Who Do You Think You Are?

Francis North, 6th Earl Of Guildford 1772–1861

Meet the clergyman and almshouse master at the centre of a Victorian charity scandal

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Rev Francis North was the son of the Bishop of Winchester and nephew of Frederick, Lord North, prime minister under George III. In 1808, his father appointed him master of St Cross Hospital in Winchester (pictured), an almshouse establishe­d to house 13 poor men and provide free dinners for 200 others at an annual cost of around £1,000. The post gave him control of the income from the hospital’s considerab­le endowment of land, and he continued to live in his comfortabl­e vicarage while pocketing the surplus, estimated to have totalled up to £300,000 (equivalent to around £40 million today) during his tenure of over 40 years.

The situation came to light in 1849 after a campaign was launched by Rev Henry Holloway, a retired clergyman who settled in the parish. The affair provided a juicy scandal for the national press, involving as it did a clergyman who was also a peer, having by then been made Earl of Guildford. Parliament launched a four-year investigat­ion during which the earl argued that he had a right to the surplus revenues. In 1850, the inquiry ruled against him and he was required to repay some of the money, though this amounted to as little as £4,000.

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