Introduction to the North Riding Registry of Deeds (NRRD)

The North Riding Registry of Deeds (NRRD) is one of the key sources for information on historic property deeds at the County Record Office. Containing over a million entries, it can be used to trace changes in the ownership of freehold property within the historic North Riding of Yorkshire between the years 1736 and 1970.

This is a very special collection, it was one of only four similar county deeds registries established in England in the 18th century to enable owners to register the title to their property. These four registries covered the three Yorkshire ridings and Middlesex.

In addition to this page, there are two related webpages with further information: guide to using the NRRD and NRRD FAQs.

What geographical areas does the NRRD cover?

The Registry was based in Northallerton and covered the area of the historic North Riding.

Blaeu’s map of the North Riding of the county of York, 1648

The area of the historic North Riding roughly corresponds with the North Yorkshire districts of Hambleton, Richmondshire, Ryedale, the Borough of Scarborough and parts of the Borough of Harrogate. It also included areas now outside North Yorkshire, including Yarm, Middlesbrough, Guisborough, Redcar, Saltburn and Marske on Teesside and Bowes and Romaldkirk now in County Durham.

It also included parishes which are now within the City of York Council area including Clifton Without, Earswick, Haxby, Heworth Without, Holtby, Huntington, Murton, New Earswick, Osbaldwick, Rawcliffe, Skelton, Stockton-on-the-Forest, Strensall, Towthorpe and Wigginton.

What are the historic Yorkshire ridings and how do they relate to the present area of North Yorkshire?

From as far back as the 9th century CE, over 1200 years ago, Yorkshire was divided into three ridings: North, East and West (including the Ainsty of York).

The present county of North Yorkshire was formed on 1 April 1974 as a result of the Local Government Act 1972, covering most of the lands of the historic North Riding, as well as the northern half of the West Riding, parts of the northern fringes of the East Riding and the former county borough of York. In 1996, a number of parishes from North Yorkshire were transferred to the newly formed unitary authority of the City of York. See our administrative background of North Yorkshire webpage for further information.

What dates does the NRRD cover?

The NRRD was set up by private Act of Parliament in 1736 and continued to operate until 1972 to register deeds from property transactions which took place up to 31 August 1970. No deeds made later than 31 August 1970 are registered and no deeds have been accepted for registration since 31 August 1972.

Did You Know? The North Riding Deeds Registry was initially based from 1736 at the newly built Register House on Zetland Street, Northallerton (a Grade II listed building and now home of the Joe Cornish Gallery).

In the 1780s, the NRRD moved to the new Court House, located on the north side of the quadrangle of the nearby Northallerton Prison, designed by the architect John Carr. This new Court House building no longer survives. The old Register House was then converted into a house for the Registrar.

  • Left: Charles Edward Leake Ringrose, Registrar of Deeds in the late 19th century
  • Centre & Right: Register House, Zetland Street, Northallerton, former home of the NRRD, in 1956 [EF206/12] & view of the building in 2022

Were all deeds registered?

No, the Registry was only for freehold transactions, which could include conveyances, long leases of more than 21 years, mortgages and various other deeds. Copyhold transactions (where property belongs to a manor) were not registered, neither were short leases for periods of less than 21 years.

It was never compulsory to register freehold deeds with the NRRD as the system was a voluntary one. However, the vast majority were registered since this gave a more secure title to the property. Most registration took place within a couple of months of the property transaction being completed.

Deeds could be registered either as a complete copy or as a ‘memorial’, a shortened form of the deed giving the basic information as to the parties and property but omitting other information such as covenants.

What is freehold tenure?

Freehold is a type of property ownership where a person or organisation has outright ownership of a property, and the land on which it is built, forever.

Further online information about property deeds

A limited number of NRRD indexes have been transcribed as part of The Register of Deeds Project, an academic research project led by Dr Joan K. F. Heggie looking at women’s involvement in property. Searchable transcriptions of NRRD Index Registers for 1784-1790 and 1885-1889 are available online; as are all the ‘M’ townships for the period 1853-1864, including Middlesbrough.

HM Land Registry has an online blog about locating title deeds and details of the history of land registration.

If a property was not freehold, but copyhold (owned by the manor), information might be found in manorial records, see The National Archives’ Manorial Documents Register, which provides brief descriptions of documents and their locations in public and private hands.

University of Nottingham Manuscripts and Special Collections have helpful research guides: Introduction to Deeds and Introduction to Deeds in depth.

Further reading

J. K. F. Heggie (2019) ‘Women’s involvement with property in the North Riding of Yorkshire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries’ in A. Capern, B. McDonagh & J. Aston (eds.) Women and the Land, 1500-1900. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.

Francis Sheppard, Victor Belcher & Philip Cottrell (1979) The Middlesex and Yorkshire deeds registries and the study of building fluctuations, The London Journal, 5:2, pp.176-217, DOI: 10.1179/ldn.1979.5.2.176

W.E. Tate (1944) The five English district statutory registries of deeds, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research XX, pp.97-105, May 1944

Glossary of some of the terms frequently found in property deeds

Deed: a legal document usually dealing with ownership or occupation of land.

Appurtenances: other ‘things’ belonging to a property, e.g. yards, gardens, rights etc.

Assignment: a transfer, perhaps of a lease or a mortgage.

Conveyance: a transfer of freehold property from one party to another.

Covenant: an agreement entered into by one or more parties to a deed, which may oblige someone to do, or not do, something.

Indenture: a type of deed which had an ‘indented’ top (a cut wavy line); usually two copies were prepared, one was to be kept by each party.

Memorial: A summary or abbreviated form of a deed.

Messuage: a term used for a property, often a dwelling house.

Moiety: half of a property.

Probate: the process of establishing that a will is valid.

Stat Rect: statutory receipt – a document issued, for example, when a mortgage has been paid off.