Philip Stanhope, first Earl of Chesterfield (1584-1656), was the son of Sir John Stanhope, of Shelford, by Cordell, daughter of Richard Allington, Esq. He was born in 1584, knighted by James I. in 1605, and raised to the peerage with the title of Baron Stanhope, of Shelford, on the payment of £10,000 for the dignity. In 1628, Charles I. created him Earl of Chesterfield.

In the Civil War, he and his family vigorously supported the king. Ultimately his estates were sequestrated, and in 1645 he petitioned the House of Lords for maintenance. He was allowed £5 per week by Parliament, and his fine for delinquency was fixed at £8,698. He died in London on the 12th September, 1656, and was buried in the church of St. Giles-in-the-Fields.

He married, first, in 1605, Catherine, daughter of Francis, Lord Hastings. By her he had six sons, of whom—

(1) Henry was knighted in 1626, and represented Notts. in the first two Parliaments of Charles I., and East Retford in the third Parliament. He died 29th November, 1634, having married Catherine, eldest daughter of Thomas, Lord Wotton, by whom he left a son, Philip, who became the second Earl of Chesterfield.

(2) Ferdinando, the fourth son, was member for Tamworth in 1640. He was major and subsequently colonel of horse in the king's army.  While "doing a charitable office in commanding assistance" at East Bridgford "for the quenching an House there on  fire by accident," he was slain by a Parliament soldier in 1644.

For verses on Ferdinando and other members of the Stanhope family, see the poems of Sir Aston Cokain, a son of Anne Stanhope, Chesterfield's sister.

(3) Philip, the fifth son, was killed in the storming, on the 27th October, 1645, of Shelford House, which he held as a garrison for the king.

(4) Arthur, the youngest son of the first marriage, represented Nottingham in the Convention Parliament, and in the first Parlament of Charles II. He was the ancestor of Philip, the fifth Earl of Chesterfield.

As his second wife, Philip, the first Earl of Chesterfield, married Anne, daughter of Sir John Pakington, of Westwood, Worcestershire, and widow of Sir Humphrey Ferrars, of Tamworth Castle, Warwickshire. By her he had one son, Alexander, who was the father of James, the first Earl Stanhope.

Sir Philip Stanhope, the second Earl of Chesterfield (1633-1713), was fatherless before he was two years old. His mother, who subsequently became the daughter-in-law of Poliander, of Leyden, educated her son at Leyden, Breda, and Paris successively. In 1650, he travelled through Italy, and spent many months at Rome. In 1652 he married Anne Percy, daughter of the tenth Earl of Northumberland; but on her death, in 1654, he again visited Rome, returning two years later. He seems to have been a wandering spirit, given to exceeding wildness, and is said to have been engaged in love affairs with Barbara Villiers, who was afterwards Duchess of Cleveland, and with Lady Elizabeth Howard, who subsequently married the poet Dryden.

In 1660, he married Lady Elizabeth Butler, eldest daughter of the first Duke of Ormonde. According to Pepys and Grammont, he not only neglected this second wife but banished her to Derbyshire, that she might be out of the way of the Duke of York's attentions.

Philip Stanhope died on the 28th January, 1713, at the ripe age of seventy-nine. Grammont gives the following description of him:—"Il avait le visage fort agreable, la tete assez belle, peu de taille et moins d'air." By his second wife, Lady Elizabeth Butler, he had one daughter, Elizabeth, who married John Lyon, Earl of Strathmore.

As his third wife, he married Lady Elizabeth Dormer, eldest daughter of Charles, the second Earl of Carnarvon, by whom he had two sons and two daughters:—

(1) Philip, third Earl of Chesterfield, who married Elizabeth Savile, daughter of  the Marquis of Halifax, and was father of Philip Dormer Stanhope, the fourth Earl of Chesterfield.  He died in 1726.

(2) Charles, who inherited the estate of the Wottons, took the name of Wotton, but died without issue.

(3) Mary (1664-1703), wife of Thomas Coke, of  Melbourne, Derbyshire.

(4) Catherine (1675-1728), wife of Godfrey Clarke, of Chilcot, Derbyshire.

Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield, was the first-born of Philip, third Earl of Chesterfield, by Lady Elizabeth Saville, daughter and coheiress of George, Marquis of Halifax. "Lord Chesterfield's first public character," says Horace Walpole, "was that of Ambassador to Holland where he courted the good opinion of that economical people, by losing immense sums at play." Returning from the Hague in October, 1729, he waited on the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Walpole) and claimed the Garter, not on account of his late services, but agreeably with the king's promise when Prince of Wales. "Besides," added Chesterfield, "I am a man of pleasure, and the blue riband would add two inches to my size." The king kept this promise on the 18th June following, and also, about the same period, made him High Steward of the household. On the 5th of September, 1733, Lord Chesterfield married Melesina de Schulenberg, the natural daughter of King George I. She had been created by George I. Baroness of Aldborough and Countess of Wals-ingham, but on her marriage she assumed the title of her husband. She died without issue. On the 3rd of January, 1745, Chesterfield was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland and Secretary of State in the following year. In 1748, partly from differences with his colleagues and partly on account of ill-health, he resigned his appointment of Secretary of State, and did not henceforth accept office. As an example of his wit, we may perhaps give the following story: While he was Secretary of State, the ministry wished to appoint to a vacant post in the government a person much disliked by the king. Chesterfield's courage was equal to the occasion. A warrant, in the usual form, was laid before the king who, directly the offensive name caught his eye, exclaimed, "I would rather have the Devil!" "Your Majesty," said Lord Chesterfield, "will make choice of which you please; but I beg to observe, that the warrant is addressed to our right trusty and right well-beloved cousin." The king is said to have signed with a smile.

As an orator Chesterfield ranked high; Horace Walpole, who knew all the great speakers of the day, observes that the finest speech he ever heard was one of Lord Chesterfield's. Perhaps his only lasting contribution to literature is his Letters to his natural son, Philip, of which the style is good, but the moral tone far from high. The copyright realized £1,500, and in the year succeeding their publication, five editions were sold.

The death of Lord Chesterfield took place on the 24th March, 1773, in his seventy-ninth year. His remains were interred in Audley Street Chapel, in accordance with the directions contained in his will. About half an hour before he expired, his valet announced a visit from Mr. Dayrolles. In reply, the Earl said faintly "Give Dayrolles a chair."

The Right Honourable Welbore Ellis, named in one of the Shelford inscriptions, was the son of a Bishop of Meath. He was a treasurer of the Navy, Secretary of State for the Colonies, Fellow of the Royal Society, and a trustee of the British Museum. In 1794, he was created Lord Mendip. The lady whose death the inscription records, was his first wife, and her father, Sir William Stanhope, purchased Pope's Villa, at Twickenham, in 1744. By this marriage, the property came to Mr. Ellis. Lord Mendip died in 1802, at the advanced age of eighty-eight, dying without issue.

Old almshouses and chapel, Shelford.
Old almshouses and chapel, Shelford.

Near the village, there existed formerly some curious old almshouses and a chapel, founded and endowed by Sir William Stanhope in 1694. The charity was originally a rich one; but the bulk of the money is said to have been lost in the South Sea Bubble scheme. Five and twenty years ago a stockinger, named George Burton, made a stir with the Charity Commissioners, which ended in the buildings being pulled down. There were only three old men living in these almshouses at the time; the other three houses being occupied by the schoolmaster, who also had the use of the chapel as a schoolroom. The chapel was wainscoted in oak, and the vicar of the parish was entitled to £6 a year in return for the duty of saying prayers in the chapel once a week. We are enabled to give an illustration of the buildings, through the kindness of Mr. Fox, a former curate of Shelford, and now vicar of Thixendale.

The old vicarage formerly stood on the north side of the church in the new part of the present churchyard. In the memory of persons still living, it existed as three houses, in one of which a schoolmaster named Loach lived, the father of the present clerk to the church.

The present Shelford Manor is the site of Shelford Priory. There is hardly anything of interest left, nothing, in fact, but a few worked stones, in the walls and elsewhere, of varying periods of architecture. The priory was built by Ralph Hanselyn, in the reign of Henry II., to the honour of the blessed Virgin Mary, and was of the order of St. Austin. Not long before its suppression and grant to Sir Michael Stanhope, there were twelve canons who had lands and tithes to the value of £116 annually.