Charter Land – “freehold land” held under royal charter or deed (generally for churches and leaders)

charter land:
(bef. 12c)

1. Hist. Land held under royal charter or deed; freehold land.  *  This was a privileged form of ownership (usually free of the customary burdens on land) generally reserved for churches and leaders. — Also spelled bocland; bockland. — aka bookland.  Cf. LOANLAND; FOLKLAND. [1]

     Excerpt from Termes de la Ley (1st. Am. ed. 1812):

     “Charter-land is such as a man holds by charter, that is, by evidence in writing, which otherwise is called freehold. . . . [T]his land was held with more easy and commodious conditions, than folkland and copy-hold land held without writing; . . . it is a free and absolute inheritance; whereas land without writing is charged with payment and bondage; so that for the most part noblemen and persons of quality possess the former, and rustics the other. The first we call freehold and by charter: the other, land at the will of the lord. [2]

     Excerpt from Kenelm E. Digby’s An Introduction to the History of the Law of Real Property (5th ed. 1897):

     “From very early times it was common to make grants of land to religious bodies or to individuals. The grants were effected by the king as the chief of the community, with the consent of the great men, who in conjunction with the great ecclesiastics, after the introduction of Christianity, formed the Witenagemot, or Assembly of the Wise. The grant was made by means of a ‘book’ or charter. Land thus granted was said to be ‘booked’ to the grantee, and was called bocland or bookland. Thus bookland comes to mean land held under a written instrument by private persons or churches; who or whose predecessors are, or at least are supposed to have been, grantees of the community. The practice seems, after the introduction of Christianity, to have prevailed chiefly in favour of religious houses, and in this way the great ecclesiastical corporations acquired their property. . . . In process of time the conception of bookland seems to be coextensive with that of alodial land. [3]

     Excerpt from A.K.R. Kiralfy, Potter’s Outlines of English Legal History (5th ed. 1958):

     “Prior to the Conquest, property in land was divided into bocland, folcland, and laenland. The exact nature of these rights has been disputed, but probably bocland was held by owners of high station claiming under a charter of privileges originally granted by the King, while folcland was held by ordinary owners according to the custom of the district in which the land lay. Laenland, or loanland, appears to have represented something in the nature of a tenancy of a less enduring character. It derived its existence from the loan of land by one person to another, and hence emphasizes the relation later known as that of feudal landlord and tenant. Furthermore, as bocland became more common, a tendency for laenland and bocland to coalesce appeared. [4]


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Termes de la Ley 80 (1st. Am. ed. 1812).

[3]: Kenelm E. Digby’s An Introduction to the History of the Law of Real Property 11-12 (5th ed. 1897)

[4]: A.K.R. Kiralfy, Potter’s Outlines of English Legal History 195 (5th ed. 1958).


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