Tied cottage

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In the United Kingdom, a tied cottage is typically a dwelling owned by an employer that is rented to an employee: if the employee leaves their job they may have to vacate the property; in this way the employee is tied to their employer. While the term originally applied mainly to cottages, it may be loosely applied to any tied accommodation from a small flat to a large house. The concept is generally associated with agriculture, but may occur in a wide range of occupations.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but more commonly known as the UK or Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state‍—‌the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Employment is a relationship between two parties, usually based on a contract where work is paid for, where one party, which may be a corporation, for profit, not-for-profit organization, co-operative or other entity is the employer and the other is the employee. Employees work in return for payment, which may be in the form of an hourly wage, by piecework or an annual salary, depending on the type of work an employee does or which sector she or he is working in. Employees in some fields or sectors may receive gratuities, bonus payment or stock options. In some types of employment, employees may receive benefits in addition to payment. Benefits can include health insurance, housing, disability insurance or use of a gym. Employment is typically governed by employment laws, regulations or legal contracts.

Cottage typically, a small house

A cottage is, typically, a small house. It may carry the connotation of being an old or old-fashioned building. In modern usage, a cottage is usually a modest, often cosy dwelling, typically in a rural or semi-rural location.


The concept has been in use at least since the 18th century. There has been considerable debate, particularly in the 20th century, over whether the system is "fair" to occupiers, and a number of laws have been enacted or amended to improve their security of tenure. The concept still exists, though in a substantially different form from the original idea.


Partly as a result of the Enclosure Acts of the 18th and 19th centuries, which denied hitherto free access by working-class people to common land, rural people became more dependent upon paid agricultural work. This was a key theme in Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles . Counterintuitively, the rise of tied accommodation made rural workers less secure. [1]

The Inclosure Acts were a series of Acts of Parliament that empowered enclosure of open fields and common land in England and Wales, creating legal property rights to land that was previously held in common. Between 1604 and 1914, over 5,200 individual enclosure acts were passed, covering 6.8 million acres.

Thomas Hardy English novelist and poet

Thomas Hardy was an English novelist and poet. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, especially William Wordsworth. He was highly critical of much in Victorian society, especially on the declining status of rural people in Britain, such as those from his native South West England.

<i>Tess of the dUrbervilles</i> novel by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented is a novel by Thomas Hardy. It initially appeared in a censored and serialised version, published by the British illustrated newspaper The Graphic in 1891, then in book form in three volumes in 1891, and as a single volume in 1892. Though now considered a major nineteenth-century English novel and possibly Hardy's fictional masterpiece, Tess of the d'Urbervilles received mixed reviews when it first appeared, in part because it challenged the sexual morals of late Victorian England.

Tied accommodation became a common practice in 19th and 20th century rural England where the property owner, which might be an estate, a public or private institution or a farmer, could control who lived in the property. Rent was often minimal and considered part of the employee's remuneration or a "perk" of the job. Most large country estates had tied cottages for estate workers and parishes provided houses for incumbent clergy. Later the system extended to council workers, village police, services personnel and other occupations.

The practice benefitted the property owner by providing accommodation to workers close to their place of work, but was open to abuse by using the threat of eviction to control workers' lives or even political affiliations. The benefit to tenants was a certain level of security in the knowledge that they had a place to live as long as they continued working. The advantage remained firmly in the hands of the employer for the best part of two centuries.

20th century

Before World War I farm workers were seen by trades unions as effectively the property of the farmer,[ citation needed ] and tied cottages as a means for employers to hold down wages compared with other industries and to inhibit workers from joining unions. The issue was politicised as early as 1909. There was little change between the wars and in 1948 34% of farm workers were in tied accommodation. In 1976 this had risen to 53%. There followed a political struggle to end the system that was variously called servile, a system to maintain class power, or a relic of feudalism. [2] [3]

A contribution to the decline of the tied cottage system was that fewer farm and estate workers were needed as a result of the rapid increase in mechanisation. In mid-century large numbers of tied houses such as those provided to village policemen or services personnel were sold off [4] to reduce overheads, and council tenants (who may or may not have been council employees) under the "right to buy" movement were permitted to buy their rented properties at a discount.

During a discussion on amendments to the Agriculture Bill in 1970, reference was made to the insecurity of tied tenants who, if they were no longer employed by the owner, could not expect to be automatically rehoused by the local council. The National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers had long campaigned for the abolition of the tied cottage system, supported by the TUC. In 1963 it had been stated that a Labour government "would ensure that no occupant of a tied cottage would be evicted before alternative accommodation had been provided" but the 1970 debate made it clear that this had not happened. However, members recognised that farming practices had changed and the tied accommodation system was not suitable, and legal protection was too weak, but that a six-month pre-eviction suspension period had helped to some extent. It was observed that it would be impossible to run a farm without tied cottages, one reason being that workers looking after stock would need to live very close by their work. [5]

National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers

The National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers (NUAW) was a trade union in the United Kingdom which existed between 1906 and 1982. It represented farmworkers.

Trades Union Congress

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is a national trade union centre, a federation of trade unions in England and Wales, representing the majority of trade unions. There are fifty affiliated unions, with a total of about 5.6 million members. The current General Secretary is Frances O'Grady.

The Labour Party is a centre-left political party in the United Kingdom which has been described as an alliance of social democrats, democratic socialists and trade unionists. The party's platform emphasises greater state intervention, social justice and strengthening workers' rights.

In 1974 a Bill was presented to the House of Commons to abolish the system of tied cottages. [6] The Bill was brought in by Bob Cryer MP in response to appeals from agricultural workers and other tenants of tied accommodation to "provide protection for tenants, yet preserve rights for farmers who can prove genuine need. It will ensure a cast-iron protection for those farm workers who have worked loyally in British agriculture so that they no longer need fear ill-health, injury or old age" and referred to the "evils of the tied cottage system". [7] The Bill did not become law but prompted amendments to some existing laws in the ensuing years.

Bill (law) proposed law

A bill is proposed legislation under consideration by a legislature. A bill does not become law until it is passed by the legislature and, in most cases, approved by the executive. Once a bill has been enacted into law, it is called an act of the legislature, or a statute. Bills are introduced in the legislature and are discussed, debated and voted upon.

House of Commons of the United Kingdom lower house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Officially, the full name of the house is the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. Owing to shortage of space, its office accommodation extends into Portcullis House.

George Robert Cryer was an English Labour Party politician from Yorkshire. He sat in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Keighley from 1974 to until his defeat in 1983. He then served as the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Sheffield from 1984 to 1989, and returned to the Commons as MP for Bradford South from 1987 until his death in 1994.

Sixteen Agricultural Dwellings Housing Advisory Committees were set up in England under the Rent Agriculture Act 1976 to advise local councils on requests to rehouse former agricultural tenants when cottages were needed for employees. [8]

21st century

In 2001, following changes in the law in the 1970s and 1980s, protection of tenure was relatively secure for tied accommodation occupants; if they stopped working in the sector there was provision for the owner (in effect, landlord) to charge monthly rent at the market rate. [9]

With increasing numbers of people priced out of the housing market in the 21st century, the concept showed signs of being revived. [4]

The Agricultural Dwellings Housing Advisory Committees in England were closed in 2013. [10] In a review of the modern state of tied accommodation, a Farmers Weekly columnist observed that, while it is complex and its appeal may have been undersold, in modern times it "generates more problems than it solves". [11]

With increasing legal and taxation implications, the issue of tied cottages was still an area of concern in 2014 in respect of farmers creating security of tenure and thus difficulty in evicting workers no longer employed by them. [12]

Agricultural tie

Under planning regulations a property may be built on agricultural land for the purpose of housing agricultural workers. There are conditions attached which need to be fulfilled by any future purchaser of the property. The tie can be lifted if it can be established that there is no longer an agricultural need or that no one has worked in agriculture for 10 years, but breaches of conditions can attract fines. The advantage of an agricultural tie (to the purchaser) is that the property's value will be lower than the current market value. [13]

See also

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  1. "Disempowerment of the working class: Tess of the d'Urbervilles" . Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  2. Brass, Tom (2011). Labour Regime Change in the Twenty-First Century: Unfreedom, Capitalism and Primitive Accumulation. BRILL. ISBN   9789004202474 . Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  3. Danziger, Renée (1988). Political Powerlessness: Agricultural workers in post-war England. Manchester University Press. ISBN   9780719026959 . Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  4. 1 2 Ross Clark (1 November 2003). "Tied cottage of the 21st century". Telegraph. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  5. "House of Commons debates, 1970" . Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  6. Abolition of tied cottages. Hansard. 19 June 1974. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  7. Abolition of tied cottages Bill. Hansard. 19 June 1974. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  8. Agricultural Dwelling House Advisory Committees in England (PDF). DEFRA. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  9. Sparkes, Peter (2001). A New Landlord and Tenant. Bloomsbury. ISBN   9781847311726 . Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  10. "UK Government: Agricultural Dwellings Housing Advisory Committees" . Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  11. Ian Pigott (11 August 2010). "Tied cottages". Farmers Weekly i-space. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  12. James Stephen (20 August 2014). "Clarity is vital as tied cottages come under tax scrutiny". Western Daily Press. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  13. "Buying property with an agricultural tie". Country Life. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 14 December 2014.