Statute of Merton

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Statute of Merton
Kilty's English Statutes 1811 Volume 143 Page 262.jpg
Kilty's English Statutes, 1811; Volume 143, Page 262. Extracts from the Statute of Merton.
Ancient Statute of Merton
Enacted byParliament of England
Date signed1235 by Henry III of England
Introduced byBarons of the Peerage of England

The Statute of Merton or Provisions of Merton (Latin: Provisiones de Merton, or Stat. Merton), sometimes also known as the Ancient Statute of Merton, is considered to be the first English statute,[1] and is printed as the first statute in The Statutes of the Realm.

The terms of the statute were agreed at Merton between Henry III[2] and the barons of England in the 20th year of Henry's reign (1235). It was another instance, along with the Magna Carta twenty years previously, of the struggle between the barons and the king to limit the latter's rights.

Amongst its provisions, the statute allowed a Lord of the Manor to enclose common land (provided that sufficient pasture remained for his tenants), and set out when and how manorial lords could assert rights over waste land, woods, and pastures against their tenants.[3] It quickly became a basis for English common law, developing and clarifying legal concepts of ownership,[4] and was one of the English statutes carried over into the law of the Lordship of Ireland.

In January 1550, in Edward VI's reign, long after the Statute had fallen out of use, it was revived under John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, to enable lords to enclose their land at their own discretion — out of keeping with the traditional Tudor anti-enclosure attitude.

The Statute also dealt with illegitimacy[5] — stating that "He is a bastard that is born before the marriage of his parents". It also dealt with women's rights — dowries ("A woman shall recover damages in a writ of dower"), and widows' right to bequeath land ("Widows may bequeath the crop of their lands").[6]

Chapter 4 of this statute was the Commons Act 1236.

Chapters 1 and 2 and 9 were repealed for the Republic of Ireland by section 8 of, and Part I of Schedule 2 to, the Succession Act 1965, subject to the savings in section 9 of that Act. The whole statute was repealed for that Republic by section 1 of, and Part 2 of the Schedule to, the Statute Law Revision Act 1983.


  • A woman shall recover damages in a writ of dower.[6]
  • Widows may bequeath the crop of their lands.[6]
  • He is a bastard that is born before the marriage of his parents.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Statute". Encyclopædia Britannica. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ May 3: Merton Priory; Christian History Institute. Archived April 8, 2005, at
  3. ^ BOPCRIS Ford Collection. Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Gosling, Tony (2003-12-01). "Promised land: Returning land to its rightful owner". Retrieved 2013-10-29.
  5. ^ Resources - 1788 - Before European Settlement. Archived February 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b c d[dead link]

External links[edit]