July 5th, 1189: The Last Day of Time Immemorial

The Oxford dictionary defines the term ‘time immemorial’ as: “a time in the past that was so long ago that people have no knowledge or memory of it”. [1] 

In England, prior to the 1st Statue of Westminster in 1275 [2], ‘time immemorial’ was interpreted by judicial authorities to mean the time beyond legal history or memory. Consequently, people could establish property rights and benefits by satisfying judicial authorities of their continuously occupation, use, or enjoyment of property or benefits since ‘time immemorial’.

Clearly, this encouraged deceitful recollections and the creation of fraudulent historical records.


The 1st Statute of Westminster limited the extent of legal memory to July 6th, 1189 – the day Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) took the throne. It was a Thursday and, in a legal sense, it was no longer possible to claim that something happened the day before. Wednesday was lost in time immemorial.

In the 19th Century, the legal definition of ‘time immemorial’ was more broadly defined. All the same, land ownership in modern Britain can often be traced back to land titles that were recognised under the terms of the 1st Statute of Westminster.


  1. Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2019). time immemorial | Definition of time immemorial in English by Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/time_immemorial [Accessed 6 Apr. 2019].
  2. gov.uk. (2019). Statute of Westminster, The First (1275). [online] Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/Edw1/3/5/contents [Accessed 6 Apr. 2019].


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