Manuscripts and Special Collections

Tenancy agreement


Temporary conveyance of property for an unspecified period of time.

Features of tenancy agreements

  • 17th-20th centuries
  • various sizes
  • written on parchment, or paper by the nineteenth century
  • usually written in English
  • indenture (wavy top edge) until the end of the nineteenth century, then deed poll (straight top edge)
  • seal

Important words and phrases

Leases were granted by a 'lessor'. The person taking the lease was the 'lessee'.

Tenancy agreements are similar to leases:

  • They will include the phrase 'hath demised granted set and to farm let'. In Latin, the phrase is 'ad firmam dimisi'
  • There will be a rent payable to the lessor at specified times during the year, and sometimes services carried out for the lessor. The words usually used here are 'yielding and paying...'

Instead of a fixed term of a number of years, or a more uncertain term of three lives, tenancy agreements were considered as indefinite. The term is usually defined as '... from year to year'. The tenancy would remain in place until one or other of the parties terminated it. They are similar to modern-day shorthold tenancies.

They may be described in archive catalogues as 'Memorandum of agreement', 'Articles of agreement', 'lease from year to year', or 'tenancy agreement'.


Ne 6 D 17/1/23 - Tenancy agreement with Mr Charles Parsons for a cottage and land at Bushbury [near Brockham] in the parish of Betchworth, Surrey; 21 Nov. 1902

Deed Ne 6D 17/1/23  Deed Ne 6D 17/1/23

View this deed: front | reverse

This tenancy agreement has the following typical characteristics:

  • It is headed 'Memorandum of an Agreement'
  • Although the deed is made between two or more parties, it is a deed poll, that is the top of the deed is cut in a straight line. In the previous century it would have been an indenture, but the format of deeds was simplified at the end of the nineteenth century
  • The term of the agreement is for one year, 'and so on from year to year'

This transcription of the important parts of the tenancy agreement has been broken down into the standard sections common to most deeds from the early modern period onwards.


21st day of November 1902


Between Lord Henry Francis Hope Pelham Clinton-Hope and his Trustees hereinafter described as the Landlords (by William Bessent their Agent) of the one part and Mr Charles Parsons hereinafter described as the Tenant of the other part

Operative Parts or 'Testatum'

The Landlords hereby agree to let & the Tenant to take


all that Cottage, Garden, Pasture land & Buildings situate at Bushbury in the Parish of Betchworth in the County of Surrey, comprising 7a. 1r. 33p. or thereabouts, and more particularly delineated in the Schedule annexed. As the same was in the occupation of the late James Harding


for the term of One year from the 29th day of September 1902 and so on from year to year until determined by either party giving to the other Twelve Calendar Months previous notice in writing, at the rent of Twenty Pounds (£20) per annum, to be paid quarterly on the usual quarterly days, the first quarterly payment to be made on the 25th day of December next

Covenants, Conditions and Provisos

[The bulk of the agreement is made up of 'stipulations and agreements' to be performed and observed by the tenant. They can be classified as follows:]

  • Agreement to pay rates and taxes as specified
  • Not to break up any pasture land
  • Not to mow land more than once a season
  • Not to cut down timber or remove any land or other material
  • To preserve boundaries
  • Only one family to reside in the cottage; not to underlet any part of the premises or to allow trade or business to be carried out there without consent
  • To clean cess-pools and closets and to dig the refuse into the ground
  • To keep the cottage in good order and to repair all damage
  • Not to erect any other buildings without consent
  • To give free access at all times to the Landlords and their agents and workmen


Signed by Charles Parsons. Witnessed and signed by William Bessent, Land Agent


Schedule of land written at the bottom of the last page. No endorsements beyond a description of the document.


Next page: Deeds relating to Copyhold land


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