Grimston, Robert (DNB00)

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GRIMSTON, ROBERT (1816–1884), sportsman, fourth son of James Walter Grimston, first earl of Verulam, and his wife Charlotte, second daughter of the first Earl of Liverpool, was born at 42 Grosvenor Square, London, on 18 Sept, 1816. He was therefore a descendant of William Luckyn Grimston [q. v.] Grimston's early years were spent at Gorhambury, the family seat, and as a boy he was distinguished for his love of field sports. After some time spent at a preparatory school at Hatfield he went to Harrow in 1828. He was a youth of determined will, and among the anecdotes related of him is one to the effect that at the age of fifteen he hired a postchaise and pursued a burglar from Gorhambury to London, securing his arrest and transportation. While at Harrow 'he saved more fellows a licking than most boys in the school.' In 1834 Grimston was entered as a commoner at Christ Church, Oxford. Ruskin, who was a fellow-undergraduate, described him as 'a man of gentle birth and amiable manners, and of herculean strength, whose love of dogs and horses, and especially of boxing, was stupendous.' Cricket was one of his favourite pastimes. He was a bold rider, even to recklessness. He was an active member of the pugilistic club described in Whyte Melville's 'Digby Grand.' He was an adept, too, at swimming, and saved a drowning man at Oxford, afterwards swimming across the river to escape the applause of the bystanders.

Grimston proceeded B.A. in 1838, and the same year began the study of law in the chambers of A. R. Sidebottom, London, subsequently reading with Mr. Wood, a special pleader. He was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1843, and went the home circuit; but he was not adapted for the law, and practically gave up the profession in 1852, and devoted himself to the then novel enterprise of electric telegraphy. Grimston had many successes in the cricket field. He was one of the first members of I Zingari, and held the post of honorary treasurer. He was also a member of the M.C.C., and for some time president; he frequently played in matches at Lord's, and preserved his interest in the game till his death. In 1846 he assisted in the formation of a Surrey county eleven, which began playing in Kennington Oval, then a market garden. Grimston was an excellent judge of horses, and rode in steeplechases. He broke his leg on one occasion while hunting with Baron de Rothschild's hounds. He was removed on a gate, and the North- Western train being stopped by signal he was put into the guard's van, and by his own request taken to St. George's Hospital.

Grimston joined the board of the Electric Telegraph Company in 1852, and he also became connected with the International Telegraph Company, which laid the two cables between Lowestoft and Scheveningen, near the Hague. On the death of Robert Stephenson he became chairman of the latter company, and held that office until the Electric and International Company was transferred to the government under the acts of parliament 1868-70. About 1867 Grimston accepted a seat on the board of the Atlantic Telegraph Company, and when that company was amalgamated with the Anglo-American Telegraph Company he was transferred to the latter as a director, and took an active part in its management until his death. In 1868 he was appointed chairman of the Indo-European Telegraph Company, which opened up a telegraph route to India through Germany, Russia, and Persia, and through the Persian Gulf to Kurrachee, in connection with the lines of the Indo-European Government Telegraph administration. In these business relations he exhibited great shrewdness and application.

On 7 April 1884, while at Gorhambury, he was found dead in his chair. Grimston was a tory. He was averse to change of all kinds, and was tenacious of his opinions, but made full allowance for the conscientious dissent of others. He was a chivalrous friend, and was charitable towards the distressed. He severely condemned betting and gambling.

[Life of the Hon. Robert Grimston, by Frederick Gale, 1885.]

G. B. S.