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Duke of Devonshire evicts farmer whose family have worked on his estate since 1830 – because rent was a day lateEdward and Elizabeth Hill served with 'notice to quit' Chatsworth House
Parkinson's sufferer Mr Hill, 63, forgot to pay 2,000 in overdue rentHe immediately paid up after being served with the noticeBut the couple's tenancy was terminated by the estate anyway
22:47 GMT, 21 March 2013
22:48 GMT, 21 March 2013
Letter: The Duke of Devonshire has evicted a farmer from his Chatsworth House estate because the rent was a day late
For almost two centuries his family has run a farm on the Duke of Devonshire’s famous Chatsworth estate.
Edward Hill himself was born on Game Lea Farm, and has spent his life working hard to earn a living there – the seventh generation of his family to do so.
But now the farmer has been evicted from his Peak District home – all because of a rent payment that was one day late
Mr Hill, 63, suffers from Parkinson’s disease and blames his condition for forgetting to pay around 2,000 in overdue rent.
The day after the final payment date, officials from the estate visited the farm to serve Mr Hill and his wife Elizabeth, 61, with a ‘notice to quit’.
The farmer immediately paid up the arrears, insisting he had simply been forgetful – but the estate terminated the tenancy anyway.
After prolonged negotiations, and despite pleas for sympathy to the Duke himself, the family were forced to sell their animals and hand over the farmland to a neighbour. They have been told they must be out of their home by Monday.
The Hills have been shocked by their treatment. Mr Hill said: ‘I was not ready to hang my clogs up. They have not got a shred of humanity or sympathy in them. It has ripped my life apart.’
The couple and their 17-year-old daughter Alicia have already found another home to rent eight miles away, leaving other members of the family at Game Lea Farm for the time being.
But Mrs Hill’s son Dorian Madin, 32, his partner Georgina Parker and their children Josephine, seven, Harriet, five, and Philippa, 15 months, fear being left homeless.
They are preparing to leave too and hope to be given a council house soon.
Mr Hill claimed the estate had also been similarly ‘ruthless’ in their dealings with other farmers.
John Hill founded the farm back in 1830 when he developed it from moorland. The farm was passed from one generation to the next through the centuries as Chatsworth House was also passed to successive Dukes.
Chatsworth House: Mr Hill's family have run a farm on the Duke of Devonshire's estate for 183 years
Mr Hill’s father Joe, 89, ran the farm under four different Dukes of Devonshire before retiring. He wrote to the current 12th Duke appealing to let his son stay.
But that letter, along with one written by Mr Hill himself, was never acknowledged. ‘The Duke has shown us no respect at all,’ said Mr Hill. ‘The way we have been treated is absolutely outrageous.’
Shocked: Parkinson's sufferer Edward Hill and his wife Elizabeth
The farmer had been in the second generation of a ‘three generation’ long-term tenancy deal at the 200-acre farm.
Mr Hill said he had hoped to negotiate a new five-year business tenancy with the estate, but in October 2011 discussions were brought to an end and they were given 18 months’ notice to leave.
But that agreement was ended when he failed to pay his six-monthly rent on time.
It had previously been run as a dairy farm, but the family diversified in recent years and ran a charity helping people with learning disabilities and problem children by allowing them to visit the farm, complete with its cattle, sheep and poultry.
Mr Hill said: ‘They were saying the land was not tidy and the hedges and walls were not in place and things like that. They were also not happy about us running the charity from here.’
His wife added: ‘We have been appallingly treated, but we are not the first farmers to be forced out.’
The couple hope to continue running the charity from their new home, which comes with a smallholding.
George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association who was involved in negotiating with the estate, said the Duke of Devonshire’s estate has been ‘quite benevolent’ in the past and is now ‘more commercial in its approach’ and ‘more aggressive’ in its rate reviews with farmers.
A spokesman for the Chatsworth estate said: ‘It is a very complicated and difficult situation and due to the circumstances we cannot discuss any details for legal reasons.’
He said the land was now being farmed by neighbouring tenants who were ‘slowly bringing the land back into condition’.
Heritage: Mr Hill's grandfather, also called Edward, with a horse-drawn cart