The Fellowes relations of Shotesham are another Norfolk family with Royal connections, but unlike the Cozens-Hardy/Colman family, who a few generations ago were simple country grocers, maltsters and millers, the Fellowes family has a longer and more distinguished past.

Shotesham All Saints from the common

Shotesham All Saints from the common

The senior branch of the family was elevated to the peerage when Edward Fellows, who had served for over 40 years as an MP, was created 1st Baron de Ramsey a month before his death in 1877. But in many ways the junior branch of the family, that established itself in Norfolk when William Fellowes bought Shotesham Park in 1731 at the age of 26, has had the more distinguished career.

William Fellowes was a philanthropist, most notable for his role in establishing the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. He was its treasurer until his death in 1775. After many years of effort the foundation stone of the hospital was laid in 1771. The original building is still there in St Stephens Road and was still part of the N and N hospital until it moved to its current site a decade or so ago. Much of the old hospital has since been converted into flats.

William Fellowes was known as the ‘Man of Shotesham’ after John Kyrle, the ‘Man of Ross’, who lived in Ross on Wye and spent much his life and wealth on improvements to the town. He is remembered in a poem by Alexander Pope. Well before the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital was established William Fellowes, together with the local surgeon Benjamin Gooch, set up the first hospital in Norfolk at Shotesham. This cottage hospital carried out surgical procedures, mainly the removal of gall stones, and cared for the insane.

William was followed in the position of Treasurer of the N & N by his son and heir Robert, who only stood down on  being elected to Parliament in 1803. It was Robert who rebuilt the Hall at Shotesham to the designs of the architect Sir John Soane. Soane, who was already well known in Norfolk, made his first visit to the site at Shotesham in 1784. He later went on to become a very famous architect, whose best known building is perhaps the Bank of England, although only the curtain wall remains.

Robert died in 1829 and was followed by his son, also called Robert, who lived from 1779 until 1869. He was succeeded by another Robert who lived even longer, dying at the age of 98 in 1915. William Albermarle Fellowes had been born in 1898 and inherited the Shotesham Park estate after two of his relatives died childless. He became land agent to the Queen at Sandringham. He had married Jane Charlotte Ferguson in 1934, and by the time of his death in 1986 he had lived to see his relative Sarah Ferguson marry Prince Andrew.

His son Robert was born in 1941 and after Eton and a short service commission in his father’s old regiment, the Scots Guards, he became Private Secretary to the Queen. He was created a Life Peer in 1999. Through his marriage to Lady Jane Spencer in 1978 he is uncle to the Princes William and Harry. So as well as being first cousin once removed of Sarah, Duchess of York through his mother Jane, he was also brother-in-law of Diana, Princess of Wales.

29 Surrey Street; is to the right.

29 Surrey Street is to the right.

My own interest in the Fellowes family has however nothing to with these Very Important People. Instead it arises from the third and youngest son of the first Robert Fellowes, who lived from 1742 until 1829. His name was John. He married into the family of the Earls of Strathmore when he took as his wife Susan Lyon, granddaughter of the 8th Earl. You may recall the name Bowes-Lyon, maiden name of the Queen Mother, who was also related to the Earls of Strathmore.

John Fellowes, like many younger sons of the gentry, went into the church. After being educated at Wymondam Grammar School he went to Jesus College in Cambridge and became parson of various local parishes including Easton, Snotesham, Bramerton and Mautby. John’s third son, Thomas Lyon Fellowes, was as a young man something of a musician, publishing I Zingari, a set  of  Waltzes for Piano, and Air and Variations; he too was a clergyman in Norfolk, Vicar of Honingham and East Tuddenham. Thomas’s widow, who died in 1898, was born Elizabeth Pleasance Reeve in Lowestoft. She was a niece of Lady Pleasance Smith (née Reeve). This introduces another famous local family for Pleasance Reeve had married (Sir) James Smith, the eminent botanist of Norwich.

This is where my personal interest comes in to play; when Thomas Fellowes died in 1881 his widow Elizabeth moved to 29 Surrey Street, Norwich, with an unmarried daughter. This is the house my father bought in 1959 and which I managed for twenty years from 1977. Lady Pleasance Smith had lived in the property for forty years in the first half of the 19th century. Pleasance and James Smith had moved there in 1809. A widow since 1829, in 1849 she returned to live in the family home in Lowestoft. The house in Norwich was then let. Lady Pleasance Smith had died in 1877 aged over 100 and had left the house to Elizabeth Fellowes, who spent her widowed years there.

I have done several blogs on 29 Surrey Street which you can link up with by Googling ‘joemasonspage The Story of a House’. I have also written a blog on the surgeon Benjamin Gooch and his house, the Dukes Head at Shotesham. This was published on 6th March 2013.




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