POWELL, Harcourt (1718-82), of Brighstone, I.o.W.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1754 - Apr. 1775

Family and Education

b. 1718, s. of Thomas Powell, of the six clerks’ office, by Anne, da. of Sir Philip Harcourt, half-sis. of Simon, 1st Visct. Harcourt.  educ. L. Inn 1736.  m. Beata, da. of Rev. Hyde Parker, gd.-da. of Sir Henry Parker, 2nd Bt., 1s.  suc. fa. 1761.

Offices Held


Powell’s family came from Pembrokeshire,1 but ‘for more than one hundred years had an interest in the manor of Uggaton ... near Brighstone’.2 It is not known when they acquired the three burgages in Newtown which Powell sold in 1775, nor how Powell came to stand for the borough; but his name is on a list of candidates for I.o.W. boroughs marked by Ralph Jenison as ‘settled by Mr. Pelham’. H. B. Legge, in a letter to Newcastle written six months before his death, named Powell among the few friends he asked the Duke to take care of. After Jenison’s death, 15 May 1758, Powell replaced him as link between Newcastle and Thomas Holmes; but he was an independent country gentleman, and when on 28 July 1758 he applied for a place for a relative and friend, he claimed that this was the first favour he asked for himself or his family. In Bute’s list of December 1761 he is marked as connected with ‘Lord Harcourt, Government, and Lord Holmes’. But although in September 1762 he still transacted Isle of Wight business with Jenkinson, he voted against the peace preliminaries in both divisions, 9 and 10 Dec.; joined Wildman’s Club; and in every division list, 1763-4, appears as voting with Opposition. Newcastle counted him among his ‘sure friends ... to be sent to upon any occasion’.3

But on 12 Aug. 1764 Lord Harcourt wrote to George Grenville:4

I saw Mr. Harcourt Powell this morning. We had a great deal of Isle of Wight conversation, and as he seemed desirous of talking over those affairs with you, I thought it advisable to tell him that I was persuaded you would give him a hearing ... In general he seems well disposed, he declares against a peevish opposition, and professes the strongest duty and attachment to the King, and spoke very highly of you, and declared even that he had received civilities from you, which he had not forgot. He acknowledged fairly to me that he never repented so much of any thing, as being of Wildman’s Club. The deputy government of the Isle of Wight, he declares, is no object and what he would not accept. I sounded him to find out what was his object and cannot find he wants any thing. To be considered as a man of consequence, and to have a considerable interest in the Island of Wight, seem to weigh most with him.

And again on 26 Aug.:

I shall write to Mr. Powell very soon, and you may be assured, that no caution shall be wanting that may prevent a bad use being made of it; as I really have a great regard for Mr. Powell, and as I am in great hopes, that he may not only be brought to have a right sense of things himself, but be the means of doing no inconsiderable service, I shall urge every argument that can with decency be urged to induce him to support his Majesty’s Government and your Administration.

By September 1764, Powell was transacting Government business with the Rev. Leonard Holmes, Lord Holmes’s nephew and heir.5 None the less, on the formation of the Rockingham Administration, Newcastle, when listing ‘the most material’ among ‘the gentlemen of the House of Commons not yet named to any office’, included Powell ‘for his interest in the I.o.W.’; and from the very outset Powell discussed Isle of Wight patronage with the new Administration. Rockingham ‘believed’ him to be ‘a very good man’ when submitting a recommendation of his to the Duke of Cumberland; and Newcastle pointed to his importance in the Island.6 Rockingham classed Powell in his list of July 1765 as ‘pro’, and even in November 1766 as a ‘Whig’ (i.e. as a Rockinghamite). But over the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, Powell voted with Administration; he was absent from the division on the nullum tempus bill. In 1768 he had to fight a contested election at Newtown, standing jointly with Sir John Barrington against Sir Thomas Worsley and John Glynn. In the new Parliament his name does not appear in any division list over Wilkes and Middlesex; but he is listed by Robinson as ‘pro, present’ over the royal marriage bill, March 1772, and again voted with Administration over Grenville’s Election Act, 25 Feb. 1774. At the general election of 1774 he is therefore cited by Robinson as a Government supporter both in the old and the coming Parliament. But on 21 Mar. 1775 he agreed for 4,000 guineas to vacate his seat in Parliament and convey his three burgages at Newtown to Sir Richard Worsley.7 There is no record of Powell having spoken during his 21 years in the Commons.

He died 26 Feb. 1782.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Collins, Peerage, iv. 443, under Harcourt.
  • 2. Sir F. Black, Parlty. Hist. I.o.W. 21.
  • 3. Add. 32995, f. 94; 32956, f. 6; 32882, f. 87; 32956, ff. 190-1.
  • 4. Grenville mss (JM).
  • 5. Letters from Grenville to Holmes, 12 Sept. and to Northington, 17 Oct., Grenville letter bk.
  • 6. Add. 32967, f. 349; 32969, ff. 64, 74.
  • 7. Add. 46501, f. 75.