COPYHOLD, a species of estate or right of property in land in Ireland and England, nearly resembling in many particulars the feu-rights of Scotland. C. is expressed techni cally as "tenure by copy of court-roll at the will of the lord, according to the custom of the manor." This means, that it is tenure of land, being part of a manor, the title being evidenced by the court-rolls of the manor, and the right of the owner being in conformity with the immemorial customs of the manor. The addition, " at the will of the lord," serves only as a memorial of the derivation of this species of estate from the estates granted in old times to the bondsmen. or villeins (q.v.). which were of course •resumable at the pleasure of the lord. But the will of the lord is now absolutely con trolled by the custom of the manor, which forms the law of the tenure; and as this custom must be immemorial, i.e., extending to the reign of Richard H., no C. can now be created.
The custom of each manor may vary in important particulars. In some, the C. lands are held for life only; in sonic, they descend according to particular rules of their own; in most, however, they descend according to the ordinary rules of succession. Bnt the custom, whatever it may be, cannot be altered by the 'holder of the C.; he cannot, for instance, entail his land unless the custom warrants him.
An important point, also dependent entirely upon special custom, is the amount of the money-payments due by the copyholder to the lord of the manor. These are divided into the rents, an annual payment of the nature of the Scottish fen-duty; fines; payments on particular occasions, such as alienation or succession; and lmeriots, or the best piece of personal property, to which, on the death of time copyholder, the lord becomes entitled. As to fines, it may be observed, that the custom may either fix the amount, or it may leave them to beat the pleasure of the lord; but as the courts of law require that al] customs, even when indefinite. shall be reasonable, they have fixed the extreme amount that can be exacted at two years' rent of the land.
One practical distinction of much importance, drawn between freehold and C. land,
is the mode in which it must be conveyed. An ordinary conveyance is ineffectual in regard to C., and indeed would operate, like other attempts to break through the cus tom which forms the title. as a forfeiture. The course adopted is almost identical with the Scottish resignation. The owner comes to the steward of the manor, and by a sym bolical delivery, according as the custom may prescribe, surrenders the land to the lord of the manor, in order that it may be granted again to such person, and on such terms as are desired, and as the custom authorizes. The steward, by a repetition of the sym bolical delivery, transfers the C. to the person in question, in terms of the surrender; and he then pays the customary fine, and takes the oath of fealty. This is called con veyance by surrender and admittance. In the case of an heir succeeding, there is no surrender, but there is admittance only upon payment of the customary fine, and it is enforced by a customary penalty. A mortgage is effected by a surrender. upon condi tion that the money is repaid, and the admittance takes place only in event of failure of payment. A C. may, in like manner, be devised by will, the devisee being admitted on the death of the devisor. A comparison between C. and the Scotch feu will be found iu Paterson's Compendium of English and Scotch Law. p. 57.
The inconveniences and loss accruing through the variety of customs to which C. lands are subject, have led the legislature to make provision for their gradual extinction, By the copyhold commissioners, all the services clue to the lord of the manor may be commuted for a fixed rent. The lord of every manor is also authorized to enfranchise, or convert into freehold, the C. lands by agreement with their owners. And after the next admittance subsequent to 1st July. 1853, either the lord or the tenant so admitted may compel enfranchisement on payment, either of a fixed sum, where it is at the instance of the lord, or of an annual rent, where it is at the instance of the tenant, fixed in both cases by the commissioners.