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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14

The Nature of Crown Land Property and Revenues

The Nature of Crown Land Property and Revenues.

Feb-farm Rents.—These are annual sums paid to the Crown for lands held in perpetuity. They cannot therefore be either increased or improved.

Demised Estates.—These are lands held by lease from the Crown, and as it is often urged by the ill-informed that the Civil List of the Sovereign is a poor exchange for Crown Land Revenues surrendered, we oommend to such critics a passage in the preamble of the Civil List Act of Queen Anne:—

"And whereas the necessary expenses of supporting the Crown, or the greatest part of them, were formerly defrayed by a Land Revenue, which hath from time to time been impaired and diminished bv the grants of kings and queens of this realm, so that her Majesty's Land Revenues at present can afford very little towards the support of her Government. Nevertheless, from time to time upon . . . reversions and remainders . . . and by such lands ... as may hereafter descend, escheat, or otherwise accrue . . . the Land Revenues of the Crown . . . may hereafter be increased, and consequently the burden upon the estates of the subjects of this realm may be eased and lessened in all future provision to be made for the expenses of the civil government."

It may be noted, however, that although this very Act forbade the Sovereign to alienate any of the demised estates or other landed property, estates were (within twenty years afterwards) aliened of a yearly value of £17,306, besides reserved rents of £1,606 per annum.

Woods and Forests.—These revenues, according to Blackstone, originally arose from fines for offences against the Forest Laws, no court of which kind has sat for now 250 years. The annual sale of wood and bark in 1797 was £12,655, and the expense of management £18,192. Fifty years later things had but slightly improved, 114,521 acres of Royal forest yielding a net return of only £465, while in 1849 the principal official declared that there was a deficiency of £8,193. Steps taken by Parliament to institute reforms then led to a rapid improvement, and in 1861-2 (13 years later) there was a net revenue of £8,800.

Notes on the Official Accounts (opposite).— From this balance sheet there is great extravagance still manifest, if not incompetency. Take the cost of collection and the salaries included among "other payments," then add to these the £26,000 cost of the official staff at headquarters, and you get some £45,000 spent in management, i.e. nearly 10 per cent, of the gross income. Two aristocratic Commissioners at £1,200 a year each to supervise this petty department. The Dukes of Cambridge and Grafton and Lord Churchill paid and perquisited to put their names down as Wardens of this, that, or the other, and an overplus of officials everywhere, to say nothing of 6,000 and 7,000 deer kept for no business purpose but to destroy the young trees. Also a considerable percentage of revenue handed over for the endowment of a religious body. Are these things what the nation has a right to expect and demand from the controllers of its property? Look at the net outcome of some of these Forests, as calculated in 1881, particulars of which would seem to show that they are anything but profitable possessions of the Crown, whatever they may be for the administrators or their clients and customers:—
Receipts. Expenditure. Net Income. Cost per cent
£ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d.
Alice Holt Woods 1,114 2 7 414 9 0 699 13 7 87.16
Bere Woods 1,178 10 4 568 3 4 610 7 0 48.13
Dean Forest* 7,313 13 4 4,596 12 3 2,717 1 1 62.84
Delamere Woods 567 8 10 4,199 2 10 ... 740.56
Hazelborough Woods 458 8 6 49 9 0 415 19 6 9.17
Highmeadow Woods 2,455 3 3 1,856 2 4 599 0 11 34.86
New Forest 10,311 0 3 7,823 5 10 2,487 6 5 75.87
Parkhurst Woods 467 3 9 315 1 8 152 2 1 67.45
Salcey Wood 500 5 4 837 16 7 ... 167.40
Windsor Park and Woods 5,017 19 10 25,734 8 0 ... 512.87
Woolmer Estate 709 14 0 88 6 4 621 7 8 12.41
£130,093 10 0 £46,475 17 2 £8,293 17 3 154.43
page 139

Delamere, Hazelborough, and Salcey Woods, which were included in the list of "Royal Forests and Woodlands," in the Report for 1876-6, as yielding £3,424 1s. 10d., and costing £1,596 16s. 5d., were omitted from the Report for 1877, as they are also from those for 1878, 1879, and 1880; but they seem to be still existent, for from other parts of the three Reports we find that the receipts from them in those four years were £5,634 17s. 1d., and the disbursements £11,635 16s. 6d.

* Exclusive of Mires.