BARCLAY, George (c.1759-1819), of Burford Lodge, nr. Dorking, Surr.

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



13 Mar. 1795 - 1807

Family and Education

b. c.1759, 1st surv. s. of Thomas Barclay, merchant, of Charterhouse Square, London by Dorothy, da. of Robert Thomson of Kilham, Yorks. m. 13 July 1782, Rebecca, da. of Benjamin Brockhurst of London, 3s. suc. fa. 1784.

Offices Held

Dir. R. Exchange Assurance Co. 1789-1803.


Barclay inherited £1,600 from his father, an unscrupulous Portugal merchant. The diarist Farington was informed that the elder Barclay had persuaded his partner Hyott to leave the management of the house to him; 13 years later, when their engagements expired, Barclay departed, taking with him all the firm’s customers. His partner was forced out of retirement, but too late to save himself from bankruptcy. George Barclay became his assignee only to treat him with equal disregard and, ‘in the cold months’, was seen to leave him ‘waiting in a passage for an audience’.1 The family claimed descent from a cadet branch of the Barclays of Collairnie, but this has never been proved.2

Barclay was returned on the dissenting interest at Bridport on a vacancy in 1795, defeating his ministerial opponent. At the general elections of 1796, 1802 and 1806 he topped the poll at some expense. Farington wrote, ‘He maintained his parliamentary interest at Bridport by professing to be a Dissenter’.3 He joined the Whig Club, 2 Feb. 1796, and Brooks’s, 21 Feb. 1801. He voted steadily with the Foxite Whigs until 26 May 1797, when he voted for reform, and reappeared in the opposition ranks on 14 and 18 Dec. 1797, 4 Jan., 23 Apr., 14 and 22 June 1798 and 7 Feb. 1799, before resuming regular attendance in February 1800.

At the turn of the century Barclay bought Burford Lodge.4 He had changed his business address from 84 Hatton Street to Little Trinity Lane, Queenhithe. In 1803 he failed for £300,000, but his creditors could not touch the £1,500 a year which at various times had been settled upon his children. ‘He paid 20 shillings in the pound, with interest, but being a man of excessive pride and over-bearing haughtiness he never has shown himself upon the exchange since that period.’ In 1804 he was justifiably listed as a Foxite and in 1805 as ‘Opposition’. On 28 Feb. 1806

in the morning he went to Blackwall, where he passed the day, and in a house there drank a bottle of brandy. It appears that he went out with an intention to destroy himself. He had pistols in his pocket, but does not seem to have had resolution to use them; however in the evening he took a boat at Blackwall and came town[wards] and soon after the boat had passed London Bridge he threw himself into the water. ... He was caught in the water by a man and struggled hard with him but was at last got out and carried to a house apparently dead: but in about an hour was recovered.5

On 3 Mar. 1807 he was granted leave of absence for a fortnight to attend to his private affairs and it was fixed that ‘he is to quit business which will be a happiness to his partners’. His leave was later extended for a further six weeks on account of ill health. Fearing a contest, he gave up Bridport in 1807, but wrote to Viscount Howick that he wished to obtain a seat ‘on such terms as are usual’, being confident that his political opinions over the last 12 years did him credit.6 As a reward for his political services he had been appointed a commissioner to decide upon Prussian captures.

He canvassed Bridport in 1811 and (through his son) in 1812 but found that support for his candidature was lukewarm. On 27 May he wrote to Thomas Colfox, the Bridport attorney:

I don’t sue to represent your borough in forma pauperis. I am both able and willing to pay for my seat as before—but to be left the third man and to drag with me a certain number of voters who whether I succeed or not would have an equal claim to my honour is what I cannot bear.7

Afraid lest he should injure both his pride and his pocket he later withdrew. He died 8 June 1819.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Lawrence Taylor


  • 1. Farington, ii. 142.
  • 2. C. W. and H. F. Barclay, Hist. Barclay Fam. ii. 341.
  • 3. Farington, iv. 99.
  • 4. Brayley and Britton, Surr. iv. 459.
  • 5. Farington, iv. 99.
  • 6. CJ, lxii. 198, 247, 329; Grey mss, Barclay to Howick, 29 Apr. 1807.
  • 7. Farington, iv. 98; Dorset RO, D43/X1.