Well, there’s a growing professionalisation of land management as a kind of career. Until maybe the early nineteenth century, what you find is there’ll be relatives of the landowner who might run the estate on their behalf. So and so’s cousin, say, or nephew or uncle will be the land manager but would be running it as an amateur, essentially. But from the early nineteenth century you get what you might consider more professionalised land managers so they might have been to university, not always but most of the time. They would’ve had training on other estates so that would include training on things like account keeping and correspondence and specific skills like land valuation, map skills as well, and so with that professionalisation comes more correspondence and there’s a greater emphasis on having a written record of everything, which we kind of take for granted now today, the kind of paper trail. So there’s a greater emphasis on that and then, at the same time, it’s ... the Sutherland Estate itself increases in size at that time, so it was always massive but in 1829 they bought the Reay Estate, which was an extra a hundred thousand acres and so the second Duke of Sutherland did a lot of land purchasing. In addition to that, they marry into other estates so the third Duke of Sutherland married the heiress to the Cromarty Estate and that gives them land, kind of on the Coigach Peninsula, it’s just down from Assynt, and around Strathpeffer. So they buy land, they marry into land and this just increases the size of the estate they have to look after and so the correspondence just balloons, basically. So by the height, say by about 1830, the Sutherland Estate management consists of the Duke at the top and then they have this role of the Commissioner who managed the whole of the Duke’s landed estates, his business investments, his industrial investments, everything. And then below him they have three factors for the different parts of the Sutherland Estate, so they keep their own records and correspondence as well and accounts and they each have six ground officers. So there’s lots of different levels in the hierarchy and they’re all creating their own records so, as a historian, you’re just ... you’re left with this nightmarish kind of ... (laughs) ... archive and ... for the National Library, the Sutherland Estate is it’s biggest set of papers so it’s a pretty huge archive.

  • Annie Tindley
Thursday 13th May 2010