A Grouse in the Hand... (Public)

Would-be lessees and grouse trappers, take heed!


There are two people on the island I used to get confused. They’re both about my age and one is called Andrew Fox, the other Andrew Henn. I’ve got them sorted out now, but is this a case of coincidence or Englishness that of a population of about 70 there should live two men named Henn and Fox? In San Francisco, with its population counter at 750,000 and adding double digits daily, I have yet to run into a Henn or a Fox. Curious.


I thought I’d talk a little bit more about the land and how it’s held. It’s one of the last places in Britain to be owned by the Crown, specifically the Duke of Cornwall (Prince Charles). As I understand it, the Duchy owns all of the land and most of the houses, except in Hughtown on St. Mary’s, which is freehold (meaning people can own their own property). I’ve heard that the land and homes are then leased from the Duchy through contracts that contain curiously feudal clauses. For example, if you lease a house on St. Agnes, Prince Charles, apparently, has the sole right to shoot a grouse in your garden. Would-be lessees and grouse trappers, take heed!

The islands are said to be run as a for-profit venture for the Crown. I hear that criticism has been leveled on the Duchy because people perceive it to be leasing plots to the highest bidder (well-healed, second home owners) instead of taking what some would view as a more community-oriented stance, and leasing plots to islanders. The houses then seem to stand empty for most of the year while the high real estate market bars entry for those who want to participate in the community but can’t pay London-level prices. Asked whether they would like to own their homes outright, however, I’ve heard that most would say no, citing the pressure to sell to wealthy outsiders would be too great for them as well.

In theory, Prince Charles is in favor of building sustainable communities, but there are those who would say his ideals don’t always make it into practice in the real world. That’s what I’ve gathered anyway. I bring it up though because I find it interesting to note that even in a quiet, little place like this there appear to be disagreements around the best way to run things.

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