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Where did all the money go?

Dick Perceval came from a family that was extremely privileged and wealthy, and who had been so for many generations. and yet, all through his adult life, Dick struggled financially to make ends meet. So, where did all that family money go?

It seems that were complications! Firstly, Dick (and his sister Diana) were the children of his father’s second wife, his first wife (and the mother of Dick’s half-brother, Max) having died in childbirth. Dick’s mother, Norah, seemed to come to the family with some wealth of her own, and the family home, The Grange was bought in part with some of her family money.

Dick’s mother died two years before his father, and on the death of his father, half-brother Max and his wife Dorothy (who was also a very wealthy woman in her own right) inherited The Grange and seemingly everything in it. Neither Dick, nor his sister Diana seemed to inherit anything.

An entry in his diary, dated April 27th 1970, gives some clues as to the situation. He says,

A letter from Max this morning, saying that he doesn’t think it will come as a great surprise to me to learn that they have decided to sell the Grange. It didn’t. He says they have now found a flat they like at Albert Court, where they lived before the war.

It was nice of Max to write and let me know. But Diana must be informed too, so that she does not learn of it through seeing it advertised.

I know Max expects to get about £40,000 for it. It is difficult not to feel rather envious, especially when I remember how we were stopped from having mother’s money, which father had told me he wanted us to have when she died, in order to pay off the mortgage on the Grange for Max’s benefit. I would have loved to have had the cottage*, but Max wouldn’t hear of it. Had mother lived at two years longer or father died two years earlier, Max was to have three good pieces of furniture and a picture under father’s former Will, which I have been shown by Max himself, And The Grange would have been left to mother, and under her will, would have come to Diana and me. As it is, under the arrangement Max made with father, he got the Grange, plus those bits of furniture and the picture! It is ironic and I cannot help laughing, alas, rather bitterly. They have always claimed that they never wanted the Grange and that they had it wished on them. A pity it wasn’t wished on us. I reckon that, if they sell the Grange for about that price, they will have about £100,000 between them. Will it bring them happiness? I don’t see why it shouldn’t - I hope it will. We are grateful for what we have got, but I wish that fate would put a little bit more our way too.

*The cottage that he refers to was a house on the grounds of The Grange that the family owned and rented out.

A drawing of The Grange by Dick's father, Edward Maxwell Perceval

Later in the year, on June 26th, he writes about it again.

About a week ago I had to go to London for the day, to see my dentist. While there I rang up Max and Dorothy who are now installed in their new flat in Albert Court. According to the change of address card they sent us here, they moved on 1 July and I would have thought they could have given us a ring before we left London, which they knew we were doing on the sixth. When I rang them, I said that I imagined they did not want any visitors yet, and they made it clear that this was the case, saying that everything was still pretty chaotic there. I wished them well and asked who was buying the Grange. Apparently it is the Honourable Sir George Bellow. I looked him up in Who’s Who at the club and learn that he is, or was, The “Garter King of Arms” at the Heraldry Office. On the face of it he would appear to be a most suitable person to own the Grange and I was relieved to know this. Dorothy said that he had got it by offering rather more, but I don’t know if she means rather more than their asking price of £50,000 or rather more than somebody else had offered. In any case they must be enormously rich now - I should think it least £100,000 between them and probably more. Apparently they had no difficulty whatever in selling the Grange and it wasn’t even advertised by the agents. Amazing, at a time where shares are so low. And what a time to have £50,000 odd to invest. They could so well have afforded to let us have just the cottage, Grange Corner, and it would have made such a difference to us. But when I once raised this question with them, during father’s lifetime, they would not hear of it and were most unpleasant, Max particularly. I believe it was established that 1/10 of the original purchase price of the Grange was paid by mother’s money and we know that Diana and I was stopped from having the income from mother’s money, after her death, in order to pay off the mortgage. They really have been awfully greedy. With the sale of the Grange I feel that the last of my ties with Farnham have been cut and with our departure from London my roots there have also been cut. Now I no longer have any roots anywhere. Perhaps it doesn’t matter.

It seems to me to be quite shocking that Dick and Diana received nothing of their own mother’s money, and indeed that her money went to benefit Max, who was not her son. I can only guess why - my feeling is that the reason was Sorina.

Dick had terrible money troubles throughout his marriage to Sorina, and I think that the family cut him off from all financial support when they married. His parents were horrified by the marriage, and although Dick does not detail this in his journals, there are clues. For example, on the death of his mother in 1953, Dick says

It was all so sad and all seemed to have happened so suddenly. I shed many tears during those days, and prayed many prayers for my mother. I did not write Sorina how really ill Mother was, because I felt it was better for her to remain abroad in the event of Mother’s death, for I could not have taken Sorina to Mother’s funeral.

In her way she was, I know, devoted to me and always remained so, despite all the sorrows that my marriage to Sorina brought her.

Dick's mother - Norah Perceval

I am not sure that Dick’s mother or father ever met Sorina. My feeling is that they both came to an arrangement to ensure that The Grange would not fall into Sorina’s hands. By then, Diana was married to a man who had some family wealth and so perhaps they felt that the best thing was to give everything to Max in the knowledge that Diana would probably be financially secure. I think that was what was behind the rejection of the idea that Dick (and Sorina) would live in the cottage (Grange Corner).

When Max died, he left his fortune to Dorothy and when she died, she left it everything to her nephew. So, that is how money, built up over many generations in one family, can suddenly be lost to another family.

Dick with his parents, niece and nephew.

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Great read thankyou

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