Image: Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons CCO 1.0 licence.
Prince Charles – Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall & Rothesay, High Steward of Scotland, Lord of the Isles, etc – is the largest private landowner in England. In his capacity as Duke of Cornwall, he owns an estate of some 135,000 acres, spread across 23 counties.
The Duchy of Cornwall is one of the strangest beasts in England’s still quasi-feudal political economy. It’s not a company (and so doesn’t pay Corporation Tax). It’s not a charity. It’s not a public body (though it is accountable to the Treasury, and Parliament) and it’s not subject to Freedom of Information law (though it is subject to requests under the Environmental Information Regulations, in its narrow capacity as a harbour-master). It is, in short, something of an anachronism – but one that has survived for nearly 700 years and continues to grow in size.
The Duchy was created in 1337 by Edward III, as a personal endowment for his son, the Black Prince. Ever since, its lands and revenues have belonged to the male heir to the throne – in recent times, Charles, Prince of Wales. (Note that in the absence of a male heir, the Duchy reverts to the Sovereign; another discriminatory anachronism.) Prince Charles can’t simply do what he likes with the Duchy, mind; its capital assets are held in trust and he has no access to them, and the Treasury must approve all land transactions over £500k. Nevertheless, the Prince receives a healthy annual income from the Duchy, and he plays an active role in the management of the estate.
The Duchy is open about its size – “around 53,000 hectares” (c.130,000 acres; Kevin Cahill in 2001 estimated 141,000 acres) – and its website and annual accounts paint a reasonable, if incomplete, picture of its extent. But others who have sought more details on what land it owns have been rebuffed (such as this attempt to use an EIR request to get a list of the Duchy’s land and properties). When I cheerfully asked the Duchy over email for a map of their landholdings, reply came there none. Well, it’s always worth a try.
But, dear reader, I’m not one to be easily put off. So I’ve searched high and low for every scrap of information on what the Duchy owns – from news stories, formal accounts and websites, to an academic study of when the Duchy’s lands were sold off by Parliament after the Civil War.
My most useful source comes from the unlikely pages of National Geographic magazine, in an article on the Duchy of Cornwall they published back in 2006 – complete with this handy map:
With the exception of one smaller, lower-res and unattributed map I found on Pinterest, this is the only map I can find anywhere of the Duchy’s landholdings. The Duchy’s own website contains one map of its land on Dartmoor, but no other maps. Update, 15th March: Miles King (@MilesKing10) has flagged up this presentation on the Duchy by the Tenant Farmers’ Association, which includes a good map of the Duchy’s landholdings on slide 8.
You’ll notice that the National Geographic map includes a total acreage for the Duchy of 135,526 acres – mid-way between the acreages stated by Cahill and by the Duchy themselves. Whilst this assessment is now over a decade old, its precision – and the detailed breakdown it gives by county – means I’ve opted to use it as the basis for my own analysis. Either way, the Duchy in the twenty-first century is nearly twice as large as it was in the Victorian period: the 1873 Return of Owners of Land recorded it as being just 74,113 acres. And these are just the landward acres: in addition, the Duchy owns around 100,000 acres of foreshore and 14,000 acres of estuarial river beds in Cornwall and Devon.
Useful as the above map is, it doesn’t give a whole bunch of detail on each of the red splodges denoting landholdings. So using it as a guide, that’s what I went in search of. Here’s everything I’ve found, in Googlemap format, followed by a table of results.
|Scilly Isles||3,921 acres||Part of the ceremonial county of Cornwall, but governed separately|
|Cornwall – 17,731 acres|
|Truro – Eastern District Centre & Belvedere Development||Unknown; not large||Source|
|Tregunnel Hill, Newquay||10.8 acres||See Duchy website.|
|Nansledan development, Newquay||538 acres||See map here.|
|Restormel Estate & Manor, near Lostwithiel||Unknown; not large||Cornwall head office and centre of the Duchy’s holiday cottage lets. Also home to Duchy Nursery.|
|Duloe Estate, near Looe
|2,900 acres||Source of acreage figure: Cahill 2001. Bought in 1951 from the Church Commissioners. Farmland tenanted by Cornish Orchards cider business.|
|2,500 acres||Source of acreage figure: Cahill 2001. Bought in 1952. Includes Ladock woods, near Truro. Example of a recent long-term farm tenancy lease on the Arrallas Estate.|
|Stoke Climsland, at head of the Tamar Valley, near Callington.
|Unknown – woodlands are 130 acres||Bought in 1880. Duchy College is based here. Includes the 130-acre Greenscombe Woods (mentioned here).|
|Pencalenick Estate, near Truro||918 acres||Source of acreage figure: Cahill 2001. Bought 1952.|
|Seaton woodlands, near Seaton/ Downderry||Unknown||“Most of the riparian corridor in the lower catchment is Duchy controlled Forestry.” Source.|
|St Enodoc Church and golf course, near Rock and Padstow
|Unknown; not large||Where former poet laureate John Betjeman is buried. http://www.st-enodoc.co.uk/the-club/|
|Port Eliot estate, St Germans||1,800 acres||Purchased from the Earl of St Germans in 2014. Source.|
|Pawton Estate, near Wadebridge
|2,127 acres||Source of acreage figure: Cahill 2001. Home to Pawton Mill Farmhouse, now rented out by Duchy as holiday cottages.|
|Landulph, on the Tamar Estuary||Unknown||Shown on National Geographic map; referred to in The Domesday of Crown Lands; Landulph Parish Council website states that the village is “surrounded by Duchy of Cornwall land”.|
|Various other farming estates near Wadebridge||Unknown||Shown on National Geographic map but cannot identify further.|
|Devon – 70,532 acres|
|Dartmoor holdings||67,459 acres||Includes Dartmoor prison. Large part of land leased to the MOD. “Most of Dartmoor’s 27,300 hectares [67,459 acres] have been owned by the Duchy since the 14th century”. Source|
|Other land in Devon||c.3,000 acres||Shown on National Geographic map but cannot identify further.|
|Somerset – 5,945 acres|
|Sir Matthew Gourney’s estate, near Curry Mallet
|Unknown||Became part of the Duchy c.1420s-30s. Source|
|Ham Hill||61 acres||Recorded here as being 25 hectares ie 61 acres|
|Dorset – 3,264 acres|
|Poundbury, Dorchester||Unknown||Prince Charles’ ‘model town’|
|Maiden Castle, Dorchester||Not large||Bought 1913|
|Gillingham Estate||Unknown||Bought 1862. Appears to run over into Wiltshire.|
|Herefordshire – 13,276 acres|
|Cradley Estate||1,853 acres
|Bought 1991. Source|
|The Guy’s Estate||11,369 acres||“The Guy’s Estate extends to 4,601 hectares [ie 11,369 acres]… It covers some 15 miles from the southern end at Ross-on-Wye to just north of Hereford, and falls into six sections”. Source. Highways Act s31(6) map online here. Estate originally belonged to Guy’s Hospital (see history paper here); later acquired by the Prudential (aka The Mercantile and General Reinsurance Company) and sold to the Duchy in 2000. See news story here.
|Gloucestershire – 1,584 acres (? Or 2,347 acres – sum of estates)|
|Daglingworth Estate||1,247 acres||Source of acreage figure: Cahill 2001. Bought 1959.|
|Highgrove||1,100 acres||Source of acreage figure: Cahill 2001. The Prince’s private home, and Home Farm.|
|Bath and North East Somerset – 8,310 acres|
|Manor of Inglescombe (Englishcombe)||1,500 acres||Acquired in 1421. Map at Somerset archives, here.|
|Newton Park Estate||? 6,810 acres?||Purchased 1941. “Further purchases took place in the early 1960s adding farms between Marksbury and Priston”; source. Historic England map here.|
|Kent – 3,246 acres|
|Westwood Court||2,905 acres||Part of the Prudential Estate bought in 2000. Source for acreage: Duchy annual review.|
|Abbey and Durlock farm||766 acres||Source for acreage: Duchy annual review. Looks to have been sold off in 2014, however: source.|
|Greater London – 39 acres|
|The Oval cricket ground||Building||Source|
|16 flats & 23 houses in Kennington||Buildings||Source|
|Oxfordshire||1,433 acres||Shown on National Geographic map 2006. Possibly at Bletchingdon, where Duchy has sold some of its land for an affordable housing scheme: source|
|Telford & Wrekin||1,438 acres||Shown on National Geographic map|
|Waitrose distribution centre in Brinklow, Milton Keynes||Building||Independent article|
|Holiday Inn, Reading||Building||Independent article|
|Llwynywermod Estate, Brecon Beacons||192 acres||Source|
|Various other sites shown on the National Geographic map, not listed here as no further information uncovered on them – summing to 4,615 acres.|
Why does all this matter? Because it’s the private estate of the heir to the throne and the largest private landholding in England; and because transparency and accountability matter in public life. There is little doubt that the current Duke runs his estate on eminently sound principles: concern for the environment, a desire to provide affordable but attractive and quality housing, the creation of long-term value. But what’s to say a future Duke of Cornwall would behave so responsibly?
This is the enduring problem of our uncodified constitution; stable in many ways for having accumulated gradually, but also ripe for abuse. After all, by convention, the heir to the throne does not lobby Ministers on policy matters; but Prince Charles has broken that convention, as his ‘black spider letters’ show. Even if the Duchy were to maintain its pretence of not being a public body, and avoided being made fully subject to FOI requests, a more complete set of annual accounts including a detailed map of its current capital assets seems in order.
As things stand, it’s unclear whether the Land Registry will include the Duchy in their free release of corporate and commercial land data this Autumn: one of the land titles I have for Duchy property gives the registered owner as being “His Royal Highness Charles Philip Arthur George Prince of Wales… in right of his Duchy of Cornwall”. If the Land Registry deems this to be land registered in an individual’s name, then it will be exempted from free release.
But then, concealment of wealth is all part of preserving it. And the Duchy – like the Crown and the Peerage, feudal remnants all – are past masters in surviving.
32 thoughts on “What land does the Duchy of Cornwall own?”
Charles owns this i think via Duchy of Cornwall – in fact there is a farm there and mini industrial estate https://www.lovecamping.co.uk/campsites/west-midlands/worcestershire/out-to-grass
And a lot more Cathy, incl a prison. Duchy of Cornwall Management Act 1863 – Forbids Uk Gov interference…..This Act not to interfere with existing Powers except where expressly altered.
Nothing in this Act contained shall take away, alter, or prejudice, further or otherwise than as the same are hereby expressly rescinded or altered, any Powers or Provisions contained in the said recited Act of the Seventh and Eighth Years of the Reign of Her present Majesty, or an Act passed in the Session of Parliament held in the Seventh and Eighth Years of the Reign of Her present Majesty, Chapter One hundred and five, or ” The Acts for the Inclosure, Exchange, and Improvement of Land,” or any other Act of Parliament heretofore passed and now in force touching or concerning or which may in any way affect the Possessions of the Duchy of Cornwall, or the Revenues or Management thereof, and not hereby expressly repealed.
Great job btw
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Guy, this is great stuff. Cant think why I haven’t picked up on it before. Please get in touch via the e mail below. A thought. Long ago John MacEwen, the granddad of land ownership writing in the UK, thought he could do his home county first, in a couple of months using Roger Millman’s maps. It took him 4 years to do one county. Who Owns Britain and Ireland is light on detailed maps – large scale are essential and are in the book, but maps at estate level take a vastly disproportionate amount of time, risk boundary disputes and change frequently with many of the big estates. Look forward to being in touch
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Huge thanks Kevin, and will be in touch via email! 🙂
Don’t know how widely it is published Kevin, but I believe the most expensive parts of London are still owned by a few families…………Albert bought large areas of Scotland for his Lady in black……..which bring in massive revenues.
Crown estate revenues for the 300 acres, I beleive goes to HRH “Elizabeth the rich”
Republic UK is working on a documentary which will be released in 2/3 months relating to the Duchy of Cornwall. They have spent lot of time interviewing renters on his land and can tell many a story. There are also a few experts on the Duchy who go into great detail why the Duchy of Cornwall was set up and the laws around that. It’s very interesting. All this needs to be tied up together so more people wake up to the scandals of who owns the land both in Britain and worldwide.
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I know that Albert bought up most of Scotland for Victoria…….Once the train was established. A&V were in and out of Scotland like a fiddler’s elbow. Buying up land. Not sure if this has been added to Charles estates PLC. Maybe therebye creates another thought about what Queen EII owns. It has been said….Between the world wars the Royals were near broke……and the vast expansion of their modern day wealth could not have been acieved by legal means, as we understand it…………Where is Robin Hood when you need him ???
Reblogged this on sideshowtog.
Fascinating. Thank you for digging and delving. Great work.
Farmland is so scarce is the UK but we need sustainable farms (not industrial ones!) for our food security (and sanity). People’s access to land is crucial.
re Landulph in Cornwall and also Launceston. Several farms around Landulph are Duchy tennant farmers. Central is Marsh Farm in Landulph itself which was originally going to be the site of the “Home Farm” and Agricultural college before this was switched to Stoke Climsland. Also many of the surrounding farms between the Lyner and the Tamar are duchy land – Possibly as much as everything North of the A38 and South of Callington between the two rivers. These farms were let on multi-generation tenancies – usually three male generations. If there was no male heir then the holding reverted to the Duchy. Many farmworker cottages built around begining of 20th century were sold off after WWII – I lived in one.
In Launceston I believe the duchy owns at least the land to the west of the castle and possibly more around.
I don’t have easy ability to estimate the total acreage here, but can do some on the ground work if it would help you.
Hi Roger – many thanks for this! That’s very helpful. I wouldn’t want to put you to more trouble, but if you did fancy doing any more on-the-ground exploring of where the Duchy owns between the Tamar / Lynther / A38 / Callington, that’d be great! The National Geographic map I found, shown above, seems to suggest some lands at Landulph and then a bigger set of estates around Home Farm at Stoke Climsland, but it’s unclear, and could now be out of date. If you find anything else, please do post here and I’ll gladly update the map/ blog post. Cheers!
They have houses in Midsomer Norton/Radstock area
I am told that HRH has given instruction’s that every assistance is to be given to tenants who have trouble paying their rent – which is more that HM Govt do.
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This is typical of the Landed Gentry. They give assistance to people they have herded into little cottages in villages, so they can have unspoiled views of the land without having to deal with ‘The Great Unwashed’. They have ensured their ‘pay’ barely covers their expenses. It’s so patronising, yet most people fall for it and think they are being done a favor.
A lot more than that in Kennington I suspect.
You do not mention Exeter’s Rougemont Castle and surrounding land in the heart of the city. Is more known of this holding?
Thank you for this great site, it has been so useful!
Aw, thankyou! Glad to hear that! 🙂
Really interesting piece, thanks for your investigative work! I was just wondering if you know any further details about the Duchy’s ownership of rivers/river beds in Devon and Cornwall? Would be great to keep in touch via email!
You should check out John Kirkhope and his “The Duchy of Cornwall – A Feudal Remnant?”
“An examination of the origin, evolution and present status of the Duchy of Cornwall”. It can claim Crown Immunity when taxes are concerned, yet rejects the obligation of disclosure and accountability on the basis that its an private estate. The Duchy has the right to foreshore in Cornwall, right of riverbeds in Cornwall,right to mine in Cornwall, right to escheat in Cornwall, right to bona vacantia in Cornwall, right to wrecks, right to treasure trove in Cornwall. But yet we’re told the Duchy of Cornwall isn’t specifically related to Cornwall… It isn’t just property the Duchy gets its income from, it has other privileges too, which usually aren’t mentioned.
Hello all, I believe the origins of the Dutchy of Cornwall go back to Richard the first earl,it was given to him as a Birthday present?believe it or not,it must be remembered that before Cornwall was separated from Devon ( Latin name Dumnonia) Devon’s boundaries went as Far East as the river parrot and as far west as lands end and the Scillies ,this was the kingdom of Dumnonia?as the advent of Wessex took over to drive the Vikings out under King Alfred.it was King Athelstan who drove the cornovi ( later to be know as Cornish)over the river Tamar it was after this that the Dutchy was formed originally as a Tax on the Cornish ,the Cornish claim to be Celtic but they inherited this from the people of Devon, the people of Devonshire then assimilated to become Anglo Saxon as the then known Cornish did not want to become Anglo Saxon I believe this Tax was levied on them?.originally the duchy of Cornwall tax boundary ended on the border,but some time ago all the duchy estates were lumped together under one name that being the Dutchy of Cornwall ?.
Does the duchy own the Helford river , or do you know who owns it please ?
I am trying to find a map detailing what foreshore on the river Dart is owned by the duchy. The link to the Nat Geo map no longer works. If anyone can help it would me much appreciated. Thanks, Jack.firstname.lastname@example.org
As regards “other land in Devon” – This is most of the farmland and farms in the Parish of Bradninch. This has been owned since the time of the Black Prince and indeed another title he owns is Baron of Bradninch although this is not an official one. I was brought up on two Duchy farms in the Parish. It was 3180 acres in 1980.
Source: “Portrait of Bradninch, a Duchy Town” Anthony Taylor ISBN 0 903975 48 3