George Adams Anson (1731-1789)


Because both George and Thomas died childless their nephew George Adams of Orgreave Hall, Alrewas, inherited the family fortune. He was the son of their sister Janette who had married Sambrooke Adams of Sambrooke near Market Drayton. A provision of the inheritance was that he adopted the Anson surname. This change of name and the right to bear the Anson crest was authorised in 1773.[1] George was already wealthy when he inherited Shugborough, in addition to which his bride brought a dowry of £10,000. He married Mary, daughter of George Venables Vernon the first Lord Vernon[2] on January 5th 1763. His later inheritance of the estates of his three unmarried aunts considerably increased his wealth. In 1770 his uncle, Thomas Anson, had handed over his political seat at Lichfield which he then held until his death in 1789.

He and Mary had eleven children[3]


·        Thomas (b.14 Feb 1767, d.31 July 1818, First Viscount Anson)


·        George (Sir), (1769-1849) G.C.B., K.T.S., M.P. Sir George entered the army in 1786 and served under the Duke of York and Sir Ralph Abercromby in Holland. It was during the Peninsular War that he gained his military reputation. He served in all three campaigns between 1809 and 1813, and gained a distinction in his command of the 16th Light Dragoons at the Battle of Porto. His reputation was further enhanced by his command of a brigade of Light Cavalry at the battles of Talavera, Busaco, Salamanca and Vittoria. He also fought in the battle of Venta del Pozo during the retreat from Burgos. For his services at Talavera, Salamanca and Vittoria he received a medal and two clasps. So prominent was he during these campaigns that the House of Commons thanked him in November 1816 for his services generally during the Peninsular War. In February 1827 he was appointed Colonel of the 4th Dragoon Guards and rose to the rank of General.  In addition he was groom of the bedchamber to Prince Albert 1836-1841 and equerry to the Duchess of Kent. In 1846 he was appointed as Lieutenant –Governor of the Chelsea Royal Hospital, and became Governor in May 1849.


With Thomas’s appointment as Viscount, and his departure for the House of Lords, Sir George was returned as M.P. for the borough of Lichfield between 1806 and 1841. He married Frances, daughter of John William Hamilton and sister of Sir Frederick Hamilton, baronet, in 1800. They had six sons and five daughters. Their son Talavera Vernon became an Admiral in the Royal Navy. Another son, Thomas, became a first-class cricketer. Frances died in 1834, and Sir George died on November 4th 1849 at the Chelsea Royal Hospital. In ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ (TX 18th October 2007) it was discovered that the multiple gold-medal Olympic rower Sir Matthew Pinsent is a direct descendant of Sir George.[4]


·        Charles, Archdeacon of Carlisle (d. 20 June 1827)


·        William (Sir) (b.13 Aug 1772, d.14 Jan 1847), acquired considerable distinction in the Peninsular War and created a baronet in 1831. He married Louisa Frances Mary, only child of John Dickenson and his wife Mary, daughter of Charles Hamilton, son and heir of Lord Archibald Hamilton, son of William 3rd Duke of Hamilton. Issue.[5]


·        Henry (Rev.), M.A., (b.19 Dec 1773, d.1854)


·        Edward (1775-1837). Married Harriet Ramsbottom in 1808. Issue.


·        Sambrooke (b.18 Feb 1778, d.10 Oct 1846) Lieutenant-Colonel of the 1st Regiment of foot guards. Married Elizabeth Hawkins of Staffordshire (d.22 March 1866) and had one daughter Elizabeth Grace.


·        Frederick (Very Rev), D.D., (b.23 March 1779, d.8 May 1867), Dean of Chester. He married Mary Anne, the daughter of the Rev. Richard Levett of Milford. Issue.


·        Mary (d.1837), married Sir F. Ford, baronet, in 1785.


·        Anne, married Bell Lloyd in 1792.


·        Catherine Juliana (d.5 July 1843). Married Henry Stuart in 1807.


George Adams Anson died on October 27th 1789 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Thomas (II).


Thomas Anson II (1767-1818)


Thomas Anson II (b.14 Feb 1767, d.31 July 1818), was the eldest son of George Adams Anson and inherited Shugborough in 1789. He was M.P. for Lichfield from 1789 until being created first Viscount on February 17th 1806.[6] This was largely through the influence of Whig politician Charles James Fox, a close friend of the Prince Regent. He was a prominent member of the Whig aristocrats that included Earl Spencer, the Dukes of Bedford and Norfolk, and Lord Petre. He married Ann Margaret Coke (d.23 May 1843), daughter of the pioneering agriculturalist, Thomas Coke of Holkham Hall, Norfolk (later Earl of Leicester), on September 15th 1794.[7] They had the following eleven children[8]: 


·        Thomas William (b.20 Oct 1795, d.18 March 1854), first Earl of Lichfield.


·        George (b.13 Oct 1797), Major-General in the army, Commander-in-Chief in India. George, as second son rather than heir, was destined for the military. He joined the Scots Guards in 1814 and served at the Battle of Waterloo as a young ensign. A report which mentions George states: ‘At daylight on the 18th, we were agreeably surprised to see a detachment of the 3rd Guards commanded by Captain Wigston and Ensign George Anson...who had been sent to relieve us. I took the opportunity of giving to Anson, then a fine lad of seventeen, a silver watch, made by Barwise, which his mother, Lady Anson, had requested me to take over to him.’[9] The ‘fine lad’ grew to be a person of some presence ‘reckoned to be the handsomest man of his day and with the most perfect manners.’[10] By 1825 he had been promoted to a lieutenant and aide-de-camp to the army Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of York. His swarthy complexion and dark hair, as well as a fierce reputation among betting men earned him the name of ‘the Black Colonel.’[11] George became a regular guest at the Duke’s country house, Oatlands, sharing with his chief a passion for whist. Later, after the death of the Duke of York, he was appointed aide to the Duke of Wellington; he in turn became a reliable friend, shooting companion and patron. 


His reputation as a whist player was second to none. Lawley said of him: ‘he was one of the most accomplished whist players that ever shuffled a pack of cards, and, moreover one of the most agreeable to play with, either as partner or adversary. His temper was never ruffled, nor was his courtesy ever known to fail.’ Later in life he could be found every night at the old Turf Club in Arlington Street. In the early days he seems to have haunted Holkham, attracted by its incomparable shooting; his mother’s sister, Lady Elizabeth Stanhope Spencer, found him consistently amiable ‘spite of finery’ and given to ‘declaring against the folly of marrying.’ His lifestyle was such at this time that he earned the reputation of a roué.[12] However, he was not wealthy and his elder brother Thomas William was continually subsidising him, paying for rented rooms in Newmarket, the legal costs of actions for debt, as well as personal bills from the best gentlemen’s outfitters in London.[13


As a second son with at best only limited financial expectations, he had the temerity to fall in love with Isabella Elizabeth Annabella Forrester, a noted beauty and daughter of Cecil Weld, Lord Forrester. For financial reasons her family firmly opposed the match. Her brother wrote to Thomas William: ‘His conduct throughout has been open and straightforward. He told me in the first instance, that he himself had nothing and worse than nothing, that he depended entirely upon what you might do for him...Your answer to him and your letter to me are precisely what I expected. I own I do not see the thing can take place with any chance of happiness to either party. I have tried all I can to persuade both my sister and George to give it up but I fear notwithstanding your letter he is as determined as ever...I really think for both their sakes the sooner it is put an end to the better.’ Thomas William’s generosity was not found wanting; although there remains no record of the amount involved, the settlement he made for George was substantial enough to change Lord Forrester’s mind. George himself expressed to his brother a ‘deep gratitude for all your kindness. It has been more than I deserve and had no right to expect. But depend on it, to the last hours of my life it will be duly appreciated.’[14]



George married Isabella Elizabeth Annabella, daughter of Cecil Weld, first Lord Forrester, on November 30th 1830. The marriage cemented a perhaps unfortunate alliance, for Isabella’s sister was married to the sixth Earl of Chesterfield, one of the leading men in English racing. Through this connection George became controller of one of the most famous and influential stables in racing – John Scott’s stable at Whitewell House. Unfortunately his reputation as a judge of horses, though never challenged, did not prevent him from losing large sums on the turf, large enough to be noted by a companion at Doncaster Races in 1846: ‘George Anson must have lost thousands but as usual bore it very well.’[15]



George and his wife had three daughters: Isabella Maria Katherine (d. 29 March 1922) married Richard, third Earl Howe in 1858; Alice Louisa (d. 14 Jan 1879) married the Honourable George Wentworth Fitzwilliam in 1865; and Geraldine Georgiana Mary, lady of Grace of St John of Jerusalem, married the third Marquess of Bristol in 1862. All three daughters had children.


George’s political career ran began in 1830 when he was returned as M.P. for Great Yarmouth. He subsequently sat for Stafford, Stoke and South Staffordshire. His position as an M.P. enabled him to obtain two highly lucrative appointments – as Clerk to the Ordnance and Chairman of the London and North Western Railway. It is unfortunate that he is so little remembered in this last capacity, for his ‘methodical habits of business and familiarity with figures gained him great distinction as head of what was then the greatest railway board in the world.’[16] His experience of railways dated back to 1830 for he was present at the fatal accident to Huckisson at the opening of the Liverpool Rail Road, being the first person to jump down onto the track to pull Huckisson from under the carriage where he had rolled, and together with Lord Wilton, tried to stem Huckisson’s bleeding.[17] Concern with the more business-like side of life is also shown by his correspondence with the Bentley agent during Thomas William’s absence in the 1840s about the state of the Black Country iron industry.[18]


George suffered a tragic death. In 1857 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty’s forces in India, a position he took up immediately before the outbreak of the mutiny. Later that summer Disraeli met his wife Isabella at a ball given by the Duchess of Manchester and was happy and optimistic concerning her husband’s future. Some expressed doubts as to George’s experience and ability to deal with the worsening situation in India. Disraeli joked that George had ‘seen the Great Mogul so often on the Ace of Spades that he would know how to deal with him.’ Isabella thought the joke amusing and reported it in her next letter to her husband, little knowing that at the time of the ball George had been dead six weeks, of cholera.[19] The news shocked his friends, among whom was Greville: ‘He was the oldest and most intimate friend I had, and almost the last surviving associate of my youth...there is a disposition in some quarters to make...poor Anson the scapegoat, and now that he is dead and cannot defend himself, to attribute to him and to his misconduct or lackness the misfortunes that have befallen us...but if I may judge by the tenor of his correspondence with me, I should infer he had warned the Government against leaving India without adequate protection, and consequently urged the expediency of sending out fresh troops.’ All sorts of rumours spread, including the story that George had been ‘interred without even an ordinary salute.’ At a later date Greville was proved right and George was substantially vindicated.


His wife also met a tragic end the following year. Staying with her daughters, and preparing to go with them to Lord Howe’s ball, she sent for a laudanum embrocation for rheumatism in her hands. Just before dinner she drank this instead of her usual headache medicine. Appropriate remedies were applied but she died on the drawing room floor, ‘a most agonising sight for those about her.’[20]



·        Charles Littleton, a midshipman in the Royal Navy, killed in 1812 off Lissa by the accidental explosion of a gun on board the ‘Bacchante’ frigate.


·        William (b. 26 Feb 1801, d.19 Oct 1830), Captain in the Royal Navy.


·        Henry (1804-1827).


·        Edward Harcourt (1808-1817).


·        Anna Margaret (b.30 Oct 1796, d.19 Aug 1882), married Archibald John, Earl of Rosebery in 1819.


·        Georgiana (d.10 Feb 1821).


·        Frances Elizabeth (d.25 Dec 1899), married the Honourable Charles John Murray, son of William, Earl of Mansfield, on September 1st 1835. He died On August 1st 1851 and she married a second time to Ambrose Isted of Ecton, Northampton, on September 10th 1853. He died May 13th 1881.


·        Frederica Sophia (b.24 Aug 1814, d.11 Oct 1837), married the Honourable Bouverie Francis Primrose ,son of Archibald, fourth Earl of Rosebery.


·        Elizabeth Jane, V.A. (d.15 Sept 1894), married Henry, 3rd Lord Waterpark on July 18th 1837.


Upon inheriting Shugborough Thomas immediately set about major reconstructions of the House and Park as well as adding several subsidiary estate buildings. The work was undertaken in two distinct phases – the first between 1791-98 and the second between 1803-06. The first phase was devoted to remodelling and enlarging the House. The second phase, which also included further alterations to the House, mainly concentrated upon the Park and subsidiary buildings. He appointed Samuel Wyatt as architect.


The piecemeal 18th century growth of the house had resulted in a lack of uniformity. This was most evident between the high narrow central block of the original 1693 house and the low wings of 1748. The changes were designed to minimise these differences and increase accommodation. This was achieved by increasing the size of the wings, including the creation of a large drawing room in the north wing.


The exterior was completely transformed with the removal of the balustrade parapet from the centre and the addition of a new portico with eight Ionic columns. The alterations emphasised the horizontal aspect of the house. Other alterations to harmonise the exterior included the removal of the front pediment. The central arched windows of the ground floor bows were made square-headed, an angular bay window at the end of the north wing demolished along with the attached columns in the links on both fronts and replaced by plain tripartite windows. The whole exterior was clad in a skin of slate, polished, painted and sanded to give the appearance of ashlar.


Of the interior only the Library and Drawing Room (now the Dining Room) were retained. Columns were introduced in the Entrance Hall disguising the differing proportions of the doors and apses added to other rooms. Wyatt also remodelled the inner staircase, replacing the original one which was probably of wood, and altered the Blue Drawing Room and the Ante Room.[21] The two finest interiors created by Wyatt were the Great Drawing Room (now the Red Drawing Room) and the Bird Room, both with stucco ceilings and friezes by Joseph Rose, the younger. The walls were hung with paper or fabric, mainly satin striped in fawn or salmon and silver.


These alterations were designed to make the house more comfortable. This included demolishing the State Bedroom and Dressing Room located behind the original Drawing Room and converting this into the current Dining Room. The whole of the ground floor of the centre and north wing were given over to ‘rooms of parade’ intended for entertainment. Other improvements by Wyatt included the extension of the south wing of the pavilion to accommodate a small circular Entrance Hall. This entrance being at basement level, the ground floor was reached by a small oval curved double staircase. This became the private family entrance as the smaller rooms used by them when not entertaining were grouped at this end of the house. Adjoining the circular hall are the Study and Boudoir. The latter was slightly extended into a curved shape, fitted with alcoves to display sculptures. Despite improvements the sanitation remained basic, the bedrooms being equipped with night-tables containing receptacles for that use. The first water-closets were not installed until Wyatt’s alterations in 1793 which included ‘Six patent apparatus for water-closets with patent engine.’[22]


The second phase of developments were reputedly undertaken in preparation for a visit by the Prince Regent. This included the large saloon created by the extension of the former Dining Room at the centre of the west front into an axial wing ending with a three-bay segmental curve. This wing was of three storeys with the State bedroom suite on the first floor and attics above. Verandahs with cast iron pillars flanked the saloon and linked it to the previously extended pavilions on either side.[23] Doors on either side of the room opened out onto the verandahs.


In addition to the House Thomas also wanted to employ progressive agricultural techniques and so developed the Park Farm. This was the heart of activity on the estate with a brewhouse and watermill, dairy and an extensive kitchen garden. This included a steam-heated greenhouse to enable growing melons and cucumbers all year round. In addition he also built Whitebarn Farm near to the Stafford-Rugeley road on the edge of the estate, and acquired farms at Ranton, Chesbey, Plardwick and Fradley.[24] The main Stafford to Lichfield road that ran through the grounds was diverted across Cannock Chase (1795), an alternative channel was dug for the River Sow and a new bridge built half a mile upstream from the old which, in turn, was demolished. Lodges were built at both the Stafford and Lichfield entrances. (The Lichfield lodge was originally built at Great Haywood but moved to its current position on the south-west side of the Park when the London and North Western Railway line was built through the estate).


The remnants of the original Shugborough village were removed and the occupiers re-housed in model cottages in Great Haywood that formed two distinctive layouts. One group of twelve cottages were arranged on the other side of the Essex Bridge, the original site of the Lichfield lodge now replaced with the railway arch. They form a pair of low two-storeyed terraces flanking the road. Each side is punctuated with one taller cottage with a Tuscan porch. The other group, known as ‘The Ring’, were a group of sixteen cottages with a communal bake oven in the centre of the inner yard. These were demolished in 1965. A small cottage in Stafford Wood, probably built for a woodman, still survives.


Thomas married Anne Margaret Coke a month before her sixteenth birthday. Apparently ‘she was thin, almost to emaciation, very excitable and energetic, never quiet, constantly getting into quarrels, but ready to do anything, or to take any trouble for others, whoever they might be; the consequence of which was that she was very much beloved.’[25]


So young was she when launched into the society of Regency London that her husband arranged that she should be carefully chaperoned and keep the company not of her contemporaries but of the dowagers – an unfortunate choice which led her to acquire their addiction to card games and gambling, an addiction which she not only kept into her old age but also passed onto her sons.[26]


She was an accomplished artist and her work survives in the house. In the Red Drawing Room hangs a painting of three of her children. Upstairs in the Earl’s Corridor hangs six watercolour sketches of scenes around Shugborough. Her work was also exhibited at the Royal College of Art.


Thomas William Anson (1795-1854) First Earl of Lichfield


Thomas William (b.20 Oct 1795, d.18 March 1854) inherited the estate on the death of his father in 1818. He spent the following nine years making improvements to the park and buildings to enhance the overall splendour of the House. He was privy councillor to George IV and created Earl of Lichfield in the coronation honours of William IV in 1831, no doubt in recognition of the family’s long-standing political associations with the borough.[27] He was Postmaster General 1835-41. He married Louisa Catherine (d.20 Aug 1879), daughter of Nathaniel Phillips of Slebech Hall, Pembrokeshire, on February 11th 1819 and had the following eight children[28]:


·        Thomas George, second Earl (b.15 Aug 1825, d.7 Jan 1892).


·        William Victor Leopold Horatio, R.N., (b.1 Aug 1833, d.1856).


·        Augustus Henry Archibald (b.5 March 1835, d.17 Nov 1877), Lieutenant-Colonel in the army, late eighth Hussars, V.C., M.P. for Lichfield 1859 to 1868. He married Amelia Maria, daughter of the Right Rev. Thomas Leigh Claughton, D.D., Bishop of St Albans. After his death his widow remarried George Douglas, eighth Duke of Argyll.


·        Adelbert John Robert (Right Rev.) (b.20 Dec 1840, d.unm.27 May 1909), D.D. Oxford, Assistant Bishop of Lichfield, second Canon residentiary and Chancellor, late bishop of Qu’ Appelle, Canada 1884-1892.


·        Louisa Mary Anne (d.27 Aug 1882), married Edward King Tenison of Kilronan Castle, Roscommon, Ireland, Lord-Lieutenant of Roscommon, on November 26th 1838.


·        Anne Frederica (b.1823, d.22 July 1896), married Francis Charteris, 10th Earl of Wemyss and March, on August 29th 1843 and had ten children.


·        Harriet Frances Maria (d.15 Feb 1898), married Augustus Henry, 6th Lord Vernon on June 7th 1851. Issue.


·        Gwendoline Isabella Anna Maria (d.14 March 1912), married Nicholas Power O’Shee of Gardenmorris, Waterford. Issue.


Thomas William was educated at Eton where he also acquired an addiction to drink and gambling. He left with a collection of aristocratic friends, the closest of which was George Bentinck and his grandfather’s nephew, William Coke. After Eton he went to Christ Church, Oxford, where he matriculated in 1814 at the age of eighteen. He qualified as a doctor of civil law, and afterwards spent a great deal of time practicing his sporting talents both at Holkham and Melton Mowbray.[29]


He undertook a prolonged tour of the continent and met an impressive list of nobility, ambassadors and other sons of the English aristocracy.[30] Some of his activities were less than respectable. In later life a favourite drawing room anecdote of his concerned the time when ‘he was sentenced to goal for ten days at Geneva for riotous conduct in the streets. He discovered that his imprisonment was nothing more than a confinement and that he was at liberty to see his friends in prison to any number. He accordingly ordered dinner for eighteen or twenty persons daily and on the third day one of the municipal authorities of the town visited him and requested him to leave the goal.’[31]


He was elected as M.P. for Yarmouth at the age of twenty-two. Shortly afterwards he appears to have departed again for Europe, only to return upon receiving the news of his father’s unexpected death in London in the late summer of 1818. However, due to a delay in the news reaching him by the time he returned his father’s body had already been interred in the family vault at Colwich church.


In his appointment as Postmaster-General between 1835 and 1841 he made over 2,500 new appointments – letter-carriers, messengers, stampers and mail guards.[32] New roads and improvements in transport helped to increase the horse-drawn post service. He also introduced the uniform of a red coat. His real achievement was the introduction of the ‘penny post’ with the introduction of the postage stamp. Previously the system had operated on charging in relation to the distance, an idea for which then (and sometimes now in retrospect) he received considerable backlash.


Bank records of the first Earl’s private spending are missing although other miscellaneous personal expenditure exists. By 1828 he was spending around £18,000 a year on himself, his immediate family, their households and friends.[33] The slight indications that do survive for the first Earl’s private accounts suggest considerable payments for gambling bets or horses. They include £4,756 to the fashionable gambling house Crockfords, and £3,574 to the ‘turfite and money-lender’ G. J. Ford. It was a later writ by Ford for further debts that were the cause of the 1842 sale.[34]


Several contemporary writers indicate that Thomas William was a dedicated card player, and in fact had been a client of William Crockford at his first gaming house in King Street, before the appearance of the more famous gambling club in St. James Street in November 1827, to which he became a frequent visitor and would often play for enormous stakes.[35]


The family fortune also decreased with purchases of land, not at Shugborough, but in other parts of Staffordshire. The Ansons already owned land elsewhere but the first Earl expanded these smaller estates, consolidating them into full-scale estates, influenced by his grandfather, Coke of Norfolk. Coke had also been a sportsman as well as an agriculturalist and had helped to establish the modern shoot with organised drivers and beaters. The Earl expanded the Ranton estate, purchased by his father, turning it into one of the finest sporting lodges in Staffordshire. He held a series of shooting parties throughout the 1830s and made it a centre of Whig sporting hospitality. George III’s son, the Duke of Sussex, came each year for a period of ten years. The painting of ‘A Shooting Part at Ranton Abbey’ by Sir Francis Grant (1840) includes the first Earl of Lichfield, Lord Melbourne (then PM), Lord Sefton and the Earl of Uxbridge. Meanwhile, royalty at Shugborough included a visit from Princess Victoria, accompanied by her mother, in October 1832, staying three nights as part of the future Queen’s first adult itinerary of English country houses. The only time a reigning monarch has visited Shugborough was Elizabeth II on May 25th 1973.


In addition to the house at St James’s Square the first Earl also rented a house each winter at Atherstone (Warwickshire), where in 1820 he also bought the hunt – known for a while as the Anson Hunt. He gave this up in 1830 when he became Master of the Royal Buck Hounds at Windsor, renting another expensive house, Fern Hill, in Windsor Great Park. He was also co-owner of a racing stable at Newmarket along with his brother George and close friend Lord George Bentinck.


The financial crisis of 1841-42 that led to the ‘Great Sale’ was instigated by action brought against the Earl by a London lawyer for £20,000 on behalf of the turfite and money-lender G. J. Ford. The estate was already mortgaged to the maximum. Debts had begun accumulating since the 1820s through a series of small loans raised locally. In 1838 all these were consolidated into one large mortgage of £600,000 with the Provident Assurance Co.[36]


Since the Earl was unable to raise the £20,000 he was left with no other option than to sell the contents of both his London home and Shugborough. The contents of the London home took seven days, and Shugborough fourteen. The items that were sold included the collection of old masters paintings, antique sculptures and the contents of the Library. Even the contents of the servants wing and stable block, including the lamps and coal scuttles in the basement were offered for sale. The only exclusions were the family portraits and objects originally belonging to Admiral Anson. Of the £18,339 realised by the sale, over a quarter of this was from purchases by other members of the Anson family.


Scattered amongst the manuscript collection are pointers to the Earl’s second affliction. Gout was a common illness at the time and today still carries a hint of the ridiculous, with its association with high living and over-indulgence in port. Modern medical science gives a slightly different perspective. The underlying cause of gout is a metabolic malfunction which upsets the body’s bio-chemical balance; this leads to the accumulation of crystals of uric acid in the tissues of the extremities, which are then subject to extreme pain and swelling. A protein rich diet can indeed trigger the illness, but the underlying malfunction is inherited. The illness is progressive – each bout builds up more deposits bringing more pain. Modern medicine can eradicate the condition entirely but during the 19th century treatment was limited largely to the alleviation of the symptoms. The standard remedy in the 1820s was heavy purging with calomel and rhubarb.


The first Earl may not have been the first member of his family to suffer from the illness. Back in 1759 Admiral George kept a note of a cure for gout.[37] The death of the Earl’s father in 1818 was reported to be due to a three-month long attack of gout which eventually reached his stomach – probably in fact cancer or an ulcer, but indicative of the fact that he was a well-known sufferer.[38]


As early as the 1820s when he was riding family tradition claimed that he could only get his boots on with the aid of a bucket of ice. Occasionally the bouts would be so painful as to interrupt his enjoyment of the Ranton shooting parties.[39] The same problem kept him away from court and eventually led to his resignation from the Buckhounds in 1835. Indeed the Earl’s gout was of such a degree that the king came to hear of it: ‘His Majesty has indeed heard with much concern that you had been suffering so much from gout and he regrets that you should now be confined in consequence of a serious relapse of that painful disorder.’[40] Another letter from the Duchess of Kent to Lady Lichfield in 1831 also enquired about ‘your husband’s gout.’ By the early 1840s the affliction must have reached a truly disabling stage at least periodically, for as well as a ‘mahogany-framed leg rest’, the sale of 1842 included three gout chairs which may have been a form of wheelchair; one was kept in the saloon, one in a dressing room and one in the library, suggesting they must have been in frequent use. By the time of the sale, the Earl, the Countess and younger family had already departed for the continent in a search not only for a refuge from social humiliation but also for a relief from physical pain. His favourite watering place came to be the town of Graffenburg in Austrian Silesia where he became the most illustrious patient of Priessnitz, one of the first practitioners of hydrotherapy. The Earl’s ‘water cure’ condemned him to a procession of powerful cold showers, tepid baths, underwater massage, and long sessions of lying tightly bound by wet sheets and bandages.[41] But the Earl was now a changed man and became a model patient under this regime. In Naples, the Lichfields and their children were able to lead a successful aristocratic lifestyle and to receive visits from friends. Three years later the Earl was in Rome but preparing to send his wife and family back to England while he returned to Graffenburg.[42] A few months later he accepted the persuasions of his friends and family and himself returned to London, before setting at Shugborough in 1848 in more modest means.


When the third Earl did return to Shugborough the local people had not forgotten his generosity and style dispensed on previous occasions. A committee was elected to organise a welcome at Rugeley railway station but this was abandoned at the Earl’s request. The people of Colwich and Great Haywood however were not to be refused a celebration which they saw as a treat and a procession of over 1,000 villagers and cottage tenants marched across the Essex Bridge and paraded in front of the house, accompanied by a band. The Earl and his family came out onto the portico, an address was read out and presented, and speeches made in reply, accompanied by much cheering. The farm tenants at Ranton raised a subscription for a garden party on that estate, an occasion ‘heralded by a discharge of cannon’; the farm tenants, about one hundred in total, sat down to a meal in one tent, and in several other over eight hundred cottagers with their wives and children were fed with roast beef and plum pudding, tea and cake. Games were organised for the children, and bag races and wheelbarrow races for the men. In true English country style it was the wives of the tenants who organised the tea for the cottagers. Two bands played all day, interrupted periodically by cannon fire. As evening approached a large bonfire was lit. Unfortunately Lord Lichfield was not well enough to attend, being still unable to move about without assistance; Lord Anson attended instead, and was escorted up the drive by a band and three hundred schoolchildren waving flags. Described by the press as ‘manly, talented and deeply impressive’ he made a speech which moved many tenants to tears, and a toast was made to the eldest tenant, Richard Aspley of Dunston, aged 78, who claimed his family had ‘lived under’ the Ansons for 400 years. The evening ended with the tenants moving inside the house and enjoying ‘many spirited country dances.’ The press summed up their report: ‘A scene so joyous, and so harmoniously blending the nobleman, the yeoman tenantry, their wives and families, the labourers and their wives and families, is only to be witnessed in happy, good old England.’[43] Fittingly enough, the bill came to more than the tenants had budgeted for and the Earl ended up subsiding his own treat.


Despite the general welcome, the third Earl appeared very rarely in public, though within a few days the Countess began to take up her duties as local benefactor. The couple spent little time at Shugborough and during his exile the Earl decided that he would not live there again. Urging his brother to accept no less than £40,000 compensation for the proposed railway line running through the park, he wrote: ‘You know from what I have before written to you that I have no wish ever to live there again, and therefore in decidedly objecting to the proposed line, I have been able to consider it without any special partiality to the place itself.’[44] Neither did he have much interest in business. He spent most of his later years quietly at Ranton or London, most probably heavily drugged against pain.[45] Thomas died in 1854 at the age of fifty-eight, his wife outlived him by over twenty years and died in 1879.


Despite continually suffering from gout the first Earl has been described as possessing good humour, warmth and generosity. This has been attested to by friends throughout his life, including those with who he kept in contact with during his self-imposed exile on the continent, as well as those who remembered him long after his death. These qualities help to offset the uncontrolled personal spending which brought him public humiliation and ridicule.[46]


The improvements made by the first Earl can be measured with comparisons of inventories and accounts from the last quarter of the 18th century with those of the first half of the 19th century. These reveal the extent to which the house had grown, both in size and splendour.


A 1773 inventory of the house contents made at the time of Thomas Anson’s death lists a total of thirty-four rooms plus cellars and outhouses. By 1842 this number had increased to about eighty. The sale catalogue of this date lists ‘thirty best bed chambers’, ten main reception rooms, twenty rooms in the service wing and the same number of servants bedrooms. Apart from the addition by Wyatt of the new Drawing Room and Saloon wing, this apparent more than doubling of the accommodation resulted mainly from the increased number of service rooms, servants bedrooms and the conversion of attics into bedrooms for guests.[47]


The increased number of rooms also corresponded with a greater degree of luxury of the decoration and furnishings of the main rooms of the house. By the early decades of the 19th century the rather sparsely equipped Georgian house had been fitted out in a much more lavish way. Its previously main bare oak floors, customary even in important houses until the mid-18th century after which carpet production began in this country, were by 1842 all fitted with carpets, the use of which had earlier been restricted to the Library, Drawing Room and State Bedroom. The quality of carpet used varied with the importance of the room, from Brussels for the grandest to Kidderminster for the less so.[48]


This ostentation was repeated in the more lavish decoration of the chief rooms, which in the earlier years of the 18th century would mainly have had painted walls. Wallpapers, such as the one mentioned in Philip Yorke’s journal of 1762, were still very expensive. But by 1794, Wyatt’s new Drawing Room had walls hung with crimson damask-silk secured by gilded fillets. A ‘bed chamber and dressing room’ (although it is not stipulated which one) were hung with ‘varnished silver-linen on a salmon ground’, a drawing room with ‘silver on a buff-linen ground, and an ante room with ‘a Prince of Wales pattern in silver on a salmon ground’, all of which also contained gilded mouldings.[49]


In the 18th century several of the servants had slept in their workplaces on the ground floor; the furnishings of the ‘porter’s hall’ included a pair of bedsteads and bedding as also did the ‘little room next to the fourth parlour.’ This was a survival of the common medieval practice of when servants were required to be always on-hand and had to sleep where best they could. The advent of the wired bell-pull system, installed in 1795, made this no longer necessary since they could be summoned from the servant’s hall when needed. This was coupled with the growing emphasis on privacy by owners, which eventually led to the Victorian absolute segregation of servant and master. By 1842 all the servants at Shugborough had bedrooms in the upper floor of the stable block, with the exception of the most senior staff such as the steward, valet, housekeeper, ladies-maid and children’s nurse, who were accommodated nearer to the house, either above the service wing or in the attics. The lower servants occupied shared rooms, the number in each ranging from two to five, the latter being above the coach houses and occupied by the grooms. The furnishings ranged from very comfortable to barely adequate, according to the household position of the servants.[50]


The increased number of service rooms reflected the Victorian preference for several small work places, each with a specialised use, rather than one large general purpose area. To the kitchen, larder and pantry of the earlier house was added a stillroom, pastry room, preserving room, scullery, brushing room and lamp room. The stable yard also included the laundry, brewhouse, slaughterhouse, bakehouse, coach houses and fire engine house.[51]


Each of these workplaces had their own staff with the number of servants employed rising from twenty-three in 1789 to thirty-two in 1817, to reach forty-two in 1822. The extra staff engaged in the early 19th century also included a groom of the chambers who was responsible, with the usher of the hall and four footmen, for the reception rooms and welfare of visitors. Two ladies-maids, a valet, a second cook and four more grooms and postillions added to the staff, indicate the increased ostentation of the household, at a period when social status was reflected in the size of the establishment maintained.


Before the enforced sale the estate had a total of ninety-two servants. Thirty-seven of these were employed directly in the house with the remaining fifty-five in the gardens and farm as well as general outdoor workmen including blacksmiths, carpenters, stonemasons, bricklayers and waggoners.[52] Following the sale Shugborough was mothballed with only the gardener living there as caretaker. All former staff were pensioned off and moved out to cottages in Great Haywood. The Farm was let to a tenant farmer.


At this period the income to support the running of the house was still mainly derived from estate resources. These increased steadily throughout the 18th century as more land was acquired. The rate of land acquisition increased sharply after 1818 when the first Earl inherited the property. Between 1819-1821 forty-one transactions were recorded (the several Enclosure Acts of this period forced many small landowners to sell out to the larger estates at low prices).[53]


The first Earl’s wife was Louisa Catherine Philips, the daughter of Nathaniel Philips of Slebech in Pembrokeshire. He had been a Jamaican slave owner, who began life as an illegitimate son on a Mile End merchant. He emigrated to Jamaica in 1759 where he became a successful sugar planter. He married a Jamaican heiress, Ann Swarton, from whom he acquired two daughters and a large interest in the Pleasant Hill plantation in St. Thomas. After his wife’s death he began to make repeated journeys to London, returning for good in 1789 and taking lodgings near to St. James Park. With the proceeds of the plantation he bought the small, encumbered but agriculturally productive estate of Slebech and shortly afterwards married the daughter of the Rector of Lampeter Velfrey, a young girl forty years his junior. His second family consisted of two sons and two daughters, the youngest of whom was Catherine Louisa. After his death in 1813 his fortune passed to this later family; luckily for the Earl of Lichfield, Louisa’a eldest brother Nathaniel, who gave her away at her wedding, died in 1824 and the second son Edward Augustus was declared an imbecile immediately afterwards. Thus the entire Philips inheritance was divided between the two girls. The elder also made an extremely auspicious marriage to Baron de Rutzen and the couple remained lifelong friends of the Earl and Countess. The de Rutzens were friends of the Baroness Lehzen, so the girls had contact with the young Princess Victoria.[54]


Both daughters were each given a dowry of £10,000, which was before the death of their brother. As early as 1784 Philips had had his Jamaican lands valued at £140,638, probably yielding an annual income of about £10,000. Both marriages were happy, despite being founded in affairs of financial convenience rather than of passion. The irony lies in the injection of Creole, therefore, slave-owning money into the estate of a Whig family who voted with the anti-slavery lobby in both 1806 and 1833. The Countess became a friend of the Duchess of Sutherland, a life-long reformer and anti-slaver, yet neither of the two Philips sisters ever showed anything other than respect for their father’s views, which obviously were strongly pro-slavery. It is likely that Louisa’s background did not help her, at least in her relationship with Queen Victoria, who seemed reluctant to encourage too great an intimacy, despite her description of Louisa as ‘aluring’ (sic) and ‘unfailingly kind.’[55]


Louisa’s personality has been described as ‘severely aristocratic and overbearing in manner.’[56] A friend of the Duchess of Kent, she was one of the last patronesses of Almacks, the exclusive club founded in the 1760s in St. James Street, unusual in the respect that it allowed female members as well as male.[57]


Commitment to the upper echelons of society is shown by one of Louisa’s favourite hobbies. During the period when her husband was Postmaster General and preparing to come to grips with the penny post, she collected franked envelopes. One of the abuses of the old postal system was the right of peers and M.P.s to ‘frank’ envelopes, that is to sign or stamp their names on the back instead of paying postage upon receipt. Franking could also be used for prepayment, in which case the address was struck through with a red line. The abolition of this privilege was one of the aims of Rowland Hill’s campaign. Sometime during the late 1830s therefore, and presumably using the records of the Post Office, the Countess wrote to all peers and bishops who had the right to frank, asking them to send her an example of their mark. Her surviving album contains over eighty replies.[58]


The Countess also kept an autograph book containing signatures and letters from royalty.[59] Amongst these are a kindly letter from Adelaide, widow of William IV, several from Princesses Elizabeth and Sophia, daughters of George III and a number from Victoria, including one agreeing to stand as sponsor to one of the Anson girls. A letter from the Duke of Cambridge thanked the Earl for his shooting, and there is also a note from Prince Albert’s household asking if ‘you would kindly allow your son to come and play with the Prince of Wales in the garden at Buckingham Palace this afternoon.’ In 1828 Leopold, king of the Belgians, wrote to Lord Anson confirming his willingness to stand as godfather to his son but apologising for not being able to attend the christening; the connection was still strong in 1860 when the king visited Shugborough and signed the autograph book in person. Other signatures date from the 1840s when the Earl and Countess met celebrities as varied as the Spanish Infanta and Metternich. Given such social eminence and an attitude of mind which valued, perhaps for good reason, intimate contacts with the mighty, the disgrace attached to her husband’s debts and the consequent sale must have affected the Countess extremely hard, and probably goes some way to account for what some of the Earl’s friends felt was his excessive sense of guilt.[60]


It is a common belief that the slang word ‘loo’ is derived from one of the daughters of the first Earl, Lady Louisa Mary Anne. At a house party in Ireland Lady Louisa’s younger fellow guests, supposedly outraged by some act of petty mindedness on her part, removed the name card from the door of her bedroom and replaced it on the door to the lavatory, a room that subsequently became known as the ‘Lady Loo’ – or ‘Loo’ – for short.[61]


[1] SRO D615/P(S)/2/6. Authorised by the Royal Sign Manual bearing the date 30th April 1773. Copy certificate issued by the College of Arms, London, 21st February 1829.

[2] The Vernon family can trace their lineage back to William the Conqueror.

[3] Burke’s Peerage, 1922, p1393-1394.

[4] accessed 4th Sept 2010. The author also cites ‘The Annual Register, or, A View of the History and Politics of the Year’, 1849, p283-284 (published by J. G. & F. Rivington, 1850).

[5] Sir William and his wife had the following children: John William Hamilton (Sir) (b.26 Dec 1816)2nd Bart.; William Vernon Dickenson (1819-1842); George Henry Greville (Ven.), (1820-1898), M.A., rector of Birch, archdeacon of Manchester, hon. canon of the Cathedral, b.19 July 1820; he married Augusta Agnes, eldest daughter of the Very Rev. Walter F. Hook, D.D., dean of Chichester, on May 27th 1848; Archibald Edward Harbord (Sir), (b.16 April 1826), K.C.M.G. (1882), major-general. R.A., J.P. Sussex inspector-general of police, Mauritius, 1858-67, lieutenant-governor of Penang, 1867-82, administrator of Government Straits Settlements 1871-72, 1877, and 1879, served in Crimea 1855, and in Malay Peninsula 1875-76. He married Elizabeth Mary, daughter of Richard Bourchier on January 9th 1851 and had six children of his own – Archibald John George (b.4 Nov 1851, d.11 Jan 1929), John William Henry (b.5 Nov 1856, d.4 April 1889) captain of the Royal Irish Rifles, and Elizabeth Mary Louisa (dunm. 2 Dec 1934). Sir Archibold’s wife Elizabeth died in 1891 and in 1906 he married Isabelle Jane Armistead. He died February 26th 1925; Mary Louisa (d.1856), Anne Georgiana Frances, and Louisa Frances Maria (d.14 Jan 1904). Upon on the death of Sir William he was succeeded by his eldest son Sir John William (b.26 Dec 1816). He married Elizabeth Catherine, daughter of Major General Sir Denis Pack K.C.B. by his wife Lady Elizabeth Beresford, daughter of the 1st Marquess of Waterford. Issue.

[6] Burke’s Peerage, 1922, p1393.

[7] This was long after the Ansons had first purchased property from the Coke family of Norfolk in 1750.

[8] Burke’s Peerage, 1922, p1393-1394.

[9] SRO D615/P(S)1/7/41 extract from ‘The Reminisinces and Recollections of Captain Gronow 1810-1860’, p186, collected by the 3rd Earl.

[10] Stirling, ‘The Letterbags of Lady Elizabeth Stanhope Spencer’ vol.2, p26.

[11] Extract from Hon. F. Lawley, ‘Sporting Reminiscences’ in The Daily Telegraph collected by the 3rd Earl.

[12] SRO D615/P(A)7 extract from Mrs Brydes Williams ‘The Life of Disraeli’ (London, 1857) collected by the 3rd Earl.

[13] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p289-290.

[14] SRO D615/P(S)1/7/15-17.

[15] Stirling, ‘Letterbags of Lady Stanhope’, p205.

[16] SRO D615/P(S) and Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p291-292.

[17] SRO D615/P(A)45 Letter from George Anson to Charles Rumbold, M.P. for Yarmouth, 17th September 1830.

[18] SRO D615/P(A)45 Letter from George Anson to Samuel George, the Bentley agent, July 1843.

[19] SRO D615/P(A)7 extract from Mrs Brydes Williams ‘Life of Disraeli’ vol.IV and Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p292.

[20] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p291-292.

[21] Johnson, Constance, ‘The Evolution of Shugborough’, p38

[22] Johnson, Constance, ‘The Evolution of Shugborough’, p87-88.

[23] Johnson, Constance, ‘The Evolution of Shugborough’, p39.

[24] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p12.

[25] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p275.

[26] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p276.

[27] The Viscountcy had, no doubt, also been a political reward.

[28] Burke’s Peerage, 1922, p1393-1394.

[29] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p276.

[30] SRO. D615/P(A)42 List of aristocracy met.

[31] A. Aspinall (ed.), ‘Three Early 19th Century Diaries’, London (1952), p344 (from the diary of E. J. Littleton, July 7th, 1833) in Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p277.

[32] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p174.

[33] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p278.

[34] SRO D615/P(F)6 Loans repaid 1837-1839

[35] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p280.

[36] The estate continued to be burdened with the heavy interest on this loan until the 1880s.

[37] SRO D615/P(S)1/3.

[38] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p281.

[39] SRO D615/P(S)7/6 Letter from Col. Majendie.

[40] SRO D615/P(P)3/5 Letter from Sir Hubert Taylor, March 1835.

[41] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p282.

[42] SRO D615/P(S)1/7/4 Letter from Lord Lichfield, February 1847.

[43] Report in ‘Staffordshire Advertiser’, September 16th, 1848, p5 col.2.

[44] SRO D615/E(A)17.

[45] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p284-285.

[46] SRO. D615/P(S)6/3 Letter from Viscount Molineux, 1834, telling the Earl of his engagement; D615/P(S)6/13 Letter from Count d’Orsay, 1842; D615/P(S)1/5/91 Letter from the Marquis de Beaufond, 1840, expressing gratitude for the Earl’s help in placing a young relation in employment; D615/P(P)4/5/5 Letter from Granville, 1856, to the 2nd Earl ‘I cannot forget the kindness which your poor father invariably showed me.’ All noted in Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p275.

[47] Johnson, Constance, ‘The Evolution of Shugborough’, p43-44.

[48] Johnson, Constance, ‘The Evolution of Shugborough’, p44.

[49] Johnson, Constance, ‘The Evolution of Shugborough’, p46.

[50] Johnson, Constance, ‘The Evolution of Shugborough’, p44.

[51] Johnson, Constance, ‘The Evolution of Shugborough’, p44.

[52] SRO. D615/E(H)44. Account of Servants made for Lord Anson by Robert Wyatt and Son, November 1827.

[53] Johnson, Constance, ‘The Evolution of Shugborough’, p47.

[54] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p285-286.

[55] SRO D615/P(S)7/11 Queen Victoria to Lady Waterpark, 21st August 1879.

[56] R. V. H. Burnes, ‘Life at Loynton in the 19th Century’, unpublished typescript, 1969. WSL transcripts p15. Sophia Burnes described a social call by the Countess: ’All four girls saw her, but did not admire her manners, which no one can do, for they are certainly not pleasing...she staid nearly an hour and I was truly glad when the visit was over. I am obliged to her ladyship for her attention but it affords me no gratification.’

[57] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p287.

[58] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p287-288.

[59] SRO D615/P(S)7/5 Autograph book

[60] Pamela Sambrook, ‘Aristocratic Indebtedness’, p288.

[61] Lichfield, Patrick, ‘Not The Whole Truth’, p71.