The curious English village searching for a lord of the manor

Tom Ough
You could own a slice of Nottinghamshire for a cool seven million - BrettCharlton

Whisper your name to yourself – your normal, boring, unremarkable name. Now say it again, but add “Lord of the Manor of Laxton”. Mmmmm. Much grander. Wouldn’t fit on many application forms, but it’s got a ring to it.

If you’re willing to pay £7 million for England’s last feudal village, the title could be yours. Laxton, Nottinghamshire (not to be confused with Laxton, east Northamptonshire, which is definitely NOT for sale), comprises 1,845 acres, on which reside one inn, 10 cottages and 17 farms. These still share three large fields, each one divided, according to archaic custom, into strips.

Whoever buys the whole caboodle from the Crown Estate (which acquired Laxton in 1981 after Gervas Evelyn Pierrepont, 6th Earl Manvers, sold it to the Government in 1952) will have the title thrown in, too. The buyer will be required to maintain the open-field farming system, which is the last of its kind in the country.

Open-field farming was largely eliminated following the Enclosure Act of 1773, which allowed landowners to consolidate landholdings, but it survives here, thanks in part to local farmers’ support for the tradition. They also maintain a manorial or “leet court”, the lowest court in the land, which meets every December at the village pub and imposes small fines on farmers who break rules. (Daytripper would like to take this opportunity to admonish one Kevin Saxilby, who, according to the Newark Advertiser, was fined £10 a year ago for “causing spray damage to Roebuck Syke.” Let that be a lesson to you, Mr Saxilby.

Wary of causing spray damage, but curious about this strange, ancient village, we visited late in October. Laxton isn’t much more than the intersection of three countryside roads, with cottages at the centre and some semis a little way further out. Where the roads meet, there’s the inn where the leet court is convened, and a visitor centre (read: large room with maps and posters) in its car park. The pub was shut for the day. The visitor centre was unmanned. It was as if we were in a ghost town, or one of those villages which was suddenly abandoned and so remains eerily suspended in history.

Laxton isn’t much more than the intersection of three countryside roads Credit: Andrew Fox

If we looked through one of the cottage windows, perhaps we’d see a pot of porridge, left out for decades, as solid as dried cement. Maybe you’re wondering what people used to do for fun around here. The answer, we’d learned from the visitor centre, is that there were more home brewers here by the end of the 19th century than anywhere else in the area.

Eventually we saw some dog walkers. Laxton lived. A couple showed us an old motte and bailey fortification within sight of the church. From its peak we could see Lincoln Cathedral, 20 miles to the east, and a few of the open-field farms that make Laxton a historical rarity. One day, reader, this could all be yours.

Six good reasons to visit Laxton 

The church

St Michael the Archangel is enjoyably outsized for the area it serves and a repository of artefacts. Look out for the list of vicars that goes back to the 12th century, and a wooden sculpture of the Harrowing of Hell.

The church has a surprisingly grand name – St Michael the Archangel Credit: Andrew Fox

The visitor centre

If you’re interested in Laxton’s history, try the visitor centre by the pub, which explains through wall displays how the village came to be as it is today. It’s open daily and free to enter.

The walks

Head to the visitor centre for details of walks for all speeds, including a trip around the famous open fields.

The museum

The National Holocaust Centre and Museum is near Laxton of all places, because a local family was so moved by a visit to Israel’s Holocaust museum that they set up a similar site in what was once their home. Its main exhibition, The Journey, is a profoundly moving telling of the Nazi persecution of European Jews. 

It might seem like an odd location, but you can find the National Holocaust Centre and Museum nearby Credit: Andrew Fox

The castle

Laxton Castle is really just a hill fort, but there are good views from its summit and there were late blackberries to pick along the way.

The pub

The Dovecote Inn was closed on the day we visited, but normally offers country dining and beds for the night. Come in December and you might see the leet court convene.