Until 100 years ago, most of Stratford sub Castle was owned by .....

In the House of Commons on 28 November 1906, on the topic of Church Estate Commissioners And Small Holdings, Mr. Josiah Wedgwood (the great, great grandson of his potter namesake and member for Newcastle-under-Lyme) stood ……. [1]

To ask the hon. Member for East Bristol, as representing the Church Estates Commissioners, whether the Commissioners own the whole or practically the whole land in any parishes; and, if so, what these parishes are, and what provision they make for small holdings in these parishes; and whether, if none is made, they can initiate or encourage the movement in such parishes.

In 1906 The Church Estates Commissioners owned 78% of the parish land. (Traditionally their land was called God’s acres.) The explanation goes back to what happened nine hundred years ago (the Norman Conquest and William handing out land to Bishops and then Bishop Osmund handing it out to his Sarum canons). In 1316 the Sheriff of Wiltshire declared that the village was in the undivided lordship of the dean and chapter [2]. In the 16th C our parish was mostly not Abbey or Monastery land so was in ownership relatively unscathed by the Dissolution. The demesne of Avon (north of Stratford Dean, a vill roughly where Avon Farm is now) however was held by Wilton Abbey and so was forfeited. Older names of (parts of) our village give clues to land ownership eg Stratford Dean in the 14th C, Bishop Stratford in the 15th C and Stratford Canon in the 16th C as do farm names (Dean Farm, Parsonage Farm, Chancellors Farm). The history of our village is one on tenants and subtenants, even the wealthy Pitt family were tenants.

One hundred years ago the Commissioners started selling off the land. All of it.

They sold:

  • 1920. 583 acres to C. D. Woodrow. This one sale was about HALF of the Commissioners’ holding.

  • 1921. 153 acres to R. F. S. Coggan whose great grandson still lives in the village

  • 1922.  94 acres to Salisbury Corporation

  • 1925. 45 acres to Messrs. Woolley and Wallis (founded in 1884)

 

then more sales till by 1955 they held only 260 acres, a little over a fifth of their holding fifty years before. [2] (The parish of Stratford sub Castle had ceased to exist the previous year). Most of the southern part of the village by then had been built on. As far as is known they now own none (but they do not publish their landholdings and are exempt from the Freedom of Information law).

Today they still own over 100,000 acres of England[3] including the Hyde Park Estate in London and a 10% stake in the Metrocentre in Gateshead [4] making them the 13th largest landowner in England [5] and hold mineral rights beneath a total area more than five times that [3].

References

[1] Hansard Volume 166 28 November 1906 columns 47-49

[2] 'Stratford-sub-Castle', in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6, ed. Elizabeth Crittall (London, 1962), pp. 199-213. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol6/pp199-213  [accessed 3 October 2020].

     

[3] Guy Shrubsole, 2020 https://whoownsengland.org/2019/11/04/gods-acres-the-land-owned-by-the-church-commissioners/ 

   

[4] The Church of England https://www.churchofengland.org/about/leadership-and-governance/church-commissioners-england/how-we-invest 

   

[5] Gary Hemming ABC Finance https://abcfinance.co.uk/blog/who-owns-the-uk/

 

Kerry O’Connor

Local History Group

October 2020

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