HOWORTH, Humphrey (1749-1827), of St. Albans Street, Mdx. and Banstead, Surr.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
India 1777; asst. surgeon Bengal 1778, surgeon 1781, furlough 1785, struck off 1793.
Howorth came of an old Herefordshire family, a cadet branch of which had settled in Radnorshire. He was great-nephew of Sir Humphrey Howorth, Member for Radnorshire 1722-54,2 to whose grandchildren and heirs his father was guardian and uncle by marriage. The family fortunes were on the decline and, after his parents’ death, Humphrey went out to India as assistant surgeon. His shipmate Hickey knew his face already:
a constant frequenter of the different billiard tables and tennis courts, to whom I had lost many sixpences. I had never heard his name, and considered him to be one of the numerous herd of pettifogging little sharpers who were constantly upon the look out in the hope of fleecing some novice or unwary young man, nor do I believe I was much mistaken in forming such an opinion of Mr Howorth at the time I so used to meet him.
When Howorth was about to return to England some years later, Hickey reported that he had acquired ‘a large and rapid fortune of at least £40,000, from getting a slice in the opium contract’, which he determined to enjoy in England. He went on to purchase Hickey’s father’s house in London and became ‘a regular frequenter of Newmarket, and kept racers’.3 It was Lord George Augustus Henry Cavendish* who sponsored his membership of Brooks’s in 1802.
Howorth had joined the Whig Club 6 Feb. 1787 and was a Friend of the People. In 1796 he was rebuffed in a bid to get into Parliament for Evesham and again failed there in the contest of 1802. Fox sent him down to Bridgwater in 1804 to contest a by-election, but he backed out.4 In 1806 he succeeded at Evesham, where he always claimed the support of the ‘independent’ interest.5 In his maiden speech, 20 Feb. 1807, he asked for more evidence on the slave trade abolition bill, so that justice might be done ‘to the white, as well as the black’. He voted for Brand’s motion after the dismissal of the Grenville ministry, 9 Apr. He did not accept defeat at the poll in 1807 and recaptured his seat on petition.
Howorth henceforward acted with the Whig opposition, though not the steadiest of attenders. His chief interest in debate was Indian affairs, on which he had first spoken on 20 Apr. 1807. On 15 Mar. he voted and on 31 Mar. 1808 spoke against the Marquess Wellesley’s conduct towards the nawab of Oudh, calling himself a friend of (Sir) Philip Francis*. He took the same line on the Carnatic question, 17 June. He had opposed financial relief for the East India Company until its budget was presented, 26 Apr. 1808, but he was not an opponent of their commercial monopoly, 9 June 1809. He deplored ‘the lingering existence of an expiring charter’, 15 June 1812, pressing as a select committeeman for more information on the Company’s financial plight. He opposed the renewed charter, June-July 1813, complaining of the concessions to the ‘commercial clamours of the out-ports’ without reference to the welfare of the people of India. He voted against Christian missions to India at that time. He opposed the Company pension awarded to Lord Melville, 24 May 1815. On 15 May 1818 his motion for information on the war in India was in part agreed to; he did not oppose the vote of thanks to Lord Hastings on its conclusion, 4 Mar. 1819, but again called for more awareness of the consequences of acquiring fresh territories in India. He was also active in debates at India House and a chairman of the committee of bye-laws there.
Howorth had little to say on other subjects. On 13 June 1809 and 17 May 1811 he attempted to prevent the exemption of foreign investors from taxation, threatening to renew his campaign ‘year after year’, but he did not do so. Thomas Creevey*, labelling him a ‘Newmarket financier’, deprecated his pretensions to any prominence in Whig councils, though he was listed one of their adherents in March 1810. Perceval was prepared to see him on the finance committee in 1810, though he voted for Madocks’s motion against ministerial corruption, 11 May 1809. He supported Catholic relief throughout, when present. On 21 May 1812 he voted for a more efficient administration. He supported sinecure reform, 4 May 1812, 29 Mar., and the claims of John Palmer* to compensation, 31 May 1813. He opposed the alteration in the Corn Laws, against which he presented petitions on 6 June 1814 and 10 Mar. 1815. He voted against the renewal of war, 28 Apr. and 25 May 1815, and in that and the following session voted steadily for retrenchment. On 14 Mar. 1816 he presented a petition, with which he concurred, against the property tax. In April 1818 he was one of the sporting Whigs who would not leave Newmarket to vote against the ducal marriage grants.6 He opposed the suspension of habeas corpus and its effects, June 1817-March 1818. He signed the requisition to Tierney to lead the Whigs in 1818. Having voted for parliamentary reform, 20 May 1817, and for the repeal of the Septennial Act, 19 May 1818, he went on to support burgh reform, 1 Apr. and 6 May 1819. He also voted for a review of the criminal law, 2 Mar. 1819. He opposed the repressive legislation of December 1819 throughout.
Howorth retired in 1820, handicapped by an asthmatic complaint. He died at his country retreat at Banstead, 14 Sept. 1827.7
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Information from R. C. B. Oliver; the account in W. R. Williams, Worcs. MPs is inaccurate.
- 2. In amendment of the article on Sir Humphrey in HP, 1715-54 and 1754-90, he was 1st s, of Edward Howorth (d.c. 1708), of Upper Cabalva, Rad. by Eleanor, da. and coh. of John Probert of Cabalva. educ. L. Inn 1701; Wadham, Oxf. 13 May 1702, aged 17. m. (1) Sybil, da. of Roger Mainwaring, 1s. d.v.p. 2da.; (2) Theodosia (bur. 21 July 1719), da. and coh. of Lewis Lloyd of Maesllwch, Mary, da. of John Walbeoff of Llanhamlach, Brec., wid. of Henry Williams of Gwernyfed, Brec., s.p. Sir Humphrey was a major in Townshend’s Ft. 1706-12; gov. of Barbados 1738 (but did not go there) and commr. of excise 1740.
- 3. Hickey Mems. ed. Spencer, ii. 98; iii. 315.
- 4. See BRIDGWATER; Add. 51848, Howorth to Lady Holland, 10 May 1820.
- 5. Morning Chron. 18 May 1807.
- 6. Whitbread mss W1/373/17; Grey mss, Lambton to Grey, 17 Apr. 1818.
- 7. Add. 40363, f. 134; Gent. Mag. (1827), ii. 284.