BRICKDALE, Matthew (1735-1831), of Clifton, Glos. and Taunton, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1768 - 1774
1780 - 1790

Family and Education

b. 30 Apr. 1735, s. of John Brickdale, Bristol draper. educ. at Leicester.1 m. bef. 1759,2 Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Smith of Clifton, 2s. 1da. suc. fa. 1765.

Offices Held

Common councillor, Bristol 1767-84; elected mayor 1791 but refused to serve.


Brickdale, a Bristol clothier and undertaker,3 was said to have inherited £100,0004 on his father’s death in 1765, and retired from business before entering Parliament. In 1768 he was returned unopposed for Bristol as candidate of the Tory Steadfast Society, of which his father had been a leading member.

In Parliament, while paying attention to the requirements of the Bristol commercial interest, Brickdale followed his own independent line. He voted with the Opposition over Wilkes, 29 Jan. 1769; the Middlesex election, 15 Apr. and 8 May 1769; on the Address, 9 Jan. 1770, and again on the Middlesex election, 25 Jan. 1770. His maiden speech on 28 Feb. 1770 was in support of Grenville’s election bill, and though he spoke and voted for the attendance of the printers, 12 Mar. 1771,5 he advocated leniency towards the City officials, and on 25 Mar. seconded an unsuccessful motion that Alderman Oliver should merely be reprimanded by the Speaker. He again voted with the Opposition on the Middlesex election motion, 26 Apr. 1773, but when on 25 Feb. 1774 he voted for making Grenville’s Election Act permanent, he was included in the King’s list of dissenting friends; and in Robinson’s pre-electoral survey of 1774 he was classed as ‘hopeful’.

An infrequent speaker himself, Brickdale, during this Parliament, kept a diary, of which eleven volumes, from November 1770 to the dissolution of 1774, are extant. These deal with the major debates such as the printers’ case, which is very fully covered, and also more local matters in which Brickdale was particularly interested, as for example, the linen industry debates of 1774. Brickdale apparently took notes in the House in longhand, making no attempt at a verbatim report, and provides an intelligent summary of speeches.6

Brickdale stood again for Bristol in 1774, opposed by Burke who, on 1 July 1774, before deciding to stand, had written about Brickdale to his friend Dr. Thomas Wilson: ‘[He] does his duty very reputably and is a diligent and independent Member of Parliament.’ In spite of Government support, Brickdale lost his seat to Burke by a narrow margin.

In July 1780 Brickdale was adopted as candidate for Bristol by the recently revived Steadfast Society, which with the Loyal and Constitutional Club, formed a nucleus of Government supporters, and at the general election was returned after a contest. He regularly voted with Administration till the fall of North; voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, but did not vote on Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783. Brickdale was put down as ‘hopeful’ in Robinson’s list of January 1784 but as ‘Opposition’ in Stockdale’s of 19 Mar. In fact he seems once more to have followed his own independent line, influenced only by the instructions and interest of his constituents. About a dozen interventions by him in debate are recorded 1784-90, none at any length, and almost all on commercial matters, except for some concerned with regulations of polls and scrutiny, of interest to him and his constituency. He spoke and voted against Pitt’s Irish commercial propositions, 13 May 1785, which were unpopular with most English trading communities; but voted with him over the Regency, 1788-9.

Brickdale did not stand again in 1790. According to W. R. Williams he ‘spent enormous sums of money in his electoral contests, which left him in reduced circumstances in his old age’.7  He died 8 Sept. 1831.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Peter D.G. Thomas


  • 1. Geo. Harry, 5th Earl of Stamford, educated at Leicester, in a letter to Portland, 26 Nov. 1768, refers to Brickdale as his ‘old schoolfellow’, Portland mss.
  • 2. His son John matric. Ch. Ch. Oxf. March 1778, aged 18.
  • 3. J. F. Nicholls and J. Taylor, Bristol Past and Present, iii. 183.
  • 4. P. T. Underdown, ‘Burke as M.P. for Bristol’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis), 18, quoting Bonner and Middleton’s Bristol Jnl. 8 Jan. 1785.
  • 5. Cavendish’s ‘Debates’, Egerton 226, p. 80; CJ, xxxiii.251.
  • 6. Now in Bristol Univ. Lib. For an analysis of the Diary see P. D. G. Thomas, ‘Debates of the House of Commons, 1768-74’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis).
  • 7. Members for Glos. 128.