Born Francis Leveson Gower in 1800, the 1st Earl of Ellesmere was the 2nd son of the Duke of Sutherland, and Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland. Francis was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. In 1822 married Harriet Catherine (1800-1866), grand-daughter of the 3rd Duke of Portland.
Lord Francis entered Parliament in 1822 and held a number of offices, including Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1828 to 1830. He was a liberal conservative and supported the idea of free trade and the founding of the London University. From 1835 to 1846 Lord Francis sat as MP for South Lancashire and in 1846 was elevated to Peerage as Viscount Brackley and Earl of Ellesmere.
Life at Worsley
Lord Francis inherited Worsley in 1833 under the will of his great uncle and godfather the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater. Under the terms of the will he changed his name to Egerton and brought his wife and family to live at Worsley in 1837.
Lord Francis and Lady Harriet developed the Park and the surrounding area. As well as building the New Hall and gardens, Lord Francis commissioned a gardener’s cottage to house his gardener, the Aviary as a shooting and fishing lodge, the Court House and Police Station and added the black and white finish to the Packet House.
Worsley in the 19th century was heavily industrialised based on cotton manufacture, iron and brick making and coal mining and Lord and Lady Ellesmere involved themselves in improving conditions for the local working population. They built and endowed St Marks Church in Worsley and St Pauls in Walkden with their associated schools. In 1845 Lady Ellesmere began a Domestic Servants School and in 1848 Lord Ellesmere established a medical dispensary and Reading Room. They also funded a recreation ground, later St Mary’s Park for colliers and their families. Lord Ellesmere banned the employment of women and children underground in his mines and introduced night-school classes for his workers on the estate and a non-contributory pension scheme.
The 1st Earl was interested in art. In 1835 and 1836 he spent over £3,000 on books and paintings. His art collection at Worsley Hall included Edward Landseer’s Return from Hawking which gave the likeness of the 1st Earl of Ellesmere and his family.
The 1st Earl was well-travelled and visited places in the East, Mediterranean and Holy Land. He provided the illustrations for his wife’s Journal of a Tour to the Holy Land (1841). Lord Francis also published his own poetry and journalism as well as translations of French and Germans plays, romances and histories.
Lord Ellesmere died at Bridgewater House in London on 18 February 1857 and was buried in St Mark’s Church, Worsley. He was succeeded by his son He was survived by five sons and two daughters.