The Twickenham Museum
People : Royals, Peers and Courtiers

Baroness Howe of Langar
Destroyer of Pope's Villa
1762 - 1835

Baroness Howe of Langar (courtesy of Earl & Countess Howe)

Sophia Charlotte Howe was the eldest of the three daughters of Admiral Richard Howe (1726-1799) and Mary Hartopp (1732-1800) the daughter of Colonel Chiverton Hartopp (c1690-1759) of Welby in Leicestershire.

Richard Howe enjoyed a distinguished naval career ending with the rank of Admiral of the Fleet.
In 1782 he was created Viscount Howe of Langar in Nottinghamshire where the family had been established in succession to the Scrope family at Langar Hall. In 1788 he was created Earl Howe and Baron of Langar. The barony was arranged to allow succession in the female line. Thus when Richard died in 1799 Lady Sophia Charlotte became the 2nd Baroness. She inherited Langar Hall, an ancient building for which she had no liking; stripped the house, demolished it and broke up the estate. It was good practice for what she did with Pope's Villa nine years later.

In 1787 she married the hon. Penn Assheton Curzon (1757-1797), the first son of Viscount Curzon of Penn House in Buckinghamshire by his first wife Esther Hanmer. She was the niece of Charles Jennens, the owner of Gopsall Hall in Leicestershire and when he died, in 1773, he bequeathed the property to her son.

The Curzons had four children: George Augustus (1788-1805), Marianne (1790-1820), Leicester (1792-93) and Richard William (1796-1876). When, in 1805, George died Richard became heir to the Viscountcy. He also inherited Gopsall Hall and, when the Viscount died in1820, he became the owner of Penn House. In 1821 the Howe earldom was revived for him.

The demolition of Pope's Villa. Engraving after a painting by J M W Turner


In 1803 Sophia Charlotte, now Baroness Howe of Langar, acquired a riverside property in Twickenham. Built by the painter Thomas Hudson to a Palladian design by Roger Morris, it had been occupied by Sir John Fleming Leicester. Between 1801 and 1807 she had occupied a London House, no 12 Upper Brook Street.

Twickenham was known to her. Her uncle,
General Viscount William Howe
, the admiral's younger brother had married Frances, the daughter of Lady Anne Conolly, the builder and owner of the riverside property then known as Lebanon House. Frances inherited this property in 1797 when her mother died, remaining until her own death in 1817. When the general died he was brought to Twickenham for burial.

In 1807 Lady Howe bought
Popes Villa
, next door, from Sir John Briscoe's widow and demolished it. Next she built a replacement on adjoining land, probably connecting this to the Roger Morris house which she either replaced, or rearranged, in gothic style. A view, dated 1828, shows a rather heterogeneous ensemble of buildings which she christened Pope's Villa.

Lady Howe's Villa

2nd Marriage

In October 1812 Lady Howe married again, her oculist Jonathan Phipps. She immediately transferred her Twickenham property to him. Phipps was a fashionable eye surgeon who moved in court circles as the personal friend of George III and other members of the royal family. Nevertheless it was unusual for a commoner to marry an aristocrat and there was considerable comment. Viscount Curzon was affronted, to the extent that he took out an Action in Chancery in order to protect his grandson's interest in Gopsall. The Gopsall estate was still being managed by the Baroness on behalf of the 16 year old Richard.

Following their marriage in 1812 she made her Twickenham properties over to Jonathan and here they set up house and held court until her death in 1835. Substantial land and property in the area was acquired during the period. She is stated to have died at 8 New Cavendish Street, London.

Further reading:

Anthony Beckles Willson, Mr Pope & Others in Cross Deep, 1996
Strawberry Hill, A History of the Neighbourhood, Strawberry Hill Residents Association, 1991

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