FC MoD and NT? The UK's 50 biggest landowners

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Thu Jun 6 13:15:33 BST 2019

FC MoD and NT?

The UK's 50 biggest landowners revealed



Britain's real owners

Stuart C. Wilson/Getty
Ever wondered who or what has the biggest 
portfolio of land in the UK? Britain's biggest 
landowners include well-heeled aristocrats, 
government departments, renowned institutions, 
foreign investors and more. Counting down from 
the 50th to the largest landowner of them all, we 
spill the beans on the people and organisations that really own the country.

50. Honourable Artillery Company: 14,209 acres

Courtesy HAC
Military charity the Honourable Artillery Company 
holds the title to 14,209 acres in the Brecon 
Beacons National Park in Wales, which is used by 
the Armed Forces and other organisations for advanced adventurous training.

49. Merton College, Oxford University: 14,707 acres

Sailko/Wikimedia Commons
Trinity College, Cambridge is the UK's richest 
university college with land holdings of 13,335 
acres that have been valued at £730 million, but 
Oxford's Merton College has more acreage – at 
14,707 acres, the college owns more land than any 
other educational institution.

48. Al Maktoum family: 15,533 acres

The ruling family of Dubai owns a company called 
Arago Limited, which controls the Bollihope 
Estate in the North Pennines, a major grouse 
shooting ground. Sprawling over at least 550,000 
acres, England's privately-owned grouse moors 
cover an area the size of Greater London.

47. Taylor Wimpey: 14,684 acres

Courtesy Taylor Wimpey
Taylor Wimpey is one of the Britain's leading 
housebuilders and a major landowner to boot. The 
company's shareholders are the ultimate owners of 
14,684 acres of developable land throughout the UK.

46. John Whittaker & the Olayan Group: 15,041 acres

Courtesy Intu Group
The company behind Manchester's Trafford Centre 
and MediaCityUK, property investment giant the 
Peel Group has land holdings totalling 15,041 
acres. Real estate mogul John Whittaker owns 75% 
of the firm, while the remaining 25% is held by 
the Olayan Group, a Saudi conglomerate.

45. Pennon Group: 15,816 acres

Courtesy Pennon Group
South West Water has a land bank of 15,816 acres, 
mainly in Cornwall and Devon. South West Water is 
part of the Pennon Group, which is owned by its 
shareholders, and includes waste management firm Viridor.

44. Kemble Water Holdings: 15,987 acres

PXL Store/Shutterstock
The UK's largest water services company, Thames 
Water is sitting on 15,987 acres of relatively 
pricey land, mainly in London and the Home 
Counties. The company is owned by an 
international consortium called Kemble Water 
Holdings comprised of funds from the UK, Canada, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and China.

43. Richard Kelvin-Hughes: 16,000 acres

Andrew Bowden/Flickr CC
Leading racehorse owner and country sports 
enthusiast Richard Kelvin-Hughes has one of 
England's premier grouse moors in his possession, 
the Knarsdale Estate in Northumberland, which he 
snapped up in 2007, fulfilling a life-long ambition.

42. Michael Cannon: 16,001 acres

Courtesy Moorland Association
Michael Cannon, a former poultry 
farmer-turned-pubs entrepreneur, owns the 
Wemmergill Estate in Country Durham. Stone 
acquired the grouse moor in 2006 from the late 
Queen Mother's Bowes-Lyon family for £20 million.

41. Valero Energy: 17,216 acres

Courtesy Valero Energy
Shareholders of America's Valero Energy have 
ownership rights over the UK's number one fuel 
pipeline. The Mainlines Pipelines network runs 
from Pembroke in South Wales to the Midlands and northwest of England.

40. Osprey Consortium: 17,607 acres

Joyce Holyoak/Shutterstock
Anglian Water has a portfolio of 17,607 acres of 
land in the East of England. The company is owned 
by a consortium that includes the Canada Pension 
Plan Investment Board, Australia's Colonial First 
State Global Asset Management and the UK-based 3i Group.

39. Rathbone Brothers 17,854 acres

Courtesy QCIC
Investment company Rathbone Brothers boasts 
17,854 acres of land in the UK. Now a 
publicly-listed enterprise, the firm, which is 
based in London's Finsbury Circus (pictured), was 
founded way back in 1742 by merchant William 
Rathbone II and remained in the Rathbone family for generations.

38. Sir Lyonel Humphrey John Tollemache, 7th Baronet: 17,908 acres

Courtesy Buckminster
British aristocrats who have managed to hold on 
to their estates or at least part of their 
ancestral lands feature heavily in the top 50. 
Sir Lyonel Humphrey John Tollemache, the 7th 
Baronet, owns the 17,908-acre Buckminster Estate 
through a company called Ham Nominees.

37. Michael Stone: 18,000 acres

Jo Dunckley/Shutterstock
Former sugar trader Michael Stone has ownership 
rights of the Weardale and Egglestone moors in 
County Durham, which total around 18,000 acres. 
The moors are used for grouse shooting from August to December.

36. John Clark: 18,119 acres

Teknad/Wikimedia Commons
Featherstone Castle and its surrounding estate in 
the uplands of Northumberland belong to John 
Clark who, together with his father Colonel John 
Clark, bought the stately home and grouse moor in 
1961. In total, the estate is 18,119 acres in size.

35. Homes England: 19,349 acres

Duncan Andison/Shutterstock
Between them, the various agencies of the UK 
government own tens of thousands of acres of land 
throughout Britain. Homes England has one of the 
largest land holdings, adding up to around 19,349 acres.

34. John Savile, 8th Earl of Mexborough: 20,000 acres

Courtesy Mexborough Estates
Back to the upper classes and John Savile, the 
8th Earl of Mexborough, is the proud custodian of 
20,000 acres of land in Yorkshire and other parts 
of the UK through his ownership of Mexborough 
Estates. In fact, according to Country Life 
magazine, a third of Britain still belongs to the aristocracy.

33. Queen Elizabeth II: 20,000 acres

Stuart C. Wilson/Getty
Her Majesty may have Buckingham Palace, Windsor 
Castle and Balmoral at her disposal, but these 
assets are actually owned by the nation. The 
Queen's private land holdings amount to a 
surprisingly modest 20,000 acres, mainly in and around Sandringham in Norfolk.

32. Corland Minerals: 20,371 acres

Ian Woolcock/Shutterstock
Based in Scarborough, Corland Minerals holds the 
title to 20,371 acres throughout the UK. For the 
past few years, the mining company been busily 
registering interest in common lands, which has attracted some controversy.

31. Henry Somerset, 12th Duke of Beaufort: 20,534 acres

Ben Birchall/PA
Another member of the aristocracy with an 
enviable portfolio of land, Henry Somerset, the 
12th Duke of Beaufort, is the owner of Swangrove 
Estates, which includes swathes of Gloucestershire and parts of South Wales.

30. HeidelbergCement: 20,534 acres

Courtesy Hanson Quarry Products Europe
Hanson Quarry Products Europe has 20,534 acres in 
the UK. The construction manufacturing company is 
a subsidiary of German multinational 
HeidelbergCement, one of the world's largest suppliers of building materials.

29. Edward Guinness, 4th Earl of Iveagh: 20,664 acres

Courtesy Marshal Papworth Fund
A scion of the Anglo-Irish Guinness brewing 
dynasty, Edward Guinness, the 4th Earl of Iveagh, 
owns the 20,664-acre Elvedon Estate in Suffolk. 
The estate includes a working farm growing cereals and root vegetables.

28. Harworth Group: 21,000 acres

Courtesy Harworth Group
Formerly the property division of mining firm UK 
Coal, the Harworth Group is a land regeneration 
company with 21,000 acres of developable 
brownfield sites chiefly in the North of England and the Midlands.

27. Stefan Persson: 21,373 acres

Prolineserver/Wikimedia Commons
H&M head honcho Stefan Persson owns thousands of 
acres of land in Hampshire and Wiltshire via a 
company called Ramsbury S.a.R.L. The portfolio 
includes an entire Hampshire village and the bulk 
of the 8,800-acre Savernake Estate, which Persson 
bought from the Crown Estate in 2013.

26. Andrew Russell, 15th Duke of Bedford: 21,474 acres

Phil Inglis/Getty
The Woburn Estate in Bedfordshire extends over 
21,474 acres and includes the famous Woburn Abbey 
and Safari Park. Andrew Russell, the 15th Duke of 
Bedford, is the current custodian of the estate, 
which has been the family seat since 1547.

25. Count Luca Rinaldo Contardo Padulli di Vighignolo: 25,000 acres

Mysterious Italian aristocrat Count Luca Rinaldo 
Contardo Padulli di Vighignolo owns Albanwise, a 
Norfolk-based property company with land holdings 
totalling 25,000 acres in Norfolk, London, the 
Home Counties and North Yorkshire.

24. Zambrano family: 25,340 acres

Gustavo Benítez/Wikimedia Commons
Mexican multinational Cemex, the world's second 
largest buildings materials company, has over 500 
locations in the UK and 25,340 acres of land. 
Cemex is owned by relatives of the late 
billionaire Lorenzo Zambrano (pictured), who made 
the company the success it is today.

23. Roger Tempest: 25,516 acres

Courtesy Broughton Hall Estate
The 25,516-acre Broughton Hall Estate in North 
Yorkshire has been in the Tempest family for 
aeons. The ancient family dates back to the 
Norman conquest and has owned the estate for 32 
generations. Roger Tempest is the current custodian.

22. Robert Warren Miller: 27,258 acres

Courtesy Fondaco dei Tedeschi/Facebook
Pictured here with his daughter Pia Getty, 
American-born tycoon Robert Warren Miller, 
founder of the Duty Free Shops chain, is up next. 
The airport retail billionaire owns Gunnerside 
Estates in North Yorkshire and Durham, which 
encompasses some 27,258 acres. Much of the land 
was acquired in 1995 from Lord Peel.

21. Sir James Dyson: 33,000 acres

David Parry/PA
Sir James Dyson made his fortune from vacuum 
cleaners and is spending a hefty proportion of it 
hoovering up vast tracts of farmland. The 
billionaire British investor owns sustainable 
agriculture firm Beeswax Dyson Farming and is 
reported to have land holdings of 33,000 acres in England.

20. Hugh Lowther, 8th Earl of Lonsdale: 35,269 acres

Owen Humphreys/PA
Hugh Lowther, the 8th Earl of Lonsdale, owns the 
Lonsdale Estate in Cumbria, as well as a company 
called L.E.T Nominees that has extensive land 
holdings. All in all, the earl is the custodian 
of an impressive 35,269 acres of the English countryside.

19. LafargeHolcim: 48,557 acres

Guillaume Louyot Onickz Artworks/Shutterstock
Swiss-based LafargeHolcim, the world's largest 
manufacturer of building materials, has two 
cement plants in Cauldon, Staffordshire and 
Cookstown, Northern Ireland, and a portfolio of 
land totalling 48,557 acres in the UK.

18. Severn Trent: 51,668 acres

Julius Kielaitis/Shutterstock
The shareholders of water company Severn Trent 
are the ultimate owners of 51,668 acres of land. 
The holdings are located for the most part in the 
Midlands, including parts of Birmingham and Rugby.

17. MRH Minerals: 67,935 acres

Mining firm MRH Minerals owns 67,935 acres in 
Cumbria. The company was established in 1941 by 
the descendants of the 9th Earl of Carlisle. 
Conservative peer Oliver Eden, the 8th Baron 
Henley, is a prominent shareholder.

16. Saltaire Water: 68,927 acres

Stefano Carnevali/Shutterstock
A group of investors that include HSBC and 
Citibank form Saltaire Water, the consortium that 
owns Yorkshire Water. The water services company 
is a major landowner in the north of England with a total of 68,927 acres.

15. Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings: 69,294 acres

In recent years, this Hong Kong-based 
infrastructure investment company has amassed a 
formidable portfolio of land in the UK. The firm 
owns the Northumbrian Water Group as well as UK 
Power Networks, which together have land holdings of 69,294 acres.

14. Dwr Cymru Cyfyngedig (Welsh Water): 77,975 acres

Stephen Rees/Shutterstock
Dwr Cymru Cyfyngedig (Welsh Water) is the 
not-for-profit company that owns and operates 
Welsh Water. Like the other major water companies 
in the UK, Welsh Water has a massive portfolio of 
land; in this case, a total of 77,975 acres.

13. Church of England: 105,000 acres

Gareth Fuller/PA
Experts estimate the Church of England has around 
105,000 acres of land in the UK, which includes 
farmland and forestry estate, as well as 
thousands of prestige properties. The total value 
of the portfolio is said to exceed £2 billion.

12. Duchy of Cornwall: 135,000 acres

WPA Pool/Getty
The Duchy of Cornwall has 135,000 acres of land 
spanning 23 English counties. The Duchy belongs 
to the Prince of Wales, but His Royal Highness 
doesn't own it in the classic sense as its 
capital assets are kept in trust for the nation.

11. Hugh Grosvenor, 7th Duke of Westminster: 140,000 acres

WPA Pool/Getty
Billionaire Hugh Grosvenor inherited the 
Grosvenor Estate in 2016 upon the death of his 
father, Gerald Grosvenor, the 6th Duke of 
Westminster. The estate represents the most 
valuable land holding in the UK and includes 300 
acres of prime property in London's Mayfair and Belgravia.

10. United Utilities: 140,124 acres

Courtesy United Utilities
This publicly-listed water company has a total of 
140,124 acres in the northwest of England. The 
shareholders of United Utilities effectively own 
significant parts of Greater Manchester, 
Merseyside, Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria.

9. The Duke of Atholl’s trusts: 145,700 acres

Allan Warren/Wikimedia Commons
When Iain Murray, the 10th Duke of Atholl, died 
in 1996, his Scottish estates, which total 
145,700 acres, passed to a charitable trust. The 
late Duke had no direct heir and was unhappy 
about the prospect of his estates passing to 
distant cousin John Murray, a South African land surveyor.

8. DEFRA: 150,549 acres

Oli Scarff/Getty
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural 
Affairs (DEFRA) has 150,549 acres of land 
throughout the United Kingdom. This land tends to 
be located in rural rather than urban areas of Britain.

7. Anders Holch Povlsen: 218,000 acres

Courtesy Bestseller-Group
Danish retail magnate Anders Holch Povlsen has 
acquired 11 Scottish estates in recent years and 
is shaping up to be Scotland's largest landowner. 
With everything tallied up, the billionaire's 
Caledonian holdings amount to 218,000 acres.

6. Richard Scott, Duke of Buccleuch & Queensbury: 240,000 acres

Allan Warren/Wikimedia Commons
One of Europe's biggest private landowners, the 
Duke of Buccleuch & Queensbury owns a total of 
240,000 acres. The duke has four splendid estates 
including the 90,000-acre Queensbury Estate in Dumfries and Galloway.

5. RSPB: 324,000 acres

Michiko Smith/Shutterstock
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds 
(RSPB) of England, Wales and Scotland is the UK's 
fifth biggest landowner. The charity has a total 
of 324,000 acres of farmland, wildlife sanctuaries and more throughout Britain.

4. Crown Estate: 360,000 acres


Russ Witherington/Shutterstock
The Crown Estate totals 360,000 acres, but while 
it belongs to the reigning monarch, the estate 
cannot be sold by the Queen and is not considered 
her private property. The holding includes high 
value parts of London and colossal tracts of agricultural land.

3. Ministry of Defence: 750,000 acres


Prodigious expanses of the British countryside 
are given over for the defence of the realm – the 
military owns a jaw-dropping 750,000 acres of 
land in the UK, from extensive training grounds to residential properties.

2. National Trust & National Trust for Scotland: 815,000 acres


Courtesy National Trust
Together, the National Trust and National Trust 
for Scotland own around 815,000 acres of land in 
England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, 
ranging from coastline and countryside to stately 
homes and pubs, making these conservation 
organisations Britain's premier private landowners.

1. Forestry Commission: 2.2 million acres


Willy Barton/Shutterstock
The UK's largest public landowner is the Forestry 
Commission, which has a staggering 2.2 million 
acres in its portfolio. The government department 
was established in 1919 to replant and restore 
forests depleted during World War I.


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