HILL TREVOR, Arthur (1798-1862), of Whittlebury, Northants.

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

Constituency

Dates

1830 - 11 Mar. 1831
1831 - 1832
1835 - 1841
5 Apr. 1843 - 14 July 1843

Family and Education

b. 9 Nov. 1798, 1st and o. surv. s. of Arthur Hill Trevor, 2nd Visct. Dungannon [I], and Hon. Charlotte Fitzroy, da. of Charles Fitzroy†, 1st Bar. Southampton. educ. Harrow 1812-17; Christ Church, Oxf. 1817. m. 10 Sept. 1821, at Leghorn, Sophia, da. of Col. Gorges Marcus Irvine of Castle Irvine, co. Fermanagh, s.p. suc. fa. as 3rd Visct. Dungannon [I] 14 Dec. 1837. d. 11 Aug. 1862.

Offices Held

Rep. peer [I] 1855-d.

Sheriff, Flints. 1855-6.

Biography

The Brynkinalt estate, on the Denbighshire, Flintshire and Shropshire borders, of Speaker Sir John Trevor (1637-1717) had devolved on Trevor’s great-grandfather Arthur Hill of Belvoir (the younger brother of the 1st Viscount Hillsborough) through his mother, the Speaker’s daughter Anne. A Member of the Irish Parliament and chancellor of the Irish exchequer, 1754-5, he took the additional name of Trevor in 1759, was created Viscount Dungannon in 1765 and was succeeded in 1771 by his grandson, Hill Trevor’s father, a first cousin of the duke of Wellington and supporter of the Londonderry interest in county Down.1 Hill Trevor was born and raised in London with his younger brother Charles Henry, their father’s favourite, who died on 18 Sept. 1823, after falling while leading the field at Stapleton Park races.2 Since their marriage in September 1821 Hill Trevor and his wife had lived at Whittlebury, the seat of his late uncle Lord Southampton, and they were included in the circle of the 3rd marquess of Londonderry, a brother of Southampton’s widow. An anti-Catholic Tory, he assisted Londonderry politically in Ireland, was one of Wellington’s entourage during his 1827 tour of Northern England, and managed the London out-voters when his close friend and sporting companion since their Oxford days, the Ultra Sir Roger Gresley, successfully contested Durham on the Londonderry interest at the general election of 1830. Hill Trevor tried his luck at Sudbury, where he was the ‘phantom third man’, and came in for New Romney as the paying guest of Sir Edward Dering*.3

He was named on the Wellington ministry’s list of ‘violent Ultras’ in the Commons, but divided with them when they were brought down on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, a vote, according to Gresley, who acted similarly, the Ultras never forgave.4 A bold public speaker later described by the Conservative election manager Francis Bonham* as ‘one of the cannon balls of the Tory right’,5 Hill Trevor supported the West India interest on slavery and defended the proprietors’ rights to compensation in his maiden speech, 23 Nov., and again, 15 Dec. 1830. The following day, he embarrassed Lord Grey’s administration by calling for the prosecution of William Cobbett†, as the publisher of the Political Register of 11 Dec., for malicious and seditious libel and inciting the ‘Swing’ rioters.6 Pursuing the issue, he pressed for a ruling by lord chancellor Brougham and highlighted Cobbett’s attack on the ‘oppressive upper classes’, the church as a collector of tithes and the decision to try the rioters by special commission. Determined to kill the motion, the leader of the House Lord Althorp stirred up comments and allegations from Hill Trevor’s maiden speech, imputing that slaves were better clothed, fed and lodged than the distressed labourers, whereupon Hill Trevor briefly defended himself and withdrew his motion on John Croker’s advice. He set out his views on reform in an open Letter to the duke of Rutland, 30 Jan. 1831, which called for a dissolution in view of the extensive changes proposed by ministers and the radical Ultras, advocated retrenchment, and defended the established church. In the House, 21 Feb., he warned that his bête noir the select vestries bill would ‘throw the preponderating influence of the more populous parishes into the hands of a class of persons very ill calculated to possess such overwhelming power’, causing frequent and tumultuous elections and increasing party acrimony. Held to account by Gresley, after he was unseated on petition, 8 Mar., he vacated in his favour at New Romney, and lost to the reformer William Richard Carter Chaytor in a seven-day poll at Durham. On the hustings he defended his parliamentary conduct, appealed to the self-interest of the freemen facing disfranchisement and promised to stand at the general election, which, as he predicted, took place ‘in a few short weeks’.7 He then narrowly avoided a contest through the enforced withdrawal of the Whig veteran Michael Taylor and was returned (with Chaytor) as an advocate of rational and constitutional reform and guardian of vested rights, committed to wrecking the ministerial reform bill.8

On the address, 21 June 1831, Hill Trevor maintained that reform was necessary, but that its advocates exaggerated the bill’s popularity: ‘the election result would have been different had people had time to think’. He presented a petition against disfranchisement from Durham’s London freemen, 23 June, and pleaded their cause in his speech against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 5 July (printed in the Tory Durham County Advertiser, 15 July). It rehearsed the anti-reformers’ usual complaints and ridiculed the enfranchisement of the fluctuating populations of the resorts of Brighton and Cheltenham. He divided accordingly, 6 July, and remained one of the bill’s severest and most frequent critics. He opposed its committal and protested at the use of Saturday sittings to expedite its progress, 12 July; argued that the 1831 census should be the determinant of borough disfranchisement, 19 July; and presented and endorsed a hostile petition from the out-voters of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 20 July. He also objected to the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July, the proposed division of counties, 16 Aug., and the definition of ‘resident voters’, 17 Aug. He spoke against lowering the borough voting qualification from £10 to £5 and recommended raising it to £20, 24 Aug., and joined in the fray later that day when the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Member Hodgson suggested including work premises in the assessment. Although generally averse to co-operating with the bill’s radical opponents, he divided in Henry Hunt’s small minority against making proven payment of rent a qualification for borough voters, 25 Aug. He voted to preserve existing voting rights, 27, 30 Aug., and failed (by 31-151) to carry an amendment that day safeguarding for life the voting rights of existing non-resident freemen. He withdrew another, extending the residence qualification from seven to 20 miles, amid scenes of great confusion, 13 Sept. He divided against the bill at its third reading, 19 Sept., and passage, 21 Sept., having entered a ‘formal protest’ on the 20th concerning the manner in which it had been carried, and condemned it as ‘the forerunner of revolution’. After witnessing the assault on Londonderry for contributing to its Lords defeat, he blamed the press for inciting reform riots in Derby, London and Nottingham, 11, 12 Oct., and took up the case of the queen’s chamberlain Lord Howe, who had been dismissed on account of his hostile vote, 13, 18 Oct. He chaired the Northamptonshire anti-reform dinner at Brackley in November 1831.9

On the address, 6 Dec. 1831, Hill Trevor criticized the ‘most ambiguous and unsatisfactory’ statements on Belgium and Portugal, the failure to suggest remedies for domestic unrest and the dubious tenet that Irish tithes could be reformed ‘consistently with the safety of the established church’. He professed himself ‘unpledged’ on reform, pending revelation of the details of the revised bill, but warned that unless it had been drastically changed he would strenuously oppose it. He only paired against its second reading, 17 Dec., and spent the following week hunting and discussing tactics with Londonderry and his Durham agents at Wynyard, where, conceding the futility of outright opposition to reform, they resolved to press for the enfranchisement of the nearby town of Stockton-on-Tees.10 He voted against the proposed enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He welcomed the incorporation of Lord Chandos’s clause extending the county franchise to £50 tenants-at-will, 1 Feb., and quibbled only over the minutiae of borough voting, 2, 6, 7, 23 Feb. He presented and endorsed Stockton’s petition for enfranchisement, 7 Feb., and, ignoring the objections of Croker, who proposed pressing Merthyr’s superior claims, 2 Mar., he moved to substitute it for Gateshead, 5 Mar. He argued that the exchange would redress the imbalance in representation between North and South Durham and justified its enfranchisement by citing its 9,000 population, 600 £10 householders, 300 40s. tenements and increased annual customs revenue, which ranked it above Cheltenham and Brighton. The proposal, however, was opposed on both sides of the House and negatived without a division.11 Hill Trevor failed to vote on Merthyr that day, and renewed his protest at the discrepancy in North and South Durham representation when the enfranchisement of South Shields was approved, 7 Mar., and again at the third reading, 21 Mar. He now added the uniform borough franchise and the destruction of property, religious establishments and the monarchy to his litany of complaints against the bill, ‘which under the gilded form of bestowing equal representation ... is, in fact, leading the way to as bloody and fearful a revolution as the pages of history can unfold’. When a ministry headed by Wellington was contemplated, he called for government action to stop the Birmingham Political Union sitting permanently until the reform bill became law, 7 May, and denounced the ministerial resignations and threatened peerage creations, 18 May 1832. He had criticized the foreign secretary Lord Palmerston’s* Belgian policy, 11, 18 Aug. 1831, and divided against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July, and maintained that the papers before the House exonerated Britain from repayment, 20 July 1832.

Hill Trevor ridiculed Hunt’s arguments against the yeomanry grant, 27 June, and vehemently opposed the radicals’ campaign on behalf of the imprisoned Deist Robert Taylor, 22 July, 15 Aug., 5, 7 Oct. 1831, when (as on the 18th) he defended his prosecution for blasphemy and denounced his Commons supporters. He supported Chandos’s demand for higher fines for unlicenced shooting, 8 Aug. He presented petitions and added his voice to the clamour for greater restrictions on licensing and on-consumption under the 1830 Beer Act, 17, 29 Aug. 1831, 7, 17 May, and implicated it in the recent rise in crime, 8 May 1832. His amendment to curtail opening hours was rejected by 111-12, 31 May 1832. He voted in the minority of 11 against the Irish union of parishes bill, 19 Aug. 1831, and criticized the ministry’s decision to withdraw the grant from the Protestant Kildare Place Society while continuing that for Catholic Maynooth College, 6, 11 Apr. 1832. He seconded and was a minority teller for Waldo Sibthorp’s complaint against the pro-reform The Times, 12 Sept. 1831. Having opposed the vestries bill as a minority teller, 5 Oct., he instigated proceedings against The Times for misreporting its passage, but withdrew them after engaging Hume, John Campbell I and Hobhouse in time-wasting discussion, 13 Oct., when he was also a minority teller against the sugar refinery bill. Ridiculed by the radicals, he denounced the licentious press and argued for an increase rather than the reduction they sought in the newspaper stamp duty, 7 Dec. 1831, 9 Mar. 1832. His stance on capital punishment was dictated by his abhorrence of nocturnal crime, and he failed to vote for the ‘severe restriction of the death penalty’ which he advocated, 26, 27 Mar., 17 May. He deemed the anatomy bill ‘an insult to the poor whom it pretends to protect’ and criticized the clause permitting the dissection ‘like murderers’ in cases of hospital death, 11 May. He presented petitions and joined in the clamour against the general register bill, 27 Jan., 2, 8 Feb., and was a minority teller against its committal, 22 Feb. In a partially successful bid to obtain concessions, he threatened to divide the House on a motion to appoint all English county Members to the committee and refuted suggestions that hostile petitions were ‘got up by a few interested landlords’, 6 Mar. He opposed the measure to the last, 18 July. Petitions against the Hartlepool Dock, 13 Mar., and Sunderland (South Side) Dock bills, 14 Mar., were entrusted to him, and he was a majority teller against the South Shields and Monkwearmouth railway bill, 26 Mar. Though of the committee, he chose not to attend for the crucial division by which the Sunderland Dock bill was lost, 2 Apr.12 He defended the Durham gaoler Prouchard when his alleged misconduct was made the subject of a radical petition, 11 Apr. 1832.

Trevor visited Durham directly the reform bill became law and spent the summer of 1832 in Ireland.13 Defeated by two Liberals at the general election in December, he retained a high profile in the city and, backed by Londonderry’s Conservative Association, he came in in 1835, when his support for Peel’s government was ‘not absolute’, and again in 1837.14 ‘His tall thin person appearing perpendicularly’ to speak in debate often provoked ‘scenes of uproar and confusion’.15 Plagued by rumours that he had mistreated his dying father, from whom he had long been estranged, he went to Ireland when he succeeded him in 1837 to put his Down, Kilkenny and Queen’s County estates in order, so provoking a temporary breach with Londonderry for neglecting Durham.16 He stood down in 1841 and was considered for Shropshire North in 1842, but his estates were deemed too peripheral.17 Unseated on petition after defeating the free trader John Bright† at the 1843 Durham by-election, he did not stand there again, despite being requisitioned, and he correctly predicted the defeat of Londonderry’s son Adolphus in 1852.18 Following his election to the Lords in 1855 as an Irish representative peer, he divided his time between Ireland, where he was County Grand Master of the Orange Order in Antrim, Brynkinalt, and his London house in Grafton Street, where he died without issue in August 1862, so extinguishing the viscountcy.19 His views on church and municipal reform in Wales and Ireland, education, religious toleration, rural crime, the House of Lords and divorce survive in several political tracts and letters to The Times. He also wrote the unremarkable Life and Times of William, Prince of Orange (1835-6). He left everything to his widow (d. 1880), and as his father had willed, the estates passed to his nephew, the 3rd marquess of Downshire’s son Lord Arthur Edwin Hill (1819-1911), Conservative Member for County Down from 1845 until his elevation to the Lords in 1880 as Baron Trevor.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott

Notes

  • 1. Oxford DNB.
  • 2. The Times, 15, 22 Sept. 1823.
  • 3. NLW, Ormathwaite mss G35 f. 121.
  • 4. Add. 40412, f. 25.
  • 5. A.J. Heesom, Durham City and Its MPs, 25.