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 such persons only as pay to church and poor of the borough, whether inhabitants or not’ (18 Feb. 1793)1

Number of voters:

about 500


(1801): 5,592


17 June 1790CHARLES GEORGE PERCEVAL, Baron Arden [I] 
22 Dec. 1790 ARDEN re-elected after appointment to office 
18 Jan. 1792 HON. GEORGE VILLIERS vice Gage, called to the Upper House231
 Robert Knight160
31 Oct. 1806HENRY RICHARD GREVILLE, Lord Brooke 
4 May 1807HENRY RICHARD GREVILLE, Lord Brooke 
5 Oct. 1812HENRY RICHARD GREVILLE, Lord Brooke 
17 May 1816 SIR CHARLES JOHN GREVILLE vice Brooke, called to the Upper House 

Main Article

‘Lord W[arwick] has friends enough to bring in one Member provided this Member is of his own family, but he cannot bring in two ...’2 This was the basis of stabilization in the borough elections reached in 1802. George Greville, 2nd Earl of Warwick, had overreached himself by returning both his brothers in 1774 and lost one seat to the independent interest championed by Robert Ladbroke* in 1780. In 1784 he lost the other, his brother Charles joining the Whig opposition and defeating the Castle nominee. The earl, who had no member of the family available and was in financial difficulties, decided by 1788 to reassert himself and to replace the Whig sitting Members with friends of Pitt’s administration. The corporation were amenable and the lower class of voters venal. Ladbroke and Charles Greville found themselves outmanoeuvred and, after a protest address from Greville, left the field to the earl’s nominees.3

When in January 1792 there was a vacancy, Villiers, the Castle candidate, was challenged for the independent party by Robert Knight* of Barrels. The latter was defeated, but supported by the gentry in the proportion of 19 to 29:

The numbers on the poll at the late election for Warwick clearly demonstrate that Lord Warwick will not be able in future (should he attempt it) to nominate the two Members. Mr Villiers’ majority was obtained through an earlier application, together with the addition of ministerial manoeuvring: as to the insult that gentleman received, after the contest was given up, it proceeded entirely from the flags that were introduced. The stale business of Church and King, on one of them was exhibited; on another was Pitt, Villiers, and the constitution; at this last piece of folly, the populace showed their resentment; and the narrow escape the Court candidate met with, we hope, will prove a memento, to avoid the known watchwords of riot.

Knight’s supporters’ unsuccessful petition against the return turned on the right of election, which was now determined to be in ratepayers ‘whether inhabitants or not’ (18 Feb. 1793).4

Pitt hoped to see the same two ministerialists returned again in 1796, but on 12 May Lord Arden informed him:

I am not aware of any objection there can be to my returning there if Lord Warwick has not engaged the seat to any other person. My objection was to a proposition made soon after the last election for an indefinite sum of money being annually expended amongst the lower class of voters in order to keep up the interest. Lord Warwick admitted the reasonableness of my objection. We parted good friends and have continued so ever since.

Whatever expense has been incurred I should certainly be willing to pay my full share of, and I imagine it would be a thing to be settled with Mr Villiers who, I fancy, has borne the burden of it. My objection was to an uncertain expense which I could not control.

The upshot was that Arden withdrew and Villiers was joined by a well-to-do merchant, Gaussen. Villiers informed Pitt, 18 May:

In consideration of no small expense which I have solely incurred in bringing myself into Parliament for that place, and supporting the petition to establish the right of voting, I flatter myself I have so far confirmed my interest as to be able to secure not only my own seat but the return of Mr Gaussen who I am confident is equally zealous with myself in the cordial support of your wishes in Parliament.5

They were returned unopposed, but the independent party were eager for a champion. They were encouraged by the Whig pamphleteer Dr Samuel Parr of Hatton, if not by an anonymous ‘inhabitant of Warwick’ who, in a public letter to the earl, alleged, with reference to his interference in the Warwick petition against the tax burden, ‘it is no wonder that you rant and rave so boisterously for the still further prosecution of a war by which you are so largely profiting’. In 1799 the earl began to remodel the personnel of the corporation to strengthen his interest. Bertie Greatheed (1759-1826) of Guy’s Cliff repeatedly declined invitations to champion the independent party. Of him Walter Savage Landor, his co-detainee in France in 1802, wrote that his pride ‘which may make him wish to seem the rival of Lord Warwick’ would not ‘suffer him to be the tool or even the co-partner’: in short ‘Greatheed cannot pay him for a seat’.6

The independent party found their man in 1802 in Charles Mills, ‘Freedom’s darling son’, not altogether a convincing choice. But Gaussen (his neighbour in London) abandoned the field to him and Dr Parr was given credit for his success. By a compromise, the Castle named only one Member, one of the family, and this arrangement lasted until 1831, despite further animosity towards the earl’s interest propagated by the Warwick Advertiser (founded 1806) and by the Warwick Union Society (1819).7 Montagu Burgoyne was prepared to offer his services, through Dr Parr, to the ‘Low party of Warwick’, some of whom had approached him, provided he was to be at no expense and could offer as a reformer. In 1820 a Whig agent was confident that they might secure two Members: but nothing came of it.8

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. CJ, xlviii. 196-7.
  • 2. A.L. Ruoff, ‘Landor’s Letters to his Family 1802-25’, Bull. Rylands Lib. liii. 476.
  • 3. P. Styles, The Corporation of Warwick 1660-1835; Countess of Warwick, Warwick Castle and its Earls, ii. 775; Johnstone, Mems. Samuel Parr, i. 510.
  • 4. Morning Chron. 27 Jan. 1792; CJ, xlvii. 134; xlviii. 14, 197.
  • 5. PRO 30/8/108, f. 183; 185, f. 245.
  • 6. A Letter to the Earl of Warwick (1798); VCH Warws. viii. 502; Gent. Mag. (1826), i. 367; Ruoff, 476.
  • 7. The Downfall of Tyranny (1802); Fulford, Glyn’s 1753-1953, p. 78; Johnstone, i. 439; A first letter to the electors of Warwick (1831).
  • 8. See ESSEX; Wakes Mus., Selborne, Holt White mss 415; Grey mss, Goodwin to Grey, 22 Nov. 1820.