WALKER, Joshua (1786-1862), of Hendon Place, Mdx. and 9 Mansion House Street, London.
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Family and Educationb. 28 Sept. 1786, 2nd surv. s. of Joshua Walker (d. 1815) of Clifton House, nr. Rotherham, Yorks. and Susanna, da. of Samuel Need, textile manufacturer, of Arnold, Notts. m. 18 Dec. 1805, Anna Maria, da. and coh. of Allan Holford of Davenham, Cheshire, 6s. 2da. d. 22 Jan. 1862.
The Walkers of Rotherham were Nonconformists who owed their wealth to successful iron founding, lead manufacture and intermarriage with other industrial dynasties. Joshua, like his elder brother Henry, was trained for an administrative role in the family businesses, in which he inherited partnership shares on his father’s death in 1815. His cousin and co-partner Samuel Walker† had returned himself and Joshua as Members after purchasing the de Crespigny interest in the borough of Aldeburgh for £39,000 in 1818, but the post-war decline in the iron trade that precipitated a reduction in the capital value of their business from over £200,000 in 1821 to under £36,000 in 1832 made their political commitment unsustainable.1 Samuel stood down in 1820, having returned Joshua, who was in London developing his banking and lead manufacturing concerns, with a promoter of the West India planters’ interest, James Blair.2
A silent anti-Catholic Tory opposed to parliamentary reform, against which he voted, 2 June 1823, Walker attended regularly and divided steadily with Lord Liverpool’s ministry, except when he felt that their policies compromised his religious beliefs (he was a Methodist) or commercial interests in Walker and Company of Rotherham and Sheffield, and in Everett, Walker and Company of London.3 He brought experience of pioneering workers’ pension and benefit schemes to the select committee on the orphans’ fund to which he was appointed to, 20 Feb. 1822, and of manufacturing James Watt’s steam engines to that on the export of tools and machinery, 24 Feb. 1825.4 He voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825, and against condemning the indictment in Demerara for inciting a slave riot of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June 1824. On the currency, he voted in Alexander Baring’s minority of 27 for inquiry, 9 Apr. 1821, but against Western’s motion, 12 June 1823; and he also voted to repeal the usury laws, 8 Apr. 1824, and paired (in a minority of 39) against appointing a select committee on the Bank Charter Act, 13 Feb. 1826. Walkers, Eyre and Stanley’s Rotherham and Sheffield banks survived the 1825-6 crisis, but Everett, Walker and Company was forced to suspend trading by January 1826, whereupon Walkers’ London agency passed to Barclay, Tritton, Bevan and Company.5 Walker, whose lead manufacturing partnership with Maltby was dissolved in 1824, was keen to remain in Parliament and made a futile canvass of East Retford after the sale of the Walker interest in Aldeburgh to the 2nd marquess of Hertford in 1822.6 At the general election of 1826 he retained his seat for Aldeburgh as the nominee of the 3rd marquess of Hertford, whom he declined to pay £4,000 to vote freely.7 Hertford later commented: ‘A seat in Parliament was a feather in his cap, while the solid value of the borough was an agreeable weight in his pocket’.8
Walker cast his customary votes against Catholic relief, 6 May 1827, 12 May 1828, but voted to repeal the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828.9 His refusal to be guided by his patron’s view ‘that a government formed on the principle of resistance to Catholic emancipation is now an impossibility’ cost him his seat despite his vote to consider the issue, 6 Mar. 1829.10 Resigning, he wrote ‘openly and candidly’ to Hertford, 17 Mar.:
It is with extreme pain and reluctance that I find myself compelled to make known to your Lordship that I can neither bring myself to concede to the Catholics that which this bill proposes to give them, nor to believe it will have the effect so confidently anticipated by the legislature with regard to Ireland ... I think I might without hesitation assert that such has been my confidence in His Majesty’s present ministers, that there is no other question upon which I would not surrender my opinion to theirs ... I therefore without hesitation voted in favour of a committee to consider the subject ... [but] my opinions and feeling remain unchanged.11
Hertford, who authorized his tenure ‘in perfect freedom’ until a suitable replacement was available in May,12 confessed to John Croker* that
he gives me a little touch on his understanding how he was to sit, meaning as a perfect Protestant ... But you know if besides sitting for nothing he is to discuss with me and decide on all questions, even the right of discussing each Member would make a borough valueless. But he retires and unless he makes any remarks we had better let him go over the best bridge and thus an end of it.13There is no evidence of Walker’s continued attendance. Out of Parliament, he remained a partner and director of his family’s banking and lead manufacturing companies and played a prominent role in the success of their Lambeth lead works. He sold his interest in the declining iron company in 1833, thus avoiding the bankruptcy that befell his cousin Samuel. In March 1843 Peel dismissed his request for a government post in Canada for his son Edward, then farming in the colony.14 Following Walker’s death in January 1862 his estate was divided equally between his seven surviving children and his lead company shares passed to the two sons he had already brought into the partnership.15
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. Oxford DNB subWalker family; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 369; v. 467.
- 2. BL, J. Glyde, ‘Materials for a Hist. of Aldeburgh, Framlingham and Orford’, 166; S. Pollard, ‘Fixed capital in industrial revolution in Britain’, Jnl. Ec. Hist. xxiv (1964), 310; Ipswich Jnl. 11 Mar.; Suff. Chron. 11 Mar.; Morning Chron. 13 Mar. 1820.
- 3. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Newcastle mss NeC F1/1, 241.
- 4. R.S. Fitton, Strutts and Arkwrights (1958), 38 and passim.
- 5. The Times, 17 Nov. 1825, 4, 5 Jan. 1826.
- 6. Newcastle mss NeC F1/1, 241; Add. 40370, ff. 201, 203; 60286, f. 376; Fitzwilliam mss 118/2-4; John, Walker Family, 36.
- 7. Add. 38301, f. 208; 60287, f. 215; 60288, f. 116.
- 8. Add. 60288, f. 147.
- 9. Ibid. f. 37.
- 10. Ibid. ff. 116, 144.
- 11. Ibid. ff. 150-1.
- 12. Ibid. f. 147.
- 13. Ibid. ff. 152-6.
- 14. Add. 50562, ff. 342, 344.
- 15. A.H. John, Walker Family, 36-38; Add. 60562, ff. 342, 344.