The Honourable and Reverend Henry Aston, Rector of Shotley in Suffolk, subscribed for two copies of Kirby’s Historical Account. However, beneath the sober clerical garb beat the degenerate heart of a minor lordling, for Henry Aston was in fact a Hervey. Born Henry Hervey in 1701, he was one of the nineteen children of John Hervey, first earl of Bristol and, according to his father, more trouble than the rest of the children put together.
After a stint at Westminster school, young Henry went up to Christchurch at Oxford. The Bishop of Bristol wrote to Henry’s father that Henry “is very idle, and is not by anything which either his tutor or I can say to him to be prevailed with to apply himself to his studies so that there is not prospect of his improving that very small stock of learning which he brought from school’’. After this report card, Henry left Oxford without a degree, having acquired nothing but debts.
Casting around for an occupation for his feckless son, Lord Bristol hit upon the army and for £600 purchased Henry a commission as cornet in the 1st Dragoons. There, Henry’s neglect of his duties ensured a lack of advancement for a decade before he gradually moved up the ranks to become a captain, at which point his father advised him to sell off his position to pay down some of his substantial debts.
Since the military had failed to instill any discipline in Henry, the next move was to try the church. Henry accordingly took holy orders and was presented to the rectory of Shotley by his father. Henry installed a curate to take on the more tedious duties and concentrated on what he did best, spending money. He presented the church with communion cups, patens and alms dishes and expensively restored and enhanced the church.
Help was at hand. In 1744 his wife’s brother, Sir Thomas Aston, died without a son and his extensive estates came to Henry’s wife Catherine and Henry changed his name to Henry Hervey Aston. Henry died in 1748. As an obituary notice we quote a letter written by Lady Germaine, a friend of his mother’s, “Thank God too, worthless Hervey Aston is dead, which may be a means to save his son and three daughters from entire beggary’’.
While avoiding entire beggary, the son, Henry Hervey Aston (1741-1785) went on to father a son and three daughters by his wife, and a further five illegitimate children.