Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Influence of Absentee Landlords

Information provided by Terry Sharpe
The Influence of Absentee Landlords

These agents, such as Thomas Bulley Job who, in 1852 represented the estate belonging to Martha Ann Kean of East Teignmouth, County of Devon in England, (2) were also responsible for the collection of ground rents from leaseholders. The amount of annual ground rents the absentees received from their St. John's properties is not known, but according to an 1882 report of the legislature on land tenure in St. John's, they earned annually $65,610 from the rental of land on the south side of Water Street alone. (3) Government leaders of the day estimated the total at between one and two hundred thousand dollars for all of St. John's. (4) What is not clear is the extent to which, especially in the area above Water Street, agents merely acted on behalf of the absentees, or to which the agents themselves acquired land on which to build. Since they were often prominent merchants and lawyers, they were probably able to serve their own interests as well as those of the absentees they represented. Certainly many were men of substance active in commercial and political circles. As examples, we might cite the case of Newman Hoyles, who in the 1830s was Colonial Treasurer, member of the House of Assembly for Fortune Bay, and local agent for the West Country Newman interests (5); or that of Premier William Whiteway who with his law partner represented the Clapp estate. (6) In 1890 the mercantile agents and their absentee clients included Henry J. Stabb (the Brooks and Bulley estates), R. H. Prowse (the Stripling, Taylor, Twysden, Robert Keen, and McLea holdings), and George T. Rendell (the Studdy, Kean, Tucker, and Adams properties). (7)

1. Melvin Baker, "The Government of St. John's, Newfoundland, 1800-1921" (Ph.D. Thesis, The University of Western Ontario, 1980), 16-33, 43-6.2. Newfoundland District Central Court, 1844-1888, Registry of Deeds, "Martha Ann Kean to Thomas Bulley Job et al," 1924 (located in the Newfoundland Registry of Deeds and Companies, Confederation Building, St. John's).

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