St Lawrence, Little Stanmore
A Christian Community
In the Anglican Tradition
The rise and fall of Henry James Brydges, first duke of Chandos, provides as worthy a subject as any for a film or television drama. Within the space of ten years, from say 1710 to 1720, he rose to fame and riches, only to descend into relative obscurity following the loss of his wealth which was equally as dramatic as the gaining of it. Along the way he created one of baroque London's most palatial mansions, and was responsible for bequeathing to posterity the inestimable gift of Handel's Chandos Anthems.

Born in 1673 the son of a Herefordshire squire, in 1696 he married his cousin, Mary Lake (c.1666-1712), who brought to the marriage the manor known as Cannons as part of her dowry. Two years after his marriage to Mary Lake, Brydges became Member of Parliament for Hereford. He rose by force of personality, administrative ability and the favor of the Duke of Marlborough to become Paymaster of the Forces Abroad during the War of the Spanish Succession. The Paymaster was able to speculate with the monies he received, and by the time he left the post in 1713 Brydges had accumulated a fortune estimated at £600,000, a sum having in the year 1713 the same purchasing power as £58 million, or $95 million today.


His first wife, Mary died in 1712, and in 1713 Brydges married his 43 year-old first cousin, Cassandra Willoughby (1670-1735). Kneller's family portrait, which is signed and dated 1713, shows Brydges with his second wife, Cassandra. At about this time he began the enlargement of Cannons, remodeling the Jacobean mansion in the Georgian Baroque style. In 1714 the couple and Brydges' two sons (the only surviving children from nine born to him and Mary) moved into the first completed part of their enlarged and now palatial home. In October 1714 Brydges inherited the earldom of Caernarvon, which had recently been bestowed on his ailing father. It was about this time that Chandos, who would also build a very fine private chapel at Canons, set about the rebuilding of the Church of St Lawrence (Whitchurch) at Little Stanmore, in a hugely confident and fashionable (in Europe!) Continental Baroque style. Provision for his earthly remains was obviously a personal priority, as can be seen from the picture to the right.

In 1717 Brydges was created first Duke of Chandos 'for no apparent reason', and in the same year on August 4th, he secured the services of G. F. Handel who joined the Chapelmaster Dr. Pepusch as composer-in-residence. The Duke maintained an excellent musical establishment of up to thirty first-class players among whom were named Francesco Scarlatti, brother of Alessandro, and Johann Christoph Bach, cousin of J.S.

His wealth and opulence would not long outlast him, as he (along with many rich noblemen of the day) lost a large proportion of his wealth to the South Seas Company speculative bubble. On his death, Canons was demolished for the auction of its parts. Fortunately, St Lawrence's did not suffer the same fate.

Chandos' Mausoleum at St Lawrence's
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