Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere

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Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere

Birthdate: (61)
Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Hugh Cholmondeley, 2nd Baron Delamere and Augusta Emily Seymour
Husband of <private> Cholmondeley (Beckett) and Lady Florence Anne Cole
Father of Thomas Pitt Hamilton Cholmondeley, 4th Baron Delamere
Brother of Hon Sybil Burnaby

Managed by: Douglas John Nimmo
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Immediate Family

About Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere,_3rd_Baron_Delamere

Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere KCMG (28 April 1870 - 13 November 1931), styled The Honourable from birth until 1887, was a British peer. He was one of the first and most influential British settlers in Kenya.

Delamere, the son of Hugh Cholmondeley, 2nd Baron Delamere, and Augusta Emily Seymour, moved to Kenya in 1901 and acquired large land holdings. Over the years, he became the unofficial leader of the colony’s European community. He was as famous for his tireless labours to establish a working agricultural economy in Africa as he was for childish antics among his European friends when he was at his leisure.

Early years

Delamere left Eton at the age of sixteen with the intention of entering the army,[2] but gave up his military pursuits after acceding to his title at seventeen.[3]

Baron Delamere was an indirect descendant of Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of Great Britain.[4]

The young baron inherited a sizable estate, including land that had been in the Cholmondeley family since 1615[5] -- 7,000 acres (28 km2) and the family home at Vale Royale in the county of Cheshire.[6]

Delamere made his first trip to Africa in 1891 to hunt lion in Somaliland, and returned yearly to resume the hunt. In 1894 he was severely mauled by an attacking lion, and was only saved when his Somali gunbearer Abdullah Ashur leaped on the lion, giving Delamere time to retrieve his rifle. As a result of the attack, Lord Delamere limped for the rest of his life; he also developed a healthy respect for Somalis.[7]

It is believed that on one of these Somaliland hunting trips, Delamere coined the term “white hunter” – the term which came to describe the professional safari hunter in colonial East Africa. Delamere employed a professional hunter named Alan Black and a native Somali hunter to lead the safari. As the story goes, in order to avoid confusion, the Somali was referred to as the "black hunter," and Black was called the "white hunter."[8]

In 1896, Delamere, with a retinue including a doctor, taxidermist, photographer, and 200 camels, set out to cross the deserts of southern Somaliland, intending to enter British East Africa from the north. In 1897, he arrived in the lush green highlands of what is now central Kenya.[7]

Colonial Kenya

In 1899, Delamere married Lady Florence Anne Cole, daughter of Lowry Egerton Cole, 4th Earl of Enniskillen.[9] The couple soon sought to relocate to the Kenya highlands.

Delamere originally applied for a land grant in May 1903 but was denied because the governor of the Protectorate, Sir Charles Eliot, thought the land was too far from any population centre.[10] His next request for 100,000 acres (400 km2) near Naivasha was denied because the government felt that settlement by a colonizing farmer might ignite conflicts with the Maasai tribesman who lived on the land. Delamere’s third attempt at land acquisition was successful. He received a 99-year lease on 100,000 acres (400 km2) of land that would be named “Equator Ranch,” requiring him to pay a £200 annual rent and to spend £5000 on the land over the first five years of occupancy.[10] In 1906, he acquired a large farm, which would eventually include more than 200,000 acres (800 km²), located between the Molo River and Njoro town. This ranch he named Soysambu.[7] Together, these vast possessions made Delamere one of Kenya's "largemen" - the local name for the handful of colonists with the greatest land holdings.


Among Kenya’s white settlers, Delamere was famous for his utter devotion to developing Kenyan agriculture. For many years his only homes in Kenya were native-style mud and grass huts, which his wife decorated with their fine English furnishings.[11] For twenty years, Delamere farmed his colossal land by trial, error and dogged effort, experimenting endlessly with crops and livestock, and accruing an invaluable stockpile of knowledge that would later serve as the foundation for the agricultural economy of the colony.[12]

By 1905, Delamere was a pioneer of the East African dairy industry. He was also a pioneer at crossbreeding animals, beginning with sheep and chicken, then moving to cattle; most of his imported animals, however, succumbed to diseases such as foot and mouth and Red water disease.[13] Delamere purchased Ryeland Rams from England to mate with 11,000 Maasai ewes, and in 1904, imported 500 pure-bred merino ewes from New Zealand. Four-fifths of the merino ewes quickly died, and the remaining stock were moved to Delamere’s Soysambu farm, as well as the remaining stock of 1500 imported cattle that suffered from pleuro-pneumonia.[14]

Eventually, Delamere decided to grow wheat. This too, was plagued by disease, specifically rust.[15] By 1909, Delamere was out of money, resting his last hopes on a 1,200-acre (4.9 km2) wheat crop that eventually failed.[12] He was quoted by author Elspeth Huxley as commenting drily, “I started to grow wheat in East Africa to prove that though I lived on the equator, I was not in an equatorial country.” Delamere eventually created a “wheat laboratory” on his farm, employing scientists to manufacture hardy wheat varieties for the Kenyan highlands. [16] To supplement his income, he even tried raising ostriches for their feathers, importing incubators from Europe; this venture also failed with the advent of the motor car and the decline in fashion of feathered hats. [17] Delamere was the first European to start a maize farm, Florida Farm in the Rongai Valley, and established the first flour mill in Kenya.[18] By 1914, his efforts finally began to generate a profit. [19]

Happy Valley set

Delamere was active in recruiting settlers to East Africa, promising new colonists 640 acres (2.6 km2), with 200 people eventually responding.[20] He persuaded some of his friends among the English landed gentry to buy large estates like his own and take up life in Kenya; he is credited with helping to found the so-called Happy Valley set, a clique of well-off British colonials whose pleasure-seeking habits eventually degenerated into drug-taking and wife-swapping. The story is often told of Delamere riding his horse into the dining room of Nairobi’s Norfolk Hotel and jumping over the tables.[21] He was also known to knock golf balls onto the roof of the Muthaiga Country Club, the pink stucco gathering-place for Nairobi's white elite, and then climb up to retrieve them.[22]

At the outbreak of WWI, Delamere was placed in charge of Intelligence on the Maasai border, monitoring the movements of German units in present day Tanzania.[23] Delamere entertained many high-ranking official visitors to Kenya, including then Under-Secretary for the Colonies, Winston Churchill. He was also the first president of the East African Turf Club. [24]


Delamere embodied the many contradictions of the committed East African settler. He was personally fond of many Africans, and particularly enjoyed the company of the Masai (even gently tolerating their habit of pilfering his cattle for their own herds),[25] but fought fiercely to maintain British supremacy in the colony. "The extension of European civilization was in itself a desirable thing," he wrote in 1927. "The British race... was superior to heterogeneous African races only now emerging from centuries of relative barbarism... the opening up of new areas by means of genuine colonisation was to the advantage to the world."[26]

Richard Meinertzhagen (himself a complex figure of Africa's colonial days) quoted Delamere as proclaiming, “I am going to prove to you all that this is a white man’s country.”[27]

These views held great sway among the settlers because, as their founding father, Delamere was their undisputed if unofficial leader and, in some measure, spokesman for 30 years. He was a member of the Legislative Council, the Executive Council, and in 1907, became president of the Colonists’ Association.[28] Errol Trzebinski, who wrote a number of books on Kenya’s colonial elite, wrote of him: “Delamere was the Rhodes of Kenya and the settlers followed him both politically and spiritually.” [29] Another contemporary and former colonist said more or less the same: “(His) ascendancy over the settlers of Kenya has been enjoyed long enough for him to expect all men – and women – to do his bidding, and do it promptly. He is their Moses. For 25 years he has been their guide.”[30]

Beryl Markham, the aviator and author, was close with Delamere and his wife, who served for a few years as Markham's surrogate mother. She summed Delamere up thus: "Delamere had two great loves - East Africa and the Masai People.... Delamere's character had as many facets as cut stone, but each facet shone with individual brightness. His generosity is legendary, but so is his sometimes wholly unjustified anger.... To him nothing was more important than the agricultural and political future of British East Africa - and so, he was a serious man. Yet his gaiety and occasional abandonment to the spirit of fun, which I have often witnessed, could hardly be equalled except by an ebullient schoolboy."[31]

Delamere's efforts to steer Kenyan economic and racial policy – which often contravened the more pro-African intentions of the Colonial Office – were assisted by his powerful friends at home in England. Delamere and other settlers were so successful in affecting Kenya’s politics that, in 1923, the British government responded with the Devonshire White Paper, which declared officially that in Kenya, the concerns of Africans were "paramount," even when they conflicted with the needs of whites.[32]


Delamere died in November 1931 at age 61.[33] He was survived by his second wife, formerly Lady Charles Markham (née Gwladys Helen Beckett, daughter of Hon. Rupert Eveleyn Beckett).[34] He was succeeded in the barony by his son from his first marriage, Thomas.[9] At his death, he left Kenya's agricultural economy healthy enough to develop into one of the most stable economies in Africa. He also left unpaid bank loans totalling £500,000.[35]

Nairobi's Third Avenue was named Delamere Avenue to commemorate his place in the development of the colony, and an eight-foot bronze statue of the 3rd Baron was erected at the street’s head. His widow, Gwladys, became the first woman mayor of Nairobi.

When Kenya achieved independence in 1963, many white settlers opted to sell their farms and leave the country rather than submit to African rule. Delamere’s family, by then headed by his son Thomas, the 4th hereditary baron, elected to remain and accept Kenyan citizenship. Other traces of Delamere’s colonial “reign” were not permitted to linger. Delamere Avenue was renamed Kenyatta Avenue, after Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta, and the statue of Delamere was relocated to the family’s Soysambu estate, where it faces out toward the mountain known locally as "Delamere's Nose" or "The Sleeping Warrior." Among the Masai, with whom Delamere was the first to establish a strong European connection, his family is now frequently reviled as those who “stole” the Masai’s land;[36] but at his death, The Times reported that this complicated man had been amongst the very few Europeans who had made it a point to learn the Masai language.[9]

Selected works

1926 -- Kenya. Correspondence with the government of Kenya relating to Lord Delamere's acquisition of land in Kenya ... London: H.M. Stationery Office. OCLC 12325519

1927 -- Kenya elections : Lord Delamere's speech to his constituents. Nairobi: reprinted from the East African standard (January 1927). OCLC 85028232


Order of St Michael and St George, Knight Commander, 1921.

Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere of Vale Royal

  • Born on 28 April 1870.
  • Son of Hugh Cholmondeley, 2nd Baron Delamere of Vale Royal and Augusta Emily Seymour.
  • Married, firstly, Lady Florence Anne Cole, daughter of Lowry Egerton Cole, 4th Earl of Enniskillen and Charlotte Marion Baird, on 11 July 1899.
  • Married, secondly, Gwladys Helen Beckett, daughter of Hon. Rupert Evelyn Beckett and Muriel Helen Florence Paget, on 28 May 1928.
  • Died on 13 November 1931 at age 61.
  • Succeeded to the title of 3rd Baron Delamere of Vale Royal, co. Chester [U.K., 1821] on 1 August 1887.
  • Lieutenant in the service of the 3rd Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.
  • Captain in the service of the Cheshire Yeomanry Cavalry.
  • In 1906 he acquired the family ranch of Soysambu, Kenya.
  • Invested as a Knight Commander, Order of St. Michael and St. George (K.C.M.G.) in 1929.
  • Member of the Legislative Council (M.L.C.) [Kenya].
  • Unofficial member of the Executive Council [Kenya] in 1931.

He has an extensive biographical entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.


Child of Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere of Vale Royal and Lady Florence Anne Cole

  • Thomas Pitt Hamilton Cholmondeley, 4th Baron Delamere of Vale Royal b. 19 Aug 1900, d. 13 Apr 1979

The Peerage

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Hugh Cholmondeley, 3rd Baron Delamere's Timeline

April 28, 1870
August 19, 1900
Age 30
Withington, Lancashire, England UK
November 13, 1931
Age 61