An Englishman’s Home

With work going on around the house, I got to thinking about the old proverb, ‘An Englishman’s Home Is His Castle’. I looked it up, and it dates from 1581, used in legal terminology to assert the right to defend and protect your own home. In 1781, Pitt The Elder made this law, with his famous quote.
“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail – its roof may shake – the wind may blow through it – the storm may enter – the rain may enter – but the King of England cannot enter.”

Home ownership is something of a national obsession in Britain. Unlike many other countries, especially France and Italy, where rented houses and apartments are the norm, owning a house, flat, or even a humble hovel, has always been the aspiration of the British way of life. Since the 1970s, the steady increase in property values in most parts of this country has also made it good financial sense to buy your own home, as it can often make you a great deal of money too. As a rented tenant, you have less rights, can be asked to leave, or be subject to rent increases that make it increasingly difficult to balance your finances.
Home ownership has come to represent security.

In more recent times, it has also become something out of the reach of all but those with good regular incomes, excellent prospects, and substantial savings. The last ten years have seen a steady increase in the number of people returning to renting, as the only way to be able to move with jobs, or leave the parental home. The selling off of state and council-owned properties during the time of Margaret Thatcher has also severely reduced the amount of homes available for social rented housing, and many young people are stuck in the family home well into their thirties, or beyond.

But owning your own home also brings with it great responsibility. It needs to be repaired and maintained, and if you are unable (or unwilling) to do this yourself, you can expect to spend a great deal of money above and beyond the purchase price, just to keep that much-desired roof over your head.
So perhaps it is time for us to rethink that national obsession. Relax about home ownership, and stop worrying about our ‘castles’. We will hopefully see a time when you just live somewhere, and nobody asks how much you paid for your house, and what it is worth now.

Napoleon once famously described the English as a ‘Nation of Shopkeepers’.

I wonder what he would make of our now empty shopping streets, and Amazon deliveries?

58 thoughts on “An Englishman’s Home

  1. Napoleon was right, at the time. And he would definitely be horrified at Amazon. Here in America there is a popular trend, creating a shopping area much like the main streets people love and remembered. No malls. On the subject of buying or renting a home, buying is always the best investment if affordable. People forget you’re also buying the land, and land has always been a wise purchase. Rents in Boston are so out of control that there is talk of rent control. Hot debate! My cousin lives in San Francisco, where rent control has been in existence for ages. She is paying the same rent she has paid since the 70’s. That’s not fair, either. The Englishman’s home could write many stories over the generations.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was 40 before I managed to get on the housing ladder and then it was only because my landlord of 14 years died and his kids saw more money in selling the house then keeping me as a tenant!
    Mind you I only managed flat ownership for a few years before the Poland project came up, now I have my castle, I even built it on a hill, just in case (of rising sea levels) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great article Pete! I fully share your opinion. Here in Germany only 40% of the citizens own a house by themself. Actually there are something like feudalism going on here. Big companies bought most of the smaler equities, and the at least big assets are only for the pesons or companies with the big bank accounts. Michael

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  4. Glad to find your blog, Pete. I am an American born and raised in Texas, where you are 100% a Texan first and an American 2nd or 3rd. Mostly have English DNA. We had a falling apart painting and a trunk the first our our line brought with them from England around 1835. Nevertheless, my father was very anti British. We were not allowed to watch English movies. He had one too many encounters with British officers during WW2. I have always wanted to see England but likely will not be able to. Enjoyed this article and the one thanking your American readers. We are a mess at the moment… 🙂 Looking forward to more. Best Wishes, Charlie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Charlie. I have never been to America, and most of what I know about Texas comes from history books, the TV, or films. But blogging brings us closer together, forges new friendships, and a wider community. So we can forget all those old enmities now. Most English people have their roots in Scandinavian invasions, or those by German Saxons, (mine are half-Swedish) so it would be hard to find anyone 100% ‘English’ anymore.
      My American readers make up the biggest percentage of my followers and comments, so they are very valuable to me. I really appreciate you following my blog too. 🙂
      Best wishes from rural Norfolk, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I totally agree Pete. An Englishmans home is his castle and it may take a long time for that to change. Having said that, like you say, there are many more people renting now as they cannot get on the property ladder so our attitudes may well change to be like the French or Italians.
    When I think back to our first house when we got married (1997), we were able to buy a brand new semi detached house with little savings due to the incentives on offer. If we were doing that now, we would have to rent for sure.
    Ian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Ian. I bought my first property in 1977, a desirable 1-bed flat in the nice area of Putney, SW London. It cost us just £5,950. I suspect it would sell for more than three-quarters of a million now. We have to face the fact that times have changed, and adapt our attitudes accordingly.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Spot on, logotero. If the millennial doesn’t own a home by now, they will never own one. Homes are hard to acquire financing for here in the US, unless you are a minority. Renting costs far more than buying. Good landlords are very hard to find now. Most are dying out, and the younger ones look at rental property, as a get rich scheme.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That sounds very similar to the current situation here, Ron. So many people bought homes as a ‘Buy to let’ option, the available property market shrunk alarmingly. The problem now is that those same landlords resent the upkeep costs of the houses they rent, making life difficult for the renters.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pete, owning a home is also “the American dream”, as most people here have only the value of their home as a “retirement” nest egg…a far-too-small percentage of Americans DON’T have retirement saving, and social security isn’t enough with prices today…so most people here sell their homes when they retire, move into a less-expensive retirement home and live off the profit…which is also why the meltdown of 2008 hurt so many as the housing market tanked here…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I have been renting in the UK for 15 years because saving for a deposit big enough to buy a house that would be sensible for our family is very challenging without us having to give up everything that actually makes life enjoyable. I don’t mind renting apart from the insecurity. We keep having to move because the landlord has decided to sell and they have no responsibility other than to give you notice and off you go. Moving is also very expensive. There is always some kind of rental cross over, professional cleaning, van hire, time off work, referencing fees, admin fees… and every time that cuts into the precious deposit savings that never seem to recover…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do feel for your situation, Abbi. The constant moving is very stressful, as well as expensive. But I no longer have a clue what the answer is, in this country. Maybe a wider extension of the Housing Trust ‘fair rent’ schemes? At least they can’t just tell you to move.
      It’s only going to get worse, I fear.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  9. Selling local housing stock was a good way of bringing housing estates out of the ghetto cycle and offering a route to ownership for those needy enough to qualify for social housing. It should have been made a condition at the time for councils to take steps to replace all housing stock as it was sold. Steps have been taken since, but too little, too late.

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  10. I simply don’t know how the young of today manage to buy their own home in London. It’s ferociously expensive for even a shoebox. Whilst twenty years ago it was pricey, it was at least achievable, at a push. Now however, it’s almost impossible. Having said that, I know of several young couples who earn in excess of 100k per annum jointly, but feel unable to save up for a deposit because they have come to have a taste for the finer things in life, such as the designer clothes and fabulous restaurants; so I don’t know how much sympathy I have for them in particular. You’re right, we Brits are slightly obsessive about ownership of property. Perhaps it makes us feel as though we’ve ‘made it’ in some way? I don’t really know … 😳

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a difficult subject, Katie. I think there was a time when it was possible for everyone who wanted to to be able to own their own home, however modest. But that time has passed, and we have to develop a more realistic attitude to owning property. Even here in Norfolk, where you can still buy property comparatively cheaply, most people do not earn big enough salaries to be able to qualify for mortgages.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  11. You are so right about the responsibilities and costs involved! Our house is old and always needs something done to keep it weatherproof from replacing slates (which requires scaffolding) or rotten window frames. And I have only recently learned about something called a lead safe which requires attention – which I fear is going to be very expensive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Older houses are desirable, but even more troublesome. This house was built as recently as 1979, but is now beginning to show its age in so many way. When I moved to Wimbledon in 1978, I used to have an Edwardian house, built in 1901. Not long after we bought it, almost everything needed to be replaced or repaired. It is a never-ending chore, and as I get older, I worry about having enough money to get it all done.
      Renting is far from ideal, but at least all those things are someone else’s problem. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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