Saturday, 10 February 2018

The literary legacy and later
lonely life of Kitty O’Shea’s sister

With Councillor Adam Teskey, chair of Rathkeale and District Historical Society, at last night’s lecture in the Arts Centre, Rathkeale

Patrick Comerford

During last night’s lecture in Rathkeale on the members of Southwell family and their legacy in the stained glass windows in Saint Mary’s Church, I referred to the Victorian novelist Anna Caroline Steele (1841-1920), who was the daughter of the Revd Sir John Page Wood and the novelist Lady Emma Wood (1802-1879).

Anna was an important figure in this story: she was a sister of Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood, who married the Hon Mary Paulina Anne Southwell, a sister of Thomas Southwell, 4th Viscount Southwell, who was the central figure in last night’s lecture, and of Kitty O’Shea, the lover of Charles Stewart Parnell.

But there was little time last night to look at Anna’s place in literary life as a Victorian writer and novelist.

Anna was born at Rivenhall Place in Braintree, Essex, where her father was the Vicar of Cressing. She grew up in the Essex countryside surrounded by a cultured family. Her mother was a poet and novelist, who also wrote under her maiden name Emma Mitchell and the pen name of C Sylvester. Her elder sister Emma was a composer and novelist, and the family staged elaborate amateur stage plays, for which Anna wrote the play Under False Colours.

Anna was not yet 18 when, on 28 May 1858, she married Captain Charles Steel, later Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Steel, in Saint Martin in the Fields, London.

Charles Steel had been an officer in the 17th Lancers with Anna’s brother Evelyn. Steel was the son of Lieutenant-General Sir Scudamore Winde Steel, KCB (1789-1865), who commanded the Madras army during the Second Anglo-Burmese War (1852-1853).

Anna seems to have changed the spelling of her married surname, adding the extra ‘e’ at the end of the name.

The marriage was short lived: family lore holds she was horrified by the wedding and left the bedroom at the sight of her naked husband; Anna returned home after a week, never lived with her husband, never divorced, and died a virgin.

Living back at home with her parents at Rivenhall Place in Braintree, Essex, Anna embarked on a literary career. She wrote a collection of poems, Thoughts Versified by C (1860). She and her mother published a collection of poems, Ephemera (1865), under the pseudonyms Helen and Gabrielle Carr.

Anna published her first novel, Gardenhurst, in 1867. The novel, dedicated to her sister Katie, better known as Kitty O’Shea, follows the trials of a large upper middle-class family.

Anna followed this novel with half-a-dozen more, including So Runs the World Away (1869), Broken Toys (1872), and Condoned 1877. One of her novels featured a henpecked VC, a character probably based on her brother, Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood, who married the Hon Mary Paulina Anne Southwell, a sister of Thomas Southwell, 4th Viscount Southwell, the subject of last night’s lecture. Anna Steele was very close to her brother and it is said she helped to write his speeches.

Given the rumours that surrounded her marriage, it is interesting that one of her later novels was published as Lesbia: A Study in One Volume (1896).

She also translated Victor Hugo’s novel By Order of the King (1870). A condensed version of her translation had been serialised in the Gentleman’s Magazine When the book was published, she remained anonymous at first, although she was later identified as Mrs AC Steele.

The illustrator, Luke Fildes, rose to prominence in 1870 with his illustrations for Charles Dickens’s unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and for his moving drawing of Dickens’s study after his death, entitled ‘The Empty Chair’.

A review of her translation in the Spectator on 5 November 1870 declared: ‘It is indecent beyond anything that we have ever read out of classical literature. We say indecent, not immoral.’

The reviewer referred to ‘the nude picture of the Duchess in her chamber’ and said ‘these things are grossly indecent; that they ought never to have been written; that their presence in a magazine which probably lies on ordinary drawing room tables, and in volumes which bear on their title-page the name of a respectable firm, is a disgrace to everyone concerned in publishing them, we do not hesitate to affirm.’

The reviewer continued: ‘We say “a disgrace,” because there are errors of judgment which are so inexcusable and so injurious in their effect that they merit no less emphatic a condemnation. Anyone with a grain of sense must know that the indecent is often just as noxious as the immoral. A scientific book, for instance, which will be simply instructive to the readers for whom it is intended, may be harmful in the last degree to those who find in it what it is not their business to learn.’

The writer concluded that her translation ‘is in the highest degree mischievous and absurd, and unfit for the reading of decent and sensible people.’

Anna’s sister, Kitty O’Shea, had separated from William O’Shea in 1875 and had been the lover of Charles Stewart Parnell since 1880. It has been suggested by some writers that Anna Steele herself was a former lover of William O’Shea.

She enjoyed a wide circle of literary friends, including George Meredith and Anthony Trollope. Eventually, when her aunt’s will was overturned, Anna Steele moved out of Rivenhall Place about 1895, and the family home was left in a sad and ruinous state. She used her share to live as a recluse, keeping a pet monkey to which she fed anchovy sandwiches.

Anna Steele died in 1920 at her home in Brighton.

Given the family lore that surrounds the stories of her wedding night, and the sensation caused by her translation of Victor Hugo, I wondered last night whether it was coincidental that Ana Steele is the name of the female protagonist of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by EL James, and played by Dakota Johnson in the film versions.

The Essex countryside in which Anna Caroline Steele spent much of her life (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A genealogical excursus
from Comberford to the
Southwells of Rathkeale

Thomas Arthur Joseph Southwell, 4th Viscount Southwell, married Charlotte Mary Barbara Mostyn, a descendant of Robert Comberford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I was speaking last night [9 February 2018] at a meeting of the Rathkeale and District Historical Society about the Southwell family, and about the unique way in which their genealogy and the story of their family tree are depicted in the heraldic symbolism found in the stained-glass windows in the apse at the east end, above the reredos and the former place of the High Altar.

During that lecture, I pointed out that Thomas Arthur Joseph Southwell (1836-1878), who succeeded as 4th Viscount Southwell in 1860, married Charlotte Mary Barbara Mostyn, daughter of Sir Pyers Mostyn (1811–1882), a member of a leading Roman Catholic family in North Wales.

The Mostyn family were leading Roman Catholics with large estates across North Wales and elsewhere, including commercial, residential and agricultural holdings in Llandudno. Long after the windows in Saint Mary’s Church, Rathkeale, were completed, Charlotte’s younger brother, Francis Edward Joseph Mostyn (1860-1939), became the Roman Catholic Bishop of Menevia (1898-1921) in Wales and Archbishop of Cardiff (1921-1939).

The ‘Mostyn Christ,’ dating from 1450, is one of the principal treasures in Bangor Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

One of the major pieces of work in Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral, Bangor, is the ‘Mostyn Christ,’ a figure of the Pensive Christ carved in oak and thought to date from ca 1450. It depicts Christ before the Crucifixion, chained and seated on a rock, wearing the crown of thorns. The ‘Mostyn Christ’ is on loan to Bangor Cathedral from the Mostyn Estates. The branch of the Mostyn family of Talacre and Basingwerk was renowned for its allegiance to the ‘Old Faith’.

I am also interested in another family connection here: this Sir Pyers Mostyn was a grandson of another Sir Pyers Mostyn (1749-1823) and his wife, Barbara Slaughter (1757-1841), who, through her mother, Barbara Giffard, was a direct descendant of the Comberford family of Comberford Hall, between Lichfield and Tamworth in Staffordshire.

This means the descendants of this Lord Southwell are also descended from the Comberford family. But this was a digression, and instead of taking us off the track last night, I suggested I might blog about this connection later this weekend.

So how was Charlotte (Mostyn) Southwell descended from the Comberford family of Comberford Hall?

Robert Comberford (ca 1594-1671), who has been described as the last of this ancient family in England, and he is described incorrectly by Shaw, Adams and Stone, and other historians, as the son of Colonel William Comberford and by Stone as William Comberford’s nephew.

However, in the pedigree Robert certified at Lichfield in 1663, he states clearly that he is William’s next brother and the second son of Humphrey Comberford. [See Comberford 5: Recusants, royal guests and civil war] In addition, Robert’s age in 1663 and at his death in 1671 confirm that his date of birth was 1594, making it impossible for him to be William’s son.

Robert was born ca 1594. Following the death of his brother William Comberford in 1656, he recovered his family’s estates in Wigginton and Comberford from John Birch, the last remaining trustee of the Comberford estate, and from his kinsman Francis Comberford, paying off all the debts or mortgages taken on by his brother William Comberford.

By 1657, Robert Comberford and his wife were living at Comberford Hall, when they headed the list of 17 recusants or Roman Catholics reported as living in Comberford, although they were not molested in any way.

However, Robert Comberford does not appear to have recovered the Wednesbury estates that once belonged to the Comberford family and he appears to have been forced to sell the Moat House, the Comberford family’s Tudor-Jacobean town house on Lichfield Street in Tamworth, where Charles I had been a guest of the family when he was Prince of Wales.

Between 1657 and 1663, the Manor of Wednesbury was sold to the Shelton family, and John Shelton of West Bromwich was a strict Presbyterian. By then, the Moat House in Tamworth had been sold for £160 to Thomas Fox, a former Parliamentary captain and later MP for Tamworth, who was one of the most bitter enemies of the Comberford family. Stone says the Moat House was sold by Robert Comberford in 1654, although it is more likely that it was sold by Robert in an effort to clear his debts after William’s death.

Nevertheless, Robert Comberford managed to redeem the 60-year lease of Comberford Hall made in 1654 by his brother William Comberford to their Quaker kinsman Francis Comberford, and he recovered the other part of the estates leased by William Comberford from the last surviving trustee, John Birch.

In 1663, Robert was 69 and living at Comberford Hall. In Lichfield early that year, on 30 March 1663, he certified the pedigree for the Comberford family of Comberford on the first day of the Visitation of Staffordshire carried out by the antiquarian and the Norroy King of Arms, Sir William Dugdale (1605-1686).

Dugdale, who later became Garter Principal King of Arms, had received his MA at Oxford with Robert Comberford’s brother, William Comberford, in November 1642, had been commissioned in 1641 to make a copy of all the monuments in many English cathedrals and churches, including Lichfield Cathedral and Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth. At the visitation in Lichfield in March 1663, Dugdale was assisted by two heralds who were born in Lichfield and educated at Lichfield Grammar School – his clerk, Gregory King (1648-1712), who later became Lancaster Herald and a pioneering statistician, and Dugdale’s son-in-law, Elias Ashmole (1617-1692), who held the office of Windsor Herald and was to become Lichfield’s most noted antiquarian.

Ashmole was born in Breadmarket Street, Lichfield, and like Dugdale was, undoubtedly, familiar with the career of Robert’s brother, William Comberford during the English Civil War. Ashmole was appointed the King’s Commissioner of Excise at Lichfield in 1644.

Robert Comberford furnished Ashmole with many of the details of the Comberford or Cumberford family (the spellings are used interchangeably even in one manuscript). But Grazebrooke is insightful when he asks why Robert failed to furnish a number of pertinent particulars, including the full name of his father-in-law. In addition, it might be asked why he failed to provide dates of death for his brothers and sisters, or particulars of their marriages and children, some of which ought to have been known to Ashmole and perhaps to Dugdale too.

Robert Comberford and his brother John Comberford leased the Manor of Comberford and Wigginton with appurtenances in Staffordshire to John Birch, William Bromwich and John Hopkins on 23 March 1664 for 20 years. The lease may have been a form of mortgage or a trust for the benefit of Robert’s wife Catherine and their two daughters, Mary and Ann, for, despite this lease, Robert and his family continued to live at Comberford Hall. In 1666, he was assessed for 15 hearths at Comberford Hall and two hearths at Comberford Mill. He also had one small property with one hearth in Tamworth, where Thomas Hankes was his tenant.

Robert Comberford made his will in 1668-1670. He died in 1671 at the age of 77, and he was buried in the Comberford family vault in Saint Catherine’s or the Comberford Chapel in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth.

Robert must have been in his late 50s or early 60s when he married Catherine Bates of Sutton, Derbyshire, and she appears to have been at least 30 years younger than him. The Bates family was a recusant or Catholic family and in the late 17th century they moved to Pipe Hall, outside Lichfield, the former home of the Heveningham family [see Comberford 4: Comberford wealth from Wednesbury]. Catherine was still living in 1683, when she filed a renunciation in Lichfield of any interest in the estate of her daughter, Mary Giffard, who had just died.

In 1705, when the Privy Council ordered a return by the parish clergy of papists and reputed papists ‘with their respective qualities, estates and places of abode,’ 55 were counted in Tamworth and its neighbourhood, including Mrs Comberford of Comberford, her three grandchildren (Comberford Brooke, Catherine Brooke, and Mary Grosvenor) and her three servants.

Catherine Comberford continued to live at Comberford Hall until her death in 1718, perhaps as a tenant of the Skeffingtons of Fisherwick. Her will, written in Latin, was made on 18 January 1716. This shows Catherine still held land in Wigginton, a cottage in Hopwas, and some property in Cawford Meadow, Tamworth, which she divided between her granddaughters, Catherine Brooke and Mary Grosvenor, wife of Sherrington Grosvenor of Tamworth. She named Catherine Brooke, Mary Grosvenor and Richard Nevill of Richardscote as her executors. Probate for the will of Catherine Comberford of Comberford in the Parish of Tamworth was granted in London on 7 November 1718.

Catherine and Robert Comberford were the parents of two daughters:

1, Mary (ca 1654/1655-ca 1683), who married ca 1680 Thomas Giffard of The Lodge, High Offley Park (born ca 1655, aged 25 in 1680). He was the son of Edward Giffard (ca 1624- ) of High Offley and Goat Street, Wolverhampton, and grandson of Peter Giffard (ca 1581-1663) of Chillington in Brewood. Mary died ca 1683, when her mother, Catherine Comberford, filed a renunciation in Lichfield of any interest in the estate of her daughter, Mary Giffard, who had just died.
2, Anne (born ca 1656), who married Thomas Brooke of Wolverhampton and Comberford. Their descendants continued the representation of the Comberford family.

With the death of Robert Comberford in 1671, the senior male line of the Comberford family had died out, although a junior branch was living in Shropshire, and Robert’s descendants continued through female lines in prominent Midlands families, including the Brookes, Giffard, Grosvenor, Mostyn, Parry, Slaughter and Smitheman families, and their descendants, many of them prominent Roman Catholics.

The Comberford plaque in the Comberford Chapel in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, dated 1725, claims strong ties of kinship between the Comberford family of Comberford and the Comerford family in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In 1725, 54 years after Robert Comberford’s death and seven years after the death of his widow Catherine, a memorial tablet was erected in the Comberford Chapel in Saint Editha’s Church, with the following inscription:

Hic situm est Monumentum diuturnitare vero
temporis et bellis plusquam civilibus dirutum
familiae non ita pridem florentis. Gentis
amplae et honostae Cumberfordiorum
Qui de hoc Municipio cum in alliistum.
In hoc Templo aedificando optime meruerunt.
Domini Cumberfordiae melaruere annis septigentis.
In Roberto autem novissimo stirpis Angliacae
Staffordiensis viro Gentis extinctum pleratur.
Qui obiit A.D. 1671 et hic cum consorte
Domina Catharina Bates filiisque duabus
Maria et Anna suis Haeredibus Tumulo
conditur Nomen adhuc viger in stirpe
Hibernica, quae Regem Jacobum Secundum
in Galliam secuta est; atque ibi Angluniae
In Provincia de Champagne Dominio
insignitur 1725
.

Translated, this inscription reads:

“This place is truly a fitting monument to a family brought low by wars rather than civic affairs, and that no longer flourishes here. The generous and honest family of Cumberfords richly deserve the gratitude of this town in many things, including in the building of this church. The Lords of Cumberford, who survived for seven hundred years, became extinct with the death of Robert, last scion of the Staffordshire branch in England, when he died in AD 1671, and was buried here with his wife Lady Catherine Bates and their two daughters and heiresses, Mary and Anne. Henceforth, the name lives on in the Irish branch of the family, which followed James II into exile in France, and there they became the Lords of Anglunia in the Province of Champagne. Erected in 1725.”

Shaw, Palmer and James Comerford said that above this plaque there was a representation of the Comberford coat-of-arms (gules, a talbot passant argent) impaling those of Bates of Sutton (sable, a fess between three hands erect argent), with the Comberford crest of a ducal coronet and peacock’s head, but this has long since disappeared.

The plaque is surprisingly open in its Jacobite sentiments, only a decade after the Vicar of Tamworth was convicted for his Jacobite loyalties. The monument was probably erected in 1725 by Captain Joseph Comerford of Dublin who, in the previous year, had registered a pedigree in Dublin claiming descent from the Comberfords of Comberford for the Comerfords of Kilkenny. Comerford had bought the Anglure estate in Champagne, along with the title of Marquis d’Anglure, and he used the quartered Comberford and Parles arms as his own, placing them on a Comerford monument in Callan, Co Kilkenny.

The Comberford Chapel in Saint Editha’s Church Tamworth ... now used for parish coffee mornings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

It is difficult to imagine how – if Robert Comberford was the last of the line and died in 1671 during the reign of Charles II – a branch of the family could later follow James II to Ireland and then into exile into France. The tablet in the Comberford chapel contains a number of other inaccuracies: at the time of Robert’s death in 1671, the Comberford family had been living in Staffordshire for no more than six rather than seven centuries; Robert’s death did not bring about the extinction of the Comberford line in England; and Mary Giffard and Anne Brooke are more likely to have been buried with their husbands than with their parents in Tamworth.

Nor did the Comberford family die out with the death of Robert Comberford. When he died, Robert had no sons, but while the Comberford name was continued in the Brooke family through his grandson, Comberford Brooke, the male representation of the Comberford line passed to his distant cousin, Francis Comberford of Bradley, who sued unsuccessfully for the estate.

Comberford Hall continued to be lived in by Robert Comberford’s widow, Catherine, their daughter, Anne Brooke, her son, Comberford Brooke, and his children, perhaps as tenants of the Skeffington family, until at least 1718. Undoubtedly, the family was crippled by debts and mortgages, and Comberford Hall eventually passed to Robert Comberford’s cousin and neighbour, Sir John Skeffington, Viscount Masserene and Baron of Loughneagh, a royalist who had actively supported the restoration of Charles II [see Comberford 8: Comberford Hall].

Mary (Comberford) Giffard (ca 1654/1655-ca 1683) was the elder daughter of Robert and Catherine Comberford. She was born ca 1654/1655, and she was aged eight when Robert Comberford recorded the Comberford family genealogy at the Visitation of Staffordshire in Lichfield in March 1663. She married ca 1680 Thomas Giffard (ca 1655-post 1680), of The Lodge, High Offley Park, Staffordshire (born ca 1655, aged 25 in 1680). He was the son of Edward Giffard (ca 1624- ) of High Offley and Goat Street, Wolverhampton, and grandson of Peter Giffard (ca 1581-1663) of Chillington in Brewood. Robert was aged 25 in 1680.

The Giffard family was the wealthiest of the Catholic families in Staffordshire, and the area around Wolverhampton was widely regarded as “a nest of papists” with families such as the Giffards being persistent in adhering to their Catholicism. By the early 18th century, the 1,200 Catholics in Staffordshire were concentrated mainly at Brewood, close to the Giffard home at Chillngton. Mary died ca 1683, when her mother, Catherine Comberford, filed a renunciation in Lichfield of any interest in the estate of her daughter, Mary Giffard, who had just died, and the administration of the personal estate of Mary Giffard of Comberford was granted at Lichfield to her sister Anne Brooke.

Anne (Comberford) Brooke (ca 1655/1656-ca 1705?), was the younger daughter of Robert and Catherine Comberford. She was born ca 1655/1656, and she was aged seven in 1663. She married Thomas Brooke of Wolverhampton and Comberford on 14 April 1675, when both were described as ‘Papists.’ At Lichfield in 1683, Anne Brooke, the wife of Thomas Brooke of Comberford, was granted the administration of the personal estate of Mary Giffard of Comberford.

Thomas Brooke was the son and heir of Sir Basil Brooke of Madeley, a leading Shropshire royalist who died in the Tower of London in 1646, where he had been jailed for an alleged royalist plot. Madeley was the subject of further sequestration when Thomas too was accused of treason.

The 1705 return on papists and reputed papists show the three children of Anne and Thomas Brooke were living at Comberford Hall with their grandmother, Catherine Comberford of Comberford. This may indicate that Anne was dead by this time.

Anne and Thomas were the parents of a son and two daughters:

1, Comberford Brooke or ‘Mr Brooke of Cumberford,’ alias Captain Cumberford (ca 1675-1711), of Madeley, Shropshire, of whom next.
2, Catherine, who was living with her grandmother, Catherine Comberford, at Comberford in 1705. She is named in the will of her grandmother, Catherine Comberford, in January 1716, and was one of the executors of her will, along with her sister Mary Grosvenor.
3, Mary, who was living with grandmother, Catherine Comberford, at Comberford in 1705. She is named in the will of her grandmother, Catherine Comberford, in January 1716, and was one of the executors of her will, along with her sister Catherine Brooke. Mary married Sherrington Grosvenor of Tamworth. They were the parents of:
● 1a, Sherrington Grosvenor of Holt, who married Rose Austen, a niece of Rose Austen of Bexley, Kent, who married Comberford Brooke (see below). In 1771, Sherrington Grosvenor was living in Langley, Buckinghamshire, and he sold his last remaining lands in Comberford on 29 June 1771.

Madeley Court, Shropshire ... inherited by Comberford Brooke and his descendants

The Comberford name continued with the only son of Anne (Comberford) and Thomas Brooke:

Comberford Brooke, or ‘Mr Brooke of Cumberford,’ alias Captain Cumberford (ca 1675-1711), of Madeley, Shropshire, and Comberford Hall, Staffordshire. He was living with his sisters and his grandmother, Catherine Comberford, at Comberford in 1705. He became an English Jacobite and a captain in the German Regiment of Saar. He maintained regular contact with his family and friends. As Comberford Brooke of Comberford he made his will in 1711.

Captain Comberford Brooke married Rose Austen, daughter of Sir John Austen, 2nd Baronet, of Bexley, and aunt of Rose Austen, who married Sherrington Grosvenor of Tamworth (above). Rose and Comberford Brooke were the parents of a son and two daughters:

A portrait of Basil Brooke painted on oak in 1727, about 12" by 9". On the painting it reads, in part, ‘Basil, only son of Cumberford Brooke of Madeley Co. Salop & Cumberford Co. Staff. Esq; By Rose his wife Da. of S[i]r John Austen of Bexley in Kent Bar; Ob, 1727 Aged 19.’ (Photograph courtesy Paul and Kathy Schaefer, Fairfield, Iowa)

1, Basil Brooke, who was a child when he inherited the Madeley estate in Shropshire from his father. He was aged 19 and still a minor when he died in 1727. His sister Catherine was his executor. The Manor of Madeley was then divided between Basil’s sisters, Catherine and Rose.

The obverse of the portrait of Basil Brooke is inscribed: ‘A lineal descendant of Sir Rob[er]t Brooke Speaker of the House of Commons & Lord Chief Justice of the court of common Pleas in the reign of Queen Mary. Two sisters survived him, Cath[erine], Married John Unett Smitheman Esq; & Rose John Giffard of Chillington Co, Staff, Esqr; Basil was the last male heir of that noble family.’ (Photograph courtesy Paul and Kathy Schaefer)

2, Catherine, born ca 1705, aged 13 in 1718. She married John Unett Smitheman of West Coppice and Little Wenlock, Shropshire, and they had two sons and three daughters. Catherine Smitheman died in 1737, and her half of Madeley Manor passed to her husband. When he died in 1744 it descended to their only surviving son:
● 1a, John Smitheman (ca 1733-1809), of the Manor House, Little Wenlock, and West Coppice, Buildwas, Shropshire. John Smitheman and his wife sold Madeley Manor in 1774 to Abraham Darby; in 1781, Darby and his wife sold the manor to Darby’s former brother-in-law Richard Reynolds. John Smitheman married Margaret Ferriday on 27 February 1759. In 1761, John Smitheman was Sheriff of Shropshire. He died on 3 March 1809, aged 76, and Margaret died 7 February 1818, aged 75. They are buried at Holy Holy Trinity Church, Buildwas, Shropshire, and his plaque in the south nave recalls his descent from Comberford Brooke of Madeley and Comberford, Staffordshire. They were the parents of one son, who died in infancy, and five daughters, three of whom survived as co-heirs:
●● 1b, Catherine (1765-1829). She was born in 1765. On 23 March 1799 in Buildwas she married Major Benjamin Edwardes, second son of the Revd Sir Thomas Edwardes, 7th Baronet, Rector of Frodesley. She died on 31 August 1829, aged 64, and is buried in Buildwas. They had a daughter and a son:
●●● 1c,Margaret Edwardes (1800-1844 ), born 30 March 1800, died unmarried 15 February 1844.
●●● 2c, John Thomas Smitheman Edwardes (1802-1851). He was born on 28 July 1802 and inherited the estate in Little Wenlock, Shropshire, when his grandfather, John Smitheman, died in 1809. He sold that estate with 152 acres to Lord Forester in 1825. He died on 31 October 1851, and with his death this line of the descendants of the Comberfords of Comberford Hall came to an end.
●● 2b, Rose Smitheman (1767-1830). Born in 1767, she married in Buildwas on 20 September 1798 Robert Burton (d.s.p. 1841) of Longner Hall, High Sheriff of Shropshire. She died in 1830, and he died in 1841. They had no children.
●● 3b, Caroline Smitheman (1771-pre 1774). She was born in 1771, was baptised in Holy Trinity Church, Buildwas, and appears to have died in infancy before 1774.
●● 4b, Barbara Mary Anne Smitheman (1773-1830). She was born on 20 January 1773. On 27 December 1798, she married in Buildwas Thomas Harries (1774-1848) of Pontesbury, JP, DL. He was High Sheriff of Shropshire in 1802. She died in 1830. They had no children.
●● 5b, Caroline Smitheman (1774-1858), the youngest daughter. She was born on 28 May 1774, and was baptised in Holy Trinity Church, Buildwas, and died on 4 February 1858, aged 83. She is commemorated in a plaque in the north nave in Holy Trinity Church, Buildwas.
●● 6b, John Smitheman (1779- ), born on 19 May 1779, died in infancy.
3, Rose (ca 1708?-1763), of whom next.

The direct line of descent of the Comberford family of Comberford continued with the younger daughter of Rose and Comberford Brooke:

Rose (Brooke) Giffard (ca 1708?-1763). On 20 June 1733, she married John Giffard, a London merchant and younger brother of Peter Giffard of Black Ladies and Chillington, Staffordshire. His father, John Giffard, was a first cousin of Thomas Giffard who married Mary Comberford (see above). Rose Giffard died a widow in 1763. Rose and John Giffard had four daughters and co-heirs, who inherited equal shares of their mother’s half of the manor:

1, Rose, who married Peter Parry, of Twysog, Denbighshire, Wales. In 1765, Rose and Peter Parry sold their one-eighth share of the manor to Rose’s unmarried sisters Anne and Mary. They were the parents of:
● 1a, Katherine, who married as his third wife Robert Berkeley (1713-1804) of Spetchley Park, Worcester, son of Thomas Berkeley and Mary Davis. He was the author of Considerations on the Oath of Supremacy and Considerations on the Declaration Against Transubstantiation, both addressed to Joseph Tucker, Dean of Gloucester, and influential in the debates that led to the passage of Saville’s Catholic Relief Bill in May and June 1778. His first wife was Anne Wyborne, of Flixton, Suffolk; his second wife was Catherine, daughter of Thomas Fitzherbert of Swinnerton, Staffordshire. Robert Berkeley had no children, and when he died on 20 December 1804, his estates passed to his nephew, Robert Berkeley.
2, Anne. She was unmarried in 1765, when Rose and Peter Parry sold their one-eighth share of the manor to Anne and Mary. In 1774, Anne and her sister Mary Giffard agreed to sell their three-eighths of the manor to Abraham Darby. However, the agreement never took effect and in 1780 the sisters’ three-eighths share were sold to Richard Reynolds.
3, Mary. She was unmarried in 1765, when Rose and Peter Parry sold their one-eighth share of the manor to Mary and Anne. She was unmarried in 1774 when Mary and her sister Anne Giffard agreed to sell their three-eighths of the manor to Abraham Darby. However, the agreement never took effect and in 1780 the sisters’ three-eighths share was sold to Richard Reynolds.
4, Barbara, of whom next.

The direct descent of the senior line of the Comberford family eventually continued through the youngest daughter of Rose and John Giffard:

Barbara (Giffard) Slaughter, married Thomas Slaughter on 15 April 1756 in Madeley, Shropshire. In 1775, as the remaining Giffard heiress, the widowed Barbara Slaughter sold her one-eighth portion of the manor to William and Edward Elwell, two West Bromwich iron founders, and their brother John Elwell, a Westminster ironmonger. In 1778, Abraham Darby bought the Elwells’ one-eighth share, and in 1781 he sold it to Richard Reynolds, a Quaker philanthropist and ironmaster. Reynolds thus reunited the whole manor. Reynolds died in 1816. Thomas Slaughter (born 1732), died in Ingatestone, Essex. Barbara and Thomas Slaughter had three children:

1, (Dr) Henry Slaughter (1756-1823), medical doctor, of Phillimore Place, Kensington, London. He was born in 1756 in Ingatestone, Essex, and died on 1 February 1823 in Worcester, aged 67. He married on 21 May 1800 in Saint George’s, Hanover Square, London, Frances Manbury, Lady Montague, widow of Mark Browne, 9th Viscount Montague (1745-1774), daughter of Thomas Manbury of Downsell Hall, Essex, and Anne Colegreave. She died on 7 January 1823 in Phillimore Place, Kensington. They had eight children:
● 1a, Henry Robert Slaughter (1801-1826).
● 2a, Edward Slaughter (1802-1862) of Manfield Street, Portland Place, London. In 1844, he married Frances Mostyn, daughter of his cousin Sir Edward Mostyn (1785-1841) of Talacre, Flintshire. Their children included Monsignor Edward Henry Slaughter.
● 3a, Mary.
● 4a, Frances (born ca 1805).
● 5a, Basil Slaughter (1806-1866) of Edward Square, Romford, Essex.
● 6a, Constantia (ca 1808-1872), who in 1836 married as his second wife her cousin Sir Edward Mostyn (1785-1841), 7th Baronet, son of Sir Pyers Mostyn and Barbara Slaughter (see below).
● 7a, Eliza.
● 8a, Charles Slaughter (1812-1884).
2, Barbara (1757-1815), born 1757 in Ingatestone, Essex, and died on 2 October 1815. She married Sir Pyers Mostyn (1749-1823), 6th Baronet, of Talacre, Flintshire, on 21 August 1780 in Spetchley, Worcester. Their children included:
● 1a, (Sir) Edward Mostyn, 7th Baronet (1785-1841), of Talacre, Flintshire, who married his cousin, Constantia Slaughter (see above), and had a large number of children, including Sir Pyers Mostyn, whose daughter, Charlotte Mary Barbara Mostyn married Thomas Southwell, 4th Viscount Southwell, who was at the centre of last night’s stories in Rathkeale.
3, Basil Slaughter, born ca 1760.

This direct line of descent from the senior branch of the Comberford family of Comberford is probably represented today among the descendants of the Slaughter and Mostyn families, and the descendants of the Southwell family depicted in the stained-glass windows in Saint Mary’s Church, Rathkeale.

But, as I said last night, to even begin to touch on these details would have been a foolhardy digression and distraction.

Comberford Hall, between Lichfield and Tamworth … the descendants of Robert Comberford eventually married into the Southwell family of Rathkeale (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)