Sunday 31 March 2013

(22) Adair of Bellegrove and Glenveagh Castle

Adair of Bellegrove
The Adairs of Rath claimed descent from Col. Sir Robert Adair (1659-1745), knighted by King William III at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, whose ancestors were the Adairs of Kinhilt (q.v.) in Wigtownshire.  Thomas Adair of Clonterry (Leix) died in 1758, and his grandson John (c1731-1809) was apparently the first to settle at Rath (also known as Rathdaire), near Ballybrittas (Leix).  His son George (b. 1784) built a new house on the estate about 1835, which became known as Bellegrove (occasionally Belgrove).  

George's only son, John George Adair (1823-85), originally intended for the Foreign Office, proved to have too fiery a temperament and to restless a spirit for the diplomatic service, and went to America where he made money in brokerage and land speculation.  In 1857-59 he bought up land in Co. Donegal to form the Glenveagh estate, from which over 200 tenants were ruthlessly cleared in 1861.  Here, between 1867 and 1873 he built Glenveagh Castle in a Scots Baronial style to the design of his cousin, J.T. Trench.  He also added a large winter garden to Bellegrove in 1869, to the design of Sir T.N. Deane.  In 1869 he married a wealthy widow, Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie (1838-1921), and they divided their time between Ireland and America, where they lived first in New York and later in Denver.  

In 1874, during a hunting trip, they met a Texas cattleman, Charles Goodnight (1836-1929), who persuaded them to purchase land for cattle ranching on the open range in the beautiful Palo Duro country southeast of Amarillo, Texas, where the cattle had sufficient water, excellent grass in summer and could winter comfortably in the protection afforded by the canyon walls. Adair and Goodnight entered into a partnership, by which Adair put up the money for building a massive ranch in the canyon, and Goodnight would became the manager of the ranch and supplied the initial herd of cattle. Adair financed two thirds of the cost, and Goodnight borrowed his one-third share at 10 percent interest from Adair. Goodnight would also draw a $2,500 annual salary. It was Goodnight’s suggestion that the ranch be named the “JA Ranch” from the initials of his partner.  Goodnight had a free hand in managing the ranch and rapidly increased the acreage through shrewd land purchases.  As a result the undertaking had made a profit of $510,000 by the end of the first five-year contract. Goodnight continued as manager until 1888, by which time Adair had died and been succeeded by his widow.  She was sole owner of the ranch until her death, and it remained in her family, passing to the descendants of her first marriage.  Her grandson, Montgomery Harrison Wadsworth “Montie” Ritchie (1910–1999), worked at the ranch and was the manager from 1935 until his retirement in 1993.  For the history of the ranch, see here.

Cornelia Adair (1837-1921)
Although Cornelia Adair became a British citizen and continued to divide her time between England, Ireland and the USA in her widowhood, her children and grandchildren were and remained American at heart and the Irish estates did not remain in the family long after she died in 1921.  Bellegrove had anyway been burnt out in 1887 and was not rebuilt; it remains a ruin.  Glenveagh was sold in 1929 to another American, Professor Arthur Kingsley Porter.  After he disappeared in mysterious circumstances from Inishbofin in 1933 (an episode which is now the subject of a book, soon to be made into a film), the castle was sold in 1937 to an Irish-American art collector and connoisseur, Henry Plumer McIlhenny (1910-86).  He sold the estate to the Office of Public Works as a National Park in 1975, and gave the castle and grounds to the Irish government in 1981.

Bellegrove, Rath, Leix

Bellegrove in 2006. The greenery has since been removed from the ruins.

A large Regency house of c.1835, built for George Adair round three sides of an entrance court, which was later filled in as a winter garden by J.G. and Cornelia Adair.  This immense conservatory, designed by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane, had Romanesque arcades supported by pairs of ornate terracotta columns, copied from those in St John Lateran in Rome.  Having been burned in 1887 the house was not restored as the Adairs had moved their principal home to Glenveagh Castle in Donegal.  The winter garden was demolished in 1970, but the ruins of the original building were still standing and free of ivy in 2011.  A gate lodge is known to have been designed by William Farrell, who may have been the architect of the house as well.

Descent: John Adair (c.1731-1809); to son, George Adair (1784-c.1850); to son, John George Adair (1823-85), to widow, Cornelia Wadsworth Adair (formerly Ritchie) (1837-1921); sold by her or her executors... in 1935 the estate was acquired and divided among the tenants by the Irish Land Commission.

Glenveagh Castle, Donegal

Glenveagh Castle

A Victorian Baronial castle of rough-hewn granite at the end of a wooded promontory jutting out into Lough Veagh, surrounded by the bare and desolate hills of a deer-forest.  It was built in 1870-73 by John George Adair of Bellegrove (Leix), whose wife was a rich American heiress, and was designed by his cousin, John Townsend Trench.  Construction was interrupted by a fire in 1872 when the house was approaching completion. The castle consists of a frowning keep with Irish battlements, flanked by a lower round tower and other buildings; the effect being one of feudal strength; the entrance lies through a walled courtyard.  

Glenveagh Castle from above.  © Jen Doyle

In the mid 20th century, Henry McIlhenny of Philadelphia, whose hospitality was legendary, decorated and furnished the interior of the castle with a mixture of Georgian and Victorian style and modern luxury, in a way that contrasted splendidly with the rugged medievalism of the exterior and the wildness of the surroundings.  
Glenveagh Castle: the library in 1973. 

He also made what is now one of the great gardens of the British Isles: there are terraces with busts and statues, a formal pool by the side of the lough, an Italian garden, and a walled garden containing a Gothic orangery designed by M. Philippe Julian, while the hillside above the castle is planted with a wonderful variety of rare and exotic trees and shrubs.
Glenveagh Castle gardens © Chris Gunns.  Licenced under a Creative Commons licence

Descent: John George Adair (1823-85), who built Glenveagh; to widow, Cornelia Wadsworth Adair (formerly Ritchie) (1837-1921); to son, Montgomery Ritchie (d. 1924); sold 1929 to Prof. Arthur Kingsley Porter (1883-?1933); sold to Henry McIlhenny (1910-86), who gave to the Irish government 1981.

The Adair family of Bellegrove and Glenveagh Castle

John Adair (c.1731-1809) of Rath.  Elder son of Archibald Adair and his wife Jane, daughter of Mark Anthony Chateneuf; born c.1731.  He married 26 February 1776, Rebecca, eldest child of George Maquay of Dublin, esquire and had issue:
(1) George Adair (1784-after 1850) (q.v.);
(2) John Adair (1792-1839), dsp; 
(3) Elizabeth Adair; 
(4) Jane Adair, m. F.W. Fortescue of Miltown Grange (Louth) esq.; 
(5) Mary Adair; 
(6) Sarah Adair; 
(7) Charlotte Adair.
He purchased an estate at Rath (Leix) on which Bellegrove was built by his son.
He died 14 July 1809.

George Adair (1784-1873), of Bellegrove.  Elder son of John Adair (c.1731-1809) and his wife Rebecca, daughter of George Maquay of Dublin; born 13 September 1784.  JP and DL for Co. Leix; High Sheriff of Leix in 1822.  In 1850 he created a model farm on the estate which won him prizes for modern agricultural methods but led to the eviction of some tenants.  He married 16 May 1822 Elizabeth (1794-1823), second daughter of the Very Rev. Thomas Trench, Dean of Kildare, and had issue:
(1) John George Adair (1823-85) (q.v.).
He inherited the estate at Rath from his father in 1809 and built Bellegrove House there in 1835.  He probably made over the estate to his son before his death.
He died on 2 August 1873 and was buried on 6 August at Coolbanagher church (Leix).  His wife died 21 March 1823, two weeks after the birth of their son, and is commemorated by a monument at Coolbanagher.

John George (known as Jack) Adair (1823-85), of Bellegrove and later of Glenveagh Castle.  Only child of George Adair (1784-1873) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Very Rev. Thomas Trench; born 3 March 1823.  Educated at Trinity College, Dublin.  High Sheriff of Co. Leix, 1867 and Co. Donegal, 1874.  He set up a brokerage business in the United States in the 1860s and later became a ranch owner and property speculator.  Although he did not inherited Bellegrove until 1873, he was probably in control of the estate for some years before his father's death.  He married, 30 May 1867 at the English episcopal church, Paris (France), Cornelia (1837-1921), daughter of Gen. James Samuel Wadsworth of New York and widow of Col. Montgomery Ritchie, but died without issue.
Bellegrove was apparently made over to him during his father's lifetime and he was listed as owning 9,655 acres in Co. Leix in 1872.  He was probably responsible for adding a winter garden designed by Sir T.N. Deane 1869.  In 1857-59 he purchased land in Co. Donegal to form a new estate at Glenveagh, where he built Glenveagh Castle to the designs of his cousin, J.T. Trench.  At his death his estates passed to his widow and the Irish properties were sold after her death.
He died 4 May 1885 in St. Louis (USA), and is buried in The Lea Church, Killenard, Leix; his will was proved in Dublin, 2 July 1885 (estate in England, £14).  His widow died 22 September 1921.


Burke's Landed Gentry, 1863; M. Bence-Jones, A guide to Irish country houses, 2nd edn, 1988, pp. 139, 291; E. Malins & P. Bowe, Irish Gardens and Demesnes from 1830, 1980, pp. 56-57;;

Where are their papers?

Adair family of Bellegrove and Glenveagh Castle: no significant archive is known.

Revision & Acknowledgements

This post was first published on 31 March 2013 and was revised 3 April 2015 and 17 February 2017. I am grateful for additional information supplied by Raymond Blair.

(21) Acton (later Lyon-Dalberg-Acton) of Aldenham, Barons Acton - part 2

This is the second part of my article on this family: an introduction and an account of the family seats at Aldenham Park and Acton Round Hall can be found in part 1.

The Actons of Aldenham

Acton, Thomas (1415-80) of Longnor and Aldenham.  Elder son of William Acton of Longnor (d. before 1443) and his wife, born 1415.  A lawyer at the Temple and member of the Vintners company in London; JP for Shropshire; MP for Bletchingley (Surrey), 1449, Arundel (Sussex) 1450-51 and Shropshire, 1459; a supporter of the Yorkist faction who served on the commission of array in 1459 and accompanied King Edward IV on his campaign to beseige Lancastrian castles in the north of England in 1462. He married 1st, 1449, Mary Horde, and 2nd, Joan, daughter and heiress of Thomas Downton, and had issue:
(1.1) Thomas Acton of Longnor (1453-1514), m. Joan (surname unknown), who married secondly his first cousin, Edmond Acton (d. 1534);
(1.2) John Acton (c.1455-1508) (q.v.);
(1.3) Richard Acton (b. after 1455), m. Jo (surname unknown) and had issue 1 daughter;
(1.4) Katherine Acton, m. John Butler.
He inherited an estate at Longnor (Shropshire) from his father before 1443 and purchased the Aldenham (Shropshire) estate in 1465.
He died 8 February 1480, aged about 65.  His widow married secondly William Wood of Waverley (Worcs) and died in 1539.

Acton, John (c.1455-1508), of Aldenham.  Second son of Thomas Acton (1415-80) and his first wife Mary Horde, born about 1455.  He married Benedicta (known as Bennet), daughter of Roger Knight of Shrewsbury and had issue:
(1) Thomas Acton (d. c.1534) (q.v.);
(2) Richard Acton (fl. 1534) of London;
(3) Humfrey Acton (d. before 1537);
(4) Robert Acton (d. before 1529), m. and had issue a son;
(5) Eleanor Acton, m. Thomas Gatacre (d. 1499) of Gatacre Hall (Shropshire).
He inherited the Aldenham estate from his father in 1480.
He died at Bishopsgate in London in 1508, aged about 53.

Acton, Thomas (d. c.1534), of Aldenham.  Eldest son of John Acton (c.1455-1508) of Aldenham and his wife Bennet, daughter of Roger Knight of Shrewsbury.  Servant to the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury.  He married Elizabeth Dryland, sister of Anthony Dryland and had issue:
(1) Griffith Acton (d. before 1534), of Longnor and Aldenham, m. a daughter of George Harbores
(2) William Acton (c. 1510-67) (q.v.).
He inherited the Aldenham estate from his father in 1508.
He died about 1534.

Acton, William (c.1510-67), of Aldenham. Second but only surviving son of Thomas Acton (d. c.1534) and his wife Elizabeth Dryland; born before 1513.  MP for Bridgnorth, 1554 and 1555.  He was an ironmaster with mills at Morville (Shropshire) and in 1561 was licensed to fell trees in Shirlett Forest for use as fuel in his works.  He married before 1534 Cecily (d. 1581), daughter of Richard Cressett of Upton Cressett (Shropshire), and had issue:
(1) Robert Acton (1534-97) (q.v.);
(2) Richard Acton of London, mercer, m. 1571 Margaret Daniel and had issue a son, later Sir William Acton (d. 1651), 1st and last bt.
(3) Frances Acton (d. 1577), m. 1563 John Billingsley (c.1535-74), eldest son of William Billingsley and had issue;
(4) Rev. Thomas Acton (d. 1615), vicar of 'Helmares';
(5) Roland Acton (d. 1583), died without issue at Newgate;
(6) Rev. John Acton (1554-1624), rector of Wheathill (Shropshire), m. 1594 Anne (known as Agnes) Head (d. 1621) and had issue a daughter;
(7) Francis Acton (d. 1623), m. Bridget Powys;
(8) Mary Acton, m. (forename unknown) Etton of Thornton;
(9) Elizabeth Acton (d. after 1611), m. c.1584 Adam Doddington alias Detton (d. 1611), son of Robert Detton and had issue;
(10) Jane Acton, m. before 1575 Thomas Oseley;
(11) Dorothy Acton, m. John Jones;
(12) Anne Acton, m. John Stringer.
He inherited the Aldenham estate from his father in about 1534.
He died 7 May 1567, aged about 57.

Acton, Robert (1534-97), of Aldenham.  Eldest son of William Acton (c.1510-67) and his wife Cecily, daughter of Richard Cressett of Upton Cressett; born 1534.  Educated at the Middle Temple (admitted 1552).  He married 1569 Bridget Doddington alias Detton, daughter of Robert Detton, and had issue:
(1) Walter Acton (1572-1641) (q.v.);
(2) Richard Acton (d. 1650) of Dunval Hall (Shropshire), m. at Alberbury (Shropshire) 1613 Margaret, daughter of Michael Lister of Rowton and had issue two sons and six daughters;
(3) Francis Acton, died without issue.
He inherited the Aldenham estate from his father in 1567.
He died in 1597.

Acton, Walter (1572-1641) of Acton Scott Hall and Aldenham Park.  Eldest son of Robert Acton (1534-97) of Aldenham Park (Shropshire) and his wife Brigitt, daughter of Robert Doddington alias Detton; baptised 24 April 1572.  JP for Shropshire; Escheator for Shropshire, 1610-11; High Sheriff of Shropshire, 1630.  He married c.1598 his cousin, Frances Acton (c.1580-1632) and had issue:
(1) Sir Edward Acton (1600-59), 1st bt. (q.v.).
He inherited Aldenham Park from his father and Acton Scott Hall in right of his wife. He is thought to have made major alterations to Aldenham Park in the 1620s.
He died in 1641; buried 29 April 1641.  His will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1 June 1641.

Acton, Sir Edward (1600-59), 1st baronet, of Acton Scott Hall and Aldenham Park.  Son of Walter Acton (c.1575-1641) and his wife Frances, daughter of Edward Acton of Acton Scott; baptised at Morville, 20 July 1600.  MP for Bridgnorth, 1640-44; deprived of his seat as a Royalist.  Created a baronet, 17 January 1643/44.  In the Civil War he was a Colonel in the Royalist Dragoons and saw action at the Battle of Edgehill and the siege of Bridgnorth Castle (which he surrendered in 1646); compounded for his estates in 1646 for £5,242, later reduced to £2,000.  He married c.1620 Sarah (1598-1679), daughter of Richard Mytton of Halston (Shropshire) and had, with an unnamed daughter who died in infancy:
(1) Sir Walter Acton (1621-65), 2nd bt. (q.v.); 
(2) Edward Acton (b. 1621/22), baptised 2 January 1622; died young; 
(3) Thomas Acton (1623-77), from whom descend the Actons of Gatacre Park
(4) Frances Acton (1625-26), baptised 13 November 1625; buried 25 May 1626;
(5) Robert Acton (1628-54), baptised 2 November 1628; died without issue and was buried 29 March 1654;
(6) William Acton (1629-59) of Buildwas (Shropshire), draper; baptised 2 March 1629; m. 29 December 1653, Mary (d. 1715), daughter of Arthur Weaver and had issue, one son and one daughter; 
(7) Capt. Richard Acton RN (1633-74), baptised 21 April 1633; fought in First and Second Dutch wars; m. Lydia Pearson of London and had issue a daughter; buried 25 April 1674.
He inherited Aldenham Park and Acton Scott Hall from his father in 1641.  He also bought Gatacre Park after 1655.
He died in 1659 and was buried 29 June 1659.  His will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 20 December 1659.

Acton, Sir Walter (1621-65), 2nd baronet, of Acton Scott Hall and Aldenham Park. Eldest son of Sir Edward Acton (1600-59) and his wife Sarah, daughter of Richard Mytton of Halston (Shropshire), baptised 2 September 1621.  JP for Shropshire, 1660-65; MP for Bridgnorth, 1660-61.  He married, before 1648, Catherine, daughter of Richard Cressett of Cound (Shropshire) and had issue:
(1) Sarah Acton (1648-1702), m. Thomas Gatacre and had issue; buried at Claverley 26 February 1702;
(2) Sir Edward Acton, 3rd bt. (1649-1716) (q.v.); 
(3) Capt. Walter Acton (1651-1718), m. 1678 Catherine, daughter of Oliver Pocklington MD and had issue ten sons and six daughters, from whom descended the 6th and subsequent baronets - see below;
(4) Richard Acton (1653-1703), vintner and linen draper in London; member of the Royal African Company; m.1, Anne Llewellyn of Bristol and and had issue six sons and two daughters; m.2, 1698, Hester, daughter of Thomas Abrahall of Barking; died 14 March 1703; buried at Acton Round, where is commemorated by a monument erected in 1713 by his widow to the design of Edward Stanton;
(5) William Acton (1654-89), probably author of A new journey of Italy, containing what is most remarkable...; died without issue;
(6) Thomas Acton (1654-85), haberdasher in London; m. 1678 Anne, daughter of Michael Widdrington of Morpeth (Northumberland) and had issue one son;
(7) Robert Acton (1655-c.1694) of Stepney, mercer; nonconformist; m. Hester Coleman (1656-1722) and had issue four sons and one daughter; died before 1695;
(8) Francis Acton (1657-1733), banker of London; director of the South Sea Company, 1712-15; Deputy Governor of Royal African Company, 1721; a strong Tory and possibly banker to Jonathan Swift; died at Putney, 24 August 1733;
(9) Elizabeth Acton, m.1 John Betkin (d. by 1686) and m.2, 1686, Peter Crouch, apothecary and had issue; died after 1695;
(10) Catherine Acton (b. 1664), m.1 Capt. Robert Thomas (1654-91), second son of Sir Robert Thomas, 2nd bt. and m.2, Thomas Evans of London, draper.
He inherited Aldenham Park and Acton Scott Hall from his father in 1659.
He died in 1665 and was buried at Morville, 3 September 1665.

Acton, Sir Edward (1649-1716), 3rd baronet, of Acton Scott Hall and Aldenham Park.  Elder son of Sir Walter Acton (1621-65), 2nd bt., and his wife Catherine, daughter of Richard Cressett of Cound (Shropshire), baptised 6 February 1649.  Educated at Queens College, Oxford (matriculated 1666; BA 1667) and Inner Temple (admitted 1670); a freeman of Bridgnorth from 1673 and of Ludlow from 1697; JP for Shropshire, 1678-88; High Sheriff of Shropshire 1684-85; MP for Bridgnorth 1689-1705; Recorder of Bridgnorth 1686-1716.  He married 8 December 1674, Mary (1650-1713), daughter and heiress of John Walter of Elberton (Glos) and had issue: 
(1) Sarah Acton (b. 1675), m.1 Thomas Child of Kinlet and had issue; m.2 Rev Robert Philips DD and had further issue; 
(2) Sir Whitmore Acton (1678-1732), 4th bt. (q.v.); 
(3) Mary Acton (1678-1748), twin to Sir Whitmore Acton;
(4) Frances Acton (1679-1718), m. Rev. Timothy Collins MA; died in childbirth;
(5) Edward Acton (1680-1747) (q.v.); 
(6) Elizabeth Acton, m. Richard Fleming of Shadwell and had issue;
(7) Catherine Acton (1684-1743), m. Robert Philips of Meole (Salop) and had issue;
(8) Rev. John Acton LLD (1687-1746), vicar of Clun; m. Beatrix, sister of Richard Fleming of Sibden and Shadwell (Shropshire) and had issue a son, Edward Acton (q.v.).
He inherited Aldenham Park and Acton Scott Hall from his father in 1665, and rebuilt Aldenham Park. In 1710 he settled Aldenham on his heir and Acton Scott on his second son, Edward.
He died 28 September 1716; buried at Morville, 4 October 1716 where he is commemorated by a monument.  His will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 31 October 1716.

Acton, Sir Whitmore (1678-1732), 4th baronet, of Acton Round Hall and Aldenham Park. Eldest son of Sir Edward Acton (1649-1716), 3rd bt., and his wife Mary, daughter of John Walter of Elberton (Glos), baptised 1 April 1678; educated at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford (matriculated 1695) and Middle Temple (admitted 1699); a freeman of Much Wenlock from 1695 and of Ludlow from 1697; Tory MP for Bridgnorth, 1710-13 and contested the seat unsuccessfully in 1727; a member of the October Club; High Sheriff of Shropshire, 1728-29.  A tall, handsome man who according to Thomas Hearne maintained a mistress while at Oxford; he  married c. 1708, Elizabeth (d. 1759), daughter of Matthew Gibbon of Putney (Surrey) and had issue:
(1) Edward Acton (1709-21), baptised 25 January 1709; died unmarried and without issue, 1721;
(2) Sir Richard Acton (1711-91), 5th bt. (q.v.);
(3) Thomas Acton (1713-22), baptised 6 April 1713; buried 28 April 1722;
(4) Hester Acton (1714-20), baptised 29 July 1714; buried 8 March 1720;
(5) Elizabeth Acton (1716-99), baptised 28 May 1716; m. Robert Barnston (1715-83) of Churton (Cheshire), wine merchant; buried at Farndon (Cheshire) 23 November 1799;
(6) John Acton (b. & d. 1717), baptised 5 July and buried December 1717;
(7) Jane Acton (1719-59), baptised 4 April 1719; died unmarried and without issue, 28 May 1759;
(8) Mary Acton (1720-76), born 22 November 1720; m. 6 March 1760 Rev. Samuel Wanley DD (d. 1776), rector of Elmley Lovett (Worcs); died without issue, February 1776;
(9) Walter Acton (1721-22), baptised 20 February 1721; buried 12 May 1722.
He built Acton Round Hall in 1713-14 and inherited Aldenham Park from his father in 1716.
He died 9 January 1732 and was buried 17 January 1732 at Acton Round, where he and his widow are commemorated by a monument erected in 1763 to the design of Thomas Farnolls Pritchard.

Acton, Sir Richard (1711-91), 5th baronet, of Aldenham Park. Second, but eldest surviving son of Sir Whitmore Acton (1678-1732), 4th bt., and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew Gibbon of Putney (Surrey), born 1 January 1711.  Educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge (admitted Fellow-Commoner, 1728/9).  A committee member of Bridgnorth racetrack c.1741; High Sheriff of Shropshire, 1751-52, but later converted to Catholicism.  He married 1744 Lady Anne Grey (d. 1784), daughter of Henry Grey, 3rd Earl of Stamford, and had issue:
(1) Elizabeth Acton (1745-1802), baptised 26 October 1745; m. 18 May 1775 Philip Langdale of Houghton (Yorks) but died without issue, 12 January 1802;
(2) Frances Acton (1749-62), died unmarried and without issue.
He inherited the Aldenham Park estate from his father in 1732 and Acton Round Hall on the death of his mother in 1759.  At his death his property and title passed to his distant cousin, Sir John Francis Edward Acton (1736-1811), 6th bt. (q.v.).
He died 20 November 1791 and was buried at Acton Round, where he and his wife are commemorated by a monument.

Acton, Captain Walter (1651-1718) of London.  Second son of Sir Walter Acton (1621-65), 2nd bt. and his wife Catherine, daughter of Richard Cressett of Upton Cressett (Shropshire), born July 1751.  Mercer for 40 years at the Cow's Face in King Street near Guildhall, London; Steward and one of the Governors of Bethlem and Bridewell Hospitals in London; Common Councilman for Cheap Ward; and one of the commissioners of the lieutenancy in London.  He married 1 October 1678 at Brington (Hunts) Catherine (c.1655-1722), daughter of Rev. Oliver Pocklington MD, rector of Brington, and had issue:
(1) Edward Acton (1679-1728) (q.v.);
(2) Walter Acton (1680-85), baptised 13 November 1680; died 15 November 1685;
(3) Katharine Acton (b. & d. 1682), born 10 June and died 22 June 1682;
(4) John Acton (1683-1721), deputy collector of customs at London, baptised 7 August 1683; m. c.1710 Young Steventon (sister of his eldest brother's wife) and had issue three sons and one daughter; died 21 February 1721 and was buried at Camberwell (Surrey);
(5) Walter Acton (1685-86), born 19 December 1685 and died 3 February 1686;
(6) Thomas Acton (1686-92), born 25 December 1686 and died 22 October 1692;
(7) William Acton (b. & d. 1688), born 13 January and died 25 February 1688;
(8) Mary Ann Acton (b. & d. 1689), born 13 October and died 14 December 1689;
(9) Margaret Acton (1690-after 1741), born 2 November 1690; probably died unmarried;
(10) Robert Acton (1691-1734), East India Company factor and merchant; baptised 29 December 1691; married in India but died without issue, 27 November 1734 in a fire on board the Okham on the Hugli River, West Bengal;
(11) Elizabeth Acton (b. & d. 1693), baptised 27 March and died April 1693;
(12) Anne Acton (1694-1740), born 21 August 1694; m. John Hopwood of London and had issue; died 19 October 1740;
(13) Oliver Acton (1695-1754), attorney at Court of Common Pleas; baptised 28 November 1695; Steward of Christ's, St. Thomas's and Bridewell Hospitals; member of Goldsmiths company; died unmarried and without issue, 1754;
(14) Nicholas Acton (1697-99), born 30 October 1697; died 5 July 1699;
(15) Frances Acton (1699-1771), born 30 July 1699; m. Thomas Goddard of London, apothecary and had issue; died 20 September 1771;
(16) Charles Acton (b. 1701); born 17 May 1701 but died young.
He died 11 March 1718.

Acton, Edward (1679-1728) of London.  Eldest son of Capt. Walter Acton (1651-1718) and his wife Catherine, daughter of Rev. Dr. Oliver Pocklington of Brington (Hunts), born 11 November 1679.  Goldsmith and banker in Birchin Lane, London.  He married Catherine (c.1660-1715), daughter of John Steventon of Dodhill (Shropshire)  and had issue:
(1) Catherine Acton (1708-74), born 21 May 1708; m. 25 October 1744 John Darrell (1708-68) of London, banker, son of Edward Darrell of Putney (Surrey) and had issue; died 19 November 1774 and was buried in Bath Abbey, 24 November 1774;
(2) Dr. Edward Acton (1709-81) (q.v.);
(3) John Acton (1710-66), born 22 August 1710; became a Catholic convert; Commodore-in-Chief of the Adriatic fleet of the Holy Roman Empire; knight of the Order of St. Stephen; plotted with James Mill to capture Bengal for the Holy Roman Emperor, 1747; died unmarried at Pisa (Italy), 9 November 1766 and was buried in S. Vito, Pisa;
(4) Philip Acton (b. 1711), born 4 December 1711 but died young.
He died 3 May 1728 and was buried at Camberwell (Surrey).

Acton, Dr. Edward (1709-81) of Besançon, France.  Eldest son of Edward Acton (1679-1728) of London, goldsmith, and his wife Catherine, daughter of John Steventon of Dodhill (Shropshire), born 11 June 1709.  Educated by Samuel Palmer at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London and qualified as MD; went to Besançon to treat a sick friend; converted to Catholicism and married 5 July 1735 Anne-Cathérine (1714-87), daughter of Philippe Loys of  Besançon and had issue:
(1) Sir John Francis Edward Acton (1736-1811), 6th bt. (q.v.);
(2) Lt-Gen. Joseph Edward Acton (1737-1830), born 1 October 1737; entered the service of the King of Naples and rose to rank of Lieutenant-General; Governor of Gaeta; wounded at Battle of Rossbach; ennobled as Patrician of Naples; m. Countess Eleanora Berghe von Trips of Dusseldorf, daughter of Count Franz Adolf Anselm von Berghe von Trips of Burg Hammersbach and had issue four sons and two daughters; died 12 January 1830, aged 92;
(3) Joan-Cathérine Acton (1738-74), baptised 22 December 1738 and died unmarried 1774;
(4) Philip Edward Acton (1739-1820), baptised 7 May 1739; entered service of King of Naples and rose to rank of Lieutenant-Colonel; awarded Order of St. Louis; ennobled as Patrician of Naples, 1802; died unmarried and without issue in the Monastery of S. Maria in Portico, 8 April 1820;
(5) Cathérine-Susan (1740-64), born 27 January 1740; died unmarried and without issue, 1764.
He died from banging his head on a low doorway while visiting a patient, and was buried 4 October 1781 at Bouglainval, Eure-et-Loire.  In 1793 a band of French revolutionaries who had looted the church broke open his lead coffin and threw his corpse into the street.

Acton, Sir John Francis Edward (1736-1811), 6th baronet, of Aldenham Park. Eldest son of Dr. Edward Acton (1709-81) of Besançon (France) and his wife Anne-Cathérine, daughter of Philippe Loys; baptised 3 June 1736.  Educated at University of Pisa.  Entered the service of King of Naples and rose to become Minister for Marine & War, 1779-89 and Prime Minister 1789-1808; fled to Sicily with the King of Naples in 1808 at the time of the Napoleonic invasion; awarded orders of St. Stephen (Tuscany, 1768), S. Gennaro (Naples, 1785), St. Andrew (Russia, 1800), Sts. Alexander & Anne (Russia, 1800), and Golden Fleece (Spain, 1802); ennobled as Patrician of Naples, 1802.  He married 22 February 1800, by special papal dispensation, his 13-year old niece Mary Anne (known as Nonna) Acton (1786-1873), and had issue:
(1) Sir Ferdinand Richard Edward Acton (1801-37), 7th bt. (q.v.);
(2) Cardinal Charles Januarius Edward Acton (1803-47); born at Naples, 6 March 1803; educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge and Pontificia Accademia del Nobili Ecclesiastici; attaché to papal nuncio in Paris, 1828; Papal Vice-Legate in Bologna, 1829; Secretary of the Congregation for Religious Discipline; Auditor of the Apostolic Chamber, 1837; appointed Cardinal, 24 January 1842; died in Naples, 23 June 1847;
(3) Elizabeth Acton (1806-50), born 20 October 1806; m. 16 July 1829 Sir Robert George Throckmorton (1800-62), 6th bt. and had issue; died 4 April 1850.
He inherited the baronetcy and the Aldenham Park estate from his distant cousin, Sir Richard Acton, 5th bt. in 1791, but was never able to return to and settle on the estate as he planned.
He died at Palermo, Sicily, on 12 August 1811.  His widow had further issue by Pierre Louis Auguste Ferron, Comte de La Ferronays, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, but never remarried.  She died 15 March 1873, aged 86.

Acton, Sir (Ferdinand) Richard Edward (1801-37), 7th baronet, of Aldenham Park.  Eldest son of Sir John Francis Edward Acton (1736-1811), 6th bt. and his wife and niece Nonna, daughter of Lt-Gen. Joseph Edward Acton; born at Palermo, 24 July 1801.  Educated at Magdalene College, Cambridge (admitted Fellow-Commoner, 1819).  Patrician of Naples; entered the service of the King of Naples and was attaché at St. Petersburg and Gentleman in Waiting to King Ferdinand II.  He married in Paris, 9 July 1832 Baroness Marie Louise Pelline Kämmerer von Worms gennant von Dalberg (1813-60), daughter and heiress of Emmerich Josef Franz Heinrich Felix Dismas mmerer von Worms gennant von Dalberg, 1st Duke of Dalberg, and changed his name to Dalberg-Acton by royal licence, 20 December 1833.  He had issue:
(1) Sir John Emmerich Edward Dalberg-Acton (1834-1902), 8th bt. and 1st Baron Acton (q.v.).
He inherited the Aldenham Park estate from his father in 1811 but lived mainly on the Continent.  After his death his widow settled at Aldenham and redecorated some of the interiors before her second marriage.
He died 31 January 1837.  His widow married secondly, 25 July 1840, Granville George Leveson-Gower, 2nd Earl Granville (1815-91) but had no further issue; she died in Brighton, 14 March 1860.

1st Baron Acton (1834-1902)
Dalberg-Acton, Sir John Emmerich Edward (1834-1902), KCVO, 8th baronet and 1st Baron Acton, academic historian and moralist.  Only child of Sir (Ferdinand) Richard Edward Dalberg-Acton (1801-37), 7th bt. and his wife, Baroness Marie Louise Pelline mmerer von Worms gennant von Dalberg; born in Naples, 10 January 1834.  Educated at Oscott College and privately in Edinburgh and Munich under Prof. von Döllinger.  Patrician of Naples; declared a British subject, 1859; appointed JP and DL for Shropshire, 1855; served as a member of the British delegation at the Coronation of Czar Alexander II in 1856; and succeeded Cardinal Newman as editor of The Rambler (a liberal Catholic monthly), 1859-62 and (under its new name as a quarterly), of The Home & Foreign Review, 1862-64; elected as Liberal MP for Carlow 1859-65 and for Bridgnorth 1865-66 (but was unseated on appeal and stood unsuccessfully there in 1868); created a peer at the suggestion of Gladstone, 11 December 1869, and was a Lord-in-Waiting, 1892-95; appointed KCVO, 1897.  He was Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, 1895-1902 and member of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, 1869-1902; and of the Senate of London University; and held a variety of honorary degrees from Cambridge University (Hon. LL.D. 1888; M.A. 1895); Oxford University (D.C.L. 1887. Hon. Fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford, 1890. Romanes Lecturer, 1901);  Munich and St. Andrews.  He was a Trustee of the British Museum; co-founder of English Historical Review, 1886; and planned and edited the preliminary draft of the Cambridge Modern History; other works published posthumously include Lectures on Modern History, 1906; The History of Freedom, and other Essays, 1907; and Lectures on the French Revolution, 1910.  He married at St. Martens (Austria), 1 August 1865, Countess Maria Anna Ludomilla Euphrosina von Arco-Valley (1841-1923), second daughter of Count Johann Maximilian von Arco-Valley and had issue:
(1) Mary Elizabeth Anne Dalberg-Acton (known as Mamy), born 15 August 1866, m. 21 October 1901 Lt-Col. Edward Bleiddian Herbert DL (1858-1931), son of John Arthur Edward Herbert (né Jones) of Llanarth Court and Treowen and had issue; she died 9 January 1955;
(2) Annie Mary Catherine Georgiana Dalberg-Acton (1868-1917), born 26 September 1868 and died unmarried at Thun (Switzerland), 30 September 1917;
(3) Richard Maximilian Dalberg-Acton (later Lyon-Dalberg-Acton) (1870-1924) (q.v.);
(4) John Dalberg Dalberg-Acton (1872-73), born 30 May 1872; died 18 April 1873;
(5) Elizabeth Mary Catherine Dalberg-Acton (known as Lily) (1874-81); born 21 April 1874; died 1 October 1881;
(6) Jeanne Marie Dalberg-Acton (known as Simmy) (1876-1919); born 12 March 1876; died unmarried at Thun (Switzerland), 18 May 1919; buried at Thun.
He inherited the Aldenham Park estate from his father in 1837, but only came into possession of it on achieving his majority in 1855.  He added a large library to the house in about 1865, but lived mainly elsewhere after 1876.
He died 19 June 1902 and was buried at Tegernsee, Bavaria.  His widow died 3 April 1923.

Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (né Dalberg-Acton), Richard Maximilian (1870-1924), KCVO, 9th baronet and 2nd Baron Acton, of Aldenham Park.  Only surviving son of Sir John Emmerich Edward Dalberg-Acton (1834-1902), 8th bt.  and 1st Baron Acton and his wife, Countess Maria Anna Ludomilla Euphrosina von Arco-Valley; born 7 August 1870 in Bavaria.  Educated at Magdalen College, Oxford.  Patrician of Naples; JP and DL for Shropshire; declared a British subject, 1911.  Entered Foreign Office 1894 (Third Secretary, 1896; Second Secretary 1900, First Secretary 1908, Counsellor at Embassy 1914; Chargés d'Affaires, Berne (Switzerland), 1904-06, Madrid 1906-07, The Hague, 1908-11, Darmstadt 1911-14, Berne 1915-16; Consul-General at Zurich (Switzerland), 1917-18; Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Finland, 1919-20; retired 1920); Lord-in-Waiting, 1905-10, 1910-15; held various foreign orders (Grand Officer of Legion d'honneur; Grand Cross Dannebrog; Royal Red Cross of Serbia).  He married 7 June 1904 Dorothy (1876-1923), only child of Thomas Henry Lyon of Appleton Hall (Cheshire) and changed his surname to Lyon-Dalberg-Acton by royal license, 1919.  He had issue:
(1) Maria (known as Mia) Immaculée Antoinette Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1905-94), a Dame of Honour and Devotion of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, m. 25 February 1933 John Douglas Woodruff CBE (1897-1978), the son of Cumberland Woodruff; died without issue at Marcham Priory, 5 April 1994;
(2) Dorothy Elizabeth Anne Pelline (known as Pelline) Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1906-98), born 25 June 1906; m. 6 June 1928 Edward Joseph Eyre (d. 1962), son of Edward Eyre of New York and London, and had issue; died 7 April 1998, aged 91;
(3) John Emerich Henry Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1907-89), 3rd Baron Acton (q.v.);
(4) Richard William Herbert Peter (known as Peter) Lyon-Dalberg-Acton MBE (1909-46), born 21 February 1909, served in Intelligence Corps in WW2; m. 16 December 1937 Jill, daughter of Hugo C. Ehlert of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and died with his wife in a plane crash near Bathurst (Gambia), 7 September 1946;
(5) Helen Mary Grace Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1910-2001), born 21 May 1910 at Appleton Hall; m. 6 July 1933 (div. 1959) Prince Guglielmo Camillo Carlo Rospigliosi, son of Prince Ludovico Guardino Carlo Francesco Rospigliosi and had issue; died 6 June 2001, aged 91;
(6) Gabrielle Marie Leopoldine (known as Bunny) Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1912-30), born 15 December 1912; died unmarried 2 August 1930;
(7) Joan Henrica Josepha Mary Clare Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1915-95), born 7 August 1915; died unmarried 14 November 1995;
(8) Margaret Mary Teresa (known as Puggy) Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1919-97), born 27 May 1919; died unmarried 9 December 1997 and left no issue;
(9) Ædgitha Bertha Milburg Mary Antonia Frances (known as Aeida) Lyon-Dalberg-Acton OBE (1920-95), born 15 December 1920; m. 7 July 1949 John Alexander, youngest son of Alexander Theodore Callinicos of Ithaca (Greece) and had issue; died June 1995.
He inherited the Aldenham Park estate from his father in 1902.
He died in London, 16 June 1924, aged 53. For a portrait photograph, see here.

Lyon-Dalberg-Acton, John Emerich Henry (1907-89), 10th baronet and 3rd Baron Acton, of Aldenham Park. Elder son of Richard Maximilian Lyon-Dalberg-Acton, 2nd Baron Acton (1870-1924) and his wife Dorothy, daughter of Thomas Henry Lyon of Appleton Hall (Cheshire), born at Bordighere (Italy), 15 December 1907.  Educated at Downside, Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and Trinity College, Cambridge.  Served as Major in Royal Artillery in WW2; lived in Rhodesia, 1947-65 and Malta, 1970-89.  Chairman of Gwebi Agricultural College 1958-62 and Chibero Agricultural College, 1960-65; Chairman of Rhodesian branch of British Red Cross, 1962-68; President of Rhodesian Agricultural Show Society, 1960-64; Director of Swaziland branch of British Red Cross, 1967-70.  He married 25 November 1931 Hon. Daphne (1911-2003), only daughter of Robert John Strutt, 4th Baron Rayleigh and had issue:
(1) Pelline Margot Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (b. 1932), m. 1953 Laszlo Marffy (1928-2008) of Budapest (Hungary) and had issue;
(2) Charlotte Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1934-35), born 6 December 1934; died 1 March 1935;
(3) Catherine Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (b. 1939), m. 1960 Hon. Joseph Mervyn Corbett, fourth son of Thomas Godfrey Polson Corbett, 2nd Baron Rowallan and had issue;
(4) Richard Gerald Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1941-2010), 4th Baron Acton (q.v.), barrister, created a Life Peer as Baron Acton of Bridgnorth, 2000; born 30 July 1941, m.1st 28 August 1965 Hilary Juliet Sarah Cookson (d. 1973), daughter of Osmond Laurence Charles Cookson MB of Perth (Australia) and had issue one son, the current and 5th Baron Acton; married 2nd, 1 January 1974 (div. 1987) Judith (b. 1943), daughter of Hon. Sir Garfield Todd, Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia; and m. 3rd, 1988, Prof. Patricia, only daughter of M. Morrey Nassif of Cedar Rapids, Iowa (USA); died in Iowa, 10 October 2010; for his obituary in The Independent see here.
(5) Canon John Charles Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (b. 1943), canon of Westminster Cathedral;
(6) Robert Peter Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (b. 1946), m. 28 June 1974 Michèle Danièle, daughter of Henri Joseph Camille Laigle and had issue three sons;
(7) Jill Mary Joan Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (b. 1947), solicitor; born 15 June 1947; m. 1969 Nicholas (b. 1945), son of Dr. Eugene Lampert and had issue;
(8) Edward David Joseph Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (b. 1949), Vice-Chancellor of University of East Anglia since 2009; born 4 February 1949; m. 8 April 1972 Stella Marie, daughter of Henry Conroy of Bolton and had issue two daughters;
(9) Peter Hedley Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (b. 1950), born 27 March 1950; m. 1981 Anne, daughter of James Sinclair of Sandy (Orkney) and had issue one son and one daughter;
(10) Mary Anne Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (b. 1951), born 30 March 1951; m. 1972 Timothy John, only son of Matthew Joseph Sheehy and had issue;
(11) Jane Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (b. 1954), m. 1st, 13 December 1975 (div. 1983), Charles Thomas, son of Rev. F. William Pugh (1951-89) and had issue; m. 2nd, 26 August 1983, Xan de Crespigny (b. 1949), elder son of Col. David Smiley and has further issue.
He inherited the Aldenham Park estate from his father in 1924, but sold it to his mother-in-law in 1947.
He died 23 January 1989, aged 81.


Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, successive editions; G. Jackson-Stops, 'Aldenham Park, Shropshire', Country Life, 23 June 1977-7 July 1977; P. Reid, Burke’s & Savill’s Guide to Country Houses: vol. 2, West Midlands, 1980, pp. 73-75; B. Clarke, ‘William Taylor: new discoveries’, Georgian Group Journal, 1998, pp. 1-11; J. Ionides, Thomas Farnolls Pritchard of Shrewsbury, 1999, pp. 238-40; R. Hill, Lord Acton, 2002; J. Newman & N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Shropshire, 2006, p. 95, 109-12; Sir H.M. Colvin, Biographical dictionary of British architects, 1600-1840, 4th edn., 2008, pp. 91, 504, 1030;

Where are their papers?

Lyon-Dalberg-Acton of Aldenham Park (Shropshire), Barons Acton: deeds, manorial and estate records relating to Shropshire (Aldenham etc.), legal and family papers, 15th-20th cents. [Shropshire Archives, 1093, 6307, no ref.]; 
Sir John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 8th bt. and 1st Baron Acton: estate records, family, legal and personal papers, 17th-20th cents. [Cambridge University Library, Add MSS 4607-5021, 5347-5348, 5381-5710, 5751-5776, 6443, 7726-7732, 7892, 7956, 8119-8123, 8409-8417, 9761]; 
Cardinal Charles Januarius Acton (1803-47): corresp and papers, 1827-49 [Vatican Secret Archives, no ref.]

Revision and acknowledgements
This account was published 31 March 2013 and updated 15 May 2014, 15 October 2020 and 18 September 2021. I am most grateful to William Acton for sharing the results of his research on his family with me; the biographies above owe much to his work.  

Saturday 30 March 2013

(21) Acton (later Lyon-Dalberg-Acton) of Aldenham, Barons Acton - part 1

Lyon-Dalberg-Acton coat of arms
This is the first part of a two-part article on this family, and provides an overview and an account of the houses they owned in England. Full genealogical information can be found in part 2

Thomas Acton of Longnor acquired the manor of  Aldenham in 1465 and left it to his second son, John, who was in possession by 1485.  His descendant, Sir Edward Acton (1600-59), 1st bt., was MP for Bridgnorth in the Short and Long Parliaments, 1640-44, until deprived of his seat for his Royalist sympathies, and was created a baronet by King Charles I in 1644.  

Sir Edward Acton, 3rd bt., who was MP for Bridgnorth 1689-1705, rebuilt the house at Aldenham in 1690-91, probably to the designs of the London master-carpenter, William Taylor.  He and his six brothers were noted for their exceptional stature; his brother Francis confessed to being the shortest of the seven, at a mere six foot two inches.  In the next generation, Sir Whitmore Acton, 4th bt., was noted for his good looks and for keeping a married woman as a mistress while still an Oxford undergraduate.  He later built Acton Round Hall in 1713-14, probably to the design of Francis Smith, shortly before he inherited Aldenham.  An agreement of 1715 stipulated that his widowed aunt, Hester Acton, should ‘cohabitt and dwell with him’ and it is possible that her money (she married two wealthy London merchants) largely paid for the house.  After Sir Whitmore died in 1732 his widow Elizabeth (d. 1759) may have returned to Acton Round, as it is in the church there that she and her late husband are commemorated by a monument designed by T.F. Pritchard and erected in 1763; the house was subsequently used as a dower house.  
Acton Round church: monument to
Sir Whitmore Acton, 4th bt. by T.F. Pritchard
© Nicholas Kingsley.  All rights reserved.

Sir Richard Acton, 5th bt., built new stables at Aldenham to the design of William Baker in 1751, but died in 1791 leaving no surviving issue, whereupon the baronetcy and the Aldenham estate passed to a descendant of the 2nd baronet’s second son.  This branch of the family led  unusually colourful lives.  John Acton (1710-66) became Commodore-in-Chief of the Adriatic fleet of the Holy Roman Empire, and plotted to capture Bengal for the Emperor; his elder brother, Edward Acton (1709-81) (father of the 6th bt.), was summoned, soon after qualifying as a doctor, to treat a sick friend at Besançon in Burgundy.  He settled there, set up practice, became a Catholic convert and married a local girl.  Reputedly, when her mother realised his intentions, she hid the daughter in a local convent, but Acton sought appointment as medical adviser to all the local convents until he found and married her.  Their descendants married and had interests across Europe.  Three of his sons entered the service of the King of Naples, and Sir John Acton (1736-1811), the 6th baronet,  became a close adviser to the royal family and ultimately Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Naples, 1789-1808.  He remained unmarried until 1800 when at the age of 64 he obtained special papal dispensation to marry his own niece, a girl of thirteen.  This marriage, which even at the time was a sensation verging on scandal, was apparently planned by Queen Caroline of Naples and the girl's mother, Countess Berghe von Tripps, to keep outsiders from gaining political influence over the affairs of the kingdom and the fortune and property that Acton had amassed in Naples and Palermo.  The match turned out unexpectedly well, producing three healthy - though not long-lived - children, including an heir to the English estates.  In the difficult political circumstances of the Napoleonic wars, Acton was unable to realise his plan of retiring to Aldenham, but died in Sicily in 1811, leaving a young family.   His widow, still no more than 25, moved to London and brought up the children in England, but later had an affair - and further children -  with the French foreign minister, the Comte de La Ferronays, and lived until 1873, a figure of legendary scandal.

Sir Richard Acton (1801-37), 7th bt., came into his inheritance in 1822, and in 1825-28 remodelled the house at Aldenham to the design of Edward Haycock and created a Catholic chapel in the grounds, reusing the facade of a garden building.  In 1832 he married the only daughter of the 1st Duke of Dalberg, and in 1833 changed his name to Dalberg-Acton.  Between her husband’s death and her second marriage to the 2nd Earl Granville in 1840, the Duchess made further alterations to the interior of Aldenham.  

Sir John Dalberg-Acton (1834-1902), 8th bt., who inherited at the age of three in 1837, became a famous Liberal politician and historian.  He was ennobled in 1869 as 1st Baron Acton on Gladstone's recommendation.  The wide European connections provided by his family background and his own marriage to an Austrian countess, gave him an usually broad outlook and informed his historical scholarship.  About 1865 he added a large library (since demolished) to Aldenham to house his collection of 70,000 books, but from 1876 he spent little time at Aldenham because of his academic appointments.  

The 2nd Baron, who inherited in 1902, pursued a diplomatic career across Europe, but married the daughter of Thomas Henry Lyon of Appleton Hall (Cheshire), and in 1919 changed his name to Lyon-Dalberg-Acton.  His son, the 3rd Baron, inherited in 1924 and married in 1931 the Hon. Daphne Strutt (d. 2003), a daughter of the 4th Baron Rayleigh.  Although brought up as a Protestant, she became an enthusiastic Catholic convert under the influence of Monsignor Ronald Knox, who served as domestic chaplain at Aldenham for a couple of years in the 1930s.  

In the changed social and economic circumstances after the Second World War, in 1947 Lord Acton sold Aldenham to his mother-in-law, Lady Rayleigh, who had rented the estate since the 1920s, and emigrated to Rhodesia, where he farmed until the unilateral declaration of independence in 1965.  In 1970, he and his wife retired to Majorca.  Aldenham was sold in 1959 to Mr & Mrs Christopher Thompson, who restored it, and now belongs to their granddaughter, Mrs Hettie Fenwick. The 4th Baron Acton (1941-2010), lived in London and on being elected as one of the hereditary peers to remain in the House of Lords after reform, was created a Life Peer in 2000 as Baron Acton of Bridgnorth; his only son is now the 5th Baron Acton.

Aldenham Park, Shropshire
The first known house on this site was an irregular courtyard house, built for the Actons, who acquired the estate in 1465.  As recorded in a plan of 1625 which formed the basis for a painting made in 1756 after the house had been rebuilt, it had a gatehouse and a hall placed unusually to one side of the courtyard.  Much of the house may have been built or rebuilt for Walter Acton in the 1620s, although parts were evidently earlier.  

This house was demolished in 1690 and rebuilt in a quiet Baroque manner as an eleven by seven bay block around a courtyard.  It was probably designed by William Taylor of London, who was certainly consulted in the 1680s and rebuilt Minsterley church in 1688.  
Aldenham Park: the west front, 1985 © Nicholas Kingsley.  All rights reserved.

The west front has two short projecting wings with hipped roofs; this and the north side are of coursed rubble and would originally have been rendered.  The show fronts are the south and east sides, which are of ashlar.  
Aldenham Park: entrance front, 1985.  © Nicholas Kingsley.  All rights reserved.

The disparity of building materials has previously led to suggestions that the ashlar facades are later, the work of Sir Whitmore Acton, who inherited in 1716 and whose initials are on the rainwater heads.  Actually the whole house is of one build, but Sir Whitmore altered the roof on these sides, so that the hipped roof supported on a richly carved modillion cornice that survives on the north and west was replaced by a parapet of contrasting brown stone.  Sir Whitmore probably also substituted sash windows for casements throughout the house, but regrettably these were altered later, with lowered sills and the insertion of plate glass.  The eleven bay south range contains the best rooms, notably the dining room.  

The central courtyard was preserved until 1825-28 when it was formed into a large hall with Grecian ornaments, probably by Edward Haycock, but with the active  involvement of Sir Richard Acton; many of the other interiors were altered at the same time, or between 1837 and 1840 when his widow occupied the house.  In particular the entrance hall and the main room above it have disappeared; the entrance now leads to a narrow corridor into the central top-lit hall.  The staircase has strong twisted balusters, and must date from 1691, but the present arrangement whereby it is top-lit must date from the 1820s.  
Aldenham Park: Ionic temple, 1985. © Nicholas Kingsley.  All rights reserved.

An Ionic temple of c.1780 in the grounds was converted into a chapel at the same time, but the chapel was demolished in the late 20th century, leaving only the facade.  About 1865, Lord Acton, the historian, built a large library wing to the north-east and installed plate glass in many of the windows of the house.  

In the mid 20th century, Aldenham was let to Lady Rayleigh and her son, the Hon. Guy Strutt.  It was sold in 1947, and decayed until it was bought by Mr & Mrs Thompson in 1959.  They demolished the library wing and restored the remainder.  

The grounds have had as complex a history as the house.  In 1625 the house looked onto an enclosed garden court, entered through a gatehouse.  
Aldenham Park: watercolour of 1792 by Moses Griffith. Image: Government Art Collection.
In 1718 the wrought iron entrance screen at the end of the avenue was made by Robert Bakewell, although it was originally set around the forecourt of the house.  A watercolour of 1792 shows it in this position, and also a further set of gates half-way down the drive; it was moved to its present position, and the lodge built, around 1825.  The stables (now converted to a house) were designed by William Baker in 1750-51.  The original deer park was replanned in the early 18th century, and by 1722 had been planted as a wilderness, cut through with rides; a statue of Neptune by Van Nost survives from this period.  The park was extended and restocked with deer in 1808, and around 1840 an elaborate scrollwork parterre was laid out by W.A. Nesfield near the house.

Descent: John Acton of Aldenham (fl. 1485); to son or grandson Thomas Acton; to son, William Acton; to son, Robert Acton; to son Walter Acton (b. c1575); to son, Sir Edward Acton, 1st baronet (1600-59); to son, Sir Walter Acton, 2nd bt. (c.1621-65); to son, Sir Edward Acton, 3rd bt. (c.1650-1716); to son, Sir Whitmore Acton, 4th bt. (1678-1732); to son, Sir Richard Acton, 5th bt. (1712-91); to second cousin once removed, Sir John Francis Edward Acton, 6th bt. (1736-1811); to son, Sir Ferdinand Richard Edward Dalberg-Acton, 7th bt. (1801-37); to son, Sir John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 8th bt., 1st Baron Acton (1834-1902); to son, Sir Richard Maximilian Lyon-Dalberg-Acton, 9th bt. and 2nd Baron Acton (1870-1924); to son, Sir John Emerich Henry Lyon-Dalberg-Acton, 10th bt. and 3rd Baron Acton (1907-89); who let and in 1947 sold to Lady Rayleigh and the Hon. Guy Strutt; bought 1959 by Mr & Mrs Christopher Ronald Thompson; to granddaughter, Hetty, wife of James Fenwick (fl. 2012).

Acton Round Hall, Shropshire
Acton Round Hall, 1985. © Nicholas Kingsley.  All rights reserved.

A seven-bay, two-storey house built, probably by Francis Smith, in 1713-14 for Sir Whitmore Acton, shortly before he inherited Aldenham Park; it was later used as the dower house to that estate.  An agreement of 1715 stipulated that his aunt, Hester Acton, should ‘cohabitt and dwell with him’ and it seems likely that she, the widow of two wealthy London merchants, largely paid for the house; she certainly paid for the furnishing of it.  It is a very fine, noble and restrained design, built in exquisitely laid pink brick with defining accents in warm buff sandstone ashlar.  

The main facades have the three central bays brought forward, but only on the west (garden) side is there a pediment, which encloses a round-headed window, originally a niche.  The facades are articulated by giant rusticated pilaster strips that demarcate the centre and the angles, and have central stone doorcases with segmental pediments on Doric pilasters.  There are sash windows with sunk panels between the storeys.  The short ends of the house, of five bays in all, have the centre three broken strongly forward, and the south end is dominated by the central round-headed staircase window.  
Acton Round Hall, south staircase hall, 1985, with whimsical taxidermy
© Nicholas Kingsley.  All rights reserved.
The interior has been little altered and is laid out symmetrically, with hall and great parlour in the centre, rectangular rooms in the four corners, with staircases at either end.  Upstairs, there is a lengthwise corridor.  The original large-fielded panelling survives throughout, and there is a fine principal staircase with three twisted balusters to each step.  

Since the 1970s the house has been restored and embellished by the engagingly eccentric present owner, Huw Kennedy.  He created a Gothick library in the south-west room, reusing a stone chimneypiece from Thomas Rickman’s Tettenhall Wood House (Staffs) of the early 1830s, and filled the house with wittily juxtaposed collections, including a great deal of taxidermy.  A baboon twines round the dining room chandelier; when asked why, Mr. Kennedy simply says "I hadn't got anywhere else to put it".

Acton Round Hall: the Gothick library
© Nicholas Kingsley.  All rights reserved.
Acton Round Hall: a 1970s garden folly
© Nicholas Kingsley.  All rights reserved.

In the garden and adjoining fields are other fragments from Wood House, Tettenhall (including a Coade stone tiger), incorporated into a series of Gothick follies including a summerhouse, an obelisk and a pagoda. In recent years Mr. Kennedy has branched out in an entirely new direction, building a full-sized medieval trebuchet in a field near the house which he uses throw objects as varied as pianos, iron weights and dead animals (the record for a piano is 151 yards - but that was only an upright model; a dead pig goes about 175 yards and a 112 lb iron weight made it to 235 yards). Why? "Because its bloody good fun".

Acton Round Hall: pagoda. © Nicholas Kingsley.  All rights reserved.

Previous owners: Sir Whitmore Acton, 4th bt. (1678-1732); to son, Sir Richard Acton, 5th bt. (1712-91); to second cousin once removed, Sir John Francis Edward Acton, 6th bt. (1736-1811); to son, Sir Ferdinand Richard Edward Dalberg-Acton, 7th bt. (1801-37); to son, Sir John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 8th bt., 1st Baron Acton (1834-1902); to son, Sir Richard Maximilian Lyon-Dalberg-Acton, 9th bt. and 2nd Baron Acton (1870-1924); to son, Sir John Emerich Henry Lyon-Dalberg-Acton, 10th bt. and 3rd Baron Acton (1907-89), who sold in 1947... Huw Kennedy (fl. 2011)

Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, successive editions; G. Jackson-Stops, 'Aldenham Park, Shropshire', Country Life, 23 June 1977-7 July 1977; P. Reid, Burke’s & Savill’s Guide to Country Houses: vol. 2, West Midlands, 1980, pp. 73-75; B. Clarke, ‘William Taylor: new discoveries’, Georgian Group Journal, 1998, pp. 1-11; J. Ionides, Thomas Farnolls Pritchard of Shrewsbury, 1999, pp. 238-40; R. Hill, Lord Acton, 2002; J. Newman & N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Shropshire, 2006, p. 95, 109-12; Sir H.M. Colvin, Biographical dictionary of British architects, 1600-1840, 4th edn., 2008, pp. 91, 504, 1030;

Revision and acknowledgements
This account was published 31 March 2013 and updated 15 May 2014, 15 October 2020 and 18 September 2021.