Knight of Barrells
Copy case exparte the Trustees of the estates formerly of the Earl of Catherlough decd. as to waste, and opinion of Mr. G.M. Giffard. The late tenant for life Mr. Robert Knight, who died on January 5th last, enjoyed the estate for an unusually long period. The Earl died in 1772, being seised in fee of the freehold estates and absolute owner of certain chattels devised as heirlooms and of a chattel interest in a forfeited mortgage term in certain tithes in co. Flint. By will he devised his estate to his illegitimate son Robert Knight, then an infant of about 10 years, for life without impeachment of waste, and to his first and other sons in tail, with remainder to testator's illegitimate son Henry Raleigh Knight for life and to his sons in tail. Robert Knight attained his majority on 3 March 1789 and entered into possession of the estate. On his death in 1855 Robert Knight left surviving him, besides two daughters, a son whose legitimacy he disputed and a nephew (a son of his brother H.R. Knight), who, failing the legitimacy of the son, would have succeeded to the estates. These two on Robert's death proceeded to disentail the estates and conveyed them to trustees for management, sale and division between them on an agreed plan. At the time of Robert's succession the estates consisted of Barrels and about 650 acres adjoining in cos. Warwick and Worcester, the manors and lands of Chadshunt, Studley and Edstone, a freehold house in Golden Square [co. Middx.] and a large estate in Montgomeryshire, of an annual value of c. £4,300 exclusive of tithes. At this time there was a fine avenue of trees on the approach to Barrels, where Robert Knight resided from time to time down to about 1825. Shortly after he came of age he had made considerable alterations there in completion or continuation of a plan begun by the Earl, including a completely new range of stabling. This last he pulled down after ceasing to reside at Barrels. In the same way he improved the gardens, enclosing them by a brick wall, and built glasshouses c. These were all then dilapidated or gone. He built a new road across the park and built two lodges, which had then also disappeared. Down to 1808 the trustees of the will of Earl Catherlough under sanction of the Court of Chancery in an administration suit instituted shortly after Lord Catherlough's death made various purchases of lands, in part on Robert Knight's suggestion. These included cottages c. since pulled down. By 1808 the annual gross value of the settled estates, exclusive of tithes, was £5,211. The will of Lord Catherlough contained no powers of sale, but in 1808 an Act was obtained giving the trustees powers to sell more than two thirds of the estate. These estates were sold for approximately £170,000 and the money paid into Chancery. Between 1813 and 1836 the whole of this sum was laid out, with the sanction of the court, in the acquisition of sundry farms and premises in the vicinity of Barrels. The present gross annual rental of the estate (excluding tithes) was £3,756. In several instances large sums were given for timber on the lands purchased. In 1825 owing to family divisions and domestic troubles Robert Knight ceased to reside on the estate. He then pulled down the stabling and removed the materials to Ullenhall, and abandoned the mansion which was allowed to fall into great dilapidation. Thieves at one time stripped the roof of its lead and water was allowed to enter for some time before the roof was re-covered with zinc. With one or two exceptions the farm buildings on the estate were in a bad state of repair. The farms appear to have been let from year to year at the highest rent which could be exacted, with the least possible spent on repairs, this resulting in considerable depreciation of value of the estate. Whatever the position in Barrels Park, more timber had been cut on the estate as a whole than could be reconciled with good husbandry. On the death of Robert Knight, leaving a large residuary personal estate entirely alienated from the possessors of the Barrels estate, the question was whether any claim for waste could be maintained against the representatives of the late Robert Knight. Copy opinion of Mr. G.M. Giffard In general the executors of the tenant for life were not liable for waste in the circumstances described, except as regards selling or removing materials of lodges, cottages c. and destruction of ornamental timber. Signed by George Markham Giffard, 2 Stone Buildings, Lincolns Inn, 11 June 1855.