Our Story Begins
Our journey starts over 300 years ago at a time when adventurous Europeans were colonizing newly discovered corners of the world. The Lascelles family were ambitious, and set out to make their fortune in the West Indies. Initially they had limited success producing tobacco, cotton, sugar and its by-product, rum. Slaves were the main source of labour, and the Lascelles family became both owners and traders of African slaves in the West Indies.
It was in 1711, that Henry Lascelles, son of a prosperous gentleman farmer from Stank Hall near Northallerton, traveled to Barbados to work in the family business. His arrival sparked a remarkable progression in the previously unsuccessful business. With the help of his half-brother Edward, Henry quickly established himself as one of the island’s most energetic, enterprising and ruthless entrepreneurs. The brothers made a success of the business, adding banking to their list of endeavors, often repossessing plantations and slaves when rival owners defaulted on loans.
Within two decades, Henry had become one of the wealthiest and sophisticated entrepreneurs in the West Indies. It is from this fortune that Harewood House was built.
The Oldest and Most Expensive Rum in the World
In 2011, whilst preparing an inventory of wines and spirits in the dark cellars of Harewood House, Mark Lascelles and his colleague Andy Langshaw found something they did not expect.
At the back of the farthest cellar they saw two dusty shelves, upon which sat some mysterious looking bottles. Barely discernible under a thick coating of cobwebs and mould, the bottles were black with age, and so toxic looking Mark and Andy were wary about touching them without gloves! Very carefully, they brushed off the layers of dirt. They sniffed the contents with caution. What had they found?
In December 2013, 12 bottles of the Harewood Rum went up for sale at Christie’s in London. Nothing like this had ever come on the market before. Even the experts were quite unsure what to expect! Bidding started at £1,000 and quickly escalated in the electric auction room.
Six bottles of the Light Rum sold for nearly £25,000, with the last bottles of Dark Rum sold for a mind-boggling £7,000 each! No one could believe what they were seeing.
In December 2014, the final sale was even more astonishing. The last 16 bottles sold for a total well in excess of £100,000 making Harewood Rum officially not only the oldest, but also the most expensive rum in the world.
But what should be done with the proceeds?
Geraldine Connor Foundation
Throughout the whole process of discovery and research, everyone was committed to using funds from the rum sale in a positive way. The decision was made to donate the proceeds to the Geraldine Connor Foundation supporting the varied and vibrant Caribbean communities in Britain today.
Geraldine Connor was a larger-than-life character originally from Trinidad. A dynamic and imaginative theatre director, she supported Caribbean communities connecting young people with the arts.
After her premature death in 2011, not long after the rum was discovered, a foundation was set up in her name, to carry on her work in the performing arts especially, but not exclusively, with young people.
The foundations vision is to continuing the work and vision of Geraldine Connor in advancing the development and education of individuals in the arts and culture, and thereby developing professional and life skills, encouraging and nurturing new work and talent, and encouraging and promoting equality, diversity, empowerment and inclusion in society through the Arts.
Since its inception, the Foundation has hosted talks, performances and a free performing arts summer school for teenagers. More projects and performances, including another summer school, will happen this year.
What could be more appropriate than to under-pin the Foundation’s work with the proceeds from the rum sale? Putting something back. An alchemical transformation of base metal into gold.
Join us between 3rd April and 29th June, to explore in detail, the story of the Harewood Rum. It’s your chance to get close to the oldest and most expensive rum in the world. Read more.
Visit www.gcfoundation.co.uk for info on the Geraldine Connor Foundation.