Among my father's papers I found an incredible 19th-century legal document. It is handwritten on two pages of parchment, each 667mm by 558 mm, and is folded face inwards with two vertical folds, and then two horizontal folds, giving a package 230mm by 200mm. The document is dated the 26th of September, 1862, and the outside surface is inscribed:

West Derby

The Representatives of Mr Edward Latham Turner

TO Messrs William Potter and Matthew. D. Lowndes

Copy Surrender of the residue of a term of 1000 years in copyhold Land and Messuages in Everton


Titlepage of the document



Photograph of page 1 of the document


The document verges on being incomprehensible, as the lines of writing cover the full width of the page, so that it is very easy to skip lines when you are trying to read it, there are no breaks, and the text is full of archaic legal jargon and is very repetitious. The sequence of events described on it is extremely complicated, so it took me a long time to transcribe it, and even longer to work out what it was all about. At first I thought that the Lord of the Manor was ripping off one of his tenants, but eventually I realised that it was the 19th-century equivalent of a reverse mortgage.

It involves a property in Everton, Lancaster (now a suburb of Liverpool), owned by The Most noble James Brownlow William Gascoigne Cecil Marquis of Salisbury Lord of the Manor of West Derby. The property was apparently leased by one Edward Turner, one of the customary tenants of the Manor. As I understand it, the sequence of events was as follows.

On the 29th of June, 1807, Turner surrendered the property to the Lord of the Manor.

On the second of July, 1807, John Gibb was admitted tenant of the property, on a 1000 year lease at a rent of one penny per annum.

John Gibb then immediately surrendered the property back to the Lord of the Manor.

The Lord of the Manor then readmitted Turner tenant of the property, on the same lease conditions, but subject to a ‘cessor’ (or conditional clause) providing that if Gibb paid agreed annuities to both Turner and his wife Betty, as long as each survived, the lease would then revert to Gibb, his heirs executors or administrators.

In 1808 Turner died. His wife then married George Gordon, who also died before her.

On the first of October 1840 Betty Gordon died.

Her executors William Horsman and Dorothy Crane inherited her property.

Horsman then died, and on the 13th of August 1862 Dorothy Crane was admitted tenant of the property.

As the agreed annuities had been paid as required during the lifetimes of Turner and Betty Gordon, the lease should have been surrendered when she died, but Crane had omitted to do so.

Meanwhile the effective ownership of the property had passed from Gibb through a series of hands to William Potter and Matthew Lowndes of Liverpool.

On the 16th of August 1862 Crane was called before the Deputy Steward of the Manor, and agreed to surrender the land, in exchange for 10 shillings, to the Lord of the Manor.

Finally the document, dated the 26th of September, 1862, proclaimed that William Potter and Matthew Lowndes were admitted tenants of the property, for the residue of the term of 1000 years, with the rent remaining at one penny.

There are a number of extraordinary features about the document:

  • Although the property is to be leased for 1000 years, there is no plan of it, and it is identified purely in terms of the occupiers of the adjacent land. Even the road which it faces is identified only as "the road leading to the house late of Mr John Larsen". I imagine that it would be virtually impossible to identify the property today from the information in this document.
  • The rent was set at one penny per year, for 1000 years, at the same time that Gibb agreed to pay a price for the lease which turned out to be £1800.
  • The first page bears a duty stamp for £1/2/6d, and the second for 10/-. Both these have a design incorporating the Royal Coat of Arms, embossed on a material that appears to be blue parchment. In each stamp one quarter of the arms is overlaid with metal foil. Taken together, these stamps represent 390 years rent.
  • In the margin of the second pages there is a note which states “Entry and fine: One third of a penny.” To the best of my knowledge there has never been a coin which would make it possible to pay this fine.
  • It appears that when the legal secretary got to the final proclamation he realised that he had not allowed sufficient space for it, as this is exceedingly brief, in marked contrast to the excessive wordiness of the rest of the document. He had probably quoted for a two-page document, and could not afford the expense of a third.

The Duty Stamp on the first page.

My father had a distant cousin whose name was Turner, and it is conceivable that he was given the document by this cousin. However I am sure that in this case he would have put an explanatory note with it. He was a lawyer, and a magpie, and I think it is much more likely that he found it in an antique booksellers, and bought it for its curiosity value.

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019

"Reverse Mortgage" Legal Document