ELLISON, Cuthbert (1783-1860), of Hebburn Hall, co. Dur.

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



Family and Education

b. 12 July 1783, 2nd s. of Henry Ellison of Hebburn and Gateshead by Henrietta, da. of John Isaacson of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb. educ. Harrow 1796-1801; Christ’s, Camb. 1801-4. m. 21 July 1804, Isabella Grace, da. and coh. of Henry Ibbetson of St. Anthony’s, Northumb., 6 da. suc. bro. 1798.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Northumb. 1808-9, co. Dur. 1827-8; mayor, Hartlepool 1809.

Lt.-col. commdt. Gateshead vols. 1803-14.


Ellison’s family had been associated with Newcastle-upon-Tyne for over two centuries. His grandmother was a local banker’s daughter and he himself later became a banker at Newcastle. Said to have been ‘bred a Tory’, he was nevertheless one of the requisitioners for the county meeting at Morpeth in May 1805 to call for closer scrutiny of government expenditure. He had more property in Durham than in Northumberland and in 1807 was a compromise candidate for the former county, though reported a supporter of the ministry, when Liddell and Burdon withdrew in the face of a contest. His opponents charged him with being foisted on the county by intrigue and the charge stuck; nor did his coalition with Milbanke help him. He gave up on the third day.1

In 1812 Ellison canvassed Newcastle on the retirement of Charles John Brandling and again there were recriminations. It was alleged that Brandling was in league with him and there was ‘some little difficulty respecting his political opinions’: the Newcastle ministerialists wished for ‘a decidedly Tory Member’. Of Ellison, Sir Charles Monck wrote to Lord Grey:

He has been born and bred a Tory but is considerably Whiggized by living with the Ridleys and Bigges and others of this county and also by his own opinions upon the conduct of the Tories in power during the last few years, and by the usage he received from Wharton at the last general election when he stood for the county of Durham. He may probably enough upon going into Parliament take to the side of government, but he will be quite unsafe to be reckoned upon in case of a job when they want assistance, or rather will be sure to vote against them.2

Grey had already noted that Ellison was ‘a sensible unaffected man and whom I like very much’.3 In his election address he emphasized his local birth and residence and his connexion with the local coal trade and promised to defend the Tyne shipping interest, which he regarded as ‘one of the main pillars of the state, contributing as it so largely does, to the support of that most powerful arm of Britain the British navy’. He also indicated that he opposed ‘wild schemes of reform’. But he warned:

I can never consent to that immense load of taxes, which are in fact cheerfully acquiesced in by the public, [being] squandered in idle expeditions, or profligate pensions for undeserving services.4

Returned unopposed, Ellison was listed a Treasury supporter. George Rose had a caveat:

Ellison decidedly hostile in his opinions and connections, married a sister of the wife of John Smyth of Heath. It is possible his conduct may be controlled by his constituents disliking to have both Members in opposition.5

As he made no known speech in the House, he must be judged by his votes. ‘A liberal enlightened man’,6 he invariably supported Catholic relief. He was in the minority against the vice-chancellor bill, 11 Feb., and in the majority in favour of the sinecure bill, 29 Mar. 1813. He was in the majority in favour of Christian missions to India, 22 June 1813. He opposed the corn bill, 23 Feb., 10 Mar., and was in the minority on the East India ships registry bill, 6 June 1815. He was in the minorities against the civil list, 14 Apr., 8 May 1815, and opposed the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment bill, 3 July. He boasted on the hustings in 1818 of having supported the resumption of hostilities in 1815. He opposed the army and navy estimates and the continuation of the property tax in March 1816 and, again, the civil list, 24 May. His conduct began to be noticed: the 2nd Duke of Northumberland who had complained of Ellison’s obtaining local patronage wrote, 26 May:

I was very glad to see ... that opposition had the vote of Cuthbert Ellison frequently lately ... This is the gentleman ... I was to solicit for any place I wanted at Newcastle, or even Shields. They are very rightly served, and I rejoice at it. It is fortunate for him, for now I shall not oppose his election for Newcastle again ...

On 8 June the duke wrote of Ellison’s having deserted ministers ‘and joined Lord Grey and his former friends again’.7 Not so. In 1817 he joined the non-partisan Grillion’s Club. He voted with ministers against the reduction of the Admiralty board, 7 Feb. 1817. He did not vote on the suspension of habeas corpus because of indisposition following a continental tour, but he claimed that he would have supported it if present8 and his first known vote next session was with government, on their employment of informers, 5 Mar. 1818. He joined the opposition majority against the ducal marriage grant, 15 Apr. 1818.

Despite allegations of local dissatisfaction with his conduct, not least with his supposed inability to sway government in the matter of retaining the customs establishment at Newcastle, Ellison was not opposed in 1818. He had not forfeited the Treasury interest.9 He was relatively inactive in the ensuing Parliament, voting with the minority on the case of Wyndham Quin, 29 Mar., against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, and against the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June 1819. He died 13 June 1860.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Lawrence Taylor / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Gent. Mag. (1860), ii. 205; Grey mss, Monck to Grey, 28 Sept. 1812; Newcastle Chron. 11 May, 1 June 1805, 23, 30 May; Lonsdale mss, Zouch to Lonsdale, 20 May 1807.
  • 2. Grey mss, Ridley to Grey, 2 Oct., Monck to same, 3 Oct. 1812.
  • 3. Ibid. Grey to Lady Grey, 24 Oct. 1810.
  • 4. BL 8138.dd.10, Coll. of Newcastle election pprs. 1812 .
  • 5. T.64/261, Rose to Arbuthnot, 8 Nov. 1812.
  • 6. Grey mss, Monck to Grey, 28 Sept. 1812.
  • 7. Essex RO, Sperling mss D/DSE/3, Northumberland to Brogden, 26 Nov. 1813, 11 Mar., 26 May, 8 June 1816.
  • 8. The Late Elections (1818), 235.
  • 9. Grey mss, Monck to Grey, 28 Nov. 1817, 6 June 1818.