Natural Dams Aid Flood Prevention

The Duchy of Lancaster has recently completed a project in partnership with the Environment Agency to guard against potential flooding in woodland areas this winter. The initial trial focuses on catchment flooding at Marchington Woods, part of the ancient Royal Needwood Forest, on the Duchy’s Staffordshire Survey.

The project has involved the felling of selected trees and manoeuvring the fallen branches and other natural vegetation into a wooded watercourse. This has created a series of small natural dams which slow the flow of water from the natural escarpment above, holding it in the wood and creating pools upstream. The net result is to delay the peak outflow during heavy rainfall, allowing the major river systems to take away the increased water without over-spilling their banks.

Several other tributaries exist within gulleys along the Marchington escarpment and similar projects could help to alleviate flooding events in the nearby villages of Marchington and Draycott in the Clay this winter.

Commenting on the initiative, Duchy Head of Rural Carol Hawkey said: “Whilst we recognise that flooding cannot be entirely prevented by these measures, active woodland management has a part to play in flood mitigation across the country. We have been very pleased with the results of the project and are hopeful that further projects can be explored across our rural estates in due course.”

Forestry agents Forwoods Forestry & Woodland Consultancy Ltd oversaw the project on behalf of the Duchy working with local contractors Treemendous Estate Care Ltd.

The remains of the ancient Royal Forest of Needwood cover some 500 acres within the Duchy’s Staffordshire Survey, which today includes a mix of arable, dairy and livestock farms as well as a diverse mix of residential and commercial lettings. Areas of the estate form part of the National Forest designation and we continue with an ongoing programme of new woodland planting in conjunction with the National Forest.

Posted in Latest News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Major New Research Project Into The Great Cowcher

The Duchy of Lancaster is supporting a major new research project into the origin and meaning of the Great Cowcher – the equivalent of the Domesday Book for the Duchy’s medieval estates.

Working with academics, archivists and heritage professionals from The National Archives, Lancaster University and Lincoln University, the aim is to create an interactive, community-focused edition of the famous book available to everyone free of charge online.

The proposed research project will focus on the earldoms of Lancaster and Lincoln and explore the relationship between these historic lordships and their local communities from the origin of the Duchy in 1265 to around 1399 when Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV) acceded to the throne.

Specialist teams at The National Archives will also undertake non-invasive multi-spectral imaging and pigment analysis of the original book to discover more about how this highly illustrated and detailed compendium was produced.

Commenting on the project, Dr Sean Cunningham, Head of Medieval Records at The National Archives, said: “This is a very exciting opportunity to explore not only the content but the purpose of one of the Duchy’s most valuable historic records. It will provide a valuable insight into the changing social structures of the day and the evolution of tenant relationships over more than a century. We also hope to use state-of-the-art technology and science to understand how the book was first created, the origin of the paper and pigments used and the materials used to illustrate it.”

Dr Fiona Edmonds, Director of the Regional Heritage Centre at Lancaster University added: “The Duchy has worked with us closely to make its history and records accessible to the general public. The free open learning course (MOOC) launched in 2018 has already engaged over 7,500 online students from 127 countries and we plan to introduce additional components to the course in future years. Projects such as these are key to community engagement in local history and support parts of the National Curriculum, providing digital teaching resources which are free to use and which appeal to students with many different interests.”

The Great Cowcher was produced circa 1402 on the orders of Henry IV to record the deeds of all Duchy of Lancaster possessions. It spans two illuminated volumes, both of which are kept at The National Archives in Kew.

The historic earldoms of Lancaster and Lincoln (Honor of Bolingbroke) are among the earliest lordships at the heart of the ancient inheritance. Today, the Duchy of Lancaster is a portfolio of land and property assets held in trust for the Sovereign and which remain separate to ‘all other Crown possessions’.

For further information on the research project please contact To access the Lancaster University Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) please click on the link below:

Posted in Latest News | Leave a comment

Country Living in Cloughton

A landmark property on the Duchy’s Yorkshire Survey has been sensitively refurbished and modernised to create a new family home in the centre of Cloughton village.

Town Farmhouse is a substantial stone-built property within a much-loved conservation area. Built in the mid-19th century, the house was originally the centrepiece of Town Farm, one of the principal holdings on the estate.  Home to three generations of the Green family, it was still operating as a working farm until 2017 when Joe and Debbie Green’s growing farming operation was relocated to a purpose-built site on the outskirts of the village at Cloughton Fields.

The original farmhouse had no fewer than three internal staircases and included an adjoining annexe for farm workers. This was incorporated into the main residence in the 1950s and the staircases rationalised to open up further living space. The property has been let since the relocation of the farm, returning to the Duchy at the end of 2019.

Commenting on the latest restoration and refurbishment work to the property, the Duchy’s Surveyor of Lands for the North Andrew Johnson said: “The improvement works carried out to the property have enabled us to transform the interior living space while retaining the building’s historic character and charm. As a result, Town Farmhouse is now a light and spacious family home with open plan kitchen and living space providing access onto the gardens. It is one of the signature properties on the Cloughton estate and has now been re-let to a new generation of tenants keen to make it their home.”

The Cloughton estate is one of the oldest land holdings in the Duchy’s possession and has formed part of the Yorkshire Survey since 1267. Today, it is made up of over 974 hectares of arable and pasture land, 9 commercial lettings, 15 holiday homes and around 40 residential properties.



Posted in Latest News | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Historic Farmhouse Restored In Cheshire

The Duchy of Lancaster has recently completed the refurbishment of a Grade II listed farmhouse on the outskirts of Barthomley on the Cheshire Survey.

The early 17th century farmhouse is a black and white timber framed property which has been sympathetically extended and updated over the years to provide a large two-storey family home. Great care has been taken to retain many of the original features including exposed beams, carved barge boards and finials and the original inglenook fireplace in the interior.

The 3-bedroomed farmhouse has now been sensitively updated and refurbished to provide all of the comfort and convenience of modern family living.

Commenting on the finished project, the Duchy’s Senior Rural Surveyor for the Cheshire Survey Laura Airton said: “Mill Farmhouse is a beautiful heritage property in an attractive rural location. Close to the popular village of Barthomley and within a few minutes’ drive of both the M6 motorway and the larger Crewe conurbation it is an ideal family home for anyone looking to combine country living with easy access to the larger town.

“In refurbishing the property we wanted to retain as much of the property’s character and history as possible. The net result has been that we have brought a historic farmhouse back to life and created a comfortable and appealing family home for further generations to enjoy.”

Mill Farmhouse, which was still operating as a working farm until 2013, is expected to be available to rent by the end of September 2020.

The Duchy of Lancaster’s Crewe estate covers 1,522 hectares of mainly rural lands to the east of Crewe. The estate is centred on the historic properties of Crewe Hall and Crewe Hall Farm and includes a residential portfolio of 66 rural cottages and farmhouses. For further information on properties currently available to let please visit

Posted in Latest News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Nursery Tenant in Weston

Local couple Julie and Ian Lightley have signed a new long-term lease on a historic school building in Weston village on the Duchy’s Crewe estate.

Previously occupied by Poppy & Jack’s nursery, the building will now form part of the Village Nursery Group of eight nurseries operated by the couple across the North West region. Four of the Group’s other nurseries in Cheshire have been awarded ‘outstanding’ status by Ofsted.

Opening the doors to children earlier this month, Julie has been delighted by the uptake for places from local families: “We have transformed the nursery over the summer to showcase this beautiful old building with light and airy children’s rooms and an incredible outdoor space where we run Forest School classes.

“We are delighted to report that 25 of our available 80 spaces have already been filled with lots of interest and enquiries for places from next year. Our experienced team is looking forward to working with the new children and their families to provide the best possible learning environment in these early years.”

Julie is herself a qualified Early Years teacher with an MA in Education (Early Years). She is passionate about providing high quality learning experiences for children and making sure that each individual child is happy and confident in a learning environment. As with their other nurseries across Cheshire, Julie and her team will also forge close links with local primary schools to ensure a smooth transition into school.

The school building is situated in the heart of a conservation area within Weston village. Many of the period properties in the village form part of the 1,522-hectare Crewe estate acquired by the Duchy in the mid-1930s. Weston village is currently home to approximately 400 households.

Posted in Latest News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment