Charlotte Barclay was the daughter of a peer who married into the Barclay banking family and was innocently cited in a widely-reported divorce case.


Born Charlotte Ernestine de la Poer Horsley Beresford in 1871, youngest child of the 3rd Baron Decies, an Anglo-Irish peer and a captain in the 10th Hussars and the Grenadier Guards. In 1892 Charlotte married Cameron Barclay, a member of the Barclay banking family and an officer in the 10th Hussars. Among Charlotte’s wedding presents were a diamond tiara, a diamond bangle, a diamond ring, a diamond and sapphire ring, a diamond crescent and a diamond brooch. The Barclays had one daughter, Violet Florence Catherine, in 1895. In February 1899 Cameron sued for divorce, on the grounds of Charlotte’s adultery with Sir John Milbanke and Guy Chetwyn. The case was postponed due to the second Boer War and resumed in 1902 when the male participants returned to England. The case against Sir John was abandoned due to lack of evidence whereupon Cameron Barclay wanted to withdraw the divorce petition but retain the right to serve it again. Charlotte refused: she wanted her day in court to prove her innocence publicly. The case went to court and was dismissed, the judge said there was ‘no evidence whatsoever’ of any adultery on Mrs Barclay’s part.  It is unclear whether the Barclays did actually divorce; they never lived together again but Charlotte was always known as the Honourable Charlotte Barclay. In 1913 she was living in Kenwood House in north London when she took a lease on Bell House for £180 pa but with a stipulation to make repairs worth around £700. The Estate also agreed to pay Mitchells, the Dulwich builders, £450 for that perennial Dulwich problem: drainage repairs.

Charlotte Barclay must have decided fairly quickly that she did not need another London house because three years later in 1916 she advertised Bell House in the Times, describing the twelve-bedroomed house as having ‘every modern convenience combined with old-style charm’.  At this time the house had a large conservatory on the south side, now gone. She assigned her lease to Nan Herbert, Baroness Lucas in 1916 and moved to Chelsea. She died in 1923 in France aged fifty-two.