2/44 Thorngrove 29.7.59


Country house. Late C18. Ashlar, slate roof behind parapet, brick ridge stack to end main elevation; additional chimneys to rear. Three storeys and moulded cornice, 3:1:2 + 3 bays articulated by 3 pilasters at ends and roughly central. Main elevation: fourth bay contains entrance and projects slightly and has small pediment containing a carved floral motif; 4-pane ground floor sashes, first floor glazing bar sashes, second floor 6-pane sashes; windows on lower 2 floors have small scalloped blind boxes; large entrance portico with full entablature supported on paired Ionic columns, paired Ionic half-columns flank double doorway with half-glazed doors. Three bays at right end have large, full storey height 18-pane glazing bar sashes on the ground floor, with scalloped canopies on shaped brackets; first floor glazing bar sashes. South elevation: 3 bays, left one is bowed and the central and right one are canted and have pilasters flanking their central windows. The left bay has ogee-arched central, multi-paned doorway and pointed arched multi-paned side lights, all with stained glass beneath their actual archways; on the first floor is a glazing bar sash; the central bay has 3 ground floor large plain sashes with blind boxes similar to those to the right of the main facade, and 3 first floor 8-pane sashes also with blind boxes. The right end bay had a central, ground floor 4-pane sash and an 8-pane sash above; the side windows on both floors are blocked; on the second floor are three 8-pane sashes. Interior: Drawing room to rear south end has a large walnut chimney piece, Greek Revival style, round arched grate and octagonal mirror above each flanked by paired Corinthian column with entablature and enriched with marquetry and gilding; acanthus moulded cornice, moulded doorheads with acanthus frieze, stuccoed ceiling, gilded wall panels; Ballroom to right of front elevation has very fine painted and stuccoed ceiling of early C19, cornice, doorheads and dado with egg and dart mouldings. Hall has Ionic columns and square open well staircase with wrought iron balusters and moulded handrail. Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother, lived at Thorngrove for several years. It was also the home of Sir Samuel White Baker, the explorer. The ditches, belonging to a Roman fort, have been partly excavated in the grounds. (BoE).

Listing NGR: SO8220960095SO 85 NW GRIMLEY CP A 443 (west side)


Thorngrove is an 18th-century house on an ancient site. It is set in a landscape park. The property was owned by Lucien Bonaparte from 1810 to 1814. Features include extensive lawns, a serpentine lake, an observatory, orchards and parkland.  The present house replaces earlier houses on the site beginning in the 16th century. 


Eliza Maria – The elusive mistress of Thorngrove, Grimley for over 50 years
and her first husband Edwin Shelton

Eliza Maria was the elder of the two daughters of John Chadborn, a wealthy Attorney at Law and Gloucester City Alderman who was one of the four executors of the will of James “Jemmy” Wood, who owned Gloucester City Old Bank and died in 1836. Jemmy was famously known as “The Miser of Gloucester”, his Punch like face decorated Toby Jugs and Staffordshire pottery. There were doubts and complications about Jemmy Wood’s will and a contested codicil with a prolonged court case which reached the Privy Council. Some people believe Dickens used the case as a basis for Jarndyce and Jarndyce in “Bleak House”. Eliza Maria’s father took his own life in August 1839, it was thought by his sons-in-law because “his originally strong mind had been worn down by unjust insinuations” about the case. Following the death of Chadborn’s wife Eliza Ann in October of the same year, Eliza Maria and her sister Frances Anne became co-heiresses to their estates.

In September 1836 Eliza Maria had married Edwin Shelton at the fashionable church of St George’s, Hanover Square, London. He had been a Birmingham timber merchant in partnership with his brother George, but by 1836 Edwin had entered a partnership with John Whitehead Greaves (Shelton & Greaves) concerned with the selling of slate from Edwin’s slate quarries in Caernarvonshire and elsewhere. In the same year his partner travelled on the first train on the Ffestiniog railway which connected Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog.

At the time of their marriage Edwin Shelton’s main residence was “Glanwilliam”, Meantwrog, Merionethshire. Some of Shelton’s correspondence with Lord Newborough about the lease of land for slate mining were written first from Merionethshire and later Droitwich, where Eliza Maria and her husband were living at the timbered mansion Meer Hall at time of the 1841 census. They were still at Meer Hall when in April 1842 Shelton formed another partnership, buying a share in a Steam Sawmill Company, on the recently widened section of the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal, which is still known as Baker’s Quay.  This quay was developed by Samuel Baker banker & sugar merchant and his partner Thomas Philpotts. Probably by 1837, the Sheltons were acquainted with Samuel Baker, as he and Edwin were two of the many partners in the Gloucestershire Banking Company. Samuel Baker would become Eliza Maria’s second husband. The explorer Sir Samuel White Baker was his son from a previous marriage.

By June of 1843 Eliza Maria and Edwin had moved to Thorngrove which had been remodelled by an earlier owner Richard Griffiths. Messrs. Shelton & Greaves continued its slate quarrying and mining ventures and in 1846 opened the Llechwedd Quarry, Blaenau

Ffestiniog, although it was not until after Shelton’s death that Greaves found the enormous vein of excellent slate which was worked and is now the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, a popular tourist attraction.

1846 was a busy year for Edwin Shelton, he and Eliza Maria were settled at Thorngrove and in March she had performed the ceremony of laying the first stone of the new tower at Grimley church, which “was attended by a large number of parishioners and a sprinkling of visitors”. Edwin’s thoughts had turned to farming improvements and in September he patented a design for a root washer!

The newspapers of the day reported Edwin’s many social and business interests. Grimley church needed a new tower and he gave £50 as well as the new quarry tiles. He was a member of the Hallow Loyal Agricultural Lodge of Oddfellows of England and the Royal Agricultural Society. He bought the best shorthorn stock for Heath Farm which he owned.  His shepherd won £3 in a Worcestershire Agricultural Society competition in 1847 for “the shepherd who reared the greatest number of lambs, with the least loss of ewes” - 109 ewes 123 lambs, with no ewes lost. In 1847 he was a subscriber to the Worcester Royal Infirmary; on the Committee of the Hereford and Gloucester Canal and a Commissioner of the Severn Navigation which implemented so many improvements concerning the river’s weirs and dredging.  Edwin was co-owner of a schooner the “Bertholly”, trading to and from Porthmadog harbour and was interested in railway plans for Worcestershire and other counties, and invested £5,000 in the Gloucester and Forest of Dean Railway. 

On 10 April 1848 39-year-old Edwin Shelton died, having suffered for some time with an enlargement of his heart. Other than two bequests totalling £3,000 to his brother and sister, he left everything else to his dear wife and executrix Eliza Maria. The memorial to Edwin Shelton is the stained-glass east window at St Bartholomew’s, Grimley.

Eliza Maria – The elusive mistress of Thorngrove, Grimley for over 50 years and her second husband Samuel Baker

At the end of the article in the February issue of the Parish Magazine concerning Eliza Maria and her first husband Edwin Shelton, he had died at the age of thirty-nine in 1848. Eliza continued to live at Thorngrove, and was still close to her sister Frances who was married to businessman William Philip Price of Tibberton Court, near Newnham, Gloucestershire. He was M.P. for Gloucester for the first time from 1852 - 1859.

William Price’s business interests were closely aligned with those of Eliza’s first husband and it was through these connections that she met Samuel Baker, a widower, who lived at Lyppiatt Park near Stroud. Samuel Baker’s diverse business interest included being a ship owner with plantations in the West Indies and Mauritius, importing sugar, rice, linseed and ebony. He was on the Committee of the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal Company and one of the developers of Baker’s Quay at the thriving Gloucester Docks. Samuel was the first Chairman of the Gloucester Chamber of Commerce which was formed in 1839 and a Director of the “Great Western” and the “South Wales” Railways; sometime Chairman of the Gloucester & Dean Forest Railway and one of the trustees of the Great Western and Forest of Dean Deep Coal Company. From the number of times he is mentioned in newspaper articles he was a very busy man!

The 1851 census taken on Sunday 31st March, shows 57 year-old Samuel Baker described as a Magistrate and Banker (Gloucestershire Banking Company) visiting Eliza Maria aged 35 at Thorngrove with two of his daughters. Mary Ann (aka “Min”) aged 17 and Anna Eliza aged 15. The indoor staff on the census at Thorngrove included a housekeeper, butler, lady’s maid, house and kitchen maid and page boy.

On 16 December 1851 Eliza Maria and Samuel were married at Holy Trinity church, Tibberton, near Newent, Gloucestershire. The marriage ceremony was conducted by the Reverend Francis Hopkinson, his daughter Ellen’s husband.

Although Thorngrove was Samuel and Eliza Maria’s main residence, his ties with Gloucestershire remained strong and he was often mentioned in Gloucestershire newspapers in connection with his interests in banking and railways and his aspirations to be a Member of Parliament. 

In 1852 Eliza became a member of the Worcestershire Natural History Museum. Two years later she and her party were amongst “the aristocratic and fashionable company” attending the Three Choirs Festival” which also included Mrs Bourne and party from Hallow Park.

The Kidderminster Music Festival took place in September 1854 and both Samuel and Eliza attended. It seems that the gentry arrived in their carriages and it was necessary to adopt a one-way system to avoid the potential chaos of arriving and departing carriages! The Berrows Worcester Journal reported that special trains had been laid on to bring visitors from other parts of the country. The bells of Mary’s church rang out and The Corn Exchange was used for the purpose of a refreshment room.

In the early 19th century Prince Lucien Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, had been in exile at Thorngrove and in 1854, his son Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte was reported to have written to Samuel Baker asking him to make enquiries as to the whereabouts of the woman who had nursed him when he was a baby there. With some difficulty she was found and Prince Louis Lucien subsequently visited Thorngrove and was especially interested in looking around the rooms that had been occupied by his father.

Samuel’s daughter Anna Eliza married in 1857, Captain Robert Bourne of the 54th Regiment, whose parents had formerly lived at Hallow Park. On this happy occasion Samuel Baker presented the poor inhabitants of Grimley with a shilling each and the school children a fourpenny piece and a two penny plum cake. The employees on his estate were “all bountifully regaled by a supper the same evening”.

In 1858 Samuel Baker became the High Sheriff of Worcestershire and in July of the same year he was one of three Directors of the Great Eastern Company present when Queen Victoria, the Prince Consort and the King of the Belgians visited the ship “Leviathan” (later “The Great Eastern”) being built at Deptford on the Thames. The Royal party remained on board for nearly an hour. The Queen’s party were rowed back to the Victualling-yard and she was unfortunately compelled to hold her bouquet to her face!

By the beginning of March 1862 Samuel Baker was ill and on May 16 he died aged 69 at Thorngrove and was buried at Grimley on 23 May 1862. The Gloucestershire Chronicle reported “on the loss of his enterprising public spirit” and of “his personal worth”.

It would be three years before Eliza Maria married her third husband, Captain Robert Middlemore, at Grimley on 13 June 1865.

Post script - Sir Samuel White Baker the explorer who was one of Samuel Baker’s sons is much better known now than his father. Sir Samuel was buried at Grimley on 10 Jan 1894 and his second wife Florence in 1916

Part III -  Eliza Maria – The elusive mistress of Thorngrove, Grimley for over 50 years

and her third husband Robert Middlemore

Eliza Maria’s second husband, Samuel Baker died in 1862 and it would be three years before she married her third husband, Major - later Colonel - Robert Middlemore, at Grimley on 13 June 1865.

Robert Middlemore had followed his father into the Army and by 1841 he had been posted to St Helena as A.D.C. to his father, Major General George Middleton. His father was the first Governor of St Helena and in 1840 he oversaw the repatriation of Napoleon’s remains to France. Thorngrove has another connection to Napoleon, his brother Lucien was under house arrest there with his family between 1811 and 1814.

Robert’s military career included serving in the latter part of the Kaffir War of 1846-7 between the Xhosa kingdom and European settlers in the Eastern Cape. He later became the Commanding Officer of the Pensioners (Veterans) in the Worcester area. The 1861 census lists Robert, a bachelor, living with his spinster sisters at 27 Tything Street, Worcester. (Probably 27 The Tything, a 4-storey house which is now the Rajkot Restaurant.) 

After Robert and Eliza Maria’s marriage they continued to live at Thorngrove. Robert joined the Worcestershire Archery Society in 1866 and the following year Eliza Maria was present at the laying of the foundation stone of the new Hallow church. For the first time the festival of Harvest Home was celebrated in September 1867 both at Hallow and Grimley with the approval of the gentry and local farmers who gave substantial support. At Grimley the church was decorated by the ladies and after the Service the congregation went in procession to Thorngrove Lodge, and then, headed by the Prince of Wales Band from Worcester, went to a tent erected near the ornamental water in the park at Thorngrove. Newspapers reported that “an excellent dinner” was provided for 320 at which Major Middlemore presided. Guests included local clergymen and farmers as well as M E Dowdeswell, M.P. After the loyal toasts the Rev. H. G. Pepys proposed the health of Major and Mrs. Middlemore “expressing the hope that, as the Major had played such a key part in establishing the festival, which the parishioners would meet at Thorngrove on many occasions”.

In 1866 the church at Grimley was re-opened after “a complete restoration” at a cost of £1400. The nave was re-constructed with the addition of an aisle on the north side, a vestry and also a small gallery at the west end of the nave. A new stone pulpit by Forsyth was donated by T G Hyde of Worcester.  Amongst the donors were Col. and Mrs. Middlemore who gave £100 (purchasing power of c. £6,000 today).

Usually the newspapers reported on cases that came up before Col. Robert Middlemore JP as a magistrate, but in 1892 a case was brought against him. He was summonsed by the Inspector of Nuisances for Martley Union Sanitary Authority for having a pool on his land which was so polluted that it was a danger to public health, it was said that there was, at times, a strong smell which was thought to be from the drainage of the pig sties on the estate or from a nearby nearly full sewage tank. There was a spring in the pool and Col. Middlemore had told the Court that he would prevent the overflow sewage from the pig sties reaching the pool and polluting it.

In the same year the Colonel was a Committee member of the Discharged Soldiers Employment Association, they reported that out of 61 men who had registered their names 48 had been offered employment. Employers included the well-known brewing companies of Lewis Clarke & Co and Spreckleys and the railway companies. They supported the Three Choirs Festival, the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Robert supported the Worcs. Discharged Prisoners Aid Society and Eliza Maria the Christmas festivities for patients at the Infirmary. In 1893 the Coming of Age of Earl Beauchamp was celebrated at Madresfield and merited five columns of coverage in the Worcestershire Chronicle. Amongst several large events that were held was a Garden Party, “attended by representatives of all the principal county families”, including Eliza Maria and Robert and from Hallow, Charles and Amy Wheeley Lea.

Eliza Maria’s third husband Robert Middlemore died on 18 October 1896 aged 80. He left effects worth £465 0s 7d. The Colonel and Eliza Maria’s gardener had been Walter Humphreys*, and Walter’s descendants tell of how following the Colonel’s death Eliza Maria asked Walter if there was anything he would like. Being a very respectful person Walter said that it was not his place to say and so the choice was left to Eliza Maria who gave him pair of pistols, a cavalry sword, several stuffed birds and also a pair of oil paintings of the two chargers the Colonel is believed to have had whilst serving in the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders.

Eliza Maria had lived at Thorngrove for 56 years when she died on 19 December 1897 and like all three of her husbands she was buried at Grimley. She had been an heiress when she married and her first two husbands were successful businessmen, so perhaps it is not surprising that she left £113,380 11s 7d, which would have the purchasing power today of about £9 million.

*Special thanks to Walter Humphries descendants for sharing information with HHGand Mike Finn and Tudor Barlow for their photographs.

Jacquie Hartwright, researched online 2020-21