H is for Housing

The law on housing is extensive and complex so this post will consider two aspects which influenced life in Springhill.

The first is the
copyhold system. Briefly, copyhold was a form of tenure based on the customs of the lord of the manor, in this case of Accrington New Hold which fell under the Honor of Clitheroe. The right to the land was conferred by an entry in the court rolls, of which the tenant had a copy. Such entries were made at the Halmote and are recorded in the court rolls. They involved a series of largely symbolic actions which leads to potentially confusing entries in deeds ('by the rod surrendered'). Both parties attended court to They also involved an entry fine, usually equivalent to one year's rent. Tenancies locally were often for a series of lives, usually three. They also customarily either involved provision for the dower or a (usually fictitious) court case to ensure dower.

Over time copyhold land was increasingly enfranchised, particularly following the Copyhold Acts of 1852 and 1894. These allowed for the mineral rights to be retained by the lords of the manor. In Rossendale the copyhold system was in place until it was eventually extinguished by the Law of Property Act 1922. Even then, the lords of the Honor of Clitheroe reserved the mineral rights…

The second is the law as relating to
married women's property in the late C19. Much of the land in Springhill and around was held by ladies who subsequently married. Before the Married Women's Property Act 1870 (45 & 46 Vict. c.75), married women couldn't hold or control property in their own right. Property owned on marriage passed to her husband and property acquired during the marriage also passed to him unless it was specified as being for her own sole and separate use.

This lead to the establishments of Settlements in Anticipation of Marriage being drawn up.Those pertaining to Springhill, of Mary Ann Ashworth, Elizabeth Ann Ashworth and Mary Alice Ashworth were usually signed the day before their wedding. These are super documents for one place studies as they list all the properties owned by the woman in question, with location, usually tenants and often the name of the person from whom it was purchased.

Part of these settlements was the establishment of Trusts to allow the estate to be managed independently of that of the husband. Interestingly in the case of Elizabeth Ann Ashworth, her husband was one of the trustees.

The Married Women's Property Act 1870 recognised married women as a separate legal identity to that of her husband. It gave her the right to hold, inherit, buy and sell property in their own right and name. She could also sue and be sued in her own name and was liable for her debts.