James Lowther, 7th Earl of Lonsdale

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James Hugh William Lowther, 7th Earl of Lonsdale (3 November 1922 – 23 May 2006), was a British peer.

Background and education[edit]

Lowther was the elder son of Anthony Lowther, Viscount Lowther, and Muriel Frances Farrar, daughter of Sir George Herbert Farrar, a South African Randlord. Educated at Eton he went up to Cambridge University in October 1940 to read Mechanical Engineering but abandoned his course after three months and joined the Army in 1941.

Public life[edit]

They sent Lowther to Oxford University, where he completed a degree in Electricity and Magnetism in just six months, and he was commissioned into the Royal Armoured Corps in September 1942. As a Regimental Technical Adjutant with the rank of Captain in the East Riding Yeomanry, he was responsible for the upkeep of fifty-two tanks, two hundred soft vehicles and fifty soldiers, and helped put the first tanks ashore on the Normandy beaches on D-Day. He was later wounded at Caen following the landings, but subsequently returned to the front.

After being demobilised in 1946 he managed a steel erection and sheeting company in Newcastle until his father died somewhat prematurely in 1949. He accepted his grandfather's, Lancelot Lowther, 6th Earl of Lonsdale, invitation to take over the running of the family estates which he subsequently inherited four years later with his death in 1953. By this time the Lowther Estates, which comprised some 90,000 acres (360 km2) in Westmorland and Cumberland, were largely run down and burdened by debt, and the Inland Revenue was demanding the payment of death duties amounting to some £2 million. Much of the estate's property in Whitehaven, a town largely built by earlier generations of Lowthers, was disposed of as part of his rescue plan, as indeed was the sale of acres of timber on the estates, felled to raise ready cash, although in this case the Earl replanted half as many trees again. He also established a string of new businesses, Lowther Construction, Lowther Forestry Group, Lowther Park Farms and the Lowther Wildlife Park which helped restore the family's fortunes, but was however unable to find any alternative use for the ancestral pile at Lowther Castle, and he reluctantly decided in 1957 to remove the roof, buttress the walls and leave it as a romantic ruin. He also established the annual Lowther Horse Driving Trials and Country Fair which has attracted thousands of visitors to Cumbria each year, including amongst their number Prince Philip, a regular competitor at the former and the royal couple often stayed with Lonsdale and his family at Lowther in Askham Hall during the trials.

Therefore regarded as the saviour of his family estates, he resisted inclusion in the Sunday Times Rich List on the grounds that he was virtually penniless. However after many years prevarication, he was eventually forced to admit his wealth and appeared in the 2006 Rich list with an estimated net worth of £80 million and later admitted that he anticipated that his death would result in the payment of "somewhere between £3 million and £5 million to the Treasury because it's high time society had its chunk".

He briefly came to public prominence in 1962 when Manchester Corporation proposed turning Ullswater into a reservoir to serve the people of Manchester. Having made a speech against the proposal in the House of Lords, the Earl became a leading figure in the Ullswater Preservation Society which campaigned against the scheme and eventually forced the Corporation to adopt a drastically revised scheme. He thereafter became passionately concerned with the issue of the conservation of the Lake District and an opponent of the modern notion of building wind turbines on any available piece of windswept moor. When one of his sons struck a deal to place wind turbines on part of the estates that he controlled, the Earl openly opposed the construction at the subsequent public inquiry, and was no doubt gratified when the inquiry duly rejected the proposal.

Lonsdale was a founder director of Border Television, and was chairman of that company from 1985 to 1990. He also served as a chairman of the Northern Sports Council and a member of the UK Sports Council, spent six years on the Northern Economic Planning Council and was a member of the English Tourist Board. In addition he was president of Grasmere Sports, the Patterdale Dog Day, and the Cumberland and Westmorland Playing Fields Association, and served on a number of bodies such as the Hill Farming Advisory Committee, Westmorland Agricultural Committee, Northern Arts and the Rosehill Theatre at Whitehaven.

He eventually retired as head of the Lowther estate in 1993, having reached the age of seventy, and handed the business over to his second son. In later life he developed an interest in horse racing and was a part-owner of Motivator, the 2005 Derby winner. Lord Lonsdale died at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle on 23 May 2006.

Personal life[edit]

Lonsdale was married a total of four times. He married his first wife Tuppina Cecily Bennet in 1945; they were to have a daughter and a son before their divorce in 1954, and in that year he married his cousin Jennifer Lowther, granddaughter of James Lowther, 1st Viscount Ullswater, with whom he had a son and two daughters. That marriage ended in 1962 and in the following year he married his third wife Nancy Ruth Stephenson (née Cobbs), originally of Pacific Palisades, California, with whom he had a son. They were divorced in 1975 following which he married his fourth and final wife Caroline Sheila Ley on 3 December 1975, who bore him a further son and a daughter. Lonsdale had eight children, and thirteen grandchildren by the time of his death. His eldest son Hugh Clayton Lowther succeeded him as the 8th Earl of Lonsdale.

References[edit]

  • Obituary: The Earl of Lonsdale Daily Telegraph 17 June 2006.
  • Eton, Oxbridge, the military and industry equipped the Earl to transform his estate, 2 June 2006 Cumberland News.
  • A champion of the countryside whose Lowther legacy lives on, 26 May 2006 Cumberland News

External links[edit]

Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Lancelot Lowther
Earl of Lonsdale
1953–2006
Succeeded by
Hugh Clayton Lowther