series HALIFAX/A1 - Grey family papers

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Grey family papers


  • 1748-1894 (Creation)

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(fl 1319-)

Biographical history

Howick in Northumberland has been the ancestral seat of the Grey family since the fourteenth century. In 1746 Henry Grey was created 1st Baronet Grey of Howick, and in 1801 his son Charles was raised to the peerage as 1st Baron Grey of Howick following a successful military career. In 1806 he was created Earl Grey and Viscount Howick in the County of Northumberland.

Charles’ eldest surviving son, also named Charles, was born in 1764 and it through his marriage that the connection of the Grey family to the Ponsonby, Cavendish and Wood families derives. Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764-1845) married in 1794 Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby (1776-1861), daughter of William Brabazon Ponsonby (1744-1806), 1st Baron Ponsonby of Imokilly, and his wife Lady Louisa, nee Molesworth. Mary’s paternal grandmother was Lady Elizabeth Ponsonby, née Cavendish, daughter of the 3rd Duke of Devonshire, and she counted among her siblings the ambassador John Ponsonby (1770-1855), 1st Viscount Ponsonby of Imokilly who married Frances, daughter of the Earl and Countess of Jersey; Major General Sir William Ponsonby (1772-1815), who died at the Battle of Waterloo; and Richard Ponsonby (1772-1853), Bishop of Derry.

Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, was a prominent Whig politician who rose to become Prime Minister between 1830 and 1834. His government saw the passage of Reform Act of 1832 and the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire the following year. He retired from politics in 1834 and died at Howick in 1845.

Charles and Lady Mary had sixteen children together, including Admiral Sir Frederick Grey (1805-1878) who became First Naval Lord in 1861; Lady Louisa Grey (1797-1841), who married John George Lambton, later 1st Earl of Durham; Lady Mary Grey (1807-1884), who in 1829 married Charles Wood of Hickleton, Yorkshire, 1st Viscount Halifax; and Lady Georgiana Grey (1801-1900), who never married and who passed her family papers, including those of her mother, Countess Grey, to her nephew Charles Lindley Wood, 2nd Viscount Halifax, at her death in 1900.

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Papers of the Grey family, comprising letters to Lady Elizabeth Ponsonby, née Cavendish, including 1778 map of Kildare, Ireland, 1748-1778; letters to Louisa, Lady Ponsonby, née Molesworth, including references to Irish affairs, 1778-1823; letter to William, 1st Baron Ponsonby, announcing the birth of a daughter to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, c.1787; letters to Mary Ponsonby, Countess Grey, including references to European travels and political affairs, 1792-1840; letters to and from Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, including references to Irish affairs, the 'Catholic Question' and the Reform Bill, 1797-1853; letter to Admiral Sir Frederick Grey, sending a newspaper cutting giving a remedy for warts, c.1830; letter to Lady Louisa Grey, Countess of Durham, concerning her reading of Robinson Crusoe, 1804; records of Lady Georgiana Grey, including correspondence, pamphlets, recipes, verses, prints, drawings and photographs, 1816-1894.


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The Earl Grey Family Papers and the records of the estates of the Earls Grey of Howick are deposited at Durham University library. These include the personal and professional papers of Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, and papers relating to other family members. Letters to the 2nd Earl and his wife Lady Mary from Sydney Smith, 1808-1844, are deposited at Oxford University: New College Archives.

For material relating to Admiral Sir Frederick Grey held elsewhere, see his letters to Sir George Grey, 1858-1859, at the National Library of South Africa; his correspondence with Sir Alexander Milne, 1860-1874, at the National Maritime Museum: The Caird Library and Archive; his correspondence with Sir William Codrington, 1855-1856, at the National Army Museum Templar Study Centre; and his private letter book relating to naval matters, 1861-1866, at National Records of Scotland.

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