Lord Mount Stephen

 

No local history of the Lemsford era would be complete without some reference to Lord Mount Stephen, who leased Brocket Hall and Estates from the Cowper Family in 1893 and lived there until his death in 1921

He was born George Stephens, on June 5th 1829 at Duff ton, Banffshire, Scotland, the son of a carpenter and the mother Elspeth Smith, a crofters daughter. He was educated at the Parish school and, the story goes, ran barefoot on errands for a few pence. After leaving school he had a few local jobs but was made an apprentice to a silk merchant in Aberdeen.

Those were the times of the Highland Clearances and in 1847 his father and sister emigrated to Canada. George followed them in 1850 and joined his cousin, William Stephen in a dry goods business. When William died in 1860 George took the business over and so began a meteoric business carrier. He had a retiring nature but he had a great grasp of what was required with a tenacity for complicated deals most of which paid off. As his business skills grew so did his wealth and the scope of his dealings grew. He was a philanthropist and popular with the people of Montreal and Canada

Like many at that time he speculated on railway and when the Canadian and Pacific railway was muted he was a strong supporter and invested heavily. He was the first President and as the cost of this massive programme grew, unlike some, George kept his nerve and frequently visited England to raise money and support. The last spike was driven in in1885 and was the second world transcontinental railway in the world. In his honour a mountain overlooking the railway was named Mount Stephen. He was raised to the Peerage in 1886 and was the first colonial peer taking the mount into his title

He had a great passion for salmon fishing and when he married his first wife, Charlotte Kane, she loved outdoor activities and shared his passion for fishing, In Scotland she is said to have introduced the canoe. They did not have any children but adopted a daughter.

In 1893 he retired from his business activities and went to live in England at his London house in 17 Carlton terrace and Brocket which he leased from the Cowpers, to live the life of a country squire.










Charlotte died In 1896 and in 1897he married Georginia Tuffnell who had been Lady in Waiting to the Duchess of Teck, later Queen Mary, and was her friend. She was very popular but again there were no children.

He would have had a powerful influence in the area and seems to have been liked and respected. He had several gamekeepers and Brocket became famous for the quality of its shoots, often attended by royalty including the future George V and the Prince of Wales. At Christmas he gave every son of the estate workers a woollen jersey and every daughter a length of material for a dress. In the autumn he had crates of big red apples sent over from Canada and distributed

On a personal note, my Father suffered from deafness when he was young and when Lord Stephen , who himself suffered from deafness in his old age, heard about it he arranged for an operation by a specialist which was a complete success. I only heard this story some time after my Father died when I was told it by my Auntie May On another occasion, Dr Thomas who used to come to Cromer Hyde lane from Welwyn in his pony ad trap decided that five of the children needed their tonsils done .

George V with Lord Mount Stephens (Jacks dad at the back, beating)

At that time it was a day job and it was arranged that the five would go to Hertford on the same day When Lord Mount Stephen heard of it he arranged for his coachman and coach to take them and one can imagine the stir it must have made with the cottagers in the old lane which was only a dirt track. When it was time to come home Percy was not too well and had to stay in hospital so his twin sister May stayed to keep him company .Next day all was well and the coach went again to bring them home. Unfortunately Percy was sick in the coach and my Grannie was very worried about what would be said. Apparently His Lordship dismissed the problem saying that the coach would be cleaned properly. About 1912 the Browns had a new house in Cromer Hyde lane, still there today, to replace the old Victorian cottage and this have must been Lord mount Stephens doing. Lord Mount Stephen and his first wife lie next to each other in Lemsford church.

 

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