How useful are Hinchingbrooke House and Wimpole Hall

In demonstrating the power and position of the ruling classes in the 19th and 20th centuries?

Hinchingbrooke house and Wimpole Hall were two stately homes which are very useful in showing us the use of power and position in upper class England in the 19th and 20th century.

At the beginning of the 19th century the power of the ruling classes was at a high point, Lord Hardwike had just appointed the first union viceroy of Ireland, and a observer of him commented that Hardwike;

“Had more advanced the strength of government and its credit”

He was awarded the order of the Garter before returning to London, and then to Wimpole in 1806. However the firs reform act in 1832 gave the vote to the majority of the middle class this meant it was hard for the Lords and Earls to bribe the voters because it would cost them vast amounts of money were as before backhands and bribes were common because the 10 to 20 voters that were participating, sat at open tables in open rooms, and were gently persuaded by violence or with money to vote the aristocrats way.

The following reform acts had the same impact on the power of the ruling classes. With more and more voters it made it harder to swing the vote your way. However the biggest blow of all was the secret ballot act of 1872, this made it so you couldn’t find out whether the people you had bribed had voted the way you paid them too or not. From source ten we can also find out that you couldn’t have power anymore for having a place in parliament;

“If the Tory party is to continue to exist as a power in the state, it must become a popular party. The days are past when an exclusive class, however great its ability, wealth and energy, can command a majority in the electorate”

This tells us that by the late 19th century you had to have the people on your side to get into power. It was coming to the end of the time when having a title got you power in parliament by being a lord or being in the pocket of an Aristocrat.

In the 18th century, politics was only for those with money and land. If you had social status you had power over those around you meaning you could influence people in power to get what you want. A good example of this is the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who helped out a man called Capability Brown, Capability’s son then became an mp and because of what the Earl had done for Capability he ensured his son voted how Sandwich wanted him to. That was having political power; however having local status could be just as use full as we can see in the case of the 8th Earl of Sandwich in source 11;

“His son, the eighth Earl served as the M.P for Huntingdon and was the first chairmen of the county council; he never married but entertained lavishly at Hinchingbrooke and included among his guests King Edward VII, the last monarch to visit Hinchingbrooke.”

This shows that even though he wasn’t a lord or anyone imp-particularly powerful in government he still lived the life style of someone who was because he had local status.

The events that occurred at Wimpole Hall can be matched up against the national trend. The owners of Wimpole Hall were well known members of the aristocracy, and therefore had power, for example Lord Hardwike held the lord lieutenancy of the board of agriculture, and then his nephew held the lord lieutenancy of Cambridge, this continues all the way up to 1891 with visits from the Queen and entreating foreign royalty as well. However in 1891 Wimpole was put on the market as a result of the 5th Earl’s extravagant spending (champagne Charlie). It failed to reach the reserve price and so was handed over to the Agar-Robartes bank to pay off some of the 5th Earl’s �300,000 debt. This was the beginning off the fall off Wimpole Hall however it was still used by other members of the upper classes for shooting parties, social gatherings and family holidays. During the Second World War, the household moved to the basement, dining in the servant’s hall. The war office put off by the lack of services because there was no electricity or running water, did not requisition the house; part of the estate was taken over as an American army hospital. This shows that the house was so un-kept it didn’t have the necessary requirement to hold a family any more.

Hinchingbrooke house also can be traced against the national trend. The owners of Hinchingbrooke house were the Earls of Sandwich, and were well known along the country, the Earls of Sandwich commonly held places in the House of Lords so they had power among there peers. We can see that the Earls were an important national figure because they can secure the same architect as the Royals; in 1832 the great fire destroyed the North-East interior of the house. Famous architect Edward Blore (who designed part of Buckingham palace) was commissioned to re-design that part of the house. We can see that the 7th Earl retained local status, even though he didn’t achieve a position of power in the Government itself, because a memorial was erected in Huntingdon in memory of him from the townsfolk, and a portrait of him was commissioned of him in his honour donated by his tenants. The 8th Earl retains this local status by his philanthropic building initiatives, one of these being Edward house in Huntingdon which was a club house for the working men of the town. He was also a nationally important figure because of his connections with royalty, the Army and other various overseas postings.

During the First World War, the 8th Earl accepts wounded officers to the house to recover; this shows that Hinchingbrooke retained the facilities needed to hold Guests were as by this time Wimpole was passed over by the billeting officers because it was not up to date. By 1945 we can see that the power of the Earls is fading because the west wing was demolished as an expense and decline of in the number of servants meant it was no longer necessary. When he finally becomes the 10th Earl in 1962 Victor Montague became the first member of the House of Lords to renounce his title in order to stay in the House of Commons.

In conclusion I believe that Hinchingbrooke and Wimpole are good at demonstrating power and position in the ruling classes in there area, I say this because the two homes are both near each other so they cant represent the power of the ruling classes over the whole of the country, they can however show you how the ruling classes demonstrated power and position in Cambridge.