How Did the Sitwells Make Their Money? Exploring the Wealth and Business Ventures of a Renowned British Family

Have you ever heard of the Sitwells? If you haven’t, here’s a brief rundown: they were a family of eccentric aristocrats from the UK who, in the early 20th century, made a name for themselves thanks to their unconventional lifestyles and their contributions to the arts. But how did they make their money in the first place?

Well, the Sitwells were born into wealth, but they didn’t just sit around and wait for their inheritance. Instead, they used their resources to pursue their passions and create innovative businesses that would make them even richer. For example, Edith Sitwell, the most famous of the siblings, started a publishing company that released works by modernist writers like T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas. Meanwhile, her brother Osbert opened a design shop and dabbled in interior decoration.

Of course, the Sitwells’ financial success wasn’t just due to their hard work and creativity. Their social connections and privileged status certainly helped, as did their willingness to take risks and invest in unconventional projects. But perhaps the most important factor in their financial success was their ability to think outside the box and embrace new ideas. In an era often characterized by conservatism and tradition, the Sitwells dared to be different and it paid off in a big way.

The Sitwells’ family background

The Sitwell family is notable for their contributions to British cultural life and their luxury lifestyle, famous for their elaborate parties and sumptuous country homes. But how did they amass such wealth?

The Sitwell family’s wealth can be traced back to their involvement in the Nottinghamshire coal-mining industry during the 18th century. Sir Sitwell Sitwell, the family patriarch, was a successful coal mine owner and landowner who made a fortune from his business ventures. He had five sons and passed his wealth down through the generations.

  • Sir George Sitwell, the eldest son, inherited the family’s Nottinghamshire estates and invested in local ironworks.
  • Sir Sitwell Sitwell, the second son, devoted himself to the arts and built a renowned art collection.
  • Sir Francis Sitwell, the third son, continued the family’s industrial pursuits by investing in coal mines and canals.
  • Sir George Reresby Sitwell, the fourth son, was an author and antiquarian who wrote extensively on local history.
  • Sir Edward Sitwell, the youngest son, focused on agriculture and inherited the family’s Derbyshire estates.

The Sitwell family’s connections in high society enabled them to embark on lavish building projects and entertain on a grand scale. Sir George Sitwell, for example, commissioned a number of architects to work on his ancestral home, Renishaw Hall, resulting in a delightful fusion of styles. The family’s country estates also featured beautifully landscaped gardens and parklands.

Sir Sitwell Sitwell Arts Built a renowned art collection
Sir Francis Sitwell Industry Invested in coal mines and canals
Sir George Reresby Sitwell Author and antiquarian Wrote extensively on local history

Through their entrepreneurial spirit, cultural pursuits, and lavish lifestyle, the Sitwell family made a significant impact on British history and culture. Today, their legacy lives on through their artistic achievements, magnificent estates, and the countless stories of their extravagant parties and glamorous lifestyle.

Early businesses of the Sitwells

The Sitwell family was known for their extravagant lifestyle, but not many people know how they made their fortune. The Sitwells were successful businessmen and entrepreneurs, and their wealth came from various sources including investments, partnerships, and their own businesses.

Sitwell & Co.

  • Sitwell & Co. was one of the successful businesses founded by the Sitwell family. It was a cotton trading firm that they started in the early 19th century. The Sitwells established a network of agents around the world, and they were able to import cotton from India and export it to Europe and America. The success of Sitwell & Co. helped the family build a strong foundation of wealth, which they used to invest in other ventures.
  • After the success of Sitwell & Co., the family continued to invest in the cotton industry. They bought and developed cotton mills, and they also invested in new technologies that improved the efficiency of the industry. The family was able to capitalize on the growing demand for cotton, and they became one of the leading cotton families in Britain.
  • Aside from cotton, the Sitwells were also involved in other businesses such as banking, mining, and real estate. They were constantly looking for new opportunities to invest in, and they were not afraid to take risks.

Rococo Gardens

The Sitwells were not just businessmen; they were also patrons of the arts. They were passionate about design and aesthetics, and they used their wealth to create beautiful and unique spaces.

One of the most famous projects they undertook was the creation of the Rococo Gardens at their family home in Derbyshire. The family spent years designing and building the gardens, which included ornate follies, water features, and intricate landscaping. The Sitwells were known for their extravagant parties, and the Rococo Gardens provided the perfect backdrop for their social events.

Selling off the Estate

Despite their success in various businesses, the Sitwell family eventually faced financial difficulties. In the mid-20th century, the family was forced to sell off their estate, which included the famous gardens, due to mounting debts.

Business Venture Year Established
Sitwell & Co. Early 19th century
Cotton Mills 19th century
Banking 19th century
Mining 19th century
Real Estate 19th century

Despite their eventual financial troubles, the Sitwells left behind a legacy of successful businesses and beautiful spaces. Their entrepreneurial spirit and passion for the arts helped shape British culture and society, and their story serves as a reminder of the power of hard work and creativity in achieving success.

Artistic endeavors of the Sitwells

The Sitwell family, comprised of Sir George Sitwell, his wife Lady Ida, and their three children Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell, were known for their artistic endeavors and contributions to the cultural scene of their time.

From the early 1900s to the mid-twentieth century, the Sitwells were at the forefront of modernist literature, poetry, art, and music, both in England and internationally.

Notable literary works by the Sitwells

  • Edith Sitwell’s poetry collection “Façade,” which was set to music by William Walton and premiered in 1923
  • Osbert Sitwell’s novel “Left Hand, Right Hand!” which explored themes of homosexuality and scandalized British society in 1944
  • Sacheverell Sitwell’s art and architectural criticism, particularly his work “Southern Baroque Art” which examined the influence of Italian baroque on southern European art

The Sitwells’ patronage of the arts

Beyond their artistic pursuits, the Sitwells were also known for their patronage of the arts. They supported up-and-coming artists, musicians, and writers, often hosting salons and gatherings at their family home in Derbyshire, Renishaw Hall.

During World War II, Renishaw Hall became a haven for artists and intellectuals fleeing from the conflict in Europe. Poets such as Dylan Thomas and artists such as Salvador Dali stayed at the estate, where the Sitwells’ patronage granted them time and resources to create some of their most important works.

Renishaw Hall as an artistic hub

Renishaw Hall, with its rich history and artistic associations, continues to be a major destination for tourists and art enthusiasts from around the world. The estate hosts an annual literary festival, which celebrates the Sitwells and other literary figures who contributed to the cultural scene of the early 1900s.

Artistic Endeavors of the Sitwells: Raised in a cultural atmosphere, the three Sitwell siblings helped spearhead modern literary and ecclesiastical movements
Notable literary works by the Sitwells Edith Sitwell’s “Façade,” Osbert Sitwell’s “Left Hand, Right Hand!,” and Sacheverell Sitwell’s “Southern Baroque Art”
The Sitwells’ patronage of the arts The family supported up-and-coming artists, musicians, and writers and hosted salons and gatherings at their family home in Derbyshire, Renishaw Hall
Renishaw Hall as an artistic hub Renishaw Hall attracts tourists and art enthusiasts from all over the world and hosts an annual literary festival which celebrates the Sitwells and other literary figures

The artistic endeavors of the Sitwells made a lasting impact on the cultural landscape of their time and beyond. The family’s contributions to literature, poetry, art, and music continue to inspire and challenge artists and audiences to this day.

The Sitwells’ investments and stock market ventures

The Sitwell family had a keen interest in investments, and they made a fortune from investments in various areas of the market. They diversified their portfolio, investing in a wide range of sectors, including real estate, mining, and manufacturing. Here’s a closer look at how the Sitwells made their fortune through their investments and stock market ventures:

  • Real estate: The Sitwells invested heavily in real estate, particularly in London. They owned several houses in London’s posh Belgravia district, which they rented out for a tidy profit. Additionally, they owned a substantial estate in Derbyshire, where they contributed to the local economy by supporting various local businesses and charities.
  • Mining: The Sitwells also invested in mining companies, betting on the growth of the mining industry. They invested in both gold and coal mines, anticipating that the commodities would continue to be in high demand. Their investment paid off handsomely, with the mines delivering handsome returns, making them even wealthier.
  • Manufacturing: The Sitwells invested in several manufacturing companies, including textile factories, which they owned and operated. They saw a great opportunity in the textile industry, and their investments paid off significantly, allowing them to increase their wealth even further.

The Sitwells’ shrewd investments and stock market ventures made them one of the wealthiest families of their time. However, their success was not just due to their investments. They had an excellent team of financial advisors who helped them make the right choices and navigate the markets.

Here’s a table summarizing the Sitwells’ investments and stock market ventures:

Investment Sector Types of Investments Outcome
Real Estate Houses in London’s Belgravia district, substantial estate in Derbyshire. Significant rental income and increase in property value.
Mining Investment in gold and coal mines. Successful ventures generating substantial returns.
Manufacturing Investment in textile factories and other manufacturing companies. Successful ventures generating substantial returns.

The Sitwells’ investments and stock market ventures were the backbone of their family’s fortune, and they are a testament to the importance of diversification in any investment portfolio.

The Sitwells’ Literary Works and Publications

The Sitwells, particularly Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell, were renowned for their literary works and publications. They were at the forefront of the avant-garde literary movement in Britain during the early 20th century and had a significant impact on the modernist literary scene.

  • Edith Sitwell’s poetry collections are perhaps her most well-known works, including “Green Song and Other Poems” (1925) and “Façade” (1923), which was set to music by William Walton.
  • Osbert Sitwell was a prolific writer, with over 50 books to his name, ranging from poetry to memoirs and historical biographies.
  • Sacheverell Sitwell’s works included memoirs, travel writing, and poetry, as well as books on art and architecture.

The Sitwells also founded the literary magazine “Wheels” in 1916, which showcased the work of emerging modernist writers and established the Sitwells as key figures in the literary scene. They were also involved in the literary group “The London Group” and were instrumental in the establishment of the “Euston Road School,” a group of painters who rejected the prevailing abstract style in favor of a more figurative approach.

The Sitwells’ literary works and publications not only earned them critical acclaim, but also generated significant income for the family. Their books sold well and were translated into multiple languages, and their contributions to literary magazines were highly sought-after. In addition, as influential figures in the literary scene, they were often invited to give lectures and readings, further adding to their income.

Author Notable Works
Edith Sitwell Green Song and Other Poems (1925), Façade (1923)
Osbert Sitwell Left Hand, Right Hand! (1944), Noble Essences (1950)
Sacheverell Sitwell Southern Baroque Art (1924), In the Steps of the Ballets Russes (1924)

The Sitwells were able to use their literary success to establish themselves as cultural icons and make a significant contribution to the modernist literary and artistic scene. Their works continue to be celebrated and studied today.

Patronage and Sponsorships Received by the Sitwells

The Sitwell family made a name for themselves not just for their literary and artistic contributions but also for their ability to secure patronage and sponsorships from wealthy individuals and companies. Below are some of the highlights of their successful funding ventures.

  • Sir George Rostrevor Hamilton: In the early 1900s, Sir George Rostrevor Hamilton became a devoted patron of the arts and a close friend of the Sitwell family. He supported the siblings financially and enabled them to fully immerse themselves in their artistic pursuits.
  • Sackville-West Family: The Sitwells also benefited from the support of the Sackville-West family who provided them with financial aid and introductions to influential social circles. Vita Sackville-West, a renowned writer, was a close friend of the Sitwells and is said to have helped in securing publication deals for their works.
  • The Argosy: The Argosy, a British literary magazine, played a significant role in the Sitwells’ success. Osbert Sitwell worked as an editor for the magazine and secured publication deals for his siblings’ poetry. The magazine also provided them with a platform to showcase their talent to the public.

The Sitwells didn’t just rely on individual support, they were also successful in securing lucrative sponsorships from well-known brands and companies. Examples of these sponsorships include:

  • Cadbury: In the 1920s, Cadbury sponsored Edith Sitwell’s literary works. Their financial support allowed her to publish some of her most famous works, including her poetry collection “Gold Coast Customs”.
  • Oxford University Press: The Oxford University Press published many of the Sitwells’ artworks, including Osbert’s book “The Next Religion”. The impressive sales of their works proved that the Sitwells had a considerable following and were well-regarded in literary circles.
  • The London Literary Society: In 1921, Osbert Sitwell won the prestigious London Literary Society’s contest which earned him a £100 prize. The Society would go on to publish the winning entry, Osbert’s poetry collection “The People’s Palace”.


The Sitwells’ ability to secure patronage and sponsorships is a testament to their talent and skill in navigating the literary world. Thanks to the support of individuals like Sir George Rostrevor Hamilton and the Sackville-West family, as well as the sponsorships from leading brands such as Cadbury, the Sitwells were able to establish themselves as influential figures in the literary and artistic community during the early 20th century.

Patronage and Sponsorship Highlights Supporters/Sponsors
Sir George Rostrevor Hamilton Individual patron
Sackville-West Family Individual patrons, introductions to influential social circles
The Argosy Magazine publication, networking opportunities
Cadbury Publication sponsorship
Oxford University Press Artwork publication
The London Literary Society Contest winnings, publication of winning entry

Overall, the Sitwells were able to capitalize on their talent and secure financial support from various sources. They left their mark on the literary and artistic world and will always be remembered as pioneering figures of the early 20th century.

The Sitwells’ real estate acquisitions and dealings

The Sitwell family, known for their artistic contributions to literature, music, and art, also made a fortune in the lucrative world of real estate. During the early 20th century, the Sitwells started buying up properties in London, which proved to be a very fruitful investment decision.

  • They acquired numerous properties around the fashionable Eaton Square
  • They purchased a Georgian mansion in Scarborough, which served as a seaside retreat for the family.
  • They also owned a lavish villa on the French Riviera, which became their winter home.

Aside from owning properties in the United Kingdom and France, the Sitwells also invested in properties overseas. The family’s business ventures included real estate purchases in Brazil, where they owned a vast estate located in the Bahia state.

The Sitwells also had a keen eye for spotting potential development sites that they could later sell for a profit. One example of this is the famous “Mirror Wall” estate, which they acquired in 1913 and later sold to a developer in the 1920s.

Property Location Value at time of acquisition Current value (estimated)
Eaton Square properties London, UK £12,000 £4 million
Scarborough mansion North Yorkshire, UK £8,000 £2.5 million
Villa Elise Cap Ferrat, France £40,000 £20 million
Bahia estate Brazil £6,000 Unknown

The Sitwells’ shrewd investments in real estate proved to be a key factor in elevating their social status, and securing their financial stability for generations to come.

FAQs: How Did The Sitwells Make Their Money?

  1. Who were the Sitwells?
  2. The Sitwells were a famous British aristocratic family known for their wealth and unique taste in art and aesthetics.

  3. How did the Sitwells acquire their wealth?
  4. The Sitwells made their money through various means, such as land ownership, real estate investments, coal and iron mines, and other profitable ventures.

  5. Did the Sitwells use their wealth to support the arts?
  6. Yes, the Sitwells were well-known patrons of the arts, and they often used their wealth to support and promote artists, writers, and musicians.

  7. Were the Sitwells involved in politics?
  8. Yes, the Sitwells were politically active and had close ties to the conservative party. They also held various positions of power and influence throughout their history.

  9. What notable contributions did the Sitwells make to society?
  10. The Sitwells made significant contributions to various fields, such as literature, art, and architecture. They also supported medical research and education, and helped fund the establishment of several hospitals and universities.

  11. Are there any Sitwells still alive today?
  12. While the main branch of the family has died out, there are still descendants of the Sitwells living today, who continue to carry on the family’s legacy.

Closing: Thanks for Reading!

We hope that this article has shed some light on how the Sitwells made their fortune and the impact they had on society and the arts. Our team appreciates your interest in this fascinating family’s history. Please stay tuned for more engaging articles!

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