The Loss of a Fortune
Edward John Coleman (b1834 – d1885) bought the estate Stoke Park, Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire, from Lord Taunton, in 1863. Coleman had been a broker on the Stock Exchange and owned a coalmining business but retired about the same time that he acquired Stoke Park, for which he paid £95,000 (the equivalent today would be approx £7 million), he was 29 years old at the time.
There has been an estate on the site since 1066 and many famous and infamous families have lived there. Thomas Penn, the son of the founder of Pennsylvania in America, purchased the estate in 1760 and his son John inherited it in 1775. John Penn was responsible for most of what can be seen at Stoke Park today including the Mansion House and the monuments. The Mansion was begun in 1789 but not completed until 1813.
Owners of the estate have included Lord Taunton, The Gayer Family, Sir John Villiers, Sir Edward and Lady Coke and Queen Elizabeth 1.
Today Stoke Park is an up-market country club offering a championship golf course, five star accommodation, health spa, conference and banqueting facilities.
Edward took a great interest in local politics and was a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party. He was a magistrate for the County of Buckinghamshire from 1870 and he also became High Sheriff of the County in 1879. He knew Disraeli well and it was the PM who supported his application for membership of the Carlton Club. Edward was one of the guests who attended the banquet given by the Houses of Commons and Lords for the Earl of Beaconsfield (Disraeli) and the Marquis of Salisbury on their return from the Congress in Berlin in 1878, bringing “peace with honour”.
At Stoke Park, Edward lived in princely style and spent a large income with a lavish hand. He carried out extensive improvements to the Mansion, installed miles of iron fencing and planted more than a thousand young trees in the grounds. He also improved the farm on the estate introducing the most modern equipment of the day; bought more fallow deer and restocked the park with red deer in 1865. It is reported that these improvements cost more than £200,000 (equivalent today of more than £8.5 million).
In the Mansion house he accrued a vast collection of furniture, art, sculpture and tapestries. Many of his pictures were painted by Edwin Landseer a friend of Coleman’s who had visited the estate for many years where a studio was provided for him in the house.
Whilst resident at Stoke Park Edward had his own stall in St. Giles church which he paid for to be lit by gas, a modern innovation of the day. The local hunt met at Stoke Park and Edward and his wife, Gertrude entertained lavishly inviting many distinguished guests, including the Prince of Wales.
Edward owned the adjoining estate of Duffield where his parents lived until their death. They are both buried in St. Giles church. He also owned a house in Grosvenor Square.
Unfortunately, due to enormous losses on the Stock Exchange and a depression in the coal trade, he went into bankruptcy in 1884 and was forced to sell Stoke Park. Disraeli lived at Hughenden Manor just outside High Wycombe and when he heard Edward was seeking a buyer for the estate he wrote “I learn with sincere sorrow that you are about to cease to be a Buckinghamshire squire”.
In failing health, due to the anxiety over recent business and financial worries, he then moved to Ryde on the Isle of Wight where he died in 1885 at the age of 49. He was buried in Ryde Cemetery and not in the family tomb at St Giles church.