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:

about 200


(1801): 2,951


10 Jan. 1795 GEORGE HOWARD, Visct. Morpeth, vice Gregg, vacated his seat 
30 May 1796GEORGE HOWARD, Visct. Morpeth 
8 July 1802GEORGE HOWARD, Visct. Morpeth129
 Peter Delmé97
15 Feb. 1806 MORPETH re-elected after appointment to office 
3 Nov. 1806WILLIAM ORD 
11 May 1807WILLIAM ORD 
16 Oct. 1812WILLIAM ORD 
19 June 1818WILLIAM ORD 

Main Article

Until 1802 Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, returned two Members unchallenged for Morpeth. The party of independent freemen which had threatened Carlisle’s family interest earlier in the century was checked by a policy of careful management which combined charity payments to the poorer voters with a limitation on the size of the freeman electorate through control of the organs of local government.1 The borough was regarded as close by the Treasury before the elections of 1790 and 1796. William Ord, the most substantial local landowner, forced Carlisle’s nephew Delmé into third place in 1802, after spending lavishly in the borough on his coming of age earlier in the year and fighting a campaign which stressed his local connexions and expenditure, to the detriment of Carlisle’s non-resident control. It has been suggested that a dispute between the corporation and Carlisle as to the ownership of Morpeth High Common alienated several of the freemen from their patron, and although 14 of the 18 freemen elected at the court leet of 1802 declared their allegiance to Ord, it is clear that the bulk of Ord’s votes came from a similarly sized and constituted electorate as Carlisle earlier had been able to control.2

Ord had hoped for a compromise rather than a contest in 1802 and his hopes were subsequently fulfilled by the mediation of a mutual friend Charles Grey*. Carlisle’s son Viscount Morpeth and Ord secretly agreed ‘that each should assist the other to the exclusion of any third’. It appears that ‘some points remained to be settled’, but in 1806, when Morpeth stood for Cumberland and Carlisle substituted his second son William, he secured Ord’s cooperation, with the assistance of Howick and Francis Gregg. The candidates agreed to canvass separately, ‘as a joint canvass might be very prejudicial’. Ord claimed that he had to dissuade his supporters from seeking a second candidate to oppose William Howard:

The agreement between Lord Morpeth and myself is one rather of mutual forbearance than of mutual assistance, it being utterly impossible that the persons who supported me at the last election should ever become supporters of Lord Carlisle’s interest if I were ever so much inclined to make them so.

He relied rather on his friends’ willingness to spare him ‘the expense and trouble of a contest’.3 Nevertheless in 1807 Col. George Symes of Chirton Lodge addressed the borough as a champion of their ‘independent rights and local interest’. His candidature was directed against Howard and he expected Ord’s assistance. Disappointed of it, he withdrew without going to a poll. Morpeth was relieved, as he believed his family’s ‘unpopularity’ was ‘very great’. Ord doubted if Symes could have got ‘above 30 votes’ had he persevered.4

No further opposition arose to the junta of Howard and Ord. They allegedly spent at least £1,000 a year in buying each freeman a field, and in 1833 complaints were still being made that the creation of freemen was restricted for political purposes.5

Authors: J. M. Collinge / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. J. M. Fewster, ‘The Pols. and Admin. of the Borough of Morpeth in the later 18th Cent.’ (Durham Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1960), ch. xvii.
  • 2. Newcastle Chron. 9 Jan.; Fewster, 541-2; Newcastle Chron. 1 May 1802.
  • 3. The Times, 12 Apr.; Lansdowne mss, Ord to Petty, 3 Mar., Smyth to same, 17 June 1802; Grey mss, Ord to Howick, 14 Oct., Carlisle to same, 18 Oct.; Carlisle mss, Howick to Carlisle, 21 Oct.; Gregg to Ord (copy), 22 Oct., reply 23 Oct. 1806.
  • 4. Newcastle Chron. 9 May; Tyne Mercury, 12 May; Carlisle mss, Lady to Ld. Morpeth, Thurs. [7 May], reply Tues. [12 May 1807].
  • 5. J. C. Hodgson, ‘Customs of Court Leet and Court Baron of Morpeth’, Arch. Aeliana (n.s.), xvi. (1894), 54; PP 1835 (116), xxv. 1627.