John Kyrle

John Kyrle

John Kyrle (22 May 1637 – 7 November 1724), known as "the Man of Ross", was an English philanthropist, born in the parish of Dymock, Gloucestershire but best remembered for his time in Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire.


Education & Legal Background

Kyrle was the son of Walter Kyrle, a barrister and MP. The family had lived at Ross for many generations. He was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, and studied Law, but did not qualify and having succeeded to the family property looking over the market square at Ross he lived there.

Ross Philanthropist

From his early twenties he adopted a frugal lifestyle and instead of utilising his wealth for himself, he sought to invest in the greater good of his locality and community that lived there.

In everything that concerned the welfare of the small town of Ross in which he lived he took a lively interest; in the education of the children and in improving and embellishing the town. He planted trees in and around the town, with two or three workmen to assist with the manual work. He delighted in mediating between those who had quarrelled and in preventing costly lawsuits between prominent townspeople. He was generous to the poor and spent all he had in good works.

He was behind the establishment of 'The Prospect'[1] in Ross-on-Wye in 1700, a public garden on the hilltop just above Ross town centre where a viewpoint and walkways were set out and a public fountain provided clean water for town residents. The park is still there today, alongside the churchyard of St Mary's church[1], with ornate stone gates and mature trees interspersed with benches and a walk. The Prospect commands excellent views over the River Wye and the surrounding countryside.

He lived a great deal in the open air, working with the labourers on his farm. He died on 7 November 1724, living well into his eighties, and was buried in the chancel of Ross Church.

His name is commemorated throughout Ross-on-Wye, not only in The Prospect but in the 'Man of Ross' public house on Wye Street and his market square townhouse.[2] The town's secondary school carries his name.[2]

His memory was also preserved by the Kyrle Society, founded in 1876 by Miranda and Octavia Hill, to better the life of working people, by laying out parks, encouraging house decoration, window gardening and flower growing. The Society was one of the first civic amenity bodies and a progenitor of the National Trust.

Commemorated in Verse by Pope & Coleridge

Ross and John Kyrle were eulogised by Alexander Pope in the third of his Moral Essays "Of the Use of Riches" (1734);

Who taught that heav’n directed Spire to rise?
The Man of Ross, each lisping babe replies.
Behold the Market-place with poor o'erspread!
He feeds yon Alms-house, neat, but void of state,
Where Age and Want sit smiling at the gate;
Him portion’d maids, apprentic’d orphans blest,
The young who labour, and the old who rest.
Is any sick? the Man of Ross relieves,
Prescribes, attends, the med’cine makes, and gives,
Is there a variance? enter but his door,
Balk’d are the Courts, and contest is no more.
Despairing Quacks with curses fled the place,
And vile Attornies, now a useless race.

and by Coleridge in an early poem of 1794.


  • Erskine-Hill, Howard (1975) 'Private Country Gentleman': John Kyrle Esq. in: The Social Milieu of Alexander Pope


External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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