A bit of a mouthful we know, but the Town and Manor of Hungerford and Liberty of Sanden Fee, or the Town and Manor as we call it for short, is a charity (formed in 1908) that protects the beautiful countryside, and a wonderful ancient set of rights, for the Commoners and people of Hungerford.
The Town and Manor of Hungerford and Liberty of Sanden Fee?
John O’Gaunt, fourth son of Edward III, and a major benefactor of Hungerford
It probably all started in the 13th Century (we can’t be 100% sure), building on the Right to hold Markets and Fairs, and the Assize of Bread and Ale, granted to the good people of Hungerford during the reign of King Henry III (1216-1272).
These rights were confirmed during the reigns of King Edward I (1272-1307) and Edward III (1327-1377), with the addition of Grazing Rights on the Royal Estate land around the town. Fishing Rights were added by John O’Gaunt (originally known as John of Gaunt), the fourth son of Edward III; a generous act that made him the adopted son of the town to this day.
Protecting and preserving
The modern estate managed by the Trustees comprises 423 acres (171 hectares) of land of which 75 hectares are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), including Hungerford Common, Freeman’s Marsh Hungerford Marsh Nature Reserve, The Croft, the Recreation Ground and War Memorial at Bulpit Lane, the Town Hall & Corn Exchange, the John O’Gaunt Inn and the Water Keeper’s House behind it. The latest acquisition is 40 hectares off of Charnham Park Road, which it is hoped will become, once planning is granted, the Kennet Valley Wetland Reserve. In addition we own 5 miles of rivers and chalk streams which are operated as a fishery. The fishery is where the majority of the income comes from. Hungerford Common is also home to the Cricket and Football Clubs, and the Second World War Memorial Ground dedicated to the memory of the 38 men of Hungerford who lost their lives.
Commoners have the right to fish, graze cattle, shoot and collect watercress within the seasons
These ancient rights were attached to houses where the inhabitants lived and carried out their trades. While the original houses have long since gone, the rights remain with the houses that have taken their place, and may be exercised by one person, known as a Commoner, who lives or works in the property.
Is the Town and Manor also the Town Council?
In a word, no. The Town and Manor is a charity and not part of the generally understood local authority network. It benefits the whole community by providing the Town Hall and Corn Exchange complex, and the areas and facilities mentioned above, at no cost to local tax payers, aside from booking charges.
Who runs the Town and Manor?
The Town and Manor charity is managed by elected Trustees, who report to the Constable.
A time for celebrating, ale tasting and Tutti folk
The ancient celebration of Hocktide is the most important day in the life of the Town and Manor and takes place annually on the second Tuesday after Easter.