Commoner's rights

On Wimbledon common. Phoro: cathredfern CC BY-NC 2.0

Rights of common are rights to take the natural products (e.g. grass, turf, or wood) from another person's land.

Commoner’s Rights are historically specific to the place where they exist but may include:

  • depasturage - the right to graze sheep, cattle, and ponies;
  • tubary - the right to take turf for fuel for domestic use;
  • estovers - the right to take underwood or branches for fuel or repairs;
  • piscary - the right to take fish;
  • pannage - the right to allow pigs to eat acorns and beech mast;
  • swaling - the right to burn heather, grass, and gorse;
  • the right to take sand, gravel or stone for use on their holding.

Any number of people may share rights of common over a single piece of land. Because of this, no single person is entitled to enjoy the whole of the produce of the common and limits on exploitation of rights will be applied in each case. Typically, individuals have rights of common because of the house or farm they occupy, to which these rights will have been attached for centuries.

Very occasionally, a person will have rights of common because of their status e.g. freemen and women may have grazing rights on the town's pastures. All common land is owned by someone and that person still has rights over that land, although these will be subject to, or concurrent with, the registered rights of the commoners. The owner's rights will also be governed by statutory restrictions placed on the land. The owner may use the land and exploit its products like any landowner, provided the rights of common are not interfered with.