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In the feudal era of England and Wales, the manor was the smallest administrative unit of land that had feudal obligations. The manor would be divided into plots of farmland and allocated to villeins, that is, the bonded labourers at the bottom of the feudal hierarchy. The manor was in the charge of a lord, who maintained the manorial records and administered the system generally.

So, in land law, the term 'manor' does not denote a building, however grand; it denotes a system of land management. The manor would, however, normally have had within it a manor house and its grounds, as the residence of the lord of the manor.

The interests in land held by the lord of the manor were of two kinds. First, there was the corporeal interest in the land of the manor itself. Then there were the incorporeal interests associated with the lordship. These included the right to collect tithes for certain uses of the land, the right to manage the manorial records, and various oddities (to a modern way of thinking). The oddities quite frequently included coronation duties, such as the duty to present the King with a glove at his coronation.

The corporeal and incorporeal interests eventually came to be traded separately, and the lordship of the manor, and the land of the manor, became distinct interests in land. Because the land of the manor is just ordinary land, it does not require any special legal treatment. Consequently, when modern legislation refers to a 'manor', the term now general denotes the rights of the lord of the manor, not the land of the manner.

Lordship of the manor is of great historical interest, but very rarely of any practical value these days. For a discussion of the purchase of manorial rights as a source of vanity titles, see the titles game.

Land and Property Law