Land Agents Conference – coming soon!

We are delighted to announce the programme for our one-day conference on ‘The Land agent in the Transnational Context’, Saturday 24th October 2015, 10am-4.30pm at the University of Dundee. Full programme details below.

If you would like to attend, we’d be happy to see you – this is a free event, but for catering purposes, if you would like to come, please let Annie know at: A.Tindley@dundee.ac.uk

The Land Agent in transnational context: an interdisciplinary conference

University of Dundee, Dalhousie Building (Old Hawkhill), Room 2F13

Saturday 24 October, 10am – 4.30pm

Welcome to this conference, which has been organised by the European Forum for the Study of Country Houses and Landed Estates, led by its partners the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates, Maynooth University, the Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates at Bangor University, and the Centre for Scotland’s Land Futures at University of Dundee and University of Stirling, and incorporating the Yorkshire Country House Partnership and the Thames Valley Country House Partnership.

Programme

10-10.30am: Welcome and coffee

10.30-12.00: Session 1: Reconstructing the Life and Times of the Land Agent

Chair: Dr Ciaran Reilly

Dr Lowri Ann Rees, ‘”He is certainly the most difficult subject you can well imagine or that I ever had to deal with”: the relationship between landlord and agent, a south-west Wales case study, 1841-47’

Mr Malcolm Bangor-Jones, ‘The role of the minor estate official in the 19th century north west Highlands’

Dr Annie Tindley, ‘Castle Government’: the psychologies of land ownership and management in north Sutherland, c. 1860-1911

12.00-12.45: Lunch

12.45-2.15: Session 2: the Land Agent in Challenging Times

Chair: Dr Annie Tindley

Dr Ciaran Reilly, ‘A land agency business during the Irish Revolution, 1912-23: William J. H. Tyrrell, a case study’

Mr Einion Thomas, ‘J.E.Vincent, Lord Penrhyn’s unofficial agent, and the Royal Commission on Land in Wales, 1893 -1896’

Professor Ewen Cameron, ‘Factoring in the factor on state-owned land in the Scottish Highlands, 1897 to the 1920s’

2.15-2.30: Coffee

2.30-4.00: Session 3: the unexpected roles and contexts of the Land Agent

Chair: Dr Lowri Ann Rees

Dr Daniel Cook, ‘The Dean’s Reasons for Not Building at Drapier’s Hill (1730)’

Dr John MacGregor, ‘The factor and railway promotion in the Scottish Highlands – the West Highland Railway’

Mr Finlay McKichen, ‘Peter Fairbairn: Highland factor and Caribbean plantation manager’

4.00-4.15: concluding discussion/remarks

4.30: informal drinks at the Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre

 

extract of map

Abstracts of the papers

Dr Lowri Ann Rees, University of Bangor, ‘”He is certainly the most difficult subject you can well imagine or that I ever had to deal with”: the relationship between landlord and agent, a south-west Wales case study, 1841-47’

By focusing on the personal letters of Thomas Herbert Cooke, land agent to the Middleton Hall estate in south-west Wales between 1841 and 1847, this paper will consider the fraught relationship that could exist between agent and landlord. His employer, Edward Abadam, was a source of much frustration and misery for Cooke, but his letters also present a fascinating insight into the working life of the agent, the way the estate was managed, and as an outsider, his impression of the local area. Cooke also found himself in south-west Wales during the height of the Rebecca Riots, and along with his employer, was singled out by the rioters and accused of collecting high levels of rent and oppressing the tenantry. The aim of the paper therefore is to highlight the value but also limitations of private correspondence as a source when studying the role of the land agent.

Dr Ciaran Reilly, Maynooth University, ‘A land agency business during the Irish Revolution, 1912-23: William J. H. Tyrrell, a case study’

Providing a complimentary reference in 1896, an Irish landlord praised William J.H. Tyrrell (1853-1933) for his ‘ability to deal with troublesome tenants’ and remarked that he possessed ‘a thorough insight into the character of Irish tenants’. However, like many Irish land agents social memory has been particularly unkind to Tyrrell who survived several assassination attempts during the course of his lifetime. An active member in southern Unionist circles for over forty years; Tyrrell was also a member of the Orange Lodge, a Freemason, a magistrate and justice of the peace. The case of Tyrrell illustrates that quite often it was the public roles which agents performed which ultimately led to the condemnation they received. This was certainly through of the revolutionary period when Tyrrell became a target of a number of IRA battalions and his home Ballindoolin survived several attacks. This paper examines Tyrrells agency during the revolutionary years, 1912-23.

Mr Einion Thomas, University of Bangor, ‘J. E. Vincent, Lord Penrhyn’s unofficial agent, and the Royal Commission on Land in Wales, 1893 -1896’

This paper will examine the impact of the work of the 1893 Land Commission in Wales, with particular reference to Lord Penrhyn and his ‘unofficial’ agent, J. E. Vincent, focusing on their reaction to the Commission in principle and practice in the changing rural Wales of the 1890s.

Mr Malcolm Bangor-Jones, ‘The role of the minor estate official in the 19th century north west Highlands’

This paper will examine the evolution of the profession of factors and sub-factors, from the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century, a period of immense transformation in their roles and responsibilities. The paper will examine the trend towards employment of abler, literate officials who acted as the eyes and ears of the factor on a great estate; their role in mid-19th century croft creation, land improvement and in combatting over-population.

Dr Annie Tindley, ‘Castle Government’: the psychologies of land ownership and management in north Sutherland, c. 1860-1911

By 1861, the Sutherland estates were the largest landed estates in western Europe. Covering over one million acres in the county of Sutherland and bolstered by a private family fortune, the Sutherland estates and the ducal family that owned them were one of the great patrician establishments of Victorian Britain. They were, however, haunted by their reputation as clearance landlords, a reputation that intruded on their rarefied London existence, and more pressingly, on relations between them, their estate managers and the crofting and cottar population in the north of Scotland.This paper will explore a number of key themes in relation to the drivers and philosophies of estate ownership and management in post-clearance Sutherland.

Mr Finlay McKichan, ‘Peter Fairbairn: Highland factor and Caribbean plantation manager’

Peter Fairbairn served the Seaforth estate as a land agent for 25 years from 1792. He appears to have been recruited to use more systematic methods than the traditional factors in Ross-shire. Like many of his contemporaries he favoured sheep farming, although the proprietor, Francis Humberston Mackenzie, was loath to introduce large scale graziers. At this time Fairbairn’s services were highly valued for his diligence and honesty. In 1801 he followed Lord Seaforth (as he became in 1797) to the Caribbean when he was appointed governor of Barbados. Seaforth now purchased landss in Berbice (Guyana) and Fairbairn became a typical plantation attorney, overseeing three estates worked by enslaved labourers. By 1811 Seaforth was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with and distrustful of him. The plantations, which had been relied on to restore the financial state of the family, were losing money and accounts were not being supplied. Weather conditions were poor, but it is doubtful whether Fairbairn’s skills transferred well to the Caribbean. The Seaforth papers (GD46) in the National Records of Scotland, and especially Fairbairn’s detailed letters from Berbice, make possible an evaluation and comparison of his performance as a transnational land manager.

Professor Ewen Cameron, ‘Factoring in the factor on state-owned land in the Scottish Highlands, 1897 to the 1920s’

When the state, in the form of the Congested Districts Board and the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, began to manage its own land in the highlands from 1897 central and local officials began to encounter some of the same problems faced by factors on private estates, especially when events of protest occurred. There was even debate about the use of the word ‘factor’, as it had such bad connotations. ‘Factors’ on state-owned estates were often placed in difficult positions and there were also bureaucratic problems in relating to a distant administration in Edinburgh. The paper will explore the awkward position of ‘factors’ on state-owned land.

Dr Daniel Cook, ‘The Dean’s Reasons for Not Building at Drapier’s Hill (1730)’

Wearied by a long career in Dublin, the author of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and ‘The Drapier’s Letters’, the Reverend Dr Jonathan Swift, sought retirement up north in Market Hill, co. Armagh. There he purchased land adjacent to Sir Arthur and Lady Anne Acheson, with whom he had stayed for some time, in 1728. As Swift outlines in verse, however, his self-aggrandizing attempts to raise a national monument to himself in the name of Drapier’s Hill soon failed: “I will not build on yonder mount… / Whate’er I promised or intended, / No fault of mine, the scheme is ended”. The costs of improving the surrounding land, he claimed, proved prohibitive. Instead the elderly satirist seized the opportunity to outline the issues associated with his so-called exile at home:

How could I form so wild a vision,

To seek, in deserts, fields Elysian?

To live in fear, suspicion, variance,

With thieves, fanatics, and barbarians?

 

John MacGregor, ‘The factor and railway promotion in the Scottish Highlands – the West Highland Railway’

A late-comer to the region, the West Highland was presented as a “landowners’ line”, emulating the successful schemes of earlier date which genuinely merit this description. Speculation, inter-company rivalry and the prospect of government assistance were the main ingredients of the West Highland project; but a proprietors’ coalition was an essential precondition and estate factors were necessarily involved – as instigators, advisers or parliamentary witnesses.