William King was the eldest son of Peter, 7th Lord King, Baron of Ockham, whose father was a descendant of a Peter King, who, in spite of being the son of an Exeter grocer, rose to become Lord Chancellor of England during the reign of George I. He was also related to John Locke, the philosopher.
On the other side of his family, Williams maternal grandfather was Hugh, 1st Earl Fortescue, a wealthy Devonian landowner and neighbour to the Kings extensive estates in Somerset. Fortescues eldest daughter, Hester, married Williams father in 1804. William was born in the following year and was educated at Eton and Trinity College,Cambridge. He entered the diplomatic service and acted as secretary under Lord Nugent who was Lord Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, but was recalled to his family home in Ockham in 1833 when his father died. He was 28 years old then and inherited the title of 8th Lord King, and soon afterwards he was appointed a Justice of the Peace for the County of Surrey.
Two years later the King family fortunes moved forward rapidly when he married the only legitimate child of George Gordon, Lord Byron, the romantic poet. Ada brought with her not only a fortune in money and vast estates in the Midlands but also a family contact with her cousin, Lord Melbourne, who was the Whig Prime Minister at that time and had some influence with the young Queen Victoria. Thanks to this influence five years later, in 1838, William King was created Viscount Ockham and 1st Earl of Lovelace, one of the elevations made to celebrate the coronation of Queen Victoria, who had succeeded to the throne in the previous year. It was a title chosen to mark the fact that his wife was, through the families of Byron, Millbanke, Noel and Lovelace, a descendant of the Barons Lovelace of Hurley.
In 1840 he was created Lord Lieutenant of the county of Surrey, the highest social and political position to which a man could aspire in the English county society, and he remained so for most of Victorias reign. It was at this time that he bought the East Horsley estate from William Currie, a London banker, and set about making it a fit residence for someone in his new social position. He also avidly bought up every bit of land and any houses or cottages that came on the market in the surrounding villages.
Although he bought the East Horsley estate in 1840, he continued to live at Ockham Park while he made changes to East Horsley Park, as it was called at the time, and did not move into it until 1846. East Horsley Park had been a conservative revival house in the Tudor style, designed by Charles Barry for William Curries father to replace the former house in the classic style, called Horsley Place, which had stood a little further to the west.
Lord Lovelace appeared to be extremely proud of all his family connections and everywhere among his buildings are escutcheons with the armorial bearings of members of his family and those of his first wife. This one shows Lovelaces own armorial bearings with King (left) and Fortesque (right) with the King family crest above.
Lovelace became famous in his time for the arched trusses in the collar roof of his banqueting hall which had been bent by the application of steam heat. This process was one on which Lord Lovelace became an authority. He delivered a paper to the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1849, two years after his banqueting hall was built, and received praise from no less a person than the great engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Another of Lord Lovelaces acquisitions was the Ockham brickworks, and a sign of official recognition in the practical field came in 1851 when he won a medal for brickmaking at the Crystal Palace Exhibition. All the escutcheons and decorative brickwork were made of moulded terracotta at his Ockham works.