Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Alford, Marianne Margaret

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ALFORD, MARIANNE MARGARET, Viscountess Alford, generally known as Lady Maria Alford (1817–1888), artist, art patron, and author, elder daughter of Spencer Compton, second Marquis of Northampton [q. v.], by his wife Margaret, eldest daughter of Major-general Douglas Maclean-Clephane, was born in 1817 at Rome, where her father was then residing. Her childhood was spent in Italy, and thence she derived a love of that country which lasted throughout her life. She came to England in 1830 with her parents, but in later life returned to spend many winters in Rome. On 10 Feb. she was married at Castle Ashby to John Hume Oust, viscount Alford, elder son of John Cust, first Earl Brownlow, and the heir to a portion of the large estates of Francis Egerton, third and last Duke of Bridgewater [q. v.] In 1849 this property passed to Lord Alford, but he died in 1851, leaving his widow with two sons. A famous legal contest known as the Bridgewater Will Case followed Lord Alford's death, and his elder son's claim to succeed to the Bridgewater estates was warmly disputed, but was finally settled by the House of Lords in the young man's favour on 19 Aug. 1853.

Lady Marian Alford was an accomplished artist, inheriting her tastes in this direction from both her parents, and, although she enjoyed no regular education in art, her drawings and paintings attain a very high standard. Her house in London, Alford House, Prince's Gate, was built mainly from her own designs. She was also a liberal and intelligent patron of artists in England and Italy, and a friend of the leading artists of the day. She was especially interested in needlework, both as a fine art and as an employment for women, and it was greatly through her influence and personal efforts that the Royal School of Art Needlework in Kensington took its rise. For many years she collected materials for a history of needlework, which she published in handsome form in 1886 under the title of 'Needlework as Art.' In society, as well as in art circles, Lady Marian Alford was noted for refinement and dignity, and for her powers of conversation. She died at her son's house, Ashridge, Berkhampstead, on 8 Feb. 1888, and was buried at Belton near Grantham. Of her two sons the elder, John William Spencer Brownlow Egerton-Cust, succeeded his grandfather as second Earl Brownlow, and, dying unmarried in 1867, was succeeded by his younger brother, Adelbert Wellington Brownlow Cust, third and present Earl Brownlow.

[Private information and personal knowledge.]

L. C.