James Wagland: death and aftermath

James Wagland died on 16th May 1881 aged 73 of “natural decay; progressive weakness of heart and great vessels; dilation of abdominal aorta; dropsy 6 weeks.” Dropsy was the term used for swelling (edema) in the lower legs, which in his case was probably a symptom of congestive heart failure. The death was registered by his son-in-law Charles Clarke, so presumably he and his wife, Sarah (James’s third daughter), had travelled down from Lincolnshire because of James’s state of health. Although no longer living in the parish, James was buried at Merton church on 23rd May 1881.

Wagland memorial - St. Mary's Church, Merton

James was survived by his wife, Elizabeth; their 7 children and 31 grandchildren; and his illegitimate son, William, and 7 more grandchildren.

He had written his will and had it witnessed by two solicitors on 23rd Feb 1875. The executors were his son Charles and son-in-law Francis Sharland (husband of Mary Rebecca) and they were granted probate on 18th Oct 1881. The beneficiaries were his wife and their children but there was no mention of his illegitimate son William.

His estate was initially valued at £4,923 18s but was revalued in May 1882 at £5,376 1s, presumably once it had been fully liquidated. In present day value (2014), his estate would have been worth £485,000 if inflated using the Retail Price Index, or £4.2 million if estimating its “economic status ”, or £7.2 million if estimating its “economic power ”.

Death and inheritance taxes were first levied by the government to raise revenue in 1694. There were many changes in the intervening period, particularly in the early 19th century to help pay for the Napoleonic Wars. By 1881 the taxes consisted of Probate Duty of 3% of the net estate value, for estates valued at greater than £3,000, and Succession Duty from which the spouse was exempt, children paid 1% and others paid higher rates up to 10% depending on their consanguinity (relationship to the deceased).

The Kayess, Leves & Wagland partnership was dissolved on 29th Dec 1881 by the surviving partners and Wagland’s executors.

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