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Title: The Dudley estate : its rise and decline between 1774 and 1947
Author: Raybould, T. J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2693 6608
Awarding Body: University of Kent at Canterbury
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 1970
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As a result of national and local agricultural and industrial trends during the latter half of the eighteenth century, the potential income from the Dudley estate in south Staffordshire and north Worcestershire was increased, because of its location in relation to the emerging Black Country, its mineral wealth, and the lordship of various local manors which Lord Dudley inherited. This potential, particularly from mineral development, was exploited to the full by the second viscount, 1774-88, who pursued a vigorous policy of enclosure, transport improvements, granting industrial leases, and mineral enterprise. This first period of development witnessed the rapid expansion of a wide variety of economic interests by the estate and a considerable increase in industrial, mineral, cottage, and land rents as the Dudley estate established a predominant position in the local economy before 1800. By 1833, the profits from early expansion were declining through inefficient management and an absence of long-term planning. This year was a major turning point because of the directives for the establishment of the Dudley trust, 1833-45, contained in the Will of the first earl, who died in 1833. Every sector of estate enterprise was reorganised and expanded. Agricultural properties were improved, rents and farm units rationalised, and specific leases were introduced. In order to take advantage of the expansion of the local iron trade, several new leased ironworks were established and the estate began to manufacture pig iron on its own account. Mineral enterprise expanded more than any other sector: reserves were exploited to the full by lessees and by the estate, which remained unusual in the extent to which it exploited its own minerals. Considerable capital was invested in the iron and mineral industries, and in further transport improvements: notably railways and canals. Estate profits were also invested in government stocks and the purchase of landed property. As a result, the Dudley estate was more than doubled in area by the purchase of valuable agricultural and sporting estates in Wales, Worcestershire, and Scotland. Complementary to this expansion in the scale and range of estate interests was the radical reorganisation of management and administration, undertaken by the trustees with the appointment of professional agents and the introduction of modern business practices. The last phase of development, 1845-1947, was a period of unprecedented prosperity for the estate, despite the decline in the local economy after 1860 and the pressures and restrictions placed upon the aristocratic landed interest from the 1870s. onwards. Income from the iron and mineral trades in particular rose to a peak, in spite of the collapse in the wrought iron trade. As the local economy became transformed and diversified by 1900, the estate also adapted to change but, instead of developing an entrepreneurial role in new industries, the estate reduced its own activities and gradually became a supplier of capital after 1897. Ultimately, it reacted to other trends and pressures by a total restructuring of estate interests in 1926, and began the systematic disposal of landed property. This, together with the nationalisation of coal and steel, finally severed the close, traditional link between the Dudley estate and local industry. Throughout the period 1774-1947, the estate played a beneficial and constructive role which served the interests of the area as a whole. Economically, the estate facilitated and helped maintain the prosperity of the area and, as benevolent employers of labour and, on occasions, as spokesmen for social reform, the Lords Dudley were a force for the good. In general, the development of the estate reflects the changing fortunes of the area and the landed aristocracy: in particular, because of its predominant position, the development of the area reflects the history of the Dudley estate during this period.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: DA Great Britain