The British Land Company plc (LSE: BLND) is one of the largest property development and investment companies in the United Kingdom. The firm switched to Real Estate Investment Trust status when REITs were introduced in the United Kingdom in January 2007. It is headquartered in London. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
British Land was founded in 1856 as an offshoot of the National Freehold Land Society (later Abbey National) formed in 1849 with the two chief architects of the freehold land movement Richard Cobden and John Bright. Both were ardent supporters of a movement to extend enfranchisement. To qualify for a parliamentary vote it was then necessary to be a landowner and the main object of the National Freehold was to facilitate the acquisition of small plots of land by the people. To do this the British Land Co. would purchase land and then resell it again on the best terms to any customer who wanted to buy it. With extension of the franchise this reason ceased to govern the operation of the British Land Co and it began to operate as a normal business in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century.
In May 2005 British Land announced that it had agreed to purchase Pillar Property Plc for £811 million in cash to boost its position in the out-of-town retail property sector.
Between 1970 and 2006 it was chaired by Sir John Ritblat, one of the best known figures in the British property sector, whose knighthood was announced in the Queen's new year's honours list for 2006.