Eccentrics of the Georgian Period: Richard Barry, 7th Earl of Barrymore
For today, we’ll take an look at another of the Prince Regent’s inner circle, a man known by one and all as “Hellgate,” Richard Barry, 7th Earl of Barrymore.
Richard Barry, 7th Earl of Barrymore (14 August 1769 – 6 March 1793) was an English nobleman of Ireland, as well as an infamous rake, gambler, sportsman, theatrical enthusiast and womanizer.
Earl of Barrymore was a title in the Peerage of Ireland. It was created for David Barry, 6th Viscount Buttevant in 1627/28. Lord Barrymore held the subsidiary titles of Baron Barry (created c. 1261), and Viscount Buttevant (created 1541) in the County of Cork in Ireland. After the death of the 8th earl all these titles became extinct.
The Barrymore title was revived in 1902 in favour of Arthur Smith-Barry, who was created Baron Barrymore in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. He was the grandson of John Smith Barry, illegitimate son of James Hugh Smith Barry (died 1837), son of the Hon. John Smith Barry, younger son of the fourth Earl of Barrymore.
The family was noted for eccentricity and in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century many of its members had nicknames such as Hellgate, Dalegate, Cripplegate, Newgate and Billingsgate. In Georgette Heyer’s novel Regency Buck, a character remarks that ” the Barrymores, you know, really cannot be held accountable for their odd manners.”
He was known as “Hellgate” and the “Rake of Rakes” and died at the age of 24.
Barrymore was born on 14 August 1769 in Marlebone, Middlesex, to Richard Barry, 6th Earl of Barrymore and Amelia Stanhope, daughter of William Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Harrington and the Lady Caroline Fitzroy. He succeeded his father as Earl of Barrymore 1 August 1773 when he was only three. His mother placed him under the care of the vicar of Wargrave in Berkshire, where he grew up and later settled.
He was heavily in debt before marrying, but instead of “marrying into money” as was common at the time, he married Charlotte Goulding, niece of the infamous Letty Lade, and the daughter of a common sedan chairman on 7 June 1792. After his death the next year, she eventually “…passed…to the lowest grade of prostitution.”
His sister Carolina (1768-?) was known as “Billingsgate,” due to her use of foul language. Henry (1770–1823), his younger brother, was “Cripplegate,” due to a physical disfigurement. His youngest brother Augustus (1773–1818) was nicknamed “Newgate,” after Newgate Prison in London.
Barrymore became a well-known sportsman, particularly in cricket, running, horse racing, boxing and swordsmanship. He bred his own race-horses and rode as his own jockey. He was especially famous for placing huge bets on both these sports and other extraordinarily ludicrous challenges.
He patronised his own personal bare-knuckle boxer, and his wife also boxed.
He made two known appearances in first-class cricket matches from 1791 to 1792, playing as a member of the Brighton Cricket Club. He was listed in the scorecards as Lord Barrymore.
His first love was, however, the theatre, a fine example of which he built and ran in Wargrave. He even acted there himself.
He was also a Member of Parliament for Heytesbury from 1791 until his death.
Barrymore retired to life in the Royal Berkshire Militia, into which he had been commissioned in 1789 and was later promoted Lieutenant, but was accidentally killed at Folkestone on 6 March 1793. His musket discharged while escorting French prisoners of war to Dover.
He was buried 17 May 1793 in St Mary’s Church in Wargrave.
Despite fears of bankruptcy, Barrymore died in unexpected solvency. He had alienated much of his Cork patrimony in 1792, at which time the Buttevant estate passed to Viscount Doneraile and to a Scottish banker, John Anderson.
He certainly lived a very chequered life!