Sir George Vernon

  • 16 Jan 2012
  • Historical Studies
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Sir George Vernon, the last of the Vernons of Hanbury Hall, was an unconventional character. He left the Hall and £66,000 to his farm foreman's daughter, Ruth Powick, whom he had taken as his mistress. Ruth's family had served the Vernons for centuries. Ruth was 16, when one day, Sir George, the 2nd baronet and last of his line, came to her father's cottage, and said in his blunt way, 'Ted, I want to borrow your daughter for six months. Things are in a mess at the Hall'. Lady Vernon was then living in London. Ruth learned short-hand and book-keeping, and travelled the world with Sir George.

Ruth later recalled; 'Ten years later, he again called on my father. This time, he was as blunt as ever. He said, 'Ted, your daughter has been a treasure. I decided to leave her everything. My one great wish is for Ruth to take the Vernon name. What do you say, Ted ?' So my name was changed by deed poll, and Sir George introduced me everywhere as his daughter'.

Sir George had a hatred of the Established Church, and carried on a bitter campaign against church tythes. In 1935, he watched his furniture being sold by auction in the forecourt at Hanbury Hall, in payment of the tythes dues. In protest against the tythe laws he gave instructions that he was not to be buried in the local churchyard, but in unconsecrated ground. He declared, 'No parson is going to read any service over me; and in  1940, five years to the day when his furniture was sold, he was found in his bedroom, with a revolver beside him. He was 74, and left no heir. For some time he was associated himself with Sir Oswald Moseley and the British Fascist organisation, and moves were in hand to arrest and detain him.

The last service the Powick family did for Sir George was to bury him in the heart of Shrawley Wood, part of the Vernon estate. He had asked to be buried there as a last gesture in his long campaign against the church. Lady Vernon was still living at Hanbury Hall. Ruth gave the Hall to the National Trust, but she was still the mistress of the 20 roomed Vernon mansion at Shrawley. She later married, and became Mrs.F.Horton.