The Town and Manor of Hungerford and the Liberty of Sanden Fee [Town & Manor for short] is a registered charity, under a scheme dating from February 1908. Follow this link to see more on the 1908 Charity Scheme. The Town and Manor is run by the Constable (elected annually at the Hocktide Court) and ten trustees, who are elected every three years.
The Property of the Town and Manor:
Under the 1908 Charity Scheme, the freehold property of the Town and Manor has been vested in "The Official Trustee of Charity Lands" and the Town & Manor Charity became a property managing Registered Charity, responsible to the Charity commissioners.
- The Constable and Trustees of the Town and Manor, 2013
- The Constable (Robert James), Trustees and Officers, c1979.
The trustees are responsible for managing:
Follow this for the current (May 2016) Town & Manor Property map.
- The Common Port Down - just over 200 acres east of the town,
- Freeman's Marsh - nearly 100 acres west of the town,
- Hungerford Marsh - 28 acres west of the town adjoining Freeman’s Marsh (bought by the Town & Manor in Feb 2015 for c£220,000),
- The Town Hall and Corn Exchange - thought to be the only town hall in the country not maintained by the Council Tax,
- The John of Gaunt Inn in Bridge Street,
- The fishery on the rivers Kennet and Dun, totalling about 4.5 miles of prime chalk stream trout fishing, and including the water keeper's house,
- The "spar" or withy beds in the River Kennet
- Riparian ownership of 3 miles of coarse fishing on the Kennet and Avon Canal through Hungerford (under the stewardship of the Hungerford and District Angling Club). This fishing stretch runs from just after Wire Lock in the east to just west of Cobbler’s lock.
- The Croft, a quiet green area of just over one acre near the parish church, given to the town in 1588,
- Harvey's Meadow - over 30 acres of SSSI land to the north-east of the town, generously left to the Town and Manor by Major Humphrey Le Fleming Fairfax-Harvey in 1977. The major was Constable for six years from 1950 to 1956 and for a short period in 1956 when the then Constable, Ernest Moore, died after just a couple of months in office. As an SSSI site, Harveys Meadow is supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAFF) and managed by the Town and Manor. A point of interest is that a colony of rare water snails cited by the anti- Newbury Bypass campaigners during the 1990s as a valid reason for not building it, was also found to exist in Harvey’s Meadow.
- the weekly Wednesday market, and three charter sheep and cattle fairs (August and October) - now the market place in the High Street, (adopted by the Council) and
- strips alongside the highway on each side of the High Street in which the trees are set,
- The War Memorial Recreational Ground, 12 acres incorporating:
- the Cricket and Football grounds and car park,
- the children's playground and
- the War Memorial (and Avenue Memorial of Remembrance) to 38 local men who lost their lives in WW II and
- the Hungerord Tragedy Memorial ground.
The War Memorial Recreation Ground was let to the local Council in 1951 on a 99-year lease. The large area used by the Crocket Club was brought back in hand in 2015.
In addition there are a number of historic and modern artefacts that together comprise The Town Coffer (qv).
The Finances of the Town and Manor:
The capital value of the Town and Manor property was estimated in 2012 to be £6,000,000, and the annual turnover in the early 2010s was £200,000 - £300,000. In 2015-16 the turnover was £412,000.
In all, the various accounts show an annual turnover (2011) of over £200,000, made up as follows:
- Fishery £96,000
- Common £25,000
- Town Hall £32,000
- John of Gaunt Inn £26,000
- Sanden Fee £ 9,000
- Harvey's Meadow £ 2,000
- The Croft £ 1,000
- Other rents £ 9,000
Some elements of the estate manage revenue surpluses, which support other elements which show deficits.
Jimmy Whittaker (in Changing Faces of Hungerford, Vol 1, pp7-8) adds:
It has been estimated that in 2015/16, the capital value of the Town and Manor property was around £7,000,000 with a turnover of over £400,000. The income from each of these assets, is approximately as follows:
• The main properties produce around £ 90,000 a year
• The lands produce around £40,000 a year
• The fishery produces almost £100,000
• Other rents accounts amount to approximately £ 10,000 a year.
The surplus (or profit) amounting to over £100,000 a year is spent wisely in future proofing the assets of The Town and Manor for the benefit of Hungerford residents. This involves asset maintenance and improvement, including land purchase such as the recent acquisition of Hungerford Marsh at a cost of over £200,000.
The Trustees and Officers of the Town and Manor:
This large estate is managed by the Constable, ten trustees, some employed officers and a number of additional commoners. See The Trustees and Officers.
Certain properties in the town - those listed in the original 1612 James I Grant, attract Common Rights. The full list is available under "Properties attracting Common Rights".
What are Common Rights?
Common Rights elsewhere: Common Rights vary from Common to Common. In the New Forset, for example they are as follows:
The Right of Common of Pasture is the most important right which permits the commoner to turn out ponies, cattle, donkeys and mules onto the common grazing. Those who wish to exercise their Right of Pasture do so by application to the Verderers' Clerk who will confirm the existence of the right and allocate a brand for the animals. Once they have been branded, the animals may be turned out upon payment of a marking fee which helps to finance the cost of employing the Agisters who are responsible for supervising the stock on the Forest.
The Right of Commori of Mast is the right to turn out pigs in the pannage season. Pannage runs for a minimum of 60 days in the autumn. Commoners who turn out pigs in the pannage season may apply to allow a female pig who is in-pig (pregnant) to remain on the Forest after the season ends. Such pigs are known as privilege sows. They must return home at night and once they have given birth to their piglets they must go home and stay off the Forest Pigs are extremely important to the Forest- they can eat acorns with no ill effects. Acorns eaten in excess may kill other grazing animals.
The Right of Common of Sheep permits the commoner to turn out sheep onto the Forest. There are very few sheep rights in the Forest and the right is rarely exercised these days.
The Rights of Common of Marl and Turbary: the right of marl permits the commoner to dig for a special type of clay that is used to improve agricultural land. The right of turbary is the right to cut peat for fuel. Neither of these rights are currently exercised.
The Right of Common of Fuelwood (previously known as Estovers) is the right that everybody wants! ft means the Forestry Commission is obliged to give the commoner some free fuelwood. There are only about 100 properties throughout the whole Forest to whom the Forestry Commission will allocate a number of cords of wood (a cord is a stack of wood 8ft long, 4ft high and 4ft deep).
In addition to the six registered rights, some properties benefit from additional rights over the adjacent commons, such as the right to dig gravel or cut bracken for animal bedding.
In Hungerford, Common Rights are as follows:
Grazing Cattle: Most properties include the right to graze two or four cattle (and maybe one horse also, although horses on the Common are not a good idea! They tend to spook and chase the cattle, and are very hard to catch! The last time this right was regularly used was in the 1950s when Bill Lewington's heavy horses were kept on the Common.
The grazing is summer-time only, and the number of cattle relates to the number of animals the owner of the property in 1612 could support through the winter months in his own stables and byres.
Commoners have to pay a £5 "entry fee" per head of cattle each year to graze cattle. Currently (2013) there are about 15 "Hungerford Graziers" – who buy yearlings (for about £1,000) at the start of the year, and sell them at the end, hopefully for a 15% profit.
It is usual now for grazing rights to be waived by commoners and for the Trustees to let the grazing to various local farmers (for a commercial grazing rent of about £30 per head). The sum raised is used to maintain the Common (fence repairs, tree-felling, planting, and fertilizing), and any surplus goes to the general Town and Manor funds for maintaining the Town Hall.
If all common grazing rights were exercised, the Common would be required to support 438 head of cattle, whereas the most it is advised to support is between 170 and 190. It us usual for the common to have around 150 cattle each year.
Fishing: The rights to fish in the Town and Manor water on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. This is a valuable right to those who are interested in fishing, as visiting rods currently pay £2,650 per year (in 2013) for fishing rights (on all seven days). Currently all 40 are normally let, bringing in about £100k to the Town and Manor.
Shooting: The right to shoot (in season, which starts in September) on the Common and Freeman's Marsh. A gun license and insurance are clearly required!
Watercress: The right to gather watercress in the Town Water (during months which have an "R" in them!)
Changes to the Town and Manor since the 1908 Charity Scheme:
The Constable and Trustees continue to have to watch carefully over the rights of Commoners, as well as the finacial security of the Charity.
In recent years, several national schemes have potentially threatened the rights, but were successfully introduced, including:
- The Commons Registration Act, 1965. Follow this link to see some papers relating to the Registration of T&M lands in 1975-75 (kindly sent by Brian Ham, May 2020).
- The Countryside and Rights of Way Acts, 2000, 2004 and 2007. This ensures the Common and Freeman's Marsh are open to the public year round.
- The Environmental Stewardship and Biodiversity Schemes
- Single Farm Payment and Biodiversity Scheme, 2011
Working with other agencies:
An important aspect of managing the modern estate, especially the Common and Freeman's marsh and other areas of wildlife, is the need to work with other agencies, and comply with EU, national, and local organisations. These include Hungerford Town Council, West Berkshire Council (especially Highways, Streetcare, Waste Management, Planning and Countryside, Environment and Footpaths), Thames Water (licensed access to the old dump at Dun Mill and supply of water to the cattle troughs), ARK (Action on River Kennet), Natural England (especially its environmental stewardship schemes and biodiversity, local farmers, bird surveys and ringing, the single farm payment and cross compliance requirements (with the associated record keeping and inspections), Access and Education schemes, and the Environmental Land Management Scheme, Scottish & Southern Electricity (who have agreed to remove the overhead cables across the Common and bury the line), and cable companies such as BT Open Reach and BSkyB fibre optics.
Appointment of a Chief Executive:
In January 2017 the Trustees appointed the first ever Chief Executive, Jed Ramsay, to assist with the management of what has become a large and complicated business. See also: "Town and Manor's first chief executive", NWN 12 Jan 2017.
Jed Ramsay resigned in September 2020, and past Constable Ellie Dickins filled the role in the short term. See "All change at the Town & Manor", NWN 1 Oct 2020. In Dec 2020 Ellie Dickins was confirmed as CEO.
- "Keepers of the Keys, Town Badge, Borough", H'ford & Dist Times, 10 Apr 1991. (from Stewart Hofgartner)