Lord Sydney’s children

Another quick post this, put up simply as a result of a serendipitous finding on the net. I always knew Thomas Townshend, 1st Lord Sydney’s family was a large one: 6 sons and 6 daughters, according to his History of Parliament page. Until now I’ve not been able to track down more than seven of them.

Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney (Wikimedia Commons)

Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney (Wikimedia Commons)

Andrew Tink’s recent biography of Sydney notes only:

Three years Sydney’s junior, Elizabeth [Powys, Sydney’s wife] bore him six sons and six daughters. But only seven, Georgiana, Mary, John, Frances, Harriet, William and Horatio, are known to have survived infancy in an age when the mortality rate of children under two was especially high. On 9 December 1777, for instance, his brother Charles noted that Sydney’s wife ‘is brought to bed and is very well: the child died three hours after she was born’.[1]

I have finally found a list of Townshend’s twelve children (in fact there are thirteen in the list, but I think the last two should be one person). The list is contained in The present peerages… by Joseph Edmondson (London, 1785), and is surprisingly comprehensive¬† (p. 173):


From this list, and from some other sources, I gather Sydney’s thirteen children were as follows:

  1. Georgiana (1 June 1761 – 12 September 1835)
  2. Mary Elizabeth (2 September 1762 – 21 May 1821)
  3. John Thomas (21 February 1764 – 20 January 1831)
  4. Albinia Ann (9 October 1765 – buried 15 March 1770)[2]
  5. Charles Horatio (10 December 1766 – buried 22 December 1773)[2]
  6. Henry George (25 October 176? – buried 22 December 1773)[2] (apparently born 25 October 1765, but I can’t see how that’s possible given Albinia Ann was born on 9 October, unless they were twins and one of the dates is wrong)
  7. Frederick Roger (20 April 1770 – died while at Eton, in 1782)
  8. Frances (20 February 1772 – 13 August 1854)
  9. Henrietta [or Harriot] Catherine (27 November 1773 – 24 August 1814)
  10. William Augustus (10 March 1776 – 3 July 1816)
  11. Sophia Charlotte (died young: probably the baby mentioned as dying three hours after her birth in the extract from Tink, so 8/9 December 1777)
  12. [Horatio] George Powis (6 February 1780 – 25 May 1843)

I think “Horatia”, at the bottom of the list, probably did not exist, since I’ve not found her mentioned anywhere else. “George Powis”‘s given name was in fact Horatio, so I think that’s probably where the confusion lies.[3]

Either way, it looks like Lord Sydney buried an awfully large number of his children– two on the same day, so presumably felled by the same illness– and that most of them were not in fact tiny babies. Albinia was four and a half when she died; Charles Horatio was seven, as was William Augustus; Henry George possibly eight, and Frederick Roger was eleven or twelve. Only Sophia Charlotte died at birth.

I have to wonder how all this would have affected the 2nd Lord Chatham’s future wife, Mary. She would have been old enough to remember all the five siblings that died. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mary was extremely close to all her siblings, particularly her brother, Georgiana, and Frances, who later married Lord Dynevor.



[1] Andrew Tink, Lord Sydney: the life and times of Tommy Townshend (Melbourne, 2011), p. 149

[2] D. Lysons, The environs of London, volume 4 (London, 1796), from here

[3] Collins’s Peerage of England , volume VI by Sir Egerton Brydges (London, 1812), 321-2


Lord Chatham’s seal

It’s rare to find any John-related artefacts out there, perhaps because people didn’t think his things worth keeping (the “wrong Lord Chatham”, as it were). A few months ago, however, I discovered something on the web that actually belonged to him.


Amazingly, the above was John’s seal. I found it on the finds.org.uk site for the public to register finds of archaeological/historical interest. The website notes:

Part of a late eighteenth century gold fob seal set with a cornelian intaglio. The struts and suspension loop are missing. The fob seal is oval in shape and measures 33.81mm by 28.08mm by 5.24mm. It weighs 11.25g. The arms engraved on the intaglio are those of John Pitt, 2nd earl of Chatham (1756-1835), impalling those of his wife, Mary Elizabeth Townshend (1762-1821), daughter of Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney. It encorporates the coronet, supporters and motto, BENIGNO NUMINE (‘by favour of the heavens’) of the earls of Chatham. The seal must date from between the marriage of John Pitt in 1783, and 1805, when the Pitt family sold their estate at Curry Rivel. (From here)

It was found on 1 February 2006, somewhere “in the Curry Rivel area” in Somerset, presumably on the Burton Pynsent estate, where the Pitt family had a house.

What remains of Burton Pynsent (from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/10263323)

What remains of Burton Pynsent (from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/10263323)

I’d guess John was out walking or riding around his estate and lost part of his seal. It’s just one of those reminders that the people I read and write about were actually human beings, who were liable to lose things (and probably quite annoyed about it afterwards).

I have not seen any manuscripts sealed with this particular design, although to be fair most MSS do not include the envelopes along with the letters (some do, particularly if the inside of the envelope formed part of the letter). I do wonder if it is a pre-1790 seal, since John was invested with the Garter in December of 1790 and was so proud of it he put his star/garter symbol on absolutely EVERYTHING. Without knowing more about heraldry, however, I could not say for sure.

As the find.org.uk website notes, the crest on the seal is composed of Chatham’s arms impaled with those of his wife, Mary Elizabeth Townshend. The Chatham arms are below:


And this is the crest of Lord Sydney, Mary’s father:


I would very much like to see a colour version of the Pitt/Townshend crest. I may have to make one myself!