Manuscripts and Special Collections

Introduction to deeds

Photograph of a Lease and Release, 1813 (Ne 6 D 2/31/14-15)

Deeds are legal documents concerning the ownership or tenure of property. The property in question may be tangible, such as land or buildings, or it may be intangible, such as a right or privilege, a rent charge and so on. The property may be held in three different ways:

  • as freehold - that is for an indefinite duration
  • as leasehold - that is for a limited, specified duration
  • as copyhold - that is by a special tenure held of the lord of a manor

Owners or holders of property are said to have a 'title' to that property. Deeds are documents which help to prove that title. Various different types of document constitute deeds: abstracts of title; bargain and sales; bonds; common recoveries; feoffments; final concords; lease and releases; marriage and other forms of settlement; mortgages; surrenders and admissions; wills - basically any document affecting the title, or proof of ownership or tenure, of the property concerned.

See the glossary for an explanation of each type of deed and terms associated with them.

The information provided within this skills module aims to assist users in their understanding and interpretation of deeds and to provide details of reference sources.

Throughout the module, illustrative images are taken from the collections held by Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham.

This unit was written in September 2005.


Next page: What do deeds look like?



Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651