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The Visit of a Member of Parliament and an Author

Norma Hampson is a long-standing volunteer at the Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive and has written this blog to share details from her current project: listing visitors from the early Birthplace visitor books, specifically that of Chandros Wren-Hoskyns of Wroxall Abbey and Charles Holte Bracebridge of Atherstone Hall.

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On 23 April 1857 two local dignitaries visited the birthplace and signed the visitors’ book. They were Chandos Wren-Hoskyns of Wroxall Abbey and Charles Holte Bracebridge of Atherstone Hall.

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Chandos Wren-Hoskyns, born as Chandos Hoskyns on 15 February 1812, was the second son of Sir Hungerford Hoskyns, 7th Baronet of Harewood Park, Herefordshire. Educated at Shrewsbury School and Balliol College Oxford he was called to the bar at Inner Temple in 1838. In 1837 he married Theodosia Ann Martha Wren, the three times great- granddaughter of the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren and daughter and heiress of Christopher Roberts Wren of Wroxall Abbey. Following this marriage he changed his surname, by Royal License, to Wren-Hoskyns.

Wroxall Abbey had been purchased by Sir Christopher Wren in 1713 as a country seat.   He re-modelled the church and built the famous ‘crinkle-crankle’ wall, a prominent feature in the landscape surrounding the house, which remains to this day.

Following his wife’s death in 1842, Chandos married on 9 September 1846 to Anne Fane Ricketts, daughter of Charles Milner Ricketts F.R.S., member of the Supreme Council of India.

He became High Sheriff of Warwickshire in 1855 and Deputy Lieutenant of the county in 1860. From 1869–1874 he was the Member of Parliament for Hereford.

His main interest was reform of land tenure, and to this end he wrote several works including Agricultural Statistics (1857) and A Catechism on the English Land System (1873), among other works.

In the 1871 census, Chandos Wren-Hoskyns, M.P. and landowner, was in residence at Harewood House. He died at 41 Eccleston Square on the 28th November 1876, aged 64 years, leaving behind a daughter, Catherine, by his first wife and a son, Hungerford, and two daughters, Clara and Anna, by his second wife.

Wroxall Abbey estate was purchased by James Dugdale in 1861 and took up residence in 1862.

Charles Holte Bracebridge was ‘a man of letters’. The Bracebridge family were related to the Holte family through the marriage, in 1775, of Mary Elizabeth Holte (1757-1819), a daughter of Sir Charles Holte the last baronet, of Aston Hall, near Birmingham, and Abraham Bracebridge of Atherstone Hall.

Their only son, Charles, according to The Complete Peerage of England, was born in Brereton, Cheshire on the 19th March 1799, but in the census returns for 1851 and 1861 his birthplace is recorded as Clifton, Somerset. The England Select Births and Christenings 1538-1975 show that his baptism took place at Westbury-on-Trym, Gloucestershire.

Having graduated from Merton College, Oxford he married Selina Mills on the 24th March 1824 at St. George, Hanover Square, London. His address at the 1851 census was 34 Hyde Park Gardens, London but by 1861 he was in residence at Atherstone Hall, Warwickshire, occupation Magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant of the County.

Poll Books, Electoral Registers, Directories and Jurors’ Lists for the period 1835–1868 show his address as Atherstone Hall, even though the estates were sold in 1817 because of his father’s financial difficulties.

He was the author of several works including A Letter from Charles Holte Bracebridge on the affairs of Greece’ (c.1850) and Shakespeare No Deerstealer, Or, a Short Account of Fulbroke Park (1862).

In her European Travels and Collected Works vol.7, Florence Nightingale described both Charles and his wife as family friends and referred to Selina, in particular, as her ‘spiritual mother’.

Florence Nightingale with Charles Holte Bracebridge
Florence Nightingale with Charles Holte Bracebridge and Selina in a Turkish Street. 1859. (Courtesy of Wellcome Library)

Four letters he wrote, in 1859, to the author George Eliot (1819-1880) are held in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

Charles died 13 July 1872 without issue; his wife Selina, formerly of Atherstone Hall but late of Norwood, Surrey died 31 January 1874.

Atherstone Hall was demolished in 1963 to make way for a housing development.

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