Charles Scarisbrick

June 1, 2010

Charles Scarisbrick (1800-1860) was a wealthy land owner and the patron of Scarisbrick Hall from 1838-1860. He inherited the Scarisbrick estate after a lengthy legal battle fought against his sisters.

Charles was known to be a recluse and very little has been written or documented about his life. He amassed a lot of land and wealth during his lifetime and was the richest commoner in Lancashire during his days.

Early life of Charles Scarisbrick

Charles was the youngest of the three sons born to Thomas Eccleston-Scarisbrick, who owned the Eccleston, Scarisbrick and Wrightington estates in Lancashire. The Scarisbrick family was Catholic by faith, which was possibly the reason why Charles went to Paris to complete his education before the Catholic Relief Act of 1829. It is rumoured that before inheriting his father’s estates, he had a gambling house in Paris.

Before moving to Paris, Charles is said to have studied at Wigan Grammar School and Stonyhurst College. From the records of comments of his masters at these educational institutions, it appears that Charles had been particularly sensitive and reserved person.

Charles Scarisbrick’s inheritance of the Scarisbrick Estate

Charles Scarisbrick did not inherit the Scarisbrick estate directly from his father. According to his father’s will, the biggest of the estates, Scarisbrick, was to be inherited by his elder brother, Thomas Scarisbrick, followed by William, his second brother, who was to get the Wrightington estate, leaving the Eccleston estate for Charles. William died soon after his father and his estate went to Thomas Scarisbrick. Charles contested the right to inheritance of the Wrightington estate, but lost the claim to his brother in 1823.

After the death of Thomas Scarisbrick in 1833, Charles again had to fight a lengthy legal battle with his sisters to claim inheritance to the Scarisbrick estate. He took the case all the way to the House of Lords, where it was finally decided in his favour in 1838. This gave him a yearly income of close to about £40,000.

Even before Charles won his claim to the Scarisbrick estate, he decided to make Scarisbrick Hall his residence. He commissioned the remodelling and designing of Scarisbrick Hall to a young Catholic architect, A.W.N. Pugin.

Charles Scarisbrick – the richest commoner of Lancashire

After inheriting the Scarisbrick estate, Charles Scarisbrick went on to acquire more land and exploited the estates’ resources to add to his wealth. He is credited to the development of Southport town and also owned coal mines at Shevington and Wrightington. Soon, his yearly income rose to £60,000, making him the richest commoner of Lancashire. When Charles died in 1860, he is said to have left a fortune of £3,000,000.

Character sketch of Charles Scarisbrick

Charles Scarisbrick was known to be an eccentric man and very little was seen of him outside his residence. He spent most of his time in the secluded hall and entertained very few visitors.

He courted Mary Anne Braithwaite of Biskey and had three children, two sons and a daughter with her. He is said to have never legally married Mary Anne. The liaison with Mary Anne lasted till his death and he left her an annuity in his will. Charles took active interest in his children and provided well for them during his lifetime.

Charles Scarisbrick died in 1860 from a long illness. Considering that he was a man of great wealth, he chose to depart in the humblest possible way by instructing in his will to bury him with a private ceremony. His corpse was to be carried in a plain coffin to the church in a straight line path, which passed through ditches, fields and a meadow.

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