Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 4,000


 RALPH VERNEY, Earl Verney [I]
27 Dec. 1790 JAMES GRENVILLE vice Grenville, called to the Upper House
18 Apr. 1791 WILLIAM HENRY CAVENDISH BENTINCK, Mq. of Titchfield, vice Verney, deceased
30 June 1797 RICHARD TEMPLE NUGENT GRENVILLE, Earl Temple, vice Grenville, vacated his seat
18 Feb. 1806 TEMPLE re-elected after appointment to office
9 Apr. 1807 TITCHFIELD re-elected after appointment to office
3 Jan. 1810 WILLIAM LOWNDES vice Titchfield, called to the Upper House
6 Mar. 1813 THOMAS GRENVILLE vice Temple, called to the Upper House

Main Article

Immediately after the hard-fought election of 1784, the friends and supporters of Lord Verney, a Coalition sympathizer, who had been narrowly ousted by John Aubrey, a Pittite, established the Buckinghamshire Independent Club. Sir Jonathan Lovett of Liscombe, the leading spirit of the independent interest, and Luke Heslop, archdeacon of Buckingham, combined in the venture with prominent county Whigs, among them the 3rd Duke of Portland, Lord George Augustus Henry Cavendish*, Edmund Burke*, the 2nd Earl Spencer, the 5th Duke of Bedford and Sir Robert Clayton*, and a number of prominent country gentlemen, including Sir William Lee of Hartwell and Sir John Dashwood King of West Wycombe. Their objects were, in the long term, to check any bid by the head of the Grenville family, the 1st Marquess of Buckingham, to extend his influence beyond the seat currently occupied by his brother William, and, more immediately, to restore Verney, who had fled abroad to escape his creditors, to the other. Members of the Club subsidized Verney’s petition against Aubrey’s return and the attendant scrutiny of disputed votes; and although the hearing was repeatedly delayed by ministerial influence and the petition rejected in April 1785, the protraction of the business considerably increased Aubrey’s already heavy expenses.1

Verney’s supporters received further encouragement from Aubrey’s poor health and diminishing interest in county affairs. In 1786, when Aubrey was thought to be dying, Buckingham ‘professed neutrality unless attacked’, though he noted ‘their language of trying for two at the general election’; but Lovett told Lord Chesterfield that he would not act with Portland ‘beyond what is necessary to secure Lord Verney’. Aubrey recovered, but in June 1788 the situation was still so delicate that while Buckingham was not ‘insensible to the proposal of giving up the fruits of 15 years’ personal slavery, and of £14,000, which I have paid at different times for that seat’, he wrote to William Grenville of his willingness to sacrifice it for the sake of his career rather than sustain a protracted canvass during the recess, which would ensue if Grenville met Pitt’s wishes and deferred his acceptance of the Home secretaryship until after the prorogation. At a loss for an alternative candidate to back against ‘the Whig resistance, which I so confidently expect’, he feared that the seat would fall either to Verney, to Portland’s son, Lord Titchfield, who was reported to be electioneering in the vicinity of the duke’s seat at Bulstrode, to Dashwood King or to Lee. Grenville responded to his brother’s pressure by persuading Pitt to postpone the appointment until the next session. When the Regency crisis raised the prospect of a change of government and a dissolution Buckingham was prepared to contest the county if necessary, but had no objection to a compromise with Verney, though he bridled at the notion of one with Titchfield and ruled out one with Aubrey, who had begun his drift into opposition. When Portland sounded Lee shortly afterwards, Sir William disclaimed any pretensions on the part of himself or his family and suggested that Portland and Buckingham might divide the representation between them to the general satisfaction of the county. The desire for compromise prevailed and there was no opposition to Grenville’s re-election on his appointment as Home secretary in June 1789. The other beneficiary was Verney, for whom Portland was soliciting support in July and whose personal popularity and powerful backing forced Aubrey to surrender any future claims in October. There was a report that William Drake II* of Shardeloes would stand, but in the event Grenville and Verney, who came back to England, were returned unopposed in 1790.2

When Grenville was raised to the peerage in November 1790 Earl Fitzwilliam reported that ‘it is in agitation for Titch to stand’, but Portland did not challenge the Stowe interest, which was not seriously threatened during this period. On Verney’s death in 1791 his supporters, led by Lovett, Cavendish, Lord Inchiquin* and Gerard Lake*, all members of the Independent Club, first approached the younger John Dashwood King*, and on his refusal they invited Portland to put Titchfield forward. Portland, anxious to avoid creating the impression that his family was asserting a proprietary claim to the seat, which he felt was not warranted by their stake in the county, explained to Lee that he had ‘desired application to be made to the sheriff to call a county meeting’ to endorse his son’s candidature. The sheriff deemed a meeting ‘inexpedient’, possibly under pressure from Buckingham, who had consistently opposed the adoption of this procedure for electoral purposes. Reports that Aubrey and Assheton Curzon* of Penn House were interested came to nothing and there was no opposition to Titchfield’s return. On Portland’s junction with Pitt’s ministry in 1794 the Independent Club probably ceased to exercise any meaningful collective function, although annual dinners appear to have continued until about 1810, and a rump of its members, notably Cavendish, who remained loyal to Fox, Lovett and Dashwood King, Member for Chipping Wycombe from 1796 to 1831, acted, albeit ineffectively, as a political group at least until 1809 and possibly longer.3

In November 1795 Titchfield convinced his father that the sale of Bulstrode was the best solution to his financial problems, and both acknowledged that such a move must entail renunciation of the county seat. The sale was not in fact effected during Portland’s lifetime, but the uncertainty of his continued residence in the county caused Portland to question the propriety of Titchfield’s standing in 1796 and he again planned to resort to a county meeting. While Buckingham, who particularly desired tranquillity on this occasion to safeguard the succession of his son Lord Temple to the seat when he came of age in 1797, was anxious to see Titchfield ‘quietly re-elected’, he felt bound by precedent to resist the call for a meeting, but was concerned that if he did so ‘the impression it would create universally would be that of hostility to Lord Titchfield’s election’. Through his brothers he persuaded Portland, with whom he found it awkward to deal personally because of past political animosity, to confine the business to a small meeting of the Independent Club. A resolution passed by a meeting of the Club in the previous July, to form a committee to further its object of ‘preserving the rights of the freeholders and the freedom of election’, may have been inspired by fears that the county had fallen under joint aristocratic control, but the move does not seem to have been effective and the Club went through the form of soliciting and accepting a renewal of Titchfield’s services. Ironically, the smooth progress of affairs was disrupted when William Praed of Tyringham, on his way to Cornwall to secure his re-election for St. Ives, published an address deploring the proceedings of Titchfield’s supporters as a threat to the independence of the county and offering to stand himself if there was enough support. Earl Spencer’s agent Thomas Harrison suspected that Buckingham was implicated in Praed’s manoeuvre, but the marquess, though certainly aware that Praed, a personal friend, aspired to a seat for the county, told his follower William Henry Fremantle that he was ‘very sorry’ for Praed’s bid, ‘which in the manner of doing it, cannot have any other effect than that of disturbing me, without the possibility of securing to Praed his objects’. He let it be known that he adhered strictly to his policy of non-interference with the second seat, forbade Praed to consult his personal agent and agreed with Titchfield’s supporters to close ranks against Praed in the event of a contest. Praed backed down on the eve of the election.4

Buckingham told Thomas Grenville, 15 Dec. 1801, that he hoped for a quiet election next time, ‘though Lord Titchfield’s situation must always be uneasy; and the more so as he slackens so much in the customary attendance and attentions’. Harrison confirmed this impression in June 1802 with the observation that ‘many think that Lord Titchfield’s interest now stands solely on the ground, not of regard to him, but of a rooted dislike to Lord B. and to his nominating both Members’, and that his position had been further weakened by the ‘indifference’ of Lovett, whose ‘zealous support and assistance’ he considered ‘as lost’. Ever suspicious, he believed that Buckingham was kept from trying for both seats only by his failure to find a second candidate, having unsuccessfully approached Praed, Dashwood King and James Du Pré* of Wilton, who was currently canvassing Aylesbury in opposition to Buckingham’s interest, but there was no disturbance at the 1802 election. Buckingham was angered by the successful intervention of Lord George Cavendish and other members of the Independent Club at the Aylesbury by-election of 1804 and, like his son, was inclined to see it as the precursor of an attack on his interest in the county, but quiet prevailed at the next two general elections.5

When Titchfield succeeded his father in October 1809 Lovett, Dashwood King and Cavendish cast round for a replacement. After considering Lord Tavistock* whose father, the 6th Duke of Bedford, dismissed the scheme, and Cavendish’s son William, who was ruled out because of his father’s reluctance to create a vacancy at Derby, they settled on Titchfield’s brother, Lord William Henry Bentick*. Before ‘those whose opinions on the subject would have some influence could be assembled’, William Lowndes of Whaddon Hall, whose grandfather had represented the county from 1741 to 1774, came forward on his own initiative. When the new Duke of Portland was asked to put up his brother he declined ‘from motives of delicacy and not wishing to interfere’, and he terminated his family’s connexion with Buckinghamshire by selling Bulstrode to the Duke of Somerset in 1810. Cavendish and Lovett had to acquiesce in the return of Lowndes. Thomas Francis Fremantle reported to his brother, 8 Jan. 1810:

Lowndes’ election went off without éclat, a great number of freeholders were present, but not one of our friends, or the independent party except Sir John Dashwood who proposed Lowndes but would not wait dinner. If we are to judge from this circumstance I think the old party will endeavour on some future occasion to try their strength if they can find a man who will spend money.6

In July 1811 there were rumours of an intended opposition to Lowndes, and at about the same time Cavendish and Lovett were in communication with Bedford over the possibility of starting his son, Lord George William Russell*, at the next election, but Bedford had ‘no wish to embark in a contested election’ for Buckinghamshire and had in any case other electoral plans for his son. On 28 Dec. 1817 Cavendish told Lord Milton that ‘nothing could be so easy as to turn Lowndes out’, but that with the exception of Thomas Digby Aubrey, nephew of the former Member and connected by marriage with the Verney property, who had ‘had an idea of offering himself’, he could not name a suitable challenger. The 2nd Marquess of Buckingham, who succeeded to the title in 1813, was as careful as his father had been in safeguarding the Grenville interest. His only son, who came of age in February 1818, was intended for the county seat at the next election and Buckingham declined an invitation to put him up for Winchester at a by-election in March, ‘as his acceptance of Winchester would have ensured a contest for and perhaps the loss of the county’. There was no disturbance at the 1818 general election, but late in 1819 Thomas Grenville took alarm when the opposition of Buckingham’s brother Lord Nugent, Member for Aylesbury, to the Six Acts drew from Nugent’s constituents a letter of approbation which also warned that ‘the time would soon come when the two Members for the county would regret the indifference they had shown to the slaughter of their countrymen’.7

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Bucks. Gazette, 8 July 1837; Bucks. RO, Lee mss D2/30-32, D7/57, D9/13-15; Verney Letters of 18th Cent. ii. 282; CJ, xl. 472, 566, 574, 753-7, 827-8; R. W. Davis, Political Change and Continuity, 38-39.
  • 2. HMC Fortescue, i. 264-8, 333-5, 351, 363; Fremantle mss, Chaplin to Fremantle, 24 May 1788, 19 Apr., Bernard to same, 21 Apr.; Lee mss D3/88, D9/23; Spencer mss, Spencer to Aubrey, 15 June 1789; Ginter, Whig Organization, 63, 146; Burke Corresp. vi. 120.
  • 3. Fitzwilliam mss, box 41, Ld. to Lady Fitzwilliam [Dec. 1790]; Lee mss D3/70, D9/26; HMC Fortescue, iii. 200; Northampton Mercury, 9, 23 Apr.; Jackson’s Oxford Jnl. 9 Apr.; Reading Mercury, 4, 11, 18, 25 Apr. 1791; Davis, 39-40.
  • 4. A. S. Turberville, Welbeck, ii. 317-19; Portland mss PwH325; Lee mss D1/50, 51, D3/49A, D9/29, 30, F2/111; HMC Fortescue, iii. 200; Add. 41851, f. 43; 41852, f. 15; 41855, f. 92; 42058, ff. 13-17; Northampton Mercury, 21, 28 May, 4 June; The Times, 24 May; Spencer mss, Harrison to Spencer, 29 May; Fremantle mss, Buckingham to Fremantle, 25 May 1796; Burke Corresp. ix. 30-31, 39.
  • 5. Bucks. RO, Grenville mss D54/13; Spencer mss, Harrison to Spencer, 20, 28 June 1802; Add. 41851, f. 225; 41854, f. 17.
  • 6. Add. 51661, Bedford to Holland, 1 Nov; Fortescue mss, Lowndes to Grenville, 9 Nov.; Spencer mss, Grenville to Spencer, 10 Nov., Cavendish to same, 11 Nov. 1809; HMC Fortescue, ix. 369; Fremantle mss.
  • 7. HMC Fortescue, x. 160, 451; Blair Adam mss, Bedford to Adam, 21 Aug. 1811; Fitzwilliam mss, box 89; NLW, Coedymaen mss 20, Buckingham to Williams Wynn, Sunday [8 Mar. 1818].