Thomas Weld (of Lulworth)

Last updated

Thomas Bartholomew Weld
Born(1750-08-24)24 August 1750
Died1810(1810-00-00) (aged 59–60)
Burial place Lulworth Castle Chapel, Purbeck District, Dorset
Occupation(s)Landowner, philanthropist and book collector
Known for Rare books collection, Philanthropy: Stonyhurst College, Stonyhurst Saint Mary's Hall
Family Thomas Weld, Edward WeldJr., Maria Fitzherbert, Weld-Blundell family
Lulworth Castle, Dorset, England Lulworth Castle (1937).jpg
Lulworth Castle, Dorset, England

Thomas Bartholomew Weld (1750–1810), known as Thomas Weld of Lulworth Castle, was a member of the English Catholic gentry, landowner, philanthropist and bibliophile. [1] He was connected to many of the leading Catholic families of the land, such as the Bodenhams, Cliffords, Erringtons, Petres and Stourtons. [2] He proved to be a great benefactor of the Society of Jesus in England in their educational and pastoral endeavours, as timely donor of his Stonyhurst estate in 1794. He was also a benefactor to other Roman Catholic religious and clergy. [3] He was a personal friend of King George III. His sister-in-law was Maria Fitzherbert. After the French Revolution he hosted refugee remnants of the French royal family at his castle. He was the builder, in 1786, of the first Roman Catholic place of worship in England after the Protestant Reformation.



Thomas Weld was born into an old recusant family descended from Sir Humphrey Weld, a grocer, who was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1608. He was the fourth son of Edward Weld and Dame Mary Teresa, née Vaughan of the Welsh Bicknor exclave in Herefordshire. Two of his older brothers and both his parents died when he was still a child. [4] At age six in 1761, on the death of his father, Weld inherited the Bowland-with-Leagram and Stonyhurst estates in Lancashire from his father's cousin, Maria Shireburn (died 1754), the independently wealthy widow of Thomas Howard, 8th Duke of Norfolk (1683-1732). [5]

After home schooling, he was sent to the English Jesuit school at Watten and Bruges in Northern France and Austrian Netherlands. [6] He was reputedly not a distinguished scholar, due to repeated disruptions of his schooling from local political turmoil, but he developed an attachment to the community he met there and it fostered his lasting interest in education. [1] On return to England, he married Mary Stanley-Massey-Stanley daughter of Sir John Stanley-Massey-Stanley, 6th Baronet (1711–1794). They had six daughters and nine sons, the eldest of whom was also Thomas, who after being widowed and left with a daughter, entered the church and rose to the status of cardinal. [7]

His older brother, Edward, died in a horse-riding accident three months after his marriage to Maria Smythe (later, Mrs Fitzherbert) in July 1775 and the family inheritance fell to Thomas. His brother's widow, Maria née Smythe, married Thomas Fitzherbert who also died prematurely in 1781. She was introduced to the Prince of Wales, the future George IV and they contracted a morganatic marriage in 1785, which was repudiated both by the king and the Privy Council of England. [1] Subsequently, William Stourton, 18th Baron Stourton, one of Weld's sons-in-law, became executor of Maria's will and fought hard to prove the validity of her marriage to the Prince of Wales, but met implacable opposition from Queen Victoria in the shape of the Duke of wellington. [8]

Bibliophile landowner

Bookplate in the Luttrell Psalter showing crest and ownership of Thomas Weld. British Library Luttrell Psalter.pdf
Bookplate in the Luttrell Psalter showing crest and ownership of Thomas Weld. British Library

As the new owner of Lulworth Castle and the Lulworth Estate, Thomas Weld, who until then had been living with his wife in Britwell in Oxfordshire, refurbished the interiors of the "castle" in the then fashionable Adam style. It is said the most sumptuous was the library indicating he was a keen bibliophile who possessed a number of exceptional rarities in his collection, including the Luttrell Psalter, and Shakespeare's history textbook, Holinshed's Chronicles 1587 2nd edition. [9] [10] [11] Thomas Weld's ex libris bookplates all bear the family motto on the plates' ribbon "nil sine numine". Weld is known to have collected artworks. He was a friend of another Jesuit school alumnus, Giles Hussey (1710-1788), a Dorset artist specialising in portraiture and depictions of Charles Edward Stuart. Two pencil drawings of Thomas and his wife Mary are known to have survived. [1]

Although the "Castle", originally intended as a hunting lodge, fell victim to a disastrous fire in 1929, a number of valuable items it housed appear to have been saved. Unless it had been sold prior to the fire, one of them would have been Engelbert Kaempfer's History of Japan, translated from the German manuscript held by Sir Hans Sloane and published in 1728. [12]


Grade I listed RC Chapel of St Mary, built to look like a house, 1786 East Lulworth, church built to look like a house - - 474257.jpg
Grade I listed RC Chapel of St Mary, built to look like a house, 1786
Interior of St Mary's Chapel, Lulworth Castle LulworthCastleInterior.jpg
Interior of St Mary's Chapel, Lulworth Castle

In the absence of public catholic worship, the Welds were accustomed to having services celebrated by a personal chaplain in a chapel space within the castle. One of these came to them fleeing the French Revolution. He was a French ordained Jesuit priest, named Jean Grou, who as well as fulfilling his pastoral duties, was a prolific writer on spiritual matters. He stayed at Lulworth for almost a decade, until his death in 1803. [13]

Owing to his personal friendship with King George III, Thomas Weld was able in 1786 to build a Roman Catholic church dedicated to St. Mary to serve as the family chapel in the grounds of Lulworth Castle. Pevsner relates that he needed permission from the King which he obtained on condition it did not look like a church from outside. He asked John Tasker who was responsible for the interior refurbishment of the castle, to design it drawing inspiration from a classical Greek mausoleum, at a cost of £2,380. [14] It was to be the first Roman Catholic chapel to be erected since the time of the Protestant Reformation. [15] It was indeed to be his and his wife's final resting place. The building has been Grade I listed. [16]

On August 15, 1790, John Carroll, an American Jesuit friend of Thomas, was consecrated bishop by Bishop Charles Walmesley, assisted by another school friend and personal chaplain, the Jesuit, Charles Plowden, in the chapel of Lulworth Castle. Carroll was later to become the first Roman Catholic archbishop of Baltimore. [17] The next episcopal consecration took place there on 19 December of the same year when John Douglass was consecrated bishop of The London District (which included the home counties, the West Indies with the exception of Trinidad, and the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey) by William Gibson, titular bishop of Acanthus, and Vicar Apostolic of the Northern District. [18]


Stonyhurst college, a 1794 benefaction by Weld to the English Jesuits still under Suppression Stonyhurst college.jpg
Stonyhurst college, a 1794 benefaction by Weld to the English Jesuits still under Suppression

Weld became known especially for his charitable works on behalf of the English refugees of the French Revolutionary wars. He donated his Lancashire seat, Stonyhurst, near Clitheroe, with 30 acres (120,000 m2) of land, to the returning exiled English Jesuits. [19] He supported the English Poor Clares who had fled from Gravelines. He founded and maintained a Trappist monastery at Lulworth (now Mount Melleray Abbey, Ireland).

Following the French Revolution, surviving members of the French royal family were invited to use Lulworth as one of their residences-in-exile. Later Charles X of France and family also stayed there briefly as guests of Joseph Weld, following the July Revolution of 1830 on their way to Edinburgh. [20]

He was regarded as very pious and greatly hospitable. [21] He endowed a church, St Michael's and St John's in Clitheroe, and requested that the parish priest say Mass annually for the repose of his and his wife's souls. [22] He was one of the first English Catholics to entertain the king, in 1789 and in 1791 at his Lulworth Estate. [23] [1] He was also a supporter of John Milner. He died suddenly at Stonyhurst, where two of his sons also died, one of them, John, was its Jesuit Rector at the time. He was buried in the chapel of Lulworth Castle. [24] Thomas Weld is believed to have given away half his income to charitable causes. [7]

The Weld family motto

Nil sine numine translates as "Nothing without divine providence", and is the motto of the Weld family. [25] The motto happens to be shared with the State of Colorado on the seal it adopted in 1877, and with a number of American institutions. [26]


Some sources refer to fourteen children of Thomas Weld and his wife, Mary Massey-Stanley: there were fifteen: [2]


See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maria Fitzherbert</span> Royal mistress (1756–1837)

Maria Anne Fitzherbert was a longtime companion of George, Prince of Wales. In 1785, they secretly contracted a marriage that was invalid under English civil law because his father, King George III, had not consented to it. Fitzherbert was a Catholic and the law at the time forbade Catholics or spouses of Catholics from becoming monarch, so had the marriage been approved and valid, the Prince of Wales would have lost his place in the line of succession. Before marrying George, Fitzherbert had been twice widowed. Her nephew from her first marriage, Cardinal Weld, persuaded Pope Pius VII to declare the marriage sacramentally valid.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stonyhurst College</span> Co-educational Roman Catholic school in Lancashire, England (UK)

Stonyhurst College is a co-educational Roman Catholic independent school, adhering to the Jesuit tradition, on the Stonyhurst Estate, Lancashire, England. It occupies a Grade I listed building. The school has been fully co-educational since 1999.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stonyhurst</span> Human settlement in England

Stonyhurst is the name of a 1,000-acre (4 km2) rural estate owned by the Society of Jesus near Clitheroe in Lancashire, England. It is centred on Stonyhurst College, occupying the great house, its preparatory school Stonyhurst Saint Mary's Hall and the parish church, St Peter's.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lulworth Castle</span> House/castle in Dorset, England

Lulworth Castle, in East Lulworth, Dorset, England, situated south of the village of Wool, is an early 17th-century hunting lodge erected in the style of a revival fortified castle, one of only five extant Elizabethan or Jacobean buildings of this type. It is listed with Historic England as a Scheduled monument. It is also Grade I listed. The 18th-century Adam style interior of the stone building was devastated by fire in 1929, but has now been restored and serves as a museum. The castle stands in Lulworth Park on the Lulworth Estate. The park and gardens surrounding the castle are Grade II listed with Historic England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Weld family</span> Ancient English lineage

The Weld family may refer to an ancient English family, and to their possible relations in New England, an extended family of Boston Brahmin. An early record of a Weld holding public office, is the High Sheriff of London in 1352, William. In the 16th and 17th centuries people called Weld and living in Cheshire began to travel and to settle in the environs of London, in Shropshire, in Suffolk and thence in the American Colonies, and in Dorset. While most of the Welds of England had adopted Protestantism, the exception was all three sons of Sir John Weld of Edmonton, who married into elite recusant families, thus reverting, with their descendants, to Roman Catholicism. The noted Catholic Weld lineage, unbroken till the new millennium, is that of Lulworth Castle in Dorset.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Stourton, 18th Baron Stourton</span>

William Stourton, 18th Baron Stourton (1776–1846) was a Roman Catholic English peer. He is chiefly remembered for the private memoirs of his relative Maria Fitzherbert, the secret wife of King George IV, which she dictated to him, and which formed the basis for her first biography, published by his brother Charles Langdale in 1856.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas Weld (cardinal)</span> Catholic cardinal

Thomas Weld was an English landowner who renounced his assets to enter the Roman Catholic priesthood. He was consecrated Roman Catholic bishop and cardinal.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marmaduke Stone</span> English Jesuit during the Suppression

Marmaduke Stone was an English Jesuit, who brought to an end the two hundred year exile of English Jesuits in Europe. He achieved this not only while war had broken out between France and England, but also at a time when the Society of Jesus was suppressed in most of Europe and its colonies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Stonyhurst College</span>

Stonyhurst College as a school dates back to 1593 when its antecedent, the Jesuit College at St Omer, was founded in Flanders to educate English Catholics. The history of the present school buildings dates as far back as 1200 AD.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Colleges of St Omer, Bruges and Liège</span> Roman catholic (jesuits) school in Spanish Netherlands

The Colleges of St Omer, Bruges and Liège were successive expatriate institutions for Roman Catholic higher education run by the Jesuits for English students.

The Weld family are a cadet branch, arisen in 1843, of the English Welds of Lulworth. It is an old gentry family which claims descent from Eadric the Wild and is related to other Weld branches in several parts of the United Kingdom, notably from Willey, Shropshire and others in the Antipodes and America. A notable early Weld was William de Welde, High Sheriff of London in 1352, whose progeny moved in and out of obscurity.

Herbert Joseph Weld Blundell was an English traveller in Africa, archaeologist, philanthropist and yachtsman. He shortened his surname from Weld Blundell to Weld, in 1924.

The Shireburn or Sherburne Baronetcy, of Stonyhurst in the County of Lancaster, was a title in the Baronetage of England. It was created on 4 February 1686 for Nicholas Shireburn. His only son predeceased him and the title became extinct on Shireburn's death in 1717. The substantial family estates devolved on his only surviving daughter, Maria Winifred Francisca Shireburn, wife of Thomas Howard, 8th Duke of Norfolk. The Duchess of Norfolk died childless in 1754 when the Shireburn estates passed to Weld cousins at Lulworth Castle, through her aunt Elizabeth Shireburn. In 1794 Thomas Weld donated the Stonyhurst estate to the English Jesuits whose school on the continent was in danger from the French Revolutionary Wars, and it became the site of a Catholic school, Stonyhurst College.

Maria (Mary) Winifreda Francisca Howard, Duchess of Norfolk was an English Catholic noblewoman, the last of the wealthy Shireburn family. She married twice, firstly to Thomas Howard, 8th Duke of Norfolk from whom she became estranged before his death and secondly to Peregrine Widdrington. She built a house in London on Arlington Street, which today is the clubhouse of the Royal Over-Seas League.

Weld is a surname of Anglo-Saxon English and Dutch origin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Michael and St John Church, Clitheroe</span> Church in Clitheroe, United Kingdom

St Michael and St John the Evangelist Church is a Roman Catholic parish church in Clitheroe, Lancashire, England. It is situated on Lowergate road close to the centre of the town. It was endowed in 1799 by the Catholic philanthropist Thomas Weld and staffed by members of the Society of Jesus. When the original building became St Michael and St John's Catholic Primary School in 1850, the church moved next-door to the school. The church is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Weld (merchant)</span>

Sir John Weld was a wealthy landowner and London merchant, the son of a Lord Mayor of London and the father of the branch of the Weld family which became settled at Lulworth Castle in Dorset. He was a charter member and Council assistant of the Newfoundland Company of 1610.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edward Weld</span> English recusant landowner

Edward Weld (1740–1775) was a British recusant landowner.

Edward Weld was an English gentleman of the landed gentry and a member of an old recusant family. Weld is notable for two trials, one when he was accused of impotency, the other for treason at the time of the Jacobite rising of 1745.

Humphrey Weld, DL, JP was an English lawyer, member of the Royal household, public official, landowner and property administrator who was elected to the House of Commons for Christchurch in Hampshire in 1661. Weld was a crypto-recusant who kept his religious allegiance secret in order to stay in public office during a turbulent political period in English history. He was appointed Cup-bearer to the Catholic Queen Henrietta Maria 1639-44 and later as Gentleman of the Privy Chamber 1668-85 under her son, Charles II. He served as a magistrate and in numerous other public roles in London, Middlesex, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire and in Dorset, where he was governor of Portland Castle. In 1641 he bought the Lulworth Estate in Dorset where he started the "Lulworth" line of the (recusant) Weld family which has continued for over 350 years.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Whitehead, Maurice (2003). "In the Sincerest Intentions of Studying: The Educational Legacy of Thomas Weld (1750–1810), Founder of Stonyhurst College". Recusant History. 26: 169–193. doi:10.1017/S0034193200030764. S2CID   163342081.
  2. 1 2 Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, Volume 2. H. Colburn, 1847. pp. 1545-6 view on line
  3. "East Lulworth Monastery Farm". Archived from the original on 10 May 2017. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  4. Rothery, Mark; French, Henry, eds. (2012). Making Men: The Formation of Elite Male Identities in England, c.1660-1900 - A Sourcebook. Macmillan International Higher Education. p. xxxv. ISBN   978-1-1370-0281-5.
  5. The Authorities of Stonyhurst College, A Stonyhurst Handbook for Visitors and Others, (Stonyhurst, Lancashire. Third edition 1963) pp.11–18
  6. Whitehead, Maurice. "JF 100 Fine Friend". Jesuits in Britain. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  7. 1 2 Pollen, John Hungerford. "Weld." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 18 January 2019
  8. Longford, Elizabeth Wellington-Pillar of State Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1972, p. 288.
  9. Cataloguer's Blog. "Thomas Weld". Downside Abbey Library. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  10. Note: An ex libris label in the 1587 copy of Holinshed's Chronicles, as used by William Shakespeare shows it was owned by Thomas Weld of Britwell, Oxon. The book was for sale on the AbeBooks website in 2020 , retrieved 2020-05-06.
  11. "The Luttrell Psalter- Pages 1 and 2". British Library. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  12. Akira, Hirano (2013). "Treasures of the Library". The Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Art and Culture - University of East Anglia. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  13. "Grou, Jean Nicolas", New Catholic Encyclopedia
  14. "John Tasker". Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  15. Newman, John; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1972). "East Lulworth". Dorset Buildings of England - Pevsner buildings of England. The Buildings of England, Ireland, and Scotland Series. Yale University Press. p. 194. ISBN   978-0-3000-9598-2.
  16. Historic England (20 November 1959). "Roman Catholic Chapel of St Mary, Lulworth Park (1323322)". National Heritage List for England .
  17. The American Catholic quarterly review, Volume 14 Lulworth Chapel, Bishop Carroll and Bishop Walmesley
  18. Ward, Bernard. Catholic London a Century Ago, Catholic Truth Society, 1905, p. 62
  19. The Authorities of Stonyhurst College, A Stonyhurst Handbook for Visitors and Others, (Stonyhurst, Lancashire. Third edition 1963) p.36
  20. Nagel, Susan (2008). Marie-Thérèse: The Fate of Marie Antoinette's Daughter. Bloomsbury. pp. 322–323. ISBN   978-0-7475-8159-8.
  21. Davies Twiston, Huw (5 August 2010). "Devotional notebook of Thomas Weld discovered in archives of Sussex convent". Catholic Herald .
  22. "Weld Day". Clitheroe: Parish of Our Lady of the Valley. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  23. Wright, Patrick (31 March 1988). "DIARY: The Deer Park or the Tank Park?". London Review of Books . 10 (7).
  24. "Thomas Weld". Find a Grave Memorial. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  25. Burke, John; Burke, Bernard (1842). A General Armory of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Edward Churton.
  26. Kopel, Jerry (11 April 2008). "Mysteries of Colorado's Great Seal". Rocky Mountain News . Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  27. Duke, Gerald (2003). "Joseph Weld - to the America's Cup 2003". Retrieved 19 September 2009.


Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : "Weld, Thomas (1750-1810)". Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.