Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Gibbs, Henry Hucks

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GIBBS, HENRY HUCKS, first Baron Aldenham (1819–1907), merchant and scholar, born in Powis Place, Queen Square, Bloomsbury, on 31 August 1819, was eldest son of George Henry Gibbs (1785-1842) of Aldenham, Hertfordshire, and Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire, by his wife Caroline (d. 1850), daughter of Charles Crawley, rector of Stowe-nine-churches, Northamptonshire. His family came from Clyst St. George, and had been settled in Devonshire from the time of Richard II. Sir Vicary Gibbs [q. v.], the judge, was his great-uncle.

After education at Redland near Bristol and at Rugby, Gibbs entered Exeter College, Oxford, in 1838, and graduated B.A. with third-class classical honours in 1841, proceeding M.A. in 1844, On leaving the university he joined on 17 April 1843 the London house of Antony Gibbs & Sons, merchants and foreign bankers. His grandfather, Antony Gibbs (1756-1845), founded the firm in 1787 in Spain, with branches in Portugal, Peru, and Ecuador; the London house was opened in September 1808. In 1816 Gibbs's father and his uncle William (1790-1875) became partners, and in 1875 Henry Hucks Gibbs succeeded his uncle William, who was head of the firm from 1843 till death. In 1881 an older firm, established in 1770 at Bristol (as Gibbs, Bright & Co.) by Lord Aldenham's grand-uncle George (1753-1828), elder brother of Antony Gibbs, was taken over by the still existing firm of Antony Gibbs & Sons.

Henry Hucks Gibbs took a leading part in London commercial affairs, serving as a director of the Bank of England (1853-1901) and governor (1875-7). He was specially interested in currency questions, was a strong advocate of bimetallism, and an active president of the Bimetallic League. In 1876 he published 'A Letter to the Marquess of Salisbury on the Depreciation of Silver'; in 1879 'Bimetallism in England and Abroad,' and in 1879 'Silver and Gold, a letter to M. Cazalet' (republished, with additions, in 1881 as 'The Double Standard'). In 1886 he issued, with Henry Riversdale Grenf ell, 'The Bimetallic Controversy,' a collection of pamphlets, nine of which were from his pen; and in 1893 he wrote 'A Colloquy on Currency' (3rd edit. 1894).

Gibbs was a prominent member of the conservative party in the City of London, and was chairman of the Conservative Association there. He was returned to parliament as a member for the City at a bye-election on 18 April 1891, but retired at the general election in July 1892. In May 1880 Gibbs with other members of his family founded, in the conservative interest, the 'St. James's Gazette,' with Frederick Greenwood [q. v. Suppl. II] as editor, and the paper remained their property until 1888. He served in 1877-8 on the royal commission on the Stock Exchange, on the City parochial charities commission in 1880, and on the commission of 1885-6 upon the depression of trade. Gibbs, who was a J.P. for Hertfordshire and Middlesex, and high sheriff of Hertfordshire in 1884, was created Baron Aldenham, of Aldenham, on 31 Jan. 1896. A strong churchman, Gibbs was a munificent benefactor to the church. With Lord John Manners, seventh duke of Rutland [q. v. Suppl. II], he liberally supported the Anglican sisterhood connected with Christ Church, Albany Street, one of the earliest established in London. With other members of his family he gave largely towards building, endowing, and furnishing Keble College, Oxford, and was a member of its council. In conjunction with his mother he restored the church and endowed the living of Clifton Hampden on his Oxfordshire estate, and contributed to the support of St. Andrew's, Wells Street, and other churches. A member of the house of laymen of the province of Canterbury, and treasurer of the Church House, he joined the English Church Union in May 1862, became trustee in 1876, and was a member of its council until his death. One of his last public acts was to join in the appeal of prominent churchmen for the support of religious instruction in schools (The Times, 28 Jan. 1907).

Inheriting Aldenham House near Elstree in 1850 from his mother, he bought the rectory and advowson of Aldenham from Lord Rendlesham in 1877, and in 1882 thoroughly restored and reseated the church at a cost of 11,000l., adding in 1902 an oak choir screen. He took an active part in the affairs of the diocese of St. Albans (founded in 1877), supporting the scheme for a new Essex bishopric and the Bishop of St. Albans Fund (of which he was a vice-president) for the extension of church work in East London. To the restoration of the Abbey of St. Albans as well as the support of the new diocese he devoted both time and money. A long and costly suit with Sir Edmund Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe [q. v. Suppl. II], deprived him of the honour of restoring the Lady chapel of the cathedral, but he obtained in spite of Grimthorpe's opposition two faculties (on 13 Jan. and 15 July 1890) to restore at his own cost the altar-screen, and to legalise the work which he had already carried out. He published in 1890 a full 'Account of the High Altar Screen in the Cathedral Church of St. Albans.' The reredos representing the Resurrection was executed in Carrara marble by Alfred Gilbert, R.A. The latest of his many benefactions to St. Albans Cathedral was the division and reconstruction of the great organ, by which a complete view of the building from east to west was obtained.

Aldenham, although staunch and outspoken both as tory and churchman, maintained the friendliest relations with those who differed from him. He cherished versatile interests outside commerce, politics, and ecclesiastical affairs. He was fond of shooting, and on 1 Sept. 1864 had the misfortune to lose his right hand in a gun accident, while he was shooting at Mannhead, Devonshire. Despite the disability, he continued to shoot, and also to play billiards. Endowed with a remarkable memory, he had a special gift for philology and lexicography. A prominent member of the Philological Society from 1859, he took great interest in the English Dictionary which was projected by the Philological Society in 1854, and he sub-edited letters C and K. When the project was taken up by the Oxford University Press in 1880 with (Sir) James Murray as editor, Aldenham helped to settle the final form of the 'New English Dictionary,' and read and annotated every proof down to a few weeks before his death. He wrote many of the articles on words connected with banking, currency, and commerce, one of the last being 'pound.' For the Early English Text Society he edited in 1868 the 'Romance of the Chevelere Assigne.' For the Roxburghe Club, of which he was a member, he prepared in 1873 the 'Hystorie of the moste noble knight Plasidas,' and in 1884 the 'Life and Martyrdom of St. Katharine of Alexandria.' He was a good Spanish scholar, and wrote a booklet for private circulation (printed in 1874) on the game of cards called ombre. Aldenham was deeply versed in liturgical studies and a collector of old Bibles. An enthusiastic bibliophile, he described in 1888 the chief rarities in his library in 'A Catalogue of some Printed Books and Manuscripts at St. Dunstan's, Regent's Park, and Aldenham House, Herts.' His residence, St. Dunstan's, Regent's Park, he took on lease from the crown in 1856; it was formerly tenanted by the Marquis of Hertford, who bought and installed there the clock and automaton strikers of St. Dunstan's Church, Fleet Street, when the church was rebuilt in 1830. Aldenham was appointed a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery on 18 Nov. 1890, was elected F.R.G.S. on 28 Nov. 1859, and F.S.A. on 4 June 1885, serving also on the council of the former society. He was president of Guy's Hospital from 1880 to 1896.

Aldenham died at Aldenham on 13 Sept. 1907; his youngest son, Henry Lloyd Gibbs, died on the following day, aged forty-six; both were buried at Aldenham. His will, dated 19 March (codicil 28 Aug.) 1906, was proved in December 1907; the gross estate was over 703,700l., much of his property having been distributed during his lifetime. He married on 6 May 1845 at Thorpe, Surrey, Louisa Anne, third daughter of William Adams, LL.D,, and Mary Anne Cokayne. His wife's brother, George Edward Cokayne [q. v. Suppl. II], married Lord Aldenham's sister, Mary Dorothea, on 2 Dec. 1 856. Lady Aldenham died at St. Dunstan's, Regent's Park, on 17 April 1897, and was buried in Aldenham churchyard. Of their surviving children—four sons and a daughter—Alban George Henry succeeded to the peerage, having been previously M.P. for the City of London (1892-1906); Vicary, M.P. for St. Albans division, Hertfordshire (1892-1904), has re-edited the 'Complete Peerage' of his uncle, George Edward Cokayne, and Kenneth Francis is archdeacon of St. Albans and vicar of Aldenham.

A miniature portrait (æt. 20) by Sir William Ross, R.A.; a chalk drawing (with his eldest son) by E. U. Eddis (1859); a half-hmgth portrait by Watta (1878), and a full-length by Ouless (1879), belong to the present Lord Aldenham. The Hon. Vicary Gibbs possesses a half-length by T. Gotch (1888) and a marble bas-relief of the head after death by J. Kerr Lawson. The Hon. Herbert Gibbs possesses a second portrait by Watte (1896).

[G. E. C. Complete Peerage, ed. Vicary Gibbs; The Times, 14 Sept. 1907; Kent's and Post Office London directories, 1808-26; Welch, Mod. Hist, of the City of London, 1896, pp. 375-6; Burke's Peerage; Herts Observer, 21 Sept. 1907; St. Albans Gazette, 18 Sept. 1907; Bankers' Mag. (sketch with portrait), xlviii. 267-9; Men of Note in Commerce and Finance, 1900-1, p. 20; Whitaker's Red Book of Commerce, 1910, p. 374; Proc. of Soc. of Antiquaries, xxii. 284-5; F. H. McCalmont, Parliamentary Poll Book, 1906, pt. 2, p. 159; Church Times, 20 Sept. 1907; Guardian, 18 Sept. 1907; Morning Post, 14 Sept. 1907; Daily Telegraph, 14 Sept. 1907; private information.]

C. W.