Who's who in the Ickworth Hervey family
The Hervey family became one with the Ickworth estate in the 15th century when Thomas Hervey married the daughter of the then current landowner. Our story starts with John Hervey, created 1st Earl of Bristol in 1714. It's from his dynastic ambitions and love of Ickworth that the Hervey story at Ickworth, as we know it today, can be traced. Here we run through some of the key figures in Ickworth’s history.
John, 1st Earl of Bristol (1665-1751)
John Hervey innherited the estate in 1700 he came to describe it as his ‘centre of rest... Sweet Ickworth'. He was created Baron Hervey of Ickworth in 1703 and was then elevated to an Earldom, choosing Bristol from a choice of titles. He lived at Ickworth Lodge, a converted farmhouse on the estate, (now an annex to the Ickworth Hotel), and spent considerable time and money creating a park worthy of the Hervey name and on the patronage of artists – forming the basis of our collection today.
John, Lord Hervey (1696-1743)
Lord Hervey, the son of the 1st Earl and his second wife, was a successful politician and pamphleteer. His rise to the high government office of Keeper of the Privy Seal and his status as a member of the Privy Council meant he became one of the most famous figures of his time. He is best remembered today for his outspoken memoirs of the court of George II and for his devotion to Queen Caroline. Lord Hervey's life was full of scandal. He was known for his bisexual relationships and effeminate style, sharing a mistress with the Prince of Wales, and having a 10-year relationship with another man. Even so, Lord Hervey never separated from his wife Molly Lepel (1706-68), herself much admired for her wit and good sense. He died before his father so never inherited his father’s title, but his sons became 2nd, 3rd and 4th Earls of Bristol respectively.
Molly Lepel (1697 – 1768)
The accomplished Molly Lepel, was former lady-in-waiting to Queen Caroline, praised by our finest writers such as Voltaire and Pope.
She married Lord John Hervey in secret in 1720. Presumably this was a love match as neither had money and John’s half brother Carr Hervey was heir to the estate until his death in 1723.
Although John Hervey had apparently tired of the marriage by the mid 1720s and was known to be bisexual, the couple had eight children, four sons, George, Augustus, Frederick and William and four daughters, Lepel, Mary, Emily and Caroline between 1721 and 1736.
" Bright Venus you never saw bedded So perfect a beau and a belle As when Hervey the handsome was wedded To the beautiful Molly Lepel"
The 4th Earl of Bristol (1730-1803)
Becoming the 4th Earl despite being a 3rd son, he was known as the Earl Bishop. He puzzled and amazed his contemporaries, dressed top to toe in Episcopal purple he became one of the tourist sights of Europe, bowling around Italy in an open-topped carriage and staying in many 'Hotels Bristol' named in his honour.
Mischievous but forward thinking, he was never a religious man and used his position as Bishop of Derry, secured for him by his brother, to dabble in politics, gain great wealth and annoy local vicars. He died in 1803 on a road in Italy, having had his life’s treasures and art confiscated by Napoleonic troops. It was the Earl Bishop whose vision created the house we know today.
Frederick, 1st Marquess of Bristol (1769-1859)
The death of his father left him with a half-built house, an indebted estate. He managed to largely complete the house over the next twenty years whilst improving the estate. Knowing that impressive works of art would be needed for the great rooms of the newly-completed Rotunda and east ‘family’ wing, he set off on a tour of Europe in search of suitable treasures. Under his guidance Ickworth at last fully became the dynastic family seat it had always been intended to be. He was created 1st Marquess in 1826 by his brother-in-law and then Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool.
Theodora, 4th Marchioness of Bristol (1875-1957)
Alice Theodora Wythes was the granddaughter of the Victorian railway contractor George Wythes and had an immense personal fortune. Coming to Ickworth when she married Frederick, the 4th Marquess (1863-1951), it was their shared passion for their home as well as her money, that enabled to the estate to prosper before passing it to the National Trust in 1956.
Her money paid for settling debts and major improvements to the house – new servants' quarters, electric lighting, the latest in Edwardian plumbing and alterations to the great show rooms in the Rotunda. Theodora was also greatly concerned with its contents. She catalogued, cleaned and re-hung the picture collection, had the book collection listed and rebound, and the furniture and objets d’art restored. She compiled scrapbooks of pictures and sculpture associated with the Hervey family and sought to purchase any which came on the market.
Victor, 6th Marquess of Bristol (1915-1985), John, 7th Marquess of Bristol (1954-1999)
The 6th Marquess led an extraordinary life earning the nickname 'Mayfair playboy No.1'. He joined a gang of ‘gentleman’ jewel thieves, and was convicted in 1939 on two counts of robbery from Mayfair addresses. He also dabbled in a degree of dubious arms sales. In contrast, his later life was one of extreme respectability, inheriting the title of 6th Marquess of Bristol in 1960 and becoming chairman of the Monarchist League.
The life of the 7th Marquess was as remarkable as his earlier forebears and equalled them in terms of his well-publicised private life and indulgence, surprising many with a brief marriage in the 1980s. Rumoured in the press to have blown a £21 million fortune, (and even more made as a business man), on vice and high living, the 7th Marquess sold much of his remaining family possessions and moved out of the East Wing at Ickworth in 1996. He was the last of the Hervey family to live at Ickworth and was succeeded by his half-brother Frederick as 8th Marquess of Bristol.