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 inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 650


(1801): 4,022


 JOHN JOSHUA PROBY, Earl of Carysfort [I] 
 JOHN JOSHUA PROBY, Earl of Carysfort [I] 
29 Oct. 1796 JOHN LELAND vice Howard, deceased 
16 Feb. 1801 ALBEMARLE BERTIE vice Carysfort, called to the Upper House 
10 July 1802JOHN LELAND 
1 Nov. 1806JOHN LELAND 
9 May 1807JOHN LELAND 
30 Jan. 1808 EVAN FOULKES vice Leland, deceased 
27 Feb. 1809 CHARLES CHAPLIN II vice Bertie, vacated his seat306
 Joshua Jepson Oddy142
10 Oct. 1812EVAN FOULKES360
 JOHN HENNIKER MAJOR, Baron Henniker [I]354
 Gerard Noel Noel272
17 June 1818LORD THOMAS CECIL328
 Joseph Clayton Jennings12
 Thomas Best4

Main Article

The Cecils of Burghley, earls of Exeter and recorders of the borough since 1697, had controlled Stamford elections since 1734. Their nominations were not contested until 1809; nor did any opposition succeed until 1831.1 Their interest, based on propinquity, property, standing and patronage, survived the vicissitudes of family history in this period, when the 10th Earl, created a marquess in 1801, left a boy heir at his death in 1804: his trustees thwarted efforts to take advantage of the situation. In 1790, Henry Cecil, then heir to his uncle Brownlow, the 9th Earl, gave up his seat to pursue divorce proceedings and was replaced by Lord Carysfort, whose father had sat on the Exeter interest and who was thereby discouraged from disturbing Exeter’s friend Lord Sandwich in Huntingdonshire.2 After succeeding to the earldom in 1793, Henry Cecil reassured Sandwich, 28 May 1794: ‘As I have told Lord Carysfort that I intend to support him at Stamford in future, I think I might without impropriety urge him to act in your county nearly as your lordship would wish’.3

With no members of his family eligible, the earl returned stout supporters of government. Lt.-Gen. Bertie, returned in 1801, was of a family that had, before the Cecils, controlled Stamford and he was connected with Lady Exeter by the marriage of his kinswoman to her brother Lord Gwydir. Lord Exeter died in 1804 and by his will appointed as trustees Lords St. Helens and Henniker, Rev. William Burslem and Evan Foulkes, the family solicitor. The latter was himself returned unopposed on a vacancy in 1808; being ‘ill’, he had his canvass conducted by his fellow-trustee Henniker and the other Member, Bertie.4

It was when Bertie succeeded to the earldom of Lindsey in 1809 that the first opposition occurred, though it had been brewing for some time. In 1802 an agent of William Windham, who was then obliged to think of a seat other than Norwich and was popular at Stamford as a champion of bull running (a regular feature of Stamford elections), appeared at the house of William Redifer, a Stamford attorney, who, after this had come to nothing, wrote to Windham in September 1805 claiming there was a ‘reasonable probability’ of upsetting the Exeter interest. At the previous election, Redifer explained:

The lower order of the people (who certainly form two thirds) were Bull mad, and any gentleman of consequence and spirit espousing the Bull cause, and who would have put himself by the Bull’s side might, in my honest opinion, have then succeeded.

He added that

nothing but a strong perseverance and good spirit (all the way supporting the humour of the bull) can be likely to carry the point ... Was anything to be done here the first step to be taken must be to get a fine old bull, and a blue silk dress for him, and next to engage our band of music ... and at once awaken and enliven the town in a manner it has not been accustomed to at elections.5

Nothing came of this project, nor of an advertisement for ‘a gentleman of independent principles’ in 1807, and in that year the Exeter trustees strengthened the family interest by buying corporation property. In January 1808, prompted by Redifer, Windham suggested—in vain—his nephew Capt. Lukin, or, failing him, ‘Mr Paul’.6

The candidate on the Exeter interest in 1809 was Charles Chaplin junior, the young marquess’s cousin, whose father was recorder of Stamford during his minority. Government were interested in obtaining the seat, but Chaplin was stronger than any candidate they might recommend. He needed to be, for on 12 Feb. a portentous stranger arrived at Stamford encouraged by Madocks, the radical MP for Boston, in the person of Joshua Jepson Oddy, a Russia merchant (bankrupt in 1802) of St. Mary Axe, London, ‘an eye-witness to the final partition of Poland’ and writer on economic subjects, who was to set himself up as the emancipator of Stamford from the tyranny of the house of Burghley.7

In his address, 15 Feb. 1809, Oddy contented himself with stressing his commercial knowledge and his desire to promote Stamford economically, stating that he was independent of party and championed an independent franchise. He soon felt obliged, however, to espouse the cause of bull running and chose blue as his colour, whereupon Burghley sported red. Under attack from ‘an elector’ (Richard Newcomb jun.) who made fun of his ‘hidden qualifications’, Oddy deplored the use of overbearing family influence at Stamford, 18 Feb., and two days later denounced the Burghley ‘system’ at Stamford as a mockery of representation with ‘deadening effects’. The economic development promised by Oddy was the achievement of what the Oakham canal had left unfinished, the linking of the east coast ports with the industrial midlands by a navigation through Stamford. His chief local coadjutors were two bankers, four attorneys including Redifer, two merchants and the antiquarian Thomas Blore, chairman of his committee; he was also backed by the printer John Drakard, who projected a new local newspaper, the Boston, Newark, Spalding and Stamford News, in opposition to Newcomb’s Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, which was pro-Burghley. On the hustings, following an immoderate attack on the Burghley interest by Blore, Oddy insisted that he was not a foe of aristocracy and that he had no radical intentions beyond the economic amelioration of the town. He was defeated, despite his counsel’s efforts to secure for him the votes of tenants who were liable to rates which their landlords paid. Oddy’s friends had to admit that they would still have been beaten, even if these votes had been allowed. Election expenses mounted noticeably; in 1790 the Burghley Members had shared expenses of £375; in 1796, over £500; Bertie’s return in 1801 cost £543; Bertie and Leland paid £616 in 1802, £711 in 1806 and £730 in 1807; Foulkes paid £573 in 1808; but Chaplin’s return cost £2,461, of which he paid £700.8

Oddy promised to stand again. On 1 Mar. 1809 Gerard Noel Noel* of Exton also announced his candidature, specifically on an anti-bullard platform. He reproached Oddy for espousing bull-running. A ‘war of words’ between them ensued and on 5 Apr. Noel withdrew, admitting that he could make no headway against a sport he regarded as cruel. Meanwhile Oddy had treated the electors to a full statement of his views, 30 Mar. His thesis, often echoed in Stamford later, was that those boroughs which were dominated by a great family were ‘generally, if not universally, in a state of decay’; that their proprietors deliberately kept down the population and discouraged economic development for electoral purposes; that if Stamford’s servile example had been followed by the rest of England, ‘we should have had no good public roads, no inland navigation, and our foreign trade would not have amounted to one-fifth part of what it does; and, what is worse than all, the liberties of the country would have been at an end: for a few lords would have ruled us all’.9 On 1 Apr., Oddy’s friends met and resolved that the by-election had been corrupt; that 183 legal votes had been rejected, thanks to a false interpretation of scot and lot voting which should be corrected; that Burghley agents were trying to suppress the new rate books, and that the corporation were conniving at Burghley control by selling property cheaply to the trustees and permitting the abuse of public trusts—two schools and charities were involved. Oddy was upheld as the champion of ‘a full, fair and free representation in England’. Subsequently, Gerard Noel, who claimed that the Burghley interest which he had hitherto supported had rejected his services, and whose London bank Oddy patronized, came over to Oddy and provided timber for new houses at ‘Protection Place’, which Oddy provided for tenants evicted by the Burghley interest for supporting him.10 Noel also built the Stamford hotel as a Blue house, after Oddy and his family had been thrown out of the George hotel where they were staying in September 1809, and when Oddy’s ailing younger son died soon after this incident, Noel had him buried in the Exton family vault.

Oddy’s plans misfired. In September 1809 he published his canal junction plan; but the corporation championed an alternative plan. In February 1811 both proposals failed in the House, Oddy having meanwhile, with reference to his scheme, published in February 1810 A sketch of the improvement of the political, commercial and local interests of Britain. Oddy’s Society for the Reform of Charity Abuses at Stamford (December 1809) made some progress, but Blore resigned as secretary in 1810, alleging that Oddy had not paid his subscription. Gerard Noel now invited Oddy, who had also alienated the canal committee and generally given grounds for doubting his credit, to justify himself, or give way to him: he was prepared to purchase Oddy’s property. So it was that on 6 Oct. 1812 Oddy withdrew in favour of Noel, whose ‘local knowledge’ he thought made him more likely to achieve the liberation of Stamford and who, like him, favoured the liberty of the press, parliamentary reform and economic growth. Oddy died in obscurity in Havana in 1814. Noel was defeated by two Burghley trustees, Foulkes and Henniker, who had induced Chaplin to withdraw in his favour when he risked losing a contested election for Rutland. Noel spent £900, secured 258 plumpers out of his 272 votes and, wearing a Spanish head-dress of blue and yellow feathers, was chaired by his friends; but his petition alleging that improper votes were allowed and that the election was not held in the usual place was rejected, and he gave up Stamford.11

Thus ended the first sustained outburst of opposition to the borough proprietors: by 1818 the young marquess had come of age and returned his brother and his stepmother’s nephew William Henry Percy (he had been at first expected to return his brother-in-law Henry Pierrepont). The Blues got nowhere; they failed to obtain Stafford O’Brien of Blatherwyke as their candidate; and a last-minute intervention, organized by John Drakard, of the radical barrister Jennings and the adventurer Thomas Best, who had been defeated at Grantham the week before, failed dismally after a poll of four hours.12

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. J. M. Lee ‘Stamford and the Cecils 1700-1885: a study in political control’ (Oxf. Univ. B. Litt. thesis, 1957).
  • 2. Hunts. RO, Sandwich mss 11G, Exeter to Sandwich, 1 Sept. 1788.
  • 3. Ibid .
  • 4. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 29 Jan. 1808.
  • 5. Add. 37882, ff. 181-5.
  • 6. Stamford town hall, Phillips mss PC63; the other addresses cited below appear in the same collection; Add. 37887, f. 229.
  • 7. PRO, Dacres Adams mss 10/82; J. Drakard, Narrative of procs. at Stamford election Feb. 1809, p. 4; J.J. Oddy, An address to the electors of Stamford, 30 Mar. 1809.
  • 8. Drakard, app.; Lee, 101-6; Burghley mss D23, passim.
  • 9. J. Drakard, Sequel of Stamford Election, 1809; Oddy, An address, 30 Mar. 1809.
  • 10. Stamford town hall, Phillips mss PC35, G. N. Noel, A letter to Elector, as rep. Mr Oddy’s party, within the borough of Stamford, with general reflections [1809]; Letter to Evan Foulkes, 1809; Drakard, Sequel, 36.
  • 11. Oddy, To the worthy and independent electors of Stamford, 6 Oct. 1812; Gent. Mag. (1814), ii. 509; Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 16 Oct. 1812; CJ, lxviii. 43, 217.
  • 12. The Late Elections (1818), 322, where it appears that Lt.-Col. Jones of the Guards was to have been Jennings’s colleague; Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 5, 12 June 1818. On Jennings, see GATTON and WESTMINSTER.