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  • Writer's pictureWho Owns Norfolk?

Who Owns Norfolk - H1 2023 Update

It's now been almost two and a half years since Who Owns Norfolk (WON) launched at the start of 2021. The genesis of the project was actually during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when the founder of WON moved back to Norfolk and, seeing a map of the local estate in his family's house, realised that you could walk for hours and remain within its perimeters.

The project has come a long way, both in term of the % of Norfolk's land that has been mapped and in terms of the quality of the mapping output and product. See below for what the map used to look like, vs what it looks like now.

The Who Owns Norfolk map in early 2021

The Who Owns Norfolk West Norfolk map in early 2023

Since the last WON update, the % of Norfolk's land that has been mapped has increased from 32% to 37%. Norfolk is surprisingly large, coming in at over 1,300,000 acres. The 5% we have mapped therefore translates to 70,000 acres.

WON has now mapped 508,180 acres of Norfolk's total. 154 landowners have been added to the map.

Our research indicates that 55 landowners, 50 of whom are male, own 20% of Norfolk's land. With Norfolk's population listed as 914,000 in the 2021 census, this means 1/20th of Norfolk's land is owned by approximately 1/15,000th of Norfolk's population.*

*20% of land owned by 0.00006% of the population.

The cope with the increasing size of the Who Owns Norfolk map, we have now split the map into five, based on the local government districts of Norfolk.

The Who Owns Norfolk map, pre split in January 2023

Research Findings in H1 2023

In the first half of 2023, WON achieved its largest media hit to date, collaborating with the Guardian to help determine the total value of Norfolk's 2nd largest estate - the 20,000 acre Sandringham Estate, which was recently inherited by King Charles III. Our investigation found that the 300 residential properties that are part of Sandringham Estate are worth GBP 75 million, whilst the broader estate is worth a quarter of a billion pounds, at a conservative estimate.

This investigation revealed what has been known in the local area for some time - the Royal Family have in recent years been buying up properties on or near the estate, at a time when the national housing crisis has only ratcheted up in scale. If you want to understand why people can no longer afford to buy houses, look no further than one wealthy man owning 300 properties (noting that this is only his property at Sandringham - the King owns many more houses across his various other estates).

Other research published by WON since the last update include:

  • An interactive map of the destructive path of a proposed road near Norwich.

  • A family history of the Birkbeck family, Norfolk's largest remaining gentry landowners. Olly Birkbeck, part of the eco-gentry campaigners who set up Wild East, belongs to this banking and landowning dynasty, who made their money setting up Barclays.

  • Standalone estate maps of Norfolk's largest estates - Holkham and Sandringham.

Some of the more interesting landowners added to the map in H1 2023 include:

  • Ivor Braka, the "Rock'n'Roll Art Dealer" who is known for his dedication to London's party scene and associates with the likes of Jerry Hall. The son of a wealthy Mancunian textile manufacturer, Braka attended Oundle (not exactly a rags to riches story) and grew up with a love of wildlife (particularly newts). When he heard of the ecological decline of a stately home's former parkland in North Norfolk in the 1980s, he went about buying up parcels of land as and when they come in the market. Braka now owns 800 acres of land at Gunton Park which was once part of Baron Suffield's vast 12,000 acre estate. This estate underwent a dramatic decline in the 70s and today the present Baron Suffield is understood to own just 100 acres. Braka recently won an award for his 25-year long landscape restoration project at Gunton.

  • Rarely a month goes by when WON does not discover a new estate, farm or country house owned by the elusive Italian count, Count Luca Padulli. We previously understood the count to own 12,000 acres in Norfolk - investigations this year reveal this to be 14,000 acres, owned via his farming and property company Albanwise Ltd. We expect to discover more acres in the future. The count is Norfolk's 3rd largest landowner, behind only those prestigious aristocrats King Charles III and the 8th Earl of Leicester.

  • WON discovered an additional 3,000 acres owned by Charles Temple-Richards, the heir to the Thomas Cook travel agent fortune who owns the vast 8,000 acre Sennowe Park Estate, near Fakenham. He now stands as Norfolk's 5th largest private landowner - quite the accolade.

  • The Bulwer-Longs, a gentry family who own 2,500 acres and an entire village at Heydon. Their ancestors have owned Heydon since 1640, whilst some materials indicate they have been a member of Norfolk's landowning gentry set since the 1300s.

Looking Forward

In the next half of the year, WON will continue with its next project - Decline and Fall, analyzing which of the aristocratic estates of the late 19th Century have survived to the present day, and the fate of those that have not.

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