221b Baker Street: The Crabbet Lawsuit (part II)
As reported in The London Times
ANNOTATED BY R.J.CADRANELL
Copyright 1991 by R.J.CADRANELL
from Arabian Visions July 1991
Used by permission of RJCadranell
Last month this column presented the first three articles the London Times printed about the Crabbet Stud lawsuit. Those anxious to read the rest of the articles are invited to skip ahead and begin. Readers who missed last month’s “Baker Street” column might need some background information. Mr. Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt founded the Crabbet Stud in 1878 with horses they imported to England that year. In 1906, due to personal differences, the Blunts divided the 126 Crabbet horses into two herds and wrote a formal partition agreement. The agreement stated that on the death of one of the parties the survivor was to inherit all of the horses. Lady Anne Blunt died in 1917. Her will left her Arabian horses in trust for her teenage granddaughters. Blunt claimed all the horses as his on the basis of the partition agreement. Lady Wentworth, the daughter of the Blunts, claimed about fifteen horses for herself on the basis of exchange, purchase, and gift from her mother.
On February 14:
The Sale of Arab Horses.
Lady Wentworth’s Claim.
Mr. Pollock, the Official Referee, continued the hearing of the claims by Lady Wentworth and the Public Trustee to the ownership of a part of the Crabbet Park Arab Stud. The defendant is Mr. Wilfred Secawen[sic] Blunt, who carried on the stud for many years with his wife, Lady Anne Blunt.
Lady Wentworth, resuming her evidence, said that she was largely basing her claim to the “greys” on her mother’s entry in the catalogues: “To go to Judith on my death.”
Mr. Hughes, K.C. — Have you the slightest doubt that in the face of that Lady Anne Blunt intended to keep them herself during her lifetime?
The witness said that she had, but she would prefer the Official Referee to decide.
Are you sure that your father told you that he had transferred the management of the stud, and not the ownership?–Quite sure. You have it in my diary.
There is a letter from Mr. Blunt to your mother in which he said: “I have no desire other than to hand over to you the entire ownership and management of the stud, retiring altogether myself.” Are you clear that he used the word ownership to you?–Quite clear.
Lady Wentworth said the sale by her of portions of the Crabbet Estate was due to the burden of the mortgage of 15,000 on it when it was settled on her by her father. She sold the land very reluctantly, and she told her father at the time that it was his fault for burdening the estate.
As to the “assault” incident, Lady Wentworth said that she did not wish it to be thought she had been indifferent to the injury suffered by Holman, the stud groom, on the occasion of the encounter at the stables. She was sorry to hear that he had been hurt, and when he resisted the attempt to removed the horses she told him, no doubt, it was his duty to Mr. Blunt to protest, but she did “not think he need have been so violent about it.”
Mr. Hughes, opening the case for Mr. Blunt, said that it seemed to be clear that the object of the deed of 1906 was to maintain that there was really one stud in two halves, and if either party died his or her half was to go to the survivor. There were negotiations in 1915 for the preparation of a new agreement in accordance with the proposals made between Lady Anne Blunt and Mr. Blunt, but the agreement was never executed. Lady Anne Blunt wrote from Egypt that she was much amused at the squire’s having detected a flaw in it, and she added: “Meanwhile I suppose the old agreement holds and would save trouble in case of my death.”
In one of Lady Anne Blunt’s letters, which was quoted by Counsel, she spoke of “my exaggeratedly great age.” Lady Anne Blunt, said Counsel, was getting on for 80, and he had been told that she played polo until the age of 75. A letter of Mr. Blunt’s to his wife referred to “the latest of Judith’s mad letters,” and contained the remark: “It would be fatal to leave the stud to Judith.”
The hearing was again adjourned.
And on February 20:
The Crabbet Stud Dispute.
Lady Wentworth’s Claim.
Mr. Pollock, the Official Referee, continued the hearing of the claims by Lady Wentworth and the Public Trustee to certain horses in the Crabbet Park Stud.
Mr. Arthur C. Caffyn [sic], who was stud manager for Lady Anne Blunt, when she was in England, said she was practically her own stud manager.
Mr. Storry Deans (who appears for Lady Wentworth).–Lady Anne was a very estimable lady, wasn’t she?–Quite. If she had a fault it was that she was inclined to be too generous.
Was she the sort of person who was likely to conspire to defraud anyone of his property?–I should not have thought so.
Counsel read a letter from Lady Anne Blunt to Lady Wentworth, written in August, 1917, from Egypt. It said:–
My mind is so exhausted that I cannot say more to-day, though there are hundreds of things to be said which come into my head whenever I am able to put them down. One, however, which is a great relief to me is that I have succeeded in making the last preparations for death. About this I have been very anxious. It seems so near, always almost within my grasp, and you can imagine the joy of feeling ready. Please pray for me. …By the way, I have been reading again the book on miracles which I had lent to others and have only just got back.–Ever your devoted mother.
The witness said that Mr. Blunt never suggested to him that he would like to get rid of his half of the stud, and he was not surprised when Mr. Blunt’s horses came over to be kept by Lady Anne Blunt, because it had been talked of for months before they came over.
Counsel.–Wasn’t it a fact that after 1916 they were always spoken of as her ladyship’s horses?–They were always spoken of as “the stud.” There was no mention of a name.
James Holman, Mr. Blunt’s stud groom, said that he had been in the service of Mr. Blunt and Lady Anne Blunt for 40 years, and after the partition of the stud in 1906 he attended to the Crabbet half.
Counsel quoted a statement by Lady Wentworth, and he asked whether the witness had been bewildered when she spoke to him.
The witness.–No, I wasn’t any more bewildered than I am now. I was never much frightened at Lady Wentworth.
The witness then described the incident of April 4, 1918, when Lady Wentworth and her party went to the “Squire’s” stables and removed a mare [Riyala] and her foal.
Lady Wentworth, said counsel, called that a very humorous incident.
The witness.–Yes, I know about that. I was urged to take it to Court, but I did not like to. I had known them [referring to Lady Wentworth’s three children, and possibly Lady Wentworth herself] from babies and loved them.
The hearing was adjourned.
And on February 21:
The Arab Stud Dispute.
Mr. Pollock, Official Referee, continued the hearing yesterday of the claims by Lady Wentworth and the Public Trustee to a part of the Crabbet Park Arab Stud, which Mr. W. Blunt and his wife, the late Lady Anne Blunt, founded many years ago. The plaintiffs allege that Mr. Blunt transferred his share to Lady Anne Blunt in 1916, and that from that time the whole stud became her property.
James Holman, the stud groom, again went into the witness-box, and was cross-examined by Mr. Storry Deans, who appears for Lady Wentworth.
Mr. Deans.–Yours was rather a good job?–I can’t say that I disliked it, Sir. I always tried to do my duty.
I want to ask you about the horse Rasim. Rasim was tested to stand noise, wasn’t he?–Yes.
Rasim was subjected to the test of the Crawley Town Band?–Yes.
So he would not have minded the noise of cannon? (Laughter.)–I don’t know about that, Sir.
How was it that Rasim came to be removed by you from Lady Wentworth’s stables at 6 o’clock on a morning in January?–I was merely obeying orders.
Hadn’t Lady Wentworth given you direct orders not to move any horses from her stables?–She might have done. I carried out my orders, and that is all you will get from me.
Whom were the orders from?–I do not know.
Holman, continuing his evidence, adhered to his statement that Lady Wentworth held him by the throat when he resisted her attempts to remove the horse Riyala.
Counsel.–I suggest that you made a mistake about that in the scuffle that took place?–No, Sir: there was no mistake about it. They came up there on purpose for the business. They had all got their orders from their mother.
You really say that Lady Wentworth took you by the throat?–So she did, the second time. She held me when I was finished and I was very nearly dead.
The hearing was adjourned.
And on February 24:
The Crabbet Park Stud.
Mr. Pollock, the Official Referee, resumed the hearing of the claims by Lady Wentworth and the Public Trustee to a number of horses in the Crabbet Park Stud from Mr. Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, who, with his wife, the late Lady Anne Blunt, founded the stud.
Mr. Storry Deans, for Lady Wentworth, said that she did not intend to sell the horses if she established her claim to them, nor did she intend to let them go to America. Her object was to keep up the stud and so preserve the life work of her mother.
Mr. Grant, K.C., for the Public Trustee, who represents Lady Wentworth’s two daughters, said that he claimed damages against Mr. Blunt for conversion of certain horses which he had destroyed or had sold to America. Mr. Blunt had given evasive evidence. Where the versions of Lady Anne Blunt and of Mr. Blunt disagreed, the evidence of Lady Anne Blunt should be accepted.
Judgment was reserved.
The Arab Stud Case.
Judgment in the dispute about the ownership of the Crabbet Park Arab Stud which was claimed by Lady Wentworth and the Public Trustee, who sued Mr. Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, was given by Mr. Pollock, the Official Referee, in the High Court yesterday.
The Official Referee said that it was clear that after the deed of 1906 Mr. Blunt became very anxious to get rid of the responsibilities of his half of the stud. Over and over again, according to Lady Wentworth, who had kept a record of the conversations in her diary, he spoke of his desire to be rid of his animals, as the expense was too great for him and worried him very much. In 1916 Mr. Blunt wrote to his wife a letter in which he said he had no wish but to retire altogether from the stud. That letter showed that he desired to make over not only the management but the ownership as well. Both the conduct of Lady Anne Blunt and the letters of Mr. Blunt showed that Lady Anne Blunt regarded the stud as entirely hers, and Mr. Blunt’s attitude was that of a person who merely gives advice on it, not of one who had a controlling interest. He (the Official Referee) therefore found that Lady Anne Blunt quite rightly held the stud to be wholly hers, and therefore the action of the Public Trustee, who was the trustee under her will, must succeed.
Lady Wentworth claimed the greys as a gift from her mother, but he found that they were never made over to her, and as her claim to them fell to the ground. There remained the question of damages.
Mr. Storry Deans (for Lady Wentworth), said that he did not want damages for trespass if she got the horses.
The Official Referee.–Do you want an injunction?
Mr. Deans.–I do, to prevent Mr. Blunt from interfering with these horses. If he were an ordinary litigant I should not ask for it, but he is not.
The Official Referee.–Very well.
It was agreed that the question of damages for horses which had been destroyed should be mentioned to the Court at a later date.
(So ended one of the livelier accounts of the Crabbet lawsuit. The horses Mr. Blunt had brought to his property, Newbuildings, were returned to Crabbet. Lady Wentworth bought the horses from the trustees and, with a few carefully selected outcrosses, built a world famous breeding program which she maintained until her death in 1957 at the age of 84.)