3 Sandleford Priory Spyers 1781

A plan for Sandleford Priory said to have been copied from Spyers

Many correspondents have returned to the question of mapping, the accuracy of maps, the date of maps where no date is provided, and the inconvenient tendency to overwrite maps, so one scarcely knows who has done what when.

Mr V of Newbury, for example, is wrestling with the so-called 1781 Spyers plan for Sandleford Priory. It was not drawn by Spyers and did not surface until 1835, but it does show Sandleford before his employer, the admirable Capability Brown, went into action, so it is likely to have been drawn before 1781.

I put it to Mr V that one might be able to judge whether or not Spyers originated a plan if one knew how much he was paid.

If he spent 17 days at Sandleford at around 45d/day and if he covered the area of the Sandleford plan, whether he drew it or not, that covers 601 acres, or a little over 1d/acre including expenses; which seems to have been more or less what he was getting for Woodchester in 1782. It is true that he was getting 4d/acre (including expenses) at Shillinglee in 1762, but that was ‘very large and very troublesome’). As for Woodchester, if you take Brown’s account book at face value: it seems that Spyers got only £5/13/06d for 1400 acres or more there at a rate of around 51d/day (including his expenses) and 1d/acre…. but let me offer you the figures:

Site Surveyor Date Days Acreage Wage LSD/Acre Day/lsd Acre/Day Comment
Shillinglee Spyers 1762 759 12.13.00 4d/1
Highclere Spyers 1769 1165 40.00.00 8.25d/1 including general plan
Grimsthorpe Lapidge 1772 27 3.18.03 1/36d including expenses
King’s Weston Spyers 1774 286 21.00.00 17.6d/1 with clean drawing
Belvoir Spyers 1779 3928 196.08.00 12d/1 1/12d?
Wilton Spyers 1780 1200 40.00.00 8d/1
Fornham Spyers 1781 11 4.08.00 1/96d
Sandleford Spyers 1781 17 601 3.05.00 1.3/1 1/45.8d
Stanstead Spyers 1781 10 3.12.06 1/93.6d probably includes some time for Brown
Byram Spyers 1782 373 18.13.00 12d/1 1/12d? a fair & neat Drawing made of it

with Proper References to the

Contents at one Shilling [p here?]

includg Mr Spyers Expenses

Stourton Spyers 1782 35 8.15.00 1/60d
Woodchester Spyers 1782 28 1410 5.13.06 1d/1 1/51d 50


The best I can make of these figures is that Spyers might have started on 4d/day in the 1760s, but moved up to 12d/day by the end of Brown’s life, and at his peak he would expect to survey at least 40 acres/day; the rest of his pay being taken by travelling expenses, accommodation and fine drawing. We still need more figures for Spyers.

Mapping in another aspect referred to me in a further email from Mr M of Blandford, who is attending a wedding in Cheshire and wishes to visit a Brown landscape or two on the way home to Dorset. So much depends on the route he takes, but, if he has the consent of the owners, Trentham, Patshull, Ingestre, Swynnerton, Weston and Chillington, Himley, Croome, Charlton, Sherborne – I hear you say that if he took the A46, he could also take his pick from Woodchester, Badminton, and Dodington, It is true, any one of those would make a pleasant and rewarding day out, and Trentham, Weston, Himley, Croome, and Woodchester are regularly open. As for Cheshire itself Dunham New Park and Tatton may be attributions currently too controversial to justify a visit. The problem, which Mr M’s question exposes, is that we have no reliable published map of the sites and no rating of their position in the Brown canon. Our editor, who has this information, must be pressed to put it up on his web-site.