Trevalga residents at war with Marlborough College over £15.75m sale

The Battle for Trevalga: Residents in historic Cornish hamlet ‘untouched by the modern world’ wage war with Marlborough College as it tries to SELL their village for £15.75m using archaic royal clause

  • More than 3,000 people have signed a petition to block sale of the manor of Trevalga in Cornish hamlet
  • The 1,200-estate was owned by Gerald Curgenven, who left it in his will to Marlborough College in 1959
  • Earlier this year, trustees of the land  put it on the market with a guide price of £15,750,000
  • Residents where some families go back three generations or more fear eviction from their homes

Residents living in a tiny Cornish coastal village are waging war against one of Britain’s top public schools after they put the land up for sale for £15.75 million using an archaic Royal clause.

The 1,200-acre Trevalga estate was formerly owned by Gerald Curgenven, a former pupil of Marlborough College, who left the land including 17 homes in his will to the exclusive school in 1959, with the instruction to ‘preserve it’.

Following a previous attempt by Marlborough College to sell the land, earlier this year locals discovered it had been put up for sale by the estate’s trustees with a guide price of £15,750,000. 

Dubbed the ‘Battle of Trevalga’, residents who fear eviction from their homes have now vowed to do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop the sale, with more than 3,000 people signing a petition to block the move. 

Local residents Serena Patrick (left), Kizzy Lockyear (right) and her son Reuben (centre) are campaiging against the sale of Trevalga in northern Cornwall

Trevalga, pictured on a map, is located between the tourist havens of Boscastle and Tintagel in northern Conrwall

The Trevalga estate 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

Angry residents have accused trustees of going against Curgenven’s wishes and also say ‘little piece of timeless paradise’ is being broken up for nothing more than profits.

Serena Patrick, 38, who has been leading the ‘Battle of Trevalga’ campaign, said residents were fighting for more than just their own homes.

She said: ‘It has not been developed, because of how Gerald Curgenven managed it in his lifetime.

‘And after his death in 1959 it has been almost completely sheltered from the rise of modernism and development that has swept the entire country.

‘It is a medieval parish that is largely unchanged – and a living piece of shared history.

‘With no street lighting, you can stand in almost complete silence. It is unique. What he tried to do was ensure homes for local people in a beautiful and historic area.

‘So what is the point in writing a will if when you die you can just say my wishes don’t matter?

‘The trust created to preserve Trevalga has, in our view, now been twisted into a tool to exploit it for nothing more than monetary gain.’

Located between Boscastle and Tintagel in northern Cornwall, the 1,200-acre Trevalga estate 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.

Residents are waging the ‘Battle of Trevalga’ in order to stop the 1,200-acre estate go up for sale for £15.7 million. Signs have been up around the community as the row continues

The Trevalga estate is nestled between the tourist havens of Boscastle and Tintagel in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

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

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 high-end estate agency Savills has said in its marketing material new owners may want to pursue the ‘redevelopment’ and ‘further income generation.’

Cornwall’s fight against second homes

Cornish authorities are trying to clamp down on second homes in the county.

This includes introducing restrictions on new builds being built in second homes in popular tourist destinations such as St Ives. 

Cornwall Council said there is ‘an imbalance in supply and demand’ that the county has never seen before.

St Ives MP Derek Thomas said in December last year that around 100 families compete for every available three-bedroom home in parts of Cornwall.

The housing problem in Cornwall was accelerated during the pandemic when ‘staycations’ boomed.

Increased demand for second homes in beach towns drove up prices even further – with the cost of rent nearing that seen in London.

In May, chief Executive of affordable housing charity Cornwall Community Land Trust, Andrew George, said plans to double council tax on second home owners were ’empty face-saving spin’.

Ms Patrick said the campaign’s main aim was to have the charitable objectives on the register of the charity commission amended to reflect the intentions of Curgenven to ‘preserve the manor.’

She said they had even sought legal advice and a legal letter had been sent to the commission.

She added: ‘The sale as we are aware is still on. We are very opposed to it and I understand from our MP Trevalga has now been raised with the secretary of state.

‘It has been called in to the charity commission as we have lots of questions about the management of the estate.

‘A legal letter has also been sent to the charity commission on our behalf – outlining why the residents are concerned.

‘We are a united community. Whether that is part of the manor or tenanted or private residents – we are all united in wanting to halt this sale – to honour the wishes and preserve the manor of Trevalga.

‘The reasoning behind the creation of the trust was not to generate income but to preserve the manor of Trevalga. We all want to have these wishes honoured.

‘We don’t know what the next stages will be. We all have our personal motivations but on a wider level we need to preserve Trevalga as it is unique. It is very rare in Cornwall in having no second homes or holiday lets.

‘Now the way we have progressed, with 21,000 on the waiting list in Cornwall, which has doubled in three years, I would now say we are unique. People here are not wealthy but are able to live in very nice homes.

‘This is not just about saving it for us who live here – but is a gift to the nation a small piece of shared history preserved.’

Ms Patrick said they were exploring ‘all avenues’ and will do ‘whatever it takes’ to halt the sale and resist eviction.

And she added: ‘I am confident we will win. As we have right on our side. People across the world are rallying with Trevalga. It is a magical place and I believe the magic will win out.

‘I just hope the charity commission, upon reviewing what is presented to them, move to take action and the charitable actions are amended.

‘I would hope this can be stopped without this ever going to court, but we are gearing up for the long term and will do whatever is necessary.’

Peter Pracownik, 70, who has lived at Trevalga Manor for the last 26 years is among those fearing eviction alongside his wife Nicola Lydon, 44, and his two sons.

Residents Peter Pracownick (left) and Sarah James (right) have been living in the village for decades and now fear eviction following the news of the sale

He added: ‘We were assured that according to the will it would never be broken up or sold. We love it here and were told we’d be here forever as long as we paid the rent.

‘I just think it’s being used as a cash cow. Someone is looking to make money out of it.

What is the Royal lives clause?

Trustees have argued the sale of Trevalga manor because it is subject  to the ‘Royal lives’ clause.

Royal lives is a contract clause which stipulates that a certain right must be exercised within the lifetime, plus 21 years, of the last living descendant of a British monarch who was alive at the time when the contract is made, effectively setting a private trust’s end point. 

Rooted in Royal history, the clause was established to stop money from being tied up in trusts indefinitely, and prevent assets being controlled by the wishes of people who died hundreds of years ago. 

In Trevalga’s case, the archaic clause is linked to George V, who died in 1936.  

In 1959, when the trust was estab lished, there were 12 living descendants of the late George V. 

“The life of the trust is tied to Royal lives, and specifically to the death of the last surviving descendant of King George V, who was alive at the time of the establishment of the trust,” said Trevalga estate trustee John Wakeham, according to the Daily Telegraph.

He continued: “That includes surviving Gloucester children, but more likely Prince Charles and Princess Anne.”

Trustees claim Trevalga estate’s ownership structure is no longer viable and say it would be better to sell it before they claim the royal lives clause is triggered in a few decades time. 

‘We thought we were living in our forever home. I’ve brought my children up here and I work from here as an artist in my studio. It is where I live and work.

‘For me to have to move at my age is going to be so expensive. We haven’t got that sort of money. To find anywhere else in Cornwall is ridiculous. The amount of second homes has killed it.’

Peter says his home has even been used on advertising materials to sell the whole village.

He added: ‘It is such a beautiful place and it is because no one owns it. The people are part of it all and want to stay forever. Who is going to get the money for the sale? Certainly not the people who live here.

‘Something is not right but we believe we have the law on our side. I just want to stay here and carry on as I have the last 26 years.

Sarah James, 62, has been living on one of the farms since 1988 and runs a BnB there.

She said: ‘We need to get the bottom of what is happening and stop it.

‘No one wants it to change. It is hard times at the moment but it is important we pull together as a village.

‘I don’t understand how this has happened so quickly. It has caused a lot of unhappiness and consternation. The whole parish is fighting back as we can’t let this happen.

‘I came in 1988 and we have been here more than 30 years. I was led to believe it was for life. This was not what was intended in the will at all and I can’t see how it can be allowed to go ahead.

‘The uncertainty is definitely of concern though and causing a lot of anxiety.’

‘This has touched everyone’s life in the parish. We need to protect the village and stop it being ruined by developers.

‘We are a very strong community and all support each other.’

Kizzy Lockyear, 44, lives there with her two sons and is a full time carer.

She said: ‘I came here when I was six months old and have lived here ever since.

‘It is all I’ve ever known. It is just a different way of life, a real community where everyone knows each other.

‘It would be massive upheaval to leave – and I am fearful that might happen.

‘It all just feels so wrong. I’m considered a newcomer despite being here for 44 years – that’s the type of place it is.

‘The campaign is getting a lot of support but underlying all of that is the feeling you never know how it will turn out. Not knowing is causing a lot of fear and uncertainty.’

Trustees claimed they can now sell the estate to be developed because the trust is subject to the ‘Royal lives clause’ tied to George V, who died in 1936.

They claimed the life of the trust is tied to Royal lives, and specifically to the death of George V’s last living descendant.

The trustees said they no longer believe the village’s ownership structure is viable and suggest they would be better off selling it before they claim the Royal lives clause is triggered in the coming decades.

Serena Patrick and Kizzy Lockyear (pictured) are residents who now fear eviction from the Trevalga estate in northern Cornwall

Peter Pracownick’s home, the Trevalga Manor (pictured). Mr Pracownick has lived there for the last 26 years but now fears eviction following news the estate is on the market

The campaign to save it has won the support of MP Scott Mann, who has appealed to the Charity Commission on its behalf and organised a meeting between the watchdog and trustees next month.

He said: ‘This is a one-of-a-kind community and it does deserve some protection. We have significant challenges with housing in Cornwall anyway with the buy-to-let market and Airbnbs and we’re doing everything we can.’

In a statement, the trustees said: ‘The local MP Scott Mann has shown interest in Trevalga and facilitated a meeting between the trustees and representatives of the Charity Commission. Any further statement prior to that meeting would be inappropriate.

‘We have significant challenges with housing in Cornwall anyway with the buy-to-let market and Airbnbs.’

The Battle for Trevalga: A timeline

1930s: Gerald Curgenven buys Trevalga manor and starts to acquire the surrounding land

1959: Curgenven dies, leaving the 1,200-acre estate in his will to Marlborough College, establishing the Gerald Curvenven Will Trust

2010: Malborough College claims legal document is flawed and aims to ask for £10 million for the houses in the hamlet

June 2022: Residents living in the village receive a letter to tell them their homes would be sold as part of the £15.75 million 

August 2022:  Petition to halt the sale of the manor of Trevalga launched by Serena Patrick

A view looking out to sea from Trevalga in northern Cornwall. The estate has been put on the market with a guide price of £15.75 million, sparking concern from residents who now fear eviction

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