Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Shugborough - posting 2. Where the money came from.

History of Shugborough (potted version with Piracy)

The house and about 80 acres of land were acquired in 1624 by William Anson, a very successful lawyer. There's always been money in the law. The house dates further back than that though, and in the middle ages was part of the estate of the Bishop of Lichfield.

No one quite knows where the name Shugborough comes from; there isn't a local village etc nearby with this name, and it's thought that it comes from the amalgamation of 2 Anglo Saxon words "Beorg" meaning hill and "Scucca" meaning evil spirit. The National Trust think a bronze age burial mound might have been on the site, hence the translations of Devils Mound and Haunted Hill.

Piracy?? Well it's probably a matter of opinion as strictly speaking all was legal. But you should know that an unimaginable amount of money came to the family via the high seas, and the controvertial system of "prize money". Here's an extract from the NT handbook about the rewards of capturing ships.

"In 1739 Admiral George Anson, younger brother to Thomas, was commissioned to lead a naval expedition to the Pacific to capture a renowned Spanish treasure galleon. The rewards for such a prize would firmly place Britain as a contender to take Spain's crown as an international superpower.

But when the fleet left a year later, the navy's purse failed to stretch to it's promises of large crews and grand sea vessels. A ramshackle fleet of eight ships was mustered and crew numbers were bolstered to 1,000 by 170 sick from hospitals, 259 Chelsea pensioners with an average age of almost seventy and 210 new recruits without any combat training.

Ill winds hampered the mission from the start of the voyage. By the time the fleet reached Maderira most of the Chelsea pensioners had died or were feverishly ill. Dysentery wreaked havoc amonst the crews on the journey across the Atlantic and one ship lost her mast."

The ships dispersed and couldn't get together again for several days, when the Spanish convoy was sighted. Anson went after the Spaniards but when he got close enough to fire, he noticed the treasure ship was surrounded by warships not merchantmen. (a "doh" moment I think) He ran away but the Spaniards followed him. Nightmare.

Picture if you will, weeks of ill winds and storms, a huge death toll from disease and illness, including scurvey, and being blown off course and getting lost around Cape Horn.  A year had passed since they had set sail and they'd lost two thirds of their men. Eventually due to illness, low supplies, and the literal disintegration of one ship through rotten woodwork, the last ship with it's starving crew limped into the island of Tinion.

So, he's down to 200 men, and one ship, when lo, around the corner stumbles the Spanish treasure ship the La Nestra Senora de Covadonga. It was heavily armed but our stout and industrious admiral chose to attack.

The Spanish crew surrendered after having holes blown into her hull.

This is a famous painting of the battle between HMS Centurion and La Neuestra Senora de Covadonga by John Cleveley in 1756
A staggering 4 years after he set off, (troubles bringing the money back...another long and arduous chapter in the story involving port Canton being on fire and the crew helping to rebuild the town) Anson returned to Plymouth bearing 32 wagon loads of Spanish gold and silver.

Anson was rewarded by becoming First Lord of the Admiralty and received a huge bounty (prize money) on the amount of gold brought back. He got a very large share of £1.25 million. He also introduced the naval officers' uniform.

Oh, and for your edification, £1 million turns into the following 2010 values.

£164,000,000.00 using the retail price index
£1,460,000,000.00 using average earnings

So that's about £2 billion using average earnings as your calculations.


  1. I love your postings about these houses, keep them coming!

  2. Thank you Feather on a Wire.They're getting more and more complex as the blog evolves, but I certainly will as it's quite fun!