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by Robert Cooper

Chapter 7

The meeting with the estate legal team was interesting and most informative. The majority of new Earls had been, like me, minors. From back in 1350's the estate had been set up as a Minority Inheritance Trust under the trusteeship of the Lord Chancellor's office.

It was a very unusual trust, in that provided the estate was handed down to another minor person then the estate was free from estate duties. So in due course I should ensure that I had a young heir. If the estate passed to a person "of age" then the trust became suspended and all allowances ceased until the next minor Earl. Within reason I could run the manor as I pleased but I was forbidden by the trust to sell any of the lands.

WOW!!!!! A trust over 850 years old and I was the latest beneficiary.

I already felt more wealthy just by NOT having to pay Death Duties.

I told them then I had discharged the Chef and Fields for cause and showed them copies of their termination notice letters. They said that was in order, and that I also had "forced" Seymore's early retirement. They took copies of those papers and said they would deal with them. They complimented me on following correct procedure.

I also said that I suspected the Seymore had been taking commissions from suppliers to the Manor. As he was now out of the Stewardship should I take further action?. They said that unless I had proof and it was a substantial sum then I should perhaps let it rest but keep an eye on the new Steward. I laughed and said that Geoff and I would be doing most of the Steward function ourselves and we were more interested in value for money rather than kick-backs.

It was now the turn of the accountants.

They handed over P&L documents for the last five years as I had requested. They told me that the Manor estate was in excellent financial health and that nett profits had increased by average 12% a year for the last five years.

This was good in certain respects but expenditure on the property overall had been virtually static for more than ten years and that is NOT good.

I explained that I was at the start of planning a major overhaul of the Manor House infrastructure, including replacement of outdated machinery. I was also waiting for a report on the plumbing and electrical system. If, as I suspected, it was old and unsafe then a really huge programme of repairs may be needed. I should appreciate advice on this. Particularly as far as any grants as we were a listed building and tax relief information. Did they have a listed building expert to advise me?

They said that they had a listed building consultant available. Once I was further into my researches then they would call him in for consultation if I wished.

They did however caution me to engage with the local council listed building department right from the start. Contrary to popular opinion they were always most eager to advise and to get them in right at the start of a major project would get things going on the right footing. My youth would certainly be an asset in this case. Another advantage of using them was that unlike a consultant, their advice was FREE.

I told them I wanted to replace laundry and kitchen equipment as it was either out of date, too small or too old for purpose. They said I was well able to spend up to a million on such projects and there would be substantial Tax benefits. Those would not come under listed building regulations unless I wanted to make major structural alterations to the fabric of the building.

As far as rewiring and plumbing, they came under capital expenditure and could be written off against tax over ten or fifteen years, thus costing virtually nothing in the end. There were low interest loans available through such as English Heritage for such major expenditures.

Estate expenses for land improvements, machinery and such were also subject to grants and allowances so get Sheldon investigating. We have not applied for any land improvement grants since WW2 so we had plenty to catch up on.

I also asked about Mr. Watson. They replied that he was well qualified and they were well satisfied with his accounts and reports. In their opinion I would be hard pressed to find a replacement as good. I said that I had no intention of replacing him. I had just given him new offices, extra staff and promised a new computer system. I then asked if there was anything further? It was now 1,00 p.m. They all shook heads so I called Standish to take us through to the small dining room where it was all set up for lunch.

The small dining room was a real treat to the eye. Beautiful silver place settings, lovely flowers in small displays. Standish announced that all the food was from the estate as were the flowers.

Paté dressed with salad leaves was already set out. One of the accountants was a "veggie" and I noticed that Standish directed one of the servers to discretely replace his starter with a vegetarian dish. Thereafter I noticed that all his dishes were vegetarian. I must remember to thank Standish for his forethought and tact, and Mrs Lang for her foresight.

Next course was thin sliced beef with vegetables and the pudding was a delightful individual Pavlova served in tiny porcelain dishes

Coffee was offered in the sitting area off to the side.

All finished and they left eventually leaving me with a full tape, copious notes on my pad and a sore head!

Edward appeared as if by magic.

"Do you want me to type up your notes"?

"Not at the moment, sit please. How did your surveys go"?

"As expected, both systems well out of date."

I told him that they had not even blinked when I mentioned spending a million pounds on replacement equipment and decorating in the house. Even suggesting grants and low interest loans with tax breaks for plumbing and wiring.

They also told me quite firmly to contact the local councils listed building office as soon as I had some ideas on what I planned to do. Seems they like being consulted at the planning stage before any work is done. More work for Edward.

It does however seem that we are in a very good position financially and I can do most of what I want to do from current account though loans might be more tax efficient.

I shall however have to present this to the Monday meeting. Perhaps not this week as I need to get Standish on side and also brief Geoff on the latest information. My big need is for more information.

First off, are you prepared to help us with these projects.

"Yes of course"

It will all be confidential, especially the financial matters, unless I release information.


We need to buy lots of pocket files, and a lockable filing cabinet in my private office.

Does the new printer have a scanner function?

Edward looks and says "Yes"

Good, then we can scan all paper and keep it in matching folders on my lap-top. Once the new system goes live I want all these folders passworded. You will need to go in to Office World or such and buy some distinctive folders and a lockable three drawer cabinet. Make sure it has dividers in the drawers. Do you have a drivers licence? If not get the driver to take you in the Range Rover. Also see Standish and find a mobile on the Manor circuit. Somewhen after Easter will be soon enough. I think I need to brief Standish about things generally so he is not blind-sided. After all he IS Head of House and we need him onside to help keep things working smoothly. He may have some useful input from time to time and he will have to cope with major disruption while the work is going on. I think I will brief him and Geoff together tomorrow morning before Mother arrives and wants to push in her two pennyworth.

Firstly we must get rid of all the old grotty furniture and junk. Next I think the rewire and the plumbing will be the urgent things to get going. Immediately after Easter see if you can find a company who does both. This would mean that the floors would only come up once. The electricity company may be of help. We cannot install new bathrooms and laundry machines onto old pipework. We need estimates quickly.

Standish and Mrs Lang can combine on selecting new kitchen equipment and he and Mrs. Renney can talk about laundry. They can get specialist planners in and get plans drawn so we can get wiring and pipes in the right places Did you see where the electricity mains are? I would like to have a look at the power supply. We may need an uprated supply cable. Do you happen to know where the power cable enters the property there should be a junction box on the boundary.

OWWWW my brain hurts, so much to think about.

"Can you find me a small brandy?"

Edward returned some minutes later with a decanter and two small glasses.

I poured two half measures, we sipped in silence.

"Do you still want this job?"

"Sure, it is much more exciting than being a footman."

"Being an Earl is better than being at school but dammed hard work."

"By the way secretaries get paid more than footmen?"

"I must tell Mr. Watson to put a few more pennies into your begging bowl"

I must also see Standish about a general pay increase all round as I doubt Seymore did anything about staff pay. They will all have extra work during the renovation.

Tell Standish and Mr. Watson about a briefing at 9.00 tomorrow please, in the small dining room.

Pads and pens handy.

By the way where do you and Joseph live ?"

"We both live with parents. His are very close minded Baptists but mine are sort of O.K."

"As Manor employees you are eligible to live in. Would that interest you both?"

"Sure would, I will ask Jo tonight in the pub."

"With a live in position you would get meals as well."

"Hey, That's Great! Neither of us are any good at cooking."

"Sort it with Jo then get with Standish and arrange a double room."

"Get Mrs. Renney to get her girls to give it a good clean

"Don't forget to send the car for Geoff"

"Already sent Sir? He should be here soon."

"Is the Limo for Mother organised?"

"Do you need to ask?"

"And the quads?"

"Seems the local guy was adding on Seymore's commission. I managed £70 off each for the three from another dealer and they will be here before lunch tomorrow all gassed and ready. I have already told the insurance office via Mr. Watson who seems to have adopted the insurance function."

"I have also sent a text to Sheldon to say his machine will arrive tomorrow."

"All different colours so each can chose."

"By the way, the Finance Guys were very complimentary about Mr. Watson, they think he is a gem. They said I should look after him. I told them about the new offices and computers."

"They also suggested a computer programme which is both user friendly and compatible with their system. I just need a general office programme, perhaps the computer agency can suggest something not too complicated."

At that moment Geoff arrived and Edward went off home.

An excellent dinner at 7.00 and then we watched T.V for a while and yes, all the bits still fitted.

Notes for Geoff, Mr Watson and Standish (Edward to take minutes.)

The last refurbishment of any great moment, according to the accounts history was in 1948 just after the war and that was mostly war damage repairs. Gentlemen, that was 75 years ago. If the electrical system is that old then it is possibly dangerous.

The Manor accountants say we have sufficient funds in cash and allowances to cover all the renovations, (Pass on accountants comments to Mr; Watson.)

Mr. Watson to manage cash flow for payment of contractors.

Secure server room & Records storage.

Recommendations for pay increases.

Wooden building, fire precautions.

Rewiring and plumbing overhaul.

Possible renewal of power supply cable and water pipe from the road. We shall have to have a water meter with any new installation so any appliances should be "water efficient"

Electric supply to stables for heating and lighting also telephone connection unless the mobiles reach that far

Water to stables and p.o.l point.

Power supply to equipment garage and p.o.l. point. May need three phase for pumps.

Heating and hot water systems? "On demand" boiler? All water to be through flexible pipe system with area isolators. Radiators in all rooms?

Gas has to be through copper pipes so best left to Gas authority to lay pipe to a meter in the house.

Kitchen design, special case for specialist designers. We may need to relocate some of the gas and electricity terminals in the kitchen.

Apart from a new gas feed to the kitchen and water heater, I want all other gas feeds to be disconnected.

New Gas Meter? In same room as water main tap and electricity main switch.

Updated telephone system.

We should make a full room by room survey of what is needed and where it goes.

Does a floor plan exist.? If so then find a friendly surveyor to make a few extra copies on a big printer.

For example, the computer suite and the Estate Office should have sufficient power outlets. Trailing leads are both dangerous and in some cases illegal.

Most baths to be replaced by showers. More economical with water use.

All such details can be marked up on a master plan. Including wall colours and electric points.

Mother arrives! Big flutter. Standish shows her to the rooms prepared. He explains that these are temporary. The Lady's Suite has not been used for 20 years or so and therefore requires complete overhaul. (I had the idea from Standish's body language that we did NOT need to go and look.)

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