HEYWOOD, Benjamin (1793-1865), of Claremont, nr. Pendleton, Lancs. and 26 Dover Street, Mdx.

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



1831 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 12 Dec. 1793, 1st s. of Nathaniel Heywood, banker, of Manchester, Lancs. and Ann, da. of Thomas Percival, physician, of Manchester. educ. by Rev. Edward Lloyd at Fairfield, Warrington, 1803-6; Rev. John Corrie in Birmingham 1806-9; Glasgow Univ. 1809-11. m. 22 Oct. 1816, his cos. Sophia Anne, da. of Thomas Robinson of Woodlands, Lancs., 6s. 2da. suc. fa. 1815; uncle Benjamin Arthur Heywood to Claremont 1828; cr. bt. 9 Aug. 1838. d. 11 Aug. 1865.

Offices Held


Heywood was a direct descendant of the ejected Dissenting minister Nathaniel Heywood of Ormskirk (1633-77). His grandfather Benjamin (d. 1795), father Nathaniel (1759-1815) and uncle Benjamin Arthur Heywood (1755-1828) had prospered as bankers, while another uncle, Samuel Heywood (1753-1828), was a Welsh judge. Born in Manchester, he spent his childhood in Liverpool and Everton, received a Dissenter’s private education and studied at Glasgow University with his lifelong friend John Kenrick, before joining the Manchester branch of the family bank, Heywood Brothers and Company (of Manchester and Liverpool) in 1811. A partner from his coming of age in December 1814, he succeeded his father as head of the Manchester branch four months later, and became head of the firm, one of the first to introduce variable interest rates and current and deposit accounts, following the death in 1828 of Benjamin Arthur Heywood, a prominent Liverpool Whig and the corporation’s banker.1 As a well-known Manchester Unitarian and philanthropist, he frequented Cross Street Chapel, was treasurer of the Literary and Philosophical Society and the founding president in 1825 of the Manchester Mechanics’ Institute.2 He entertained William Huskisson* at Claremont during his 1829 visit to the area, and considered sponsoring a ‘commercial man’ for Lancashire when John Wilson Patten was substituted for the ailing Ultra John Blackburne at the general election of 1830.3 At the dissolution in April 1831, after attempts to persuade Wilson Patten to declare for the Grey ministry’s reform bill and Lord John Russell* to stand had failed, he agreed to be requisitioned by the ‘select few’ as a reformer, 25, 28 Apr., to deter the Huntite Political Unions and uninvited outsiders from offering.4 Supported by a coalition of wealthy Liverpool and Manchester Dissenters, merchants and reformers, he declared for the ‘whole bill’, secured the support of reform committees in the manufacturing towns and, possibly by agreeing to stand down at the first post-reform election, persuaded his fellow reformer Lord Sefton’s* heir Lord Molyneux†, who had started late, to defer to him.5 Russell approved his candidature, Wilson Patten desisted rather than risk defeat and he came in unopposed with the sitting Whig Lord Stanley.6 On the hustings he criticized the corn laws and all trade monopolies, especially that of the East India Company, and declared for reform and against slavery.7 Praising Wilson Patten at the dinner afterwards, he said he hoped the ‘passing of the bill would be the means of restoring him again to Parliament’.8 Commenting on the result, the duke of Wellington’s confidante Mrs. Arbuthnot complained: ‘in Lancashire they threw out Mr. Wilson Patten, who they acknowledge is the best county Member they ever had, and take a Mr. Heywood, a banker who knows nothing of Parliament or anything but his shop’.9 Heywood addressed the Manchester reform dinner in honour of the king’s birthday, 28 May, and stewarded at the races there before Parliament met. According to his brother Thomas, he turned down an invitation to move the address, but agreed to join Brooks’s, doing so, 9 July 1831.10

Heywood, who never ceased to regard his return as a tribute to the popularity of reform, not himself, was undermined and criticized throughout his parliamentary career by certain Lancashire radicals and anti-reformers, whose speeches and unstamped news sheets disputed his right to sit ‘unfettered’.11 He was goaded into making his maiden speech on 8 July by Henry Hunt, the presenter of a 19,409-signature Manchester petition calling for repeal of the corn laws, annual parliaments, universal suffrage and the ballot. Hunt knew that Heywood thought the last too extreme and exploited this to justify his claim that the working classes were dissatisfied and disappointed with him for failing to live up to the radical promises on his election banners.12 He divided for the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July 1831, and, except for a vote for the total disfranchisement of Saltash, which ministers no longer pressed, 26 July, he divided steadily for its details. He ably contradicted its opponents’ arguments against the proposed Lancashire enfranchisements, notably the decision to award Salford its own Member, 2 Aug. 1831. The Tory Manchester Herald reprimanded him for speaking similarly, 28 Feb. 1832.13 He voted for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. Afterwards he returned briefly to Lancashire where he and his friends failed to prevent the adoption of Huntite resolutions at mass meetings in the manufacturing towns which petitioned in protest at the bill’s defeat in the Lords, and at political union meetings.14 Although Heywood had secretarial help throughout, he privately expressed consternation at the mountain of constituency mail demanding replies by return which he received daily, in addition to the demands of his bank. He also calculated that the House had sat after midnight, which he found tiring, on 85 of the 123 days he attended in 1831.15 He divided for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, consistently for its details, and cited statistics for Manchester to counter claims made by Sir James Scarlett for the anti-reformers, that the £10 householder vote would produce unmanageably large electorates in the great towns, 3 Feb. 1832. He voted for the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar., and the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May. Next day, seconding the Preston Member John Wood’s motion to bring up the controversial Manchester petition for withholding supplies pending its passage, he expressed himself ‘satisfied that no measure of reform of less efficiency will give satisfaction to the country without at once acceding to the wishes of the people’. He announced on 17 May that he would refrain from presenting similar petitions; but criticism of his failure to present the first Manchester petition himself induced him to bring up those from Heywood, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Royton and Todmorden on the 23rd.16 He divided for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and against Conservative amendments to the Scottish measure, 1, 15 June. He presented Salford’s petition requesting extension of the English bill’s provisions to Ireland, 25 June 1832.

Heywood divided with administration on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug., and in the minority for issuing the Liverpool writ, 5 Sept. 1831. His pro-government vote on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan. 1832, was criticized as unnecessary in the Tory press, and the foreign secretary Lord Palmerston afterwards ensured that he was briefed in person on the Belgian question.17 He divided with government on Portugal, 9 Feb., against Hunt’s call for inquiry into Peterloo, 15 Mar., and for the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr., and the Russian-Dutch loan, 12, 16, 20 July, but with Hunt for information on military punishments, 16 Feb. He voted to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June 1832. He brought up a petition for renewal of the Sugar Refinery Act from Manchester Chamber of Commerce, 12 Aug. 1831. Cautioning against rushing through changes in the settlement laws that day, and again on the 17th, he warned that the interests of the manufacturing districts risked being subordinated to those of the agricultural areas. Making reform his priority, he confirmed that he considered the corn laws ‘impolitic in principle and pernicious in practice’, but he thought Hunt’s advocacy of repeal was ‘founded on a fallacy and supported by calamitous attacks on men whose motives he cannot appreciate’, 15 Sept. 1831.

Heywood was named to the select committee on the East India Company, 27 Jan., and the committee of secrecy on the Bank of England’s charter, 23 May 1832. His commercial skills and local knowledge as a Lancashire Member were, as he realized, factors in his appointment to the select committee on the silk trade, 5 Mar., four days after drawing on evidence from Congleton, Macclesfield and Manchester to endorse the vice-president of the board of trade Poulett Thomson’s claims that reports of distress generated by foreign competition were exaggerated (1 Mar.).18 Before being named on 16 Mar. to the select committee on the factory bill (against which he presented and endorsed petitions 7, 9 and 16 Mar.), he explained that he considered the measure in its ‘present shape’ to be ‘wholly inoperative’, damaging to trade and to the working classes, but intended voting for its second reading with a view to amending it, as ‘some legislative interference to restrict children’s working hours’ was necessary. He handled the Manchester improvement bill, 5, 26 Mar., and brought up numerous petitions on local legislation and private bills on his constituents’ behalf. He ‘wholly endorsed’ the Dissenters and Unitarians’ petitions he presented in favour of the Maynooth grant, 25 June, 2, 9, 16 July. On bringing up hostile petitions, 28 June, 2, 5, 9, 21 July 1832, he also made a point of testifying to local concern and the high cost to Liverpool and the county of implementing legislation for the removal of Scottish and Irish vagrants. Arrangements for him to campaign jointly with Stanley in the event of a dissolution had been in place since a ministry headed by Wellington was contemplated in May, and his retirement, which was announced after the reform bill received royal assent in June and justified on health grounds, caused surprise.19 Refusing to reconsider, he informed his committee, 22 June 1832:

I have suffered more in health than is externally apparent ... My more immediate connection with the commercial interest has led to my being named on so many committees that from noon until after midnight during five days in the week I am chiefly within the walls of the ... Commons. The confinement is very oppressive, and to one representing a large constituency is not likely to be materially lessened in the first reformed Parliament.20

A lifelong Liberal and correspondent of Henry Brougham*, he proposed opening temperance rooms to rival the public houses after their party did badly in Lancashire in 1837, and assisted his brother James, Member for Lancashire North, 1847-57, at elections.21 In 1838 Lord Melbourne rewarded his loyalty with a baronetcy. He chaired the committee of Manchester College at York, 1832-34, and was president, 1840-2, when it returned to Manchester.22 A widower since 1847, he retired from the bank, where five of his six sons had become partners, in 1860, and died at Claremont in August 1865. He was succeeded in the baronetcy and to his estates by his eldest son Thomas Percival Heywood (1823-97), for whom, with other family members, he made ample provision.23

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Terry Jenkins


  • 1. T. Heywood, Mem. of Benjamin Heywood, 5-39; T.S. Ashton, ‘Bills of exchange and private banks in Lancs.’ EcHR, xv (1945), 25-35.
  • 2. J.T. Slugg, Reminiscences of Manchester, 173, 262; Brougham mss, Heywood to Brougham, 17 Feb. 1825, 29 Aug. 1828; LSE Lib. Archives Division, Coll. Misc. 0146, Potter mss, letterbk. iv, f. 39.
  • 3. Lancaster Gazette, 29 Aug. 1829; Add. 38758, f. 2; The Times, 9 Aug. 1830; M.J. Turner, Reform and Respectability, 290-1.
  • 4. Manchester Guardian, 12, 19 Mar.; Manchester Times, 26 Mar., 16, 23 Apr., 21 May 1831.
  • 5. Manchester Guardian, 23, 30 Apr.; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 30 Apr., 4 May; Hatfield House mss, bdle. 4, Leigh to Salisbury, 27 Apr.; Brougham mss, W. Shepherd to Brougham [1831].
  • 6. Add. 51680, Russell to Lady Holland [May]; The Times, 6 May; Manchester Times, 7 May 1831.
  • 7. Lancaster Herald, 7, 14 May 1831.
  • 8. Manchester Herald, 18 May 1831.
  • 9. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 421.
  • 10. Manchester Herald, 1 June 1831; Heywood, 75-80.
  • 11. The Times, 3 Aug. 1831; ‘A Letter from one of the 3,730’, 24 Mar. 1832 and passim.; Heywood, 89.
  • 12. Manchester Herald, 11, 18 May; Poor Man’s Guardian, 16 July 1831; Heywood, 86.
  • 13. Manchester Guardian, 24 Sept. 1831; Manchester Herald, 7 Mar. 1832.
  • 14. Manchester Guardian, 15, 22 Oct., 26 Nov., 3 Dec.; The Times, 30 Nov. 1831.
  • 15. Heywood, 82, 86.
  • 16. Manchester Herald, 14 May; Wheeler’s Manchester Courier, 19 May 1832.
  • 17. Manchester Herald, 1 Feb.; Hatherton diary, 5 Feb. 1832.
  • 18. Heywood, 86-88, 100; Manchester Guardian, 10, 17 Mar. 1832.
  • 19. Manchester Guardian, 12 May, 23 June; John Bull, 1 July 1832.
  • 20. Heywood, 94-101.
  • 21. Brougham mss, Heywood to Brougham, 29 July 1837 and passim.
  • 22. Roll of Students entered at the Manchester Academy (Manchester, 1868).
  • 23. Manchester Guardian, 14 Aug. 1865.