WILSON, William Wilson Carus (1764-1851), of Casterton Hall, Kirkby Lonsdale, Westmld.

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



21 July 1821 - 1 Feb. 1827

Family and Education

b. 24 July 1764, o.s. of William Carus of Kirkby Lonsdale and Elizabeth, da. of Roger Wilson of Casterton. educ. Queen Elizabeth’s g.s. Kirkby Lonsdale;1 Trinity Coll. Camb. 1782. m. 10 Sept. 1787, Margaret, da. and h. of Benjamin Shippard of Narland, 7s. (4 d.v.p.) 3da. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1768; aunt Anne Place to Casterton and took name of Wilson by sign manual 1 Mar. 1793. d. 11 Feb. 1851.

Offices Held


Carus, as he was first known, was of Westmorland stock, being one of the Wilsons of Dallam Tower and Casterton and heir to the Carus family’s Lancashire estates of Arkholme, Melling, Whittington and Wrayton, near Kirkby Lonsdale. His father died when he was four and he was brought up by his mother at Casterton and educated at nearby Kirkby Lonsdale and at Cambridge, where he was one of the early followers of the Evangelical Charles Simeon and graduated in mathematics in 1786. He assumed control of the Carus estates and was married in 1787 to Margaret Shippard, a local heiress who shared his religious beliefs. They settled at Heversham, moving in 1793 to Casterton, left to him by his mother’s sister Anne, the widow of the Rev. Marwood Place, in compliance with whose will he assumed the name of Wilson.2 As befitted his standing, he built a new mansion at Casterton and became a magistrate in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Westmorland, where he was foreman of the grand jury. With his brother-in-law Edward Hassell of Dalemain, near Penrith, and Daniel Wilson of Dallam Tower he supported the Tory Lowther or Yellow interest at the Westmorland elections of 1818 and 1820, when they defeated the Whig Henry Brougham*. He was also the author of the Westmorland loyal addresses of 1819 and 1820.3 In July 1821, by arrangement with Daniel Wilson, the Lowthers returned him on a vacancy for their borough of Cockermouth. On the hustings Wilson promised to support church, state and Westmorland interests.4 According to Henry Elliott, who put him up at Clapham and arranged for him to be briefed on ‘probable business’ and ‘his new duties’ by Frederick Gough Calthorpe*

Mr. Carus Wilson feels rather doubtful whether he has done well in leaving his duties in the country, which were certainly of a very extensive and beneficial kind and entering upon the untried and to a man of his great modesty, the dreaded office of an MP.5

He divided against Catholic relief, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr. 10 May 1825, and parliamentary reform, 20 Feb., 2 June 1823, and fairly steadily for the Liverpool government with the Lowthers. His few wayward votes reflected local concerns and his commitment to the penal and poor law reforms promoted by the Tory Evangelicals, especially his son William, rector of Whittington, whose Cowen Bridge school for clergymen’s daughters he endowed. (The Bronte sisters, who maligned it, were early pupils.)6 His maiden speech against treating interference with Members’ mail as a breach of privilege, 25 Feb. 1822, was ‘inaudible in the gallery’, but he became a regular contributor to debates and select committees, where his experience of local administration and stance on humanitarian issues were widely respected.7 He divided with ministers against more extensive tax reductions, 21 Feb., and abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., but he cast a wayward vote for repeal of the salt tax, 28 June 1822. On 28 Mar. he received a month’s leave on account of the illness of his daughter Elizabeth, an invalid since 1818.8 He condemned the Salford small debts bill as a deliberate means of transferring ‘from £4,000 to £8,000 a year’ to the court of record for the benefit of Lord Sefton*, and was a minority teller against it, 13 May. He testified to the integrity of the current Welsh judges, but supported the assimilation of the courts of great sessions which ministers were not yet ready to concede, 23 May, and presented and endorsed Blackburn’s petition complaining of the severity of the penal code, 4 June.9 He voted against inquiring into Irish tithes, 19 June, and the lord advocate’s treatment of the Scottish press, 25 June, and opposed the lottery, 1 July. He divided with government on the national debt reduction bill, 12 Mar., and taxation, 10, 18 Mar. 1823. When Peter Moore moved in vain that day to repeal the Insolvent Debtors Act, Wilson called for an amicus curiae to assist county magistrates with insolvency cases, and expressed support afterwards for Phillimore’s proposals to amend the profane swearing bill. He voted against repealing the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and was in the government minority against inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. During it he challenged attempts by Brougham and Lord Stanley to force disclosure of the Orangemen’s secret oath, 26 May.10 He divided with Hume for inquiry into the Newfoundland fisheries, 14 May, and was for abolishing the death penalty for larceny, 21 May. He presented Cockermouth’s petition for the abolition of West Indian slavery the next day.11 He voted to inquire into chancery arrears, 5 June 1823.

Wilson voted with the Lowthers against reforming Edinburgh’s representation, 26 Feb., but they found his votes of conscience for the motion of complaint against lord chancellor Eldon, 1 Mar., and in condemnation of the trial in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June 1824, ‘very provoking’.12 He seconded the adjournment motion by which the mariners’ apprentices settlement bill was lost, 11 May, spoke for the new churches bill, 4 June, and secured a late amendment to the vagrants bill (as a member of the committee), 5 June.13 His criminal lunatics bill received royal assent, 17 June 1824.14 During the recess he consulted the home secretary Peel about the Millthorpe murder.15 He endured an arduous journey in appalling weather to return to London for the 1825 session.16 He voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., staunchly defended the anti-Catholic clergy of Cambridge University, 15 Mar., and other hostile petitioners, 21 Apr., and pressed for the deferral of the Catholic question until after the spring assizes, 23 Mar.17 Speaking as an Irish landlord, he condemned the planned disfranchisement of the lower classes by the franchise bill, 26 Apr., 9 May. He advocated reform of the game laws, 7 Mar., and spoke, 11 Mar., and was a minority teller for the ill-treatment of animals bill, 24 Mar. He would ‘not give any opinion’ on Grattan’s Irish poor relief bill, 22 Mar., but he testified to the beneficial effect of the Irish Vagrants Act in northern England and explained that he objected to the poor rates because of abuses in their administration and not on account of the amounts levied. He called for the extension of the Factory Act to children in all manufactories, 5 May, and was probably the ‘C. Wilson’ who paired for repeal of the window tax, 14 May. He divided for the duke of Cumberland’s award, 30 May, 2, 10 June, and was ‘perfectly satisfied’ with the proposed increases in judges’ salaries, 2 June.18 He was a majority teller for the church land exchange bill, 21 June, and recommended classifying offenders under the cattle ill-treatment bill as miscreants rather than felons that day.19 He also wanted bear-baiting and dog-fighting made illegal and disputed claims that ‘the pleasures of the poor’ would thereby be diminished, 21 Feb. 1826. In the wake of the 1825-6 banking crisis, he said he would support any measure making country bank notes payable on demand at the place of issue, 27 Feb., and pointed to the stability of the Cumberland and Westmorland banks administered in this way. He also urged better safeguards to prevent forgery of Bank of England pound notes, 7 Mar. He welcomed Peel’s proposals to consolidate the criminal laws, 9 Mar. He voted to condemn the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. (was later named to the select committee on the trade in Mauritius, 9 May), and had ‘no hesitation’ in granting the award for Sierra Leone, 10 Mar. He introduced and endorsed a petition from Preston, where his son Roger was the incumbent, for abolishing West Indian slavery, 15 Mar.20 He objected to funding ‘any system of education’ in Ireland from which the Scriptures were excluded, 14 Apr. Perceiving agriculture and industry as interdependent, 6 Mar., he considered the temporary release of bonded corn to alleviate distress ‘vital’, suspended judgement on Wolryche Whitmore’s scheme, 5 May, and endorsed the government’s proposals, 8 May 1826.21 He chaired the Lowthers’ Westmorland committee at the general election in June, when they secured a decisive majority against Brougham, and they returned him for Cockermouth on their interest.22 That summer he faced prosecution by his neighbour Alexander Nowell*, whose candidature for Lancashire he had opposed, for cattle trespass, and resolved to resign his seat on health grounds. Lord Lowther* attributed his decision to his unwillingness ‘to sanction the introduction of foreign corn under any scale of duties’.23

Wilson remained loyal to the Lowthers and agreed to be brought forward belatedly by them for Westmorland in 1831 to thwart a challenge by a second reformer with Nowell, but he did not proceed to a poll.24 He declared for them again at personal cost when the Dallam Tower Wilsons defected in 1832.25 He was deeply affected by the death of his wife that year and also by lengthy bankruptcy and libel proceedings involving his son Charles, a London attorney and the defendant in the case of Le Sueur v. Gross.26 He entertained Queen Adelaide at Casterton in 1840 and died there in February 1851, shortly after presiding at an anti-Catholic meeting at Kendal. He was buried in Kirkby Lonsdale.27 He left his estates to William (1791-1859), and directed him to pay £3,000 to Charles and lesser sums to his younger children and grandchildren, except his son Edward Carus Wilson (1795-1860), whom he had provided for on his marriage in 1835 and again on his retirement as vicar of Crosby Ravensworth, Westmorland, in 1848.28

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. J. Ewbank, Life and Works of Rev. William Carus Wilson, 2. Reference in Alumni Cantab. to his attendance at the King’s School, Chester is not confirmed by the school lists.
  • 2. Ewbank, 2-3; Cumbria RO (Kendal), Carus Wilson mss WD/CAT/Acc. 2364.
  • 3. Wordsworth Letters ed. M. Moorman and A.G. Hill (1970 edn.), ii. 563; Westmld. Gazette, 26 Feb. 1820.
  • 4. R.S. Ferguson, Cumb. and Westmld. MPs, 244, 453; Cumb. Pacquet, 23 July 1821.
  • 5. Hants RO, Calthorpe mss 26M62/F/C/122.
  • 6. Ewbank, passim; Carus Wilson mss WD/CAT/Acc. 2364; Rev. W. Carus Wilson, Tracts (1824).
  • 7. The Times, 26 Feb. 1822.
  • 8. Rev. W.C. Wilson, Mem. of a Beloved Sister (1832).
  • 9. The Times, 5 June 1822.
  • 10. Ibid. 27 May 1823.
  • 11. Ibid. 23 May 1823.
  • 12. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 9 Mar. 1824.
  • 13. CJ, lxxix. 382, 462, 465; The Times, 7 June 1824.
  • 14. The Times, 7, 9 Apr. 1824; CJ, lxxix. 260, 264, 276, 367, 378, 389, 502.
  • 15. Carus Wilson mss WD/CW misc.
  • 16. Wilson, Mem. of a Beloved Sister, 296.
  • 17. The Times, 16, 24 Mar. 1825.
  • 18. Ibid. 3 June 1825.
  • 19. Ibid. 22 June 1825.
  • 20. Ibid. 16 Mar. 1826.
  • 21. Ibid. 7 Mar. 1826.
  • 22. Cumb. Pacquet, 13 June; Lonsdale mss, Wilson to Lowther, 15 June; The Times, 26 June, 13 July 1826.
  • 23. Carus Wilson mss WD/CAT/Acc. 2364; WD/CW; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 18, 27 Nov. 1826.
  • 24. Brougham mss, J. to H. Brougham, 4 May 1831; Westmld. Advertiser, 7 May; The Times, 10 May 1831.
  • 25. Brougham mss, J. Brougham to Atkinson, 15 Nov. 1832.
  • 26. The Times, 1 Oct. 1828, 30 Sept. 1844; Ewbank, 8.
  • 27. Gent. Mag. (1851), i. 453.
  • 28. PROB 11/2130/255; IR26/1917/190.