The Shiffner Baronetcy, of Coombe in the County of Sussex, is a title in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom. It was created on 16 December 1818 for George Shiffner, Member of Parliament for Lewes from 1812 to 1826.
ConstituencyDatesMINEHEAD1761 - 1768Family and Education
b. at St. Petersburg 1721, 1st s. of Matthew Shiffner, Russia merchant, by his w. Agnata Brewer, gouvernante to Anne, Duchess of Courland, niece of Peter the Great.1 educ. sent to England aged three, and at seven ‘put to a public school’.2 m. (1) 9 Aug. 1749, Ann Bronsdon (d. c.1757) of Blackheath, s.p.; (2) 10 Mar. 1759, Mary, da. and h. of John Jackson (at his d. in Feb. 1748, second in council of Bengal), 5s. 1da. suc. fa. Dec. 1756.
In 1742, and again in 1754, when Shiffner took counsel’s opinion on his status as British subject, it was stated that his father, ‘a Protestant born in Russia’, was naturalized in this country, 8 Oct. 1711,
and after residing some years in England returned to Russia, married there (after he was naturalized) to a Russia lady, and had several children born in Russia, whom he sent over under the care of his partner the late Mr. Holden3 to be educated in England, where his children have resided ever since.
From the business records of Samuel Holden4 and of Thomas Wale5 it appears that Matthew Shiffner was a big importer of Russian iron and hemp. Henry must have joined the firm by 1742 when he applied for membership of the Russia Company; paid several visits to Russia; still had a house in Petersburg in 1757; and was partner in the Petersburg firm of Shiffner, Coole and Watsone.6
In 1754, when H. F. Luttrell was trying to sell Minehead manor which carried considerable influence in the borough, and while ‘by far the greatest part of the voters ... still disengaged’, impatiently awaited ‘the coming of more candidates’,7Shiffner on 26 Feb. applied to Luttrell:
I beg leave to presume upon the introduction of Mr. Cholwich to entreat your interest at Minehead where I have been encouraged to offer myself a candidate at the next general election. As I have not the honour of your acquaintance, I must hope Mr. Cholwich’s recommendation will have its weight.
But Luttrell saw no reason to lay himself under obligations to the Minehead people on account of a stranger, and reserved his support to ‘a purchaser [of the manor] or a particular friend’. Even when informed on 8 Mar. that some of his Minehead friends had found it expedient to put up Shiffner, and ‘had met with great encouragement’, he would not engage absolutely, but only if no purchaser should offer, and provided Shiffner stood ‘upon the country interest’, and did not join either Charles Whitworth or Lord Egremont’s candidate, Daniel Boone.8 Finally, on 19 Mar., Luttrell declared for Shiffner in a letter sent to 181 electors.9 But the opponents, backed by Government, were returned.10 Shiffner petitioned against Boone, the weaker of the two, and pressed his case with fussy zeal and utmost perseverance. On 3 May he called on Newcastle; in the levee chamber made his errand ‘the subject of conversation’ among the distinguished people there assembled; next, told the Duke that it gave him ‘great concern’ to find himself and his friends ‘were thought and declared to be Jacobites’; quoted Newcastle’s letter to Whitworth directing him to support Boone ‘for that the person who opposed him and the people that supported him were Enemies to the Government. I expatiated on the cruelty of such an insinuation’.11
This is but one of a series of long letters from Shiffner eagerly descanting upon his endeavours and chances, and asking for Luttrell’s assistance—‘I am fighting your cause as well as my own’. He approached Henry Fox and waxed naïvely indignant when Fox, an old friend of Egremont’s, owned he wished ‘that justice may be on the side of Mr. Boone and Lord Egremont’.12 He was hurt when Tynte, Member for Somerset, refused to present his petition for fear of injuring his own interest in the county by disobliging Egremont. It was presented by Sir Richard Bampfylde, Member for Devon. ‘You will think me a very obstinate struggling genius’, wrote Shiffner to Luttrell, 14 Dec., ‘but Sir, so it is, and I am trying all weapons before I quit the field.’ He was disappointed by the ineffectiveness of the Tory club, the Cocoa Tree, who claimed 90 Members.
Attendance is promised, notice is given of the day, and all goes swimmingly till the critical minute; then one is out of town, another at home, a great many at the bottle, and hardly any at the place of action ... This was the very fact on the night that my petition was committed, Ld. Egremont’s friends assembled in a body, and Sir Richard Bampfylde hardly found any of his friends in the House to second his motion.
Shiffner’s petition, after having been presented on 26 Nov. 1754, disappears from the Journals; and in time even the prosecutions he had started in the law-courts against some of Boone’s agents were dropped. By April 1756 Shiffner was on friendly terms with Egremont, and the negotiations between Luttrell and Egremont, which at the end of 1757 resulted in an agreement to share the borough, seem to have been conducted through Shiffner.13 He remained Luttrell’s candidate, contributing to the expense of nursing the borough.
When in June 1754 a vacancy occurred at Taunton, Shiffner was invited to stand: probably against Egremont’s interest. He declined, and on 22 June wrote to Luttrell: ‘I am not yet so Parliament mad as to catch at every baited hook’, and would not wish to obtain a seat ‘at the expense of honour and character’—presumably to stand elsewhere would have implied abandoning his claim to Minehead. The offer to him was made through Joseph Sweeting who, when elected mayor of Taunton in August 1754, was described by Newcastle’s agent Manley as ‘zealously attached to the Whig interest’.14
Soon Shiffner himself was to profess such attachment. He wrote to Newcastle, 10 Apr. 1756,15 asking for his recommendation should a vacancy occur at Dover: he was impelled by ‘the ambition I have long had to serve my country in Parliament as well as to manifest the high opinion which I entertain of his Majesty’s Administration’. He claimed to have ‘some real interest in Dover by means of Sir George Oxenden’s family and the many acquaintances I have in the place’; but would not stand without the Duke’s approval; and promised if returned to adhere to him. ‘If my late opposition to my Lord Egremont’s interest at Minehead should have left any bad impression ... Lord Egremont himself ... I doubt not will do me the justice to clear up that matter to your Grace’s satisfaction.’ He did not obtain Newcastle’s nomination but continued to court him. In October 1760 he submitted to the Duke a scheme for raising the next year’s supply and offered to support it ‘by furnishing one million on your Grace’s early assurance of my having that sum’16—this at a time when Shiffner’s financial position was rapidly deteriorating. But before the crash occurred Shiffner was returned for Minehead on Luttrell’s interest without serious opposition.
In 1754 Shiffner had entered into partnership with his brother John; at first the profits he drew averaged £2,500 a year, and in 1758 rose to £4,500; but a decline set in from March 1759; and the firm stopped payments on 16 Oct. 1761.17 The next day Shiffner wrote to Newcastle:18
By the imprudence or rather infatuation of my brother I am brought under such circumstances as to be obliged to desire time for the adjustment of my affairs. I hope, my Lord, so to settle them as to have my seat in Parliament unattacked, and that I may yet have opportunities of shewing my devotion and attachment to your Grace on every occasion, for though unfortunate I thank God my character and integrity is unimpeachable.
And on 31 Oct.: ‘I hope in eight days to settle all matters; my separate estate and qualifications for sitting in Parliament remaining vested in myself.’19 Inspectors appointed at a general meeting of creditors on 22 Oct. reported a deficit of £28,472; but what followed was an insolvency dealt with voluntarily: the creditors took over the partnership; appointed trustees, accepted a dividend, and released the Shiffners of further liability; and the trustees, who included George Amyand and Nicholas Linwood, and John Thornton, the leading Russia merchant, co-opted Henry Shiffner, to take advantage of his knowledge of the business. Shiffner never quite recovered from the blow: ‘Reduced by misfortunes since he was chosen’, is the note against him in Bute’s list. And a friend of the Holden family wrote on 12 Nov. 1761: ‘I can’t say I was at all surprised that this should be the end of Shiffner’s vanity and extravagance, who you know lived more like a lord than a merchant.’20
Newcastle, on 13 Nov. 1762, still classed Shiffner as a friend; Bute’s list marked him as ‘Government’; and he is in Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries. He spoke on 9 Dec. 1762;21 and henceforth was a regular supporter of the Bute and Grenville Administrations. Over the cider tax alone, as a Somerset Member and through his wife a Herefordshire landowner, he spoke and voted against them: 11 Mar. 1763, and again on 7 Feb. 1764, when Harris describes his speech as ‘a long preface to a proposition which he never gave us’. Some time between October 1763 and April 1764 he received a secret service pension of £500 p.a.22 A speech of his on general warrants, 17 Feb. 1764, is mentioned by Harris, Newdigate, and William Strahan,23 but not a word of it is reported. On 21 Mar. 1765 he moved ‘a bill for regulating the ports for importing Irish wool ... ’twas rejected unanimously’.24 Shiffner followed Grenville into opposition; was listed by Rockingham in the summer of 1765 as ‘doubtful’; on 18 Dec. supported Rigby’s motion for American papers,25 and acted as teller; opposed Conway’s motion, 17 Jan. 1766, to rescind the order to print them;26 and on 21 Feb. both spoke and voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act27—‘not a syllable attended to’, wrote an unknown reporter.28 Classed by Rockingham as ‘doubtful’ and by Newcastle, wrongly, as ‘Administration’, he voted with Opposition over the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, and the nullum tempus bill, 17 Feb. 1768.
Towards the end of 1766 Luttrell, intending to stand for Minehead at the next general election, wrote to its vicar, the Rev. Leonard Herring, that he would communicate his scheme soon to Shiffner, so ‘that he may look out for some other borough’;29 for he could give no support to Shiffner, having promised the Minehead electors to leave them the free choice of the other Member. ‘I offer myself unconnected with Mr. Shiffner and every other person’, he wrote in an address to them, 14 Mar. 1767.30 And Herring to Luttrell, 21 Mar. 1767: ‘I should be glad if Mr. Shiffner would drop all thoughts of coming to Minehead and go with me into Cornwall, where I am well assured he will meet with a most agreeable reception.’ But Shiffner persisted, and made a futile bid to place himself under the wing of Lord Clive. On 17 Dec. 1767 he wrote to George Clive31 that he had heard Luttrell intended to sell his manor, and added:
The more Luttrell feels himself pushed at his election the more he will incline to treat about the disposal, and I know its contiguous situation to his house at Dunster Castle, only 2 miles, makes him sweat not a little at the freedom taken by electors. I am sporting every engine to keep him awake, and if Lord Clive wishes to have the borough, I shall be glad if I can be the means of throwing it into his hands.
In the election which Shiffner fought against Whitworth without Luttrell’s support, he suffered defeat; after which he did not stand again for Parliament. He also noted in his accounts: ‘Having done with all business, I have omitted striking yearly balances from this year 1768.’
He retired to Pontrylas in Herefordshire, and lived there a rather self-conscious country gentleman. In letters to his son, sent for education to Holland (1777-80), he wrote about rural pursuits; and when opposing the petitioning movement at a meeting at Hereford, 11 Mar. 1780, he referred to ‘us poor uninformed farmers’. His American politics remained unchanged: ‘I hope the stubborn neck of rebellion will be totally broke and subdued’;32 and at the meeting he defended the North Administration ‘who found America in rebellion, from the conduct of former Administrations’. To his son he preached moderation: would allow him everything to make him comfortable, so far as his own limited circumstances would permit, but warned him ‘that a prudent economy in matters of money is a most necessary ingredient for the comfortable enjoyment of life, in whatever situation you may find yourself’.
Shiffner died 30 May 1795.
Grave of Capt John Shiffner
In December 1757 it was reported in The London Chronical that Henrys first wife died while playing cards in The Public Rooms in Bath. She complained of a headache, dropped out of her chair, and never spoke after.
Henry Shiffner MP, father of the first Baronet
HMS EGERIA captained by Henry Shiffner in 1819
Henry Fownes Luttrell Member of Parliament for
Abduction ?, True love ? Pregnant ?
Wether it be none or all three, it appears that George Shiffner (1st Baronet) Eloped to Gretna Green with the Heiress Mary Bridger. Below are some items I found on the internet backing up this revelation.
What of Gretna Green? One of my ancestors, an only daughter, was abducted and carried off to Gretna Green by a young Cornet in the Artillery. How common was this?
oon February 25, 2012 at 10:05 | Reply Vic
I’ve read of instances in which heiresses were abducted and bedded, so it is interesting to hear of an actual situation. Before the Hardwicke Marriage Act of 1753, any abduction that led to seduction would have made the girl the abductor’s wife, especially if there were witnesses. Before the marriage act, a man could be compelled or shamed into to marrying the woman he seduced. In fact, all a couple had to do before 1753 was announce that they were wed, and they would be regarded as man and wife. Fleet marriages and clandestine marriages were common at the time, and a woman of fortune was fair game. There was no need before 1753 to take an arduous 3-day trip to Gretna Green.
The Marriage Act was designed to prevent clandestine marriages and bigamous marriages. After the Act was passed, only marriages that were performed in a local parish church with a license (and with the banns having been made public for 3 successive Sundays) were considered legal. (A couple could also be married by special license, but this was expensive and could only be granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.) Scotland did not pass the act, and therefore couples who wanted to marry right away eloped to Gretna Green, where a woman under the age of 21 could still legally marry a man.
Whether she married him willingly or not, the husband could take immediate possession of her fortune, for she had no legal rights. In addition, she would have given up the protection of the marriage settlements. Normally, before marriage, the bride’s father or guardian would legally arrange to protect her assets so that the principal amount of her fortune could not be touched by her husband. Eloping to Gretna Green gave her no such protection. Thus eloping was a stupid economic decision for the woman. Her husband could gamble her fortune away, leaving her destitute, and there was nothing legally that she or her family could do about this after the fact.
The Marriage Act presented a new host of problems for the woman, turning any seduced female into a whore and ruining her reputation. If she had a child out of wedlock, it would be labeled a bastard. The number of “bastards” recorded in Great Britain between 1753 and 1800 jumped by 25%.
on February 26, 2012 at 10:50 Colin Kiley
Thank-you for your very informative answer Vic. The upside I suppose was that the young Cornet, later Sir George Shiffner, did become a responsible and respected member of the West Sussex gentry. The estate, Coombe Place, still exists today. His wife, Mary Bridger, was the daughter of Sir John Bridger. Their children, who went by the surname Bridger-Shiffner, would also become respected members of West Sussex society. Curious that both surnames were used. I would assume that was because the Bridgers were a well-known family in West Sussex from the 16th century onward. One would not wish to lose that association I suppose. Wonderful site. Colin.
Backing up this claim, I also found this on the internet
Captain Shiffner, of the artillery, quartered at LeAves, ran aAvay to
Gretna Green with Miss Mary Bridger, daughter of Sir John Bridger,
of Coombe, in 1787. They eventually inherited Coombe, and he was
created a baronet in 1818. Sir George Shiffner was born in 17G2,
and died in 1842. Lady Shiffner died in 1844. Their eldest son,
John Bridger Shiffner, was a captain in the Guards, killed in a sortie
at IJayonne in 1814. The next son was Admiral Sir Henry Shillner,
born in 1789, and died childless in 1859. The third was the Kev.
Sir George Shiffner, who died in 1791; and his son, the Rev. Sir
George Shiffner, is Rector of Hamsey. The fourth was Thomas
Shiffner, who married Miss Brown, of Copgrove, in Yorkshire.
Another interesting find on the internet was this....
Arthur Beckett - 1929 - Snippet view - More editions
Coombe Place, we knew, passed into the Shiffner family by the marriage of Sir John Bridger's daughter Mary (who was his only child) with the understanding that all future eldest sons should take the hyphenated name, Bridger-Shiffner.
It didn't take long for them to drop the 'BRIDGER'
Georges' eldest son John is worthy of mention. Due to become the 2nd Baronet he was unfortunately killed in action in The Peninsular War under Wellington. One of the Shiffner Heirlooms dating back to this time is a Gold plated Snuffbox, details of which are below.
This Gold Snuff box was won in a tontine by Lieutenant John Shiffner 3rd Regiment of Footguards and eldest son of George Shiffner 1st Baronet.
Lieutenant Shiffner and his fellow officers clubbed together to purchase the snuff box with the agreement that the last man surviving would “win” the box. All the participants involved were unfortunately killed in their prime on active service under Wellington in The Peninsular War. Not that John Shiffner lived long enough to enjoy the proceeds, as he was wounded in a sortie at the siege of Bayonne on 14th April 1814, and died of his wounds the following day. A completely futile battle caused by the French attacking the allied forces 2 days after The Emperor Napoleon had abdicated.
Photo to follow ####
From The Shiffner Archives
Of George Shiffner's children, two served with distinction in the Armed Forces. His eldest son, John Bridger Shiffner, entered the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards in 1805 and became lieutenant by seniority in 1811. He was on active service in the Spanish Peninsula from 1809 until his untimely death--after the war had officially ended--in the sortie from Bayonne in 1814. (Army Lists. His commissions were dated 24 October 1805 and 27 March 1811 respectively. The list does not distinguish lieutenants from captains in the regiment.) The greater part of the 191 letters to his father were written when on service and provide a valuable first-hand account of conditions and life there. (Nos. SHR/1037-1228.)
HENRY SHIFFNER (1721-1795) and his second wife Mary 1735-1814 Daughter of John Jackson
Picture right, The 6th Baronet, Sir John, sadly killed while newly married, a few weeks before the end of World War 1
The Shiffner Coat Of Arms.
NON EST MORTALE QUOD OPTO loosley translates as What I do here is going to outlive me.
The Reverend George Croxton Shiffner 4th Baronet
Major Henry Burrows Shiffner
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Birth: Jul. 29, 1902
Death: Nov. 22, 1941
Casualty of WWII, Major Sir Henry Burrows Shiffner, OBE,(Order of the British Empire)was the 7th Baronet of Coombe; his brother,Sir John Shiffner,Lieutenant in the Royal Sussex Regiment, the 6th Baronet was killed in action in France, on September 24th 1918 aged 19.
Sir Henry was 39 and served with 51 (The Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry) Field Regt.Royal Artillery-Service No: 14502.
They were sons of Sir John Shiffner, 5th Baronet, and Lady Shiffner He left a widow, Lady (Margaret Mary) Shiffner (nee Gowers), of Hampstead, London.
John Shiffner (1857 - 1914)
Elsie Burrows Shiffner
Elizabeth Mary Shiffner Fooks (1894 - 1984)*
John Bridger Shiffner (1899 - 1918)*
Henry Burrows Shiffner (1902 - 1941)
Plot: Column 37.
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Record added: Jun 23, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 14707410
Major Henry Burrows Shiffner
Grave of The Reverend George Croxton Shiffner 4th Baronet.
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Sir John Shiffner
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Birth: Aug. 8, 1857
Death: Apr. 5, 1914
Sir John Shiffner, 5th Bt. was the son of Reverend Sir George Croxton Shiffner, 4th Bt. and Elizabeth Greenall.
He married Elsie Burrows on 11 January 1894.
He died aged 56.
Formally Royal Artillery and served in the Zulu Campaigns 1879.
George Croxton Shiffner (____ - 1906)
Elizabeth Greenall Shiffner (____ - 1879)
Elsie Burrows Shiffner
Elizabeth Lady Shiffner, daughter and heir of John Greenall
Sir John Shiffner, 5th baronet
Sir John accidentally shot himself while cleaning his rifle. The following report of the subsequent
inquest is taken from 'The Times' of 7 April 1914:-
'The death of Sir John Shiffner on Sunday formed the subject of an inquiry at Bevern Bridge
House, Chailey, near Lewes, Sir John's residence, yesterday afternoon. The inquiry was held
by Dr. Dow, Deputy-Coroner for East Sussex, and Mr. W.W. Grantham, son of the late Mr.
Justice Grantham, was foreman of the jury.
'Lord Calthorpe gave evidence of identification, stating that Sir John Shiffner was a retired
captain of the Royal Artillery and was 56 years of age. Lady Shiffner and Miss Betty Shiffner
had been staying with the witness, and the latter was returning to Chailey on the evening
of the occurrence and Lady Shiffner was to follow at the end of the week.
'Mr. Douglas Crocket, living at Barcombe, said he was invited to lunch by Sir John Shiffner
on Sunday and arrived about 10 minutes past 1. A servant let him in and went to the study.
She came running back saying, "Do come here. Whatever has happened?" He went into the
study and found Sir John dead with a bullet wound in his face. He locked the room up and
hailing the first motor-car which passed the house, drove into Lewes for medical assistance.
'Police-constable Lyon, of Chailey, said he found Sir John sitting in an arm chair in his study.
He had the barrel of a rifle between his legs, and another rifle was lying on the floor. There
was a cleaning rag in the right hand and other articles for cleaning rifles were on the floor.
In the barrel between the legs was a spent bullet case. It appeared that this had become
fixed in the barrel and that an attempt had been made to dislodge it with a screw driver, and
then by means of the extractor. This caused the cartridge to explode.
'Dr. Andrews, of Lewes, said Sir John Shiffner was evidently smoking a pipe at the time, for
there was one on the floor at his side. All the evidence, added the witness, suggested that
Sir John was cleaning the rifle and was not aware that the cartridge was a live one.
The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death."
Established as Cetshwayo’s capital in 1873, Ondini was razed by British troops after the Battle of Ulundi (July 1879), the final engagement of the Anglo-Zulu War. The royal kraal section of the site has been rebuilt and you can see where archaeological digs have uncovered the floors of identifiable buildings. The floors, made of mud and cow dung, were preserved by the heat of the fires, which destroyed the huts above. The area is enclosed in a defensive perimeter of gnarled branches.
It took the British nearly six months to defeat the Zulu army, but the Battle of Ulundi went the same way as most of the campaign, with 10 to 15 times more Zulus than British killed. Part of the reason for the British victory at Ulundi was the adoption of the Boer laager tactic (creating a circle with their ox wagons to use for protection), with troops forming a hollow square to protect the cavalry, which attacked only after the Zulu army had exhausted itself trying to penetrate the walls.
Sir John Shiffner (The 5th Baronet) fought in the Zulu wars, and razed Ondini to the ground at the termination of the battle of Ulundi, which was the final battle of the Zulu War.
Henry Burrows Shiffner 7th Baronet
Below is a photo of Henry David Shiffner 8th Baronet with his wife Quini taken in June 2011 in Valencia where he lived until his death in August 2018
Henry David before becoming the 8th Baronet photographed here aged 2 with his Mother Lady Shiffner, the daughter of Sir Ernest Gowers
Sir Henry David Shiffner, 8th baronet [UK 1818]
Sir Henry, a member of Sir Oswald Mosley's Union Movement, was prosecuted but eventually
acquitted on charges that he, along with others, had set fire to the offices of the Anti-
Apartheid movement, a natural enemy of Mosley's followers.
The story of Sir Henry's court appearances was told in a number of separate instalments in the
London "Daily Telegraph," commencing on 29 March 1961:-
'Witnesses at Clerkenwell yesterday said that after they saw men go into a house in Gower
Street, Euston, where the headquarters of the Anti-Apartheid movement are located, they saw
flames coming from the basement.
'Sir Henry David Shiffner, 35 [sic], the eighth baronet of Old School House, Offham, Lewes:
Peter Dawson, 35, sales representative, Quaker Street, Spitalfields, and Francis John Elliott, 16,
electrical apprentice, Freshwater Road, Tooting, were charged on remand with maliciously
setting fire to the house. In addition, there was a further charge yesterday of conspiring
together, and with others, to break into the house with intent to commit a felony. The Anti-
Apartheid movement occupies the basement of the house.
'The basement was set on fire on March 4 and furniture and papers damaged. Mr. Ian Holden,
of Scotland Yard's forensic laboratory, said the damage was "typical of that resulting from a
highly inflammable liquid being poured on articles and ignited."
'He produced a black oblong tin which he said had contained paraffin. He added: "Something
more than paraffin would be needed to start a fire like this."
'Mr. Theodore Theobalds, a Jamaican solicitor whose address was withheld, said he had let "four
or five young men" into the house. They had said they had come to collect posters and he
showed them the steps to the basement. At the time he and his wife had a flat in the house.
'Two of the men were downstairs for about half a minute and then left by the front door. A few
seconds later three other men came up and went out. A van had moved off shortly before that.
'He added: "After they had gone I notice smoke coming from the basement." When he went
down he saw: "A mass of flames and a lot of smoke." He could not recognise any of the men.
'Det. Supt. William Brereton said he had had a telephone call from Shiffner on March 20, whom
he later told he was believed to have been involved in a case of arson. Shiffner had replied: "I
would not like to be involved in such a stupid escapade as setting fire to a place."
'Shiffner, when asked if he were in Gower Street, had said: "This is very difficult. I have been
wondering where my duty lies. You see, I did find myself in Gower Street that afternoon, but
not by choice. When I realised someone had set fire to the place it was my duty to inform the
Supt. Brereton said that Shiffner added: "But I really only know the hierarchy of the movement,
so it would not have been much use. I did not know the others, apart from Dawson, and he did
not go into the house."
'When told he would be charged with arson he said: "That's rather hard after telling you the
truth." When charged, he said: "I set fire to nothing."
'The three were further remanded until April 6. Elliott's bail of £40 and Shiffner's of £200 were
continued, and Dawson, previously remanded in custody, was allowed bail on his own bail of
£500 and two sureties of £250.'
The "Daily Telegraph" of 7 April 1961:-
'A trip by van through London to the Bloomsbury headquarters of the Anti-Apartheid movement,
where fire later broke out, was described in extracts from a statement read at Clerkenwell
yesterday. The statement was made by Sir Henry David Shiffner. In it he said he thought he was
being driven in the van to the Dorchester, where the South African Prime Minister, Dr. Verwoerd,
'Shiffner, 31, the eighth baronet, a company director, of Old School House, Offham, Lewes,
appeared on remand with three other men on charges of arson and conspiring to break into a
house in Gower Street, Bloomsbury, on March 4, with intent to commit a felony. The basement
of the building is occupied by the Anti-Apartheid movement.
'In the statement, read in court by his counsel, Mr. William Howard, Shiffner said that when he
found he had not been taken to the Dorchester, he said: "Where the hell are we?" Someone
said: "This is the opposition headquarters. Let's go in and see what their plans are, pretending
we are provincial demonstrators arriving late."
"I still maintained that we were in the wrong place and acting against strict instructions that
we confine our activities to the Dorchester," the statement said. Shiffner said he remained in
the van. There was a shout of "Fire," and everyone jumped into the van. It was driven off at
'All four pleaded not guilty and reserved their defence. They were committed for trial at the Old
Bailey and all allowed bail.'
The "Daily Telegraph" of 10 May 1961:-
'Sir Henry Shiffner, 31, the eighth baronet and a member of Sir Oswald Mosley's Union move-
ment, was acquitted at the Old Bailey yesterday of maliciously setting fire to the London head-
quarters of the Anti-Apartheid movement.
'Outside the court Sir Henry said: "Whether or not I remain a member of the Union movement
depends on talks I must have with the leader. I have planned a meeting with him very soon."
'Sir Henry, a former Cambridge University jazz band player, was discharged on the second day
of his trial after a successful submission by his counsel, Mr. Victor Durand QC that there was
no case for him to answer.
'The crown had alleged that Sir Henry and three other members of the Union movement had
arranged to take part in a demonstration on March 4 to welcome Dr. Verwoerd, the South
African Premier, to London.
'Later that afternoon, according to the prosecution, the four men went in a van to the head-
quarters of the Anti-Apartheid movement in Gower Street, Bloomsbury, and set light to its
'In a statement to the police Sir Henry had said that he thought the van was going to the
Dorchester Hotel. At Gower Street, he just sat in the van and only later realised something
more serious had happened.
'After Mr. Durand's successful submission Sir Henry was discharged by Mr. Justice Widgery.
'Sir Henry, of Old School House, Offham, near Arundel, Sussex, who inherited £70,000 from his
father, a soldier, who was killed at Tobruk, said afterwards: "I first went to Africa 18 months
ago and came back with certain views. I felt the withdrawal of British rule in Africa was wrong.
Sir Oswald Mosley's Union movement seemed to me the only one which was prepared to stand
up for the white man in Africa. I joined it six months ago and paid the normal subscription. I am
disillusioned by the movement's methods, although I agree with some of their policies, especially
about the control of coloured immigrants. Sir Oswald is a personal and social friend of mine and
that is another reason why I joined his movement. I think I'm the only British baronet in it."
Sir John Bridger Shiffner, 6th Baronet, had been at the front for two days when was killed in action on the 24 September 1918, the day the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment captured the high ground north of Gricourt. Later that day the Germans counter-attacked with some 400 men. The battalion war diary gives an unusually vivid description of what happened next:
"Captain Roberts ordered his company to open fire on the advancing enemy and when they were within 30 yards, the leading waves began to waver, on seeing this, Captain Roberts ordered his men to fix bayonets and then to charge the enemy. The men all rose from their positions in shell holes and charged with the bayonet and utterly routed the enemy, taking over 40 prisoners. The artillery in response to the S.O.S. signal, put down an intense fire on to the enemy, causing numerous casualties as they were running away. This action was specifically mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's communique. It was a fine example of the use of Infantry weapons and the value of the dash and fighting spirit shown by all ranks who took part, as their total number was less than 80, thus being out-numbered by 5 to 1."
Shiffner was killed in the bayonet charge. He was 19 and had been married for six weeks. His younger brother, Henry, inherited the title and was killed in action in North Africa in 1941.
The Dowger Lady Shiffner, Sir John's mother, chose his inscription. It comes from 'In Memoriam F.A.S', written by Robert Louis Stevenson at Davos in 1881 to commemorate an eighteen-year-old boy, Francis Albert Sitwell, who died of consumption there that year. It's a beautiful poem, echoing Shelley's 'Adonais', his lament for the early death of John Keats (see stanzas XXIX and XL), and prefiguring Laurence Binyon's 'For the Fallen'. However, Lady Shiffner makes an interesting alteration: Stevenson wrote 'Doomed to know not winter, only spring', she changed the word 'doomed' to 'born', which gives a slightly less mournful feeling to her son's death.
I wonder why the new Lady Shiffner, as next of kin, didn't choose her husband's inscription, and what she might have wanted to say.
YET, O stricken heart, remember, O remember
How of human days he lived the better part.
April came to bloom and never dim December
Breathed its killing chills upon the head or heart.
Doomed to know not Winter, only Spring, a being
Trod the flowery April blithely for awhile,
Took his fill of music, joy of thought and seeing,
Came and stayed and went, nor ever ceased to smile.
Came and stayed and went, and now when all is finished,
You alone have crossed the melancholy stream,
Yours the pang, but his, O his, the undiminished
Undecaying gladness, undeparted dream.
All that life contains of torture, toil, and treason,
Shame, dishonour, death, to him were but a name.
Here, a boy, he dwelt through all the singing season
And ere the day of sorrow departed as he came.
The soon to be enrolled 9th Baronet with his Mother Helena Shiffner
Sir George Shiffner 1st Baronet MP
Above. Sir George Shiffner 3rd Baronet 1791-1863
As of yet there are no images available of Sir Henry shiffner 2nd Baronet 1788-1859
Battle of Ulundi 1879
There are 2 photographs of Capt John Shiffner included in items 1330 and 3178-3197 held in the Shiffner archives held by East Sussex record office