MELLISH, William (?1764-1838), of Bush Hill, Edmonton, Mdx.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
Dir. Bank of England 1792-1812, 1816-d., dep. gov. 1812-14, gov. 1814-16.
Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1798; capt. Bank of England vols. 1798, 1803, maj. 1805.
Mellish’s father and his uncle Joseph married sisters, daughters of John Gore, a leading government financier, whose business and Middlesex estates were inherited by Joseph. When the latter died childless in 1790 he left to his nephews, John and William (the first two sons of his brother’s marriage with Anne Gore) £10,000 each and provided that, if either chose to carry on his business, £12,000 of his capital stock in trade should be continued in trade for five years for their benefit and at their risk. They conducted the business together at 112 Bishopsgate Street Within and on the death of Joseph’s widow Catherine in 1794 succeeded to his estates, ‘to take as tenants in common, share and share alike’. On John’s death, without male issue, at the hands of highwaymen in 1798, William probably secured sole control of the business, although it continued to be styled ‘John and William Mellish & Co.’ until his death.1
In 1795 the Duke of Portland, a Nottinghamshire neighbour of the senior branch of the Mellish family, began to press Lord Yarborough, patron of Grimsby, which John Gore and Joseph Mellish between them had represented for 33 successive years earlier in the century, to replace the Foxite Members he had returned in 1790. On 10 Apr. 1796 he told Pitt that Yarborough would
take any person of our recommendation, wishing rather that he should be of the country or at least a name known there than a stranger, and he inclines much to one of the Mellishes whom I also should prefer and for whom you perhaps can answer as well as I can, but I am sure Ld. Y. can’t do better.2
Mellish, who had already shown his support for government by signing the London merchants’ declaration of December 1795, was elected with Yarborough’s support in 1796 and returned on the same interest on petition in 1803.
He subscribed £10,000 to the 1797 loyalty loan, voted for the assessed taxes augmentation bill, 4 Jan. 1798, and is not known to have opposed the Addington ministry. He was listed in the minority who voted against the second reading of Pitt’s additional force bill, 8 June 1804, and on 17 June Portland wrote to Pitt: ‘I very much fear that Mellish will vote against you tomorrow. He was shut out on Friday [15 June], but I have too much reason to think that he came down with views of opposition.’3 He was nevertheless listed as a supporter of Pitt in September 1804; but after voting for the censure, 8 Apr., and prosecution of Melville, 12 June 1805, was placed under ‘doubtful Pitt’ in the ministerial list of July. He apparently supported the ‘Talents’ until they came to grief on the Catholic question and voted for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806.
At the general election of 1806 Mellish accepted Lord Grenville’s offer of government backing to stand against the radical (Sir) Francis Burdett* in Middlesex. The scheme almost foundered on the objections voiced by Lord Holland and other Foxites to Mellish’s association with the prominent merchants, financiers and local officials who, like himself, had previously supported Burdett’s rivals, the Mainwarings; but the Foxites reluctantly gave way and Mellish, who professed to stand for ‘honesty and independence’, was returned at the head of the poll by over 900 votes. He stood again in 1807, after voting with the new government on the constitutional issues thrown up by the fall of the ‘Talents’, and stayed aloof from the struggle over the second seat between the Whig George Byng* and Sir Christopher Baynes, although the latter, a ‘No Popery’ candidate, was sponsored by a number of the men who had supported Mellish at the previous election.4 He again came top of the poll, and he was returned without opposition for Middlesex in 1812 and 1818.
Mellish evidently continued to support the Portland ministry. He presented petitions against Whitbread’s parochial education scheme, 20 July 1807, defended the regime in Coldbath Fields prison, 19 Feb. and 17 Mar. 1808, and said a few words in favour of the Duke of York, 17 Feb. 1809. On 10 Mar. 1808 he stated that he had commercial dealings with and property in America. He voted with the Perceval ministry on the address, 23 Jan.; the Scheldt inquiry, 26 Jan., 23 Feb., 5 and 30 Mar. 1810, when the Whigs listed him as ‘doubtful’; the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811, and the sinecure bill, 4 May 1812. He voted against the release of John Gale Jones, 16 Apr., and although he seconded Byng’s motion for receipt of the Middlesex petition for the release of Burdett, 2 May 1810, he made it clear that he was not in sympathy with the prayer of the petition. He voted against parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810.
Mellish voted against Stuart Wortley’s motion for the formation of a stronger administration, 21 May 1812, and was expected to support the Liverpool ministry. He did so in most of the divisions for which lists of ministerial voters have been found, including those on the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment, 3 July 1815; the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816; the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817; the Duke of Clarence’s marriage grant, 15 Apr. 1818, and Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819. His only known wayward votes were on the Corn Laws, 16 and 23 May 1814, and the cash payments bill, 14 June 1819. He was a steadfast opponent of Catholic relief. He spoke in defence of the Bank, 26 Apr., 31 May and 3 July 1815, 29 Mar. 1816 and 9 June 1819: on 14 Mar. 1816 he unsuccessfully moved a series of resolutions concerning its business and accounts. He moved the third reading of the Hackney poor bill, 8 June 1814, but it was defeated by 52 votes to 39; and his bill to increase coroners’ payments, which he obtained leave to introduce on 11 Feb. 1818, was defeated on its second reading two weeks later. Dissatisfaction with Mellish’s ministerial politics had been expressed at the Middlesex election in 1812 and again in 1818, and in 1820 he was defeated by the intervention of a second Whig candidate. He died 8 June 1838, ‘in the 75th year of his age’.5
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: J. M. Collinge
- 1. PCC 564 Bishop, 516 Holman; Gent. Mag. (1798), i. 359.
- 2. Kent AO, Stanhope mss 730/13.
- 3. PRO 30/8/168, f. 160.
- 4. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. E209; Add. 51544, Holland to Howick , [2 Nov.]; 51570, Townshend to Holland [Nov.]; Grey mss, Howick to Holland, 2 Nov. 1806; Leveson Gower, ii. 226; The Times, 19 May 1807.
- 5. MI All Saints, Edmonton.