309th: Meet the highest ranking self-made woman in Britain's property rich list

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The Independent Online

Who owns Britain? Not women, it would seem. The Property Rich List, published yesterday, has only two women in the top 100, both of whom inherited large fortunes. At 137th is Judith Wilson, who made a £180m fortune with husband Fergus, and, finally, comes Jan Fletcher, the top self-made woman working without spouse or family money. Her wealth of £70m puts her 308 places below the Duke of Westminster, at number one with £7bn.

The list, compiled for Estates Gazette, shows that in the entire top 500 only nine women are there in their own right. Thirteen others, who have built fortunes with their husbands or inherited the basis of them through family connections, are included.

Judith Wilson's story is remarkable. Fifteen years ago she gave up teaching in London to begin buying houses. Her husband joined her and they now own 707 of them, at one time buying a house a day. Yorkshire-based Jan Fletcher started in property by buying and selling car dealership sites. Her wide interests now include property throughout Europe.

But these two are not typical of their sex. Women as a whole constitute less than 5 per cent of the 500 biggest property dealers in the UK and Ireland. These, says the survey, have a combined net fortune of £117bn – an average of more than £230m each, about 15 per cent higher than last year's £200m average.

Yet the traditional way of accumulating land wealth, through inheritance is being challenged, says the magazine. There are only seven titled people in the top 100, and in their place are people like self-made billionaire brothers David and Simon Reuben, second in the list with an estimated fortune of £3.5bn, built up from retirement homes and racecourses. Third is the Irish entrepreneur Sean Quinn, whose investments in hotels, pubs and wind farms have created a fortune of £3bn. The fastest risers are brothers Ian and Richard Livingstone, who are up from 12th to seventh this year, with £1.8bn.

The Queen is excluded from the list because "she does not have full control of the Crown Estate", but Prince Charles is 45th, with £608m. This wealth puts him one place (and £8m) above Sunday Sport owner and porn magnate David Sullivan, but seven places below Paul Raymond, who made his name with top-shelf magazines but now owns, among other sites, 60 of the 87 acres at the heart of Soho in London. If anyone is tempted to try their luck, the magazine offers some guidance. The star signs of the top 500 showed that property magnates were most likely to have been born under Taurus, Capricorn or Gemini.

Research by Joanna Kilvington

Jan Fletcher

Started in property trading car dealer sites. Work includes commercial and residential developments in Europe.

Total worth: £70m