As expected, Queen and Crown Estate own much land in the UK; however, some of its largest landlords are companies rather than individuals.
Newcastle-based Grainger, which specializes in Build To Rent, claims to be Britain’s, most prominent private landlord with 10,000 homes under its management and high occupancy levels, and inc increasing inquiries.
The Duke of Buccleuch & Queensbury
Britain’s top landlords control an immense area of land, from wealthy aristocrats and government departments to revered charities and revered individuals. From historic family estates to beautiful countryside reserves, these individuals control an impressive percentage of Britain’s landmass.
Christopher Shrubsole of the National Trust estimates that members of England’s nobility and landed gentry own just over 4% of its land, significantly less than what the Crown Estate holds at around one-fifth. Most members of society own tiny land compared to this estimate from Shrubsole, who estimates the public sector – comprising central, local government and universities – holds about eight percent.
The Duke of Buccleuch owns an expansive property portfolio, including Dalkeith Palace and its surrounding estate, Queen Victoria’s estate at Sandringham and Balmoral, West Riding Yorkshire property; and parts of Scotland properties.
His family has held onto the Dukedom of Buccleuch since Charles II’s illegitimate son married Lucy Walter as Monmouth’s mistress, then passed through female bloodlines until Anne Scott held it after her husband’s attrition in 1685.
Although he owns substantial properties, the Duke of Buccleuch is relatively politically inactive. His attempt at entering the House of Lords stalled under Heath administration, perhaps due to his public attacks against council house tenants whom he considered weakening society by accepting subsidies.
Richard Montagu Douglas Scott, KT, KBE, CVO, DL, FSA, FRSE, and FRSGS; previously styled Lord Eskdaill until 1973 when he officially became Earl of Dalkeith – is actively engaged with his family’s heritage business and overseeing their historic property estates. As well as being involved with managing them he serves on both Buccleuch Heritage and Living Landscape Trusts and National Trust for Scotland Patronages while his wife Lady Elizabeth Kerr provides financial support to many educational and charitable institutions both locally and globally.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is Britain’s fifth-biggest landowner, with 324,000 acres across England, Scotland, and Wales under their management. Their roots go back to early conservation movements such as those in Britain and America over concerns over bird slaughter for plume ornamentation leading to foundings like those for both organizations in London (RSPB) and the USA (National Audubon Society).
The RSPB manages its land as public spaces for public enjoyment, opening some of Europe’s finest nature reserves to visitors. But its land can also be used for other purposes – housing development and grazing cattle and sheep among them – with one million members and 200 wildlife reserves across Britain.
Forestry Commission, RSPB and DEFRA all play an integral part in environmental affairs; with Forestry Commission, RSPB and the Environmental Fund and Regulation Agency (DEFRA) each holding significant areas. In the UK military’s defense of the realm, vast tracts are set aside for use. Taylor Wimpey Homes England is among several property developers featured and sizeable grouse moor estates owned by entrepreneurs like James Dyson, who run Beeswax Dyson Farming as family business.
The Crown Estate features in the top 10, with 360,000 acres at its disposal. This encompasses high-value areas of London and vast tracts of agricultural land in the Midlands; Queen Elizabeth has personal landholdings limited to just 20,000 acres, primarily at Sandringham in Norfolk.
Iain Murray, 10th Duke of Atholl, bequeathed his Scottish estates of over 144,000 acres when he passed away in 1996 to a charitable trust to ensure they would remain within his family rather than passing onto one of his distant cousins in South Africa. Other major owners included Duke of Buccleuch’s collection of sizeable grouse moor estates and Danish retail magnate Anders Holch Povlsen who now owns 11 Scottish estates.
The Crown Estate
A few wealthy individuals and organizations control land ownership in the UK. While some own impressive portfolios of historic properties, others oversee vast swaths of countryside or seabed. One such organization that oversees vast tracts of countryside or seabed is the Crown Estate – managing land across England and Wales, including high-value areas in London as well as vast tracts of agricultural land.
The Crown Estate boasts an annual turnover of more than PS2 billion and is the highest-revenue landlord in the UK. Their portfolio consists of real estate investments and management of seabed, offshore wind turbines and cables, marine aggregates and ports – providing them with a diverse income source.
Crown Estate owns a substantial property portfolio in central London, such as Regent Street – an iconic thoroughfare lined by well-known stores, restaurants and bars as well as the headquarters of several large banks. Furthermore, they own substantial stakes in shopping centres such as Westgate and Princesshay.
Crown Estate has recently ventured into new markets to make better use of its assets, expanding into renewable energy by working with developers on floating offshore wind farm developments in the Celtic Sea. Furthermore, plans are also underway for building several new ports within this area and hope to generate millions in revenues through operations.
Although owned by the monarchy, Crown Estate does not constitute Queen’s personal property. Instead, its income funds the operation of state services while any surplus is surrendered annually in exchange for a fixed annual payment from Treasury.
Even as one of the largest estates, the Crown Estate remains vulnerable to economic strain. Revenue in its current financial year is forecasted to decrease by four percent due to lower oil prices and the sterling’s falling value against the euro.
The Crown Estate remains committed to generating strong, sustainable returns for our stakeholders and those who use its land. To achieve this objective, we will focus on bringing land and marine resources alive through its new brand identity while ensuring our estate remains suitable for future use.
The Honourable Artillery Company
There’s a lot of land in the UK, and a wide variety of people owning it. From wealthy aristocrats and government departments to prominent charities – we take a look at who holds some of the greatest property portfolios here in Britain.
One of Britain’s 50 leading landowners is the Honourable Artillery Company, an organization described as a regiment since 1537 and an Army Reserve unit since 1908. Their Armoury House museum in City Road hosts one of the world’s premier collections of military memorabilia.
Museum highlights include an artifact collection including one of the world’s oldest cannons and an original portrait of King George III; additionally, there is also a library housing over 180,000 books related to military topics.
The top five biggest landowners in the UK are dominated by the armed forces and charities – particularly Forestry Commission and RSPB – but private firms such as Taylor Wimpey, Homes England, and Peel Group also rank highly.
Newcastle-based Grainger, with 10,000 properties under management, is one of the UK’s largest private landlords. In a trading update released by them recently, rent growth had been on an upward trend and occupancy rates at all-time high – yet they vowed to take a responsible approach when raising rents – hiring more staff.
Aristocrats, governments and religious institutions all own substantial amounts of property in the UK; universities also possess expansive land holdings – Trinity College in Cambridge owns 13,335 acres valued at PS730 million alone, while Oxford Merton College owns more acreage than any educational institution, covering an area larger than Greater London through its grouse moors.