Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Estimated number qualified to vote:

about 1,9001

Number of voters:

1,600 in 1830


9,744 (1821), 11,373 (1831)2


6 Mar. 1820EDWARD WEBB 
9 June 1826EDWARD WEBB 
4 Aug. 1830EDWARD WEBB830
 Robert Bransby Cooper415
 John Phillpotts270

Main Article

An old cathedral city situated on the eastern bank of the Severn, Gloucester was said in 1820 to be ‘as pleasant and healthy a place as any in England’. The pin making and wool stapling industries were in serious decline, but this was partially compensated for by the growth of rope making, brush making and tanning. However, the city owed its prosperity chiefly to its position as a distribution centre supplying coal, corn, timber and other imported commodities to the surrounding region and to Birmingham and the West Midlands. This role was crucially facilitated by the completion in 1827 of the Gloucester-Berkeley canal, which improved the navigation of the Severn; there followed a ‘dramatic and ... rapid growth in trade’ and a corresponding expansion of the docks. A ‘saline chalybeate’ spring with ‘powerful medicinal effects’ was discovered in 1814 and stimulated new building development, but Gloucester was eclipsed as a spa resort in the 1820s by its ‘more fashionable neighbour’ Cheltenham.3

The city encompassed seven whole parishes and parts of three others. Local power was exercised by the corporation, a self-electing body consisting of a mayor and eleven other aldermen, chosen from the most senior common councilmen, and up to 28 common councilmen selected from the freemen, who all held their offices for life. Two sheriffs were elected annually from among the common councilmen and served as the returning officers for parliamentary elections. By the early nineteenth century professional men, particularly surgeons and attorneys, enjoyed a ‘disproportionate role compared to the tradesmen’. The franchise was in the freemen, who obtained their privilege through birth, apprenticeship, honorary award or purchase (for £40). Between 1820 and 1832, 504 freemen were created by virtue of birth, 61 by apprenticeship, 59 by purchase and 183 by honorary gift; the greatest number of admissions was 366 in 1830, when there was a contested election. Approximately two-thirds of the electors were non-resident.4 Contests were extremely expensive: the Whig candidate in 1816 later claimed that his victory had cost him £25,000, and in 1818 the combined ‘recognised’ expenses of the two Whigs amounted to £14,935. At one of these elections, ‘no less than 700’ electors were employed by the candidates as constables, at 5s. per day; they ‘marched up in battle array’ and kept the town in a ‘ferment for a considerable period of time’.5 Party conflict, often involving national issues, was a well-established and institutionalized feature of political life. In 1816 the Whigs, who controlled the corporation, founded the Gloucestershire Constitutional Whig Association, in which the leading figures were Sir Berkeley William Guise of nearby Highnam, county Member since 1811, and Colonel William Fitzhardinge Berkeley† of Berkeley Castle. The Tories, who had founded the True Blue Club in commemoration of John Pitt’s victory in 1789, maintained their claim to a share of the representation by posing as the champions of the ‘independent’ citizenry against a ‘dictatorial’ corporation; they received powerful support from the 6th duke of Beaufort, of Badminton House. The King’s Head and Bell inns served respectively as the Whig and Tory headquarters. At the by-election of October 1816 Edward Webb of Adwell, Guise’s brother-in-law and the son of a former Member, carried the second seat for the Whig-corporation interest, defeating the Tory Robert Bransby Cooper of Furney Hill. In 1818, however, Cooper successfully reasserted the Tories’ claim to one of the seats, being returned in second place behind Webb but ahead of the other Whig candidate, Berkeley’s brother Frederick.6

There was no opposition to the sitting Members at the general election of 1820. Webb, who was introduced by alderman David Walker and Maynard Colchester, vice-president of the Whig Club, condemned the Cato Street conspiracy. Cooper, who was sponsored by the Rev. George Cooke and William Goodrich of Wotton House, praised the Liverpool ministry and pledged to support it independently, but was obliged to defend his vote for the grant to the duke of York. He suggested that ‘every sound Whig would join with him in condemning ... radical and revolutionary doctrines’. The mayor, John Phillpotts, congratulated the freemen on returning two virtuous Members of opposing principles, observing that ‘if ever there was a time when a union of such men was necessary it was the present’, and announced that an address would be organized to condemn the ‘late atrocious conspiracy’. Celebration dinners were given at the King’s Head and Bell, the Members ‘paid each other reciprocal visits’ and the day ‘passed off with the greatest hilarity, good humour and enthusiasm’.7

Following a public meeting at the shire hall, 7 Aug. 1820, an address of support to Queen Caroline received ‘upwards of 1,630’ signatures and was sent to Webb for presentation; Cooper ‘declined all interference in the matter’. In November the ‘whole city presented a blaze of light’ as the news of the withdrawal of the bill of pains and penalties was celebrated, the church bells were rung and ‘a band ... headed by a flag, paraded the streets’. The mayor, Samuel Jones, chaired a ‘large and respectable’ public meeting at which a congratulatory address to the queen, moved by the attorney Richard Carter and the coal merchant Charles Parker, was unanimously endorsed; a similar address was agreed by the corporation. Jones summoned another meeting by requisition to consider a loyal address to the king, 13 Dec. 1820, which was attended by ‘upwards of 1,700’ people, including ‘most of the first characters of the city’. William Montague, an iron merchant, and the Rev. Dr. Michell, prebendary of the cathedral, moved the address, which deplored the spirit of ‘infidelity, irreligion and sedition’ in the country. Phillpotts condemned it as a ‘libel on the character of the city’ and a ‘direct attack on the freedom of the press’, and an amendment, proposed by William Hyett and Carter, blaming ministers for the present state of affairs and calling for a ‘more liberal, enlightened and conciliatory policy’, was carried by an ‘immense majority’. Thomas Davis, Beaufort’s attorney, organized an alternative address, which attracted 123 signatures. Meantime, the corporation awarded the freedom to Henry Brougham*, the queen’s counsel.8 A petition from neighbouring occupiers of land for relief from agricultural distress was forwarded to the Commons, 28 Feb. 1821.9 The cathedral dean and chapter and the diocesan archdeacon and clergy petitioned the Lords against the Catholic peers bill, 21, 31 May 1822, and the Commons against Catholic claims, 16, 17 Apr. 1823; the inhabitants sent similar petitions to both Houses, 19 Apr., 16 May 1825.10 Anti-slavery petitions from the inhabitants were presented to Parliament, 14 May 1823, 8, 11 Mar. 1824, 16 Mar., 25 Apr. 1826, and they pressed the Commons to inquire into the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 1 June 1824.11 Local traders petitioned the Commons for repeal of the Insolvent Debtors Acts, 17 Feb. 1823, as did the journeymen boot and shoemakers for repeal of the combination laws, 11 Mar., while the inhabitants petitioned the Lords for a small debts recovery bill, 10 June 1824.12

Towards the end of 1825 a number of freemen formed themselves into an ‘independent party’ and solicited Phillpotts to offer at the next general election. He was a local man who had played an important role in promoting recent economic developments in the city, but his position was complicated by obligations of loyalty to Webb and Berkeley, whose agent he had been in the 1816 and 1818 contests. It seems that Webb visited Phillpotts and extracted from him a written assurance that he had never authorized the reports of his intended candidature and had no wish to disturb the sitting Members.13 In May 1826, shortly before the dissolution, Webb and Cooper announced their intention of standing again, and Phillpotts issued a statement urging his supporters not to persevere in their campaign, as the ‘destructive heat of party’ might injure the city’s prosperity, but left open the possibility of a future candidature. However, meetings of his supporters continued to be held, which he attended, and with ‘feelings of strong excitement ... rife’ it was reported that Berkeley, unwilling to be pre-empted by Phillpotts, was prepared to come forward if he did. The sitting Members engaged in a ‘very active canvass’ lasting for several days, and Webb was endorsed at a meeting of freemen in London. In the event, the threatened contest ‘passed off in smoke’. On election day Webb and Cooper, ‘attended by a very numerous assemblage of their supporters ... preceded by bands of music, flags, banners, etc.’, marched to the shire hall, where they were ‘immediately joined by Phillpotts and his partisans, whose colours ... were purple and white’. Webb was proposed by the mayor, Thomas Commeline, and Berkeley, who attacked Phillpotts’s conduct and advocated parliamentary reform, abolition of ‘all sinecure and unmerited places’ and ‘repeal of those taxes which more immediately affected the lower classes of society’. Cooper, who was nominated by Walter Lawrence of Sandywell Park and James Wintle of Saintbridge House, pledged general support to the government, hoped that a ‘happy medium’ could be found between the interests of agriculturists and manufacturers and affirmed his support for the ‘Protestant ascendancy in church and state’, tempered by toleration for Catholics and Dissenters. Phillpotts, speaking with ‘great energy and effect’, confirmed that he stood by his earlier announcement and advised his friends to allow ‘the present return to be made with unanimity’, but added that the ‘inveterate rancour’ and dissemination of ‘dark suspicions and illiberal insinuations’ against him by Webb’s supporters meant that he could ‘never again range myself under his banner ... all political connection between us must cease ... [and] I shall hereafter feel myself at full liberty to adopt such course as my own judgement may dictate’. Webb and Cooper were declared elected and chaired, after which their supporters dined at the King’s Head and Bell, while ‘a party of nearly 60’ of Phillpotts’s friends gathered at the Booth Hall inn. Berkeley was said to have ‘considerably enhanced’ his reputation by his ‘manly, consistent and honourable conduct’, and he subsequently issued an address indicating his desire to offer in future.14

The inhabitants forwarded an anti-Catholic petition to the Commons, 5 Mar. 1827, and they and the dean and chapter similarly petitioned both Houses, 13, 14 Mar., 2 June 1828.15 Opinion in Gloucester was said to be ‘divided’ over the Wellington ministry’s decision to concede emancipation in 1829. Webb supported emancipation, contrary to his previous stance, but Cooper adhered to his Protestant principles. The dean and chapter petitioned Parliament against concession, 9 Feb., the inhabitants, following a meeting at the Bell, 20 Feb., sent two hostile petitions to each House with 438 and 2,100 signatures respectively (the latter more ‘strongly worded’), 27 Feb., 2, 23 Mar., and the Methodists and the countess of Huntingdon connection likewise petitioned the Lords, 7 Apr. Pro-Catholic petitions were forwarded by the Unitarians, 26 Feb., 27 Mar., the merchants, bankers, traders and inhabitants, 27 Feb., 3 Mar., and the corporation (who awarded the home secretary Peel the freedom of the city), 4, 5 Mar. 1829.16 Petitions from Dissenting chapels and the corporation in favour of repealing the Test Acts were presented to Parliament in February, but the archdeacon and clergy, the dean and chapter and the inhabitants sent hostile ones in March 1828.17 The corporation petitioned Parliament against renewing the East India Company’s charter, 29 Mar. 1830.18

With a dissolution pending in July 1830, Gloucester became ‘the scene of a severe struggle’. The sitting Members declared their intention of standing again, although Cooper was unwilling to incur any personal expense and proposed to rely ‘solely on the generous and disinterested efforts of my friends’. Berkeley made it known that he would canvass as soon as he obtained leave of absence from his naval station at Cork, and Phillpotts announced that ‘flattering and unsolicited assurances of support ... from various quarters’ had persuaded him to redeem his ‘previous pledge to come forward if called for’, as the champion of the freemen’s ‘independence’. Soon after his arrival, Berkeley’s supporters convinced him that there was little prospect of the Whig-corporation interest returning both Members, and he agreed to ‘sacrifice all personal gratification’ to ensure Webb’s success, on the understanding that ‘the same feeling which now governs my conduct will actuate Col. Webb in the event of any future contest’.19 The bravely optimistic secretary of Cooper’s committee, John Burrup, reported that ‘the feeling even among Webb’s friends is so decidedly in favour of the old Members that Phillpotts, in a handbill just published, has accused them of endeavouring to effect a coalition with us’. He hoped that Cooper might pick up ‘second votes’ from both the other candidates, but admitted that ‘cash is not so plentiful with us as it should be’, and a request for subscriptions was publicly advertised. Notwithstanding claims of ‘very active’ support from Beaufort’s family, the reality was that Cooper’s party could not ‘even open a house for the reception of the freemen in our interest’.20 Webb, who had acted quickly to quash the rumour of a coalition with Cooper, canvassed successfully among the freemen in Bristol and Bath, and received support from the London freemen and from a meeting of manufacturers in the surrounding clothing districts, which praised his ‘ready and obliging attention’ to their interests and offered to convey voters to the poll ‘free of all expense’.21 Phillpotts, who had pledged to poll to the last man, became the target of several posters and handbills attacking his political inconsistency, profligate distribution of money and personal character. He was ‘The Gloucester Weathercock’ and perpetrator of ‘lawyer’s tricks’; he was in coalition with ‘the Devil’, with whom he had ‘sown ... wild oats ... from ... earliest youth ... near the Bell’; and he was ‘Harlequin Jack’, who had ‘all his life been in the practice of making rapid changes in character’, although for once he was without his Columbine as ‘recent liberal arrangements with his performers ... (actually necessary) have left him nothing to spend on the fair sex’.22 On election day Webb and Phillpotts arrived at the shire hall with the usual fanfare, but Cooper and his friends appeared soon afterwards ‘in a more unobtrusive manner ... unaccompanied by either colourmen or music’. The Great Room was ‘speedily filled to suffocation’ and the ‘tumultuous proceedings of the popular party (Phillpotts’s)’ made the proceedings difficult to hear. Webb was introduced by the mayor, Hyett, and Jones, who both attacked Phillpotts, rejected the claim that the city’s interests required the attentions of a ‘resident representative’ and regretted the forcing of an ‘unnatural contest’. Webb defended his record in voting for retrenchment and tax reductions, gave a long explanation of his past connection with Phillpotts, who had been for ‘upwards of 20 years ... my private and confidential solicitor’, and expressed dismay at the undeserved opposition which he now faced. Cooper was nominated by Goodrich, who hoped to see a ‘brilliant and splendid example of what the unbought votes of freemen can do’, and Davis. He too vindicated his parliamentary record, including his opposition to Catholic emancipation, maintained that he had done nothing to ‘deserve to be abandoned’ and threw himself on the ‘generous feelings ... [and] protection’ of the freemen. Phillpotts, whose sponsors, William Washbourne, a timber merchant and Dissenter, and Benjamin Claxon, were largely inaudible, was ‘greeted with a tumult of applause’ for which he expressed gratitude as one who had ‘dwelt among them for the last 50 years’. He justified his candidature as a response to the wishes of the freemen and dismissed the ‘puerile ... argument’ that a resident Member could not perform his parliamentary duties properly. His political stance remained ambiguous, as he maintained that party distinctions were so blurred that it was ‘difficult to say whether the [Wellington] administration is Whig or Tory, for it is a compound of each’. Further personal recriminations followed between Phillpotts and Webb, the latter complaining that his financial means had been ‘shattered’ by the 1816 contest, which he had fought at the prompting of the man who now opposed him; Berkeley expressed himself similarly aggrieved. Robert Gordon, Member for Cricklade and a supporter of Webb, requested clarification of the other candidates’ principles. Phillpotts confirmed his opposition to the game laws and support for retrenchment and tax cuts, and denied that his ambition was to use the seat as a passport to legal office. Cooper maintained that he was ‘desirous of lessening taxation’ and was ‘a friend to moderate reform ... in such a manner as not to endanger the vital interests of the state’. The show of hands was declared to be in favour of Webb and Phillpotts, but Cooper demanded a poll. Phillpotts took an early lead, but on the third day ‘the tide turned’ and ‘Webb crept gradually up’, overtaking his rival after five days to head the poll for the Yellows; voting on the Blue side was ‘very slack throughout’. On the fifth day Berkeley urged Cooper to retire, arguing that to keep the poll open would be ‘unnecessarily demoralizing’ to the town and create ‘drunkenness and riot’. Cooper obliged, observing that he had been unwilling to engage in a contest potentially ‘ruinous to myself and my family’ and regretting the ‘defection of many by whom I was formerly supported’. Webb and Phillpotts were declared elected and chaired.23

Of the 1,600 who polled (103 fewer than in 1818), 52 per cent cast a vote for Webb, 51 per cent for Phillpotts and 26 per cent for Cooper. Webb got 474 plumpers (57 per cent of his total), Phillpotts got 531 (65) and Cooper 136 (33). Webb and Phillpotts had 180 split votes (22 per cent of their totals), Webb and Cooper received 176 (21 and 42 per cent of their respective totals) and Phillpotts and Cooper had 103 (13 and 25 per cent). Of those who polled, 577 (36 per cent) were residents. Webb’s support was evenly distributed among residents and out-voters, but he received a vote from 61 per cent of the Gloucestershire electors (including 160 plumpers out of 288 votes), and from only 40 per cent of the 234 London voters. Phillpotts was marginally stronger among residents (53 per cent) than the voters as a whole; but his support among the out-voters (49 per cent) included that of 62 per cent of the London voters. Here Cooper, who was supported by only 20 per cent of out-voters, secured only five votes; but he did significantly better among the residents (36 per cent, including 66 plumpers). Of 64 Bristol residents, 36 (56 per cent) voted for Webb, 26 (41) for Phillpotts and 13 (20) for Cooper. Of 30 Birmingham residents, 29 plumped for Phillpotts and one for Webb.24 Berkeley presided at the King’s Head dinner for Webb, where he attributed the peaceful nature of the contest to the ‘salutary regulation, by which voters are prevented from acting as constables’. At the Booth Hall, Phillpotts celebrated his triumph over ‘the great combination raised against me by the aristocracy and corporate body’, adopting a much more radical tone than before and welcoming recent events in France, but he promised to support ministers when their measures were good. A correspondent to the local newspaper alleged that he owed his success to ‘the active canvass carried on by a host of subaltern professional men, in London and other places, for four years prior to the dissolution’, when ‘meat and drink’ had been liberally distributed. It was also reported that 30 of his Birmingham supporters had ‘contrived, in the course of ten days ... to accumulate a bill for £310 for refreshments’ and that ‘one literally died from excess’. His total expenditure was said to have been £20,000.25

At a ‘very numerously attended’ shire hall meeting, 8 Oct. 1830, an anti-slavery petition was advocated by Montague, Burrup and several clergymen and unanimously agreed, but apparently not presented; the Methodists and Baptists did send petitions to the Commons, 23, 28 Mar. 1831.26 The inhabitants petitioned the Commons for repeal of the house and window taxes, 4 Feb.27 A unanimously approved corporation petition for parliamentary reform, complaining that in many boroughs ‘persons have votes ... though they reside at a great distance and possess neither property nor interest nor any other sort of local connection, whilst others who are resident householders and respectable for wealth, intelligence and probity, have no votes’, was presented by Webb, 26 Feb. That day Phillpotts presented one from the inhabitants, organized by Carter and containing ‘about 700’ signatures, for reform and the ballot. There was widespread enthusiasm for the Grey ministry’s bill, which proposed to leave Gloucester’s representation intact but disfranchise non-resident freemen. Phillpotts presented a favourable petition from the inhabitants, 9 Mar., and Webb presented ones from the corporation, professing ‘cheerful acquiescence in those sacrifices which may be deemed necessary for the advancement of the public good’, 16 Mar., and from ‘nearly 1,000’ inhabitants, welcoming a measure to secure ‘the restitution of the lost and usurped privileges of the people’, 19 Mar. 1831. The latter arose from a meeting chaired by the mayor where the prime movers were Parker and Carter, who maintained that the bill, ‘though full and efficient, had so little of radicalism in it that the most ultra Tory might readily support it’, adding that it would give Gloucester ‘a real instead of a nominal representative’ and provide protection against ‘profligate wars’ and jobbery.28 It was subsequently alleged that Phillpotts had personally drawn up the first of these petitions and sent it to his ‘electioneering agent’ in Gloucester for speedy circulation among their friends, in order to pre-empt the larger petition from the public meeting. Such suspicion of his sincerity stemmed from his vote with Wellington’s ministry in the decisive civil list division of 15 Nov. 1830, which was attributed to the fact that his brother had just been made a bishop and led to effigies of him being burned in the streets.29 At the dissolution in April 1831 the ‘excitement’ in Gloucester was ‘altogether unprecedented’. Phillpotts issued an address urging his friends to rally round him in support of ‘the independence of this city’ and ‘the great measure of reform’. Webb announced his retirement, in accordance with the ‘pledge I made at the last election’ to Berkeley, but he subsequently felt ‘impelled to comply’ with a requisition calling on him to be put in nomination with his fellow Whig. Berkeley, who was hastening from his station in Ireland, declared that he could now ‘claim your suffrages’ without injury to the Whig cause. The Gloucester Journal reported that, despite Phillpotts’s support for reform, his popularity had been ‘most naturally shaken’ by the civil list vote. Consequently, he communicated to a meeting of his supporters at the New Inn his decision ‘not to incur heavy expense by proceeding to a poll’ and to ‘reserve himself till the reform bill shall have passed’. The meeting nevertheless resolved to nominate him and work to return him ‘free of expense’, in the belief that he had majority support among the resident freemen who appreciated his attachment to ‘the commercial interests of the city’. Soon after his arrival, Berkeley wrote to one of his leading supporters, Hyett:

My head is splitting from beer and the fumes of tobacco ... My canvass, and the reception that I met with, is all that can be possibly desired. Webb has also very many friends. But (others will not see this) there is a feeling of pity amongst some for Phillpotts being so soon out after his great expense. The Blues - some will vote for me - though a great many hang back to see what part we take in the county election. Phillpotts is creating expense that our means may be crippled another time and he knows that the same game cannot be retaliated upon him as the new bill shortens the duration of polling to two days ... If we were publicly to give out that Phillpotts is [hampering?] the cause of reform in the county by his conduct in the city - keeping away useful and active men - the Blues would instantly flock to him to be avenged for our disturbing their favourite, Lord Edward [Somerset*].30

On election day the usual processions accompanied the candidates to the shire hall, where the Great Room was ‘crowded to excess’ and the ‘uproar and confusion’ made the reporting of proceedings difficult. Webb was presented by David Mowbray Walker, the mayor, and J. Phillimore Hicks, a non-resident freeman, but little of his speech could be heard other than some general expressions of support for the reform bill. Phillpotts was again nominated by Washbourne, who described Berkeley and Webb as ‘the puppets of the corporation’ and condemned the way in which public buildings had been used to display Whig placards, and by Claxon. He denounced the ‘coalition’ formed expressly to defeat him, affirmed his support for reform and retrenchment and asserted the need for Gloucester to be represented by ‘two citizens’, adding that once the reform bill was passed ‘the country gentlemen would be relieved from the trouble of finding representatives for ... Gloucester’ as ‘the views of the landed interest were directly opposed to those of the freemen of Gloucester, inasmuch as they tended to a high price of corn and ... support of the game laws’. Berkeley, who was sponsored by Robert Canning of Hartpury and Colonel Henry Mason, attacked Phillpotts’s parliamentary conduct and stressed the inter-dependence of land and commerce. In response to a question from Alderman Matthew Wood* of London, an honorary freeman, he declared himself to be ‘a supporter of ... the whole bill’. The show of hands was judged to be in favour of Berkeley and Phillpotts, but Webb demanded a poll. At the end of the day, Berkeley and Webb were already comfortably ahead, and on the second their supporters polled ‘with remarkable energy’, while Phillpotts’s voters ‘came up so slowly that it was evident the contest would not be of long duration’. The poll was closed at noon on the third day and Berkeley and Webb were chaired ‘abreast’, after which they dined with their supporters at the King’s Head. Phillpotts departed on a business trip, but when he returned he was met by ‘a very large body of his supporters and well-wishers’ who drew his carriage ‘in triumph to his residence’.31 Some difficulty was subsequently experienced concerning the new Members’ election expenses. Wintour Harris, the Bristol solicitor who was active in Gloucestershire politics, wrote to Hyett complaining that ‘now the battles are fought and won’ the promised financial contributions were not forthcoming:

I have written to alderman Jones to collect what he can in Gloucester. Surely the citizens there should [fork?] out a little on this occasion. The answer from the Loyal and Patriotic Fund is, that all their money is gone. I saw Colonel Berkeley a few days since - he will not go beyond his original promise of £2,000. Webb must not, under the circumstances, be asked for anything. I have some letters of complaint that the bills are not paid and I know that if their discharge be longer delayed the Whig interest will materially suffer.

Frederick Berkeley was equally concerned, lamenting that ‘all this confusion about money was only to gratify Webb for a few months’ and blaming him for exceeding the £2,000 limit. He feared that, when the reform bill was passed, ‘if Webb and I stand, Phillpotts and the Blue will get in ... there is no doubt that this want of money on the present occasion gives our enemy hope and confidence and tells against our party’.32

The sordid reality of being Member for Gloucester was quickly brought home to Berkeley, whose wife reported that ‘he really is bothered to death with Gloster Freemen who seem to me all to be in the greatest possible distress and all have a wife and seven small children’. She also observed that ‘it requires a good deal to keep those people in good humour, particularly when such a - as Mr. P. is working underhand’. Phillpotts’s supporters were suspected of being behind the burning of Webb’s effigy after his unpopular vote against the disfranchisement of Downton.33 The licensed beer sellers petitioned the Commons for repeal of the Sale of Beer Act, 13 Aug., but the inhabitant householders petitioned the Lords in its favour, 15 Aug. 1831.34 Following a requisition to the mayor, Alexander Walker, a meeting of freemen and inhabitants was held at the shire hall, 27 Sept., to hear Carter, Mason, Parker and others advocate a petition to the Lords for the speedy passage of the reintroduced reform bill; it was presented with a similar one from the corporation, 4 Oct.35 When the news of the bill’s rejection reached Gloucester, ‘no decided display of public indignation’ immediately took place, ‘the people seeming to be stunned rather than excited by the issue’, but a few days later ‘a muffled peal of bells was rung for several hours’ and a dummy of a bishop ‘was paraded about and finally burnt amidst the cheers of the populace’. On 14 Oct. a ‘very numerous and highly respectable meeting’ of freemen and inhabitants was convened by the mayor to consider an address to the king in support of his ministers, which was agreed unanimously, Phillpotts seconding Parker’s resolution, and entrusted to Lord Segrave (formerly Colonel Berkeley) and the Members.36 The Bristol riots did not disturb the ‘peaceable demeanour of all classes’ at Gloucester, but as a precautionary measure ‘great numbers’ of citizens were sworn in as special constables and the magistrates issued an injunction against the use of fireworks or starting of bonfires on Guy Fawkes night. However, a meeting at the Saracen’s Head, 21 Nov. 1831, chaired by Carter and addressed by Parker and others, led to the formation of a political union, in which ‘upwards of 100 persons ... enrolled their names’.37 An address against the creation of peers to force the bill through was organized at the Bell and presented at the levee, 22 Feb. 1832.38 On 3 May a ‘numerous gathering of inhabitant householders’ was convened by requisition to consider an address to the king, declaring support for his ministers and calling for the creation of peers to secure the bill’s passage. Three resolutions were moved by Parker, seconded by David Mowbray Walker and carried after only ‘nine hands’ were raised in favour of a Tory amendment put by Davis; the address was presented by Lords Ducie and Sherborne, and the city and county Members. With the prospect of a Wellington ministry being formed, another requisition was organized for a meeting to consider withholding supplies, which was fixed for 16 May. According to the local newspaper, ‘a larger meeting either for the city or county’ had ‘not occurred for many years’, but the angry mood quickly changed when the mayor announced that Wellington had abandoned his commission and a series of resolutions, moved by Carter and Parker and seconded by Washbourne and Phillpotts, expressing confidence in Grey and his colleagues, was carried ‘without a dissentient voice’. The passage of the Reform Act was celebrated by an illumination, ‘by far the most splendid that has ever been witnessed’, 19 June 1832.39

The boundary commissioners reported that Gloucester had ‘considerably outgrown’ its ancient limits and recommended that they be extended to cover, as far as practicable, ‘the whole town’, including the superior residences in the vicinity of the Spa and many houses and warehouses near the new basin. A petition from the inhabitants in favour of further enlargement, to include some suburban areas, was rejected.40 The disfranchisement of non-resident freemen meant that the registered electorate in 1832 fell to 1,527. At the general election that year Webb stood down and Berkeley and Phillpotts were returned ahead of a Conservative.41 Phillpotts retired in 1847 and Berkeley in 1857, but both experienced interruptions in their tenure, the result of internecine warfare among local Liberals, which sometimes enabled the Conservatives to win a seat.42

Author: Terry Jenkins


  • 1. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 525.
  • 2. Ibid. (1830-1), x. 147; (1831), xvi. 305. The higher figure of 11,933 for 1831, given in VCH Glos. iv. 171, includes the suburb of Kingsholm.
  • 3. Glos. Dir. (1820), 31-47; Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1822-3), 55; (1830), 371-2; Robson’s Glos. Dir. (1839), 9-11; VCH Glos. iv. 135-41.
  • 4. PP (1831-2), xxxviii. 191-3; (1835), xxiii. 59-61; Glos. RO GBR/B3/13, corporation minute bk.; VCH Glos. iv. 141-52.
  • 5. PP (1826-7), iv. 1128-32; Gloucester Jnl. 31 July 1830; J. Powell, Gloucestriana, 37-38.
  • 6. G. Goodman, ‘Pre-Reform Elections in Gloucester City, 1789-1831’, Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. lxxxiv. (1965), 148-51; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 175-7.
  • 7. Gloucester Jnl. 28 Feb., 6, 13 Mar.; Cheltenham Chron. 16 Mar. 1820.
  • 8. Gloucester Jnl. 14, 21 Aug.; 13, 20, 27 Nov., 11, 18 Dec. 1820, 15, 29 Jan. 1821.
  • 9. CJ, lxxvi. 120.
  • 10. Ibid. lxxviii. 207, 216; lxxx. 320; LJ, lv. 189, 210; lvii. 808.
  • 11. CJ, lxxviii. 312; lxxix. 148, 446; lxxxi. 175; LJ, lv. 690; lvi. 62; lviii. 239.
  • 12. CJ, lxxviii. 25; lxxix. 148; LJ, lvi. 372.
  • 13. Gloucester Jnl. 29 May, 12 June 1826, 7 July 1849.
  • 14. Ibid. 22, 29 May, 5, 12, 19 June; The Times, 9 June; Bath and Cheltenham Gazette, 13 June 1826.
  • 15. CJ, lxxxii. 272; lxxxiii. 169; LJ, lx. 109, 486.
  • 16. CJ, lxxxiv. 14, 85, 89, 94, 103; LJ, lxi. 15, 93, 109, 124, 257, 297, 366; Gloucester Jnl. 14, 21 Feb., 7, 21, 28 Mar. 1829.
  • 17. CJ, lxxxiii. 87, 91, 100, 104, 169, 181; LJ, lx. 52, 72, 134, 166.
  • 18. CJ, lxxxv. 235, 395; LJ, lxii. 172, 342.
  • 19. Gloucester Jnl. 3, 10, 17 July 1830.
  • 20. Gloucester Pub. Lib. Glos. Coll. NF 10.16, letters to Vizard from Burrup, 7, 26, and R.J. Cooper, 23 July; Gloucester Jnl. 24 July 1830.
  • 21. Bristol Gazette, 15, 22 July; Gloucester Jnl. 24, 31 July 1830.
  • 22. Glos. Coll. NF 10.6; 10.16 (5,7,8,11); Gloucester Jnl, 17, 24 July 1830.
  • 23. Gloucester Jnl. 31 July, 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 24. Gloucester Pollbook (1830). The analysis derived from this differs in many ways from that in Goodman, 155-6.
  • 25. Gloucester Jnl. 7, 14, 28 Aug. 1830; Life of Campbell, i. 476.
  • 26. Gloucester Jnl. 9, 16 Oct. 1830; CJ, lxxxvi. 423, 443.
  • 27. CJ, lxxxvi. 212.
  • 28. Ibid. 309, 310, 355, 388, 406; Gloucester Jnl. 24 Dec. 1830, 29 Jan., 5 Feb., 5, 12, 19 Mar. 1831.
  • 29. Gloucester Jnl. 20, 27 Nov., 14 Dec. 1830; 26 Mar. 1831.
  • 30. Ibid. 30 Apr. 1831; Glos. RO, Hyett mss D6/F32/6.
  • 31. Gloucester Jnl. 7, 21 May 1831; Glos. Coll. NF 10.16 (14).
  • 32. Hyett mss D6/F32/10, 12, 15.
  • 33. Ibid. F32/14; Gloucester Jnl. 30 July 1831.
  • 34. CJ, lxxxvi. 752; LJ, lxiii. 922.
  • 35. LJ, lxiii. 1045, 1053; Gloucester Jnl. 24 Sept., 1 Oct. 1831.
  • 36. Gloucester Jnl. 15, 22 Oct. 1831.
  • 37. Ibid. 5, 12, 26 Nov. 1831.
  • 38. Ibid. 14 Jan., 25 Feb. 1832.
  • 39. Ibid. 28 Apr., 5, 12, 19 May, 23 June 1832.
  • 40. PP (1831-2), xxxviii. 191-3; Gloucester Jnl. 16, 30 June, 14 July 1832.
  • 41. Gloucester Jnl. 11 Aug., 1, 15 Dec. 1832.
  • 42. N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 212-13.