Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
‘in the burgesses resident within the limits and the scot and lot inhabitants resident within the limits of the borough’1
Estimated number qualified to vote:
Number of voters:
702 in 1831
3,651 (1821); 4,300 (1831)3
|11 Mar. 1820||BEAUMONT HOTHAM, Bar. Hotham [I]||486|
|SIR WILLIAM CUNNINGHAM FAIRLIE, bt.||313|
|14 June 1826||BEAUMONT HOTHAM, Bar. Hotham [I]||557|
|Double return. STEPHENSON declared elected, 16 Feb. 1827|
|11 Feb. 1830||JOHN WARD vice Stephenson, unseated as a bankrupt|
|2 Aug. 1830||BEAUMONT HOTHAM Bar. Hotham [I]|
|3 May 1831||WILLIAM BARTRUM EVANS||561|
|Beaumont Hothan, Bar. Hotham [I]||364|
|22 Dec. 1831||BEAUMONT HOTHAM, Bar. Hotham [I] vice Brayen, vacated his seat||346|
Leominster, a market town on the River Lug, 13 miles north of Hereford and 11 miles south of the Shropshire borough of Ludlow, lay in the hundred of Wolphy in Herefordshire’s golden vale. Its trades were mainly agricultural, but glove making, organized under a putting-out system employing female labour, afforded considerable employment and the town teemed with attorneys.4 Borough management was vested in a corporation comprising a bailiff or returning officer chosen annually from among 25 self-selected capital burgesses, two annually elected aldermen, a chief steward, recorder, town clerk and minor officers. There were no freemen. A corporation and scot and lot franchise operated and, according to the 1831 bailiff, Bonham Caldwell, the rates were ‘by no means equally or fairly applied’.5 Rich strangers were welcome and a third man obligatory at parliamentary elections, and the venality of the electorate, who were polled 12 times between 1780 and 1831, was regularly criticized at Herefordshire meetings by the Whigs, one of whom was to remark in May 1831 that ‘this potwalloping [sic] borough wants reform as much as any in the kingdom’.6 The high steward, the 5th earl of Essex, had given up trying to impose his influence on the borough and had sold his Hampton Court estate and manor lordship to John Arkwright (son of the industrialist Richard). Both he and the other major local landowner, the 10th earl of Meath, the unsuccessful candidate in 1812, had had to accept that they could do little against the prevailing interest of the largely Tory corporation, manipulated by the town clerk and banker Thomas Coleman of Yarpole. Candidates recruited in London by the secretary of the Royal Exchange Assurance Company, William Woodhouse Secretan, who had close family ties with members of the corporation and both Leominster banks, were brought down, and, if endorsed by the corporation, were expected to sport blue colours. Local support was mustered for them at the Royal Oak, where a benefit club was also organized. The recorder, Thomas Harley Rodney, rarely intervened in borough affairs and delegated his functions to his deputy, the Whig barrister Thomas Davies, the leader of the ‘Orange party’ favoured by the town’s Quakers, Baptists, Independents and Presbyterians, who regularly organized petitions against slavery and capital punishment. They met at the Lion (Red Lion) and, although permanently in the minority on the corporation, they remained a powerful force in borough politics, able to offer a Whig or liberal candidate a reasonable prospect of success. Finance from frequent contests had also fostered a nascent ‘green’ or ‘independent’ third party promoted by lawyers and tradesmen excluded from the corporation, like the attorney Benjamin Coates, who offered to field rich radical candidates, could sway the electorate, and welcomed coalition. Although attention was paid to a candidate’s politics, once elected, Members were free to follow their own inclinations, and obliged only to contribute to local charities, sponsor the annual races and underwrite the cost of borough feasts and celebrations. Patronage requests and petitions had recently been referred to the county Members.7
The corporation marked the death of George III with a service of mourning, 6 Feb. 1820, proclaimed George IV on the 8th, and retired to the council chamber to drink his health, after providing two hogsheads of cider for the populace.8 The law governing the property qualification of candidates had been amended to take account of Scottish holdings after Sir William Cunningham Fairlie had been unseated for this reason in February 1819 and John Harcourt of Wall End, Kent, whom he had outpolled, had taken his place. Both sought re-election in 1820.9 Harcourt’s colleague, the London banker Sir John Lubbock, a director of the Royal Exchange Assurance Company, was also expected to offer, and on 23 Feb. the Hereford Journal announced that a fourth man, the Yorkshire landowner and Irish peer Lord Hotham, was canvassing. A career soldier with interests in Beverley and Hedon, near his Yorkshire estates, Hotham had taken half-pay to devote time to consolidating his estates and entering Parliament, and was now also returned for Petersfield. His notices stressed his excellent military record and service under the duke of Wellington, and he adopted Waterloo blue as his colour.10 Lubbock left shortly before his retirement was announced, 4 Mar., and polling commenced on the 7th and terminated when Harcourt, who was overtaken by Cunningham Fairlie after the first day, retired on the 11th. Hotham had led throughout and the Members were chaired among their partisans.11 Five-hundred-and-forty-three voters were polled (about 78 per cent of the electorate), and a further 38 tendered but were rejected: 28 as ‘not sufficiently rated’, eight for being ‘on relief’, one as an alien and one for non-payment of rates. According to the pollbook, 41 (eight per cent) plumped, 27 for Cunningham Fairlie, 11 for Hotham and only three (the flax-dresser Bartholomew Davies, the farmer Jonathan Meredith and the baker Jonathan Roe) for Harcourt; and 502 (92 per cent) split their votes, 262 between Hotham and Cunningham Fairlie, 213 between Hotham and Harcourt and 24 between Cunningham Fairlie and Harcourt. There was no distinct occupational voting pattern, but as in the case of the future Member, the tallow chandler Thomas Brayen, whose grocer father and his mother’s relations, the Coateses, plumped for Cunningham Fairlie, family influence can be detected, and the support of the corporation and many of Lubbock’s friends for Harcourt and Hotham is evident.12 A borough meeting at the town hall, 3 Apr., adopted addresses of condolence and congratulation to George IV, and charged all expenses to the new Members. A well-attended meeting of Leominster Agricultural Society, 16 June 1820, considered petitioning for government action to combat distress (but no petition was presented).13
Parts of Leominster were illuminated when news arrived in November 1820 that the case against Queen Caroline had been abandoned. Neither Member supported the queen’s cause, and the inhabitants’ petition protesting at her prosecution and urging her inclusion in the liturgy and inquiry into the Milan commission was entrusted to the Whig Member for Herefordshire Robert Price, 1 Feb. 1821.14 Petitions complaining of the severity of the criminal law and calling for abolition of the death penalty for forgery and non-violent crimes were presented to the Commons, 17 May 1821, 3 June 1822.15 There was a strong Leominster presence at the contentious county meeting of 17 Jan. 1823, when resolutions proposed by the Whig squarson John Robert Smythies of Lynch Court, a former partner in Woodhouse’s bank, and Davies the barrister helped to ensure that William Cobbett’s† radical ‘Norfolk petition’ was rejected.16 The corporation and inhabitants petitioned the Commons for repeal of the Insolvent Debtors Act, 20 Feb. 1823.17 The inhabitants’ petition to the Commons for repeal of the assessed taxes singled out the duties on houses, windows and servants for particular complaint, 10 May 1824.18 A public meeting on 8 Mar. 1824 forwarded petitions for the gradual abolition of colonial slavery to both Houses, and similar petitions were forthcoming in 1826 and 1828.19 The Leominster canal bill, which enabled further funds to be raised for the ill-fated scheme to link the town with the Midland waterways, was entrusted to Hotham and his fellow anti-Catholic Tory, the Herefordshire Member Sir John Geers Cotterell, and received royal assent, 26 May 1826.20 The glovers, who collectively manufactured 385,320 pairs in 1825, petitioned the Commons to object to the government’s proposals to end import restrictions, which they correctly predicted would threaten their livelihood, 16 Mar. 1826.21 Cunningham Fairlie had paid scant attention to his parliamentary duties since 1822, and in June 1824 Arkwright’s brother-in-law Money Wigram and William Cust* were named as his likely replacements.22 Neither was mentioned when dissolution seemed imminent in the summer of 1825, and Hotham asked the home secretary Peel for prior warning.23 The stockbroker and lottery contractor Thomas Bish† of Mawbey Park, a self-styled liberal who opposed slavery and favoured religious toleration and parliamentary reform, canvassed the town that winter. His wife (née Collier) was locally connected and promoted his candidature by assisting the charities and having 1,000 pairs of blankets distributed to ‘the ladies’. Cunningham Fairlie was still mentioned in December 1825 when Lubbock brought down a Mr. Bayley, who soon desisted, and ‘the most violent assaults’ were made ‘upon Old Cider and Sir John Barleycorn’.24 Bish and one of his brothers-in-law rushed to Leominster on hearing of the collapse of Thomas Coleman’s banks, the Ludlow Old Bank of Coleman and Wellings, and the Leominster Bank of Coleman, Morris and Sons, in late March 1826.25 Anticipating problems in collecting taxes, particularly the hop duty, Hotham applied successfully to the exchequer for clemency, 2 Apr.26 Hearings on the bankruptcies of Thomas Coleman, John Morris, John Beebee Morris and Thomas Morris, for whom the Woodhouses acted as attorneys, were held at the Red Lion, 20, 21 Apr., 20 May; and on 30 Apr. Nathaniel Baker, a yeoman, Frederick Jenks Burlton, a bookseller, E.P. Southall, a wine merchant, and Brayen were chosen as assignees (the first three by the Rev. J. Wall, Brayen by the currier Thomas Davies of the Cornmarket). The estate of Thomas Smith, deceased, a former partner in the bank, was investigated immediately after the general election, and a dividend of 6s. 8d. paid in November 1826.27
It was reported early in June 1826 that Hotham was to come in for one of the duke of Newcastle’s seats, ‘leaving the field to Sir John Lubbock and Mr. Bish’; but it was Lubbock who retired, having first transferred his interest to another London banker, Rowland Stephenson of Marshalls, near Romford. Remmington, Stephenson and Company, in which Stephenson was a partner, now took over from Lubbock’s as agents for the Leominster and Herefordshire bank of Woodhouse and Company.28 Bish, for whom the attorney William Bach acted as agent, sported green as ‘the friend of the people’, blue for ‘independence’ and orange for ‘Leominster independence’. He was drawn into the town by ‘the ladies’, 2 June, and established his headquarters at Morris’s. Hotham, who stayed at the Lion Inn and retained the attorney Henry Milne, arrived on the 3rd, escorted by ‘respectable gentlemen on horseback and voters on foot’ sporting Waterloo blue. Their banners proclaimed ‘Hotham, honour and honesty’, ‘Hotham, a friend to commerce’ and ‘Hotham, a friend to the hop planters’.29 The ‘dapper little banker’ Stephenson, an experienced tactician following forays in Carlisle (1816, 1825) and the Cornish boroughs of West Looe (1822) and Newport (1823), began canvassing directly he arrived on the 6th. A fourth man, Admiral Sir John Rous’s† brother-in-law Frederick Cuthbert of 30 Grosvenor Square, also made his first appearance that day. A fifth, Samuel Richard Guinness, the barrister son of the Dublin chief of police, was expected to stand in place of Cunningham Fairlie but failed to arrive.30 Hotham was sponsored on 12 June by Burlton the bookseller and Thomas Davies the currier; Bish by the ironmonger Samuel Coates and the surgeon Rudge; Stephenson by Lubbock’s corporation ‘friends’, the tanner Richard Hayling and the Rev. Jonathan Williams, and Cuthbert by Benjamin Coates and the mercer William James. Stephenson’s counsel, Coleridge, intervened immediately to protest that under 22 Geo. III, c. 41 Bish was disqualified as a government contractor from standing for Parliament. The assessor, the barrister and future recorder of Hereford Richard Jones Powell of Hinton, however, declined to hear Coleridge’s case until a vote was actually tendered for Bish, and proceeded with the show of hands, which Hotham and Stephenson won. Bish’s success had been confidently predicted and Davies accordingly demanded a poll. When the first voter for Bish came forward, Coleridge cited the Act, asked the lottery secretary and inspector Hess to confirm that Bish was a contractor and warned the electors that they would be wasting their votes on him, as Stephenson would be returned even if he polled in third place. Davies countered that Bish was not a contractor in the sense of the Act, and had indeed that morning (in a manner akin to Cunningham Fairlie’s hasty purchase of local property in 1818, when his eligibility was questioned) assigned his lottery interest to his son-in-law the Rev. G.B. Fowler for the token sum of 10s. This, Coleridge insisted, was ‘out of his power’. Powell declined to give judgment for want of a comparable case as guidance, and the returning officer Edward Woodhouse decided to ‘accept any votes that might be offered for Bish’. The effect of Coleridge’s challenge cannot be calculated, but only 22 votes were cast that day: 12 for Hotham, nine for Stephenson and one for Bish.31 Polling proceeded briskly on the 13th, when Hotham and Bish built up a commanding lead (Hotham 479, Bish 367, Stephenson 212, Cuthbert 49), and the parties agreed that voting should cease at midday on the 14th. Shortly before the poll closed (with the tally at Hotham 557, Bish 445, Stephenson 254, Cuthbert 57) Coleridge repeated his case against Bish and called on Woodhouse, whose relations split their votes between Hotham and Stephenson, to include Stephenson in the return. Powell now agreed with him, claiming that he had not said so earlier in order not to prejudice the outcome of the election. The ‘names of Lord Hotham and Mr. Bish (they being first and second upon the poll) were inserted in a return and annexed to the precept, and that of Mr. Stephenson in a return subjoined’. Bish, Hotham and Stephenson were chaired and the decision referred to Parliament.32 Of the 701 who polled, 89 (13 per cent) plumped and 612 (87 per cent) split their votes. Hotham received 45, Bish 34, Stephenson nine and Cuthbert one plumper (from Benjamin Coates). Hotham and Bish had 314 split votes (56 and 71 per cent of their respective totals), Hotham and Stephenson 179 (32 and 70 per cent of their respective totals), Bish and Stephenson 63, Bish and Cuthbert 34, Hotham and Cuthbert 19; three split Cuthbert-Stephenson.33
Any uncertainty concerning Hotham’s position was removed on the first day of the new Parliament, 21 Nov. 1826, when the House ruled that ‘the return was not to be deemed a double return, so far as it related to him’. Bish and Stephenson petitioned against each other’s return the following day. Bish claimed that Woodhouse had been wrong to include Stephenson on the return. Stephenson stressed Bish’s ineligibility and attributed his ‘colourable majority’ to Woodhouse’s erroneous decision to accept votes in his favour. A petition received on 5 Dec. 1826 from Bish’s supporters Samuel Coates, Rudge and the keeper of the brandy vaults Joseph Henry Seward asked for Stephenson’s return be ‘taken off the file’, and for Bish to be returned with Hotham or a new writ issued. Seward’s recognizance caused problems, but the petitions were eventually considered by a committee appointed, 13 Feb. 1827, chaired by Frank Sotheron, with the anti-Catholic Tory Edward Knatchbull as counsel for Stephenson and the Whig John Nicholas Fazakerley, a friend of Robert Price, for Bish. It found in Stephenson’s favour, 16 Feb. 182734 Writing to Ralph Sneyd, Charles Bertie Percy observed:
I had the good fortune to get on the Leominster committee which lasted only three days. You will see that our second decision, seating Mr. Stephenson, is attacked in the papers, as I hear it by the law authorities. As a quondam judge I am happy to say we divided on this second point and I was in the minority.35
Mortified, Bish, who had reputedly spent £10,000 in Leominster, complained that Stephenson had found his way into Parliament ‘by the ingenuity of his legal advocates’.36 He ‘fulfilled his engagements to the electors’ and promised, at a presentation in his honour, to stand again.37
The Leominster Association for the Apprehension of Felons instigated protectionist petitions to both Houses against changing the corn laws, and Hotham voted against the corn bill, 2 Apr. 1827.38 Petitions from the Dissenters for repeal of the Test Acts were received by the Commons, 15 June 1827, 10 Mar., and the Lords, 7 Mar. 1828;39 and Hotham made representations on behalf of the glovers, whose petition, complaining that foreign imports had ruined their trade, arrived too late for presentation, 26 June 1828. He declared for the pro-Catholic Canning’s ministry in May 1827 and, describing himself as ‘unfettered by constituency pressures’, welcomed the Wellington ministry’s appointment in February 1828, but he remained a committed opponent of Catholic emancipation when they conceded it in 1829.40 A public meeting, 19 Feb., addressed by the Rev. Jonathan Williams, Henry Milne, Burlton and William Preece, declared unanimously against concessions and for the ‘immediate suppression’ of the Catholic Association and forwarded petitions to Hotham and Lord Eldon for presentation.41 Rodney and a strong Leominster contingent attended the county meeting which broke up without adopting the anti-Catholic petition they proposed, 28 Mar. 1829, and most of the corporation signed a declaration in protest. Proceedings at their dinner at the King’s Arms on St. George’s Day, which reputedly signalled a political realignment, were not reported.42
Chancery ruled that the creditors of Coleman and Wellings had priority over those of Coleman and Morris, 11 Feb. 1828, and this left many in dire financial straits, including the churchwardens, who were unable to present their accounts in October.43 The problem was compounded by the collapse of Remmingtons and Stephenson’s highly publicized flight to the United States in December 1828, which, until Lubbock took back his agency, threatened to bring down Woodhouse and Company’s Herefordshire and Leominster Bank.44 There was much speculation about a replacement for Stephenson during the twelve months before he could be unseated as a bankrupt. Bish and Cuthbert were immediately thought of, and introductions through the Royal Exchange Assurance Company continued.45 The East India proprietor Charles Russelb was advised to go with a certain Mr. Jones ‘to Dottin’s for the purpose of meeting Mr. Walter’ (possibly the editor of The Times), who, he informed his brother Henry, 27 June 1829
took me to a Mr. Secretan, who is the managing agent of a large assurance company (I forget which) and I infer from the responsibility of his office a respectable man ... The seat is ... about to be vacant in a month or two, at the expiration of the term at which Rowland Stephenson’s outlawry will be complete. His, Mr. Secretan’s, family has great local interest and a near relation of his is the returning officer. He and the party to which he belongs have returned the Member for 40 years. An election without a contest to cost £3,000 or £3,500 and with a contest £5,000!! The expenses consist mainly of a five guinea bribe to each voter. It is stated that there is no chance of a contest on the present occasion ... [I said] this did not quite accord with my recollection of what occurred on the last occasion. This statement was met by an assurance that Mr. Bish ... had not now one shilling and could therefore give no trouble. But the same party which espoused his cause then might support another candidate now, and the whole thing seemed to me so unpromising that I should have rejected it at once if Mr. Secretan had not said that Sir John Lubbock was the person whom his family contributed to return for several years. Now George [Russell, their brother] is intimate with Sir J. Lubbock’s son, and I thought there could be no harm in getting from him what information I could. George has seen the son who will speak to the father.46
Russell desisted, but John Halcomb† tried to get up a subscription, Drummond Harley Rodney, the recorder’s son and the 11th duke of Somerset’s son Lord Archibald Seymour†, who was almost of age, were mentioned and speculation concerning Bish, Cuthbert and the ‘popular party’ continued to the last, although John Ward of Holwood House, Kent had ‘tied up his election’ before the writ was ordered, 4 Feb. 1830.47 The Ultra Sir Richard Gresley’s* agent was informed, 6 Feb.:
A Mr. Ward from some place near London, a perfect stranger here has been canvassing and obtained ... a sufficient number of votes to ensure his return, not however on account of his being preferred to another man, but because no other person has thought proper to offer himself. Had ... Gresley therefore made his application sooner, he would have stood the same chance as Mr. Ward. ... Lord Hotham is now the only Member and Mr. Thomkis and Messrs. Pearce are his agents, so that of course they are not at liberty to assist any other gentleman. At a contested election £8,000 or £10,000 may be easily spent here.48
The barrister John Mirehouse, a candidate for Marlborough in July 1830, had arrived that day with letters of recommendation from the Whig lawyer Thomas Denman* and the London alderman Matthew Wood*; but, finding most voters already pledged, he left, declaring that the election had been illegally proclaimed and that he would petition and stand again.49 The hop merchant Francis Woodhouse and J. Jones sponsored Ward, 11 Feb., and in default of another candidate, Thomas Davies the currier was proposed by Benjamin Coates and seconded by the bookseller Francis Went. Davies’s speech took up most of the hour before nominations closed. The show of hands afterwards was overwhelmingly for Ward and Davies declined to poll.50 Encouraged by Smythies, the ‘out-parish of Leominster’ petitioned the Commons for inquiry and immediate action to remedy the severe economic downturn, 4 Mar.,51 and the bankers and inhabitants petitioned both Houses for abolition of the death penalty for forgery and criminal law reform before the dissolution in July 1830.52
According to Thomas Gladstone*, who was offered Leominster twice - by William Huskisson* about 3 July, and by Stratford Canning* on the 6th - Lord Melbourne had informed Huskisson that Leominster was ‘to be had’ on the Coleman interest, which claimed to have returned a Member ‘for the last 60 years’
for five thousand ... no cure, no pay and success certain, except the personal expenses incurred in the town on the canvass, 200 probably ... Sometimes there is no contest, and according to his account, with that you have nothing to do in a pecuniary point of view; about 700 voters.
When Gladstone and his counsel Henry Merewether ‘met the parties’
it turned out that Huskisson had a mistaken account of the place. The terms were with success £5,000 (and possibly they said £4,500) and £1,000, if not more (for they did not undertake to guarantee that limit though that of the other sum they did) on failure, which they professed [to] consider impossible ... Merewether decidedly and strongly urged my abandoning it altogether. He thought I should have all the turmoil and anxiety of a regular contest, success not so certain as was stated, and a considerable pecuniary risk. I agreed with him and we then put an end to the negotiation ... That the price was a full one, without the power of transfer and dependent on the life of the king, guided me very much in this new state of things.53
Being in poor heath, Hotham hoped for an unopposed return at minimal cost without an arduous canvass. Ward’s intentions were unclear until 20 July, when he announced his retirement and urged his supporters to vote for another Whig, William Marshall of Pattersdale. He was the son of the Yorkshire Member, John Marshall, whose political conduct was closely monitored by Hotham’s Yorkshire agent John Hall and had been brought in for Petersfield on the Jolliffe interest in 1826.54 Serjeant Ludlow came that day, but according to Benjamin Coates the green interest thought him unsuitable. Ludlow subsequently claimed that he had declined nomination because a late challenge looked likely.55 Fearing the same thing, on Saturday 24 July Hotham asked the Tory under-sheriff and town clerk of Hereford William Pateshall to forward the writ to Leominster immediately so that the election could be proclaimed on the 25th and held on 31 July. Pateshall did not do so, ostensibly because it meant violating the Sabbath; but Hotham later claimed that the writ was deliberately delayed to allow time to recruit a third man. Stratford Canning arrived, 1 Aug., and was nominated with Hotham and Marshall on the 2nd. He retired soon after polling commenced, leaving Hotham and Marshall to be returned and chaired, but they failed to avoid the expense of a contest. Through their attorneys, Milne and John Bellamy, Hotham and Pateshall engaged in a bitter correspondence over the following months, in the course of which Bellamy informed Milne, 9 Sept:
You are sufficiently acquainted with the state of party feeling at Leominster to know that nothing that could be by any means tortured into a deviation, however slight, in favour of one party would pass without its comment by the other. With this feeling, and yet unwilling to appear needlessly ungracious towards Lord Hotham, W. Pateshall and myself thought it most advisable to send no answer, rather than what must have been a refusal, thinking that the writ might, by its arrival on any other day than Sunday, render any other answer than compliance with your request unnecessary; and satisfied, that in any event Lord Hotham, or you at least, would understand and feel the prudence, if not the propriety of our silence, proposing at all events to explain matters when we meet.56
Marshall took over Ward’s obligations at the August 1830 races, which were stewarded by Hotham and ‘more numerously attended’ than previously.57
Leominster contributed to the 1830-1 petitioning campaign against colonial slavery and adopted a petition for parliamentary reform before the details of the Grey ministry’s bill, which proposed making it a single Member constituency, were announced, 1 Mar. 1831. Immediately afterwards, a reform committee was established in the town.58 Marshall voted for and Hotham against the measure, and Hotham criticized the designation of boroughs close to the 4,000-population threshold for partial disfranchisement, 28 Mar., adding that in Leominster ‘it appears that the population is only 3,650; but there is a note at the bottom of the page, by which it appears that the population of the parish now amounts to 4,640 persons’. Price was already lobbying his friends in government to make additional provision for Herefordshire, and the concession of Leominster’s second seat was announced, 18 Apr.59 Hotham stood again when the bill’s defeat precipitated a dissolution that month; and ‘in conjunction with’ Marshall, who came in for Beverley, William Bartrum Evans, the barrister son of a London attorney with Irish connections, arrived on 28 Apr. 1831 and canvassed as a reformer. No contest was anticipated until ‘a majority of the electors, not wishing to neutralise their votes in the House’, prevailed on their townsman Brayen to offer, ‘knowing that his sentiments were in favour of the great question’.60 Bish and the radical squire William Davies of Cabalva tested the ground, but Brayen, who was ostensibly ‘brought in free of charge’, had already given the reformer Lieutenant John George Francillon £350 to cover costs. He was proposed by Davies the barrister and seconded by Benjamin Coates. Thomas Davies the currier and Burlton sponsored Hotham, and Francis Woodhouse and another hop merchant, James Bedford, nominated Evans.61 As a reformer with corporation backing, Evans sported red and sky blue and headed the poll throughout, and the tussle was between Hotham (the Waterloo blue) and Brayen, who adopted the red and orange of the pro-reform Whigs and the green of the anti-corporation party as his colours. Brayen was 118-110 ahead of Hotham on the first day, 367-337 on the second, and the election terminated on the third with the tally at Evans 561, Brayen 413, Hotham 364.62 Seven-hundred-and-two voters polled (89 per cent of the estimated electorate of 785), 49 had their votes rejected and 34 did not tender. According to the pollbook, 66 (nine per cent) plumped, 50 for Hotham, 12 for Brayen, four for Evans; and 636 (91 per cent) split their votes, 322 between Evans and Brayen, 235 between Evans and Hotham and 79 between Brayen and Hotham. Two reformers were returned, but only 48 per cent of those polled (16 plumpers and 322 splitters) voted exclusively for the reform candidates; 52 per cent (50 plumpers and 314 splitters) were prepared to give a vote to the anti-reformer.63
The Members divided steadily for the reintroduced reform bill, and the inhabitants petitioned the Lords to pass it, 26 Sept. 1831, and celebrated Meath’s elevation to the British peerage (as Baron Chaworth of Eaton) at the coronation that month.64 Before the revised measure was introduced, Brayen, who was said to dislike his new life style, vacated to make way for the wealthy reformer William Fraser, who refunded him his £350.65 Rumours concerning possible dividends from Coleman’s estate circulated and the Cambrian noted:
The electors ... have been on the qui vive, expecting a bit of opposition as a matter of course, and they have not been disappointed. Lord Hotham, who so often represented the borough, Mr. Fraser, who is said to have Mr. Brayen’s interest in his favour, and Thomas Bish, Esq., an old acquaintance of the electors of Leominster, appeared as candidates and have been occupied in canvassing the town. On Monday the tug of war commenced, when only Mr. Fraser and Lord Hotham proceeded to the poll.66
The by-election coincided with a disastrous slump in the glove trade and Bish, who had announced in July that he would stand at the first post-reform election, decided against bringing his candidature forward.67 Hotham was sponsored as previously and Fraser by Davies the barrister and William James. The outcome of the bitterest contest since 1796 was unexpected. Hotham, who insisted that it was a straight fight between reaction and reform, led by 46-36 on the first day, Fraser by 151-147 on the second, Hotham by 287-270 on the third and by 346-326 when the poll was declared on the fourth day with about 85 per cent of the electorate polled. Fraser promised to petition against the ‘unconstitutional and corrupt’ tactics deployed by Hotham’s ‘friends’. According to The Times, these included cooping, employing 200 paid ruffians, bribery, intimidation, violence and treating, all of which were overlooked by the Tory returning officer. Meath’s former local agent, the tanner Bonham Caldwell, and 17 of his colleagues on the corporation voted for Hotham. The remaining six corporators eligible apparently did not vote. The leader writer concluded:
If many, or but a few of the circumstances asserted can be brought home to his lordship’s agents on a petition to the House, it is possible that the noble lord may find his transient success a little too dearly purchased and his paean of ‘reaction’ sung a few weeks too soon.68
Allegations that the corporation had taken reprisals against many who had withheld their support from Hotham in May and that no assessor attended in December 1831 cannot be confirmed, but Hotham’s confidence that no petition would be presented was justified.69 At Hereford assizes in August 1832, Fraser was successfully prosecuted on token charges of failing to pay £4 for his chair and £10 for trimmings, in a case, which, as intended, exposed the electioneering tactics resorted to by the green party since 1818.70
Leominster petitioned in support of the factories regulation bill, 20 Feb. 1832, and supported the campaign for abolition of the stamp duty levied on newspapers and printed matter promoted by Evans and his fellow barrister William Stephen Meryweather Turner, who offered himself in his place at the first post-reform election.71 Under the Reform and Boundary Acts, whose passage was duly celebrated, Leominster became one of Herefordshire’s polling towns and, ostensibly on population grounds, the constituency was made coextensive with the parish, notwithstanding the boundary commissioners’ observation
that the present borough contains all that is, or is ever likely to be in any sense part of the town. The area of land included by it on the outside of the town is very large, and in the only place (towards the east) where the borough boundary comes near to the town the land is marshy and the houses nearest to the boundary are often flooded so that an extension of the town in this direction seems to be quite impossible.72
The Reform Act made little difference to the size of the registered electorate of 770: 488 scot and lot payers and 233 £10 householders from the old borough and 49 £10 householders from the out-parish.73 They remained unpolled at the general election of December 1832, when the Liberal Meryweather Turner found too little support to proceed, and Bish came in with Hotham. The Liberal Hereford Times commented that ‘no other Tory would have stood a chance’.74 Leominster, which by the 1840s was regarded as the ‘incipient family borough’ of the Arkwights, was polled on seven occasions between 1837 and its absorption into the Herefordshire North constituency in 1885.75
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 540.
- 2. Ibid.; Leominster Pollbooks (1820), (1826), (May, Dec. 1831).
- 3. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 540.
- 4. Ibid. (1831-2), xxxviii. 393. R.C. Reeves, Town in the Marches, 123.
- 5. PP (1835), xxiii. 429-30.
- 6. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 199-201; F. O’Gorman, Voters, Patrons, and Parties, 58; Herefs. RO, diaries of John Biddulph of Ledbury [Biddulph diary] G2/IV/J/59, 28 May 1831. See HEREFORDSHIRE and HEREFORD.
- 7. Oldfield, Rep. Hist. (1816), iv. 10-17; Reeves, 93, 147, 163; G.F. Townsend, Leominster, 206, 290-3, 333.
- 8. Townsend, 199; Hereford Jnl. 9 Feb. 1820.
- 9. U. Cobbett and E.R. Daniel, Reports of Cases of Controverted Elections (1821), 1-25.
- 10. Hull Univ. Lib. Hotham mss DDHO/8/2, Hall to Hotham, 7, 9, 13, 24 Feb., 5, 12 Mar.; J.T. Ward, ‘E. Yorks. Landed Estates in 19th Cent.’ E. Yorks. Local Hist. Ser. xxiii (1967), 26-27; Som. RO, Hylton mss DD/HY box 17, Procs. at Petersfield Election (1820).
- 11. Gloucester Jnl. 6, 13 Mar.; Hereford Jnl. 8, 15 Mar. 1820.
- 12. Leominster Pollbook (1820).
- 13. Hereford Jnl. 29 Mar., 5 Apr., 21 June 1820.
- 14. Ibid. 29 Nov. 1820, 10 Jan. 1821; CJ, lxxvi. 22.
- 15. CJ, lxxvi. 350; lxxvii. 309; Hereford Jnl. 17 Apr.; The Times, 4 June 1822.
- 16. The Times, 20 Jan.; Hereford Jnl. 22, 29 Jan. 1823. See HEREFORDSHIRE.
- 17. CJ, lxxviii. 49; The Times, 21 Feb. 1823.
- 18. CJ, lxxix. 342; The Times, 11 May 1824.
- 19. Hereford Jnl. 10 Mar.; The Times, 16 Mar. 1824, 9 Feb. 1826; CJ, lxxix. 161; lxxxi. 21; lxxxiii. 361; LJ, lvi. 110; lviii. 34.
- 20. Hereford Jnl. 18, 25 Jan. 1826; Worcester Herald, 3 June 1826; CJ, lxxxi. 45, 99, 111, 247, 377; LJ, lviii. 298, 380.
- 21. Reeves, 123; CJ, lxxxi. 177.
- 22. The Times, 25 June 1824.
- 23. Add. 40380, f. 399; 40383, f. 302.
- 24. The Times, 26 Nov.; Hereford Jnl. 3 Dec. 1825.
- 25. Hereford Jnl. 29 Mar.; The Times, 4 Apr.; London Gazette, 4 Apr. 1826.
- 26. Hereford Jnl. 12 Apr. 1826.
- 27. Ibid. 14 Jan. 1824, 3, 31 May, 7 June, 1, 8 Nov.; London Gazette, 8 Apr., 23 May, 29 Sept.; The Times, 1 Nov. 1826.
- 28. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Ne2/F2/1, Newcastle diary, 22 May; Macleod of Macleod mss 1061/5; The Times, 2, 3, 7 June; Worcester Herald, 3, 10 June; Hereford Jnl. 7 June 1826.
- 29. Hereford Jnl. 7 June, The Times, 9 June 1826.
- 30. Hereford Jnl. 7 June; Worcester Herald, 10 June; Globe, 8, 12 June 1826.
- 31. Hereford Jnl. 14 June; The Times, 15 June; Globe, 15 June; Worcester Herald, 17 June 1826.
- 32. The Times, 17 June; Hotham mss 8/4, Hall to Hotham, 18 June; Hereford Jnl. 21 June; Worcester Herald, 24 June 1826.
- 33. Leominster Pollbook (1826).
- 34. CJ, lxxxii. 10, 15, 78, 118, 126-7, 146, 157, 159, 180, 185; The Times, 22 Nov. 1826, 17 Nov. 1827.
- 35. Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC12/78.
- 36. W.R. Williams, Parl. Hist. Herefs. 148; Hereford Jnl. 21 Feb. 1827.
- 37. Hereford Jnl. 14, 28 Mar. 1827.
- 38. CJ, lxxxii. 206, 239; LJ, lix. 223; The Times, 22 Feb. 1827.
- 39. CJ, lxxxii. 567; lxxxiii. 149; LJ, lx. 99.
- 40. Add. 40393, ff. 202, 235; 40395, f. 114.
- 41. Hereford Jnl. 25 Feb. 1829; CJ, lxxxiv. 98; LJ, lxi. 91.
- 42. Add. 40398, ff. 167-71, 202; N. Gash, Secretary Peel, 558; The Times, 31 Mar.; Hereford Jnl. 8 Apr. 1829.
- 43. Herefs. RO, Leominster vestry bk. AK3/72; London Gazette, 9, 16 Mar., 4 Sept.; The Times, 8, 12 Nov. 1827, 12 Feb.; Hereford Jnl. 20, 27 Feb.; Hereford Independent, 29 Mar. 1828.
- 44. Hereford Jnl. 31 Dec. 1828; 7 Jan.; Gent. Mag. (1829), i. 78.
- 45. Hereford Jnl. 14 Jan. 1829.
- 46. Bodl. MS Eng. lett. c. 160, f. 83.
- 47. The Times, 21 Dec. 1829; CJ. lxxxv. 4; Hereford Jnl. 6 Jan. 1830.
- 48. Derbys. RO, Gresley of Drakelow mss box 36, bdle. 7, D77/36/7.
- 49. Hereford Jnl. 10 Feb. 1830.
- 50. Ibid. 17 Feb. 1830.
- 51. Globe, 5 Feb.; Hereford Jnl. 10 Feb. 1830; Wellington mss WP1/1100/12; CJ, lxxxv. 133.
- 52. CJ, lxxxv. 360, 650; LJ, lxii. 650, 759; Townsend, 200-1.
- 53. St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 195, T. to J. Gladstone [3-5 July 1830].
- 54. Hotham mss 8/5, Hall to Hotham, 4, 11, 17, 18, 31 July, 1 Aug.; Hereford Jnl. 7, 14, 21, 28 July 1830.
- 55. The Times, 9 Aug. 1832.
- 56. Herefs. RO, Pateshall mss A95/V/W/C/382-94; The Times, 13, 21 July; Hereford Jnl. 4, 11 Aug. 1830.
- 57. Hereford Jnl. 18 Aug., 1 Sept. 1830.
- 58. Ibid. 2, 30 Mar.; The Times, 7 Mar., 11 Apr. 1831; LJ, lxiii. 48.
- 59. Hereford Jnl. 30 Mar.; The Times, 19 Apr. 1831.
- 60. Worcester Jnl. 28 Apr.; Shrewsbury Chron. 29 Apr.; Worcester Herald, 30 Apr.; Hotham mss 8/5, Hall to Hotham, 30 Apr.; Leominster Pollbook (May 1831).
- 61. Hereford Jnl. 4 May; Worcester Jnl. 5 May; Worcester Herald, 7 May 1831.
- 62. Globe, 2-4 May; Hereford Jnl. 4, 11 May; Worcester Herald, 7 May 1831.
- 63. Leominster Pollbook (May 1831).
- 64. Hereford Jnl. 14 Sept. 1831; LJ, lxiii. 1008.
- 65. TNA E/197/1, p. 360; CJ, lxxxvii. 12; Hereford Jnl. 17 Dec. 1831; The Times, 9 Aug. 1832.
- 66. Hereford Jnl. 16, 23 Nov.; Cambrian, 24 Dec. 1831.
- 67. The Times, 9 July, 30 Dec. 1831; Worcester Herald, 16 Dec. 1831.
- 68. Hereford Jnl. 28 Dec.; The Times, 28 Dec.; Worcester Jnl. 29 Dec.; Worcester Herald, 31 Dec. 1831.
- 69. Hereford Jnl. 4 Jan. 1832.
- 70. The Times, 9 Aug. 1832.
- 71. CJ, lxxxvii. 126; Hereford Jnl. 16 May 1832.
- 72. Hereford Jnl. 20, 27 June 1832; PP (1831-2), xxxviii. 393-5.
- 73. Hereford Times, 3, 10, 17 Nov. 1832; PP (1835), xxiii. 432.
- 74. Hereford Jnl. 15 Feb., 20 June, 12 Dec.; Hereford Times, 15 Dec. 1832.
- 75. N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 197-9.