The Cheveley mystery … solved!

Jan Siberechts:Cheveley Park, near Newmarket

(Cheveley Park in the 17th century by Jan Siberechts, from here)

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(From Public Advertiser, 18 January 1790)

I have mentioned a few times on here the mystery that was John, Earl of Chatham’s “seat” of “Cheveley Park/Hall/House/Whatever”. This was first flagged up to me when searching for references to John in the Burney Newspaper Collection. From the summer of 1787 John and his wife could regularly be found at this “Cheveley” over the sporting season, up until John “disposed” of the estate in July of 1797 (Times, 2 July 1797, although the Morning Post recorded him as being at Cheveley as late as 6 October 1797). 

What confused me was this. The Cheveley in question (named “Hall” or “Park” interchangeably) was always stated to be “near Newmarket”, as in the snippet above; it was always mentioned as being John’s “seat”; it never seems to be mentioned in context with anybody else. Why would I be confused about this? Because Cheveley Park, Newmarket, was a hunting lodge belonging to the Duke of Rutland.

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(From the Gazette and New Daily Advertiser, 22 January 1791)

So what was going on here? Did the Duke of Rutland rent out, or lend, his Cheveley Park, Newmarket, to the Earl of Chatham? They were after all very good friends— see my post on the subject the other day). Moreover, although John first started using Cheveley in the autumn of 1787, his bosom buddy the 4th Duke was at that point still alive and in Ireland, so no doubt might well have given John permission to use one of his estates for a bit. After the Duke died in October of that year, his son the 5th Duke was all of nine years old and, no doubt, a bit young to need a hunting lodge all to himself. It could very possibly have been the Cheveley Park, Newmarket.

But surely there would be some record of it? And I couldn’t find anything—nothing at all. A Google search for “Cheveley Hall” (on the supposition that the Hall and the Park were two different places) came up with nothing but a small half-timbered house in the centre of Cheveley village that John would have looked down his (very impressive and well-formed) nose at, and had no land attached whatsoever to hunt in. An email to the Newmarket Local History Society turned up nothing. ardentpittite very helpfully assisted me in finding some references to Cheveley Park in the Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire, but although the history stated that the house “stood empty” between 1784 and 1799 the evidence given for this statement was a couple of newspapers published over late 1786 and early 1787 (before John moved in) and a letter of 20 August 1799 from William Windham in the Dropmore MSS (after John moved out). By that reckoning John could certainly have been using Cheveley between 1787 and 1797—but I still had no proof.

My latest visit to the Archives made me more certain than ever that I was definitely looking at the Cheveley Park. Apart from John and Rutland’s gushy manlove letters, I found several references to John being at Cheveley Park, Newmarket:

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Surely there being two Cheveley Parks in Newmarket would give rise to confusion at the Post Office? And let’s not forget this letter from Pitt the Younger to his mother, from PRO 30/8/12 f 389, dated 13 September 1787, as usual very modest about his abilities in the sporting field: “I returned yesterday from Chevely [sic] which I reached on the preceding Monday, and had the pleasure of finding my Brother and Lady Chatham established very much to their Satisfaction. My visit was not a long one but afforded me a good deal of Riding in the way there and back, and as good a Day’s Sport of Shooting as could be had without ever killing.” (Interestingly John Ehrman, who refers to this letter in The Younger Pitt: The Years of Acclaim p. 590, does not seem to have cottoned on to the fact that John was using Cheveley independently of Rutland.)

So was it the same Cheveley? “All I need,” I cried, “is a newspaper article saying something like “Lord Chatham has taken over the Duke of Rutland’s seat at Cheveley”. So a thousand thanks to my fellow Pittster and sister-in-research Steph, who within minutes came back with the following: “The Duke of Rutland’s house at Cheveley Park is taken by Lord Chatham during the sporting season” (From Norfolk Chronicle 7 July 1787).

Many, many thanks to Steph are due, therefore, for putting me out of my misery. And now I really must write a lengthy email to Newmarket Local History Society. 😉

“Ever unalterably yours”

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I’ve long known that one of the second Earl of Chatham’s closest friends was Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland (1754-1787). John seems to have made a habit of befriending Lords Lieutenant of Ireland: along with Rutland, who was in Ireland 1784-7, John was also close to Lord Westmorland (1789-94) and Lord Camden (1795-8). Rutland, however, seems to have been an especially close friend. Rutland was close to both Pitt brothers, but I definitely get the impression that John was the one Rutland felt closest to.

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(The Duke of Rutland, from here)

Politically and personally, Rutland was strongly drawn to the Pitt family. His father, Lord Granby, had aligned himself with the Earl of Chatham and, although Rutland entered Parliament under the auspices of the Marquis of Rockingham, Rutland’s political position seems to have placed him quite firmly in the Chathamite camp. I am not sure how he initially came into contact with the Pitt brothers— perhaps he met William at Cambridge, but then again he and John might have met first in the salons and clubs of London.

However they met, by 1778 John and Rutland had hit it off big time. John spent a lot of time visiting Belvoir and Cheveley, Rutland’s country estates, and when he was sent abroad in 1778 Rutland (then still Marquis of Granby) sent him the following letter, dated 8 December (PRO 30/8/368 f 231):

“My dear Friend, I wrote you a Letter from Liverpool dated Oct 6th, but not choosing that it should be quite so publick as if it was stuck up at Charing Cross or Published in ye Morning Post which it probably would have been had it passed thro’ ye Channel of ye Post Office, I sent it to Mr Thoroton [?] desiring that he would find out some safe Conveyance [to Gibraltar, where John then was]: but none offering, I rather choose to run any risk than be deemed deficient in any one Point of Friendship or attention to a man for whom I profess & most sincerely do feel so much”.

John returned to England in the late spring of 1779, at which point Rutland had succeeded to the Dukedom. The two men decided to take their seats for the first time in the House of Lords on the same occasion, and I have reason to believe John spent nearly all his time in England staying either with the Duke in London or at Belvoir Castle. In the autumn of that year Rutland raised a new regiment of foot (the 86th) and gave John a captaincy in it. Unfortunately the minute the regiment was raised it was sent abroad to the West Indies. In January of 1780, shortly after John had left with his regiment, Rutland wrote the following (PRO 30/8/368, f 233):

“My dearest Friend, I am most miserable in the thoughts of not seeing you once again previously to your departure … Lord Amherst has consented to call the Regiment after my name, & has written to me a Polite Letter on the Occasion; as if all the disappointments which I have experienced in raising the Battallion [sic] were to be Entirely Cancelled & obliterated by the single act of Empty Civility.

But now my dear Lord, give me Leave to thank you in the Sincerest Manner for the Great Honor you have done me in trusting me with your Proxy [vote in the House of Lords]. Such an unequivocal testimony such a Publick distinguished Demonstration of Confidence from one whose Good Opinion & Friendship is the Pride & Pleasure of my Life is a Circumstance too affecting, for me to be able to Express the Satisfaction I feel upon it in terms adequate to my Sensations.

I will trouble you no longer but to offer to you every wish that Sincere Friendship can possibly suggest. … Believe me my Ever dear Friend to be unalterably yours, Rutland.”

Over the next few years the friendship seems to have taken root and flourished. From perusing the HMC Manuscripts of the Duke of Rutland, it looks like John was a (not always very effective) point of contact for guidance for the Duke of Rutland’s MPs in the House of Commons while Rutland was away in Ireland. The Rutland MSS are full of references to John and the occasional letter from him (John, it seems, was not always the best of correspondents). That didn’t stop Rutland from writing the following, quite astoundingly familiar letter of February 1785 (PRO 30/70/3 f 145):

“I am of Lord Lansdown’s mind in regard to Polliticks [sic], preferring Planting & retirement, I confess I begin to grow ennui’d; My Habits lead me to Indolence & to live [?] & [?] & I would rather be at Belvoir breaking my neck all morning, & Bottles & Glasses all ye Evening than Disposing of Bishopricks Peerages &c, However Pleasant Power & Patronage most certainly is. But yet the Little Ambition I have in my Composition & the great attachment which I bear to yourself & your family bind me to my present Situation[.] As long as I can render Service to our Country & Strengthen your Brother’s able and Honorable Government I shall never desert you. & by the Strict Union which subsists between us we shall ever mutually assist each other. God Bless you my dear Friend & love you as much as I do. I am ever unalterably yours, Rutland”.

John had planned to visit Rutland in Ireland in the summers of 1784 and 1785, but on both occasions had to put off his plans due to the bad health of his wife. He eventually managed, alone, in the summer of 1786, and spent three weeks in Dublin. It was not a wholly successful visit— political relations between Dublin and Westminster had been fraught since the Irish Commercial Propositions had failed in 1785, and the newspapers were agog with the possibilities offered by the Minister’s brother making a personal visit to the Lord Lieutenant— but it was the last time John and Rutland were to meet. Rutland died on 24 October 1787 of a disease of the liver, probably due to the “Bottles & Glasses all ye Evening” he had confessed to prefer to the ins and outs of political life. In a final testimony to friendship Rutland made provision in his will for John and William to become joint guardians to his children.

Thus passed a great friendship. John maintained ties to the Rutland family long after the Duke died; he remained good friends with the Dowager Duchess, rented the Duke’s hunting lodge of Cheveley (more on this later) for ten years from 1787 to 1797, and continued to visit the Rutland children at Belvoir on a reasonably regular basis. As late as 1825 (7 November, the Times) he was to be found hunting with the Duke of Rutland on his estates.

I must say that until yesterday I was not fully aware of the extent to which John and Rutland were good friends. “Ever unalterably yours” indeed: I can truly say I have never seen anyone else signing off to John in such a manner.