Thomas Myles Sandys (1837-1911)

Thomas Myles Sandys

Written by Jean Warburton

Occupations: Landowner and Politician


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.


Thomas Myles Sandys was born on 12th May 1837 in Blackheath, Greenwich and baptised on 25th May at St Alphage’s church Greenwich. He had two sisters, Susan Frances (1841-1873) and Ellen Jane (1845-1925). Their father was Thomas Sandys (1794-1856), a Captain in the Naval Services of the East India Company, who was the son of Myles Sandys (1766-1840) and Frances nee France (1796-1873). On 15th July 1834, at St Alphage’s church Greenwich he married Frances Sanders. She was born in 1804, the daughter of James and Frances Sanders, and died in 1878. Thomas Myles was living in Shrewsbury in 1851 and was educated at Shrewsbury School. He then entered military service, initially in India. On his return from India in 1871 he lived between Graythwaite Hall, Satterthwaite, Furness and 87 Jermyn Street, London where he had rooms. Thomas Myles Sandys did not marry and died on 18th October 1911 at Graythwaite Hall.


Thomas Myles Sandys was a professional soldier. On leaving Shrewsbury School, he was commissioned as an Ensign in the East India Company Service on 9th June 1855. He was posted to the Bengal Army and two years later served during the Indian Mutiny with the 3rd Bengal Native Infantry. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 30th April 1858 and further promoted to Captain on 6th September 1867. On 9th August 1871, he exchanged from the Bengal Staff Corps to the 7th Royal Fusiliers retiring from there with the value of his Commission on 21st July 1875.

On his return to England, Thomas Myles Sandys was appointed Major in the 3rd Royal Lancashire Militia which, following the Childer reforms of 1881, became the 3rd (Militia) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He was also an Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of the Battalion in the 1880s. On 11th May 1889, he was promoted to Command of the 4th (Militia) Battalion and on 5th October 1892 became Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant of the 3rd and 4th (Militia) Battalions which served in Ireland. Thomas Myles Sandys retired with the Honorary rank of Colonel on 15th September 1907. From 1902 to 1908, he was the Honorary Colonel of the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

Public Service

Thomas Myles Sandys stood as a Conservative candidate for Chester in the General Election of 1880 but was unsuccessful. Following the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885, he was elected, in 1885, as the Conservative Member of Parliament for the new constituency of Bootle. He served as Member of Parliament for that constituency until he resigned in March 1911, the seat then being taken by Andrew Bonar Law (1858-1923). On several occasions he was returned unopposed, as in 1895. Thomas Myles Sandys held strong Unionist views becoming Grand Master of the Loyal Orange Institution of England and Bootle was a stronghold of the Orange order. After his election he continued to serve with his Battalion and does not appear to have taken an active role in Parliamentary affairs. He did, however, issue manifestos at the time of General Elections as Grand Master which were strongly against Home Rule and Free Trade.

In 1908, Thomas Myles Sandys was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the County Palatine of Lancaster. He was also a Deputy Lieutenant.

Graythwaite 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.

Thomas Myles Sandys employed Thomas Mawson (1861-1933) to improve the grounds and gardens of the Hall. It was one of his first commissions and he worked at Graythwaite from 1889 to 1905. 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. His account for 1899 was £120,000.


Thomas Myles Sandys inherited the Graythwaite estate from his uncle, John Dalrymple Sandys (1792-1871). In addition to the Graythwaite estate which extends to 5,000 acres, the Sandys family owned land at Roanhead near Askham, Furness. In 1852, Myles Sandys (1791-1853) leased the iron ore mining rights to the Kennedy Brothers. The mines proved to be the most productive in the area and were worked until 1941. Thomas Myles Sandys owned a number of freehold houses scattered across central London from which he took the rents. When he died in 1911, he left £741,300. The majority of his estate was settled on George Owen Sandys (qv) but there were legacies to his sister Ellen Jane, George Owen Sandys’ brother Mervyn Keats Sandys and Mrs Frances Storey, owner of 87 Jermyn Street.

Beliefs and character

Thomas Myles Sandys’ protestant faith was very important to him in which he followed a long family tradition going back to Edwyn Sands (1519-1588) who was Bishop of Worcester and then Archbishop of York. In 1907, in memory of Dr Edwyn Sandys, Thomas Myles Sandys presented the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral with two silver chalices of the reign of Charles I. In the same year, he was on the platform for a meeting at Queen’s Hall, Langham Place which was held for the purpose of formulating a serious indictment against the Archbishops and Bishops who were betraying the Church of England by adopting practices which the meeting considered were undoing the principles of the Reformation. The strength of his feelings can be seen from his will which included a clause which disinherited any member of the family who became a Roman Catholic. He also included an earnest request that those who were entitled to the estate should use their best endeavours to ensure that the spirit and intent be carried out so that the Sandys family should be free of the evil results which inevitably attended on the ‘Spirit of Romanism and Roman Catholic doctrines’.

In addition to upholding the Protestant religion, one of the tenets of the Loyal Orange Institution was to support and defend the rightful Sovereign which Thomas Myles Sandys reiterated in manifestos issued by him as Grand Master. A physical manifestation of this view was the statue of Edward VIII which he gave to the Mayor and County Borough of Bootle in 1904 to celebrate the King’s accession to the throne.

Thomas Myles Sandys took a benevolent approach to his employees on the Graythwaite estate. He provided good housing for the estate workers, paid a living wage and provided medical care. Thomas Mawson, in addition to his work on the grounds of the Hall, was paid to lay out the grounds around three estate cottages at Sawrey. Thomas Myles Sandys supported Thomas Mawson who acknowledged the benefit of the paternalistic encouragement by dedicating the first three editions of The Art and Craft of Garden Making to him.

Thomas Myles Sandys had a fear of being buried alive and included a clause in his will directing a surgeon to open the medio-cephalic artery in his left arm no earlier than three and a half days after his death and to make careful examination of his body for signs of commencing putrefaction. If no such signs could be found, his coffin was not be closed up until distinct signs of commencing putrefaction were discovered in the region of the heart.

Primary sources

  • England and Wales Census 1841-1911
  • England and Wales Select Births and Christenings 1538-1975
  • England and Wales Select Marriages 1538-1973
  • England and Wales Select Deaths and Burials 1538-1991
  • London Church of England Births and Baptisms 1813-1917
  • London Church of England Marriages and Banns 1754-1932
  • National Probate Calendar Index of Wills and Administrations
  • Jersey Church of England Deaths and Burials
  • England and Wales Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills 1384-1858
  • London Overseers Returns 1885
  • Army and Navy Gazette 28th October 1911
  • Wellington Journal 3rd April 1880
  • Liverpool Mercury 17th July 1895
  • Lisburn Standard 30th December 1905
  • Birmingham Daily Gazette 15th January 1910
  • Liverpool Echo 5th November 1908
  • Illustrated London News 25th November 1911
  • Gloucester Citizen 3rd April 1907
  • Newcastle Daily Chronicle 26th November 1907
  • Daily Mirror 17th November 1911
  • Graphic 23rd July 1904

Secondary sources

  • Ireland City and Regions Directories 1876-1896
  • Janet Waymark, Thomas Mawson, Life gardens and landscape (2009), 27-32
  • Burke’s Landed Gentry 18th ed Vol 2 (1969), 547
  • P Mannex & Co, History and Directory of Furness and Cartmel (1882), 307
  • M Hyde and N Pevsner, The Buildings of England Cumbria (2010), 27 et seq.