Encumbered Estates' Court

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The Encumbered Estates' Court was established by an Act of the British Parliament in 1849, to facilitate the sale of Irish estates whose owners, because of the Great Famine, were unable to meet their obligations.[1] It was given authority to sell estates on application from either the owner or an encumbrancer (somebody who had a claim on it) and, after the sale, distribute the proceeds among the creditors, granting clear title to the new owners.

Frequently over-mortgaged land belonged to trustees holding it for the benefit of one or more occupiers, with the last in line holding an "entail" that stopped the land being sold. The 1849 Act allowed this Court to order sales of the land by ignoring entails.

The economic need for the Court was caused by the impoverishment of many Irish tenant farmers during the 1840s famine, that made it impossible for them to pay their rents as agreed to a landlord, and in turn he could not make his mortgage payments. Until this Court was established, the lending bank could not get a court order to sell the mortgaged land because of the entail.

An example of this is with the trustees of the estate of William Mellish whose daughter Margaret had married Richard Butler, 2nd Earl of Glengall with a substantial inheritance. The trustees challenged the behaviour of the Earl in 1847, and he was declared bankrupt in 1847. The trustees were able to sell much of the family estates in Ireland in 1853 through the Encumbered Estates' Court, although much of it was subsequently bought back.[2]

In 1858, the court's functions were assumed by the Landed Estates Court, which, in turn, was replaced by the Land Commission that was set up under the 1881 Land Act.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Land and property
  2. ^ Malcomson, A. P. W. (2006). The Pursuit of the Heiress: Aristocratic Marriage in Ireland 1740-1840. Ulster Historical Foundation. ISBN 9781903688656. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  3. ^ Estates in the County sold by the Encumbered Estates & Landed Estates Courts 1850-74
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