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Fine of lands

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Fine of lands

A fine of lands, also called a final concord, or simply a fine, was a species of property conveyance which existed in England (and later in Wales) from at least the 12th century until its abolition in 1833 by the Fines and Recoveries Act.

Form

The conveyance took the form of the record of a fictitious lawsuit, compromised or terminated by the acknowledgment of the existing owner (known as the deforciant, impedient or tenant, depending on the original writ used to levy the fine) that the land in question was the rightful property of the claimant (the plaintiff, querent or demandant). In reality, the deforciant had already agreed to sell the land, and the plaintiff to buy it: the suit was, in other words, a collusive action between the two parties. In the most common means of levying a fine, the plaintiff would bring a writ of covenant alleging that he and the deforciant had entered into a covenant to transfer some real property, but the deforciant had not held up his end of the bargain. In all actions used to levy a fine, before the court could render judgment, and typically on the same day the writ was returned, the parties would seek leave of the court to compromise, and then compromise on terms where the deforciant admitted that the real property was the right of the plaintiff.[1][2] A fine was said to be "levied".[1]

A specimen of a fine from 1303 including both parties' chirographs and the foot of the fine.

The court provided each party with a copy chirograph of the agreement, which became the purchaser's deed of title to the land. From about 1195, it became standard practice for a third copy, known as a foot of fine, to be retained in the court records.[3] The standard opening formula of the document ran "Hec est finalis concordia ..." in Latin (before 1733); or "This is the final agreement ..." (from 1733 onwards).[4]

Purpose

In the Middle Ages, the advantage of obtaining title to property through a fine (as opposed to, for example, a simple feoffment or deed of gift) was that it provided the transaction with the additional legal authority of a royal or court judgment, and ensured that a record of the conveyance would be preserved among the court archives.

In the post-medieval period, the fine continued to serve a useful and necessary purpose, as it allowed an entail to be barred, or allowed a wife to bar her right to dower. (In other circumstances, a Common Recovery was used for the same purpose.) The true intention of the fine was often explained in a separate document, known as a Deed to lead the uses of a fine if it was executed beforehand, or a Deed to declare the uses of a fine if it was executed afterwards.[1]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c (Dibben 1968, p. 17)
  2. ^
  3. ^ (Digby 1892, p. 105)
  4. ^ (Dibben 1968, p. 18)

References

External links

  • United Kingdom National Archives Research Guide to Feet of fines
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