6th Earl of Coventry
An eighteenth century trend-setter with a vision that transformed Croome.
The second son of William, 5th Earl of Coventry, George William was born on 26 April 1722.
After he left Oxford University at seventeen, he spent a few years contemplating a career in politics and enjoying London life as the war in Europe prevented him from travelling abroad.
After the unexpected death of his elder brother, Thomas Henry, George William at the age of 28 succeeded as Earl of Coventry on the death of his father in 1751.
George William and his brother had already formed great plans for Croome and on becoming Earl he set about putting them into action.
The Earl married Maria Gunning, a great eighteenth-century beauty and socialite and they had one son George William (later to become the 7th Earl) and three daughters. Maria famously died in 1760 at only 28 years of age from tuberculosis brought on through her weakened immune system ravaged by the use of the popular white lead based makeup.
The Earl went on to marry Barbara St. John, whom he considered his soul mate. They had much in common, preferring the country to the bustle of London. She encouraged his obsession with collecting new plants for the park from across the globe. Together they had two further sons.
The 6th Earl’s aim was for Croome to be at the height of fashion and sought the first, and the best, of everything that he admired. He was widely acknowledged as a leader in the latest fashions and had the finest taste.
During his time at Croome he carried out extensive works on Croome Court and the surrounding parkland including sweeping away formal gardens, a village and a Church. The Earl spent the equivalent of £35 million transforming Croome.
He was the first to commission Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and then commissioned Robert Adam at the start of his career. Finishing touches to the park were by James Wyatt in the late 1790s and early 1800s.
The Earl died in 1809 aged 87 and it is said the funeral procession was a mile long. A monument to the Earl was erected at Croome, but by the 1990s was in ruins. Restoration works to reinstate the monument are now complete, thanks to a significant financial contribution from the Friends of Croome and the proceeds of a grand raffle.