Sir William Richard Crosbie, 7th Baronet of Maryborough, Queen’s County, Ireland. 1820-77

Sir William Richard Crosbie, 7th Baronet of Maryborough, Queen’s County, Ireland. 1820-77

Many visitors to the cemetery have long been intrigued by this grave. The town of ‘Maryborough’ and the area ‘Queen’s County’ mentioned on the gravestone do not appear on any modern map of Ireland. The only mention of ‘Maryborough’ today is of 2 towns in Australia! How can it be explained that an Irish Baronet, the 7th in line, from this puzzling area of Ireland, came to be buried at Foster Hill Road Cemetery?

Maryborough was the name given in honour of the Queen, Mary Tudor, in 1557 to a fort established during the plantations of Ireland in C16. The plantations involved the confiscation of Irish owned land by the British crown and the colonization of the land by British settlers. The aim was to ‘control, anglicise and civilise’ Ireland. The surrounding area was known as ‘Queen’s County’ from 1556, again in honour of Queen Mary.

Maryborough was renamed Portlaoise in 1920 by the town authorities. This reflected the growth of Irish Nationalism that had been on the increase throughout the C19 and early C20. Frustration at the lack of ‘Home Rule’ for Ireland had led to the Easter Rising in 1916 and ultimately the setting up of the Irish Free State in 1922. The Irish Free Sate consisted of 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland; the remaining 6 counties in Northern Ireland opted out and remained part of the United Kingdom. In readiness for this development some English names like Maryborough were substituted for Irish ones. Queen’s County was renamed County Laois, spelt for a while ‘Laoighis’ from tribal origins, in 1922. It is part of the province of Leinster in central Ireland.

Name connection with Australia
‘Maryborough’ in Victoria, Australia, today, was purportedly named during a gold rush in 1854 by the local gold commissioner and police magistrate James Daly after his birth place in Maryborough, Ireland. Unlike the town in Ireland the name has not been changed.

The title of Baronet
This is a hereditary title which ranks above most knights and, today, Dames of the realm. The holder is addressed as ‘Sir’. Originally back in history Baronets were created as a way of providing funds for the sovereign. The only recent Baronet created since 1965 was Denis Thatcher, whose son Mark succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his father in 2003.

The Crosbie Baronetcy was created in 1630, in the reign of King Charles 1 The family was of Gaelic and Roman Catholic origin but converted to the Church of Ireland and Anglicized their name. The 1st baronet was Sir Walter Crosbie, who had close connections to the crown as his first cousin was Sir Piers Crosbie, a leading soldier and statesman of the period.

Notoriety of the 5th Baronet
Sir Edward William Crosbie was executed in 1798 for treason for allegedly taking part in an Irish Rebellion against the British. It was established many years later that he had been framed and was innocent.

The life of the 7th Baronet – Sir William Richard Crosbie. (1820-1877)
Sir William Crosbie was born on 30 September 1820 in Dublin to Edward Crosbie and Jane Henry. In April 1854 he married Catherine Madden in Monkstown Dublin and they had three sons and a daughter. He succeeded to the Baronetcy on the death of his cousin William in 1860.

Sale of William Richard Crosbie’s Estates in Ireland due to the Great Famine of 1845-9
From 1845-49 Ireland suffered a terrible famine. Its main cause was the failure due to disease of the potato crop, on which a third of the Irish depended for food. Over a million people are believed to have died. Sir William Richard Crosbie was badly affected financially; his tenants could not pay their rent, and many had starved to death or were among the two million who emigrated to avoid starvation. Consequently he could not meet his financial obligations, which were many, such as annuities, marriage portions as well as mortgages and others, and so he was seriously in debt. However, he was not allowed by law to sell his land as it was ‘entailed’ meaning that there were conditions laid down, whereby it had to pass to the owner’s heir on his death. Such land was known as an ‘Encumbered Estate’. The purpose was to keep the land in the family.

(Those familiar with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will know that Mr Bennet’s daughters could not inherit his estate as it was ‘entailed’. This meant that it had to go to a male relative; in his case the closest one was his cousin Mr Collins).

This impasse in Ireland was solved by Act of Parliament – The Encumbered Estates Act 1849. This allowed the sale of estates whose landowners could not meet their financial obligations, even if the land was ‘entailed’. The estates were sold through the encumbered estates court, free of debt, to a new landowner. William Richard Crosbie was one of these insolvent landowners who was forced to sell land to meet his debts.

A notice advertising the sale of William Crosbie’s land

Land values plummeted due to the famine. Following the sale of land William Crosbie needed to find other sources of income. From 1850-60 he gained employment as a Civil Servant in the Customs Service. He seems to have moved to different places; records show that his eldest son was born in Ireland but his subsequent children were born in Brighton and London.

By the 1861 census he had left his employment with a pension as he is recorded as ‘superannuated from the Civil Service’. According to a report in the Globe newspaper, London, this was due to a serious ‘bodily injury’. He was then living on Chalcot Terrace near Regent’s Park, London. His three sons were aged five, three and a few months, thus below schooling age.

By the 1871 census he had moved to Bedford with his family, living at 25 St Cuthberts Street, and his sons attended Bedford (Grammar) School. Many families were attracted to Bedford due to the quality and affordability of schooling in the town. This could have been the reason for the move to Bedford, as no other links with the town have been found.

He died at his home, ‘Latrobe Cottage’ St Cuthberts Street on 6th May 1877 aged 56. He was buried at Foster Hill Road Cemetery on 10th May 1977.
Grave Ref: H 2 109



A reminder of where Latrobe Cottage Now part of ‘Latrobe House’.
stood before rebuilding.

The Cottage’s site is now part of the building belonging to Price Wallace, a Property Management Company. Renamed ‘Latrobe House’, at 21 St Cuthberts Street, following rebuilding and renumbering it stands on the corner of St Cuthberts and Grove Place.

The first Moravian settlement in Britain was established in Bedford in 1745. The Moravians were a Non-Conformist Church originating in the C15 from Bohemia and then Moravia (now in the Czech Republic) as opponents of the enforced Roman Catholic religion. From the 1730s the movement spread to England and in the 1740s to Bedford. Early leaders of the Moravian movement in England were The Reverend Benjamin Latrobe, (the name is of French Huguenot descent) and his son Reverend Christian Ignatius Latrobe.

Ministers of the Moravian Church in Bedford included James Gottleib La Trobe (1803-6) and his son James La Trobe (1860-3)

It is possible that ‘Latrobe Cottage’ on St Cuthberts Street housed members or leaders of the Bedford Moravian Church at some point in its history; it is alternately possible it was named by admirers of the La Trobe ministers connected to the Moravian foundation in England. The unusual name ‘La Trobe cottage’ suggests a Moravian connection.

The 7th Baronet’s eldest son, William Edward Douglas Crosbie, succeeded to the baronetcy on his father’s death. He married twice and had one daughter. He died in 1936 in Sussex, his younger brothers Joseph Augustus and Edward James having predeceased him, both unmarried. As he left no son or close male relative the baronetcy became ‘extinct’.

The family appears to have left Bedford after the death of the 7th Baronet. In the 1881 census they were living together in Portsea, Hampshire, where Catherine died the following year. Joseph died in London in 1886 and Edward died in Ireland in 1890.

-Dublin Ireland Probate Record & Marriage Licence Index 1270-1858
-Belfast Newsletter (Births, Marriages & Deaths) 1738-1925
-Dictionary of Irish Biography
-Ireland, Encumbered Estates 1851
-Irish Geneology
-Thom’s Irish Almanac and Official Directory 1858 & 1860
-The Globe, London May 10 1877
-Bedfordshire Mercury 12 May 1977
Calendar of Wills and Administrations, Ireland, 1858-1920
-Censuses 1861, 1871
-Find My Past