Robert Alfred Cunliffe 1839 – 1905

by Annette Edwards


Robert Alfred Cunliffe was born on 17 January 1839 in India, he was the son of Robert Ellis Cunliffe (1808 – 1855) and Charlotte Howel, his father was with the Indian service. He was descended from Foster Cunliffe who had built up a thriving business as a Liverpool merchant. He was a leading figure in the city and was mayor three times. By 1720 Foster had built up a trading business with the plantations in Virginia and his company owned four slave trade ships and twelve cargo ships. They made a fortune  from slavery and in 1785 he bought the Acton Estate.

Robert Alfred was the 5th Baronet, he married Eleanor Sophia Egerton Leigh the only daughter of Major Egerton Leigh, of Godrell Hall, Cheshire on 5 August 1869. He succeeded as 5th Baronet Cunliffe, of Liverpool in 1859, and over the years became High Sheriff of Denbighshire, the M P for Flint and Denbigh, gained the rank of Honorory Colonel 3rd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and many more official titles.

Robert and Eleanor had 2 sons and 3 daughters, Foster Hugh (1875 – 1916), Violet Eleanor (1876 – 1878) Mary Evelyn (1878 – 1961) Kythe (1881- 1928) and Robert Neville Henry (1884 – 1949)

They lived St George, Hanover Square for quite some time, but had spent some time in Wrexham as Mary Evelyn was born there. In 1878 their second daughter Violet Eleanor died at Acton Hall, she was only 19 months old and was buried in Wrexham Cemetery.

In 1891, the family may have been having a break on the coast, Eleanor and 3 children are lodging at 17 West Parade Rhyl, with Margaret Davies a lodging house keeper.

Robert Alfred is visiting his Aunt Rhoda Cecil Norris in Llanwrst.

Eleanor died suddenly on 13 March 1898 at Acton Hall, many local people followed the cortege from her home to St Giles and then on to the Wrexham Cemetery where she was buried.  She had been confined to her bed since the last Christmas Eve and her doctors had been considering an operation, but it was too late.  She had taken an interest in many local organisations, and especially those concerned with the welfare of children.

Robert Alfred married Cecilie Victoria Sackville West on 5 January 1901; she was 26 years younger than he was. Her father was Colonel W. E. Sackville-West, a J P for Caernarvonshire. The wedding was held at St. Barnabas’s Church, Pimlico, London and the couple spent their honeymoon in Italy, before Robert brought his new bride back to Acton Hall.

On 18 June 1905 Robert Alfred died suddenly after a short illness. He had been staying with Colonel Sackville West, his father in law at his London residence, Basil Mansions. About two weeks before he had caught influenza, which developed into pneumonia, and he died from heart failure at five o’clock on Sunday afternoon. Robert and Cecilie were to have gone abroad on the Monday.

The coffin was brought from London by train and taken on an open bier drawn by the tenants of his estate to St Giles Church.  The pathway from the entrance gates to the church was lined by mourners of the staff from the depot of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

The funeral at Wrexham was an impressive public ceremony. Most of the places of business in the town were either fully or partially closed during the service, and flags were half-mast on all the public buildings, the street were lined with many mourners. His Probate states his   effects were more than £63000.

His son, Foster Hugh Egerton Cunliffe the 6th Baronet, was killed at the Battle of the Somme on July 16th 1916, Acton Hall and estate were put up for sale and the Cunliffe connection with Wrexham came to an end.

Cecilie was appointed Commander, Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) in 1920   and served until 1930 as President of the Girls’ Friendly Society, which did work with munition workers in factories, and provided hostels and rest homes in various parts of England.

Cecilie was born on 18 February 1865 in Marylebone, London and died on 10 March 1955 aged 90, she was then living at Haslemere, Surrey.



Researched by Annette Edwards. July 2018.

Photographs by Graham Lloyd.