Become the lord of the manor for a price

Date: Friday 13th September 2013

THE impressive-sounding title of Lord of the Manor of Castlerigg, a manor which lies mostly in the parish of Keswick, is up for grabs for £7,750.

The title is being offered by the Governors of Greenwich Hospital, a Crown charity established in the 17th Century by Queen Mary II for the support of distressed seamen.

The new owner of the title will be able to use it on passports, credit cards and cheque books and will be eligible to join the Manorial Society of Great Britain, whose governing council includes the Earl of Shannon, Lord Sudeley and the Rt. Hon. Sir Desmond de Silva QC.

But prestige apart, that is about as far as the benefits stretch it is unlikely the title will get the holder the best table in a restaurant or a place on charity committees.

Manorial titles are based on the lord of the manor titles recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. Apart from conferring prestige, for many years they have been largely meaningless.

However, the Manorial Society of Great Britain has found a market for the titles and sells them through its sister company, Manorial Auctioneers. The average price is about £6,000 to £7,000, although some go for much more. In the 1990s, Earl Spencer’s Lord of Wimbledon title fetched £171,000.

According to Robert Smith, of Manorial Auctioneers, people buy lord of the manor titles for family or historical reasons, for fun, or perhaps because they think it lends them social cachet.

A couple of years ago two people who had to be rescued in the South Atlantic after their yacht overturned were reported in the newspapers to be Lord and Lady Hollinsclough. In reality, although they did hold the titles, they were called Carl and Tracey and had bought the posh soubriquet for £8,000 at auction.

Lady Celestria Noel, author of Debrett’s Guide to the Season, said: “Some people think it helps them get on to charity committees or even get a table in a good restaurant. But they are deluded. The days when people were impressed by a title are long gone.”

The first recorded Lord of St. John and Castlerigg was William de Veteripont, in a charter from King John, dated 1209. The de Derwentwater family became lords of the manor in the late 13th Century and through marriage it passed to the Radcliffes in the 15th Century.

Lord’s Island, Derwentwater, was one of the early homes of the Radcliffes, but the family lost the lordship and all their lands and manors when the third Lord Derwentwater joined the unsuccessful Jacobite rebellion in 1715. He was beheaded on Tower Hill and his lands granted to the Governors of Greenwich Hospital.

Manorial Auctioneers is currently offering a number of titles for sale, ranging from the Barony of Clanmorris in Co. Mayo, Ireland (£13,000) to the Lordship of Greetland, in West Yorkshire, for £4,500.

The Manorial Society holds numerous social functions, including House of Lords receptions, but history suggests new owners should enjoy their titles without losing their heads as several predecessors were wont to do.