Pages 81 - 82

Wrington Village Records
Studies of the history of a Somerset Village

The sale of the Wrington estate, 1895
Pages 81 - 82

Sources: Sale Catalogue: Manor of Wrington, 1895 (loaned by Colonel J. M. Lee).
Lampoon on the Sale of the Manor (Wrington Parish Records).
Western Daily Press, 26th Apri1, 1895; Bristol Mirror 27th April 1895 (Bristol Newspaper Library).

Previous papers have traced the ownership of the Wrington estate, and it will be recalled that it came into the possession of Henry, 3rd Earl of Darlington and 1st Duke of Cleveland, in 1808. He had three sons; the two elder died without heirs in 1864, and on the death in 1891 of the third, George, last Duke of Cleveland, also without an heir, the family became extinct.

The estate, comprising about 6,000 acres, with a population of about 1,500, a gross rentroll reckoned at about £5,800, and an annual income of £819 5s. 2d., was sold at auction by Messrs. Hammett & Co., of London. A magnificent catalogue was prepared, a large volume not only enhanced with much elaborate engraving but also, more usefully, containing maps, photographs and detailed descriptions of property in and around Wrington in 1895. It is valuable for comparison with the maps both of 1738-1739, and of the present day.

A general map of the estate shows the boundaries following the line described in the Saxon charter and the 1738-9 map (see paper The Boundaries of the Manor of Wrington). Included in the estate were 26 farms; Cowslip Green; Havyatt Lodge (later burnt down); Brook Cottage (now known as Brook House); Court House Farm (now Court Farm); the "Golden Lion"; and the manorial lordship of Wrington. It is to be noted that Lot 14 comprised the "Estate Office and works", now known as the "Old Manor". The final lot comprised the "Advowson and Next and Perpetual Right of Presentation to the Rectory of Wrington".

The sale took place on 26th arid 27th April 1895, at the Grand Hotel in Bristol and was reported in the local papers. Mr. S. J. Hammett, after a short introductory speech apparently lifted straight from the Sale Catalogue, said that he was to try and sell it as a whole, to preserve the unity of the estate, but if there were no suitable offers, then he was to sell it by lots. The Western Daily Press continues .

"The point should not be forgotten that the rents were not too high ! (A Voice: 'Plenty high enough'). Mr. Hammett: 'I thought a difference of opinion would arise on this point', (A Voice: 'I should like you to farm it and make the rent out of it.)" (Western Daily Press).

Mr. Hammett then answered a few questions not covered by the prospectus, and lacking a bid for the whole estate, it was accordingly sold in 115 lots. On the second day, the 27th April, the Bristol Mirror reported that Mr. Hammett issued a statement that he had been approached in many cases by gentlemen with a view to buying privately; but that if the lots were not bought publicly, they would have no chance of buying at a lower price privately)'. "The auction then proceeded with bids being brisk, and in the cases where the tenants had purchased their farms, the applause was hearty". According to the Western Daily Press, a total of £98,000 was realised; but the newspapers give only partial details of individual bids.

At the same time a Lampoon on the sale was published, which gives another view of the proceedings. It is headed by the announcement "To be sold - a magnificent Freehold, Residential, Agricultural, Manorial, Sporting, Spirituous and Spiritual Domain", the last four words being added by the writer to the announcement in the sale catalogue. The lampoon records an imaginary conversation between the writer - a Mr. Harry Hopeful -and several of the villagers in the "smoke room of the John Locke rooms" - probably the very room in which this local history group has met.

Reference is made to the meaning of residential property, and Hopeful points out that the term includes anybody's dwelling place, even the tumble-down hovels. He expressed criticism that the vendor would not permit the cottagers to remain on condition they paid simply the price of the land. The manor was sold "subject in no ways to disturb the rights of the user for pasturage and other purposes".

Hopeful draws the attention of his audience to Lot 115, the sale of the Advowson, and the opinions of eminent divines on the sales of livings are quoted: "A scandal, an evil, and an abuse of high and holy trusts", and "The sale of the souls of men".

The company are surprised to realise that anyone could buy the living, for example a dissenter or an agnostic. It may be bought for a child as yet unborn who, when he comes into possession, "may be a Romanist in all but name, a ritualist, or a broad churchman". The company are severely critical of the whole system.

The conversation closes with Hopeful suggesting an "indignation meeting" to protest against their spiritual interests being put to the hammer, or, if that were unavailing, the formation of a Company to secure the next presentation for an out-and-out protestant.