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Extract of a Letter from Colonel Lydell to Mr Holden, Dated 8th June 1735 followed by one dated 23rd October 1735 [Note in Margin:] There has been sad mismanagement upon the Estate. Thinks some Gentlemen should be appointed to enquire into it You will see what villainous Work has been committed, by the Negligence (to say no worse) of the Receivers, and the Knavery of their Deputies - I am satisfied there are not half the Malpractices come to light, nor will, without there be an Order to some honest Gentleman, who will summon and examine througly [sic] into it, and make an impartial Report; and then punish some of the most notorious Offenders – This I think ought to be done, to vindicate the Characters of the Gentlemen under whose Case the Management of that Estate has been; and to terrify others from attempting the like for time to come. Herewith I also send you some thoughts of my own, relating to the way of Managing that Estate with the least trouble; and to the best Advantage. [Note in Margin:] Means the Receivers have taken in order to clear themselves I hear there has been some pains taken to get Affidavits made before two or three of the Northumberland Justices of the Peace; to clear the Receivers of the base Practices; but I have not seen them; tho if what one of those Gentlemen told me be Fact, they are very superficial ones. I shall say no more on that head, till I have the favour of your Opinion of both. I will however venture to say this, that as I did not endeavour to lay any Odium on the Receivers, only to prove Facts: if I had not charged them I am sure they be charged fully – I think they dare not deny, that they either are, or intended to be, concerned with some others, in the most promising Tryals for Lead Mines. I have made some remarks on their Rentall. Which is that Wheel they gave in to sell the Estate by, which follows my Informations whioch accompanys this; by which you will see how Careless, or knavish they have been. And I doubt not upon a Scrutiny but a vast deal might be discovered. Watson is one of my Burgesses, and so is his Father, and were both my Friends on my last Election: and I was his till Mr Delme had a mind to purchase the Estate. And I told Watson of it, and that I desired he would give him what Information he could of it; and he should be gratefull. He told me he had thoughts of purchasing Scremorston (which I think the best worth purchasing in it) and that if Mr Delme would Article with him, that if he purchased he should have it at a certain price, he would; but not otherwise. Advice relating to the Derwentwater Estate. To prevent the many Inconveniences that may and will probably attend the Management of that Estate, such as Salaries to Agents. The best Farms let to their Friends & Favourites; and the worser either not Lett, or if they are, at under Rates. Buildings & Repairs, done at a great Expence. A Number of Bailiffs plundering & pilfering, as they have already done & continue to do, as may in part be seen by the Affidavitts already got, and would much more fully appear, if an Order were given for an enquiry. I would propose, [Note in Margin:] Proposes a Commn of Enquiry That honest well affected Persons should be ordered and empower'd to Summon before them, & examine into the Waste committed by Cutting of Wood & tearing out fresh Meadow Ground this Spring; and to make an Example of some of the most notorious Offenders, to prevent such Practices for the future, which you will otherwise have continued. [Note in Margin:] And to Lett the whole Lead Estate & Royalties (except the Mines) together To Lett the whole Lead Estate, & Royalties (except the Lead Mines) together, to the best Bidder, He or they being Men of Reputation & Ability, for a certain Nett Annual Sum, free from all Deductions, even that of the Land Tax, for as it is the Interest of the Lessees, they will keep the Taxes lower than any others can. [Note in Margin:] What Liberties to be allow'd the Lessees Lessees be allowed the liberty to Cutt Wood for Buildings & Repairs, or what is called House Boot, Hedge Boot & plew Boot, and as some of the Farms lye at too great a Distance from the Woods to carry it for Repairs, they should be allowed to sell as much Wood & Bark, as will buy as much Wood, as will be necessary for Repairing any such Housing, as lye above 12 Miles from the Woods. [Note in Margin:] An Allowance to be made the Lessees for Rebuilding & Repairing the Houses As the Houses are most of them exceedingly out of Repair, and many of them must be Rebuilt; and as Dilston House, would cost £1500 to make it fit for a Gentleman to live in, it not being half finished. And as the River Devilswater which runs by that House, by the Rapidity of its fall from the Hills, and the River Tyne into which it falls cause great Waste, and have done great Damage this last Winter and which must be immediately Repair'd, or the next great Flood will probably carry away 20, 30, nay perhaps 50 Acres of the best Meadow Grounds. For the Reasons above, I think the Lessees should be allowed £500 p Annum for the first four Years for Rebuilding & Repairing the Houses & Outhouses; And be Obliged to make Oath that the Wood & Bark so cutt & sold, was (as also the £2000) apply'd to that, and no other Use. And Covenants to leave the Buildings in good Tenantable Repair. [Note in Margin:] The Banks of the River should be repair'd The Banks of the River should be immediately repair'd, and if it may be thought of any Service I will order an Agent of Sr Henry Lydells & mine to do it, on whose Ability & Integrity you may safely rely. [Note in Margin:] An Allowce to the Lessees to keep Dilston in Repair Lessees should be allowed £20 p Ann to keep Dilston Roof & Windows in Repair. [Note in Margin:] Lessees to hold Courts & keep Bailiffs Lessees to be obliged to hold the Courts at their own Exps. They having the Perquisites thereunto belonging. Also to keep Bailiffs to inspect the Woods. [Note in Margin:] And be obliged to Plant a Quantity of Oak etc annually I think it would also be very proper to have a Covenant in the Lease, or Leases, that in every Farm of £100 p Ann, the Lessees shall plant such a certain Number of Oak, Ash or Elm Annually, & such sort, and in such Places, as you or your Agent shall appoint. [Note in Margin:] In what manner to lett the L. mines As to the Lead Mines, I think it your Interest not to Over-Rate them, for if you do, it will discourage able Undertakers; so that you will only have a few, and those necessitous People to make Searches. Were the Estate my own, I would let Aldston Moore and all the Northumberland Mines to one Sett of Men, and the Cumberland to another; and as Mines are Lett to pay by the Byng, Vizt every fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth Byng, according as they are reckoned to deserve, I should lett the whole at a Rent of a Sixth or Seventh Byng. A Lessee will lett more than you can, and at a higher Rate, and if he pays every Seventh, and can lett them again for a Sixth Byng he will have his Reward, and you will have the Mines thoroughly wrought. But Care must be taken, that they are not lett to any who are already concerned in other Mines, and whose Interest it may be not to have them wrought – I think it would therefore be proper to have a certain Reserved Annual Rent, after the first Years. By letting to one Person (or one body of Men) you will have your Rent well paid, and Contract no bad Debts, nor be perplexed with long intricate & probably Knavish Accounts, and not only so but you will receive more Money, and at the end of the Term the Estate will lett for £1000 p Ann. more than at Entering, which is not Common for Estates to do, that are in the hands of the publick. These are only my own private Thoughts, which I desire may not be made publick, because by Openess, I may give offence. Another Thing I would recommend; And that is not to be late in Advertizing than the 1st August, for good Tennants that have a mind to give their Landlords Warning against Martinmas to be free the following May Day, generally look about and agree for another farm, before they give Warning – This by Experience I know to be Fact. My Chief Aim is to have the Estate in the hands of Friends of the Government, they giving as much for it as any body; and I flatter myself that I know the Country so well, as that I could recommend Gentlemen that would answer that Character in every Respect – Or if you incline rather to lett it in Parcells, I could recommend some good Substantial Tennants. Remarks upon the Steward's Rentall of that Estate [Note in Margin:] Remarks the Rentall of the Estate There is a colliery on Wark Fell farmed by Matthew Charleton for which he pays £3 p Ann. Not mentioned in the Rentall. The Tennants of Whinnelly [presumably Whinnetly] pay Two Guineas a Year to the Stewards for Corne Tyth of all the Farmes upon 1000 Year Leases. Not in the Rentall Q[ue]ry who receives it. It's worth about £5 p Annum. Wooley Mill House & Pasture mention'd in Lowthian's Affadavit is not charged in the Rentall, but charged as Ruinous. There are several Inclosures made on those Comons of which no notice is or has been taken. And several other Abuses which are said to be very flagrant, and upon an Enquiry from the Government will appear, but will not be come at without it. [Note in Margin:] Gentlemen propos'd to be in the Commissn of Enquiry John Airey Esq. Gentleman of the Law. He was several Years Receiver General for the Counties of Durham & Northumberland, and might have been so still, but that his Business increasing in the way of his Profession, he declined it – You may be fully informed of his Character and Abilities, either at the Board of Taxes, or of Mr Paxton Solicitor to the Treasury. Joseph Ledgard Esq. a Gentleman who has an Estate in the Neighbourhood where these Abuses were committed. He knows your Estate very well, and is an active sensible Man; and I expect will be in the next Commission of the Peace. And Mr John Widdrington Attorney at Law, and a sensible honest Man. I think them all honest, unexceptionable Men, and dare answer they will make a strict and impartial Enquiry, and doubt not but their Report will be to satisfaction. As to my being named an Enquirer, I have only this reason to object to it. That I have always a full Share of Business, even more than I can go through with, and particularly this Year when my nephew Sr Harry Lydell is so lately married, and upon the Road for this Place, with his Lady and several friends, and when here must have a great deal of Company, and consequently cannot look into his own Affairs, which will add to my Load; for I cannot see them go wrong for want of Inspection: However, If Sr Chas Wager, you, and the rest of the Gentlemen, think my being named may be of Service, I readily consent to it, if you will dispense with my not acting, except the Affair require, and then I will; and shall be otherwise aiding and assisting. I think two may be enough to sit upon an Enquiry, so that you will I hope make to the whole, or any two of them; the said Mr Airey being one. [Note in Margin:] About the manner of letting the Estate As to the way of letting, whether together, or in Parcells, I beg leave to refer you to mine of the 8th instant; and am still of the same Sentiments, that letting the Landed Estate together is most eligible, both with respect to the Hospital itself, as they will reap the most benefit by so doing, and also of the Commissrs as it will save them a great deal of Trouble and Uneasiness. If it were to be lett in Parcells, it will be found very difficult to get the whole Lett to Tenants who are able, and good Husbandmen; and especially at a time when Lands are sunk in Value, and are still falling. Not only so, but very probably the Farms which are the worst, will be unlett, and those not a few, and in your own hands, from which you must expect next to no Produce. As to Gentlemen to Rent the Estate – I know several, who I am satisfied would, and take the whole, either with or without the Lead Mines, I have spoke to some of them, and find they are inclinable so to do, but they do not think it prudent, to have their Names mentioned, till it be resolved which way it is to be lett. However, their Abilities are not to be disputed. When it was reported that the Estate was to be sold to a Friend of Sr Harry Lydell's & mine, several apply'd to me for their Friends who were desirous of taking Farms, and several Tenants desired his & my Agents, to speak in their favour: but I did not mean by what I had writ, that I knew Tenants who would Farm the Estate, but only part of it. But if you determine to Lett in Parcells, I shall not be wanting in my good Offices to recommend Tennants that I shall have Credit by, and none but such; according to the best of my Judgement. I do not know what part of the Estate is in Mortgage, so shall not, till you are so kind as to inform me, give my Opinion what part of the Estate should be sold. [Note in Margin:] In viewing the damage done to the Estate by Devilswater This day I have an Agent viewing the damages done to the Banks of the Estate by the Devils Water, & the River of Tyne, and to see what refuse Wood there is unsold at Dilston: and he shall make a Computation of the whole Expence. [Note in Margin:] Relating to the Bailiff's Perquisites Thos Redhead your Bailiff (who is a notorious Offender) swears that he has been credibly informed and verily believes that the Derwentwater Bayliffs had the blown & slidden Wood, & Corfe Bows and Rods, as Perquisites. And positively, that the Duke of Sommersett's Bayliffs have them. The late Steward Busby affirms that he did not know that they had, and the Duke of Sommersett's Bayliff says, that he heard Mr Busby tell Mr Watson, that they had Salaries, but no such Perquisites. And the Duke's Bailiff swears positively, that neither he nor any of the Duke's Bayliffs have any of those Perquisites, however some of your Agents say or swear that your Receivers agreed with your Bailifss that they should have them. [Note in Margin:] Proposes Surveying the Inn Grounds I think the having the Inclosed, or what in that Country is called Ingrounds; that is, that they have in Meadow, Pasture or Arable (for in many of the Estates there are no Hedges) these may be survey'd; but I would not by any means survey the Commons yet, but let some judicious Person view all the Wastes, and get an information of their Boundaries, and of which you are Lords, and which you have only a common Right upon. When that is done, you may then determine whether it will be worth the Charge to Survey them, but I think not – The Surveying may be of use to the Persons who view the Ground in order to Let separate Farms; but I think you will not thereby be able to form any Judgement therefrom, for one Field may be worth 20 nay perhaps 25s an Acre, and another not worth One Shilling. [Note in Margin:] Relating to the manner of letting the Estate Besides if you determine to Survey, I doubt you will not be able to lett the Estate before May day 1736. Be that as it will, if you encline to lett Farms singly, I think I can recommend good Tenants; or if you propose Letting the Land Estate together, I think I know Gentlemen who will treat in that way. But in that case I think it would be best to Lett the Northumberland & Durham Estates by themselves & the Cumberland to other Gentlemen who live in that Neighbourhood. And I am now convinced that it will be your best way, to lett your Lead Mines separate. I think about Midsummer next you should have the Bounds of all your Manors publickly Rode. I am at a loss how to advise as to selling to pay off the Mortgage. I should think the Mannors of Castlerig, Derwentwater & Thornthwait, the Rentall of which is but £273, and cannot be much raised from the nature of the Tenure. It has Wood worth 6 or £7000, and the Customary Estates may sell from 70 to 90 Years Purchase as I am told. I believe the Estate may sell for 15 or £16000, or more Money. If you should sell it, by all means reserve the Royalties under the Wastes, which are large and promise well for Lead Mines, and may be of very great Value and yet will in the Sale, I think, be but little Consider'd. [Note in Margin:] About the Breaches made by the River The Breaches made by the Two Rivers are frightful, and the Damages done by the Two Rivers are very great, and would soon have been irreparable, but I hope any further Damages will be prevented, and some part of what are done will be retrieved.. [Note in Margin:] Thinks Dilston can't be improved above 40 or 50£ a Year By the Date of Mr Watson's Report, it seems as if the Commission of Enquiry had put him on improving the Estate; but I do not think that Dilston can be improved (even with this Repair) above 40 or £50 a Year, whereas he Computes it may be raised £100..10..0. [Note in Margin:] Proceedings of the Commrs of Enquiry The Commrs of Enquiry have I believe examin'd above a Hundred People, and have not yet finished; but by this lateness of the Enquiry cannot discover I doubt half the Abuses committed (in the Woods particularly) which by having had the Growth of this wet Summer, the Grass and Brushwood are grown so much, that it is difficult to discover the Stoves of Trees that have been close cutt; and I believe it will appear, that great pains have been taken by the Bailiffs and other Offenders, to discourage People from coming in to give any Informations, and by threatening some that have – However we have discovered so much that 2 of the Bailiffs have sold (which they claim as Perquisites) that were it allowed them, would make their Salaries better than Receivers. I am of the Opinion the Estate has suffer'd £1000 by the Wood and Bark which is discovered. [Note in Margin:] About the Lead Mines The Lead Mines have sunk in their produce since the Estate has been in the Governments hands; which the People that are skilled in them, and live there, say, has been occasioned by the Receivers not having performed Agreements with them, and obliging such as were desirous of having Tack Notes of Mines, to admit them as Partners for 1/4th part, or 5/16 pts whenever they pleased.
Colonel Lydell was presumably George Liddell of Ravensworth, MP (1678-1740). Samuel Holden was one of the Greenwich Hospital commissioners. The 23rd Oct addendum is given as a separate letter below