Merrington : land, landlord and tenants 1541-1840 : a study in the estate of the Dean and Chapter of Durham
This thesis considers the performance of the Dean and Chapter of Durham as estate managers from 1541-1840, as perceived from the detailed study of one parish. Durham was created as a New Foundation Cathedral in 1541 by Henry VIII and endowed with the lands of the Priory, which had been dissolved in 1539. Durham Chapter administered the same lands until 1840 when central government again intervened with cathedral estates. Cathedral chapters have been described as 'inactive rentier' landlords. Durham Chapter’s management is compared with that of other landlords to see if this description was justified. The Chapter's response to problems and challenges, such as tenant right and inflation in the sixteenth century, civil war and abolition in the seventeenth century and rapidly changing agricultural practices in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is considered. The thesis concludes that by 1626 Durham Chapter had created an effective system of estate management, known as beneficial leasehold, which offered tenants security of tenure and fixed rents, while compensating the Chapter for inflation by regular renewal fines, related to the true value of the land. The Chapter were not inactive rentiers in 1640: they promoted agricultural innovation, especially enclosure of the townships. The work of the Chapter was only interrupted by the Civil War, not fundamentally altered. The Chapter recovered relatively rapidly at the Restoration: their tenants had greater problems because of the costs of war and land purchase. By the nineteenth century, the Chapter were left behind by progressive landlords who controlled their tenants' farming practices and drew a greater financial return from their lands than Durham Chapter achieved. However, progress continued on the Chapter estate, as the security of beneficial leasehold encouraged tenants to invest, for example in restructuring their farms, breeding improved cattle and introducing new field crops and rotations.