The Governor and Company for raising the Thames Water at York Buildings was founded in 1675 to supply water to households in England. Increased competition from rival water firms forced the company to put itself up for sale in 1719. Financier Case Billingsley purchased the company in 1719, raised additional capital, and the company began buying up estates in Scotland forfeited as a consequence of the 1715 Jacobite Uprising. Speculating in insurance contracts as well, the company's share price soared and its directors issued new shares to raise additional funds and borrowed money to finance its estate purchases.
But the company transformed itself right at the height of the South Sea Bubble. In response to rampant financial speculation, Parliament passed the Bubble Act of 1720 to reign in companies whose business models had diverged markedly from their original charters. The York Buildings Company's share price collapsed soon after, driving the firm to the edge of bankruptcy and forcing it to liquidate its land holdings to cover its debts. The divestment process took nearly a century.
The cases included here reflect the financial, personal, and legal fallout of The York Buildings Company's collapse that persisted for decades after the bubble burst.
|Abraham Delvalle, and Others v. The Creditors of the York-Buildings Company||9 Mar 1786||After the York Buildings Company failed, its real property in Scotland became the subject of a ranking of creditors. In this ranking, a group of creditors objected to certain claims that had been submitted. In particular, the creditors made two key objections to claims based on bonds issued by the Company. First, the creditors objected that many bonds had been cut off by the Scottish statute of limitations, or “prescription.” In response, the affected bondholders argued that the prescription should not apply because the debts were still valid in England, where they had been contracted and where the York Buildings Company and its creditors resided. Second, the creditors objected that some bonds had been issued under value and should be ranked accordingly. The affected creditors argued that the bonds were negotiable instruments, and purchasers were entitled to rely on their face value. In the course of the proceedings, both sides filed petitions with the Court of Session.|
|York-Buildings Company v. Martin, Stone, and Foote||15 Nov 1791||Documents available. Full description in progress.|
|The York-Buildings Company v. Alexander Mackenzie||8 Mar 1793||Documents available. Full description in progress.|
|John Boog and Attorney v. The Common Agent in the Ranking of Margaret Watt's Creditors||11 Dec 1800||Conflict of Laws||A Scotsman named Daniel Morgan went to London and purchased goods on credit from John Boog, a merchant. Morgan then departed for India as steward on an East India ship, leaving his wife Margaret Watt in Dundee. Morgan died during the outward passage, and Boog eventually sought payment from Watt. Watt argued in court that Boog’s claim was barred by the “triennial prescription,” a statute of limitations, but Boog secured a “decree in absence” after Watt exhausted her ability to pay for a legal defense. Other creditors of Watt initiated a ranking and sale of her heritable property. In that proceeding, the common agent renewed the defense of prescription against Boog’s claim. Boog answered that English law—which had no triennial prescription—should apply because Morgan never returned to Scotland.|
|Representatives of Bryce Blair v. Walter Graham, and Others||1767||Factor, Stipend, Feu duties||Bryce Blair served as factor of the sequestered estates of Crieve and Mossknowe from 1742 until his death in 1762. During that time, he failed to make regular court filings detailing the estate’s accounts. After Blair’s death, the estates were sold in a judicial sale, which raised enough proceeds to provide the heirs of Crieve with a reversion after the relevant debts were paid. This led to a dispute over the amount of the reversion. In particular, the heirs of Crieve disputed certain charges for a minister’s stipend, on the ground that the payments ought to have been made by tenants on the estate. The heirs also contested charges for feu duties to the Marquis of Annandale, contending that there was no proof of payment.|
|Solicitor of Tithes v. Governor and Company of Undertakers for raising Thames water in York-buildings||1776||Teinds||This case was about the right to teinds on lands that the York Building Company purchased from the Barons of Exchequer. The lands, as part of the estate of Southesk, had been forfeited to the Crown after their owner participated in the Jacobite rising of 1715. The York Building Company then purchased the estate from the public. In the 1770s, a dispute arose over teinds on a portion of the estate in the parish of Leuchar. According to the Solicitor of Tithes, the York Building Company only possessed these teinds by tacit relocation (i.e., by holding over on a lease), and was required to get a new lease; the Solicitor eventually brought an action for payment of tithes. The Company claimed a right to the teinds based on a 1744 disposition from the Barons of Exchequer. Additionally, it claimed to have purchased the lands in reliance on a rent-roll that did not include a deduction for teinds. The Solicitor argued that the teinds were never part of the forfeited estate, and therefore could not have been sold to the Company.|
|Alexander Farquharson v. The Governor and Company of Undertakers for raising Thames water in York-buildings||1775||Landlord and tenant||The York Building Company, defender, leased the mansion and property of Fingask to John Drummond of Megginch for a term of 99 years. Pursuer Alexander Farquharson subsequently acquired the right to the lease. The mansion had fallen into a state of disrepair, and Farquharson sued the Company, alleging that the Company was required to pay for repairs. The Company argued that the lease was written specifically to absolve it of this responsibility.|
|James Cheap v. William Morehead [Copy 2]||1791||This record contains additional documents not included with the case record located in UVALL Box 22|
|York-Buildings Company v. Taylor||1792|
|Water-Works Bond Creditors v. The York-Buildings Company and Creditors||1803|
|Col. Andrew Bruce v. Freeholders of Stirlingshire||1791||Documents available. Full description in progress.|
|Grove v. Petre||5 Jul 1785|
|Creditors of Sir James Carnegie v. David Carnegie||7 Mar 1780|
|George Earl of Tyrconnel v. Sir Archibald Grant||12 Dec 1777|
|Grant v. McIntosh||28 Feb 1788|