Land Registry past and present
Fascinating facts you never knew about us
1. Land Registry’s doors first opened to the public on 15 October 1862. The department was located at 34 Lincoln’s Inn Fields in Holborn, London, with just six staff – the first Chief Land Registrar, Brent Spencer Follett, his deputy, two clerks, a housekeeper and a porter. (Photo © London Metropolitan Archives).
2. The very first land certificate, Title Number 1, was voluntarily registered in 1863 to Sir Fitzroy Kelly MP for his properties Crane Hall and The Chantry (now a Sue Ryder Home) near Ipswich, Suffolk. Sir Fitzroy is said to have inspired two Dickens characters – 'Sir Horatio Fitzkin' in The Pickwick Papers and ‘Bar’ in Little Dorrit.
3. BBC Broadcasting House, London, stands on the site of The Devonshire Arms, the first property to be compulsorily registered in 1899.
4. Land Registry’s headquarters were located in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, until 2011. Following bomb damage, staff were evacuated to the Marsham Court Hotel in Bournemouth between 1940 and 1942. Our headquarters are now located in Croydon.
5. The first one million titles (evidence of ownership of land or property) were registered by 1950, almost a century after the creation of Land Registry. The five million figure was reached in 1975 and 10 million by 1990. The number of titles registered in England and Wales by Land Registry passed 23 million at the beginning of October 2011.
6. Computerisation of Land Registry records began in the 1980s. Today, all registered properties can be accessed online via Land Registry's Find a Property service.
7. The average length of service at Land Registry is 21 years, but more than 50 per cent of staff have worked here for 23 years or longer.
8. Our International Unit provides land registration expertise to countries around the world. For example, in 2012 we hosted the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Working Party on Land Administration which explored the role that land administration can play in global economic recovery.
9. Registration has contributed to lower legal costs for buying and selling a house. In the 1860s the legal costs for buying a typical house were 2 to 3 per cent of the sale price. Today the combined cost of solicitors’ and land registration fee for a purchase of an average priced property costing £160,000 is just 0.5 per cent.
10. In 1862 a typical property owned by the skilled working class or lower middle class cost around £150-£250. The average house price in the UK in 1962 was £2,673 – this was around three times the average wage at the time. This compares with an average price of £161,605 in October 2012 – more than six times the average wage of £26,000.
11. 80% of land in England and Wales is registered. Registration gives you greater certainty and security about what you own. Find out more about registering your land.
12. Land Registry is self funding, gaining its income from fees for property transactions such as registering properties and registering change of ownership when a house is sold.
13. Land Registry has a Counter Fraud Group one of whose aims is to protect the register from fraud. Since 2009, our measures have prevented frauds valued in excess of £52 million. Find out how you can protect yourself from property fraud.
14. The pre-Raphaelite artist Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale designed the Land Certificate in 1901 and the design was used for several decades. She was the sister of the third Chief Land Registrar, Charles Fortescue-Brickdale (1900-1923).
15. The first female employees started working for Land Registry in 1899 which coincided with the introduction of the typewriter. Today over 60 per cent of staff are female including two of the six directors.
16. Land Registry opened its first local office in Tunbridge Wells in 1955. There are now 15 local offices: Birkenhead, Coventry, Croydon, Durham, Fylde, Gloucester, Hull, Leicester (pictured), Nottingham, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Telford, Swansea and Weymouth. Use our office finder.
17. Land Registry can provide information about whether a particular address is at risk of flooding. See our Flood Risk Indicator webpage.
18. Prior to an official Land Registry, property title deeds could be very long and complex. This made buying and selling property a complicated and time-consuming process.
19. The land registration system underpins the property market in England and Wales and guarantees title to billions of pounds worth of property.
20. Until 2000 Land Registry staff working in the plans department had to paint the outlines of a registered property by hand, using a sable brush. These brushes were meant to last them a lifetime, although they rarely did. Nowadays title plans are created on a computer.
21. The most common question that our customer contact centres get asked is “How do I find out who owns a property or piece of land?” See the answer.
22. Land Registry developed a commercial arm in 2005 as a result of a government initiative to make the most effective and efficient use of public information. We have developed a range of commercial services which customise our information to fit in with our customers’ needs. Find out more about our Add Value services.
23. Transactional data and price paid data are now made available to the public for free. See our market trend data.