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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

25 in 1829


(1821): 5,974


9 Dec. 1801 JOHN BAGWELL II vice Bagwell, vacated his seat
27 Feb. 1806 WICKHAM re-elected after appointment to office
17 Nov. 1806ARCHIBALD JOHN PRIMROSE, Visct. Primrose
15 Apr. 1809 ROBERT PEEL II vice Dick, vacated his seat
4 Mar. 1819 EBENEZER JOHN COLLETT vice Pennefather, vacated his seat

Main Article

Richard Pennefather, whose family had been proprietors of this close borough since the early 18th century, was its parliamentary patron from 1787 until his death in 1831. After the Union, he occupied it for only a few months himself and then as a stopgap, preferring to sell it. The paying guest at the Union, Richard Bagwell, made way for his younger brother John in 1801, but from 1802 Pennefather sold the seat to the government, though John Bagwell was ready to bargain with him for it in 1806 and 1812. In return, Pennefather obtained places for himself and family in 1802, an exchange of office with his son plus 4,000 guineas in 1806 and £5,000 thereafter.1 The one known concession to the score or so of aldermen and freemen who formed the remnant of the electorate was a visit by Saxton in 1812 ‘for the purpose of canvassing Mr Pennefather for his interest’2 and the payment of £100 election expenses.

The only problems that arose concerned the Member’s arrangement with the government. When Wickham resigned as chief secretary in 1804, he retained the seat and transferred his allegiance to Lord Grenville in opposition. Pitt’s administration wished Viscount FitzHarris* to have the seat. When his successor in office Nepean asked Wickham to resign it, 30 July 1804, he refused on the grounds that it was not in the lord lieutenant’s gift, but the then prime minister’s (i.e. Addington’s). Nepean took the view that ‘the seat ought not to be considered as belonging to him any longer than while he held the office of chief secretary. If, for example, I had not had a seat in Parliament, Wickham would, as a matter of course have vacated to make room for me. The seat in fact belongs to government and is in its disposal.’ The argument, in which Grenville took Wickham’s part, was not pressed to a conclusion then, or in the autumn of 1805 when the seat was wanted for Charles Long, and Wickham retained it. In February 1806 he vacated to accept office under Grenville and the lord lieutenant decided that it would not be proper to raise difficulties.3

The problem arose in a different form in 1809 when Quintin Dick, who had purchased the seat under the aegis of the Portland government found himself unable to support them on the Duke of York’s alleged misconduct of army patronage and resigned. The matter was given publicity because Dick complained of not receiving a refund on his short tenure and this led to Madocks’s motion of 11 May 1809, in which ministers were arraigned for improper interference, it being alleged that Castlereagh had called on Dick to resign the seat if he opposed ministers. The motion was defeated, it being evident that Dick had resigned as a matter of honour and not under pressure; and equally clear that Madocks’s motive was the more general one of agitating for parliamentary reform.4 But the government were subsequently more cautious, and when Dick’s successor Robert Peel handed over the seat to Saxton in 1812 he informed him that the minister expected only a ‘general favourable disposition from his friends’. Had not Saxton obtained the seat in 1812, the contenders for government’s nomination would have included John Bagwell for his ‘second son’ and ‘Beau’ Brummell.5 In 1818 the chief secretary wanted ‘a good man and a Protestant’ for the seat and it was then that Pennefather kept the seat warm until a ministerial nominee materialized.6

Author: P. J. Jupp


  • 1. See PENNEFATHER, Richard.
  • 2. Add. 40280, f. 70.
  • 3. See WICKHAM, William; Add. 35715, ff. 101, 125; 35751, f. 200; Fortescue mss, Wickham to Grenville, 23, 26 Oct., reply 24 Oct.; Glos RO, Redesdale mss X14, Hardwicke to Redesdale, 10 Feb. 1806.
  • 4. See DICK, Quintin.
  • 5. Add. 40181, f. 13; 40222, f. 75.
  • 6. Add. 40279, f. 47; 40295, f. 155.