FFOLKES, Sir William John Henry Browne, 2nd bt. (1786-1860), of Hillington, King's Lynn, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. 30 Aug. 1786, o. surv. s. of Sir Martin Browne Ffolkes, 1st bt.*, and Fanny, da. and coh. of Sir John Turner, 3rd bt.†, of Warham. educ. Harrow 1801-3; Jesus, Camb. 1805. m. 21 Apr. 1818, Charlotte Philippa, da. of Dominick Geoffrey Browne of Castle Macgarrett, co. Mayo, 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. as 2nd. bt. 11 Dec. 1821. d. 24 Mar. 1860.
Sheriff, Norf. 1828-9.
Ffolkes’s father, who, with the acquiescence of the corporation, sat for King’s Lynn on his wife’s interest, intended that he should succeeded him in the borough’s representation as an independent country gentleman. He shared his father’s interest in Fenland development, and on his marriage to his kinswoman Charlotte Browne he settled at Congham Lodge, near King’s Lynn, where his failure to support the borough’s costly campaign against the 1818 Eau Brink Act angered the corporation, who accused him of putting his interests as a Marshland proprietor first.1 He officiated at Norfolk Foxite dinners in 1820 and 1821 and declared his candidature for King’s Lynn at the January 1822 by-election occasioned by his father’s death, but was thwarted by the corporation’s choice of another Whig with Marshland interests, Lord William Bentinck*, to whose locum Lord Titchfield he deferred, promising to ‘stand a contest whenever an opportunity may occur, if the smallest hope of success can be entertained’.2 Assisted by his relations (his sister Lucretia and cousin James Browne*), he contested the borough unsuccessfully on the anti-corporation or independent interest in June 1822, March 1824 and at the general election of 1826, before relinquishing the attempt.3 He remained an active Eau Brink commissioner and acquitted himself well as sheriff, 1828-9.4 At the general election of 1830 he stayed away from King’s Lynn, where he was put in nomination and defeated in a token poll; and, as requested by the yeomen, he stood with the sitting Member Thomas Coke for the county on the Whig interest, unseating the Tory Wodehouse without a poll at a cost of £1,184 8s. 7d.5 As at King’s Lynn, he declared strongly for retrenchment and parliamentary reform, adding that he had no intention of mortgaging his estates, ‘his family’s future’, or of soliciting preferment to finance a contest.6 His friend Edmund Peel*, one of many surprised at the news, hoped that
the measures of the ministry may be such as to allow you to give them your support in important matters. I trust I may not have the pain of seeing your name coupled with that of ‘Newcastle’ or Harry Inglis, for the mere purpose of overturning the duke of Wellington’s government.7
Before Parliament met he addressed dinners at Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn, Norwich and Wisbech, and attended the county meeting requisitioned by his yeoman supporters to petition for repeal of the malt duties, 19 Oct. 1830.8
The ministry counted Ffolkes among their ‘foes’ and he divided against them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. No parliamentary speeches by him are reported in this period, but he attended to local legislation and county business and presented and endorsed numerous Norfolk petitions against slavery, 9, 16 Nov., and the duty on coastwise coal, 13 Dec. 1830, 21 Feb. 1831, for a revision of tithes, 10, 21 Feb., 16 Mar., and for parliamentary reform, 10, 26 Feb., 2, 19, 21, 25, 28 Mar., 19 Apr. 1831. He voted for the Grey ministry’s reform bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. His opposition to the 1831 Eau Brink bill (a casualty of the dissolution), which he presented petitions against, 23, 25, 29 Mar., pleased his friends in King’s Lynn and the Marshland and, heeding their advice, he declared early for the county and solicited the support of the leading yeomen at the ensuing general election. Standing on his ‘past conduct’ as a reformer, he came in unopposed with Coke.9
On 29 June 1831 Ffolkes ordered returns of all criminal informations filed against justices of the peace in England and Wales since 1820. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and against adjournment, 12 July, and using the 1831 census to determine borough disfranchisements, 19 July. He generally gave steady support to its details, and his wayward votes against the proposed division of counties, 11 Aug., against granting county votes to freeholders in cities corporate, 17 Aug., and for Lord Chandos’s amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., pleased his Norfolk supporters and were well received in the local press.10 He voted for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish measure, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He had been fêted at the King’s Lynn reform meeting, 1 Oct., and was again cheered when he spoke briefly at the county meeting as seconder of their address requesting the king to support the bill and the ministry, 19 Nov. 1831.11 He voted for the revised bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, divided steadily for its details, and voted for the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832, and the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May. He endorsed King’s Lynn’s petition of satisfaction at the restoration of the Grey ministry, 22 May, and presented another the next day from Diss requesting the withholding of supplies until the reform bill became law. He voted for the Irish reform bill at its second reading, 25 May, and against amending the Scottish measure, 1 June. He divided with government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. 1831 (but was absent from the division on the censure motion that day), the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 16, 20 July, and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. 1832.
Browne Ffolkes was appointed to the select committee on the use of molasses in breweries and distilleries, 30 June, and presented petitions against the practice from his constituents, 22 July, 2, 10 Aug. 1831. His minority vote for remission of the duties on quarantined vessels, 6 Sept. 1831, was welcomed in the Norfolk ports.12 Marshland petitions against the Walpole enclosure and drainage bill were entrusted to him, 11 May, and he presented others for repeal of the duty on fire insurance, 23 May 1832. His votes for the immediate appointment of a select committee on colonial slavery, 24 May, and to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June, accorded with constituency opinion and assisted him at the general election in December 1832, when, after canvassing assiduously he came in unopposed for the new West Norfolk constituency with his fellow Liberal Sir Jacob Astley.13
He survived a contest in 1835 but was defeated at the general election of 1837 and declined requisitions to stand for King’s Lynn in 1841 and Norfolk East in 1847.14 He died at Hillington in March 1860, remembered as a competent Member of Parliament and able chairman of Swaffham quarter sessions, the Eau Brink commissioners, the Norfolk Estuary Company and the projected Lynn and Ely railway, in which he unwisely invested £20,000.15 His will, dated 6 Apr. 1854, provided for his wife (d. 26 Dec. 1882), children and grandchildren. His eldest son Martin had predeceased him after being struck by lightning, 24 July 1849, and he was succeeded in the baronetcy and estates by his twelve-year-old grandson William Hovell Ffolkes (1847-1912), Liberal Member for King’s Lynn, 1880-5.16
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. H. Hillen, Hist. King’s Lynn (1978), ii. 778-81.
- 2. Norf. Chron. 29 Jan. 1820, 13, 20 Jan., 22, 29 Dec. 1821; Norwich, Yarmouth and Lynn Courier, 12 Jan. 1822.
- 3. Bury and Norwich Post, 14 June; Norwich Mercury, 17 June 1826. See also KING’S LYNN; Oxford DNB sub Sir Edward West.
- 4. Norf. RO MC50/99; Norwich Mercury, 22 Jan., 4 June; Huntingdon, Bedford and Cambridge Weekly Jnl. 28 May 1825; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland mss PwJe 102, 490; Norf. RO NRS 7958, shrievalty accts.
- 5. Norf. RO NRS 8741; 8753; MC50/74/2-10; Add. 51593, Coke to Holland, 25, 30 July; Norwich Mercury, 24 July, 14, 21 Aug.; The Times, 4, 5, 9 Aug. 1830.
- 6. Norf. Chron. 31 July, 7 Aug.; Norwich Mercury, 31 July, 7 Aug. 1830.
- 7. Norf. RO NRS 8741, Peel to Ffolkes, 3 Sept. 1830.
- 8. The Times, 18, 25, 26 Oct. 1830.
- 9. Norf. RO NRS 8740; East Anglian, 26 Apr., 3, 10 May; Norwich Mercury, 30 Apr., 7 May; The Times, 9 May 1831.