Report by Sandra Millsopp
Bangor Historical Society met on 13 October 2016 for a talk by Tom Beggs on Charles, the third Marquis of Londonderry of Mount Stewart. He was born in 1778, the second son of the first Marquis. His elder half-brother, the second Marquis is best known as Lord Castlereagh, the foreign secretary. Scrabo tower was built in the former’s memory.
Mr. Beggs dealt first with the military career of the third Marquis. He went to Eton, but left at 16 to join the army as an ensign. At that time commissions in the army could be bought, the price depending on the type of regiment and the rank sought. At 18 he became at Lieutenant Colonel and served in the wars against revolutionary France. He was a tremendous leader of men and commanded the Hussars in the Peninsular War.
He was also building a political career, serving first in the Irish House of Commons and then at Westminster. He also became aide-de-camp to George III and an under-secretary of state.
In 1814 he became British minister to Berlin where his most important task was keeping the Prussians on the British side in the war. In 1815 he became ambassador in Vienna where he assisted his brother, Lord Castlereagh, who was representing Britain at the negotiations to end the war against France. Later he became ambassador in St. Petersburg in Russia.
He married as his second wife Frances Anne Vane-Tempest in 1819. She was a wealthy heiress who owned various property, including coal mines in Durham. These were now exploited to produce large profits. The miners were not allowed a union and during a strike Welsh miners were brought in to work the mines.
Charles had succeeded his brother as third Marquis in 1822. In 1829 he took his wife’s surname of Vane. His daughter Frances married the 7th Duke of Marlborough and their grandson was Winston Churchill.
Mr. Beggs then turned to the Marquis’ role in the Irish famine. Shortly before the famine the workhouse system had been introduced to Ireland. The country was divided into areas, each with its own workhouse. The North Down Union’s workhouse was at Newtownards. Mr. Beggs was very critical of the Marquis’ role at the time. The family was very wealthy, but they did not contribute much for famine relief: £30 from the Marquis and £20 from his wife. There was also no soup kitchen attached to the workhouse. Work on extending Mount Stewart house did provide work, but the family also benefited from it. Local people felt some bitterness towards him as he was also opposed to giving tenants more rights.
The Marquis died in 1854. He was commemorated in different ways. Scrabo Tower was erected in his memory from money provided by some of his tenants and also his friends. There is also a large equestrian statue in Durham which was commissioned by his wife. Mr. Beggs felt that the Marquis should be remembered for his military career, but not for his role as a landlord in both Ireland and Durham.