A happy family home: 1885-1915

Photograph of the Victorian children from Lanhydrock

Following the death of his father in 1882, Thomas Charles Agar-Robartes inherited the Lanhydrock estate in Cornwall, and became the 6th Lord Robartes.

Before his death, his father had expressed the wish that the house be rebuilt as it was prior to the devastating fire of 1881, which caused so much destruction and led both directly and indirectly to the deaths of Thomas Charles’s parents; a wish that Thomas Charles duly carried out.

However, determined that the house should never burn again, he installed the very latest fire-fighting systems, as well as modern style and conveniences.

A golden age

Thomas Charles had married Mary Dickinson(1853-1921) of Kingsweston in Somerset. They had ten children and all but one reached adulthood. Sadly, their third son, John Radnor, died of bronchitis on Christmas Eve in 1884, aged just 6 months.

The period between 1885 – when the family moved into the rebuilt Lanhydrock- and the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 was a golden age of late-Victorian and Edwardian opulence.

Visitors to the house included Mr and Mrs Gladstone in 1889, the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1903, Lord Roseberry and Winston Churchill. Thomas James also gained another title; becoming the 6th Viscount Clifden, following the death of his second cousin Leopold Agar Ellis.

Property and political scandal

Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire, which had been sold in 1733 by the 2nd Earl of Radnor, came into the family again in this period and became the home of Gerald, the family’s second son.

Their eldest son and heir, Thomas Charles Reginald Agar-Robartes, was elected MP for south east Cornwall in 1906, as ‘the farmers’ and miners’ friend’.

However, one month later he was embroiled in a high profile expenses scandal, where he was charged with 108 counts of bribery and excessive expenses. Despite having to forfeit his seat Tommy was elected unopposed in 1908 for the mid-Cornwall constituency.

The clouds of war

In 1914, Tommy took an appointment as 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Bucks Hussars. Being stationed in England, Tommy could not bear the thought that others were taking risks which he did not share. He joined the Coldstream Guards and left for France in February 1915.

Tragically, Tommy was shot at the Battle of Loos in September 1915, while rescuing a wounded comrade from No Man’s Land. He later died of his wounds and the family fell into a decline from which they never recovered.