Washington Shirley, 5th Earl Ferrers

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Peter Perez Burdett - map maker poss. James Ferguson or Isaac Newton? Earl Ferrers who bought the painting Use your cursor to explore (or Click "i" to enlarge)
A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery by Joseph Wright of Derby. Use a cursor to see who is who.[1]

Vice Admiral Washington Shirley, 5th Earl Ferrers, FRS (26 May 1722 – 1 October 1778) was a British Royal Navy officer, peer, freemason and amateur astronomer.

Biography[edit]

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 Ferrers in 1760, Shirley took his seat in the House of Lords (as the new Earl Ferrers). Ferrers was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Staffordshire on 28 August 1761.[2] 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.

Due to persistent financial problems, he sold the estates of Astwell (including Astwell Castle) and Falcutt to Lord Temple between 1774 and 1777.[3]

Ferrers was keen on astronomy and owned his own orrery.[1] 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 credited as being the figure 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.[1]

Shirley died in 1778 at Chartley Manor Place, Staffordshire and was buried at Staunton Harold. As he had no children by his wife, Anne, his title and estates passed to his younger brother, Robert.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (1764-1766), Revolutionary Players, image from Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, accessed March 2011
  2. ^ Doyle, James William Edmund (1886). The Official Baronage of England 1. London: Longmans, Green. p. 742. 
  3. ^ Beckett, J. V. (1994). The Rise and Fall of the Grenvilles. Manchester University Press. pp. 51–52. 
  4. ^ Richard Davenport-Hines, Shirley, Washington, fifth Earl Ferrers (1720–1760), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 13 November 2007
Masonic offices
Preceded by
Lord Aberdour
Grand Master of the
Premier Grand Lodge of England

1762–1764
Succeeded by
The Lord Blayney
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Laurence Shirley
Earl Ferrers
1760–1778
Succeeded by
Robert Shirley