Harry Grey, 8th Earl of Stamford

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Harry Grey, 8th Earl of Stamford (26 February 1812 – 19 June 1890) was an English peer.

Harry Grey was born in England, the son of Revd. Harry Grey (1783-1860) and Frances Elizabeth Ellis.[1] In 1836 he took Holy Orders in the Church of England.

An Oxford educated man, well-schooled in the Classics, including Latin, Greek, Theology and Philosophy, he was married in Devon in 1844 to the "lower class" Susan Gaydon, but later developed a serious drink and gambling problem, and was sent to the Cape Colony as a remittance man, leaving his wife behind receiving a monthly stipend. It seems that there was an arrangement between them, and that she was not displeased with this, having formed another attachment with a more suitable partner.

Once in the Cape Colony he stayed in the historical Cape Town suburb of Wynberg, and then worked as a miner in Namaqualand. Later he was, by all accounts,a farm labourer just outside the hamlet of Wellington. His first wife died in Devon in 1869. After siring a child, Emma, with Caroline Collins, he remarried in 1872 in Cape Colony. Ann McNamara, his second wife, was suffering from tuberculosis and he engaged his future third wife, Martha Solomon, as a nursemaid. Martha was the daughter of a black Cape slave whom he had met a decade before in the village of Wellington. When his second wife died in 1874 Harry Grey entered into a relationship with Martha which led to the birth of a son, John, in 1879, and a daughter, Frances. He married Martha in 1880 to legitimise the existing two children, and then in 1882 had a further daughter, who would become Lady Mary Grey. The middle daughter of Harry Grey and Martha Solomons died of smallpox at an early age, which coincided with Harry Grey becoming Earl.

On the accidental death of his third cousin George Grey, 7th Earl of Stamford in 1883, he inherited the titles of Earl of Stamford and Baron Grey of Groby, and the estate (which was the ancient "family seat") at Dunham Massey in Cheshire. In 1885 he gave up 250 acres (1.0 km2) of the land to develop the industrial estate of Broadheath in Altrincham. He and his wife chose to remain in Wynberg, Cape Town, and he never returned to the United Kingdom.

On his death in 1890, the title of 9th Earl (and traditional parliamentary seat in the House of Lords) was disputed. Although John Grey was Harry's son and heir according to the law and custom of the Cape Colony, the claim was deemed invalid as under English law the later marriage of parents did not legitimize any child born prior to their legal union. (John's younger sister Mary, having been born after her parents' marriage, was legitimate under English law and therefore known as Lady Mary Grey; she however could not inherit titles which passed down the male line.) A court case ensued[2] and the title passed to Harry's first cousin William Grey, 9th Earl of Stamford, who had lived in Barbados for many years.

The Stamford lineage died out in 1976 with the death of the 10th Earl, and today Dunham Massey is a tourist attraction owned by the National Trust.


  1. ^ http://www.hull.ac.uk/php/cssbct/cgi-bin/gedlkup.php/n=royal?royal38933
  2. ^ The Times, Wednesday, May 04, 1892; pg. 3; Issue 33629; col B 'House Of Lords. Committee For Privileges., The Stamford Peerage.'


Peerage of England
Preceded by
George Grey
Baron Grey of Groby
Succeeded by
William Grey
Earl of Stamford