The Ulster estates
The deputation withdrew.
Deputation from Iranmongers' Company.
The following gentlemen attended as a deputation
from the Ironmongers' Company:—
Mr. F. J. Barron, Master.
Mr. W. Bevan, Senior Warden.
Mr. J. T. Horner.
Mr. H. R. Price.
Mr. William Gribble, of Scriveners' Company, on
behalf of Associated Companies, and
Mr. R. C. A. Beck, Clerk.
3248. (Chairman to Mr. Barron.) We have received
from you two printed statements, one relating to your
Irish estates and the other to your property in general,
which have been put before us as part of the evidence,
and which I think it will not be necessary that we
should read, as they are in print in the hands of the
Commissioners. Is there anything you wish to add ?
—We would respectfully submit that you allow them
to be printed on your minutes of evidence if you take
them as read. (Chairman.) This shall be done.
3249. Have you anything to add to what has been
stated in those papers ?—Only as to the Irish estate.
We ask your Lordship to hear Mr. Rokeby Price upon
3250. (To Mr. Rokeby Price.) I understand you
to wish to make some supplementary statement with
regard to your Irish estates ?—Yes, we wish just to
draw the attention of your Lordship and the Commission to the fact that the statement made by the deputation from Ireland which attended before the Commission is incorrect in saying that it is a trust. We wish
also to mention that we did in 1764 redeem the tithe
entirely on behalf of our tenants, which cost us 1,115l.;
by that payment we extinguished all tithe for the
future. We wish also to draw attention to the fact
that we have expended very large sums on roads,
bridges, and fences, amounting to about 625l. a year.
We give also 400l. to schools and other charities, and
we have contributed, as we state in our statement
which your Lordship has before you, 200l. towards
the preliminary expenses of the Derry Central Railway
and guaranteed 5 per cent. interest on 5,000l. worth of
shares for 25 years. We deny that the tenants hold
from the middlemen from year to year; we deny that,
and that they held on lease from 1841 for three lives.
We wish also to draw the attention of the Commission
to the fact that during the time we have had the property in our hands, which is since 1841, we have had
but three evictions on the estate, and that was from
circumstances which we could not possibly avoid.
Having served on the Irish Committee for a good
many years, I think I may say that we have had no
application for a reduction of rent from any of our
tenants, with the exception of a few from an estate
called the Stirling estate, which we purchased a few
years ago, and on this estate the rent had been raised
shortly before we bought it; but since then we have
reduced the rent, otherwise the tenants proper of the
Ironmongers' estate have made no application for the
reduction of rents, so far as my recollection goes.
3251. I see that you state your present rental is
6 per cent. below Griffith's valuation ?—That is true.
3252. What do you mean by the statement which
appears in the last paragraph of your printed memorandum that in 1860 the Company established a
tenant right equivalent to 10 years' purchase of the
rent ?—I was just going to mention that, it is a very
important thing. I believe our estate was the only
estate in Ireland that had that custom. When the
estate came out of lease from the Bishop of Meath
there was no such thing as tenant right upon our
estates. Our rents were then so low that tenant
right arose, seeing then that we thought it would
be a very bad thing to have an indiscriminate price
for our tenant right, we established this custom, that
if any person wished to give up his farm the Company would buy it at a 10 years' price. It was sold
to us (the Company) and we sold it again to the
incoming tenant at the same price. Our policy was
not to introduce any fresh tenants on to our estate, if
possible, but to give the offer of any vacant farm to
the neighbouring tenants. Our object was this : Our
neighbours found out to their great cost, and it is now
a still greater cost since the Land Act, that it was
a very disadvantageous thing for a tenant to give
an enormous price and to be saddled with a very
large debt for the tenant right, he would not in that
case be able to do justice to the farm. We have
evidence now before us of three or four farms of
ours having been sold in the last few months, where
they have actually given 48 to 50 years' purchase for
the tenant right.
3253. Is not that more than the value of the freehold ?—It is more than we can get. I can give the
name of some such cases, Thomas Boyle, of Collins,
is one; his rent was 8l. 7s., and he has sold his
interest for 400l. to an adjoining tenant, which is
about 48 years' purchase. Widow Dempsey's rent
was 4l. 9s., she sold hers for 100l. Alexander
Ranger's rent was 28l. 10s. 8d., he sold his for 555l.;
Roger's rent was 11l., he sold his tenant right for
315l., and MacIntyre's rent was 10l. 17s., and he sold
his tenant right for 305l. net. And I am reminded by
my colleague here that two of those have stated that
we charged them too much rent before, a statement of
which we never heard until lately, a statement not
borne out by the prices they obtained for their tenant
3254. (Sir Richard Cross.) What dates are those?
—Two or three of them within the last two or three
months. There have been eight cases taken into court
against us by our tenants. In those eight cases the
Government valuation was 102l. 10s., our rent 88l. 9s.,
and we have been reduced by the judicial rent to
3255. You said the "Government valuation," I
suppose you mean Griffith's valuation ?—It is the
same—for Government purposes — it is Griffith's
valuation. Our rent in 1881 was 88l. 9s., and we
were reduced by the judicial rent to 75l. 18s. We
have appealed against those cases, and they are under
appeal now. We have made one omission which I
ought to mention. As an individual Company we
have given to our tenants various sums. In 1881
when they applied for assistance in consequence of a
bad season we gave them 600l., to be laid out in such
a way as our agent and the tenants could agree for
the benefit of the people by straightening mereings,
roads, and drains, and all that sort of thing. That we
have not stated in our paper which you have before
you. We also wish just to draw your attention to some
italics with regard to the Coopers' Company in the
last two paragraphs on page 3. The date of the
charter you see was 1609. In 1612 the Coopers'
Company found that they could not pay the additional
sum which was required, and the condition was that if
any one of the Companies did not pay, they were to
lose the money they had previously paid. The Corporation stepped in and bought of the Coopers' Company their share. The words are "the city is to receive all the benefit and profit as well already due
as hereafter shall grow due to the said (Coopers')
Company by the said plantation of Ireland." Then
in 1615, James I. gave us the license "that the Companies may in future reap some gain and benefit of
their great travails and expenses taken and bestowed
thereon." I only mention that because it has been
stated by Dr. Todd or some other witness here, that
we did not hold for our own behoof and benefit. We
contend that we do, and we contend that the various
companies laid out 150,000l. for various purposes upon
the property. It is not at all likely that we should
have done that except for some benefit. Then again, I
wish to draw attention to the fact that we state here
that Mr. Canning, who was then a member, and previously the Master of the Ironmongers' Company was
sent out there to be governor, and he sold an estate
in Warwickshire of his own and laid out certain
money, as we state there, in building a church and
doing certain other things on the Company's Irish
estate, and acquired part of the estate and resided
there. He would not have done that if he had thought
we could not convey to him with a good title. He would
not have sold property in England and invested the
money in Ireland unless he were quite certain that he
had a good title in Ireland. We think those are
certain points which are refuted altogether. We
wish also to draw attention to the statement we
made in the second paragraph of page 2. Doctor Todd,
in his evidence to prove we held these in trust, lays
great stress upon the articles of agreement which were
made for the first time to make a plantation. It
appears from records we have as well as those of the
Corporation, that there were two negotiations started.
The first one failed, in fact, to use a common expression, it did not float. Then the Government came to
the Corporation again, and entered into certain other
negotiations with us. The articles to which Dr.
Todd refers are the articles of the scheme which did
not float or did not succeed. The articles we hold
are those of a subsequent agreement, which are very
different indeed, and which are set out in the schedule
in full. I do not know that there is anything else.
If I have omitted anything my colleagues here will
put me right. I should just draw attention to one
other point. On page 5 in the last paragraph we
state: "In 1842 the Company's estate contained
12,686 acres, then valued by the well-known valuators, Messrs. Nolan, at 5,610l. per annum, and let at
5,509l., chiefly on yearly tenancies to the tenants
actually in occupation at the expiration of the last
lease which had been granted by the Company on
lives." Your Lordship will see that we put our
rents at 100l. a year below the rents which those
well-known valuators agreed upon, and in 1860 when
the re-valuation took place, Mr. Nolan was sent for
from Ireland and attended the Ironmongers' Company. We then gave him directions as to re-valuation, and told him not to make too excessive a valuation. He said he would not, and he did not. The
result is what you have there. From 1861 up to
this time we have had no complaints as to those
rents, I think I may say, with the exception of those
Stirling tenants. Having been three times over to
Ireland on a deputation from this Company, I can say
that on no occasion have I or my colleagues had an
application in person for a reduction of rent. The
last time we were over there it was known that we
wanted to sell our estates, and there was an agricultural show there which the Company have every year,
and being there by myself on a subsequent occasion I
was besieged by the tenants and begged not to sell. I
said, we must sell, and they said, we do hope you will
keep us out of the hands of the Gombeen man and
private owners. Those were the expressions made use
of to me on that occasion. I think if we had been such
hard landlords, or that our rents had been too high,
they would not have asked that; so long they had
been our tenants, and they asked us to continue their
3256. (Chairman.) Did they express a wish to buy
themselves ?— No; I should tell you that some of
them would buy. Your Lordship will see that a
scheme of acreage is given in our statement, and you
will see that we have a very large number of tenants
and a number of them at very small rents indeed.
That your Lordship will find in the original return.
We have 541 tenants on our property at rents something like an average of 13l. a year.
3257. (Mr. Firth to the Clerk of the Company.) I
should like to ask you about this return on the first
page as to list of trust deeds, founding, regulating,
or affecting the Company. You say there are none
except the ordinances, regulating the Company; what
was the date of the ordinances ?—25th January, 19th
3258. Is that the last you have ?—Yes.
3259. Those would be settled under the Statute
7th Henry VII., I suppose, by the Lord Chancellor
and two chief justices?—Yes, they were.
3260. You state on page 42 that the decisions and
the proceedings of your court are not published; but
every member can ascertain them from the minute
book which is read at every court. Do you mean
that every member of the company has that open to
him ?—Every member of the livery.
3261. Any member of the livery can ascertain that
3262. Can you tell me who your apprentices were
bound to; what was the trade to which they belonged ?—At what date ?
3263. The last 10 years ?—They were apprenticed
to any trade.
3264. Were the masters bonâ fide trading ?—They
have to make a declaration that it is a bonâ fide servitude.
3265. And they really served seven years ?—Or
five. They are apprenticed for five or seven years.
3266. Living with the person to whom they are
bound ?—I do not think it is necessary for them to be
living with them.
3267. Attending at their places of business every
week; is that so constantly ?—I may say every day.
It is not a colourable servitude.
(Mr. Rokeby Price.) May I just say that when
I was senior warden of the Company, which was
a few years ago, we had a certain firm of brushmakers
named Pritchard, in Newgate Street, who had been
members of the Company for generations, and I myself,
as senior warden, whose duty it is always to do it,
bound a young man to Messrs. Pritchard for five
years, and I have every reason to believe that he is
3268. That is one case ?—Yes.
3269. Upon your accounts [ notice that you return
for the last year a total expenditure of 13,207l., deducting the balance, 2,148l., there remains 11,059l.
Is there any expenditure whatever for the interest of
the Ironmongers' Trade Society in any way ?—(The
Clerk). None at all.
(Mr. Rokeby Price.) We give 10 guineas a year as
a donation to the Ironmongers' Trade Society, but
that is all.
3270. That is among the 1,028l. which is given for
donations and gratuities ?—Yes, it is a simple gratuity
like any other gratuity that we give.
(The Clerk.) The Ironmongers' Company have
nothing to do with trade.
3271. I notice in the last paper with which you
have supplied the Commission to-day, you say that
the Company is independent of any control by the
city. Are you aware that the courts of law have
held that the courts are subject to the control of the
city. Have you ever heard of a case ?—I have heard
that statement made.
3272. Do not misunderstand my question. Have
you heard or seen that it has been decided by courts
of law that the companies are subject to the control
of the city ?—No.
3273. What is the statement that you had heard?
—That which is referred to in the Grocers' statement.
I cannot give you any better information than is given
in that statement. The case is thoroughly argued out
3274. You do not consider that they are under the
control of the court of mayor and aldermen ?—No.
3275. Nor, I see, do you consider that they form any
part of the corporation of the city ?—No.
3276. Have you considered this: suppose they do
form no part of the corporation of the city; if they
were dissolved for any purpose (if you dissolved
yourselves, for instance) do you consider that the
corporation of the city could go on?—I have not
3277. You are aware that under your regulating
Act in one respect the liverymen of a company can
vote for the Lord Mayor ?—I am not aware.
(Mr. Gribble.) The Scriveners' Company, my Lord,
is one of the companies associated with the Ironmongers' Company, who, in point of fact, contributed
to find the money which was assessed upon the
Ironmongers' Company. I only wish to say a few
words as evidencing what was the thought and intention of the members of the Scriveners' Company
cf that day who subscribed their money, and to read
you a resolution of the Company which was passed
in 1626, showing that they themselves thought
the money was their own and that they were getting
their share of the estates for themselves. It is
signed by the different members of the Scriveners'
Company. This is a copy which I have extracted
from the books. " A Court of Assistants held
the 10th day of January 1626. At this court it
is ordered that all moneys paid and assessed to
be paid towards the plantation in Ireland and the
Companies' proportion and part of lands there, and
the rents, issues, and profits of the same shall for
ever hereafter be and remain to the general use of
this corporation " (that means the Scriveners' Company) "and payable towards the providing and maintaining of an hall and other necessary general affairs
of this society, and not to be or retane to the private
or particular use of any, and for a general consent
hereunto the bretheren of the said Company do
freely hereunto subscribe their names." That is
signed by the members, and amongst those the father
of an eminent man, John Milton. Then at "A Court of
Assistants holden 25th October 1627, Mr. Ashenden"
(he was a member) "being demanded the money by
him due for the Irish plantation, desired to be
respited till the next court day, which the court
thought fit to yield to, but if he do not then pay the
same it is ordered he shall be no longer dispensed
with all." This shows that evidently in 1626, very
shortly after moneys were advanced and the Company
came into possession of the estates, they themselves
considered that they advanced the money for the purpose of getting their share of those estates. My colleague, Mr. Price, has stated, I think, almost everything that can be stated. I am a very old member of
the committee, I should tell you, which manages this
estate, the oldest present member of the committee,
therefore I know something about it. From inquiries
which we have made we feel perfectly convinced that
none of the tenants are in a position or will be in a
position—I should rather say very few of the tenants
are in a position or will be in a position—to purchase
the estates. It is therefore idle to suppose that they
will ever be purchased by them. They have not the
means to do so, and they consider themselves better
off with us as landlords to deal with than if they
became owners of the estate having interest to pay to
money lenders and usurers. I should have stated that
I do not appear only for the Scriveners' Company but
for the Ironmongers' Company and the Associated
Companies as a body. I appear for the Associated
Companies as a body, because I know more about it
than the other members. I am an older member of
the committee than the other members of the committee. We are all acting entirely in unison.
3278. (Mr. Firth.) I should like to ask you whether
you have in your records any copy of the return
which I find by the journals of the House of Commons
was made by your Company to the House of Commons
in 1724 ?—No, none. I can answer for that, because
I have gone through all the books of the Company