NORTH, Frederick (1800-1869), of Hastings Lodge, Hastings, Suss. and Rougham, nr. Swaffham, Norf.

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

Constituency

Dates

1831 - 1837
10 May 1854 - 1865
1868 - 29 Oct. 1869

Family and Education

b. 2 July 1800, 1st s. of Francis Frederick North of Hastings and Rougham and Elizabeth, da. of Rev. William Whitear, rect. of All Saints, Hastings and Ore, Suss. educ. Harrow 1808-18; St. John’s, Camb. 1817; I. Temple 1821. m. 16 June 1825, Janet, da. of Sir John Marjoribanks, 1st bt.*, wid. of Robert Shuttleworth of Gawthorpe Hall, nr. Burnley, Lancs., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1821. d. 29 Oct. 1869.

Offices Held

Mayor, Hastings 1826-7, 1828-9, 1830-1.

Biography

North was a direct descendant of the Jacobite Roger North (1653-1734), attorney-general to Queen Mary of Modena and author of the Lives of his eminent elder brothers, who bought the Rougham estate for 8,000 guineas in 1690. His eldest son and namesake had ‘a vile temper’ and maltreated his son Fountain North (1749-1810), who ran away to sea and, on succeeding to the estate, had the mansion house reduced to the size of a farmhouse. He settled at Hastings and divided his time between there and Hampstead, Middlesex, where he built a house ‘with a flat roof, bulwarks, and portholes, like a man of war’s deck, on which he used to pace up and down, firing off cannon from it on all great occasions and birthdays’. His son Francis Frederick North also lived at Hastings, where he married the daughter of a local clergyman.1 He too was cantankerous and his eldest son Frederick, who was bullied at Harrow, spent most of his university vacations at Rougham, ‘in preference to his uncongenial home’. He travelled desultorily on the continent, returned in 1821 to train for the bar and succeeded his father, who died aged 43, later that year.2 He did not persevere with the law and in 1825 he married an attractive widow, who brought him a delicate stepdaughter Janet, bore him four children and, according to their elder daughter Marianne North, ‘enjoyed nothing’ during her ‘dreary life’.3

North resumed residence at Rougham, in what had been the laundry of the old house, but spent the winters at Hastings, where he became a leading member of its closed corporation.4 His mother’s sister was married to Edward Milward, who dominated the borough’s affairs and, as the government’s election agent, returned both its Members. During North’s third term as mayor in the summer of 1830 he faced attempts, inspired by the recent example set at Rye, to assert the right of inhabitant ratepayers to the freedom and thereby to the parliamentary franchise. On four occasions at courts of record in June and July he rejected, with Milward’s blessing, some 160 such claims.5 At the ensuing general election the ratepayers put up two candidates against Milward’s nominees, both of whom held office in the Wellington ministry. As returning officer, North refused to receive any of the votes tendered for the reformers and returned the ministerialists on the strength of the votes of a handful of freemen.6 The reform movement at Hastings accelerated and in mid-March 1831, soon after the introduction of the Grey ministry’s scheme, North accepted a public invitation from 50 inhabitants, none of them members of the corporation, but many of them Milward’s cronies, to stand for the borough as ‘a resident gentleman of independent views’ when the measure became law. The leaders of the reforming inhabitants, who had adopted prospective candidates of their own, denounced North as his uncle’s ‘tool’ and dismissed his professed conversion to liberal principles as a manoeuvre designed to perpetuate the corporation’s hegemony under a reformed electoral system. When Parliament was dissolved after the defeat of the reform bill, 19 Apr.1831, the corporation offered to return one of the ratepayers’ candidates with North, who pledged himself to support the measure ‘because it would promote the prosperity of the country’, though on other issues he would follow ‘the dictates of his conscience’. The compromise was accepted and he came in unopposed.7

At a Battle reform dinner, 20 June 1831, North declared that more mischief had arisen from maladministration of the poor laws than from the laws themselves.8 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and for most of its details, though he was in the minority against the disfranchisement of Downton, 21 July, and his attendance seems to have lapsed during August. He was in the opposition majority against the issue of a new writ for Liverpool, 5 Sept. He divided for the third reading, 19, and passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish measure, 23 Sept., and the motion of confidence in ministers, 10 Oct. 1831. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831. He was in the ministerial majorities for its details, 3, 8, 21, 23 Feb., but he divided against enfranchising Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb. 1832. He voted for the third reading, 22 Mar. He divided in defence of government’s Portuguese policy, 9 Feb. He voted for the address asking the king to appoint only ministers who would carry undiluted reform, 10 May, and the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish bill, 1 June. He is not known to have spoken in debate in this period, but he presented Hythe and Seaford petitions against the sewers bill and secured a return of the number of persons serving in the navy as punishment for smuggling offences, 24 May. On 18 June he obtained information concerning the election of corporate officers on the Sabbath. He voted in favour of a tax on the property of absentee Irish landlords, 19 June, and public inquests, 20 June 1832.

At the general election of 1832 North successfully contested Hastings, where he inherited Milward’s interest on his death the following year. He won the seat again in 1835, but retired on account of poor health in 1837.9 Three years later he wrote to a friend from Gawthorpe Hall, where he was keeping an eye on his stepdaughter’s inheritance:

Old Roger [North] would have taken an interest in his grandson’s present occupations, for I am becoming a perfect collier, having descended from ‘a Parliament man’ and a pretty active magistrate, to being a sort of unsalaried agent and coal viewer. I cannot bear to be unemployed.10

In 1842 Janet Shuttleworth married the educationalist James Kay, who added her name to his own and was created a baronet in 1849. Between 1847 and 1850 North travelled extensively and adventurously in Europe with his wife and daughter Marianne, who later achieved fame as a painter of the world’s flora. (Her works are housed in a special gallery, erected at her own expense, in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.)11 North regained the Hastings seat in 1854 and became a supporter of the ballot.12 After his defeat in 1865 he toured Egypt and Syria with Marianne, for whom he was ‘from first to last the one idol and friend of my life’. For his part, she was ‘the main link that binds me to life’.13 He came in again for Hastings in 1868, was taken ill in Austria the following summer and returned home to die at Hastings Lodge in October 1869, ‘after a last three days of exhaustion and sleep’.14 He was succeeded by his only surviving son Charles North (1828-1906), a barrister.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher

Notes

  • 1. Marianne North, Recollections of a Happy Life ed. J.A. Symonds, i. 1-2; Farington Diary, xv. 5264, 5271, 5274; Oxford DNB sub Marianne and Roger North.
  • 2. PROB 11/1651/680.
  • 3. North, Recollections, i. 3-5, 29-30.
  • 4. Ibid. i. 8-10.
  • 5. J.M. Baines, Historic Hastings (1963), 50-51; Brighton Guardian, 9, 23 June, 7, 21 July 1830.
  • 6. Brighton Guardian, 4 Aug. 1830.