This talk sets out some of the historical background to the Dukes of Chandos and their connection with Southgate. The first Duke of Chandos lived at Canons Park in Little Stanmore. The second Duke had to dispose of Canons Park to settle debts and the third Duke married into Southgate money and the Minchenden Estate. The third Duke’s daughter was betrothed aged six in a classic arranged marriage and contracted aged 14 to the first Duke of Buckingham and Chandos.
This talk is posthumously dedicated to Aaron Graham whom I had invited to give the talk and who died recently aged 39. He was a historian and lecturer at University College London. We will be donating a gift to the charity which is being set up in his memory.
The first Duke of Chandos James Brydges (1673-1744)
Canons Park Little Stanmore
Canons Park is located at Whitchurch, Little Stanmore, and was acquired by the 1st Duke of Chandos as part of a dowry upon marriage to his cousin Mary Lake.
His marriage, his family
He had nine children by his first wife of whom only two survived. His first wife died in 1712 and he then married his second wife Cassandra aged 43, another cousin, in 1713.
The development of the estate at Little Stanmore
James then remodelled and enlarged the existing Jacobean country house into a Baroque mansion. The estate was approached along a driveway of giant redwood trees and included two lakes and a church dating back to 1360.
His work, his contacts, his connections, his projected image, patron of the arts
James followed a career as politician, MP, electoral manager, public official, financial speculator, commercial investor, property developer and arts patron. He was Paymaster of the Forces abroad during the War of the Spanish Succession and speculated on the monies he received. By the time he left the post in 1713 he had accumulated a private fortune estimated at £600,000 or £58million today.
The House, artworks, collecting and connoisseurship
James exploited his position as Paymaster of the Forces by using his contacts to grant him favours in the form of artwork, paintings, tapestries, furniture, sculptures and porcelain. He used these to embellish his mansion at Canons with the aim of social and cultural advancement. He reinforced his taste in good champagne and claret and expressed his good taste with extravagant entertainment at Canons. This elicited criticism by his contemporaries, including Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift and William Hogarth. King William was of the opinion that Canons outshone his own palace.
The Church of St Lawrence
The duke rebuilt the main body of the church in 1714-16, retaining the original tower. The interior is richly decorated with wall and ceiling paintings by Louis Laguerre, with other paintings by Antonio Bellucci. The interior woodwork is by Grinling Gibbons, including the ornate organ case.
His Patronage of Handel, The Chandos Anthems
The duke employed the composer George Frederick Handel as his composer in residence from 1717-1718. Handel composed 11 anthems for the duke known as The Chandos Anthems, which were performed in the church with Handel directing the choir and a small orchestra. The in-house musical establishment comprised up to 30 musicians including Francesco Scarlatti, brother of Alessandro, and Johann Christian Bach, son of JS Bach.
The South Sea Company, The Assiento Contract, The South Sea Bubble collapse
James was involved in the administration of the South Sea Company in which he invested heavily. The Company had been set up in 1711 with the backing of the government and the Bank of England as a share lottery to cover existing government debts and borrowing and to facilitate new credit facilities. This proved to be one of the most successful joint-stock companies of its time. Promoted initially through discounted terms to private government investors, MPs and officials, shares became sought after in social circles by speculators and by financiers. However this was a form of pyramid selling. Initially shares sold at £100 a share; the value rose to £1000 a share at its peak in 1720.
The company had been granted a monopoly on trade with all Spanish territories, South America and the West coast of North America, covered by the Assiento Contract of 1713 which governed the trade in gold, spices, wines, ships and slaves.
The South Sea Company struggled to fulfil its promises of untold wealth and, like the hi-tech bubble of the 1990s, it burst leaving James Brydges substantially out of pocket. As a consequence, the princely lifestyle was at an end and savings had to be made.
In 1735 James‘s second wife Cassandra died, and so a year later he married Lydia, a 43 year old widow, who revived the family fortunes with a dowry of £40,000.
The Family Mausoleum
The duke commissioned a family mausoleum built on the north side of the church of St Lawrence. The marble centrepiece by Grinling Gibbons is a baroque monument to James Brydges the 1st Duke, with his two wives Mary and Cassandra on either side.
The Second Duke of Chandos, Henry Brydges (1708-1771)
The Duke’s three wives, profligate spending and debts
Henry Brydges took on the title in 1744 upon the death of his father. He was a spendthrift; the estate was exhausted and accumulated family debts needed to be repaid. He was married twice, firstly to Anne Wells, who he bought from an Innkeeper and then to Elizabeth Major. He had a son James and a daughter Caroline.
The sale of Canons Park, its contents and dismantling
Encumbered by debt three years after his father’s death he was forced to sell off the estate. Henry Brydges dispersed the house contents and furnishings and organised a demolition sale of the building fabric. The colonnade columns went to The National Gallery, the entrance gates went to New College Oxford, the staircase went to Chesterfield House, Knightsbridge. The estate was sold to William Hallett who built a country house there in 1760, using some of the Portland stone left on site. This house was later incorporated into the North London Collegiate School.
The third Duke of Chandos and Marquess of Carnarvon, James Brydges (1731-1789)
His marriage to Margaret Nichol, daughter of John Nichol
James Brydges was in need of a wife. He was Cambridge educated, a ranger of Enfield Chase, Grand Master of the Freemasons, a Whig member of Parliament for Winchester, Lord of The Kings Bedchamber, Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire and a Privy councillor.
He was 22 when married Margaret Nichol in 1753 at St George’s Church, Hanover Square. Margaret had inherited the Minchenden Estate from her father John Nichol.
Minchenden House (1664 -1853) the estate of 500 acres and 18 houses
Minchenden House, built in 1664 by Sir Thomas Wolstenholme, was the largest house in Southgate, of three-storeys, brick built, with a lower basement and 35 rooms. The front elevation facing the Green was formed in 3 bays, each having 3 large windows in the Georgian style. There was a stable block and coach house adjacent to the house, all enclosed by a high brick wall to the front boundary.
The Estate included 500 acres of land, stables and 18 other houses. Minchenden House became the main seat of the Brydges family and King William 2nd was known to visit.
The house was bought by John Nichol in 17386. He died shortly after, and the estate passed to his only daughter Margaret Nichol at the age of 18. A wealthy heiress of marriageable status, she married James Brydges the 3rd Duke of Chandos aged 22 on 22nd May 1753 at St George’s, Hanover Square.
The Duchess of Chandos died on 14th August 1768 aged 33 and is interred in a marble sarcophagus in the family mausoleum at the Church of St Lawrence, Little Stanmore, on The Duke’s former Canons Estate.
The Duke remarried on 21st June 1777 and the couple had two daughters. He died aged 58 in 1789. His wife the dowager duchess continued to live at Minchenden House until her death aged 78 on 20th January 1813.
The Minchenden estate then passed to daughter Anna Eliza Brydges. She married the Marquess of Buckingham (son of Prime Minister George Grenville) in April 1796, aged 17. The family owned a sugar plantation in Jamaica, country estates at Stowe, Wootton, Gosfield and Avington, as well as Chandos House and Buckingham House in London.
Through poor management and profligate spending debts mounted and properties fell into disrepair, and the house was rented out. After the Marquess’s death in 1839 the estate passed to his son Richard the 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos.
Richard was declared bankrupt in 1847 with debts of over £1miillion pounds. All assets were sold.
The Chandos Portrait of Shakespeare (1610)
One of the Nichol family possessions was a portrait of William Shakespeare, dated 1610 and his only known likeness. The portrait was sold by the family in 1848 to pay off debts and is now held in The National Gallery.
The Duke Marries Again
The Duke’s first wife Margaret Nichol died in 1768 and was interred in a sarcophagus in the family mausoleum at Canons.
James remarried in 1777 aged 46, at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, to a rich widow Anna Eliza Gamon with whom he had one daughter Anne Elizabeth Brydges. Anna Eliza had inherited the Hope sugar plantation and hundreds of slaves in Jamaica.
James died in 1789 from injuries caused when his wife withdrew a chair, causing him to fall. On James’s death his daughter Anne inherited the majority of the estate, and his wife Anna was declared insane.
Chandos House Queen Anne Street
The 3rd Duke’s town house was designed by Robert Adam and built by his brother William Adam. Construction started in 1769 and was completed in 1771. The house is located at No 2 Queen Anne Street in central London. The works were funded by banker Sir George Colebrooke of Arnos House, who would have been known to James Brydges.
The Dowager Duchess Anna Eliza Brydges died in 1813 at Chandos house and the house was sold in 1815. The house which featured opulent interiors is now Grade 1 listed.
The first Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Richard Temple Nugent Brydges Chandos Grenville (1776-1839)
Marriage in 1796 to Lady Anne Brydges (1779-1836) daughter of James Brydges
In April 1796 Lady Anne Brydges, the 3rd Duke’s only daughter, aged 17, married Richard Grenville aged 20, son of the Prime Minister. Anne’s parents had planned her marriage to Richard Grenville, the future Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, since she was six years old.
The Grenville family were very wealthy, owning estates at Stowe, 38 other properties and 10,482 acres of land.
Richard Grenville was Joint Paymaster of the Forces, MP for Buckinghamshire, a Privy Councillor and in 1822 he was created Earl Temple of Stowe.
Anne soon realized that her husband was a spendthrift and took measures to protect her inheritance. Anne died in 1836 aged 57 and her husband followed in 1839 aged 62.
The second Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Richard Plantagenet Temple Nugent Brydges Chandos Grenville, Viscount Cobham (1797-1861)
After the Marquess’s death in 1839 the estate passed to his son Richard, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, who bankrupted the family.
The Duke moved abroad to avoid his creditors. He was declared bankrupt in 1847 with debts of £1,464,959, ie over £100,000,000, resulting in the sale of Stowe House, Avington Park and Minchenden House in 1853. Assets were sold to pay off creditors, including 36,000 acres of land and properties at Buckingham House (Pall Mall), estates in Ireland, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Cornwall, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, together with paintings, furniture, silverware, 21,000 bottles of wine and 500 bottles of spirits.
In 1853 Isaac Walker purchased the Minchenden Estate including Chapel Fields. The land was absorbed into the Arnos Grove Estate and the house demolished.