Sir Vauncey: a benevolent despot

Sir Vauncey grew up to prefer solitude, just like his ancestors © National Trust Ian Buxton, David Midgelow, Brian Birch

Sir Vauncey grew up to prefer solitude, just like his ancestors

Sir Vauncey Harpur Crewe, 10th (and last) Baronet
Owner of the Calke estate and High Sheriff of Derbyshire in 1900
Calke Abbey

Descended from Sir Henry on both sides, Vauncey had the same unsociability and ‘shyness of communication’ as his great grandfather.  He became renowned for his combination of great consideration concerning his employees and severe aloofness towards his own family.

Apart from serving as High Sheriff of Derbyshire in 1900, he played no part in public life. Much like his solitary ancestors Sir Vauncey was complained about by his family for not being what he should be. His aunt Isabel lamented in 1904 that ‘he is losing or rather has lost all position in the Country…it vexes me terribly. I can’t understand him. He does not seem to know how to behave like a Gentleman’.

A man of honour?

A workman wrote to Sir Vauncey to thank him ‘for the great kindness’ he had shown to him and concluded that ‘if all the well-to-do were to treat those that work for them, as well as you do, there would not be that bitter feeling between the [upper] classes and the masses that there is now’.

However, Vauncey was not as compassionate towards his own family. Relationships were sometimes so strained that he would communicate with them only by letter, delivered by a footman on a silver salver, or even through the public post.

Destined to spinsterhood

To his daughters, Sir Vauncey was something of a tyrant. ‘The Misses Crewe’ he used to say, ‘Do not marry’. As for Airmyne, the only daughter to oblige by remaining single, he turned her out of the house when he caught her breaking the ban on smoking which he imposed on his entire household for fear of fire. Charming.

Compulsive collector

What for predecessors had been a pastime became for Sir Vauncey an all absorbing passion, upon which he regularly spent a substantial amount of money on collecting stuffed animals. He never parted with his gun except for on Sundays, when he left it in the porch of the church while attending morning service. But he also bought rare or abnormally coloured specimens from dealers and taxidermists. By the time of his death in 1924 the exhibits numbered several thousand and had invaded every floor of the house.

Want to learn more about the collections of the eccentric men of Calke and see how their solitary personalities shaped the house we see today? Why not visit us.