LAWLEY, Sir Robert, 6th Bt. (1768-1834), of Canwell Priory, Staffs.

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. 1768, 1st s. of Sir Robert Lawley*, 5th Bt. m. 16 Sept. 1793, Anne Maria, da. of Joseph Denison, banker, of Denbies, Surr., s.p. suc. fa. as 6th Bt. 12 Mar. 1793; cr. Baron Wenlock 10 Sept. 1831.

Offices Held

Ensign 1 Ft. Gds. 1787, ret. 1791; sometime equerry to Duke of Cumberland.

Capt. Warws. militia 1793; maj. commdt. Tamworth vols. 1803, lt.-col. commdt. 1803; lt.-col. commdt. S. Staffs. militia 1809.

Sheriff, Staffs. 1797-8.


Lawley’s estates gave him interests in Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Shropshire, but none of them guaranteed him a seat in Parliament. His father died Member for Warwickshire, but the honour eluded him and it was not until 1820 that his brother Francis obtained it. On first inheriting, Lawley thought of Wenlock, where the family interest had long been in eclipse; but he found that the Forester family were resolved to keep him out (1794-5). He took the ministerial side in the Warwickshire county meeting of 1797.1 His wife was much admired by Lord Granville Leveron Gower*,2 whose father the 1st Marquess of Stafford substituted Lawley for a defaulting nominee at Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1802. He was returned after a contest.

Lawley took his seat with ‘Canning’s country gentlemen’ in the House.3 On 4 Mar. 1803 he supported inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s finances. On 26 Apr., with Sir John Wrottesley, he was reported by Canning to be mustering (prematurely) in favour of Patten’s censure motion. On 16 and 20 May he dined with the Canningites when they resolved to assail the Addington ministry. On 3 June he voted for Patten’s motion and would not hear of voting for Pitt’s question, though recommended to do so by Canning for the sake of prudence. On 27 Feb. 1804 he moved the adjournment on the King’s illness, supported by the leaders of the old and new oppositions and opposed by Addington and Pitt—and then, for tactical reasons, by Canning, who urged Lawley to withdraw his motion. The Speaker put the question, although Lawley was prepared to withdraw it pro tem., and it was negatived without a division. Canning commented: ‘A division would have been dreadful, for it would have shown P[itt] dividing with the government against all the opposition, old and new’.4 On 6 Mar. Lawley found a snag in the volunteer consolidation bill, which the ministers promised to rectify. Next day he supported Wrottesley’s motion and on 14 and 15 Mar. and 23 and 25 Apr. joined the combined opposition that brought down Addington. He had joined Brooks’s Club, 13 Mar. 1804, and his being listed a Pittite at that time was probably open to question. By 11 May he had declared that he would ‘retire into the country, and leave political matters altogether’, for the present; but he joined opposition to Pitt’s additional force bill in June, and in September was listed both ‘in opposition not quite certain’ and ‘Fox and Grenville’. The latter proved correct: before the next session Lawley wrote to William Windham* desirous of ‘acting in concert with those whose principles I trust I shall never cease to admire’.5 The quarrel of the 2nd Marquess of Stafford with Pitt over Addington’s reception into the government subsequently encouraged him to continue in this line, and he was in the minorities of 12, 15, 21 Feb. and 6 Mar. 1805 against Pitt. On 4 Apr. 1805 he called for information on the cost of the volunteer service. He also voted in the majorities against Melville, 8 Apr. and 12 June 1805, and was listed ‘Opposition’ in July.

Lawley wrote to Lord Grenville, 1 Feb. 1806, renewing an offer of ‘accepting any employment’ in his administration of which he was thought capable, preferably near Grenville.6 None was forthcoming. That session his only known gesture in the House was a caveat to the training bill, 3 June. He was no longer in unison with and somewhat contemptuous of his patron at the dissolution and retired ‘to preserve his own interests and independence’.7 He did not find another seat, though apparently prepared to offer for Warwickshire in 1812 on Whig principles.8 He subsequently travelled abroad, spending much time in Italy.9 He died there 10 Apr. 1834. He had succeeded in thwarting a bid by Cecil Weld Forester* to obtain the barony of Wenlock, which he claimed, and in 1831 obtained, for himself.10

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Oracle, 15 June 1797.
  • 2. Leveson Gower, i. 243.
  • 3. Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 4 Dec. 1802; Colchester, i. 412.
  • 4. Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 26 Apr., 20, 21 May, 6 June 1803, 28 Feb. 1804.
  • 5. Rose Diaries, ii. 132; Add. 37882, f. 225.
  • 6. Fortescue mss.
  • 7. Leveson Gower, ii. 223-4; Gloucester Jnl. 27 Oct. 1806.
  • 8. Brougham mss, 32603; Carlisle mss, Lady to Ld. Morpeth, 3 Oct. [1812].
  • 9. Leveson Gower, ii. 535; Ward, Letters to Bishop of Llandaff, 344.
  • 10. Add. 38369, f. 332.