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Who Should Get the Land Rent?

This appeared on an email list I'm on, and I share it with the permission of the person who wrote it. The writer, Dave Wetzel, works for Transport for London (TfL) which coordinates the transportation system for London, England, and he wrote it to a correspondent in Australia. While I don't know quite how their conversation started, his preceding email said this:

Do you think we should all share God's earth?

Or would he want the Duke of Westminster and his ilk to grab it all?

When his correspondent was not sure who the Duke of Westminster is, or where Dave was headed with this statement, Dave responded with this (Mayfair, Belgravia and Victoria are posh neighborhoods in central London):

Eddie, you are a good Christian.

You live in Australia on a farm and say you don't know who the Duke of Westminster is.

Can I tell you a true story?

If land is a gift of God then surely would God not want all his children to enjoy its benefits?

On planet earth — fewer than 10% of its inhabitants own and control over 90% of the natural wealth. The other 90% pay them rent to use what God gave to all.

My organisation, TfL, runs the Victoria Coach Station. London's terminus for inter-city bus journeys by coach.

Who travels inter-city by coach — the poorest travellers or the rich?

I'd suggest the rich fly, go by train, or go by car — it is the poorest travellers who go by coach.

Transport for London does not own all of the coach station. One third of the land and the old in-bound coach shed is owned by "Grosvenor Estates."

We pay them £230,000 per annum for the use of their land.

But where do we get the money from?

We charge the coach companies a fee for every coach that comes into the coach station and a part of that goes to our landlord.

Where do they get the money from?

They get the money from their ticket prices.

So every poor traveller is contributing towards the £230,000 given to Grosvenor Estates, which is owned by the Duke of Westminster. (His family name was "Grosvenor" until Queen Victoria elevated one "Hugh Grosvenor" to the peerage in 1874.) They have owned most of Mayfair, Belgravia and parts of Victoria for hundreds of years.

So, we have the absurdity, . . . . . . . . nay the obscenity!, of the poorest travellers in the country, subsidising the third richest man in the country, to the tune of £230,000 per annum!

Surely, the value of this land only arises because people live and work in our great city?

So surely it is all the people that should benefit from land wealth?

We SHOULD pay rent for the land.

All of the land.

But not to the rich Duke, but to the Government, so that they can use this natural wealth to pay for schools and hospitals etc.

And not from this one site, but from all the land in the country.

AND if there is any wealth left over — and I'm sure there would be — the Government could return it to all of us in the form of a land dividend.

You might also want to read another of Dave's explanations, also on rent, or his article on Justice or Injustice: The Locational Benefit Levy.

As a sidelight, you may want to explore the links in this background material:

In 1677, Sir Thomas Grosvenor married 12 year old Mary Davies and heiress of a scrivener in the City of London, (heiress of 500 acres of rural land on the outskirts of London. )

As London grew, this property became the source of the family's immense wealth, as it was developed into the fashionable areas of Mayfair and Belgravia, which remains the basis of the family fortune. At least 500 roads, squares and buildings bear their family names and titles, and the names of place and people connected with them, including Grosvenor Square, Belgrave Square, North Audley Street, South Audley Street, and Davies Street. This is now held by a company called Grosvenor Group. The family's main country seat is Eaton Hall, six miles outside the City of Chester in Cheshire with a minor seat at Ely Lodge in County Fermanagh.


In the House of Commons other members of the Grosvenor family sat in one of the two seats for the City of Chester from 1715 to 1874 without a break. For forty-two years of this period they held both the Chester seats, while other members of the family often represented other constituencies.

The marriage portion which the guardians of the twelve-year-old Mary Davies were able to offer the young Cheshire baronet Sir Thomas Grosvenor in 1677 consisted of some five hundred acres of land, mostly meadow and pasture, a short distance from the western fringes of built-up London. Not all of this was to be available in immediate possession and the income from the land was at that time relatively small, but its potential for future wealth was realized even then. The area with which this volume is particularly concerned was only a part of that vast holding, approximately one hundred acres in extent and sometimes called in early deeds The Hundred Acres, (ref. 1) lying south of Oxford Street and east of Park Lane. With only minor exceptions this part of Mary Davies's heritage has remained virtually intact to the present day and forms the Grosvenor estate in Mayfair. The history of the ownership of this land before it came into the possession of the Grosvenor family is, however, best told as part of the history of the larger holding which the third baronet acquired on his marriage.

Today the bulk of that inheritance is still, despite the sale of some of the less select parts, enjoyed by her descendants, and is now administered by the Grosvenor Estate Trustees.

Born himself in 1951, the present Duke of Westminster’s company owns and manages 300 acres in Belgravia and Mayfair and real estate worth $1.6 billion worldwide, including properties in Canada, the United States and Australia, as well as the 225,000 acre Abbeystead grouse moor in Lancashire. The Duke’s family fortune was estimated at £3.75 billion in the 2006 London Sunday Times Rich List. As well as homes in London, his family home is set in the beautiful Cheshire countryside in the north of England.

From: 'The Acquisition of the Estate', Survey of London: volume 39: The Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History) (1977), pp. 1-5. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=41820

From: 'The Administration of the Estate 1785-1899: Introduction', Survey of London: volume 39: The Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History) (1977), p. 34. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=41834


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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper