A Basildon Park story

He bought all the black crepe in the country just weeks before Queen Caroline died…James Morrison became the richest commoner with style… When Francis Sykes had to sell his house quickly, there was one man who really knew how to get a bargain. James Morrison was one of the best business people of his time! He was a self-made man and ended up the wealthiest commoner in England.

You have probably already read the story of him buying all the black crepe in England right before queen Caroline died, but here is another great story which I heard about Morrison when I visited Basildon…

Basildon Park

During the Victorian era, there was a hefty import tax imposed on any leather goods arriving in England (no single market, right?). One day a massive shipment of leather gloves arrived at the port in Southampton England: tens of thousands of them. It belonged to James Morrison, and when he came to the port to collect it, the customs officer handed him the invoice with the tax he had to pay.

Morrison looked at the figures, told the officer that he was not paying it and that they could keep his cargo…and he left. Morrison knew that his gloves would now be sent to the port storage and if no one claimed them, an auction would take place. So when the time arrived, he went to the auction and bought all his gloves back, paying almost nothing. This is where you probably ask yourself if this plan was wise?  After all, auctions can sometimes turn tricky if several people bid on the same product, right?

Well, this is why you and I are not going to be the wealthiest commoners in England…because James Morrison didn’t just bring one shipment of gloves to England, in fact, there were two shipments to two different ports; Southampton and the nearby port of Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.  In one dispatch, he sent all the right-hand gloves, and the left-hand gloves arrived at the other port… so when James went to the auction, he knew for sure no one in their right mind would put a bid on tens of thousands of left or right gloves…

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