STEWART, William (1781-1850), of Killymoon, co. Tyrone

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



1818 - 1830

Family and Education

b. ?1781, 1st surv. s. of James Stewart†, MP [I], of Killymoon and Hon. Elizabeth Molesworth, da. and event. coh. of Richard, 3rd Visct. Molesworth [I]. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 26 Oct. 1797, aged 16. unm.; 3da. illegit. suc. fa. 1821. d. 2 Oct. 1850.

Offices Held

Capt. Cookstown inf. 1803; lt.-col. co. Tyrone militia 1805-d.; capt. Newmills inf. 1822.


Stewart’s Whig father James, whose family had long held one of the principal electoral interests in Tyrone, represented his county at Dublin and Westminster from 1768 to 1812. William regained the seat at the general election of 1818 with the support of local magnates and Lord Liverpool’s administration, but sided with opposition in the Commons, except (following his father’s example) on Catholic relief.1 He was again returned unopposed in March 1820, when he signed requisitions for county meetings on George IV’s accession and on illicit distillation.2 He voted against the appointment of an additional baron of exchequer in Scotland, 15 May, and Wilberforce’s compromise motion on the Queen Caroline affair, 22 June, and for economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820. Having inherited his father’s estate on 18 Jan. 1821, he took six weeks’ compassionate leave, 12 Feb., so it was probably not he, but William Stuart, Member for Armagh, who divided against Catholic claims on the 28th.3 He apparently suggested the temporary postponement of the Irish tithes leasing bill, 15 Mar.4 He voted for repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and to disqualify civil officers of the ordnance from voting in parliamentary elections, 12 Apr. 1821. Although by no means a thick and thin attender, during the following three sessions he divided fairly steadily with the Whig opposition on most issues, including for parliamentary reform, 25 Apr. 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., 2 June 1823. He voted against the Catholic peers bill, 30 Apr. 1822. He divided for inquiries into Irish tithes, 19 June, Irish distress, 8 July 1822, the Irish church establishment, 4 Mar. 1823, 6 May 1824, the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823, and the state of Ireland, 11 May 1824. He voted for securing the proper use of Irish first fruits revenues, 25 May, and against Irish clerical pluralities, 27 May, and the Irish insurrection bill, 18 June 1824. He was granted six weeks’ sick leave, 10 Feb. 1825, and apparently missed the rest of the session. The inhabitants of Cookstown congratulated him on his recovery that autumn and early the next year he was reported to be ready to resume his parliamentary duties.5 However, the sole piece of evidence for attendance which has been traced that year was his probable vote against flogging in the army, 10 Mar. 1826.

He confidently asserted in his address that he would be well enough to attend Parliament, nothing came of a rumoured challenge and he was returned unopposed at the general election of 1826.6 He signed the requisition for, but apparently was not present at, the Tyrone Protestant meeting at the end of that year.7 Having also signed the anti-Catholic petition from the landed proprietors of Ireland, he presented his county’s hostile one, 5 Mar. 1827.8 Yet he was listed as an ‘absentee’ from the division the following day and was granted another six weeks’ sick leave on 2 Apr. No evidence of parliamentary activity has been traced for the 1828 session and Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, noted that he was ‘Protestant’ but ‘absent’ at the start of the following year. He missed the Tyrone meeting on 2 Mar., but was credited with a vote (his last) in favour of Catholic emancipation, 6 Mar., and he may have been the Stewart who spoke in its favour, 16 Mar. 1829.9 Late that year it was expected that he would vacate, and his hand was forced by the resolutions passed at a meeting of freeholders in January 1830, when approaches were made to his distant kinsman Sir Hugh Stewart* to replace him. Recognizing that he was ‘incapable of that attendance which the fulfilment of my duties as their representative requires’, he promised them he would resign at the dissolution, and in an address issued from Paris, 8 July 1830, he confirmed his retirement.10 At the general election of 1831, when he claimed to have always been a reformer, he wrote to his mother that ‘were I less poor or stronger I would try my luck once more for Tyrone’, but nothing ever again came of such an ambition.11

In his youth Stewart had lived for some years with Ellen, daughter of Edmund Power of Curragheen, county Waterford, with whom he had had three daughters. She afterwards married John Home Purves, a younger son of Sir Alexander Purves of Purves Hall, Berwickshire, who passed off the children as his own, although, as Greville noted, ‘nothing could be more notorious than the original connection and the real paternity’. Later still she married the Commons Speaker Charles Manners Sutton, so ending her days (in 1845) as Viscountess Canterbury.12 Stewart died at the soon to be sold Killymoon in early October 1850. By his will he left the rest of his Tyrone estates to his unmarried sister Mary Eleanor and thereafter to the family of his other sister Louisa, wife of Henry John Clements† of Ashfield Lodge, county Cavan.13

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. Hist. Irish Parl. vi. 339-42, 354; HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 273-4, 296.
  • 2. Belfast News Letter, 17, 28 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. In what follows, Whig votes are attributed to this Member regardless of the spelling of his surname in the division lists.
  • 4. The Times, 16 Mar. 1821.
  • 5. Belfast News Letter, 25 Sept. 1825; Impartial Reporter, 23 Feb. 1826.
  • 6. PRO NI, Leslie mss MIC606/3/J/14/73,4; Belfast Commercial Chron. 12, 24 June 1826.
  • 7. Impartial Reporter, 30 Nov., 7 Dec. 1826.
  • 8. Add. 40392, f. 5; The Times, 6 Mar. 1827.
  • 9. Impartial Reporter, 5 Mar. 1829.
  • 10. Add. 43234, ff. 80, 82; PRO NI, Stewart of Killymoon mss D3167/2/310, 311; PRO NI, Richardson mss D2002/C/26/16; Belfast News Letter, 9 Apr., 23 July 1830.
  • 11. Stewart of Killymoon mss 2/335.
  • 12. Greville Mems. iii. 178.
  • 13. Tyrone Constitution, 11 Oct. 1850; Gent. Mag. (1850), ii. 565; PRO NI D21/1.