We know from the Domesday Book that at least a part of the Loddington Estate was being farmed in the 11th Century, although it is likely to have had a larger area of pasture than now. Before the plague, the population of the village was probably higher than at present and, with very much lower-yielding crops, a large area would be required to provide for the community. Loddington was enclosed between 1607 and 1640, changing the landscape and forcing many to seek work elsewhere.
The Estate was the family seat of Sir John Pretyman, 1st Bt c, 1612-1776. Sir John was descended from a Suffolk family which held land in Bacton since the middle of the 14th Century. Sir John was accused, and cleared of collusion with the royalist forces which took Cirencester and took up residence on his wife’s estates in Leicestershire, which he enlarged with the purchase of Loddington. In 1659 he was involved with another royalist uprising for which he was awarded a Nova Scotia baronetcy. In 2012 a James I silver slip-top spoon hallmarked in London by silversmith Daniel Cary in 1626 was unearthed in the grounds, bearing the initials EP, Sir John’s daughter Elizabeth Pretyman.
In 1880 the estate was bought by Lord Aberdour, whose interest was mainly in hunting. This was the main area for fox hunting in England and many estates were bought by aristocrats for shooting and hunting. The railways enabled others to travel from London for such pursuits. At this time the population of Loddington was higher than before or since with grooms, coachmen and gardeners as well as a blacksmith, a miller and farmers.
After the First World War the decline in farming continued as elsewhere. However, one consolation for farmers were the shooting opportunities as grey partridge numbers thrived on almost abandoned farmland.
Loddington Hall became run down but was bought by Lord Allerton and substantially refurbished in 1934. This was then requisitioned by paratroops in the Second World War and left unfit to live in, at which point Lord and Lady Allerton moved to Loddington House, which is now the headquarters for the Allerton Project.
The project came about through a chance conversation between Philip Grimes (eventually the founder chairman) and Lady Allerton when his dog retrieved a pheasant for her on a shoot day. Lord and Lady Allerton died within two years of each other and in April 1992 the executors of Lord Allerton’s will set up the Allerton Research and Educational Trust, now known as the Allerton Project.
The aims of the Allerton Research and Educational Trust, as set out in the deed, were:
- To advance public education in different farming methods and the effect thereof on the environment and wildlife (both flora and fauna)
- To conduct research into different farming methods and the effects thereof on the environment and wildlife (both flora and fauna) and to disseminate the useful results of such research
The involvement of the GWCT in the project stemmed from Lord and Lady Allerton’s keen interest in shooting and its role in the wider countryside. The project set out to explore the potential of game management on farmland for meeting wider environmental objectives. The Trust’s long history of research into farmland ecosystems meant that is was the ideal partner for the project. It was, therefore, a much-needed opportunity to implement aspects of game management developed from a range of disparate research projects on other peoples farms across the country. Here was the chance to put the complete system to test on a commercial farm.