HODGSON, John (1806-1869), of Elswick House, Northumb.

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

Constituency

Dates

27 July 1836 - 1847

Family and Education

b. 30 July 1806, 1st. s. of John Hodgson of Elswick and Sarah, da. and coh. of Richard Huntley of Friarside, co. Dur. educ. by Rev. James Birkett at Ovingham, Northumb. 1814-19; Durham sch. 1819-23; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1823. m. 31 Jan. 1833, Isabella, da. and coh. of Anthony Compton of Carham Hall, nr. Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb., s.p. suc. fa. 1820; Elizabeth Archer Hinde to Stelling Hall and Ovington Lodge, Northumb. 7 Mar. and took additional name of Hinde by sign manual 11 Aug. 1836. d. 25 Nov. 1869.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Northumb. 1849-50.

Biography

Hodgson was a direct descendant of William Hodgson, who was sheriff of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1474, and heir to the manor and 800-acre Tyneside estate of Elswick on the city’s outskirts, purchased in 1717 by his paternal great-grandfather, a prosperous linen draper. His father (d. 1820) had exploited the estate’s mineral wealth, built a new mansion, and resited Elswick village to facilitate smelting and coal extraction. At Cambridge, Hodgson’s ‘superfine black dress and white linen always told more of the student than the squire’ and he excelled in Latin, palaeography and ‘Border anecdotes’, on which he later became an expert. He acquired Elswick and an independent income of £500 on coming of age in 1827, and made his first foray into Newcastle politics the following year as an opponent of the proposed route of the Newcastle-Carlisle railway and promoter of the Scotswood suspension bridge.1 Capitalizing on local dissatisfaction with the sitting Whig Sir Matthew White Ridley and the Tory Cuthbert Ellison’s dread of a contest, at the general election of 1830 he came in unopposed for Newcastle, on his 24th birthday, after an arduous ten-week canvass. He was the preferred candidate of the low freemen and condoned by the shipping interest, but their spokesmen warned him on the hustings that he was ‘on trial’.2 At his election and dinners he declared against free trade and promised to promote the coal and carrying trades, a gradual abolition of slavery, repeal of the Septennial Act and a ‘moderate’ reform of Parliament that ‘did not interfere with vested rights ... without giving an indemnity to those who may suffer by the change’.3

The Wellington ministry listed Hodgson among the ‘good doubtfuls’, but he divided against them on the Irish Subletting Act, 11 Nov., and when they were brought down on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, having, by his own testimony, lost confidence in them on account of their ‘warlike’ king’s speech.4 He presented anti-slavery petitions from Newcastle and beyond, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18 Nov., endorsed, 15 Nov., and presented, 2 Dec., others for repeal of the coastwise coal duties, and soon established himself as a ready debater attuned to local mercantile interests. Speculating that the recent sharp rise in freeman admissions in Newcastle, where he had financed some 300 creations, was replicated elsewhere, he ordered detailed returns of admissions for every borough to ‘discover the amount of stamp duty paid with a view to repealing that tax’, 7 Dec. 1830, but he withdrew his request, when asked to so by the Grey ministry’s chancellor of the exchequer and leader of the House Lord Althorp.5 Two days later he received a drubbing from the home office under-secretary George Lamb and the anti-reformers John Croker and Sir Charles Wetherell for proposing a similar motion targeting local enrolment fees. In a well-received speech at the Newcastle reform meeting, 21 Dec. 1830, he expressed qualified support for the government as promoters of peace, retrenchment and reform, and acknowledged that differences with his constituents on the latter were a resignation matter. He called for the enfranchisement of the northern industrial towns, the abolition of rotten boroughs, the enfranchisement of resident householders and for compensatory votes ‘where they lived’ for non-resident freemen, and refused to sanction the ballot.6 Anticipating an early dissolution, he publicized his candidature at the next election, 5 Jan. 1831, and before Parliament reconvened sought the support of the individual Newcastle guilds for his intended ‘vote of conscience’ for reform.7 He expressed support for his constituents’ petition for the ministerial reform bill, but criticized its failure to give South Shields separate representation, 7 Mar. He divided for its second reading, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. On introducing the burgesses’ petition requesting its amendment to safeguard freemen’s rights, 28 Mar., and again at the Newcastle mayoral dinner, 6 Apr., he said he would move amendments at its committee stage for a seven-mile rule and six months’ residence qualification.8 On 15 Apr. the Newcastle barrister James Losh informed lord chancellor Brougham that Hodgson claimed ‘he was one of the 20 Members who would be content to give up all opposition to what is called disfranchisement, provided persons now apprentices and the sons of freemen above 15 years of age were allowed to vote [for] life’.9 He refused to be goaded into endorsing the hostile South Shields petition he presented, 20 Apr. Like his colleague Ridley, with whom he was returned unopposed as a reformer at the general election in May, he had upheld the interests of the Newcastle manufacturers by speaking out against the barilla duties bill, 7 Feb., and the coastwise coal duties, 11, 23 Feb., and refuting charges of price-fixing by the northern coal owners, 23 Feb. He welcomed the treasury’s concession on the Greenwich Hospital levy, 28 Mar. 1831.10

Hodgson brought up petitions criticizing details of the reintroduced reform bill from the ‘free brothers’ of Morpeth, 1 July, and from Manchester, 5 July 1831. He divided for its second reading, 6 July, and against adjournment, 12 July, but in committee his support for it was erratic and tempered by his defence of vested rights. He voted to retain the 1821 census as the determinant of borough disfranchisement, 19 July, but cast wayward votes against disfranchising Appleby, 19 July, Downton, 21 July, and St. Germans, 26 July 1831. He voted for the schedule B disfranchisements, 27, 28, 29 July, 2 Aug., to enfranchise Greenwich, 3 Aug., and Gateshead, 5 Aug. (whose entitlement to representation independently of Newcastle he defended in speeches on 4, 5, 9 Aug.), and to unite Rochester with Chatham and Strood, 9 Aug. He voted to retain Merthyr in the Cardiff group of boroughs, 10 Aug. He dissented from the prayer of the Newcastle anti-reformers’ petition presented by Ridley, 20 July, but upheld its complaint that the rate assessment provisions for tradesmen with separate shops and residences was inadequate, 13, 24 Aug. He voted against the anti-reformers’ proposals to extend the county franchise to freeholders in counties corporate, 17 Aug., and borough copyholders and leaseholders, 20 Aug., but for Lord Chandos’s clause enfranchising £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug. He presented and endorsed the Coventry apprentices’ petition for continued enfranchisement, 13 July, and urged the preservation of existing voting rights, 27, 30 Aug., but voted for the government’s amendment disfranchising non-resident freeholders in the hundreds of New Shoreham, Cricklade, Aylesbury and East Retford, 2 Sept. He divided for the bill’s third reading, 19 Sept., and passage, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. Returning afterwards to Newcastle, he defended his independent conduct as a reformer in speeches at the mayor’s dinner, 19 Oct., and publicly at the reform meeting, 25 Oct.11 He divided for the revised reform bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, and steadily for its details. He answered criticism of its polling provisions, 7, 15 Feb., and struggled to overcome the anti-reformers’ attempts to ridicule his justification, on geographic and commercial grounds, of the separate enfranchisement of Gateshead (in preference to Merthyr), 5 Mar., South Shields, 7 Mar., and Whitby, 9 Mar. 1832. He welcomed the belated decision to award Merthyr separate representation by denying Monmouthshire a third Member as a fair adjustment of town and county representation, 14 Mar. South Shields and Westoe’s petitions protesting that the boundary commissioners had underrepresented their population were brought up and endorsed by him, 20 Mar. He divided for the reform bill’s third reading, 22 Mar., and the address requesting the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May. Undeterred by the complaints of the political unionists and the town’s guilds, Newcastle’s reformers commended Hodgson’s conduct. He endorsed their petition for ‘such measures as would effectively secure’ the reform bill’s passage, 21 May, and divided for the Irish reform bill at its second reading on the 25th.12 On the Scottish measure, he voted in the minority for a Conservative amendment to increase the county representation, 1 June 1832. He divided with government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. 1831, the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 20 July, and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., but cast wayward votes on the sugar refinery bill, 12 Sept. 1831, for inquiry into the glove trade, 31 Jan., and for the immediate appointment of a select committee on colonial slavery, 24 May. 1832. He voted against disqualifying the recorder of Dublin from sitting in Parliament, 24 July 1832.

Confirming his support for retrenchment, Hodgson voted to reduce public salaries to 1797 levels, 30 June, and against the civil service grant, 18 July 1831. He divided against compensating two free coloured men, Louis Lecesne and John Escoffery, for their deportation from Jamaica, 22 Aug. He voted for the Irish union of parishes bill, 18 Aug., and to make absentee landlords liable for the Irish poor, 29 Aug., but against the Maynooth grant, 26 Sept. He presented petitions and joined in the clamour against the locally contentious general register bill, 21 Sept., 4 Oct. On 14 Dec. 1831, to the acclaim of the liberal Tyne Mercury, he announced that he would move to exempt the Northern circuit counties from its provisions.13 Backed by further hostile petitions, he refuted the arguments of the bill’s promoter, Edward Littleton, and stated that a government, like Grey’s, which had ‘obtained office through the force of popular opinion’ should not sanction this unpopular measure, by which they stood to gain nothing but ‘an immense quantity of patronage’, 27 Jan. 1832. He was a minority teller against its committal, 22 Feb., protested at the exclusion of its opponents from the select committee, 6 Mar., and was consequently added to it on the 27th. He presented and endorsed the merchants and manufacturers of Newcastle’s petitions for the repeal of stamp duty on marine insurance policies, 26 Sept. 1831 (and others for reductions in the duties on soap and its ingredients, 23 Jan. 1832). Taking charge of the South Shields and Monkwearmouth railway bill, in which his relations and political allies had vested interests, 10 Feb., he carried its second reading (by 55-9) on the 14th in the teeth of opposition from the county Durham Member Sir Hedworth Williamson and the engineer Stephenson. He defended it robustly, 2, 6, 22, 26 Mar., but failed (by 37-22) to have its defeat referred to an appeal committee, 26 Mar.14 Co-operating with the Durham Member William Chaytor, he backed the Hartlepool docks and railway bill, 13 Mar., and presented petitions against the Sunderland (North side) docks bill, in which Williamson had a proprietorial interest, 23 Mar., 4 Apr. His conduct as a member of the select committee on the rival Sunderland (South side) wet docks bill became the subject of breach of privilege allegations following its defeat there by ten votes to seven in select committee, 2 Apr.; and he candidly conceded the part he had played in transmitting their division list to the local attorneys responsible for its publication, 16 Apr. He upheld the attorneys’ conduct when they appeared before the House, 7 May.15 He supported Ridley’s motion to abolish the merchant seamen’s levy, 8 Mar., and was a spokesman with him for Newcastle interests when the customs duties bill was considered, 25 July 1832.

After a difficult canvass in which his refusal to support the ballot and his equivocal stance on corn law reform and the Bank of England’s monopoly were major issues, Hodgson, a Conservative standing as a self-declared Liberal, outpolled the political unionist Charles Attwood to retain his Newcastle seat at the general election of 1832.16 Defeated in 1835, he became vice-chairman of the North Shields Railway Company, before he was returned for Newcastle as a Conservative at the 1836 by-election caused by Ridley’s death. He retained his seat until 1847, when his intended successor, his brother the railway entrepreneur Richard Hodgson (1812-79), Conservative Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, 1837-47, and Tynemouth, 1861-5, was defeated.17 He had sold Elswick, and moved with his mother (d. 1858) to Stelling Hall near Hexham, formerly the estate of Elizabeth Archer Hinde, having in compliance with her will (dated 13 Oct. 1835 and proved in Newcastle, 11 May, and London, 16 May 1836) taken the additional name of Hinde, purchased the remaining sixth of the estate and consolidated the whole in 1837 by means of a private Act. Now devoting himself to antiquarian studies, Hodgson published the Pipe Rolls for Cumberland, Durham and Westmorland (1847), The Foundations of British History Explored (1852), an introductory volume to his late namesake’s History of Northumberland (1858), and Simeon of Durham’s Works (1868). He was also a regular contributor to the transactions of the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries, of which he was vice-president.18 He died intestate and without issue at Stelling Hall in November 1869 and was buried in the family vault at Bywell St. Peter.19 His widow (d. 1879) having renounced probate, administration of his personal estate, which was thrice sworn (under £20,000 in Newcastle, 20 Dec. 1869, £16,000 and £2,000 in London in 1870) before he was ruled ‘insolvent’ for estate duty purposes, passed to Richard, who, as heir by right of his wife (Hodgson’s widow’s sister) to Carham Hall, assumed the name of Huntley. Stelling Hall reverted to Hodgson’s younger brother, the Rev. Thomas Hodgson (b. 1814), who accordingly took the names of Archer and Hinde.20

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott

Notes

Draws on R. White, Biog. Notice of John Hodgson Hinde, reprinted from Archaelogia Aeliana (n.s.), vii (1873), and R. Welford, Men of Mark ’Twixt Tyne and Tweed, ii. 522-8. Bywell (Northumb.) MI incorrectly gives Hodgson’s year of death as 1809.

  • 1. IR26/829/1435; Welford, ii. 523-5; Diaries and Corresp. of James Losh ed. E. Hughes (Surtees Soc. clxxi) [Hereafter Losh Diaries, i], 151; ibid. (cclxxiv) [Hereafter Losh Diaries, ii], 34.
  • 2. Tyne and Wear Archives, Ellison of Hebburn mss DF/ELL/A66, passim; Northumb. RO, Ridley (Blagdon) mss ZRI25/59, passim; P.D. Brett, ‘Newcastle Election of 1830’, Northern Hist. xxiv (1988), 101-23.
  • 3. Newcastle Chron. 5 June-14 Aug. 1830; Northumb. elections [BL J/8133.i.13.], ii. 627, 635, 681-3, 723-9, 643, 761.
  • 4. Newcastle Chron. 28 Dec. 1830.
  • 5. Ellison of Hebburn mss A66, Sorsbie to Ellison, 20 June; Ridley (Blagdon) mss 25/59, Shadforth to Ridley, 24 June 1830.
  • 6. Northumb. RO, Blackett-Ord (Whitfield) mss NRO324/A/36, W.H. Ord to fa. [23 Dec.]; The Times, 29 Dec. 1830.
  • 7. Tyne Mercury, 11, 25 Jan., 1 Feb. 1831.
  • 8. Ibid. 5, 12 Apr. 1831.
  • 9. Losh Diaries, ii. 191.
  • 10. Tyne Mercury, 26 Apr., 3 May