EGERTON, Sir Philip de Malpas Grey, 10th bt. (1806-1881), of Oulton Park, Cheshire and 18 Jermyn Street, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 13 Nov. 1806, 1st s. of Rev. Philip Grey Egerton, rect. of Malpas and Tarporley, Cheshire, and Rebecca, da. of Josias Du Pré of Wilton Park, Bucks. educ. Eton 1820-4; Christ Church, Oxf. 1825. m. 8 Mar. 1832, Anna Elizabeth, da. of George John Legh of High Legh, Cheshire, 2s. 2da. suc. fa. as 10th bt. 13 Dec. 1829. d. 5 Apr. 1881.
Capt. Cheshire yeoman cav. 1825, lt.-col. 1847.
Egerton, one of the most eminent antiquaries and palaeontologists of his time, was the eldest of the seven sons and a daughter born to the Rev. Philip Egerton, a leading freemason, who in 1825 succeeded his brother Sir John Grey Egerton† to the Egerton baronetcy and 9,000-acre Oulton Park estate, which had been denuded of timber to meet electioneering costs in Chester.[footnote] His mother was the daughter of a nabob and sister of James du Pré†. He was educated at Eton and Oxford, where he studied geology under William Buckland and William Conybeare and became a close friend of William Willoughby, Viscount Cole (afterwards 3rd earl of Enniskillen), with whom he travelled in Germany, Switzerland and Italy in search of fossil fishes, the subject of his work and reputation as a palaeontologist.[footnote] His coming of age was celebrated at Oulton and at Chester’s Albion hotel, the venue of his late uncle’s Egerton or ‘Independent’ party, for whom his kinsman General Charles Egerton had almost recaptured one of the borough seats from the Grosvenors in 1826 and seemed set to do so at the next opportunity.[footnote] Egerton graduated in 1828, was elected a fellow of the Royal Geological Society the following year and in December 1829 succeeded his father, who died worth less than £8,000 and having willed everything to his widow, to the baronetcy and entailed estates.[footnote] At the 1830 general election Egerton canvassed early and came in unopposed for Chester with the 2nd earl Grosvenor’s son Robert. His notices and speeches made frequent references to the Egertons’ achievements, and he promised to support ‘every measure for economizing the resources of the country, reducing the burdens of the people’, and abolishing sinecures and useless places. He declined to attend the nomination for Cheshire, where Lord Grosvenor’s heir Lord Belgrave, who had stood down at Chester, was a successful candidate.[footnote] As his late uncle Sir John had wished, Egerton was a major beneficiary of the will (proved under £25,000) of the dowager Lady Egerton (d. 11 Aug. 1830).[footnote]
The Wellington ministry interpreted Egerton’s election as a gain and classified him as one of their ‘friends’, and he divided with them when they were brought down on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. Afterwards, he joined Grosvenor in issuing an equivocal declaration of support for moderate reform; but, unlike him, he refused to endorse the Chester reform meeting’s petition in favour of the Grey ministry’s bill, and caused a great stir by stating in an explanatory letter to the mayor, 14 Mar. 1831:
Upon subjects of local interest I should at all times pay the utmost deference to your opinions; but on one of great national importance, like the present ... I shall consider it my bounden duty to throw every obstacle in the way of so crude and dangerous a measure.
He added that in the likely event of a dissolution the freemen could judge his conduct.[footnote] He divided against the bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He is not known to have spoken in debate in this period, but he presented petitions from Chester against slavery, 23 Nov. 1830, the first and second Chester-Liverpool railway bills, 23 Mar., and the reform bill, 19 Apr. 1831. Certain of defeat, he stood down at the dissolution that month.[footnote] There was talk of proposing him for the county, where at the ensuing general election he signed the anti-reformers’ declaration of support for the abortive candidature of Lord Henry Cholmondeley*. According to the reformers, he had hoped to be returned for Castle Rising in his place.[footnote]
Egerton married a daughter of the leading Cheshire Tory George John Legh in March 1832 and, backed by the Cheshire Conservatives and his Carlton Club colleagues, he stood for the new Cheshire South constituency in December 1832, but was narrowly defeated by two Liberals.[footnote] He was returned without a contest in 1835 and remained a Member for life, coming in for West Cheshire in 1868 after boundary changes.[footnote] When he died of a heart attack brought on by bronchitis at his London home in Albemarle Street in April 1881, he was the antiquary to the Royal Academy, a trustee of the British Museum and of the Royal College of Surgeons, a member of the senate of the University of London, and had seats on the councils of the Royal Society and the Geological Society, which awarded him the Woollaston medal in 1873 for his services to palaeontology. He was the first recipient in 1879 of the Kingsley Medal, awarded by the Chester Society of Natural Sciences, of which he was vice-president.[footnote] His scientific works included catalogues of his collections and over 80 articles in the Royal Geological Society’s transactions. He also published an edited commentary on William, Lord Grey de Wilton (1847); Papers relating to the Elections of the Knights of the Shire for the County Palatine of Chester (1852); A Short Account of the Possessors of Oulton (1869), and Annals of Grillions Club, 1812-62 (1880), of which he was president in 1837.[footnote] He was succeeded in the baronetcy and entailed estates by his eldest son Philip le Belward Grey Egerton (1833-91), and provided for his widow (d. 1882), two daughters and younger son Rowland, to whom he left his unentailed estates and fossils at his museum in Oulton.[footnote] As he had wished, the British Museum purchased his fossil fish collection for the Natural History Museum, and his original drawings of them were donated to the Geological Society ‘to be added to the Agassiz collection’.