Robert Shuttleworth

Robert Shuttleworth's dream of restoring his ancient, battered family to its Mediaeval seat of Gawthorpe, and of being a model landlord, was cut short by his tragic early death in a carriage accident. He did, however, leave a wife and heiress to fulfil his plans. I wonder whether he provided the inspiration for the title role of Walter Scott's 'last great novel' (5), Redgauntlet?

The Palladian Forcett Hall near Richmond. The family had abandoned Gawthorpe as ill-fated after two members of the family died there in 1687.
Robert Shuttleworth, c.1745-1814. Robert was his second son: his elder brother Robert received the estate of Barnton Lodge. Robert senior's father James Shuttleworth (1741-54) was a Tory MP for Preston and then Lancashire, and, with his father, was suspected of assisting the Jacobites.
Anne Desgauliers (d.1801), daughter of General Thomas Desgauliers
Gawthorpe Hall, Lancashire, an Elizabethan mansion incorporating a Mediaeval watchtower, which Robert reopened as the family seat. There was a legend about a Jacobite treasure hoard in the East wing.
He was Chairman of Preston Quarter Sessions and was called 'The People's Magistrate'. However, his tragic death in a carriage accident cut short his ambitions to be a model country gentleman.
When Robert's widow remarried in 1824, she persuaded her new husband Frederick North to keep up the house for their child, Janet, who was the heiress of Gawthorpe. Frederick wrote, 'This is well, and little Janet's advantage, whom I really love not only for her mother's sake but absolutely for her own, will be promoted'. After he had moved in, however, he felt haunted by Robert, writing in his diary,
I cannot wholly understand the strange feeling which being in this place excites in me. There is something very painful in it ... There is a picture in the library whch I cannot doubt to be that of Robert Shuttleworth ... which disturbs my mind in the strangest manner. It is a weakness, and one that must be combatted to the harsh, rather powerful and very intelligent countenance but showing much ill-temper and by no means of a liberal cast. Janet to have been under the control of such a character and yet having been so for him to have said as he did say on his death bed 'Marry again soon, you must make any man happy, if that man can make himself'. She is indeed of a noble character and I will endeavour to render myself worthy of her. (3)
Janet's father Sir John Marjoribanks of Lees was a neighbour of Walter Scott of Abbotsford. In June 1824 Scott published Redgauntlet, and it is tempting to think that Sir Robert Redgauntlet and his descendents, with their northern English Jacobitism and their 'way of bending his brows, that men saw the visible mark of a horseshoe in his forehead, deep dinted, as if it had been stamped there' was inspired by the fierce-faced Robert Shuttleworth of Gawthorpe and his ancestors. It is likely that Scott met Shuttleworth when he was in Edinburgh, and would surely have been interested in his family's legends and his intention of restoring the family to its Mediaeval seat. One could imagine, too, that the tragedy of his death resonated with Scott's own romantic tragedy of Williamina, which (through Greenmantle) makes Redgauntlet his most biographical work. Scott was more of a brilliant borrower than an inventor, so it seems likely somebody inspired Redgauntlet. Since I know of no other candidates for the post (4), I propose Robert Shuttleworth and await correction from Scott scholars.
Chapel connection
Wedding, 1816
Married on
5 November 1816
Janet Marjoribanks
Janet (b.1817). Heiress of Gawthorpe, and of her father's aspirations to be a good landlord. In 1840 she enlarged Gawthorpe School, writing to the Board of Education for advice. The Secretary, James Phillips Kay, replied, and the correspondence led in 1842 to their marriage. Kay was knighted in 1849 for his education work: he had founded the first teacher-training college, established school inspections and expanded the pupil-teacher system. Kay began the restoration of Gawthorpe, where Charlotte Bronté visited. However, Janet left him in 1851 and lived on the continent, dying in 1872.


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. 'The Shuttleworths of Gawthorpe' in Thomas W. Grimshaw, Grimshaw Origins and History (Website accessed 29 November 2011)
  3. M.P.Conroy, Backcloth to Gawthorpe, revised edition (M.P.Conroy, Bury, 1996) p.49. There seems to be something wrong in the transcription (unless poor Mr North was too distracted to write sentences), but the meaning is clear.
  4. 'Redgauntlet: Sources' in Edinburgh University Library, The Walter Scott Digital Archive (online accessed 29 November 2011)
  5. John Sutherland, The Life of Walter Scott: a critical biography (Blackwell, Oxford, 1995) p.270

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