Available from Cambridge University Press
Estimated number qualified to vote:
Number of voters:
2,534 in 1831
|14 Mar. 1820||SIR JOHN KYNASTON POWELL, bt.|
|18 Oct. 1821||ROWLAND HILL vice Cotes, deceased|
|2 Dec. 1822||JOHN CRESSETT PELHAM vice Powell, deceased|
|16 June 1826||(SIR) ROWLAND HILL bt.|
|JOHN CRESSETT PELHAM|
|6 Aug. 1830||(SIR) ROWLAND HILL, bt.|
|JOHN CRESSETT PELHAM|
|14 May 1831||(SIR) ROWLAND HILL, bt.||1824|
|JOHN CRESSETT PELHAM||1355|
Shropshire, bisected north-south by the navigable River Severn, was rich in coal, iron and other mineral formations and had industrialized early. Attempts to diversify the economy in this period were largely unsuccessful, and according to Charles Hulbert of Shrewsbury, writing in 1837, the 30 square miles from Newport to Brosley, Coalport, Dawley, Ironbridge and Madelely Wood resembled the neighbourhoods of Birmingham, Manchester and Stockport, where mines, canals, railways, foundries, smoke and populous towns ‘rush into existence as if by power of magic’.2 The county’s 16 hundreds included the liberties of Wenlock and Shrewsbury, the venue for the county assizes, election meetings and quarter sessions. There were five parliamentary boroughs and 13 market towns: Broseley, Church Stretton, Cleobury Mortimer, Clun, Ellesmere, Halesowen, Market Drayton, Newport, Oswestry, Shifnal, Wellington, Wem and Whitchurch. With Dawley and Madeley, near Coalbrookdale, they produced almost all the Shropshire petitions presented in this period.3
Since the county had last polled in 1722 the dominant interest of the Newports of High Ercall had been dispersed, devolving chiefly on the Bridgeman family, earls of Bradford, of Weston Park, on the Shropshire-Staffordshire border, and the Vanes of Raby Castle, County Durham, earls of Darlington, who, through the Pulteney and Johnstone families, had inherited some 25,000 acres in the county. The 2nd Earl Craven’s estate, from which Thomas Kenyon had carved his 8,000 acres at Pradoe, was also in the throes of dismemberment. Other notable absentees with votes and experienced agents at their disposal included the earls of Bridgwater, whose 20,000-acre Shropshire estates included Ellesmere and Whitchurch; the 1st marquess of Stafford, whose 17,000 acres included the borough of Newport; the 4th and 5th earls of Tankerville, heirs to the Astley estates and property in Shrewsbury, and the 10th earl of Mountnorris and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn*, who had interests in Oswestry and Wenlock. Williams Wynn was a son-in-law of the lord lieutenant, Edward Clive†, 1st earl of Powis, a ministerialist whose 27,000 acres and influence matched those of his late father-in-law, the 1st Herbert earl of Powis and of his grandfather Clive of India. He was said to be deterred from challenging for a county seat by the mounting cost of managing his troublesome boroughs of Bishop’s Castle and Ludlow, for which he returned his heir Lord Clive, his second son Robert Henry Clive and like-minded Tories. Also prominent among the resident aristocracy were the Hills of Hawkstone (14,500 acres), near Wem, on whom the barony of Hill had been conferred in 1814; their impoverished namesakes of Attingham, Barons Berwick, who resided increasingly in Italy; the Weld Foresters of Willey Park (14,500 acres), who had the largest interest in Wenlock and on whom the Forester barony was conferred at the coronation in 1821, and the Whitmores of Apley, who controlled at least one Bridgnorth seat. Cotes of Woodcote, Corbet of Moreton Corbet (Acton Reynald Hall), Sundorne and Adderley, Mytton of Halston, Lloyd of Aston Hall and Childe of Kinlet, near Bewdley, heirs to the Baldwyns of Aqualate, were among several well-connected lesser squires qualified by ancestry, residence and their estates to aspire to the county representation. The influence of the premier Lord Liverpool’s half-brother and heir Cecil Jenkinson* of Pitchford Hall was sought after, and the Darbys of Coalbrookdale were also influential newcomers.
Members were expected to represent agricultural and associated interests, to promote and monitor legislation affecting canals, enclosures, turnpikes, coal and iron fields, the poor and the houses of industry which the county’s incorporated parishes had spawned. Regular attendance at and patronage of the November and January hunts, the races on Bickton Heath, the assizes, Shrewsbury meetings and social functions was required, and sponsorship of agricultural societies and local associations ‘for protecting the civil rights of the proprietors and occupiers of land’. A challenge to the sitting Members at a general election had long been deemed futile because of the prohibitive cost, and potential candidates were expected to bide their time until a retirement or death produced a vacancy. The last, in 1806, had, with the acquiescence of the Tory Hills of Hawkstone, been filled by John Cotes, a moderate Whig, whose Tory colleague Sir John Kynaston Powell of Hardwick Hall, near Ellesmere, had represented the county since 1784. Both were elderly, in poor health and lax in their attendance, and county business devolved increasingly on Lord Clive and the Shrewsbury Members.4
George IV was proclaimed and the funeral of George III marked countywide in February 1820, and the ensuing general election took place amid meetings convened by the Shropshire General Agriculture Society to petition for government action to alleviate distress and a local campaign to restore poor law administration to individual parishes in the Oswestry district.5 The Members’ joint canvassing address made no reference to their politics. When the county met, 11 Mar., Kynaston Powell was nominated by Lord Clive and seconded by William Cludde of Orleton, a former mayor of Shrewsbury, whose son-in-law William Lacon Childe now came in for Wenlock on the Forester and Bridgeman interests; and Cotes by his fellow stalwarts of the Wolverhampton Pitt Club, Thomas Whitmore* and Thomas Leeke of Longford, both anti-Catholic Tories. An attack of gout prevented Cotes from attending the election at Shrewsbury Castle on the 14th, where he was proposed as previously and Leeke deputized for him. Cludde and John Arthur Lloyd of Leaton Knolls sponsored Kynaston Powell.6 Cotes, an ardent improver, had founded the Shifnal Farmers Club in 1800, and their distress petitions were among many received by the Commons, 9, 11, 30 May 1820.7 The abandonment in November 1820 of Queen Caroline’s prosecution, which Lords Berwick, Bradford, Denbigh and Kenyon had voted against, was celebrated at Ellesmere, Market Drayton, Newport, Oswestry, Wellington and Wem, and addresses of support for her were presented from Madeley, where Sir Robert Lawley† encouraged opposition to the Foresters.8 Darlington espoused the queen’s cause, and two radical Whigs, the 4th earl of Tankerville’s son Henry Grey Bennet, Member for Shrewsbury, and Edmund Lechmere Charlton† of Ludford, the self-proclaimed champion of the anti-Clive interest in Ludlow, promoted her cause at the county meeting convened to address the king, 10 Jan. 1821. They maintained that the true purpose of the address, proposed by Sir Andrew Corbet of Moreton Corbet and John Arthur Lloyd, was to demonstrate support for ministers and proposed an amendment blaming them for inciting unrest through their ‘ill-advised proceedings’ against the queen. William Otter, rector of Chetwynd, Charles Peters, rector of Portesbury, and the Oswestry radical Richard Walford backed the amendment, but cross-party support for the original address was overwhelming and it was ably endorsed in speeches by the Whigs Ralph Benson* and Robert Aglionby Slaney*, and by Kenyon, and carried by a large majority. Lord Clive remarked that the intrusion of Bennet and his politics on a county occasion was resented. The Times erroneously claimed a three-to-one majority for Bennet.9 Ellesmere and the Coalport china manufactory petitioned the Commons for restoration of the queen’s name to the liturgy, 6 Feb. 1821.10 Wem, 20 June 1821, and Madeley, 8 May 1822, petitioned for amelioration of the criminal code.11
The coming of age on 10 May 1821 of the heir to Hawkstone, Rowland Hill, was a great occasion, marked by a dinner chaired by the county treasurer Joshua Peele at Shrewsbury’s Lion inn.12 Hill was then in London and about to leave for the continent, whence, following the death of Cotes, 24 Aug., he was ordered to return to stand for the county, where his grandfather Sir John Hill† and uncle, the war hero Lord Hill†, were canvassing on his behalf.13 Cotes’s namesake son and heir, the eccentric sportsman John Cressett Pelham of Cound Hall (a kinsman of the 2nd earl of Chichester), and Kenyon’s brother-in-law William Lloyd of Aston Hall started but desisted before the county meeting, 15 Oct., when Hill was proposed by Powis’s kinsman William Clive of Styche and seconded by Archdeacon Joseph Corbett of Longnor, father of the Shrewsbury Member Panton Corbett. No other candidate was forthcoming and Hill’s election on the 18th, proposed by Sir Andrew Corbet of Moreton Corbet and seconded by the archdeacon was interpreted as a Tory gain.14 With the next vacancy in prospect, Cotes, Lloyd, Cressett Pelham and his fellow eccentric sportsman, the former Shrewsbury Member, John Mytton of Halston, canvassed afterwards at the November hunt. Advising Lloyd, his father-in-law Sir Eliab Harvey*, who sensed that the ‘aristocracy have the chief influence’, offered to speak to Lords Craven and Bridgwater on his behalf, but warned that he could ‘do nothing with’ Stafford or Darlington. He stressed the need for promptness, ready money and party backing and considered an opposition unlikely, ‘for the expense of a contested county is beyond calculation and the bad consequences permanent’:
The state of representation in your county for some years has been almost negative. The Whig Member died and a friend of administration is chosen without the appearance of opposition. The other Member is likely soon to make a vacancy; as long as he lives they have both. No public address can appear from any candidate until a vacancy is declared and the sort of canvass which you are proposing, as it becomes known, must set all parties upon the lookout and give time for agitators and speculators to arrange their measures. You say you are most anxious for the good opinion of the high Tories. As a gentleman I suppose you have their good opinion, but, having secured one Member, the best you can expect unless you declare yourself of their party is forbearance; for if government was not the stronger party, Mr. Hill would not have walked over the course.15
As expected, Hill divided silently with administration against further retrenchment and reductions in taxation in February 1822. Richard Heber* of Hodnet, as sheriff, declined a requisition for a county distress meeting that month ‘for want of signatures’ and referred it to his successor Robert Bridgman Moore of Linley Hall, who, complaining that the signatories were predominantly from the industrial regions around Shifnal and Newport, turned down two further requisitions. Moore rejected a request from leading Whig moderates to reconsider, so prompting Kenyon and five other magistrates to call a meeting for 25 Mar., immediately after the assizes.16 Attending, Cressett Pelham, who leased his Shrewsbury residence, the castle keep, from Darlington, vainly objected to proceeding with the meeting in the absence of the aristocracy and to its transfer from the county hall to the Quarry, where William Lloyd proposed and William Owen of Woodhouse seconded a petition calling for immediate reductions in taxation and retrenchment. The currency question and sinking fund were hotly debated and Bennet, who called for abolition of the latter, wisely refrained from making his customary appeal for parliamentary reform and was loudly cheered, as were Lord Clive and Childe. They, backed by Hill, had dismissed Bennet’s ‘facile’ solution, praised resident landlords, called for lower rents and attempted to justify their support for ministers, which Sir John Wrottesley* had criticized. Lloyd afterwards informed his wife that his ‘petition was carried almost unanimously, most ably supported by Oliver, Mytton, Bennet, Slaney, Sir J. Wrottesley and Sir Robert Lawley’.17 Signatures were collected at the Shrewsbury Chronicle’s office and in the market towns and Hill presented it to the Commons, 25 Apr.18 The Shropshire ironmasters and the distressed leather traders of Ellesmere petitioned separately, and the Lords received a petition from Madeley against the government’s corn importation bill, 5 July 1822.19
Before the by-election occasioned by the long anticipated death of Kynaston Powell, 25 Oct. 1822, the aristocracy and gentry assembled at Willey Park to mark the coming of age on 9 Aug. of Lord Forester’s heir, and on 14 Oct. Childe, whose kinsman by marriage, the Rev. Thomas Pemberton of Millichope, near Craven Arms, chaired the assizes, presided at a dinner of the county’s ‘Oxford Coterie’ at the Talbot in Shrewsbury.20 By the 31st, William Lloyd, whose advertisement of 26 Oct. professed loyalty to the constitution in church and state and the agricultural interest, had been refused the Bridgeman, Forester and Bridgwater interests proffered to Childe, whose committee was chaired by Thomas Whitmore. Darlington and the impoverished Mytton, who estimated that a contest would cost upwards of £20,000, were prepared to back Lloyd, but Cotes and Cressett Pelham had applied to them first.21 The replies from Archdeacon Corbett, Charles Hanbury Tracy* and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn were noncommittal.22 Writing from Versailles, William Owen urged Cotes, Lloyd and Cressett Pelham to meet privately ‘immediately’ and
come to such an understanding that one only shall start and be honestly and heartily supported by the other two, for as you must all go nearly upon the same interest, if you persevere you will only ruin each other in every way and will inevitably let in Childe or some other ultra.23
Before the letter arrived, Lloyd had made way for Cressett Pelham, who had secured the Tankerville interest, and whose spartan domestic arrangements left him free to spend.24 Childe persisted with an active canvass, but warned Forester and Bradford:
I shall certainly go to the nomination and no further; the expense till then will be amply compensated by the almost universal support I have received. I cannot support the expense of agents and must leave the canvass to my friends, but in fact it is utterly impossible for Pelham to poll one vote for 50 of mine if it were to come to that. He will have Lord Darlington, Mytton, Mrs. Corbet and about half the Shrewsbury votes: I have everything else.25
Forester rightly cautioned Childe against such optimism and overreliance on the unpopular Whitmore. Cressett Pelham and his agents capitalized on Childe’s votes to retain the taxes on salt and malt, reprinted his ministerialist speech at the March county meeting and were preparing for a poll. Childe’s friends (he hired no agents) criticized Cressett Pelham’s adherents for bowing to ‘a madman’s purse’.26 The nomination coincided with hunt week and thousands assembled in chaos in the Quarry, 14 Nov., when Cressett Pelham, who questioned the legality of a fortnight’s delay between the nomination and the election, was proposed by Berwick’s brother, the Rev. Richard Noel Hill, and the absentee vicar of Madeley, Henry Burton. Thomas Whitmore and John Arthur Lloyd sponsored Childe. Cressett Pelham, who stressed his aristocratic connections and claimed to be supported by both agricultural and commercial interests, brandished the banners and arms of Darlington and Tankerville and the Union Jack and won the show of hands. Childe’s supporters wore laurel leaves in their hats (as suggested by Slaney), but were criticized by William Lloyd and the sheriff for arriving on horseback, and pelted with dirt and salt to demonstrate the agriculturists’ dissatisfaction with Childe’s votes against repealing taxes on malt and salt. Childe could barely make himself heard, but he did not stand down until the following day, when, meeting his supporters, he conceded that with only £13-15,000 pledged, success was unlikely.27 Slaney, despite his personal regard for Childe, was not sorry to see the plan of the Tory grandees fail, and interpreted Childe’s rebuff as ‘a useful lesson to teach county Members they ought not always to vote for ministers’.28 On 2 Dec. 1822 Cressett Pelham was proposed by William Lloyd, seconded by Mytton and returned unopposed. The banners of Darlington, Tankerville, Mytton and his committee chairman, Sir Andrew Corbet of Sundorne, were prominently displayed and a large procession accompanied his triumphal carriage through the streets of Shrewsbury. Dinners were held at the Raven, Crown, Britannia, and Unicorn inns, but the new Member pointedly declined to open any public houses or to distribute franks for private use.29 Criticizing Lloyd for making way for him, Lord Delemere observed:
You do not, you say, make long speeches in Shropshire. I am sorry for it. If you did, one might have a chance of understanding upon what principle you elect your Members, and one might for some guess what would be their line in Parliament. Your present Member, for I presume ... Pelham now fills that exalted position, as the circumstance of his having £20,000 to shake at them cannot fail of securing the independent votes of the Shropshire electors, made a speech upon the hustings so juristical, so ambiguous that the most ingenious cannot discover from anything contained in it what are his principles, or whether he has any principles at all ... You yourself, one of his warmest supporters, seem as little to know what stuff your champion is made of as the rest of the world. You act you say! Do you? Let us examine for one moment what is the upshot of Shropshire acting ... You have had within a twelvemonth two great opportunities presented of acting. In the first you elected a young man scarcely twenty-one years of age, of notorious incapacity and unfitness for business ... upon no other visible ground than because his uncle was a popular soldier and that the poor young man, in gratitude for all the favours received by his family, promised most earnestly never by any chance to oppose the great dispensers of favours, His Majesty’s ministers ... You now, not warned by your former error, elect a man of whose principles you confess yourself to be ignorant. I trust that he is not so totally unfit for his place as his colleague, but the electors have, as yet, little to boast of in the clear-sightedness of their patriotic efforts. It is generally estimated sufficient for a county Member, without exception even for Shropshire, to be able to pronounce intelligibly ‘aye’ or ‘nay’.30
The Times described Cressett Pelham in 1831 as ‘a gentleman of great eccentricity ... who is quite in earnest, but no one knows why he is so’, and the Clives soon rued their decision to ‘remain neuter’, rather than back Childe.31
Powis and the leading gentry discouraged petitioning against slavery, which was co-ordinated by Archdeacon Corbett, a personal friend of William Wilberforce* and of the secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, Thomas Clarkson. The ironmaster Barnard Dickinson, manager of the Coalbrookdale works, sent up petitions from the southern industrial towns in 1823, 1824 and 1826, when Ellesmere, Oswestry and Wem also petitioned.32 Most were presented to the Commons by Panton Corbett and Cressett Pelham, who proved to be a staunch abolitionist and opposed Catholic relief. Initially at least he supported parliamentary reform, and proposed ‘that parliaments should be held in rotation at the chief capitals of the kingdom and not in London exclusively’.33 The Nonconformists of Oswestry petitioned the Commons in 1824 in condemnation of the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith.34 Petitioning against Catholic relief in 1825 was widespread.35 The county’s maltsters petitioned for lower tariffs on malt, and the government’s corn bill, which Hill voted against, 8 May 1826, was also disliked.36 Cotes presided as sheriff at the general election in June, when Cressett Pelham and Hill, whose notices said little of politics, were jointly proposed by William Owen and Francis Blithe Harris of Benthall and returned unopposed.37
In 1827 the agriculturists, operating through local associations in Bridgnorth, Ellesmere, Newport, Oswestry, Shrewsbury, Shifnal, Wellington and Wem, petitioned against interference with the corn laws and for protection; and, backed by Slaney, who promoted his own abortive bill, the maltsters formed a county association, lobbied and organized petitions against the malt bill in 1827, and afterwards urged its repeal.38 The Protestant Dissenters of Dorrington, Madeley, Minsterley, Newport, Oswestry, Shifnal and Wellington led the petitioning for repeal of the Test Acts in 1827 and 1828, and Corbett and Slaney, who tacitly supported Catholic emancipation, presented their petitions to the Commons.39 A Brunswick Club presided over by Thomas Whitmore and Kenyon was established for the town and county at a private meeting in Shrewsbury, 10 Nov. 1828. The 2nd earl of Bradford, William Charlton of Apley Castle, the former Bridgnorth Member Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt Jones of Stanley Hall and William Ormsby Gore* of Porkington were among its staunchest supporters, and the clergy were well represented among the 450 members registered before the inaugural dinner, 29 Jan. 1829. Proceedings were reported in the partisan Salopian Journal, but virtually ignored by the Shrewsbury Chronicle.40 Lord Clive, a recent convert to emancipation, moved the address by which its concession was announced, 5 Feb. 1829, and despite protest notices and letters to the press, Childe, as sheriff, left the county unconvened. ‘About 500 other names were added ... from various parts of the county’ to the 2,000-signature Shrewsbury anti-Catholic petition to give it the authority of a county one. Others were sent to both Houses from Broseley, Cleobury Mortimer, Ellesmere, Halesowen, Oswestry, St Martin’s and Whitchurch. Both Members remained ‘firm as a rock’ against emancipation, and on 29 Apr. the Brunswickers, whose secretary Compson, vicar of St. Chad’s, had caused a furore by voting for Peel in the Oxford University by-election, resolved to hold a dinner in their honour.41 William Lloyd and Mytton failed to obtain a pro-emancipation petition from Oswestry, but circulated a loyal address, which Peel presented to the king. Lloyd’s name headed another from Shrewsbury and its hinterland, whose 108 signatories were dismissed by the Salopian Journal as ‘the remains of the loyal Hampden Club’.42 Oswestry petitioned the Commons for measures to aid the recovery of small debts, 22 May 1829.43 Both Houses received petitions against renewal of the East India Company’s charter from the county’s ironmasters in 1829 and 1830, when, as again in 1831, Halesowen and settlements throughout the mining districts joined them in petitioning for the labourers’ wages bill and against truck payments.44
At a county meeting chaired by Charles Kynaston Mainwaring as sheriff, 8 Jan. 1830, Cressett Pelham and Lord Clive launched a successful campaign against routing the Holyhead road from Wellington to Brynkinalt [Chirk], bypassing Shrewsbury, and local committees were formed to assist the progress of the contentious Ellesmere and Birmingham and London Junction canal bills. Overseeing them, Lord Clive was careful to promote the interests of Lord Stafford and the dowager countess of Bridgwater.45 There was ‘general concurrence’ that ministers had underestimated the depression in agriculture and manufacturing and, encouraged by Slaney and the Shropshire maltsters’ association, the freeholders of the Shrewsbury district and the hundreds of Wenlock, Condover and South Bradford petitioned the Commons for repeal of ‘all taxes upon malt and beer and a great part of the assessed taxes’, 26 Feb., 3, 5 Mar. 1830.46 The Nonconformists of the industrial districts joined in the petitioning for abolition of the death penalty for forgery offences, 29 Mar., 24 May, 4 June.47 No change in the county representation was proposed at the 1830 general election, when contests were anticipated at Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Shrewsbury and Wenlock. Cressett Pelham’s addresses made light of the illness which had prevented his attendance that session and affirmed his commitment to retrenchment. Hill, now a steady supporter of the Wellington administration, appealed primarily to his lineage. Both were nominated as previously, 3 Aug. 1830, and on the 6th Hill was sponsored by Sir Andrew Corbet and the Catholic Sir Edward Smythe Owen of Condover, and Cressett Pelham by Noel Hill and Burton, who denied that his candidate would have to join Cleveland in supporting the ministry.48
Cressett Pelham abstained when Hill voted in the government minority on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, and, indicating a shift in attitude, he repeatedly stipulated that slavery and reform were matters for government alone to promote and that he would judge Lord Grey’s administration accordingly.49 Encouraged by the Wesleyans, the county petitioned strongly against colonial slavery in 1830-1.50 John Whatton, the mayor of Shrewsbury, suggested in December 1830 that William Lloyd should press for a county reform meeting, as Powis, being ‘so well known’ as a borough proprietor, could hardly prevent it, and assured him that Cressett Pelham, Lechmere Charlton, Knight and the Brunswickers, ‘if consistent’, would support them.51 However, incendiarism in the Whitchurch area, disturbances in the coal and iron fields and influxes of marching strikers from Denbighshire and Montgomeryshire, which the yeomanry cavalry, led by Hill, Kenyon and Powis and his sons, were called out to suppress, rendered the plan impracticable.52 Rewards were offered for the detention and conviction of criminals, and Lloyd, having marked his heir Edward Harvey Lloyd’s coming of age, helped to set up a subscription fund and organize a work scheme in Oswestry, which, with Ellesmere, petitioned in favour of the government’s reform bill.53 The Shrewsbury reform meeting on 17 Mar., which Cressett Pelham pointedly declined to attend, was regarded by default as a county one.54 The reform bill proposed the disfranchisement of Bishop’s Castle and increasing the county representation by dividing it in two, north-south. Hill opposed it outright and Cressett Pelham divided with him against its second reading, 22 Mar., but with government against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment by which it was lost, 19 Apr.55 Ellesmere, like Whitchurch, had petitioned against altering the corn laws in February 1831, but a lighting bill planned for the town was abandoned and the Ellesmere and Chester canal bill was withdrawn, 21 Mar. 1831.56 Before the dissolution in April the magistrates, led by Kenyon, Pemberton’s successor as chairman of the assizes, resolved to petition for repeal or amendment of the 1830 Beer Act, blaming its provisions for on-consumption for the increase in the drunkenness and demoralization of the poor; but Parliament was dissolved before it could be presented.57
Hill and Cressett Pelham sought re-election and their addresses professed the need for reform but condemned the current bill. An advertisement cautioned against promising votes and interests before the nomination, when a candidate would offer ‘who will pledge his honour to support the king, his present ministers, reform in Parliament, and economy in the expenditure of public money’. Handbills criticized the conduct of the sitting Members, particularly the idiosyncratic Cressett Pelham.58 The excitement generated by the candidature of William Lloyd, who declared on 1 May and was nominated in absentia on the 3rd by William Owen and the Oswestry attorney Thomas Longueville, turned to astonishment when, to popular acclaim, the disgraced bankrupt Mytton, with whom Lloyd’s committee denied all connection, was nominated in absentia by Charles Hughes of Ellesmere and seconded by Samuel Bickerton of Sandford. Hughes urged the freeholders to poll for Mytton and Lloyd as reformers. Noel Hill and Burton’s son nominated Cressett Pelham, who, having been denied Darlington’s interest, had applied to the Tory peers. Hill canvassed assiduously, assisted by his agents, younger brothers and Cecil Weld Forester* and was nominated by Sir Andrew Corbet and by Cotes, who had been named as a putative candidate.59 The reformer William Wolryche Whitmore* had applied for government funding for Lloyd, whose late start angered some of his former supporters, and squibs and notices printed in London soon circulated alongside the handbills of local printers. Mytton, who had found backers in Birmingham, hinted that he was supported by the East India Association and could draw on the Loyal and Patriotic Fund, and announced:
I have now no wife, no family, no hounds, no horses (some will say no steadiness of purpose), but feeling that I can devote myself to your service, should you honour me with your support and confidence, I venture to offer myself to your notice as a candidate for the county, totally unshackled by prejudice or otherwise, and a strenuous advocate for reform ... Peculiar private business may prevent my personal attendance.60
By 8 May Hill was considered ‘safe’, and although Lloyd, who was ably supported by Wrottesley, Wolryche Whitmore and William Tayleur of Buttingdale, could quip at how ‘Pelham rides about fancying he is canvassing’, he was disturbed to find him assisted by Hill’s agents, while Mytton remained ‘a great thorn in my side’.61 Writing to Lloyd’s sister Mrs. Kenyon, Elizabeth Hill praised her son’s supporters for facilitating a swift and thorough canvass and added:
There is no doubt but a strong undercurrent is opposed to the aristocracy. In this county, as well as others the struggle has commenced, but who can calculate upon the result. I am told Rowland is safe, and the contest will be between your brother and Pelham, but they believe that they also are safe, or they would not persevere.62
The election commenced on the 9th, when the candidates were proposed as previously in Shrewsbury’s castle yard. On the hustings Hill criticized the reform bill as ‘revolutionary in tendency and unjust and dangerous in its principle’ and cautioned against being ‘driven into any measure of reform or ought else by a reference to rabble opinions or popular force’. Cressett Pelham claimed that he had opposed the bill because he considered it ‘ruinous to the county’, whose proposed division he refused to sanction, and to the borough of Shrewsbury, where many would lose their votes. He joined his proposers in proclaiming his independence and denied collusion with Hill or disloyalty to Lloyd. Lloyd stressed his personal connections with government and his support for the agricultural interest and the reform bill. Mytton dwelt on his local connections and support for reform and retrenchment. Wolryche Whitmore declared that he would plump for Lloyd, and Lloyd maintained that he was prepared to spend the necessary £20,000 to £30,000 on a contest, in the ‘best interests of the freeholders’. However, the agriculturists resented his advocacy of free trade and he was not well received. Supporting him, Wrottesley criticized Cressett Pelham’s votes, absences from the House and shortcomings as a speaker, which the Member and his friends naturally denied. Hill and Lloyd won the show of hands, and polling commenced in the Quarry, where Hill’s agents, being better prepared, filled all the booths with their supporters, so denying the reformers, who came ‘free of charge’, an opportunity to vote early without incurring accommodation costs. The poll stood on the first day at Hill 499, Cressett Pelham 387, Lloyd 151, Mytton 36, and the same tactics were used to keep out the reformers until late on the second, when, with the poll at Hill 1,141, Cressett Pelham 849, Lloyd 535, Mytton 237, the sheriff Smythe Owen intervened at Lloyd’s request. Lloyd now pledged to poll to the last, but when the poll closed on the third day at Hill 1,617, Cressett Pelham 1,185, Lloyd 806, Mytton 311, he predicted that he could no longer overtake Cressett Pelham and informed his committee and fellow candidates that he was standing down, thus infuriating the reformers of Clun, Ludlow, Newport and Wellington who had come to vote for him but had yet to poll. He had spent almost £1,360 on hospitality. Hill praised his pragmatism, but certain reformers on his committee, led by the attorney Charles Nicholls, carried resolutions condemning his conduct. They also encouraged reports of collusion between Hill and Lloyd and claimed that Lord Clive, using Kenyon as his go-between, had ‘bought off’ Lloyd with a promise of support at the next election. This was repeatedly denied on both sides, and Lloyd also rejected suggestions made by their relations that had he notified Hill sooner of his intentions they could have come in jointly. Meanwhile, with Mytton still in the field, the contest continued. Votes accepted on the fourth day, Hill 170, Cressett Pelham 134, Lloyd 21, Mytton 66, indicated that Mytton had little to gain by Lloyd’s retirement and he conceded defeat the following day, after 2,850 had tendered their votes (316 were rejected). Shropshire became the only English county to return two anti-reformers. Between them, the rejected voters cast 193 votes, including 82 plumpers for Lloyd.63
Lloyd pushed Cressett Pelham into third place in the hundreds of Oswestry and Bradford South, but elsewhere Cressett Pelham shared sufficient split votes with the unassailable Hill to make his election secure. Six-hundred-and-fifty-nine (26 per cent) of the 2,534 polled plumped, 275 for Hill, 267 for Lloyd, 71 for Mytton, 46 for Cressett Pelham; 1,268 (50 per cent) split for Hill and Cressett Pelham, 285 for Lloyd and Mytton, 251 for Hill and Lloyd, 32 for Cressett Pelham and Lloyd, 30 for Hill and Mytton, and nine for Cressett Pelham and Mytton. Seventy-five per cent (1,911) of those who polled cast a vote for an anti-reformer, more than twice as many as the 37 per cent (945) who did so for a reformer. According to the Salopian Journal, which published the votes of 208 ‘principal landowners, professional men, heads or representatives of families, bankers, merchants, ironmasters, etc.’, 151 (73 per cent) split for Hill and Cressett Pelham; 20 plumped for Lloyd and 16 for Hill, with ten splitting for them (22 per cent in all); five split for Lloyd and Mytton and one, the Shrewsbury merchant Samuel Cooke, for Cressett Pelham and Lloyd. Prominent among the plumpers for Lloyd were Wolryche Whitmore, the bankers John Henry Cooper of Bridgnorth and Thomas Parsons of Newport, and the ironmasters Abraham and Richard Darby, Barnard Dickinson, William Hombersley and Thomas Hunt.64 Wolryche Whitmore was widely reported to be Lloyd’s only supporter among the gentry.65 Actions were brought at the sessions in June 1831 alleging violence and intimidation against the Pelham-Hill voters from Whitchurch.66
Attendance at highly publicized reform dinners presided over by Lechmere Charlton in Shrewsbury, 1 June, and Ludlow, 3 June 1831, was disappointing.67 The Tories rallied at the White Horse in Wem, 9 June, and further anti-reform dinners followed.68 Oswestry, whose population warranted it, was disappointed not to become an enfranchised town under the reform bill, and the county division and anomalies that left the freeholders of the extensive Wenlock liberty without county votes unfranchised remained unpopular.69 Both Members voted against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., which was celebrated in Broseley, Ellesmere, Madeley and Wellington. They, like Oswestry, met to urge the Lords to support it and in protest at its rejection by a majority which included Bradford, Forester and Powis.70 On 15 Oct., with the Clives known to be negotiating a compromise and unrest in the county’s iron and coalfields rife, the reformer Slaney wrote to the postmaster-general the duke of Richmond, recommending modifications, and maintained that in Shropshire ‘the opinion of most persons ... is that the measure would be safe, if less extensive, and they are anxious for a quiet settlement.71 Hill and the Clives refrained from voting on the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, but, like Cressett Pelham, who quibbled in the House almost daily over its details, they divided against the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832.72 Under the Boundary Act the new Shropshire North constituency (population 119,681) polled in Oswestry, Wellington, Whitchurch and the election town of Shrewsbury. Shropshire South (population 93,057), which gained Farlow chapelry from Herefordshire and lost Halesowen to Worcestershire, polled in Bishop’s Castle, Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Wenlock and Church Stretton, which, to Wenlock’s annoyance, was made the election town. Shifnal petitioned the Lords in vain to become a polling place for the division, 29 June 1832, stressing its central position, good inns and location on the Holyhead road.73 The bill’s passage in June 1832 was widely celebrated.74
At the general election of 1832, 2,791 electors were registered in the Conservative stronghold of Shropshire South, which was expected to return Cressett Pelham and Thomas Whitmore. Cressett Pelham, however, contested Shrewsbury, so facilitating the return of Cleveland’s heir Lord Darlington*, and Whitmore’s hopes were dashed and the representation settled for the next decade by the unexpected candidature of Robert Clive, who was nominated following his defeat at Ludlow.75 There were 4,682 registered electors in Shropshire North, where the Conservative Hill was secure. Tayleur offered, but soon desisted, and the second seat was hotly contested between the Liberal Cotes, who had Lloyd as his committee chairman and Cleveland’s backing, and the Conservative Ormsby Gore, whom he defeated.76 Ormsby Gore secured the seat in 1835 and the Hills and Ormsby Gores monopolized the representation of the division for the next 50 years.
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. 3,949 according to Salop Archives 1649, Alderman Jones’s diary, 12 May 1831; 3,613 in the country and 3,019 in the towns according to NLW ms 3600 (Salop land tax assessment for 1831).
- 2. B. Trinder, Industrial Revolution in Salop (1981), chs. 1-11, esp. pp. 231, 232; VCH Salop, x, passim.
- 3. Parl. Gazetteer of England and Wales (1844), iv. 120-2.
- 4. VCH Salop, iii. 254-323; iv. 168-220; J.D. Nichol, ‘Wynnstay, Willey and Wenlock’, Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. lviii (1965-8), 220-34; HP Commons, 1715-54, i. 308, 309; HP Commons, 1754-90, i. 360-361; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 332.
- 5. Shrewsbury Chron. 28 Jan., 4, 11, 18 Feb.; Salopian Jnl. 16 Feb. 1820.
- 6. Shrewsbury Chron. 25 Feb., 3, 10, 17 Mar.; Salopian Jnl. 15 Mar. 1820.
- 7. VCH Salop iv. 178, 188, 218; CJ, lxxv. 166, 177, 251.
- 8. The Times, 20 Nov.; Salopian Jnl. 22, 29 Nov. 1820.
- 9. Salop Archives, Weld-Forester mss 1224/332/147, 156; Shrewsbury Chron. 5, 12, 19 Jan.; Salopian Jnl. 10, 17, 24 Jan.; The Times, 13, 16 Jan. 1821; Trinder, 232.
- 10. CJ, lxxvi. 13, 39; The Times, 27 Jan., 7 Feb. 1821.
- 11. CJ, lxxvi. 452; lxxvii. 244.
- 12. Shrewsbury Chron. 11 May 1821.
- 13. Salop Archives, Rev. J.C. Hill mss 549/123; 811/2-27; Salopian Jnl. 29 Aug., 10 Oct.; Shrewsbury Chron. 7, 14, 21, 28 Sept. 1821.
- 14. Salop Archives, Corbett of Longnor mss 1066/125, diary of Katherine Plymley, 15, 18 Oct.; Salopian Jnl. 17, 24 Oct.; Shrewsbury Chron. 19 Oct. 1821; Rev. J.C. Hill mss 549/125; E. Sidney, Life of Lord Hill (1845), 326.
- 15. NLW, Aston Hall mss C.460, 461.
- 16. Shrewsbury Chron. 1, 8, 15, 22 Mar.; Salopian Jnl. 6, 13, 20 Mar.; CJ, lxxvii. 103; Salop Archives, Morris-Eyton mss 6003/3, Slaney jnl. Feb-Mar. 1822.
- 17. Salopian Jnl. 27 Mar.; Shrewsbury Chron. 29 Mar. 1822; Aston Hall mss C.5330.
- 18. Shrewsbury Chron. 29 Mar; Morris-Eyton mss 3, Slaney jnl. 14 Apr.; The Times, 26 Apr. 1822; CJ, lxxvii. 204.
- 19. CJ, lxxvii. 204, 208, 222; The Times, 25-27 Apr., 2 May 1822; LJ, lv. 293.
- 20. Gent. Mag. (1822), ii. 306; Aston Hall mss C.5717, 5718; Shrewsbury Chron. 11, 18 Oct. 1822.
- 21. Aston Hall mss C.204, 265, 991, 1087; Shrewsbury Chron. 31 Oct. 1822.
- 22. Aston Hall mss C.252, 1080, 1167.
- 23. Ibid. C.1015.
- 24. Shrewsbury Chron. 7 Nov. 1822; Spectator, 20 Oct. 1832.
- 25. Staffs. RO, Weston Park mss D.1287/10/4a, Childe to Bradford [Nov. 1822].
- 26. Ibid. Forester to Childe [Nov. 1822]; Salop Archives 81/3, 5; Salop Archives 6001/6858, ‘Salop Election, 1822’.
- 27. Salop Archives 81/4, 6, 7; 2534/3, 4; Shrewsbury Chron. 15 Nov.; The Times, 18, 19 Nov., 2 Dec.; Salopian Jnl. 20 Nov.; Chatsworth mss, Abercromby to Devonshire, 22 Nov. 1822. The Times report of a £19,000 subscription for Childe has not been confirmed.
- 28. Morris-Eyton mss 4, Slaney jnl. 14, 15 Nov. 1822.
- 29. Salopian Jnl. 4 Dec.; Shrewsbury Chron. 6 Dec. 1822.
- 30. Aston Hall mss C.1111.
- 31. The Times, 11 Aug. 1831; Salop Archives, 6001/6858, C.A. Hulbert memo.; NLW ms 2794 D, Sir W. to H. Williams Wynn, 4 June 1823.
- 32. Plymley diary 131, June-July; 132, Oct.-Nov. 1823; 133, 8 Mar. 1824; 136, 17-31 Jan. 1826; NLW mss 14984 A, diary of Thomas Clarkson, 47, 48; Corresp. of Charles Darwin ed. F. Burkhardt and S. Smith, i. 31; CJ, lxxviii. 285, 292, 298, 312, 412; lxxix. 110, 120, 148, 161, 168, 253; lxxxi. 111, 114, 152, 165, 263; LJ, lvi. 84; lviii. 123.
- 33. Salop Archives 6001/6858, C.A. Hulbert’s memo.
- 34. CJ, lxxix. 422, 446; Plymley diary 133, June 1824.
- 35. CJ, lxxx. 315, 344, 384; LJ, lvii. 123, 540-541, 576, 590; The Times, 19 Apr. 1825.
- 36. CJ, lxxxi. 201, 212, 224, 242, 345.
- 37. Shrewsbury Chron. 21 Apr., 9, 16, 23 June; Plymley diary 137, 12-19 June; Salopian Jnl. 21 June 1826.
- 38. CJ, lxxxii. 174, 230, 239, 601; lxxxiii. 109, 117, 412; LJ, lix. 98, 122, 236, 375; Morris-Eyton mss 3, Slaney jnl. Jan.-Dec. 1828; Salopian Jnl. 4 Feb. 1829.
- 39. CJ, lxxxii. 521, 527, 574; lxxxiii. 54, 74, 96, 100, 112; LJ, lx. 71-73, 80; The Times, 7 June 1827.
- 40. Salop Archives 6001/3058, pp. 18, 24; Salopian Jnl. 26 Nov. 1828, 14 Jan., 4 Feb. 1829; Morris-Eyton mss 5, Slaney jnl. Nov.-Dec. 1828.
- 41. Salopian Jnl. 11, 18, 25 Feb., 4, 11, 18, 25 Mar., 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 Apr., 6 May; CJ, lxxxiv. 14, 28, 84, 103, 105, 109, 140, 182; LJ, lxi. 22, 116, 184, 340, 341, 343 365, 367; Rev. J.C. Hill mss 811/49; Morris-Eyton mss 6, Slaney jnl. Jan.-Apr. 1829; Salop Archives 6001/3058, pp. 24, 28, 34.
- 42. Aston Hall mss C.930, 989, 1028, 1104, 5723, 5724; Salopian Jnl. 18 Feb. 1829.
- 43. CJ, lxxxiv. 330.
- 44. Ibid. 122; lxxxv. 122, 140, 359; LJ, lxi. 499; lxii. 47, 172; lxiii. 796.
- 45. Salopian Jnl. 13, 20, 27 Jan., 3 Feb.; The Times, 20 May 1830.
- 46. CJ, lxxxv. 103, 110, 127.
- 47. Ibid. 236, 463, 638; LJ, lxii. 598.
- 48. Salopian Jnl. 28 July, 4, 11 Aug.; Shrewsbury Chron. 6, 13 Aug.; The Times, 7 Aug. 1830; Salop Archives 6001/3059, pp. 23, 24.
- 49. See CRESSETT PELHAM.
- 50. CJ, lxxxvi. 48, 52, 61, 86, 175, 183, 423, 487; LJ, lxiii. 55, 65, 67, 72, 78, 89, 110, 110, 151, 411, 415, 434, 483.
- 51. Aston Hall mss C.1097; NLW, Glansevern mss 8779.
- 52. Salopian Jnl. 5 Jan.-6 Apr.; Shrewsbury Chron. 7 Jan.-1 Apr.; Glansevern mss 14045-7; Rev. J.C. Hill mss 549/354, diary of Catherine Kenyon, 3-11 Jan. 1831.
- 53. Shrewsbury Chron. 4 Feb.; Salopian Jnl. 2 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 309, 402, 407, 456.
- 54. Shrewsbury Chron. 18 Mar.; The Times, 23 Mar. 1831.
- 55. Shrewsbury Chron. 4, 25 Mar., 29 Apr. 1831.
- 56. Salopian Jnl. 5 Jan. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 174, 191, 339.
- 57. CJ, lxxxvi. 172, 212, 378; Salopian Jnl. 13, 27 Apr. 1831.
- 58. Salopian Jnl. 27 Apr.; Shrewsbury Chron. 29 Apr. 1831.
- 59. Salopian Jnl. 4 May; Wolverhampton Chron. 4 May; Shrewsbury Chron. 6 May 1831.
- 60. Aston Hall mss C.186, 1248; CUL, Acton mss Add. 8121(4), f. 346; Nimrod, Mems. John Mytton (1915), 71-72; Salop Archives D45/1170/2-6, 24b; Wolverhampton Chron. 4 May 1831.
- 61. Aston Hall mss C.5326-9.
- 62. Rev. J.C. Hill mss 811/51.
- 63. Salopian Jnl. 11, 18 May; Shrewsbury Chron. 13, 20, 27 May; Wolverhampton Chron. 18 May 1831; Aston Hall mss C.527, 8102-15; Salop Archives D45/1170/8-29; qD45/9, 11-16; Rev. J.C. Hill mss 811/52; J.A. Phillips, Great Reform Bill in the Boroughs, 149, 297.
- 64. Salop Archives 1060/451, Salop Pollbook (1831); Salopian Jnl. 15, 22 June 1831.
- 65. Liverpool RO, Parliament Office mss 328/PAR5/1.
- 66. Shrewsbury Chron. 1 July 1831.
- 67. Aston Hall mss C.235; Shrewsbury Chron. 27 May, 3, 10 June; Salopian Jnl. 1, 8 June 1831.
- 68. Salopian Jnl. 15 June-31 Aug.; Shrewsbury Chron. 22 July; Alderman Jones’s diary, 10 July-16 Sept. 1831.
- 69. The Times, 22 Aug. 1831; UCNW, Plas Newydd mss i. 76.
- 70. Shrewsbury Chron. 7, 14, 21, 28 Oct., 3 Nov. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 654, 656; LJ, lxiii. 1021, 1022, 1033, 1038, 1047.
- 71. W. Suss. RO, Goodwood mss 636, f. 84.
- 72. Shrewsbury Chron. 5 Jan.-13 Apr. 1832; Trinder, 233, 234.
- 73. PP (1831-2), xxxix. 325; VCH Salop, iii. 308-10; Salop Archives qD45/10; LJ, lxiv. 336.
- 74. Shrewsbury Chron. 15, 22 June 1832.
- 75. Salopian Jnl. 28 Nov. 12, 19 Dec. 1832; PP (1833), xxvii. 86-9; VCH Salop, iii. 325-36.
- 76. Plas Newydd mss i. 76; iii. 3564, 3734; Salop Archives 549/47/1-7; 2534/6; qD45/17-23; Salopian Jnl. 19, 26 Dec. 1832; PP (1833), xxvii. 86-89.