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Muckleston Family History Group

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Elizabeth Heiress and Wife of an MP
 

 

 

                        From a stone plaque on the wall by Merrington Hall Farm.....

In the memory of Robert Aglionby Slaney and Elizabeth Slaney his wife formerly Muckleston, heiress of Walford and Merrington. The first of their many efforts to benefit their neighbours was to cause this deep well to be sunk. "They rest from their labours and their works do follow them" This pump was placed to complete the work, by Thomas Campbell Eyton and Elizabeth Frances Eyton.

[Elizabeth Frances was the daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Slaney].

Elizabeth Muckleston was born on 19th February 1784, the daughter of Dr William Hawkins Muckleston MD and his wife Frances (nee Presland). Her father died shortly after her 3rd birthday. Her uncle Joseph Muckleston took Elizabeth and her mother under his wing and, as he never married, his sister in law often acted as his hostess. Joseph was a wealthy landowner and investor throughout the Midlands and lived at Prescott near Baschurch in Shrewsbury. Having no children of his own he made his only niece his heiress.

Clearly being heiress to such a great estate Elizabeth was a good catch in the marriage stakes. It is not therefore surprising that she was courted by her cousin; they were both great grandchildren of Robert Aglionby Slaney (1693-1757), Elizabeth through her mother. 

Robert Aglionby Slaney was an ambitious man who at the age of 21 married Elizabeth on 7th February 1812, in the chapel at Hatton Grange, Shifnal, Shropshire where he lived. He made a very good match with the almost 28 year old Elizabeth Muckleston.

Hatton Grange, which before the dissolution belonged to Buildwas Abbey, was purchased in the later 17th century by Robert Slaney. The latter's great-grandson Plowden Slaney, who was born in 1724, inherited the 1100-acre (about 458 hectares) estate in 1757. Four years later he married Martha Pitt, of Priors Lee, and two years after that employed T F Pritchard to build a new house for them. Before his death in 1788 Slaney seems also to have made considerable improvements to his estate, and by 1779 had spent some £6630, of which the main building work between 1763 and 1768 accounted for £1553. Slaney was succeeded by his son Robert, under whom work continued; by 1793 the overall sum expended at Hatton had reached £7106. It was presumably in that thirty-year period, 1763-93, that the park was created and the dingle pools modified. After Robert's death in 1834, Hatton passed to his son Robert Aglionby Slaney MP for Shrewsbury and leading national proponent of public parks. Hatton Grange remains in private hands to this day.

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Hatton Grange, Shifnal, Shropshire. Circa 1891.

Photograph from Leach's County Seats of Shropshire 1891 (page 331).

On the 20th December 1813 the couple had their first daughter Elizabeth Francis Slaney baptised at Old Church, St Pancras, London. Just over 3 years later at Walford in Shropshire their second daughter Mary Slaney was born she was also baptised the following month at the same church as her sister.

Having studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1817 Robert was “called to the bar” at Lincoln’s Inn, London. He was now a practising lawyer based in London. Third daughter Frances Catherine Slaney was born about 1823 at Baschurch in Shropshire.

Robert was an ambitious young man and had strong views on social and environmental issues. It is not therefore surprising that he decided to stand for Parliament. His ambition was realised when in 1826 at the age of 35 he became the Liberal MP for Shrewsbury.  Elizabeth’s uncle Joseph had made a large number of cash gifts to Robert following his marriage and in 1830 when her uncle died Elizabeth inherited most of his estate and became a very wealthy woman.

Having a strong interest in all things rural in 1832 Robert wrote “An outline of the smaller British birds, intended for the use of ladies and young persons”.Between 1835 and 1837 he lost his Parliamentary seat to John Cressett-Pelham.

On 13th May 1835 the couple had the pleasure of attending the wedding of their eldest daughter Elizabeth Frances Slaney, age 22, to Thomas Campbell Eyton, a naturalist whose fields were cattle, fishes and birds. He was to lean heavily on his father in law until his own father died.

The following document shows extracts from a deed drawn up prior to the wedding in 1935 which listed lands which Elizabeth Frances Slaney had inherited from her great uncle Joseph Muckleston and prior to her wedding had been held in trust.

 

The following are extracts from two letters from Robert Slaney to his brother William Henry Slaney in May 1858 regarding Thomas Eyton's situation. "I am sorry and somewhat surprised to find T Eyton so much involved as he had told me he should be able before Easter to pay me off a great part of what he owed me, instead of wanting more. I think also from several circumstances, that he forgets things and is not altogether to be trusted as to the accuracy of his statements. This makes it necessary for you to have in writing and after seeing him the real amount of his debts. Now, however, The question is what is to be done to aid him and uphold his credit. I should like on this to consult with you but I think if you ascertain that £2,500 will remove his difficulties and enable him to clear matters, and there is a fair and reasonable prospect of his repaying in two years, if he will make by sale of shares etc. £1000, I would try to advance him on Bond and low (4%) interest £1500 for two years - but I think before this is done - he should agree to let up and let his large farm, only retaining the lawn and a small farm not together above 100 acres: and to wind up and let the tile kiln, as to keep all in a smaller compass, till his income is permanently increased. I had rather you would communicate with him, by seeing him you can judge somewhat of his steadiness and clearness and if you think it advisable, I will be ready directly or soon after Lady Day to advance him the £1500; you ought to know how it is applied and see the other £1000 is got by sale of shares to pa debts and get the bond for me all straight - If not pressing, I think you might wait a day or two before you told him I would advance anything; but you can see him and find out the facts as he forgets some I think. I have just finishing the Election Expenses, and will soon pay Jenkins Bill: I try to keep something always ready but this call to help Eyton again is rather unexpected."

A second letter between the brothers reads:

"I have received your letter and statement and feel grateful to you for the trouble you are taking, which may I hope, be the means of saving our young friend from ruin and sorrow and poor Lizzy and your nieces etc, from much privitation and suffering. There are several things in the accounts that we can talk over and want explanation - I am sorry to say that his statements are sometimes loose and inaccurate and you ought to be aware you cannot always depend on them. I shall therefore as you have seen him depend on the written memorandum. I will endeavour  therefore if you will manage to see to the payments to advance and to pay to your account at Messrs. Child's £1600 as an advance to Eyton on this Bond - please state to him clearly I do this as an act of Friendship to him and his family - on condition 1st that he solemnly promises to take steadily to water and leave off intoxicating liquors, and 2 that he arranges and you for him the direct payment to Lizzy for the children and through the bankers of the £300 per annum and 3 that he agrees (and you will see to it) the gradual sale of shares and of necessary farming stock to meet the debts coming on, and to pay off as soon as possible by care and economy the other debts. tell him I will, under these conditions though at  some inconvenience make him this advance - I think you may get  the Bond on a stamp on a promissory note at Shifnal without having it from Jenkins and you can draw it up shut (?) and it will do quite well. PS "I should probably leave for Shropshire about 1st April and return to London after Easter week on 10th or 12th April you will hardly come up till after Easter. I suppose it will do if £1000 is paid in a day, or two and £600 in a week after to your account. I am glad Lizzi knows the whole - if he will be steady all will do yet."

Clearly worrying times for Robert and Elizabeth regarding their eldest daughter and grandchildren. Thankfully they had enough money to bail him out although he appears to be an unreliable drinker at this stage in his life. Interesting that he depended on his father in law rather than his own father. Things were to improve when he came into his father's estates but it was after Elizabeth Slaney nee Muckleston passed away.

After succeeding to the estate in 1855 Eyton built a large natural history museum at Eyton Hall. He published History of the Rarer British Birds (1836), A Monograph on the Anatidae, or Duck Tribe (1838), A History of Oyster and Oyster Fisheries (1858) and Osteologia Avium (1871-8)

 

 

Thomas Campbell Eyton.

 

Thomas and Elizabeth had 9 children between 1838 and 1854, six daughters and three sons.

In 1837 Slaney returned to Parliament where he became chairman of committees on education (1838) and health of poor towns (1840). He lost his seat to Benjamin Disraeli in 1841. Although not an MP he continued his work for social reform and became Commissioner on Health of Towns 1843-6.

The 8th May 1839 saw the marriage of Elizabeth and Robert’s second daughter Mary Slaney aged 22, to 37 year old William Watkin Edward Wynne. Her husband was an antiquarian and genealogist and also a Magistrate. The couple had 2 sons. He was  Conservative Member of Parliament for Merioneth from 1852 to 1865. He also served as High Sheriff of Merionethshire in 1867 and became constable of Harlech Castle in 1874. He was 13 years older than his wife and probably a lot less trouble than Robert and Elizabeth's other son in law. His connection to Robert would have helped his ambitions relating to his role as MP. He knew a lot about the genealogy of families in North Wales and I cannot help wondering if he though of researching his wife's ancestry.

Her two sisters having married at the age of 22 it was not surprising then that it was also at this age that the youngest daughter Frances Catherine Slaney married on 9th October 1845. William Kenyon, her husband, was also a member of a prominent Shropshire family and a soldier who was a Captain in the Bombay Light Infantry. He changed his name to Kenyon-Slaney as requested by his father in law to ensure the continuation of the family name and to gain his inheritance, namely the Slaney family estates of Hatton Grange. Most of his descendants carry this name today. The couple had 5 sons and 4 daughters some born in India.

An article in the Daily Express on 20th December 1994 mentions a cousin of Princess Diana - her name is Natasha Kenyon-Slaney. She is the great great granddaughter of Frances and 3 x great granddaughter of Elizabeth Muckleston the heiress. Her relationship to Princess Diana is not clear.

 

William Slaney Kenyon-Slaney son of Frances and William.

Grandson of Elizabeth and Robert and Grandfather to Natasha.

Soldier, Sportsman and Politician.

 

Robert travelled widely and kept a number of travel journals which can be found in the Shropshire Record Office along with many more of his papers including his diaries.

Having been out of parliament for six years he decided to try and return in 1847 and the local papers of that time covered events as they happened.

In Eddowes Journal Wed 14th July 1847:

Gentlemen,

Having served you formerly in five parliaments, I am once again a candidate for your suffrages. By recent events the landmarks of parties are greatly altered, and many questions which divide honest men are now settled. etc

Robt. A Slaney.

etc Shrewsbury July 13th 1847.

In Eddowes Journal Wed 21 July 1847:

TO THE ELECTORS OF SHREWSBURY

Gentlemen,

I deeply regret having to announce to you the lamented death of Mrs Slaney. In consequence of the melancholy event, it will be impossible for Mr Slaney personally to continue his canvas, but his friends, by his authority, will proceed to complete it with the assistance of his brother, Mr William Henry Slaney.

I have the honour to be,

Gentlemen,

Your obedient servant,

William Cooper

Shrewsbury 20th July 1847

Eddowes Journal August 4th 1847.

TO THE ELECTORS OF SHREWSBURY

Gentlemen,

I return my sincere thanks for the confidence you have again reposed in me, which shall never be abused. I feel deep obligation to those who supported me, and grateful to all my friends and to many of my opponents, for the kind sympathy they have expressed towards an afflicted man under the mournful circumstances in which I am placed, you will excuse the brevity of this address

                           and believe me,

                                   your faithful servant

               Robt. A Slaney

                                                        Walford Manor July 29th 1847.

Also in Eddowes Shrewsbury Journal (date not recorded)

THE CELEBRATION of the return of R A SLANEY as MP for the borough of SHREWSBURY will take place on Thursday 9th of September next, on which occasion there will be a procession through the town and a public dinner at the music hall, under the presidency of the Hon Thomas Kenyon of Pradoe, and other gentlemen, Vice Presidents, whose names will appear in a future paper.

Shrewsbury Chronicle, Friday 30th July 1847.

Funeral of Mrs Slaney.

The remains of this much respected and lamented lady were conveyed on Tuesday from the family mansion, Walford Manor, for internment at Baschurch. In addition to six mourning coaches, containing the immediate connections of Mr and Mrs Slaney, there were upwards of 20 private carriages of the families in the neighbourhood and a very numerous body of the tenantry on horseback, forming a mournful procession.

So sadly at the age of 63 Elizabeth was dead, at least she had seen her three daughters suitably married and the births of at least each of their first two children. Robert was back in Parliament where he was to remain until his death.

Elizabeth left a will in which she distributed her inheritance. It is exceptionally long as she had a lot of property. Much of the property remained in the use of her husband until his death. She clearly had the measure of her son in law Thomas Eyton as an extract from her will reads “as to the said hereditaments secondly hereinbefore described or mentioned from the time of my decease to the use of my dear daughter Elizabeth Frances Eyton should so long live but not otherwise of her husband Thomas Campbell Eyton of Eyton in the said county of Salop Esquire until he shall be found bankrupt or shall take the benefit of any Act of Parliament for the relief of Insolvent Debtors and from and after the determination of the estate so limited to the use of the said Thomas Campbell Eyton by his decease or otherwise to the use of my said daughter Elizabeth Frances Eyton if she should be then living during her natural life without impeachment of waste for her soul and separate use and benefit and not to be liable to the debts engagements or control of her said present or any future husband and her receipts to be sufficient discharges for the rents and profits of the said hereditaments and premises”

A few bequests from her will include £11,000 to her daughter Frances Catherine Slaney. One year’s wages to all of her servants who had been in her service for 5 years at the time of her death. The Grafton and Mork Hall Estates to her husband. Lands at Prescott, Yeaton, Yagdon and Preston Gubbals to daughter Elizabeth Frances Eyton. Lands at Walford, Netherseal, Coton and other lands in Leicestershire and Derbyshire to her daughter Mary Wynne.  Lands in Milford and Eyton to her daughter Frances Catherine Slaney (she was not married at the time the will was written). The residue of her estate was to be split as a quarter each for Elizabeth Francis Eyton and Mary Wynne and half for Frances Catherine Slaney in recognition of the fact that her lands were of a lesser value than those of her sisters.

So Elizabeth's inheritance from her uncle Joseph Muckleston who must have been like a father to her had passed to the next generation.

Robert remarried in 1854 to Catherine Archer and in the same year, became High Sheriff of Shropshire.

In August 1860 he visited the USA and Canada visiting Boston, Quebec, Montreal, Chicago, St Louis and Washington returning in November. The following year he wrote an account of his tour in "A Short Journal of a Visit to Canada and the States of America".

Whilst attending the opening of the International Exhibition on the 1st of May 1862 he fell through the floor and as a result of his injuries died on the 19th at his residence in Bolton Row, Piccadilly, London. He was 70 years old.

The International of 1862, or Great London Exposition, was a worlds fair. It was held from 1st May to 1st November, besides the gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society in South Kensington, London on a site which now houses museums including the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. It featured over 28,000 exhibitors from 36 countries. It attracted about 6.1 million visitors. It was housed on 23 acres

 

There are many descendants of Elizabeth alive today who benefit financially from having this heiress as an ancestor and the Muckleston wealth which came down the family line from Joseph Muckleston has mingled with other fortunes and is now widely distributed.