The 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 century.

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 visit.

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 young.

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 to France.

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 and kings.

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 of Commons.

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.