Duke of Northumberland nearly doubles rent for some farmers on estate

mark at tlio.org.uk mark at tlio.org.uk
Thu Feb 21 08:38:05 GMT 2013

Why does a Duke worth £320m want to double the rents of his farmers? 
Tenants told to pay up or face eviction

     Duke of Northumberland nearly doubles rent for some farmers on 
     Some farmers fearing they may have to give up properties
     NFU Northumberland chairman says estate is 'wanting its pound of 

  By James Rush, The Daily Mail
PUBLISHED: 19 February 2013

He is the aristocratic owner of the castle featured in Harry Potter.

And although his fortune is said to be around £320million, it seems 
the Duke of Northumberland wants more.

Ralph Percy, 56, has been accused of wrecking the livelihoods of 
tenant farmers after his land agents demanded massive rent increases. 
Some have been asked to pay up to 98 per cent more or face eviction.

The Duke, whose son George was last year rumoured to be dating Pippa 
Middleton, owns some 132,000 acres of land.

His 1,000-year-old castle at Alnwick, which featured as Hogwarts in 
the Harry Potter films, is known as the Windsor of the North.

But despite his wealth, it emerged yesterday that the Duke’s Estate is 
conducting a crippling round of rent reviews on its farmers in 

There is no legal limit to the rent  the land agents can ask for, and 
tenants are unlikely to challenge them because this can end up costing 
them even more.

With many farmers suffering from a slump in lamb prices, some fear 
they might have to give up their properties altogether.

Stoker Frater, who runs two farms on land near Alnwick, has been told 
to expect a 40 per cent increase, following on from a 30 per cent rise 
three years ago.

He said: ‘Tenants are expected to pay outlandish rents just to get the 

‘The Estate has become so business-orientated that it will take the 
highest offer.’

Another, who also farms near Alnwick but did not want to be named, was 
told his annual rent was due to go up by 98 per cent this year

After saying he could not afford it, he was told to accept a 64 per 
cent rise or be off the land by the following month. He said: ‘My rent 
will go up from £21,000 a year to £34,000, which is completely 

‘This is affecting my entire family as I won’t be able to afford to 
run the farm if my rent goes up by this much.’

Northumberland Estates, which has land in the West Country and 
Yorkshire as well as Northumberland, has about 100 tenanted farms. It 
said the rent reviews reflected rises in market rates.

But David Robson, of the NFU in Northumberland, said the Estate was 
taking advantage of its tenants.

He said: ‘It seems the Estate is wanting its pound of flesh. 
Historically, they were run more on the traditional basis where a 
farmer was actively encouraged to look after the land. Now if the 
farmer can’t pay he’s out the door.’

The rises come as the Duke prepares for a multi-million pound bill 
linked to the demolition of flood-hit flats in Newburn, Newcastle upon 
Tyne, although the Estate says the issues are not linked.

Tenants have the right to call in an arbitrator if they dispute a rent 
rise, but can end up paying costs of up to £40,000 if the ruling is in 
the landlord’s favour.

An Estate spokesman said: ‘We understand tenants do not welcome 
potential increases in rent but believe that, by encouraging open and 
honest discussions during negotiations, rent reviews take into account 
the type of tenancy, the individual farm and rents accurately reflect 
market conditions.’

Note: The Duke of Northumberland owns 132,000 acres of land, including 
Alnwickk, Warkworth and Syon Park in West London, Hulne Park and 
Albury estate in Surrey, as well as several stately homes around the 

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