story of Lord Crewe
A Yorkshireman who left his mark on Cheshire
Of all the famous people associated with Cheshire, Lord Crewe must
be rated as being near if not at the top of the list. "Associated
with", because this distinguished Liberal statesman and politician
was neither born nor bred in the county.
He was born in London in 1858, being descended on the male side
from a Yorkshire family. His father who became the first Baron Houghton,
had his seat at Fryston near Pontefract. But through his mother,
Lord Crewe was descended from the ancient family bearing the name
of Crewe that could trace its roots in Cheshire back to the twelfth
His mother's father was the second Baron Crewe, and when his bachelor
uncle the third Baron died in 1894, he inherited the whole of the
extensive Crewe estates. Chief of these was Crewe Hall which became
his principal residence for a large part of his long life.
The period when Crewe Hall provided hospitality on a grand scale
for many of the leading Liberals in government and opposition, was
in the twenty year span between 1894 and 1914, the latter year being
the time when the First World War (or Great War as it was generally
called before 1939) broke out.
The highpoint of entertaining at Crewe Hall was in April 1913 when
King George V and Queen Mary were the guests of Lord and Lady Crewe
for three days. It is recorded that during this visit, their Majesties
toured local factories, as well as the railway workshops and orphanages
in the town of Crewe.
Returning to the Hall in the evenings, the Royal party were entertained
by choirs from the neighbourhood. Before leaving at the end of his
stay, the King planted a tree in the grounds to commemorate the
As a young man, Lord Crewe properly speaking was the second Baron
Houghton having inherited the title on the death of his father in
1885, and raised to the rank of Marquess of Crewe in the Coronation
Honours of 1911.
The life of Lord Crewe was marked by sadness, His young and beautiful
first wife, Sibyl Marcia, to whom he was married at an early age
for seven years, died of scarlet fever in 1887 while staying at
Crewe Hall. She left her husband to bring up a family of one boy
and three girls.
She was interred at Barthomley in the Crewe chapel where an effigied
tomb by Sir J Edgar Boelim, RA, which strikingly displays her likeness
in white marble, marks her last resting place. Three years later,
their only son, Richard, followed his mother to the grave.
Twelve years elapsed before the young widower married again. This
time to Margaret, youngest daughter of the Earl of Rosebery, a prominent
Liberal colleague. They had two children, but the son also died
Deprived of a male heir for the second time, and finding the upkeep
of Crewe Hall too burdensome after the war, Lord Crewe decided to
dispose of the house and surrounding land. Thus in 1931 he offered
it gratis to Cheshire County Council which refused it. Soon afterwards
he sold the estate to the Duchy of Lancaster.
Lord Crewe held a panoply of public offices, all with distinction
and honour. In a political career which spanned sixty years, he
was at various times Viceroy of Ireland, Leader of the Liberal peers
in the House of Lords, Secretary of State for India, Lord President
of the Council, President of the Board of Education, Minister for
War, Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Privy Seal and Ambassador
Though scholarly and of distinguished appearance, by all accounts
he was not a particularly effective speaker on the election hustings.
But he did exercise a first-class political judgment that was frequently
called upon at times of national crisis by successive prime ministers
Notably he played a crucial role in the passage of the Parliamentary
Bill, of 1911, that resulted in the curtailment of the powers of
the Lords to alter drastically legislation which came from the House
Soon after selling his estate in Cheshire, Lord Crewe purchased
a smaller country house at West Horsley in Surrey, where he spent
the last thirteen years of his life.
He died in June 1945 just as the war in Europe had ended. His remains
were brought back to Cheshire so that could be buried at Barthomley
alongside many of his relatives and ancestors.
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