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Who Owns England?

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  383 ratings  ·  57 reviews
'A formidable, brave and important book' Robert Macfarlane

Who owns England?

Behind this simple question lies this country's oldest and best-kept secret. This is the history of how England's elite came to own our land, and an inspiring manifesto for how to open up our countryside once more.

This book has been a long time coming. Since 1086, in fact. For centuries, England's
Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published May 2nd 2019 by William Collins
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Jan 26, 2020 rated it liked it
This book appealed to me because I had read and thoroughly enjoyed The Poor Had No Lawyers: Who Owns Scotland. It was probably only a matter of time before someone looked to the rest of Great Britain. Guy Shrubsole’s writing style is less formal than Wightman’s. He writes in what I would term Sunday supplement style, ie chatty and easy to read, not too taxing.

Shrubsole looks at major landowners in turn - the Church, the Crown, the aristocracy, the MOD, nature and land conservation agencies, and
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Having thoroughly enjoyed the land law module of my law degree well over a decade ago due to its complexities and nuances I was eager to learn more about this fascinating area, and this book seemed like the ideal opportunity to do so. Guy Shrubsole uncovers how for centuries the wealthy have undertaken nefarious acts in order to get their hands on the land they desired. Open your mind to the fact that by changing how land ownership operates we can begin to address some of the crises of our time: ...more
Tariq Mahmood
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read, who actually owns England? From the aristocracy to the offshore corporations based in tax havens who are involved in land banking, I didn't know who to despise more. But what really offended me were the agricultural subsidies given to big states. I mean I am a mere tenant of a tiny house who has to PAY the council hundreds of pounds every year while these landed states are getting hundreds of thousands of subsidies instead. Why have they not been taxed like the rest of us mer ...more
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating investigation into land and property ownership in England. It's a wide ranging and surprising account which embraces Government departments, Russian Oligarchs, Sheikhs, grouse hunting estates, entrepreneurs and, of course, the aristocracy.

Despite what I used to believe, the landed aristocracy remain remarkably adept at retaining their land and other assets - many have owned the same estates they acquired as part of the Norman landgrab in the 11th century. I was less surprised to d
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2019
The question, who owns England? is such a simple question. And yet the answer to this is one of our country’s oldest and best-kept secrets. And the keepers of those secrets? Our ancient aristocracy and elite, who between them own vast swathes of our land. So much so, that only 1% (yes one per cent) of the population of the country owns 50% of the land. The Land Registry only knows for definite around 83% of the actual owners of the land of England.

To understand how we are in this situation you h
Maru Kun
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An FT reporter once asked the Duke of Westminster what advice he’d give to young British entrepreneurs keen to emulate his success. His reply remains notorious for its insight into British society:
“Make sure they have an ancestor who was a very close friend of William the Conqueror”
Briefly, the registration of land ownership in the United Kingdom is only required on transfer, so the ownership of land that hasn’t changed hands for many generations - since it was handed out by William the Conq
Sophy H
I had been waiting to read this for some time, and in a telling manner, so has most of the general public (there has been a waiting list for reservation of this book from my local library for months!!)

As I already suspected before reading, the rich toffs with the money and the power and the influence own waayyy more land than they should!!! As Guy Shrubsole points out, since Norman the Conqueror started his fuckery back in 1066, the division and ownership of land has never been the same since. T
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly thorough and compelling account of how England's system of hereditary landownership and a landlord class is deeply inequitable (it's the same here in Ireland and many, many other nations). A must read for anyone buried under absurd rent or mortgage payments or anyone concerned about the environment. ...more
Adam Deedman
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting read, which sheds new light on the state of land in England and what needs to be done to bring rights and equality to all of us who live amongst this nations' rich and diverse landscape.

Some interesting topics are covered within this book and a comprehensive breakdown of how England is divided up is covered, from the new money plutocrats who have brought vast estates within the English countryside, to the waning public sector - a body who is supposed to exist for the benefit of us
Megan Harris
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Objectively 5 stars, subjectively 4 stars because I feel like to get the most out of this I need to go back through this and take a copious amount of notes

V interesting & relevant to my degree, esp land law
Martin Empson
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really important book. Many on the left, from Karl Marx onward have sought to understand how capitalism developed and what this meant for the land and its people. But who came to own the land as a result of that process has profound consequences for people today. Guy Shrubsole's book is written with humour and anger and offers a viable alternative. It is an essential read and I highly recommend it.

My full review on the blog:
Kate Vane
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In Who Owns England, Guy Shrubsole describes how his campaigning interests – from environmental damage on agricultural land to housing shortages in London – led him to wonder who owns the land in England. Getting an answer proved difficult which made him all the more determined to pursue the subject. He and data journalist Anna Powell-Smith have detailed their research on the Who Owns England blog and he expands on the subject in this book.

He begins with the historical context and the Domesday B
Mar 03, 2021 rated it it was ok
was OK, didn't add much to the blog - fair bit of like, expanding on the blog's findings with potted histories of other stuff (the whole housing section is just a Municipal Dreams/Owen Hatherley remix). really interesting findings about the very aggravating land situation in this country though so still worthwhile. would have appreciated a better look at international comparisons - e.g. he says France just lets you rock up to a cadastre and ask for info but omits that none of it is available onl ...more
Herwin Tros
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shrubsole tells the story over ownership of Englands soil that was totally unknown to me. It gives a - by times - shocking insight in how the country functions (or dysfunctions if you will) on the terrain of housing, farming, roaming, etc. Also it gives insight in the inheritance of feudalism a mere 1000 years after William the Conqueror 'made' England. There hasn't been much change... Shrubsole gives hope en guidance, maybe a little too much in the way of a dreamer, but, maybe it is necessary t ...more
Alex Keen
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An essential read for those struggling to get on the housing ladder, frustrated by 'Private Land' signs whilst out walking and for those dismayed at the barren countryside paralysed as ecological deserts. This book perfectly explains how these situations have come to pass and how they are entwined with who owns land in the England. ...more
Paul Holden
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An extremely interesting, shocking and important book. Highlights the many injustices in land ownership.
Jonathan Norton
Oct 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Who do you think owns England's fields? Hedge funds. ...more
The Book
Took me a few weeks to get through, but loved it. Eye-opener for me, keen to read more around this.
Daniel Lambauer
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good book that is an easy ready even though it took me longer to reas than I would have liked. Becomes a bit repetitive in parts, but has good thoughts on land reform and argues convincingly why this is such an urgent topic to tackle...
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Land reform is something I hadn't given much thought to before, but Guy Shrubsole really won me over with this book.

Guy's passion for the environment and social justice fuels this polemic; through each chapter he covers another type of land ownership, from the aristocracy, to the state, to the Anglican Church, to corporate entities. Until I read this book, I'd never considered how who owns land can affect climate change, biodiversity, economic inequality, the welfare state, or our own freedoms.
Simon Mcleish
Sep 30, 2019 rated it liked it
As an analysis of land ownership in England, it delivers what the title promises. Driven by righteous anger at the exclusivity and secrecy of England's land ownership, it is passionate but can feel a bit like being hit repeatedly over the head with a blunt instrument. ...more
Oliver Rogers
Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People wanting to know more about a policy issue and seeking context
This book makes for fascinating reading and explained very clearly some trends in land ownership I was unaware of (because it's pretty well kept secret from us!) and also the context of how the planning system was developed in the post-war period.

However, I can't help but feel that this 'egalitarian sense manual' (As I like to call it!) is ranged against conservative forces so grand and so huge, in England and the rest of the UK, as to be nigh impossible to achieve the level of change that it d
Willy Marz Thiessam
Great book. Its more of a discussion paper though rather than rough and refined statistics. Here are some notes I've added to his chart that can be found on page 267:

Crown - 1.4% - hard to gage the true extent as much of it is interspered with relatives, and personal ownership. Most environmental initiatives and legislation affecting land are controled to some extent through royal rights to the seabeds and to their rights to influence government policy that might affect their holdings. The crow
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who Owns England? is the result of some amazing investigative journalism on the part of Shrubsole et al.
The secrecy surrounding land ownership, particularly in England and Wales is fascinating. It is undoubtedly political. And it is useful to note which of our MPs are landowners and how they have voted on environmental and access issues 🤔 After Domesday Book in 1085 pretty much any attempt at identifying who owned what land has been thwarted by... the landowners themselves. What do they have to
Dave Stone
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
An entertaining read about a lot of things I didn't know I didn't know.
I'll be honest, I didn't completely get the question in the title when I started reading this book. "Who owns England?" that makes no sense. But it sounded interesting so I gave it a shot. The question makes more sense to me now and I get why it's important, and why Guy Shrubsole had to ask.
I'm an American, so many of the concepts in this book are foreign to me. I did not know that the government in England pays landowners
Jason Raj
Mar 07, 2021 rated it liked it
The full title of this book is actually Who Owns England?: How We Lost Our Green and Pleasant Land, and How to Take It Back, which is important. I bought this because it was cheap and I found the question posed by the short title interesting - it was billed as a "detective story and historical investigation" that "reveals how, for centuries, much of England’s countryside has been owned by a select few".

I had already read separately of the Duke of Westminster, and how he has inherited large secti
As the librarian commented, I'd had to wait a long time to get hold of this. I understand why now - it deserves not to be rushed through (and the library didn't buy enough copies...a conspiracy theorist might have had something to say about certain aristocratic estates in these parts and their involvement in the political system)

I found it very readable, surprisingly so as it is rightly based on evidence ie facts, figures. I'm very impressed by the dedicated detective work that has gone into fin
Mackenzie Fletcher
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Who Owns England? Is a fascinating exploration of land ownership in England, and occasionally Wales. You’d think the question of who owns what wouldn’t be all that difficult to answer, but no, England’s history of land ownership and land reform is likely one of the most convoluted in the world. Land ownership continues to be shrouded in secrecy, and despite its formation in 1861, HM’s Land Registry remains incomplete. This book recounts Shrubsole’s attempts to map the landowners of England as we ...more
Sennen Rose
This book took me eight months to read for various reasons, and it has affected me deeply. I think when you grow up in the countryside in England, especially in a place as old as where I grew up, you sort of always have a vague knowledge of the way land shapes everything in this country, but I had never seen anything that said it so clearly and so precisely. I thought about loads of things while reading this - the Michael Morpurgo book Private Peaceful, my dad’s stories about scrumping and poach ...more
Sonny Peart
Plenty to shock in this book, regarding the concentration of ownership of land of England in the hands of so few - individuals, corporations, off-shore trusts, etc. The National Parks we may think of as common land are in fact mostly privately owned. The proportion of land in England open to the public is tiny. Much of our country is fenced off from us. And remarkably, ultimate ownership of significant tracts of land is shrouded in mystery, and has been so for centuries. Meanwhile, ecosystems ar ...more
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Guy Shrubsole works as a campaigner for Friends of the Earth and has written for numerous publications including the Guardian and New Statesman. Who Owns England? (2019) is his first book.

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