Aristocratic indebtedness : the Anson Estates in Staffordshire 1818-1880.
The Anson family were established at Shugborough by 1625; they
flourished throughout the 18th century, accumulating land, status, wealth
and, in the early 19th century, titles. 1842, however, saw a sale of the
contents of Shugborough. Examination of mortgage records and agents'
accounts shows that for two decades prior this the 1st Earl of Lichfield
had been raising numerous mortgages from local sources, on a scale far
greater than that indicated by the sale. In 1838 these were replaced by a
single .ortgage of £300,000 from a London insurance company. Further loans
were raised on the 1st Earl's death. Although the total mortgage burden
was greatest after 1854, other indicators show that the period around 1840
was a ti.e of great financial stress. The loan burden was attacked only
when the estate faced up to another crisis in 1880, when falling income
forced the 4th Viscount to begin the process of debt reduction.
H.ving qu.ntified the problem, the study tries to weigh the balance
of causes, between personal extravagance and more structured behaviour.
The for.er precipitated the Shugborough sale, but the mortgages financed a
progr .... of land and property acquisition aimed at consolidation and the
continuance of the faaily's political control of Lichfield, in the face of
parlia .. ntary reform. Traditional ties drew the family into the world of
Whig aristocr.cy pride in a long Foxite loyalty, a marriage into the
Cokes, a Holkha.-tr.ined agency, the espousal of enclosure, farm
consolid.tion, i.provement, and
built into the very fabric of
this world; negative
dissipation were the obverse of a more attractive positive inheritance.
The cost can be calculated in teras of both sale and mortgages, and of the
social disloc.tion within Staffordshire, seen most clearly in the
ch.ngeover to London-based finance in 1838.