WILLIAM HENRY GRENFELL, LORD DESBOROUGH
1856 – 1945
A generous benefactor for Maidenhead, and a tireless contributor to public life.
The Grenfell family came from Cornwall in the 18th Century and bought Taplow Court, which was originally part of the Cliveden Estate. They also bought many of the ancient manors around Maidenhead, including Ockwells, St Ives, Shoppenhangers, Kimbers, Lowbrooks, Cresswells, Philberts and Foxleys, as well as many minor properties.
William Henry Grenfell was an MP from 1880 to 1905, first for the Liberal Party, then for the Conservatives, before being raised to the House of Lords in 1905 and becoming Lord Desborough.
He married Ethel Fane and they had 5 children. Their three sons died young – Julian and Gerald in the First World War, and Ivo in a motorcycle accident in 1926. Their daughter Monica married Sir John Salmond, Marshall of the RAF, and their other daughter Imogen married Viscount Gage, High Steward of Maidenhead.
William was a writer and war correspondent, and also a dedicated sportsman – he twice rowed for Oxford in the Boat Race, including in the ‘dead heat’ race of 1877. He climbed the Matterhorn three times, and was President of the MCC and the Lawn Tennis Association. He was heavily involved in organising the 1908 London Olympics, being the President of the organising committee.
In 1928, William became a Knight of the Order of the Garter.
William was heavily involved in public life. He was President of the Thames Conservancy Board for over thirty years, and also of the London Chamber of Commerce and the Royal Agricultural Society. He served as High Steward of Maidenhead, and when offered the post of Governor of Canada he turned it down, preferring to stay in England. He was appointed High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in 1889.
William served as High Steward of Maidenhead, and he was a generous benefactor of the town and the many places named after him in Maidenhead – including Grenfell Park (which contains many unusual trees, the seeds of which were collected by Lord Desborough as he travelled the world), Desborough Park and Grenfell Road – are testimony to this. The Grenfell Estate was wound up in 1952.
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