In 1760, the Prime Minister, William Pitt, stated. ‘The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake the wind may blow through it. The rain may enter. The storms may enter. But the king of England may not enter. All his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.’ It wasn’t a new idea. That a man’s home was his castle had been enshrined in common law as far back as the 13th Century. If Pitt had been looking for a good example of a defiant cottager, Crow’s Nest Farm would have been the ideal residence.
The history of the tiny house, near Conwy, is unclear but its construction is unusual. One half of the single storied structure is covered by a sloping tiled roof while the other supports a stubby castellated tower, ideal for pouring boiling oil on unwanted visitors like the mother-in-law.
A householder’s right to refuse entry continued unchallenged until 2004 when a labour government introduced legislation to allow forced entry to recover unpaid fines. In 2007, bailiffs were given the right to use physical force to pin down and restrain obstructing home owners. Today, towers and battlements would not stop the legions of people with authority to enter without permission. These include policemen, firemen, the revenue, bailiffs, gas and electricity suppliers, an estimated 20,000 authorised council officials and planning inspectors checking for any unauthorised development.
According to the Home Office, there are 1043 different laws that allow inspectors to enter without permission. The Bees act allows inspectors to search for foreign bees. Your home can be searched
for illegal tattoo parlours, artificial human egg fertilisation laboratories or, strangely, offences related to stage hypnotism. According to Big Brother Watch, defenders of civil liberties, inspectors have even been authorised to enter homes to check the efficiency ratings of electrical appliances. Any attempt to remove a bailiff from a property is considered an assault and liable to prosecution. To add insult to injury bailiffs have the power to charge the debtor a fee for the visit and an addition fee to cover the cost of removing seized goods. Mindful of over enthusiastic bailiffs the courts have set some limits to curb their powers but more rights of entry will undoubtedly follow.
William Pitt’s words are, sadly, no longer correct. Today, no man’s home is his castle and the poor man in his cottage can no longer bid defiance to the forces of the crown. Equally sadly, Crow’s Nest Farm has been left to deteriorate and is in a very sorry state but it’s a fun building and whoever built it created a rather splendid little dwelling.