charles

Charles James Fox

Charles James Fox was born in 1749, the third and favourite son of Henry Fox, later Lord Holland. From an early age Fox became infatuated with gambling, losing small fortunes at cards, such debts were always settled by his father.

With his father’s assistance he entered parliament at 19, before the legal age, as MP for the pocket Borough of Midhurst in Sussex. Later, as MP for Westminster, Fox established a reputation as an eloquent political orator, speaking in support of civil liberty. He was appointed Foreign Minister under King George III.

In 1778 Fox purchased a thirty-acre property on St. Ann’s Hill with commanding views of the surrounding countryside. The house was ‘a plain irregular building, of no architectural importance … The gardens and pleasure grounds are laid out with great taste’ with ‘a small Temple’ and ‘a very neat grotto’.

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St Ann’s Hill House on St Ann’s Hill, Chertsey, early 20th century

Fox spent much time in this rural retreat away from the intrigues of political life in London. Fox’s house was demolished in 1937, though two of Fox’s garden buildings still survive.

In 1782, a young German schoolmaster, Carl Philipp Moritz, during a visit to England, described Fox, ‘This same celebrated Charles Fox is a short, fat, and gross man with a swarthy complexion and dark; and in general he is badly dressed.’

He later aided his friend the Prince Regent, in his attempt to gain power during the illness of George III. On returning to parliament in 1806, after a break of almost a decade, he strongly opposed the slave trade, but became ill and died of dropsy in the same year. He had wished to be buried at Chertsey, but his friends considered his memory would be more honoured at Westminster Abbey.