holders of the peerages of Lord Clifford of Chudleigh and of Lord De
Clifford are descended in the male and female line respectively from the
once great and powerful house of Clifford, who enjoyed the earldom of
Cumberland, and who, as stated by me on a previous page,*
stood next to the Percies and the Dacres in the north of England.
Of late years the ancient Barony of De Clifford has passed, through
females, into one or two different families. Nevertheless the title is
All my readers are
aware, no doubt, that the old bridge across the Thames at Blackfriars was
the work of an engineer named James Mylne.
It is not often that
the architect of a bridge becomes also the architect of a peerage; and yet
one of the merest accidents in the world, in which Mylne
figured as the principal hand, conferred that
very ancient title, or at all events its
revival, upon a plain gentleman of
The story is told at some length in the
'General Biograpbical Dictionary' of Chambers;
its substance may be related as follows: Mr. Mylne happened to be engaged
in making some very great alterations and improvements at King's Weston,
near Bristol, for the late Lord De Clifford, then Mr. Southwell, who had
known him at Rome, and who had conceived a very high opinion of his
talents, for a sight of his (then) new bridge at Blackfriars. On Mr.
Mylne's arrival there, he commenced making some
plans, in the course of which he discovered in the back part of the house
a small room, to which apparently there was no means of access. It was
resolved accordingly to cut into it from the outside.
On obtaining an
entrance, they found, to their great
astonishment, a quantity of old family plate,
and a pile of musty papers and parchments. These were deciphered by the
aid of a local antiquary, and the result was that among them were found
the original records of a barony granted to that family in the reign of
Henry III. The family pedigree was accordingly hunted up and set forth;
the Heralds' College was consulted; the matter was brought under the
attention of the House of Lords; a petition to the king to have the claim
submitted to a committee of privileges was duly presented and favorably
received; at last, after a short interval, during which every link in the
chain of proof was closely examined and established to the satisfaction of
the committee, the king was graciously pleased to revive the dormant
title, and Mr. Southwell took his seat among the peers of England, as
second on the roll of the barons, in 1716.
The room in which these
papers were found had in all probability been closed up, for the sake of
security, during the 'troublous times'
of the reign of Charles I, and had never
been opened subsequently-upwards of a century.
The rats and the mice had been good and bind enough to spare the precious
documents,* and the absencee
of damp no doubt had contributed to the preservation of the papers which
conferred a coronet on Mr. Edward
The title, at the death
of this nobleman's son and successor, fell into abeyance,
which was terminated, in 1833, in favor of his eldest daughter, Sophia,
who married. Captain John Russell, and whose grandson is the present
holder of it.
* Sec vol. i, p. 144.
This has not always been the
case. For instance, the late Sir John Bowring told me once that his
ancestor, the squire of Bowringsleigh, in Devon, had conferred on him
a patent of baronetcy, but that, being Put for
safety during the troubles of the Commonwealth behind the panelled
wainscoting of the house, it had been
devoured almost entirely by rats or mice.
Chapters From the Family Chests, 1887
Chapters From the Family Chest