Vernon and Kitty [Katherine] Lushington family

Member of The Hundred

Name
Vernon and Kitty [Katherine] Lushington family
Birth and death
1832 - 1922
Occupations
Profession details
Lawyer, Positivist, Sailor, Muse
Related place
Author
Anne Wright

Life beyond Elmbridge

'He is thoroughly frank, open.......earnest and enthusiastic, extremely Radical, but not wildly, taking a great deal of interest in all questions of political economy and moral philosophy, an ardent admirer of Plato, Wordsworth and especially Ruskin.' This assessment of Vernon Lushington, in the 1850s, by one of his Cambridge friends aptly describes the man he was throughout his life. He and his twin brother, Godfrey, were born on 8th March, 1832 in Westminster to the Rt. Hon. Dr. Stephen Lushington (1782-1873) and his wife Sarah Grace Lushington (nee Carr; 1794-1837). The two boys had ten siblings and were part of an intellectual and influential family. Their father campaigned alongside William Wilberforce to abolish slavery yet their great uncle William Lushington MP (1747-1823) was the agent for the island of Grenada and advocated the rights of the planters.

Vernon spent three years as a Midshipman on HMS Eurydice in the 1840s and displayed perhaps a reckless sense of justice when he reputedly knocked down an officer he believed to be responsible for a case of bullying! In 1852 he went up to Trinity College, Cambridge to read Law and in 1854 was elected to the 'secret society' of Apostles which included some of the great thinkers of the day such as Thomas Carlyle and John Stuart Mill. He graduated from Cambridge with a First Class Honours degree and was called to the Bar in 1859. Like his identical twin, Godfrey, Vernon Lushington was attracted to the Positivism of Auguste Comte (1798-1857), a philosopher of science, who emphasised the application of reason and logic to the study of physical and human events. Comte created and defined the term 'altruism', an ethos which is reflected in much of Vernon Lushington's life and work. He contributed to the Positivist Review and through his Positivist connections met George Eliot and other writers.

He was also influenced by Christian Socialism and he and his twin became involved in the early Labour and Trade Union movements. Sidney and Beatrice Webb described the brothers thus: '...from this time (early 1860s) forward they became the trusted legal experts and political advisers of the Trade Union movement.' Vernon Lushington backed the London Building Workers' demand for a nine hours working day in 1861 and collected money for the beleaguered Lancashire cotton workers relief fund, also in the 1860s. The American Civil War caused a sudden stoppage to the import of raw cotton from the South and without work the wellbeing of the workers and their families was in grave danger. The money was channelled through the author Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell. He was also on the Council of Teachers for the Working Men's College, which was established in London in 1854. It was here that an awe-struck Edward Burne-Jones was too overcome to introduce himself to Dante Gabriel Rosetti so Vernon Lushington invited both men to a social gathering at his rooms and the introduction was made. Burne-Jones became part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of which Lushington was a keen promoter. In 1865 he married Jane Mowatt, the daughter of a Liberal MP. By this time he was he was Deputy Judge Advocate General advising the Secretary of State for War on matters of military law and in 1869 he became Secretary to the Admiralty.

Life in Elmbridge

The marriage of Vernon and Jane Lushington was celebrated in generous style with the workers of his father's Ockham Park estate (in Surrey) being treated to, ' a most substantial dinner' and every poor person in the village receiving a gift of 1lb of tea, 2lbs of sugar and 2lbs of cake. The generosity did not end there as, 'All the aged men had the gratification of receiving a new round frock and the old ladies a new dress each.' This was an auspicious beginning to a happy marriage. The couple moved from Ockham Park to Wheeler's Farm, Pyrford, a few miles from Cobham and in 1877, in order to accommodate their growing family, they moved to Pyports. Pyports was a red brick house in Cobham, situated on Downside Bridge Road at the Church end of Church Street - one of the most important positions in the town. Vernon Lushington remained in this house for twenty years during which time he served as a County Court Judge for Surrey and Berkshire. The Lushingtons had three daughters, Katherine (Kitty), Margaret and Susan. The family became fully involved in the life of the local community. The building of the Village Hall and of the school in Cedar Road were due in part to contributions from Vernon Lushington, the Pyports barn served as a rehearsal room for the village orchestra and as a venue for dances and in 1885 the Harvest Festival Sports took place on Pyports meadow. The Lushingtons maintained a home in London as well, a Queen Anne house at 36, Kensington Square.

Jane Lushington died suddenly in 1884 when her daughters were aged seventeen, fifteen and four. She was buried in the churchyard of Pyrford's Norman church. Jane's friend, Julia Stephen, the mother of Virginia Woolf, took a kindly interest in Kitty, Margaret and Susan and Kitty would become the inspiration for Virginia Woolf's ,'Mrs Dalloway', when after marriage to Leo Maxse she became a renowned London society hostess. The tradesmen of Cobham presented Leo and Kitty Maxse with a silver salt cellar to celebrate their marriage at St. Andrew's Church, Cobham in 1890.

In 1898 Vernon Lushington and his daughter Susan moved to Hampshire. In these years he maintained his interest in politics and social justice and was, in particular, concerned about the Dreyfus Affair in France and the political situation in South Africa. He died on 24 January 1912, 'and today' wrote Susan Lushington to Frederic Harrison,' he died so peacefully and gently...and he looks so beautiful.' Harrison spoke movingly of his friend in his commemorative address to the Positivist Society, " May the temper of generous forbearance and loving kindness which was so innate in the heart of Vernon Lushington long bear fruit in the lives of those who remember him and came within the range of his gracious influence." He was buried next to his wife at Pyrford. Vernon Lushington's benevolent relationship with Cobham was honoured by the naming of Lushington Drive in the 1980s and by a plaque erected in December 2008 commemorating his occupation of Pyports as well as that of other famous inhabitants.

He was a good man who led a just and honourable life. He was part of the intellectual aristocracy of Victorian Britain, who thought deeply about faith, science, the arts and justice. Vernon Lushington was a doer as well as a thinker, an aspect of his life which was inspired by his generous spirit.

Katherine 'Kitty' Lushington, (1867-1922) daughter of Vernon Lushington, who lived at Pyports. Kitty married Leopold Maxse, and was the model for Mrs Dalloway in the novel by her friend Virginia Woolf.

Sources

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