SHELLEY, Timothy (1753-1844), of Field Place, Warnham, Suss.

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



1790 - 10 Mar. 1792
1802 - 1818

Family and Education

b. 7 Sept. 1753, 1st s. of Sir Bysshe Shelley, 1st Bt., of Castle Goring by 1st w. Mary Catherine, da. and h. of Rev. Theobald Michell of Horsham. educ. ?Eton 1770; Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1774; L. Inn 1779; Grand Tour. m. 11 Oct. 1791, his 2nd cos. Elizabeth, da. of Charles Pilfold of Effingham, Surr., 2s. 5da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 6 Jan. 1815.

Offices Held


Like Henry Shelley*, Timothy Shelley came of a cadet branch (not the same one) of the Shelleys of Michelgrove, represented in this period by Sir John Shelley, 6th Bt. His father, by successive marriages, stepped into the first rank of the Sussex gentry and was an ally of the 11th Duke of Norfolk in local politics.1 His cousin Thomas Charles Medwin was the ducal steward at Horsham and in 1788 Shelley was chosen as a ducal nominee for the next general election. Returned after a contest, he and his colleague were unseated on petition: but not before he had indicated his adherence to Norfolk’s line in politics by voting with the minorities on Pitt’s foreign policy, 12 Apr. 1791 and 1 Mar. 1792, and being listed favourable to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in April 1791.

Shelley was again brought in at Norfolk’s instigation in 1802, this time for Shoreham, where his father had some influence and where he had been proposed as early as 1780.2 Ill health caused him to take leaves of absence, for six weeks on 28 Feb. 1803 and for a further week on 27 Apr. He did not oppose Addington’s ministry and presumably concurred in Norfolk’s line of disapproving the combined opposition against Addington in 1804. In May 1804 he was listed ‘doubtful etc.’ by Pitt’s friends. He was in the cumulative lists of opponents of Pitt’s additional force bill in June 1804 and listed first ‘Fox and Grenville’, then ‘doubtful Pitt’ in September. But he went on to vote against Pitt on war with Spain, 12 Feb. 1805, on defence questions, 21 Feb. and 6 Mar., and for the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. In July he was accordingly listed ‘Opposition’.

As soon as his friends came to power, Norfolk applied to them for a baronetcy for Shelley’s father, whom he stated to be worth £10,000 p.a. in Sussex and Kent.3 It was readily granted, but Shelley was a passive supporter of the ministry. On 11 Mar. 1807 he obtained a fortnight’s leave after serving on two election committees. He apparently supported Lyttelton’s motion of 15 Apr. 1807 critical of the Portland ministry4 and survived a contest for his seat in May. He voted with opposition on the address, 26 June 1807; on the Copenhagen expedition, 3 Feb. 1808; on the droits of Admiralty, 11 Feb. 1808; on the convention of Cintra, 21 Feb. 1809; in three divisions against the Duke of York, 15-17 Mar., and on the allegation of ministerial corruption, 25 Apr. 1809. His votes against Perceval’s ministry on the address, 23 Jan. 1810, the Scheldt expedition, 26 Jan., 5 and 30 Mar., and against Burdett’s committal to the Tower, 5 Apr., confirmed the Whigs’ listing of him as ‘present Opposition’. Apart from a vote with the opposition majority on the Regency question, 1 Jan. 1811, Shelley disappeared from view until 22 June 1812, when he opposed Catholic relief with a diehard minority. Quite apart from Norfolk’s political quiescence in the same period, he had problems of his own, his eldest son Percy Bysshe Shelley having been expelled from Oxford after trying to convince that university of ‘The necessity of atheism’, and having then eloped. Henceforward he was cast in the role of an unenlightened parent rejecting an heir of genius who, incidentally, had looked forward to succeeding to his seat in Parliament when he came of age.5

Shelley resumed his seat unopposed at the general election of 1812. His only votes in the first session were against Catholic relief throughout (a line he maintained subsequently) and in favour of Christian missions to India, 22 June 1813. In the session of 1815 he joined opposition on the transfer of Genoa, 21 Feb.; the continuation of the militia in peacetime, 28 Feb.; the corn bill, 10 Mar.; the civil list, 14 Apr.; the property tax, 19 Apr.; the Regent’s address proclaiming the resumption of hostilities with France, 25 May, and the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment bill, 3 July. In 1816 he opposed the army estimates, 28 Feb.; the property tax, 18 Mar.; the Admiralty secretaries’ salaries, 20 Mar., and the leather tax, 9 May. He also paired against the public revenue bill, 17 June. On 7 Mar. 1817 he made his only reported speech, testifying to the respectability and orderliness of the Horsham meeting in favour of retrenchment and reform. His last known vote was nevertheless with ministers, for the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817. His outlook, affected by his inheritance of the bulk of the family fortune in 1815 and the death of his sponsor Norfolk late that year, as well as by dislike of his heir’s unbridled radicalism, became more conservative. He did not seek re-election in 1818. He died 24 Apr. 1844, commended as an agricultural improver.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: M. H. Port


  • 1. Shelley Ped. (1880); Leigh Hunt, Mem. of Shelley, 1; Autobiog. (1949 ed.), 265.
  • 2. W. D. Cooper, Parl. Hist. Suss. 53-54; W. Albery, Parl. Hist. Horsham, 128; The Times, 12 Apr. 1802.
  • 3. Spencer mss, Norfolk to Spencer, 21 Feb. 1806.
  • 4. Morning Chron. 22 June 1807.
  • 5. K. N. Cameron, The Young Shelley ; T. J. Hogg, Life of Shelley (1933 ed.), i. 181-9.
  • 6. Gent. Mag. (1844), ii. 206.