The Land Registry museum in Croydon

The Land Registry museum in Croydon

As the ‘digital guy’ and ‘newbie’ here (did you know that the average length of service is currently 22 years?), I’m frequently amazed and intrigued by the rich history of Land Registry.

Only by chance I discovered the museum here on the ground floor at the Croydon office. It’s been lovingly restored to resemble the original office at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London. Obviously the PC is a more recent addition, but the furniture, carpet and paintings have all been long term fixtures of the Chief Registrar’s office.

I also managed to get my paws on some original deeds, which are intricate and pretty impressive. Then, I found a copy of an old Land Certificate. The pre-Raphaelite artist Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale, sister of the Chief Land Registrar Sir Charles Fortescue-Brickdale, designed the Land Certificate in 1901 which was used until the 1990s.

In each certificate was a map extract showing the extent of land in its title (called filed plans and certificate copies) which were hand-produced by ‘plans technicians’ and vastly labour intensive. The amount of dedication and attention to detail in pre-digital times was quite staggering. Did you know that each of the technicians that produced these plans with a sable brush and carmine block were given 6 weeks painting and drawing training in order to accurately depict boundaries and extent of ownership? I bet a copy of Photoshop would have been gold dust in those times.

The paints used in the past to produce the plans

The paints used in the past to produce the plans

As I sit and draft this blog to highlight awareness of the past, I envision my tablet, 2 mobiles and dual screen PC replaced by the water colours and wax paper. In our fast-moving, multi-platform digital world I love to take a few minutes out to reflect on where this great organisation has come from. On that note, I conclude with a few Land Registry factoids:

  • Land Registry’s doors first opened to the public on 15 October 1862
  • 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
  • BBC Broadcasting House, London, stands on the site of The Devonshire Arms, the first property to be compulsorily registered in 1899.
  • 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.
  • 84% 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.
  • 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.
  • The land registration system underpins the property market in England and Wales and guarantees title to billions of pounds worth of property.
  • The first one million titles 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 is current 24 million.
  • 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.

Tim Buick
By Tim Buick,
Senior Digital Marketing Manager at HM Land Registry