Northumberland Estates is a multi faceted business based at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland.

Recent years have seen the organisation diversify away from historic income streams, putting property investment, development and management at its core, but still retaining significant investment in more traditional enterprises such as farming, forestry and tourism.  

This has resulted in the creation of a substantial international property portfolio, managed for investment purposes. Predominantly UK based and centred on the North East of England, its primary focus is commercial property.  Asset sectors include office, retail and industrial properties, and the development team specialise in obtaining planning permissions to deliver new and exciting projects throughout the North East. The Estate also maintains a large residential portfolio and considerable farming and forestry interests throughout Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, amounting to some 100,000 acres (almost 40,500ha). Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden remain amongst the more popular tourist attraction in the region. 

The size and diversity of Northumberland Estates’ business interests make it a major employer and contributor to the local economy.

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History & Heritage

The Percy family have been at Alnwick for over 700 years. Even before the purchase of Alnwick  Castle and the Barony by Lord Henry Percy in 1309 the family possessed significant land interests. Hence for Northumberland Estates buying, selling and developing property and land is nothing new. Neither is their development into income generating assets. It is these assets and this heritage which continue to drive the business strategy even today, as has been the case over many centuries. As well as developing existing assets today’s business model sees continued investment and expansion of the property portfolio, creating a similar reserve for generations to come.

  • 1086
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    1086  Doomsday

    The Percy’s are mentioned in the Doomsday Book as owning 118 manors in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Essex and Hampshire

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    1309  Alnwick Castle and Barony

    Percy ownership of land in the North begins with the purchase of the Barony of Alnwick and Alnwick Castle by Lord Henry Percy. A royal licence for the sale was granted on October 26th, 1309 and the sale itself took place on November 19th, with further confirmation dated April 1st, 1310. The exact price paid for the Castle and Barony is uncertain as it was not documented. However, a “buy back” clause inserted by Bishop Bek, the previous owner, provides a clue. This allowed him to reclaim the Barony should Henry Percy fail to pay 10,000 marks by Michaelmas 1310. There is also documentation of a loan for 4,000 marks taken out by Henry Percy at around this time. Scholars are therefore agreed that the sale price is likely to have been somewhere between these two amounts of £2,666, 13s 4d and £6,666 13s 4d.

  • 1311 – 1334  More Manors accrued

    Other lands soon followed including the Baronies of Warkworth and Rothbury and the manors of Newburn and Corbridge. Their previous owner, John de Clavering made a contract with Edward II that these lands, including Warkworth Castle, become the property of the King should he die with no male heir. King Edward II made them over to the second Henry Percy, who took control on John de Clavering’s death in 1332. The Barony of Beanley followed in 1334 when confiscated from Gospatric.

  • 1500
  • Late 14th century  Marriage adds the Barony of Prudhoe

    A second marriage to the wealthy widow and heiress, Maud de Umfraville by the 1st Earl of Northumberland brought with it the Barony of Prudhoe and the Honour of Cockermouth in Cumbria.

  • 1560
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    1560  Control of the Manor of Tynemouth

    Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland was granted the lease of the manor of Tynemouth. His brother, Sir Henry Percy, became captain and keeper of Tynemouth Castle and steward for the former monastery, destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries. Later the lease was extended to his sons, Henry and Thomas. Control went backwards and forwards for several years until finally purchased by Algernon Percy, 10th Earl in 1637. Tynemouth was important as it brought in the anchorage tolls paid by ships heading up the River Tyne.

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    1594  Syon and Petworth

    Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland acquired Petworth House in Sussex and Syon House in Middlesex through marriage to Lady Dorothy Devere, sister of the second Earl of Essex

  • 1620
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    1620  Early Maps of the Estate

    The 9th Earl oversaw considerable improvements to the Estate including extensive surveying and mapping. Many of the earliest surviving maps of the Estate date back to this survey.

  • 1640
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    1640  Percy's acquire Northumberland House

    The Percy’s acquired their London home, Northumberland House at the end of the Strand. After years of petitioning, it was finally demolished in 1874 following a fire and significant compensation paid to the Duke. This allowed for the development of a new road link to the Embankment named Northumberland Avenue.

  • 1670
  • 1670  The Somerset Connection

    Upon the death of Josceline, 11th Earl of Northumberland in 1670 the majority of the Percy estates passed to Elizabeth Percy, his only surviving daughter. In 1682 she married her third husband, Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset.

  • 1750
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    1700's  The 1st Duke and Duchess

    Elizabeth Percy was the only daughter of the 7th Duke of Somerset. Married to Yorkshire businessman, Sir Hugh Smithson, she and her husband moved North to take up residence at Alnwick, later becoming the first Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. Upon the death of the 6th Duke of Somerset, Hugh Smithson, by then Earl Percy, purchased all of the Tynemouth land, including North Shields, which had been left to Sir Charles Wyndham. The price paid is thought to have been £54,000.

  • 1750  1st Duke buys Reedsdale

    Hugh Smithson, 1st Duke of Northumberland purchases the manor of Reedsdale 

  • 1800
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    1800's  Coal comes to the fore

    Immense wealth generated from coal royalties during this time grew the Estate to its largest ever size in terms of acreage at around 192,180 acres.

  • 1835
  • 1835  Adding Wark to the Collection

    Purchase of the Barony of Wark from the Greenwich Commissioners by the 1st Duke.

  • 1890
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    1890  Albury joins the family

    Albury Park Estate acquired by Algernon George Percy, 6th Duke through his marriage to Louisa Drummond, the daughter of a wealthy London banker. 

  • 1930
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    1930's  Kielder sold

    Death duties forced the Estate to sell 47,000 acres of land at Kielder. In 1932 this land was planted up by the Forestry Commission to create the largest man made forest in Northern Europe.

  • 1950

    1950's  Tourism at Alnwick

    Hugh, 10th Duke opened Alnwick Castle to the public for the first time, the start of tourism as an income stream.

  • 1980
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    1980's  The Move into Commercial Property Begins

    Recognising the need to diversify the Estate’s income, the decision was made to move into commercial property

  • 1990
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    1990's  Planning Changes bring Opportunity

    Introduction of the 1990 Planning Act created a plan led system and the zoning of land for development. This enabled Northumberland Estates to identify specific land holdings suitable for future development.

  • 2000
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    Early 2000  Making Use of the Archives in a Modern World

    The proposed development of the former dockyards at Tynemouth triggered the successful registration of title to part of the bed of the River Tyne by Northumberland Estates. Using evidence from the archives dating back to the early 14th century, this move generated significant revenue for the Estate as any development requiring footings to be bored into the river bed required a purchase agreement or similar from the Estate.

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    2002  Alnwick Garden Opens

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    2007  North Tyneside Development Begins

    The decision by North Tyneside Council to develop the A19 corridor as a means to regenerate this deprived area of the North East opened the way for a series of developments on Estate owned land at Northumberland Park - Shiremoor. 2007 saw the opening of Sainsburys alongside the new Metro station. Subsequent housing , office and further retail development has rejuvenated the area and the site continues to expand.

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    2008  Residential Portfolio Sold

    A programme of sales of non core property was undertaken to assist in funding the move into commercial development and investment. This included the purchase of a large proportion of the Estate’s residential portfolio by Grainger plc.

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    2011  Expanding the Commercial Portfolio

    Current investment policy centres on the purchase of commercial assets for the long term and which can be managed in house. The focus is on the North East and South East. Northumberland Estates is currently one of the few commercial property developers undertaking speculative development in the North East

  • 2015
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    2015  Wynyard Park Bought by Northumberland Estates

    The Wynyard Business Park near Billingham in the Tees Valley purchased by Northumberland Estates in a deal worth around £10 million. This includes Wynyard Park House, Evolution and the Business Village in addition to over 200 acres of land zoned for future development.

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    2017  Quayside Office Purchased

    Expansion of the property portfolio sees the business opening a Newcastle office for the first time in over a decade. The new  Quayside premises had been recently purchased from Standard Life to add to the commercial portfolio, but also became a new city centre base, with the Commercial Property, Investment and Planning teams, plus associated admin staff relocating. The traditional estate and tourism divisions of the business remain based at the Estates Office in Alnwick.

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    2023  Renewable Energy Projects Begin

    As part of the Northumberland Estates drive to reduce energy consumption and invest in sustainable resources, all commercial properties have been assessed for rooftop solar installation. 

    By adding solar panels to the rooftop we can provide clean, renewable energy to the property’s tenants at a lower rate than traditional utility providers, as well as deliver low-carbon technologies that benefit both the environment and the occupier.