Powys, Thomas Littleton (DNB01)

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POWYS, THOMAS LITTLETON, fourth Baron Lilford (1833–1896), ornithologist, was the eldest son of Thomas Atherton Powys, third Baron Lilford, and his wife Mary Elizabeth (daughter of Henry Richard Fox, third Baron Holland, and Elizabeth Vassall, his wife). He was born in Stanhope Street, Mayfair, London, on 18 March 1833. He was educated at Dr. Bickmore's school, Berkswell, Warwickshire, from 1843 to 1848, and at Harrow, which he quitted at midsummer 1850 for residence with a tutor at Lausanne. He then entered at Christ Church, Oxford, whence he matriculated 12 June 1851, but left the university without taking a degree. At an early age he had manifested a love for animals, and when at Harrow kept a small menagerie, and thence wrote his first published paper. He kept a larger menagerie at Oxford, and all his spare time, during vacation and subsequently through life, as far as his health would permit, was devoted to travel for the purpose of studying animals, and especially birds in the field. In 1853 he visited Scilly, Wales, and Ireland, and becoming acquainted with Edward Clough Newcome, the best falconer of his day, shortly after took up falconry himself. In 1854, on the embodiment of the militia, he joined that of his county and served at Dublin and Devonport, giving up his commission at the end of 1855.

From 1856 to 1858, accompanied by the Hon. Hercules Rowley, he made an extended yachting cruise in the Mediterranean. Returning to England in the following year, he married, 14 June 1859, Emma Elizabeth, youngest daughter of Robert William Brandling, esq., of Low Gosforth, Northumberland.

Between 1864 and 1882 he paid frequent visits to Spain and the Mediterranean, rediscovering the rare gull Larus Audouini. The death in 1882 of his eldest son, and in 1884 of his wife, greatly distressed him, and his lifelong malady, the gout, subsequently attained such a hold as to render him a permanent invalid, his affliction being relieved by the devoted attention of his second wife, Clementina (daughter of Ker Baillie Hamilton, C.B.), whom he married on 21 July 1885.

He had been elected a fellow of the Zoological Society in 1852, and of the Linnean Society in March 1862. He was one of the founders of the British Ornithologists' Union in 1858, and iis president from March 1867. He was also a liberal supporter and first president of the Northamptonshire Natural History Society, founded in 1876, and a prominent member of the 'Old Hawking Club.'

His aviaries at Lilford were the envy of field ornithologists, and especially noted for the collection of birds of prey.

His zeal for his favourite science never flagged, and he projected and issued his famous work, 'Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Islands,' which, however, he did not live to complete, his malady causing his death at Lilford on 17 June 1896.

In addition to some two dozen papers on ornithological subjects, contributed to the 'Ibis' (of which he was a generous supporter), the 'Proceedings of the Zoological Society,' and other scientific journals, he was author of:

  1. 'Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Islands,' completed by Osbert Salvin [q. v. Suppl.], with a biography by Professor A. Newton, and a portrait, 7 vols., London, 1885-97, 8vo.
  2. 'Notes on the Birds of Northamptonshire and Neighbourhood,' 2 vols. illustrated, London, 1895, 4to.

['Lord Lilford … a Memoir by his Sister,' and a preface by Mandell Creighton, bishop of London, London, 1900, Svo (with portrait); Professor A. Newton's Preface to ' Coloured Figures,' &c.; Ibis, 1896, p. 593; Proc. Linn. Soc., 1896-7, p. 59; Burke's Peerage.]

B. B. W.