The title Baron Masham of Swinton was in existence between the years 1891 and 1924 and should not be confused with the preceeding titles of the Baron Scrope of Masham (extant between 1350 to 1517) which is sometimes known as that of 'Baron Masham', or that of the Baron Masham of Oates, which was held by the Masham family of Oates in Essex between the years 1712 and 1716. Neither should it be confused with the title of Baron Masham which is currently one of the subsidiary titles of the present Earl of Swinton, or indeed the life peerage held by the Baroness Masham of Ilton.
The Cunliffes were originally a Lincolnshire family who first made an appearance in the sixteenth century, although one branch of the family later moved over the county boundary and were to be found at Ilkley, Wakefield, and Addingham in Yorkshire. At the beginning of the nineteenth century these Yorkshire Cunliffes were represented by Ellis Cunliffe, a "manufacturer and gentleman of means in Bradford", who was the Member of Parliament for Bradford between 1832 and 1841. As it turned out much of his means were acquired through judicious marriages. His first wife was his cousin Ruth Myers Lister (his grandmother was also a Lister), who was the heir of Samuel Lister of Manningham Hall, and under terms of the will of his father-in-law he added the name of Lister in 1809. His second wife was Mary, the daughter of a William Kay of Cottingham, from whom he received a further bequest and so added the name of Kay in 1842, and thereafter became known as Ellis Cunliffe Lister-Kay. He managed to fit in a third wife before his death on the 24th November 1853, and on the third time around he retained the same surname for once, although his four sons apparently shared in the general confusion and variously adopted the surnames of Cunliffe-Lister, Cunliffe-Kay, and Lister-Kay as it suited.
It was however his fourth son Samuel Cunliffe-Lister who was to make the greatest impression on public life. Samuel went into business with his brother John as J & SC Lister and established a textile mill at Mannigham. He subsequently made his fortune by building on the on the work of Edmund Cartwright and producing the first practical wool-combing machine, and then developed a silk-combing machine to recover silk waste, which despite driving him almost to the edge of bankruptcy, eventually made him a second fortune. Indeed during his lifetime he took out over one hundred and fifty patents, many of which later featured in his work Lord Masham's Inventions (1905). With his wealth he purchased Swinton Park and the Jervaulx estate in 1882 from George Danby Affleck, acquired an art collection, and was particularly active in the sport of hare coursing, having been a member of the Altcar Club since 1857 although he never managed to win the Waterloo Cup. He was awarded the Albert Medal of the Society of Arts in 1886, and although he turned down the offer of a baronetcy in 1887, he subsequently accepted the offer of a peerage and was created the Baron Masham of Swinton on the 15th July 1891.
He subsequently used his seat in the House of Lords as a platform to advocate the cause of Fair Trade rather than Free Trade, which in his day meant the imposition of tariffs on foreign manufactures, largely because his business had been harmed by the McKinley tariffs introduced by the United States. Nevertheless when the 1st Baron died on the 2nd February 1906, he left an estate worth in excess of £600,000 (or something like £45 million in today's money), when he was succeeded by the elder of his two sons who was also named Samuel.
Although the 2nd Baron took over from his father as the chairman of Lister & Co and was a major shareholder in Mannigham Mills it was, as The Times later noted, "doubtful whether commerce was his favourite interest" and drew attention to his "inherited love of literature and art". The Morning Post concurred in its obituary of the 2nd Baron when it noted that although the 2nd Baron was "the inheritor of a vast fortune made in the mills, and of the tradition of commerce, he preferred a private life to that of business and public works" and that his "activities lay in the direction of art". He subsequently died of heart failure at Swinton Park on the 24th January 1917.
The 2nd Baron never married and so the title passed to his younger brother John Cunliffe. The 3rd Baron was similarly of "a retiring nature and had no ambition to enter public life", although as The Times noted he was "the keenest supporter and helper of all manly sports and games". He climbed the Matterhorn before he was eighteen, became an experienced big game hunter and salmon fisherman, and was well known for his enthusiasm for shooting and hunting, passions that he shared with his wife Elizabeth Alice, the daughter of William Rippon Brockton from Newark-on-Trent, who became the Master of the Bedale Hunt. However he shared the fate of his brother, and died of heart failure at Swinton Park on the 4th January 1924.
The 3rd and final Baron left no issue and so the Barony expired, and although the 1st Baron also left five daughters, only one of these succeeded in marrying and having children of her own. This was Mary Ewbank Cunliffe-Lister, who married the Reverend Charles Ingram Boynton, the Rector of Barmston in Yorkshire, who's only surviving issue was a daughter named Mary Constance Boynton. The younger Mary married a Philip Lloyd-Greame who later inherited much of the Cunliffe-Lister money in general and Swinton Park in particular, as a result of which he adopted the same of Cunliffe-Lister prior to his own elevation to the peerage as the Viscount Swinton and later the Earl of Swinton.
THE BARONS MASHAM OF SWINTON
- George Edward Cokayne, Vicary Gibbs, et al, The Complete Peerage (St Catherine's Press, 1910-1959)
- The entry for SWINTON from Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 107th Edition
- Death Of Lord Masham. The Times, Saturday, Feb 03, 1906
- Obituary: Lord Masham. The Times, Friday, Jan 26, 1917
- Obituary: Lord Masham, The Times, Saturday, Jan 05, 1924