Estate Papers from the Altrincham Estate Office

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 EGR14
  • Dates of Creation
      1593/4-1974
  • Language of Material
      Language: all items are in English  unless otherwise stated.
  • Physical Description
      79 series. Physical composition: all items and pieces are single sheets of paper unless otherwise stated.

Scope and Content

Among the records from the Altrincham Estate Office are large quantities of title deeds, leases for lives and leases for years, dating from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (EGR14/1-5). However, the estate papers date predominantly from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, constituting one of the great strengths of the entire archive. The quantity and richness of material are attributable to a combination of factors. During this period the estates were held by the trustees appointed under the will of the 7th Earl of Stamford who died in 1883. The Stamford Trustees were obliged by law to safeguard the interests of the estates and were required to account for all income and expenditure. Consequently they introduced more rigorous and transparent accounting procedures, with annual audits, which yielded a concomitant increase in the number of financial records. Thus from 1883 there are extensive series of cash books (EGR14/25), cash abstracts (EGR14/26), rent ledgers (EGR14/27-32), creditors' ledgers (EGR14/38), statements of receipts and disbursements (EGR14/39-42), yearly bundles of vouchers for expenditure on the Cheshire Estates (EGR14/55), and fortnightly wages account sheets and time sheets for estate staff (EGR14/60-61).

Another factor behind the increasing volume of records was the growing complexity of estate administration. During this period property was being sold on chief rent for the construction of houses, railways, factories, hospitals and public services, and these transactions gave rise to extensive negotiations and correspondence, with associated plans and accounts (EGR14/15-16). External influences had a strengthening impact on the administration of the estates, particularly the establishment of local authorities with statutory powers and the growth of public utilities. In the early twentieth century the estates were subject to an increasing burden of taxation, while the autonomy of the estates' managers was constrained by local planning controls. Relations between the Stamford Estates and local councils were at times strained, as the latter sought land for roads, sewerage and drainage projects, housing schemes, hospitals and recreation grounds, sometimes using powers of compulsory purchase. The authorities were required to treat with the Earls of Stamford and the Stamford Trustees, as the major landowners in Bowdon parish, yet complained of the latter's reluctance to sell land at a price they could afford. For their part the Stamford Estates generally sought to protect their financial interests, but realised that it was sometimes politically expedient to grant land at less than its market value, or even free of charge, for such purposes as recreation grounds and schools.

Among the internal office records are order books, recording purchases of goods; copy letter books containing copies of accounts and correspondence of agents, surveyors and cashiers; postage books; newspaper cuttings books; and miscellaneous office records such as specimen documents, a telegrams book and address books (EGR14/65-69).

Related Materials in Other Subfonds

The subfonds EGR1 comprises medieval and early modern title deeds and settlements from Dunham Massey Hall. The subfonds EGR11 contains papers from Dunham Massey Hall relating to the Cheshire and Lancashire estates. The manorial records, which came predominantly from the Altrincham Estate Office, have been treated as a separate subfonds, EGR2.

Administrative / Biographical History

The estates of the Booth and Grey families were managed by agents who also acted as stewards of the several manorial courts held by the owners of Dunham Massey. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the stewards or agents (the terms were used interchangeably) appear to have been appointed from members of the local gentry: men of education, with formal legal training perhaps, and experience in the management of property. The following gentlemen are known, from the evidence of court rolls and verdicts, to have served as stewards of the courts: Robert Booth (1534-6), Robert Leigh (1539-43), Robert Tatton (1544-66), Peter Warburton, Richard Leigh and Thomas Arderne (1582), George Parker (1582-8), John Vaudrey (1595-1601), John Carrington (1603-30), William Rowcroft (1631-57), Robert Tipping (1658-63), William Worrall (1663-81), John Houghton (1682-91 & 1706-15), Thomas Hunt (1692-3), Richard Drinkwater (1694-1704), William Shaw (1710-27), and Isaac Shaw (1728-60).

In the eighteenth century a class of professional agents emerged: qualified solicitors who combined private practice with the administration of the estates. The Earls of Stamford were frequently absent from Dunham Massey and relied on their agents to keep them informed of the running of the estate and of local affairs generally. The agents were given a degree of autonomy in the day-to-day administration of the estate, but invariably sought instruction from the Earls before taking important decisions on their behalf. Isaac Worthington served as agent from 1760 until c.1809, when responsibility for the management of the estates devolved upon his nephew Hugo, who held the office until he died in 1839 (Isaac continued to preside over the manorial courts until 1814). The Worthingtons practised privately in the partnership of Worthington & Harrop, later Worthington & Nicholls. Their offices were situated in Market Street in Altrincham, in an imposing Georgian building described by Pevsner as the finest in the town: Nikolaus Pevsner and Edward Hubbard, The buildings of England: Cheshire (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971), p. 61. This later became the Stamford Estate Office from where the estates continue to be administered. In the late nineteenth century the Altrincham Estate Office appears to have been subordinated to its counterpart in Ashton under Lyne. Many documents, such as conveyances of building grounds, were issued from the Ashton Estate Office which was headed by Henry Hall, one of the trustees appointed under the will of the 7th Earl of Stamford. For much of the second half of the nineteenth century Hall had overall responsibility for both the Cheshire and Lancashire estates and the staff at Altrincham appear to have acted on his instructions.

In addition to the agent, numerous other staff were employed on the estates, including bailiffs, gamekeepers, waggoners, carpenters and labourers. Each manor or estate had its own gamekeeper and bailiff, the latter being responsible for repairing estate property and maintaining woodlands (see EGR11/2/1-4 passim). In the 1820s a dozen carpenters and between twenty and thirty labourers were employed (EGR11/3/2-3). By the 1880s the number of staff had fallen to about a dozen. This contraction is explained in part by the reduction in the size of the Cheshire estates, but it is also perhaps an indication of the comparative neglect of the remaining property. For on the eve of the First World War, following the return of the 9th Earl of Stamford to Dunham Massey, the number of staff had grown to thirty, although by the end of 1917 war service had reduced the total to twenty (EGR14/60).

A surveyor was employed on the estate to survey, value and map property. Each year the surveyor inspected properties whose leases were due for renewal, in order to set the level of entry fine and rent for the new lease and to ascertain whether the existing tenant was liable for any dilapidations. He recorded his findings in valuation books which were compiled annually from 1774 until 1848 (EGR14/7). During this period the surveyors were probably freelance men rather than estate employees, who were hired to undertake specific tasks, but from around 1860 a full-time professional architect and surveyor, Maxwell Roscoe, was employed at the Stamford Estate Office. After Roscoe's death in 1900 his duties were performed by W.D. Bullock, who combined the roles of agent and surveyor.

The demesne estates held by the lords of Dunham Massey consisted of Dunham Massey Hall itself, the Old and New Parks in Dunham Massey, which were valued for sporting and recreational purposes, and the Home Farm, which was managed directly by the farming steward and supplied the Hall with meat and dairy produce. Other demesne estates included lands in Dunham Massey, Carrington Hall and mills in Carrington and Bollington, Bottoms Hall in Hattersley, and lands and halls in Ashton under Lyne and Bollin Fee. These properties were generally leased for short terms of years. The yearly value of Dunham demesne was calculated at £406 7s 6d in 1702: EGR11/1/7. In 1775 there were 145 acres of demesne in Sinderland within Dunham Massey, valued at £280 7s 2d: EGR11/5/7. Carrington: see EGR14/5/2/1. Bollington: see EGR14/5/4. Bottoms Hall: see EGR11/2/2/75-9. In the 1740s there were 105 acres of demesne in Ashton, 271 in Bollin: see EGR11/1/10. Leases for years: see EGR14/5.

The majority of property, however, was held by tenants on leases for three lives. This form of tenancy appears to have developed during the seventeenth century, replacing the more ancient tenancy at will, or copyhold tenure. Tenants held their property for the duration of three lives who were named in the lease, rather than for a fixed term. It was the common practice for tenants to pay a fine on the death of the first or second life in order to make their leases up to three lives again. As part of the reorganisation of the estate undertaken by the 2nd Earl of Warrington the tenements in each township were numbered consecutively, the numbers first appearing in the comprehensive rental compiled in 1701 (EGR11/1/6). This records that there were then 558 tenements in Cheshire and 543 in Lancashire. The numbering system remained in force until the late nineteenth century, enabling a property to be traced through successive leases and entries in rentals and rent ledgers. When tenements were subdivided the separate properties were numbered 1A, 1B1, 1B2 etc.

The 1701 rental also records the labour services and other obligations that tenants owed to Lord Warrington. They were required to spend several days each year reaping, ploughing, manuring and performing other tasks for the lord such as carrying turf to the Hall. Tenants were also obliged to serve with their lord in time of war. Military service and most labour services were abolished or commuted in the early eighteenth century.

The lease for lives gave the tenant a fair degree of security, provided that the landlord gave his consent for the renewal of the lease on the death of the first or second life. Entry fines were set at a high level and on the death of a tenant his heir was required to pay a heriot before being admitted to the property, but rents were generally modest, and with luck the tenant could expect a lease to run for perhaps fifty or sixty years. However, from the landlord's point of view the long but unpredictable term of the lease for lives had two disadvantages: in periods of inflation rents were fixed well below their true economic level, and the landlord could not exploit the commercial potential of property by developing it or selling it for building purposes without the difficulty and expense of compensating the tenant for the termination of the lease. The letting of the Stamford Estates was therefore reorganised in the 1840s to put it on a more commercial footing. With very few exceptions, no leases for lives were granted or renewed after 1845. When a lease fell in, the property was either re-let for a fixed term at rack rent, or sold on chief rent for building purposes. It was not until the end of the century, however, that the last leases for lives expired.

Following the arrival of the railway from Manchester in 1849 Altrincham and the surrounding townships underwent rapid expansion, with the Downs area in particular becoming a popular residential area for wealthy Manchester citizens wishing to escape the city's pollution and overcrowding: see Frank Bamford, Mansions and men of Dunham Massey: from errant earl to red dean (Altrincham: privately printed, 1991). The 7th Earl of Stamford took advantage of the increased demand for land by selling building plots in Altrincham, Bowdon, Dunham Massey, Hale and elsewhere, while reserving to himself an annual chief rent. In the absence of local authority planning controls Lord Stamford imposed restrictions on the number of buildings which could be built, the materials employed in their construction, and the uses to which they could be put. He thus protected the rental value of the properties and influenced the social composition and physical appearance of the developing communities. This policy was continued after his death in 1883 by the trustees appointed under his will, and parcels of land continued to be sold on chief rent during the twentieth century. Large numbers of tenders and draft conveyances of building grounds have survived: see EGR14/12 and EGR14/13.

Outside Bowdon parish large portions of the once extensive Cheshire Estates were sold outright by the 7th Earl of Stamford. The whole of the Wilmslow estate was divided into lots and sold by auction in the mid-1850s, the largest portion, together with the manorial rights, being purchased by John Clarke Prescott esq (see EGR14/17). In the same decade the 7th Earl sold estates in Ashton upon Mersey, Timperley and Partington, and the manor of Ashton upon Mersey, to Samuel Brooks esq of Manchester, banker, and his son, Sir William Cunliffe Brooks, MP: see Ormerod, vol. 1, pp. 545-8, 558-61. In 1858 the manor of Hattersley was conveyed to John Chapman esq of Hattersley: see Ormerod, vol. 3, p. 684; Earwaker, vol. 2, pp.153-4; Manchester Central Library, Chapman Family Archives (M95). The manor of Bollington was conveyed by the 7th Earl of Stamford to Lord Egerton of Tatton in 1874: see Ormerod, vol. 1, pp. 540-1.

Notwithstanding these losses in 1873 the Earl of Stamford was reported to have owned 8,612 acres in Cheshire, with a gross rental value of £16,000, and a further 5,231 acres in Lancashire, worth £17,465: Local Government Board, Return of owners of land in England and Wales, exclusive of the Metropolis, 1873 (London: 1875).

In the second half of the nineteenth century the Stamford Estates in Cheshire appear to have suffered from relative neglect. The absence of the 7th Earl of Stamford from Dunham Massey, the agricultural depression of the 1880s, and the concentration on disposing of property appear to have discouraged long-term investment in the estates. Upon his inheritance of Dunham Massey Hall in 1905, the 9th Earl of Stamford immediately embarked upon a major programme of investment to rebuild and modernise the rather antiquated stock of farm buildings on the estate. The work was funded by the Stamford Trustees out of capital under a permanent improvements scheme approved by the Court of Chancery. Detailed schedules of improvements and accounts of expenditure survive (EGR14/18).

Arrangement

i) Original Arrangement of Documents

The estate papers were found in cupboards within the Estate Manager's Office on the ground floor of the Stamford Estate Office, and in cupboards and boxes on the first floor. Further material was discovered in cellars, subsequent to a flood which occurred in January 1994. No inventory of records has been discovered, and it has not been possible to reconstruct any overall scheme of arrangement. The original order was disrupted when many records were removed from their original locations and spread out on floors and tables to dry (they were affected by dampness and mould-growth). However, several series of material, such as bundles of deeds (EGR14/1), and bundles of Wilmslow estate papers (EGR14/17), are independently numbered. There are also bundles of papers which preserve an alphabetical system of arrangement (EGR14/15).

ii) Present Method of Arrangement

Within the subfonds EGR14 the series have been ordered in such a way as to draw together related materials: title deeds (EGR14/1); leases (EGR14/2-5); rentals and valuation books (EGR14/6-7); agreements for letting and other tenancy papers (EGR14/8-11); tenders and draft conveyances of building grounds (EGR14/12-13); bundles of papers relating to the administration of the estates (EGR14/15-17); papers relating to permanent improvements and road-making (EGR14/18-19); account books, cash books and rent ledgers (EGR14/20-52); bundles of vouchers (EGR14/53-58); other financial papers (EGR14/59); employment records (EGR14/60-64); internal office records (EGR14/65-69); taxation and insurance records (EGR14/70-71); other records (EGR14/72-79).

The subfonds EGR14 contains the following series:

  • EGR14/1: Bundles of deeds, 1593/4-1856
  • EGR14/2: Leases for Lives, 1662-1850
  • EGR14/3: Counterpart Leases for Lives, 1704/5-1847
  • EGR14/4: Leases of Hon Booth Grey's Estates, 1703-1792
  • EGR14/5: Leases for Years, 1704/5-1836
  • EGR14/6: Rentals and Surveys, 1703-1896
  • EGR14/7: Valuation Books, 1774-1848
  • EGR14/8: Agreements for Letting, 1890-1963
  • EGR14/9: Notices to Quit, 1886; 1895-1926
  • EGR14/10: Notices re Land Required for Building, 1888; 1896-1927
  • EGR14/11: Papers relating to Tenancy Matters, 1848-1936
  • EGR14/12: Tenders for Conveyances of Building Grounds, 1851-1949
  • EGR14/13: Draft Conveyances of Building Grounds, 1842-1905
  • EGR14/14: Maps and Plans, 1852-1920
  • EGR14/15: Alphabetical Bundles of Papers, 1857-1927
  • EGR14/16: Papers relating to Railways, Canals, Sewerage Schemes etc., 1844-1926
  • EGR14/17: Papers relating to the Wilmslow Estate, 1840-1909
  • EGR14/18: Papers relating to Permanent Improvement Schemes, 1888-1917
  • EGR14/19: Accounts for Road-Making on the Cheshire Estates, 1855-1917
  • EGR14/20: Estate Expenditure Account Books, 1858-1883
  • EGR14/21: Copy Estate Expenditure Account Books, n.d. [c 1883]
  • EGR14/22: Rough Estate Expenditure Account Books, 1876
  • EGR14/23: Analysed Expenditure Cash Books, 1859-1881
  • EGR14/24: Analysed Income Cash Books, 1859-1881
  • EGR14/25: Cheshire Estates Cash Books, 1859-1943
  • EGR14/26: Cheshire Estates Cash Abstracts, 1886-1938
  • EGR14/27: Reserved & Chief Rents Ledgers, 1872-1940
  • EGR14/28: Copy Reserved & Chief Rents Ledger, 1883
  • EGR14/29: Rack Rent Ledgers, 1853-1940
  • EGR14/30: Copy Rack Rent Ledgers, 1855-1869 & c.1883
  • EGR14/31: Small Rents Ledgers, 1880-1897
  • EGR14/32: Cottage Rent Ledgers, 1897-1935
  • EGR14/33: Rent Books (Small Rents), 1897-1943
  • EGR14/34: Rent Audit Journals, 1885-1917
  • EGR14/35: Bowdon Parish Tithe Rent Charge Account Books, 1853-1899
  • EGR14/36: Copy Tithe Rent Charge Account Books, 1855-1866 & c.1883
  • EGR14/37: Bowdon Parish Tithe Rent Charge Account Sheets, 1852-1853 & 1884
  • EGR14/38: Creditors' Ledgers, 1883-1895
  • EGR14/39: Statements of Receipts and Expenditure, 1883-1886
  • EGR14/40: Copy Statements of Receipts and Expenditure, 1885-1886
  • EGR14/41: Copy Statements of Receipts and Expenditure, 1890-1898
  • EGR14/42: Draft Statements of Receipts and Expenditure, 1898-1905
  • EGR14/43: Miscellaneous Trustees' Accounts, 1897-1906
  • EGR14/44: Executors' Rent Ledgers, 1883-1886
  • EGR14/45: Agent's Private Cash Books, 1850-1870
  • EGR14/46: Copy Agent's Private Cash Books, n.d. [c 1868-69]
  • EGR14/47: Draft Statements of Account, 1861-1866
  • EGR14/48: Agent's Private Ledgers, 1853-1867
  • EGR14/49: Cash Books, 1866-1918
  • EGR14/50: Small Account Books, 1867-1881
  • EGR14/51: Receipts Ledgers, 1866-1883
  • EGR14/52: Timber Sales Books, 1825-1929
  • EGR14/53: Hall, Gardens and Gamekeeping Accounts, 1859-1943
  • EGR14/54: Bundles of Particular Vouchers, 1864-1865
  • EGR14/55: Bundles of Estate Vouchers, 1883-1939
  • EGR14/56: Petty Cash Books, 1897-1957
  • EGR14/57: Bundles of Petty Cash Vouchers, 1897-1939
  • EGR14/58: Bundles of Trustees' Vouchers, 1918-1921
  • EGR14/59: Other Financial Papers, 1829-1934
  • EGR14/60: Fortnightly Wages Account Sheets, 1883-1917
  • EGR14/61: Estate Staff Time Sheets, 1883-1917
  • EGR14/62: Estate Staff Time Books, 1904-1933
  • EGR14/63: Estate Staff Analysed Wages Books, 1859-1880
  • EGR14/64: Other Wages Books, 1869-1930
  • EGR14/65: Estate Order Books, 1930-1936
  • EGR14/66: Copy Letter Books, 1866-1915
  • EGR14/67: Estate Office Postage Books, 1928-1937
  • EGR14/68: Newspaper Cuttings Books, 1883-1961
  • EGR14/69: Miscellaneous Estate Office Records, 1860s-1930s
  • EGR14/70: Taxation Records, 1860-1945
  • EGR14/71: Insurance Records, 1897-1974
  • EGR14/72: Papers relating to Bowdon Glebe, 1818-1902
  • EGR14/73: Copy Tithe Apportionment Books, 1839-1919
  • EGR14/74: Papers relating to Carrington and Oldfield Brickyards, 1877-1879
  • EGR14/75: Papers relating to Carrington Moss, 1863-1882
  • EGR14/76: Papers relating to the Walter Muir Fund, 1901-1911
  • EGR14/77: Papers relating to the Case of Crewe v. Falkner, 1755-1758
  • EGR14/78: Bundles of Miscellaneous Papers, 1831-1920
  • EGR14/79: Other Papers, c.1800-1949

Acquisition Information

The items in EGR14 were transferred on deposit by the National Trust from the Altrincham Estate Office to the John Rylands University Library in several accessions: in April 1981, and on 14 November 1990, 31 January 1991, 21 February 1991, 24 January 1992, 23 November 1994, 5 May 1995, 23 June 1995 and 4 October 1995.

Separated Material

By agreement with the National Trust, records dating after 1914 remain at the Altrincham Estate Office. However, this rule has been interpreted flexibly to avoid splitting series which span the date.

Related Material

Records of the Ashton under Lyne estate, which was separately administered, are understood to remain in the custody of Cordingleys Chartered Surveyors, 48 Wellington Road, Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire, OL6 6DQ. Over two thousand nineteenth- and twentieth-century estate plans, as well as estate vouchers, agents' diaries and deeds, have been deposited by Cordingleys in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre, Tameside Central Library, Old Street, Ashton under Lyne, OL6 7SG.