HEYGATE, William (1782-1844), of Chatham Place, Blackfriars, London and Holwood, Kent.

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



1818 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 24 June 1782, 1st s. of James Heygate, banker, of Hackney, Mdx. and Southend, Essex by Sarah, da. of Samuel Unwin of Sutton in Ashfield, Notts. m. 19 May 1821, Isabella, da. of Edward Longdon Mackmurdo of Upper Clapton, Mdx., 4s. suc. fa. 1833. cr. Bt. 30 Sept. 1831.

Offices Held

Common councilman, London 1809-12, sheriff, 1811-12, alderman 1812-43, ld. mayor 1822-3, chamberlain 1843-4.

Dir. Eagle Insurance 1811-4, Grand Surr. Dock Co. (of which his fa. was treasurer) 1813-d.; Phoenix Fire Office 1819-42; Pelican Office 1823-d.; South Sea Co. 1823-9, 1832-d.; W. I. Dock Co. 1824-30; Reversionary Interest Soc. 1825-d.; commr. Exchequer bill loan office 1823-d.


In 1822 Heygate, who coveted a baronetcy, wrote to Lord Liverpool describing himself as ‘possessed of an adequate property, landed and otherwise, as well in possession as reversion and ... I am descended from a family which declined at its first institution the title of baronet for reasons which did them no discredit’.1 His family, which entered its pedigree at the Visitation of London in 1634, had acquired estates in Leicestershire and Essex. At the beginning of the 19th century his father, a hosiery manufacturer, helped to found the Leicester bank of Pares and Heygate. About 1805 a branch was started at 63 Aldermanbury, London, but Heygate, who was doubtless the firm’s London agent, did not become a partner in the parent bank until 1813. After moving to Blackfriars (1817) and Broad Street (1833), the bank was wound up on Heygate’s father’s death.2

Chosen a common councilman for Cripplegate Within in 1809 and an alderman for Colegate Street in 1812, and prominent as a Merchant Taylor and company director, Heygate was also a founder member of the Hampden Club to promote parliamentary reform. He was invited to contest the London by-election of 1817 on a moderate Whig platform, but declined. He promised (10 June) to offer at the next opportunity,3 but in 1818 he stood for the open borough of Sudbury and was returned after an easy contest, with corporation support. In the House he took an independent line. In his first speech, 2 Feb. 1819, he qualified his support for a committee on the Bank restriction by stating his preference for an open over a secret committee, as well as by admitting that he was an anti-bullionist, who doubted whether a hasty resumption of payments in specie would do as much good as an export drive. As a banker, he thought the Bank of England had a very creditable record. Rev. Sydney Smith commented, ‘This is the Augustan age of aldermen. Alderman Heygate has far exceeded Waithman, who spoke very well’.4 He voted against the proposals for the royal household, 22, 25 Feb., 19 Mar. 1819. He supported inquiry into criminal law reform, 2 Mar., and burgh reform, 1 Apr.; next day he objected to the rustication of the franchise of Barnstaple, which sacrificed ‘the interest of the trading and commercial parts of the community ... to those of agriculture’. He objected to the repeal of the salt laws, as it could only lead to compensatory taxation of another kind, 29 Apr. He opposed the Game Laws amendment bill, 14 May. On 18 May he spoke and voted for Tierney’s censure motion: the country was ‘now in a state of stagnation and decline’.

On 25 May 1819 Heygate opened the adjourned debate on the resumption of cash payments, having failed to secure a hearing the night before. John William Ward* remarked to Bishop Coplestone:

The anti-bullionists are too much overmatched to make any fight. You see they had nothing for it but to put forward Alderman Heygate as their champion ... It is not a very good subject for debate. It is too scientific, and consequently far better fitted for writing than for speaking.5

Heygate criticized the composition of the secret comittee, which had examined ‘but one country banker’. He disliked the Bank restriction in principle, but objected to the proposals for lifting it: they would find the money market ill-prepared and might start a panic. He was a diehard opponent of the cash payment bill, 14 June. He also voted against the foreign enlistment bill, 3 and 10 June, and the excise duties bill, 25 June.

Heygate took his own line on the government’s repressive measures in December 1819. He voted to limit the duration of the seditious meetings bill to three years, 6 Dec.; voted against the seizure of arms bill, 14 Dec.; supported the blasphemous libels bill, 23 Dec., but tried in vain to have it limited to three years, and spoke ambiguously on the newspaper stamp duties bill, 27 Dec., attributing the economic depression to the ‘great diminution of the currency’. He died 28 Aug. 1844.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Lawrence Taylor


  • 1. Add. 38291, f. 156.
  • 2. Gent. Mag. (1845), i. 543; VCH Leics. iii. 50-51; N. and Q. (ser. 12), xi. 250; Hilton Price, London Bankers, 126.
  • 3. Beaven, Aldermen of London, i. 112, 282; ii. 203; The Times, 10, 11 June 1817.
  • 4. Sydney Smith Letters ed. N. C. Smith, i. 320.
  • 5. Ward, Letters to Bishop of Llandaff, 223.