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Threepwood 12th April 1799 My Lord, I trust your Lordship will please to accept my Acknowledgements for his late very obliging favour in reply to my 25 January and permit me to observe that from Your Lordships decided approbation of the Stanhope Inclosure Bill on the Plan at large as originally proposed, and by the Subsequent Order from Col Beaumont to his Agents to Support the same, I had in consequence flattered myself, that the Measure at large would be affected to general satisfaction but which, on the last meeting at Chapel, as Your Lordship probably may have been informed has proved the rewards in justification therefore of my disapprobation of the Mode in which the Inclosure bill was then offered to the Proprietors there assembled, I am necessitated to Request Your Lordships Indulgence, in order to explain the Motives of my dissent for my not then acceding to the Measure in the manner as then proposed, and this with as much brevity as the subject will admit. The first Idea of such Division had I understand originated with the Proprietors of Stinted Pastures and Stinted Moors near to Chapel, but without the Proprietors of the Unthank Estate (the Revd Mr Hildyard, Miss Westgarth and myself), who are largely Interested in the most valuable Stinted Pastures and in both the Commons near to Stanhope being consulted or receiving any Authentic Intelligence of the Measure in Agitation, till after the proper notices required by the House had been published, and considerable progress made in the Draft of the Bill. Mr Scruton was then pleased to communicate the intelligence of what had previously passed, requesting to know our Sentiments thereon. Altho’ by such remissness the Unthank Proprietors conceived themselves as improperly treated, yet, as Mr Scruton in his said letter observed ‘that the wish for the Division appeared almost general, that he had the Honor of several meetings with you Lordship on the Subject the Result of which proved as favorable as could be wished, that he could not do justice to the liberality Your Lordship displayed on the Occasion, by Your Lordships Suggesting the Idea of Enfranchising the Leaseholds within the Parish on Reasonable terms, and of encouraging the Growth of Timber etc, and upon the whole your Lordships promise to favor the proceedings by every means in your Lordships power’ Considerations thus important, totally removed from the Unthank Proprietors the dissatisfaction created in the first instance, especially, as <....> property, and well also convinced, of the Advantage of the liberty to plant and cut wood <fo..> own Emolument, in a Country abounding with Mines, confiding in your Lordships Honor; that all such several matters would in their proper place be realised. Motives thus <..> instantly operated, as in reason might be expected, of a perfect acquiescence to a Division on such principles have been noted, and their concurrence and subsequent endeavours to promote the same will be readily allowed. Having to Your Lordship in my said letter 25 January observed that in the meeting of 11 January at Stanhope (and at which meeting Mr Hopper Williamson attended) that the Draft of the Inclosure Bill, containing all the aforesaid matters, had been read to the Proprietors and said Draft approved and sanctioned by Mr Williamson, it was then understood, the next meeting of Proprietors should conceive the Business <..ssively> it may therefore occur to Your Lordship that no deviation in the main purpose of said approved Draft of Bill could with any propriety be afterwards adopted, unless with consent of said Proprietors, at a subsequent meeting by Public Notice. From promises thus <obtained>, unwillingly am I now led to notice to Your Lordship Proceedings, that greatly militate against the measure before attended to, in the first instance by observing, Mr Scruton having acquainted me, that finding a difficulty in procuring a majority for Bollihope Common, by Mr Williamsons Advice, He had struck all the Commons out of the Bill, but as the Unthank Proprietors were much interested in affecting a Division of Bollihope Common in particular, on account of its contiguity to the Unthank Estate, and had made strong interest to support it, they consequently became as much dissatisfied at the Commons being so struck out without their consent, as to determine then to have no further concern in the Inclosure Bill than depending and, but for the opportunity of publickly requesting Mr Mowbray to make acknowledgements to Your Lordship on the part of the Unthank Proprietors for the Good Will expressed towards affecting a Division on the Plan at large as proposed; and at some time to Intimate on their part to Col Beaumonts Agents the sense they entertained of the Col[onel]s interference to support such measure, otherwise I should not have attended the last meeting at Chapel, and these reasons were declared to the Proprietors then assembled, why I objected to signing the Bill in its then altered state, but previous to such declaration to the Proprietors, and that by refusal might not prove the means of preventing others agreeing to have a partial Division in the Stinted Pastures and Stinted Moor, before the Business of the meeting commenced I had a private conversation with Mr Scruton, and then gave him my reasons for not acceding thereto. To Your Lordship I now beg leave to submit whether, at this interview I ought not to have been candidly informed, that in addition to striking all the Commons out of the Bill, the Important Clause for Enfranchising the leaseholders was also withdrawn, but on such head not a Syllable transpired. Reflecting nevertheless afterwards on my return to Stanhope, that in Mr Scrutons marginal Notes of Various clauses in the Bill by Him Read to the Prop[rieto]rs at the meeting I did not recall of the Clause of Enfranchisement, I from thence wrote to Him at Chapel by special messenger to know if that Clause continued to make part of the Bill, and that He would please to send his reply and the Bill to my House, where I expected Mr Hildyard on my return Home, and that we should then give the Bill a serious perusal, and that if we could reconcile signing the Bill without the Commons being included it would be done. Mr Scrutons reply arriving during Mr Hildyards stay, to our extreme surprise announced my suspicions as to the Enfranchising Clause being too well founded, and the following paragraph in his said letter on such subject I beg Your lordships permission to transcribe literally ‘the clause to enable his Lordship to Enfranchise struck out by the advice of Mr Williamson, and with the concurrence of the bishop, the former having suggested that it would not only require the previous consent of the Crown but would also make it a Double Bill, and at this time the Bishop has a power under the Land Tax redemption Act to sell his reversionary interest in whatever he pleases, and besides it is his intention to bring forward a General Bill to enable Him to sell the whole of the Leasehold within the County, a measure which will not only reflect the higher Honour on his Lordship, but will be the particular circumstance wanting to make this little County the envy of the World’ On the first perusal of this letter of Mr Scruton, Mr Hildyard and I were instantly agreed that as without our privity or consent all the Commons in the first instance had been struck out of the Bill, and now in addition the Enfranchising Clause expunged, and which latter Clause in particular had been one of the main Inducements in our Assenting to the Division, for such reasons it seemed expedient, we ought at this time to decline signing the Bill. But afterwards on more mature consideration reflecting on Mr Scrutons assertion (and which I must suppose founded on proper Authority) that it was Your Lordships decided intention, in the present sessions we inferred to bring forward the Bill before alluded to, our conceiving such Bill would to the Proprietors generally answer every purpose of the expunged Enfranchising Clause, we determined for such reason to rely implicitly on Your Lordships Honor that said Bill would be obtained, and to that cause solely must be attributed the signing of the Bill by the Unthank Proprietors. But before dismissing the subject as to said Enfranchising Clause, it may be proper I note to Your Lordship that if the subsequent matter relative thereto, is not in some suitable way remedied in its consequences it possibly may prove unpleasant, the Clauses for liberty to plant and cut wood and for Enfranchising the Leaseholders being the voluntary liberal offer of Your lordship to the Proprietors, with the Unthank and other Proprietors generally, as has been observed, proved the principal means of obtaining Assent to the Division, on the Idea therefore, that both said Clauses, at the time of said Bill being presented for signature, continued to make part of the Bill, was the Signatures of the Several Proprietors obtained, and had it been declared, as it certainly ought to have been, that the Enfranchising Clause was withdrawn, in my own private opinion, not a single Proprietor would have signed the Bill. But as since the last meeting it has been suggested to the Proprietors that the Enfranchising Clause is expunged, this has created so much alarm, that I have lately received a letter from that quarter desiring to know the real fact. No difficulty rests with me in giving the only proper reply the question admits, and to which the Proprietors are fairly entitled, but to Your Lordship it may occur, as it certainly does to me, that as the matter being divulged to these Proprietors, in their hasty precipitant manner of indulging their passions and possibly incited by the two Wolsingham Attorneys, it is in such case not altogether improbable, a real opposition to the Bill from those very Proprietors who signed it, under the Idea of its continuing to include the Enfranchising Clause, may prove the consequence, and should such opposition arise, founded on the established equitable Principle that any person signing an Instrument the direct reverse of what has been read and agreed by partys; every such Instrument becomes nugatory and invalid, if an opposition therefore created and on such grounds maintained, it is possible the Bill might thus be lost, but as such consequence may nevertheless not arise I have only noted it as precautionary matter should it prove worthy of Your Lordships Attention. For the present I shall delay my reply to said letter that should Your Lordship deem the matter deserving regard, and that it is intended to bring forward a general Bill, by Mr Scruton intimated, and which might act as an Equivalent to the expunged clause, if such made known to the Proprietors it might probably remove their dissatisfaction, but this as to Your Lordships most agreeable. I now beg leave to observe to Your Lordship that there is a matter which if adopted might in the present Division be productive of much future benefits. It was intimated to me at the last meeting at Chapel by one of the Proprietors on Bollihope Common that a letter to him from Mr Burdon, this member imparted, that the Bishop of Landaff had offered to give £1000 for 1000 of the worst acres on that Common for the purpose of Planting, and which proposal has since met the approbation of the principal opponents to a Division of Bollihope, but the Commons having without our consent been struck out of the Bill, and the Proprietors being incompetent to now ratify any such cession of their property without an Act, the benefit that might have resulted to the proprietors and the Public has thus become defeated. Unwilling nevertheless that a measure thus beneficial should be wholly lost to the Community, the Unthank Proprietors have signified to Mr Scruton that it is their wish and other of the Proprietors on Whesterhope Stinted Pasture (consisting of several thousand acres) that a Clause be inserted enabling the sale of any Quantity not exceeding 1000 acres of the extreme limits or outskirts of said Pasture (at the discretion of Commissioners) and the proceed of said sale be applied for the exclusive benefit of the Proprietors owning the Sale Right on said Pasture (as by a Clause in the present Bill is done on similar terms for sale of Chapel Green for the exclusive benefit of those Proprietors), by such clause for sale of part of Whesterhope Pasture those Prop[rietors] will be enabled to accommodate the Bishop of Landaff, if he continues disposed to purchase on such terms . The Advantages of such a measure are in part briefly these – the Land thus sold will to the Prop[rietors] much reduce the expence of the Division, the inner wall of said Plantation will apply as an Out-boundary of the Allotments, and the Plantation within will in due time, not only afford strong shelter to the adjoining Allotments, but also must to the Mines prove highly advantageous. A Clause to such purpose I therefore trust may have Your lordships approbation and aid, and the same as to the following clause, that in any settled Estate (and such is Unthank) power be granted in the present Bill, as in the Land Tax Redemption Act, to sell or charge at option towards defraying the Expences of the Division, instead of being limited to charge solely, which latter mode, by subject at all times to change of mortgage and the attendant expence these independent of other disadvantages might be obviated by sale of any detached property with approbation of Commissioners, and the Estate at large thus exonerated of a most troublesome and hurtful incumbrance. Were I permitted by Your lordship to hazard a sentiment on the subject of a Division on the large scale as originally proposed and on the present partial circumscribed Division it would be this – that the former infallibly must have been productive of advantages inconceivable by having enriched and beautified an immense tract of the County at present barren and uncultivated, but that the latter (however in part beneficial) is too narrowed to place it in any degree of fair Comparison with the former. Should the remainder of the Plan at some future period be accomplished, independent of the advantage to the Community and Individuals, great honor would it reflect on its promoter. Much sincere pleasure would it have afforded me had I been enabled to announce to Your Lordship that altho’ at the first Stanhope meeting the proposal of erecting Chapels and Schools was then well received and attended to, that a similar disposition had continued to exist at the last meeting at Chapel, but the result proved unfortunately the reverse. Much credit is nevertheless due to Your Lordship for the generous offer of contributing to promote so excellent a Concern, the failure of which every good man must greatly regret. Much ought I to apologise for this very long Epistle which [I] should have been happy [if it] could have been comprised in less compass, but my wish to convey to Your lordship a clear candid information of the late most tedious unpleasing transaction I ever engaged in, has unavoidably occasioned the intrusion and [I] flatter myself, however ineffectual from certain circumstances my endeavours have proved to promote the measure on the large scale, that my Conduct throughout the whole of the business may nevertheless merit his Lordships Approbations. & with all respect I have the Honor to be, My Lord, Your lordships most obedient servant Fr Tweddell The Noble & Rt Red Lord Bishop of Durham
John Westgarth of Unthank Hall (Stanhope) had three daughters, his co-heirs. Of these daughters, The Rev. Henry Hildyard married Phyllis-Ann, and Francis Tweddell married Jane. Thus Tweddell, Hildyard and the remaining unmarried daughter were the three co-owners of the Unthank estate. John Erasmus Blackett mentions, in a letter of 8 March 1799 to Thomas Richard Beaumont, that he has received a ‘long letter’ from Mr Tweddell on the subject of the Division of Commons; Mr Tweddell was clearly a serial offender for sending rambling letters, although his letter of 25 Jan 1799 to the Bishop was somewhat shorter than this mammoth effort.