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Lord St. Leonards

As has already been stated, the baroness de Ros had decreed that Boyle Farm, along with all her other real estate, should be sold and the proceeds divided amongst the surviving of her children. The names Fitzgerald and de Ros thereafter disappear from the mansion's history.

For a time before the property was finally sold by the trustees it appears to have been leased to a tenant called Wilkinson (244). Although this cannot have been for very long, and he leaves nothing to the history of the house.

In 1832 a large part of the farmlands, those meadows lying between Summer Road (then known as Moulsey Lane) and the Thames, was offered for sale by auction (245), and in 1839 the rest of the estate, including the house, kitchen garden, islands in the river, and other lands, was sold to Sir Edward Burtenshaw Sugden, who had been living in Boyle Farm, but before this apparently only as a tenant (246).

Sir Edward Sugden, later Lord St. Leonards, was a truly remarkable man. Born the son of a London barber. by his own diligent efforts and brilliant intellect he mastered the intricasies of the law, became a barrister, member of Parliament, Solicitor-general, and eventually lord-chancellor and a baron(247).

Sir E.B.Sugden, M.P. Sir E.B.Sugden, M.P.

Not only was he a man of very humble origin, but what is more, in politics he was a Tory. Thus the long association of the house with aristocratical Whiggery, which had lasted since Sidney Godolphin first came here about 1720, was brought to an abrupt conclusion. It is one of the idiosyncracies of early nineteenth century politics that whilst the scions of extremely wealthy noble families espoused the cause of liberalism and reform, some of their most vehement and vociferous opponents were to be found amongst the ranks of the newly enfranchised.

Not long after entering Parliament Sugden's talents were spotted by the duke of Wellington, who appointed him solicitor- general. An office which traditionally carries a knighthood. He was now moving upwards. However, his plebian roots did cause some complications with the establishment when, in 1834, Sir Robert Peel became prime minister and offered him the higher position of lord-chancellor of Ireland, and off he went to Brin's Isle.

He had married in 1808 a lady named Winifred Knapp, but it was soon noised around that the four eldest children of the union had been born before the two had sought the blessing of Mother Church, and the children were, in fact, not christened until two days after their parents wedding had taken place(248). Such loose behaviour, although inclined to be overlooked in those of higher rank (consider, for instance, the vice-ridden morals of the royals at that time), was nevertheless not condoned in mortals of lower class.

Charles Greville, the clerk to the privy council, decribed Lady Sugden as: "an excellent woman, charitable, and kind hearted". But the displays his class prejudice by going on: "I fancy she has moved without obstruction in his natural circle of society" (249). The upper circles, in which Sugden and his wife now expected to move, were not quite ready to welcome them with open arms, in spite of his high office.

Lady Haddington, the wife of the lord-lieutenant of Ireland, a lady who as the daughter of the earl of Macclesfield was herself entirely out of the top bracket, would normally invite the wife of the new lord-chancellor to receptions at Dublin Castle. But when she was apprised of the couple's early history worked herself up into a right tizzy. Should Lady Sugden be accepted into Irish court society or not?

In this quandry Lady Haddington wrote to the queen for advice. Her reply was that she should certainly do as she should think fit, but that Lady Sugden would definitely not be received at court in London. (Such prudishness from a queen who cheerfully welcomed into her home no less that ten by-blows sired by her own husband). With this clear indication of royal protocol the lady-lieutenant declared the chancellor's wife persona non grata at the castle, and refused to meet her.

In the face of such a rebuff to his good lady, Sir Edward, in high dudgeon, wrote to Peel resigning the lord-chancellorship, less than three months from first receiving the appointment (250). Even had he not resigned, his term of office would not have lasted much longer - within another month Peel's government was defeated.

Six years later the Tories returned to power, with Sir Robert Peel as prime minister again. Sugden was persuaded to have another try at the same office, and he left for Ireland once more. This time he must have received guarantees that the problems of his previous endeavours had been sorted out, for he stayed in the post for the next five years, and made quite a name for himself as a legal administrator.

In February 1852, the party to which he owed his promotion and achievement was once again returned to power, with the earl of Derby as premier. Sugden was this time appointed lord-chancellor of Great Britain, and raised to the peerage, as Lord St. Leonards. Taking his title from St. Leonards Forest, which surrounded the country seat which he had purchased near Slaugham in Sussex (251).

His tenure of the woolsack was, however, to be shortlived. In December Lord Derby's administration fell, and he was out of office. Nevertheless, he had succeeded within a year of obtaining a number of measures amending and improving the law with regard to wills, trusts, lunacy, and chancery and common law proceedures(252).

Lord Derby became prime minister again in 1858, and once more offered St. Leonards the lord-chancellorship. Which he declined. One of his colleagues went so far as to suggest that he did so, not because he did not want the office, but that he did not expect to be taken at his word, and just wanted to be pressed to accept it. "If so he was disappointed", he says. "His cross- grained temper had made him a disagreeable colleague". In that case the premier must have been relieved when he realised he would not have to include him in his cabinet (253).

He was now seventy-seven years old, but there was no flagging of his mental or physical powers, and he continued to play an active role in the deliberations of the house of Lords and the privy council. But he never again held high office.

It seems he now contemplated putting Boyle Farm on the market, and presumably retiring to his Sussex home. For we find Thomas Love Peacock, the author, who lived at Shepperton, writing to his friend Lord Broughton, advising him that the estate was for sale. If he wanted it the price was understood to be £13,000. Peacock described it as: "one of the prettiest situations on the Thames, facing the iron railings which give open views of Hampton Court Home Park" (254). However, Lord Broughton would hardly have required reminding of Boyle Farm's situation and beauties. He would undoubtedly have retained vivid memories of twenty-five years earlier when, as plain Mr. Hobhouse, he was one of that gay band who froliced here at the famous Dandies Fete, and from whose recollections of that notable event we have quoted already (255).

For one reason or another this sale never took place, and Lord St. Leonards continued to occupy the house. Here he entertained his legal and political colleagues, and took an increasing interest in the village of Thames Ditton.

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