American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. An English system of land tenure from Anglo-Saxon times to 1926 that provided for the equal division of land among all qualified heirs.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. Originally, in old English law, the tenure of land let out for rent, including in that term money, labor, and provisions, but not military service; also, the land so held. The most important incident of this tenure was that upon the death of the tenant all his sons inherited equal shares; if he left no sons, the daughters; if neither, then all his brothers inherited equal shares. When the feudal system introduced the law of primogeniture, the county of Kent and some other localities were privileged to retain this ancient custom of inheritance.
- n. Hence In general use, land in Great Britain or Ireland, or an estate therein, which by custom having the force of law is inheritable by all the sons together, and therefore subject to partition, instead of going exclusively to the eldest. The word has been used in the following different senses, of which only the first and second are strictly correct: socage tenure in England before the Conquest (see
socage); immemorial socage tenure in the county of Kent, England; the body of customs allowed on ancient socage lands in Kent; the customs of partible descents in Kent; any custom of partition in any place. Elton.
- n. historical a system of inheritance associated with the county of Kent in England whereby, at the death of a tenant, intestate estate is divided equally among all his sons; also, a similar system employed in Ireland
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (O. Eng. Law) A tenure by which land descended from the father to all his sons in equal portions, and the land of a brother, dying without issue, descended equally to his brothers. It still prevails in the county of Kent.
- Middle English gavelkinde : Old English gafol, gavel; see gavel2 + Old English gecynd, kind; see kind2. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“In Kent, there was so-called gavelkind tenure; land descended to all sons in equal shares.”
“In Kent, under the system known as gavelkind tenure abolished in 1925, land descended to all the sons equally.”
“The possession and inheritance of landed property was regulated by the law called gavelkind (gavail-kinne), an ancient Celtic institution, but common to Britons, Anglo-Saxons, and others.”
“Was it the purpose or effect of these charters to bring in gavelkind tenure?”
“Not to inherit by right of primogeniture, gavelkind or borough”
“English and gavelkind, therefore, though not the same, are near akin; and it is an interesting question which of the two was prior to the other.”
“On the other hand, gavelkind may have been, so to speak, grafted on a more simple usage which the community, through change of circumstances, had outgrown, and had ceased to possess the same justification as at first.”
“It may be that gavelkind is the older, and that Borough English is a remnant or distortion of what appears, on the face of it, a more equitable condition of things.”
“Heston, Edmonton, etc. Another interesting tenure is that of gavelkind, by which the land and property of the father was inherited in equal portions by all his sons, the youngest taking the house, the eldest the horse and arms, and so on.”
“On the death of a freeholder his land was divided amongst his sons equally, according to what is called "the custom of gavelkind.”
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