WINCHESTER, Henry (1777-1838), of 12 Buckingham Street, Mdx. and Oakfield Lodge, Hawkhurst, Kent

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

Constituency

Dates

1830 - 1831

Family and Education

b. 5 Jan. 1777, 1st s. of William Winchester, stationer, of 61 Strand, Mdx. and Sarah Clarke of Hereford. m. 24 Nov. 1803, Elizabeth, da. and h. of John Ayerst of Hawkhurst, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 5da. (3 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1820.1 d. 8 Mar. 1838.

Offices Held

Sheriff, London 1826-7, alderman 1826-d., ld. mayor 1834-5; master, Cutlers’ Co. 1829-30; pres. St. Thomas’s Hosp. 1835-d.

Biography

Winchester was an irascible and cantankerous man who carried the seeds of discontent into all his spheres of endeavour. The origins of his father, William Winchester, are obscure, although he probably came from a family resident in Westminster, where he married, 2 July 1774.2 He lived in the Strand, where he ran the stationery firm of Winchester, Kirkham, Yockney, Harris and Company, but later moved to Cecil Street and Acre Hill, Malden, Surrey. By 1794 he was listed in the directories as the sole proprietor of the business, and it was there that Winchester received his first employment. He was admitted to the freedom of the Cutlers’ Company, by apprenticeship, 26 May 1800, and to the livery, 30 May 1801, and he served as steward, 1803-4.3 He entered a partnership with his father in 1803. They seem to have expanded their business by establishing a small press at 20 Villiers Street in 1804 with their kinsman, William Clowes, who purchased their property at 6 Northumberland Court in 1815 for £576. By 1819 they had taken in a third partner, Arthur Varnham.4 On his father’s death, 5 Jan. 1820, Winchester inherited his share of the business and part of his personalty, which was sworn under £50,000, though not without a quarrel with his brother-in-law, William Blew.5 He was living in Buckingham Street by 1826, and he also rebuilt the house at Hawkhurst, Kent, which he inherited from his father-in-law.

Winchester led Sir Murray Maxwell’s campaign in the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields at the fiercely contested Westminster election of 1818, plumping for him at the poll.6 As he wrote to Lord Liverpool, the prime minister, in 1823:

During that arduous contest, in which I incurred great personal danger, I exerted myself as chairman of the committee to the utmost of my ability, sparing neither expense nor trouble individually, in order to promote the object that was so much desired, the election of a government candidate for this city; and it was some consolation to find that, during the contest, my endeavours met the unqualified approbation of His Majesty’s government.

After Sir Samuel Romilly’s† suicide later in 1818, he was informed that it was

intended again to propose Sir Murray Maxwell for Westminster and that I had carte blanche to do as I considered most advisable for the attainment of that object, having been given to understand that ample funds (not public) by individual subscription would be forthcoming whenever I should require them.

He reconvened the committee and had already begun to canvass for Maxwell before it was decided to abandon his candidacy. He found that the subscriptions had been returned, and so, as he later recorded, ‘feeling my own honour, and that of the government, in a great degree at stake, I determined paying the demands myself, and which I accordingly did, but to this moment I have not been reimbursed one penny, nor do I wish to be’.7 Until a treasury minute reorganizing the stationery office was issued, 21 Mar. 1823, Winchester had held contracts to supply various government departments. In high dudgeon, he wrote a lengthy letter of complaint to Liverpool, 15 Apr., which stated that the new arrangement ‘completely deprives me of the few advantages which I possessed of a public nature, in the line of my business’. Although Thomas Creevey* alleged in 1835 that Winchester, ‘having been employed by a Tory government for supply of the treasury, was formally dismissed by the same government, for cheating, that was all’, the decision was no doubt motivated by financial considerations. Winchester, however, felt betrayed by ministers, who had promised him their protection in return for his former exertions in Westminster; hence his outburst to Liverpool.8 Nevertheless, he continued to enjoy certain contracts in the years that followed. He was one of the earliest proprietors of the Mirror of Parliament, of which the three volumes covering the debates of the 1828 session were published under the imprint ‘Winchester and Varnham’; but he had to meet most of the £7,000 losses made at its commencement that year, and soon backed out in favour of Frederick Gye*.9

He was elected one of the sheriffs of the City of London, 29 Sept. 1826, and was satirized in a print depicting George IV’s refusal to receive the address of the common council congratulating him on the change of ministers in April 1827.10 He was first in the field on the morning of Christopher Magnay’s death, 27 Oct. 1826, in the contest to replace him as alderman for Vintry. His principal opponent, Edward Archer Wilde, claimed that Winchester had promised to withdraw if a respectable candidate presented himself, and that he could not be returned while holding the allegedly incompatible office of sheriff. After a heated election and a subsequent scrutiny, Winchester was declared the winner by 26-23, 28 Nov. 1826.11 On the presentation of a petition against his return, the court of aldermen declared the election void and, after another lengthy contest, a scrutiny decided in favour of Wilde by 38-35, 25 Jan. 1827.12 The aldermen objected to Winchester’s instituting legal proceedings against them as an infringement of their right of adjudication, and on several occasions in 1827 party divisions in the court prevented either man being sworn.13 Deliberations continued in the court of king’s bench, at a cost to the corporation of £6,000, until Lord Tenterden ruled in favour of Winchester, subject to arbitration on certain disputed votes, 23 Jan. 1829. William Webb Follett† declared a victory for Winchester by 27-24, 18 Sept. 1829, and he was finally seated four days later.14 He was also involved in a case brought by his son-in-law, William Row, of 5 Suffolk Street, possibly over the marriage settlement of his eldest daughter, Sarah.15 Having joined the court of the Cutlers’ Company, 13 Sept. 1826, he served consecutively as junior and senior warden, and became master in 1829.16 On the withdrawal of the Ultra John Wells* from Maidstone at the dissolution in 1830, Winchester offered in his place and received the backing of the Wellington government as an anti-reformer. He opposed the Whig sitting Member, Abraham Wildey Robarts, but had no other challengers until two independents intervened. At a meeting of the non-resident freemen in London, 13 July, he declared his support for the constitution as a Protestant, ‘which faith he had derived from his father, whose firm and revered precepts he hoped and felt he should ever follow and maintain so long as he had memory and energy to assist him’.17 He reiterated these sentiments on the eve of the poll, 29 July, but also stated his opposition to all imposts and restrictions on agriculture and commerce. The next day he argued for reduced expenditure and pledged himself to act as an apt scholar in a new school, but refused to say whether he would vote for reform or the ballot. He was, however, comfortably returned in second place behind Robarts.18 A petition alleging that he was a contractor and guilty of corruption was presented, 11 Nov. 1830, but these claims were dismissed, 16 Mar. 1831, on the ground that his contracts for supplying the navy commissioners with sheet paper had been transferred to his partner just prior to the election.19

Winchester was, of course, listed by ministers among their ‘friends’, and he duly voted with them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. His brief spell in Parliament revealed his concern for charities, such as St. Thomas’s Hospital, of which he was a governor. He urged that, as it already provided its own lighting and watchmen, it should be exempted from the payment of rates in Southwark, 7 Dec. 1830, and was a teller for the minority against the postponement of a bill to this effect. He presented and endorsed a petition from the common council and inhabitants of Vintry against the duty on seaborne coal in the port of London, 4 Feb. 1831, and raised the issue again, 17 Feb. He urged postponement of Hobhouse’s select vestries bill, 14 Feb., and presented a petition against it from the vicar, churchwardens and vestrymen (of which he was one) of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, 17 Feb., arguing that there was ‘no reason whatever for the interference’, which would ‘unsettle not only all the institutions of that parish, but of every other similarly situated in the kingdom’. He opposed it again, 21 Feb., especially over the proposed alteration in the elective franchise of his parish where

there is a scale as to the right of voting, and property has its proper influence, but in this bill that point so essential to the welfare and good government of any parish is annihilated, and one nearly approaching to universal suffrage substituted in its place.

He offered not to divide the House provided he could introduce a protecting clause for St. Martin’s, as he did again, 28 Feb. He asked the attorney-general to prevent vexatious and expensive law suits against the trustees of charities coming under the operation of the new charity commission, 10 Mar. On 21 Mar. he brought up a Vintry petition in favour of parliamentary reform, though he did ‘not approve’ of the Grey ministry’s bill, and one against it from the inhabitants of Maidstone, who objected to the loss of their privileges. He voted against the second reading of the bill, 22 Mar. He opined that allowing employers to oblige their employees to take meals at work, ‘having the profit of procuring them’, would render the truck bill inoperative, 12 Apr. On the presentation of the Sussex reform petition, 18 Apr., he stated that he had refused to sign it, and asked what concessions ministers would make to opposition views. He voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831, which precipitated a dissolution.

It also led to his own departure from the Commons. On 5 Apr. the Whiggish Kentish Chronicle had asked if there was ‘a man in all England that can explain what miracle induced the people of Maidstone to send Winchester the stationer into Parliament?’ He offered again, 23 Apr., but Charles James Barnett* emerged as a reformer to unite with Robarts, and the candidacy of the former Member, George Simson, did nothing to prevent Winchester being insulted during the campaign.20 On the hustings, 3 May 1831, he was criticized by the electors for not fulfilling their wishes, and was shouted down when he tried to explain that he was in favour of the enfranchisement of large towns, but not of the destruction of vested rights. Trailing badly behind the reformers, he withdrew at the end of the first day and apparently never attempted to re-enter Parliament.21 He was one of the four aldermen who voted against the reappointment of Sir John Key†, the pro-reform lord mayor, at all three elections that year, and he supported George Lyall† at the general election of 1832 in London.22 He dissolved his partnership with Varnham, who took over their premises in the Strand, 31 Dec. 1833.23

Winchester became lord mayor of London by rotation, being formally elected, 29 Sept. 1834. At his inaugural dinner, 8 Nov., he eulogized Wellington as ‘the great captain of the age’, but the corporation was predominantly Whig, and he twice had to present addresses to the king (against the change of ministers in late 1834 and in favour of their dismissal in April 1835) with which he disagreed. He made himself very unpopular by his refusal to allow Guildhall to be used for public meetings, after having given a specific promise to the contrary.24 He frequently differed with the aldermen and common councilmen, as over the police committee, the number of sessional dinners, the opening of their proceedings to the public and the costs of his mayoralty.25 Their biggest dispute was over a committee report on municipal reform which proposed limiting the tenure of aldermen to seven year terms. By peremptorily adjourning the court, Winchester repeatedly denied it a hearing, or the possibility of its making any submission to Parliament. On one occasion he spoke of the ‘similarity between the proceedings of the common council in the days of Cromwell and those of the committee’. At the end of his period in office he was given the customary vote of thanks by the court of aldermen, but the common council passed a censure motion against him, by 99-35, 26 Nov.26 During his period in office, Benjamin Rotch†, chairman of the Middlesex quarter sessions, objected to Winchester’s dismissal of his criticisms of the corporation’s management of Newgate gaol as ‘this scandalous matter’, and challenged him to a duel. Declining it, Winchester took action against him for attempted breach of the peace, and the affair was dropped only after Rotch had apologized.27 This was just one of the episodes exploited in a publication which purported to be the Memorandums of My Mayoralty by ‘Lord Winchester’. It portrayed him as a blustering simpleton, and the laughing-stock of the ministers with whom he claimed great friendship. It also ridiculed his general dishonesty, his attacks on radicals and their newspaper, the True Son, and his ambitions for an hereditary mayoralty or a seat in the Lords as ‘Baron Foolscap’.28

Winchester remained loyal to the Conservatives, voting for them at Kent West and Westminster elections in 1835 and 1837.29 He became president of St. Thomas’s, 11 Feb. 1835, and was also a vice-president of the Society for the Promotion of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and treasurer of the Printers’ Pension Society.30 His personal affairs, which were known to be unhappy, were worsened by the deaths of his children, including that of his youngest son at the Mansion House, 17 June 1835. However, even the Memorandums drew a veil, having ‘Winchester’ write that ‘I shall not, for very obvious reasons, touch upon what may be called my private life’.31 His business dealings had been encumbered for some time, and he was officially ordered to surrender as a bankrupt on 1 Mar. 1838. He died a week later ‘at a lunatic asylum, to which he had been removed, having unhappily brooded with such intense melancholy on his domestic calamities as to have been bereft of his senses’.32 No will or grant of administration has been found. He was succeeded by his second, but only surviving son, William (b. 1815).

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell

Notes

  • 1. W. Berry, Kent Genealogies, 80.
  • 2. IGI (London).
  • 3. Ex. inf. Worshipful Co. of Cutlers.
  • 4. W.B. Todd, Directory of Printers, 40, 215; Survey of London, xviii. 19-20.
  • 5. PROB 11/1626/114; IR26/845/90.
  • 6. Westminster Pollbook (1818), 129.
  • 7. Add. 38293, f. 349.
  • 8. Ibid.; PP (1823), xiv. 579-86; Creevey Pprs. ii. 380.
  • 9. J. Grant, Great Metropolis, ser. 2, ii. 217.
  • 10. M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, x. 15408.
  • 11. The Times, 30 Oct., 3, 4, 7, 13, 29 Nov. 1826; A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of London, i. 215.
  • 12. The Times, 2-5, 26 Jan. 1827.
  • 13. Ibid. 25 May, 8, 13, 16 June, 5, 18 July, 18 Oct. 1827.
  • 14. Ibid. 24 Jan. 1829; Beaven, i. 214, 215; Gent. Mag. (1838), i. 662.
  • 15. The Times, 24 Jan. 1829.
  • 16. Ex. inf. Worshipful Co. of Cutlers.
  • 17. Maidstone Gazette, 6, 13, 20 July 1830.
  • 18. Maidstone Jnl. 3 Aug. 1830.
  • 19. Maidstone Gazette, 30 Nov. 1830; The Times, 17 Mar. 1831.
  • 20. Maidstone Jnl. 26 Apr., 3 May 1831.
  • 21. Ibid. 10 May 1831.
  • 22. Beaven, i. 293; ii. p. lviii.
  • 23. London Gazette, 3 Jan. 1834.
  • 24. The Times, 30 Sept., 11, 27 Nov. 1834, 8 Aug. 1835.
  • 25. Ibid. 5 Jan., 4 Feb., 29 Apr., 28 May, 28 Sept. 1835.
  • 26. Ibid. 6 Apr., 12, 20, 23 May, 25, 27 Nov. 1835; C. Welch, Hist. Cutlers’ Co. 249-50; I.G. Doolittle, City of London and its Livery Cos. 28; Beaven, ii. 204.
  • 27. The Times, 28 Oct., 3 Nov. 1835, 23 Jan. 1836.
  • 28. Mems. (1835), 11-15, 17, 21-23, 33-37, 42-49.
  • 29. Kent W. Pollbooks (1835), 54; (1837), 50; Westminster Pollbook (1837), 17.
  • 30. The Times, 12 Feb. 1835; Gent. Mag. (1838), i. 662.
  • 31. Gent. Mag. (1835), ii. 218; Mems. 3.
  • 32. Gent. Mag. (1838), i. 662; The Times, 21 Feb., 10 Mar. 1838.

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