Around 15% of the land in England and Wales is unregistered: although it has an owner, their details have never been registered at Land Registry, but are held in private paper records. Usually, this land has been owned by the same family or institution for many decades.

Because of strict transparency restrictions on Land Registry records, there is no public map of registered land. However, no such restrictions apply to the 5 million acres of unregistered land. Typically this land belongs to wealthy families, old institutions, the Church, or the Crown (learn more).

The map below shows, for the first time, the extent of unregistered land in England and Wales.

Adjust transparency:

Where does this data come from? Land Registry publishes INSPIRE Index Polygons (see my blog post for background), which contain boundaries for all the registered freehold land in England & Wales, though without ownership information. Because of Ordnance Survey’s intellectual property claims over Land Registry records, it is not possible to publicly map the registered land, but no such restrictions apply to the holes in the map. (If Ordnance Survey dispute this, we're happy to have a conversation.)

Why isn’t the land registered at Land Registry? Because it hasn’t changed hands since compulsory registration was introduced. The current registration system was introduced in 1925, but did not become compulsory on sale and inheritance everywhere in England & Wales until 1998. So land mapped here has been owned by the same person or institution for at least 20 years, usually much longer. See the blog post for background.

Who owns the unregistered land? By definition, we don't know, but see Land Registry's post for tips on how to investigate. The roads are probably owned by local authorities and the Highways Agency. As for the rest of the land, as the Land Registry post says, it’s likely to be an old institution: “Much of the land owned by the Crown, the aristocracy, and the Church has not been registered, because it has never been sold”.

How accurate/up-to-date is this data? It is based on the September 2018 copy of the INSPIRE Index Polygons. Polygons may be simplified. Use this map as a guide only, and check the latest INSPIRE Index Polygons for the most accurate information.

I own unregistered land. How should I register it? Via Land Registry - voluntary applications for first registration receive a 25% discount.

Who are you? Map and data analysis by Anna Powell-Smith at Who Owns England. Thanks to Mapbox for hosting. Read the blog post about this project or learn more about us. Found something interesting, or a bug? Get in touch.