ANGRY villagers have taken their fight against the ‘lord of the manor’ to the High Court in London.

A group of five residents from Ireby, in north Lancashire, are embroiled in a legal feud with retired financier Peter Burton and his partner Susan Bamford, who own the 17th century farm house Over Hall.

Eric and Angela Walker, Carole Scott, Edward Mills, and Christopher Balchin are all challenging Mr Burton’s claim that he owns Ireby Fell, which they say has been accessible to villagers since medieval times.

They want it to return to common land and are challenging both his right to the lordship of the manor of Ireby, which dates back to 1086 and appears in the Domesday Book – for which he paid £1 – and his title to Ireby Fell.

The case has already clocked up over £650,000 in legal costs on the villagers’ side alone.

Mr Walker, 74, who lives in a cottage in the village, claimed that none of the villagers would have objected to Mr Burton’s title had they been able to carry on as in the past.

Mr Burton declined to comment on the claims, saying: “I don’t want to get drawn into local politics. They’ve got their own views, haven’t they?”

The villagers’ challenge first came before Land Registry adjudicator Simon Brilliant, last August, who ruled that Mr Burton cannot style himself as Lord of the Manor of Ireby because the title had lapsed.

He confirmed Mr Burton and Ms Bamford as “proprietors” of the fell, noting that they had spent time, money and effort on maintaining the land.

Mr Burton moved into Over Hall in 2000 after retiring from the banking world, and he and his partner poured money into renovating the Jacobean manor house, the adjudicator said.

Mr Brilliant added: “The lord of the manor owns the manorial waste of the manor.

"Mr Burton is an ordered and efficient man, and he has set about mapping the manorial waste.

"He has asked certain of those living in the village to tidy up or to cease obstructing land outside their homes – considered to be manorial waste.

"This has not gone down well.”

A dispute had also broken out between Mr Burton and Mr Walker over the boundary between Mr Walker’s cottage and the manor’s limits.

Mr Walker said: “In order to be a lord of the manor, you must have a paper trail which goes back to 1290, but he does not.

“However, it wouldn’t have mattered to anybody if he said he was the lord of the manor, but when someone starts throwing their weight around, something has to be done.”

On the villagers' behalf, Mr Stafford is challenging the decision to confirm Mr Burton and Ms Bamford as proprietors of the fell, despite the lapse of the lord of the manor title.

The case has been adjourned and will return to court for further argument on December 12.

* Editor's note: Peter Burton, owner of Over Hall at Ireby, has asked us to clear up a potential confusion in our article (above) about a dispute over the common land of Ireby Fell. Mr Burton has asked us to emphasise that the Fell is and always has been common land, and the rights he is exercising do not change that. We are glad to set the record straight.