In memory of Lord Farnham and companions

Six of the Pensarn train crash victims were travelling as a group, writes Dr Hazel Pierce. Lord and Lady Farnham (pictured courtesy of Cavan County Council’s library service) sat in the centre compartment of a first-class carriage in the Irish Mail. Elizabeth Strafford sat with them, while three servants travelled in the carriage behind.

Portrait of Lord FarnhamLord Farnham was the son of Rev Henry Maxwell and Lady Anne Butler, eldest daughter of the Earl of Carrick. His sister was Viscountess Bangor. He succeeded to the baronetcy in 1838 and was elected one of the representative peers for Ireland. In 1845 he was elected a Knight of St Patrick.

When not in London attending Parliament he spent most of his time on his Irish estates, where he appears to have been a popular landlord. Every year at harvest time he gave a great feast for several hundred of his employees, with a band and dancing. In 1847, during the great hunger, it was reported that Lord and Lady Farnham established a soup kitchen “for the suffering poor in their immediate neighbourhood” and began thinning their “fine herd of deer” for the purpose.

He was also an antiquary and genealogist who was interested in royal and noble descents. It was claimed he could “boast of a royal descent in the female line from the House of Tudor”. Before boarding the ill-fated train in Chester, Lord and Lady Farnham had stayed at Buxton for his health.

Lady Farnham was sister to the Countess of Roden. When her husband was in Parliament, the couple resided at Claridge’s Hotel and Lady Farnham attended many court events. 1848 she was present at a gathering given by Queen Victoria for which she wore a black silk gown complete with headdress of feathers, lace and diamonds, and in 1859 she wore a necklace of large diamonds with a train of violet satin.

Portrait of Lady FarnhamThe couple enjoyed tours in Europe and visited spa towns for Lord Farnham’s health. Just eight months before their deaths they had a lucky escape near Cavan railway station when the horses drawing their carriage bolted and the carriage was almost “dashed to pieces”.

Elizabeth (Bessy) Strafford was companion to Lady Farnham. Her father was plasterer, builder and “gentleman” Thomas Strafford of Alnwick, Northumberland. Elizabeth had lived with Lord Farnham’s family for over 35 years. Her widowed sister Sarah received news of the accident in a telegram at her home in London. Arriving at the site, Sarah wrote to her brother Nixon in Alnwick: “Never was there such a sight . . .  you cannot conceive, I cannot describe it. It is heartrending.” Elizabeth’s body was never formally identified but her sister recognised several of her sister’s possessions including a gold plate for supporting artificial teeth, a crochet needle and an ink bottle.

Charles Cripps was the son of Charles Cripps, waterman, and wife Lucretia Fancourt. Along with his younger brother Henry, he was in service to a doctor in Selkirk, Scotland. He married Maria Nicklin in 1865, the year he was appointed footman to Lord Farnham. His position meant he and Maria had to spend time apart. She testified that he travelled a great deal between England and Ireland with his master, and she had last seen him five weeks before the accident. At the inquest, Maria, his mother and brother Henry identified his remains by “a mark on the chin”. The bright buttons of his livery coat and his pipe were also found. Charles left assets worth £200 which passed to Maria, and the family successfully sued LNWR for compensation which was awarded to Maria and Lucretia.

Mary Ann Kellett was born on the Farnham estates in Cavan, Ireland, to Charles Kellett and Ann Caffrey. After their parents’ death, Mary Ann and her sister were cared for by Lady Farnham, who provided for their maintenance and education. Lady Farnham secured an honourable position for Mary Ann as an apprentice dressmaker to Elizabeth Ramage, who had a large and successful establishment at Portman Street, London. Once the apprenticeship ended, Mary Ann became lady’s maid to her patron, using her expertise in the care of Lady Farnham’s expensive clothing. Her body was never identified, but remains enveloped in crinoline wires were thought to be those of Mary Ann.

Edward Outen from Emsworth, Hampshire, was previously valet to Lord Lyttleton, from whom he received a Prayer book testifying to his good conduct (found in the accident wreckage). He also provided good service to Lord Farnham, who needed two sticks to walk due to lameness and required Edward’s “constant assistance”. His brother Thomas identified the body from Edward’s “singularly full chest” and fair hair. Thomas also identified Edward’s pipe and “a handsome gold watch and chain”. Edward was one of seven children but was the main support of his widowed mother, Mary Ann. In 1869 Thomas successfully sued the LNWR for compensation: £75 for the loss of his brother’s effects and £225 (nearly £20,000 today) for their mother which provided for her until her death in 1885.

Sources include: Georg Edward Cokayne, Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Vol. 3 (1887-1898)

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