Fortescue, Hugh, 4th Earl


Published in DA Transactions, 1933.

HUGH, FOURTH EARL FORTESCUE, K.C.B., T.D., J.P., C.A., eldest son of Hugh, third Earl Fortescue, was born on 16 April, 1854. He acquitted himself with distinction both at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, gaining a Lyon’s scholarship and a Trinity scholarship as well; in 1879 he took his M.A. degree.

From 1881 to 1883, as Viscount Ebrington, he was Liberal M.P. for the Borough of Tiverton, being returned in a bye-election at what proved to be the last separate contest for that borough. Four years later he was elected as Liberal candidate for the West Devon or Tavistock Division formed under the Redistribution Act of 1885. On the introduction of the first Home Rule Bill in 1886, he became a Liberal Unionist, and as such held the Tavistock seat from 1886 to 1892. In 1887 he became a Justice of the Peace for the County, and two years later joined the Devon County Council as one of its original members.

As he retired from the House of Commons in 1892, it is in connexion with his services to the public life of the County that he is best known and gratefully remembered. His local activities were manifold. Not only did he hold the unique distinction of membership of the County Council continuously from 1889 until his death (he was Chairman from 1904 to 1916), and of active work on several of its committees (including the chairmanship of the 1931-2 District Boundaries Committee), but he also took a great interest in the Devon Patriotic Fund, the Devon Playing Fields Association, and the Devon County Nursing Association. Military duties claimed his attention in the old Royal North Devon Hussars, which he commanded, and of which he became honorary colonel. As Lord-Lieutenant of the County from 1904 to 1928, he was associated with the change over from the old Volunteer Force to the Territorial Army, and became chairman of the Territorial Force Association of the County. He devoted much time to magisterial work, both at the Quarter Sessions, of which he was for some time chairman, and on the Bench at South Molton. For many years he was chairman of Devon Standing Joint Committee.

Philanthropic and educational matters always claimed his attention. His family were associated for over a century with the North Devon Infirmary, Barnstaple, of which he was patron: his grandfather laid the foundation stone of the West Buckland School, and he himself on 12 October, 1932, laid the foundation stone of the new wing. He was always keenly interested in agriculture, and though he allowed himself little time for sport, he hunted with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, and was at one time Master of that famous pack. On 13 July, 1886, he married the Hon. Emily Ormsby-Gore, younger daughter of the second Baron Harlech. Her ladyship died at Castle Hill on 12 July, 1929. She had been for many years an Extra Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Mary. In the furtherance of philanthropic work and public duties, she ably seconded her husband, and it was mainly through her efforts that the Devon County Nursing Association came into being. Her husband succeeded to the title in 1903, his father dying at the age of 88. He died at his North Devon residence, Castle Hill, Filleigh, on 29 October, 1932, after less than a week’s illness. Of his three sons, two survive him (one died in 1900), and the elder, Colonel Hugh William, Viscount Ebrington, M.C., has succeeded to the earldom.

The late Earl Fortescue joined the Association in 1905 (his father was a member from 1867 to that date). In 1930 he read a very able paper on Some Devonshire Farm Names, which was published in Vol. LXII. of these Transactions. His other writings include an article in the Nineteenth Century Review, 1889, pp. 921-36, on A Bye Election in 1747, various letters to The Times and editorial contributions to Red Deer (Fur, Feather, and Fin Series: 1896), and The Yeomanry of Devon, 1794-1927 (compiled by Engineer-Commander Benson Freeman, R.N., 1897). It is not too much to say that in what Earl Fortescue achieved for the welfare of his county, its efficient administration and the advancement of all good causes connected with it, he has left a record that has never been surpassed and an example for others to emulate,

Papers published in DA’s Transactions

Year  Vol.Pages
1930The Right Hon. Earl FortescueSome Devonshire Farm Names62311-340