Hertfordshire residents call for national abolition of Lords' manorial rights

Welwyn Hatfield Residents Against the Marquess of Salisbury Manorial Rights Residents handed in a "people's proclamation" to the Hatfield House estate

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Residents trying to stop a lord claiming manorial rights over Hertfordshire land, have held a protest at Hatfield House calling for the feudal law to be abolished.

People in Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City asked the Marquess of Salisbury to forego his rights after he sent letters saying he had access to land they own.

Campaigners now want a government inquiry into the ancient laws.

The Ministry of Justice said it had "no current plans to change the law".

A MoJ spokesman said they would "continue to monitor" the law regarding manorial rights.

Manorial rights are those retained by the lord of the manor when its land became freehold.

The lord of the manor's rights

  • In medieval times a manor was an area of land owned by the person who lived in the manor house
  • The lordship of the manor is simply the title by which the lord of the manor is known
  • Before the Land Registration Act 2002, it was possible to buy these lordship titles
  • Manorial rights were retained by the lord of the manor when the land became freehold
  • They can include rights relating to mines and minerals and those to hunt, shoot or fish

Source: Land Registry

These can include rights relating to mining, hunting and holding fairs or markets.

The system dates back to William the Conqueror's coronation as England's king in 1066 when feudal rights were introduced, but recently the Land Registration Act 2002 stated that people with manorial rights must lodge them with the Land Registry before October 2013 - or face losing them.

Hatfield House is the home of the seventh Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and has been in the Cecil family for 400 years.

Residents said they only realised Lord Salisbury had the rights when he sent out letters last year saying he had access to land they own.

Estate solicitors Bond Dickinson said the marquess was recording "pre-existing ownership" following a law change and residents "should not be alarmed".

'Outdated laws'

Residents set up the Welwyn Hatfield Residents Against the Marquess of Salisbury Manorial Rights group to ask Lord Salisbury to give up these rights but have now begun a national campaign to get the law abolished in England and Wales.

Hatfield House, Hertfordshire. Hatfield House in Hertfordshire has been in the Cecil family for 400 years

On Wednesday, about 50 campaigners joined a march outside Hatfield House where a "people's proclamation" was read out.

It said lords claimed manorial rights "by virtue of inherited titles, yet you retain none of the responsibilities that once went hand in hand with them" and it would be asking MPs to have the rights abolished.

Campaign spokeswoman Amanda White said the "outdated laws" gave lords of the manor claim to more than 100,000 properties in England and Wales.

"They are relics of the past and have no place in a 21st Century democracy.... we must get rid of these outdated rights," she said.

As well as setting up a petition to force a parliamentary debate, the group is approaching MPs from other affected areas to ask for a Justice Select Committee inquiry into the ancient laws and their effect on residents which they hope will lead to a Law Commission Review.

Scotland abolished its feudal law in 2000 with the Abolition of Feudal Tenure (Scotland) Act.

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