New Romney


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 corporation

Number of voters:

less than 20


(1801): 755


27 May 1796JOHN FORDYCE 
7 May 1807THOMAS SCOTT, Earl of Clonmell [I] 
 Benjamin Cobb3
12 Feb. 1813 DUCKWORTH re-elected after vacating his seat 
5 Nov. 1817 CHOLMELEY DERING vice Duckworth, deceased 
22 Feb. 1819 RICHARD EDWARD ERLE DRAX GROSVENOR vice Grosvenor, deceased 

Main Article

Oldfield wrote of New Romney in 1794:

Sir Edward Dering has, by a very simple method, possessed himself of an influence in this port, not easily to be rendered insecure. His property in the neighbourhood is tenanted out, without lease, at very easy rents, to the electors; who, feeling that gratitude which never fails to inspire those immediately interested in the present possession of a good thing, could not be so ungenerous as to oppose the inclination of a passive landlord, in so trifling a concern as that of the election of a Member of Parliament.1

In this way and by deliberately restricting the number of corporators, the Dering family retained control of the borough throughout the period. Sir Edward Dering, 6th Bt., had vacated his seat in 1787, and because of ill health did not stand in 1790. The Whig agent Jackman reported to William Adam* through a go-between, 1 June 1790, that a Mr Walter had told him that ‘Sir Edward Dering’s influence at Romney was on the go—I give you his own words, and he is a leading man in the corporation’; but the Duke of Portland considered the borough to be ‘quite out of the question’. When he applied to Pitt for a peerage in 1794, Dering claimed that he had refused ‘some very advantageous offers, both to himself and family’, from ‘the leading members of the opposition’ at the time of the Regency crisis, and at the general election had returned the nabobs Sullivan and Impey ‘by the particular recommendation of Mr Pitt’. Rumour had it that he received £11,000 for the transaction and that Impey’s seat cost £1,000 more than Sullivan’s because of his reputation.2 Nothing is known of the arrangements made in 1796, but Fordyce was very probably recommended by administration. Sir Edward Dering, 7th Bt., controlled the borough 1798-1811, when it is difficult to determine whether the seats were disposed of by private sale or by negotiation with the Treasury. In 1809 William Alexander Madocks* compared Romney with Westbury as a seat ‘openly sold for money’.3

Sir Edward Cholmeley Dering, 8th Bt., succeeded to his inheritance in 1811 when only three years old and control of the borough fell to his guardian and great-uncle, Cholmeley Dering. In 1812 the Treasury allowed the 2nd Duke of Northumberland to nominate both candidates, who were opposed unsuccessfully by Benjamin Cobb of New Romney, formerly an agent of the Dering family. He got three votes: himself, his son and his proposer, William Coates. A threatened petition did not materialize, but the discovery of a technical irregularity in Duckworth’s return forced him to seek re-election in February 1813, when there was no disturbance.4 Following Duckworth’s death in 1817, Dering complained to Lord Liverpool, 18 Oct.:

The boldest attempt that could be practised has been made to invade my nephew’s right. Where the plan originated I know not, and shall not take the trouble to inquire, but the first communication I received was thro’ a mutual friend of the [3rd] Duke of Northumberland’s and mine, to the effect that his Grace was ready to name according to terms agreed upon. My answer was that none were made to warrant the application, to which I was replied that the late duke [d. 10 July 1817] was informed by his deceased friend [Sir John McMahon*] that provision was made in the event of accepting office, and that it was only from supposing that the case of death might have been also provided for, that the first friend alluded to had so written to me on the present duke’s part, offering at the same time (for well he might) every apology to me, and that my word was enough.

... On the 14th I received a letter from Mr Arbuthnot, saying that my letter to Mr Lushington dated the 4th had been given to him, Mr Arbuthnot, and altho’ it mentioned my intention of filling the vacancy, Mr Arbuthnot says he writes to acquaint me who the person is the Duke of Northumberland intends naming to me. A letter dated the 13th (which being sent to Canterbury, I did not receive until the 15th) signed Richard Wilson, as agent for the duke, has this expression, that he was desired to arrange with the Treasury pursuant to the understanding which the late Col. McMahon communicated to him.

Although Dering absolved both Liverpool and McMahon from blame, he refused to return the duke’s candidate and instead returned himself.5 In 1818 two supporters of administration were returned. Oldfield noted that in 1819 Grosvenor was elected ‘with the greatest precipitancy, as a law suit was depending for the admission of persons legally entitled to their freedom, which might render the patronage of the borough insecure’.6

Author: J. M. Collinge


  • 1. Boroughs, ii. 324.
  • 2. Ginter, Whig Organization, 170, 173; PRO 30/8/129, f. 149; Spencer mss, Mrs Howe to Lady Spencer, 12 June 1790; Morning Chron. 27 Jan. 1791.
  • 3. Parl. Deb. xiv. 491.
  • 4. Alnwick mss 67, ff. 191-6, 217; Kentish Chron. 13 Oct.; Kent AO, New Romney recs. AC5, assembly bk. 8 Oct. 1812; Geo. IV Letters, i. 182.
  • 5. Add. 38268, f. 276.
  • 6. Key (1820), 249.