The Town & Manor of Hungerford & Liberty of Sanden Fee, or Town & 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.
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.
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.
Protecting and preserving
Today the Town & Manor manages, on behalf of the Commoners, a considerable amount of land and property. This includes Hungerford Common and Freeman’s Marsh – 300 acres of grassland where 250 cattle graze, 5 miles of chalk stream river, 3 miles of river banks along the Kennet & Avon Canal, Lower Common, Lower Meadow, the Town Hall and Corn Exchange, The Croft – the registered Village Green, a children’s playground and the John O’Gaunt Inn. 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.
Who runs the Town & Manor?
The Town & Manor charity is managed by elected Trustees, who report to the Constable.
The Court is headed by the Constable, who is appointed annually by the Hocktide Jury to represent the interests of the Commoners.
In addition to the Constable, there are 10 elected Trustees and Officers who are appointed each year from the eligible Commoners. The Officers include the Portrieve, Bailiff, 4 Tutti Men, 10 Water Bailiffs, 10 Overseers of the Common, 3 Keepers of the Keys to the Common Coffer, 2 Ale Tasters, a Bellman and a Blacksmith. A Steward is appointed to run the Court and ensure justice and fair play.
The charitable purpose of the Town & Manor is to manage its assets, now and in the future, for the benefit of the inhabitants of Hungerford. To achieve this, we will work to:
1. Uphold the unique traditions of Hungerford.
2. Preserve and protect the ancient rights of the Commoners.
3. Manage the land and buildings in a financially and environmentally sustainable way.
4. Provide financial support to groups, causes and projects, within the area of benefit.
Our funds are raised in several ways, including hiring the Town Hall complex, The Croft and Hungerford Common for select events, rod membership fees from the Hungerford Fishery, leasing the John O’Gaunt Inn, and grants from Defra.
Our annual accounts are also published on the Charity Commission website.
Is the Town & Manor also the Town Council?
In a word, no. The Town & 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.