Battle lines have been drawn in a feud over who has the right to use a 700-year-old noble title.

A war of words has erupted between two local historians about who is the Lord of the Manor of Baildon, a rank of nobility dating back to the 12th century.

On one side is Philip Baxter, a 69-year-old semi-retired lecturer, whose fascination in local church history led him to inherit the title from its former owner - he claims.

And on the other, Frank Baildon, 66, a direct descendent of the Baildon family which inhabited Baildon Hall until the 17th century.

Mr Baildon says it is, in fact, he who is bona fide Lord of the Manor, because he was given the title by the widow of the last-known Lord.

Both claim to have documentation backing their claims and currently neither is prepared to back down.

"I don't think it will be pistols at dawn," said Mr Baxter.

"But I have said to Frank that if he does want to take this further we will go to a solicitor. I have to say that the title has been designated in proper legal fashion to me."

He says he has a legal covenant, signed by solicitor Stephen Butcher, who dealt with the affairs of the late Major Michael Hammond-Maud, the last undisputed Lord of the Manor of Baildon.

Mr Baildon, however, says he has a letter from the Major's wife, Sonia Hammond-Maud, giving her blessing for him to take the title in 2004.

Mr Baildon, of Hazel Heads, Baildon, said: "Mrs Hammond-Maud said she had no idea of the title but said she was very pleased to pass it on to me because she was in her 80s and in poor health.

"I can trace my family history right back to the 900s. We are descendants of Francis Baildon, who left Baildon Hall in the 1600s.

"I think Philip has researched the church history of Baildon church and he has found Mr Butcher in Rylstone, near Skipton, and he has assumed that he was the Lord of the Manor of Baildon, but he was not, so it was not his title to pass on.

"Philip has also registered it with a manorial society but he has no right to, as far as I can see."

But Mr Baxter, a former Bradford Grammar School pupil, who lives in Salisbury, Wiltshire, hit back: "Frank has assumed that when the former Lord of the Manor died the title passed to his widow. But that is not the case, as with any nobility.

"Should the Queen die, the Duke of Edinburgh will not become the King. Major Hammond-Maud's widdow has no legal right to say anything about it."

At one time the title would have meant the right to hold markets or fairs on the land, the right to mine and quarry within the manor, fishing and timber rights and the rights of free warren, free chase and free forest. Now it is largely ornamental and all of the land which once came with the title has been sold to Bradford Council.