`Landed gentry seek opening. Anything legal considered'

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THEY MAY have been summarily evicted from one of the finest clubs in London, but some of the doomed hereditary peers are already working hard to secure alternative employment.

Turning the necessity of abolition into a virtue, the canniest blue bloods will either be capitalising on their status or simply taking the most convenient job they can find.

Some of the 666 hereditaries already have real jobs in banking, property development or farming, but many will be forced to find a job for the first time. Career management experts have claimed that some of the lords may need counselling to cope with their loss, although it is difficult to imagine any of them accepting such a new-fangled activity.

One who has already found a retirement job is the Earl of Strafford, who will become a river warden on the banks of the River Itchen near his home in Winchester. He does, however, actually own the riverbank. The crossbencher, whose title was created in 1847, will be cutting back weeds and maintaining the banks for a local fishing club near his ancestral pile.

Another who has planned for the future is Viscount Exmouth, a crossbencher whose own title dates back to 1816. He has set up a website called The House of Lords Trading Company, selling silverware and "gifts with a distinctly British flair". Aimed at a largely American market, the website allows visitors to stroll around a virtual stately home and select goodies from "m'lady's boudoir", "the library" and "m'lord's dining room".Customers can even click on a bell-shaped icon to "ring for Benson, your own personal butler".

The houseoflords.com website, which will go live after the Queen's Speech, is also intended to be a contact point for hereditaries so that they can keep in touch with old pals.

Viscount Trenchard, who fell one vote short of becoming one of the lucky 92 hereditary peers to stay in the Lords, will spend more time on his job as an investment banker.

The most famous of all the newly-active hereditaries, however, has to be Earl Grey, the great-great-grandson of the reforming Whig prime minister of the 1830s who lent his name to the distinctive blend of tea. The noble lord hopes to set up a new business venture selling, among other items, combat trousers, T-shirts and cagoules bearing his heraldic logo and the St George flag.

Lord Grey, who inherited his title at the age of 24 and took his seat in the Lords in 1976, hopes that he can outperform even his forebear. "My famous ancestor took no financial interest in the tea at all. He might have been a brilliant politician but he wasn't much of a businessman," he said.