Monday, 12 June 2017

(265) Agg (later Agg-Gardner) of The Hewletts

James Agg (1746-1827) came from a long line of Cotswold stone-masons, settled originally at Coln St. Dennis near Cirencester. His father, William Agg (1720-93), evidently had quarries near Didbrook, north of Cheltenham, and James was baptised there. It seems likely that James was apprenticed to his father, but we know nothing of the further training or experience which led to his being appointed in 1777 as an assistant to Col. Henry Watson, the Chief Engineer of Bengal, and going out to India. After four years as a civilian in India, Agg joined the engineer's department of the East India Company's Bengal army, and he remained in that service until he came back to England on health grounds in about 1796.
St John's Cathedral, Calcutta, in 1826. Designed by James Agg, 1784-87.
In 1784-87 he was responsible for designing and building St. John's Cathedral in Calcutta, but this is the only building he is known to have designed. He returned with 'a handsome fortune', presumably made largely from trading rather than architecture, which the documentation associated with proving his will suggests may have amounted to some £70,000. On returning to Gloucestershire, he promptly invested in a large house on the Cotswold scarp above Cheltenham called 'The Hewletts', and he later made additional purchases of land to extend the estate. He also married the daughter of a local brewer in Cheltenham in 1797, so it is no surprise to find that in 1799 he petitioned the Directors of the East India Company for permission to retire from their service on half-pay. The great Cheltenham physician, Edward Jenner, furnished him with a certificate to the effect that it would be injurious to his health to return to India, and the Directors agreed to his request. He had evidently given the company satisfaction, for he was offered the post of Lt-Governor of St. Helena shortly after his retirement, but he turned it down.

Over the next few years, Major Agg and his wife produced three sons and two daughters. His eldest son, William John Agg (1802-76), was educated as a gentleman and was destined to succeed him at The Hewletts. In the 1830s and 1840s William was much involved with the promotion of local railways, although his enthusiasm seems to have waned somewhat after the peak 'railway mania' of the 1840s. William had only one son, Col. William Agg (1831-1901), who was a career soldier until he retired in 1869. He took over the management of the Hewletts estate a few years later, and was very prominent in local administration in the Cheltenham area for the rest of his life. He produced a large family of four sons and six daughters (two more children were apparently stillborn), and it would seem that in order to provide for the seven who survived to adulthood, he directed that The Hewletts should be sold and the proceeds divided among them. His eldest son, Arthur William Agg (1865-1916) bought Foxcote House, Andoversford, a smaller house not far from his father's estate, which his widow sold a few years after his death.

Major James Agg's youngest son, James Agg (1804-58), inherited his maternal grandfather's brewery business in Cheltenham and took the additional name Gardner to commemorate this in 1836. He diversified into banking and extended his brewery interests through the purchase of rival companies. He was also active in local politics, twice standing for Parliament in the Conservative interest, although without much hope of election as the borough was firmly controlled by the Liberal-leaning interest of the Berkeley family. It may have been with some thought of breaking this monopoly that in 1841 he bought the lordship of the manor of Cheltenham, which gave him significant influence on the development of the rapidly expanding town. He died in 1858, leaving a young family, and the trustees he appointed to manage the estate sold the lordship of the manor of Cheltenham and also his collection of wine. His elder son, Sir James Tynte Agg-Gardner (1846-1928), kt., will have disapproved of both these decisions, since he became both a noted connoisseur of wine and seems to have determined at a young age to succeed where his father had failed, in representing Cheltenham in Parliament. He came down from Cambridge early in order to contest the election of 1868, and although he was unsuccessful then, he repurchased the lordship of Cheltenham in 1872 and was elected in 1874; he served for thirty-nine of the next fifty-four years. Although an infrequent and poor performer in Commons debates, his easy manner and conviviality made him popular with Members. He was knighted in 1916, and from 1917-28 he held the important and delicate post of Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, in which his knowledge of wine and of Members' characters were equally invaluable. Sir James never married, and although his homosexual preferences did not become public knowledge until after his death, he must have lived under the constant fear of exposure, which would have instantly ended his political career in those intolerant times.

When Sir James died in 1928, the lordship of the manor of Cheltenham passed to his brother, Lt-Col. Arthur Agg-Gardner (1854-1941), who also never married. By then, the abolition of manorial tenures under the Law of Property Act 1922, had largely robbed the lordship of any economic or political value. Col. Agg-Gardner left the residual rights to his cousin, Lt-Col. Frederick John Gardner Agg (1879-1960), the youngest son of Col. William Agg of The Hewletts, who lived in Sussex, but their subsequent ownership has not been traced.

The Hewletts, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

The Hewletts, Cheltenham: a facade of c.1740 masks older work at the rear of the building, visible in the left side elevation.
The Hewletts (Glos) is a substantial ashlar-faced house, situated in a spectacular and prominent position near the top of the Cotswold scarp, and straddling the boundary between Cheltenham and Prestbury parishes. The estate began as a farmhouse belonging to the Southam estate of the De La Bere family. After the death of Kynard de la Bere in 1734, he bequeathed it to his nephew, William Baghot (later Baghot-de la Bere) (d. 1764), who seems to have built a new house soon after he inherited the property; part of the earlier farmhouse is incorporated at the rear of the building. The house has a five-bay three-storey centre and lower two-bay wings to either side. The entrance front is of ashlar, with rubble walling used elsewhere around the building. The central bay of the ashlar front is stepped slightly forward and emphasised with chamfered quoins and a steep little pediment. Inside, the house retains a good 18th century open-well staircase with a wreathed handrail on highly decorated turned and carved balusters.

William Baghot left the house to his nephew, Thomas Baghot (d. 1821), who sold it in 1797 to Maj. James Agg (1747-1827) of the Bengal army. Agg settled at The Hewletts, becoming one of the first of many thousands of Indian army officers and colonial administrators to settle in and around the spa town of Cheltenham in the 19th century. He altered and redecorated most of the interiors of the house, but made few changes to the exterior. The Hewletts passed in 1827 to Major Agg's eldest son, William John Agg (1802-76), and then to the latter's son, Col. William Agg (1831-1901). The house was sold with 892 acres after his death, and has changed hands several times since and been subdivided.

Descent: Kynard de la Bere (d. 1734); to nephew, William Baghot (later Baghot-de la Bere) (d. 1764); to nephew, Thomas Baghot (d. 1821); sold 1797 to Maj. James Agg (1747-1827); to son, William John Agg (1802-76); to son, Col. William Agg (1831-1901); sold after his death...

Agg (later Agg-Gardner) family of The Hewletts

Agg, Maj. James (1746-1827). Son of William Agg (1720-93) of Coln St. Dennis (Glos), Didbrook (Glos) and Cheltenham, stone mason, baptised at Didbrook, 7 March 1745/6. He was probably apprenticed to his father as a stone mason, but went to India in 1777 (sailing on the Seahorse in April and arriving in November) as an assistant to Col. Henry Watson, Chief Engineer of Bengal. After some years he joined the engineer's department of the Bengal army (Ensign, 1781; Lt., 1782; Capt-Lt., 1797; Maj. on retirement, 1799) and while employed in that capacity he designed and built St John's church, Calcutta, in 1784-87. He returned to England on health grounds 'with a handsome fortune' in about 1796. Soon after he arrived home, the East India Co. offered him an appointment as Lt-Governor of St. Helena, which he declined. JP and DL for Gloucestershire. He married, 14 May 1797 at St Mary, Cheltenham, Edith (1767-1851), daughter of James Gardiner of Cheltenham, brewer, and had issue:
(1) William John Agg (1802-76) (q.v.);
(2) Thomas Agg (1803-45), born 13 July and baptised at Prestbury, 23 July 1803; surgeon at Cheltenham, in partnership with William Wood to 1834; later surgeon to the Cheltenham General Hospital and Dispensary; married, 24 May 1827 at St Martin, Worcester, Mary (1797-1854), daughter of John Carden of Worcester, and had issue one daughter; buried at Holy Trinity, Cheltenham, 14 November 1845; will proved in the PCC, 20 March 1846;
(3) James Agg (later Agg-Gardiner) (1804-58) (q.v.);
(4) Edith Agg (c.1806-75), born about 1806; married, 9 September 1830 at Cheltenham, Thomas Carden (d. 1838) of Worcester, surgeon, and had issue three sons and one daughter; died 18 July 1875; will proved 12 August 1875 (effects under £25,000);
(5) Amelia Agg (1810-89), born 23 February 1810 and baptised at Prestbury, 30 August 1811; married 1st, 21 September 1835 at St Mary, Cheltenham, George Kennedy (1813-38), youngest son of David Kennedy of Crosby Lodge (Cumbld) and Craig (Ayrshire), and 2nd, 21 May 1840 at St Mary, Cheltenham, Christopher Arden (1798-1864) of Exeter, gent., by whom she had issue one son and one daughter; died 17 November 1889; will proved 31 December 1889 (effects £3,162).
He purchased the Hewletts estate in Cheltenham and Prestbury in 1797.
He died in Cheltenham, 14 January and was buried at Prestbury, 22 January 1827; grants of administration of his goods were made in the PCC and the Bengal Presidency, February and October 1827 (effects £70,000), and effects remaining unadministered by his widow were the subject of a further grant of administration, 7 April 1858. His widow died in Cheltenham, 19 September 1851.

Agg, William John (1802-76). Eldest son of Maj. James Agg (1746-1827) and his wife Edith, daughter of James Gardiner of Cheltenham, brewer, baptised at Prestbury, 29 September 1802. Educated at Pembroke College, Oxford (BA 1824; MA 1827). JP for Gloucestershire, 1834-76. Director of the Cheltenham & Great Western Railway Co., 1836 and Cheltenham & Oxford Railway, 1846. He married, 28 December 1829 at West Ilsley (Berks), Mary (1810-98), daughter of William Morland of West Ilsley, and had issue:
(1) Edith Mary Agg (1830-1917), baptised at Prestbury, 27 October 1830; an accomplished singer and musician; married, 24 September 1850 at Prestbury, Rev. Robert More White (1811-1906), son of Thomas White MD of Glastonbury (Somerset) and Exeter (Devon), and had issue two daughters; died 30 July 1917; will proved 7 September 1917 (estate £717);
(2) Col. William Agg (1831-1901) (q.v.);
(3) Elizabeth Harriett Susan Agg (1847-63), baptised at Prestbury, 20 April 1847; died unmarried and was buried at Prestbury, 2 December 1863.
He inherited The Hewletts from his father in 1827 and conveyed the estate to his son in 1874.
He died 9 December and was buried at Prestbury, 14 December 1876; his will was proved 4 January 1877 (effects under £600). His widow died 19 July and was buried at Cheltenham, 21 July 1898; her will was proved 10 August 1898 (effects £222).

Agg, Col. William (1831-1901). Only son of William John Agg (1802-76) and his wife Mary, daughter of William Morland of West Ilsley (Berks), baptised at Prestbury, 18 November 1831. An officer in the infantry (Ensign, 1850; Lt., 1853; Capt., 1855; Maj., 1858; Lt-Col., 1864; Col. on retirement, 1869). A Conservative in politics, he opposed the incorporation of the borough of Cheltenham in 1875 when it was promoted by his cousin, James Agg-Gardner. JP for Gloucestershire from 1879; County Alderman for Gloucestershire; Member of Cheltenham Board of Guardians and Cheltenham Rural District Council; an Income Tax Commissioner for Gloucestershire. Chairman of the County of Gloucester Bank, 1895-97, after which it was sold to the Lloyds Bank group; Director of the Cheltenham Original Brewery and Cheltenham Theatre & Opera House Co. He was blinded in one eye in a shooting accident in 1882. He married, 7 November 1861 at St Luke, Cheltenham, Beatrix Sheddon (c.1842-1914), daughter of John Buntine Barr of Treehorn (Ayrshire), Bermuda merchant, and had issue:
(1) Arthur William Agg (1865-1916) of Foxcote House, Andoversford (Glos), born 11 August and baptised at Murree, Bengal (India), 28 August 1865; an officer in the army (2nd Lt., 1900; Lt., 1901; retired 1901); returned to the army as recruiting officer for Cheltenham and North Gloucestershire, 1914-16; JP for Gloucestershire, 1901-16; married, 20 April 1899 at Charlton Kings (Glos), Eleanor Sarah (1873-1946), only child of Col. John Pryce Harrison, but had no issue; died of appendicitis, 2 April and was buried at Whittington (Glos), 5 April 1916; administration of goods granted 16 June 1916 (effects £2,787);
(2) Mary Elizabeth Goodrich Agg (1867-1936), baptised at Prestbury, 26 April 1867; amateur tennis player; married, 8 November 1906 at St Alban the Martyr, Pretoria (South Africa), Hugh Wilfred Gove (killed in action, 1916); died 21 January 1936; will proved 30 March 1936 (estate £14,991);
(3) Constance Louisa Agg (1869-1967), baptised at St Matthew, Hyde, Winchester, 8 September 1869; trained as a nurse at St Thomas' Hospital, London, 1896-97 and was on the staff there 1897-1900; joined Princess Christian's Army Nursing Service and served in South Africa, 1900-01 and later at Netley Hospital; married, 4 August 1904 at St Matthew, Westminster, Professor Arthur Edwin Boycott MD (1878-1938), pathologist, son of William Boycott of Hereford, solicitor, and had issue two sons and one daughter; returned to work as a nurse during and after the First World War; died aged 98, 29 November 1967; will proved 30 January 1968 (estate £27,944);
(4) Francis Agg (b. & d. 1870), born 20 October and baptised at All Saints, Cheltenham, 17 November 1870; died in infancy and was buried 20 December 1870;
(5) Beatrice Edith Agg (1872-1968), baptised at Prestbury, 16 January 1873; amateur tennis player; married, 7 November 1906 at All Saints, Cheltenham, Lt-Col. John Cecil Latham Bott (1872-1926), son of John Hariott Bott, gent.; emigrated to Canada, but returned to England after her husband's death; died aged 95, 15 January 1968 and was buried at Prestbury, 26 January 1968; will proved 5 March 1968 (estate £17,603);
(6) Edith Mildred Agg (b. 1874), baptised at Prestbury, 19 March 1874; trained as a nurse; married, 27 April 1904 at Charlton Kings (div. 1919), Roy Henry Rollinson-Whitaker FRCS, surgeon, son of George Whitaker, civil servant, and had issue one son;
(7) Percy Lavicount Agg (1875-76), baptised at Prestbury, 18 April 1875; died in infancy and was buried at Prestbury, 3 April 1876;
(8) Kathleen Maud Agg (1876-82), baptised at Prestbury, 4 June 1876; died young and was buried at Cheltenham, 5 May 1882;
(9) Florence Agg (1877-1953) of Bow House, Bourton-on-the-Water (Glos), baptised at Prestbury, 4 November 1877; married, 25 March 1916 at St Mary, Cheltenham, Capt. Alured Jamieson Waller (c.1879-1934); died 15 February and was buried at Bourton-on-the-Water, 25 February 1953; will proved 19 May 1953 (estate £26,198);
(10) Lt-Col. Frederick John Gardner Agg (1879-1960), born 19 March and baptised at All Saints, Cheltenham, 14 April 1879; an officer in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (Lt-Col.) who served in the First World War, was mentioned in despatches five times and awarded the DSO and Legion d'Honneur, 1916; in 1941 he succeeded his cousin Arthur as lord of the manor of Cheltenham; married, 1 July 1919 at Eastbourne (Sussex), Mabel Beatrice Cumming (d. 1964) and had issue one son and one daughter; died 29 December 1960; will proved 2 March 1961 (estate £10,404).
He received The Hewletts as a gift from his father in 1874; it was sold after his death.
He died 6 April 1901 and was buried at Prestbury, 10 April 1901; his will was proved 15 July 1901 (estate £19,216). His widow died 2 April and was buried at Prestbury, 4 April 1914; her will was proved 29 May 1914 (estate £982).

Agg (later Agg-Gardner), James (1804-58). Youngest son of Maj. James Agg (1747-1827) and his wife Edith, daughter of James Gardiner of Cheltenham, brewer, born 21 June and baptised at Prestbury, 21 September 1804. Banker and brewer at Cheltenham (Glos). A Conservative in politics, he stood unsuccessfully in Cheltenham at the parliamentary elections of 1841 and 1848. Chairman of Cheltenham Town Commissioners. He assumed the additional name of Gardner, 1836. A connoisseur of wine; his collection being sold in 1859 after his death. He married, 16 October 1844 at St Mary, Cheltenham, Eulalie Emily (c.1821-1901), fifth and youngest daughter of William Richard Hopkins Northey of Oving House (Bucks), and had issue:
(1) Mary Ann Antoinette Agg-Gardner (1845-1907), born 17 October and baptised at St Mary, Cheltenham, 17 November 1845; lived with her widowed mother in Chelsea (Middx); died unmarried 6 September and was buried at Prestbury, 10 September 1907; her will was proved 3 October 1907 (estate £21,894);
(2) Rt. Hon. Sir James Tynte Agg-Gardner (1846-1928), kt. (q.v.);
(3) Lt-Col. Arthur Agg-Gardiner (1854-1941), born 1 May and baptised at St Mary, Cheltenham, 30 May 1854; an officer in various militia regiments (Lt., 1873; Capt., 1877; retired 1880) and South Wales Borderers (Maj., 1888; Lt. Col.); in 1881 he was thrown out of the basket of a balloon when it hit the ground with unintended force, and received compound fractures of the leg and arm which left him lame for life; succeeded his elder brother as lord of the manor of Cheltenham, 1928; died unmarried, 19 October 1941 , aged 87, and was buried at Prestbury, 23 October 1941; will proved 19 January 1942 (estate £121,012).
He inherited his maternal grandfather's brewery business in Cheltenham. In 1841 he bought the lordship of the manor of Cheltenham from Lord Sherborne.
He died 12 March and was buried at Prestbury. 19 March 1858; administration of his goods was granted to his widow, 24 July 1858 (effects under £4,000). His widow died 12 February and was buried at Prestbury, 16 February 1901; her will was proved 13 March 1901 (estate £26,157).

Sir James Agg-Gardner
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James Tynte (1846-1928), kt. Elder son of James Agg-Gardner (1804-58) and his wife Eulalie Emily, daughter of William Richard Hopkins Northey, born 25 November and baptised at St Mary, Cheltenham, 29 December 1846. He was made a ward of court after the death of his father in 1858. Educated at Harrow and privately, at Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1866) and the Inner Temple (admitted 1868; called to bar, 1873 but never practised as a barrister). As a young man he was an officer in the Royal North Gloucestershire militia (Lt., 1868). He inherited his father's brewing interests, and was Chairman and Director of various brewing companies. He contested Cheltenham unsuccessfully for the Conservatives at the Parliamentary election of 1868, but was elected in 1874 and served as MP for Cheltenham, 1874-80, 1885-95, 1900-06, 1911-28; he was a poor and infrequent speaker in the House, but introduced the bill which secured Cheltenham's incorporation as a borough, 1876, and was as a result made the first Hon. Freeman of the Borough; he was a prominent supporter of the extension of the franchise to women from the 1870s onwards; his parliamentary memoirs were published in 1927. He was a connoisseur of wine, and served as a member of the House of Commons' Kitchen Committee, 1886-95, 1900-06 and 1911-28 (Chairman, 1917-28), as a result of which he was affectionately known among MPs as 'the Minister for the Interior'. JP for Glos from 1875, and County Alderman; Mayor of Cheltenham, 1908-09, 1912-13. Freeman of the City of London, 1875; he was knighted, 1916 and appointed to the Privy Council, 1924. He was a homosexual, although his preferences did not become public knowledge until after his death. He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited the lordship of the manor of Cheltenham from his father in 1858, but it was sold by his trustees in 1862. He came of age in 1867 and repurchased the manorial rights in 1872. He lived at Evesham House, Pittville, Cheltenham, from about 1888.
He died at the Carlton Club, London, 9 August 1928, and was buried in the family vault at Prestbury, 13 August 1928; his will was proved 14 September 1928 (estate £66,627).


V.C.P. Hodson, List of the officers of the Bengal army, 1758-1834, 1927-47, vol 1, p. 12; VCH Glos, vol. 8, 1968, pp. 73, 76; G. Hart, A History of Cheltenham, 1968, pp. 186‑7; J. Sale, ‘Hewletts and the Agg family’, Cheltenham Local History Society Journal, v, 1987, pp. 11-18; A. Brooks & D. Verey, The buildings of England: Gloucestershire - the Vale and the Forest of Dean, 2002, p. 640;

Location of archives

Agg and Agg-Gardner of Cheltenham: deeds and estate papers relating to The Hewletts and Cheltenham Manor estates, 1400-1935 [Gloucestershire Archives, D855, D1950, D2025, D3119, D3893, D5130]
Cheltenham Brewery: records, 19th cent. [Gloucestershire Archives, D2242/1]

Coat of arms

None known.

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  • Can anyone explain the descent of The Hewletts after it was sold in 1901 following Col. Agg's death?

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 12 June 2017.

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