The Duchess of Devonshire, Sir Charles Wolseley, the Marquess of Anglesey and others describe their ancestors' lifestyles and finances.
|Sir Charles and his wife, Lady Wolseley, went bankrupt after a disastrous attempt to turn the huge estate into a tourist attraction|
Bankruptcy forces baronet out of family seatBy Nick Britten
12:01AM GMT 03 Jan 2008 /http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1574392/Bankruptcy-forces-baronet-out-of-family-seat.html
A baronet and his wife must move out of the house that has been their family's ancestral home for more than 1,000 years after a disastrous business venture left them bankrupt.
King Edgar gave the 1,490-acre estate near Rugeley, Staffs, to the Wolseley family in 975AD as a reward for ridding the area of wolves. But Sir Charles Wolseley, the 11th baronet, failed to keep the wolf from the door.
Both he and Lady Wolseley, his American wife, were declared bankrupt after a venture in the 1990s to turn the estate's gardens into a tourist attraction collapsed.
As parts of the land were sold off to repay their debts they were allowed to keep Park House, their 34-room Georgian home, but this has now been sold by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Lady Wolseley, 64, said: "It is a very big wrench and moving is always traumatic even if you want to go.
"It is very upsetting really to leave, when it's happened after a thousand years, on your watch. You feel as though you are caretakers and the house is to be passed on."
She added: "It has been a privilege to live here — we love it and we have enjoyed it."
Sir Charles, a qualified chartered surveyor, inherited the estate in 1954. He planned to open the 45-acre landscaped gardens to visitors in the late 1980s but Wolseley Garden Park, which cost £1.73 million and eventually opened in 1990, only earned £30,000 in its first year and closed soon afterwards.
At one stage Sir Charles's debts reached an estimated £4.6 million. He was made bankrupt in 1996 with debts of £2.5 million, which Sir Charles blamed on the recession and high interest rates. Afterwards, he was forced to claim benefits in order to make ends meet.
The bank sold the estate, including hundreds of acres of woodland that now form the headquarters of the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. Park House was built for the Wolseleys in 1793. It has been sold by the bank to another family for an undisclosed sum.
Lady Wolseley said: "It is terribly sad that the Garden Park didn't come to fruition. But it was always going to be a problem because the bank withdrew funding before it was completed, so it didn't have much chance."
Sir Charles said that they would be moving into nearby rented accommodation owned by a friend, but they were being forced to leave behind several valuable pieces of art.
He said: "There are some things we are taking, such as rare portraits of the family line dating back to the reign of James I, but other things are simply too big. We've been hanging on as best we could but the bank finally sold the house. It's very sad."
Park House is the family's last remaining physical link with the estate, although the family motto, "homo homini lupus" — man is as a wolf to his fellow man — will provide a timeless reminder.