George Owen Sandys (1884-1973)

Written by Jean Warburton

Occupations: Landowner and Soldier


The Sandys family originated in Burgh-on-Sands and a branch of the family settled in Furness in the reign of Henry IV (1367-1413). William Sandys, born at Esthwaite Hall in about 1480, became Henry VIII’s Receiver in Furness. One year after the dissolution of Furness Abbey in 1538, he was appointed the King’s Particular Receiver for the Liberties of Furness and he then collected the rents and tithes on behalf of the Crown. When he died in 1548, William Sandys had substantial land holdings across Furness including Esthwaite Hall and Graythwaite Hall. Despite vicissitudes of sale and forfeiture, the holdings of the Esthwaite and Graythwaite branches of the family were united in 1716 when Myles Sandys (1696-1766), son of Thomas Sandys of Esthwaite inherited the Graythwaite estate on the death of his maternal grandfather, Myles Sandys of Graythwaite.

Two Lives

George Owen Sandys was born on 17th July 1884 in Northampton, the eldest of twins, and was baptised in South Bersted, Sussex on 25th September 1884. His brother was Mervyn Keats Sandys (1884-1914). Their father was Edwyn Del Sandys (1858-1897), a Lieutenant-Colonel in the 58th Northamptonshire Regiment who married Clarissa Marion Jackson (1857-1943), daughter of Owen Jackson, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Royal Marines, on 25th September 1883 at South Bersted. George Sandys was educated at Bedford School and then went to RMC Sandhurst. On 22nd April 1914 at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, he married Dulcie Edyth Angela Redford (1893-1973), the daughter of Sir Edward Redford, formerly Secretary of the General Post Office in Scotland. The wedding was reported in the society press and Dulcie later appeared as ‘A Beauty’ in the Tatler magazine and had her portrait painted by Philip de Laszlo. They had a son, Mervyn Edwyn Myles, who was born on 8th June 1915 in the parish of St George, Hanover Square, London and christened on 2nd September 1915 in Hawkshead Parish Church. A daughter, Evangela Del was born on 7th March 1920. She married Colonel John Burton on 31st July 1943 and emigrated to America. George Sandys died on 14th March 1973 at Flat 6, 9 Wilbraham Place, Westminster and was buried in the family vault in Hawkshead Parish Church on 19th March 1973. Dulcie died less than two months later on 1st May 1973 at 9 Wilbraham Place and was also buried in the family vault at Hawkshead.

Mervyn Edwyn Myles Sandys (1915-1995) was educated at Eton and Worcester College, Oxford. In the first quarter of 1948, he married Helen Anne Ramsay (1925-2016), daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon Ramsay of Farleyer, Perthshire, at St Marks, North Audley Street, Westminster. Their son, Myles Christopher Ross, was born on 22nd August 1951 in St Marylebone. His two sisters, Mary Theresa Jane and Harriet Anne Louisa were also born in St Marylebone in, respectively, 1948 and 1954. Mervyn Sandys died in 16th March 1995 whilst driving back to his home at Graythwaite after a friend’s funeral. His funeral service was held on 22nd March in Hawkshead Parish Church. Helen Anne Sandys died on 8th May 2016.

Their Professions

Both George and Mervyn Sandys were closely involved in military affairs following family tradition. After Sandhurst, George Sandys became a Lieutenant in the Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment) in 1914. He survived the first world war unlike his twin brother, Mervyn Keats Sandys, who was a Captain in the York and Lancaster Regiment and died in action at Touquet near Fleurbaix 23rd October 1914. After the war, George Sandys became a Major in the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry and T. A. Reserves. He also served in the 2nd County of Lancaster (North Lonsdale) Battalion of the Home Guard from 1940. He made his boat, Lady Hamilton, available for use by the Home Guard on Windermere.

In 1937, Mervyn Sandys became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards, remaining with the regiment until 1945 and attaining the rank of Captain. He served with the 1st Battalion of the Grenadier Guards in France in 1939 and was subsequently on General Montgomery’s staff in North Africa and Italy. In May 1944, he saw action at Piccolo as Commander of No 2 Company Grenadier Guards. Mervyn Sandys retired with the rank of Major.

Both George and Mervyn Sandys, at different times managed the family estate at Graythwaite, George Sandys having inherited the estate in 1911. Mervyn Sandys was a stock broker in London in the 1950s but returned to manage the estate in the early 1960s. He retired from actively managing the estate in about 1985.

Public service

The Sandys family has a long history of public service. Edwin Sandys (1519-1588) (DNB) became Archbishop of York and founded Hawkshead Grammar School which the family continues to govern. George Sandys served as High Sheriff of Lancashire in 1925, an office held by several of his forebears including Myles Sandys (1696-1766) in 1725-1726. He was a magistrate for many years on the Hawkshead bench and was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire in 1925. He was also President of the Lonsdale Unionist Association taking a warm interest in the Association’s annual sports at Lakeside. He took a close interest in all local activities.

Like his father before him, Mervyn Sandys was a Justice of the Peace and was High Sheriff of Lancashire in 1953. His son, Myles Christopher Ross Sandys, followed him as High Sheriff in 1992. Mervyn Sandys became a member of the Lake District Planning Board in 1962. He was also on the Board of St Dunstan’s, Chairman of the Country Landowners Association and President of the North Lancashire Region of the British Legion.

The weathervane on the church tower of Hawkshead Parish Church bears the words: ‘who served his country and community well’. It was erected in memory of Mervyn Sandys but the epitaph serves equally both father and son.

Graythwaite estate

The Graythwaite estate which extends to 5,000 acres has been in the Sandys family for over 500 years although there was no direct father to son inheritance for many years in the nineteenth century. George Sandys inherited the estate from his father’s cousin Thomas Myles Sandys (qv) in 1911. There was great celebration in 1936, including floodlighting Graythwaite Hall and presentation from tenants and employees, to mark the coming of age of Mervyn Sandys and the direct descent of the estate.

The seat of the Sandys family in Furness is Graythwaite Hall in Satterthwaite. The house was originally built in the late 16th or early 17th century but has been much amended and added to over the years. Work was carried out by the architects George Webster (1797-1864) in about 1840 and Richard Knill Freeman (1840-1904) in about 1889. The latter refaced the house in red St Bees sandstone and remodelled the front in a rich Jacobean style. Dan Gibson (1865-1907) worked on the interior of the house about 1910 giving the principal rooms their present form. The dining room contains linenfold panelling and finely carved swags in the early eighteenth-century Grinling Gibbons style by Arthur Simpson (1857-1922) of Kendal who chose the wood from the estate.

The grounds and gardens of the Hall were improved by Thomas Mawson (1861-1933) from 1889 to 1905 as one of his first commissions. He carried out excavations to give a better view of the house and created terraces. The work was difficult and expensive because of the thin soil and rocky ground and the account for the commission in 1899 was £120,000.

Primary sources

  • England and Wales Census, 1881, 1901
  • England and Wales Select Births and Christenings 1538-1975
  • England and Wales Select Marriages 1538-1973
  • England and Wales Registration of Deaths Index 1837-1915
  • England and Wales National Register of Births
  • England and Wales National Register of Civil Marriages
  • National Probate Calendar, Index of Wills and Administrations
  • British Army Lists 1882-1962
  • The Sketch 22nd April 1914
  • Tatler 26th January 1916
  • Westmorland Gazette 23rd March 1973; 24th March 1995
  • Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 27th May 1936
  • Lancashire Evening Post 18th March 1925
  • Secondary sources
  • Burke’s Landed Gentry 18th ed Vol 2 (1969) 547
  • P Mannex & Co., History and Directory of Furness and Cartmel (1882) 307
  • Philip Butler, An Englishman in Italy, A Platoon Commander’s Story, 66
  • M Hyde and N Pevsner, The buildings of England Cumbria (2010), 378-9
  • Janet Waymark, Thomas Mawson. Life, gardens and landscapes (2009), 27 et seq.