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.
Our 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, we hope to map them. Taking advantage of the great strides made in digital mapping over the past fifteen years, we want to build the most comprehensive public map of land ownership in England: a modern Domesday, if you like.
Along the way, we’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, we promise), and maybe even a smattering of psychogeography…
Guy Shrubsole: Activist, writer, troublemaker. In the past I’ve worked for DEFRA, New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture and UK think thank Public Interest Research Centre. Currently I’m a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, but this blog is my personal project. Follow me on Twitter @guyshrubsole
Anna Powell-Smith: Programmer, data analyst, map nerd. My work mapping offshore land ownership for Private Eye was highly commended at the British Journalism Awards. In my day job I work for a startup: for Who Owns England I work on data and build the maps. Follow me on Twitter @darkgreener