NORTHEY, William (?1753-1826), of Box Hall, Wilts. and Woodcote, Epsom, Surr.

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



1796 - 19 Jan. 1826

Family and Education

b. ?1753,1 1st s. of William Northey of Compton Bassett and Ivy House, Wilts. by 2nd w. Anne, da. of Edward Hopkins of Coventry, Warws. educ. Eton 1763-7; Queens’, Camb. 16 Feb. 1771, aged 17, M. Temple 1771. m. 18 July 1795, Mary née Huntington of New Store Street, Bedford Square, Mdx., s.p. suc. fa. 1770.

Offices Held

Commdt. Box vol. inf. ‘during the war’.2


Northey was the son and grandson of landed gentlemen who represented Wiltshire boroughs, but his father, who left him an estate in that county and in Surrey, had sold his interest at Calne to Lord Shelburne and Northey had no parliamentary interest of his own. He was returned by his friend the 2nd Duke of Northumberland for his borough of Newport in 1796 and held the seat for nearly 30 years. Had Lord Moira formed an administration in 1797, the duke wished Northey to have ‘a seat at the Treasury, if he would accept it’. ‘His vote was generally given to opposition’ in agreement with his patron’s politics.3 He had joined Brooks’s Club on 9 June 1785 and the Whig Club on 2 Dec. 1788. He voted with the Whigs steadily up to and including Grey’s motion for parliamentary reform, 26 May 1797; returned to vote against the assessed taxes, 4 Jan., and the government’s conduct in Ireland, 22 June 1798, and again to vote against the policy and conduct of the war, 3 and 10 Feb. 1800, and for Grey’s amendment to the address, 2 Feb. 1801. Apparently he never uttered in debate.

During Addington’s administration, he was in the minorities against the suspension of habeas corpus, 14 Apr., and against indemnity for informers, 5 June 1801; for an inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s debts, 4 Mar. 1803, and on negotiations with France, 24 May 1803. He further supported the opposition motions of 7 Mar., 16 and 23 Apr. 1804 that heralded the downfall of the ministry. On the return of Pitt to power, he was listed Prince’s man and Foxite. He appeared to oppose Pitt’s additional force bill, 15 June 1804; on 6 Mar. 1805 he supported Sheridan’s motion to repeal it. On 12 Feb. he had voted against war with Spain. He favoured the censure and subsequently the criminal prosecution of Melville, 8 Apr., 12 June 1805. He was a supporter of the Grenville ministry, voting for the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr.1806, and for Brand’s motion following their dismissal, 9 Apr. 1807. He had helped to smooth over the quarrel between his patron and Fox, and the duke thanked him (12 Feb. 1806) for the ‘very friendly part’ he had acted and made him his confidant.4 Northey, in his interviews with Fox and the Prince of Wales, had been at pains to point out that he was not himself ‘sore’ and sought neither ‘place or favour’, apart from the confirmation in his rank of a relative in the navy.

In the Parliament of 1807 Northey did not appear in the minority until 21 Feb. 1809, when he supported Petty’s motion against the convention of Cintra; on 11 May he supported Madocks’s motion against ministerial corruption. He voted against the address, 23 Jan. 1810, and against the conduct of the Scheldt expedition, 26 Jan., 23 Feb., 5 and 30 Mar. The Whigs listed him as one of ‘present opposition’ at that time. He was afterwards embarrassed by his patron’s growing sympathy for the Prince Regent and his government, though he supported an amendment to the Regency bill, 21 Jan. 1811. On 3 Mar. 1812 he was reported to have paired against Brougham’s motion critical of the orders in council. Yet on 21 May he favoured Stuart Wortley’s motion for a stronger administration. Moreover on 11 June he supported Milton’s amendment, which was even more critical of administration. The duke, informed of this by the Regent’s secretary McMahon, replied, 26 June, ‘I did not know that Mr Northey had [supported Milton] till I received your letter of the 22nd’, and added that his Members were apprised of his wishes and that he would write to Northey ‘immediately; for these are not times, when I will allow my friends the least latitude of not supporting his Royal Highness and his government, on every occasion’.5

Subsequently, Northey was better behaved: indeed, he was listed ‘Government’ by the Treasury. Like the duke, he was unfavourable to Catholic relief, voting and pairing against it on 11 and 24 May 1813 and voting against it on 9 May 1817. He was in the minority against the corn exportation bill, 23 May, and in that on Colonel Quentin’s conduct, 17 Nov. 1814. He voted with the majority against inquiry into the Prince Regent’s expenditure, 31 May, and with the minority in favour of the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment bill, 3 July 1815. Yet in March 1816 he opposed the army estimates and the continuation of the property tax and was again in favour of retrenchment in the divisions of 20 Mar., 3 Apr. and 20 June, also pairing in that sense on 17 June, though on 24 May he voted with the majority on the civil list. On 7 Feb. 1817 he voted against Lord Binning’s being of the finance committee. He voted against Canning’s embassy to Lisbon, 6 May, and in the minority on the choice of a new Speaker, 2 June 1817. Thereafter, however, despite the death of his censorious patron, whose heir continued to return him for Newport, Northey supported government. He voted for the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817. In the crucial division, on Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819, he sided with ministers. He died 19 Jan. 1826, whereupon a clergyman brother succeeded to his estates in three counties.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. His next brother (Rev.) Edward Northey was b. 22 Oct. 1754.
  • 2. Gent. Mag. (1826), i. 177. Certainly so gazetted in 1803.
  • 3. Ibid.; Alnwick mss 58, f. 221.
  • 4. Alnwick mss 63, ff. 33-4, 35, 44-5; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2131.
  • 5. Geo. IV Letters, i. 124.
  • 6. PCC 103 Swabey.