It is a simple question with an incredibly complex answer – not even the Land Registry knows the exact ownership of all parts of the country. Guy Shrubsole set out to solve the mystery. Plus Alex Hern on the police’s use of facial recognition technology
For nearly 1,000 years, there has been no comprehensive answer to the question of who owns England. Ever since William the Conqueror ordered the “great survey”, the issue has not been satisfactorily resolved. Even the central body that should know, the Land Registry, can only pin down the ownership of about 80% of the country.
Using creative techniques and old-fashioned detective work, Guy Shrubsole set about solving the mystery. The author and campaigner looked at the prime suspects: royalty, the church, the aristocracy, foreign oligarchs and major companies. He tells Anushka Asthana that although some of the names have changed, we still live in a country recognisable from the middle ages, one in which a small elite owns the majority of the land.