FORESTER (afterwards WELD FORESTER), Cecil (1767-1828), of Ross Hall and Willey Park, Salop.
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Family and Education
bap. 7 Apr. 1767, 1st s. of Lt.-Col. Cecil Forester† of Ross Hall, nr. Shrewsbury by Anne, da. and coh. of Robert Townshend of Christleton, Cheshire. educ. Westminster 1779; Christ Church, Oxf. 1785. m. 16 June 1800, Lady Katherine Mary Manners, da. of Charles Manners†, 4th Duke of Rutland, 6s. 6da. suc. fa. 1774; cos. George Forester† to Dothill and Willey Park and took name of Weld before Forester 15 Aug. 1811; cr. Baron Forester 17 July 1821.
Capt. commdt. Wenlock vols. 1800, maj. 1803, lt-col. commdt. 1804.
On the retirement of his cousin George Forester in 1790, Cecil Forester, his heir-at-law, succeeded to his seat for Wenlock. He promised to emulate his benefactor and like him held it 30 years unopposed, the family interest there being secure for one seat. An excellent horseman and rider to hounds by Nimrod’s account, he was a friend of the Prince of Wales, who visited him at Ross Hall. His marriage to the Duke of Rutland’s sister, of which his soliciting a peerage was said to have been a condition, cemented his links with the aristocratic sporting world. His letters to the Paget brothers 1799-1802 consisted entirely of lyrical effusions on foxhunting. He was in financial distress in 1797, but his uncle refused to help, saying he would ‘never undress himself till he goes to bed’.1
He did not seek to cut a figure in Parliament, where he never apparently featured in debate. At first he acted with the Whigs, voting for Grey’s Oczakov resolutions, 12 Apr. 1791, though he was listed ‘doubtful’ on the Test Act repeal question that month. On 4 May 1793 he joined Brooks’s Club, sponsored by Sir Henry Bridgeman*. Subsequently he supported administration with the Portland Whigs, though his name was queried on a list of them in December 1792. It is doubtful whether he was a regular attender. His only minority vote during Addington’s ministry was, not surprisingly, for Calcraft’s motion on the Prince of Wales’s debts, 4 Mar. 1803. He was listed a friend of Pitt’s government in September 1804 and July 1805, but did not vote in several crucial divisions before 1807. He was evidently well disposed to the Portland ministry. He voted against parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810. The Whigs were justifiably ‘doubtful’ of him in 1810; he regarded himself as a friend of government in October 18122 and government returned the compliment after that election. He voted against Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 11 and 24 May 1813; also on 9 May 1817, despite a puzzling rumour that he would vote to the contrary.3 After 1807 his name appeared more frequently than hitherto on the government side in major divisions, for example on the address, 23 Jan., on the Scheldt expedition, 5 and 30 Mar. 1810, and on Stuart Wortley’s motion, 21 May 1812. He was also a government pair on 4 Feb. and 3 Mar. 1812.
In the ensuing Parliament Forester mustered with ministers on civil list questions, 8, 31 May 1815, 6 and 24 May 1816, having paired with Sir Watkin Williams Wynn on the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816.4 He stood by government on the public revenue bill and the Irish treasury arrangements in June 1816 and voted for the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817. On 15 Apr. 1818 he was in the government minority in favour of the ducal marriage grant. In the Parliament of 1818 his only surviving vote was against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819: he had been absent ill all that session.
In 1811 Forester had succeeded to his cousin’s estates, which the latter had doubled in value. Lady Williams Wynn was amused at him ‘in his new character of a rich man’ and doubted if he would ever forego
his old habits of making an odd guinea now and then by his wits ... He professes himself at this moment to be poorer than ever and she goes about still driving her buggy, never will she appear to greater advantage than she has done in that equipage ... His present income from landed property is by his own account £17,000 per annum and to be raised to 22—besides £140,000 in money, but of this £10,000 only is open ... He means to build at Willey, but says he will not burn a brick till he has £10,000 before him.5
By 1819, Forester had
taken up the improvement of his estate, with the same passion that made him in youth the keenest of fox-hunters. As it was then his pride to sell for large prices horses which he had bought for a mere song, so it is now his passion to make purchases at a lower price than other people.
There is not a chair, table, vase or ornament of which he has not something to say ... Mr Forester’s strong, shrewd uneducated sense is for a short time entertaining; but after two days it would be unbearable.6
Forester retired from Parliament in 1820 and received a coronation peerage in the following year. He at first asked for the title of Lord Wenlock, to spite the Lawley family who had once held that title and were challenging his supremacy at Wenlock.7 He died, after ‘severe suffering’ from gout for several years, 23 May 1828, and was buried at Willey before 10,000 spectators,8 to most of whom he was ‘Squire’ Forester, a legendary sportsman, of whom Meynell used to say, ‘First out of cover comes Cecil Forester, then the fox, and then my hounds’.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. J. Randall, Broseley and its Surroundings, 284; Paget Pprs. i. 114-16; Heber Letters, 170; Gent. Mag. (1828), ii. 82.
- 2. Salop RO, Forester mss 1224/337, Weld Forester to Pritchard, 3 Oct. 1812.
- 3. NLW mss 2792, Lady to H. Williams Wynn [9 May 1817].
- 4. T.64/260, Rutland to Arbuthnot, 17 Mar. 1816.
- 5. NLW mss 2791, Lady to H. Williams Wynn, 18 Sept. 1811.
- 6. Diary of Lady Shelley, ii. 41.
- 7. Add. 38369, f. 332.
- 8. Gent. Mag. loc. cit.