Posts Tagged ‘Robert Grosvenor 1st Marquess of Westminster’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Robert Grosvenor 1st Baron Ebury
24 April 1801 – 18 November 1893


Robert Grosvenor

Robert Grosvenor 1st Baron Ebury was the third son of Robert Grosvenor, 1st Marquess of Westminster and his wife Eleanora, daughter of Thomas Egerton, 1st Earl of Wilton. He was the younger brother of Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster and Thomas Grosvenor Egerton, 2nd Earl of Wilton, who had succeeded their maternal grandfather in the earldom of Wilton 1814, while Hugh Lupus Grosvenor, 1st Duke of Westminster and Richard Grosvenor, 1st Baron Stalbridge were his nephews. He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford.

In 1821 Grosvenor was returned to Parliament for Shaftesbury, a seat he held until 1826, and then sat for Chester until 1847. When the Whigs came to power in November 1830 under Lord Grey, Grosvenor was appointed Comptroller of the Household and admitted to the Privy Council. He retained this office also when Lord Melbourne became Prime Minister in July 1834. The Whig government fell in November the same year. Grosvenor did not serve in Melbourne’s second administration which lasted from 1835 to 1841. However, when the Whigs returned to office in 1846 under Lord John Russell he was made Treasurer of the Household, which he remained until his resignation in July 1847. The latter year Grosvenor was returned to Parliament for Middlesex, a seat he held until 1857. However, he never returned to office. In September 1857 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Ebury, of Ebury Manor in the County of Middlesex.

Apart from his political career Lord Ebury was an active campaigner for Protestantism in the Church of England, and was the founder and President of the society for the “revision of the prayer-book”. He was also involved in the movement led by Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury for the improvement of factory working hours. In later life he came to oppose William Ewart Gladstone on the issue of Irish Home Rule. In September 1893, at the age of 92, Lord Ebury voted against the Second Home Rule Bill, by far the oldest peer to vote in the matter.

Lord Ebury was also a fervent supporter of Homeopathy, the medical doctrine introduced by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann. He was a patron of both Dr Curie’s short-lived Homoeopathic Hospital in Bloomsbury Square and Dr Quin’s London Homoeopathic Hospital. Lord Ebury served as Chairman and President of the London Homoeopathic Hospital from its foundation in 1849 and during that time even defended the practice and the institution against its opponents in Parliament.

In 1860 Lord Ebury led a business venture with the Great Western Railway to build a 13-kilometre (8.1 mi) railway from Watford, near his mansion at Moor Park, to Uxbridge in Buckinghamshire. The scheme failed and the line, the Watford and Rickmansworth Railway, only reached as far as Rickmansworth, 7.2 kilometres (4.5 mi) south of Watford. The railway never operated at a profit and eventually closed in 1952, but has since been converted into a cycle path which bears his name, the Ebury Way.

Lord Ebury married the Honourable Charlotte Arbuthnot Wellesley, eldest daughter of Henry Wellesley, 1st Baron Cowley, in 1831. They had five sons and two daughters. One of the sons, the Honourable Norman Grosvenor, represented Chester in Parliament. Lord Ebury died in November 1893, aged 92, and was succeeded in the barony by his eldest son Robert.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Seguier
9 November 1772 – 5 November 1843


William Seguier

William Seguier was born in the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, the descendant of French Huguenot refugees.

Many of his relatives were involved in the arts on a professional level, from his father David, a picture dealer, to his uncle on the paternal side, the sculptor Peter Seguier.

Initially Seguier worked as an artist; he may have been taught by George Morland and perhaps even William Blake. However, his marriage to Anne Magdalene Clowden (a fellow Huguenot), gave him the independent means to establish a dealership, and he largely gave up painting thereafter. The business, in which his brother also worked, also offered picture-cleaning and restoring services, a useful way of getting to know collectors.

From 1806, when Lord Grosvenor consulted him on the purchase of the Agar collection, Seguier’s clientele became ever more aristocratic and well-connected, including such names as Sir George Beaumont, Sir Abraham Hume, Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington.

Beaumont and Grosvenor were also members of a group of connoisseurs and artists (including David Wilkie and Benjamin Haydon) that called itself “the clique”, to which Seguier was admitted. Through such connections as these, the opportunistic Seguier secured a number of high-ranking official positions, beginning in 1805 with his appointment as Superintendent of the newly formed British Institution. This was followed in 1820 with the post of Surveyor of the King’s Pictures, and upon the foundation of the National Gallery in 1824 he was appointed its Keeper.

The Superintendent was responsible for organizing and hanging the shows at the British Institution, a role that inevitably gave rise to grumbling and worse from artists – at the Royal Academy a committee was responsible for the hang, which allowed someone else to be blamed, but Seguier had no such opportunity to share the blame. In 1833 John Constable wrote with heavy irony of having received a visit in his studio from “a much greater man than the King—the Duke of Bedford—Lord Westminster—Lord Egremont, or the President of the Royal Academy — “MR SEGUIER”.” When in 1832 two pictures by Richard Parkes Bonington, who had been dead only four years, were included in an “Old Masters” exhibition, Constable (who was twenty-six years older than Bonington) wrote that Seguier was “carrying on a Humbugg”.

Seguier held these three positions until his death in 1843; his brother succeeded him at the British Institution. He is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Robert Grosvenor 1st Marquess of Westminster
22 March 1767 – 17 February 1845


Robert Grosvenor

Robert Grosvenor was born on 22 March 1767 in the parish of St George Hanover Square, London. He was the third son and the only surviving child of Richard Grosvenor, 1st Earl Grosvenor, and was initially known as Viscount Belgrave. He was educated at Westminster School, Harrow School, and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated MA in 1786. In addition to his formal education, William Gifford acted as his private tutor. Gifford accompanied Grosvenor when the latter undertook his Grand Tour between 1786 and 1788. Gifford described him as a “most amiable” and “accomplished” pupil.

On 28 April 1794 Grosvenor married Eleanor, the only child of Sir Thomas Egerton. They had four children; in 1795 Richard, Lord Belgrave, who succeeded his father; in 1799 Thomas, who became the 2nd Earl of Wilton on the death of his grandfather; in 1801 Robert, later the 1st Baron Ebury; and finally a daughter, Amelia, who died in her early teenage years.

Grosvenor was elected as MP for East Looe in 1788 and served this constituency until 1790; during this time he was appointed a Lord of the Admiralty. His first speech in the House of Commons of Great Britain contained a quotation from the ancient Greek orator Demosthenes, which led to the satirist Peter Pindarcalling him “the lord of Greek”. In 1790 he was elected as MP for Chester and continued to serve in this seat until 1802. Between 1793 and 1801 he was a commissioner of the Board of Control. He raised a regiment of volunteers from the city of Westminster to fight against France and in 1798 was appointed its major-commandant. When his father died on 5 August 1802 he became the 2nd Earl Grosvenor. Grosvenor was Mayor of Chester in 1807–08, and was responsible for the building of Thomas Harrison’s Northgate in the city in 1810. He served as Lord Lieutenant of Flintshire from 1798 to 1845.

When Grosvenor entered parliament, he continued the family tradition of being a Tory and supporting William Pitt the Younger. However after Pitt’s death in 1806, he changed his allegiance and became a Whig. This led to his support for the victims of the Peterloo Massacre, for Catholic Emancipation, for the abolition of the Corn Laws, and his voting for the Reform Bill. He was a man of principle; he championed Queen Caroline and is reputed to have thrown either a Bible or a Prayer Book at the head of King George IV. And when the Duke of Wellington was presented with the freedom of the city of Chester, Grosvenor refused to allow the town hall to be used for the event. The relations between Grosvenor and the king later improved, and in the coronation honours of 1831 he was created Marquess of Westminster. He participated in the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837. On 11 March 1841 he was received as a Knight of the Garter.

Soon after Robert Grosvenor inherited the Eaton estate, he rebuilt the country house at Eaton Hall in Cheshire, and he also developed the London estate, creating the areas now known as Belgravia and Pimlico. Eaton had become “an unfashionable and run-down estate”. The existing country house had been built for his grandfather, Sir Thomas Grosvenor, 3rd Baronet and designed by William Samwell. He appointed William Porden as architect, who had previously surveyed his London estate. The original plan was for the new house to cost £10,000 (£800,000 as of 2014), and for it to take two years to build. In the event it took just under ten years and cost over £100,000 (£5,690,000 as of 2014). The previous house was encased and surrounded by “every possible permutation of the gothic style”. It included turrets, pinnacles, arched windows, octagonal towers, and buttresses (both regular and flying). Four new wings were added to the house. When the future Queen Victoria visited in 1832 at the age of 13, she wrote in her journal: “The house is magnificent”. However others described it as being “as extravagant and opulent as the very latest upholsterer-decorators could make it”. It was described as “the most gaudy concern I ever saw” and “a vast pile of mongrel gothic which … is a monument of wealth, ignorance and bad taste”.

To restore the gardens and grounds, Grosvenor employed John Webb, a pupil of William Emes, who had been the previous designer of the landscaping around the house. New terrace walls were created on the east side of the house. Belgrave Avenue, the approach to the house from the west, was levelled and drained, and 130,000 trees were planted along it. The paths along the approach, which was 1.75 miles (3 km) long, were made between 18 feet (5 m) and 20 feet (6 m) wide, so that they would be suitable for the use of carriages. On the east side of the house a serpentine lake was created on the near side of the River Dee. By the 1820s formal garden beds were becoming fashionable and William Andrews Nesfield was employed to design formal parterres around the house. He added more terracing, balustraded walls, and flower beds surrounded by box edging.

For the London estate, Grosvenor created a “fashionable new residential quarter” near Buckingham House (later Buckingham Palace). He appointed Thomas Cundy as architect and surveyor, and Thomas Cubitt as builder. The entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states: “This urban development was to make the Grosvenors one of the richest families in Britain”. He also bought more property in Cheshire, and elsewhere at Shaftesbury in Dorset, and Stockbridge in Hampshire. The family’s London house had been in Millbank, but in 1806 Grosvenor bought a house in Upper Grosvenor Street and greatly extended it; this was to become Grosvenor House. He added an art gallery to the Park Lane side of the house in 1827, and in 1843 built a new entrance in Upper Grosvenor Street consisting of a Doric screen between large pedimented gateways that separated a cour d’honneur from the street in the Parisian manner.

Grosvenor continued the family’s interests in art and horse racing. He added to the art collection; his acquisitions included four paintings by Rubens for which he paid £10,000, and he paid £100 for Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy. To develop the facilities for horse racing, he expanded the Eaton Stud. The finest horse produced by the stud during Grosvenor’s time was Touchstone. This horse won 16 of the 21 races for which it was entered, including the St Leger, and on two occasions, the Ascot Gold Cup and the Doncaster Cup. After retirement, the horse sired 323 winners of over 700 races.

Grosvenor died at Eaton Hall on 17 February 1845 and was buried in the family vault at St Mary’s Church, Eccleston. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster. In 1998 a statue of Grosvenor, by Jonathan Wylder, was erected in Belgrave Square, London. On the statue is a quotation by Ruskin that reads “When we build let us think we build for ever”.

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