POYNTZ, William Stephen (1770-1840), of Cowdray Park, Suss. and Midgham House, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. 20 Jan. 1770,1 1st s. of William Poyntz, inspector of prosecutions in the Exchequer, of Midgham, Berks. by Isabella, da. and coh. of Kelland Courtenay† of Poundesford, Devon. educ. ?Eton 1780-6; Christ Church, Oxf. 1787; European tour 1789-90. m. 1 Sept. 1794, Hon. Elizabeth Mary Browne, da. of Anthony, 7th Visct. Montagu, who suc. her bro. George Samuel, 8th Visct. to the Cowdray estate 1793, 2s. d.v.p. 3da. suc. fa. 1809.
Capt. Midhurst vol. cav. 1794, Suss. militia 1795; lt.-col. commdt. W. Suss. militia 1812.
The grandson of a courtier, Stephen Poyntz, and son of a placeholder who was manager of the Prince of Wales’s staghounds,2 Poyntz apparently held a commission in the 10th Dragoons ‘early in life’,3 but not for long. In 1794 he married the heiress to Cowdray, thus acquiring a substantial interest in Sussex, and in 1797 was considered as a proper candidate for Lewes on the Pelham interest. But it was for St. Albans that he entered Parliament ‘quietly’ on a vacancy, on the interest of his first cousin Earl Spencer.4 He was, by all accounts, a very popular Member and in 1804, when his patron’s son wished for a seat in Parliament, his offer of resignation was refused by Spencer. (It seems that he paid £1,000 towards Althorp’s election at Okehampton.) In 1806, when he faced his only contest at St. Albans, his success was never doubted, though he informed his patron that he could not afford to pay his own expenses.5 In the House he acted silently with the Grenville party: he was one of the 20 who supported Windham’s motion against the peace treaty with France, 14 May 1802. He voted in the minority for Patten’s censure motion, 3 June 1803, and Wrottesley’s motion for an inquiry into the conduct of the Irish government, 7 Mar. 1804. He supported both Fox’s and Pitt’s defence motions against Addington’s administration, 23, 25 Apr. 1804, and also voted against Pitt’s additional force bill in June on the latter’s return to power. He was listed Grenvillite at that time and ‘Opposition’ by the Pittites in 1805. He voted in the minority on 12 Feb. 1805 for papers on the war with Spain, and on 21 Feb. for Windham’s defence motion; also on 6 Mar. for Sheridan’s motion to repeal the Additional Force Act. He was for the censure, 8 Apr., and criminal prosecution, 12 June, of Melville, having on 10 May presented a petition from his constituents approving proceedings against Melville. He supported the Grenville administration and voted for Brand’s motion following their dismissal, 9 Apr. 1807.
In December 1806 Poyntz was invited to offer himself at the Sussex county by-election, sponsored by the Duke of Norfolk, but owing to his unwillingness to come to an arrangement with the Duke of Richmond (who disliked his politics) for the future of his seat, did not stand. His patron at St. Albans had hoped he would succeed so as to bring in his nephew Lord Duncannon, and in the event Poyntz gave up his seat to support the latter’s pretensions in April 1807. Duncannon failed to hold the seat. Poyntz again aspired to a seat for Sussex, but found he was not taken seriously there. ‘A great many people of different descriptions’ wanted him to stand at the St. Albans by-election of February 1809, but he ‘declined having anything to do with it’, nor would he consider it later, having found a ‘snug’ seat at Callington in April 1810, on the interest of his future son-in-law, Lord Clinton. On payment of his election expenses, he was guaranteed this seat for two years, even if his politics disagreed with the patron’s.6
Poyntz appeared in the minority list on Ponsonby’s amendment to the Regency bill, 21 Jan. 1811. He informed his patron that he did not wish to oppose the reinstatement of the Duke of York as commander-in-chief of the army; but he voted for Morpeth’s motion on the state of Ireland, 4 Feb. 1812, for Grattan’s motion on Catholic relief, 24 Apr., and for Stuart Wortley’s motion for a stronger administration, 21 May. In August 1812 Lord Egremont described him as ‘an absolute slave of Lord Spencer and Lord Grenville’. In the next Parliament, apart from three votes for Catholic relief in 1813 and a vote for the censure of the Speaker on 22 Apr. 1814, no further votes of his appeared. Poyntz does not seem to have attended often in this Parliament. He was unable to vote with opposition on the Regent’s address, 25 May 1815, owing to a sudden illness. Lord John Townshend reported, 21 May, ‘He has written I believe to Lord Duncannon on the subject. He is even more vexed than I am because his politics not being so generally known as mine his opinions as to the war may be doubted.’ His interest in public life was much affected by a private tragedy in July 1815, when the overturning of a pleasure yacht cost the lives of his two sons and he himself narrowly escaped drowning, in full view of his wife. Lady Bessborough wrote: ‘I cannot bear to think of the poor Poyntz, and were it not that both have so strong a sense of the only consolation to human misery, religion, I could scarcely hope or wish them to survive such a misfortune’. In June 1817 Poyntz was described as ‘just the same odd, comical creature as ever’, and Countess Granville was told that ‘he gives little balls and waltzes himself at them’.7 In 1818 he retired and was out of Parliament until 1823, when he came in for Chichester, to which he had aspired in 1812 if Callington had not been available.8 He died 8 Apr. 1840.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Gent. Mag. (1770), i. 46, where his father’s name is erroneously given as John.
- 2. Prince of Wales Corresp. ii. 546.
- 3. Gent. Mag. (1840), i. 653. His name does not appear in the army lists.
- 4. Gent. Mag. (1794), ii. 858, 1054; Dalloway, Western Division of Sussex I, pt. ii. 286; Add. 33130, f. 65; Spencer mss, Spencer to his mother, 4 June 1800.
- 5. Lady Bessborough and her Family Circle, 150; Spencer mss, Poyntz to Spencer, 23 Jan. 1804, 17 Nov. 1806.
- 6. See SUSSEX; Spencer mss, Spencer to his mother, 31 Dec. 1806, 26 Apr. 1807, 25 Aug. 1811; Lady Bessborough, 180-1; Som. RO, Drake mss NE/15/5, Poyntz to Drake, 1, 6 Dec. 1809, 6 Jan. 1810.
- 7. Drake mss NE/15/5, Poyntz to Drake, 29 May ; NLI, Richmond mss 69/1251; Grey mss, Townshend to Grey, 21 May 1815; Gent. Mag. (1815), ii. 79; Lady Bessborough, 252.
- 8. Add. 38739, f. 103; 39948, f. 30; Letters of Countess Granville, i. 114; Morning Chron. 7 Oct. 1812.