The number of property titles in the Land Register has topped 24 million – continuing its often spectacular growth since its creation in 1862.

The landmark 24-millionth title – the evidence of ownership we compile and place in the Land Register when land or property is registered with us – was a combined Esso petrol station and Tesco Express store in Winchester.

Registered voluntarily as part of a wider project covering similar sites, its individual title plan and register were created by Registration Executive Carey Brown of the first registration projects team at our Fylde Office.

The team has been working with Esso and its solicitor Heather Fraser of Bircham Dyson Bell on the project, ensuring the properties involved enjoy the benefits of registration including:

  • greater security of ownership
  • greater certainty about what is owned, and
  • greater ease when the property is next sold.

Every registration helps us fulfil our role of underpinning the economy by safeguarding the ownership of many billions of pounds worth of property.

For Carey and his colleagues the Winchester registration was nothing out of the ordinary as titles are no longer numbered in sequence. It was only later that they learned it had been counted as the 24-millionth.

The registration of our very first title – a Suffolk estate in 1863 – probably felt like more of a special occasion as there was no mistaking the significance of title number 1.

Voluntary and compulsory

At first every registration was voluntary as there was no requirement for property owners to register. Compulsory registration on sale or mortgage was introduced only gradually across England and Wales.

That’s one reason it took almost a century for the register – sometimes described as a “modern Domesday Book” – to reach 1 million titles.

The trend since has been for ever-faster growth, with million-title landmarks being reached with increasing speed.

That is until the 2008 property slump. In the last seven years the register has grown by the relatively low number of 2 million titles, after rising by 7 million in the decade before.

The slump is not completely responsible however. There is also steadily less unregistered land and property left to capture, as we explained when the registered area of England and Wales reached 85 per cent.

Registered titles are not just about geographical coverage though. Many are leasehold titles created out of freehold titles so they double up on the same patch of land.

The vast majority – almost 80 per cent – of titles are freehold titles but almost one in five is leasehold.

Decisions on where and what type of properties to build will thus be one of the influences on the future growth of the register.

The speed of that growth remains to be seen but the countdown – or should that be count up? – to 25 million titles is already underway.

Gavin Curry
By Gavin Curry,
Digital Communications and Editorial Officer at HM Land Registry