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Social history and biography of

The Romney family of Whitestock Hall

Overview

While researching the history of Guarlford and Madresfield National schools we came across the name, in the Edinburgh Gazette dated July 9th 1886, of Eliza Jane Romney of Fowler's Farm, Guarlford, previously of South Villa Great Malvern, who seems to have been cited for bankruptcy.

We wondered if she was related to Herefordshire born Rev Francis Henry Romney (1805-1871) who had been a curate at St Mary Guarlford, but it seems much more likely she came from another family up north, and that she was in fact the great granddaughter of the famous painter George Romney (1734 - 1802).

Grave of John Orde RomneyFurther investigation has revealed that John Orde Romney who died at Malvern in 1924 and is buried in Great Malvern cemetery is the great grandson of the painter George Romney.

The memorial to John Orde Romney (see opposite) is a small toppled cross at the NE corner of the 'Lambert Memorial' which dominates the cemetery to the east of the chapel. The worn inscription reads:

In loving memory of

John Orde Romney

Late of Whitestock Hall

Lancashire

Died Feb 19th 1924.

Here is the story of the Romney family as far as we know it.

George Romney

George Romney born in the Lake District at Dalton in Furness, Cumbria on 15th December 1734 was the son of a cabinet maker, yet he became one of the most famous portrait painters of his day. He painted, amongst others, Emma Hamilton the mistress of Admiral Horatio Nelson. A fuller story of his life can be found in the Oxford Dictionary of Art and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

George Romney married, at Kendal in 1756, Mary Abbott by whom he had a son Rev John Romney (1758 - 1832) and a daughter Ann who died an infant.

He worked for many years in London, but spent his last years with his wife in the Lake District, where according to The National Archives, he bought Whitestock Hall near Rusland in 1801. Other sources suggest George bought land at Whitestock in order to build a home for his family, and the building was completed by his son the Reverend John Romney.

George Romney died on 15th November1802 and is buried in the churchyard of St Mary, Dalton in Furness. His memorial was restored by his great grandson John Orde Romney in 1895, who is mentioned above.

George's brother Peter Romney (1743 - 1777) was also a painter but less successful.

John Romney (son)

John Romney (1758 - 1835) was educated at Manchester Free Grammar, and St John's College, Cambridge. MA 1785, Bachelor of Divinity 1792. Rector of Southery, Norfolk 1788-1799, Rector of Thurgarton and Cockley Clay 1804.

He married Jane Kennal and moved to live at Whitestock Hall in 1806.

They had five children:

Mary Romney (1809 - unknown)

George Romney (1812 - 1868)

Elizabeth Romney (1814 - 1893)

Jane Romney (1816 - 1889)

John Romney the younger (1817 - 1875)

Towards the end of his life, in 1830, Rev John Romney (son) published memoirs of his father, the painter George Romney; John died in 1835. He is buried in the churchyard of St Paul's Rusland, as is his mother Mary. The novelist Arthur Ransome (1884-1967), who wrote 'Swallows and Amazons', and his wife are also buried there.

In 1831 Mary Romney married wealthy Barrister at Law John Job Rawlinson (1811 - 1864) of Lower Graythwaite Hall, Hawkshead. Their chidren were Caroline Jane, Edith Elizabeth, William Sawrey, George Romney and Robert. All these children except George married and had descendants so we think that any living descendants of George Romney today are most likely to be from them. Bachelor George Romney Rawlinson (1837 - 1880), grandson of painter George Romney, retired Lt Col 3rd Regiment Dragoon Guards, died at Great Malvern on 21st September 1880. He was buried at Broughton in Furness on 28th September 1880.

In 1849 John Romney 'the younger' married Eliza Jane Orde (see below). In 1851 his widowed mother Jane and siblings George, Elizabeth and Jane are still living at Whitestock Hall and in 1857 his sister Jane married widower Thomas Brooks of Rusland Hall, but they had no children and Thomas died in 1866.

 

John Romney the younger (grandson)

John Romney the younger (1817 - 1875), grandson of the painter, was educated at Sedbergh School in Cumbria. He was 18 when his father died and like his father went on to St John's college Cambridge and became a clergyman.

He married Eliza Jane Orde (1822 - 1887) in 1849; she was the daughter of John Bertram Orde (1783 - 1863), Major Bengal Artillery,  and heiress Eliza Lisle.

The couple had ten children and in 1871 the family was living at Whitestock Hall. The children were:

John Orde Romney (1851 - 1924)

Alice Romney (1852 - 1888)

George James Romney (1853 - 1917)

Eliza Jane Romney (1854 - 1943)

Mary Romney (1856 - unknown)

Laura Romney (1857 - 1919)

Lawrence Romney (1858 - 1932)

Edith Frances Romney (1861 - 1877)

Robert Romney (1863 - unknown)

Georgina Elizabeth Romney (1864 - 1910)

Perhaps surprisingly, given the large number of children, this branch of the family appears to have died out. It appears that, other than Lawrence and Robert, the children of John 'the younger' had no regular occupation and spent any inheritance.

John Orde Romney married Annie Gertrude Kay in 1882. The couple had one son John Edwards W Romney (1883 - 1941) but the census suggests they then may have then led separate lives. In the 1891 Scotland census Annie is recorded as a type-writer in Edinburgh, at a time when the typewriter was a relatively new piece of secretarial equipment.

John Orde's brother George James Romsey (1853 - 1917) was homeless and entered the St Pancras workhouse on 25th September 1914. He gave his nearest relative's address as Miss Eliza Jane Romney of Glendale, Lower Wyche, Malvern and his occupation as a clerk. In 1911 George had been boarding with his sister Eliza Jane in Lancashire and gave no occupation; but someone had pencilled in Commercial Traveller, Sewing Machinist. In 1901 he had been staying at Rowton House Hammersmith a hostel for out of work and low paid working men, when he had given his occupation as a journalist/author.

In 1891 George and his brother Lawrence were staying at Whitestock Hall, where Lawrence was described in the census as a private teacher (school).

According to the University of Cambridge, Lawrence Romney (1857 - 1932) attended Uppingham school, in Rutland, and went up to St John's College Cambridge in 1878. In 1901 he was a private tutor in Mold Flintshire. He married 16 December 1902, widow Margaret Louisa Patterson the daughter of solicitor Sayers Turner, of Colchester and died at Brighton in 1932. Possibly he lived at Tudor Cottage in Guildford, for some time, separated from his wife.

Little is known of youngest brother Robert Romney born 1863. In 1891 he was staying in Folkestone at the home of Count De Gallatin born Geneva Switzerland about 1853. James Albert 'Count' Gallatin (1853 - 1913) was the great grandson of banker Albert Gallatin and published the diary of his grandfather James Gallatin (1796 - 1876) in 1914. Both Albert and James had been Presidents of the Gallatin National Bank of the City of New York, which, after several name changes, became the Chase Manhattan Bank in 1996.

Gore's Directory of Liverpool lists a Robert Romney, manager, of 11 Thackeray Street, which might just possibly be him. Robert definitely arrived in Liverpool with wife Caroline on 13th July 1929 on the merchant ship SS Lombardy 2,066 tons of the McIver Line which had departed from Buenos Aires (Argentina), on the River Plate, in South America. His occupation is simply listed as a manager, and we wondered manager of what! At that time Britain had a lot of trade with Argentina.

A Robert Romney had married a Caroline Wicks at Chelsea in 1898, which might be them, but we have found no record of the couple in the 1901 and 1911 census, so possibly they were then living abroad eg in Argentina.

It appears only one of the six daughters married. In 1894 Laura Romney married James William Bennet son of ironmonger Richard Bennett. James became a motor car dealer. A note in the National Archives records that their daughter Miss Armorel Romney Bennet (1893 - 1984) of London wrote a letter to the vicar at Rusland re her wish to put up a memorial brass over the Whitestock pew in the parish church, to her grandparents. This was considered by the Church Council and request refused - as 'too many neglected graves in the churchyard already to Romneys'. In 1912 Armorel had been elected a member of The Society of Genealogists of London, which indicates she had an interest in the history of her family, as many of us do today.

Whitestock Hall

Whitestock Hall, lying near Rusland, to the north of Morecombe Bay, was the home of the painter George Romney's family for about 100 years.

It seems that George Romney's grand-daughters Elizabeth and Jane had some role in the administration of the estate, until it passed to their eldest nephew John Orde Romney (1851 - 1924) who is reported to have sold Whitestock Hall circa 1901.

Strangely John's younger brother, Robert Romney, returning by passenger steamer from Argentina in 1929 still gives his address as Whitestock Hall.

Eliza Jane Romney

This story started with an Eliza Jane Romney who had been living in Malvern shortly before 1886 and was still in the town in 1914. We have discovered that she was the great grandaughter of the famous British painter George Romney, and that her eldest brother John Orde Romney died at Malvern in 1924. Her cousin Lt Col George Romney Rawlinson had earlier died at Great Malvern in 1880. Perhaps the family had first come to Malvern attracted by the water cure, but we shall probably never know.

Eliza Jane Romney, spinster, was born at Melrose in Scotland, and died at Ulverston in the Lake District in 1943.


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References

  1. Census of England and Wales
  2. Census of Scotland
  3. Index of Births Marriages and Deaths
  4. National Probate Register
  5. Wikipedia
  6. Oxford Dictionary of Art

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