Louisa Beresford, Marchioness of Waterford

Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford
by Sir Francis Grant
Choir singing on Christmas Day
25 December 1887
A small watercolour by Lady Waterford.

Louisa Anne Beresford, Marchioness of Waterford (née Stuart; 14 April 1818 – 12 May 1891) was a Pre-Raphaelite watercolourist and philanthropist.

Born in Paris, she was the wife of Henry Beresford, 3rd Marquess of Waterford, younger sister of Charlotte, Countess Canning, daughter of Charles Stuart, 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay and the former Lady Elizabeth Margaret Yorke.[1]

The family home was at Highcliffe Castle, and had been in Stuart possession since about 1770 when Louisa's great-grandfather, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (a founder of Kew Gardens), while out botanising, discovered the cliff-top viewsite overlooking Christchurch Bay, and commissioned the architect Robert Adam, to design High Cliff, a sumptuous Georgian mansion, with grounds laid out by Capability Brown.

His fourth son, Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Stuart, inherited High Cliff, but landslips virtually destroyed the house, and he sold the greater part of the estate. Years later Louisa's father who had had a long and distinguished career, been honoured with a knighthood, and raised to the peerage by George IV in 1828, bought back the land and between 1831 and 1835 built the house that became known as Highcliffe Castle, and which has been described as "the most important remaining example of the Romantic Picturesque style of architecture."[2][3]

Charles Stuart made use of the architect William Donthorne, a founder member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, to design Highcliffe Castle. Incorporated in the design was carved medieval stonework from the Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Peter at Jumieges and from the Grande Maison des Les Andelys, both of which structures had fallen into disrepair after the French Revolution. Also included in the structure were a 16th-century oriel window and stained glass window.

Her father was appointed British Ambassador at Paris shortly before marrying Elizabeth Margaret Yorke on 6 February 1816. Louisa's childhood in Paris was marked by the early tuition she received in the arts, in keeping with being a great-granddaughter of the writer Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Art, religion and philanthropy, would feature prominently in her life. Despite being an accomplished amateur artist, her paintings did not appear in galleries until the 1870s. Showing great concern for the welfare of her tenants on her Northumberland property, she redesigned the village of Ford, designed and built a school, and founded a temperance society. Over a period of 22 years between 1860 and 1882, she decorated the school hall with life-sized watercolours on paper, which had been applied to canvas and mounted on the interior walls and gables. The images portrayed biblical scenes, and used the village residents as models. The village school was in use until 1957, but is now known as the Waterford Gallery[4] or Lady Waterford Hall.[5]

Gleeson White described her talent in his work Children's Books and Their Illustrators[6]

"In the designs by Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, one encounters genius with absolutely faltering technique; and many who know how rare is the slightest touch of genius, forgive the equally important mastery of material which must accompany it to produce work of lasting value."

Louisa was tutored by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and attended drawing classes held by John Ruskin, together with Lady Trevelyan and Kate Greenaway, and had introduced Rose La Touche to him.[7] It is believed that she modelled for Sir John Everett Millais in several of his works, and her beauty is accredited as one of the inspirations of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

On 8 June 1842 she married Lord Waterford who settled in Curraghmore House in County Waterford, until dying in a horse riding accident in 1859. The marriage produced no children.

The erosion losses at Highcliffe were considerable and had been reckoned at about a yard a year – the coast path was in constant need of maintenance due to cliff falls. Louisa wrote in her "Recollections to the age of 12" that part of the problem was landsliding in the clays and to combat this she introduced an extensive drainage system in the cliffs to keep the clays dry. In about 1880 the problems of erosion of Highcliffe prompted her to seek an engineering solution. A prime cause was The Run, the river outflow from Christchurch Harbour, which because of its proximity to the cliffs, greatly increased the erosion. She arranged for the placing of limestone and granite-porphyry blocks near the Castle, with the idea of deflecting the course of The Run rather than directly opposing it. This groyne eventually disappeared and by 1931 only a few of the blocks were still visible at low tide.[8]

In his 1893 work, the Victorian biographer, Augustus Hare (1834–1903), wrote The story of two noble lives : being memorials of Charlotte, Countess Canning, and Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford

"Of the life of the younger sister, Louisa, Lady Waterford, the want of material makes it impossible to give the detailed account which might be looked for. She left scarcely any journals, and all her correspondence with her husband and most of that with her mother and sister, has been destroyed. From scattered letters which remain, and from the recollection of those who loved her best, it has been only possible to construct a fragmentary memorial. Those who were much in the sunshine of her gracious presence need no reminder of what she was: her noble simplicity of character, her playful humour, her warm interest, her gentle sympathy, her utter forgetfulness of self, her enthusiasm for all things good and beautiful, must be ever present with them. But it has been thought that there are many outside the quiet circle in which she lived, who may care to know the little that can be told of one who might be described by Longfellow's lines" –

"Homeward serenely she walked with God's benediction upon her:

When she had passed it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music"

Her grave lies next to the Church of St Michael in Ford Village. Its stone was designed in 1891 by George Frederic Watts, and the slab by Watts's wife Mary Seton Watts. It is a Grade II Listed Building protected by law.


  1. "Person Page 2384". thePeerage.com. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  2. "The Stuarts of Highcliffe by Robert Franklin". Natula.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  3. "Weddings in the New Forest". Highcliffe Castle. Archived from the original on 9 February 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  4. "Lady Waterford Hall. pictures from national parks photos on webshots". Travel.webshots.com. 24 July 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  5. "Lady Waterford Hall, Ford, Northumberland | Online Booking". Ntopsearch.com. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  6. "Children's Books and Their Illustrators by Gleeson White – Project Gutenberg". Gutenberg.org. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  7. "Art/Museums – Ruskin, Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites". Thecityreview.com. 28 May 2000. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
  8. "Settlement and Society". Dcda.org.uk. Retrieved 10 June 2009.



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