The Battle of Banstead Commons, 1893

This is not a battle which many people are aware of, but it should be much better known, as the result was nothing short of a revolution in land use and access. Despite massive opposition from the lord of the manor in both houses of parliament, a thirteen year struggle in the law courts resulted in the land being placed under the control and management of a group elected by local ratepayers to conserve the open space. Ownership of land is absolutely central to British law – the monarch owns everything, with lords of the manor managing the land on his behalf. This law totally changed this – it took control of land out of the hands of the lords and transferred it to an elected body, for the benefit of local people. This is not just a change in law, it is a change in attitude: no longer were ordinary people seen as vassals, but they were accepted as being capable of managing land on behalf of themselves and their communities.

In the same year, Parliament passed a measure which virtually repealed the Statute of Merton, on which many of the enclosures were based. This makes the year 1893 one of the high points in British democracy.

2 thoughts on “The Battle of Banstead Commons, 1893

  1. These are really interesting posts, perhaps unlike England, I don’t think many Americans consider the political philosophy behind common spaces—we dove head first into private ownership, and yet, at least in New England, town greens are reminders of that idea—even though now they are mostly only considered as assets insofar as they make a town more “quaint.”


    • England is different to America in so many ways, and the size of these islands means that there have been loads of battles not just on the soil, but about it. But open space is about people walking rather than driving, of seeing their neighbours, and that is one thing that the Brits are sadly copying. In places like the US and Australia, there has long been the notion that if you don’t like where you are you can move on, there is always somewhere else. Which feeds into the ideas of space exploration. Whereas in Europe and most other places, people have to deal with what they have, which is far more adult. and of course, difficult.

      Liked by 1 person

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