Sir William Lewthwaite (1853-1927)

Sir William Lewthwaite

Written by Tim Cockerill

Occupation: Landowner

Early life and Education

William Lewthwaite was born on the 29th October and baptised at St Anne's Church, Thwaites, near Millom on the 4th November 1853. He was the only son of William Lewthwaite (1826-1867), JP, DL of Broadgate, Thwaites , who had married Mary Challinor (1824-1904), daughter of William Challinor of Pickwood, Leek, Staffordshire, Solicitor at St Luke's, Leek on the 11th December 1851. The Lewthwaites were landowners with an estate of about 2,000 acres and had been settled at Broadgate since 1642. Mary Challinor’s brothers, William and Joseph were both solicitors and partners in the family firm of Challinor and Shaw at Leek, whilst her brothers Edward, John and Charles were all colliery proprietors.

Young William Lewthwaite had an older and a younger sister who both married into prominent families which had recently settled in the area. Anne Lewthwaite (1852-1933), who married in 1878 Hamlet Riley (1851-1922), JP, DL of Ennim, near Penrith (later the home of Viscount Whitelaw) and Mary Lewthwaite (1855-1946) who married in 1880 the Hon. William Henry Cross (1856-1892), M.P, eldest son of the 1st Viscount Cross of Broughton-in-Furness [ 1823-1914, ODNB] P.C., G.C.B.,G.C.S.I.,L.L.D.,F.R.S of Eccleriggs, on the south side of Broughton. Both sisters left descendants.

William was educated at Rossall between 1865 to 1867 and Rugby School from 1868 to 1872. He was then admitted pensioner at his father's old College, Trinity College, Cambridge in 1872 and graduated BA in 1876. He was a Rugby blue in 1873, having attended the school which gave its name to the game in 1823.


Lewthwaite's father died in 1867 aged forty-one when his son was only fourteen. The family estate was therefore vested in trustees, his uncle George Lewthwaite (1839-1912) JP, who was permitted to live at Broadgate with its demesne of 332 acres, and the Revd John Stackhouse (1813-1894) JP, incumbent of Thwaites 1849-1874. At the age of twenty-one the young William Lewthwaite inherited the estate, but due to various causes including the agricultural depression and probably the mismanagement of the trustees, he discovered that the family were on the verge of bankruptcy as rents were not being paid . To begin with he and his widowed mother were obliged to live in only a few rooms at Broadgate, shutting up the rest of the house. And discharging about half of the ten indoor servants. By hard work and sheer determination young William gradually brought the estate round and put it on a sound footing. This enabled him to devote more of his time to public life and service to his beloved Cumberland.

Apart from his local duties as a magistrate on the Millom and Bootle Bench, he was a County Councillor and Alderman, Deputy Chairman of Cumberland Quarter Sessions, a Deputy Lieutenant, a governor of Millom School and a joint patron of the living of Thwaites by virtue of his ownership of the Broadgate estate. Much of his work was carried out at Carlisle, a difficult and time consuming journey by train from his home in South Cumberland before the days of the motorcar. In 1917 the fifth Earl of Lonsdale [1857-1944; ODNB], the famous 'Yellow Earl', was made Lord Lieutenant of Cumberland, but due to his many commitments social, military and sporting, he was rarely at Lowther Castle, and William Lewthwaite, by then Vice Lord Lieutenant of the County, found himself deputising for the absent Earl on many occasions, both large and small, over the next decade.

Lewthwaite was also an active local Conservative. He was for many years the Treasurer of the Whitehaven Division of the Conservative Association and its Chairman from 1904 until 1924. In 1916, during World War 1 he was one of the twenty members of the Cumberland and Westmorland Appeal Tribunal under the new Military Service Act dealing with conscription, exemptions and conscientious objectors, something he must have found difficult after his elder son was so badly wounded that he had to resign his Army commission and his younger son was killed in action in 1917 [ see below].

Family Life

On the 16th August 1881, at St Margaret's Church, Wolstanton, Staffordshire, William Lewthwaite married his first cousin, Helena Jane (1856-1934), eldest daughter of Charles Challinor of Basford Hall, Basford, near Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. The Challinor family had been Solicitors in Leek for several generations, although Charles, a fifth son, seems to have led the life of a country gentleman living in a large house, presumably on a private income derived from the family mines, as the censuses for Basford Hall, show him as a colliery owner, like two of his brothers.

The young couple lived at 'New' Broadgate, the house built in about 1820 for John Lewthwaite (1792-1863), William's great-grandfather, opposite the 17th Century farmhouse, which thereafter became known as 'Old Broadgate'. They had three children of whom the eldest was William (1882-1933), later the 2nd baronet. He was educated at Rugby and Trinity College, Cambridge (BA 1905). A civil servant, he became a second lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery but had to resign his commission as a result of war wounds from which he never recovered and died in 1933 aged fifty-one. In 1910 he had married Beryl, only child of Major Stopford Cosby Hickman [1854-1916] R.H.A.,JP,DL of Fenloe, Newmarket -on-Fergus, Co. Clare, and they had three sons, Their eldest son William Anthony [1912-1993] became the 3rd Baronet in 1933. Their second son Gilfrid MacIver Lewthwaite [ 1922-1943], Squadron Leader RAFVR, was killed in World War 11,on active service in Alexandria aged twenty-one and the youngest son Rainald Gilfrid Lewthwaite, q,v. became the 4th Baronet.

 Charles Gilfrid (1884-1917), M.C., Lieutenant, RFA, the second son of the 1st baronet, was killed in action near Lens in 1917, and was unmarried. His sister Violet Lewthwaite (1893-1972), JP, married in 1936 Captain Robert Edward Morris-Eyton (1893-1936), RFA, JP of Calvington Manor, Newport, Shropshire and their second son John [Jack] Reginald Morris-Eyton [1930-2010] JP of Beckside, Whicham, Millom, settled in Cumbria , where his son Robert succeeded to the family farms. 

The later years

According to Westmorland and Cumberland Leaders, published in 1910 ,' few gentlemen have done more public work for Cumberland than Mr Lewthwaite , who infused considerable energy and earnestness into every subject he took up, was an efficient administrator, possessed a good knowledge of the law and great powers of discrimination'. It was also acknowledged that he had done a great deal for the Conservative party in Cumberland. It is on record that he declined Lord Lonsdale's persistent offers to pay all his expenses if he would stand as a local Conservative candidate for Parliament. It was almost certainly the 5th Earl of Lonsdale who lobbied Stanley Baldwin's Conservative Government to recommend Lewthwaite for a baronetcy, granted to him in early 1927, but he died on the 13th December of that year and was buried with his ancestors in Thwaites churchyard. His wife died on the 8th February 1934.

Lewthwaite was one of the last of the old order of landed gentry who saw it as their duty and natural role in life to devote much of their time to public work, but he also adapted to the new County Councils and local authorities set up under the Local Government Act 1888. He played an active part as a County Councillor and County Alderman, attending numerous meetings in Carlisle, as well as presiding for fifty years over his local bench of magistrates, some of whom  latterly came from a very different background to his own. His personal popularity rested largely on his absolute fairness and obvious integrity and when he died he seems to have been genuinely mourned by a large cross section of his fellow Cumbrians.

William Lewthwaite was also a popular family member and spent much time and effort managing the finances of his less fortunate relations so that it was no great surprise when sixty-seven of them clubbed together, to mark his silver wedding, and commissioned a portrait of him by Sir Hubert von Herkomer[ 1849-1914], RA which was presented to him and his wife in 1907. This portrait of him and one of his wife by the local stationmaster remain in the family’s possession and in the early 21st Century the extensive Lewthwaite archive was deposited with the Cumbria Record Office at Whitehaven.


  • Adams, Percy W.L., Notes on some North Staffordshire Families Tunstall, Staffs, 1930, 105-11
  • Cockerill, Timothy, The Pedigree of the Lewthwaite Family of Broadgate, Part 11, privately printed, 2000, 16-17 (Copies of Parts 1 and 11 are at Cumbria Record Office, Whitehaven)
  • Fox-Davies, Arthur, Armorial Families, 7th Edition, London, 1930, 1178/9
  • Gaskell, Ernest, Westmorland and Cumberland Leaders, London, no date (c.1910?), no pagination.
  • Michell, A.T., Rugby School Register, Vol. 11, Rugby, 1902, 291
  • Mosley, Charles, Editor-in-Chief, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, Delaware, USA, 2003, 2320-2322
  • Owen, Hugh, The Lowther Family, Chichester, 1990, 401-405
  • Sutherland, Douglas, The Yellow Earl, London, 1965, 181-195
  • Venn, John, Alumni Cantabrigienses, Part 11, Vol. 1V, 166
  • The Lewthwaite archive, Whitehaven CRO, ref YDLEW
  • Family Information