Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Slaney, Robert Aglionby

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SLANEY, ROBERT AGLIONBY (1792–1862), advocate of rural and economic reform, was the representative of a family traditionally derived from Slany (Schlan), a small town in Bohemia, near Prague, but settled in Shropshire since the end of the sixteenth century (Visitation of Shropshire, 1623, Harl. Soc. vol. xxix. 1889). He was born in June 1792, being the eldest son of Robert Slaney of Hatton Grange in Shropshire, and of Mary, daughter of Thomas Mason of Shrewsbury. After a few terms at Trinity College, Cambridge, he married in 1812, and was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1817. He joined the Oxford circuit, and practised till 1826, when he obtained a seat in parliament as member for Shrewsbury, and soon became known by his ‘benevolent exertions to ameliorate the condition of the poor’ (Speech of the Duke of Richmond, see Hansard, new ser. 1830, xxiii. 481). In July 1834 he spoke on the Poor Laws Amendment Act. In the same year he succeeded, on the death of his father, to the property at Hatton Grange. He was defeated in 1835, but was re-elected to the parliament which met in November 1837, holding his seat till 1841. During this period he spoke frequently on subjects dealing with agricultural improvement and economical reform generally, serving also on committees appointed to investigate these and similar subjects. He moved for the appointment of a committee for inquiring into the condition of the labouring classes, spoke on national education, the Irish poor laws (in 1838), enclosure bills, factory regulation, highways, public walks, rating of tenements (1839), duties on timber, inquiry into charities, emigration, the poor-law commission (1840), health of the metropolis, and school rates (1841). He was chairman of the committee on education in 1838, and on the health of the poorer classes in large towns in 1840; and he edited, with prefaces, the reports of both committees. From 1843 to 1846 he was an active commissioner on the health of towns, in which capacity he investigated and reported on the sanitary condition of Birmingham and fourteen other towns. In the autumn of 1847 he was again returned for Shrewsbury, holding his seat till the middle of 1852. He was re-elected in 1857, and again in 1859, remaining in parliament till his death in 1862. He also filled the office of magistrate and deputy lieutenant for Shropshire, and was high sheriff of that county in 1854. In August 1860 he set out on a journey to the United States and Canada, visiting Boston, Quebec, Montreal, Chicago, St. Louis, and Washington, returning in November of the same year. Next year, 1861, he published an account of his tour in ‘Short Journal of a visit to Canada and the States of America in 1860.’

A bold rider to hounds, a fine shot, and a good naturalist, Slaney died on 19 May 1862 at his residence, Bolton Row, Piccadilly, from the effects of falling through a gap in the floor at the opening of the International Exhibition. He married Elizabeth, daughter of W. H. Muccleston, M.D., by whom he had three daughters: Elizabeth Frances, who married, in 1835, Thomas Campbell Eyton; Mary, who married W. Wynne, esq., of Peniarth; and Frances Catherine, who married Captain William Kenyon, son of the Hon. Thomas Kenyon of Pradoe, and inherited the family estates at Hatton Grange, Shropshire. Captain Kenyon subsequently adopted the name of Slaney (Walford, County Families, v. ‘Kenyon-Slaney’). After the death of his first wife, Slaney married, secondly, in 1853, Catherine, widow of T. Archer, esq.

Among his publications, besides those already noted and some parliamentary speeches, were: 1. ‘An Essay on the Employment of the Poor,’ 1819; 2nd edit. 1822. 2. ‘Essay on the Beneficial Direction of Rural Expenditure,’ 1824. 3. ‘An Outline of the Smaller British Birds,’ 1832. 4. ‘A Plea for the Working Classes,’ 1847; with two small volumes of rather commonplace verse, entitled 5. ‘A few Verses from Shropshire,’ 1846, and 6. ‘A few more Verses from Shropshire,’ 1855.

[Gent. Mag. 1862, i. 794 (see also Ann. Register, 1862, inaccurate in some points); Times, 21 May 1862; Burke's Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland, iv. 503; Hansard, passim; Works; Brit. Mus. Cat.; information from Colonel W. Kenyon-Slaney, M.P., his grandson.]

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