CHAMBERS, George (b.1766), of Hartford, nr. Huntingdon.
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Family and Education
b. 1766, o.s. of Sir William Chambers, architect, of Whitton Place, Mdx. by his w. Catherine née More of Bromsgrove, Worcs.1 educ. L. Inn 1790. m. 6 July 1784,2 Hon. Jane Rodney, da. of George Brydges Rodney†, 1st Baron Rodney, 8s. 1da.3 suc. fa. 1796.
Cornet 1 Horse Gds. 1783; lt. army, lt. 1 Life Gds. 1788, ret. by 1790; capt. army 1794, 40 Ft. 1799, half-pay 1802, ret. 1826.
Chambers entered the army in 1783 against the wishes of his father, the architect of Somerset House and, as comptroller and later surveyor-general of the works, the titular head of his profession from 1769 until his death. The following year, aged 18, he made a runaway marriage with Jane Rodney (said to have been one of Lord Rodney’s bastards), but the match was subsequently accepted by both sets of parents.4 In 1790 he left the Guards to read for the bar, but he was never called and he later rejoined the army. His father died in 1796, leaving Chambers, who was described to Farington as ‘a weak man’, an annuity of £1,100 and providing £1,500 for each of Chambers’s children.5
At the general election of 1796 he came forward for Honiton with the support of Sir George Yonge* and Lord Courtenay who had influence there, though, as he soon discovered, money was essential to success. Mary Anne Burges, a local resident, told her brother, 27 May:
Mr Chambers came down at first without any money, having been led to suppose by Lord Courtenay and Sir G. Yonge that their interest was sufficient to bring him in free of all charges. When he found the reverse to be the case, he returned to London, and came back ... with £3,000 in his pocket, with which I believe the Treasury has supplied him.6
The other ministerialist candidate withdrew at the last minute and Chambers was returned unopposed with a Whig. A week later he wrote to Pitt:
at Honiton I have involved myself in a debt of £1,800 exclusive of the £2,000 given. I considered myself acting in your service ... Had I abandoned when my fund received was exhausted, two men of different principles to myself instead of one would have been returned.7
It is not known whether he was reimbursed. No trace of parliamentary activity has been found, but he was a defaulter on 3 Apr. 1797, and again 17 Mar. 1801.8 His captaincy in the 40th Foot was dated 9 Aug. 1799 and he was said to have gone on the expedition to the Helder later that month, but to have been forced by illness to return before the main body of the invading force.9
Chambers did not seek re-election in 1802. By then his life was in ruins. His wife, whose head had been turned by one Captain Caulfield, an actor, left him after violent incidents in 1798. There was a reconciliation, marked by a deed which gave her permission to leave, with an annuity of £200, if further differences arose. They did, and she abandoned him and the children and subsequently lived with Caulfield, who was ostensibly her ‘lodger’. In August 1802 Chambers was in Boulogne, hiding from his creditors. In 1803 his wife was said to be ‘in very great distress, from his being greatly in arrear in paying her separate maintenance’. He stayed abroad for about two years and in 1804 brought a crim. con. action against Caulfield, whose counsel admitted the adultery but produced evidence which indicated that Chambers’s own conduct had been far from blameless. Chambers was awarded £2,000 damages, far less than he had hoped for. Caulfield was unable to pay and was committed to King’s Bench prison. In 1805 there were Chancery proceedings over the maintenance of the Chambers children, one of whom, a boy of 13 at Westminster school, was running up enormous tradesmen’s bills. Against Chambers it was alleged that he had misappropriated for his own use the money willed to his children by his father, but in his defence it was said that his wife’s extravagance was the cause of his financial ruin. In December 1808 he sought reparation from the marshal of King’s Bench on the ground that he had permitted Caulfield to continue living with Mrs Chambers at Bryanston Street and Hampton Court where he had died. Damages of £2,120 were awarded to Chambers.10
A few months earlier, according to one source, he was appointed a magistrate at Union Hall police office, Southwark, and in 1812 was transferred to the Hatton Garden office;11 but neither of these appointments is confirmed by the contemporary Law Lists. In 1817 a former pupil of Sir William Chambers told Farington that George was ‘now a vagabond’, his whereabouts unknown.12 The last trace of him that has been found is a note of his retirement from the half-pay list in the 1826 Army List.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. J. Harris, Sir William Chambers , 5-6, 11.
- 2. According to CP ; but in his crim. con. proceedings his sister deposed date of m. as 12 Sept. 1784 (The Times , 4 Dec. 1804).
- 3. The Times , 4 Dec. 1804, 14 Aug. 1805.
- 4. Harris, 15; The Times, 4 Dec. 1804; Farington, v. 104.
- 5. Harris, 17; Farington Diary (Yale ed.), ii. 511, 523.
- 6. Bland Burges mss.
- 7. PRO 30/8/122, f. 23.
- 8. CJ, lii. 450; lvi. 180.
- 9. The Times, 4 Dec. 1804.
- 10. Ibid. 10 June 1803, 4 Dec. 1804, 26 Jan., 11, 13 Feb., 14 Aug. 1805, 7 Dec. 1808; Farington, v. 104; Gent. Mag. (1808), ii. 953, 1124.
- 11. Gent. Mag. (1808), ii. 943; (1812), i. 187.
- 12. Farington, viii. 140.