HENEAGE, George Fieschi (1800-1864), of Hainton Hall, nr. Louth, Lincs.
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Family and Educationb. 22 Nov. 1800, 1st s. of George Robert Heneage of Hainton Hall and Frances Anne, da. of George Ainslie, gov. Eustatius and Dominica. educ. Eton 1817; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1818. m. 17 Jan. 1833, Frances, da. of Michael Tasburgh of Burghwallis, Yorks., 2s. 1da. suc. fa. 1833. d. 11 May 1864.
Sheriff, Lincs. 1839-40.
Heneage, by all accounts an ‘oddity’, was commonly known as ‘Fish’ among the Lincolnshire gentry, presumably on account of his middle name.1 A member of an ancient county family who could trace their origins to the time of William Rufus, his ancestor John de Heneage had been granted the manor of Hainton by Edward III, and the family had resided there, with one minor interruption, ever since. Thomas Heneage (d. 1553) was private secretary to Cardinal Wolsey and subsequently master of Henry VIII’s household, while his nephew and successor George Heneage (d. 1595) was Member for Great Grimsby. Heneage’s great-grandfather Thomas Henry had married a daughter of Roboaldo Fieschi, count de Lavagna, in Genoa in 1728. Whether or not the family’s Catholicism dates from this time is unclear, but they were certainly Catholics when his grandfather, also George Fieschi, married a daughter of the 8th Lord Petre in 1755.2
Heneage’s uncle, Thomas Fieschi Heneage, was married to the sister of the Whig Lord Yarborough, who headed the Blue party at Great Grimsby and had been Member for Lincolnshire before succeeding his father in December 1823, when he was replaced by Sir William Amcotts Ingilby. The county Whigs, however, were divided over him, and immediately after the by-election it was rumoured that Heneage would be brought forward next time, as he ‘stood innocent of the various managements’ and although
he is a very unpopular man now, yet he has a very good understanding and he loves application and ... when he has anything to do he will do it well ... despite his slowness ... Perhaps Lord Yarborough does not know his merit.3
In 1825, however, it was settled with Yarborough that Heneage should start for Great Grimsby, where his family had ‘always commanded about 20 votes’.4
At the 1826 general election Heneage, who had renounced his Catholicism, duly came forward, amid confusion about whether he was supported by Yarborough or his close friend Charles Tennyson, the retiring Member, an opponent of Yarborough. He was joined by Charles Wood of Hemsworth, Yorkshire, and they canvassed together. Their opponents made much of Heneage’s former religion in a virulently anti-Catholic campaign, but the Blues were never in any danger and Heneage was returned in second place behind Wood.5 A few weeks afterwards he and Tennyson went as a party to Cambridge to receive their masters’ degrees.6 He joined Brooks’s, 28 Feb., sponsored by Yarborough and the duke of Norfolk. He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and brought up multiple favourable petitions, 29 Apr. 1828. He divided for inquiry into Leicester corporation, 15 Mar., to go into committee on the spring guns bill, 23 Mar., and for information on the Orange procession and the Lisburn magistrates, 29 Mar. 1827. Next day he voted for Tierney’s amendment to postpone going into committee of supply. He divided against the corn bill, 2 Apr. 1827. He voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 28 Feb. 1828. He was appointed to the select committee on the Catholic land tax, 1 May. He presented a Great Grimsby petition against the Spirituous Liquors Act, 28 Mar., and divided for information on chancery delays, 24 Apr., and improved recovery of penalties under customs and excise laws, 1 May. He voted against the use of public money for Buckingham House, 23 June, and the additional churches bill, 30 June 1828. In February 1829 Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, predicted that he would divide ‘with government’ for their concession of Catholic emancipation, but he cast no known votes on the issue. He divided for Daniel O’Connell to be allowed to take his seat unhindered, 18 May. He voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May 1829, 23 Feb., 5 Mar. 1830. He was in the minorities for referral of the Newark petition against the duke of Newcastle to a select committee, 1 Mar., and information on the interference of British troops in the internal affairs of Portugal, 10 Mar., and thereafter voted steadily with the revived opposition for economy and reduced taxation. He presented petitions in favour of the Leeds and Selby railway bill, 25 Mar., and divided for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 24 May, 7 June 1830.
At the 1830 general election Heneage offered again for Great Grimsby in alliance with Wood, with whom he canvassed and hosted a dinner for the corporation and gentlemen of the borough. After another contest he was defeated in third place.7 At the 1831 dissolution he came forward for Lincoln as a reformer, with the support of its reform committee and Thomas George Corbett, the defeated candidate in 1826. Reporting on his canvass, the Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury commented:
Though a fluent speaker, Mr. Heneage has a rapidity and indistinctness of utterance, together with a weak voice, unfavourable for producing effect. Many of his sentences appeared not to reach his hearers ... He was however received with much applause.
Following the retirement of a second reform candidate he and the Tory sitting Member, a close acquaintance, were returned unopposed.8 He voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, against the adjournment, 12 July, and generally for its details, though he voted for Lord Chandos’s amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug. 1831. He divided against the Irish union of parishes bill next day, and with ministers on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He voted for the reform bill’s passage, 21 Sept., but was absent from a call of the House, 10 Oct. and did not vote for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion that day. He presented a Lincoln petition for the bill, 14 Dec., voted for the second reading of the revised measure, 17 Dec. 1831, again supported its details, and divided for the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. When his colleague attempted to alter the proposed boundary between the north and south of Lincolnshire next day, Heneage objected, saying that the boundary had ‘given general satisfaction to the parties interested’ and that he felt it his ‘duty to oppose the amendment’, which was defeated. He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform unimpaired, 10 May, and presented a Lincoln petition for withholding supplies until it passed, 24 May. He divided for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and paired against a Conservative amendment to increase the Scottish county representation, 1 June. He was in the minority of 19 for Tennyson’s attempt to alter Stamford’s boundaries, 22 June 1832. He voted with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16 July, and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. On 8 Mar. he seconded Amcotts Ingilby’s motion for the production of papers on the unexpected disbandment of the north and south Lincolnshire militias, asserting that he could not ‘at all understand on what ground the dismissal took place ... with no cause assigned but the cold weather’, which ‘is generally expected at Christmas’. He conceded that it was unlikely that anything useful would be gleaned from the documents, however, and the motion was eventually negatived without a division. He divided for coroners’ inquests to be made public, 20 June 1832.
At the 1832 general he offered again for Lincoln as a Liberal and topped the poll. He retired at the 1834 dissolution, when he was rumoured as a candidate for North Lincolnshire but did not stand. The previous year he had married Frances Tasburgh, ‘a Catholic who lives near Doncaster’, who is not at all pretty, but on a very large scale’.9 Whether he resumed the religion himself is unknown. Heneage successfully contested Lincoln as a Liberal Protectionist, following which he supported Lord Derby’s Conservative administration.10 He voted to censure free trade in November 1852, but returned to the Liberal ranks after Derby’s fall. With his position at Lincoln insecure, in February 1862 he took the Chiltern hundreds in order to contest what he thought would be a safe seat for Great Grimsby.11 However, he lost by 12 votes and retired from politics. Commenting on his character in 1849, Colonel Charles Weston Cracoft of Hackthorn Hall observed:
What a singular being George Heneage [is] ... sometimes apparently in a trance and dead as it were to all around him, and then starting up, making some absurd observation, and then laughing the most curious laugh at his own wit ... However, with all his oddities Heneage is a clever man, exceedingly well read, and can converse well on most subjects.
Heneage’s aunt Mrs. Hoare, however, considered him ‘the greatest bore she knew’.12 Heneage died ‘of water on the chest after an illness of three weeks’ in May 1864.13 By his will, dated 14 Jan. 1858, he bequeathed his Brackenborough estate in Lincolnshire, £20,000 and income from £14,000 in stocks and securities to his younger son Charles, and gave his daughter Georgiana Mary £20,000 to double her marriage portion. The remaining estates passed to his eldest son Edward (1840-1922), Liberal Member for Lincoln, 1865-8, and Great Grimsby, 1880-92, 1893-5, who was created Baron Heneage in 1896.