Savernake Forest, Marlborough, 16 March 1847
I Have duly received your letter of January 27th, again requesting from me the grant of a site for a church, &c. in the Harris, and stating that after conversation with the leading members of the Free Church there, Finsbay is the locality to which you and they give preference. It is, and ever will be a principal object with me, while granting full liberty of conscience, and indeed giving effect to that principle, that nothing should be done under my authority, whereby the social quiet of the Harris could by possibility be disturbed, and especially in matters of religion. Such a result might arise from the – in the Harris most unnecessary – near neighbourhood of the sites of the Established and Free Churches ; and I am happy to say that Finsbay is not open to that serious objection. I trust it will be gratifying to you and the Free Church body generally, to be informed that I will lose no time in communicating with Captain Sitwell, agent and commissioner for my son’s estates, and through him with Captain M’Donald, factor in Harris, in order to the selection and appropriation of a site in the situation which you have proposed. I need scarcely add, that in reading this letter and preceding ones to those whom they concern, I have to request them and you to consider them as private communications.
I remain, &c.
(signed) C. Dunmore.
This letter was written three weeks after the one that can be read in my previous piece here . The key phrase that the Countess uses is ‘nothing should be done under my authority, whereby the social quiet of the Harris could by possibility be disturbed, and especially in matters of religion’ for it reveals the complexity of the situation she faced. Hence, with the Established Church sitting in the fertile, depopulated West on the coast at Scarista she was no doubt only too happy to finally acquiesce to the request for a Free Church now that Finsbay in the overpopulated Bays of the rocky, infertile East was the suggested site. The Free Church may have won the battle to have somewhere to preach within but the ‘establishment’, both spiritual and temporal, remained firmly in control.
As an aside, Savernake Forest is owned by the current Earl of Cardigan and in 1861we find Charles A Murray, 7th Earl of Dunmore, living at 17 Carlton House Terrace which, in 1836, had been home to the then Earl of Cardigan . However, this appears to be coincidental for, in 1847, the family at Savernake were distant cousins of the then Earl and only inherited the title upon his death in 1868, some five years after the Dunmore’s had vacated the London property.
Update: NAS Ref CS228/D/11/17 contains documents showing that one of the Trustees appointed by the 6th Earl of Dunmore was George, Marquis of Ailesbury. His home, in 1847, was Savernake Forest which explains why that is the address on this letter from the Countess of Dunmore.
Ref: A transcript of the letter can be read here: Countess of Dunmore’s Letter