BURRELL, Walter (1777-1831), of West Grinstead Park, Suss.

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

Constituency

Dates

1812 - 7 Apr. 1831

Family and Education

b. 15 Apr. 1777, 3rd s. of Sir William Burrell, 2nd bt. (d. 1796), of Deepdene, nr. Dorking, Surr. and Sophia, da. and coh. of Sir Charles Raymond, 1st bt., of Valentine House, Ilford, Essex; bro. of Sir Charles Merrik Burrell*. educ. Chigwell sch.; Westminster 1785. m. 21 July 1825, Helena Anne, da. of Alexander Ellice, merchant, of London, wid. of Charles Chisholme of Chisholme, Inverness, s.p. d. 7 Apr. 1831.

Offices Held

Ensign Suss. militia 1797, lt. 1797, capt. 1798.

Biography

Burrell was returned at the head of the poll for Sussex in 1820 on his record as an independent country gentleman, who was unapologetic in his support for the repressive measures taken by Lord Liverpool’s ministry, but ready to oppose them on particular issues of economy and taxation. The only species of reform mentioned in his hustings speech was the disfranchisement of corrupt boroughs.1 He initially continued to be a fairly regular attender, but was overshadowed in the House by his colleague, Edward Curteis, and by his brother Sir Charles, Member for New Shoreham. He was a majority teller against repeal of the duty on foreign wool, 26 May 1820. He spoke against the government’s attempt to limit the remit of the select committee on agricultural distress, which he thought should focus on the means adopted to compute the average price of corn, 31 May. He presented a petition from 700 West Sussex freeholders against holding future county elections at Lewes, as proposed by Curteis, 21 June; two days later he announced that this expression of his constituents’ views would determine his conduct, although he personally favoured the move.2 He was among those who called for clemency to be shown to Sir Manasseh Masseh Lopes* over his conviction for electoral bribery, 11 July 1820. He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He was granted two weeks’ leave for urgent private business, 14 Feb., and returned to divide against Catholic relief, 28 Feb.; according to Charles Williams Wynn*, he then broke a pledge not to vote against this in committee.3 He divided against Maberly’s motion on the state of the revenue, 6 Mar., but called next day for import restrictions, retrenchment and reduced taxation to relieve distress, warning that the expedient of taking marginal lands out of cultivation would lead to unemployment and ‘insurrection’. He voted for repeal of the additional malt duty, 21 Mar., and was twice in the minority against preferential duties for Canadian timber, 5 Apr. He betrayed his impatience with ministerial promises of relief by advocating remission of the tax on agricultural horses and demanding economies in military expenditure and official salaries, 14 June. Next day a Whig Member recorded that he voted for repeal of the horse tax, ‘speaking out gallantly and calling upon the gentlemen to save themselves and their property’.4 He divided against the omission of arrears from the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June, but for Hume’s economy and retrenchment motion, 27 June. He voted against committing the editor of John Bull to Newgate for libel, 11 May, and for the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 4 June 1821.

He was reportedly one of the ‘country gentlemen’ who divided against Hume’s amendment to the address on distress, 5 Feb. 1822.5 However, his vote for Brougham’s motion for more extensive tax reductions, 11 Feb., was regarded by Thomas Creevey* as one of the opposition’s best catches.6 He voted against Lord Althorp’s motion on this subject, 21 Feb., but for reduction of the salt duty, 28 Feb., and of the junior lords of the admiralty, 1 Mar. He was added to the select committee on agricultural distress, 22 Feb. He supported Lethbridge’s resolutions in favour of agricultural protection, 2 May, presented an East Sussex petition against Ricardo’s proposed alteration of the corn laws, 7 May, and expressed a preference for the more protectionist plan offered by Lord Althorp two days later, when he called for Irish corn prices to be included in the calculation of averages.7 He demanded that the duty on foreign wool be doubled, 30 May. (As an investor in high quality merino sheep he suffered particularly from competitive wool imports.)8 That day he presented petitions against the licensing bill and the poor removal bill.9 He voted for inquiry into the currency, 12 June 1822. Once agricultural distress became less of an issue Burrell lapsed into inactivity. His vote for inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., is the only one recorded for the 1823 session. He presented petitions against altering the duty on foreign wool, 23 Mar., and for inquiry into the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 26, 31 May, but he did not vote in the division on this issue, 11 June 1824.10 He divided against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and presented a petition from Sussex landowners against revision of the corn laws, 13 May 1825.11 It was said of him at this time that he ‘attended very seldom, and voted sometimes with and sometimes against government’.12 He voted against the corn importation bill, 11 May 1826. Shortly before the general election that summer one local newspaper observed that Burrell had not been ‘so active as we could have wished’, although another pointed out that the high profile adopted by Curteis left him with little county business to transact. He was again returned at the head of the poll.13

He presented further Sussex petitions for agricultural protection, 27 Feb., 26 Mar., 6 Apr. 1827.14 He paired against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. He complained of the harsh treatment suffered by defendants in smuggling cases, 13 Mar. As a compromise on the question of the Sussex polling place he suggested that the eastern division should poll at Lewes and the west at Chichester, 9 May. He presented a petition from Brighton Dissenters against repeal of the Test Acts, 6 June 1827.15 He called for measures to reduce the cost of turnpike bills, 15 Apr. 1828. He saw emigration as the only means of easing the burden on the poor rates, 17 Apr., and spoke encouragingly of Slaney’s efforts at reform. He urged the withdrawal of a bill to regulate friendly societies, 29 Apr., and denied allegations of prisoner maltreatment at Horsham gaol, 2 May. He again paired against Catholic relief, 12 May. He presented petitions for additional protection for the domestic wool trade, 3 July, but his promised motion on this subject, 18 July, never materialized, perhaps because a Lords committee was already examining it. In January 1829 Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, listed him as a possible mover or seconder of the address,16 and the following month predicted that he would side ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation. In fact he continued to vote against it, 6, 18 Mar., and presented hostile petitions, 7, 11, 17 Mar. He welcomed a proposal to end relief payments to able-bodied labourers but was dismissive of the schemes devised for their employment, 4 May. He believed that the poor rate should be levied on speculators who built houses in areas of high unemployment. He voted to reduce the grant for the sculpture of the marble arch, 25 May 1829. He was named to the select committee on the renewal of the East India Company’s charter, 9 Feb. 1830. He divided against Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform scheme, 18 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. He presented petitions against the malt tax, 1, 10 Mar., and voted in the minorities for reduction of military expenditure, 9, 29 Mar. He presented petitions for and against the New Shoreham bridge bill, 31 Mar., 1 Apr. He presented a petition against the sale of beer bill, 3 May, and voted for amendments to prohibit or delay on-consumption in beer houses, 21 June, 1 July. He divided for the Jewish emancipation bill, 17 May. He acted as a teller for the Rother levels drainage bill, a cause of dispute between its landowner sponsors and the inhabitants of Rye, 27 May, and later spoke in defence of his colleague’s son, Herbert Barrett Curteis*, who had called in troops after the townsmen took matters into their own hands. At the general election that summer he was returned unopposed, after condemning the repressive policies pursued by Charles X in France.17

The ministry hopefully listed him as one of their ‘friends’, but he voted against them in the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. 1830. His bill to separate east and west Sussex for the purpose of summoning grand juries met with objections on its second reading, 9 Nov., and later foundered in committee. He was granted two weeks’ leave on account of the disturbed state of Sussex, 30 Nov. 1830, and was among a group of magistrates who sought to use a labourer’s confession to charge William Cobbett† with having incited the ‘Swing’ riots.18 He was granted two weeks’ leave for urgent private business, having served on an election committee, 14 Mar. 1831. He was absent from the division on the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., though it was reported that he would have supported it but for illness.19 He never recovered and died in April 1831. He made generous provision for his widow and left his landed property and Nash-designed house at West Grinstead to his brother Sir Charles, along with the residue of personal estate which was eventually sworn under £25,000 20 His chief supporter in Sussex, Lord Egremont, eulogized his ‘good character and straightforward honest principles’, thinking him ‘one of the most amiable and right-headed men I ever knew’; and a public obituarist described him as ‘a man of unostentatious conciliatory manners, easy of access, intimately acquainted with all the local interests of the county’, who was ‘anxious to reconcile the conflicting objects and to promote the wishes of his constituents’.21

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Howard Spencer

Notes