William Heathcote was born on the 17th of May 1801, the son of the
Rev. William Heathcote, Rector of Worting, Hants, and prebendary
of the Cathedral of Winchester, second son of Sir William, third
His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Lovelace Bigg Wither of
Manydown Park, Hampshire. She was widowed early, and she brought
up her only son with the utmost care. They lived chiefly at Winchester.
William Heathcote was sent first to the private school of considerable
reputation at Ramsbury in Wiltshire, kept by the Rev. Edward Meyrick,
and, after four years there, became a commoner at Winchester College,
where it is said that he and Dr. William Sewell were the only boys
who jointly retarded the breaking out of the rebellion against Dr.
Gabell, which took place after their departure. However, in April
1818 he left Winchester, and became a commoner of Oriel College,
Oxford, where his tutor was the Rev. John Keble, only eight years
older than himself.
In 1821 Mr. Heathcote gained a First-class in his B.A. examination,
and was elected Fellow of All Souls in November 1822. He began to
read at the Temple, but in April 1825 he came into the property
of his uncle the 4th Baronet of Hursely and William Heathcote thus
became the 5th baronet. He extended Hursley House and also created
Home Farm on the site of the old Merdon manor, which became a showpiece.
In the November of 1825 year he married the Hon. Caroline Frances
Perceval, the youngest daughter of Charles George Lord Arden.
Both he and his wifeElizabeth were deeply religious persons, with
a strong sense of the duties of their station. Education and influence
had done their best work on a character of great uprightness, even
tending to severity, such as softened with advancing years. Remarkably
handsome, and with a high-bred tone of manners, he was almost an
ideal country gentleman, with, however, something of stiffness and
shyness in early youth, which wore off in later years.
In 1826 he becamea Tory member of parliament for the county of
As a landlord, he is remembered as excellent. His mother took up
her abode at Southend House in Hursley parish, and under the auspices
of the Heathcote family, and of the Misses Marsh, daughters of the
former curate, Sunday and weekday schools were set on foot, the
latter under Mrs. Ranger and her daughter, whose rule continued
almost to the days of national education.
At one of the drills in Hursley Park a serious accident befell
Sir William. His horse threw back its head, and gave him a violent
blow on the forehead, which produced concussion of the brain. He
was long in recovering, and a slight deafness in one ear always
In 1835 a far greater trouble fell on him in the death of Lady
Elizabeth Heathcote, leaving him three sons and a daughter. He retired
from public life and resigned as MP.
But marriage to Selina Shirley on 18 May 1841 seems to have perked
him up and he entered a new busy era of public service as MP and
privy counsellor -- and had another eight children!
The Heathcote era at Hursley House ended after he died on 17 Aug
1881. His widow Selina sold the estate for £150,000 to Joseph
Baxendale, the owner of Pickfords
Sir William Heathcote is our 5th cousin 5 times removed, descending
from our 9th Great Grandparents Robert Blachford and Elizabeth Wright
of Fordingbridge, Hampshire