Understanding the Upton Park Covenant

The following has no authoritive legal standing and has been compiled by an engineer with no legal training. However, the research for this history has surely been far more extensive than that carried out by any conveyancing clerk and by HM Land Registry at any conveyance of a property. It is written here to aid a wider understanding based on a good spread of supportive evidence and systematic analysis rather than folklore, emotion and isolated questionable pieces of evidence.

To many residents of Upton Park; 'The Covenant' has a majesty as 'its Bible' governing the heritage of life in the Park. Emotions can be raised and it is often discussed like folklore without fully informed knowledge.

In essence it is a perpetual binding agreement between fellow proprietors for the well being of the Upton Park community. Custom and practice has allowed variations where this is seen by all as beneficial and within the spirit of the original agreement.

The covenant is similar to that of similar era Queen's Park in Chester but is more liberal. It does not, for example, restrict the use of land not to be used for purposes connected with the Roman Catholic religion such as Roman Catholic church,chapel monastery or nunnery. Neither has it, for many years, controlled the positioning of buildings nor been so specific in their allocation of use.

The first covenant seems to originate from when the 30 building plots passed from tenants-in-common ownership by Pitt Shone & Wood (the founding fathers); to individual ownership of specific plots.
Either they wanted to retain control of the standards on which the Park would develop or they were obliged to do so by the previous land owners. Roger Swift's book on Victorian Chester states that the Cathedral Dean and Chapter owned much of the land to the north of the city which as they sold off from 1845 had covenants to ensure high quality building. However, areas such as Kilmorrey Park have seen their covenants lapse.

One covenanted area near Upton Park is Flookers Brook. Its covenant in enshrined in an Act of Parliament dated 1876. The Flookers Brook Improvement Trust - has a board of trustees including Flookers Brook proprietors but also appointees of the original land owners.

Release of the Covenant and establishment of new

On 12 January 1870, Pitt Shone & Wood signed a document claimed to be with the full set of owners of the 30 plots making up Upton Park. This released the original covenant restriction on housing density and established a new slightly relaxed restriction.

Down through the years, the covenant with its 12 Jan 1870 revision has been referenced or reiterated or interpreted and restated in all the household conveyances within the covenanted area.

    This has resulted in HM Land Registry having a variety of references to the covenant as each property has been recorded within its system-
  • "the original conveyance contains restrictive covenants but neither the original deed nor a certified copy or examined abstract was produced on first registration"
  • a version of the covenant then stated is often lacking in certain aspects (possibly those considered outdated) and some embellishments have crept in such as restricting "any trade whatsoever" rather than the founding father's intention of not causing nuicance or offence.
  • However, the following is also found - "will at all times hereafter observe and perform the covenants contained in the original Indenture of Conveyance between the initial developers and the first owner of their property.

Conviction since the passing of the founding father's era, down through the years, has been that only the support of all covenanted proprietors could lead to any changes in it. How the Park rate is shared out is the only real change since 1870; this having been significantly changed twice.

Original covenant documents still exist within the indentures of the first individual land owners (e.g. Pitt for plots 15,16,17)

Only one certified copy of the 12 Jan 1870 release document is known to exist and is in private ownership. However it was refered to in the ruling by Mr.J R Laird member of the Lands Tribunal as recorded in the 22Mar1958 Estates Gazette (see below).

In plain English what does the revised covenant say and imply today
Unofficial transscripts of an original pre-1870 indenture and of the
1870 Release of Covenant can be found in the reference section.

    Essentially it covers three topics -
  • Density and quality of properties.

    Only one double or two single properties on each of the original 30 plots built to a standard with a value not less that that which would align with today's Council taxband F (or maybe G). Unlike Queen's Park; aspects of positioning of the building within the plot is not defined other than to restrict unsightly outhouses (and animal sheds) away from frontages. Pitt Wood & Shone possibly expected this much smaller estate to be completed within their time of interest because they specified that they should approve the building plans. They made no provision for this authority after their deaths.

  • Establishing & maintaining the common areas

    Common roadways, pathways, boundaries and services had to be established and maintained in what was an area outside the provision of local council. On several occasions throughout its history (see UPPA minutes) UPPA has investigated the adoption of the Park by the council but the question has been dropped since 1947 when the Council estimated a prohibitively high cost to bring it up to their desired standard. To this day it remains independent for certain services such as roadway and roadside maintenance. Provision and service of all utilities is funded by the utility provider.

    Proprietors are obligated to share the funding of this maintenance. This is the one covenant clause that has been changed since 1870. The 1870 covenant stated sharing as in proportion to the square yardage of each proprietor's ownership (including vacant lots as gardens). In later years and this was applied even to electrical suppliers for their substation and the War Office for a gateway off to their land. At a general meeting of UPPA on 16 Dec 1927 it was resolved to adopt rateable values as the basis of the sharing. At the 1966 UPPA AGM it was first proposed to adopt equal shares. Although rejected on that occasion it was later agreed. Both these changes have been by general agreement between proprietors.

  • Use of the properties

    No businesses are allowed which cause nuisance or offence. This is not as specific as for Queen's Park and today's legislation of public nuisance acts have surely superceeded this covenant clause.

    No unsightly animal outhouses. Unlike Queen's Park; no specific animals are named as prohibited but again this is now controlled by modern legislation.

    The density of use of the property (eg. multiple family occupacity or servants quarters in outhouses) is not covered. Again, not as strict as Queen's Park, the covenant does not prohibit the renting or selling to unrespectable families although some residents have occasionally wished such a clause had been copied!!

Challenges to the covenant

The only real challenge to the covenant has been with regard to property density. This point is strongly guarded by proprietors and has survived many challenges. The recent Conservation Area status should hopefully further help the case to retain it.

    Removal of plots 2 through 7 which were absorbed into a new and seperate residential estate.
  • As recorded in the 22Mar1958 Estates Gazette - Mr.JRLaird member of the Lands Tribunal ruled that the indenture dated 12Jan1870 be modified to permit the Dickson drive development on what were plots 2,3,4,5,6,7. In reality these plots had never been part of Upton Park - no road to them built - just a footpath through to Dickson's nursery.
    see Initial setting up of the Park
    Over development of plot 15
  • The covenant was successfully used in a 1986 hearing to stop over development of plot 15 when two permitted properties had been erected in such a way that a third could have been possible. Hence the 'plot' opposite no:80/84.
    See transcript of the formal notice of application. Note Pitt has incorrectly been refered to as Reit.
    Garden reduction for further property
  • A few residents have argued that today we accept a far higher density of building as still offering a desirable environment and that the 1870 thinking is now outdated. They have always been pursuaded otherwise.

  • Home

  • About

  • News

  • History

  • Houses

  • Committee

  • Guestbook

  • Contact