5th December, 1791

05/12/2018 all-day

The eccentric George Walpole, Earl of Orford, died. Grandson of Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister, he was the owner of the magnificent Houghton Hall in Norfolk.

Orford, born in 1730, was a profligate rake who squandered much of his family’s fortune on good living. On the other hand, he was a generous and much-loved local patron, and dedicated himself to country pursuits.

He founded Swaffham Coursing Club for greyhounds in 1776 as well as a Falconers’ Society. As Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, he was the monarch’s representative in the county.

To help pay off his stupendous debts, he sold off his grandfather’s renowned art collection to Empress Catherine the Great of Russia in the late 1770s. Norfolk’s loss was Russia’s gain, as many of these works are on show at The Hermitage in St Petersburg.

Sadly, Orford was diagnosed insane. He died, without legitimate heirs, aged 61.