Sue Young Histories

John Talbot 16th Earl of Shrewsbury 1791 – 1852

October 29, 2009

Alton TowersJohn Talbot 16th Earl of Shrewsbury 1791 – 1852 was the acknowledged lay leader of English Catholicism. Shrewsbury, known as ’Good Earl Johnsponsored the building of Catholic Chapels across the Midlands, and was Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin’s ’greatest patron‘,

Shrewsbury became an advocate of homeopathy when he was in Italy (most probably in Naples with his family, where Cosmo Maria De Horatiis and Francesco Romani conducted their famous scientific clinical trials into homeopathy in 1828-9 at the Military Hospital of the Trinity),

In 1839, Lady Shrewsbury, daughter of John Talbot 16th Earl, and her new husband Philip Andrew Doria Pamphili Landi, an Italian Prince, brought Francesco Romani (Philip Andrew Doria Pamphili Landi’s Body Physician) back to England.

Francesco Romani opened a homeopathic clinic at Alton Towers (the family seat since 1831) in 1839 (Francesco Romani, Francesco Taglianini and Rabatta were assisted by Daniells and Roch).

The 16th Earl was a close friend of Queen Adelaide,

To begin with, The British and Foreign Review edited by John Forbes mentioned this homeopathic clinic at Alton Towers in ’most flattering terms’, but it soon changed its tone. Queen Adelaide had given up her allopathic physician who could not help her, to patronise John Ernst Stapf, who attended Queen Adelaide in Nuremberg and saved her life after her allopathic physicians had given up on her.

The ‘Mansions of the Nobility’ opened up to homeopathy as a result. (no doubt John Forbes was under some attack from allopaths for his ‘most flattering terms‘, and was forced to change tack – though it is also possible that anti Catholic sentiment played a part as the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury was the acknowledged lay leader of English Catholicism).

Francesco Romani and Francesco Taglianini returned to Italy the following year (1840).

The 16th Earl of Shrewsbury was also a Patron of the Hahnemann Hospital at 39 Bloomsbury Square, and he is mentioned as a ‘Hospital Officebearer’ in a sermon delivered by Thomas Roupell Everest in 1851.

Thus the Earl of Shrewsbury based at Alton Towers in north Staffordshire, must have been one of the very first people in England to have homeopathic treatment and a homeopathic physician, sometime in the 1820s (actually the 1830s).

Francesco Taglianini went with Francesco Romani in the suite of the Count and Countess of Shrewsbury to England (They both returned to Italy the following year). There is some doubt as to the date of this visit. It would seem that it was not as early as 1827, but even as late as the year 1830 (actually the 1830s). (Pierre Augustus Rapou, volume 1, page 134, British Journal of Homeopathy, volume 14, page 192, World’s Conv. , volume 2, page 96)

The late Earl of Shrewsbury, whose Countess he had cured of a severe disease, induced him to accompany him to England in 1827. At the Earl of Shrewsbury’s noble Seat in Alton Towers, a regular homeopathic dispensary was formed, under the medical care of Francesco Romani.

The fact that this aristocratic patronage of homeopathy in the UK extended well into the 1940’s, and beyond, can be easily demonstrated…. the British and Foreign Homeopathic Directory lists the patrons of the dispensaries and hospitals. It reads like an extract from Burke’s or Debrett’s.

Some examples include: The Duke of Beaufort, Duke of Cambridge, Marquesses of Anglesey, Arthur Algernon Capell 6th Earl of Essex, John Gray 15th Lord Gray, Arthur de Vere Capell Viscount Malden, Richard Walter Hely Hutchinson 6th Earl of Donoughmore, Lord Ernle, Earl of Kintore, Arthur, Arthur Fitzgerald, 10th Lord Kinnaird, Duchess of Hamilton and Brandon, Francis Richard Charteris 10th Earl of Wemyss Lord Elcho, the Lords Paget, George Granville William Sutherland Leveson Gower 3rd Duke of Sutherland, Earls of Dudley, George Wyndham 1st Baron Leconfield, Thomas Egerton 2nd Earl of Wilton, William Coutts Keppel Viscount Bury 7th Earl of Albemarle, John Robert Townshend 1st Earl Sydney, Lady Radstock, Mary Adelaide of Cambridge Duchess of Teck, Duke of Northumberland, Earl of Scarborough, Earl of Dysart, Marchioness of Exeter, Sarah Waldegrave, Countess of Waldegrave, Countess of Crawford and Balcarres, Lord Headley, Earl of Plymouth, Lord Calthorpe, Earls of Shrewsbury, Lord Horder, Lord Gainford, Lord Moynihan, Lord Ernle, Lord Ampthill, Lord Home, Viscount Elibank and the Earls of Lichfield.

And to this list we can also add numerous knights, barons, Army officers and clerics (and politicians and Members of Parliament Bankers and Industrialists)…. [this data extracted from the Homeopathic Medical Directories 1867, 1874, 1895, 1909, 1931; see also Nicholls, 1988 and 1998 op cit.; see also London Homeopathic Hospital, Sixty Five Years Work: A History of the London Homeopathic Hospital, London, 1915; for Earls of Shrewsbury see also Hobhouse, op cit., p.247; re Lord Donoughmore, see his Obituary, Health Through Homeopathy, BHA, 7:11, Nov. 1948, p.250; also his Obituary, Daily Telegraph, London, 19 Oct. 1948; re Lords Ernle, Gainford and Ampthill, and Viscount Elibank, see Heal Thyself 1935; re Lord Home see Heal Thyself _1931-2; re Pagets see _Heal Thyself 1938; re Lord Horder Heal Thyself 1937; re Duchess of Hamilton and Brandon see Heal Thyself 1932, 1933 and 1938].

John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury was born on 18 March 1791. He was the son of John Joseph Talbot and Catherine Clifton. He married Maria Theresa Talbot, daughter of William Talbot, on 27 June 1814.

He died on 9 November 1852 at age 61. John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury gained the title of 16th Earl of Shrewsbury. Children of John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury and Maria Theresa Talbot: Mary Alathea Beatrix Talbot d. 18 Dec 1858; Gwendoline Catherine Talbot d. 27 Oct 1840

Mary Alathea Beatrix Talbot was the daughter of John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury and Maria Theresa Talbot. She married Philip Andrew Doria Pamphili Landi, Prince Doria Pamphili Landi on 4 April 1839. She died on 18 December

  1. Mary Alathea Beatrix Talbot was created Prinzessin von Bayern, by Ludwig I.

Of interest:

Shrewsbury’s wife’s uncle John Hyacinth Talbot was the first Catholic MP for County Wexford after Catholic Emancipation in 1829.

Philip Andrew Doria Pamphili Landi’s family were friends of Igor Stravinsky,

Shrewsbury rented property to John Towne Danson,

Upon the death of the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury, his nephew John Talbot became the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury, and in 1831, John Talbot moved the family seat to Alton Towers, having lost the family home at Heythrop, Oxfordshire.

Lord John Talbot a devout Catholic proceeded with the improvements fo the House and Gardens at Alton Towers. But sadly, the contents of Alton Towers were sold in auction by Mssr Christie and Mason at Alton Towers on July 6th 1857 on the death of Bertram Arthur Talbot (1832-1856) 17th Earl of Shrewsbury…

Their seat is now at Wanfield Hall in Staffordshire.

The 16th Earl changed the name from Alton Abbey to Alton Towers and doubled the size of the buildings. This is partially because unlike his uncle he had children so they had to be catered for, he was a collector of art which had to be stored and displayed, and in 1937 the Shrewsbury’s main residence at Heythrop tragically burned down so all remaining possessions had to be moved to Alton Towers.

‘Good Earl John’, with his architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin built the chapel, the great dining hall, gallery range, cellars and much more transforming it into the building you see today. This is also when the entrance moved from the North face of the house where the great dining hall is, to the east face through the linked galleries.

In 1842 extensive fortifications were made to the towers including the large ditch you see along the front and a barbican in the corner of the east screen wall to protect the new main entrance…

In 1952 Good Earl John died and following a large legal battle the Towers fell into the hands of Henry Chetwynd Talbot.

In 1960 the house was opened up to the public in order to raise money to carry out repair work. In was in the 1890s though that the Towers were properly developed into a tourist attraction by the 20th Earl of Shrewsbury, Charles Henry Talbot, who organised balloon festivals, fireworks and exhibitions.

Then in 1924 the building was sold to a group of businessmen who auctioned off the contents but kept it open to the public.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, the army requisitioned the estate for training purposes and the building started to degrade.

The building was returned in 1951 but instead of being restored the whole interior was sold off.


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