Skimming Plates:How the First World War Cut Short a Gilded Life.
Updated: Jul 28, 2021
Born in 1888, George Francis Augustus Vernon, 8th Baron Vernon (1888-1915) had much promise. The only son of a Baron, the family owned two large estates, Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire and Poynton Towers, Cheshire. They had inherited Poynton and some associated
coal mines in 1826.
Tragically, his father passed away at the age of 44 and the ten year old George became the 8th Baron Vernon, under the wardship of his Aunt Adela and husband , Captain Anson. They lived at Poynton Towers.
In 1902 aged 14, he was one of the Paiges at Queen Alexandra's Coronation.
Queen Alexandra's Coronation, 1902.
Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire.
Photo: DeFacto, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Spirited and generous, he had no care for money or his own health. He was known in the village for speeding in his car and throwing lavish parties. In 1909 the village of Poynton was decorated for his coming of age party and 3000 guests were invited. A number of plates were commissioned to celebrate the event. As things got out of hand with heavy drinking, it was said quite a few plates ended up being skimmed across Poynton Lake.
Booth's Worcester Armorial Plate
Offered by Kingschina.
He was educated at Eton and for a while was a member of the Diplomatic Corps, serving as Honorary Attaché in Constantinople and Munich. At the outbreak of war in 1914, he joined his local Mounted Derbyshire Yeomanry to serve his country as a Captain.
The regiment trained in Norfolk and were combined into the Second Mounted Division.
On 13th April 1915 he embarked on the ship 'Saturn' landing at Alexandria on 27th. They were sent on to the Suez Canal and then to Gallipoli without any horses or infantry training.
The eighth month bitter campaign took its toll. Of the 213,000 casualties at Gallipoli,145,000 were due to sickness. Dysentery was passed from man to man by water, unhygienic conditions and flies. Casualties were evacuated by ship to hospitals in Egypt or Malta. After surviving for so long, George was taken ill and transferred to St Andrew's Hospital in Malta where he passed away on the 10th November 1915.
Sudbury Park was gifted to the National Trust and descendants of the family still live within it. Poynton Hall was demolished and the park came into public ownership. Perhaps on a mild Autumn day, you may hear the sound of laughter and imagine the sight of plates fleetingly skim and dance across the water, before sinking to their shady resting place.
A party is held in the park every year, the Saturday before the August Bank Holiday Monday.