WALROND, Bethell (1801-1876), of Clifton Street, Bond Street, Mdx. and Dulford House, Montrath, Devon
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Family and Educationb. 10 Aug. 1801, 2nd s. of Joseph Lyons Walrond (d. 1815) of Antigua and Montrath House, Broadhembury, Devon and Caroline, da. of Edward Codrington, merchant, of Broad Street Buildings, London. m. 10 Nov. 1829, Lady Janet St. Clair Erskine, da. of James St. Clair Erskine†, 2nd earl of Rosslyn, 5ch. (1s. 1 da. surv.). suc. bro. Lyons Walrond 1819. d. 28 May 1876.
Cornet 1 Life Gds. 1818, sub-lt. 1821, half-pay 1822.
Walrond, who proudly traced his ancestry to Edward I and held the titles of a Spanish grandee, was born and raised at his parents’ London home in Grosvenor Place and named after his mother’s late uncle and guardian, Sir Christopher Bethell.1 The family’s West Indian wealth derived from his father’s service as manager of the Codrington estates in Antigua, where the Lyons and Walrond families were merchant planters, and from his trusteeship of the Davis, Gray, Jaffreson and Ronan estates.2 His death precluded his family’s return there after the war, and control of his English and Antiguan estates, valued at £75,000 at probate, passed to his widow, his brother Maine, cousin John Lyons and friend and attorney William Osgood. Bequests worth an estimated £52,000 to his two sons were conditional on their surviving to 1 Feb. 1823 and 1 Jan. 1825. By his elder brother Lyons’s death in 1819, Walrond inherited both shares in 1825.3 He neglected his army career to embark on the life of a west country squire and gentleman, and entered Parliament in 1826 as Member for the venal borough of Sudbury, where he started late, deposited £10,000 in the bank and, failing to satisfy the powerful ‘No Popery’ faction on the corporation that his opposition to Catholic relief was genuine, reputedly bought off one of the front runners, Benjamin Rotch, who retired before the poll.4 A petition alleging this from the defeated candidate Charles Ogilvy was not proceeded with, but few believed Lord Belhaven’s assertion that his return cost Walrond only £1,500.5
Tall, fair and handsome, Walrond was dogged by his reputation as a gambler and ‘Lady Ashbrook’s old flirt’, and made no major speeches in the House, where, despite his voting inconsistencies and absenteeism, he was considered a ‘thorough-going ministerialist’.6 He voted, 6 Mar. 1827, and paired, 12 May 1828, against Catholic relief, but voted to repeal the Test Acts, 26 Feb. He divided with the duke of Wellington’s ministry on the ordnance estimates, 4 July 1828. Their patronage secretary Planta predicted that he would vote ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation in 1829, but he divided against it 6, 18, 30 Mar. He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May 1829. By his marriage that December he became the son-in-law of the 2nd earl of Rosslyn, a former Foxite, who in June 1829 had joined the ministry as lord privy seal. He voted against Lord Blandford’s reform scheme, 18 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., but for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May 1830. From Sudbury, he presented petitions for abolition of the death penalty for forgery (which he voted against, 7 June), 24 Apr., and against the beer bill’s provisions for on-consumption, 10 May 1830. His return there at the general election in July was unexpected and unopposed.7 His new colleague, Sir John Benn Walsh, now deemed him a ‘loose hare-brained thoughtless fellow, and very lax and tricky in his principles ... so slippery a fellow that I do not feel inclined to embark in [a coalition] ... with him’.8
The ministry counted Walrond among their ‘friends’, but he was absent from the division on the civil list by which they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830. He was granted ten days’ leave to attend the assizes, 16 Mar., and did not divide on the Grey ministry’s reform bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., but he voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.9 At the ensuing dissolution, he decided against canvassing Sudbury for ‘several thousand cogent reasons in the shape of election bills incurred on the last occasion’, and came in for Saltash (which was then designated for disfranchisement) as a reformer, on his own and the Buller interest.10 According to his marriage settlement, he had Saltash burgage properties worth an estimated £12,000.11 On the hustings, he ‘pledged to support the bill’ notwithstanding his vote with Gascoyne.12 Walrond was absent from the division on the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, and voted to adjourn its committal, 12 July. After the schedule A boroughs (from which Saltash was temporarily removed) had been dispatched, he voted for the bill’s provisions for Chippenham, 27 July, Greenwich, 3 Aug., and Gateshead, 5 Aug., and its third reading, 19 Sept., and passage, 21 Sept.13 He voted for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He divided for the revised reform bill (which confirmed Saltash’s disfranchisement) at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, steadily for its details, and for the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He divided for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May. He paired for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment for increasing the Scottish county representation, 1 June.14 He divided with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16 July, and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., but was in Hume’s minority of ten to omit the reference to Divine Providence in the preamble to the Scottish cholera bill, 16 Feb.15 He presented the corporation’s petition against the Saltash floating bridge bill, 7 Feb. 1832.
Walrond did not stand for Parliament again. His claim to the ancient barony of Welles was acknowledged following his mother’s horrific death after her clothes caught fire, 6 Nov. 1833, but he was not awarded the title.16 His marriage had become volatile and unhappy, and his failure to make up his wife’s marriage settlement in full by 1836 led to a breach with his brother-in-law James St. Clair Erskine*, who, after succeeding as 3rd earl of Rosslyn in 1837, pursued the matter in a series of acrimonious court cases involving several family members.17 Walrond’s counter-prosecutions failed, and he economized by taking his family to the continent, whence he returned to Devon in 1852 with his only surviving son Henry Walrond (1841-1915), leaving his wife (from whom he separated formally in 1850) and daughter Harriet in Frankfurt. Divorce proceedings were not initiated, but legal action ensued and in 1856 Walrond drafted a will prohibiting his wife and daughter from inheriting any part of his estate, which he devised solely to Henry.18 His breach with the latter in 1862 prompted further litigation and a new will in 1868, in which Walrond disinherited his entire family in favour of his Devon friends. He anticipated but failed to prevent its being contested following his death in May 1876.19 An out-of-court settlement of 13 June 1877 gave Henry possession of the Devonshire estates, valued at £14,000 at probate, 1 May 1877, 25 June 1878, encumbered with £19,000 in mortgages, outstanding bequests of over £26,000, and heavy litigation costs; but ‘The Great Devonshire Will Case’, with its ghoulish appeal, was revived and pursued at law until 1884. Evidence submitted during it portrayed Walrond as a devoted father, excellent administrator and able soldier, magistrate and county lieutenant, whose many ‘eccentricities’ included a belief in the immortality of dogs.20
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. The Times, 16 June 1877.
- 2. Gent. Mag. (1801), ii. 763; V.L. Oliver, Antigua, i. 145, 170, 173, 194; ii. 35, 109; iii. 50, 119, 180-3; R. Lowe, Codrington Corresp. 3, 32.
- 3. Gent. Mag. (1815), i. 187; PROB 8/208; 11/1569/286; IR26/661/223.
- 4. NLW, Ormathwaite mss FG1/5, pp. 75-76; G37, f. 3; The Times, 6, 9, 14, 19 June; Bury Gazette, 21 June 1826.
- 5. CJ, lxxxii. 59-60, 92, 124, 307; Ormathwaite mss G36, f. 18.