28 May 2016

An old monument in Tamworth with
links to Kilkenny and the Aran Islands

The monument to Sir John Ferrers in Tamworth gives a hint at links with the Butlers of Kilkenny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

I was back in Tamworth recently to see the sorry state of the Moat House, the former Comberford family home on Lichfield Street, and to update my file of photographs of the Comberford Chapel in Saint Editha’s Church.

I was writing yesterday [27 May 2016] about the Victorian restoration of Saint Editha’s by the Gothic revival architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, and the many Gothic Revival, Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts treasures in the church, including the reredos by Sir George Gilbert Scott, John Birnie Philip and Antonio Salviati, and windows by William Wailes, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, Henry Holiday, James Powell and the Whitefriars Studio and Ford Madox Ford.

There are two Comberford monuments in the parish church, but the church is filled with monuments and memorials connected with the Marmion, Freville and Ferrers families of Tamworth Castle.

Inside the west porch, a large, colourful and impressive monument reveals an interesting link between the Ferrers family of Tamworth Castle and the Butler family of Kilkenny Castle.

This extravagant monument once stood against the north wall of the chancel, close to the Altar, but was probably moved to the west porch when the church was being renovated and restored in the 1850s by the great Gothic revival architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott.

The monument is a memorial to Sir John Ferrers (1629-1680) of Tamworth Castle, MP for Derbyshire and later for Tamworth in the Restoration Parliament, who died in 1680, and to his son, Sir Humphrey Ferrers, who was drowned two years earlier in the River Trent.

Their memorial is an exuberant, garlanded riot of polished marble, complete with renaissance cherubs and colourful coats-of-arms. The elaborate Latin inscription is held up by two life-size statues of a man and a woman, dressed in the senatorial togas of imperial Rome and bedecked with the flowing wigs that were fashionable in Renaissance England.

The monument is the work of the sculptor and woodcarver Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) and the Flemish sculptor Arnold Quellin (1653-1686).

Gibbons was a master carver to kings and queens and was known primarily for his work in wood. His patrons included Charles II, James II, William III, Queen Mary, Queen Anne and George I. In Tamworth, he displays the depth, sharpness and intricacy of work that made him one of the outstanding craftsmen of his age. The statues are the work of the Danish sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber (1630-1700), who also worked closely with the architect Sir Christopher Wren in London.

Heraldic decorations on the Ferrers monument in the west porch of Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The Latin inscription was composed by the historian and antiquarian Sir William Dugdale (1605-1686), who was born near Tamworth at Shustoke, near Coleshill, Warwickshire.

It is interesting to note that Dugdale’s inscription boasts of no particular qualities or achievements for John Ferrers. His political career was marked by fence-sitting, he was never diligent in attending Commons debates or parliamentary committees, and when he contributed he was often misogynist in his views. Instead, this epitaph lists the families he was related to by ancestry and marriage, as though they were glorious achievements worthy of praise.

Translated, the inscription translates:

Here lies Sir John Ferrers of Tamworth Castle, the only son of Sir Humphrey Ferrers, the male heir of the line of the ancient Ferrers (formerly Earls Ferrers and Earls of Derby) and notably the last of their branch of the family.

Which son John, through the female line, was linked to the de Frevill, Marmion, Mountford and Botetort families, once barons of the kingdom.

By his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Dudley Carleton, recently one of the advisers, from the innermost counsels, to the most illustrious King Charles, he reared only one son, Sir Humphrey, and a daughter Dorothy, who married Richard Earl of Arran (of the Irish peerage) the second son of the most noble James, Duke of Ormonde.

He died on 14 August 1680 aged 52.

Close by lies Sir Humphrey Ferrers, only son of the above mentioned John, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Gervase Pigot of Thrumpton in Nottinghamshire, by whom he had one surviving daughter, called Ann.

He died on 6 September 1678, while his father was still living, aged 25 years.

Heraldic decorations on the Ferrers monument in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Richard Butler (1639-1686), 1st Earl of Arran, who also held the title of Viscount Tullough and Baron Butler of Cloughgrenan, was an Irish peer, the fourth son of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde. But how did a Butler from Kilkenny, with family connections with Tamworth, come to own the Aran Islands in Galway Bay?

In 1651, at the height of the Cromwellian wars, the head of the Burke family, Lord Clanricarde, placed 200 musketeers on the Aran Islands, under the command of Sir Robert Lynch. The fort on Inishmore was rebuilt and fortified, and the Irish royalist forces held out against the Cromwellian parliamentary forces for almost 12 months after the surrender of Galway.

The islands eventually surrendered on condition that quarter should be given to all the soldiers who had garrisoned the fort, and that they would have six weeks to make their way to Spain.

Sir Robert Lynch was declared a traitor and the islands were granted to Erasmus Smith, the founder of charter schools in Ireland. Smith sold the Aran Islands to Richard Butler, a younger son of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, and in 1662 Richard was given a number of titles, including Earl of Arran [sic], Viscount Tullogh and Baron Butler of Cloughgrennan.

Almost a decade later, as a reward for his role in naval battles against the Dutch, Richard was also given an English peerage with the title of Baron Butler of Weston.

Richard Butler was married twice. His first wife Mary (1651-1668) was a daughter of James Stewart, 1st Duke of Richmond, and a cousin of Charles II. They had no children, and when she died in 1668 he married his second wife, Dorothy Ferrers, daughter of John Ferrers of Tamworth Castle and his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Dudley Carleton.

Richard Butler from Kilkenny and Dorothy Ferrers from Tamworth were the parents of four children, including three sons who died in infancy, and who one after another had been given the courtesy title of Lord Tullogh: James Butler (1674-1676), Thomas Butler (1675-1681) and Thomas Butler (1681-1685). Their only surviving child, Lady Charlotte Butler (1679-1725), married Charles Cornwallis (1675-1722), 4th Baron Cornwallis.

Richard Butler died in 1686, six years after his father-in-law, John Ferrers of Tamworth Castle. Richard had no male heirs to inherit his titles, and so they died out. They were revived in 1693 for his nephew Charles Butler (1671-1758), who became Earl of Arran, Viscount Tullough and Baron Butler of Cloughgrenan.

Charles Butler was a brother of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde and the de jure 3rd Duke of Ormonde. He too died without any male heirs to inherit the titles, and so they became extinct once again in 1758.

In 1762, the title of Earl of Arran was revived in favour of Sir Arthur Gore, whose descendants still hold the title, while the Aran Islands in Galway Bay eventually were bought by the Digby family.

Meanwhile, Lady Charlotte Butler’s eldest child, Charles Cornwallis (1700-1762), became the 1st Earl Cornwallis. One of her younger sons, Frederick Cornwallis (1713-1783), became Bishop of Lichfield in 1750 and ended his days as Archbishop of Canterbury (1768-1783).

Cornwallis rose quickly in the Church because of his political his aristocratic connections. In 1750, he became a canon at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, and later that year he became Bishop of Lichfield (1750-1768). While he was Bishop of Lichfield, he was also Dean of Windsor (1765-1768) and Dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London (1766-1768).

As Archbishop of Canterbury, he supported the North administration and also supported Anglican clergy who were dispossessed in the colonies during the American Revolution. But while Cornwallis was a competent administrator, he was an uninspiring Church leader, and his lack of zeal paved the way for the emergence of both the Evangelicals and the Oxford Movement in the century that followed.

While Archbishop Cornwallis was still Archbishop of Canterbury, his nephew also became Bishop of Lichfield. James Cornwallis (1743-1824) was the third son of Charles Cornwallis, 1st Earl Cornwallis, and a grandson of Lady Charlotte Butler.

He was a Prebendary of Westminster Abbey (1770-1785) and the Dean of Canterbury (1775-1781) when he became Bishop of Lichfield (1781-1824). While he was Bishop of Lichfield, he was also Dean of Windsor (1791-1794) and Dean of Durham (1794-1824). Shortly before his death, he became 4th Earl Cornwallis at his nephew’s death in 9 August 1823, and held the title for about five months until he died on 20 January 1824.

As for the Ferrers estates in Tamworth, Sir John Ferrers left an estate valued at £2,000. Tamworth Castle and his other properties eventually passed from one daughter to another, through the Shirley, Compton and Townshend families. In 1767, when the Townshend family came to live at Tamworth Castle, they also bought the Moat House, the former Comberford family home on Lichfield Street.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Fascinating story - shows how interconnected were all the Upper Ten thousand - or less if only count actual aristocrats. Love the way lack of sons and excess of younger sons leads to movement up and down social ladder - aided by a bit of opportunistic derring do as In Galway - thanks for the fascinating post. Ps email name awarded me by my grandson - sorry