Land Registry has today (31 March 2014), released details of the first properties registered under the Land Registry Act 1862. Anyone researching a family tree or tracing the history of a property can view or download almost 2,000 records free of charge from our Digital Archives.
All but a few of the handwritten registers, that were too fragile to be handled, have been scanned and indexed. Sixty-eight thousand parchment pages now provide you with a digital snapshot of life in the 19th century. The Land Registry Act 1862 was passed by Parliament on 29 July, to simplify conveyancing and make the cost more affordable.
Before 1862, there was no central registration of title (evidence of legal ownership), although local Deeds Registries did store some records locally. The 1862 Act enabled landowners to voluntarily register title to their property, creating ownership certainty, making dealings in land simpler and more economical.
With the introduction of the 1862 Act, anyone registering a property had to provide proof of ownership and account for all discrepancies in the documentary evidence of the title for the previous 60 years. If they were unable to do so, the registration could not be completed. The whole process was significantly more difficult and costly than today, hampering mass take-up.
Sir Fitz Roy Kelly, a successful lawyer and Member of Parliament, was the first person to register his stately Suffolk home on 21 March 1862. Today the property is owned by a charity, providing hospice and neurological care to the terminally ill.
In 1866 business partners John Stephenson and Luke Collinge registered the title for Whittlefield Mill located in the parish of Whalley next to one of their Burnley mills. During the years of the cotton famine in the 1860’s, as a man with a social conscience, Luke Collinge was very concerned about its effect on the mill workers. Today this land forms part of the M65 verge.
The 1862 Act registers are a priceless collection of property history in England and Wales, which is now publicly accessible. When you access the database you can search all three of the registers below:
- The Register of Estates with an Indefeasible Title: contains information about the property location, including details about the parish and county, and the date the property was first registered.
- The Record of Title to Lands on the Register: contains the date the person was registered as proprietor, their name and address. It may also refer to a deed which may contain some limitations on the use of the land.
- The Register of Mortgages and Incumbrances: contains details about any mortgages or leases which may affect the property.
The Instrument Books contain deeds and documents that support the registration process. Typically these documents were conveyances of land, marriage and/or death certificates, wills and other agreements. Most of these files will shortly be digitised and made available to you, adding another rich seam of information to your search.