HOTHAM, Sir Richard (?1722-99), of Merton Place, Surr.
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Family and Education
m. (w. d. 4 Feb. 1777), s.p. Kntd. 12 Apr. 1769.
Sheriff, Surr. 1770-1.
Hotham is variously reported to have begun life as a hatter at Southwark and as a hosier.1 He subsequently ‘ventured into the commercial world, and particularly in the property of shipping for the East India Company. Being a man of strong judgment, with a mind invariably directed towards business, he in time acquired very large property.’2 In 1774 he published A Candid State of Affairs Relative to East India Shipping, in which he suggested ways of preventing abuses.
Hotham had by this time acquired an estate in Surrey and, in association with other business men, became active in county politics. At the general election of 1780 he took a leading part in organizing the campaign to secure Admiral Keppel’s election, while he himself contested Southwark in opposition to Henry Thrale, and was returned at the head of the poll. In Parliament he voted consistently with the Opposition till the fall of North, and against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783. He voted for parliamentary reform, 7 May 1783, and for Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783, and was classed by Robinson in January 1784 as ‘contra’. Sir John Sinclair in his list drawn up in January, noted against Hotham: ‘Could speak to him if necessary. He might be converted.’3 Hotham was a member of the St. Alban’s Tavern group which attempted to bring about a union of parties, and after its failure was classed in Stockdale’s list of 19 Mar. 1784 as ‘Opposition’. Only two speeches by him are reported (5 and 11 June 1783), both on the receipts tax which he opposed on instructions from his constituents; the second very short, since ‘the House had heard so much about it from his worthy colleague’.4 Hotham did not stand at the general election of 1784, but again contested Southwark at the by-election of June 1784 when he was defeated by a very narrow margin.
Hotham’s great interest during the latter part of his life was in the development of Bognor as a seaside resort. He was reported to have spent £160,000 on this scheme, having ‘in the course of a few years ... made large purchases of land, and erected spacious houses’, but when, after his death on 14 Mar. 1799 (aged 76), the property was sold by his heir, it apparently realized only £64,000.5