Key Points:

  • The traditional English quarter days are: March 25, June 24, September 29 and December 25
  • In Scotland the traditional quarter days or term days are: 28 February, 28 May, 28 August, 28 November.
  • The modern quarter days: 1 January, 1 April, 1 July, 1 October.

From mediaeval times in England there have been in the calendar four Quarter Days:

  • Lady Day
  • Midsummer
  • Michaelmas
  • Christmas

Traditionally these have been days when accounts are settled, and typically with commercial properties these are the Rent Days.

The Quarter Days are the days that mark the beginning of each quarter of the year. In England, Wales and Ireland the quarter days are actually four religious festivals:

  • Lady Day – The Feast of the Annunciation, March 25
  • Midsummer Day – The Feast of St. John the Baptist, June 24
  • Michaelmas – The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, September 29
  • Christmas Day – The Feast of the Nativity, December 25

In Scotland, the traditional quarter days are referred to as  term days:

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  • Candlemas – The feast of the Purification, February 2
  • Whitsunday – Pentecost, which is always on May 15
  • Lammas – Long Mass, or the Feast of First Fruits, August 1
  • Martinmas – The Feast of St. Martin, November 11

However, recent legislation (Term & Quarter Days (Scotland) Act 1990 c.22) has specified the new Scottish quarter days as:

  • Candlemas – 28 February
  • Whitsun – 28 May
  • Lammas – 28 August
  • Martinmas – 28 November

These new quarter days will apply to more recent leases unless otherwise stated.

The modern quarter days now being adopted in England in some recent leases:

  • 1 January
  • 1 April
  • 1 July
  • 1 October

The Legal Tradition of Quarter Days:

The Quarter Days were traditionally days when debts were settled and when magistrates would visit outlying districts to administer their justice.

There is a strong principle of English justice tied up in this – “debts and unresolved conflicts must not be allowed to linger on” past the quarter sessions.

It was deemed that “However complex the case, however difficult to settle the debt, a reckoning has to be made and publicly recorded; for it is one of the oldest legal principles of this country that justice delayed is injustice”. On the Way to the Postmodern – see below.

When the Barons had the unjust King John sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215 one of the main principles embodied into it was the promise: “To none will we sell, or deny, or delay right or justice“.

Timeliness applies to this day where property rents are concerned: landlords and owners expect the rent to be paid on time.

Mnemonic – Quarter days 

Sir, Assuming you can remember when Christmas occurs, a useful mnemonic to place quarter days is to count the letters of the relevant months. Thus, in March, there being five letters, you can know that the quarter day is the 25th. June has four letters and the quarter day is the 24th, and September, having nine letters, has its quarter day on the 29th.(Letter to the Times G. C. M. YOUNG Fairford, Glos  – Times on-line 15 April 2006)


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