The Yellow Earl

Hugh Cecil Lowther (1857–1944), became the 5th Earl of Lonsdale after taking over from his brother in 1882. However before claiming his inheritance he married Grace Gordon, although her family didn’t approve of the marriage because at the time he wasn’t rich and they thought he was irresponsible. Unfortunately for him they turned out to be correct, as he invested in cattle in America however this business venture failed and he had to be bailed out by his family.

After claiming his inheritance he owned 75000 acres of land and held residence at a number of properties including Lowther Castle, Whitehaven Castle among others. He used most of his fortune to live a life of pleasure.

He owned tens of thousands of acres of Cumberland, Westmorland and elsewhere. He owned Whitehaven, and its coalfields, which stretched under the Irish Sea. Income from coalfields, iron mines and agricultural land was £4,000 a week: equivalent today to about £18m a year.

Lowther was one of the richest men in England, with estates which included the Whitehaven collieries. He led an ostentatious lifestyle and used his wealth to pursue his various sporting passions, including hunting, boxing (he became the first president of the National Sporting Club and was the instigator of the Lonsdale Belt), horse-racing and show jumping (first president of the International Horse Show) and cars (first president of the AA).

After having an affair with Violet Cameron a famous actress of the time, this was seen as a huge scandal at the time. So much so that in 1888 he started an expedition of the Arctic of Canada. This expedition was filled with danger and Lonsdale very nearly died on his way to Alaska in 1889. Subsequently he returned to England, and all the artefacts he collected on his journey are now homed at the British Museum in London.

In 1894, Hugh Lowther was elected as the first mayor of Whitehaven Municipal Borough Council.

Lord Lonsdale became known as the Yellow Earl because that was his favourite colour he went on to Become the founder of The AA. He enjoyed been involved in a number of sports he was known by many as England’s greatest sporting gentleman. He was also a founding member and the very first president of the National Sporting Club and he gave the club the Lonsdale belt for their boxing tournament. He later gave his name to the Lonsdale clothing brand, he also gave his name to the Lonsdale cigar size.

Fox hunting was one of this biggest hobbies and he was the master of a number of hunts. He was a huge football fan. He was chairman of Arsenal after been a director of the club later he was named the clubs honorary president.

He assisted the Adjutant General during the Second Boer War from 1900 to 1901. He continued to serve his country in the 1st World War, he was responsible for recruiting both men and horses. Later he started his owned battalion called The Lonsdales 11th battalion of the Border Regiment. Also during the war he help to founder Our Dumb Friends League which is now known as The Blue Cross and he became it’s chairman throughout the war.

After the war he became more involved in horse racing and he became a senior steward of The Jockey Club. However he only had 1 major win in 1922. Due to his involvement in horse racing he became the first president of the International Horse Show. At this point in his life he was officially a lord he was very rarely seen in the House of Lords.

Due to his life of luxuries and pleasures he started to become short of money and he was forced to sell a number of his properties including Whitehaven Castle and Barleythorpe. Then he was forced to move out of Lowther Castle because he couldn’t afford to live there. His wife Grace died in 1941 and Hugh himself died in 1944 aged 87.

Due to his money situation his estate was all but destroyed so much so that in 1947 his heir had to put all the contents of Lowther Castle up for auction, this sale turned out to be the largest sale of an English country house in the 20th century.

Hugh Lowther - The Yellow Earl
Hugh Lowther - The Yellow Earl


Whitehaven had been small harbour and fishing village from 13th century or earlier. Expansion began in mid-17th century with building of piers by Lowthers 1632-4 and 1679-81 and granting of market charter 1660. By the 1680s it had grown rapidly, expanding from village of c.30 households in early 17th century to a town of over 1,000 inhabitants by 1685, which more than doubled to 2,281 by 1696. Sir John Lowther had laid out grid of streets by 1680s, making Whitehaven the earliest planned new town in post-medieval Britain.

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