Landlords and Tenants in Mid-Victorian Ireland

By W. E. Vaughan | Go to book overview
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APPENDIX II
The Trinity College, Dublin Leasing Powers Act (14 & 15 Vict., c. cxxviii (1 Aug. 1185))

The Trinity College, Dublin leasing powers act made arrangements for increasing the rents paid to the college by its tenants, who were mainly, but not exclusively, large middlemen like the earl of Leitrim, Sir James Stronge, and Charles Maxwell Close, some of whom owned considerable estates in addition to those they held from the college. Rents were to move with the prices of five commodities: wheat, oats, beef, mutton, and butter. The commodities were given different weights: oats, which had the greatest weight, were to govern five-elevenths of the rent; butter and beef were smaller, governing only two-elevenths each; wheat and mutton accounted for the remainder with one-eleventh each. Constructing the movable part of the machine, however, was not the end of the job, for two bases had also to be established: first, five 'standard' commodity prices that subsequent price increases could be measured against were needed to start the calculation; secondly, corresponding to the standard prices, there had to be a starting rent or valuation that could move with the commodities' prices. The act took prices based on average prices in thirty-nine Irish towns in 1849 and 1850 as its 'standard' prices; wheat, for example, was 8s. 4d. and oats 5s. 6d.1 The starting rent, arrived at after considerable negotiation, was the 'townland' or 'government' valuation, excluding buildings, and reduced by 3 per cent.

Any attempt to regulate rents, whether by act of parliament or by an individual landlord, would have proceeded in this manner. As a model for adjusting rents the act has considerable authority. For one thing it was arranged by two parties acting freely; secondly, Richard Griffith was involved, directly and indirectly, just as he would have been if the government had decided to bring in a bill to regulate rents; thirdly, the act was more explicit, more detailed, and easier to follow than the rent- fixing provisions of the land act of 1881. The act was a bundle of compromises put together by the board of the college, the Irish government, and the lessees' representatives. The negotiations are an interesting example of landlord and tenant negotiations in the years after the famine, if only because each stage was carefully recorded by the registrar in the board's minutes. The protagonists were oddly assorted. On the 'tenant' side were substantial, resident landlords, represented by the Hon. Charles Clements (Liberal MP for Leitrim and son of the second earl of Leitrim), Thomas Lefroy (son of the Rt. Hon. Thomas Lefroy, a college tenant and fourth baron of the exchequer), and St John Thomas Blacker, a Kerry lessee. On

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1
Copy of a Letter Addressed by the Commissioner for Valuation to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, with Reference to the Present State and Progress of the General Valuation of Ireland, p. 5, HC 1851 (4), 1.909. See Robert Brian MacCarthy, The Trinity College Estates, 1800-1923: Corporate Management in an Age of Reform (Dundalk, 1991), 27-32 for a full account of the genesis of the leasing powers bill.

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