Monday, May 18, 2015

Robert Andrews: Prodigy and Legal Extraordinaire

Robert Andrews was born into a family with a long legal tradition on 3 September 1703 in Upper John Street, Golden Square, London. He was the fifth but second surviving son of scrivener Richard Andrews and his wife, Elizabeth, the daughter of Hugh Pigot. Both sides of the family were involved in overseeing the running of large properties in London. His father was steward of the Grosvenor’s London estate and his uncle, Robert Pigot, was the steward of the Grosvenor’s country estate in Chesire. Whatever formal education Andrews received as a schoolboy was evidently supplemented by his familial connections, such as legal training from the Grosvenor’s attorney at Chester, Edward Partington. Family would prove to be an important asset to Andrews throughout his career. In order to keep these social connections strong, Andrews married Margaret Pigot, his cousin, on 3 September 1726 in Chesire. This match would result in eleven children, although six would die in infancy.
Andrews claimed that by the age of eighteen that “howsoer uncommon it may appear [he] had 4 Clerks under [him]” (Belcher, 40). With some speculation, this date would mean Andrews had established a law practice in 1722. By 1723, Andrews had started taking after his father and was overseeing items such as agreements, leases, mortgages, etc. that related to construction taking place at the Mayfair Grosvenor estate. The Mayfair estate took up 100 acres south of Oxford street and east of Park lane.  With the help of Andrews, this land would become an emblem for Georgian construction. In the 1720s, a “grand plan” was created for the estate that would involve covering “the whole large area in speculative housing” (Blecher, 41). Robert helped his father, who was assigned to be the agent of the project, with the managerial duties. He was only twenty years old when he began building terraced houses on land he acquired on the border to Park Lane in spring of 1724. Andrews would later help build over a hundred houses on ten plots throughout the estate. He went on to become the manager of the Berkeley estate at Berkeley square and helped finance the construction of two major town houses at St. James’s Square. Throughout the 1720s, Andrews also seemed to act as an attorney for the Grosvenor family. In conjunction with his old friend Edward Parrington, the two consulted each other on certain cases being tried at Westminster, even though Andrews was not technically on the roll of attorneys.  

Proposed layout of the Mayfair estate for building, c. 1720

Eventually, Andrews was forced to enroll as attorney after an Act was passed in 1729 that called for better regulation of attorneys and solicitors. On 5 November 1730, Andrews was enrolled as an attorney in the Court of Common Pleas and on 23 November he was enrolled as a solicitor of the Court of Chancery. His connection with the powerful Grosvenor family helped build his law practice and his clients soon included aristocratic families such as the Comptons, Irbys, Berkeleys, and Sackvilles of Knole. Between 1736 and 1744, Andrews took care of legal matters for the Vestry of St. George’s, Hanover Square and was a Vestryman beginning in 1741. His influence with powerful families eventually led to his introduction to Frederick, Prince of Wales, which resulted in his appointment to remembrancer in 1734 in the prince’s Cornwall administration. Ten years later, in 1744, Andrews was appointed clerk to the prince’s council and in 1749, he was appointed to the position of auditor. His appointment in 1734 introduced Andrews to the election world as he was now responsible for looking after the prince’s electoral interests in numerous Cornish boroughs.
Andrews was one of the many men in governmental positions whose hopes of higher offices were done away with by the prince’s death in 1751. He lost his position of auditor after it was reclaimed by the crown but remained somewhat involved in Parliamentary elections. The most significant borough he managed was the rotten borough of Old Sarum in Wiltshire, which eventually elected two MPs. The death of the prince meant his old supporters had to scramble to join new sides. Andrews joined with Thomas Pelham-Holmes, the Duke of Newcastle, after promising to return government nominees to seats in his boroughs, most importantly in Old Sarum. Newcastle rewarded Andrews in 1752 with a “lucrative sinecure of comptroller of the cash in the excise” (Belcher). Such a position required little to no work on Andrews's part and allowed him to take in revenue. He attempted to run for the Old Sarum parliamentary seat in 1755 but Newcastle denied his request. This denial led Andrews and several other “burgage holders” to try and return Sir William Cavert to the seat.
Toward the beginning of his career, Andrews and his wife resided in Great Russell Street and then Grosvenor Street, beginning in 1730. Toward the end of his life, Andrews spent more time outside of London in the East Acton Manor House, whose lease he acquired in 1755. He eventually gave up his profession, in part due to his chronic gout but also due to the fact he finally had someone who could take over, his son-in-law Thomas Walley Parrington. Andrews passed away in the East Acton Manor House on 27 August 1763 and was buried 2 September at the parish church in Hanwill. Thomas Walley Parrington took over the legal business, which is still in operation today under the name Boodle Hatfield.

Belcher, Victor. “Andrews, Robert (1703–1763).” Victor Belcher In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman. Oxford: OUP, 2004. (accessed May 18, 2015).
Belcher, ‘A London attorney of the eighteenth century: Robert Andrews’, London Journal, 12 (1986), 40–50.  
“The Development of the Estate 1720-1785: The Estate Agent,” in Survey of London: Volume 39, the Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 1 (General History), ed. F H W Sheppard (London: London County Council, 1977), 9-11, accessed May 17, 2015,
“Our history” Boodle Hatfield. (accessed May 18th, 2015).

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