Who Owns Norfolk?
Who Owns Norfolk - H1 2022 Update
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Who Owns Norfolk (WON) took a short hiatus from mapping at the start of 2022 as we sought to find ways to host the ever growing map on our website. This issue has now been resolved - please see the Map homepage to see the new look.
That said, we still discovered and mapped some of Norfolk's most interesting landowners yet during the first half of this year. For some time we were aware that the Dukes of Norfolk had until 1873 at least held 4,000 acre estate in South Norfolk, part of a sprawling property empire that included the imposing Arundel and Bungay castles, much of Sheffield and almost 50,000 acres of farmland. This was clear from historic surveys of England's landowners such as Bateman's 'The Great Landowners of Great Britain' (1884) and 'Norfolk Landowners Since 1880' by Pam Barnes (published in 1993).
However, any research since 1880 on whether the Duke of Norfolk still owned land in Norfolk appears to have disappeared (at least in online sources), if it was ever conducted.
This potential landed link was particularly enticing: not only is the Duke’s title linked to Norfolk, but in addition, the Duke of Norfolk is the oldest Duchy in England. The 18th Duke is therefore England’s premier duke. As dukes sits at the top of the aristocratic hierarchy (above barons, viscounts and marquises and earls), this makes Edward Fitzalan-Howard England’s premier aristocrat, too: a sort of noble amongst nobles.
It took some digging, but WON can now reveal that the Dukes of Norfolk are still a member of Norfolk’s landed set, a situation that has remained unchanged for the past 600 years. WON located the ruins of Kenninghall Place, the former Norfolk seat of the Howards, and used its geolocation data to identify the relevant InspireID land plot. We then purchased the associated Land Registry title. Who should be the owner but one Edward Fitzalan-Howard, 18th Duke of Norfolk. Home address: the formidable Arundel Castle in Sussex.
The Kenninghall Estate, as it is referred to by its owners, is a relatively modest 2,000 acres, but forms part of Mr Fitzalan-Howard’s much more impressive 46,000 acre estate. Sadly, Kenninghall looks subject to intensive agriculture with very little spared for nature. Nor is it part of an environmental or countryside stewardship scheme. With so much land, one does wonder if Mr Howard need subject it all to ecological evisceration.
Other notable estates we have uncovered in H1 2022 include:
Hilborough Estate, near Thetford (4,400 acres) – Owners: the van Cutsem family
A relatively recent addition to Norfolk’s landowning elite, the van Cutsems are nonetheless one of its most prestigious. The descendants of medieval Flemish dukes, more recent job titles have included banking executives and elite racehorse breeders. The elder and late van Cutsem was a close friend of Prince Charles; one of his sons is Prince Louis' godfather. Fond of a shoot, the van Cutsems have cultivated an excellent reputation for maintaining good grey partridge numbers. Not coincidentally, they were recently raided by the police for the potential prosecution of rare raptors.
The late Hugh van Cutsem
Wretham Estate (1,500 acres) (found to be part of the nearby 4,000 acre Kilvestone Estate, owned by Baron Fisher)
Further research in South Norfolk revealed an expansion of the 3,500 acre Kilvestone Estate, with the addition of the nearby 1,500 acre Wretham Estate, which is neatly carved out of Thetford Forest. All is now owned by Baron Fisher, a nuveau addition to England’s aristocracy (his title is a paltry 100 years old). Presumably the former asset was used as leverage to mortgage the latter. Or perhaps their vast inheritance from the Vivasseur industrialists is still yielding a good return. Being a scion of the industrio-landed elite is nice work if you can get it.
Hargham Hall Estate, near Thetford (1,780 acres), Owner: Baronet Beevor
Our second favourite aristocratic title (after Baronet Bacon) belongs to Baronet Beevor, the owner of a recently identified estate – Hargham Hall, also in South Norfolk. With a modest 1,780 acres, the Beevor Baronets have kept their heads down, with no famous family members since the mid 19th Century. They are now content with the farming life, and deal mostly in potatoes.
Since our last major update at the start of the year, we have mapped a modest 2% of Norfolk’s land area, taking our mapped area to 32% of the total. 100 private individuals own 20% of Norfolk; in other words, 1/5th of the county is owned by 1/10,000th of the population.
Many wealthy landed dynasties, with no inclination for regenerative agriculture or rewilding, remain as yet uncovered, willfully shrouded in the mists of time. As the recent and unprecedented wildfires have announced, England appears set on muddling through ecological, climate and housing crises, with little mature discussion from top policy circles on how land can be better used as a solution, rather than a contributor. This ought to change.
This project is the first attempt to survey Norfolk’s landowners since 1880, and we like to see it as a sort of modern Norfolk Domesday Book.
If you would like to support WON, or have queries regarding a local plot of land, please do email us at Who.Owns.Norfolk@gmail.com.