Lord Petre 1817 – 1884

The reason for including some of the Petres is partly they are a great story, and also that at George Lynch, and Carmela Lescher’s wedding the present from “the Hon. Mrs. Petre” was “a writing case” . She can only be Julia, who becomes the 15th Lady Petre in June 1908, and the Dowager Lady Petre five months later.

It is with much regret that we have to announce the death of LORD PETRE, which took place at a quarter to eight on Friday evening at his lordship’s London residence, 35, Portland-place For a lengthened period Lord Petre had been in failing health, and, as he had been gradually sinking for the last few weeks, his death did not come as a surprise to his family. The Right Honourable William Bernard Petre, twelfth Lord Petre, of Writtle, in the peerage of England, was the eldest son of William Henry Francis, eleventh Baron, by his first wife, Frances Charlotte, eldest daughter of the late Sir Richard Bedingfeld, of Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk ; he was born at Thorndon Hall, Brentwood, on the 20th of December, 1817, and succeeded to the title on the death of his father in I85o. His lordship came into the possession of large estates chiefly in the parishes surrounding Brentwood. The Petre estates are, indeed, among the most extensive in Essex, and, in addition to reaching into many other parishes, comprised almost the entire acreage of East Horndon, West Horndon, Ingrave, and Herongate. For several generations Ingatestone Hall was the family seat, but in the earlier part of the last century Thorndon Hall was built by the ninth Baron—who, it may be mentioned in passing, held the title for the remarkably long period of fifty-two years—and this magnificent structure succeeded Ingatestone Hall as the chief country residence of the family. It was sumptuously furnished and contained an almost priceless collection of paintings by the old masters, as well as a very valuable library. At one time George III. was a guest at the Hall, and a handsome oak chair in which the King sat when holding his court there was carefully preserved. Unfortunately, Thorndon Hall was destroyed by fire on the morning of the 22nd of March, 1878, and though most of the works of art and other heirlooms were saved, the damage done was estimated at little less than £100,000. Lord Petre at once gave up any intention of rebuilding the Hall, thinking it better to leave such a serious task to a younger man. He and his family resided at Felix Hall, Kelvedon, after the fire, subsequently at York House, Twickenham, which he rented from the Right Hon. M. E. Grant-Duff, and afterwards at Roehampton. Lord Petre, like his predecessors, held a foremost place among the laity of the Catholic Church in England, and in 1869 Pope Pius IX. expressed his appreciation of his lordship’s services to religion by conferring upon him the Grand Cross of the Order of Pius IX. Lord Petre was an unfailing supporter of Catholic institutions, and, when the state of his health permitted it, was always to be found at important gatherings in this country in connection with his church. In Essex he and the other members of his family have ever been ready to contribute of their substance to the maintenance of their Church ; and the archives of the family are not without instances of great sacrifice—the sacrifice of freedom and liberty—in the cause of the faith to which the Petres have clung with so much devotion. The fourth Baron ended his life a prisoner in the Tower, and about the same period others of the family showed a readiness to give up freedom, and, if necessary, life in defence .of their faith.

The late Lord Petre was a considerate landlord, and during the agricultural distress regularly allowed handsome reductions of rent to his tenants. His lordship was a magistrate and a deputy-lieutenant for Essex and Middlesex, but he did not take a prominent part in the public life of either county. He was co-heir to the baronies of Howard, Grey, Stoke, &c. In 1843 he married Mary Teresa, eldest daughter of the late Hon. Charles Thomas Cliflord, and grand-daughter of the sixth Lord Clifford, who survives him, and by whom he has left a family of twelve children—namely, four sons and eight daughters. The eldest son, who succeeds to the title, is the Hon. and Right Rev. Monsignor William Joseph Petre, who was born on the 26th of February, 1847. He is a deputy-lieutenant for Essex, and resides at Woburn Park, Weybridge. The eldest daughter, the Hon. Frances Mary, was born in 1844, and married in 1873, the seventh Earl of Granard. The third, fourth, and fifth daughters are Nuns, and the sixth is a Sister of Charity at Darlington. Three other daughters are married, the most recent wedding in the family having been that of the Hon. Eleanor Mary Petre with Mr. E. S. Trafford, which was Celebrated at Kelvedon in 1880. His lordship is survived by one brother— the Hon. H. W. Petre, of Springfield-place—two sisters, three half-brothers—the Hon. F. C. E. Petre, of 49, Courtfield-Gardens, the Hon. E. G. Petre, and the Hon. A. H. Petre—and one half-sister, who married in 1845 the eighth Baron Clifford. An aunt of the late Baron and the widow of a son of the ninth Baron are also living. There are many representatives of collateral branches of the family residing in different parts of the country.

Lord Petre was representative, through the only daughter, of the last Earl of Derwentwater, executed for high treason in 1715, whose remains were buried at Dilston Castle, Northumberland, and removed, on the destruction of the chapel a few years ago, to the mortuary chapel in Lord Petre’s grounds at Thorndon.


On Wednesday the remains of the late Lord Petre were transported from 35, Portland-Place, to St. James’s, Spanish-place, which was reached at ten o’clock, escorted by the orphans belonging to the Creche in Seymour-street, which is conducted by the Sisters of Charity. The body was enclosed in a rich mahogany coffin, bearing gold coronets on either side, and a beautiful gilt Gothic cross on the lid. On arriving at the church, which was filled to suffocation with those who desired to pay a last token of respect and affection to the memory of the late Peer, the coffin was placed on the handsome catafalque, which was surrounded with innumerable flowers and candles. The Requiem Mass was then proceeded with. The Bishop of Emmaus pontificated, assisted by the Hon. and Rev. Algernon Stanley, the Revv. FF. Hogan and Forster, Ob.S.C., and the Rev. J. Guiron, as master of ceremonies. His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster assisted in cope and mitre, supported by the Very Rev. Provost Hunt and Canon Bamber, the Rev. M. Barry acting as his master of ceremonies. In accordance with the express wishes of the deceased, all the arrangements of the function were carried out with as much simplicity as possible. The service was entirely without organ, and harmonised chants throughout, except the Dies Irae, which was sung to Gregorian tones. At the close of the Mass, the Cardinal Archbishop gave the final absolutions. In deference to the wishes we have already alluded to, there was no funeral sermon or discourse of any kind. At the close, the boys of the choir sang the In Paradisum to music composed for the occasion by the Rev. F. Sankey (Mus. Bac., Oxon), who directed the choir during the whole service.

Among the relatives and friends present we remarked Lady Petre, the Hon. Henry and Hon. Frederick Petre (the brothers and executors), Hon. Bernard and Hon. Philip Petre (sons), the Earl and Countess of Granard, Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Bretherton, Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Trafford of Wroxham Hall, Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Butler Bowdon, Lady Clifford of Chudleigh ; Hon. Charles Petre, Mr. Edward and Lady Gwendeline Petre, Hon. Mrs. Douglas, Mr. Henry Petre of Dunkenhalgh, Mr. F. Loraine Petre, Mr. Edwin de Lisle ; the Earl of Denbigh, Lord Emly, Sir Henry Bedingfeld, Mr. Everard Green, &c., &c.

The church remained filled with a prayerful congregation till two o’clock, when the body was removed to Thorndon Hall, Brentwood, in charge of the Hon. Bernard and the Hon. Philip Petre, and was received there by the Hon. and Right Rev, William Petre.


The burial-place of Lord Petre was the family vault in the Mortuary Chapel at Thorndon, built by him some years ago.

At the funeral the Very Rev. Canon Bomber said Mass, and the Dies Irae and other chants were sung by boys from Woburn School.

Among those present were Lady Petre, Lord Clifford, Agnes Lady Clifford (half sister of the deceased), the Earl and Countess of Granard, Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. F. Bretherton, Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Trafford, Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Butler-Bowden, the Hon. and Right Rev. Mgr. W. Petre (now Lord Petre), the Hon. Bernard Petre, the Hon. Philip Petre, and the Hon. Joseph Petre ; the Hons. Henry, Frederick and Albert Petre, the Hon. Mrs. Douglas ; the Duke of Norfolk, Lord Herries, Sir H. Bedingfeld;  Sir T. Barrett Lenard ; Count Torre Diaz ; Messrs. Henry Petre, Edward Petre, Charles Petre, John Blount ; Lady Sophia Forbes ; Hon. Mary and Catherine Petre ; the Right. Rev Mgr. Weld, the Very Rev. Provost Hunt and the Rev. M. Barry.


A correspondent writes to us : It is not often that we have to mourn the death of one endowed with such rare qualities as this nobleman or one so universally beloved and revered. In every relation of life, he showed himself to be the true Christian nobleman. In the colleges of Old Hall and Oscott he was educated, and learnt those principles which were his guide through life. When upon the death of his father in 1850, he came to his patrimonial estates, he made it his constant study to use his ample means in order to promote the good of others. There was not a poor person around his mansion who did not in some way partake of his beneficence. At a certain hour every day he was free to see any who came to him, and he was ready to advise them and afford them consolation and help according to their needs. His charity was not only generous but most considerate. He thought of the necessities of others and studied how he could relieve them. Perhaps nothing showed this so forcibly as in the comfortable cottages which he provided for them. These cottages had each three bed rooms, for the proper separation of the family, and two ample living rooms, besides a small larder. There was also attached to each pair of cottages a washhouse with copper and oven, and a large plot of garden ground, and the whole was let for the small rent of 1s. 6d. per week. Each cottage cost £200, it is therefore easy to see what a small interest he received for the money expended. He considered that he could not confer a greater charity than thus providing good houses for the poor, and in addition to the many which he found on the estate he added over fifty, which he let at that rate, within the means of the most humble. Another work of charity was the gift of milk to the poor. Each morning some thirty families of children were thus provided with what formed so necessary a part of their breakfast. On his birthday, the 20th of December, there was a donation of clothing to over one hundred families, without distinction of creed, who belonged to the three surrounding parishes. To the church he was a munificent benefactor. The chapels of Thorndon and Ingatestone belonged to him, and he mainly built the chapel at Brentwood, and made over the valuable plot of land upon which the new church, convent, schools, and orphanage were erected. The church and school at Romford, the school-chapel and school at Barking he erected, and almost entirely supported. He was also a great benefactor to the Church at Chelmsford and Ongar, and, indeed, there was no work undertaken for the benefit of religion in the county to which he did not largely subscribe. But his charities were not confined to his own county, he was always ready to give a helping hand to every work having the good of religion or the education of the poor for its object. He subscribed liberally to the reformatories, the poor school committee, the creche and night home, and the erection of the episcopal seminary. But what seemed dearest to him was the education of priests for the work of the missions. Until recently he had always five students who were studying for the priesthood, whom he either wholly or partially educated. It is only by these outward signs that we can judge of his interior virtuous qualities, for his modesty and retirement were equal to his liberality, and he tried to keep everything out of sight. It was this which prevented him from taking a leading part in public affairs, for which by his great abilities he was so well qualified ; and the same humility caused him to give orders that no discourse should be made over him at his funeral. He died as he had lived, calm, peaceful, full of charity for all, full of faith and confidence in the heavenly future. He was attended during his long sickness by one of his daughters, who is a Sister of Charity, and this was a real happiness to him. During the last painful days of his illness he was surrounded by almost all his children, who grieved over the loss of the best of fathers, whilst they were consoled by his peaceful, happy end. The poor around his residence, who loved him so well, as they had a right to do, are inconsolable, for they have lost in him a tender father. He died in his sixty-seventh year, having possessed the estates thirty four years. R.I.P.

The above text was found on p.25, 12th July 1884  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

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