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Old 12-09-2014, 12:32 AM   #1
xoxoxoBruce
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Dec 9th, 2014: Witley Park

In the English village of Witley, Surrey, lies the remains of Witley Park. In 1890 Whitaker Wright combined the Lea Park and South Park, to create the 1400 acre playground. Of course it had the mansions and stables and all the bells and whistles of the wealthy in the Victorian age.



The crown of the extravagant playground was down the stairs, and out through a tunnel, to the ballroom with a glass windowed dome... at the bottom of one of the four man made lakes.



How did Wright acquire that much wealth? The old fashioned way, he stole it.
You can read the whole story at the Mail Online, keeping in mind the Mail is kind of a sensationalist paper.
But I want to quote a few lines...
Quote:
He left school at 15 to become a printer and, briefly, a minister, before heading to America in 1867 to make his fortune. Within a few years, he had made, and lost, that fortune several times over, investing in silver mines in Colorado and New Mexico. But however much money he made for himself, it was striking that shareholders never made a penny.
~snip~
Once he’d exhausted his prospects out west, he headed to Philadelphia, becoming chairman of the Philadelphia Mining Exchange and a member of the New York Stock Exchange. A decade later, his luck ran out again when his Gunnison Iron & Coal Company collapsed, leaving him near-ruined.
~snip~
Returning to England in 1889, he started afresh, promoting himself as an expert in speculative mining ventures. Slick persuasion soon turned to outright fraud. In 1896, he raised 250,000,(21.5  million, US$33.6 million, today), from trusting investors to back his company, Lake View Consols, set up to dig mines in Western Australia. However, by 1897, Wright’s business was mired in crooked practices.
~snip~
He set up another company, the London & Globe Finance Corporation, and, to lure aristocratic investors, installed the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, a distinguished former Viceroy of India, as chairman. Initially, the company flourished as Wright bought the Ivanhoe goldmine in Western Australia and floated it on the London stock market for 1 million (84  million, US$131.4 million, today).
~snip~
But behind the scenes, Wright was up to all kinds of no good, artificially manipulating the share price and shovelling debts from company to company. Like Madoff after him, Wright had to face the music in the end. First, he failed to hide a disastrous 600,000 loss (48  million, US$75 million, today) in the new Baker Street and Waterloo Railway; then his mining investments collapsed as a rich seam of ore was finally exhausted.
~snip~
In 1903, four days before a warrant for his arrest was issued, Wright fled to New York, crossing the Atlantic under a false name. After an extradition battle, he was brought back to England and tried in 1904. At his trial in the Royal Courts of Justice, it emerged that he’d blown 5  million (400  million, US$626.6 million, today) of investors’ money, and run up another 3 million,(240 million, US$375 million, today), in debt.
That was only the money they could prove after he got sloppy at covering his tracks. Remember there was no middle class, only rich and poor, so all that money came from rich and often powerful people. He hurt them all and totally destroyed a few including two members of parliament. So when he went to trial he had pissed off a lot of influential folks, and I'd expect they would do a William Wallace punishment(hung, drawn, quartered, then head and four limbs displayed in 5 cities), on him.

The court said guilty so he swallowed a cyanide capsule, because he'd been sentenced to...
ya ready?... "seven years’ penal servitude".

Now a hundred years later we've come full circle, where the rich and powerful can rape and pillage with virtual impunity.
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Old 12-09-2014, 12:32 PM   #2
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Somebody's building something there.

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Old 12-09-2014, 04:41 PM   #3
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From my first link...
Quote:
However, the end for Witley Park was almost as sudden as that of its former owner. In October 1952 a fire broke out (or was possibly started deliberately) in the ballroom and swiftly destroyed the house.

What remained was leveled by another property speculator - by 1956 all that remained were the domestic buildings, stables and the extensive parkland including the lakes with their now Grade-II listed buildings.

The stables eventually became a conference centre - and even have a meeting room named Whitaker - with the grounds maintained as parkland. However, this might be about to change.

In 2003 a planning application was submitted and approved to build a house "...of classical design, with a main axis and two forward projecting bays at each end. A full height portico marks the front entrance and the garden elevation includes a projecting domed semi-rotunda, centrally set in this elevation.".

So there may yet be a large house to grace and provide a focus for this beautiful estate once again.
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Old 12-09-2014, 05:19 PM   #4
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Guess they weren't lying.
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Old 12-11-2014, 03:20 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xoxoxoBruce View Post

The court said guilty so he swallowed a cyanide capsule, because he'd been sentenced to...
ya ready?... "seven years’ penal servitude".
I think you need to see that in context - penal servitude didn't just mean going to prison. Most sentences included hard labour - and even where they didn't conditions in prison were very very harsh. Men in particular would often end up 'broken' by it, even if the sentence was just a couple of years.

There's also the question of honour and pride - a much greater part of upper class mindsets at that time. It was quite common (iirc from my reading on the history of suicide) for men of his class if found guilty, or if likely to be found guilty of a crime to kill themselves out of shame.
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Old 12-11-2014, 09:30 AM   #6
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Oh, hard labor, like the gold, silver, and coal miners, he reaped the benefit of, did every day. Like everyone below his station in society did every day.

OK, pride I'll buy. Honor? Considering how much he stole and the number of people he hurt, I don't think he'd recognize honor if it wore a clown suit with a two foot name tag.
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Old 12-11-2014, 10:04 AM   #7
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The point is to be seen to be dishonourable would have been a source of shame. And to be caught in blatant criminal activity, for a man of his class would have been major news. Bear in mind at this point people are thinking in terms of a 'criminal class' and criminality being a feature of the 'lower orders'.

Quote:
Oh, hard labor, like the gold, silver, and coal miners, he reaped the benefit of, did every day. Like everyone below his station in society did every day.
Yes - but, though some of the work they would do would be useful, most of it was pointless and designed specifically to be physically difficult (think treadmill and crank drill). Now - the work that miners did was probably more difficult in many ways - but they didn't stumble down a mine as adults who'd never had to exert themselves before. For someone of his class, the reality of hard labour would have been devastating. Add in the poor nutrition and damp cells with thin blankets and what you're looking at is more gulag than penitentiary. Oscar Wilde served two years with hard labour and he was physically broken by it.



Not suggesting anything in the way of sympathy for this bastard - just pointing out that penal servitude was not just imprisonment. Every aspect of it, including the labour was designed to be punishing.
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Old 12-11-2014, 03:09 PM   #8
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Makin' little 'uns outta big 'uns.
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Old 12-11-2014, 06:08 PM   #9
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Quote:
...but they didn't stumble down a mine as adults who'd never had to exert themselves before.
This is true, because of people in Whitaker's social strata, children were toiling 12 hours a day in the mines at a very young age.

But my point was
Quote:
Remember there was no middle class, only rich and poor, so all that money came from rich and often powerful people. He hurt them all and totally destroyed a few including two members of parliament. So when he went to trial he had pissed off a lot of influential folks, and I'd expect they would do a William Wallace punishment(hung, drawn, quartered, then head and four limbs displayed in 5 cities), on him.
I believe this was a time when Brits weren't big on prisons, better to ship the miscreants to the colonies, or kill them, unless they could be used for fruitful labor to make someone richer. But I'll bow to your superior knowledge of British history and social norms.
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Old 12-11-2014, 06:31 PM   #10
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Nah. Britain (or more accurately England and Wales - Scotland has always maintained a separate legal system) had moved pretty far from the Bloody Code by this time. Mid to late 18th century was probably the height of that - many property crimes were added to the list of capital offences during that time, mainly through the removal of 'benefit of the clergy' - there were around 50 offences that could carry the death penalty in the 1680s - that went up by more than one offence per year. By 1820 it was somewhere between 200 and 220 offences punishable by death.

There's a lot of evidence to suggest that it actually played out differently in the courts though, with juries far more likely either to find a defendant not guilty, or convict them on a lesser charge (theft rather than burglary, for instance)

I love 18th and 19th-century Britain. It's a mass of contradictions and contested cultures. At a time when it was famed for its brutality, particularly where justice was concerned it was also a major player in the rise of 'humane' and benefit societies. Though I'm way over simplifying and slamming several different periods together there :P

Even by the late 18th century, there was a lot of discourse about more humane approaches. Transportation, for all its horror was primarily seen as a more humane punishment than the rope. Later on, penal servitude was the more humane replacement for transportation. I think transportation was abolished entirely in the 1860s, but not 100% certain and can't be arsed wikiing. Certainly long gone by the time this chap was going to be tried, in the early 20th century. .



Sorry - I'll shut up now.
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Old 12-11-2014, 06:50 PM   #11
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Oh no, don't shut up, you're full of all kinds of interesting (and accurate) information. Although you're a bleeding heart liberal, I feel you can usually be trusted to sort out facts from your own opinion/feelings.

Besides, the more time you spend here gives Carrot more time to have naughty fun.
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Old 12-11-2014, 11:17 PM   #12
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transportation is ... a ... punishment? what the I don't even...
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Old 12-12-2014, 01:12 AM   #13
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Yes, sending the perp to the colonies where they were indentured for at least seven years to pay for their room and board. If I'm not mistaken they had to pay for their passage too.
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Old 12-12-2014, 09:04 AM   #14
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Old 12-12-2014, 09:55 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by xoxoxoBruce View Post
Yes, sending the perp to the colonies where they were indentured for at least seven years to pay for their room and board. If I'm not mistaken they had to pay for their passage too.
Up until 1717, the passage had to be paid for either by the prisoner or by a merchant, or ship owner. Presumably who would themselves be benefitting from prisoner labour. It's one of the reasons it wasn't really widely used during the 17th century - wholly impractical for many convicts. It was, if I recall correctly something that was offered as leniency in capital cases, where the person had been convicted and sentenced - in the gift of the monarch. Tended to get used for political prisoners mostly, I think at that time - but I might be conflating earlier and later patterns there. The Transportation Act of 1717 made it possible for judges to directly order transportation and the state would pay. Not sure if that left the convict liable for the debt of that passage or not.

The servitude for room and board sounds harsh and unfair - but, you have see that in the context of the time. Many ordinary working people were bound by contracts of service, which put them under the Master and Servants acts. Usually that contracte dthem for a specified time, much as apprentices were apprenticed for seven years. During that ocntract hey were in servitude, with both parties to the contract bound by certain conditions. But you could go to prison, or face corporal punishment by the state for walking out on your employer. Fair notice coyld be given in some employment, but not all - and the system was such that, for many the right to end the contract effectively lay with the employer.

Working primarily for room, board and necessaries was the norm for huge swathes of working people during the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly during the early part of peoples' working lives. For soldiers it had always been the norm - subsistence pay and basic needs more or less taken care of.

Many of the people sent out as transported felons did as well as their compatriots back home. Many were able to save money during their period of indenture.

What made transportation the horror it was - was that whilst the state would pay the outward journey, it did not pay for the return, and for some return was denied even after they served their time. It was an absolute severence from family and friends. Also the journey was notoriously bad - particularly in the eighteenth ceentury. Conditions for convicts on ships were bad, and many died of disease. The fear of not surviving the passage was a big thing for those who faced transportation.
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