RUMBOLD, Charles Edmund (1788-1857), of Woodhall Park, Watton, Herts.

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



1818 - 1834
1837 - 1847
8 July 1848 - 1857

Family and Education

b. 11 Aug. 1788, 5th s. of Sir Thomas Rumbold†, 1st bt. (d. 1791), of Woodhall and 2nd w. Joanna, da. of Rt. Rev. Edmund Law, DD, bp. of Carlisle; half-bro. of William Richard Rumbold†. educ. Oriel, Oxf. 1806; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1808; European tour 1812-13. m. by 1834, Harriet, da. of John Gardner of Ashford, Kent, 3s. d. 31 May 1857.

Offices Held


In 1782, by means of a bill of pains and penalties, the Commons had unsuccessfully prosecuted Rumbold’s father, whom he barely knew, for corruption as governor of Bengal, 1778-81. A breach between him and the sons of his first marriage, who resented their stepmother, subsequently left Rumbold heir with his siblings to the proceeds from the sale of his Hertfordshire estate and town house in Harley Street, in which his mother had a life interest. Not until her death in 1823 did the East India Company auditors rule that his father had died insolvent.1 His mother’s connection with the Lushington family of Park Place, Kent, into which her late sister Mary had married, had given him, through the Whig barrister Stephen Lushington*, an introduction to the venal borough of Great Yarmouth, which he contested successfully on the Whig or ‘Blue’ interest in 1818 and represented, with a single interruption, for almost 40 years at an estimated cost of £80,000.2 At the general election of 1820 he stood jointly with Thomas William Coke I* of Norfolk’s grandson George Anson, his colleague since 1819, narrowly defeating two Tories backed by the corporation, who dubbed the Members ‘Death and the Devil’; Rumbold was the latter. On the hustings, he countered criticism of his anti-government votes against the oppressive measures enacted after Peterloo, with a robust defence of his opposition to the unpopular salt tax and, mindful of the importance of the Dissenters’ votes, he promised to promote criminal law reform, civil and religious liberties, the fisheries and local commerce.3 Noting the £8,000 bill, the Whig banker Hudson Gurney* commented that Rumbold, who at first also paid the Ansons’ costs, would ‘be imprudent ever again to face an opposition for Yarmouth’.4

An occasional contributor to debates, he served on several minor committees, before he was appointed to that on foreign trade in 1824. He made no major speeches, but was entrusted, as previously, with most constituency business, including petitions. He divided steadily with the Whig moderates on most major issues, and for economy and retrenchment, but took care, when ‘directed’, to represent the opinions of Great Yarmouth’s leading Dissenting merchants and ship owners. He voted to disqualify civil officers of the ordnance from voting at parliamentary elections, 12 Apr. 1821, cast his first known votes for parliamentary reform, 9, 10 May 1821, and voted similarly, 25 Apr. 1822, 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 26 Feb. 1824, 9 Mar., 13, 27 Apr. 1826. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. A radical publication that session noted that he ‘attended regularly and voted with opposition’.5 The 1820 Norwich Bridge and Norwich gas light bills were successfully entrusted to Rumbold.6 He divided with opposition on the Queen Caroline case, 26 June, which he later informed William Lamb* and William Wilberforce* caused him ‘much alarm’, and he returned to London from Watton in September 1820 to hear the Lords proceedings, in which Lushington was the queen’s third counsel.7 He was a steward at the Norfolk Foxite dinner, 19 Jan., and steadily supported the 1821 parliamentary campaign on the queen’s behalf.8 He presented petitions from Great Yarmouth against the Hull poor rates bill, 19 Feb., and the extra post bill, 18 June 1821.9 His votes to repeal the salt duties, 28 Feb., 3, 28 June, accorded with constituency interests and, stressing the inadequacy of a partial repeal, he spoke in support of the Cornish pilchard fisheries’ petition, 11 June 1822, and presented and endorsed another that day from the principal fish curers of Great Yarmouth.10 A regular guest of the Great Yarmouth banker John Brightwen and corn merchant and maltster Benjamin Dowson, he was for amending the corn laws and voted in Ricardo’s minority of 25 for a 20s. fixed duty, 9 May 1822, and for corn law reform, 26 Feb. 1823, 28 Apr. 1825, 18 Apr. 1826. During the 1822 recess he was briefed on and asked to oppose the Norwich and Lowestoft navigation scheme, which threatened the commerce and corporation revenues of Great Yarmouth.11

Rumbold’s mother died, 4 Jan. 1823, leaving personal estate sworn under £12,000 and a share in the £68,595 fortune, locked in chancery, of Caroline, the late wife of Admiral Sir William Sydney Smith†. As co-executor with his cousin, the barrister and Ceylon judge Edmund Henry Lushington, Rumbold sold the mansion at Watton, which his father had commissioned from Thomas Leverton, to his late half-brother’s son, the disgraced East India merchant Sir William Rumbold (d. 1833). He accommodated his sisters in London and at Park Place, before purchasing the Preston House estate in the Hampshire parish of Condover, with its manor and advowson, from the executors of the insolvent London merchant John Blackburn†.12 He presented a petition against the reciprocities duties bill from the ship owners of Great Yarmouth, 27 June, and voted against its third reading, 4 July, having called in vain for it to be held over. He maintained that the ‘shipping interest did not require protection, but they protested against an entire alteration’. He presented their petitions against the ships’ apprentices bill, 15 Apr., and the duties on coastwise coal, 2 May 1823.13 At Michaelmas his sisters accompanied him to Great Yarmouth for the corporation dinner and ball.14 Rumbold was named to the select committee on foreign trade, 4 Mar. 1824. His ‘few words’ on the salt tax, 6 Apr., were ‘totally inaudible in the gallery’.15 He voted in condemnation of the trial in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June, having presented and endorsed his constituents’ petition of complaint, 28 May. He presented their petition against the beer bill, 21 May 1824.16 A keen linguist and antiquarian, he was informed on applying to the herald’s office in November that his descent from the comptroller of the great wardrobe, William Rumbold of Fulham (d. 1667), was presumed and not proven.17 He presented a petition for repeal of the assessed taxes from Harwich, 21 Feb., and one from Great Yarmouth against the coastwise coal duties, 24 Feb. 1825.18 When a dissolution was anticipated that autumn, he hurried to Great Yarmouth, where the brewer Charles Barclay* had declared his candidature, and Stephen Lushington canvassed Coke, Thomas Fowell Buxton* and Lord Suffield on his behalf.19 Speaking on the navigation laws and shipping, 13 May 1826, he used evidence supplied by the ship owners of Great Yarmouth to reinforce his argument that reductions in taxes and pilotage fees would make the industry more competitive, and expressed a hope that ‘the alarm ... now felt by the ship owners would cure itself, or that [at] any rate it would be put down by some well considered measure in the next session’. He co-operated throughout with colleagues on the local committee against the Norwich and Lowestoft navigation bill and helped to secure its defeat by 25-20 in the select committee, 2 May.20 He was rewarded with the freedom of Great Yarmouth, 15 May 1826.21 Predictions that he and Anson would be unopposed at the general election in June proved incorrect, but their victory over the newly formed anti-Catholic ‘Crimson interest’ was assured.22 At the Michaelmas dinner, he joined Coke in castigating the instigators of the vexatious opposition.23

Early in the new Parliament Rumbold was preoccupied with the revised Norwich and Lowestoft navigation bill, which Great Yarmouth again opposed, but his motions for its recommittal and amendment both failed, 21 Mar., and it received royal assent, 27 May 1827.24 He divided against the payment to the duke of Clarence, 16 Feb., and for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., a 50s. pivot price for corn imports, 9 Mar., and inquiry into the allegations against Leicester corporation, 15 Mar., and the Lisburn magistrates, 29 Mar. He voted to refer the Irish miscellaneous estimates to a select committee, 5 Apr. He voted to disfranchise Penryn for electoral corruption, 28 May, and presented protectionist petitions from the merchants and ship owners of Great Yarmouth, 3 May, 7 June 1827.25 Thomas Spring Rice* informed the Goderich ministry’s home secretary Lord Lansdowne in September that, commenting on the ministerial changes following Canning’s death, Rumbold, ‘a most excellent and independent man’ had said:

I care not so long as Lord Lansdowne remains in. He and those who act with him ought to feel that whatever sacrifices to form may be made now, they will be amply compensated hereafter. Into his hands the conduct of affairs will fall hereafter, and in a very short time as large and strong confidence will be placed by the treasury in this administration as ever fell to the lot of a minister’.26

Rumbold voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. He presented the Great Yarmouth maltsters’ petition for repeal of the 1827 Malt Act, 28 Feb. He voted against sluicing the franchise at East Retford, 21 Mar., and for the disqualification bill, 24 June. A member of the 1827 select committee on pauper lunatics, he moved a late amendment concerning coroners’ inquests to the lunatic regulation bill, 1 Apr. 1828, but withdrew it rather than compromise the measure. On 22 Apr. he voted to amend the corn bill by lowering the pivot price from 64s. to 60s. He divided against the Wellington government on the Buckingham House expenditure, 23 June, and the ordnance estimates, 4 July 1828. He presented and endorsed petitions for Catholic emancipation, 11, 27 Feb., 4, 10 Mar., and divided thus, 6, 30 Mar. 1829. He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May. He opposed the grant for the marble arch sculpture, 25 May, and was appointed to, 27 May, and reported from, 19 June, the select committee to examine Nash’s conduct in granting leases on crown lands. His attitude towards a projected coalition involving the Ultras in October 1829 was ‘unknown’.

Rumbold was one of 28 ‘opposition Members’ who voted against Knatchbull’s amendment to include reference to distress in the address, 4 Feb. 1830, but he divided fairly steadily for retrenchment that session. He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., 5, 15 Mar., to enfranchise Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and for parliamentary reform, 28 May. He spoke against proceeding against Nash personally over the mishandling of the Buckingham House improvements, 2 Mar., but paired for inquiry into the management of crown lands, 30 Mar., and voted against the public buildings grant, 3 May. He divided steadily with the revived Whig opposition from March until 14 June, including for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 7 May, and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 24 May, 7 June, for which his constituents petitioned, 26 Apr., 17 May. He voted to consider abolishing colonial slavery, 13 July. Rumbold’s attempt to extend the scope of the inquiry into the coal trade beyond London failed, 11 Mar., but he obtained returns on duties and drawbacks affecting textiles, which were of concern to the Great Yarmouth crepe manufacturers, 8 Apr. He presented several petitions against the Southwold Haven bill, which was promoted by the Suffolk Member Gooch and opposed by the corporation, but failed to secure its recommittal (by 54-22) or amendment (by 49-21), 3 May. As requested, he took charge of the Acle and Yarmouth road bill, which received royal assent, 3 May, and presented petitions against the sale of beer bill, 4 May, and renewal of the East India Company’s charter, 6 May, and for retrenchment and lower taxes, 10 May, equalization of the duties on corn, spirits and rum, 19 May, and ‘continuance of the fishery bounty’, 21 May.27 When a petition of complaint from London ship owners was presented, 6 May 1830, he stated that ‘the shipping interest look entirely for relief to the reduction of taxes and the removal of the East India monopoly’ and called on government to afford them immediate and effectual relief on both. He and Anson were opposed ‘by almost the entire force of the corporation’ at the general election in August, but to ministers’ regret they defeated two Tories to retain their seats. On the hustings, Rumbold professed support for reform and retrenchment, praised Wellington for conceding emancipation, and drew attention to his own votes against slavery and for religious toleration.28

The ministry listed Rumbold as one of the ‘bad doubtfuls’ likely to vote with ‘opposition’ in the new Parliament; and he did so on the civil list when they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented his constituents’ petitions against slavery, 4, 19 Nov., 11 Dec. 1830, and for repeal of the coastwise coal duty, 9 Feb., secured the referral of their petitions against the Norwich and Yarmouth road bill to the committee that day, and presented one for parliamentary reform, 28 Feb. 1831. He was named as a defaulter, 14 Mar., but excused on account of illness, which also prevented him from voting for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar. He divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr.29 At the ensuing election ‘a bad attack of gout’ delayed his canvass at Great Yarmouth, where the freeman and out-voter disfranchisements which the bill proposed were a major issue, and during the poll he promised to try to secure concessions.30 Afterwards, acting on financial and political grounds, he and Anson lobbied for the transfer of government patronage from Tory Harwich to Whig Great Yarmouth.31 Rumbold’s health problems persisted. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and against adjournment, 12 July, and using the 1831 census to determine borough representation, 19 July 1831. He divided fairly steadily for the bill’s details, but, bowing to constituency pressure, on 30 Aug. he moved an amendment to grant non-resident freemen compensatory voting rights in their boroughs of residence, which he withdrew for want of support. He spoke highly of the Great Yarmouth out-voters, acknowledged his obligation to them and disputed Lord John Russell’s claim that the £10 householder vote afforded them ample compensation. He voted for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He was in the minority for legislating for the relief of the Irish poor, 29 Aug. He divided for the revised reform bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, consistently for its details, for the third reading, 22 Mar., and for the address requesting the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May 1832. He divided for the second reading of the Irish measure, 25 May, and paired against amending the Scottish bill, 1 June. He voted for Alexander Baring’s bill denying parliamentary privileges to debtors, 27 June. He apologized for his absence from the Great Yarmouth reform festival on 12 July and, responding to a summons from the leader of the House Lord Althorp, he divided with administration on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12, 16 July 1832.32 Vetting Rumbold’s application to become a Hampshire magistrate that winter, the Conservative John Fleming* informed Wellington, ‘I am not aware of any objection to him, excepting his politics’.33

Rumbold was returned for Great Yarmouth after a contest at the general election of 1832.34 He was defeated in 1835, but triumphed again in the Liberal interest in 1837. His defence of church rates and opposition to disestablishment cost him the support of the Dissenters, and following his defeat at the voided election of 1847 he allied increasingly with the Conservatives. Despite hostile speculation, he retained his seat until he retired through ill health in March 1857.35 He died at Brighton two months later, survived by his wife (d. 6 Oct. 1877) and three sons, who with his unmarried sisters were the beneficiaries of his will, dated 17 Nov. 1846.36

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. PROB 11/1212/593; H.D. Love, Vestiges of Old Madras, iii. 148, 224; BL OIOC D/151; HP Commons, 1754-90, ii. 381-4; Oxford DNB sub Sir Thomas Rumbold.
  • 2. Norf. RO, Great Yarmouth boroughs recs.; Rumbold mss L14/4; Hants Chron. 13 June 1857.
  • 3. The Times, 8 Feb., 13 Mar.; Norf. Chron. 26 Feb., 4, 18 Mar. 1820; Diary and Journal of C.J. Palmer ed. F.D. Palmer, 70; Norf. RO, Gurney mss RQG 572/3.
  • 4. Trinity Coll. Camb. Dawson Turner mss DT2/K1/30, Gurney to Turner, 22 Mar. 1820.
  • 5. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 483.
  • 6. The Times, 6 May 1820.
  • 7. Wilberforce Corresp. ii. 433; Rumbold mss L14/6.
  • 8. Norf. Chron. 13, 20 Jan. 1821.
  • 9. Rumbold mss L14/7-8; The Times, 20 Feb., 19 June 1821.
  • 10. The Times, 12 June 1822.
  • 11. Rumbold mss L14/9-12.
  • 12. PROB 11/1673/436; IR26/971/817; Wellington mss WP1/555/32; 856/23; 857/1; C.H. Philips, E.I. Co. 225-7, 281; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 286-7; VCH Hants iii. 373; iv. 205.
  • 13. The Times, 16 Apr., 3 May, 28 June 1823.
  • 14. Rumbold mss L14/14.
  • 15. The Times, 7 Apr. 1824.
  • 16. Ibid. 22, 29 May 1824.
  • 17. C.J. Palmer, Perlustration of Great Yarmouth, i. 336; OIOC mss. Eur. Photo. Eur. 99.
  • 18. The Times, 22, 25 Feb. 1825.
  • 19. Norf. Chron. 3, 24 Sept., 1 Oct. 1825; Rumbold mss L14/22-23; Dawson Turner mss K2/D1/3, Brightwen to Turner, 31 Oct. 1825.
  • 20. Norwich Mercury, 15, 22, 29 Apr., 6, 13, 27 May; Norf. Chron. 21 May 1825, 11 Feb. 1826; Norf. RO MC222/1.
  • 21. Norf. RO, Yarmouth corporation Y/C19/17; Norwich Mercury, 13, 20 May 1826.
  • 22. C.J. Palmer, Hist. Great Yarmouth, 235; The Times, 7 Apr.; Norf. Chron. 10, 17, 24 June; Globe and Traveller, 13 June 1826.
  • 23. Norf. Chron. 7, 14 Oct. 1826.
  • 24. Ibid. 2 Dec. 1826, 24 Feb., 17, 24 Mar., 25 May 1827; CJ, lxxxii. 13, 29, 44, 148, 305, 345, 459.
  • 25. The Times, 4 May, 8 June 1827.
  • 26. Lansdowne mss, Spring Rice to Lansdowne, 3 Sept. 1827.
  • 27. Norf. Chron. 17 Apr. 1830; Rumbold mss L14/26.
  • 28. F.D. Palmer, Yarmouth Notes, 6-7.; Norf. Chron. 3, 17, 24, 31 July, 7 Aug.; The Times, 13, 21 July 1830. See also GREAT YARMOUTH.
  • 29. The Times, 25 Mar., 21 Apr. 1831.
  • 30. East Anglian, 26 Apr., 3, 10 May; Palmer, Yarmouth Notes, 9-11; Dawson Turner, unpub. ‘Yarmouth Misc.’ [BL N. Tab. 201216], handbills, 22-30 Apr. 1831.
  • 31. Grey mss, Duncannon to Grey, 26 May [1831].
  • 32. Norf. Chron. 14 July; East Anglian, 17 July 1832.
  • 33. Wellington mss WP4/4/1/10-13.
  • 34. Norf. Chron. 15 Sept.; East Anglian, 18, 25 Sept., 11, 18 Dec.; The Times, 13, 14, 18 Dec. 1832.
  • 35. Palmer, Hist. Great Yarmouth, 236-42; Palmer, Yarmouth Notes, 54-5, 79-80, 121-4; Rumbold mss L14/29-33; The Times, 22 July 1847, 8 July 1848, 11 Mar., 6, 8 July 1852, 24 Dec. 1855.
  • 36. Gent. Mag. (1857), ii. 101; PROB 11/2256/643; IR26/2109/686.