NEELD, Joseph (1789-1856), of Grittleton House, nr. Chippenham, Wilts.; Kelston Park, Som., and 6 Grosvenor Square, Mdx.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Educationb. 13 Jan. 1789, 1st s. of Joseph Neeld (d. 1828), attorney, of 31 Norfolk Street, Strand and Mary, da. of John Bond of Hendon, Mdx. educ. Harrow 1803; ?I. Temple. m. 1 Jan. 1831, Lady Caroline Mary Ashley Cooper, da. of Cropley Ashley Cooper†, 6th earl of Shaftesbury, s.p.; 1 da. illegit. suc. to fortune of over £600,000 by will of gt.-uncle Philip Rundell 1827. d. 24 Mar. 1856.
Gov. Harrow 1828; high steward, Malmesbury 1842-d.
Neeld’s origins are obscure, though it is known that his grandfather, Joseph Neeld of Chobham, Surrey, married Mary Burchitt in 1754. Their son Joseph, who became an attorney in London, married Mary, the daughter of John Bond and his wife Susannah Rundell, 29 Mar. 1788.1 Joseph Neeld junior, the eldest of their eight children, followed his father into the law, being formally apprenticed to him, 20 Jan. 1805. He had a practice at 12 Essex Street, Strand, but in the mid-1820s he moved to 12 Paper Buildings, where, since he was sometimes described as being ‘of the Inner Temple’, he was possibly studying for the bar under his friend Henry Hall Joy, of that address.2 Neeld was a great-nephew of Philip Rundell, head of the firm of Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, goldsmiths, of Ludgate Hill, who died on 17 Feb. 1827. He had accumulated enormous wealth from nothing by ‘steady gains and continual parsimony’, and by his will, dated 4 Feb. 1827, he left the bulk of it to his ‘esteemed friend’ Neeld, who, according to Charles Greville, had ‘taken care of him for the last fourteen years’. Rundell’s personalty was sworn above £1,000,000, and it was generally assumed that Neeld had come into at least £900,000, though his share was actually £660,230.3 His father, who died the following year at his then address, Gloucester Place, Portman Square, felt it was unnecessary to provide for him, and so left his property, including personal wealth sworn under £18,000, in trust for his youngest son, John.4 Neeld made considerable investments in East India and Bank stock, and in land in London, Wiltshire and elsewhere. In 1828 he bought from his friend Colonel John Houlton the Grittleton estate, which he extended and made his principal residence.5 By 1829 he had also purchased many of the houses in Chippenham, including about half the burgages which conveyed the right of voting, from its former patrons.6
He bought a parliamentary seat at Gatton from Sir Mark Wood†, and took his place in the Commons, 11 Mar. 1830. It may have been on that occasion that he was introduced to the home secretary Peel behind the Speaker’s chair, and received ‘an earnest shake of the hand’.7 He made no known speeches during this period. At the Wiltshire Society meeting, 19 May, he claimed that he had
always taken an interest in all that related to Wiltshire. He had now taken root in the county and he hoped to flourish there, and that the time was not far distant when he should have the honour of representing a borough in that county.8
He voted against abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June. He canvassed Chippenham at the general election that summer, but had to inform the bailiff, 26 July, that he was still labouring under a severe illness, ‘a circumstance which he particularly laments at the present moment’.9 He was thought certain to be elected on his own interest with his chosen partner, Philip Pusey*, though Thomas Gladstone*, who considered standing on the popular interest, had heard that there was evidence of bribery which might be used against him.10 On the hustings, 30 July 1830, he
rose and looked ‘unutterable things’. He promised to be a faithful representative and a good landlord; and then he thumped the rail and then he looked again. He apologized to the freemen that he could not say as much as he wished, from ill health, and sat down evidently exhausted with - thumping the rail.
His influence was challenged by an independent candidate and a riotous crowd, but he and Pusey shared a majority of the votes and were duly returned. He attended the Bath election the following day.11
He was, of course, listed by the Wellington ministry among their ‘friends’, but he was absent from the division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He brought up a reform petition from his constituency, 11 Mar., but voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. Although an opposition was again raised, Neeld was sure of being returned at the subsequent general election, this time, after having apparently abandoned Pusey, in tandem with his brother-in-law, Henry George Boldero. Proposed as an opponent of the bill, 30 May, but not of reform as such, he spoke against monopolies and unnecessary taxation and promised to remain independent of party. Despite having to stand another contest, he managed to preserve his interest intact.12 He voted against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and for his colleague’s amendment to postpone consideration of the partial disfranchisement of their constituency, 27 July. In August he signed the Wiltshire declaration against reform. He divided against the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept. He was absent from the division on the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, but voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted for Waldo Sibthorp’s amendment concerning Lincoln freeholders, 23 Mar. His only other known votes were against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July 1832.
According to one account of his marriage, Neeld ‘laid siege to the heart of the daughter of a sinecurist Tory lord; and set up for a most magnanimous Tory himself’. It was to involve him in no little notoriety. Under the headline ‘Delicate Discovery’, the Satirist, 8 May 1831, reported that Lady Caroline Neeld had recently been taken ill and delivered of ‘a little stranger’, much to the consternation and humiliation of her husband of four months. It further alleged that she had had an affair with a Guards officer shortly before their wedding, was entitled under their marriage settlement to £10,000 a year in the event of a separation, for whatever reason, and that Neeld, whom the authors would not have thought was ‘over-encumbered with brains, were we not assured to the contrary’, had been thoroughly imposed upon. He was reluctant to pursue the editor through the courts, a fact which his wife’s family held against him, but he did file a criminal information against him, 23 May. By July the couple had separated, and Lady Neeld sued for restitution of her conjugal rights, alleging that he had left her within weeks of the marriage. In a letter to her, 14 July, he complained of her numerous calumnies, which had made him withdraw ‘from that style of living which otherwise I should have adopted’, and warned her to stop her ‘extravagant and vexatious expenditure’. He agreed to resume cohabitation, but towards the end of the year she sued for divorce on the grounds of cruelty. It was said, for example, that he had
used every means in his power to vex and harass his said wife; that he grossly abused her; that he frequently treated her with sullen silence and ‘pretended’ contempt; that he abused her family, and said they were a set disgraceful to be connected with, and declared that he would bring her down ‘lower, lower, lower still’.
The suit was defeated, but a formal separation was agreed, 17 May 1832, and the scandal no doubt hindered his political career.13
Neeld offered again for Chippenham at the 1832 general election, when he spoke in favour of lower taxation, tithe commutation and the abolition of slavery. His contribution to the town’s prosperity was recognized and he was returned at the head of the poll, but he had to relinquish one seat to a reformer for the duration of the Parliament.14 He thereafter reasserted his control and continued to represent Chippenham, as a staunch Conservative and Protectionist, until his death in March 1856.15 His only child (with a French woman), Ann Maria (c.1812-89), to whom he must already have conveyed Kelston, had married William Inigo Jones in 1844.16 The residue of his large estate passed in trust to his brother John (1805-91), who sat as a Conservative for Cricklade, 1835-59, and Chippenham, 1865-8, and was created a baronet in 1859.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Stephen Farrell
- 1. Cricklade Mus. 938, Neeld ped.; Gent. Mag. (1788), i. 365.
- 2. TNA CP5/226/21; Bentham Corresp. ix. 114.
- 3. Gent. Mag. (1827), i. 563-4; Greville Mems. i. 168-9; PROB 11/1722/127; IR26/1138/177; F.M.L. Thompson, ‘Business and landed élites in 19th cent.’, in Landowners, Capitalists and Entrepreneurs, 147.
- 4. Gent. Mag. (1828), ii. 649; PROB 11/1750/32; IR26/1203/6.
- 5. WCA D.Misc.112; VCH Wilts. xiv. 109, 171; Gent. Mag. (1856), i. 527.
- 6. Wilts. RO, Keary mss 415/272; Wilts. RO, Neeld mss 1305/45-77, 320; Wilts. RO, Ross mss 1769/52; The Times, 11 Aug. 1831.
- 7. The Times, 11 Aug. 1831.