Looking for Britain's biggest landowners

Living History

Looking for Britain's biggest landowners

With a total area of approximately 61,414,400 acres (248,532 square kilometres, or 95,960 square miles), Britain would have enough land to provide each of its population with about 1 acre each. But land ownership is far from divided equally, and people sometimes ask who does it all mainly belong to? Is it the state? The Church? The Crown? Farmers? Private landowners? Or the National Trust?

Land ownership is remarkably opaque in this country, and the owners of 17% of England and Wales even remain undeclared at the Land Registry, where official records are kept. A number of authors (like Guy Shrubsole, pictured) have sought to pin down exactly who the main landowners are.

Nationally, for the whole of the UK, the figures appear to be:-

Homeowners 10%

Entrepreneurs, celebrities and other wealthy but non-aristocratic people about 15%

The State around 5% - much of this is the Ministry of Defence and the Forestry Commission

Small farmers own 20%

Surprisingly, the Church and the Crown have about 1% each

Around 10% is infrastructure (roads, railways and airports, for example) and local authority property.

Heritage and wildlife charities such as the National Trust and the RSPB own 3% between them, and commercial institutions such as universities own 4%.

This leaves about 30% of the country still owned by a few aristocratic families. The most likely owners of the undeclared land are aristocrats, as many of their estates have remained in their families for centuries, and therefore do not trigger an entry in the Land Registry when the estate is sold on the open market. Five of the biggest landowners are the Duke of Westminster (Grosvenor Estate); Duke of Buccleuch & Queensberry; Prince Charles as the Duke of Cornwall; Duke of Northumberland and Trustees of Dukedom of Atholl.

Not surprisingly, there's plenty of political discussion about the ownership, and whether it's fair and appropriate!

Further reading

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