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Insider knowledge on the Thatcher estate

Aug 10, 2015
An article published in The Daily Telegraph on 15 June tells of how private papers owned by Baroness Thatcher, have been saved for the nation (UK) after her family donated them in lieu of inheritance tax on her £4.7million estate.
Michael Gerson contacted The Mover, having read the article, with an interesting reflection from a mover’s point of view.

The papers, which include many hand-written notes reflecting on Baroness Thatcher’s period in office as the British Prime Minister between 1979 and 1990, have been donated to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation at Churchill College, Cambridge.  These were documents that became available only after her death in 2013. 

But it now emerges that Michael Gerson, whose company provided moving services for the Thatcher family at the time, was aware of some mysterious dusty cartons in the cellar at Baroness Thatcher’s office in Chesham Place, Belgravia, during the final move.

Michael said that unusually Cynthia Crawford (known as Crawfie), personal assistant to Baroness Thatcher, had not provided a figure for insurance for the boxes.  “We probably thought that they just could not be bothered to give a figure as it appeared to be irrelevant and we decided to give it a last go,” he said.  When the figure was eventually declared it was a seven-figure sum.  The goods were delivered to Churchill College.  “It appears that nobody wanted to place a figure which could have been taken as a starting point by HM Revenue and Customs for inheritance purposes.”

Brian Charles, who was a director of Michael Gerson Ltd. at the time added: “I remember this very well indeed as I went to the foundation office to estimate it all and then sort out where everything went -it was quite a challenge.  We held a lot of the papers in store before Churchill College was ready to accept them as they had to make the space .There were several deliveries to the college. The value was not disclosed as I tried my best to get the insurance. Now we know what they had in mind and obviously trusted us not to lose or damage anything.”

The documents have now been independently valued at around £1million and the heirs’ inheritance bill will be reduced accordingly.  “As this was a gift to the nation the whole country has benefited from the family’s generosity,” said Michael. 

The arrangement was made under the Arts Council England’s Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme.  According to the article in The Daily Telegraph the scheme was used 23 times in 2013-14 resulting in over £44million-worth of art and other objects becoming public property.

Photo: Michael Gerson

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