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Do the Thornton’s Own or Rent?

Every time I’ve seen North and South, I’ve always wondered about the following thing, and I was hoping we could get to the bottom of it.

Marlborough Mills is owned by Mr Bell and is then passed on to Margaret Hale.

The Thornton’s are renting out the property from the landlord.

We know the machines inside the mill are the property of John Thornton, as he has trouble paying them off.

The thing I’ve wondered about is the house.

We know it’s a place Mrs Thornton is very proud of.

It’s located next to the mill, therefore it would logically be part of Bell’s property.

Not many mill owners would invest their money in a home so close to an industrial area, often settling on the outskirts of a city.

When bad things start happening to John, he asks his mother to not be too upset about losing the house.

My question is:

Do you think the Thornton’s built the house, or was it part of the mill?

Could Mrs Thornton could be sad about losing the house because of the effort put into the decoration and the need to downsize, or  maybe because they are losing ownership of it?

Tell me what you think 🙂

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8 responses »

  1. I think they have a 99-year lease (paid yearly), which would have been customary at the time, so the house was securely theirs, except in the case of financial default. The Thorntons own rental properties in Milton, such as the one let to the Hales, and in the face of ruin, they would have to move into one of them. However, with Margaret owning the mill property, when she marries John, her money and property, including the house, pass automatically to him, under British law at that time.

    Reply
  2. I always thought the house was part of the mill and loosing the business meant leaving the house!! Of course, The Thorntons had money (maybe properties) to go somewhere else!! Maybe I should read the book again to try to discover as it usually brings more details!!!

    Reply
  3. Thanks Leigh!…so, Margaret was a good catch. 😉

    Reply
    • My pleasure. Oh, Margaret was an excellent catch. She not only inherited all of Mr. Bell’s holdings, but she would also have anything that came to her through her family. Her father may not have been wealthy, but on her mother’s side, there appears to be ample assets. Aunt Shaw did not live modestly, and if the grandparents had no surviving male heir, they would have provided for the females, possibly through a trust.

      Reply
    • No kidding ! Remember the 18000 pounds ‘unused in the bank’ ? According to the currency converter at http://uwacadweb.uwyo.edu/numimage/currency.htm, that sum in 1850 means over 2 mln in today’s US dollars 🙂

      Reply
      • Wow! I knew she was a catch, but that’s a pretty little sum! It’s interesting to see the different paths Mr Bell and Margaret’s father took after graduating from Cambridge. One had a good head fo business, Mr Hale was ‘rather too simple for trade’, as Mrs Thornton put it.

        Reply
        • At the time there were few options open to those who did not have wealth, regardless of family or university education. If there were no family holdings (usually agrarian and rental properties) to inherit and manage, there was law, teaching, politics, medicine, and the church. These required connections rather than capital. In Mr. Hale’s class, only gentlemen with capital could enter the world of business and maintain their respectability. The self-made industrialists of the north were looked down upon as socially inferior. This is part of the conflict in N&S, as well as the differences in the practical matters of life, social and economic expectations, and values.

          Reply

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