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The conversion of copyhold tenure to leasehold occurred over a long period, particularly from the mid‐16th century onwards. The conditions attached to leases varied from manor to manor but, as a generalization, in the western half of England the favoured method was a lease for three lives determinable upon 99 years. The lessee paid an entry fine and an annual rent and his lease held good as long as one of the entered names was still alive. It was common to enter the names of husband, wife, and eldest son, though any names could be chosen. Surviving leases of this kind are a useful source for genealogy. Given the high incidence of infant mortality, there was no advantage in entering the names of young children. Fresh lives could usually be entered upon the payment of another entry fine. These fines were negotiable; during the first half of the 17th century lords usually managed to raise them to meet inflation. This method of holding property was obviously insecure, but on balance it was regarded as comparable with, and probably slightly better than, the method favoured in the eastern half of England, namely a lease for 21 years. Long leases, including some lasting 800 years or more, were offered on some estates; on the other hand, short terms, e.g. three years, could also be negotiated. Estate records often include a good run of leases; surveys of estates give an account of the various ways in which property was held.

Subjects: History.

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