Washington Shirley, 5th Earl Ferrers
Shirley was the second son of Hon. Laurence Shirley (himself the fourth son of Robert Shirley, 1st Earl Ferrers) and his wife, Anne. Circa 1738, he joined the Royal Navy and rose through the ranks as a Second Lieutenant in 1741, First Lieutenant in 1746 and Post-Captain soon after.
Two weeks after the execution of his brother, Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl of Ferrers in 1760, Shirley took his seat in the House of Lords (as the new Earl Ferrers) and in 1763, George III granted him the family estates, previously forfeit by his brother as a felon (much to the surprise of Casanova, then visiting London) and he began to transform the family seat of Staunton Harold in Leicestershire. He was later promoted as a Rear Admiral in 1771 and Vice-Admiral in 1775.
Ferrers was keen on astronomy and owned his own orrery. In 1761, Ferrers had been elected to the Royal Society for his work on the observations of the transit of Venus. Ferrers purchased Joseph Wright of Derby's painting entitled “A Philosopher giving a Lecture on the Orrery in which a lamp is put in place of the Sun” and he has been creditted as being the firgure on the right. Ferrers had Peter Perez Burdett (the figure on the left) as a house guest and he had attended a talk by James Ferguson who had given lectures on the orrery.
- A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (1764-1766), Revolutionary Players, image from Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, accessed March 2011
- Richard Davenport-Hines, Shirley, Washington, fifth Earl Ferrers (1720–1760), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 13 November 2007
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