DAWNAY, John Christopher Burton, 5th Visct. Downe [I] (1764-1832), of Cowick, Yorks.

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



9 Feb. 1787 - 1790
1790 - 1796

Family and Education

b. 15 Nov. 1764, 1st s. of John Dawnay, 4th Visct. Downe [I], by Lora, da. of William Burton, commr. of excise, of Luffenham, Rutland. educ. Eton 1776-80; Grand Tour 1784-6. m. 31 Dec. 1815, Louisa Maria, da. of George Welsted of Apsley, Suss., s.p. suc. fa. as 5th Visct. Downe [I] 21 Dec. 1780; cr. Baron Dawnay [GB] 9 June 1796.

Offices Held

Col. 2 W. Yorks. militia 1795.


Like his father, Downe followed the politics of Wentworth Woodhouse but, with no sure seat at his disposal, disappointed the 2nd Earl Fitzwilliam by climbing down when given every encouragement to become the Whig candidate for Yorkshire in 1788. He justified himself by saying that he was prepared to stand if Wilberforce’s illness caused a vacancy, but not to stand against Wilberforce at a dissolution, being a novice in electioneering.1 He would not change his mind and in 1790, when Petersfield was no longer available, was willing to pay 4,000 guineas for a seat, according to the Whig election managers. He was accommodated on the 3rd Viscount Bolingbroke’s interest at Wootton Bassett, where there was a token contest.2

Downe had joined Brooks’s Club on 12 June 1786 and the Whig Club on 6 Jan. 1787, a month before he entered Parliament. He supported opposition in silence before 1790 and his only known speech afterwards was as chairman of the Steyning election committee, when he presented the report, 7 Mar. 1791. There were doubts about his attitude to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791, but he further voted with opposition on Pitt’s foreign policy, 12 Apr. 1791, 1 Mar. 1792. Subsequently he was listed a Portland Whig (December 1792) and on 10 and 17 Feb. 1793 attended the meetings of Windham’s ‘third party’.3 He ceased to vote with opposition and supported ministers when Portland joined them. His only known vote for the rest of that Parliament was against the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796. At the dissolution his conversion to the government was rewarded with a British peerage. He had applied to Portland for one in 1794, and been told to wait for the next creation. On 30 June 1795, conceiving that a dissolution was near, he reminded the duke, adding that he did not wish to purchase another seat.4 In 1800 he for a time took his seat in the Irish House of Lords, the first of his family to do so. After Pitt’s death he reverted to Whig politics. He died 18 Feb. 1832.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F34/133-60.
  • 2. Ginter, Whig Organization, 50, 53, 100, 251.
  • 3. Add. 34448, f. 296.
  • 4. Portland mss PwF 3298.