WILBRAHAM BOOTLE, Richard (1725-96), of Rode Hall, Cheshire

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



1761 - 1790

Family and Education

b. 20 Sept. 1725, 1st s. of Randle Wilbraham.  educ.St. John’s, Oxf. 1742; L. Inn 1742, called 1747.  m. 31 May 1755, Mary, da. and h. of Robert Bootle of Lathom House, Lanes., niece and h. of Sir Thomas Bootle, M.P., 6s. 8da. One da.  m. Richard Pepper Arden, another William Egerton. Took add. name of Bootle on marriage.  suc. fa. 1770.

Offices Held


Wilbraham Bootle was returned for Chester in 1761 without a contest. In Bute’s list he was classed as ‘Tcry’, with the addition: ‘Pitt supposed but doubtful.’ He voted against the court to postpone consideration of the peace preliminaries, 1 Dec. 1762, but appears in Fox’s list of Members favourable to them; and is not included in any list of the minorities of 9 and 10 Dec. He voted against Grenville’s Administration on general warrants (15 and 18 Feb. 1764); was classed by Jenkinson as a friend to Government; and by Newcastle as a doubtful friend to Opposition. In July 1765 Rockingham classed him as doubtful, and he voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act. He voted against the court on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, and the nullum tempus bill, 17 Feb. 1768.

He appears in no division list between 1768 and 1772, and in Robinson’s surveys on the royal marriage bill was classed as ‘doubtful’. He voted against the court in each of the four divisions 1773-4 for which lists have been found: 9 Feb. 1773, the naval captains petition; 26 Apr. 1773, the Middlesex resolution; 25 Feb. 1774, Grenville’s Act; and 6 May 1774, the Massachusetts Bay bill. From 1774 he regularly voted against North’s Administration. In 1779 the Public Ledger wrote about him: ‘A very honest man, and votes on both sides, according to his opinion, but oftener with Opposition than with the Ministry’; and in 1780 the English Chronicle described him as ‘one of the most independent Members in the House’. Only a handful of speeches are recorded 1761-80, none of any consequence.

In the first division on Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, he voted against Administration. In the debate of 21 Feb., on Lord John Cavendish’s motion that the preliminaries conceded too much to France and Spain, he made what was for him a long speech and one indicative of the depth of his feeling:

Mr. Wilbraham Bootle said he knew not whether he was to call himself a country gentleman or not; but certainly he was of no party. He had seen so much injustice transacted in that House through the influence of party while he sat in the gallery and before he was a Member, that when he came into the House he had washed his hands of party for ever. With regard to the peace he thought it by no means a good one, or such a one as considering the relative situation of the country, ought to have been made ... There was one part of it at which his heart bled; the article relative to the loyalists ... Such an article as that ought scarcely on a[ny] condition to have been admitted on our part. They had fought for us and ran every hazard to assist our cause; and when it most behoved us to afford them protection we deserted them. Mr. Bootle gave his assent to the motion.

His next speech was on the second reading of Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783: ‘Mr. Bootle said he had £4,000 India stock, but he had rather let it all go to the ground than assent to such a bill as that before the House, unless he was convinced that it was absolutely necessary.’1 He voted against the bill.

He was a member of the St. Alban’s Tavern group which in February 1784 tried to bring about a union between Pitt and Fox, and when that failed he supported Pitt. In 1784 he had his first contest at Chester, but was returned with a comfortable majority. He continued to support Pitt until he left Parliament in 1790. Only two speeches are reported 1783-90, both on unimportant topics.

He died 13 Mar. 1796.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Debrett, ix. 323; xii. 188.