Earl of Ranelagh's General Account Book 1692 - 1700
Earl of Ranelagh’s General Account Book 1692 – 1700. (Part of the Attingham Collection at Shropshire Archives.)
Can you help transcribe the pages of this very interesting account book?
Background on the Attingham Account book.
This is no ordinary account book. This is a book that unlocks how Richard Hill of Hawkstone got his money.
Richard Hill of Hawkstone, also known as, ‘the Great Hill’, diplomatist, public servant and statesman, accumulated his great wealth through a series of profitable appointments and judicious dealings with Richard Jones, 1st Earl of Ranelagh.
He became acquainted with Richard Jones, 1st Earl of Ranelagh, through the Earl of Rochester. Ranelagh at the time was paymaster of the forces and subsequently appointed Richard Hill as deputy paymaster of William III to the army in Flanders during the War of the Grand Alliance, 1688–96.
Ranelagh was a man who really enjoyed life. To support his frivolous habit he needed to sustain a substantial income. How did he do this? Well following the Restoration of Charles II he became a member of the Irish Parliament for Roscommon, and in 1668 was appointed to the Privy Council of Ireland. He was given a relatively minor role as chancellor of the exchequer, but Ranelagh seized this opportunity and used this position to reinterpret the current financial situation the crown was in as one where far from being indebted, the crown could reap a profit from Ireland if it managed monies owing to the crown and the government finances differently. Ranelagh was granted an 'undertaking' whereby he and a partnership took on the crown debts and effectively 'privatised' the treasury. Ranelagh was rewarded personally with his earldom and the role of vice-treasurer of Ireland.
When the undertaking in Ireland was finished in 1675, it was not renewed, but the Crown was now clear of all debts. Ranelagh ensured regular payments were made to the English Treasury, some of which paid for troops for Charles and some of which went to the renovation of Windsor Castle. This was largely achieved through short payment of the Irish army which was Ranelagh's training ground for his later embezzlements as Paymaster General to the English army. In 1685 he was elected as MP for Plymouth and that same year he was appointed to the lucrative post of Paymaster of the Forces, where he made his fortune.
Ranelagh was expelled from the Commons in 1703 when discrepancies were found in his accounts as Paymaster, and he was discovered to have appropriated more than £900,000 of public finds.
However, Richard Hill was not caught and after he inherited Hawkstone in 1700, he extended his estates at Tern Hall, Atcham, near Shrewsbury (today Attingham Park), and at Shenstone, Staffordshire, and systematically purchased estates in many counties, including Shropshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire, thus adding to his already substantial inheritance with the aim of founding an enduring dynasty.
Now you, our virtual volunteers, have the chance to see and transcribe such an important and interesting account book.
Instructions – Please Read
Task: The Earl of Ranelagh’s General Account Book has over 900 pages, so we think it is better to split the project into sections. (These are found at the bottom of this page). We suggest volunteers pick a specific section to work on. We would like you to transcribe what is exactly on the page. When you click on a section it will take you to the pages specified, you can then put them into 'Your Favourites' box. We ask that you pick no more than 10 records at a time to edit and if possible we ask that you edit records in order. If you find that you cannot edit a record this means someone else is editing it. We ask that you put your transcript into the 'Descriptions' box on the edit page for now, but this may alter as the project progresses. If you are not able to write in a box then you need to press the green + button at the side and a new editable box will appear underneath.
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