Washington Shirley, 5th Earl Ferrers

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Earl Ferrers

Born26 May 1722
Died1 October 1778
Chartley Manor Place, Staffordshire
AllegianceKingdom of Great Britain
Service/branchRoyal Navy
Years of service1735–1778
RankVice-Admiral of the White
Commands heldHMS Hawk
HMS Dover
HMS Gloucester
HMS Fame
HMS Bridgewater
HMS Mermaid
HMS Monmouth
HMS Duc d'Aquitaine
HMS Temple
Battles/warsSeven Years' War
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society
Spouse(s)Anne Elliot

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.


Shirley was the second son of Hon. Laurence Shirley (himself the fourth son of Robert Shirley, 1st Earl Ferrers) and his wife, Anne. c. 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.[1] 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.[2]

Ferrers was keen on astronomy and owned his own orrery.[3] 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.[3]

Shirley died, aged 56, 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]

Peter Perez Burdett - map makerposs. James Ferguson or Isaac Newton?Earl Ferrers who bought the paintingUse 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.[3]


  1. ^ Doyle, James William Edmund (1886). The Official Baronage of England. Vol. 1. London: Longmans, Green. p. 742.
  2. ^ Beckett, J. V. (1994). The Rise and Fall of the Grenvilles. Manchester University Press. pp. 51–52.
  3. ^ a b c A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (1764-1766), Revolutionary Players, image from Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, accessed March 2011
  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 Grand Master of the
Premier Grand Lodge of England

Succeeded by
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by Earl Ferrers
Succeeded by