Who Owned Almost All of England?


Have you ever hauled a wheelbarrow filled with dirt?
Then can you imagine hiring enough workmen to haul away 23,500 cubic yards of soil and rock with wheelbarrows as did the owners of the great house Stowe?
Can you imagine being the owner of the great house Longleat and having 91,000 trees planted at one time?*
Can you imagine having an entire village relocated to improve your view shed as was done at Castle Howard and Chatsworth?
If you can imagine these things, you would fit in comfortably with many aristocratic lords, such as the 7th Duke of Westminster who in 2016 owned London properties valued at $13 billion. This wealth had its origins in the vast tracts of land owned by a small number of men.
In the 1880s–just prior to Winston Churchill’s birth–sixty peers each owned 50,000 acres of land; fourteen owned in excess of 100,000 acres each.*** The estate of William Cavendish, the 7th Duke of Devonshire, extended to nearly 200,000 acres. But the 2nd Duke of Sutherland trumped all other peers by owning a stunning 1.3 million acres.** If you consider that the United Kingdom is about 6 million acres in size, it’s startling to see that about sixty men owned 5 million of those acres—5/6 of the entire country.
So if you own practically the entire country, what do you do with it? Certainly you govern it, which we will explore a bit later.
But another thing you do is party on an epic scale—all over the country.


Next: How To Party Like A Noble

Photo credit for Castle Howard: Nancy Parrish

*Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Anchor Books,
2010; p 310.
**Cannadine, David. The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy. New York:
Vintage Books, 1999; pp. 710-711.
***Tuchman, Barbara. The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War,
1890-1914. The Library of America, 1962; 2012; p. 595W

2 thoughts on “Who Owned Almost All of England?”

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