John Kyrle (22 May 1637 – 7 November 1724), known as "the Man of Ross", was an English philanthropist, born in the parish of Dymock, Gloucestershire, but best remembered for his time in Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire.
Education & Legal Background
Kyrle was the son of Walter Kyrle, a barrister and MP. The family had lived at Ross for many generations. His grandfather, James Kyrle of Walford Court, had been high sheriff of the county and whose father, Walter, had spelled the surname CRULL which had been a common surname among the Anglo-French aristocracy  that had dominated England since the time of the Norman invasion in 1066 and a name which gradually disappeared with the Anglo-French aristocracy's Angloisation. James Kyrle's wife, Ann, was the sister of Edmund Waller, the poet and her maternal uncle was the English statesman John Hampden.
From his early twenties he adopted a frugal lifestyle and instead of utilising his wealth for himself, he sought to invest in the greater good of his locality and community that lived there.
In everything that concerned the welfare of the small town of Ross in which he lived he took a lively interest; in the education of the children and in improving and embellishing the town. He planted trees in and around the town, with two or three workmen to assist with the manual work. He delighted in mediating between those who had quarrelled and in preventing costly lawsuits between prominent townspeople. He was generous to the poor and spent all he had in good works.
He was behind the establishment of 'The Prospect' in Ross-on-Wye in 1700, a public garden on the hilltop just above Ross town centre where a viewpoint and walkways were set out and a public fountain provided clean water for town residents. The park is still there today, alongside the churchyard of St Mary's church , with ornate stone gates and mature trees interspersed with benches and a walk. The Prospect commands excellent views over the River Wye and the surrounding countryside.
He lived a great deal in the open air, working with the labourers on his farm. He died on 7 November 1724, living well into his eighties, and was buried in the chancel of Ross Church.
His name is commemorated throughout Ross-on-Wye, not only in The Prospect but in the 'Man of Ross' public house on Wye Street and his market square townhouse. The town's secondary school carries his name.
His memory was also preserved by the Kyrle Society, founded in 1876 by Miranda and Octavia Hill, to better the life of working people, by laying out parks, encouraging house decoration, window gardening and flower growing. The Society was one of the first civic amenity bodies and a progenitor of the National Trust.
Commemorated in Verse by Pope & Coleridge
Who taught that heav’n directed Spire to rise?
The Man of Ross, each lisping babe replies.
Behold the Market-place with poor o'erspread!
He feeds yon Alms-house, neat, but void of state,
Where Age and Want sit smiling at the gate;
Him portion’d maids, apprentic’d orphans blest,
The young who labour, and the old who rest.
Is any sick? the Man of Ross relieves,
Prescribes, attends, the med’cine makes, and gives,
Is there a variance? enter but his door,
Balk’d are the Courts, and contest is no more.
Despairing Quacks with curses fled the place,
And vile Attornies, now a useless race.
and by Coleridge in an early poem of 1794.
- Erskine-Hill, Howard (1975) 'Private Country Gentleman': John Kyrle Esq. in: The Social Milieu of Alexander Pope
- Sabine Baring-Gould, M.A. Family Names and Their Story. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1910. 354
- The consanguinity between Crull and Kyrle is shown through the Kyrle's coat of arms evolvement from some of the different Anglo-French Crull families in Herefordshire, found on page 93 of Thomas Dudley Fosbroke, M.A.F.A.S. 's Companion to the Wye Tour: Ariconensia; or Archeological Sketches of Ross, and Archenfield: Illustrative of the Campaigns of Caractacus; The Station Ariconium & with Other Matters (never before published). Printed by and for W. Farror. Sold by Messrs. Nichols, 25 Parliament Street and Messrs. Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, London, 1821
- even today, in the 21st century, John Kyrle is still referred to as "the man" at Balliol where his sterling silver tankard is still in use
- The Prospect
- John Kyrle High School