HANDLEY, William Farnworth (1780-1851), of North Gate, Newark, Notts.

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



21 Feb. 1831 - 1834

Family and Education

b. 9 Oct. 1780, 1st s. of William Handley of Newark and Ann, da. of John Marshall of Pickering, Yorks. unm. suc. fa. 1798. d. 4 Dec. 1851.

Offices Held

Lt. Newark vols. 1798, capt. 1803.

Sheriff, Notts. 1822-3.


Handley belonged to a family long prominent in Newark, where his father was a banker (until 1791) and brewer and had a share in a cotton mill. He entered the family business, succeeded his father to his urban property in 1798 and in 1801 became a partner with his younger brother John (1782-1856) in the brewery, which had a branch at Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. They were partners in the Newark branch of the Sleaford bank of Peacock, Handley and Kirton.1 Handley was a leading supporter of the united (Newcastle-Middleton) interest at Newark, and after the 1826 election was consulted over the proposed eviction of recalcitrant tenants.2 He subsequently purchased most of the Newark property (two dozen houses) of Sir Jenison Gordon of Haverholme Priory, Lincolnshire, a friend of his uncle Benjamin Handley of Sleaford.3 At the rowdy Newark by-election of March 1829 he appealed from the hustings for order when the anti-Catholic Michael Sadler* was nominated.4 At the 1830 general election he proposed the Middleton sitting Member Willoughby.5 When Willoughby resigned in February 1831 Handley, after an initial demur, accepted an invitation from 400 electors to stand against the reformer Wilde, with Lord Middleton’s tacit support and the duke of Newcastle’s blessing. At the nomination he declared his support for every practical measure of reform and reduced taxation, but when questioned declined to support the ballot, arguing that the Grey ministry’s intention ‘to propose so full and fair a reform’ made it unnecessary. He opposed further interference with the currency. He comfortably beat Wilde.6

Handley, who is not known to have spoken in debate in this period, voted for the second reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar., but with opposition for Gascoyne’s successful wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. Abused in Newark for his desertion of ministers, he defended his behaviour in an explanatory handbill:

Though a supporter of the reform bill, I did think that the number of Members for England and Wales ought not to be diminished, but that other large and populous towns, beyond those contemplated by ministers, should have the elective franchise conferred upon them.7

Standing for Newark at the subsequent general election, he retained the support of Middleton but, anxious to avoid an expensive contest following the collapse of the united interest, he was prevailed on to coalesce with Newcastle’s nominee Gresley in order to keep out Wilde. The unnatural coalition did not last long, and Handley incurred Newcastle’s wrath for his ‘treachery’ in declining to ensure that his second votes went to Gresley. Censured again on the hustings for his equivocation over reform, he refuted the imputation of having hindered the progress of public business by supporting the call for an adjournment, 21 Apr., and, though guarded over his paradoxical association with Newcastle’s nominee, he pledged himself to ‘support the bill in all its stages’. He was returned in second place with Wilde.8

Handley voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, and for most of its details. He was in the minority for the postponement of a new writ for Dublin, 8 Aug., but voted twice with government against charges of improper interference in the election, 23 Au