Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/83

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Coventry
Coventry
71

still greater liability. Only a fragment of the property still remains to the family. Lord Devon had before his succession returned to the conservative party, and in the Derby ministry he became chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, and was created a privy councillor (July 1866). He remained in that office until May 1867, and from that month to December 1868 he was president of the poor-law board. After that date he ceased to take an active part in politics, but his statement in the House of Lords on 7 June 1869 in favour of reading the Irish Church bill a second time produced much effect on public opinion. He was chairman in 1870 of the commission appointed to inquire into the treatment of Fenian prisoners in English convict prisons (Brodrick, Memoirs, pp. 163-8).

Lord Devon was for many years the most influential man in his county, and was generally known as 'the good earl.' For fifty-two years he presided at quarter sessions, and he was at first director and then chairman of the Bristol and Exeter Railway. He made extensive improvements at Powderham Castle, planted the famous cedar avenue in its grounds, and aided in all the charitable foundations of Devonshire. In 1859 he built and endowed the church of St. Paul at Newton Abbot, where he was the chief landed proprietor. A statue of him, by E. B. Stephens, A.R.A., was placed in 1880 by public subscription in the Bedford Circus at Exeter.

In 1877, while riding through the plantations at Powderham on his seventieth birthday, Lord Devon was thrown from his horse. Though he did not altogether recover from this accident, he was engaged in active life until a few weeks before his death. He died at Powderham Castle on 18 Nov. 1888, and on 24 Nov. was buried in the family vault in the chancel of Powderham church. He married, at Filleigh, Devonshire, on 27 Dec. 1830, Lady Elizabeth Fortescue, youngest daughter of Hugh, first earl Fortescue. She was born in 1801, and died on 27 Jan. 1867. Memorials of her and her husband are in Powderham church. They had issue three sons and one daughter.

[Burke's Peerage; Foster's Peerage; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Barker and Stenning's Westminster School; Men of the Time, ed. 1887; Times, 19 Nov. 1888, p. 6; Devon and Exeter Daily Gazette, 19-26 Nov. 1888 ; Speaker Denison's Notes from my Journal, 1900, p. 244.]

W. P. C.


COVENTRY, ANDREW (1764–1832), agriculturist, born in 1764, was eldest son of George Coventry, minister of Stitchell in Roxburghshire. Through his mother, whose maiden name was Horn, he inherited the estate of Shanwell, near Kinross, and some other landed property in Perthshire. He was educated at the university of Edinburgh, and on 15 Dec. 1782 he was elected a member of the Medical Society of Edinburgh (List of Members of the Medical Society of Edinburgh, 1820). In September 1783 he graduated M.D. (List of Graduates in Medicine in University of Edinburgh, 1867) for a thesis, 'De Scarlatina Cynanchica.' It is not clear whether he ever practised as a physician; but he appears to have specialised in the sciences bearing upon agriculture.

On 7 July 1790 Sir William Pulteney took the first steps towards endowing a chair of agriculture in the Edinburgh University,nominating at the same time Coventry to be the first professor. Hitherto occasional lectures on this subject had been delivered by other professors, e.g. by the professor of chemistry, Dr. William Cullen [q. v.], at the instigation of Lord Kames. A much fuller course had also been given by John Walker (1731–1803) [q. v.], then professor of natural history, in 1788.

The foundation of the new chair appears to have been regarded with a good deal of jealousy; the professor of natural history protesting that he was not to be hindered thereby from teaching 'any branch of natural science,' to which the professor of botany objected as infringing his rights; while Coventry on his part insisted that none but himself had the right to give 'a separate course of georgical lectures.' Moreover,the endowment and patronage of a chair by a private individual was at that date without precedent in the university, and appears to have aroused feelings of opposition.

In spite of these obstacles Coventry became, on 17 Nov. 1790, the first professor of agriculture in the university, and continued to hold the post until 1831. The endowment of the chair amounted to only 50l. per annum; but Coventry supplemented his work as a teacher by many other duties. 'He was constantly called on to arbitrate in land questions, and to give evidence before the court of session and before committees of the House of Commons; the drainage of Loch Leven and the reclamation of the surrounding lands were carried out under his directions' (Alex. Grant, Story of the University of Edinburgh, 1884, i. 345-7).

Coventry gave evidence before the royal commission appointed in 1826 to investigate the condition of the universities and colleges of Scotland, when he said that he had delivered thirty-two courses, some of them, consisting of more than 140 lectures each.