CALVERT, Charles (1768-1832), of Ockley Court, Surr. and Kneller Hall, Whitton, Mdx.

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 - 1830
25 Nov. 1830 - 8 Sept. 1832

Family and Education

b. 30 Aug. 1768, 4th s. of Felix Calvert (d. 1802), brewer, of Thames Street, Southwark, Surr. and Hunsdon House, Herts. and Elizabeth, da. of Sir Robert Ladbroke† of Idlicote, Warws.; bro. of Nicolson Calvert*. educ. Tonbridge 1773-5; Harrow 1776-80. m. 31 Mar. 1823, Jane, da. of Sir William Rowley, 2nd bt.,* of Tendring Hall, Suff., 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. cos. William Tash to Ockley Court 1818.1 d. 8 Sept. 1832.

Offices Held

Biography

Calvert inherited a half-share in a Southwark brewery from his father, who shot himself in a Cheyne Walk coffee house in 1802.2 The ‘little brewer’, as he was known to his opponents, offered for Southwark for the third time in 1820, but faced a belated challenge from the former Member whom he had originally ousted. He assured the electors that his opinions had ‘undergone no change’, and announced his intention of bringing in a measure of parliamentary reform, if no more capable proponent could be found, declaring that ‘he wanted every county and town in the kingdom to have as much share in the representation as they’. He was less forthright on the question of Catholic relief, stating that hitherto he had simply voted for inquiry into the propriety of further concessions. He was returned at the head of the poll after four days.3

He was a regular attender who continued to vote with the Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry on all major issues, including parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 25 Apr., 24 June 1822, 20 Feb. 1823, 13, 26 Apr. 1826. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. Though he could not compete with the loquacity of his colleague Sir Robert Wilson, he intervened fairly frequently in debate, often to air matters of local concern. He spoke against the petition for a new London post office, 4 May 1820.4 He piloted through the House a bill to regulate the weight and sale of bread, which gained royal assent, 22 June (1 Geo. IV, c. 4). He baulked at the expenditure involved in the barrack agreement bill, 14 July. Earlier that month he had featured in the Southwark delegation which conveyed an address of support to Queen Caroline.5 However, on 18 Sept. he reportedly left the House because he disapproved of Hobhouse’s motion to prorogue Parliament.6 He urged Hume to withdraw his motion in defence of William Franklin, an alleged seditionist, 17 Oct. 1820. He endorsed Southwark petitions for the restoration of the queen’s name to the liturgy, 31 Jan., 13 Feb. 1821. He attended the Surrey county meeting on this matter and on economic distress, 2 Feb., which he cited in the House six days later as proof of a general lack of public confidence in the government.7 In supporting the transfer of Grampound’s seats to Leeds on a scot-and-lot franchise, 2 Mar., he bore testimony to the incorruptibility of the similarly qualified Southwark electors. He spoke against the Newington select vestry bill, 16 Feb., 2, 5, 21 Mar.8 He introduced the Thames wharfs bill, to remove building restrictions on the City waterfront, 28 Feb., answered objections to it, 7 Mar., successfully resisted hostile amendments, 24, 28 May, and accepted the Lords’ amendments, 2 July; it received royal assent, 10 July (1 & 2 Geo. IV, c. 89).9 He was granted a month’s leave owing to the death of a near relative, presumably his brother and business partner Robert, 12 Apr. He returned to attest to the efficiency of devices that enabled steam engines to consume their own smoke, 7 May, and supported the bill to make them mandatory.10 He presented and endorsed petitions against the tobacco duties bill, 18 June, and unsuccessfully moved an adjournment against this measure, 21 June.11 He favoured remission of the duty on brown malt, 20 June 1821.12 That autumn he subscribed 100 guineas to the defence fund for Wilson, who had been summarily dismissed from the army following incidents during the queen’s funeral procession, in the belief that ‘no man ought to be condemned unheard’.13 He made a suggestion for payment of a drawback on malt, 14 Mar. 1822, but bowed next day to the chancellor of the exchequer Vansittart’s objection that it would be an invitation to fraud.14 He said he was unwilling to vote money for a new London Bridge until the existing one had been positively demonstrated to be an impediment to navigation, 29 Apr.15 He observed that monopolies and other abuses pervaded the system for licensing public houses, 6 May, when his efforts in promoting reform were lauded by Henry Grey Bennet. He railed against the practice of serving beer in short measures, 14 May. He presented petitions against the poor removal bill, 31 May 1822.16

He concurred in calls for a revision of the Insolvent Debtors Act and quipped that his own forlorn condition was owing to the iniquities of the previous session’s Marriage Act, 14 Feb. 1823.17 He could well afford to joke: the following month, at the age of 54, he married the ‘pretty gipsy daughter aged 17’ of Sir William Rowley; she bore him a child within eight months.18 He ignored instructions to secure the referral of the Southwark petition for economy, retrenchment and reform to a select committee, 19 Feb., so as not to interfere with Russell’s motion for inquiry into the right of voting in elections. He moved for returns on the cost of recovering debts in Southwark, 10 Mar., and with his colleague sponsored the Southwark court of requests bill, the better to facilitate this; it gained royal assent, 4 July (4 Geo. IV, c. 123).19 He was granted three weeks’ leave for urgent private business, 11 Apr. He questioned two witnesses examined by the committee of inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 5, 7 May. He presented petitions against the London Bridge bill, 22 May, 11 June, and uttered ‘a few words’ in defence of his vote against the grant, 16 June 1823.20 Disavowing any involvement with rival operations, he vigorously opposed the St. Katharine’s Docks bill, 25 Feb., 2 Apr., 17 May 1824.21 In presenting a petition against the South London Docks bill, 3 May, he announced that divided opinion among his constituents prevented him from taking any part in the matter; but he joined in calls for the bill’s postponement, 17 May.22 He spoke against the grant for new courts of justice in Westminster, 1 Mar. He presented anti-slavery petitions, 15, 16, 19 Mar.23 He rebutted imputations cast on the quality of London beer, 7 Apr., and opposed the beer duties bill as injurious to licensed victuallers (a significant interest in his constituency), 24 May 1824, when he also denied that brewers habitually supplied free houses with inferior beer. He complained of the ‘barefaced’ support given to the St. Katharine’s Docks bill by those with a pecuniary interest in its passage, 22 Feb., presented hostile petitions, 9, 15 Mar., and reiterated his objections, 11, 24 Mar., 19, 21 Apr. 1825.24 Concerns over its possible effect on public supplies led him to support a petition against the Metropolitan Water Company bill, 11 Mar. He presented petitions against the Collier Dock bill, 14, 21 Apr.25 The Southwark paving bill, of which he was co-sponsor, failed to advance to its committee stage, 15 Apr., and was not reintroduced. He advocated repeal of the assessed taxes, 25 Feb., and observed that the remission of the malt duty three years earlier had been insufficient to permit any reduction in the price of beer, 3 Mar. He objected to the routine printing of petitions on the ground of expense, 28 Apr. He supported Wilson’s bid for reinstatement in the army, 17 June 1825. He presented a petition for reduction of the duties on tobacco and snuff, 22 Feb. 1826.26 He was a majority teller for the Marylebone and Finchley road bill, 6 Mar. He spoke in favour of allowing Thames watermen to ply their trade on Sundays, 18 Apr. 1826.27 At the dissolution that summer he faced an opposition at Southwark but, campaigning more or less in concert with Wilson, he again topped the poll after seven days. In response to the anti-Catholic rhetoric of his opponent, he pledged to follow his constituents’ opinion on the subject, but only if it was ‘unanimous’; he further devalued this guarantee by forecasting the passage of Catholic emancipation.28

He presented a numerously signed Southwark petition for revision of the corn laws and a reduction in expenditure, 27 Feb. 1827.29 He voted in favour of a lower import price threshold for corn, 9 Mar., and against increased protection for barley, 12 Mar. He presented a market gardeners’ petition for exemption from the provisions of the bill to ban spring guns, 7 May,30 and moved an amendment to this effect, 17 May, which was defeated by 40-23. He divided for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. He voted against Canning’s ministry for the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May, when he again paid tribute to the incorruptibility of his own constituents, 7 June 1827. He presented petitions for repeal of the Test Acts and voted accordingly, 26 Feb. 1828. He voted for Catholic relief, 12 May. He presented a petition against the friendly societies bill, 25 Apr. He approved of the borough polls bill, which instituted electoral arrangements already used in Southwark, 28 Apr. He opposed the duke of Wellington’s ministry by voting against the appointment by the archbishop of Canterbury of a third registrar, 16 June, and to condemn the misapplication of public money for building work at Buckingham House, 23 June. He spoke against equalization of the duties on different tobacco products, 30 June, and took the board of excise to task for inconsistent and unfair use of their powers, 8 July 1828. He divided for the government’s Catholic emancipation bill, 6, 30 Mar., and to allow Daniel O’Connell to take his seat without swearing the oath of supremacy, 18 May 1829. He announced that he had amendments for the committee stage of the London Bridge bill, which he deemed detrimental to his constituents as it stood, 9 Mar. 1829. He divided for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address on distress, 4 Feb. 1830, and steadily with the revived Whig opposition on all major issues that session. He voted or paired for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., 5, 15 Mar., even though his brother Nicolson proposed the government-backed plan to open the borough to the surrounding hundred. He voted for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and paired for Russell’s reform resolutions, 28 May. He divided for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 24 May, 7 June (paired). He presented a petition from tobacco manufacturers who claimed to have been misled about the imposition of duty on their product, 17 Feb. Their complaint was given short shrift by the chancellor of the exchequer Goulburn, when Calvert unsuccessfully moved for a committee to investigate, 25 May. He was appointed to the select committee on the sale of beer, 4 Mar., and gave evidence to it, 10 Mar.31 He favoured a reduction in beer duties but opposed deregulation of the trade, 19, 22 Mar. He complained that the latter proposal, embodied in the sale of beer bill, would spell ruin for licensed victuallers and be ‘very distressing’ to brewers, 8 Apr. He denied that his opposition stemmed from his own vested interest, 4 May, when he presented petitions predicting a ‘great increase in immorality’ from the bill’s passage. He accordingly voted for clauses to prohibit consumption on the premises, 21 June, 1 July, when he warned that the bill afforded inadequate protection to existing licensees and would create an outlet for smuggled spirits. He denounced the ‘ruinous’ expenditure threatened to metropolitan parishes by the Irish and Scottish poor removal bill, against which he presented petitions, 26 May, 4 June. He spoke against exempting almshouses from the poor rates and agreed that it would make better economic sense to pay off the monies owed by poor debtors than to imprison them, 3 June. He suggested raising the duty on foreign tallow in retaliation against a Russian impost, 7 June 1830.

At the general election that summer Calvert promised his support for Joseph Hume in Middlesex but declined to take an active part there, having a contest of his own to be concerned with.32 The licensed victuallers of Southwark had brought forward a candidate, avowedly to oppose Wilson, but the hecklers targeted Calvert on the hustings, mainly because of his support for the new metropolitan police. Trailing almost from the outset, he bowed to the electoral arithmetic after six days. He testily blamed this unexpected defeat on the infidelity of pledged supporters, and rejected suggestions that he might come in on a future vacancy.33 However, when the new Member died within a month of the election, Calvert was prevailed on to stand, though he pointedly refused to make a personal canvass. He pronounced Wellington ‘unfit to hold office’, after his declaration against parliamentary reform, looked forward to giving ‘cordial support’ to Lord Grey’s new ministry, and praised William IV with an extravagant naval metaphor. On being returned ahead of a local challenger, he declined to be pledged on the specifics of reform but professed ‘no objection’ to the ballot.34 He presented a petition from the parish of St. George, Southwark, complaining of the expense and ‘unconstitutional nature’ of the metropolitan police, 6 Dec. 1830, and expressed the hope that an inquiry would lead to a measure to ‘allay the present great discontent on this subject’. Next day, on behalf of the same parish, he successfully opposed the second reading of the charitable institutions bill, which would have exempted Bethlehem Hospital from its rates. He presented a petition from the parish of St. Olave, Southwark, against the appropriation of its burial ground contemplated in the London Bridge approaches bill, 7 Feb. 1831. In presenting a petition in favour of reform, 26 Feb., he stated that he would support the ballot if no convincing argument was advanced against it; he presented another petition specifying this demand, 1 Mar. He reported his constituents’ ‘delight and satisfaction’ with the government’s bill, 4 Mar., and presented a friendly petition from them, 14 Mar., when he announced that in the interests of unanimity he would not ‘dwell further’ on the ballot. He voted for the bill’s second reading, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He was returned unopposed at the ensuing general election, after promising to ‘stick by the question of reform like a leech’ and expressing the hope that reductions in taxes and tithes might follow.35

He presented a petition from the parish of Christchurch for its inclusion in the borough of Southwark, 5 July 1831. He divided for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill next day and steadily for its details. In the case of Saltash, where ministers failed to provide a clear lead, he voted in the minority for its complete disfranchisement, 26 July. He dismissed Alexander Baring’s qualms about the effects of the extended franchise, 3 Aug. He welcomed the addition of Christchurch to his constituency, 9 Aug. Adverting to the irregular manner of their appointment, he opposed the suggestion that the sheriffs of London should select returning officers for the metropolitan boroughs, 19 Aug., although he attested to the incorruptibility of the high bailiffs of Southwark. He urged close attention to the wording of the bill to avoid later disputes, 24 Aug., but foresaw no difficulties for new electors who needed to be rated before they could exercise the franchise, 26 Aug. He divided for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He voted to punish only those guilty of bribery at the Dublin election and against the motion censuring the Irish administration’s conduct, 23 Aug. He voted in the minority for Hunt’s motion for a committee of the whole House to consider the corn laws, 15 Sept. He divided for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and steadily for its details, although he was in the minority for Hunt’s amendment to extend the franchise to all tax-paying householders, 2 Feb. 1832. He voted for the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar., and the motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers committed to carrying an unimpaired measure, 10 May. He presented a petition in favour of the anatomy bill, 31 Jan., and criticized the course of action pursued in opposition to it by the Surrey Member, John Briscoe, 11 Apr. He divided in the minority against a salary increase for the Irish registrar, 9 Apr. He presented a petition from St. Olave’s regarding the burden imposed on the poor rates by Irish immigrants, 3 June. He voted with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12, 20 July 1832.

Calvert died suddenly in September 1832 at his brother-in-law’s residence at Saxmundham, Suffolk, a notable victim of the cholera epidemic then sweeping the country. A medal was struck at the behest of his constituents, in memory of ‘their faithful representative’.36 He died intestate and administration of his personal estate, which was sworn under £60,000, was granted to his widow. Ockley Court passed to his eldest son Charles William, who followed a career in the army, and thence to the third, Archibald Motteux. Kneller Hall, which had been ‘enlarged and remodelled’ by Calvert, did not remain in the family and became an educational establishment in 1847.37

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Howard Spencer

Notes

  • 1. VCH Surr. iii. 152.
  • 2. D. Warrand, Herts. Fams. 60.
  • 3. Baldwin’s Weekly Jnl. 12 Feb., 11 Mar.; The Times, 8, 9, 11 Mar. 1820, 13 June 1826.
  • 4. The Times, 5 May 1820.
  • 5. Baldwin’s Weekly Jnl. 8 July 1820.
  • 6. Brougham mss, Grey Bennet to Brougham, 19 Sept. 1820.
  • 7. HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 10-11.
  • 8. The Times, 17 Feb., 3, 6, 22 Mar. 1821.
  • 9. Ibid. 29 May, 3 July 1821.
  • 10. Ibid. 8 May 1821.
  • 11. Ibid. 19, 22 June 1821.
  • 12. Ibid. 21 June 1821.
  • 13. Baldwin’s Weekly Jnl. 17 Nov. 1821.
  • 14. The Times, 15, 16 Mar. 1822.
  • 15. Ibid. 30 Apr. 1822.
  • 16. Ibid. 1 June 1822.
  • 17. Ibid. 15 Feb. 1823.
  • 18. Dorset RO, Bond mss D/BOH C 18, Jekyll to Bond, 21 Mar. 1823.