An old concept with new dimensions is coming to light. Under ancient UK laws, that go back to the Norman conquest, ‘Lordships of the Manor’ had the right to exploit soils/minerals under common land which was part of an ancient estate, despite that land being bought and sold many times on to private individuals and corporations.

These mineral rights have to be registered with the Land Registry by October 2013 and many landowners are rushing to register these rights to benefit from gravel, limestone and shale gas – considered one of the most lucrative energy reserves. This allows landowners to profit from the “gold in the soil” even if the local community objects. The Doomsday Book is quoted as listing 13,418 Lordships of the Manor who may hold rights over the sub-soil which could mean many people living in old manor houses or rectories have such rights.

In relation to fracking, as long as the landowners with “Lords of the Manor” rights gain planning permission they can profit from shale gas reserves despite local objection to drilling. There is thought to be 150 billion cubic metres of shale gas under the UK, enough many consider to solve Britain’s energy needs for some decades.

Whilst the Duke of Northumberland, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Lonsdale are busy registering their manorial rights, our take-away thoughts are that this is an issue that should certainly be considered during title enquiries on land acquisitions and may have wider implications – will it impact on residential developers who suddenly find they are subject to Lord of the Manor rights and cannot move soil / deal with minerals as they need to?