If you know me I am a bit of a history geek and I used to spend time reading and researching records from where I used to live. It must be about twelve years ago when I came across another person who took my interest. Her name was Lady Meux of Theobald’s otherwise known as Lady Valerie Meux. Her grave is situated in St Mary’s Church, Cheshunt in Hertfordshire where she is buried alongside her husband Sir Henry Meux.
Lady Valerie was not like any woman of her time and caused up quiet a stir amongst people for her eccentric and flamboyant lifestyle. She came from having nothing and married into wealth and led a rather a interesting lifestyle. She was born Valerie Susan Langdon in the year of 1847, however there are not many records on her before she was married. She gained a bit of a reputation and caused quiet a stir amongst people as It was rumoured she was born to a butcher who lived in Devon and when she was old enough she left and traveled to make her way as an actress and singer in Holborn,London.
Meanwhile the Theobald’s estate situated in Hertfordshire was once owned by the George Prescott in 1763. George least the estate to the Meux family who were London Brewers. In the year of 1885 the grandson of the first Sir Henry Meux (also called Henry) became the new resident at the property. Henry met Valerie on a night out in Brighton where she was performing and he fell in love with her. It was not long after at the age of 31 years she married Sir Henry Meux in secret in 1878, it caused so much scandal. She was never accepted by his family or polite society; however this never prevented her living her from life she wanted and was known for. She would be seen darting around London in a high phaeton drawn by two Zebras.
Needless to say she and Henry made some lavish improvements to the large Theobald’s estate which included an extension to the South and a tower to accommodate a water tank. They added a gun room, kitchen, swimming pool and indoor roller skating rink within the grounds.
She also persuaded her husband to purchase Christopher Wren’s Temple Bar from the City of London. She had it shipped stone, by stone to the estate where it was re-erected. There it stayed until it returned to the town in the 1990’s where it was placed in Patenoster Square.
Henry and Valerie never had any children it seemed all her passion went to her interests which included Egyptian artefacts. She was a great collector of antiques and wild exotic animals. One of her most popular purchases was of a Egyptian mummy in a coffin. An inscription on the coffin stated that anyone that moved the mummy would die a childless death. Those people who did move it did die a childless death. The mummy was sold to a gentleman abroad and was sent on the Titanic overseas. However as the Titanic sank so did the mummy.
In 1900 Henry died and Valerie was left everything. She became one of the wealthiest women in Britain at the time. She became concerned for the British forces during the siege of Ladysmith during the 2nd Boer War. She made an offer to finance some ordnance. However she was rejected by the War Office. This made her more determined and did it privately anyway, supplying 12 field guns from Armstrong’s which she had shipped to Lord Roberts.
After the war she got to know Sir Hedworth Lambton, who had been senior naval officer on the Ladysmith. He made such an impression on her that she made him heir on her will on the condition that he changed his name to Meux. Lady Valerie Meux died in 1910 and he inherited the Theobald’s estate afterwards.
Sir Hedworth Meux rose to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet and died in 1929. In 1919 he gave Cheshunt Urban District Council the Theobald’s estate with grounds and a generous some of money for its upkeep.
Then Cedars Park then was opened in 1921. After Lady Meux death the British Museum was offered the entire collection of her antiques which included just under 2,000 pieces for £2,250 but the deal got rejected because of the conditions placed on it. It was auctioned in 1911.
Lowewood Museum still holds a lot of Lady Meux stuffed animals which included a stuffed Tiger which apparently was shot by Sir Hedworth on a hunting expedition with George V (then prince of Wales).