This section is from the book "Real Property, An Introductory Explanation Of The Law Relating To Land", by Alfred F Topham. Also available from Amazon: The New Law Of Property.
By far the most important and at the present day practically the only remaining form of tenure in fee simple is socage or lay tenure.
At the present day a tenant in fee simple usually holds his land direct from the Crown, and is practically owner of the land; hut cases still remain in which the tenant in fee simple holds of an over-lord, who holds of the Crown.
To explain this some history is again necessary. .In the time of William I. if A held land in fee simple from the king, he could grant the same land to B to hold of him in fee simple, and B could grant it to C to hold of him, and so on, so that the land would be held as follows: -
Each of these, A, B, and C, having a fee simple.
Again C could at that time make a further grant to D to hold of him: but each such "Subinfeudation " made the tenant in possession, from whom services were due, more and more removed from A, who was entitled to the services. Hence the tenants in chief obtained the passing of the following statute.
Statute Quia emptores (18 Edw. I. c. l) abolished subinfeudation.
That is to say, it prevented C from granting lands to D in fee simple to hold of him (C); but on the other hand it gave him free power to grant them to D, provided D held of the same lord (B) from whom C held.
Thus the change of ownership shown in dark capitals was impossible after the act.
But the following change became possible under the act -
Note. - A, B, C, and D all hold in fee simple.
Hence a tenant in fee simple cannot now grant land to another to hold of him in fee simple, but he can of course still grant his land to another to hold of him for a term of years (as in the case of an ordinary lease), or for any other estate which is less than the fee simple.
Seignory. - When land is held of another person in fee simple the lord is said to have a seignory or lordship.
Thus, in the example given, A and B each has a seignory. Seignory, then, simply means having a tenant in fee simple holding of you.
Manor. - When several lands are held by different tenants in fee simple of the same lord, the lord is said to have a manor.
Thus if X and Y both hold as tenants in fee simple of B, B has a manor. A manor usually has many peculiarities which will be dealt with under the head of copyholds; but for the present it is sufficient to note that -
It is essential for a manor that there should be at least two tenants holding of the lord of the manor in fee simple.
If the number of fee simple tenants is reduced to one, or none, the manor becomes a "reputed manor."
Neither a manor nor a seignory can be created without subinfeudation, and therefore new manors or seignories cannot be created now.
But manors and seignories still exist at the present day, being old tenures created before 1290 a.d.
The services due from a tenant in fee simple to the lord of the seignory were and are as follows: -
Time of William I.
Fealty. - The tenant must swear fidelity to his lord.
The oath of fealty can still be exacted, but never is.
Services, generally of an agricultural nature, which were even then sometimes commuted for a money payment, called quit rent.
Quit rent is still payable, but the amount became fixed several centuries ago, when the value of money was much greater. Thus, a rent of £2 per annum would be an important rent in the time of Edward I., but would now be merely a nominal rent for a large estate, and has probably been forgotten in the course of centuries.
Thus we see that a seignory at the present day is almost an empty right, and the tenant in fee simple who holds of an overlord is practically owner, except that he may have to pay a small annual quit rent, a relief of the same amount, and fealty
Relief. - A sum payable on the death of each tenant, usually equal to one year's quit rent.
Beliefs still exist, unless they have been forgotten for the same reason.
Aids. - The tenant had to pay his lord the three customary aids, namely, to provide him with money -
Aids have practically ceased to exist.
(a) For his ransom.
(6) For the knighting of his eldest son.
(e) For the marriage of his eldest daughter.
Escheat. - If the tenant died without heirs and intestate, the land escheated, or went to the lord.
Escheat still exists, but the right seldom arises, as tenants now usually make wills, and, if not, they seldom die without heirs (see pp. 85-91).
Forfeiture. - If the tenant was attainted, or executed for felony, his lands were forfeited, and went to the lord.
Forfeiture was abolished 'in 1870 (a).
Suit of Court. - The tenant must attend the lord's court (see p. 182).
Suit of Court may still exist, but is of no practical importance.
(a) 33 & 31 Vict. c. 23.
which is never exacted, and if he dies without a will and without heirs, his land which would otherwise go to the Crown, escheats to the overlord.
There were other forms of socage or lay tenure, but only two of these (of any importance) survive at the present clay.
Gavelkind Tenure (b) has five peculiarities: -
(1) It is found chiefly in Kent.
So much so that land in Kent is presumed to be Gavelkind unless the contrary is proved.
(2) It descends to all male heirs in the same degree equally.
Usually fee simple lands descend, on intestacy to the eldest son or his issue, or if there are no sons or children of sons, to the daughters equally; but gavelkind lands descend to all the sons equally, and this rule also applies to other relations.
Re Chenoweth; Ward v. Develley  2 Ch. 488. F. Chenoweth, who was a tenant of gavelkind lands in Kent, died in 1900. His nearest male relations were two cousins and the children of a deceased cousin.
Held, the land will go, as to one-third, to each of the two cousins, and the remaining third to the children of the deceased cousin.
(3) The dower of a widow on the death of her husband is one half of his lands for her life, so long as she remains unmarried and chaste.
In ordinary fee simple lands (as will be seen later) the widow gets one third of the lands for her life, without the further limitations as to second marriage and chastity (see p. 129).
(4) The husband of a female tenant takes, on her death, a life estate, by curtesy, of one half of her lands, whether issue of the marriage have been born or not.
(b) Derived from Gavel, or Gavol - rent, because the services in Kent were very early commuted for a money payment.
In ordinary fee simple land the husband takes a life estate in the whole of his wife's lands on her death (if she dies intestate), but only if issue of the marriage has been born alive (see p. 126).
(5) An infant tenant can convey the land by feoffment at the age of 15.
An infant tenant of ordinary fee simple lands cannot convey them, except sometimes for the purpose of a marriage settlement (see p. 120).
Borough English. - A form of tenure, -which existed, chiefly in Nottingham, before the Norman Conquest, by which the lands descend to the, youngest son.
But this rule of the youngest taking does not apply to brothers or other relations unless there is a special custom to that effect (c).
Another old form of tenure was tenure in-ancient demesne, which dates from Edward the Confessor, and denotes lands which were held of the king as a private landowner rather than as sovereign. The tenants had special privileges. This form of tenure is now extinct.