SOTHERON (formerly FRANK), Frank (1765-1839), of Kirklington, Notts.

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



11 Apr. 1814 - 1831

Family and Education

bap. 24 May 1765,1 3rd s. of William Sotheron (d. 1789) of Darrington Hall, Yorks. and Sarah, da. and h. of Samuel Savile and Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Robert Frank† of Pontefract; bro. of William Sotheron†. m. (1) 6 Oct. 1808, Caroline Matilda (d. 29 May 1812), da. and coh. of Thomas Barker of Potters Newton, Yorks., 1da.; (2) 13 Nov. 1813, Jane, da. of Wilson (Gale) Braddyll† of Conishead Priory, Lancs., s.p. suc. bro. William 1806 and took name of Frank until 1818 when he resumed name of Sotheron. d. 7 Feb. 1839.

Offices Held

Midshipman RN 1776, lt. 1783, cdr. 1792, capt. 1793, r.-adm. 1811, v.-adm. 1819, adm. 1830.


Sotheron, a Yorkshireman and naval officer, had apparently joined Brooks’s Club in 1808, but represented Nottinghamshire on the duke of Newcastle’s interest, as an inactive supporter of Lord Liverpool’s administration, from 1814.2 He offered again at the general election of 1820 and, regardless of expense, was determined to meet John Lumley’s* challenge ‘by polling the freeholders to the last vote’. After Lumley withdrew, Sotheron was again returned unopposed, although (as in 1818) he evidently incurred £1,000 of costs. He assured the electors of his political integrity, stating that ‘his friends did not know what his political opinions were, and he himself scarcely knew what politics he had’, but he was said to be ‘diffuse and appeared overpowered’ on declaring that he ‘had only one little girl and wished to leave a good name behind him’.3 He remained a country gentleman by inclination, attending occasionally to oppose Catholic relief and side with ministers.4 He approved exempting the Aire and Calder navigation from the poor rates, 13 June, and was granted three weeks’ sick leave, 27 June 1820.5

He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He divided against barring civil officers of the ordnance from voting in parliamentary elections, 12 Apr., and parliamentary reform, 9 May. He voted against the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 23 May, and Hume’s proposal for economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821. He divided against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11, 21 Feb., and spoke against reducing the number of junior lords of the admiralty, 1 Mar., but sided with opposition to abolish one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May. He opposed dividing the constituency of Yorkshire, 7 June, and voted against inquiry into Irish tithes, 19 June, and repeal of the salt tax, 28 June 1822. He presented petitions from Nottingham and Southwell churchmen against the Marriage Act, 10, 14 Feb., and an anti-Catholic one from Mansfield, 15 Apr. 1823.6 He divided for the grant for Irish churches and glebe houses, 11 Apr., and against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr. He was in the majority for inquiry into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., but sided with government against investigation of chancery administration, 5 June, and the currency, 12 June 1823. Sotheron divided against reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 26 Feb. 1824, 13 Apr. 1826. He sided with ministers against inquiry into the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June, and for the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June 1824. He voted against the Catholic peers bill, 30 Apr. 1822, and Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr., 9 May 1825. He brought up petitions from several Nottinghamshire towns against revision of the corn laws, 28 Apr., and voted for the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 2, 6, 10 June 1825.7 In May 1826 he conferred with his colleague Lord William Cavendish Bentinck about the malt trade concerns of their constituents.8 He had previously been advised by Newcastle to announce that he would stand down if any challenger emerged in the county.9 None appeared, and he was returned unopposed at the general election that summer, when, in a speech full of nautical allusions, he repeated his boast of independence and promised to co-operate with Lumley, the other Member.10 John Evelyn Denison*, who privately upbraided him for allowing his seconder to characterize him as a reformer, wrote in his diary that Sotheron ‘was annoyed, but made no answer. He is the greatest ass I ever talked to’.11 Newcastle, who congratulated him on upstaging his new colleague, 17 June, signed a bond to him for £5,000 that month and paid a lachrymose visit to Kirklington, the childhood home of his former wife, in October 1826.12

During the following February and March he presented numerous Nottinghamshire petitions calling for agricultural protection, and he duly voted against the corn bill, 2 Apr. 1827.13 He divided against Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and presented the hostile Nottingham petition, 6 Apr. He voted against the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May, and brought up East Retford’s petition against the loss of its own seats, 18 June 1827.14 He divided against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. He voted with the Wellington ministry against reduction of the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July. Believing that an anti-Catholic county meeting would be counter-productive, he refused Newcastle’s request to initiate one in Nottinghamshire in December 1828, arguing that ‘it would not accord with the professions repeatedly made at my election of being always ready to receive the instructions of my constituents but not to anticipate them’.15 Listed by Planta, the patronage secretary, as ‘opposed to the principle’ of emancipation, he was indefatigable in presenting Nottinghamshire anti-Catholic petitions early the following session, angrily vindicating the validity of their signatures, 9, 20 Mar. 1829; he voted steadily against emancipation that month. Later that year the Ultra leader, Sir Richard Vyvyan*, included him among the ‘Tories strongly opposed to the present government’. He voted against transferring East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He presented his county’s petition complaining of agricultural distress, 23 Mar. He divided against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He voted for the South American consular services’ grant and against abolishing the death penalty for forgery, 7 June 1830.

Sotheron, who became a full admiral that year, was again returned unopposed at the general election of 1830, after Denison was persuaded, at the prompting of him and others, to avoid provoking a bitter contest.16 On the hustings, he insisted that he remained independent and undertook, in relation to parliamentary reform, that ‘if he was convinced more than he was at present, he would freely own his conviction’.17 His Southwell agent, the Rev. John Thomas Becher, who had already urged him to retire in the face of growing discontent with him, warned him of his constituents’ increasing support for reform that winter.18 Although ministers listed him among their ‘friends’, Robert Peel, the home secretary, believed that he would side with opposition on its proposed reform motion in November 1830. He duly voted against government on the 15th, in the prior division on the civil list, which led to its resignation.19 In March 1831 it was surmised that he would vote for the Grey ministry’s reform bill out of fear, not affection for the new government.20 Following the Nottinghamshire reform meeting that month, he told Newcastle that he would indeed do so, but would then resign his seat. The duke, a rabid anti-reformer, condemned this as inconsistent and recorded that ‘it is miserable to see so much want of character and firmness, and such a total blindness to future consequences’.21 However, speaking in the debate on the second reading, 22 Mar., Sotheron explained that he had fully intended to follow his constituents in giving it his support, but that, alluding to Sir Edward Sugden’s speech, ‘after hearing the debate, I cannot in my conscience do it’. He acknowledged that this would anger the electors, but declared that ‘I cannot vote for this bill’, and, having made ‘an extraordinary impression upon the House’, duly divided in the minority against it. The minister Thomas Spring Rice* regretted that ‘Sotheron has struck his reform flag’, while the Tory Charles Arbuthnot* counted him among those who ‘have expressed themselves as breast high with us’.22 His defection, which Lord Grey had feared, ‘gave token of desertion’ by other country gentlemen.23 He was praised for his conscientious vote by a moderate Nottinghamshire reformer, to whom he replied that ‘I thought it more honourable for a man in my situation to vote against the second reading than to fritter away the bill in the committee; it must be almost remodelled even if the ministers carry it’.24 He apparently did not vote in the division on Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.

Sotheron, who had been warned that he would face a challenge in his county and had succumbed to a bout of illness, insisted on retiring at the ensuing dissolution, issuing a farewell address, 22 Apr. 1831. Becher, who was himself a reformer, blamed his sudden unpopularity on the manner and timing of his change of opinions on reform, but would have undertaken to obtain his re-election, if only after a damagingly expensive contest. It was alleged that he had tipped off his replacement, Denison, about the vacant seat before his withdrawal was announced, but Becher vindicated his entire political conduct at the county election, when he was generally praised for his long service.25 He was, however, burnt in effigy as an anti-reform bogeyman at Radford, near Nottingham.26 Among other private statements of regret at his departure that Sotheron received was one from Lord Manvers, 24 Apr., who assured him that ‘if all those who are now called upon to book up with their constituents, could produce as fair a ledger as yourself, there would be far less difficulty in balancing their accounts’. In providing Sotheron with a statement of his recent services, 6 May 1831, the long-suffering Becher wondered whether ‘by listening more to the counsel of your friend, and less to the arguments of Ultra Tories, you might not have smothered the reproaches of your adversaries’, so preserving his good standing; but, he added, ‘my consolation is that you are now released from your only care’.27 In private life, Sotheron devoted himself to the management of his estates, though he did not relinquish his interest in local politics. Described as a ‘correct specimen of the old English gentleman’, he died in February 1839, and was buried, with befitting pomp, in a coffin reputed to weigh nearly half a ton.28 By his will, dated 27 Aug. 1830, he devised his estates, and personalty proved under £50,000 in the province of Canterbury and under £14,000 in the province of York, to his only child, Lucy Sarah, and her husband, Thomas Henry Sutton Bucknall Estcourt*, who assumed the name of Sotheron (later Sotheron Estcourt).29

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Stephen Farrell / Simon Harratt


  • 1. IGI (Yorks.).
  • 2. Burke Commoners, iii. 520-1; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 828-9.
  • 3. Nottingham Jnl. 11 Mar.; Nottingham Rev. 21 Mar.; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Ossington mss, J. to J.E. Denison, 17 Mar. 1820; Glos. RO, Sotheron Estcourt mss D1571 F732, 733.
  • 4. Black Bk. (1823), 194; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 485.
  • 5. The Times, 14 June 1820.
  • 6. Ibid. 11, 15 Feb., 16 Apr. 1823.
  • 7. Ibid. 29 Apr. 1825.
  • 8. Notts. Archives, Tallents mss, Sotheron to Tallents, 13, 15 May 1826.
  • 9. Unhappy Reactionary ed. R.A. Gaunt (Thoroton Soc. rec. ser. xliii), 44.
  • 10. Nottingham Rev. 16 June 1826.
  • 11. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Acc. 636, Denison diary, 28 July 1826.
  • 12. Sotheron Estcourt mss F789; Unhappy Reactionary, 13, 52, 184.
  • 13. The Times, 20, 22, 27, 28 Feb., 24 Mar. 1827.
  • 14. Ibid. 19 June 1827.
  • 15. Sotheron Estcourt mss F792, Newcastle to Sotheron, 11 Dec., reply, 13 Dec. 1828.
  • 16. Ibid. F793, Denison to Sotheron, 6 July; Denison diary, 26 June 1830.
  • 17. Nottingham and Newark Mercury, 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 18. Sotheron Estcourt mss F793, Becher to Sotheron, 6 May 1831.
  • 19. Ellenborough Diary, ii. 432.
  • 20. Borthwick, Halifax archive, C. to F.L. Wood, 12 Mar. 1831.
  • 21. Unhappy Reactionary, 77.
  • 22. Ibid.; Add. 51573, Rice to Lady Holland [22 Mar. 1831]; BL, Herries mss, Arbuthnot to Herries, n.d.
  • 23. M. Brock, Great Reform Act, 175-6; Baring Jnls. i. 84; Three Diaries, 71.
  • 24. Sotheron Estcourt mss F793, Wright to Sotheron, 26 Mar., reply, 28 Mar. 1831.
  • 25. Ibid. Wilkins to Sotheron, 31 Mar., address, 22 Apr., Becher to same, 23, 26 Apr., 1, 4-6, 9 May 1831.
  • 26. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 6 May 1831.
  • 27. Sotheron Estcourt mss F793.
  • 28. Nottingham Rev. 15, 22 Feb., 1 Mar. 1839; Gent. Mag. (1839), i. 655-6.
  • 29. PROB 11/1910/252; IR26/1529/162.