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:

over 3,000


3 Mar. 1801 YORKE re-elected after appointment to office 
5 May 1802 SIR HENRY PEYTON, Bt., vice Adeane, deceased1592
 Lord Charles Henry Somerset Manners1500
 Hon. Thomas Brand559
22 Aug. 1803 YORKE re-elected after vacating his seat 
16 Mar. 1810 LORD FRANCIS GODOLPHIN OSBORNE vice Yorke, appointed to office 

Main Article

The two leading interests in the county, both ministerialist, were those of the Earl of Hardwicke and the Duke of Rutland. They had been opponents in an expensive contest in 1780 and their subsequent collaboration was uneasy, not least because they were hard put to it, if members of their families were not available, to find suitable candidates among the gentry. Moreover, in a county where the property was ‘more divided and more independent than perhaps any other in England’ and the dispersion of estates had instigated a ‘great preponderance’ of ‘farmers and middling landowners’ not amenable to gentry control, the sense of the county was difficult to gauge. A further complication arose from the strength and uncertain loyalties of the dissenters and the articulacy of their radical wing, led by Benjamin Flower, editor of the Cambridge Intelligencer.1

In 1787 it was rumoured that the Whig Duke of Bedford meant to put up his brother against the sitting Members at the next election. This was expected to lead to the retirement of Sir Henry Peyton† and Hardwicke’s family were urged to find a stronger ally, such as Sir Sampson Gideon* who, since his defeat in 1780, had come in elsewhere. In Janauary 1789, when Peyton was dangerously ill, the Duke of Bedford was expected to take advantage of a vacancy. No member of the gentry came forward, Sir John Hynde Cotton† declining (for his son Charles), and Benjamin Keene† likewise.2 The Duchess of Rutland, during the minority of the young duke, was prepared to sponsor her late husband’s kinsman Col. Robert Manners* and, in consultation with Pitt, made overtures for a junction with Hardwicke to secure his return. She found that Hardwicke’s nephew and heir Philip Yorke, the sitting Member, was ‘very well disposed towards a junction’, but ‘afraid of declaring it’, so she informed Pitt, 24 Jan. 1789:

he says he should not object to it if it was at a general election, but upon an accidental one he thinks he might give offence in the county if he declared himself, but says if he could have it made public that it is the sense of the county that we should unite he would then do so with pleasure.

The duchess noted that Yorke seemed afraid of the dissenters, but that he prided himself on having declined the Duke of Bedford’s suggestion that they should join forces. On 27 Mar. 1789 she concurred in Pitt’s solution to the problem: that Gen. Adeane, Member for the borough, should step into the county seat with Rutland support, provided that he and the Yorkes gave up all their interest in the borough to the Rutland family.3 On Peyton’s death in May 1789, this plan was executed without opposition. In May 1790 the other seat was vacated by the death of Lord Hardwicke and his nephew’s succession to the title. Philip Yorke intended to put up his half-brother Charles, but the dissolution postponed the latter’s candidature until the general election.4

Charles Yorke, who had no property qualification beyond the chief justiceship of Ely, bestowed on him in 1789 by his uncle James, bishop of Ely, came in unopposed with Adeane in 1790. An obscure opposition from William Parker Hamond came to nothing when Adeane questioned whether Hamond’s address to the county was honourable after a previous conversation between them in London. On the hustings Yorke declined to pledge himself to a reform of Parliament and Adeane ‘made a good answer’ to criticism of him as a placeman. Thomas Brand*, for the Whigs, accused the candidates of joining interests to the prejudice of the independence of the county. The Whig challenge was now expected at the next election; their mouthpiece was the Constitutional Society for the county of Cambridge. In November 1795 Thomas Brand, whose father had in 1770 offered for the county with Bedford’s backing, chaired a county meeting against Pitt’s repressive legislation.5 On nomination day, 30 May 1796, Henry Gunning, bedell of the university, acted as spokesman for the opposition and, according to Hardwicke, although he

insisted upon the question being put in respect of each of the candidates, negatively as well as affirmatively, there were only four hands held up against my brother and only eight against Adeane. Brand was there but did not appear.

Brand and Bedford again came forward on 22 Apr. 1797 to promote a county address for the dismissal of ministers, but it misfired. In March 1801, when Yorke accepted office under Addington, he was reelected ‘with one dissenting voice’. The election had taken place although the King’s illness prevented his actual appointment to office.6

In November 1801 Hardwicke, now viceroy of Ireland, learnt from Charles Yorke that Lord Rous’s nephew Sir Henry Peyton, son of the former Member, aspired to Adeane’s seat at the next election, ‘being decidedly with the present government’. There were also grounds for believing that Rutland would offer his brother Lord Charles Manners, just of age, for the county. Hardwicke doubted that the duke would risk it, as the borough or the county of Leicester (when available) would be safer, and was not disposed to countenance it unless the duke compensated the gentry by bringing one of them in for the borough. Like Yorke, he hoped rather that Adeane would retire in favour of Sir Charles Cotton of Madingley, though the latter demurred and approved Peyton, and was displeased to hear that Peyton, little known in the county and with ‘very little interest’ apart from his estate in the Fens, was persisting. Matters came to a head in March 1802 when Adeane became dangerously ill. Charles Yorke discovered that neither Cotton nor Benjamin Keene would stand and that Lord Charles Manners and Sir Henry Peyton were the prospective candidates: he and Hardwicke agreed that neutrality was their best line, provided that the duke and Peyton did not come to terms, and, when sounded by the duke, Yorke gave no pledge except to submit to the sense of the county. He was sure that Peyton was the favourite of the independent gentry. On 17 Apr., two days after Adeane’s death, Hardwicke urged his brother to encourage Peyton, who through the Yorkes would have governments goodwill and return the compliment, and to resist the duke’s brother: ‘Let them [the Manners family] enjoy the town in quiet, but let the country gentlemen have a Member for the county’. A week later, Yorke thought the canvass favourable to Peyton, who could count on the Isle of Ely and Wisbech hundred and was supported by Sir Charles Cotton, Benjamin Keene and other leading gentlemen, and had informed the duke that Hardwicke was accordingly on his side. Yorke believed Lord Charles Manners, who was then ill, might give up.7

Manners did not give up. At the nomination meeting, 1 May 1802, in the midst of ‘the greatest mob I ever saw collected in Cambridge before’, Yorke, ‘a mere spectator’, observed that although Peyton had the cream of the freeholders on his side, Rutland had the Cheveley and Newmarket freeholders and the rabble of Cambridge headed by Sir Edward Nightingale, a former friend of the Yorkes now indebted to the duke’s Cambridge agent John Mortlock†. Moreover Peyton, with the gentry 20 to I in his favour, was ‘a very bad canvasser ... he attempted a few words, but could not accomplish them’. Lord Charles proved no better, but the mob was with him, as well as the ‘show of hats’; and his friends showed ‘superior activity’, enlisting the support of Lord Townshend, Lady Waldegrave, Earl Fitzwilliam, the Duke of Bedford, ‘the university in some degree in compliment to Pitt’, and Lord Eardley (the ci-devant Sir Sampson Gideon). The dissenters were reported to be non-committal but generally well disposed to Peyton, whose father had proved amenable to them 15 years before. According to another account, they abstained.8 When Peyton was hard pressed by Manners, he received reinforcements from the Yorke interest and after five days Manners conceded victory. There were thought to be not more than 160 freeholders left unpolled. The expense was reported to be over £15,000 for Peyton and over £18,000 for the duke, who was supposed to have been damaged by the report that he was ‘resolved to carry it by dint of money’.9

The duke decided to renew the battle and within a week Lord Charles Manners had resumed his canvass for the general election. In the Rutland camp, vengeance was sworn against the Yorkes. Hardwicke’s view was that their line was sound: they would have alienated the gentry by allying with Rutland, and if the duke now put up two candidates, Charles Yorke must join forces with Peyton; if Lord Charles Manners stood alone, he was still inclined to Peyton, but against an early or avowed junction. He was willing to put up £10,000 against a contest. Yorke, who was prevented by parliamentary business from looking to his canvass, was despondent. He thought Hardwicke underestimated the expenses: ‘I can never think of your throwing one or possibly two younger children’s fortunes into the dust and possibly be beat at last’. He pointed out that in the Yorke stronghold of the Isle of Ely, Peyton was their competitor, while Manners had made great inroads at the by-election in Longstow, Weatherley and Armingford hundreds. He added that the Wimpole tenantry were dissatisfied and that the Eau Brink navigation bill had lost the Yorkes many friends. He was sure that Rutland would give Peyton the support of his second votes to oust the Yorkes. Hardwicke deprecated this alarmism, but Yorke found fresh grounds for despair: Pitt, though with no intention of injuring the Yorkes, was on Rutland’s side. Hardwicke was just consoling him with the assurance of the family borough of Reigate to fall back on when, on 8 June, Yorke heard that Peyton, who had not yet paid his election bills, had decided to withdraw. This, he thought, was the moment for a truce with Rutland against any new third candidate; and he must reinforce his position by a personal canvass to offset the smear campaign being mounted against the Yorkes as the worst landlords in the county, and against himself as a friend to unpopular ministerial measures. Yorke was disconcerted to find that the Cambridge radicals, led by Flower and Gunning, in league with the leading dissenters and Bedford’s friends, had contrived to induce Thomas Brand to come forward to avenge them for Peyton’s retreat. Manners was regarded as secure and the contest as being between Yorke and Brand. While Rutland did not countenance any junction with Brand, for political reasons, many of his brother’s supporters went on to give Brand their second votes. Brand, who reserved his fire for Yorke on the hustings, gave up after two days, well behind Yorke.10 Of the 2,622 votes cast (470 fewer than in May), 784 were split between Manners and Yorke and 501 between Manners and Brand, but only 30 between Yorke and Brand. Brand received only 28 plumpers, Manners 657 and Yorke 622. Yorke had the lead in only three hundreds, Ely, Longstow and Staine.

In his address of thanks Yorke thought fit to attribute his poor showing to his opponents’ six weeks’ start on him, to his not having called on outvoters and to the ‘artful and malicious misrepresentations’ against him and his family, to counter which he promised attention to the ‘internal welfare’ of the county in future. Hardwicke had doubted the credibility of the allegations made and on 16 Aug. 1802 Yorke sent him a long analysis of the part they had played in the election. Yorke was still convinced that if Peyton had persisted, they would have been beaten; the Eau Brink navigation scheme had lost them every vote at Cottenham; bad estate management had lost them others; there were some 500 new voters on the roll since 1780 who had not been cultivated, and all this, ‘coupled with the malt tax, the war, my absence in Parliament and yours in Ireland’ told against them. Yet he thought that the unpopularity was ‘wearing off fast every day’ and that it could be countered by more attention, by bestowing tenancies on freeholders, by encouraging Hodson of the Cambridge Chronicle to combat Flower and by setting up a country bank to offset the influence of the duke’s friend Mortlock at Cambridge. Hardwicke promised an informal investigation. The election had cost him £7,908 3s.d., appreciably less than his brother had feared. He still disliked any agreement with the duke, as it could only create ‘disgust and dissatisfaction’. When in August 1803 Yorke sought re-election as Home secretary, Lord Charles Manners assured him that his family wished for a good understanding to promote the peace of the county, but thought that neutrality was their best means of doing so. Yorke’s re-election passed ‘without trouble or difficulty’. Eighteen months after the election, the duke had still not paid his bills, to his brother’s great embarrassment.11

After 1804 Yorke, in the political wilderness, was prepared to see Hardwicke’s heir Royston replace him as county Member: and if Rutland tried to take both seats, Hardwicke proposed coupling a country gentleman with Royston or Yorke, whichever stood. In the event, Royston was thought safer at Reigate in 1806 and Yorke came in again for the county, so quietly that Christopher Pemberton, the family agent, regretted that Royston had not stood. The Yorkes paid no attention to the urgings of those who wished them to challenge Lord Charles Manners in 1807 by supporting a country gentleman, such as Sir Charles Cotton.12

Hitherto, Hardwicke and Yorke had seen eye to eye: now they parted company politically, Hardwicke adhering to Lord Grenville in opposition. Yorke informed him that he could not continue as county Member under these circumstances, though he assured him that he would wait until Royston could be substituted conveniently for him. Royston’s death abroad in 1808 marred this plan. In April, June and September 1809 Yorke felt obliged to decline office because of his political differences with his brother, and lest the latter should be embarrassed thereby if his re-election for the county were opposed. Hardwicke regarded the substitution of his brother Joseph Yorke* for Charles as no solution; the same objections applied. A political coalition was the only hope and it did not materialize. When, therefore, in January 1810, Charles Yorke was offered the vacant tellership of the Exchequer by the prime minister, unconditionally, Hardwicke was in a quandary: but he decided to stand by Yorke, who had been loyal to him, and if possible to support his re-election. Yorke had thought that an exchange of seats with his brother Joseph might now be advisable. His resolute support of Perceval’s government at that time made a Whig opposition to him very probable. It depended upon whether the Whig grandees scrupled to embarrass their friend Hardwicke. Their hand was forced when John Goodwin, a freelance Whig agent ‘without any connection or acquaintance with the county, apprised the freeholders in an anonymous advertisement that a Whig candidate would start’. The Duke of Bedford, who regretted that his son William was not of age to stand, warned Hardwicke that if a Whig started, he would support him in preference to Yorke. Lord Holland, writing to Lord Grenville, had appropriate reservations: he was sure that ‘even a Burdettite or a Whig unsupported by the aristocratic interests in the county’ would beat Yorke at present, and thought it fairer to tell Hardwicke that they would support any candidate he proposed, except Yorke.13 The problem was to find a suitable Whig candidate: Bedford at first mentioned George William Leeds of Croxton and Lord Holland preferred Peter Robert (Drummond) Burrell*. They were forestalled by the activity of Goodwin, Thomas Brand (another potential candidate) and Samuel Whitbread, who sponsored Lord Francis Osborne, though his ‘sporting box’ at Gogmagog barely provided the property qualification. This choice was apt: Leeds was prepared to support Yorke in exchange for a baronetcy, while Burrell was little known, said to be about to sell his stake in the county and heir to an ailing peer. Osborne was willing to furnish Goodwin with ‘an unlimited credit on his banker’. Moreover Hardwicke, horrified at the expense involved in support of a cause that was not his own, pledged himself to support Osborne if his brother withdrew. This he urged him to do on 8 Mar. 1810, referring to the expense and offering to buy him into Parliament unconditionally instead. Yorke agreed at once and, reminding Hardwicke that the latter offer was ‘extremely dangerous’, looked forward instead to a seat for St. Germans obtainable through their brother Joseph, who might still, he thought be substituted for him in Cambridgeshire. On nomination day Yorke declined, with a hint that he would be avenged in future. His humiliation was lamented by ministerialists as unnecessary, ‘effected by a mob and a jacobinical cry set forwards by the higher orders for party purposes’. It was regretted that he had declined the offer of a subscription on his behalf.14

The Whigs congratulated the county on ‘the elevated rank it now holds in the public opinion’. One of Whitbread’s friends, E.H. Fordham, looked forward to the rehabilitation of the Hardwicke interest, 6 Apr. 1810:

Lord Hardwicke’s interest in Cambridgeshire is a natural and permanent one. The Duke of Rutland’s is partly factitious and bolstered up by corruption and ministerial influence ... and the Member who represents the Rutland interest has neither talents nor popularity.

In March 1812, certainly, Lord Charles Manners declined office for fear of endangering the county seat; but there was no opposition to him in 1812 or 1818.15

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. D. Cook, ‘The Rep. Hist. Cambs.’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1935), 74-102; Add. 35393, f. 105; 35654, f. 215; 35702, f. 207; 45039, f. 57; M. J. Murphy, Cambs. Newspapers 1780-1850 .
  • 2. Add. 35641, ff. 146, 199; 35654, ff. 215, 238, 240, 255.
  • 3. PRO 30/8/174, ff. 232, 237.
  • 4. Add. 35641, f. 238; PRO 30/8/142, f. 61.
  • 5. Add. 35391, f. 184; 35392, ff. 78, 166, 170, 174; Morning Chron. 13 June 1791, 5 Dec.; Oracle, 9 Sept. 1795.
  • 6. PRO 30/8/142, f. 98; The Times, 25 Apr. 1797, 10 Mar. 1801; Add. 35643, f. 152; 35656, f. 228; 35751, f. 288.
  • 7. Add. 35701, ff. 137, 161, 163, 170, 176, 275, 279, 285, 286, 290, 303; 35702, f. 151.
  • 8. Add. 35393, f. 30; The Times, 19 May; Fitzwilliam mss, box 60, Manners to Fitzwilliam, 29 May 1802.
  • 9. Add. 35393, ff. 40, 41, 43, 66; The Times, 13 May 1802.
  • 10. Add. 35393, ff. 46, 54, 55, 62, 66, 72, 79, 81, 82, 86, 87, 89, 93, 95, 97, 99, 105; 35701, f. 309; 35702, f. 207; Cambridge Chron. 12 June; The Times, 29 June, 14 July 1802; Rutland mss, Mortlock to Rutland, 2 Nov. 1806.
  • 11. The Times, 17 July 1802; Add. 35393, ff. 105, 117, 127; 35702, f. 148; 45033, f. 18; 45040, f. 55; Pole Carew mss CC/L/36, Yorke to Pole Carew, 22 Aug. 1803; Rutland mss, Manners to Rutland, 23 Jan. [1804].
  • 12. Add. 35706, ff. 185, 335; 35393, f. 162; 45039, ff. 74, 79.
  • 13. Sidmouth mss, Bragge Bathurst to Sidmouth, 10 Oct. 1809; Add. 35394, ff. 31, 33, 64, 66, 68; 45034, ff. 41, 53; 51661, Bedford to Holland, 28 Feb., Sunday [4 Mar. 1810]; Holland, Further Mems. Whig Party, 49; Fortescue mss, Holland to Grenville, n.d. [1810].
  • 14. Add. 35394, ff. 76, 78, 83, 86; 45042, f. 99; 51661, Bedford to Holland, 1, 6 Mar.; Blair Adam mss, Bedford to Adam, 6 Mar.; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 15 Mar.
  • 15. Pol. Reg. 31 Mar. 1810; HMC Fortescue, x. 15, 16, 19, 38; Whitbread mss W1/1894; Rutland mss, Manners to Rutland, 18 Mar. 1812.