WODEHOUSE, Hon. John (1771-1846), of Witton Park, nr. North Walsham, Norf.
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Family and Educationb. 11 Jan. 1771, 1st s. of John Wodehouse†, 1st Bar. Wodehouse, and Sophia, da. and h. of Hon. Charles Berkeley of Bruton Abbey, Som. educ. Westminster 1783; Christ Church, Oxf. 1787. m. 18 Nov. 1796, Charlotte Laura, da. and h. of John Norris of Witton and Witchingham, 6s. (2 d.v.p.) 5da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. as 2nd Bar. Wodehouse 29 May 1834. d. 29 May 1846.
Ld. lt. Norf. 1822-d.
Lt. and capt. E. Norf. militia 1793, col. 1798.
Wodehouse, ‘a strong, burly man, six feet in height’, was heir to the head of Norfolk’s leading Tory family, whose ancestral estates centred on Kimberley House, Wymondham, though he lived at Witton from the time of his marriage in 1796. He was elected for Great Bedwyn that year, on the interest of the 1st earl of Ailesbury, and followed the same political line as his father, who, having succeeded as 6th baronet in 1777 and served as ministerialist Member for his native county since 1784, was rewarded with a peerage by Pitt in 1797.1 Wodehouse was a colonel of militia, for which he received £1,000 a year.2 He twice failed to gain a seat for Norfolk, where he sided with the Tory interest, and in 1817 he acquiesced in the election of his like-minded first cousin Edmond Wodehouse. He returned to the House at the general election the following year, being brought in by the 2nd earl of Ailesbury for his family’s other pocket borough, Marlborough. He gave general and usually silent support to Lord Liverpool’s administration, but his activities in Parliament thereafter are not always readily distinguishable from those of his much more active cousin.3 He moved the Tory address of condolence to the prince regent on the death of Queen Charlotte at the Norfolk county meeting in December 1818, and, having attended another on Peterloo a year later, signed the declaration deploring the fact that it had been called.4 At the general election of 1820 he was again returned unopposed for Marlborough. He attended the Norfolk election and, at the Pitt Club dinner in Norwich, 29 May, spoke in favour of loyal and constitutional principles, praised Lord Grenville’s speech justifying the actions of the militia in Manchester, and denied that agricultural distress gave legitimate grounds for political agitation.5
Wodehouse divided against economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820, the censure motion on ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., omitting the arrears from the grant to the duke of Clarence, 18 June, and economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821. He voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, and the Catholic peers bill, 30 Apr. 1822. In August 1821 he successfully solicited Liverpool for the lord lieutenancy of Norfolk, arguing that his father (whom he was expected soon to succeed) was of too advanced an age to undertake the position, and that it would be due reward for his family’s having engaged in four severe contests for the county.6 He was officially sworn, 28 Mar. 1822. He divided against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11, 21 Feb., and inquiry into the conduct of the lord advocate relative to the Scottish press, 25 June. At the Norfolk and Norwich Pitt Club dinner, 17 Oct. 1822, he again extolled the virtues of Pitt’s moderate political principles and condemned the undue concentration on reform at the recent county meeting on agricultural distress.7 He objected to complaints against placing clergymen on commissions of the peace, 28 Apr. 1823. He voted against inquiry into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., reform of the Scottish representative system, 2 June, and criticizing chancery administration, 5 June 1823. He was possibly the ‘Col. Wodehouse’ who said that he would give no opposition to the warehoused wheat bill, 17 May 1824, but added that ‘with reference to the whole question of the corn laws, he trusted the House would exercise the greatest caution, and that it would not, from any quarter, take opinions upon trust’. Having previously brought the matter to the attention of ministers and called a local meeting on it, he presented a petition from the magistrates of Norfolk requesting that the spring assizes be moved from Thetford to Norwich, 10 June.8 He divided with ministers against condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824.
Wodehouse paired with Hudson Gurney against the motion for hearing the Catholic Association at the bar of the House, 18 Feb. 1825.9 He voted for the third reading of the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., but was absent from the call of the House, 28 Feb., although he was present to make his excuses and to vote against Catholic relief, 1 Mar. Since he remained a staunch anti-Catholic, it was presumably his cousin (who did not) who presented and endorsed the pro-Catholic petition of the clergy of the archdeaconry of Norwich, 19 Apr. He voted against the third reading of the relief bill, 10 May. He divided in favour of the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 2 June, had something to say on the possible restoration of Sir Robert Wilson* to the army, 17 June, and voted in the majority for the spring guns bill, 21 June. He refused to sign the requisition for a Norfolk meeting to petition against slavery, but attended it, 20 Oct. 1825, when he argued that a moderate approach, which did not encourage acts of rebellion, was the best policy. It was, however, probably he who presented a Southwold anti-slavery petition, 14 Mar. 1826, the last known evidence of his activity in the Commons. By August 1825 he had ‘expressed an inclination to retire rather than to continue in Parliament’, and he duly left the House at the dissolution in 1826.10
Wodehouse attended the Norfolk election, 19 June 1826, and, at a dinner that evening, spoke in praise of his re-elected cousin, though he made clear that he differed ‘most widely and decidedly’ with him on making concessions to the Catholics, whom he could not support because of their ‘divided allegiance’.11 As lord lieutenant he naturally played an important part in Norfolk politics, though he did not invariably attend county meetings. In 1830 he became the first president of the Norfolk and Norwich Friendly Society. He was active on behalf of Edmond Wodehouse at the general election that year, but, as he explained in an address and on the hustings, had advised him to retire in the face of the unpopularity caused by his pro-Catholic votes, in order to preserve the peace of the county.12 He was active in the suppression of the ‘Swing’ riots in late 1830, and, according to one local newspaper, ‘it is on his decision of character, no less than on his vigour of conduct, that the county may and will repose its fullest confidence’.13 He apparently kept a low profile in the general election of 1831, when two reformers were again returned for Norfolk, but he signalled his hostility to parliamentary reform by signing the county declaration against the Grey ministry’s reform bill in late 1831, and the address to the king in May 1832 to preserve the existing constitution.14 Before the dissolution later that year, he initially threw his weight behind John Weyland* as candidate for Norfolk East, but soon transferred his support to the preferred Conservatives, Nathaniel William Peach* and Lord William Henry Hugh Cholmondeley.* Chairing a dinner in their honour, 19 Oct., he stated that he had
opposed every measure of reform because the country had flourished under the old system, and that he believed the constitution would be destroyed unless a considerable portion of the Conservatives found their way into the new Parliament to counteract the effects of that ‘political murder’ which had been perpetrated by the Whigs and the Radicals.
Chairman of their committee, he probably attended the election in December 1832, when they were defeated.15 He succeeded his father as 2nd Baron Wodehouse in May 1834. No doubt he contributed his influence to the Conservative cause, which regained both county seats at the general election of 1835, but despite his strong partisanship he was a widely respected lord lieutenant. He died, after a long illness, at the end of May 1846. Political to the last, his proxy was given in the Lords in favour of the second reading of the bill to repeal the corn laws on the night of 28-29 May, so that ‘ere the ink was dry which recorded his name on the roll of the converts to those principles, his lordship was no more’. He was succeeded as 3rd Baron Wodehouse by his grandson John (1826-1902), who was created earl of Kimberley in 1866 and served in high office under William Gladstone†.16
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Stephen Farrell
- 1. Earl of Kimberley, Wodehouses of Kimberley (1887), 55-58, 65-66.
- 2. Full View of Commons (1821), 1.
- 3. HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 640-1; Black Bk. (1823), 204.
- 4. Norf. Chron. 2, 16 Jan., 30 Oct., 6 Nov. 1819.
- 5. Ibid. 18 Mar., 3 June 1820.
- 6. Devon RO, Sidmouth mss, Wodehouse to Liverpool, 2 Aug., latter to Sidmouth, 2 Aug. 1821; Add. 38290, f. 6.
- 7. Norf. Chron. 19 Oct. 1822.
- 8. The Times, 26 Feb., 11 June 1824; Add. 40360, ff. 172-3; 40365, f. 207; 40366, f. 33.
- 9. Gurney diary.
- 10. Wilts. RO, Ailesbury mss 9/34/34, Wodehouse to Ailesbury, 9 Aug. 1825.
- 11. Norf. Chron. 24 June 1826.
- 12. Ibid. 26 June, 31 July, 7, 14 Aug. 1830.
- 13. Ibid. 4 Dec. 1830; Norf. RO, Kimberley mss KIM 6/38; LLC/1/1-17.
- 14. Norf. Chron. 3 Dec. 1831, 26 May 1832.
- 15. Ibid. 14, 21 July, 15 Dec.; Bury Post, 27 June, 4 July, 24 Oct., 14 Nov.; The Times, 24 Oct. 1832.
- 16. The Times, 11 Dec. 1839, 2, 16 June; Norf. Chron. 6 June 1846; Gent. Mag. (1846), ii. 92.