WODEHOUSE, Armine (c.1714-77), of Kimberley, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. c.1714, 1st surv. s. of Sir John Wodehouse, 4th Bt., by Hon. Mary Fermor, da. of William, 1st Baron Leominster. educ. Trinity Hall, Camb. 1730. m. c.1740, Laetitia, da. and h. of Sir Edmund Bacon, 6th Bt., of Garboldisham, Norf., 4s. suc. fa. as 5th Bt. 9 Aug. 1754.
The Wodehouses were the leading Tory family in Norfolk, and Sir Armine’s father and elder brother had represented the county. His politics, authoritarian Toryism, were strongly coloured by family tradition and old rankling resentments. He wrote to Lord Townshend, 19 July 1767:
Those of the complexion I have been trained in, must always honour Lord Bute for many reasons, but particularly for taking from ’em that brand which has been upon ’em the two last reigns, of excluding em from being concerned in Government, and their families from the minutest degree of attention, as those who have raised their fortunes by plunder.1
During his first twenty years in Parliament he was naturally in steady opposition to the Walpole-Pelham régime. Nevertheless he represented the county in friendly partnership with George Townshend. In 1754, on the day of election, they made a joint entry into Norwich attended by the principal gentlemen of the county and by at least 3,500 freeholders;2 and their return was unopposed both in 1754 and 1761. Nor was there much difference between them after 1757 when Wodehouse was one of the Tories who adhered to Pitt;3 and even less in the new reign when Wodehouse adhered to Bute, voting for the peace preliminaries, and next with the Grenville Administration on general warrants. On the formation of the Rockingham Administration, he wrote to Lord Temple:4
Does Mr. Pitt and your Lordship approve of the present arrangement of Government? I own, Mr. Grenville’s not making a part of it, I look upon to be a great misfortune to the public ... I shall be mortified to find that Mr. Pitt and you have formed this Administration, which is the general opinion of this part of the kingdom.
Temple replied that neither had the least share in it.5
‘Sir Armine Wodehouse ... says in his life he never was so indifferent about politics’, reported Charles Townshend to Newcastle, 23 Nov. 1765; ‘... he does not intend to go up to the meeting of Parliament.’6 Perhaps persuaded by Grenville’s friends,7 he did go up, and in the division of 18 Dec., over the motion for American papers, voted with the minority;8 and continued with them in bitter opposition to the repeal of the Stamp Act. He wrote to Lord Townshend, 27 May 1766:9
I think myself much obliged to you for the account you have given me of the changes in the Administration. I should have had a greater satisfaction if you could have informed me of any plan which had the prospect of putting this country in as good a situation as it was upon the 12 of July last, from which time there has been none but encouraging anarchy, and confusion. The ablest men we have, and ever had, will not restore the constitution, and window taxes, cider tax etc. are very trifling considerations to the fatal measure of repealing your American bill.
And on 9 Aug. 1767, under the Chatham Administration, he reverted to his old theme:10
I ... will attend to measures, and not men, but wish to see those measures conducted by Bute’s and Grenville[’s] connexion, rather than by Rockingham’s etc. I have reason to think the former wishes to extirpate party distinctions, as I know the latter wants to establish ’em.
As a country gentleman par excellence he voted on 27 Feb. 1767 against the Government in favour of a reduced land tax.
Nervous and irascible in temperament, Wodehouse showed both these defects in the long campaign for the county in 1767-8, during which his attitude over general warrants was brought up against him. He was deeply hurt by his defeat. Before the campaign he had written (to Lord Townshend, 9 Aug. 1767), ‘[I] shall always think it the greatest honour to serve in Parliament for the county of Norfolk’; after it (11 Apr. 1768), when Townshend offered him another seat, he could write: ‘I have not the least inclination to serve my country any longer in that capacity’; and (20 Apr.) ‘I am ... determined to have nothing more to do in the public transactions of this county ... I shall pass the remainder of my life as a country gentleman ... employ myself in my own affairs and as an overseer and surveyor which are offices better adapted to my genius than a Member of Parliament.’ There is no record of his having spoken in the House.
He never stood again, and died 21 May 1777.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. Townshend mss in possession of H. L. Bradfer-Lawrence.
- 2. Add. 32735, ff. 246-7.
- 3. Namier, ‘Country Gentlemen in Parliament’, Personalities and Powers, 70.
- 4. Grenville Pprs. iii. 78-80.
- 5. Note by Temple on Wodehouse’s letter, Grenville mss (JM).
- 6. Add. 32972, f. 25.
- 7. Ld. Buckinghamshire to G. Grenville, 3 Dec., Grenville mss (JM).
- 8. Harris’s ‘Debates’.
- 9. Townshend mss at Raynham.
- 10. Townshend mss (Bradfer-Lawrence).