The Administration of the Estate 1785-1899: Professional Advisers and Estate Staff

Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History). Originally published by London County Council, London, 1977.

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'The Administration of the Estate 1785-1899: Professional Advisers and Estate Staff', in Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History), ed. F H W Sheppard( London, 1977), British History Online [accessed 19 July 2024].

'The Administration of the Estate 1785-1899: Professional Advisers and Estate Staff', in Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History). Edited by F H W Sheppard( London, 1977), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024,

"The Administration of the Estate 1785-1899: Professional Advisers and Estate Staff". Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History). Ed. F H W Sheppard(London, 1977), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024.

Professional Advisers and Estate Staff

During the period covered by this chapter each of the four successive owners of the Grosvenor estate took an active part in the administration of their London properties, and this is described later. Their professional advisers were nevertheless influential. The most important of these were the successive partners in the legal firm of Partington and Boodle. After the death of Thomas Walley Partington in 1791 these were Edward Boodle (d. 1828), (fn. 3) and his nephew John Boodle, (fn. 4) who from 1806 had a house in Davies Street before removing first, in 1829, to his uncle's house at No. 55 Brook Street until 1836, and then to No. 53 Davies Street (now the Grosvenor Office). (fn. 5) The latter appears to have been used principally, or solely, as an office, John Boodle's residence from this time being in Connaught Square; and he also had a property called Heath Farm, near Watford. After his death in 1859 his effects were valued at 'under £14,000'. (fn. 6) Since at least 1838 he had been in partnership with his younger son, William Chilver Boodle, his son-in-law, Edward Partington, and his first cousin (Edward Boodle's son), Henry Mitford Boodle. (fn. 7) In 1858 they were joined by Henry Mitford's son, Henry Trelawny Boodle, both then living in Leinster Gardens, Bayswater. (fn. 8) Henry Mitford died at his house in Tunbridge Wells in 1878, leaving a personal estate of 'under £8,000'; (fn. 9) Edward Partington, who lived at Gloucester Place, Hyde Park, died in 1883 leaving a personal estate of 'under £24,206', (fn. 10) and William Chilver Boodle, who had lived first in Connaught Square but latterly in Dover, died in 1887, leaving personal estate of 'under £11,694'. (fn. 11) The surviving partner, Henry Trelawny Boodle, was joined in 1897 by his two sons, Trelawny Frederick and Walter Trelawny Boodle, (fn. 8) and died at his house on Wimbledon Common in 1900 leaving effects valued at £48,892. (fn. 12) With the admission of G. F. Hatfield to a partnership in 1899 the name of the firm became Boodle Hatfield and Company. (fn. 8) Trelawny Frederick died in 1930 and his brother Walter Trelawny —the last of the Boodles to be connected with the firm— in 1931. (fn. 13)

Until the death of Edward Partington in 1883 the firm entered itself in the directories as 'Boodle and Partington, conveyancers'. Thereafter only the names of the individual partners appear, but in 1898 the entry becomes 'Boodle and Co., solicitors' and in 1899 'Boodle Hatfield and Co., solicitors'. It was in fact a firm of lawyers with many other clients besides the Grosvenors, and with one exception its members were paid by the Grosvenors by fee, not by regular salary. The one exception was Edward Boodle, whose financial difficulties led in 1807 to his borrowing several thousand pounds from the second Earl Grosvenor, (fn. 14) and in return the latter agreed to pay him partly by fee and partly by a regular salary of some £250 per annum. (fn. 15) It follows, therefore, that none of the partners—not even Edward Boodle, who in 1808 was 'in high spirits' upon being offered the receivership of the estates of the late Lady Bath (fn. 16) —ever devoted the whole of his attention to the affairs of the Grosvenor estate. Henry Trelawny Boodle, for instance, as solicitor to the Marquess of Northampton, had at least one other client with property problems even more complex and probably time-consuming than those of the Grosvenors in Mayfair and Belgravia. (fn. 17)

The Grosvenors' advisers also included in the latter part of the eighteenth and throughout most of the nineteenth centuries a succession of 'agents'. The first recorded of these was John Boydell, a nephew of Alderman John Boydell, the engraver and print publisher who became Lord Mayor of London in 1790, and a brother of the Alderman's partner, Josiah Boydell. The Boydell family came from Shropshire and Flintshire, and another of John Boydell's uncles, Thomas Boydell, was in Earl Grosvenor's service at Eaton, evidently as steward. John Boydell is known to have been the Earl's London agent from at least 1787 until 1791, when he became insolvent. He lived at a house in Stratton Street, (fn. 18) and his functions included the management of the Earl's London household, the payment of tradesmen's bills, servants' wages and sometimes of expenses at Newmarket. At that time the Earl's financial affairs were in an extremely disordered state, and John Boydell seems to have got into the habit of accepting bills of exchange in his own name, partly, at any rate, in order to pay the Earl's more pressing creditors. In 1791 John Boydell fell ill and the Earl, feeling 'much uneasiness from the apparent irregular management of his Household affairs', discovered that many tradesmen's accounts had not been paid for five or six years. In the ensuing investigation John Boydell was declared insolvent, and the Earl paid his assignees in bankruptcy some £2,500. Both Edward Boodle and Josiah Boydell were active in these inquiries, and the former said of John Boydell that his 'errors appear to be of the head and not the heart'. (fn. 19)

The next agent was Abraham Moore, a London barrister who was appointed in 1796 after the manager of the family lead mines in North Wales had proved 'a most decided Knave', having 'gone off to America, loaded with more spoils than those of' Earl Grosvenor himself, whose income from this source in 1800 amounted to over £18,000. (fn. 20) At that time Earl Grosvenor was so deeply in debt that he had 'no regular disposable income at all but what is derived from Cheshire and North Wales', (fn. 21) and Moore's main function seems to have been (in addition to the management of the mines) the imposition of some sort of order on the Earl's embarrassingly disordered financial affairs. In 1809–12 he was paid a salary of £500 per annum, but he also received fees for the management of an election at Chester, (fn. 22) and like the Boodles he had extensive other commitments, regularly absenting himself from his chambers in the Temple for weeks at a time to practise on the Western Circuit, as well as to attend to such other matters as 'holding the Eton College courts'. His correspondence gives an impression of great efficiency, his constant orders to Edward Boodle, and more particularly to the steward at Eaton Hall and to the local manager of the Welsh mines, being followed up in the latter case by annual personal visits to Eaton during the Long Vacation. (fn. 23) But in the long run a parttime agent did not prove a success, for in 1821 it was discovered that Moore had been supporting his numerous financial transactions 'by a most ingenious fraud', thereby cheating the second Earl Grosvenor, who now described him as 'one of the greatest Scoundrels in existence', of very large sums of money. (fn. 24) Like his predecessor at the lead mines he too departed to America, where he died at Jersey City in the following year. (fn. 25)

After these débâcles the next agent was a man of altogether lesser status than Moore. This was Edmund Empy, (fn. 26) who seems to have been employed by Earl Grosvenor as a clerk at a salary of £50 per annum as early as 1802. (fn. 27) In 1808, when Moore and a mentor of the second Earl Grosvenor, John Hailstone, were chivvying Edward Boodle to re-organise his office, Hailstone reported to the Earl that 'you will see how we are driving on with Boodle. We have got a separate room in his house for our clerk, a measure which I was determined to carry at the point of the bayonet, for if this plan is effective it will depend on keeping our authority paramount and distinct.' (fn. 28) This clerk, employed by Earl Grosvenor but working in Boodle's office, was probably Empy, and from his installation 'at the point of the bayonet' in Boodle's premises evidently originates the arrangement whereby the salaried staff of the Grosvenor Office and the quite separate staff of the Grosvenors' lawyers were housed under the same roof—an arrangement which continued at No. 53 Davies Street until 1923, and is even now perpetuated by their occupation of adjacent premises which still share a common entrance at No. 53.

Empy did not have overall control of the administration of the Earl's affairs as had Moore. He seems indeed to have been only concerned with the London properties, where he was occupied with the collection of rents, the renewal of leases and the general maintenance of the estate. (fn. 29) The tone of letters addressed to him by the second Earl from Eaton suggests that even in London his position was a relatively subordinate one. (fn. 30)

Empy lived at No. 100 Park Street from 1823 to 1841, (fn. 31) when he seems to have retired; he died at Tunbridge Wells in 1845 or 1846. (fn. 32) He was succeeded by Abraham Howard, who is described as 'agent to the Marquess of Westminster' at the Grosvenor Office, No. 9 (now 53) Davies Street, and sometimes as a conveyancer. He lived at No. 2 Eccleston Square (fn. 33) where he died in 1864, leaving effects 'under £5,000'. (fn. 34) His successor, Frank Burge, from 1864 to 1870, was initially paid £300 per annum, later raised to £400. His duties were to keep the accounts and letterbooks, enter up rentals and leases, and fill in in colour all lease plots on maps of the London estate. His office hours were from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and he was to attend the weekly Board meetings on Wednesday evenings; he was not to take any other employment. (fn. 35) In 1865 an auditor of the Marquess's London estates was also appointed, at a salary of £100, later raised to £300. (fn. 36)

Neither Burge nor the next agent, William R. Glennie (1871–92), were lawyers, (fn. 8) but Glennie had previously been in the employment of the second Marquess of Westminster since at least 1855, possibly as steward at Grosvenor House. (fn. 37) In 1885 he was receiving a salary of £600 per annum, and after his retirement in 1892, a pension of £400. (fn. 38) He lived at Berkeley Lodge, Wimbledon, (fn. 8) and at his death in 1902 he left effects valued at £8,860. (fn. 39) His successor, Charles Robert French, had also previously been in the family's service, again probably as steward at Grosvenor House, and in 1895 his salary was £480 per annum. (fn. 40) He remained agent until 1918, living at Evelyn Gardens, South Kensington; he died in 1922, leaving effects valued at £3,877. (fn. 41)

In addition to their lawyers and their salaried 'agents', the Grosvenors also employed a series of 'surveyors', all of whom were architects of some distinction with their own independent private practices, and whose works are discussed elsewhere. The first (after the death of Thomas Barlow in 1730) was William Porden (c. 1755 1822), who was appointed by the first Earl Grosvenor in or soon after 1784, (fn. 42) (fn. 1) when valuations of properties on the Mayfair estate for the renewal of the original building leases were beginning to require professional advice. He was paid a retaining fee or salary of £200 per annum, but he also charged a fee for other work for Earl Grosvenor, notably at Eaton Hall and Grosvenor House. (fn. 43) His successors from 1821 were Thomas Cundy I, II and III, who held the position of surveyor successively to 1890. Cundy II and III both received salaries varying from £300 to £500 per annum, (fn. 44) but their principal remuneration was by fee for the extensive works which they superintended for the Grosvenors; (fn. 45) and probably Thomas Cundy I was paid in the same way. (fn. 2) From 1890 to 1910 the estate surveyor was Eustace Balfour, whose partner in private practice was Thackeray Turner.

Thus throughout the whole of the nineteenth century (and indeed even later) the only full-time salaried staff employed by the Grosvenors for the administration of their Mayfair estate, not to mention the development of those in Belgravia and Pimlico, were the 'agents' and their clerical assistants. After Moore's defalcation in 1821 the importance of the post of agent was greatly and no doubt intentionally reduced, and its subordinate position is clearly seen in the fact that it was H. T. Boodle and not W. R. Glennie who gave evidence relating to the Grosvenor estate to the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Town Holdings in 1887.

In the management of their almost equally great wealth the Dukes of Bedford contrived a different system. Like the Grosvenors, they had very valuable London properties and large country estates, but they 'were advised firstly by a peripatetic chief agent, and secondly, by the local stewards of each estate'. All of them were full-time salaried employees, often they seem to have been lawyers, and at least one of the agents, Rowland Prothero, later Lord Ernle and President of the Board of Agriculture from 1916 to 1919, was a man of great distinction. From 1815 onwards they compiled annual reports on the condition of the estates, thereby providing successive Dukes of Bedford (and later, their grateful historians) with a bird's-eye view of the general situation. (fn. 46) In 1887 it was the steward of the London estates in Covent Garden and Bloomsbury who gave evidence—very ably—to the Select Committee on Town Holdings; and it is hard to resist the conclusion that the administrative system on the Bedford estate was in the nineteenth century better organised than on the Grosvenor.


  • 1. The exact year of his appointment is uncertain. In 1785, when he may have been working in James Wyatt's office, he was appointed surveyor to the Vestry of St. George's, Hanover Square, and by 1786 he was certainly in Earl Grosvenor's employment. But in a letter written by him in 1814 to the second Earl Grosvenor he stated that 'I have now been 30 years in the service of your Lordship and your Lordship's Father', which, if correct, means that he was appointed in 1784. In 1783–6 John Jenkins was also acting as surveyor for Lord Grosvenor in the erection of Grosvenor Market, and for works at Lord Grosvenor's houses at No. 45 Grosvenor Square, Millbank and Salt Hill. In 1787 the payment of his fees for the latter three items, amounting to some £100, was witnessed by Porden. There is no evidence that Jenkins was concerned in the general management of the Grosvenor estate.
  • 2. One of Thomas Cundy III's daughters married a son of Henry Mitford Boodle.
  • 3. Hermione Hobhouse, Thomas Cubitt, Master Builder, 1971, p. 561.
  • 4. G.O., box Q, bundle 143.
  • 5. R.B.: Boyle's Court Guide.
  • 6. P.P.R., will of John Boodle, 1859.
  • 7. Harleian Society Publications, Registers XXIV, St. George's, Hanover Square, Marriages, vol. IV, 1824–1837, 1897, p. 257: Boyle's Court Guide.
  • 8. P.O.D.
  • 9. P.P.R., will of H. M. Boodle, 1878.
  • 10. Ibid., will of Edward Partington, 1883.
  • 11. Ibid., will of W. C. Boodle, 1887.
  • 12. Ibid., will of H. T. Boodle, 1901.
  • 13. Ibid., index to wills: P.O.D.: Boyle's Court Guide.
  • 14. G.O., memo. of 5 Jan. 1807.
  • 15. Ibid., Hailstone corresp., Grosvenor to H., 6 March 1809; Moore letter books, vol. 7, 2 March 1809.
  • 16. Ibid., Hailstone corresp., H. to Grosvenor, 27 Nov. 1808.
  • 17. P.P., 1887, XIII, Report from the Select Committee on Town Holdings, p. 319.
  • 18. G.L.R.O.(M), TC/St.G/2.
  • 19. G.O., box A, passim.
  • 20. Ibid., Hailstone corresp., Grosvenor to H., 27 Dec. 1795; Moore letter books, vol. 7, Aug. 1806.
  • 21. Ibid., Moore letter books, vol. 3, 5 April 1799.
  • 22. Ibid., Moore's accounts, 1809–17.
  • 23. Ibid., Moore letter books, passim, and especially vol. 8, Dec. 1811.
  • 24. Ibid., Hailstone corresp., Grosvenor to H., 2 Aug. 1821.
  • 25. Ibid., misc. box 21, abstract of title 1878, p. 39.
  • 26. Ibid., misc. box 15, 14 Aug. 1828.
  • 27. E.H.P., box 76.
  • 28. G.O., Hailstone corresp., H. to Grosvenor, 28 Jan. 1808.
  • 29. Royal Bank of Scotland, Drummonds Branch, ledgers, Grosvenor accounts, 1815 45 passim.
  • 30. G.O., misc. box 15, Grosvenor to Empy, 1822–8.
  • 31. R.B.
  • 32. P.R.O., PROB 11/2042/652.
  • 33. P.O.D.: Robson's Directory, 1843.
  • 34. P.P.R., index to wills, 1864.
  • 35. G.O., misc. box 17, memo. re Mr. Burge, 16 Sept. 1864.
  • 36. Royal Bank of Scotland, Drummonds Branch, ledgers, Grosvenor accounts, 1875.
  • 37. Ibid., Grosvenor accounts, 1855, 1865.
  • 38. Ibid., Grosvenor accounts, 1885, 1895.
  • 39. P.P.R., index to wills, 1902.
  • 40. Royal Bank of Scotland, Drummonds Branch, ledgers, Grosvenor accounts, 1875, 1895.
  • 41. P.P.R., index to wills, 1922: P.O.D.
  • 42. E.H.P., box 42/4, 17 May [? 1784]; 42/6, 2 Feb. 1814.
  • 43. E.H.P., box 42/6, 24 Sept. 1809, 10 Nov. 1810; box 76, receipts passim.
  • 44. G.O., account books of first Marquess, vol. 10, 1839–44 passim: Royal Bank of Scotland, Drummonds Branch, ledgers, Grosvenor accounts, 1875, 1885.
  • 45. G.O., Cundy papers, 1864–6: GBM 15/3–4.
  • 46. Survey of London, vol. XXXVI, 1970, pp. 41–2, 47, 49.
  • 47. Information kindly supplied by Mr. H. M. Colvin.
  • 48. W.C.L., C774, pp. 117–18.
  • 49. G.O., misc. box 13, Porden valuations: E.H.P., box 42/6, 2 Feb. 1814.
  • 50. G.O., box Q, bundle 35.
  • 51. P.P.R., wills of H. M. Boodle, 1878, F. Boodle, 1891, and T. Cundy, 1895.