Washington Shirley, 5th Earl Ferrers

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  1. ^ A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (1764-1766), Revolutionary Players, image from Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, accessed March 2011

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.

Royal Society National academy of science in the United Kingdom

The Royal Society, formally The President, Council and Fellows of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom's national Academy of Sciences. Founded on 28 November 1660, it was granted a royal charter by King Charles II as "The Royal Society". It is the oldest national scientific institution in the world. The society fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, recognising excellence in science, supporting outstanding science, providing scientific advice for policy, fostering international and global co-operation, education and public engagement. It also performs these roles for the smaller countries of the Commonwealth.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

A peerage is a legal system historically comprising various hereditary titles in a number of countries, and composed of assorted noble ranks.


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

Robert Shirley, 1st Earl Ferrers PC —known as Sir Robert Shirley, 7th Baronet, from 1669 to 1677 and Robert Shirley, 13th Baron Ferrers of Chartley, from 1677 to 1711—was an English peer and courtier.

Circa – frequently abbreviated ca., or ca and less frequently c.,circ. or cca. – signifies "approximately" in several European languages and as a loanword in English, usually in reference to a date. Circa is widely used in historical writing when the dates of events are not accurately known.

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.

Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl Ferrers British Earl

Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl Ferrers was an English nobleman, notable for being the last peer to be hanged, following his conviction for murdering his steward.

House of Lords upper house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is granted by appointment or else by heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Officially, the full name of the house is the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

In the United Kingdom, a deputy lieutenant is a Crown appointment and one of several deputies to the lord lieutenant of a lieutenancy area: an English ceremonial county, Welsh preserved county, Scottish lieutenancy area, or Northern Irish county borough or county.

Due to persistent financial problems, he sold the estates of Astwell (including Astwell Castle) and Falcutt to Lord Temple between 1774 and 1777. [2]

Astwell hamlet in Northamptonshire, England, United Kingdom

Astwell is a hamlet in Northamptonshire, England. With Falcutt, it is part of the civil parish of Helmdon, but formerly Astwell was split between the parishes of Syresham and Wappenham. The hamlet is 6 miles (10 km) northeast of Brackley and 17 12 miles (28 km) by road southwest of the county town of Northampton. Today the hamlet contains little more than the Astwell Castle and a mill.

Astwell Castle

Astwell Castle is a manor house in Northamptonshire, England about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) south-west of Wappenham. It is a Grade II listed building and part of the parish of Helmdon, a village 1 mile (1.6 km) west.

Falcutt village in the United Kingdom

Falcutt is a hamlet in the English county of Northamptonshire. With Astwell, it forms part the civil parish of Helmdon and is south of the village of that name. Historically, Falcutt and Astwell were part of the Wappenham parish.

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]

Orrery mechanical model of the solar system

An orrery is a mechanical model of the Solar System that illustrates or predicts the relative positions and motions of the planets and moons, usually according to the heliocentric model. It may also represent the relative sizes of these bodies; but since accurate scaling is often not practical due to the actual large ratio differences, a subdued approximation may be used instead. Though the Greeks had working planetaria, the first orrery that was a planetarium of the modern era was produced in 1704, and one was presented to Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery – hence the name. They are typically driven by a clockwork mechanism with a globe representing the Sun at the centre, and with a planet at the end of each of the arms.

Venus Second planet from the Sun in the Solar System

Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. As the second-brightest natural object in the night sky after the Moon, Venus can cast shadows and, rarely, is visible to the naked eye in broad daylight. Venus lies within Earth's orbit, and so never appears to venture far from the Sun, setting in the west just after dusk and rising in the east a bit before dawn. Venus orbits the Sun every 224.7 Earth days. With a rotation period of 243 Earth days, it takes longer to rotate about its axis than any planet in the Solar System and goes in the opposite direction to all but Uranus. Venus does not have any natural satellites, a distinction it shares only with Mercury among planets in the Solar System.

Joseph Wright of Derby 18th-century English painter

Joseph Wright, styled Joseph Wright of Derby, was an English landscape and portrait painter. He has been acclaimed as "the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution".

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]

Staffordshire County of England

Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands of England. It borders with Cheshire to the northwest, Derbyshire and Leicestershire to the east, Warwickshire to the southeast, West Midlands and Worcestershire to the south, and Shropshire to the west.

Robert Shirley, 6th Earl Ferrers was a British nobleman.

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Earl of Derby title in the Peerage of England

Earl of Derby is a title in the Peerage of England. The title was first adopted by Robert de Ferrers, 1st Earl of Derby, under a creation of 1139. It continued with the Ferrers family until the 6th Earl forfeited his property toward the end of the reign of Henry III and died in 1279. Most of the Ferrers property and the Derby title were then held by the family of Henry III. The title merged in the Crown upon Henry IV's accession to the throne in 1399.

Earl Ferrers title

Earl Ferrers is a title in the Peerage of Great Britain. It was created in 1711 for Robert Shirley, 13th Baron Ferrers of Chartley. The Shirley family descends from George Shirley of Astwell Castle, Northamptonshire. In 1611 he was created a Baronet, of Staunton Harold in the County of Leicester, in the Baronetage of England. He was succeeded by his son, the second Baronet. He married Lady Dorothy Devereux, daughter of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. On the death of her brother Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, she became the youngest co-heir to the baronies of Ferrers of Chartley and the barony of Bourchier, which had fallen into abeyance on the death of the third Earl. Shirley was succeeded by his eldest son, the third Baronet. He died unmarried and was succeeded by his younger brother, the fourth Baronet. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London by Cromwell and died there in 1656. On his death the title passed to his eldest son, the fifth Baronet. He died at an early age and was succeeded at birth by his posthumous son, the sixth Baronet.

<i>A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery</i> painting by Joseph Wright of Derby

A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery, or the full title, A Philosopher giving that Lecture on the Orrery in which a lamp is put in place of the Sun, is a 1766 painting by Joseph Wright of Derby depicting a lecturer giving a demonstration of an orrery to a small audience. It is now in the Derby Museum and Art Gallery The painting preceded his similar An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump.

Robert Shirley, Viscount Tamworth English politician

Robert Shirley, Viscount Tamworth of Staunton Harold, Leicestershire, was an English nobleman and politician.

Robert de Ferrers, 6th Earl of Derby English noble

Robert de Ferrers, 6th Earl of Derby (1239–1279) was an English nobleman.

Peter Perez Burdett English cartographer, surveyor, artist and draughtsman

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Staunton Harold

Staunton Harold is a civil parish in North West Leicestershire about 3 miles (5 km) north of Ashby-de-la-Zouch. The parish is on the county boundary with Derbyshire and about 9 miles (14 km) south of Derby. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 141.

Lount is a hamlet near Ashby de la Zouch in north-west Leicestershire, England. It has a population of 50 (approx). At the 2011 census the population remained less than 100 and is included in the civil parish of Staunton Harold. It has no local amenities apart from a public house. The village straddles the B587 road between Ashby and Melbourne and is situated near to the A42 road.

Robert Boyle-Walsingham was an Irish sailor and Member of Parliament.

Walter Shirley (1725–1786) was an English clergyman, hymn-writer, and controversialist, of Calvinist and Methodist views.

John Leveson-Gower (Royal Navy officer) Royal Navy admiral

Rear-Admiral John Leveson-Gower was a Royal Navy officer and politician from the Leveson-Gower family. As a junior officer he saw action at the Battle of Lagos in August 1759 during the Seven Years' War. As captain of HMS Valiant he was present at the Battle of Ushant on 17 July 1778 during the American War of Independence. He went on to be a junior Lord of the Admiralty and then First Naval Lord. He also sat as Member of Parliament for several constituencies.

Staunton Harold Hall Grade I listed building in North West Leicestershire, United Kingdom

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Henry Shirley, 3rd Earl Ferrers, known as Hon. Henry Shirley until 1729, was an English nobleman and lunatic.

Robert Shirley, 7th Earl Ferrers FSA, styled Viscount Tamworth from 1778 to 1787, was a British nobleman.

Washington Shirley, 8th Earl Ferrers, styled Hon. Washington Shirley from 1778 to 1827, was a British nobleman.

Washington Sewallis Shirley, 9th Earl Ferrers, styled Hon. Washington Shirley from 1827 to 1830 and Viscount Tamworth from 1830 to 1842, was a British nobleman.

Robert Shirley FRS, styled Hon. Robert Shirley after 1677, was a British politician and aesthete. An unsuccessful Parliamentary candidate for Staffordshire in 1698, he was admitted to the Royal Society the next year and died shortly thereafter.


  1. Doyle, James William Edmund (1886). The Official Baronage of England. 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. 1 2
  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
Lord Aberdour
Grand Master of the
Premier Grand Lodge of England

Succeeded by
The Lord Blayney
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
Laurence Shirley
Earl Ferrers
Succeeded by
Robert Shirley