A Fateful Day

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Ashridge volunteers need to be aware of the hazards of outside winter working on the Estate.

Some two hundred years ago today, on the 16th January 1823, the 7th Earl John William was holding a shooting party for the great and the good.

The winters in the early part of the 19th century were often severe and January 1823 was no exception. Those attending included the Duke of York, the Duke of Wellington, the Marquis of Salisbury, Lord Verulum and others. The event passed off without incident, but by February the Earl was having trouble with one foot and reports suggested that he had suffered frostbite as the result of too long an exposure during the January shoot. There were several visits to London during March and April, accompanied by Lady Bridgewater during which time an amputation was performed on the foot to remove some toes. On their return the Earl’s movements were much restricted and things were fairly uneventful for a few weeks until October 1st when things worsened and he became progressively unwell. He died on the 21st October probably because of gangrene poisoning.

He was interred at a solemn ceremony on 30th October in Little Gaddesden Church. So passed a wealthy nobleman to his final resting place alongside his ancestors. Curiously his death seemed to attract little media attention at the time, but it was said of him that he was distinguished for his love of the arts, his hospitality, and the employment given to the poor on his vast estates. Apparently on his death bed he could not accept the doctor’s prognosis that his last hour had come. His vanity was all to see at such an untimely death. “ No, no it cannot be”.

The excessively wealthy Earl died from a totally unexpected event occurring on his own Estate. He had completed the new Mansion by 1817 as a lasting memory to Francis the canal Duke, and was ready to become a landed aristocrat in his time, but died early at the age of seventy without issue. His wife Charlotte the Countess of Bridgewater outlived him by some twenty five years, residing at Ashridge until 1849, continuing her husband’s ambitious plans while administrating the Estate for the duration.

Cold weather working is covered in the Risk Assessment document provided to volunteers!

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