RAMSBOTTOM, John (1778-1845), of Clewer Lodge and Woodside, Windsor, Berks.

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

Constituency

Dates

14 Mar. 1810 - 8 Oct. 1845

Family and Education

bap. 5 Apr. 1778, 1st s. of John Ramsbottom, brewer and banker, of Windsor and w. Molly.1 educ. Eton 1791. m. 21 May 1799,2 Sophia Augusta Pryor of Portland Place, Mdx.,3 2s. 2da.; 1 illegit. da. suc. fa. 1826. d. 8 Oct. 1845.

Offices Held

Cornet 16 Drag. 1798, lt. 1799, ret. 1803; maj. commdt. Clewer vols. 1803.

Dep. chairman, Hope Life Insurance Co. 1827-43.

Biography

Ramsbottom, a partner with his father and William Legh in the Windsor brewery and bank at Thames Street, was again returned unopposed for the borough on the independent interest in 1820.4 He was secure for life in the seat, in which he had succeeded his uncle, Richard Ramsbottom, the founder of the family’s fortunes, in 1810; his apparently casual attitude to parliamentary attendance made no difference. When present, he continued in the independent ways which he had pursued in the House since 1812. He voted against the Liverpool government on the appointment of an additional Scottish baron of exchequer, 15 May 1820. At a Windsor meeting to vote a loyal address to the king, 1 Dec. 1820, he objected to its reference to the press as ‘mercenary and corrupt’ and had it toned down.5 He did not attend the Berkshire meeting in support of Queen Caroline, 8 Jan. 1821, but he voted for restoration of her name to the liturgy, 26 Jan., 13 Feb., and in censure of ministers’ conduct towards her, 6 Feb. He did not vote in the division on Catholic relief, 28 Feb. On the Grampound disfranchisement bill, 2 Mar., he was in Lord Milton’s minority in favour of vesting the Leeds franchise in the ratepayers rather than the £10 householders. He voted for army reductions, 14 Mar., repeal of the malt duty, 3 Apr., and a curb on pensions on the Barbados defence fund, 24 May 1821. He divided for more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 21 Feb. 1822, parliamentary reform, 25 Apr., abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May, a cut in diplomatic expenditure, 16 May, and repeal of the salt duties, 28 June 1822. He did not attend the county reform meeting, 27 Jan. 1823, and his only known vote in the ensuing session was against the appointment of a lieutenant-general of the ordnance in peace-time, 19 Feb. He voted for the abolition of army flogging, 5 Mar., inquiry into the state of Ireland, 11 May, and against the beer duties bill, 24 May 1824. He voted with government for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and the duke of Cumberland’s annuity, 10 June 1825. He divided for Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. In early December that year news that the London bank of Williams, Burgess and Williams, on which Ramsbottom and Legh drew, had stopped payment caused consternation in Windsor. According to Charles Knight, editor of the Windsor and Eton Express, Ramsbottom, a man ‘of unimpeached credit’, and Legh hurried to London to take his advice. While Legh was sent back to Windsor to forestall the anticipated closure of the bank, Knight and Ramsbottom scoured the City in search of funds to prevent a ‘fatal run’ on it. At the office of the brewery they found a modest sum awaiting deposit in the London bank. Knight recalled:

We decided upon a plan of action, the artifice of which was justified by the necessity of the case. I took my seat in a postchaise with my treasure - something less than a thousand pounds - and was whirled to Windsor in a couple of hours by four horses. As I changed horses at Hounslow, or stopped at turnpikes, I proclaimed, ‘funds for the Windsor bank’. The news spread down the road ... I drove triumphantly into the yard of the bank, amidst the hurrahs of a multitude outside, to whom I had proclaimed my mission. There was a meeting at the same time taking place at the town hall, at which my townsmen entered into resolutions declaring their opinion of the solvency of the firm, and the necessity of not pressing upon them in the hour of difficulty. The bank was saved.6

Ramsbottom’s only known vote in the 1826 session was for revision of the corn laws, 18 Apr.

After his return at the general election in June 1826 he defended his support for Catholic claims, which he had given ‘conscientiously, not having been instructed by his constituents to the contrary’.7 On the death of his father later that year he inherited an equal share in his property, which included personalty sworn under £80,000, with his younger brother James.8 He did not vote in the division on Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. He presented a Windsor Dissenters’ petition for repeal of the Test Acts, 6 June 1827.9 He voted for that measure, 26 Feb., but only paired for Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. He divided against the proposal to extend the East Retford franchise to the neighbouring hundred, 21 Mar., and for a pivot price of 60s. rather than 64s. to regulate corn imports, 22 Apr. 1828. Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, expected him to vote ‘with government’ in favour of Catholic emancipation, and he duly did so, 6, 30 Mar. 1829. He voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May 1829, Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform scheme, 18 Feb., the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and Russell’s reform motion, 28 May 1830. He divided against government on the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar., and the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 29 Mar. He voted for Jewish emancipation, 17 May. He was in the minorities for attempts to restrict the proposed opening of the beer trade, 21 June, 1 July 1830.

At the general election of 1830 Ramsbottom boasted that he had ‘always voted independently’ and declared that he was ‘still an advocate for reform, for moderate and rational reform, such a reform as had been well commenced in the last Parliament, and would, he trusted, be equally well continued in the next’. Soon afterwards he visited the continent.10 Ministers listed him as one of the ‘bad doubtfuls’, and he voted against them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He was not at the Berkshire reform meeting of 17 Jan. 1831, but he voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Mar. 1831. At the ensuing general election he and his colleague, Edward Smith Stanley, the Irish secretary, were returned free of expense as reformers. On the hustings Ramsbottom said:

For some years the Commons ... had not received the entire confidence of the people because it was felt that whatever it represented it did not represent the nation ... The seats in that House were in the hands of an imperious, overbearing, and reckless oligarchy ... who would soon take the power out of the people’s hands unless the people took it out of theirs.

After calling for demonstrations of support for reform to strengthen the hands of the king and his ministers, he asserted that

I shall pursue the same independent and undeviating course which I have hitherto endeavoured to tread. I shall neither look to the right nor to the left; I shall support measures and not men. As long as the present administration continue to advocate liberal principles, and act for the benefit of the people at large, they shall have my warm ... support.

In the county election he exerted his local influence in support of the reform candidates, and on the hustings nominated the veteran Whig sitting Member, Charles Dundas.11

Ramsbottom voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and against the adjournment, 12 July 1831. He was criticized in the Express for his failure to vote against the opposition proposal to use the 1831 census as the basis for disfranchisement; but he redeemed himself by voting steadily for the details of the schedules in late July and August, and, in particular, by having the ‘manly independence’ to vote against ministers for the disfranchisement of Saltash, 26 July.12 He did likewise on an attempt to have Aldborough totally disfranchised, 14 Sept. In his only known contribution to debate before 1832, responding to allusions to ‘the influence which the royal patronage exercises over the borough of Windsor’, 2 Aug., he said that Smith Stanley, even though a member of the government, would ‘never’ have been returned there if he had not been an enthusiastic reformer. He voted for the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. He was in both ministerial majorities on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He voted for the motion of confidence in the reform ministry, 10 Oct. 1831, and a week later chaired the Windsor public meeting, held in defiance of the borough authorities’ original veto, to demonstrate continued support for the king, the government and reform. He pointed out that the bill had been defeated in the Lords by the bishops and recently ennobled Tory peers, while the ancient nobility had taken the popular side. Replying to a vote of thanks for his parliamentary conduct, he welcomed and encouraged the inhabitants’ evident determination to assert themselves despite recent surreptitious attempts from the Castle to stifle the expression of political opinion in Windsor.13 He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, was a fairly steady supporter of its details, and divided for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He was in the majority for the motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the measure unimpaired, 10 May. His only other known votes in this period were against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan. (he paired with them in the divisions of 12 and 20 July), and with them on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. On 28 Feb. 1832 he presented a petition from the licensed victuallers of Windsor for relief from their liability to make restitution for losses of guests’ property.

Windsor was contested at the next four general elections, but Ramsbottom’s return at the head of each poll was never in doubt.14 He joined Brooks’s in 1837. At around that time he disposed of the brewery and bank to Nevile, Reid and Company, having suffered a serious ‘reverse of fortune’.15 He died at the Albany in October 1845. By his will, a brief memorandum dated 2 Mar. 1844, he left items of silverware to his sons and residuary legatees, John Richard Sneyd and Somerville, and his married daughters, Mary Sophia Harcourt Riley and Susan S