A Hagley Birthday

William Gladstone

It is the sound of traffic passing through Hagley that often wakes me in the morning. For the inhabitants of the village on 27 October 1863 it was a very different sound .... the din of artillery. For this day was the twenty-first birthday of Charles George Lyttleton of Hagley Hall. The celebrations, involving almost all of those who lived in Hagley, were to last for no less than eight days. At six foot three inches Charles was an imposing cricketer, but at Eton and Cambridge ( where he scraped a second class degree) he had not distinguished himself as a scholar. He cannot have looked forward to the series of speeches that lay ahead.

He began with local schoolchildren, wisely providing them with cakes after his speech. At midnight the same evening 500 members of the Worcestershire elite sat down to supper at the Hall. They did not eat cakes; top London caterers provided the food. Charles had little time for sleep. The last of his guests did not depart until 4 am and he had to be up early the next morning for church and a speech by William Gladstone. yet for Charles there was still more to do: dinners and speeches for local women, tenants, servants and cricketers and an unsuccessful attempt to mark his birthday by persuading someone to ascend in a hot air balloon. Charles Lyttleton seems to have been a demure man. he often travelled second class on the railways and avoided taking taxis in London. he was briefly a Liberal MP, dying in 1922.

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