The Bathurst family originate from the county of Sussex where they owned extensive lands and a castle named Bathurst. The owner, Laurence Bathurst, having sided with the Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses, was dispossessed of his estates and executed in 1463 by Edward IV, after the defeat of Henry VI at Hexham. The castle was subsequently demolished, but the ruins were still visible in the middle of the 19th century in a wood called Bathurst Wood.
The son and the grandson of Laurence Bathurst, who were both called Lancelot, lived at Cranebrook, within three miles of the ancient family seat, and also owned land at Staplehurst in Kent.
Lancelot Bathurst, Alderman of London, in the fourth generation from the first Laurence Bathurst, was the Bathurst who built a house in the parish of Bathurst, Horton Kirby, Kent called Franks, which still exists today, even though it has long passed out of the family. At the time, it descended to Lancelot’s eldest son Randolph and his male heirs until 1738, when this branch of the family died out.
It is from George, the third son of Lancelot, that the present family are descended. George Bathurst lived the greater part of his life at Hothorpe in Northamptonshire, a place which belonged to his wife Elizabeth Villiers, she inherited it from her father. George was buried in Theddingworth Church, Leicestershire, the parish in which Hothorpe lies. On the upper part of the tomb are busts of himself and his first wife, Elizabeth, and
below are the figures of their 13 sons and 4 daughters, one son being in swaddling clothes. There is a long inscription, giving the names of all the children.
Several of his sons lost their lives in the Civil Wars. Among others, the eldest son George, a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, died in 1644 of a wound in the thigh, which he received while defending the garrison of Farringdon in Berkshire against the rebels.
Sir Benjamin Bathurst was the 13th son of George Bathurst, and it is really from his generation that the family’s history is far better recorded.
His earlier life is not so clearly documented, but in 1695, Sir Benjamin Bathurst had become a highly regarded statesmen, politician and courtier. He was Treasurer and Receiver General to James II before his accession to the throne, a Governor of The East India Company, Treasurer to Princess Anne of Denmark, and Cofferer to Queen Anne, a post that he held until his death in 1704.
Sir Benjamin was known as a kindly and generous gentleman, who took particular interest in the happiness and well-being of his family, and his wish was to see his sons settled before he died. He purchased this estate for his eldest son Allen, who was to become the first Earl Bathurst.
There were three brothers: Allen the eldest, for whom Cirencester Park was chosen, Peter whose estate was Clarendon Park in Wiltshire, and finally Benjamin who settled at Lydney Park in the county of Gloucestershire.
The estate was formerly known as Oakley Grove and when Sir Benjamin died in 1704, Allen took over the estate and it was his sublime creation that became one of the greatest privately owned parks of the 18th century: the finest forest landscape in England – Cirencester Park. It remains amongst the most beautiful in the country today, having remained in the same family its one main advantage has been continuity.
Sir Allen Bathurst was swiftly elevated by Queen Anne to the Peerage as Baron Bathurst of Battlesdon in the County of Bedford, in 1711 and then again the following year, 1712 – when he was created The Earl Bathurst of Bathurst, in the County of Sussex.
He was active in Parliament and was a Tory MP for Cirencester and a leading supporter of the Tory government of 1710-14. Lord Bathurst was a patron of literature and art (one of James Lees-Milne’s “Earls of Creation”), befriending many of the noted authors of his day, including Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift, both of whom stayed frequently at Cirencester.
Indeed, there is a folly dedicated to Alexander Pope within the park called, appropriately, ‘Pope’s Seat’ and it was from this beautiful vantage point that it is said the poet and his friend spent many an hour discussing the planning of the great avenues and rides now seen today within the parkland, as well as many of the follies that are still enjoyed by the thousands of visitors the estate welcomes each year.
Unusually, Lord Bathurst’s eldest son Henry, was also elevated to the Peerage in his own right and before his father’s death, being given the hereditary title of The Baron Apsley, hence the current heir of The Earl Bathurst is entitled to use this style, (normally, the eldest son of an Earl holds the courtesy title of a Viscount).
Henry, on his father’s death became The 2nd Earl Bathurst and was a prominent lawyer and politician. He then served as Lord High Chancellor until 1778 and later held office as Lord President of the Privy Council. Most notably, the 2nd Earl constructed Apsley House in London, known as No.1 London, which later became the seat of the Dukes of Wellington.
The 3rd Earl Bathurst, again Henry, followed his predecessors into politics and held a number of High Offices: Lord of The Admiralty 1783-1789, Lord of the Treasury 1789-1791, Commissioner of the Board of Control 1793-1802 and most notably he was The Secretary of State for War and the Colonies from 1812 to 1827. He was predominantly responsible for the action at The Peninsula Wars, fighting The Duke of Wellington’s cause to a reluctant Parliament (something that The Iron Duke never forgot) – and ultimately overseeing Napoleon’s final banishment to St Helena. The Duke of Wellington and he were close friends and spent much time together. In 1817 he was made a Knight of the Garter and it is he after whom the numerous places called Bathurst throughout the world were named.
The 3rd Earl died at the age of 72 in 1834 and was succeeded by his eldest son, the fourth Earl, (again Henry) who had represented Woebley and Cirencester in the House of Commons as a Tory until his father’s death. He never married and was succeeded by his younger brother, William the fifth Earl.
William had also sat as Member of Parliament for Weobly before his entrance into the House of Lords. He held many offices whilst in Parliament, including Deputy Teller of the Exchequer between 1816 and 1830, and a Commissioner for victualling the Royal Navy between 1825 and 1829 and he served as Joint Secretary to the Board of Trade from 1830 to 1847, as well as Joint Clerk of the Privy Council from 1830 to 1860.
The 5th Earl also died unmarried and was succeeded by his nephew Allen, the sixth Earl. He was the son of Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. Thomas Seymour Bathurst, a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo (and who tragically died when his son was only a year old) and the third and youngest son of the third Earl.
Lord Bathurst represented Cirencester in Parliament as a Tory. He was married twice, the first was The Hon .Meriel Warren, daughter of George Warren, 2nd Baron de Tabley. They had a wonderfully happy union and four children, Seymour (who went on to succeed his father as the 7th Earl), Georgina (or ‘Dordy’ as she insisted on calling herself as a toddler), Lancelot, and finally Allen. Tragically Meriel died just a few days after Allen was born – and Lord Bathurst married secondly Evelyn Hankey and by her had his fifth child, a daughter named Evelyn.
Seymour became the 7th Earl Bathurst in 1892. Known as ‘Joe’ to his family and close friends, the 7th Earl served as Commander in Charge of the 4th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment from 1893 to 1908. He was named an Honorary Colonel of the 4th Battalion in 1903 and Honorary Colonel of the 6th Battalion in 1908. He married Lilias Borthwick, daughter to Lord Glenesk, founding owner of The Morning Post (later to become The Daily Telegraph).
At the time of their marriage it was expected that The Morning Post would be inherited by Oliver Borthwick, Lilias’s younger brother but Oliver predeceased his father in 1905, leaving Lilias as the only legal heir. Lord Glenesk died on 24 November 1908, and The Morning Post was then co-owned by Lord Bathurst and his wife. It was under their ownership, in 1920, that the paper published a series of articles based on the so-called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. These were collected the same year and published in London and New York in book form under the title of The Cause of World Unrest. The paper was eventually sold to a consortium organized by the 8th Duke of Northumberland in 1924.
Seymour and his wife enjoyed a very happy marriage, they had four children, Allen, Meriel, William and Ralph, but it was marred with a double tragedy. Their eldest son Allen, (The Lord Apsley) married Viola Meeking and by her had two boys, Henry (the 8th Earl) and George. However, Viola was paralysed in a hunting accident and spent the rest of her life, very ably it has to be said, in a wheelchair. The second tragedy occurred in 1942 when, whilst returning to see his family for Christmas, Lord Apsley was killed on take-off in a freak air accident in Malta.
The 7th Earl died a year later and so Henry, the 8th Earl was possibly one of the youngest to succeed to the title, aged only 15. Educated at Eton, he joined the military in 1948 and served in the 10th Royal Hussars, and then the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars. He later held political office under Harold Macmillan as a Lord-in-Waiting (government whip in the House of Lords) from 1957 to 1961 and as Joint Under-Secretary for the Home Department from 1961 to 1962, following which he left politics to concentrate on running the family estate. He was a Deputy Lieutenant for Gloucestershire from 1960 to 1986.
The 8th Earl Bathurst had three children with the late Judith, Countess Bathurst who sadly died in 2001; Major The Hon. Alexander Bathurst lives with his wife Emma and their two children Harry and Georgina in Tarlton, while Lady Henrietta lives with her husband and family in South Africa.
Following the 8th Earl’s death in October 2011, his eldest son Allen succeeded to the title and it is he who presently runs and oversees the estate, supported by The Countess Bathurst, for future generations. Lord Bathurst’s eldest son Benjamin succeeds to being The Lord Apsley and his daughter is The Lady Rosie Bathurst.