KERRISON, Sir Edward, 1st bt. (1776-1853), of Oakley Park, Suff. and 21 Holles Street, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 30 July 1776,1 o.s. of Matthias Kerrison of Bungay and Mary, da. and h. of Edward Barnes of Barsham, Suff.2 m. 20 Oct. 1810, Mary Martha, da. of Alexander Ellice of Pittencrief, Fife, 1s. 3da. kntd. 5 Jan. 1815; CB 22 June 1815; KCH 1821; cr. bt. 27 July 1821; suc. fa. 1827; GCH 1831; KCB 18 July 1840. d. 9 Mar. 1853.
Cornet 6 Drag. 1796, lt. 1798; capt. 47 Ft. 1798; capt. 7 Drag. 1798, maj. 1803, lt.-col. 1805-26; brevet col. 1813; maj.-gen. 1819; col. 14 Drag. 1830-d.; lt.-gen. 1837; gen. 1851.
Capt. Suff. Borderers yeoman cav. 1831-50.
Kerrison, an anti-Catholic Tory ‘widely acclaimed for his long and distinguished military career, combined with his high regard for horses’, did not stand for Parliament in 1820, although he canvassed at Norwich, where ‘some pains had been taken to obtain a candidate in the ministerial interest’.3 His father had made his fortune trading in coal, corn and timber from Bungay quay during the Napoleonic wars and invested the profits in mortgages and land, including the 2nd Viscount Maynard’s estate of Hoxne, where Kerrison ‘expended an immense sum’ improving Oakley Park to the architect Sidney Smirke’s designs: ‘the furniture is costly in the extreme, vases, Buhl cabinets, porcelaine meet you at every turn’, reported Sir John Benn Walsh*.4 Kerrison was made a baronet at the coronation in 1821 and was already known to the premier Lord Liverpool as ‘a very good man’ and ‘a very warm and kind friend of the government’, who should be accommodated.5 His successful negotiations in 1823 to purchase the Brome Hall estate and a controlling interest in the borough of Eye from the 2nd Marquess Cornwallis gave him the opportunity to return to the House.6 After some delay and disgruntlement on the part of the corporation, he was returned unopposed on a vacancy in February 1824.7 He voted for the usury laws repeal bill, 8 Apr., against condemning the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June 1824, and against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. He divided with government for the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 2, 10 June 1825. Frederick Henniker, whose sudden death prevented a contest at Eye at the 1826 general election, had dismissed him in January 1825 as a Member of insufficient talent ‘to command, nor even to excite attention’ with ‘little claim on patronage’ and ‘surely ... not capable of speaking’.8
Kerrison’s attendance lapsed during his father’s last illness and, notifying the home secretary Peel, 17 Mar. 1827, that he was ‘unfortunately detained’, he offered to go up ‘for a day ... should any question of immediate urgency take place’.9 He received three weeks’ leave, 27 Mar., and another month, 4 May, to attend to urgent business following his father’s death, 12 Apr. Allowing for fluctuating values in land and possibly another £56,000 outstanding to the Cornwallis family, Matthias Kerrison had estimated his assets at between £721,320 and £826,878 in 1825. Kerrison, as his heir, calculated that he had been worth £852,389 in late 1826, and the will was proved under £250,000, 30 Apr. 1827 (adjusted to £126,389 in 1830).10 He sold their mercantile interests in Bungay after serving there as reeve, 1827-8, and also toyed with purchasing Eye Park in 1828.11 He wrote to congratulate Peel on his return to office, 17 Jan. 1828, and promised to be ‘at my post with sincere satisfaction, when all your arrangements are made’.12 He failed to vote on repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., but did so against extending the East Retford franchise to the freeholders of Bassetlaw, 21 Mar., and against Catholic relief, 12 May. He divided with the Wellington ministry against ordnance reductions, 4 July 1828. Their patronage secretary Planta anticipated that he would vote ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation in 1829, but he had become involved with the Brunswick clubs, presented and endorsed hostile petitions, 13 Mar., and voted resolutely against the measure, 6, 18, 27, 30 Mar. 1829.13 He acquired 13 Great Stanhope Street, Mayfair as his town house that summer and in October 1829 returned the duke of Clarence’s son-in-law Philip Charles Sidney for a vacancy at Eye.14 Cumberland, Lord Fitzroy Somerset*, the king’s private secretary Sir Herbert Taylor* and the commander-in-chief Lord Hill suggested him for the command of the 17th Lancers in the reshuffle that followed Sir Thomas Garth’s death, but by 29 Nov. 1829 the king had agreed to Sir John Elley’s appointment and stipulated only that Kerrison should have ‘the next occurring vacancy’. (In June 1830 he became colonel of the king’s regiment of light dragoons.)15 He presented and endorsed petitions from Eye and the hundred of Hoxne for relief from agricultural distress, 8, 15 Mar., which he said he was confident ministers could remedy; but he voted against them on the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar. 1830. He voted against Jewish emancipation, 17 May. He voted to restrict and delay licensing for on-consumption under the sale of beer bill, 21 June, 1 July, having presented and endorsed Eye’s petition recommending this, 4 May 1830. He campaigned actively in Suffolk for the defeated sitting Tory Gooch at the general election that summer and returned Sidney and himself for Eye.16
Kerrison presented an anti-slavery petition, 9 Nov. 1830. Ministers now considered him to be one of the ‘moderate Ultras’, and he voted against them when they were brought down on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. The Grey ministry’s reform bill, which caused Sidney, mindful of his obligations to William IV, to resign to avoid casting a hostile vote, proposed the disfranchisement of Eye and was bitterly opposed by Kerrison, who returned the anti-reformer and West India agent William Burge in Sidney’s place and voted with him against the second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. They came in unopposed at the ensuing general election.17 He voted against the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July, spoke and voted to adjourn its committee stage, 12 July, and divided for making the 1831 census the criterion for English borough disfranchisements, 19 July 1831. Admitting that he felt ‘put on trial’, he spoke strongly in his borough’s defence when the clause to disfranchise it was considered, 21 July. Supported by Burge and their fellow anti-reformers Sadler and Wetherell, he said that he opposed reform from a sense of duty to his constituents and country because of the threat it posed to the constitution, and based his case against Eye losing both seats on errors in the 1821 census, which, although the disfranchisement was carried without a division that day, were later confirmed. He voted against taking a seat from Chippenham, 27 July, and divided against the bill’s third reading, 19 Sept., and passage, 21 Sept. Following the bill’s defeat in the Lords and Eye’s reallocation to schedule B, he opposed it openly, and regularly dined Walsh and other anti-reformers, with whom he subsequently joined the Carlton Club.18 In a letter to Earl Jermyn* approving the Suffolk anti-reform address to the king, 4 Dec. 1831, he explained that he had
until now been unwilling to put myself forward in the cause, fearful interested motives might be assigned to me. God knows, this is the smallest ill we have to dread, and if they [reformers] could prove the country would be saved in prosperity, they should be welcome to the interest I have in my borough.19
He divided against the revised bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, and against its committal, 20 Jan., the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He paired (with Bethel Walrond) for a Conservative amendment to the Scottish reform bill, 1 June.20 He voted, 26 Jan., and paired, 12 July 1832, with opposition on the Russian-Dutch loan. He had presented petitions against the Sale of Beer Act from licensed victuallers in the Norfolk and Suffolk hundreds where he had estates, 11 July 1831; and on the 20th he confirmed the severity of the agricultural distress testified to by the Suffolk Members as presenters of Bungay’s petition against permitting the use of molasses in brewing and distilling. He voted with Burge for inquiry into how far the Sugar Refinery Act could be renewed with due regard to the interests of the West Indies, 12 Sept. 1831.
Notwithstanding reports that he would be opposed at Eye by Lord Henniker’s son John (a Liberal whom his daughter Anna married in 1836) at the general election of 1832, Kerrison retained the seat virtually unchallenged for the Conservatives until he made way for his only son Edward Clarence Kerrison (1821-88) in 1852, and strenuously supported the party in the county.21 Even so, his request to Peel as premier in September 1841 for the peerage he coveted was rejected.22 He died at his London home in March 1853 ‘after only an hour’s illness’, and was commemorated by a stained glass window in the church at Eye and his memorial to his ‘favourite chargers’ - the horses he claimed had saved his life in battle.23 The baronetcy and estates passed to Edward and his will also made guardianship arrangements for his daughter Agnes and provided for his widow and daughters Emily, Lady Mahon, and Anna, Lady Henniker, to whose descendants his estates reverted following Edward’s death without issue.24