Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation

Number of voters:



(1801): 27,686


21 June 1790JOHN JEFFREYS PRATT, Visct. Bayham27
 THOMAS THYNNE I, Visct. Weymouth26
 John Morris3
3 May 1794 SIR RICHARD PEPPER ARDEN vice Bayham, called to the Upper House 
27 May 1796THOMAS THYNNE I, Visct. Weymouth 
8 Dec. 1796 LORD JOHN THYNNE vice Weymouth, called to the Upper House 
1 June 1801 JOHN PALMER vice Arden, called to the Upper House20
 John Berkeley Burland7
20 July 1804 THYNNE re-elected after appointment to office 
29 Mar. 1805 THYNNE re-elected after vacating his seat 
2 Feb. 1808 CHARLES PALMER vice Palmer, vacated his seat 

Main Article

Since 1780 the corporation had returned Lord Bayham, son of their recorder Lord Camden, who regarded his heir’s seat as safe as long as he lived,1 with Abel Moysey, an influential corporator, who voted with opposition. The latter had managed to foil an attempt to bring in Pitt, the prime minister, whose father had sat for Bath, in conjunction with Bayham, in 1784. When it became known, in July 1789, that Moysey intended to retire, Bayham was anxious to procure his seat for ‘a friend of government’; the more so because he feared that Lord Lansdowne would put up his son Lord Wycombe*, who would ‘not have a bad chance’ and would be an ‘uncertain friend’ and ‘unpleasant colleague’. Bayham suggested to Pitt, 28 July, that as Pitt himself was no longer interested and ‘I have no relation or friend who has any sort of connexion here’, it would be best to take up one of the ‘present candidates’, of whom he thought John Sebright*, son of a former Member for Bath, the best. Pitt’s choice, however, fell on Lord Weymouth, son of the Marquess of Bath. No strong Whig candidate in place of Moysey emerged. Thomas Grenville* was encouraged by the Duke of Portland to try his chance ‘where neither expense nor disgrace can be incurred’, but Earl Fitzwilliam was prepared to purchase a seat for him elsewhere. On 18 June 1790 Lord Kenyon was informed:

The election here is to come on next Monday, but the conclusion is already known, having been fixed at a meeting of the corporation yesterday. Lord Bayham and Lord Weymouth are the fortunate candidates. Owing to Mr Grenville’s declining, his votes went to Lord Weymouth, which gave him a majority over Mr Watson, who resigned yesterday, and Mr Morris, it is supposed, will follow his example, as he has not, I find, the least chance of success.

In fact John Morris*, a local lawyer put up by Lord Lansdowne, persisted, only to show how weak his position was.2

In April 1793 Bayham informed his family’s leading adherent at Bath, John Palmer, whose second wife was his kinswoman, of his wish to succeed his father as recorder and to provide for a successor to his seat. He set aside Palmer’s own supposed pretensions to the seat, for the moment, by reference to ‘the office you now hold’, but thought that ‘some previous communication may prevent any trouble or opposition whenever the vacancy occurs’. Palmer, rid of his disqualifying place, warned him that as government had slighted his services to the Post Office, he intended to offer at Bath when a vacancy arose, 6 Aug. 1793. In the spring of 1794, Bayham corresponded with the former Member Abel Moysey on the same subject, supposing readily that Moysey himself would not be interested in filling the vacancy, which could not be far distant.3 It was not, and on Bayham’s succeeding to the peerage soon afterwards, Pitt’s friend, Pepper Arden, master of the rolls, came in unopposed, while the recordership passed from father to son.

Soon after the election of 1796, Viscount Weymouth succeeded to the title. Had a new candidate been necessary at the general election, the Treasury would seem to have countenanced Alderman Anderson. Now Lord Loughborough wrote to Pitt (9 Nov.) that it was unlikely ‘that either of Lord Weymouth’s brothers would succeed at Bath, but that if any friend of yours of a certain size and figure were proposed, there would be no difficulty in securing his seat [without] a farthing expense’. James Grenville* approached Pitt, 14 Nov. 1796, on behalf of Moysey’s friends on the corporation and assured him that they were willing to support any nominee of Pitt’s possessed of ‘professional eminence, or who was of known character, and respectability’. He added that they were apprehensive that otherwise Alderman John Palmer might procure his own return ‘by surprise’. Yet Weymouth’s brother Lord John Thynne came in and retained his seat until 1832. Expense was certainly no problem, but patronage was. Pepper Arden complained to Pitt, 13 June 1795, ‘I almost begin to regret that I have a seat which forces me to be so troublesome’. In 1801, when Lord Glastonbury (formerly James Grenville) was commissioned to approach the prime minister, Addington, urging him to accept a seat for Bath at the next election, Addington was warned, ‘that this, though it may be offered gratis, as they call it, will be attended with innumerable jobs, that are spread, and are expected to be spread, over the persons, and families, of the thirty most respectable voters’.4

When Pepper Arden received a peerage in May 1801, Alderman John Palmer could no longer be resisted and easily won the seat in a contest with the chairman of the county quarter sessions, John Berkeley Burland*. The latter, who supported Addington when he entered Parliament the following year, maintained that he stood because Palmer was ineligible on account of his Post Office pension; but Palmer pointed out that ‘three of the most eminent counsel’ had reassured him on this score.5 Palmer’s influence with the corporation and their respect for his motivation, which was to press his claims on government for compensation for services at the Post Office, diminished the standing of Lord Camden, as Camden discovered in 1806 when he attempted to secure the return of his nephew Castlereagh. The new candidate being a foe of his administration, Lord Grenville gave his support to the sitting Members, who were friendly, and on 3 Nov. Lady Spencer informed her husband:

Lord Camden has prettily bedevilled his business here. Bowen swears that he had but very little remaining interest here before, but that that little is clean gone since he came down here this time. Nothing was ever like the fury of this independent body of cuesiffles and pergons [sic] at his supposing that he could carry the election by bringing down his cook and openly professing that he would eat and drink himself into their good graces. Out of thirty he got only ten votes, and so Lord Castlereagh is gone down to get a seat on one of Lord Mount Edgcumbe’s rotten close stools. However Mama writes me word that Lord Camden is quite enchanted with his success here and conceives that he has now established an interest here as firm as the Rock of Gibraltar.

Camden himself informed Charles Long that he had ‘lost Bath by one vote’. Castlereagh did not submit to a poll; nor did Benjamin Hobhouse*, who had also contemplated standing. Writing to condole with Camden, Lord Bathurst informed him that the Marquess of Bath suspected Camden of concerting the opposition with Palmer, a suspicion the writer had attempted to allay, rather too late, as ‘the opposition has enabled Lord Grenville to be attentive to Lord Bath: and he is I think much more decided in his politics than he was’. Lady Spencer had this to add, on 25 Nov., writing to her husband:

Palmer is driving some job at the Treasury about his pension, and it is supposed here that if he can get it from Lord Grenville, that he has entered into some bargain with Lord Castlereagh to vacate his seat here in his favour. This puts Lord Bath’s friends into a fury, and Bowen has desired me to put you and Lord Grenville on your guard about it.6

Palmer did not obtain satisfaction, however, and in 1808 made way for his son Charles, who became his father’s advocate and held the seat until Camden wrested it from him, in 1826, for his heir. There was no further disturbance at Bath during this period, except that in 1812 John Allen, a wealthy builder and pawnbroker, appealed to the freemen at large against corporation control, thereby causing disorderly scenes. He got no further, although he and his running partner Samuel Colleton Graves junior petitioned the House, 3 Dec. 1812, complaining that the mayor had refused to admit them as candidates, ‘thereby giving to 22 self appointed individuals the exclusive right of choosing two representatives for a city containing a population of 35,000 persons’. This petition was discharged 15 days later. The House was also petitioned on behalf of the rioters who were thrown into gaol, 21 Dec. 1812. Henry Hunt the radical dismissed Allen as ‘a mushroom reformer’, who was incapable of making any impression at Bath.7

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Camden mss, Camden to his daughter Frances Stewart, 4 Dec. 1784.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/119, f. 172; Ginter, Whig Organization, 104, 107, 109; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F115/11; HMC Kenyon, 530; Public Advertiser, 23 June 1790.
  • 3. Camden mss C37; C214; C249/1.
  • 4. PRO 30/8/108, f. 204; 140, f. 196; 153, f. 108; Sidmouth mss, Hatsell to Addington, 30 Dec. 1801.
  • 5. The Times, 1, 3 June 1801.
  • 6. Fortescue mss, Grenville to Bute, 19 Oct., Anstey to Grenville, 26 Oct.; Spencer mss; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 21, 29 Oct.; Oxford Jnl. 1 Nov.; R. Cornw. Gazette, 1 Nov. 1806; Camden mss C226/7.
  • 7. Ipswich Jnl. 10 Oct. 1812; R. E. M. Peach, Historic Houses in Bath, ii. 70; CJ, lxviii. 17, 89; Parl. Deb. xxiv. 342; Hunt, Mems. iii. 409.