STEPHENSON, Rowland (1782-1856), of Marshalls, nr. Romford, Essex

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

Constituency

Dates

19 Feb. 1827 - 4 Feb. 1830

Family and Education

b. 19 May 1782, 3rd surv. s. of John Stephenson, banker (d. 1822), of Great Ormond Street, Mdx. and Mary, da. of James Broadley of Mersham, Kent. educ. Eton 1796-9. m. 23 Apr. 1807, his cos. Mary Eliza, da. of Edward Stephenson, banker, of Farley Hill, Berks., 8 ch. d. 2 July 1856.

Offices Held

Treas. St. Bartholomew’s Hosp. 1824-9.

Biography

Stephenson’s father, a member of the Cumbrian (Alston) branch of the family, had married a niece of the naval commander Thomas Broadley in 1771, and embarked on a career as a merchant and victualling agent in Florida, where he became (by 1776) a member of the king’s council at Pensacola. His business collapsed when Spain captured the colony during the American War of Independence, and Stephenson was born at sea during the family’s return passage to London, where his father became a partner in his uncle Rowland Stephenson’s† Lombard Street bank, Stephenson, Remington and Company. Stephenson himself joined them from Eton College, and succeeded his father as a partner in 1822.1 Like his great-uncle Rowland and his uncle and father-in-law Edward Stephenson (1759-1833), an authority on the composer Johann Sebastian Bach and collector of Cremona violins, ‘the dapper little banker’ and his wife Mary who, like him, was small and delicate, delighted in patronising the arts. They also entertained their London friends at Sunday parties and musical soirees at Marshalls, the ‘pretty villa’ with 300 acres near Romford, Essex, which Stephenson purchased in 1816, adding to it the manor lordship of Cockermouth, the How Hatch estate at Braintree and other local properties.2

Stephenson was also ambitious, with his brother-in-law John Norman Macleod*, to be elected to Parliament. Thwarted at Carlisle in 1816 and possibly elsewhere from lack of funds, he intensified his efforts after his wife died in October 1821.3 His contacts and partnership at Remingtons enabled him to mount bold and costly by-election challenges to the Irish secretary Goulburn at West Looe in February 1822 (followed up with a petition), and to the Welsh judge Jonathan Raine in March 1823 at Newport; and, having desisted at Carlisle in 1825, he was again expected to oppose the duke of Northumberland’s nominees in the Cornish boroughs at the 1826 election.4 In the event he availed himself of the late retirement at Leominster of his fellow banker Sir John Lubbock, who had represented the borough, 1812-20. Lord Hotham topped the poll and Thomas Bish† came second, but a double return was made after Stephenson’s counsel protested that Bish, who ran the lottery, was disqualified, as a government contractor, from standing.5 Hotham’s election was confirmed directly Parliament met, 21 Nov. 1826, and Stephenson’s on petition, 19 Feb. 1827.6 Bish protested that he had ‘found his way into Parliament not by the suffrages of the people ... but by the ingenuity of his legal advocates’.7 He also facilitated through London brokers the election of Macleod for Sudbury in April 1828, but refused to canvass with him.8 He voted against Catholic relief, 12 May, and with the Wellington ministry against ordnance reductions, 4 July 1828, but no speeches or contributions by him to the business of the House were recorded, and his parliamentary career was distinguished solely by his manner of leaving it.

When unsecured advances authorized by his assistant John Henry Lloyd came to light late in December 1828, Remingtons suspended payment and Stephenson immediately left St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, where, as treasurer, he had an apartment. Taking passages aboard fishing smacks from Bristol and Clovelly, he and Lloyd reached Angle Bay, near Milford Haven, and boarded the Providence, bound for Savannah, Georgia. The lord mayor of London, believing that they had absconded with £200,000 in exchequer bills, had issued a writ for their arrest, rewards of £1,000 and £300 were offered for their detention, and reports of alleged sightings and further misdeeds proliferated long after their departure, coverage of which dominated the newspapers and delighted the gossips.9 Remingtons’ bankruptcy, which affected many provincial banks, was gazetted, 4 Jan. 1829, and an indictment charging Stephenson with embezzlement was issued at the Old Bailey, 16 Jan., as a prelude to outlawry proceedings in king’s bench. Despite rumours to the contrary, the largest single debt proved against his estate was for £6,700.10 His assets, the Essex estates, a mansion and its contents in Dover, a box at Drury Lane theatre, paintings, antiques, and the contents of David Garrick’s villa at Hampton, Middlesex, which he had purchased in 1823, were auctioned by Shuttleworth’s, 29 Jan.-3 June 1829. He forfeited his parliamentary seat when he was formally bankrupted under the twelve-month rule, 19 Jan. 1830.11

Stephenson’s treatment on his arrival in the United States, 27 Feb. 1829, aroused as much interest as his flight from England. His assumed name of Smith (Lloyd’s was Larkin) proved no disguise, and he was arrested and detained in a debtors’ prison in New York, where extradition proceedings failed as he was not a convict. He was released, 26 Mar.12 In a declaration drafted on 21 Jan. 1829 and sent to Stephenson’s family, Lloyd accepted full responsibility for the losses at the bank and Stephenson’s plight, but the effect of Stephenson’s recent heavy investment in Thomas Horton’s Regent’s Park Colosseum, which opened in January 1829, remains unexplained.13 His relations supported Stephenson financially in exile and cared for his children. His eldest son Rowland Macdonald Stephenson (1808-95) visited him in the summer of 1829 and afterwards paid 15,000 dollars for Dr. William Shippen’s 170-acre estate, Farley, on the Delaware River, in Bensalem township, near Bristol, Pennsylvania, where Stephenson settled in October 1829.14 He died there in July 1856 and was buried in the churchyard of St. James’s Episcopal Church. An obiturary in the Bucks. County Intelligencer described him as ‘formerly a banker in England’, long since settled in Bristol, where ‘he was universally esteemed for his benevolence and kindness to the poor and distressed’. His will was proved at Doylestown, Pennsylvania, 16 July 1856, and, as he had directed, his goods were sold, debts paid and the residue sent to Rowland with family memorabilia. Rowland was knighted in October 1856 for his services as a civil engineer and managing director of the East India Railway Company.15

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott

Notes

Information from Rowland Stephenson, [12 Denmark Road], Exeter, concerning Stephenson’s birth at sea, flight to Pennsylvania and his will, is gratefully acknowledged.

  • 1. N and Q (ser. 12), x. 421, 491; xi. 88-89; Gent. Mag. (1814), i. 518; ii. 188-9; (1822), i. 478, 565-6; GL ms 6667; PROB 11/1664/613.
  • 2. New Grove Dict. of Music and Musicians (Edward Stephenson); Gent. Mag. (1807), i. 375; Lord W.P. Lennox, Fifty Years Biog. Reminiscences, ii. 48-52; VCH Essex, vii. 71.
  • 3. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 91-94; The Times, 24 Oct. 1821.
  • 4. R. Cornw. Gazette, 22, 29 Mar.; West Briton, 4 Apr. 1823; Brougham mss, Stephenson to J. Brougham, 29 Mar., 1 Apr. 1825; N and Q (ser. 12), x. 421, 491; xi. 88-89.
  • 5. Globe, 8, 12, 15 June; Macleod of Macleod mss 1061/2, 5, 7; Hull Univ. Lib. Hotham mss DD HO/8/4, J. Hall to Hotham, 18 June; Worcester Herald, 24 June 1826.
  • 6. Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC12/78, B. Percy to Sneyd [Feb. 1827]. See LEOMINSTER.
  • 7. Hereford Jnl. 21 Feb. 1827.
  • 8. Macleod of Macleod mss 1062/7, 13.
  • 9. Hereford Jnl. 31 Dec. 1828; The Times, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 Jan., 14 Feb.; Grey mss, Ellice to Grey [Jan. 1829].
  • 10. Gent. Mag. (1829), i. 78.
  • 11. The Times, 3-5 Feb., 15 May, 3 June 1829; Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons ed. A.N.L. Munby, 12; Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons ed. J.F. Arnott, 1-175 (Garrick); CJ, lxxxv. 3-4; Globe, 11 Feb. 1830.
  • 12. Gent. Mag. (1829), i. 361; The Times, 10, 11, 14, 22, 27, 29 Apr. 1829.
  • 13. Letters ex inf. Rowland Stephenson; R. Hyde, Regent’s Park Colosseum.