George Pitt-Rivers, 4th Baron Rivers

1810 - 1866

Claimant or beneficiary


Awarded the compensation for the Eaton estate in Hanover and the Shrewsbury estate in Westmoreland Jamaica.

  1. Lord Rivers or George Pitt-Rivers (né George Beckford), b. 1810, son of Horace William Beckford 3rd Lord Rivers (1777-1831, son of Peter Beckford and Hon. Louisa Pitt), m. Susan Georgiana Leveson-Gower, daughter of Earl Granville.

  2. Will of George Pitt Rivers Baron Rivers of Sudeley Castle late of Rushmore Lodge Wiltshire who died 28/04/1866 at 15 Portman Square, effects under £90,000.  

  3. The Pitt Rivers Museum was founded by the University of Oxford in 1884 to house a collection given to it by General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers. The vast majority of this collection was acquired before 1880 when Augustus Henry Lane Fox inherited the Rivers estates from the 6th Baron Rivers, the brother of the 4th Baron (and took the name Pitt-Rivers). From 1880, General Pitt-Rivers acquired a second, separate collection, which was housed in a private museum in Farnham, Dorset, and is now dispersed.


Hanover no. 219, T71/915 p 157 Rt Hon Lord Rivers, Great Britain Owner; T71/871 Westmoreland no. 29.

  1. Debrett's 1840; Boyle's 1836 (p 564) Eltham Lodge, Kent and 'Rushmore, Dorset' ('family name Pitt').

  2. National Probate Calendar 1866.

  3. 'Rethinking Pitt-Rivers: analyzing the activities of a nineteenth-century collector' at [accessed 17/04/2013].

We are grateful to Jeremy Coote for his assistance in compiling this entry.

There is commentary on the above entry in Dan Hicks, The Brutish Museums: the Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution (London: Pluto Press, 2020) pp. 547-8 (page references are to the ibook version):

‘A kind of double-vision will be required of us if we are to trace how compensation paid for the white loss of African people freed from chattel slavery – paid to a quite distant relative when Augustus Henry Lane Fox (not yet Pitt-Rivers) was 11 years old – came, around the time of his 70th birthday in April 1897, to be used to buy back brass in the form of artwork, now taken through the massacre of further African lives. The complexity has defeated the UCL Legacies of British Slave-ownership Database, which misleadingly suggests that the first collection was not bought with this fortune, before going on to state that “From 1880, General Pitt-Rivers acquired a second, separate collection, which was housed in a private museum in Farnham, Dorset, and is now dispersed” – thereby obscuring how the violence of slavery continued through the purchase of 283 objects of Benin loot for Farnham during 1897–99, and the acquisition of a further 145 through the museum infrastructure at Oxford, all directly funded through this slavery fortune.’

The book provides no evidence that ‘the first collection’ (the collection transferred to the Pitt-Rivers museum) was bought with the proceeds either of slavery or of slave compensation. That collection, as The Brutish Museums acknowledges elsewhere (p. 431) was made between 1851 and 1882: Augustus Henry Lane Fox did not inherit from the Pitt-Rivers family until 1880, when it appears the first collection was largely complete, it having been ‘exhibited by General Augustus Henry Lane Fox in Bethnal Green and South Kensington before he inherited the title Pitt-Rivers’ (and the money that went with it). Of the founding of the Pitt-Rivers museum, The Brutish Museums says that Augustus Henry Lane Fox ‘used the fortune that came with it [the Pitt-Rivers title] to fund the costs of donating his collection to the University of Oxford for display in new specially built galleries, which opened in 1884’ (p. 431), a phrasing again suggesting a direct connection between the Pitt-Rivers’ museum and wealth from slavery. The book does not mention that the funding for the physical building was provided by the University of Oxford as a condition of the gift of the first collection, nor does it provide any evidence that the acquisition of the 145 looted objects ‘through the museum infrastructure at Oxford’ in the 1890s was funded directly (or indirectly) by the slavery fortune. The second collection, at Farnham, was made after the inheritance, as noted in the entry above, and its subsequent dispersal is documented in Appendix IV in The Brutish Museums which shows ‘Current Location of Benin Objects previously in the Pitt-Rivers Museum at Farnham (the Second Collection)’.

Further Information

Name in compensation records
Lord Rivers
Lady Susan Georgiana Leveson-Gower
8 daughters; 4 sons
Wealth at death

Associated Claims (2)

£4,007 8s 8d
Awardee (Owner-in-fee)
£5,454 17s 11d
Awardee (Owner-in-fee)

Associated Estates (3)

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
1831 [EA] - 1839 [LA] → Owner
1832 [EA] - 1832 [LA] → Owner
1832 [EA] - 1837 [LA] → Owner

Relationships (2)

Grandson → Grandfather
Son → Father

Addresses (2)

Eltham Lodge, Eltham, Kent, London, England
Rushmore Lodge, Cranborne Chase, Cranborne, Wiltshire, South-west England, England