When putting together the blog post ‘Holbein and Mallard’, I came across an Arts Council brochure titled Acceptance in Lieu Report 2009/2010 which included some detail on Holbein’s preparatory, so-called, cartoon for the Whitehall mural, which included an image of Henry VIII.
The title ‘Acceptance in Lieu’ refers to in lieu of inheritance tax, in exchange for the acquisition of objects of national importance, and if you fancy a browse, it is a veritable treasure trove.
Link to Arts Council Brochure (PDF)
The scheme, perhaps, seems a tad hardhearted towards the bereaved, apparently financially strapped offerer, and I did fear for the future of an old portrait of my dear Aunt Norma - that it might end up, one day, hanging in the taxman’s privy - but then there is the woeful tale of Mentmore Towers to consider.
Mentmore Towers is a large country house in Buckinghamshire, once owned by Lord Rosebery, and once the home of a highly prized art and antique collection, indeed the mock late Tudor style house was built in the 1850s, specifically to house the vast display.
In 1973 to preserve the collection for the nation, it was offered to the government at a discounted figure of just £2m, in lieu of inheritance tax. The offer was refused. Acceptance, however, would have guaranteed the preservation of the collection at Mentmore. Harry Primrose, 6th Earl of Rosebery, died in 1974, and after three years of bureaucratic wranglings, the government still would not budge, and so the estate was sold, piecemeal, by auction, which lasted nine days, for over £6m, in what became known as the Sale of The Century.
As a consequence one of the finest art and antique collections ever assembled was broken up into pieces that now span the world, and so what could have been a national treasure was lost forever.
The sale and loss to the nation led to a House of Commons Expenditure Committee inquiry, and subsequently, attitudes towards heritage began to change.
Today offers meeting the criteria are accepted in lieu of inheritance tax and “ allocated by the Secretary of State at DCMS (or the appropriate Minister in the devolved governments in Scotland or Wales) to a public institution or charity such as the National Trust, which will be expected to have open public access for at least 100 days a year, to ensure that public access is guaranteed to as many people as possible.”
Perhaps AIL, as the boffins call it, is not such a bad scheme after all, and dear Aunt Norma’s portrait might yet find a good home.
There are others available, Mentmore was also used in a Batman film set. There must be a pun there somewhere about a Robin' Taxman.