In the early years of the 19th century the new town of Leamington Priors was seen as a fashionable place for well-connected members of society to settle. Few families who came to live here had a more aristocratic ancestry than the five Manners-Sutton sisters who came to Leamington sometime in the 1830’s. The sisters were from a large family of ten daughters and three sons born to Charles Manners-Sutton the Archbishop of Canterbury. Their great-grandfather was the Duke of Rutland, one of England’s premier Dukedoms, their brother Charles was Speaker of the House of Commons and was later raised to the Peerage as Viscount Canterbury. Their ancestry was impeccable and included numerous Dukes, Earls, Knights of the Garter and sundry Bishops.
They occupied a newly-built house on the East side of Upper Parade then known as Lansdowne Place. The properties fronting The Parade were the most substantial in the new town each with thirty or so rooms spread over five floors and with large gardens running back to coach houses and stables in Guy Street. The Manners-Sutton ladies were close neighbours of two eminent local medical men, Doctors Hitchman and Middleton and of several other aristocratic families each of whom maintained a large household staff. A retired clergyman living next door to the ladies, employed a staff of twelve servants including five maids, a butler, two footmen, a groom and a coachman to minister to the needs of him and his wife and their daughter.The five sisters got by with a mere six house servants including a butler.
The ladies were of independent means and were great benefactors to many local causes in a very discreet way. Their most significant donation was towards the new parish church of All Saints which Revd. John Craig was then building. Three of the five sisters had died during the early years of Craig’s project to build the new church but in 1851 the Manners-Sutton family decided to beautify the still unfinished building by funding magnificent stained glass windows for the apse of the church. These windows were completed in 1851 as a memorial to the three deceased sisters. They were made by the Smethwick firm of Chance Brothers and there is a suggestion that they may have been exhibited on the Chance stand at the Great Exhibition that same year. This seems entirely probable since the Chance company also produced a third-of-a-milllion panes of hand-made glass for glazing Paxton’s Crystal Palace. When completed, the All Saints windows were said to be the tallest in any parish church in England. A brass plaque recording the gift of the windows is hidden away behind the curtain to the right of the high altar.
None of the sisters married and they continued to live on in the Lansdowne Place house until the death of Katherine the last surviving sibling who died in 1857. The Leamington Courier had over the years carried news of the decease of the local Manners-Sutton ladies who were invariably referred to as ‘those amiable and benevolent sisters’.
The five Leamington sisters were each in their turn laid to rest in a vault in the crypt of the parish church, a building that they had helped to embellish and beautify. Their vault comprises one half of a barrel vault secured by a single cast iron door. The names and dates of death of each of the five sisters are cast in relief on the door.