Letter – Robert Hopper Williamson to Arthur Mowbray – 25 Jan 1799

Document Type: Letter
Date: 25 Jan 1799
Correspondent: Robert Hopper Williamson
Recipient: Arthur Mowbray
Archive Source: DUL CCB B 182 121
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Dear Sir,

      I had an opportunity of seeing Mr Blackett soon after my return from Stanhope and stated to him that it was intended to secure to Col. Beaumont his right as Lessee of the Bishop of Durham to work the lead mines in the stinted pastures & stinted moors without paying any damages for spoil of ground, and I also suggested to him that, as it appeared to me that a very considerable number of the persons interested in the division at present kept aloof merely from want of knowing the final determination of Col. Beaumont upon the subject, it w[oul]d forward the measure much to have the Col’s acquiescence explicitly signified to his agents, which he very readily undertook to do upon the assurance of Col. Beaumonts right being secured. I have no doubt therefore but that much apparent obstruction is now completely removed & that many who did not appear friendly at the meeting will now concur in the intended division. The Rector of Stanhope sent me a copy of the committee’s proposal to him as to the compensation for tithe, with two Questions subjoined to the following effect,

      1st Whether it w[oul]d be illegally fraudulent for occupiers of land part of which is subject to the payment of tithe in kind and other part tithe free or covered by compensation in money, to contrive by timely removal that all their Cows Ewes etc sh[oul]d drop their young on that part of the land which is exempt from payment of tithes in kind

      2nd Whether it w[oul]d be allowable for such occupiers to clip their sheep on the tithe free land and be thereby exempt from the payment of wool although the sheep may have been kept a great part or the greatest part of the year before on that part of the land which is subject to the payment of tithes in kind.

      To these questions I c[oul]d not have much doubt in giving him my opinion 1st that occupiers of lands so circumstanced might legally contrive so as that all their cows ewes etc might drop their young on the tithe free land, and by that measure deprive the Rector of all tithes in respect of such young; and 2nd that the occupiers might also by clipping their sheep upon the tithe free land deprive the Rector altogether of the tithe of wool. In this latter answer however I do not wish to be understood as saying that an occupier so circumstanced might legally carry his sheep to the tithe free land merely for the purpose of clipping and remove them again immediately to the other part of his land; such an occasional removal w[oul]d certainly be fraudulent, but yet it w[oul]d be no very difficult thing to arrange matters so as to have the sheep upon the tithe free  land at clipping time in a way that c[oul]d not be deemed fraudulent tho in fact it totally deprived the Rector of the benefit arising from the tithe of wool within his parish. This answer to the proposed questions will probably induce the Rector to decline the compensation offered by the Committee; and indeed I am very doubtful how far it w[oul]d be practicable to give the Rector any compensation which w[oul]d be advantageous except upon the footing first suggested, that is, a compensation in land in lieu of all the tithes throughout the parish: anything short of this w[ou]d by its partial operation leave an opening to much contrivance and arrangement operating greatly to the disadvantage of the Rector and his successors. 

      As to the matter of enfranchisement; my doubt is whether the introduction of this measure as to the antient lands may not subject the Bill to be considered in the light of a double Bill & consequently liable to double fees in its progress thro’ parliament, and also whether investing the Bishop of Durham with such an extensive power of alienating the possessions of the See might not be deemed a matter to which the special consent of the Crown was requisite, & if so I am afraid that the necessary steps to be taken on that occasion w[oul]d cause so much delay as might probably be the means of losing this session, it therefore seemed to me more advisable to confine that power to the allotments only, and in case his Lordship sh[oul]d afterwards wish to have such a power of enfranchisement a separate Act might be obtained for that purpose only, and such power might then be of a more general tendency & not restricted to the limits of the parish of Stanhope merely, in case upon consideration his Lordship sh[oul]d be of opinion such extended power w[oul]d be desirable. Whether the inconveniencies which have occurred to me upon this point will in fact arise you will be better able to inform yourself by consulting those persons whose business it is to forward Bills thro’ parliament, but if the result of the business sh[oul]d be that the Clause of enfranchisement sh[oul]d be inserted in the present bill and be made applicable as well to the old Estate as to the new inclosures, I w[oul]d wish to submit it to the consideration of the Bishop of Durham whether that power of enfranchisement sh[oul]d not be given to him so as to enable him to treat either for a payment in money or a perpetual fee-farm rent issuing out of the lands so to be enfranchised, because in many cases especially of Copyhold lands the considerations will be so trifling as to make it exceedingly inconvenient to invest the purchase money in Land for the benefit of the See, and ‘till such  investment take place these small sums remaining as it were in trust for the Bishop & his Successors w[hic]h I sh[oul]d apprehend to be an awkward modification of property belonging to the See of Durham. In all events however there seems no possible inconvenience in leaving it to the option of the Bishop to treat for enfranchisement either for money or a fee-farm rent, and in case the consideration sh[oul]d be in money I think it sh[oul]d be paid to the Receiver General of the Bishop & his acc[ount]s declared a sufficient discharge to the Party, as such payments w[oul]d then appear in the public accounts of the See and prevent much inconvenience which might perhaps otherwise arise personally to the Bishop or his personal Representative. 

      Since I wrote the former part of my letter Mr Blackett has called upon me and shewed me a letter from one of his agents expressing much alarm at a Report that it was intended by the Bill to restrain the Bishop & his Lessee of the Lead Mines from proceeding in their work by the means of hushing & which he apprehends will in many instances have nearly the effect of preventing their working at all or at least to any advantage. I have however assured Mr Blackett that no such restriction was intended, but that it w[oul]d be declared by the Bill that the Bishop or his Lessee sh[oul]d have a right to search for[,] win work & enjoy & carry away the lead without paying damage & with the most ample powers for those purposes: Indeed any attempt at specifying what is or what is not to be done in matters of this nature must necessarily lay the foundation for endless controversy and therefore such specific enumerations have universally be[en] rejected in practice. I am however concerned that more idle reports of this sort sh[oul]d get abroad as they tend to unhinge the minds of men and impede the general concurrence to the proposed measures.

      I shall hope to hear from You or Mr Scruton as soon as the final arrangements are fixed, and, wishing you a safe & pleasant journey, I am Dear Sir, y[ou]r ob[edien]t serv[an]t

      R[ober]t Hopper Williamson

N[ew]Castle 25th Jan[ua]ry 1799


Mr H Williamson to A Mowbray Jan 25 1799
Arthur Mowbray was Receiver-General for the Bishop of Durham

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The Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project aimed to celebrate and discover the heritage of the Dukesfield Arches & lead carriers' routes between Blaydon and the lead mines of Allendale and Weardale. A two year community project, it was led by the Friends of the North Pennines in partnership with Hexhamshire and Slaley Parish Councils and the active support of Allendale Estates. It was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the generous support of other sponsors. Friends of the North Pennines: Charity No:1137467