Small Holdings Act 1892

The Small Holdings Act 1892 (55 & 56 Vict. c. 31) was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed by Lord Salisbury's Conservative government.

Small Holdings Act 1892
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to facilitate the acquisition of small agricultural holdings.
Citation55 & 56 Vict. c. 31
Royal assent27 June 1892
Status: Current legislation
Text of statute as originally enacted
Text of the Small Holdings Act 1892 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from

The Act intended to help agricultural labourers purchase small holdings of land by giving County Councils the power to advance money to the labourer up to the limit of one penny in the pound of the county rate.[1] A small holding was described as a plot of land larger than an acre but not more than 50 acres. If land over 50 acres was worth less than £50 a year in value it was considered a small holding.[2] In a speech in Exeter Lord Salisbury confessed he did not believe that small holdings were the most efficient use of land but added that there were "things more important than economy": "I believe a small proprietary is the strongest bulwark against revolutionary change".[3] The Liberal leader William Ewart Gladstone supported the Bill but wished it had granted councils the power to compulsory purchase land for small holdings.[4] Joseph Chamberlain defended the absence of compulsory purchase powers by saying that there was insufficient evidence of the success of small-hold farming to warrant compulsion.[5]

Two future Liberal Party MPs, Richard Winfrey and Clement Edwards, complained that the Act was "an absolute failure owing to its operation being purely permissive".[6] Few local authorities made use of the Act.[7]


  1. ^ Six years' work: a review of the legislation and administration of the Conservative and Unionist government under Lord Salisbury, 1886-1892 (London: Conservative Central Office, 1892), pp. 42-43.
  2. ^ Six years' work, pp. 42-43.
  3. ^ Quentin Bone, 'Legislation to Revive Small Farming in England 1887-1914', Agricultural History, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Oct., 1975), pp. 657-658.
  4. ^ Bone, p. 658.
  5. ^ Bone, p. 658.
  6. ^ Richard Winfrey and Clement Edwards, The rural charter: a simple guide to the Small Holdings and Allotments Bill (London: The Daily Chronicle, 1892), introduction.
  7. ^ D. B. Grigg, 'Small and Large Farms in England and Wales: Their Size and Distribution', Geography, Vol. 48, No. 3 (July 1963), p. 278.