The Land Registry was established in 1862 so that property transactions could be recorded in one central place. The idea was not new, as there were early attempts at setting up regional registries in Yorkshire and Middlesex in 1704 and 1709 respectively, which can be found at the West Yorkshire Archive Service and the London Metropolitan Archives.
The national scheme was voluntary to begin with, so only a small percentage of property transactions were included before the 20th century. Registration was first enforced in London in 1899 and gradually spread to other towns and cities. While Scotland enforced registration in 1979, it only became compulsory for properties to be registered in every area in England and Wales in 1990. The last area of the UK to implement a compulsory scheme was Northern Ireland in 2003.
There are still buildings and land in England and Wales that have never been registered. This is because it only includes properties that have changed hands after compulsory registration began. This means there is still a significant percentage of houses and other buildings that are not registered, although that is gradually diminishing.
As well as ordering online, it is possible to apply for a copy of the registration details for your home for a small fee from Kingston- UponHull Land Registry, Earle House, Portland Street, Hull HU2 8JN, landregistry.gov.uk. However, they only have copies of the title deeds provided when the property was first registered. It may, therefore, be possible to find older and more comprehensive records in local archives, especially among the collections of solicitors.
For help with interpreting the records, see the very helpful glossary of terms on the Land Registry digital archive website at: gov.uk/1862act-register# glossary.