Frances Anne

Frances Anne Vane-Tempest by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1818

In 1819 Charles, the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry (at this point known as Lord Stewart) married the nineteen year old Frances Anne Vane-Tempest, a young woman twenty two years his junior. Frances Anne had been sole heiress to her father Sir Henry Vane of Wynyard Park in County Durham, and the attached rich lands exploitable for coal, inheriting as ‘tenant for life’ under the guardianship of trustees at the young age of thirteen.

In 1819 Charles, the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry (at this point known as Lord Stewart) married the nineteen year old Frances Anne Vane-Tempest, a young woman twenty two years his junior. Frances Anne had been sole heiress to her father Sir Henry Vane of Wynyard Park in County Durham, and the attached rich lands exploitable for coal, inheriting as ‘tenant for life’ under the guardianship of trustees at the young age of thirteen.

Her father was also, incidentally, owner of the famous racehorse Hambletonian, and in celebration of a racing victory at Newmarket in March 1799, had commissioned a portrait of his victorious beast by George Stubbs – a painting which now hangs on the west stairs at Mount Stewart. Whilst the marriage was popularly thought of as the successful pursuit of an heiress (and with one commentator stating mockingly of Frances Anne, that she married an "old dandy who might be her daddy" ) there can be no doubt that the marriage was a successful match of her wealth and his entrepreneurial ability, as well as a good match on affectionate terms. 

With so much property in England, and with the purchase and development of the Seaham estate, harbour, mines and railway, Mount Stewart never became a property that Frances Anne felt a particular affinity with. It is fair to argue that Frances Anne never really engaged with Mount Stewart as a prospective family home in which she might really express her tastes or leave her mark. As the second wife of the 3rd Marquess, a man who already had an heir to his Irish property, Frances Anne had no real expectation that this property would become aligned with her own Vane-Tempest inheritance. Indeed, when her husband was extending and remodelling Mount Stewart in the 1840’s, she preferred to lavish her attentions on  creating her own Irish seat, Garron Tower in County Antrim, as a means of acknowledging her own Irish pedigree and her mother, who was the Countess of Antrim in her own right. Interestingly Disraeli wrote to the ‘proud mistress of Garron’ in 1850, ‘I hope you are well and happy in your tower, a true Lady Chatelaine’, and not to the proud mistress of Mount Stewart.

From surviving correspondence between the third Marquess and his agent, John Andrews, it is clear that much of the Mount Stewart renovations were overseen from afar and with the third Marquess making and liaising on decisions on taste relating to the house. Throughout the correspondence, there is often an encouraging gesture that Frances Anne may become more involved in the interior design of the house, in particular with regard to the rooms designated for her personal use.  Mr Andrews wrote in 1847 ‘then as to the fitting up of her ladyships’ apartments, I must own I shrink from acting in any matter in which taste is concerned’, demonstrating to a degree a sense of dissociation on the part of Frances Anne, and an ongoing encouragement to become involved in her husband’s renovation works. So too, the correspondence shows that the Marquess is concerned that his wife should like the house, that her apartments should be superior to his in light and decoration, and that she should have warm and dry accommodation. This all alludes to the fact that he wishes to make Mount Stewart a desirable place to be for Frances Anne. 

Although it appears that Frances Anne may not have had any great personal involvement with  Mount Stewart during her lifetime, her contribution to its enlargement in the mid nineteenth century, and its’ financial stability until the mid-twentieth century is undoubtedly significant. Whilst the enlargement of Mount Stewart was at the hand, and indeed the purse strings of the third Marquess, his ability to achieve this renovation during a time of famine in Ireland and when his estate was in annual arrears of two thousand pounds per annum, the assurance of having a rich wife undoubtedly facilitated this process.  In addition, she ensured that the Londonderry family would be free from her husband’s debts after his death. Acknowledging his important role and entrepreneurial spirit in creating and expanding the Seaham collieries, through her own industry, was able to pay off any debt accrued during her husbands’ tenure.

This woman of ‘exceptional capacity, energy and decision’ continued to manage ‘eleven pits, two railways, lime quarries, blast furnaces , a steamer… twelve thousand acres …overseeing the annual shipment of seven hundred thousand tons [of coal]’. As a result, ‘by the time of her death, the Londonderry accounts and estates were free of arrears’.

The industry of Frances Anne had very significant reverberations when her stepson, the 4th Marquess died childless in 1872, and her own son George became the 5th Marquess, inheriting Mount Stewart and the Irish estates of his father. It was this accident of inheritance that unified the Stewart and Vane-Tempest dynasties, and which allowed Mount Stewart economic stability for almost a hundred years thereafter.  

Dr Neil Watt, House and Collections Manager