COPYHOLD. A species of estate or right of property in land in Ireland and England, the modern form of the ancient tenure in villeinage, and closely resembling in many particulars the feu rights of Scotland. Copyhold is expressed technically 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 imme mrAial 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 bondmen, or villeins. which estates were of course resumable at the pleasure of the lord. Bnt the will of the lord is now absolutely controlled by the custom of the manor, which forms the law of the tenure; and as this custom must be immemorial, i.e. ex tending to the reign of Richard I., no new copy holds can he created.
The custom of each manor may vary in impor tant particulars. In some the eopyhold lands are held for life only; in some they descend ac cording to particular rules of their own; in most, however, they descend according to the ordinary rules of succession. But the custom, whatever it may be, cannot he altered by the holder of the copyhold; he cannot, for instance, entail his land unless the custom warrants it.
.One practical distinction of much importance, drawn between freehold and copyhold land, is the mode in which it must be conveyed. An ordinary conveyance is ineffectual in regard to copyhold, and, indeed, would operate, like other attempts to break through the custom which forms the title, as a forfeiture. The owner comes to the steward of the manor, and by a symbolical delivery, ac cording 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
symbolical delivery, transfers the eopyhold to the person in question in terms of the surrender; and the transferee 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 cus tomary penalty. A mortgage is effected by a surrender upon condition that the money is re paid, and the admittance takes place only in event of failure of payment. A copyhold may in like manner be devised by will, the devisee being admitted on the death of the devisor.
The inconveniences and loss accruing through the variety of customs to which copyhold lands are subject led the legislature to provide for their gradual extinction. By consent of the copy hold commissioners, all the services due to the lord of the manor may lie commuted for a fixed rent. The lord of every manor is also authorized to en franchise, or convert into freehold, the copyhold lands by agreement with their owners, and either the lord or the tenant may compel enfranchise ment 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. See .MANOR; TENURE; SERF; and consult: El ton, Treatise on the Lan of Copyholds and Cus tomary Tenures of Land (2d ed., London. 1893) ; and Scriven, Treatise on Copyhold, Customary Freehold, etc. (7th ed., London, 1896).