Making the Estate Pay

(I think this is an interesting piece particularly in light of what happened to the Stanmer Estate in later years with it eventually being sold and falling into disrepair. While much of this was due to the weight of death duties, following two deaths very close together, it does make you wonder.)

During the many years of service to the fourth Earl, I passed a happy time, the whole of my energy was devoted to making the estate pay. I soon realized that the farms now in a sad neglected condition were not bringing in any balance. His Lordship told me that the estate did not pay his household expenses, and did not provide even a great coat for himself. He pressed me to cut down expenses and only allow the tenants a “bread and cheese” allowance of repairs.

The woods were bare of young trees and underwood of  (?) years growth fetched only a pound or twenty five shillings an acre, I determined to fell all the woods. I read all I could about French and German forestry, got in touch with the Kew authorities. One of them later wrote a remarkably able book on forestry. I remember that I had an argument with him, about crooked tellers growing straight with age. He eventually gave in as when a log of oak is cut down through the pith the old teller can plainly be traced and too often is far from being as straight as the older one. This fact every pit sawyer or cleaver knows by experience. In the South of England the bane of Forestry is the westerly salt winds. Shelter is a first consideration. Scotch fir is the best shelter around our Loughton Woods. Old Hampton who certainly knew his work planted some magnificent Scotch, these I religiously preserved for this cultural value. Oak as soon as wind is let in to them begins to grow little branches all up the trunk as may be seen in all exposed trees. During the South African War I sold for a timber merchant oak for artillery spokes at 12 shilling per [pound] but the government inspector would not pass a single tree that had been exposed and had grown these small branches. We sold generally £1200 worth of oak annually. At this time fir was unsaleable, and was used for state repairs only, its defect is its soft nature from too rapid growth and its liability to attacks of worm. During the twenty years of my service I replaced the farms and houses with home grown timber and as a consequence kept down expenses.

In Hampton’s time (James, son of the planter of the Old Scotch) for several years £200 of oak was cut annually from the [Verts]. When I commenced these woods were full of oak underwood, and I saved hundreds of thousands of young oak. Many when I gave up in 1910 had become worth 12 shillings or more: and in thirty more years would easily fetch £2 a piece. To show that timber is more valuable than underwood I once sold a piece of ‘wood’ to David Eades for £10 very indifferent through the growth of tellers I had previously saved. After the underwood was cleared out the thinning of the young trees fetched £11 in part and rail/ mostly rails.

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