Thoroton Society Record Series

Thoroton Society Record Series, 44 (2006). Ducal Estate Management in Georgian Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire: The Diary of William Gould, 1783-1788, edited by Michael Hanson.

Cover of Record Series Volume 44

The diarist, William Gould (pronounced ‘gold’) was a tenant farmer of the Duke of Devonshire in the remote hamlet of Pilsbury near Hartington, which is in the upper Dovedale area of the Peak District on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border. Although moving to Welbeck, Gould retained the tenancy of Pilsbury, and also carried out some agency duties for the Devonshires’ Chatsworth estate. Approximately two-thirds of the contents of the diary relate to Nottinghamshire affairs and the remainder to Derbyshire and Staffordshire. The editor Michael Hanson has the original diaries in his possession, and contributed an introduction and a biographical index of the people mentioned.

Most of Gould’s entries describe his duties as agent at Welbeck; these included letting farms, collecting rents and planting woodlands. He refers to visits by the architect John Carr of York, and voices his evident disapproval of the extravagant proposals to extend and alter Welbeck Abbey. Such features as the estate ice house and fire engine, and the trial of a new patent washing machine are mentioned! Gould had a low opinion of the household servants at Welbeck, describing them on one occasion as ‘a parcel of thieves and designing persons’! He also appears to have had an uneasy relationship with the Welbeck gardener, William Speechly, who had achieved some fame for his publications on growing trees and pineapples.

As this was the period of the agricultural and industrial revolutions, Gould gives details of the establishment of the new cotton mills on the Arkwright model, and he highlights partnership disputes over the Town and Field Mills at Mansfield. He also makes reference to the dispute over the water supply between Lord Byron and the owners of Papplewick mills, and problems with poaching by workers from the Cuckney mill. He describes the protracted negotiations over the Parliamentary enclosure of Arnold commons, and his opposition to the proposed turnpike road from Nottingham to Mansfield.

Visits to theatres in Mansfield, Nottingham and Buxton are mentioned, and he writes a detailed description of the riotous events of the county election at Nottingham in 1784. There are extensive references to his travels by horse, coach or chaise – during the years 1783-87 he describes journeys totalling nearly 10,000 miles made in all weathers, often encountering problems with Peak District roads covered in snow.

The book consists of 282 pages, including twenty illustrations and maps.

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