TAYLOR, Charles William (1770-1857), of Burcott House, nr. Wells, Som. and Hollycombe, nr. Midhurst, Suss.
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Family and Educationb. 25 Apr. 1770, 2nd s. of Peter Taylor† of Burcott House and Purbrooke Park, nr. Portsmouth, Hants and w. Jane Holt. educ. Magdalen, Oxf. 1787. m. 25 Apr. 1808, Charlotte, da. of John Buncombe Poulett Thomson of Waverley Abbey, Roehampton, Surr., 1s. 1da. suc. bro. Robert Paris Taylor† 1792; cr. bt. 21 Jan. 1828. d. 10 Apr. 1857.
Lt. Som. militia 1789, capt. 1793, res. 1793.
Taylor, having succeeded to the family property on the death of his disreputable elder brother, whose last twelve years were spent in a debtors’ prison, secured his position at Wells in 1796 through an alliance with Clement Tudway†, whom he apparently obliged ‘with an exchange of lands near his mansion’.1 From 1815 Taylor, whose own moral reputation was dubious, shared the representation with Tudway’s nephew John Paine Tudway, a Tory, and they were returned unopposed at the general election of 1820. He was an occasional attender who continued to act with the Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry, but is not known to have spoken in debate. He divided against the civil list, 5, 8 May, and the appointment of an additional baron of exchequer in Scotland, 15 May 1820. He was granted a month’s leave for urgent private business, 9 June, and this was extended for another month, 30 June 1820. He voted to restore Queen Caroline’s name to the liturgy, 26 Jan., 13 Feb., but was absent from the division on the opposition censure motion, 6 Feb. 1821. He also missed the division on Catholic relief (which he had previously supported), 28 Feb 1821. He was allowed another month’s leave, 18 May 1821. He voted for parliamentary reform, 25 Apr., and abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May 1822. He divided against the naval and military pensions bill, 14 Apr., but was reportedly with ministers against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr. 1823.2 He voted to accuse lord chancellor Eldon of a breach of privilege, 1 Mar., repeal the window tax, 2 Mar., and reform the Scottish courts of justice, 30 Mar. 1824. He was absent from the call of the House relating to Burdett’s Catholic relief motion, 28 Feb. 1825, and though he attended next day a newspaper later claimed that he had deliberately avoided voting.3 He took no part in the other divisions on this issue, 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. His reticence on the Catholic question arose from the fact that his earlier support for emancipation was helping to fuel the growing opposition to him at Wells, as was his alleged failure properly to discharge his obligations as a Member. During the fiercely contested general election in 1826 his arch critic, the Tory county Member Sir Thomas Lethbridge, alleged that in ‘the many and vital questions which had agitated [the] House [Taylor] had seldom if ever been found on one side or the other’, although admittedly ‘of late ... he had seen Mr. Taylor more frequently there’. Taylor’s alliance with Tudway saved him, and a petition against their return was rejected.4 He was almost entirely inactive in the 1826 Parliament. Unless he was the Taylor who made a brief intervention in defence of the Arigna Mining Company, 5 Dec. 1826, he did not speak in debate in this period. The Goderich ministry recommended him for a baronetcy in late 1827, and the award was confirmed by their successors.5 In February 1829 Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, listed him as likely to vote ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, and he divided accordingly, 6, 30 Mar. 1829. At the dissolution in 1830 it was reported that he would again stand for Wells, despite the opposition party having taken control of the corporation from Tudway, but no election address was issued and he quietly disappeared.6
Taylor spent the remainder of his long life playing the role of a hospitable and philanthropic country squire at his Hollycombe estate in Sussex, which he had acquired in about 1800 and where he had a house built from designs by Nash. It was said of him that in his habits Taylor was one of the last survivors of the Regency age, ‘when sporting adventure, witty society, and free indulgence in the luxuries of the dinner table, composed the daily and nightly routine of most men of wealth and fashion’. He had been a favourite companion of the prince of Wales and was regularly seen at Carlton House and Brighton. Fittingly, however, for one who lived into the more sober climate of the mid-Victorian years, Taylor’s pious obituarist noted:
A consolation of a yet higher order than the reflection upon a mere amiable character or humane disposition is afforded ... by the knowledge that the advancing years and declining health of the venerable baronet had inspired him with solemn thoughts of a preparation for a future world ... A large portion of his time, of late years, was dedicated to religious meditation and reading.7
He died in April 1857 and was succeeded by his only son, Charles Taylor (1817-76); his personalty was sworn under £120,000.8