John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle-Drax

6th Oct 1800 - 5th Jan 1887

Claimant or beneficiary


  1. John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge was the eldest son of Samuel Elias Sawbridge (b.1769 - d.1851), an MP and landowner, and the grandson of John Sawbridge (1732?-1795), MP for Hythe 1768-74 and for London 1774-1795 and Lord Mayor of London in 1775. In 1827 he married Jane, the daughter of Richard Erle-Drax Grosvenor and a member of the Drax family which was so prominent among the slave-owners of Barbados. On the marriage, Sawbridge assumed the name of Erle-Drax. The Erle family had owned Charborough House, Dorset, since the C16th and through the marriage, Drax took possession of it. On his family’s side he inherited Olantigh, near Wye, Kent  in 1851. He is said to have ‘spent money prodigiously’ [Matthew Beckett] on both Olantigh and Charborough Park, including on the building of the celebrated brick wall surrounding the estate which is said to use about 2 million bricks. At Olantigh, large picture galleries and collections of art, Venetian Towers and garden ornaments, such as a huge fountain at the entrance, were added. Following his death in 1887 the house and estate at Olantigh passed to his nephew, Wanley Ellis Sawbridge-Erle-Drax, who again shared his time between Charborough and Olantigh, until 1903 when the house burnt down. Erle-Drax also owned an estate at Holnest, Dorset where he built an elaborate mausoleum besides the parish church.  The mausoleum was demolished in 1935 and replaced by a flat memorial stone. The Sawbridge and Erle-Drax families had estates in Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Yorkshire (including Ellerton Abbey), Lincolnshire, Surrey, Suffolk and Barbados. Burke, vol. IV, p. 211. See for the whole family, Burke, vol. IV, pp. 207-11 (entry for John Samuel Wanley Drax-Erle Sawbridge of Charborough). The MP for the nearby corrupt borough of Wareham, Dorset, he appears to have never said anything in the Commons save for asking the Speaker that a window be opened (though this story may be apocryphal). A captain in the East Kent Militia; raised a troop of the Dorsetshire Yeomanry in 1830 to deal with the Swing Riots; patron of five church livings; appointed sheriff of Dorset, January 1840; a deputy-lieutenant of Dorset in the late 1850s.

  2. Erle-Drax's descendant, Richard Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, was elected as Conservative MP for South Dorset in the United Kingdom general election, 2010 using the 'truncated' name Richard Drax. During the election campaign there was some controversy when the Daily Mirror wrote that Drax's ancestors had earned their fortune on slavery. In response, Drax replied in the Dorset Echo that: 'I can’t be held responsible for something that happened 300 or 400 years ago. They are using the old class thing and that is not what this election is about, it’s not what I stand for, and I ignore it...I think it shows how desperate they are if all they can do is pick at bits of my family history.'


T71/898 Barbados claim no. 3784 (Drax Hall).

  1. John Burke, Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland  (4 vols., London, Henry Colburn, 1835-1838), IV, pp. 207-11; Alan J. Miller, 'Three cheers for Sawbridge Drax', Dorset Life, January 2011, Accessed 18 June 2012;; Accessed 18 June 2012; London Gazette, 19819 31 January 1840, p. 197; R. J. Richardson, The lower house, or, the peers and aristocracy (London, G. Vickers, 1859), p. 47.

  2. Daily Mirror, 5 May 2010; Dorset Echo, 6 May 2010.

Further Information

Name in compensation records
John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle Dray
Jane Frances Grosvenor
2 daughters

Left his estate, including the plant and stock of the Hall Drax estate, Barbados, and his properties, furniture and other contents to his nephew, Wanley Ellis Sawbridge. Erle-Drax's two daughters pre-deceased him.

The value of the personalty was £10,381. Details: Leeds Mercury, 30 June 1887.

Associated Claims (1)

£4,293 12s 6d

Associated Estates (1)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1832 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Owner

Legacies Summary

Political (1)

election →
Wareham Dorset
1841 - 1847
election →
Wareham Dorset
1859 - 1865
election →
Wareham Dorset
1868 - 1880

Relationships (2)

Son-in-law → Father-in-law

Addresses (3)

Charborough House, Dorset, Wessex, England
Holnest Estate, Dorset, Wessex, England
Olantigh, Wye, Kent, South-east England, England