8: Sir Massey Lopes

Given the connection between Sir Massey Lopes, his footman Ephraim Orchard, Ephraim’s son Henry and my great Grandmother, Hannah Musselwhite as well as his Spanish heritage and the obvious high Spanish content within his DNA I have taken a great interest in Sir Massey. Here is brief resume of his family background.

The Debrett’s entry confirms his great grandparents were Mordecai-Rodrigues Lopes and his wife, Rebecca (nee Pereira) who were originally from Jamaica. Mordecai-Rodrigues and Rebecca had a son, Manasseh and two daughters, Rachel and Esther.

Manasseh seems to be have been a rather colorful character. Although described as ‘uneducated’ he was obviously not lacking intelligence as he became a Member of Parliament, was made a baronet in 1805 and was a director of the Rock Life Assurance Office. He held other posts as well of course. He purchased the Maristow Estate near Plymouth in 1798 and gradually increased his land holding in the area; he is reputed to have owned 32,000 acres in Devon. There is a fascinating biography of the man at: www.historyofparliamentonline.ord/volume/1790-1820/member/lopes

I love the description of him being “not a bad minded man. He was only something of a miser which those lovers of root evil nearly all are”. However, his greed for money and power led to his downfall and was convicted of electoral bribery in 1819 on a series of counts, was fined £10,000 (an enormous sum in those days) and sentenced to two years in Exeter gaol despite pleading mitigation on the grounds of age and infirmity.

The story of Manasseh is something of a diversion but I think it shows the likely character of the family and it also explains how the Lopes family became owners of the Maristow Estate and where the baronacy originated.

Mordecai-Rodrigues Lopes’ youngest daughter Esther married Abraham Franco and they had a son Ralph Franco who adopted the name Lopes when he inherited the Maristow baronacy and estates on the death of his uncle Manasseh. Ralph, like his uncle whose fortunes he inherited was an MP switching sides frequently between Whig and Conservative! For many years he was MP for Westbury and later for South Devon.

Ralph (Franco) Lopes married Susannah (Gibbs) Ludlow, daughter of wealthy Wiltshire landowner Abraham Ludlow and their eldest son was Sir Massey Lopes.

Here is a bulleted list of facts about Sir Massey:

  • Born 14th June 1818
  • Originally known as Masseh Franco
  • Both the Lopes and Franco families were of Sephardic-Jewish origin
  • He was educated at Winchester College and then at Oriel College, Oxford
  • Became Massey Lopes and the 3rd Baronet of Maristow on the death of his father Sir Ralph Lopes in 1854
  • He married Bertha, the daughter of John Yarde-Buller, 1st Baron Churston, in 1854. They had a son, Henry, and two daughters
  • Became Conservative MP for Westbury in 1857
  • Became Conservative MP for Devonshire South in 1868
  • He had a London residence at 28 Grosvenor Gardens in Kensington, London
  • In Parliament he was a member of a group supporting farming interests and was chairman of the Agricultural Business Committee
  • He was appointed High Sheriff of Devon for 1857
  • His wife, Bertha, died in 1872
  • In 1874 he married Louisa Newman (then aged 47) daughter of Sir Robert Newman; there were no children from this marriage
  • Became Civil Lord of the Admiralty in 1874 in the second administration of Benjamin Disraeli and remained in post until the government fell in 1880
  • He declined the post of Financial Secretary to the Treasury in 1877 on health grounds
  • He left Parliament in 1885, also on health grounds.
  • He became a member of the Privy Council in 1885 but declined a peerage (reason unknown)
  • Alderman of the Devonshire County Council from 1888 to 1904
  • Was a Director of the Great Western Railway for many years
  • Lady Lopes died in April 1903
  • Sir Massey Lopes died in January 1908 aged 89

Here we have a picture of a wealthy, intelligent, powerful man who achieved high office in Government. He was a reforming and accomplished agriculturalist who helped lead the way in modernising farming practice at a time when people were leaving the land to find work in towns and cities.

Not shown here is possibly the other side of his character, a caring man who treated his staff well. One can only draw this conclusion based on the few known facts about his non-professional life. It seems that he took John Orchard’s (his tailor) son, Ephraim, on to his staff when John died in 1856 and promoted Ephraim to be, first, his footman and then to be his personal valet; the highest of positions in his household.

When Ephraim died in 1880 it appears Sir Massey may have continued to support Ephraim’s family providing them with accommodation in Amersham and a housekeeper and possibly paying for Emma Orchard’s care in St George’s Hospital, just around the corner from Sir Massey’s residence. It does not seem Sir Massey deserted them and he may be kept an eye on them even to the point of finding Ephraim’s son Henry a wife …?


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