Sir William Burrell, Bart., L.L.D., F.R.S., F.S.A. (1732 - 1796)

by Mark Antony Lower, M.A., F.S.A. in his book 'The Worthies of Sussex' published in 1865

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To Sir William Burrell, Sussex owes a large debt of gratitude for the elaborate and important collections which he made towards a History of the County. Had his life been extended we should have had a History of Sussex which might have taken its place side by side with Manning and Bray's Surrey, Ormerod's Cheshire, Nichols's Leicester­shire, and Clutterbuck's Hertfordshire; as it is, every Sussex topographer who aims at completeness must draw upon the manuscript stores bequeathed by him to the nation, and deposited in the British Museum.

Sir William was descended from an ancient family in Devonshire, deducing from Ralph Burrell, who married Sermonda, daughter of Sir Walter Woodland, standard-bearer to the Black Prince at the battle of Poictiers. The first of the family who settled in Sussex was Gerard Burrell, Archdeacon and Residentiary of Chichester, who became vicar of Cuckfield in the year 1446. He died in 1508, leaving a considerable estate to his nephew Ralph Burrell of Cuckfield, from whom by common descent spring the Burrells, Lord Gwydyr (now Lord Willoughby de Eresby), and the Burrells of Valentine House in Essex, and now of Knepp Castle in this county, Baronet. The subject of this brief memoir was the third son of Peter Burrell, Esq. of Kelseys in the parish of Beckenham in Kent, by Amy, eldest daughter of Col. Hugh Raymond, of Sealing Hall in Essex, and of Langley Park in Beckenham. He was born in 1733, and educated at Westminster School, under the Rev. Dr. Nicol. He was entered as a fellow-commoner of St. John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated L.L.B. in 1755, and L.L.D. in 1760. He married Sophia, daughter and coheiress of Charles Raymond, Esq., of Valentine House in Essex, who was created a Baronet, May 4th, 1774, with remainder to Dr. Burrell and his heirs by this marriage. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries in 1756, chosen member of Parliament for Haslemere in 1768, and appointed a commissioner of Excise in 1774.[1] In 1789 he succeeded to the entailed baronetcy of Sir Charles Raymond.

Two years previously to this, he had been attacked by paralysis, which temporarily deprived him of speech, and permanently of the use of his left arm. In consequence of this affliction he was induced to resign his seat at the Board of Excise in 1791. In 1790 he purchased the Deepdene, near Dorking, the air of which seemed favourable to his shattered constitution, but at length after repeated attacks of his disorder he paid the debt of nature January 20th, 1796, and was buried at West Grinstead, where there is a tablet with the following inscription to his memory and that of Lady Burrell:

“Sacred to the memory of Sir William Burrell, Bart., of the Deepdene, in Surrey (third son of Peter Burrell, Esq., of Beckenham, and of Amy, daur. of Hugh Raymond, Esq.) He married Sophia, eldest daur. of Sir Charles Raymond, Bart., by whom he had five sons and two daughters, and departed this life January XX, MDCCXCVI, aged LXIII.
In the same vault are deposited the remains of Sophia Raymond, Lady Burrell, widow of Sir William Burrell, Bart. (late wife of William Clay, clerk,), who, at the age of 49 years, departed this mortal life on the 20th of June, 1802, after a long and painful illness, which she bore with that resignation which becomes a Christian.

[1] For some of these particulars I am indebted to Horsfield's Hist. of Lewes, vol.i, page 328, which were contributed to the author by Walter Burrell, Esq., of West Grinstead Park.

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