Today when you purchase a house, the legal documentation affecting the purchase will he added to the existing title deeds for the property, and a solicitor will assist with the formal registration of the transaction with the Land Registry - a process which done online these days.
To finance the purchase, most people apply for a mortgage, and the title deeds for the property are then deposited with the mortgage provider or solicitor acting on their behalf as security against the loan until the mortgage is paid off, or the property is sold on.
However, there was no systematic registration of land or property transfers until the formation of Land Registry in 1862; and even then, registrion remained a voluntary process for most area outside inner London until late into the twentieth century.
Defined in its strictest term, a "deed" is a legal document. Title deeds also known as muniments of title, are therefore the collected legal documentation for past transfers of a particular piece of land or property, and should perhaps be more accurately described as the "deed package". In effect, they represent legal proof of ownership through previous transfers. As such, a variety of different types of document might be included in the deed package, such as indentures, mortgages, wills, manorial records and court papers. In theory, title deeds can stretch back for many centuries, and until 1925 this was often the case. However, under the terms of the 1925 Law of Property Act, the requirement to prove descent of land as far back as possible was removed, with a new period of proof limited to only 30 years. this period was further reduced to 15 years in 1970. In consequence, older title deeds became redundant, and often no longer formed part of the deed package that was passed from one pruchaser to the next.
When the 1925 Law of Property Act was passed, many solicitors and mortgage providers took the opportunity to dispose of title deeds that had accumulated over many years, and presented them to either current owners orsimply thrown away and ended up in skips or rubbish tips.
Many private title deeds for monastic land and properties have been collected in the National Archives in the aftermath of the suppression of the monasteries. These deeds are described as Ancient and Moder, depending on their date; ancient deeds usually pre-date the seventeenth century, whereas Modern deeds date from the seventeenth century to the early nineteenth.
Some principal landowners or tenants-in-chief who fell foul of the Crown and escheated their property, deeds for these large private estate will also be collected.
Crown property may have been sold into private hands or leased out to private individuals.