The Irish system of individual land tenure was known to the English as gavelkind
, so named because it reminded the Norman settlers of a local feudal system in Kent called gavelkind
One wonders, though, whether the ideological valence of dividing the land is so clearly defined: early modern critics of primogeniture lauded the ancient Kentish custom of Gavelkind
land tenure (partible inheritance), and engrossing of estates was a key strategy of "improvement.
asking for retention of ancient customs, among them gavelkind
, to which William agreed] tho' the father suffer for a felony, yet his son succeeds to his estate, according to the rhime, and the son to the plow, &c.
Instead of primogeniture, by which an eldest son inherited his father's land and other property, the penal legislation mandated gavelkind
(repealed in 1778), whereby an estate was divided equally among all male children, thus obstructing consolidation of assets in one son's hands.
In Kent, with gavelkind
tenure, men were free to sell or otherwise alienate their land and it was shared among all male heirs on the death of a tenant.