Thrifty living: There's nothing so classy as posh folk on their uppers

What happens to aristocrats who lose all their money? The great thing about being posh and on your uppers is that if those uppers were made by Lobb, you will greet poverty with class – even if your house is awash with mildew, you make do with "background" heat, and you wear clothes that are 25 years old.

This is the case with Sir Charles and Lady Wolseley, who are broke and about to be turfed out of their estate, which has been under the Wolseley name for 1,000 years. Their ship might have been fatally holed, but they are damned if they are going to go down with it.

Sir Charles greets me in a jumper with darned elbows but bearing a proud "Wolseley" stitched above his heart, with a little crest. Would he wear that to sittings in the House of Lords? "Can't go to the Lords," barks Sir Charles. "I'm a baronet. Which means I'm a commoner." Oh, right. Still, he looks like a lord, what with his title, cut-glass accent, signet ring and house full of portraits. No heating, however. Unless you count "background" heat, which is how Sir Charles describes the state when none of the radiators is on but a real log fire brings the temperature in your giant drawing room up by a couple of degrees.

"We don't go to pubs or restaurants. We don't travel. We don't do any of these things that most people do. You can save quite a lot of money that way," Lady Wolseley says cheerily. Born in Ohio, she met the 11th baronet, Sir Charles, when she was researching, ahem, a book about Americans who marry into the English aristocracy.

I expect everyone back home thinks you are frightfully well off, I say. She rolls her eyes with feeling. Apart from a few close friends, that is; nice people who send her lovely soft leather shoes and nice clothes. Visitors are thoughtful, too. "People who come to stay go to Morrisons and fill two trolleys with food." Does she have staff? "Huh! I'm the staff," she says.

In the downstairs loo, there is a framed certificate for some country activity signed by the Duke of Edinburgh, a picture of JFK's children sent from the White House, and a newspaper cutting from 1992 relating how the Wolseleys, who were hard up even then, survived by eating potatoes donated by one of their tenant farmers.

That's why the Wolseleys are so fascinating. While most of us would be mortified to admit that we live on zero income and survive on glorified food parcels, Sir Charles and his Lady seem to see the funny side, even putting up cuttings about it in the loo.

Patched jumpers are nothing to be ashamed of. Neither is "background" heat. Neither is being unceremoniously turfed out of the family home and into a rented barn conversion. "Well, I feel a bit of sadness about being the one to break a 1,000-year-old direct male line on this estate," says Sir Charles gruffly, "but I have to deal with the reality." Nor are they bothering the children about their plight; the four junior (but adult) Wolseleys, including the 12th baronet, are clearly all too busy in London to bother about sorting out proper heating, or indeed "staff" for Sir Charles and Lady W.

Since the plight of the Wolseleys was made public, the press has beaten a path to the door of their soon-to-be-vacated house, hoping perhaps to find a sad, elderly couple full of pessimism and fear. Not a bit. Sir Charles maintains that if only his bank had been a bit more secure, the £1.75m he spent on creating a doomed tourist attraction in his grounds would have been a fantastic investment. He refuses to admit any culpability.

Meanwhile, his Lady is full of brio and sparky comments like "It's as Abraham Lincoln said: 'Folks are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.'"

Now all the cash is gone, the Wolseleys are acting thriftily with bags of style, a united front and a stiff upper lip. Do they sense a wave of class-conscious schadenfreude? On the contrary. "We have received some lovely cards from perfect strangers, saying how sorry they are that we are moving out," says Lady Wolseley. "One came from someone in Walsall," she continues, with wonderment. "We don't know anyone from Walsall, but there you are."

You can do what you want to our landed gentry. You can take away all their money. You can even turn them into ex-landed gentry. But you will never, ever stop them from being gloriously upper class.

cash@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

    Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

    £23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee