Aldbourne farmer in dispute over manorial rights to land
Updated 4:06pm Thursday 16th January 2014 in By Anna Mauremootoo, Senior reporter for Marlborough and Pewsey
Farmer William Brown’s attempt to register manorial rights over Aldbourne sports field and Palmers Field has met opposition from the parish council.
Manorial rights are rights retained by the lord of the manor when the land becomes freehold and can include rights relating to mines and minerals, hunting, shooting or fishing.
The Land Registry informed the parish council that Mr Brown, an Aldbourne councillor who lives at Manor Farm, applied to register manorial rights on the land, which the parish council owns, in November.
At a meeting on Wednesday last week Mr Brown addressed the council, and a packed public gallery, on the issue for the first time.
Mr Brown, whose great-grandfather became lord of the manor in 1892, said: “I am not asserting rights which would require a gun to shoot or a spade to dig but registering ancient rights which I believe have existed for centuries.
"This is maintaining the status quo to those rights I believe are already there.”
Mr Brown refuted rumours in the village that he wanted to use the land for fracking. He said he would not be able to permit fracking on the land under the petroleum act and added it was an unsuitable area for shooting.
He said: “There is no reason why this registration should make any difference to what happens on the land.
“These are ancient rights which until now have always been protected but, as from October 13 last year, any rights not registered would disappear next time the property was sold.
“My great-grandfather bought the rights to and the title of Lord of the Manor of Aldbourne in 1892 and it’s been in my family since then. I just thought it would be good to register and it would be misguided not to.”
Historical records concerning these rights are inconclusive and there is a dispute as to whether they still exist.
Concerns were also raised that these rights would affect grant applications on the land.
Parish council chairman Chris McGowan said: “On one field what is not proven is who bought the land after the owner in 1805/1806, because at any time when someone bought freehold land it could have been sold to them with the manorial rights.
"The other thing that isn’t proven is that the lord of the manor had rights over Palmers Field and the football field in 1905.
“Just like we are struggling to find out what, in practice, the manorial rights mean, so the same thing is going to happen with a grants application.
"It’s going to go through the process, someone is going to see the manorial rights and think ‘what are manorial rights – have we got to get solicitors in?’ It’s all a bit uncertain and that’s the difficulty and hesitation.”
Mr Brown has also registered manorial rights on other parts of the village, some of which have been withdrawn after objections from land owners.
The parish council voted unanimously to uphold its objection, registered in November, to allow it time to research the issue further.
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