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Knight of Barrells


Copy case exparte the Trustees of the estates of the Earl of Catherlough decd. as to the Mold tithes, and opinion of Mr. G.M. Giffard. Counsel was furnished with documents including an abstract of deeds by which the tithe estates were annexed to the settled property and a copy of the decree in Chancery of 26 January 1806 by which a declaration was made respecting title to the same. Mr. Robert Knight the tenant for life of the settled estates married in 1791 and not long after there were three children of the marriage, Henry a son who died at the age of 6 in 1800 and two daughters. In 1803 Robert Knight, having taken out administration of the effects of his infant son, claimed as administrator to be absolutely entitled to the tithe estate. These tithes were about 1730 mortgaged by the fee simple impropriator to the Earl of Plymouth for a term of 1000 years. The mortgage was afterwards foreclosed, the principal, interest and costs then due being between £12,000 and £13,000. The tithes in 1764 became vested in the Earl of Catherlough for the remainder of the term. Robert Knight's claim to absolute ownership of the tithes was based on the plea that they passed by the general devise of real estates in his father's will, and being personalty, they vested absolutely in his son as the first tenant in tail, and on the son's death came to him as his father and sole next-of-kin. The trustees of the will appear not to have acquiesced in this view, but Robert Knight filed his bill against them and obtained the decree of 1806. The Earl's will contained no powers of sale but in 1808 Robert Knight applied to and obtained from Parliament powers to remedy this omission. Schedule 1 of the resulting Act listed the estates which it was then thought desirable to sell, and Schedule 2 those which it was proposed to retain. Neither schedule contained the Mold tithes, as these had been declared Robert Knight's property. The total annual value of the then remaining settled estates appeared to be £5,210, of which three-quarters was represented by Schedule 1. The proposed sales and new purchases were intended to produce a more compact estate in the immediate vicinity of Barrels. All the properties comprised in Schedule 1 were shortly afterwards sold, and the money paid into Chancery, and new properties purchased. On Robert Knight's death the estates passed into the hands of trustees for management and division among the parties beneficially entitled to them. A considerable difference was observed between the amounts realised by the estates sold under the Act of 1808 and the then value of the estate, which was reported to be less than was produced by the sale of the 1808 Schedule 1 properties alone. A considerable portion of the estates sold under the Act of 1808 was sold either to Robert Knight himself or to his son-in-law Mr. Bolton King. Before going further into these matters the Trustees sought the opinion of Counsel on the case of the Mold tithes, which was at least free from some of the difficulties affecting the rest of the estate. It appeared that Lord Catherlough acquired these tithes for the residue of the mortgage term of 1,000 years for £13,000 and that other property came with them, particulars of which were unknown, that the remainder of the mortgage term was in 1806 decreed to be the absolute property of Robert Knight, that in 1808 the latter possessed himself of the reversion in the tithes for a nominal consideration, and that in 1810 Robert Knight sold and conveyed the tithes in fee simple to the trustees of the settled estates for £49,950, with the approval of the Court of Chancery. In 1837 the tithes were commuted and in 1854 the gross amount of them was £1,691.12s.4d., but after rates and taxes and expenses of collection the nett amount received by the owners was under £1,210. The amounts receivable were very small, being payable by upwards of 400 tenants. The difference between the value in 1855 and the purchase money in 1810 might be accounted for by the change in value of agricultural produce in this period, but at the 1810 figure the tithes could have been considerably over-valued. Advice being taken by the trustees of J.B. Denton as to the then value of the tithes, the latter's opinion is quoted to the effect that, assuming £1,200 per annum to be the annual nett income of the estate after payment of expenses, the then value in fee simple was £26,660, this representing 21 1/2 years' purchase. A lesser amount might be expected if the property were sold by auction. Tithes were in general more valuable before commutation, but this would not account for such a large sum as £49,950 being paid in 1810. If 25 per cent were added to the then value (making £34,000), this would represent the maximum value of the property. Counsel was asked to advise whether there existed any sufficient grounds for impeaching the purchase of this tithe estate out of the trust funds. Copy opinion The sale of the tithes through the Court in the circumstances described was open to suspicion and worth the expense of further investigation. Signed by George Markham Giffard, 2 Stone Buildings, Lincolns Inn, 18 June 1855.