Riding accident 65 years ago contributed to death of Baroness Masham, inquest finds
Jul 21, 2023
A photo of Baroness Masham, who died in 2023.
Baroness Masham's inquest was held today.

A fall from a horse in 1958 which left Baroness Masham of Ilton paraplegic ultimately contributed to her death, an inquest has heard.

The Baroness, who also held the title Countess of Swinton, died from sepsis on March 12 this year, four weeks after being admitted with breathlessness.

Her inquest in Northallerton today heard a statement from Dr David Spence, a consultant at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton. In a statement read to the court, he said:

“She developed sepsis which failed to respond to antibiotics. She was placed on end of life care.”

The inquest heard Baroness Masham, who was born Susan Lilian Primrose Sinclair, had been competing in an event in Cirencester when her horse took a jump badly. She fell and her horse landed on her, leaving her with a fractured vertebra in her back.

As a result, she became paraplegic – yet went on to live a “full and active life”, including competing in the Paralympics and founding the Spinal Injuries Association.

She was made a life peer and continued to campaign for disability rights. She remained in generally good health, the inquest heard, until she felt unwell in February and was admitted to hospital.

Dr Spence added:

“Her paraplegia was a contributor to her general frailty in later life.”

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Dr Spence said he viewed the paraplegia as an underlying factor in her death. He said she had myelodysplasia, a rare type of blood cancer where the bone marrow does not produce enough health cells, and the sepsis that developed was of unknown origin.

Her condition deteriorated after admission to hospital and she died there on March 12. She was 87.

In a statement read at the inquest, her daughter Clare said:

“The doctors and all nursing and care staff were in our opinion exemplary. Information about her treatment and care was delivered professionally, with great compassion and calmness at all times.”

Assistant coroner Alison Norton concluded her cause of death was accidental, stemming from her riding accident 65 years ago.

Baroness Masham was married to David Cunliffe Lister, who became Earl of Swinton in 1972. The couple adopted two daughters and were part of Cunliffe-Lister family, which has owned Swinton Park near Masham since the late 19th century.