The Marquesses and their 100,000 acres

Image: The Marquess of Cholmondeley (left) with the Duke of Norfolk (right). 

Updated 20th August 2017 with more info on the Marquess of Milford Haven.

England’s Marquesses own nearly 100,000 acres of land and received at least £3.5million in public farm subsidies in 2016, Who Owns England can reveal.

Marquesses are the second-highest rank in the Peerage, below Dukes but above Earls, Viscounts and Barons. There are 34 extant Marquesses in the UK, 14 of whom own land in England (the rest have their estates in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, or else no longer possess lands at all).

These 14 aristocrats possess between them 95,803 acres of estates and farms surrounding large stately homes. Last year, £3,575,200 was paid to them directly or to their companies and trusts, thanks to the UK’s farm subsidy system. Notable Marquessates include:

  • The Marquess of Salisbury, whose 10,300-acre estates are registered offshore in Jersey, as written about on this blog previously;
  • The Marquess of Cholmondeley, the Lord Great Chamberlain (with authority over parts of the Palace of Westminster), who also owns his estates in Norfolk and Cheshire via an offshore company, Mainland Nominees Ltd;
  • The Marquess of Bath, who is the famously eccentric owner of Longleat house and safari park, part of his 9,226-acre estate in Wiltshire;
  • The Marquess of Exeter, whose extensive estate in Lincolnshire and Rutland is owned by the Burghley House Preservation Trust;
  • The Marquess of Milford Haven, whose Great Trippetts Estate in West Sussex appears to be registered offshore in the Turks & Caicos Islands, according to Private Eye’s map of offshore ownership.

It’s been possible to map most of the Marquesses’ estates with the generous help of a local historian who wishes to remain anonymous, who’s been painstakingly digitising maps of aristocratic estates deposited with councils under the Highways Act 1980.

Here are the estates for ten of the Marquesses mapped in Google Maps:

Other data sources allow us to get closer to a complete picture; for example, here are the (as yet un-digitised) Highways Act s31.6 maps for the Castle Ashby and Compton Wynyates estates owned by the Marquess of Northampton. (Much of his land appears to be registered in the name of wealth managers Rathbones Trust Company Limited, but that’s a story for another time.) And below is the land forming part, or possibly all of, the Marquess of Abergavenny’s estate in East Sussex, as shown on this map of the recipients of Environmental Stewardship payments:

Marquess of Abergavenny - Nevill Estate

Source: mapped by Anna Powell-Smith. Data from data.gov.uk, used under the Open Government Licence. Data last updated November 2016. © Natural England 2017. Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2017.

As for the farm subsidy figure, I arrived at the total of £3.5m in 2016 by looking up the Marquesses and their estate companies, trust and charities on DEFRA’s CAP payments website. The full details, alongside further notes on each of the Marquesses, are in this Google Spreadsheet. A summary table is below:

Title Acreage Farm subsidies 2016
The Marquess of Lansdowne 4,000 £61,431
The Marquess Townshend 7,000 £349,583
The Marquess of Salisbury 10,300 £271,349
The Marquess of Bath 9,226 £50,888
The Marquess of Hertford 6,500 £315,548
The Marquess of Downshire 3,983 £163,352
The Marquess of Exeter 15,355 £1,161,670
The Marquess of Northampton 10,000 £212,925
The Marquess Camden 2,450 £172,276
The Marquess of Cholmondeley 4,374 £535,317
The Marquess of Normanby 13,865 £28,722
The Marquess of Abergavenny 3,000 £193,697
The Marquess of Zetland 4,965 £22,588
The Marquess of Milford Haven 785 £35,854
The Marquess of Lothian ? None listed
Totals 95,803 £3,575,200

To conclude: England’s Marquesses own only a tenth as much land as the highest tier of aristocracy, the Dukes – though to be fair, much of the 1 million acres of land owned by the Dukes is to be found in Scotland as well as England. It seems likely that the ‘lower orders’ of the peerage have fared less well than the Dukes in keeping their estates intact since the heyday of the aristocracy in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. Even so, possession of nearly 100,000 acres is hardly to be sniffed at, and our present system of farm subsidies does much to prop up the Marquessates.

And this is barely scratching the surface of aristocratic landownership in England. There are only 24 non-Royal Dukes (22 of whom own land) and 34 Marquesses (14 of whom own land in England). But according to Debrett’s, there are currently 191 Earls, 115 Viscounts, and 435 Barons – some 800 peers in total. Some may own little or no land, but many will be men and women of broad acres, and drawing ample subsidies from the public purse. Mapping them all from existing sources would be a nigh-on impossible task. Unless, that is, the Land Registry opens up its doors – and shows us just how much of a feudal country England remains.

2 thoughts on “The Marquesses and their 100,000 acres

  1. Very interesting, especially if it was possible to compare it to Bateman’s survey to assess the true extent of the decline. That said, is the issue who owns the land, the concentration, or the subsidies? The first is simply a fact of a property-owning society, the second is usually historical chance, and the latter is one to take up with the government. The aristocracy have largely been responsible for the creation and the protection of the landscape which many value so highly today.

    Like

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