Section: Features

Oh Lord! Looking into the history of the Hill’s namesakes

Oh Lord! Looking into the history of the Hill’s namesakes

What’s in a name? Many students are aware that a number of aristocratic benefactors financed Philander Chase’s founding of the College, but Lord Kenyon and Lord Gambier rarely get much recognition beyond their names in the present day. As we head into our celebration of the bicentennial, the Collegian looks into the College’s namesakes.

The title of “Baron Kenyon” was created in 1788 for Sir Lloyd Kenyon, first Baronet, a lawyer and judge. His son George (the 2nd Baron Kenyon) is the one for whom the College was named. Though he contributed financially to its founding, the second Lord Kenyon never actually visited campus. According to a 2019 Collegian article reporting the death of the Sixth Lord Kenyon, his predecessor “saw funding Chase’s project as a way to raise his clout amongst the Anglican Church’s ecclesiastical elite.” While it’s hard to say whether or not he was successful, George certainly improved his status among liberal arts students. 

The College has maintained a casual-but-consistent relationship with the Barons Kenyon throughout its history. They have been known to visit the College on special occasions including anniversaries — the fourth Baron Kenyon spoke at the centennial celebration in 1924, with his son continuing the tradition for the sesquicentennial in 1974 and the 1984 dedication of the former Olin Library. Today, Alexander Simon Tyrell-Kenyon, the eighth Baron Kenyon, holds the title. It remains to be seen whether he will follow in the footsteps of his relatives and make the transatlantic trek to Knox County for the bicentennial, but regardless, his name remains an integral part of life on the Hill.

Like the College, the Village was named for another one of Chase’s donors: James, the first Baron Gambier. An Admiral of the Fleet (the highest rank in the Royal Navy), Gambier saw a great deal of action in many notable conflicts of the 18th and 19th centuries. He was involved in the 1780 capture of Charleston during the American Revolution — a major British victory, making it surprising that he would agree to finance an American college a few decades later! Gambier went on to captain the HMS Defence during the French Revolution, where he commanded the first ship to break through the enemy line at the battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794. Though he gained distinction for his naval career, it appears Lord Gambier wasn’t particularly well-liked by his subordinates; a devout evangelical, he was nicknamed “Dismal Jimmy.” 

Gambier was awarded the title of Baron in November of 1807 to commemorate his success in the bombardment of Copenhagen during the Napoleonic Wars. However, he created some controversy during the Battle of Basque Roads in 1809, when he refused to commit his fleet to attack the French, instead choosing to act as a blockade. Nevertheless, his career recovered, and in 1814 he was involved in negotiating the Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812. As a result of his extensive traveling, our little village has a few name twins across the world — Mount Gambier (the town and the volcano) in South Australia, Gambier Island in British Columbia and the Gambier Islands in French Polynesia. Additionally, Lord Gambier appears briefly in a Horatio Hornblower novel by C.S. Forester — fitting that a donor to what would become the ‘Writers’ College’ would have a literary connection!

Though they didn’t get to see what Philander Chase’s college atop a hill would become, Kenyon’s namesakes prevail in our day-to-day lives. 


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