Strict aristocrat kept her house in order with historic pocket money contract
The colourful history of Temple Newsam House is filled with tales of flamboyant aristocratic families and their extravagant flights of financial fancy.
From stunning wallpaper decorated with cuttings from one of the world’s most expensive books, to a luxurious crimson bed crafted especially for a royal visit, evidence of the mansion’s spendthrift former residents can be seen in every room.
But a single, tiny piece of paper stored within a vast collection of historic documents in Leeds has revealed that in private, at least one aristocratic mum kept a tight hold of the purse strings when it came to getting her teenage son to stick to the rules.
At more than 300 years old, the antique piece of paperwork gives a rare insight into family life at the house, and details a strict agreement between Lady Isabella Irwin and William Ingram, her youngest boy.
In it, William and his mum set out the formal arrangements and conditions for the pocket money young William was entitled to back in 1715.
The contract states that William, who would have been around 14 at the time, would be entitled to 20 shillings each quarter and that “William Ingram does promise to fund himself out of his allowance shoes, pen ink and paper copybooks.”
It adds: “Lady Isabella does promise that this sum shall be duly and faithfully paid at the time agreed upon on the performance of the articles agreed on between them.”
The mother and son agreement is finished with a flourish, even carrying a tiny wax seal at the bottom, which was how aristocrats officially authenticated documents and letters.
Records show that William was the youngest of nine children born to Lady Isabella and her husband Arthur 3rd Viscount Ingram. Her portrait still hangs in the house’s Crimson Bedroom.
Leila Prescott, curator at Temple Newsam House, said: “We don’t know exactly what the circumstances were which led to Lady Isabella and William drawing up this agreement, but what this document does give us is a quite touching insight into Temple Newsam as a family home.
“The house is famed for being a sprawling mansion where generations of well-to-do aristocrats and eccentric characters would enjoy a colourful and lavish lifestyle. But Temple Newsam was also a place where mothers and fathers raised children and tried to equip them for life as adults.
“It’s always fascinating to connect more with the people who have lived here through the ages, who have each left their imprint on the house during their time here and whose portraits we see hanging on the walls today.”
The pocket money agreement is stored in the archives of Temple Newsam House and Estate which are held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service in Leeds.
The service works to preserve the local heritage of historical documents and to help members of the public make use of them.
For more information about Temple Newsam House, visit: https://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/visit/temple-newsam-house