Alexander Scrimgeour was a founding partner in J. & A. Scrimgeour, which became one of the leading firms of stockbrokers in London. He was the first member of the Scrimgeour family to settle in Sussex, and built the house at Wispers, before acquiring the Manorship of Stedham.
Alexander Scrimgeour was born at 15 Michael’s Grove, South Kensington (now the site of Egerton Gardens) on 27 June 1835, the first child of John Shedden Scrimgeour (1796–1868) and his wife Isabella née Mackinlay (1812–1885). He was the nephew of Robert Shedden Scrimgeour (1788–1863), who claimed to be the hereditary standard bearer of Scotland.
Like many members of his family, which originated in Scotland, John Shedden Scrimgeour was a stockbroker in the City of London. He married Isabella Mackinlay at the recently opened Holy Trinity Church, just off Brompton Road on 21 June 1832. Isabella was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the daughter of Daniel Mackinlay (1772–1826), a Scottish merchant.
Alexander was baptised at Holy Trinity, Brompton on 5 August 1835. After Alexander, John and Isabella had a further five children:
John Shedden, born and died at Michael’s Grove in 1838
Dora, born at Michael’s Grove in 1839, died 1915
John Shedden, born at Michael’s Grove in 1840, died 1918
Henry, born at Hornsey Lane, Highgate in 1847, died 1925
Walter, born at Hornsey Lane, Highgate in 1852, died 1937
The family had moved to Highgate in the mid-1840s and were living at 4 Hornsey Lane at the time of the 1851 census, with a cook and two other servants.
By 1860, the family had moved a mile west to West Hill, Highgate, although Alexander (now 26) was no longer living at home; he cannot be traced on the 1861 census, nor are there any details of his education.
On 18 March 1859, Alexander Scrimgeour, aged 23, was admitted to membership of the London Stock Exchange. By 1864, he and his brother, John Shedden Scrimgeour, had formed a partnership trading as “J. & A. Scrimgeour” with premises at Old Broad Street in the City of London, becoming one of the leading firms in the Stock Exchange.
By the time of Alexander’s death in 1882, several other family members and associates had joined the partnership. The firm was converted into a limited company in about 1972, and by 1985, had merged with other stockbroking businesses to form Scrimgeour Vickers & Co. before being acquired by Citicorp Investment Bank to become Citicorp Scrimgeour Vickers.
Marriage and family
On 9 January 1862, 26-year old Alexander married his cousin, 29-year old Anne Esther Duguid (1832–1892), at All Saints’ Church, Childwall, close to the bride’s family home at Mossley Hill, near Liverpool. The wedding service was conducted by the Rev Edward Spencer Phelps, M.A., Chaplain of Portsmouth Dockyard.
Anne’s mother was Anne Esther Mackinlay (1804–1837), the elder sister of Alexander’s mother Isabella. She had died in May 1837 in Buenos Aires, aged just 32, when her daughter was only 4-years old; a year later, in June 1838, her widowed husband, Thomas Duguid (1798–1875) re-married in Buenos Aires to Isabella Frances Barton (1817–1888), who thus became the stepmother to three children under 8-years old. Thomas Duguid was a merchant in the River Plate (Argentina) trade.
Shortly after Alexander married Anne, his sister Dora married Anne’s brother, Thomas Duguid (1831–1871) on 22 April 1862. The connection between the two families was strengthened further two years later, when Alexander and Dora’s brother, John Shedden, married Anne and Thomas’s sister Hannah (1834–1913) in early 1864.
Following their marriage, the couple lived at “Woodside”, in Jackson’s Lane, off Archway, Highgate in north London, where their first child, Dora, was born on 5 November 1862. On 14 December 1862, Dora was baptised at St. Michael’s Church in South Grove, Highgate, a few hundred yards from Alexander’s parents’ home at West Hill.
Over the following ten years, a further seven children were born at “Woodside”, all of whom were baptised at St. Michael’s Church, as follow:
Annie Edith, born 5 December 1863, baptised 9 January 1864
Ethel, born 6 March 1865, baptised 10 April 1865
Elizabeth Ruth, born 26 June 1866, baptised 12 August 1866
Alexander Carron, born 7 November 1867, baptised 19 January 1868
Maud, born 16 March 1869, baptised 1 May 1969
Isabella, born 13 October 1870, baptised 3 January 1871
John Alexander, born 2 May 1872, baptised 10 July 1872
At the 1871 census, Alexander gives his occupation as a member of the Stock Exchange. He and Anne were living at ” Woodside”, with their seven older children, plus a niece, 17-year old Lucy Duguid, and cousin, 7-year old William Lee Dickenson, with a cook, a nurse and four maids. [William was the son of the eminent surgeon, William Howship Dickinson, and the grandson of Jesse Janet Shedden Scrimgeour (1797–1869), sister to the elder John Shedden Scrimgeour].
Lord of the Manor of Stedham
In about 1876, Alexander bought the manor of Stedham from Sir John Hawkshaw (1811–1891), the civil engineer; the manor included most of the village and surrounding countryside; thus, Alexander became the Lord of the Manor of Stedham.
In West Sussex Record Office, there is a map of the estate at the time that it was bought by Alexander Scrimgeour, supported by a book of reference, listing all the properties on the estate and their annual rental. The estate covered an area of 1110 acres, and the annual rental was £1490 6s.
At this time, the estate comprised roughly half of the total area covered by the Manor of Stedham. South of the River Rother, the estate included Stedham Mill, Stedham Hall and part of the village of Stedham (mostly to the east of The Street) and the timber mill. North of the river, the estate included Ash House, Woodgate Farm, Crouchhouse Farm and Reynolds (present day Bowley Farm, outside the manor). The manor also included Wispers Copse, Woolhouse Farm, Tote Hill, Tentworth, the rest of Stedham village, Rotherhill and agricultural land to the south and west of the village (extending across the Midhurst to Petersfield road into Stedham Common).
Stedham Hall had been occupied by John Stoveld (1797–1870), a banker in Petworth, trading as Stoveld & Co., who were the first bank to issue Bank of England notes rather than their own. He sold the bank to London & County Banking Co (now part of National Westminster Bank) in 1845, and moved to Stedham.
Following Stoveld’s death in 1870, the property was leased by the trustees of his estate to Revd, Phelpes John Butt (1797–1883), who had left by 1881, when the tenant was Henry Billinghurst (1822–1915), a retired doctor, who lived there until about 1910. It is not clear when the house was acquired by Alexander Scrimgeour, but this was probably in the mid-1870s from Stoveld’s estate, possibly at about the time he acquired the rest of the Stedham estate.
As Lord of the Manor, Alexander Scrimgeour took a benevolent view of his tenants and, in his short tenure he set about improving their lot. It was probably through his influence that the Stedham Board School (now the Primary School) was built in 1879 on common land which he owned as Lord of the Manor.
Initially, Alexander lived at “Tentworth”, on Oakham Common, about 1¼ miles north of Iping, Sussex, having also purchased land nearby at Tote Hill, to the north of Stedham, not part of the original estate, where in 1874-76 he built a house which he named “Wispers” after the nearby Wispers Copse.
Wispers was designed by Richard Norman Shaw in the Tudor Revival or “Mock Tudor” style.
In “Sussex in the Twentieth Century – Contemporary Biographies”., edited by W.T. Pike (1910) , it states:
Wispers, the property of John A Scrimgeour, was built in 1874 by his father, the late Alexander Scrimgeour, from designs by Norman Shaw, and stands at the head od a beautiful wooded valley commanding magnificent views of the West Sussex Downs and the intervening country with the Rother valley in the foreground.
The house is a half-timbered building with tall, red chimneys characteristic of Norman Shaw’s well-known style and, as it is nearly 400ft above sea level, they can be seen for miles towering above the richly wooded landscape.
The residence is approached from Liphook across Redford Common with its wealth of heather, gorse, bracken and holly trees, and from Midhurst by a beautiful winding drive up through the valley, skirted on either side with stately fir, oak, beech and elm trees intermingled with rhododendron, the latter growing to a great height.
The terraced garden and lawns sloping to the south were laid out by the late Mr. [Robert] Marnock, a famed Victorian landscape gardener, and is quite a feature of the place.
In the 1965 edition of Pevsner’s “Buildings of England”, Ian Nairn describes the house as “not very good, and really hardly distinguishable from the standard large Victorian house. The best thing is the site – high above a steep wooded valley with big views south.”
Although Alexander gave “Wispers” as his residence on the annual applications for membership of the Stock Exchange, it is not clear when he and the family took up residence there. In the 1878 Post Office Directory, Alexander is listed as a Justice of the Peace, resident at Wispers, but in the 1881 census, Alexander and Anne were recorded at 1 Queen’s Gate, Kensington (close to Kensington Gardens) where they were living with their eight children, Alexander’s mother, Isabella, and sister, Dora, plus a governess, butler and 12 other staff.
Death and subsequent family history
Alexander did not have long to enjoy life in Sussex as he died on board SS Dunrobin Castle on 1 February 1882, aged just 46, on his return from a visit to Cape Town, South Africa, and was buried at sea. The cause of death is not publicly recorded, although some reports attribute his death to “accidental drowning”. His estate was valued for probate at £338,819 (equivalent to over £43 million in 2022).
In the 1891 census, his widow Anne was living at Wispers with six of her children and her niece, Eliza Duguid. Resident in the house were a cook and eight other servants. The butler, Harry Smart, and groom, Walter Plummer, and their families were living in separate cottages in the grounds.
Anne succeeded her husband as Lord of the Manor, and contiued his benevolent attitude to Stedham village.
Anne survived her husband by almost exactly ten years, and died at Wispers on 14 January 1892, aged 59. She was buried at St James’s Church, Stedham two days later. The Sussex Agricultural Express reported her death and funeral:
We much regret to announce the death of Mrs. Alexander Scrimgeour, which sad event took place, after a long and painful illness, at her residence, on Thursday morning. The deceased lady was always ready to sympathise and render assistance to those in trouble, and through her death many have lost a true and sincere friend. Besides being a large donor to many of the various institutions in the neighbourhood, her energetic ability in promoting their welfare has always been exercised in the highest degree. The funeral took place on Saturday afternoon in the village graveyard, amidst general tokens and manifestations of sincere regret. The coffin was borne from the house to the church in a waggon drawn by four horses from the farm.
Her estate was valued for probate at £258,768 (equivalent to £35 million in 2022). Her executors were her late husband’s three brothers. She was survived by her two sons, Alexander Carron, aged 24, and John Alexander, aged 19, and six daughters.
In her will, she bequeathed to Alexander Carron the house at Wispers and property in the Manor of Stedham to the north of the River Rother, together with the riparian rights, plus cottages in the villages of Woolbeding, Stedham and Iping to the north of the River Rother.
To John Alexander Carron (on reaching the age of 21 years), she bequeathed Stedham Hall and the manorial rights, plus property in the Manor of Stedham to the south of the River Rother, and cottages in the villages of Woolbeding and Iping to the south of the River Rother.
To each of her six daughters, she bequeathed £25,000. Also, she left a property at 56 Sloane Street and the mews at 95 Pavilion Road in Chelsea in trust for her daughters who remained unmarried. [Ethel, Ruth and Maud never married.]
After the death of her mother, Dora Scrimgeour migrated to South Africa, where she married Francis (Frank) Eland in 1897. She died in Duiwelskloof, Northern Province in December 1938, aged 76. Her husband, Frank was killed at Spelonken on 6 August 1901, aged 28, during the Second Boer War while serving as a sergeant with the Bushveldt Carbineers (South Africa Field Force). [For details of the notorious incident in which he was killed, see Percy Frederick Hunt.]
Annie Enid Scrimgeour married Stephen Newcome Fox (1849–1917) at St. James’s Church, Stedham on 6 June 1895. On the marriage register, Stephen gave his occupation as a barrister. By 1911, he had retired and the couple were living in Eastbourne with their two youngest children. On his death in April 1917, his obituary referred to him as “Professor of Jurisprudence in Bombay. Educated at New College Oxford.” He was also the Mayor of Eastbourne.
Their eldest son, Charles Alexander Newcome Fox (1896–1917) was educated at Rugby School. In the First World War he served with the North Staffordshire Regiment, reaching the rank of captain. He was awarded the Military Cross for an act of gallantry at Loos in September 1915. He was killed in action at Inverness Copse, near Ypres on 25 September 1917, aged 21. He is buried in the Huts Cemetery at Ypres and commemorated on the Eastbourne war memorial.
Ethel Scrimgeour: see separate article.
Elizabeth Ruth Scrimgeour (known as “Ruth”) acquired the farm at Woolhouse, just to the north of Wispers, where she was living as a farmer at the time of the 1901 and 1911 censuses. In a 2020 interview in “House & Garden” magazine with the present tenants of the farm, she was described as “quite a character, loud of voice and strong of opinion, a peerless horseewoman and a generous benefactress to her many friends and dependants. And notorious for never settling bills”. By 1939, she had established a riding stable at West Beach, Selsey where she bred Dartmoor ponies. She died at Selsey on 27 March 1949, aged 82.
Alexander Carron Scrimgeour: see separate article.
Maud Scrimgeour continued to live at Wispers after her mother’s death; in 1901 she was still resident in the house, with her married sister Isabella together with five servants. By 1911, Maud had left Wispers and, now described as a farmer, was living at Stubbs Farm, about half a mile northwest, where she remained until her death there in July 1938, aged 69.
Isabella Scrimgeour married her distant cousin, Francis Scrimgeour Hyde Forshall (1869–1944) at St. James’s Church, Stedham on 12 January 1897. Francis was the son of Frances Maria Scrimgeour (1837–1877), whose father, William Wilson Scrimgeour (1792–1867) was a brother of the elder John Shedden Scrimgeour. On the marriage register, Francis gives his occupation as “artist”. After their marriage, the couple lived at Tentworth and had six children.
During the First World War, their eldest son John Forshall (1897–1918) served as a lieutenant with the Royal Field Artillery, and was killed on 12 April 1918, aged 20. He is buried in Couin New British Cemetery, 10 miles east of Doullens. He is commemorated on the war memorial in Stedham church.
Judith Forshall (1899–1977) was for many years the principal of a preparatory school at the Old Rectory, Elsted.
Isabella Forshall (1900–1989) played a leading role in the development of paediatric surgery in the United Kingdom.
Both Isabella and her husband were keen tennis players. Francis competed in various county championships between 1889 and 1896, reaching the quarter-finals of the Essex championships in 1896. Isabella took part in the Sussex Championships tournament in 1895.
Isabella died at Tentworth in July 1954 and is buried in Stedham churchyard.
John Alexander Scrimgeour: see separate article.
A brief later history of Wispers
At the 1911 census, Wispers was occupied by a Colonel Barclay, although he was not resident at the time. Subsequent tenants include Charles F. Parsons (1918) and F.W. Stobart (1927). In 1923, John A. Scrimgeour paid for a new driveway to be built to connect Wispers to the road between Redford and Woolbeding.
In 1928, shortly after the death of John Alexander Scrimgeour, Wispers was put up for sale (possibly to raise funds to settle death duties) and acquired by Mary Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, who used it as a weekend retreat. A keen aviator, she converted a nearby field to a landing strip and had a hangar built in the grounds so that she could fly from the family home at Woburn Abbey.
Following her death in a flying accident in March 1937, the property was sold, eventually becoming Wispers School. The school changed hands several times, before being acquired in 2010 by the Durand Academy, who planned to convert the property into a weekly boarding school. After the refusal of planning permission, the academy closed and in 2019 the property was again sold, for conversion into apartments.
1841 England Census
1851 England Census
1871 England Census
1881 England Census
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858–1966
Great Britain, Select Deaths and Burials, 1778–1988
London, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813–1906
London, England, City Directories, 1736–1943
London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832–1965
London, England, Overseer Returns, 1863–1894
London, England, Stock Exchange Membership Applications, 1802–1924
U.K., City and County Directories, 1600s–1900s
Gravelrooots.net. St. Cuthmans School
Hampshire Telegraph. 29 April 1882. Local will
Liverpool Mail. 18 January 1862. Marriages: Scrimgeour–Duguid
Liverpool Mercury. 11 January 1862. Marriages: Scrimgeour–Duguid
London Metropolitan Archives. Records of J & A Scrimgeour, stockbrokers
St James’s Gazette. 17 February 1882. Deaths
Stedham with Iping Parish Council:
Sussex Agricultural Express. 19 January 1892. Death and Funeral of Mrs Alexander Scrimgeour, of The Wispers
West Sussex Record Office:
E/182A/19/2: A Brief History of the Wispers Estate and St Cuthman’s School edited by Michael Gates. July 2004
St Cuthmans School: Onthemarket.com