‘Let The Battle of Trevalga Commence’: Cornish community vow to fight against threat of eviction

‘Let The Battle of Trevalga Commence’: Tight-knit community in idyllic Cornish hamlet gifted by William the Conqueror and protected from development for decades vow to fight against threat of eviction after trust puts 1,200-acre estate up for sale for £15m 

  • Idyllic Cornish estate is put on the market by college Kate Middleton went to 
  • Residents where some families go back three generations or more fear eviction
  • The 1,200-acre estate was put on the market with a guide price of £15,750,000
  • The villagers are now gearing up for a ‘Battle of Trevalga’ to fight the sale 

It is an unspoilt coastal hamlet representing a throwback to a bygone time – just as intended.

The tenanted manor of Trevalga was placed in a will trust more than 60 years ago so the estate could be ‘preserved and improved and as far as possible not sold or broken up’.

Its last private owner, Gerald Curgenven, dictated that estate income should go to his old school, Marlborough College in Wiltshire, where the Duchess of Cambridge was a former pupil.

The arrangement kept development at Trevalga, on Cornwall’s rugged northern coast, to a minimum and allowed tenants who would otherwise be unable to afford a home in such an idyllic spot to stay in what remains a close-knit community.

But the villagers are now gearing up for a ‘Battle of Trevalga’ amid fears they could be evicted – after the 1,200-acre estate, where some families go back three generations or more, was put on the market with a guide price of £15,750,000.

Residents – a mixture of retired, craftspeople and tenant farmers – say a new owner will look to evict them to capitalise on the region’s popularity as a tourism and second home hotspot.

The tenanted manor of Trevalga was placed in a will trust more than 60 years ago so the estate could be 'preserved and improved and as far as possible not sold or broken up'

The tenanted manor of Trevalga was placed in a will trust more than 60 years ago so the estate could be ‘preserved and improved and as far as possible not sold or broken up’

The Trevalga estate is nestled between the tourist havens of Boscastle and Tintagel in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It stretches half a mile inland and includes a cliff-top manor house, six let farms, 17 further houses and cottages – 12 of which are let on assured shorthold tenancies – meaning landlords can evict without reason as long as they give notice.

High-end estate agency Savills, which is marketing the ‘ring-fenced’ estate said its ‘spectacular’ and ‘highly popular’ location offers ‘endless amenity and leisure opportunities’.

But handwritten protest signs reading ‘Illegal Sale’, ‘We Need Homes’, ‘Trevalga: Not For Sale’, ‘Save This Community’ and ‘Let The Battle of Trevalga Commence’, now adorn gateposts and fences on its single-track lane.

Residents’ campaign leader Serena Partrick, a tenant farmer, said: ‘It’s very unlikely that anyone evicted from Trevalga would be able to find any property, let alone an equivalent property [in the area]. Some people might think these homes should only be lived in by people with money, but that’s never been the point of Trevalga. Why should you have to be a millionaire to live in such as beautiful peaceful place?’

Chris Thomas, 75, has lived in his cottage with his wife Ros for more than half a century and has one of the few regulated tenancies. He said: ‘A buyer would have to buy the house with us in it.

Chris Thomas and wife Rose have lived in Trevelga for over 40 years but they fear the sale of the estate could see them lose their home and be replaced by second home owners

Chris Thomas and wife Rose have lived in Trevelga for over 40 years but they fear the sale of the estate could see them lose their home and be replaced by second home owners

‘But that doesn’t alter the fact we’d be devastated if this community was split up. There’s a strong suspicion that they’re rushing this through because a government white paper to improve tenants’ rights will make it harder for them to get rid of local people in future.’

A Bill is due to be introduced in the 2022-23 parliamentary session to abolish ‘no-fault’ section 21 evictions in the private rented sector after research suggested that many tenants were reluctant to lobby for repairs or challenge rent increases due to the ease with which they could be evicted.

The ancient manor of Trevalga was bestowed to Robert, Earl of Morton by William the Conqueror when he made him Earl of Cornwall in the 11th century.

For 700 years, it was largely owned by the Bassetts and then the Stephens family. In 1889, it was put into a trust for the Stephens family but was sold in 1934 after Mrs EG Stephens died without a beneficiary.

The new Lord of the Manor, Mr Curgenven, owned the estate until his death in 1959, and left the hamlet in trust to Marlborough College. In 2010, the college tried to sell the estate after receiving legal advice that the trust was invalid because it did not have an end date or ultimate beneficiary.

The 1,200-acre estate is mapped out here in an advert showing the pristine and unspoilt scenery

The 1,200-acre estate is mapped out here in an advert showing the pristine and unspoilt scenery

The college then took direct ownership of the estate but put it on the market after concluding that owning such as large asset could contravene Charity Commission guidelines. The sale was halted after residents received their own legal advice suggesting the college’s position was wrong.

The trust is now run by three individuals who have told tenants that a sale is inevitable. The college – where boarding fees cost £42,930 a year – will be the benefactor.

A spokesman for Marlborough College said: ‘The sale is being handled by the trustees and is nothing to do with the college. I can only refer you to Savills, who are liaising with trustees.’

Savills said: ‘The sale is subject to all existing tenancies with the security of tenants remaining unchanged. The trustees have explored thoroughly the future of the estate within the trust structure that binds them and have concluded it is time for there to be a new owner not so constrained.’

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