Hawarden Castle, was the estate of the former Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), having previously belonged to his wife, Catherine Glynne. It was built in 1752-57 for Sir John Glynne, 6th Baronet, to the designs of Samuel Turner. When W.E. Gladstone died in 1898 it passed to his grandson, William Glynne Charles Gladstone (son of W. E. Gladstone’s eldest son, William Henry Gladstone, who had died in 1891). After he was killed in the First World War the estate was purchased by his uncle Henry Neville Gladstone, later to become 1st Baron Gladstone of Hawarden.
In January 1918 the house was at the centre of this vast Flintshire estate. However, 100 years later we can see that all was not well. Hawarden provided an interesting model that would prove to be the downfall of many country estates during and after the First World War.
In a letter to tenants, Mr Henry Neville Gladstone (1852-1935), pictured below, explained of the trustees’ decision to offer considerable portions of the Hawarden estates for sale. It aroused considerable interest in Flintshire and no little regret among the tenants. ¹
Mr Gladstone explained at some length the circumstances under which the course taken was decided upon.
Mineral revenues had come to an end about ten years previous, and estate affairs were now mainly based on agriculture. Recent Acts of Parliament had imposed a system of valuations and rates of duty on agricultural properties which had made it impossible to continue the management of estates. Deducting the charges of taxes, rates, tithe, maintenance, upkeep, and other outgoings, the income at the disposal of Mr William Glynne Charles Gladstone (1885-1915), the grandson of of former Prime Minster, William E Gladstone, for his personal use, and for the payment of annuities charged on the estates, had amounted to something less than one-fifth of the gross revenue.
Then came the war, and the young squire was killed in action near Laventie. The financial consequences to the estates were simply told. War taxation on income derived from the estates already amounted to nearly four times the annual charge in 1913-14, and no relief was anticipated in years to come. But the effects of pre-war taxation made the position more formidable. Death duties under the Finance and other Acts had totalled six times the amount chargeable on the death of Mr William Henry Gladstone in 1891. This was a serious financial burden. The margin existing before the war had been swept away, and a serious deficit on the working of the estates had to be faced. This was an impossible position alike for landlord and tenant.
Mr Gladstone added that his nephew and he were anxious to preserve as far as possible the historic associations of the castle and the traditions of the Glynne and Gladstone connection, and this would only be achieved by a sale of land.
As it was, the actions taken by the trustees did indeed safeguard the future of the grand house. Hawarden Castle and the remains of the estate are still owned by the Gladstone family today.
¹ The letter was reproduced in the Nantwich Guardian on 22 January 1918.