WHITWORTH, Charles (c.1721-78), of Leyborne, Kent and Blackford, Som.

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



1747 - 1761
1761 - 1768
1768 - 1774
14 Oct. - Dec. 1774
3 Jan. 1775 - 22 Aug. 1778

Family and Education

b. c.1721, o.s. of Francis Whitworth, M.P., by Joan Windham of Clarewell, Glos.; nephew of Charles, 1st Baron Whitworth [I], M.P., and 1st cos. of Richard Whitworth.  educ. Westminster 1730-8; L. Inn 1738.  m. 1 June 1749, Martha, da. of Richard Shelley, commr. of the stamp office, and niece of Sir John Shelley, 4th Bt., M.P., who m. a sister of the Duke of Newcastle, 3 surv. s. 4 surv. da.  suc. fa. 6 Mar. 1742; kntd. 19 Aug. 1768.

Offices Held

For a short time served in the army. Lt.-gov. Gravesend and Tilbury 1758- d.; chairman of ways and means May 1768- d.


Whitworth succeeded his father as M.P. for Minehead, and, having married a niece of the Duke of Newcastle, felt entitled to some official recognition and reward. But his first term in Parliament ended in disappointment, and in 1754 he had to stand a hotly contested election at Minehead. Newcastle, to please Lord Egremont, called on Whitworth, who had received £1,000 from secret service money towards his expenses, to withdraw. Whitworth refused, was returned head of the poll, and in February 1755 received the first half-yearly instalment of a secret service pension of £400 p.a.1 This was instead of office, for which Whitworth continued to press. On the death of his father-in-law he even applied for his place as commissioner of stamp duties although this would have disabled him from sitting in the House, and when he failed to obtain it felt greatly hurt at such insensibility to a mourner. The applications continued; on 24 Aug. 1757 he wrote to Newcastle:

I flatter myself your Grace will before the meeting of Parliament honour me with your recommendation to some employment, as nobody has been a more constant supporter of Government, and your Grace has promised me so frequently your assistance.

In February 1758 he applied for the lieutenant-governorship of Gravesend and Tilbury Fort. ‘As it is in my neighbourhood [near Leyborne] will be more agreeable than a place that may require a more constant attendance in London’, and as he had been in the army, it would not vacate his seat in Parliament. But again he would have been prepared to accept a commissionership of customs or excise, leave Parliament, and give his interest at Minehead ‘to any person your Grace would approve of’.2 To his great delight he was given the Tilbury post: but soon started dunning the Duke to make up to him the difference of £200 between the value of that post and the pension he had previously held. Thus on 11 June 1759:

If I do not hear ... this week I take it for granted, I must conclude that your Grace is not willing to be troubled any more on my account; having done me the honour to raise my expectation I laid great stress and reliance upon it, which makes the disappointment more than otherwise it would be.

At last in January 1760, after further pressing reminders (‘Your Grace must imagine that six months expectation of your Grace’s fulfilling your promise has been of the greatest inconvenience and uneasiness to me’3) he received £150 to cover three quarters till Lady Day 1759, and two months later the rest for 1759. But for some, unascertained, reason no further payments were made.

On 21 July 1760, having heard that Newcastle did not want him to stand again for Minehead, he asked for the Duke’s determination ‘as the time advances when some measures are to be taken, and having once entered into engagements ... it will not be in my power to decline ... at the same time I can assure your Grace I can answer for my own election’. A month later, 21 Aug., anxious not to be asked once more at the last moment to withdraw his ‘pretensions’, he asked again for Newcastle’s decision. The reply is not extant; but on 1 Nov. 1760 Whitworth wrote to the Duke: ‘Sir Kenrick Clayton came to town yesterday to acquaint me that he would bring me in at Bletchingley without any trouble or expense.’ This ‘will take off any difficulty your Grace may have relative to my interfering with Lord Egremont at Minehead. But as your Grace may now have an opportunity, I flatter myself your Grace will recommend me to some public employment.’4

By November 1762 Newcastle classed Whitworth as doubtful; but Fox did not count him among the Members favourable to the peace preliminaries; and in Bute’s list he appears as ‘contra’, presumably being expected to follow Sir Kenrick Clayton, who voted against the Government. Still, it can be taken as certain that on 9 and 10 Dec. Whitworth voted with the Government, or he would hardly have written the following letter to Charles Jenkinson, Bute’s secretary, on 4 Feb. 1763:5

I flattered myself I might have been honoured by this time with a recommendation to his Majesty, but as the applications I have made have not been attended with success, I think it incumbent to inform you that I do not propose continuing my residence in London from the additional expense it puts me to, but shall be at my house in Kent; I have wrote a letter upon the subject to Mr. Fox, and take this liberty of troubling you to present my respects to Lord Bute, and to assure his Lordship I should have been very happy if I had been thought worthy of regard.

Otherwise it is difficult to gauge his attitude as his few interventions in debate were on minor unpolitical subjects (22 Mar. 1763 on paving Westminster streets; 24 Feb. 1763 on pay to militia officers). His name does not appear in the Opposition lists over Wilkes and general warrants, nor among those absent; presumably he voted with the majority.

Whitworth collected materials for Kentish history. Edward Hasted, the historian of Kent, wrote to Arthur Ducarel, 26 Aug. 1764:6

I received last Saturday from Mr. Whitworth a large box of papers which he had collected for Kent; but of all the rubbish I ever saw in my life, I never met with anything so trifling. Indeed I could hardly think it possible that a man could undertake such a work as this, be four years about it, and at the end be just where he first set out.

In 1763 he published A Collection of the Supplies and Ways and Means from the Revolution to the Present Time; and perhaps on the strength of this was candidate for chairman of the committee of ways and means. James Harris noted on 15 Feb. 1765: ‘Administration proposed Paterson; Opposition, Whitworth; both good men. After some altercation, a division. For Paterson 165, against 84.’ Why the Opposition should have engaged on his side is not clear. A year later Whitworth did not vote against the repeal of the Stamp Act, which presumably made Rockingham in November 1766 class him as merely ‘doubtful’.

On 27 Feb. 1767 Whitworth voted with the Government on the land tax, and on 2 Mar. 1767 Newcastle classed him as ‘Administration’. His connexion with Newcastle had been through the Shelleys, and John Shelley had by that time completely quarrelled with the Duke. With Clayton adhering to the Opposition, Whitworth once more turned to Minehead for a seat at the next general election. On 29 Jan. 1767 he issued a circular letter announcing that if 200 electors would pledge themselves to him and his friend, an [unnamed] ‘eminent merchant in the City of London’, they would establish ‘proper annual schooling for the education of poor voters’ children’, etc.7 Next, a subscription book was opened ‘to engage zoo votes at ten guineas a man for one vote’; when full, Whitworth was expected to ‘go upon ’Change’ to find that merchant friend—who in the end did not materialize. Still, Whitworth came out second on the poll.

In the new Parliament Whitworth was elected chairman of the committee of ways and means, and as such presumably received from secret service money the regular yearly pay of £500 (it can hardly be called a pension); and was knighted on 19 Aug. 1768. On 28 Aug. Mrs. Delany wrote to her niece, Mrs. Dewes: ‘Poor Sir Charles Whitworth, he is absolutely run mad, and now under proper care for it.’8 But this was during the parliamentary vacation, and nothing more is heard about it. He was henceforth a regular and obedient follower of Government, voting with them on all occasions for which lists are available. Indeed, such was his busy subservience that years later, in 1785, Daniel Pulteney, when protesting against Pitt trying to force on the House an unpalatable measure, compared it with the resolutions which used to be proposed ‘to Lord North’s majorities of Whitworth etc.’.9

At the general election of 1774 Whitworth obeyed Government instructions, and did not interfere at Minehead. North first meant to have him returned at Dover,10 but finally designated him for East Looe.11 In 1775 Whitworth was transferred to Saltash to make room for Thomas Graves at East Looe. While in most other cases the money contributions of candidates are mentioned, nothing is said of Whitworth paying anything.  He died 22 Aug. 1778.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Namier, Structure, 418-25.
  • 2. Add. 32878, f. 81.
  • 3. 21 Jan. 1760, Add. 32901, f. 399.
  • 4. Add. 32908, f. 412; 32910, f. 412; 32914, f. 23.
  • 5. Bute mss.
  • 6. Nichols, Lit. Illus. iv. 643.
  • 7. Maxwell Lyte, Hist. Dunster, i. 246-7.
  • 8. Autobiog. and Corresp. (ser. 2), i. 181.
  • 9. HMC Rutland iii. 178.
  • 10. Maxwell Lyte, i. 256.
  • 11. HMC 10th Rep. VI, 6.