and then the House of Commons (whose records largely did not survive); everything remaining is at the House of Lords Record Office.

In addition, many schemes for public works such as canals, railways, harbours and turnpikes were promoted by private Acts of Parliament. Many were opposed by local residents and a database of the expert witnesses employed from 1771-1917 is available at the House of Lords Record Office.

Quit Claims

A quitclaim is a formal release or discharge from a claim to property. For example, a widow held her dower (one third of her late husband’s estate) only for her life and could renounce her right to a portion of it by means of a quitclaim so that her son could sell it. If she had inherited the property herself then it was not part of her dower, and she could sell some or all of it by means of a gift (qv).

Chart: Quit Claim for Land in Yorkshire—from an estate sale in British Columbia,
Canada and used to adorn a lawyer’s office!
[A copy is now in the Northallerton Record Office]

William COOKSON senior, merchant of Leeds, quit claims after receiving £30 from
Leonard BOLLAND apothecary of Settle
in respect of land called Butts Close in Settle.
11 Aug 1697
Know All Men
by these presents that I William COOKSON senior of Leeds in the County of Yorke merchant for and in consideration of the summe of Thirty pounds of lawfull English money to me in hand paid before the execution of these presents have remised, released for ever quit claimed and confirmed and hereby do fully and absolutely remise, release for ever quit claim and confirm unto Leonard BOLLAND of Settle in the said County or Yorke apothecary in his actuall and reall possession thereof now being, and to his heirs and assignees All that our Close or enclosure of arable or meadow ground called Butts Close lying and being within the Townfeilde of the said Settle containing by estimation three roods be it more or lesse and all my full and whole interest, title, property and demand on, in, to and out of the same and the reversion and reversions, remainder and remainders thereof
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD the said Butts Close with its appurtenances unto the said Leonard BOLLAND, his heirs and assignees for ever Absolutely without any condition of limitation or redemption in any wise.
In Witness whereof I, the said William COOKSON, have set my hand and seal unto these presents dated the eleventh day of August Anno Domini 1697.
[signed and sealed] Will. Cookson
Sealed and delivered on stampt paper in the sight of
Bryan Cookson, R.isteinsons(?)

Regnal Years

In the Middle Ages it was customary to date documents by the year of the monarch’s reign and one sees them as 34 Henry II which indicates 1187-88 Anno Domini. Regnal years begin on the first day of the reign so 34 Henry II ran from 19 Dec 1187 until 18 Dec 1188. They are still in use formally today, for example on Acts of Parliament, but for several hundred years it has been common to also indicate the year A.D. on documents. Detailed lists of regnal years can be found in various genealogical and local history aids such as those by Fitzhugh (Dictionary of Genealogy, 1998), Hey (The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History, 1996) and Richardson (The Local Historian’s Encyclopaedia, 1985), but the most detailed is C. R. Cheney’s Handbook of Dates (1991).


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Land and Property Records including Manorial Documents and Maps offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

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