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Earl of Shrewsbury Papers

Identifier: GTM-871231

Scope and Contents note

The Earl of Shrewsbury Papers, which concern the estate of Henry John Chetwynd-Talbot (1803 - 1868), the 18th Earl of Shrewsbury and Waterford, and 3rd Earl Talbot of Hensol, consists of 3.0 linear feet of material, including correspondence, documents, deeds, accounts, drawings and related printed material.

The Papers deal with various trusts that had been set up by the 18th Earl for his widow and younger children, the siblings of the 19th Earl, namely:

I - Admiral Hon. Walter Cecil Carpenter (1834 - 1904) who like his father was a noted sailor and Naval A. D. C. to Queen Victoria (1880 - 82). He entered the Navy in 1847 and served in the Baltic and Crimean Wars. He was also M. P. for County Waterford (1859 - 95). He assumed the name of Carpenter by Royal License when he inherited the Tyrconnel property of his grandmother, the Countess of Tyrconnel. For a full account of his life see Who Was Who.

II - Major General Hon. Sir Reginald Arthur James Talbot (1841 - 1929) had both a distinguished political and military career. He sat as an M. P. for Stafford (1869 - 74). He also served in the Zulu War (1879); in the Egyptian Campaign (1882); and in the Nile Expedition (1884 - 5), where he was mentioned in dispatches. Later he was Military Attache in Paris (1889 - 95); in command of the Calvary Brigade at Aldershot (1896 - 99); and commanded the army of occupation in Egypt (1899 - 1903). His final tour of duty was as Governor of Victoria, Australia (1904 - 08). For a full account of his life see Who Was Who.

III - Hon. Alfred Talbot (1848 - 19?) attended Christ Church Oxford, and married the Hon. Emily Augusta Louisa de Grey, daughter of the 5th Baron Walsingham.

IV - To a lesser extent the trusts also affected his daughters: Lady Constance Harriett Talbot (1836 - 1901), Marchionness of Lothian, who married her first cousin, the 8th Marquess of Lothian, the noted book collector and Roxburghe Club member; Lady Gertrude Frances Talbot (1840 - 1906), Countess of Pembroke, wife of the 13th Earl of Pembroke; and Lady Adelaide Talbot (1844 - 19?), Countess Brownlow, wife of the 3rd Earl of Brownlow. For more information on the above named daughters see The Complete Peerage.

The manner in which the trusts had been set up would involve Talbot family members in more than 15 years of unpleasant litigation, from the time of the 18th Earl's death in 1868 to final settlements in 1886. Shortly after the Earl's death Hon. Reginald Talbot brought suit against his brother, the 19th Earl to have the wills and trusts of their father brought into execution. This would be an on-going proceeding known as Talbot v. Shrewsbury, which was also revived when the 19th Earl died in 1877. In addition, in 1877 a suit was brought by Praed & Co. against Anna Theresa, Countess Shrewsbury, widow of the 19th Earl, for the administration of the estate of her husband. this was known as Praed v. Shrewsbury, and sometimes referred to as the "Adminstration Suit".

However, the suits that are the main focus of the Papers are those of Shrewsbury v. Talbot and Lothian v. Talbot. The 18th Earl had made two of his brothers, Rev. the Hon. George Gustavus Chetwynd-Talbot (1810 - 1896), 5th son of the 2nd Earl Talbot, and Rev. the Hon. William Whitworth Chetwynd-Talbot (1814 - 1888), 6th son of the 2nd Earl Talbot, trustees of the two trusts: the Ingestre Trust and the Shrewsbury Trust. The trustees, both vicars and not necessarily suited to overseeing trusts, were deceived for many years as to the actual state of the trusts by their solicitor, Henry S. Smith of the Strand, who conducted the bulk of the accounting and administration. In a letter to Admiral Carpenter, dated 3 November 1884 (Box 1, Folder 17), John Topham, a solicitor for the Shrewsbury family, recounts the unfortunate history of the trusts:

"It is perfectly true that your warm hearted father [the 18th Earl] with affectionate feelings to his six brothers, provided in his will, that, after [sterling]44,000 was paid to his younger children (from a settlement he made of [sterling]20,000 and [sterling]24,000 out of his estate) a sum of [sterling]9,000 should be paid in certain shares among his six brothers. When he died there was ample property to have raised at all events the [sterling]44,000, but as you know to gain the costs, the advisors of your eldest brother, the late Earl, took all power out of your hands as an executor, and kept the control of the estate in their hands by instituting the Administration Suit. They having the conducting of the suit and the control of your father's estate, you were powerless. After some ten years of litigation, we at last got the claims before the Court, for the furniture at Alton and Ingestre; the Colliery Plant; and the large sum due to his estate for Apportioned Rents at his death, when the late Earl's estate was declared insolvent and some [sterling]10,000 or [sterling]12,000 only paid from it. Your uncles were trustees under the [sterling]20,000 settlement. They placed the Trust in Mr. Smith's hands and for years no account could be obtained from him and could only have been obtained by filing a Bill against your uncles which you declined to do, preferring rather to submit to the loss. I was always under the perfect conviction that the estate was more than sufficient to have paid your [sterling]44,000 had it been properly managed, and after the heavy cost of the long protracted litigation all paid out of the estate, the Advisors of the late Earl, on the other hand, always asserting that there was only sufficient to pay the debts in full. I always considered that the younger children were most unjustly dealt with, in being deprived of the money they were entitled to and which really was theirs on your father's death. Of course, when the younger children have not been paid their [sterling]44,000 there cannot be anything for your uncles."

Lothian v. Talbot was brought in 1884 by the Marchionness of Lothian against her uncles, the Revs. and Honbles. George and William Talbot, and on behalf of the younger children, and Shrewsbury v. Talbot was brought in the same year by the 20th Earl Shrewsbury against his uncles and Henry Smith. Both of these suits were brought in order finally to settle the two trusts. In Shrewsbury v. Talbot the trustees are charged with wilful default and having "wasted the estate and allowed moneys to lie idlein their hands or in the hands of the solicitor." Smith himself is charged with having "intermeddled in the trusts and has received considerable sums on behalf of the trustees and carried them to his private account at his bankers' and made use of the same as if it were his own moneys."

Finally in March of 1886, after years of mismanagement of the trusts, the two trustees, the Revs. and Honbles. George and William Talbot, removed Smith as their solicitor and retained the firm of Pemberton & Garth to act on their behalf. They had tried everything with the man as revealed in a letter, dated 14 December 1885 ( and typically marked "not sent"), which the long suffering Rev. and Hon. William Talbot wrote to Smith: "I would go to great lengths upon the score of the friendship which has existed for many years between us, to avoid the scandal, but I must distinctly give you to understand that my own honour will compel me to submit this case to the Board of which I am a Member, and of which you are the Solicitor - unless I get, from you an explicit and satisfactory solution of a question which prima facie at least involves a downright fraud upon us Trustees."

Pemberton & Garth were able to arrange compromises in both suits, but the trustees had to pay costs and were forced to acknowledge wilful default. A small blessing was that Smith was disbarred, but it cannot be determined if he was ever prosecuted for fraud. The story itself, of two caring but incompetent trustees (both men of the cloth) being duped out of a large fortune by their unscrupulous solicitor, is a tale worthy of Dickens or, at least, Trollope. An interesting novel could be based on the cases involved in this archive.

The Collection is made up of Talbot family papers that had been in the keeping of Smith; Smith's own files dealing with the trusts; and the Pemberton & Garth files dealing with the trusts and suits. Pemberton & Garth had requested a court order to force Smith to hand over to their firm the various relevant documents in his possession, which was done, and thus this important collection was brought together.

There is a long exchange of letters between Rev. the Hon. George Talbot and his brother Rev. the Hon. William Talbot, and between each of them with Henry Smith, Pemberton & Garth, and Woodward and McCleod, Smith's accountants. There are also letters by both Admiral Walter Carpenter and Major General Reginald Talbot as well as letters by both the 19th Earl of Shrewsbury and the 20th Earl. Of perhaps particular interest is a large vellum deed signed by various family members regarding Arthur Chetwynd-Talbot, a brother of the 18th Earl. There are also several attractive watercolor plans of trust properties.

This collection would be of importance for any history of the Talbot family and the Shrewsbury and Talbot peerages, the former being, as noted above, the premier Earldom of England. It would also be of value for any biographical study of the various noted individuals mentioned above; for any history of Staffordshire county; for studies of the English legal system, particularly the Trustee Relief Act as well as for any work done on 19th century British culture. As mentioned earlier, it would be of great utility to a writer of historical novels set in Victorian England.


  • 1856 - 1888

Conditions governing access note

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical note

Shrewsbury and Waterford is the premier Earldom in the United Kingdom, dating to 1442 when the celebrated warrior John Talbot was created the first Earl of Shrewsbury. In 1445 he was also made first Earl of Waterford. The 17th Earl, Bertram Arthur Talbot (1832 - 1856), died unmarried as a young man. The 17th Earl believed himself to be the last descendant in the male line of the first Earl and consequently had willed his extensive property to a son of the Duke of Norfolk. However, a male Talbot heir did in fact exist, his very distant kinsman, or more precisely, his 10th cousin once removed: Henry John Chetwynd-Talbot, 3rd Earl Talbot of Hensol, who was descended from a younger son of John, 2nd Earl of Shrewsbury, who had died in 1460. The 3rd Earl Talbot's claim to the Earldom of Shrewsbury and to the Earldom of Waterford was allowed by the Committee for Priveleges in 1858, and consequently Henry John Chetwynd-Talbot became the 18th Earl of Shrewsbury.

The 18th Earl had an eventful naval career. He entered the Royal Navy in 1817; became a Lieutenant in 1824; Commander in 1826; Captain in 1827 (the result of his distinguished command of the "Philomel" at the battle of Navarino, 20 October, 1827); Rear-Admiral in 1854; Vice Admiral in 1865: and finally Admiral in 1865. He was also M. P. for South Staffordshgire from 1837 until 1849, and Naval A. D. C. to Queen Victoria (1852 - 54). As Hereditary High Steward of Ireland, he took part in the installation of the Prince of Wales as a K. P. at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, in 1868. He married in 1828 Sarah Elizabeth Beresford (1807 - 1884), only daughter of the 2nd Marquess of Waterford. Her mother was Susanna Hussey, only daughter and heir of George Carpenter, 2nd Earl of Tyrconnel. The 18th Earl of Shrewsbury died at Newbattle Abbey, the home of his daughter and son-in-law, the 8th Marquess of Lothian.

After the death of the 18th Earl, he was succeeded by his eldest son, Charles John Chetwynd-Talbot (1830 - 1877), the 19th Earl. This was the first time in over 200 years, since the death of the 11th Earl in 1667, that the title of Earl of Shrewsbury had passed from father to son.


2 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials


Earl of Shrewsbury Papers
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Washington, D.C.
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057