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
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
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
This has resulted in HM Land Registry having a variety of
references to the covenant as each property has been recorded within
- "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
and perform the covenants contained in the original Indenture of
Conveyance between the initial developers and the first owner of
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
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.
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.
Removal of plots 2 through 7 which were absorbed into a
new and seperate residential estate.
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.
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