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Feudal rights and wrongs

Aug 29

Written by:
29/08/2014 09:16  RssIcon

Consultation on aristocratic privileges

Those with an interest in the protection of the hen harrier and other raptors might be interested in the work of a House of Commons Justice Committee inquiry into Manorial rights. 

In 1926 much of the manorial system (a set of ancient feudal laws) was abolished however Manorial rights were specifically retained. These entitle the Lord of the Manor to hunt, shoot, fish, hold fares and extract minerals on land that they may no longer own. They are classified as 'overriding interests', and are therefore retained by the Lord and their descendants, even if the land itself is sold.

For example those holding manorial rights over land they do not own, may decline the right of landowners to shoot grouse, or they may choose to take up their entitlement to a proportion of the profits of grouse shooting. The 'Lords of the Manor' may however, not engage in shoots on land they no longer own, where the landowner refuses access. 

Last year saw a rush of 'Lords of the Manor' registering their manorial rights with the Land Registry in advance of a deadline of 13th October 2013, as required by the 2002 Land Registration Act. If they failed to do so, their rights would be lost in any subsequent sale of the land. This resulted in a wave of complaints from property owners, who received legal letters informing them that their 'Lord' was registering, and therefore retaining, their feudal Manorial rights.

On discovering that neither the Government nor the Law Commission had any plans to review the status of Manorial rights, the House of Commons Justice Committee commenced a short enquiry in order to 'instigate a debate on the current situation and inform any possible future review.'

The Committee is calling for written submissions by Friday 5th September

Today in England and Wales Manorial rights are being used in legal challenges to demand a slice of the income from co-operatively owned wind farms. Farmers that are keen host turbines, on the land they own, are receiving demands for up to 50% of their income from renting their land to a wind co-op.

However for Scotland, Manorial rights were abolished with the passing of the Abolition of Feudal Tenure Act in the year 2000. Also in Scotland, March 16th 2013 saw new legislation came into force to give greater protection to the white-tailed sea eagle, golden eagle, hen harrier and red kite. 

It appears that England and Wales lag behind Scotland, both in the reform of legislation to end feudal Manorial rights, and new legislation to protect endangered birds of prey.


Further Information

Manorial Rights Inquiry - House of Commons Justice Select Committee 

End Manorial Rights is an action group pressing for a Law Commission review, and recommendation of abolition


Read more about our campaign to save the Hen Harrier >










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