WODEHOUSE, Sir John, 6th Bt. (1741-1834), of Kimberley House, Wymondham, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. 15 Apr. 1741, 1st s. of Sir Armine Wodehouse†, 5th Bt., of Kimberley by Laetitia, da. and h. of Sir Edmund Bacon†, 6th Bt., of Garboldisham. educ. Westminster 1748; Christ Church, Oxf. 1758; Grand Tour 1762. m. 30 Mar. 1769, Sophia, da. and h. of Hon. Charles Berkeley of Bruton Abbey, Som., 4s. 3da. suc. fa. as 6th Bt. 21 May 1777, cr. Baron Wodehouse 26 Oct. 1797.
Col. E. Norf. militia 1774-98; brevet col. 1794.
Wodehouse, a supporter of Pitt’s administration from the start, was returned for Norfolk unopposed in 1784, 1790 and 1796. He seems to have been excessively fearful for his reputation in the county, shunning Thomas William Coke I* of Holkham, whom he had ousted in 1784, and chary of public pronouncements. He provoked from William Windham the gibe: ‘what worms creep from the bodies of these dead heroes’.1 His only known speech after 1790 was on the corn bill, 11 Mar. 1791. A month later he was listed among opponents of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland.
His chief ambition was a peerage, of which he obtained a promise before the election of 1796 and Pitt’s permission to disclose the fact if necessary, for he feared a contest and put himself down for £10,000 in a subscription to secure his election. There was no contest, and in his address he delivered a thinly veiled attack on his colleague Coke, justifying the war with France and warning ‘a disappointed faction’ that the blessings of the revolution of 1688 ‘may be lost by another’. When he was awarded a barony in 1797, he was concerned lest Coke should monopolize the county representation by securing the return of another Whig on the vacancy. He therefore wrote to Pitt, 8 Sept., after an interview:
I must confess that it would be with the greatest regret imaginable that I should quit the House of Commons for the House of Peers. If therefore you can contrive after what has passed, to keep me where I am, without impropriety, I shall feel myself infinitely obliged to you. Should I happen to be alive at the end of this Parliament, I shall think myself too old to be the representative of a great county, by which time I hope and trust that a successor will be found who will prove as good a friend to the constitution, and whose age and abilities will be much better calculated to fill that situation.
He hinted that his wife might be made a baroness instead. Pitt informed the King that he had delayed the patent for the barony in the hope that a suitable candidate to succeed Wodehouse in the county would emerge, but none did and he accepted the peerage. He applied unsuccessfully for the patent to be extended to his brother’s family in the event of the failure of his own issue.2
Wodehouse lived to ‘ cheerful and vigorous old age’:
Firmly attached to the constitution in church and state, unaffectedly religious, and by his own inherent nature a finished gentleman, he probably passed through a long life without making a single enemy, or giving pain intentionally to any human being, dispensing a large income, not in ostentatious display, but with constant and generous kindness to all within his sphere.3
He died 29 May 1834.