Brougham Hall I

The Brougham families all originated in Cumberland and Westmoreland up near the Scottish border where there is on old estate named, what else, Brougham Hall. This property represented the “landed” part of “landed gentry”, the place and the name identical going back centuries. My 6th great grandfather inherited Brougham Hall and then it passed into another line of succession. 

Okay, yeah, way long ago, but still. Fair to say we are distantly related to this place.

Screenshot from a 2016  YouTube video by Phill Longley.

Today, the recovering wreck of Brougham Hall shelters a cafe and eleven small businesses, under restoration since 1986, now run by the Brougham Hall Charitable Trust. Good to see the old family place is still useful and being Grade II* listed, publicly protected, in other words.

It had been in a state of ruin since 1934 when cousin Victor Henry Peter Brougham, the fourth Baron Brougham and Vaux, sold the place to cover gambling debits and the buyer defenestrated the place. Interesting character, cousin Victor. He first sold the furniture, then the property then he or one of his wives sold the family books and papers in 1939. In 1953, Lord Brougham was declared bankrupt after having spent more than £125,000 on gambling, failed stock market speculation and a failed attempt to become a farmer.

Victor Henry Peter, 4th Lord Brougham and Vaux on the S.S. Bremen, January, 1937. From Mark Thomas. A History of Brougham Hall and Highhead Castle. 1992.

Sorry, this is a terrible way to start, here at the end, with a ruined building and a wreck of a man. There’s certainly nothing to admire here and the bare facts lead me to both pity poor cousin Victor, obviously disturbed and out of control, and condemn the system that allowed him such a spectacular bad end, the aristocracy, hereditary peerage and all that represents, things that should be tucked away in a museum. 

Best get this out on the table too, my Yankee Doodle point of view.

“A hereditary monarch is as absurd as a hereditary doctor or mathematician.”

supposedly attributed to Thomas Paine but I can’t find the source

Sorry, this too is a rotten starting point. Really, who am I to criticize our cousins over there? This line of disagreement that got settled some time ago.

To be fair, it is much better to start at the beginning with the man who actually earned the peerage in the first place. It is also better because against my great prejudice, this distant cousin has my grudging respect in some respects and respect is a finer way to start.