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Introduction / The Island / History and Ownership

Feu

The system of feudal tenure of land came from Scots law. It was intended to be a perpetual lease granted at full rent giving the feuer a continuing right of occupancy and the granter an ongoing rental.

The transition of Orkney from Scandinavian rule to Scotland was a gradual process. However as part dowry on the marriage of Margaret, the daughter of King Christian of Denmark, to James III of Scotland in 1468 Orkney was pledged until such time as the debt was redeemed. This did not happen. While the arrangement had provided that the existing system of laws and land tenure would continue unaltered, being cut off from Scandinavia, elements of the Scots legal system were gradually imposed.

Under odal law, land was divided up when passing down through the generations. Under feudal law, land subject to feu saw no division. Under the charters granted, this specifically stated to apply "notwithstanding the laws and customs of the county of Orkney to the contrary".

The granting of the feu of land was a feature of the 1560s throughout Scotland. The value of the original rent was eroded by inflation during the 17th century. Feuing effectively saw church property pass to the tenants.


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