Mapping the 55,000-acre Raby Estates

Image: Timothy Barker, Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0).

This post is by Guy Shrubsole.

Baron Barnard’s Raby Estates cover a colossal 55,000 acres of England, putting him in the top league of private landowners (for comparison, the Queen’s huge personal estate at Sandringham runs to a mere 20,000 acres). Yet few have even heard of him.

His estate boasts a vast castle, a 30,000-acre grouse moor, and scores of tenant farms. The Raby Estate website is very slick – but alas, it has no actual maps of what the Baron owns. So, I decided to do some sleuthing.

There are only a few scattered Environmental Stewardship agreements in place for Raby Farms, so ES maps aren’t much help for showing the extent of the estate. Nor does the estate show up in the Land Registry’s Corporate & Commercial dataset – the land doesn’t appear to be registered in the name of any companies, but rather individuals or trustees.

However, there is a Highways Act s31.6 landowner deposit for the Raby Estates listed on Durham County council’s website. But the maps have never been published, because the council says they’re too large to scan. So, I FOI’d the council asking them to supply digital photos, even if they couldn’t provide high-quality scans. Bingo: here they are – 19 separate map sheets, plus an index map showing how the sheets correspond to one another.

I decided the best way to fit all these JPEG files together was the old-fashioned way: print them out and use sellotape. They took a bit of trimming and matching up, but it worked. Here are the resulting maps:

Raby Estates 1

Raby Estates 2

So then working from this, I could rebuild the maps in digital form, using INSPIRE Index Polygons published by the Land Registry and Ordnance Survey. Here’s the resulting Google Map:

As you can see from the map, the estate is split into two sections – the Upper Teesdale Estate, which (by measuring the polygons) appears to be around 30,650 acres, and the Raby Estate, which is around 14,800 acres. That brings us to 45,450 acres – so there’s another 10,000 acres missing somewhere, either that I’ve not captured in the digitised polygons, or that perhaps weren’t included in the Highways Act maps.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: Baron Barnard also owns another, 6,500 acre estate over in Shropshire. How the 1% live, eh!

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