1902 Encyclopedia > Gavelkind

Gavelkind




GAVELKIND is a peculiar system of tenure prevailing chiefly in the county of Kent, but found also in other parts of England. In Kent all land is presumed to be holden by this tenure until the contrary is proved. It is more cor-rectly described as socage tenure, subject to the custom of gavelkind. The chief peculiarities of the custom are the following. (1.) A tenant can aliène his lands by feoffment at fifteen years of age. (2. ) There is no escheat on attainder for felony, or as it is expressed in the old rhyme—

" The father to the bough, The son to the plough."

(3.) Generally the tenant could always dispose of his lands by will. (4.) In case of intestacy the estate descends not to the eldest son but to all the sons in equal shares. " Every son is as great a gentleman as the eldest son is." It is to this remarkable peculiarity that gavelkind no doubt owes its local popularity. The 4 & 5 Vict. c. 35, for commuting manorial rights in respect of lands of copyhold and custom-ary tenure, contains a clause specially exempting from the operation of the Act " the custom of gavelkind as the same now exists and prevails in the county of Kent." Gavelkind is one of the most interesting examples of the customary law of England, and it is no doubt correctly traced to the Saxon land-law prevailing before the Conquest. Its sur-vival in this instance in one part of the country is regarded as a concession extorted from the Conqueror by the superior bravery of the men of Kent.








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