Gavelkind ( // ) was a system of land tenure chiefly associated with the Celtic law in Ireland and Wales and with the legal traditions of the English county of Kent.
The word may have originated from the Old Irish phrases Gabhaltas-cinne or Gavail-kinne, which meant "family settlement" (Modern Gaelic gabhail-cine).The term came to describe all tenure and inheritance practices where land was divided equally among sons or other heirs.
Kent's inheritance pattern was a system of partible inheritance and bears a resemblance to Salic patrimony. As such, it may bear witness to a wider Germanic tradition that was probably ancient. Over the centuries, various acts were passed to disgavel individual manors, but the custom was only fully abolished in England and Wales by the Administration of Estates Act 1925.
Before the abolition of gavelkind tenure by the Administration of Estates Act 1925, all land in Kent was presumed to be held by gavelkind until the contrary was proved.It was more correctly described as socage tenure, subject to the custom of gavelkind. The chief peculiarities of the custom were the following:
Gavelkind, an example of customary law in England, was thought to have existed before the Norman Conquest of 1066, but was generally superseded by the feudal law of primogeniture introduced by the Normans.Its survival in Kent has been popularly attributed to a concession made to the people of the county by William the Conqueror, although this suggestion is now largely dismissed by scholars as legend.
In medieval Wales, a legal framework had developed based on the ancient Celtic laws and traditions similar to those in Ireland. These included a custom of gavelkind inheritance known as cyfran.
Cyfran was an ancient tradition passed down orally by jurists and bards until the mid-10th century, when the laws were finally codified during the reign of Hywel Dda. The Cyfraith Hywel would become the most well-known and widely-adopted Welsh legal structure, and many of the laws were concerned with inheritance. The concept of cyfran stated that on a landowner's death, his land would be divided equally among all of the sons, including those who were illegitimate.
The continual division of lands and titles with each successive generation has been seen by some historians as detrimental to the success and stability of Welsh princes and lords, especially compared to the system of primogeniture practised in Norman England and by the Marcher Lords, whose entire patrimony was often passed on directly to the eldest son. The Welsh historian Philip Yorke, writing in 1799, summarised the situation:
Our laws of gavelkind, had ill effect, applied to the succession as the freedom of the State; it balanced the power and raised the competition of the younger branches against the elder; a Theban war of Welsh brethren ending in family blood, and national destruction.— Philip Yorke, The Royal Tribes of Wales, p. 46
The Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542 saw the Welsh legal system being replaced with English law, and the laws associated with gavelkind were replaced with those of primogeniture. However, as in England, the custom of gavelkind was not finally abolished until the Administration of Estates Act 1925.
In Ireland, gavelkind was a species of tribal succession by which the land, instead of being divided at the death of the holder amongst his sons, was thrown again into the common stock and redivided among the surviving members of the sept.
Under Traditional Irish law, land was divided at the death of the holder among his sons. The Normans called the Irish inheritance law gavelkind because of its apparent similarity to Jutish gavelkind inheritance in Kent.
The Jutes, Iuti, or Iutæ were one of the Germanic tribes who settled in Great Britain after the departure of the Romans. According to Bede, they were one of the three most powerful Germanic nations, along with the Angles and the Saxons:
Those who came over were of the three most powerful nations of Germany—Saxons, Angles, and Jutes. From the Jutes are descended the people of Kent, and of the Isle of Wight, and those also in the province of the West Saxons who are to this day called Jutes, seated opposite to the Isle of Wight.
Earl is a rank of the nobility in the United Kingdom. The title originates in the Old English word eorl, meaning "a man of noble birth or rank". The word is cognate with the Scandinavian form jarl, and meant "chieftain", particularly a chieftain set to rule a territory in a king's stead. After the Norman Conquest, it became the equivalent of the continental count. Alternative names for the rank equivalent to "earl" or "count" in the nobility structure are used in other countries, such as the hakushaku (伯爵) of the post-restoration Japanese Imperial era.
Copyhold was a form of customary land ownership common from the Late Middle Ages into modern times in England. The name for this type of land tenure is derived from the act of giving a copy of the relevant title deed that is recorded in the manorial court roll to the tenant; not the actual land deed itself. The legal owner of the manor land remained the mesne lord, who was legally the copyholder, according to the titles and customs written down in the manorial roll. In return for being given land, a copyhold tenant was required to carry out specific manorial duties or services. The specific rights and duties of copyhold tenants varied greatly from one manor to another and many were established by custom. By the 19th century, many customary duties had been replaced with the payment of rent.
Primogeniture ( ) is the right, by law or custom, of the firstborn legitimate child to inherit the parent's entire or main estate in preference to shared inheritance among all or some children, any illegitimate child or any collateral relative. In most contexts, it means the inheritance of the firstborn son ; it can also mean by the firstborn daughter.
The Popery Act of 1704 required land held by Roman Catholics to be divided equally between all a landholder's sons, both legitimate and illegitimate, on his death. This had formerly been normal under the law of gavelkind, a law abolished by the Dublin administration in 1604. Known as sub-division, this inheritance practice continued by tradition until the middle of the 19th century.
In English law, a fee simple or fee simple absolute is an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership. A "fee" is a vested, inheritable, present possessory interest in land. A "fee simple" is real property held without limit of time under common law, whereas the highest possible form of ownership is a "fee simple absolute," which is without limitations on the land's use.
Tanistry is a Gaelic system for passing on titles and lands. In this system the Tanist is the office of heir-apparent, or second-in-command, among the (royal) Gaelic patrilineal dynasties of Ireland, Scotland and Mann, to succeed to the chieftainship or to the kingship.
The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state on the island of Great Britain from 12 July 927, when it emerged from various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, until 1 May 1707, when it united with Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Lord of the Manor is a title that, in Anglo-Saxon England, referred to the landholder of a rural estate. The lord enjoyed manorial rights as well as seignory, the right to grant or draw benefit from the estate. The title continues in modern England and Wales as a legally recognised form of property that can be held independently of its historical rights. It may belong entirely to one person or be a moiety shared with other people.
An Act to prevent the further Growth of Popery, commonly known as the Popery Act or the Gavelkind Act, was an Act of the Parliament of Ireland that was passed in 1703 and amended in 1709. One of a series of Penal Laws against Roman Catholics, the law enforced Irish farm subdivision as a rule of inheritance.
A demesne or domain was all the land retained and managed by a lord of the manor under the feudal system for his own use, occupation, or support. This distinguished it from land sub-enfeoffed by him to others as sub-tenants. The concept originated in the Kingdom of France and found its way to foreign lands influenced by it or its fiefdoms.
Quia Emptores is a statute passed by the Parliament of England in 1290 during the reign of Edward I that prevented tenants from alienating their lands to others by subinfeudation, instead requiring all tenants who wished to alienate their land to do so by substitution. The statute, along with its companion statute Quo Warranto also passed in 1290, was intended to remedy land ownership disputes and consequent financial difficulties that had resulted from the decline of the traditional feudal system in England during the High Middle Ages. The name Quia Emptores derives from the first two words of the statute in its original mediaeval Latin, which can be translated as "because the buyers". Its long title is A Statute of our Lord The King, concerning the Selling and Buying of Land. It is also cited as the Statute of Westminster III, one of many English and British statutes with that title.
Cyfraith Hywel, also known as Welsh law, was the system of law practised in medieval Wales before its final conquest by England. Subsequently, the Welsh law's criminal codes were superseded by the Statute of Rhuddlan in AD 1284 and its civil codes by Henry VIII's series of Laws in Wales Acts between 1535 and 1542.
Brehon is a term for a historical arbitration, mediative and judicial role in Gaelic culture. Brehons were part of the system of Early Irish law, which was also simply called "Brehon law". Brehons were judges, close in importance to the chiefs.
Partible inheritance is a system of inheritance in which property is apportioned among heirs. It contrasts in particular with primogeniture, which was common in feudal society and requires that the whole or most of the inheritance passes to the eldest son, and with agnatic seniority, which requires the succession to pass to next senior male.
Ultimogeniture, also known as postremogeniture or junior right, is the tradition of inheritance by the last-born of a privileged position in a parent's wealth or office. The tradition has been far rarer historically than primogeniture or partible inheritance.
Forced heirship is a form of testate partible inheritance which mandates how the deceased's estate is to be disposed and which tends to guarantee an inheritance for family of the deceased.
Under Brehon law, gavelkind, a form of partible inheritance, was the system of land inheritance. The Normans called the Irish inheritance law the name gavelkind because of its apparent similarity to Jute inheritance in Kent.
The Meonwara were one of the tribes of Anglo-Saxon Britain. Their territory was a folkland located in the valley of the River Meon in Hampshire that was subsumed by the Kingdom of Wessex in the late seventh century.
Historical inheritance systems are different systems of inheritance among various people.