TOTTENHAM, Ponsonby (1746-1818), of Merrion Square, Dublin.

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



20 Feb. 1801 - 1802
26 July 1805 - 1806

Family and Education

b. 1746, 3rd s. of Charles Tottenham, MP [I], of New Ross, co. Wexford by 1st w. Hon. Anne Loftus, da. of Nicholas, 1st Visct. Loftus [I]. m. (1) 26 June 1782, Arabella (d. 2 Aug. 1806), da. of Robert Leigh*, 1s. d.v.p. 9da.; (2) 3 Oct. 1807, Caroline Draper, da. of Thomas Nevill of The Lodge, Brighton, Suss., wid. of Col. Thomas Symes, s.p.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1779-1800.

Clerk of Ordnance [I] Sept. 1800-Nov. 1801.


In the Irish parliament, Tottenham, a pensioner since 1780, was a member of the parliamentary connexion of his cousin Charles Tottenham, 1st Marquess of Ely, and a supporter of administration. In September 1800 he was appointed clerk of the Ordnance and when the patent was revoked after the Union was awarded an annuity of £500 in compensation. His seat for Clonmines was disfranchised, but in February 1801 he replaced his nephew by marriage, Francis Leigh, in the Wexford seat controlled by Ely. There is no evidence that he opposed Addington’s administration before making way in 1802, after attending both sessions, for Richard Nevill, who shared control of Wexford with Ely.

Described by under-Secretary Alexander Marsden as ‘a very good gentleman’, Tottenham replaced his nephew Charles Tottenham in the family seat at New Ross in July 1805. When on 22 Oct. he applied for a pension for his wife, the port surveyorship of Ross for his nephew Edward Tottenham and the nomination to the landwaitership vacated by Edward’s promotion, the lord lieutenant noted: ‘His nephew had nothing to do with Lord Ely, and he wishes it to be understood that he is no part of Lord Ely’s parliamentary connexion, concerning which he believes there has been a misapprehension in England’.1

Pitt’s government fell before his requests could be granted, but on 20 Apr. 1806 the new chief secretary William Elliot, who had seen Tottenham some weeks earlier and had found him still ‘at variance with the Ely family’, told Lord Grenville that Tottenham would support the ‘Talents’, if he had the revenue patronage at Ross, but there happened to be one or two promotions in the revenue which he was pressing to be made immediately, and which, ‘I am afraid, the lord lieutenant will not be able to accommodate so speedily as he wishes; and this circumstance may perhaps render him less friendly to us than when I saw him in London’. But on 1 May, after the revenue appointments at Ross had been made, Elliot was able to report: ‘In consequence of this arrangement I have an assurance that Mr Ponsonby Tottenham is to give his support to government in Parliament upon all measures except the Catholic question; and I have apprised [John] King of this circumstance that he may apply to him for his attendance’. The assurance, however, had come from Tottenham’s elder brother Charles, and only seven days later the Home secretary Lord Spencer told Elliot that Ponsonby had been with him seeking a pension for his wife. When Spencer informed him that the pension could not be granted that year, Tottenham replied that an assurance that it could be given in the next ‘would secure him as the steady and warm friend of government, of whom he never could have anything more to ask’.2 His wife died in August 1806, and no recorded vote or speech survives to substantiate Tottenham’s promise of support. In 1806 he was replaced at New Ross by Charles Leigh, whose family alternately nominated to the seat. He did not seek to re-enter the House. He died 13 Dec. 1818.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: J. M. Collinge


  • 1. Add. 31230, f. 93; 35787, ff. 103-4.
  • 2. HMC Fortescue, viii. 99, 109-10, 126; NLS mss 12910, p. 85, Elliot to King, 26 Apr.; Spencer mss, Spencer to Elliot, 7 May, reply 12 May 1806.