Papers in court will 'prove I own common'

A baron's son has been grilled in the dock during a trial over the disputed ownership of a Norfolk common. Robert Harbord-Hammond opened his defence case against the commons committee trustees Tony Hadlow and Dick Price in what may be the final battle in a two-year war involving 35 acres of grazing land at Hanworth, near Cromer.

A baron's son was grilled in the dock yesterday during a trial over the disputed ownership of a Norfolk common.

Robert Harbord-Hammond opened his defence case against the commons committee trustees Tony Hadlow and Dick Price in what may be the final battle in a two-year war involving 35 acres of grazing land at Hanworth, near Cromer.

Judge Patrick O'Brien spent much of the morning's hearing going through more than 50 documents produced by Mr Harbord-Hammond, who is representing himself, minutes before the case began at Norwich County Court and said it was "very unsatisfactory" that they had not been served before.

When asked about the interest he claimed in Hanworth Common, Mr Habbord-Hammond replied that he had the "freehold title" and his witness statements would show he had the "paper title" that were necessary to prove the case.

He faced cross-examination by QC Vivian Chapman, representing the commons committee trustees, who attempted to marry each document with the three main issues in the case.

He put it to Mr Habbord-Hammond that these were whether he had the title to Hanworth Common, whether the claimants acquired title to the common by adverse possession and, if neither has got title, who has the better right to possession of it.

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Mr Habbord-Hammond said that an 1879 resettlement indenture listed "the soil of the common" as severed from the ownership of the manor, but could not show a document directly related to the actual split and when it occurred.

He produced letters from the 1960s which he agreed was evidence that Doris Hobbard, one of his relatives, was lord of the manor and a member of the trustees who owned the common.

Mr Chapman questioned the relevance of many of the documents, which at one point prompted Mr Habbord-Hammond to retort: "If the public were more aware of the issues here, they would not be throwing money at a hopeless case."

This caused a flutter of disquiet in the public gallery, which was once again packed out with villagers supporting Mr Hadlow and Mr Price.

The trial continues.