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This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Lords, Land and the Law

Recently, a fascinating legal document from 1790 entered our collection (fig. 1). Found with a collection of 19th century train documents from Bath Spa Railway Station, the agreement was older, and in much better condition than many of the papers around it. It has clearly been looked after carefully, and the document is in perfect reading condition, allowing us to easily identify it as a legal agreement between Sir Thomas George Skipwith of Prewbold Prevell, and the Right Honourable Francis Seymour Conray, commonly known as Lord Viscount Beauchamp.

Fig. 1: A legal agreement dating to 1790. While the writing is very clear, it is hard to read the entire document due to its fragility.

It specifies the tenancy terms of inherited land owned by Conray, formerly leased to Skipwith. Skipwith died in 1790, and the agreement is part of a legal process which handed Skipwith’s estates to his kinsman, Sir Gray Skipworth, who was born and raised in Virginia, and was remarkably a descendant through his mother of Pocahontas.

Thomas Skipwith himself was an inconspicuous member of the House of Parliament, representing Warwickshire from 1769-1780 and Steyning 1780-1784. Despite being head of the poll for Warwickshire in 1780, Skipwith refused to stand, drawing comment from the London Chronicle. ‘The unexpected resignation of Sir Thomas Skipwith is held by the inhabitants in the number of the most paradoxical events that may have happened amongst them.’[1]

Fig. 2: Francis Seymour Conray, also known as Lord Viscount Beauchamp.

On the other side of the agreement is Francis Conray (fig. 2). Conray had a number of significant roles, including Ambassador to France (1763-5), Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1765-6), Master of the Horse (1766), and Lord Chamberlain (1766-82). David Hume, the 18th century Scottish philosopher, wrote of him, ‘I do not believe there is in the World a man of more probity & Humanity, endowed with a very good Understanding, and adorned with very elegant Manners & Behaviour.’[2]

It is remarkable to find a document relating to such characters, and they feed into the larger picture of Georgian life in England. Families survived on inheritance, and there was a massive importance placed on an individual’s legacy. Their titles and achievements were just as significant as the land they owned, and it was documents such as this that ensured a family’s rich heritage endured.

If you would like to see the document in person, alongside a number of interesting documents relating to the origins and workings of the GWR in Bath, come to the Lansdown Local History Store Open Day – Wednesday 30th May.

Placement Student

[1] Namier, L. and Brooke, J., 1985. The House of Commons 1754-1790 (Vol. 1). Boydell & Brewer.
[2] Hume, D., Klibansky, R. and Mossner, E.C., 1954. New Letters, Edited by Raymond Klibansky and Ernest C. Mossner. Clarendon Press. p.77-78.

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