11 - The Land Reform movement

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  • Irish Potato Famine leads to Irish Land League and Land Purchase Act - land sold back to small holders with government loans (1879-85)
  • Late 1800s and early 1900s land reform starts making headway including allotment acts and numerous near introductions of a land value tax aiming to return the balance of taxation away from masses and back to large land owners.
  • 1910 Land owners start selling land which they fear is soon going to become a liability (over 1/2m acres).
  • The Plotlands were first chance for workers to own land and build dwellings on it - leads to Planning Laws to prevent poor people building houses in countryside (1920-47)
  • Land Settlement Association - government scheme to return people to the land with smallholdings, privatised in 80's (1934)

songs, poems, quotes and stories

  • Three Acres And A Cow (from Roy Palmer's The Painful Plough - recording on main website [here)

washing line

  • 1870-1930s Land Reform
  • 1872 1st agricultural labourers union
  • 1885 – Irish Land Purchase Act
  • 1882-1926 – The Allotment Acts
  • 1909 – People's Budget (includes land value tax)
  • 1870-1947 – The Plotlands

Sample Text

By the late 1800's there were finally some successes in forming agricultural workers unions and even the beginnings of a land reform movement inspired by the success of Irish labourers who had secured the right to reclaim land taken from them by their English rulers.

The various allotment acts were concessions made to the land reform movement which began around this period and give everyone in the country to this day the right to have a patch of land to grow their own fruit and veg, a right which very few people realise still exists – unless you live in London!

In the 1300s we saw the first ever poll tax on the population to pay for war (previously only the aristocracy funded that), we then mentioned how back in the 1600s the burden of taxation was intentionally moved from land and assets belonging to the rich to every day commodities with the effect of reducing the tax bill for the wealthiest people and transferring it to the rest of the population. Now in the 1800s we see attempts to reverse this placing a tax back on the large land owners, by reformalising a tax on the value of land cunningly called land value tax.

There have been several times when we have been on the cusp of passing such a tax most notably in the years running up to the Great War. Indeed, around this time many landowners were so concerned about soon having to pay tax on land they owned, that many starting selling it.

Essex was one place where much land was sold off cheaply in small parcels and it was this land that many east Londoners moved, onto forming communities later referred to as the Plotlands. This is quite possible one of the only times in England that there has been a organic repopulation of the countryside by labourers and attempts to prevent it happening again led to the various planning laws which people still have to battle today should one want to buy some land in the countryside and start a smallholding.

Land Value Tax has historically been one of the key policies of the Liberal Democrat party but they have sadly gone quiet on the matter since forming a collation with the large landowners party. Caroline Lucas attempted to get a private members bill through parliament on the matter last year but sadly received very little support.

One of the slogans of the land reform movement was 'Three Acres And A Cow' which was viewed as a sufficient amount of land for a family to live on.

(might be worth including a small mention of the land settlement association around here as they are still going and seem to be doing some good work) they were formed after the 2nd world war to provide support for ex army people to start up on a smallholding... this was largely successfully until thatcher decided to close down much of what they had achieved in the 80s...