Who owns England?

Who owns England? This blog is an attempt to answer that question – one of the most closely-guarded secrets in the thousand-year-old history of this country.

Who owns our country matters. It matters because land is a scarce resource – as Mark Twain put it, ‘they aren’t making it any more’ – and because ownership of it often confers wealth, power and influence. It matters because who owns land gets to choose how it’s used; and that has big implications for almost everything. Where we build our homes, how we grow our food, how we protect ourselves from flooding, how much space we set aside for wildlife – all this is hugely affected by who owns land.

My quest follows in the footsteps of much greater adventurers, such as Kevin Cahill’s Who Owns Britain? (2001), a colossal work that re-opened the question of land ownership in the UK. Where Cahill simply lists the owners of England, however, I hope to map them. Taking advantage of the great strides made in digital mapping over the past fifteen years, I want to build the most comprehensive public map of land ownership in England: a modern Domesday, if you like.

Along the way, I’ll be throwing in a little history, some politics, photos from the odd site visit, tips on making Freedom of Information requests, thoughts on data rights (without getting too nerdy, I promise), and maybe even a smattering of psychogeography…

15 thoughts on “Who owns England?

  1. Oh, looking forward to this, having avidly devoured Who Owns Britain and Andy Wightman’s exceptional The Poor Had No Lawyers.


  2. Take a look at this: http://www.landforwhat.org.uk

    I work on access to land and buildings, planning, leases, food growing, right to housing, community events etc, and am really pleased to find your blog! I’m based in London if ever you fancy hanging out and geeking about land issues. Good luck!



    1. Thanks Felicia! Sounds great – and I’m hoping to come to the conference 🙂 Yes, would be ace to meet up to chat. Will email you!


  3. Also Northern Ireland has considerable acreages held in private ownership. For example ‘The {quite secretive I think} Caledon Estate’ in Northern Ireland is an interesting study on the nature of land ownership and wealth leading to even more wealth, exceedingly good fortune for the current Lord Caledon and his family due to the guile of a chap called James Alexander {1730-1802} who amassed a considerable fortune working for The East India Company. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Alexander,_1st_Earl_of_Caledon
    Also interesting shenanigans around the the current Lord Caledon selling a painting for £30 Million…again he inherited a painting that was purchased by his ancestors for a modest sum …someone in the art ‘establishment’ has decided that it is an Old Master, and so the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the established order is propped up with various tax avoidance schemes etc etc etc… anyway there are quite a few big estates in Northern Ireland & Irealnd that might merit a good look at…check the links on The Caledon Estate… it would be a nice place to visit too as the house is of significant architectural importance in part designed by John Nash,,,but it is private so despite our tax assistance {agri subsidies etc}…general public not invited :}


    We are governed {not by my vote} by a Political Philosophy that places property rights above people {human} rights…and this established order needs to be re-imagined somehow. Not suggesting a ‘land-grab Mugabe style’ not least because it was a botch job, rather a turn towards justice, fairness and equality for all.

    I wonder what the Man in Red Cap would think…has he given his permission to be turned into a ‘vulgar’ commodity…?


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