A HISTORIC and highly-exclusive group of landowners on the Northumberland coastline has a new member – after a much-coveted share in the organisation was sold at auction for £18,000.
In an extremely rare event, the chance to acquire a stake in the ancient Freeholders Lords of the Manor group in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea went under the hammer at a sale in Morpeth at the weekend.
Between 20 and 30 bidders – some from as far afield as Leicester and Cheshire – battled it out to get their hands on the share – known as a stint – at the saleroom of auctioneers Louis Johnson. Eventually it was sold to the highest bidder – an unnamed woman from the Newbiggin area – for £18,000, which was about double what the auctioneers had expected it to go for.
The buyer has become one of fewer than 50 freeholders, a title and status symbol which dates back to a charter granted by King John in 1235. There are a total of 77 stints, which are either owned or part-owned by about 48 individuals.
The Newbiggin freeholders own about 185 acres of the town’s links, common, moorland, foreshore and beach, and each receives an annual dividend of around £180 from land leased to the local golf course and caravan park.
All new freeholders are expected to make themselves available for an initiation ceremony known as “dunting”, which is carried out on the Wednesday nearest to May 28 and involves the newcomer being picked up by their feet and shoulders and placed three times on the official dunting stone on the eighth fairway of the golf course.
Yesterday Barbara Turner, an auctioneer with Louis Johnson, said: “Bidding was extremely brisk for the Newbiggin stint and we had between 20 and 30 people after it. One man wanted to buy it for his nephew for Christmas and another wanted it for his son, but they were all knocked back by the lady who made the highest bid.
“The vendor was not even sure if it would sell or not and we had no idea what it would fetch, because one has never come on the market before. To get £18,000 is probably more than double what we anticipated.”
Gladstone Storey, 63, secretary of the Newbiggin freeholders, said: “I’m quite astonished by the figure, because the last stint changed hands a few years ago, privately, for £2,000.
“I thought this sale might interest people who had moved away from Newbiggin years ago but still have family locally.
“Whoever the buyer is, we will definitely welcome them, because it is always a pleasure to meet new members. Whether they want to take part in a dunting ceremony is up to them.”
Shares in the group, which are effectively plots on Newbiggin Common, are usually passed down through the generations by the families who own them. Saturday’s rare opportunity to buy one at auction came because of the death of former North Shields estate agent Elliott Hedley, whose estate included a freeholders’ stint which he did not pass on to anyone.