BURRELL, Sir Charles Merrik, 3rd bt. (1774-1862), of Knepp Castle, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1806 - 4 Jan. 1862

Family and Education

b. 24 May 1774, 1st s. of Sir William Burrell†, 2nd bt., of Deepdene, nr. Dorking, Surr. and Sophia, da. and coh. of Sir Charles Raymond, 1st bt., of Valentine House, Ilford, Essex; bro. of Walter Burrell*. educ. Chigwell sch.; Westminster 1785; St. John’s, Camb. 1791-5. m. 8 Aug. 1808, Frances Iliffe, illegit. da. of George Wyndham, 3rd earl of Egremont, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. as 3rd bt. 20 Jan. 1796. d. 4 Jan. 1862.

Offices Held

Lt. Suss. militia 1795, capt. 1796, maj. 1802, lt.-col. commdt. (Bramber and Lewes battalion) 1809.


Burrell survived a challenge to be returned for New Shoreham for the fifth time in 1820, on the interest of his father-in-law Lord Egremont.1 He was a regular attender who continued to act independently as a tireless spokesman for the agricultural interest. He divided with the Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry against the appointment of an additional baron of exchequer in Scotland, 15 May 1820. He announced his intention of introducing a bill in the next session to deal with corrupt practices at Penryn, 14 July 1820, but nothing came of this.2 He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He denied that political partiality determined the appointment of lord lieutenants, 8 Feb.3 He was granted two weeks’ leave for urgent private business, 14 Feb. He returned to divide against Catholic relief, 28 Feb., and warned of the Catholics’ ‘notorious’ intolerance, 26 Mar.4 He voted against Maberly’s motion on the state of the revenue, 6 Mar., and supported the grant to the duke of Clarence, 18 June, but he was for Hume’s economy and retrenchment motion, 27 June. He advocated repeal of the husbandry horses tax, recommending that a duty on the transfer of stock be imposed in its place, 5 Mar., 5 Apr., 15, 18 June, and acted as a majority teller for the measure, 14 June.5 He presented a petition from Steyning complaining of agricultural distress, 6 Mar.6 He deplored reform of the game laws ‘at a time when country gentlemen were labouring under so many privations’, 5 Apr, adding that ‘it was too much to propose to take from them the only solace they had’. He feared that the poor laws allowed ‘great fraud on the part of the idle’ and supported Scarlett’s bill to reform them, 6 June.7 He divided for parliamentary reform, 9 May. Two days later he voted against committing the editor of John Bull to Newgate. He divided for the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 4 June 1821. According to John Cam Hobhouse*, Burrell was one of the few country gentlemen who opposed Hume’s amendment to the address on distress, 5 Feb. 1822.8 He presented a petition on this subject from the Rape of Bramber, 11 Feb.,9 when he voted for more extensive tax reductions. He divided for reduction of the salt duties, 28 Feb., abolition of one of the junior lords of the admiralty, 1 Mar., and economies in diplomatic expenditure, 16 May. However, he did not consider the cost of the Life Guards at St. James’s Palace to be extravagant, 15 Mar. Declaring that ‘to support agriculture would be to support the country’, he voted for an 18s. bounty on wheat exports, 9 May, spoke against repealing the tax on imported wool, 30 May,10 supported reform of the poor laws the next day and voted for inquiry into the currency, 12 June. He paired against relieving Catholic peers of their disabilities, 30 Apr. 1822. Later that year his own experience of agricultural distress was recorded by William Cobbett†, who noted that having taken a number of farms ‘in hand’ the previous year, he was now obliged to let them at lower rents. Burrell ‘could not believe it possible that his farms were so much fallen in value’, or that ‘his estate had been taken away from him by the legerdemain of the Pitt system, which he had been supporting all his life’.11 He divided for inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823. He again opposed repeal of the duty on imported wool, 4 June, and approved of the poor law amendment bill, acting as a majority teller for going into committee, 27 June 1823.12 He gave no recorded votes in the 1824 session. He divided against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and for the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 10 June 1825. It was said of him at this time that he ‘attended seldom and voted in opposition’.13 He presented an anti-slavery petition from New Shoreham, 28 Feb.,14 and voted against the corn importation bill, 11 May 1826. At the general election that summer he comfortably headed the poll at New Shoreham.15

He divided against Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and called for securities in the event of any concession being made, 2 May 1827. He presented several petitions that session for protection of the agricultural interest and a duty on foreign wool.16 He spoke in favour of a grant to the national vaccine establishment, 14 May. His call for action to be taken against corrupt practices at Penryn met with general approval, 9 Mar.17 On the introduction of the subsequent bribery bill, 8 May, he explained that he would prefer to transfer the seats to a large town rather than to a large county such as Yorkshire, which he believed would result in the return of ‘men of large capital without any reference whatever to their talent and fitness for the situation’. However, while he hinted at the possibility of Penryn’s disfranchisement, 18 May, he voted against this, 28 May 1827. He argued that the extent of corruption did not warrant taking the seats away from the county, 24 Mar. 1828, when he seconded an unsuccessful amendment to the disfranchisement bill to extend the franchise to the neighbouring hundreds. He called for protectionist measures to help the Australian Company sell its wool, 27 Mar. He complained that repeal of the duty on imported wool had created an imbalance in Britain’s trade, 17 Apr., and demanded an inquiry, 28 Apr., when he expressed the hope that free trade principles, ‘which I cannot but think are in some respects a curse to this country’, would not be ‘pushed too far’. He denied that he was hostile to the interests of manufacturers, maintaining that he sought only ‘fair protection’ for agriculturists. He raised the spectre of foreign ships leaving British ports loaded only with ballast and hard cash, 3 June. He opposed petitions for repeal of the corn laws, 9 May. He maintained that the system of reciprocity was not working and pointed to the damaging effects on the timber trade, 24 June. He voted for Fyler’s protectionist amendment regarding the silk duties, 14 July. He defended the game laws, 28 Mar., and supported an amendment to the sale of game bill to permit a landowner’s appointee to shoot game on areas of over 100 acres, 26 June. He thought playing cards and dice were ‘very proper objects for taxation’, 2 Apr., but disapproved of the high tax on insurance policies. He seconded Waldo Sibthorp’s unsuccessful amendment to the savings bank bill for relief of legacy duty on sums below £80, 14 July. He opposed the duke of Wellington’s ministry by voting against the proposed financial provision for Canning’s family, 13 May, and for economies in military expenditure, 20 June, 4 July. He defended the Marylebone select vestry from radical censure, 31 Mar. He pressed for reduction in costs and liabilities for those promoting turnpike roads (he had been active in his locality), 15 Apr., 3 June. He was unenthusiastic about subsidizing emigration, 6 May. He divided against Catholic relief, 12 May. He spoke in favour of moving Smithfield market, 13 June 1828.

In February 1829 Planta, the patronage secretary, predicted that Burrell would side ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, but in fact he continued to vote against it, 6, 18, 27, 30 Mar. In presenting an anti-Catholic petition from Steyning, 3 Mar., he disputed the claim made by his colleague Henry Howard that opinion on the subject in Sussex had changed, and three days later he accused Catholic clergy of undermining attempts to promote education in Ireland. He defended the right of women to sign hostile petitions, 10 Mar., observing that ‘women have been burned by Catholics’. He gave historical examples of the Catholic church’s interference in temporal affairs to substantiate his argument that the issue was not simply one of civil rights, 30 Mar., but added that he was prepared to be proved wrong about emancipation. Next day he expressed outrage at the wave of body snatching in Edinburgh and suggested that only licensed dissection be permitted. In supporting the extension of East Retford’s franchise to Bassetlaw freeholders, 10 Apr., he vouched for the purity of his own borough since its enlargement and denied that boroughs thus altered would inevitably return country gentlemen. He advocated reduction of the duty on tea as a means of stimulating trade with China, 12 May, and criticized the special trading status still afforded to the former colony of Virginia, 1 June. In presenting further petitions for protection of wool growers, 3 June, he again insisted that he wanted to see equal protection for agriculturists and manufacturers. He voted against the additional grant for the sculpture of the marble arch, 25 May 1829. Two days later, when criticizing the blunders made in the building work at Buckingham House, he claimed to ‘know nothing’ of the architect, John Nash, who was in fact responsible for Knepp Castle, his own seat. His name does not appear in the lists compiled by the Ultra Tories that autumn. He divided for economies in military expenditure, 19 Feb., 9, 12, 26, 29 Mar. 1830. It is not clear if it was he or his brother who voted against the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., but he was certainly against Jewish emancipation, 17 May. He advocated reduction of the malt duty rather than of that on beer, to afford relief to those who brewed their own liquor, 1, 15 Mar. He voted against the sale of beer bill, 4 May, seconded Knatchbull’s unsuccessful amendment to prevent consumption in beer houses, which he claimed broke up families, 21 June, and voted to delay on-consumption for two years, 1 July. He believed that a proposed tax on British subjects living abroad would be ‘extremely unjust’, 1 Mar. He backed inquiry into the causes of distress, 16 Mar., and was a minority teller for a select committee, 23 Mar. Two days later he blamed the resumption of cash payments for the plight of the agricultural interest and denounced the ‘opinion of theorists ... who by free trade and speculation of different funds were sinking the power and credit of the country’. He was a minority teller against the usury laws repeal bill, 7 May. He extolled the benefits of ‘setting the poor to work’, 26 May. Next day he defended the use of military force to quell disturbances in Rye. He criticized the design of the new law courts, 7 July 1830, when he also complained that a draught on the opposition side of the chamber had several times driven him to sit on the ministerial benches. He was returned unopposed for New Shoreham at the general election that summer.

The ministry regarded Burrell as one of the ‘doubtful doubtfuls’, and he voted against them in the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. 1830, although he had previously attended a dinner given to some 30 Members by Wellington.18 He had lent his support to a bill to reduce jurors’ expenses in Sussex, 9 Nov., and was granted two weeks’ leave ‘on account of the disturbed state of his neighbourhood’, 30 Nov. 1830. He opposed a tax on steamboat passengers, 17 Feb. 1831, and voiced his suspicion of ‘those new machines which pass over railroads ... with a velocity which renders them dangerous to His Majesty’s subjects’. He approved the use of solitary confinement as a punishment for prisoners, 17 Mar. On 7 Mar. he announced that he would vote for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, but that it went too far and he could not give it further support unless modifications were made. In the event he paired for the second reading, 22 Mar., and divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. Despite hints that he might succeed to his late brother’s county seat, Burrell offered again for New Shoreham at the ensuing general election. He was returned unopposed, after defending his right to oppose details of the reform bill and stating that he was ‘decidedly averse’ to the nomination boroughs.19

He voted in the minority for reduction of public salaries to their 1797 levels, 30 June 1831, when he renewed his call for reduction of the malt duty as a means of inducing the poor to brew their own beer rather than frequenting beer shops, which were not kept sufficiently under surveillance. He alleged that they had been a focus for the ‘Swing’ riots of the previous winter, 8 Aug., and urged that their proprietors should not be licensed to sell game. He divided for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July. He was against the total disfranchisement of Appleby, 19 July, Downton, 21 July and St. Germans, 26 July, but for the disfranchisement of Saltash that day. He voted to postpone consideration of Chippenham’s inclusion in schedule B, 27 July, for the partial disfranchisement of Dorchester, 28 July, but against similar treatment for Sudbury, 2 Aug. He divided for the enfranchisement of Greenwich, 3 Aug., Gateshead, 5 Aug., and Merthyr, 10 Aug. He spoke in favour of giving Brighton two Members, 5 Aug. As ‘a friend to the bill’, he supported Lord Chandos’s amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., denying that they were any more beholden to their landlords than were shopkeepers in towns. He voted against allowing borough leaseholders and copyholders to vote in counties, 20 Aug. He divided for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept. He was a majority teller against deferring the writ for the Dublin election, 8 Aug. He defended the corn laws, 13 Aug., invoking the usual shibboleth about the Bank Act. He attributed unemployment among carpenters to combination, 16 Aug., complaining that none would work for less than 30s. a week. He regretted that it was no longer considered degrading to be dependent on the parish, 26 Sept., when he praised the efforts of clergymen of all denominations to relieve the poor and opposed the confiscation of church property for this purpose. He spoke in favour of a general registry for landholdings, 21 Sept. He was granted a month’s leave for urgent private business, 30 Sept. He divided for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, but was in the minorities for the enfranchisement of all £10 ratepayers, 3 Feb., and against the partial disfranchisement of Helston, 23 Feb. 1832. He paired in favour of enfranchising Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and voted to enfranchise Gateshead, 5 Mar. He divided for the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar., Lord Ebrington’s motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers committed to carrying an unimpaired measure, 10 May, and the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May. On 14 May, during the constitutional crisis, he declared that the English bill ‘must pass’ and expected to see Grey’s ministry reinstated. In a letter to lord chancellor Brougham in December 1831, Burrell deprecated the practice in the southern and midland counties of England whereby the poor rate was effectively being converted into a labour rate, ‘to the now generally admitted injury of those relations which ought to prevail between a landholder and his workpeople’.20 On 12 Apr. 1832 he introduced a labourers’ employment bill, to permit two-thirds of ratepayers to impose an employment scheme on a parish. He dismissed local objectors as ‘tricky persons’, 18 June. The bill gained royal assent, 9 Aug. (2 & 3 Gul. IV, c. 96), but by the following year it seems that few parishes outside Sussex had made use of its provisions.21 He supported the factory bill, 20 Feb., but denied that the poor were treated unfairly in enclosure bills, 19 Mar. Rebuffing charges against English policy in Ireland, 11 Apr., he struck a conciliatory note on Protestant-Catholic relations, yet he was in the minority against the Maynooth grant, 27 July. He voted to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June. He divided for Alexander Baring’s privileges of Parliament bill, 27 June. He voted with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July, and paired with them, 16, 20 July. He heaped praise on the Speaker, Charles Manners Sutton, 1 Aug. He defended the use of corporal punishment in the army, 8 Aug. Next day he advocated a tax on steam power. He believed the abolition of tithes without compensation would be ‘nothing less than a positive robbery’, 10 Aug. 1832.

Burrell was returned for New Shoreham at the general election of 1832 and sat until his death in January 1862, enjoying an active parliamentary career spanning over 55 years. Despite his support for the Reform Act, an obituarist described him as a ‘Conservative’ who ‘steadily voted against most of the important changes ... effected by the Liberal party’; he resolutely opposed repeal of the corn laws. His reputation as an agricultural improver led the same obituarist to record that ‘Sussex agriculturists are indebted to him for the introduction of the white or Belgian carrot, a succulent of great value, and also for his valuable experiments in feeding and fattening cattle’. He was succeeded by his elder surviving son, Percy Burrell (1812-76), Conservative Member for New Shoreham, 1862-76, who inherited Knepp Castle, which was said in 1835 to boast a collection of paintings second only in Sussex to Egremont’s at Petworth. West Grinstead Park, which Burrell had inherited from his brother Walter in 1831, passed to his younger son Walter Wyndham Burrell (1814-86), Conservative Member for New Shoreham, 1876-85. 22

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Howard Spencer


  • 1. Suss. Advertiser, 13 Mar. 1820.
  • 2. The Times, 15 July 1820.
  • 3. Ibid. 9 Feb. 1821.
  • 4. Ibid. 27 Mar. 1821.
  • 5. Ibid. 6 Mar., 19 June 1821.
  • 6. Ibid. 7 Mar. 1821.
  • 7. Ibid. 7 June 1821.
  • 8. Add. 56544, f. 60.
  • 9. The Times, 12 Feb. 1822.
  • 10. Ibid. 31 May 1822.
  • 11. Cobbett’s Rural Rides ed. G.D.H. and M. Cole, i. 146-8.
  • 12. The Times, 5, 28 June 1823.
  • 13. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 453.
  • 14. The Times, 1 Mar. 1826.
  • 15. Suss. Advertiser, 19 June 1826.
  • 16. The Times, 13 Mar., 3 Apr., 18, 26 May, 22, 30 June 1827.
  • 17. Ibid. 10 Mar. 1827.
  • 18. NLS mss 14441, f. 91.
  • 19. Brighton Gazette, 5 May 1831.
  • 20. Brougham mss, Burrell to Brougham, 14 Dec. 1831.
  • 21. PP (1833), xxxii. 223-35.
  • 22. Gent. Mag. (1862), i. 368-9; T.W. Horsfield, Hist. Suss. ii. 247.