Wrottesley, George (DNB12)

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WROTTESLEY, GEORGE (1827–1909), soldier and antiquary, born at 5 Powys Place, London, on 15 June 1827, was third son of John, second baron Wrottesley [q. v.], by Sophia Elizabeth, third daughter of Thomas Giffard of Chillington. He was educated at the Blackheath Proprietary School. Entering the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in 1842, he obtained a commission in the royal engineers in 1845. He was ordered almost immediately to Ireland in connection with the famine relief works, and thence in 1847 to Gibraltar, where he remained till 1849. In 1852 he joined the ordnance survey. He took part in the Crimean war, sailing for the Dardanelles on survey work in January 1854. With Sir John Fox Burgoyne [q. v.] he went on the mission to Omar Pascha at Shumla. He afterwards became A.D.C. to General Tylden, officer commanding royal engineers in Turkey, and in this capacity he accompanied Lord Raglan to Varna. He was engaged at Varna on plans and reports on the Turkish lines of retreat from the Danube, when he was struck down by dysentery, which ultimately caused complete deafness. In October 1854 he was invalided home and promoted to captain. On Sir John Burgoyne's return from the Crimea to the war office in 1855 as inspector-general of fortifications, Captain Wrottesley was appointed his A.D.C., and he stayed with the field marshal, acting continually as his secretary on commissions and confidential adviser till Burgoyne's retirement in 1868. Wrottesley accompanied Burgoyne to Paris in 1855, when he presented to Napoleon III the funeral car of Napoleon I from St. Helena. He was secretary of the defence committee of the war office, 1856–60; of the committee on the influence of rifled artillery on works of defence, 1859; and of the committee on the storage of powder in magazines, 1865. In 1863, being then a major, he presided over the committee on army signalling which introduced the use of the Morse system. He was made lieutenant-colonel in 1868, and on Burgoyne's retirement took over the command of the engineers at Shorncliffe. In 1872 he commanded at Greenwich, and in 1875 became officer commanding R.E. at Woolwich, retiring from the army in 1881 with the rank of major-general.

Wrottesley collected and edited ‘The Military Opinions of Gen. Sir J. F. Burgoyne’ in 1859; and published ‘Life and Correspondence of Field Marshal Sir J. F. Burgoyne’ (2 vols.) in 1873. But his principal literary interest lay in genealogy. In 1879 he founded with Robert William Eyton [q. v.] the William Salt Society, of which he was honorary secretary from 1879 till his death. His abundant genealogical labour is embodied in the thirty-four volumes of the ‘Staffordshire Collections’ of the society. His most important contributions were those on the ‘Liber Niger’ (1880), his ‘Pleas of the Forest’ (1884), the ‘Military Service of Knights in the 13th and 14th centuries, Crecy and Calais’ (1897). The last, together with ‘Pedigrees from the Plea Rolls,’ ‘The Giffards from the Conquest’ (1902), ‘The Wrottesleys of Wrottesley’ (1903), ‘The Okeovers of Okeover’ (1904), and ‘The Bagots of Bagots Bromley’ (1908), were republished separately. These four family histories are so contrived as to form national histories in miniature. Wrottesley shares with Eyton the credit of initiating the modern method of genealogy. In comparing the two Mr. J. Horace Round says: Wrottesley's own critical sense was, I think, more developed … for no genealogist, perhaps, could claim with better reason that he placed truth foremost.’ He had, too, that other virtue of the new school, the power of tacking on private history to public events in such a way as to give to the narration its reality and significance. He died on 4 March 1909, and is buried in the Wrottesley vault in Tettenhall church. He married (1) on 7 Jan. 1854 Margaret Anne, daughter of Sir John Fox Burgoyne; she died on 3 May 1883; and (2) on 21 Feb. 1889 Nina Margaret, daughter of John William Philips of Heybridge, Staffordshire, who survived him. He had no issue by either marriage.

[Salt Society, vols. i.–xviii. and i.–xii. n.s.; Genealogist, n.s. xxvi. 1909; Burgoyne's Life, 1873; J. H. Round, Staff. Cols. vol. 1910.]

J. C. W.