BURTON PETERS, Henry (1792-1875), of Hotham Hall, North Cave, Yorks.

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



1830 - 1837

Family and Education

b. 12 Jan. 1792, 1st surv. s. of Henry Peters† of Betchworth Castle, Surr. and Charlotte Mary, da. of Lt.-Gen. George Morrison of Sion Mill, Mdx. educ. Harrow 1799; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1809; L. Inn 1816. m. (1) 25 Jan. 1814, his cos. Caroline Mary Susannah (d. 13 Jan. 1817),1 da. of John Campbell†, master in chancery, of Liston Hall, Essex, s.p.; (2) 16 June 1819, in Paris, Sarah (d. 1869), da. and h. of Gen. Napier Christie Burton† of Hull Bank, Beverley, Yorks., div. w. of Lt.-Gen. John Clitherow, s.p.; (3) 1870, Mary Cartwright, s.p. Took name of Burton bef. Peters by royal lic. 23 Sept. 1822. suc. fa. 1827. d. 24 Nov. 1875.

Offices Held


Peters’s father, Pittite Member for Oxford in the 1796 Parliament, was the son of George Peters, a wealthy Russia merchant of London and governor of the Bank of England, who died in 1797 having settled £30,000 on Henry’s issue, who included this Member. Henry Peters senior had a share in his elder brother’s linen merchant’s business and from about 1789 was a partner in the London bank of Masterman and Company.2 His son and namesake was conventionally educated. After the early death of his first wife he achieved notoriety by seducing and eloping to France in December 1817 with the wife of Lieutenant-Colonel John Clitherow of the 3rd Foot Guards, a distinguished Penisular veteran who had been twice wounded in action. Clitherow sued Peters for crim. con. on 8 Dec. 1818 and was awarded damages of £3,000. He secured a definitive sentence of divorce from the arches court, 25 Feb. 1819, and on 3 Mar. obtained leave for the introduction of a divorce bill to the Lords. It received royal assent on 19 May 1819, and a month later Peters and Sarah Clitherow, who had one son by her ex-husband, married in Paris, where they had been living as man and wife. They had no children.3 On the death in 1822 of Sarah’s scapegrace debtor brother Robert Christie Burton, Member for Beverley, 1818-20, she inherited his estate at North Cave, which lay ten miles south-west of that venal borough. She and Peters took the additional name of Burton before Peters. Burton Peters became a benevolent landlord and patron of the local community, but the reversion of the property was settled on Sarah’s son.4 On his father’s death in 1827 Burton Peters inherited an annual income of £7,000 and bank stock worth at least £4,000.5

By then he had already established himself as an aspirant to one of the seats for Beverley, where he had ‘spent a great deal of money’ in 1825 with a view to standing at the next opportunity. At the 1826 general election, however, he stood aside for John Stewart, whose successful campaign he actively supported. When Stewart voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, Burton Peters wrote to him ‘in the name of the party who returned’ him to accuse him of breaking a pledge to oppose it, which, he claimed, had been one of the conditions of their support. Stewart defended himself, denying that he had made any such promise, and the dispute became a public one.6 In March 1829 Burton Peters was the principal speaker at a meeting called to petition Parliament against Catholic emancipation.7 At the general election of 1830 he offered, ostensibly in response to a requisition signed by 300 electors. He declared his support for tax reductions, an end to the East India Company’s trade monopoly and the abolition of slavery. He was returned comfortably at the head of the poll.8

The Wellington ministry listed him among the ‘moderate Ultras’. He was noted as an absentee from the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830, but in a speech to his election committee in February 1831 he claimed that as a self-professed ‘no party man’, who ‘did not wish to be considered as belonging to the Whigs or Tories’, he had judged the question as a mere financial one and had ‘conscientiously’ divided with government against the appointment of a select committee.9 He presented anti-slavery petitions from Beverley, 17 Nov., 15 Dec. 1830, and from Auchtermuchty, 19 Mar. 1831, when he also brought up one from the freeholders of Beverley against the register of deeds bill. In his constituency speech, he conceded that the case for parliamentary reform was now ‘very strong’ and declared his willingness to support ‘rational’ change, including the eradication of rotten boroughs, but indicated his hostility to the ballot and universal suffrage, as he believed that ‘the interest attached to property should have superior weight in the representation’.10 He presented a petition from freemen of Beverley against the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 19 Mar., but divided for its second reading, 22 Mar. There was some confusion over his vote on Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831, but he wrote to the Courier to confirm that he had been in the ministerial minority. At the ensuing general election he stood again for Beverley as a reformer and on an unprecedented ‘purity of election’ platform, refusing to make any of the customary payments. He was returned in second place.11

Burton Peters voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against the adjournment, 12 July, and steadily for its details until 30 Aug. 1831, when he spoke and voted for Edmund Peel’s amendment to preserve the voting rights of resident freemen and their sons, arguing that the £10 householder franchise (of which he approved) would produce a drastic reduction in Beverley’s electorate. He was also in the minority for the complete disfranchisement of Aldborough, 14 Sept. He divided for the passage of the bill, 21 Sept. He was given three weeks’ leave on urgent business, 3 Oct. He paired for the second reading of the revised measure, 17 Dec. 1831, and voted for the £10 clause, 3 Feb., the disfranchisement of Appleby, 21 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Gateshead, 5 Mar., but against that of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb. 1832. He was in the majority for the third reading, 22 Mar., but was absent from the division on the motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers who would carry undiluted reform, 10 May. He voted for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish measure, 1 June. On 6 Feb. he presented another Beverley residents’ petition against the general register bill. He voted with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., but against them when the question was raised again, 12 July. He was in the ministerial majorities on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., and the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. 1832.

At the general elections of 1832 and 1835 Burton Peters was returned as a Liberal for Beverley. He retired from Parliament in 1837. On the death of his wife in 1869 the reversion of the North Cave estate took effect. He took a third wife at the age of 78, and died at Bath in November 1875.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: David R. Fisher / Martin Casey


  • 1. Gent. Mag. (1817), i. 185.
  • 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 781.
  • 3. The Times, 9 Dec. 1818, 26 Feb., 27 Apr. 1819; LJ, lii. 103-4, 168, 179-86, 190, 231, 597.
  • 4. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 440-1; VCH E. Yorks. iv. 24, 28, 36, 122.
  • 5. PROB 11/1735/37.
  • 6. Fitzwilliam mss, Wood to Milton, 20 Oct. 1825; Hull Univ. Lib. Hotham mss DDHO/8/4, Hall to Hotham, 10 June 1826; Humberside RO DDBC/11/81; 21/58.
  • 7. Hull Rockingham, 7 Mar. 1829.
  • 8. Hull Advertiser, 16, 30 July; Yorks. Gazette, 24 July 1830.
  • 9. Hull Advertiser, 11 Feb. 1831.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Ibid. 25 Mar., 18 Apr.; Hull Packet, 3 May; Hull Rockingham, 6 May 1831.