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The Birtwhistles of Craven and Galloway

 

 

 

 

 

rent paid to the laird was £700, but Hogg estimated sheep would yield £2000. He was appalled to observe the subservience of the peasants to the laird he is even more so in his domains than Bonaparte in France, and  warned the laird that he could not expect shepherds to be so subservient.

The Birtwhistle executors ran the Rosshire sheep farms after the death of the three brothers, taking a manager to court when he  diverted Birtwhistle animals to his own use. The court case revealed that the sheep farms were managed from Bruachaig, and covered an extremely wide area of hillsides and valleys to the north of Loch Maree, including  holdings at  Letterewe, Beinn-a-chaisgan, Strathnashla, Sleog and Botag.

     On William’s death in 1819 the Leeds Mercury advised its readers that the Birtwhistles had been the biggest cattle dealers in the country   William Birtwhistle Esq of Skipton, brother of the late Robert and Alexander Birtwhistle. By their deaths the ancient Birtwhistles, the greatest dealers and graziers in the Kingdom are all extinct.

 

It is difficult to estimate accurately the wealth of the Birtwhistles, since many of their assets were  handed down to family members without being listed or valued in their probate records. The court case which we shall discuss in the next section stated that the Birtwhistle estate in contention in Craven, which was by no means all of the Birtwhistle estate, was valued at £1650pa, suggesting a capital valuation of £30,000-£40,000. We have a figure of £20,000 owed by the Earl of Selkirk to William Birtwhistle’s estate for Balmae in 1819, and £12,365 for the stock of sheep on the Rosshire estate, but no valuation for many of the other known assets such as bank deposits and canal shares.  £100,000 would therefore appear to be a very conservative estimate for a valuation of the Birtwhistle business at the end of the second generation. There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the Leeds Mercury assessment, that the Birtwhistles were the greatest dealers and graziers in the Kingdom.                       

 

 

John Vardill (1752-1811): Royal Spy and Regius Professor of Divinity

 

John Birtwhistle’s son- in- law, John Vardill, was one of Britain’s most successful government  agents in the last quarter of the 18th century, a role which included espionage, political  propaganda and diplomacy. His achievements are little known today, largely because he was an American who remained loyal to the British Crown, a role which made him an unsympathetic figure to some of those who  have researched him. The secretive nature of the espionage “trade” makes some of his activities difficult to trace but, ironically, his propensity to disguise himself behind erudite classical pseudonyms occasionally eases the tasks of identification.

Born  in 1752, John Vardill was  the son of the moderately wealthy port master of New York (John later estimated  his father’s property to have been worth £220pa), and a  privileged position in society meant that he was acquainted with many of the more important members of American political society from an early age. New York, its leading churches and college were predominantly Tory, and much less inclined to revolution than cities such as Boston.  Unlike some of John Vardill’s contemporaries, who anguished about whether to join the revolution or remain loyal to Britain, John Vardill had no such problems; throughout his life he was a staunch and  active supporter of the British Crown.

      When he enrolled as a student of Kings College, New York, in 1766 (now Columbia University),

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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