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.
The plots of land, or building grounds, were numbered sequentially in each township. Prospective purchasers were required to tender for building grounds, and in cases where two or more persons tendered for the same building ground it was conveyed to the one who offered to pay the highest chief rent. The tender forms also served as preliminary agreements and contracts for sale, prior to the drawing up of draft conveyances and, finally, the engrossing of the original conveyancing deeds (for the draft conveyances see EGR14/13 below). Occasionally a tender did not proceed to a conveyance, perhaps through the death of the prospective purchaser. The format and wording of the tender forms were revised periodically, particularly in 1883 when the estate became vested in the trustees under the will of the 7th Earl of Stamford.
The tender forms were pre-printed, with spaces left for particulars to be entered by hand. They contain the terms and conditions of the agreement whereby the prospective purchaser agreed to purchase the plot of land. Each agreement contains the following information: the area of the plot in square yards; the township in which it was situated; the chief rent per square yard; the total chief rent; the date on which the first payment was due; and the name, address and occupation of the prospective purchaser, together with the date and place at which he/she was married (if applicable). The agreements were countersigned by the agent of the Stamford Estates.
The tenders also contain the standard conditions which were attached to the purchase agreement. These required the purchaser to submit plans of the proposed buildings for approval by the agent, architect or surveyor of the Stamford Estates; to erect the buildings within twelve months of the conveyance; not to allow the land or buildings to be used for any trade, or for any school or lunatic asylum, or for any other purpose than that of a dwelling-house; and to keep the premises in repair and insured against fire. The Earl of Stamford (from 1883 to 1905 the Stamford Trustees) reserved powers of re-entry if the rent was in arrears for three years or for breach of covenant. The purchaser was not to require the vendor to produce any evidence of title, and was not to raise any objection to the title. The general sewerage and roads were to be laid out by the Earl of Stamford or the Stamford Trustees. The purchaser was required to arrange the sewerage of his land and buildings according to the plans laid out by the agent or surveyor, and to pay his proportion of the costs of making and repairing the roads and sewers. The plot had to be fenced off temporarily as soon as the purchaser took possession, and a permanent fence completed within twelve months. The agreement also specified the maximum numbers of houses to be built on the plot, and their minimum annual letting value. No trees on the plot were to be felled without permission. The houses and outbuildings were to be faced on all sides with materials approved by the agent or surveyor, and the smoke from greenhouses and outbuildings was to be carried by flues into the chimneys of the house.
The tenders also contain detailed plans of each plot of land, showing abuttals, adjacent roads, and in some cases the outlines of buildings. Many of the tenders are marked as copies. Attached to, or enclosed within, some tenders are further plans, correspondence, draft tenders and other papers.
Chief rent tenders survive for the following townships in Bowdon parish: Altrincham (EGR14/12/1); Bollington (EGR14/12/2); Bowdon (EGR14/12/3); Carrington (EGR14/12/4); Dunham Massey (EGR14/12/5); Hale (EGR14/12/6); and Timperley (EGR14/12/7).