Feudalism is ‘alive and well’ as Cornish estate worker...

Feudalism is ‘alive and well’ as Cornish estate workers face homeless new year

18 November 2016

The treatment of workers at the ancient Port Eliot Estate in Cornwall, following the death of the 10th Earl of St Germans, smacks of ‘a modern form of feudalism’, Unite, the country’s largest union, has said.

The union said that grown men had been in tears at the prospect of losing their jobs and possibly their homes in the new year, after the trustees employed Savills Rural to manage the 6,000 acre estate on behalf of the late earl’s grandson and heir.

Six workers, who work as gardeners and maintenance staff, have been given notice - two live in tied houses and several have accommodation at a low rent. The longest serving estate worker has 36 years employment.

Unite regional officer Nick Owen said: “This is cruel news for the highly skilled and loyal workers at the Port Eliot Estate and their families in the new year.

“Unite will be challenging the so-called business case put forward by Savills Rural and is looking for alternatives to redundancy.

“Despite the fact the pay is low even by Cornish standards, grown men have been in tears at the prospect of being thrown out of their homes early in 2017.

“Some of the staff have been employed on the estate for up to 36 years and have been living in tied houses as part of their employment. With no prospects of work in the local area, they will have no ability to provide for their families.

“This announcement is the latest chapter in the betrayal of these workers.

“A year ago, workers’ hours were cut and now they have been informed that Savills Rural has concluded that it may be more efficient to restructure the maintenance and gardening team, so that the duties they were performing are carried out by private contractors on an ad hoc basis.

“As a union, we don't believe that the business case for the redundancies has been made and we have never received satisfactory answers from Savills Rural, as to its future business plans for the estate.

“What we have here is a sorry tale of feudalism ‘alive and well’ in Cornwall as new year 2017 is just six weeks away. There is not much seasonal spirit of goodwill amongst those who run the estate.”

This latest development at the estate, whose history stretches back 1,000 years, follows the death of the 10th earl in July. He was succeeded as 11th earl by his 12-year-old grandson, Albert, but trustees will manage the estate until he comes of age.


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.