Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Estimated number qualified to vote:
almost 1,000 by 1831
Number of voters:
865 in 1830
4,148 (1821); 4,496 (1831)
|10 Mar. 1820||HON. EDWARD CUST||567|
|Felix Thomas Manners||365|
|Hughes’s election declared void, 11 July 1820|
|21 July 1820||SIR MONTAGUE CHOLMELEY, bt.||411|
|Lionel William John Manners||342|
|14 June 1826||HON. FREDERICK JAMES TOLLEMACHE||563|
|MONTAGUE JOHN CHOLMELEY||338|
|Hon. Edward Cust||312|
|3 Aug. 1830||GLYNNE EARLE WELBY||547|
|MONTAGUE JOHN CHOLMELEY||469|
|Hon. Frederick James Tollomache||385|
|5 May 1831||GLYNNE EARLE WELBY||426|
|Hon. Algernon Gray Tollemache||378|
|Hon. Felix Thomas Tollemache||283|
Grantham, a town with a ‘very neat and clean appearance’, lay on the Great North road, within easy reach of London.1 Some of the county’s leading families, the Cholmeleys of Easton, Thorolds of Syston Park and Welbys of Denton, as well as the 1st Earl Brownlow of Belton (lord lieutenant of Lincolnshire) lived in its immediate vicinity and took an active interest in its affairs. In addition, the 5th duke of Rutland of Belvoir Castle (recorder of Grantham) and his kinsman Sir William Manners† of Buckminster, lord of the manor of Grantham, who owned 200 houses there, both resided just over the border in Leicestershire.2 The self-electing corporation of an alderman (the returning officer), chosen annually from the 13 common burgesses, the recorder, the town clerk and 12 second burgesses, had the power to create an unlimited number of freemen, but the freedom could also be purchased for £50 plus fees by residents and £100 plus fees by non-residents. The local gentry competed for electoral control in this period, largely regardless of political considerations, as most of them were Tories. Anti-Catholicism was one of the few requisites for candidates. Rutland had abandoned his own pretensions in 1811 in favour of the Tory Manners, who at that time could return one Member. In 1812 he had tried to secure both seats, but the corporation, which had threatened to increase the number of freemen, had forced a compromise on him and backed the candidacy of Sir William Earle Welby†. In 1818 Brownlow, the largest local landowner, with 17,000 acres in Kesteven and 50 houses in Grantham, had resurrected the Red interest, dormant since 1802, when he had sold much of his property in the town to Manners. His brother Edward Cust was elected in alliance with Welby, defeating Manners’s son Felix, on the Blue interest, and the independent candidate James Hughes, who was supported by Sir John Hayford Thorold and the local attorney and town clerk William Ostler.3 Of the local newspapers, Drakard’s Stamford News was the most political, supporting the independent candidates against the vested interests of the Blues and Reds.
At the 1820 general election Welby retired and, as his son was still a minor, brought forward no alternative candidate.4 An anonymous advertisement in the local papers boasted that ‘in the course of thirteen years, by the strength and perseverance of the Blues, have the Belvoir, Belton, and Denton interest (all depending on the corporation) successively retired’. A private canvass was carried out on behalf of Hughes, 7 Feb., and rumours circulated of his coalition with the Reds to defeat the Blues, as did reports that the Blues and Reds would unite to close the borough. That evening Sir William Manners made a grand entrance to Grantham and ale was distributed from the Blue public houses. Encouraged by his canvass, Thorold and Ostler again backed Hughes, who, citing the retirement of Welby as his pretext, announced his candidature on the Purple or Independent interest, 9 Feb. Next day the Blues in Grantham, unsure of Manners’s intentions, announced that Felix Manners would again contest the borough. However, on 12 Feb. ‘a most singular advertisement’ appeared in the Lincoln Mercury, requesting that Felix Manners be elected because ‘an artful, profligate, infamous married woman’ had eloped with him to Marseilles, and his election would mean that ‘he will soon return to his friends, not only from choice, but from necessity, on the first call of the House’.5 This missive was signed H. Manners (Hugh Manners, Sir William’s fourth son and still a minor), but was widely supposed to have come from the pen of Sir William. His purpose was unclear, and many thought that Felix would never appear in the town again, but Sir William continued to make regular visits to Grantham to rally his party. When Cust issued an address announcing his intention of offering again, 15 Feb., the ‘certainty of a strong contest appeared to be fully established’, although ‘none seemed to doubt of the result being in Mr. Cust’s favour’. Hughes canvassed the London freemen, 16 Feb. 1820, when an address from a ‘well-wisher to the cause of freedom’ warned that the other two parties were attempting to close the borough, if not by open coalition, then by the Reds canvassing for plumpers only. It claimed that Hughes needed only one vote, from both Blues and Reds, as a means of preserving the freemen’s independence. A Red supporter denied the accusation, and a ‘paper war’ along these lines ensued between the supporters of the Purples and Reds.
On 22 Feb. Sir William announced on his visit that no more ‘Blue milk’ would be distributed: there had been serious disorder during the previous week and one elector had died after falling whilst intoxicated. At the same time he declared that the Blues would only accept plumpers. Cust, a ‘thick and thin’ supporter of the Liverpool ministry, commenced his canvass, 28 Feb., defended his parliamentary record and insisted that he stood alone on the ‘invincible Red interest’.6 Hughes, who had set up his headquarters at Syston Park, again canvassed London and the neighbourhood of Grantham before resuming his canvass in the town, 1 Mar., accompanied by Ostler. He was attacked by the vicar of Grantham, who asserted that his independence was merely a cloak for radicalism, and condemned him as a stranger. Hughes made no declaration of party affiliation, but he was a member of Brooks’s and rumours circulated that he favoured Catholic relief. The Blues villified him as a ‘coppermonger’ (his family owned copper mines in Wales) and Cust as the corporation candidate, and blamed the contest on a misunderstanding between Ostler and Brownlow. Manners presented a bull for baiting, 6 Mar., and the following day the local solicitor Thomas Manners canvassed on behalf of Felix Manners. After the Blue canvass the Purples remained confident, believing that had Manners really wanted to return his son, he would have canvassed himself.
At the nomination, 8 Mar. 1820, Thomas Manners, whilst proposing Felix, again warned that Hughes was a radical. Hughes strenuously denied this, pledged himself to support the constitution, said that he espoused Whig principles and criticized the vicar’s outburst. Cust gave his customary speech in support of ministers. Manners was still abroad, but was represented by his 15-year-old brother Frederick. A three-day poll ensued, in which Cust secured an early lead. Manners was in second place at the end of the first day, with 99 votes to Hughes’s 85, but Hughes took second place next day and retained it until the close. At the declaration, Cust paid tribute to Frederick Manners’s conduct and hoped that his ‘generation will restore to its wanted consideration, a name which had been historically immortalized ... in this town and neighbourhood’. One man broke his leg during the commotion surrounding the chairing ceremony, but peace was maintained.7 A local commentator noted that it was the first contested election at which a Tory and a Whig had been returned, which he attributed to
the determination of a part of the corporate body, and the more respectable class of freemen, to keep out the ever growing interest of Sir William Manners ... and to the influence of Sir John Thorold, a gentleman so highly esteemed in Grantham, that a candidate sanctioned by him must have a very fair prospect of success.
The same observer believed that Hughes’s supposed radicalism and inclination towards Catholic relief ‘had induced many freemen ... who had upon every former occasion voted in opposition to the Blues, to divide their votes this time between Mr. Cust and Mr. Manners’, and ‘this was observable in particular amongst members of the corporation, the duke of Rutland’s, Earl Brownlow’s, and the Dowager Lady Welby’s tenants’. Of the 837 who polled, however, only 14 per cent shared their votes thus, in what might be considered a partisan choice. The dominance of local allegiances over party was clearly demonstrated by the prevalence of split votes for Cust and Hughes and plumpers for Manners. Cust secured support from 68 per cent (373 as split votes shared with Hughes, 115 shared with Manners and 81 as plumpers), Hughes from 49 (20 shared with Manners and 17 as plumpers), and Manners from 44 (230 as plumpers). Only one member of the corporation, from the ten identified, split for Cust and Manners, while seven split for Cust and Hughes and two gave Cust plumpers. Three-hundred-and-seven (37 per cent) of the voters were resident within the borough, but of the 530 out-voters, 380 (45 per cent of all electors) lived locally. Only 88 voters (11 per cent) resided in London, while 62 (seven per cent) came from other places. Hughes’s thorough canvass of London clearly paid off, as 83 of these voters supported him, 74 in votes shared with Cust. Manners, by contrast, received only six votes from London. The pollbook clearly reveals Sir William’s neighbouring estates, where no votes other than plumpers for his son were given. (This can also be seen in the other elections in this period, when only a handful ever cast a vote against him.)
In the Stamford News of 24 Mar. 1820, there appeared an address, again signed by H. Manners of Buckminster, which denounced Hughes as an ‘upstart’ and claimed that there were ‘abundant proofs of bribery against this adventurer’ which would be sufficient to unseat him on petition, such as the fact that he had employed ‘more than 50 men at 2s. 6d. a day at work’ and his ‘pretended committee men ... 7s. a day, for doing nothing’.8 Hughes publicly rejected the accusations a few weeks later and warned that Manners’s aim was to close the borough in conjunction with Brownlow.9 However, a petition from John Martindale, Sir William’s steward, against Hughes’s return, alleging treating and bribery and the rejection of legitimate votes for Manners by the returning officer, was presented, 11 May.10 A few weeks later an advertisement appeared in the Stamford News appealing for evidence against Hughes and promising that Felix Manners or one of his brothers would come forward at any subsequent by-election.11 Meanwhile the Stamford Mercury charged Manners with bribery, alleging that he paid ten guineas for a plumper and six for a split vote.12 When Martindale, Sir William, Hugh Manners, and two others failed to appear before the election committee appointed to consider the petition, 5 July, Speaker’s warrants were issued for their attendance.13 A messenger was sent to take them into custody, but on arrival at Buckminster he discovered that Sir William had absconded, apparently to Scotland.14 The attendance of the others resulted in the discharge of the warrants against them, but a fresh warrant was issued against Sir William ordering his committal to Newgate, 10 July.15 Next day the election committee unseated Hughes for bribery and a special report was presented to the House which stated that it had been the regular practice at Grantham to indemnify the out-voters for loss of time by payments of £7 or £8 each.16 A motion that this was an illegal and subversive practice was carried by 66-60. The committee did not seat Manners in the room of Hughes, but ordered a new writ and banned Hughes from taking any seat that Parliament. Meanwhile, Sir William had surrendered himself to the serjeant-at-arms, and on 10 July was confined to Newgate, where ‘he was allowed to hire two rooms at 25 guineas a week and enjoy every comfort that money could procure’.17 He petitioned the House for his release, 18 July, claiming that he had left home before the summons for his attendance was issued, and that once he learnt of it he had returned as soon as possible. He complained that he was suffering from severe gout and that further confinement would endanger his health, and was released that day.18 In his parting address, 19 July 1820, Hughes, while accepting the decision of the committee, insisted that he had acted no differently from the other candidates.19
On 13 July Lionel William John Manners, Sir William’s eldest son, came forward for the by-election on the Blue interest, and the following day Sir Montague Cholmeley, a Tory and Welby’s cousin, announced his intention of standing.20 His colours were Red, the traditional ones of the United interest against the Blues, but he appears to have had no association with Brownlow on this occasion. He was accompanied on his canvass by Ostler, Thorold and Welby, as well as a number of other ‘gentlemen and respectable tradesmen of the borough and its neighbourhood’. Thomas Manners was canvassing for the Blues when Hughes arrived unexpectedly from London, and was ‘enthusiastically received’.21 In a ‘neat and feeling speech’, he declared his intention of contesting a future election and urged support for Cholmeley, hailing him as the protector of the electors’ freedom from ‘the domination of Buckminster, and its unnatural and inauspicious union with Belton’.22 Lionel Manners arrived to canvass Grantham on the eve of the poll, 18 July. Next day on the hustings, Cholmeley was highly critical of the Blues, and observed that ‘from the intoxicated state in which several appeared, it is not unfair to infer that the law so lately enforced by the head of that party is already infringed’. At the close of the first day’s polling, Cholmeley led Manners by 194 votes to 178, but his supporters were anxious, as they had received reports that Sir William, on discovering that none of the London voters had been canvassed, had done so before leaving town. However, Hughes was on hand to greet the London voters on their arrival, and he urged them to back Cholmeley, following which most of them ‘immediately repaired to the hustings and polled for Sir Montague’. Sir William arrived at Grantham on the third day, but was unable to revive his son’s fortunes, and at the close of the poll, in which 753 voted, Cholmeley had a lead of 69. According to the pollbook, 42 (75 per cent) of the 56 London voters polled for Cholmeley, compared with 54 per cent of the electorate as a whole. Of the 306 resident voters (41 per cent of the total), 179 (58 per cent) voted for Cholmeley, and 127 (42 per cent) for Manners. The latter, however, proved more popular than Cholmeley among the 391 out-voters (52 per cent of the total), receiving the votes of 202 (52 per cent). Of the eight common burgesses identified as polling, seven voted for Cholmeley, and only George White, a solicitor, gave a vote for the Blues, as he had at the general election.
The news of the abandonment of the bill of pains and penalties against Queen Caroline in November 1820 was ‘received at Grantham with more of a party feeling than has ever been remembered to exist in that place’. A handbill circulated the town, 13 Nov., calling for an illumination the following evening, but it was countered by one from the corporation forbidding it. Over 100 special constables were sworn in, but as evening fell ‘as great a display of light was made as the shortness of the notice would allow’. Crowds in ‘unprecedented numbers’ gathered in the streets and demanded the illumination of windows not lit up. Those who refused had their windows stoned, and ‘even the magistrates, whose declared intention of keeping dark had been published, were glad to put forth light’. The Riot Act was read at eight o’clock, and ‘several’ of the crowd ‘were confined for the night’.23 Both Members supported ministers on the queen’s case and voted against any concessions to Catholics throughout this Parliament. Cholmeley presented a petition from the corporation and inhabitants against Catholic relief, 15 Apr. 1823, and another reached the Commons, 15 Apr. 1825.24 The Whig Sir Robert Heron of nearby Stubton claimed it had been ‘manufactured’, 19 Apr. 1825, but Cholmeley defended the reputation of its signatories, and a similar petition from the Dissenters of Grantham was presented that day.25
At the 1826 general election Cholmeley, who had announced his intention of retiring, 2 May, stepped down, amid rumours that the Blues and Reds would now attempt to close the borough.26 Cust offered again, 30 May, and in his address referred to his stout defence of the constitution and support for the Liverpool ministry.27 After his canvass, 6 June, he was confident of success. However, he was attacked in a number of handbills for failing to support retrenchment. On 3 June an address in the name of ‘a Red of thirty years standing’ appeared, criticizing Ostler for bringing forward the stranger Hughes and for cramming Cholmeley ‘down our throats’ and calling on the corporation to be ‘no longer fettered by their fagg-end’ and ‘keep him in the back ground allotted to him’. It claimed that Frederick Tollemache, the fifth son of Sir William Manners (who had taken the name Talmash in 1821 and assumed the courtesy title of Lord Huntingtower), would start as a supporter of ‘the constitution in church and state’. Tollemache confirmed his candidacy two days later, and at the start of his canvass the following day received an enthusiastic welcome, ‘so different is the present feeling of the inhabitants ... towards Lord Huntingtower and his family’. In the meantime, Ostler had given repeated assurances that a third man would come forward. It was widely known that he had been in contact with Hughes, and with the town ‘on the tiptoe of expectation’, many expected him to appear, but no address was forthcoming. On 4 June Ostler and a London voter, Matthew Howitt, travelled to Stamford to meet Sir Francis MacNaughten of Dundarave, co. Antrim, formerly a judge of the supreme court at Madras. However, MacNaughten indicated that he favoured Catholic relief and Ostler deemed it unlikely that he could be elected. He returned to Grantham without a third man, but told the freemen that he was still confident of finding one. The feeling among a number of the freemen was one of ‘gloom and dismay’ and some, having lost confidence in Ostler, circulated a handbill, 6 June, calling on the ‘independent electors’ to meet next morning in order to invite Thorold to stand. However, Thorold, having learnt of their intention, issued an address the same day declining because of poor health. Another advertisement appeared, 7 June, suggesting that Gregory Gregory, of Hungerton Hall, was an ideal candidate, but nothing more was heard of the notion. Speculation that Montague John Cholmeley, son of the former Member and a major in the local militia, might offer, and ‘his appearance ... though privately’ on 8 July, ‘revived considerably the spirits of the desponding party’. Ostler persuaded Cholmeley to stand that day, and he hurriedly issued an address declaring his candidacy on the Independent or Purple interest. At the nomination next day, Cust and Tollemache were proposed in person but Cholmeley was absent and had to be nominated in absentia by Ostler, who excused him on account of the ‘state of his health’. Cust said that he was a decided opponent of Catholic relief and criticized the manner in which a third man had been introduced and the ‘mystery’ surrounding it. Tollemache indicated his opposition to any concessions to the Catholics and hoped that ‘no further pledge of his political conduct would be required’. Ostler promised that Cholmeley would make an appearance later on and declared his politics to be ‘independent of his father’s’, but gave no further explanation. Cholmeley made his public entry before polling commenced, 10 July, and on the hustings, in response to Cust’s reference to the long association between Belton House and Grantham, he reminded the freemen of his family’s 200-year connection with the borough, but beyond that made no pledge other than to attend to the welfare of the town. At the end of the first day he lay in third place with 40 votes to Cust’s 60 and Tollemache’s 139. The following day, a Sunday, was a ‘a day of active exertion, and many canvassers were busy from every party’. At the opening of the second day’s poll, Cust accused the Purples of publishing a handbill which claimed that he was seeking to obtain votes by undue influence. Cholmeley dissociated himself from it and sought to quash rumours that he was in favour of Catholic relief, saying that they might have a ‘theoretical justice in their complaint’, but he was undecided and would bow to his constituents’ wishes on the issue. He overtook Cust that day, and on the next he denied the allegation that he was a Whig or that a coalition had been established between the Blues and Purples. At the close of the third day Cust, who had remained in third place, said that he would ask for an examination of the list of those still to poll, and if it appeared that he had no chance of success would retire. After it had been made, he was confident that he could still succeed. Cholmeley, however, stayed in second place behind Tollemache until the close of the poll on the fourth day. A local commentator declared it to be ‘the severest contest ever known in Grantham’ and suggested that the exertions of Cholmeley’s canvassers, under Ostler’s direction, had contributed more to his success than anything else, ‘except what naturally resulted from too great a confidence entertained by Major Cust and his friends in the early part of the election’. The Stamford News gleefully reported that Brownlow ‘has been beaten ... by his own militia major’ and mocked the corporation for having
rejected one gentleman on the ground of his refusal to pledge himself hostile to the Catholics, and elected in his stead Major Cholmeley who, after he had felt his way with the ‘Toms’ [electors] and got a firm footing on the poll, declared himself a friend to Catholic emancipation.28
Of the 817 who polled, Tollemache secured support from 70 per cent (279 as plumpers, 188 as split votes shared with Cholmeley, and 101 shared with Cust). Cholmeley received a vote from 41 per cent (113 shared with Cust and 37 as plumpers), and Cust 38 per cent (99 as plumpers). The fact that so many voters split for Cholmeley and Cust diminishes the likelihood of coalition between the Purples and Blues, and the large number of split votes for Cholmeley (89 per cent of his total) again indicates a lack of party spirit. In defeat Cust claimed that he was the only one to have canvassed the London electors, but the pollbook shows that it did him little good, as 61 (66 per cent) of the 92 voters there voted for Cholmeley, 40 of them splitting with Tollemache, while only 29 (32 per cent) gave Cust a vote. They were clearly responsible for Cholmeley’s ascendancy over Cust, and the former hosted a dinner for them at which Hughes was present, 18 July.29 Of the 304 Grantham voters (37 per cent of the total), 207 (68 per cent) gave a vote for Tollemache, 135 (45 per cent) for Cust, and 118 (39 per cent) for Cholmeley. Of the 421 out-voters, 305 (72 per cent) polled for Tollemache, 159 (38 per cent) for Cholmeley, and 150 (36 per cent) for Cust. Of the seven common burgesses identified as voting, none voted Blue, four split for Cust and Cholmeley, two plumped for Cust (including White, who had previously voted Blue), and one, Ostler, plumped for Cholmeley.
Tollemache voted twice against Catholic relief before the Wellington ministry conceded emancipation, which he supported. The corporation and inhabitants petitioned against relief, 7 Mar. 1827, 25 Apr. 1828, 9 Feb. 1829.30 Cholmeley, in presenting the petition of 1828, said that it would be ‘a libel’ on many of the inhabitants to say that it came from them all, as the promoters had experienced some difficulty in securing signatures. Hume backed him, but Cust denied that pro-Catholic views had made any advance in Grantham. Cholmeley voted for relief in 1828, but cast no known votes on emancipation. He joined Brooks’s in 1829. Shortly before the 1830 dissolution a number of Grantham freemen met and issued a requisition to Cust to stand, but he declined, 28 June. Early next month Cholmeley announced his intention of stepping down, on account of the ‘united effort’ and ‘personal abuse’ that was being orchestrated against him by his formerly divided opponents.31
At the 1830 general election Cholmeley duly retired, having given his brother-in-law Glynne Earle Welby, son of Sir William, an assurance that he would not seek re-election.32 Welby therefore declared his candidacy on his family’s interest, 6 July, stating his principles to be those of his father. A rumour circulated that Welby and Cholmeley would unite, a London meeting having been informed that Cholmeley had reconsidered his decision, but a Grantham gathering was told that in such an eventuality Welby would withdraw, being unable to unite with ‘one whose principles were diametrically opposed to his own’. On 13 July John Hardy, a local banker, informed Gilbert John Heathcote*, who was considering contesting Grantham, that Cholmeley would be deterred by Welby’s declaration. He confirmed Cust’s refusal to stand, but warned:
Lord Huntingtower says he will put ... [Cust] in nomination whether he comes or not, his wish being to join Lord Brownlow’s interest to prevent further opposition. I should consider if Lord Huntingtower was to give you his second votes, you may stand a fair chance if Lord Brownlow would do the same ... Nothing seems settled with regard to candidates at present ... Mr. Ostler is decidedly against Lord Brownlow; he is the agent both of Mr. Cholmeley and Mr. Welby. He was here with them both last week and tried to prevail on Mr. Cholmeley to stand, though Mr. Welby had declared himself.33
A meeting of the London freemen the same day was told that Cholmeley did not intend to come forward, and they therefore agreed that Welby was an ideal candidate in the Independent interest. They also heard that when Tollemache was asked if he would stand again, he replied that ‘he did not know who his father should choose to put up’.34 Cholmeley reaffirmed his intention of retiring, 16 July.35 Another meeting of Cust’s friends decided that he should be a candidate and that he would not refuse if they could demonstrate his certain success. They therefore started an extensive canvass and distributed ale, after which a deputation was sent to London to requisition him again. A handbill circulated by the Blues stated that Cust would come in if he joined them and boasted that Huntingtower and Brownlow owned a great deal of property in and around the town, in contrast to Welby’s father, who owned four houses, and Cholmeley, who had ‘neither house nor pig-sty within six miles of it’. Welby commenced his canvass, 17 July, and a local commentator noted that ‘with the handsome treatment both parties met with ... there appeared at this time but little chance for the Blues, the apathy and indifference of whose leader have ever been most unaccountable’. On 19 July Hardy advised Heathcote that he believed that the Reds were only canvassing for Cust in order to prevent Huntingtower nominating him as the Blue candidate, and added that ‘Huntingtower has not, nor can be prevailed upon to commence his canvass ... I hear none of [his] sons are desirous of being in Parliament, if so, I think his lordship would have no objection to sell this borough’.36 The Mercury, however, fully expected one of Huntingtower’s sons to declare after the king’s funeral.37 While in Grantham, the marquess of Tweeddale announced, 20 July, that Cust would not be a candidate, and it was therefore generally expected that Tollemache would start and be returned unopposed with Welby. The deputation to Cust returned with another address from him confirming his refusal to come forward, 20 July. One of his friends sought the candidacy of Heathcote and another proposed Clinton Fynes Clinton, the duke of Newcastle’s Member for Aldborough and a freeman of Grantham, but nothing came of either suggestion. Many freemen still favoured Cholmeley, who had issued a statement declaring that he could not with good faith take advantage of subsequent events to release himself from his pledge. However, a meeting of Welby’s friends decided that Cholmeley should be invited and a deputation was sent to him at the assizes in Lincoln. He returned to Grantham, but, his friends not expecting him, he met with an ‘indifferent reception’. The following day he was more warmly received and a requisition, which obtained over 100 signatures, was quickly organized and presented to him, 26 July. Because of this show of support Welby released Cholmeley from his pledge, and he started to canvass, 27 July. ‘To show how little politics have to do with the borough of Grantham, the gentlemen who composed Cust’s committee, now spontaneously become the committee for Cholmeley’, noted one local commentator. Tollemache issued his address and canvassed, 26 July 1830, and, ‘considering the prejudices which recent circumstance raised against his father ... was very successful’. Next day, Hardy advised Heathcote that because of Huntingtower’s ‘oppressive habits’ and failure to canvass the out-voters he had little chance of being returned and ‘it seems pretty evident Mr. Welby and Cholmeley will be the returned Members’.38
At the nomination Ostler spoke in favour of Cholmeley and Welby told the freemen that it was their responsibility to ‘suppress the powerful and domineering power of Buckminster’, before citing his grandfather and father’s service as Members. Tollemache defended his parliamentary record, castigated Ostler’s attack on his family and accused him of being an agent of party, and, alluding to Welby, asked what sort of guide a father’s conduct was for that of his son. Cholmeley maintained that he belonged to no party and insisted he had only come forward in response to the express wish of the freemen, but Thomas Manners, Tollemache’s agent, charged him with breaking his pledge to Welby and hinted that it was Ostler who was attempting to close the borough, which Sir Montague Cholmeley and Sir William Welby both denied. The show of hands favoured Cholmeley and Welby, and Tollemache demanded a poll. A handbill was soon circulated requesting the friends of the Reds to reserve their votes, following which Cholmeley appealed to the electors not to be ‘led away by the designs of Lord Brownlow’s agent’. Welby topped the poll at the end of the first day, with Cholmeley in second place only three votes ahead of Tollemache, who accused his opponents of having formed a coalition. Addressing the London voters next day, Cholmeley and Welby denied this charge, but admitted that they each considered the other as ‘a more proper person to represent them than Mr. Tollemache’. The positions on the poll remained unchanged, which Tollemache attributed to the arrivals from the south. Pressed on the hustings, Cholmeley denied that he was a radical, but admitted that he favoured change that would lessen the burdens on the people. When polling closed on the fourth day, Tollemache, still in third place, again complained of a coalition by the others.39 The pollbook vindicates his claims. Of the 865 who voted (a turnout of 88 per cent), Welby secured support from 63 per cent (436 as split votes shared with Cholmeley, 79 shared with Tollemache, and 33 as plumpers). Cholmeley received a vote from 54 per cent (21 shared with Tollemache and 11 as plumpers) and Tollemache from 45 per cent (285 as plumpers). There were again very few party votes, with only nine per cent splitting for the two Tories Welby and Tollemache and two per cent plumping for the single Whig Cholmeley. Of the 95 London voters (11 per cent of the total), 94 per cent polled for Welby, 88 per cent for Cholmeley and 12 per cent for Tollemache. Of the 286 resident freemen (a third of the voters), 175 (61 per cent) polled for Welby, 144 (51 per cent) for Cholmeley and 133 (47 per cent) for Tollemache. Among the 484 out-voters (56 per cent of voters), 220 (45 per cent) split for the two leading candidates, and 180 (37 per cent) plumped for Tollemache. Of the nine corporation members identified, seven split for Cholmeley and Welby, and two plumped for Welby.
On 7 Aug. 1830 a Purity of Election Society was established, which all the local interests and the Members were invited to join.40 A petition was lodged against the return of Cholmeley and Welby, probably at Huntingtower’s behest, 15 Nov. 1830, alleging treating and bribery, and asserting that the returning officer had rejected legitimate votes for Tollemache, while admitting illegitimate ones for the other two. (The petitioners, Joseph Neal, a Grantham builder, and William Warner, a Grantham gardener, said that they had claimed the right to vote but were refused by the returning officer. However, the pollbook indicates that they both plumped for Tollemache.) The result was confirmed by the election committee, which included Cust, 4 Mar. 1831.41 Both Members helped to vote the Wellington ministry out of office on the civil list in November 1830. Petitions reached the Lords for the abolition of slavery, 15 Feb., and for a general reduction in taxation and reform of Parliament, 11 Mar. 1831.42 The Members took opposite sides on the Grey ministry’s reform bill, prompting press speculation that Welby, who vehemently opposed it, would step down.43
At the 1831 general election Welby, contrary to expectations, was first in the field, 24 Apr.44 A handbill issued from Buckminster next day announced that Algernon and Felix Tollemache would also come forward and that ‘the Blues have pledged themselves to support King William and reform, and are determined to have two or none’. Another handbill, 26 Apr., urged the freemen to ‘bear in mind that the present contest is not local but political’ and ‘therefore [to] be careful and not divide your votes between Whig and Tory, but boldly support reform’ by voting for both the Tollemaches. A few days later Cholmeley unexpectedly retired, citing the recent death of his father and ill health. This prompted a number of freemen to circulate a requisition to Heathcote, but they were too late, as he had already started for Boston. Meanwhile, Cholmeley’s London supporters requisitioned Hughes, who was again offered the interest of Thorold and therefore agreed to come forward as a reformer on the Purple interest. He received a rapturous welcome, 28 Apr., and started his canvass accompanied by Thorold the next day. Neither of the Tollemache brothers had yet made an appearance, and ‘the supporters of the Blue cause were kept in a state of uncertainty respecting Lord Huntingtower’s intentions’. On the morning of the election, however, they arrived and promised to support the bill. The show of hands favoured them, and the others demanded a poll. It was scheduled for the following day, and in the meantime ‘the Blues commenced an active canvass ... anxious to recover the ground which through their former indifference ... it was supposed they had lost’. At the end of the first day’s polling the Blues had secured the first two places, ‘a considerable party of freemen from Buckminster having voted’. Hughes and Welby narrowly overtook them next day, but they anxiously awaited the arrival of the London voters, ‘upon whose determination the fate of the election in a great measure depended’. Their appearance later that day was warmly greeted and they were immediately canvassed by all the candidates. At the opening of the third day James Nixon, a London merchant who had been sent by the freemen there to second Hughes’s nomination, and a couple of other London freemen publicly split their votes for Hughes and Welby. According to a local commentator
this movement was a very important one ... The London freemen ... had determined upon voting for reform candidates, but it appears they had no confidence in the Blue party, and preferred supporting Mr. Welby for whose private character they had the highest respect, however they might be opposed to his political principles.
Algernon Tollemache accused the London voters of putting their pockets before their principles and claimed that he had proposed a coalition of the reformers to them, but that they had demanded preferential treatment for Hughes and the withdrawal of Felix. The London voters denied all these charges. At the close of the poll Welby was in first place, 16 ahead of Hughes, who had an advantage of 30 over Algernon Tollemache. In defeat Algernon again attacked the London voters and their ‘shameless venality’, as a result of which Grantham would have ‘only a negative voice’ in the reform debates. At the chairing a few stones were thrown at Welby. Over the next few weeks a series of letters appeared in the Stamford News exchanging accusations and opinions on the course of the meeting between the Tollemaches and the London voters.
The pollbook reveals a substantial increase in party-based voting at this contest, with 50 per cent of the voters either plumping for the single Tory Welby or spitting their votes between two of the three reform candidates. Of the 842 who voted (a turnout of 85 per cent), Welby secured support from 51 per cent (291 as split votes shared with Hughes, 100 as plumpers, 34 shared with Algernon Tollemache and one with Felix Tollemache). Hughes received votes from 48 per cent (69 as plumpers, 47 shared with Algernon Tollemache and one with Felix Tollemache), Algernon Tollemache from 45 per cent (279 shared with Felix and 18 as plumpers), and Felix Tollemache from 34 per cent (two as plumpers). Of the 84 London voters who polled (ten per cent of the total), 77 voted for Hughes, 65 for Welby (62 of whom split for Hughes), while only five voted for Algernon Tollemache, and three for Felix. Of the 287 residents (34 per cent of voters), 54 per cent polled for Algernon Tollemache, compared with 48 per cent for Welby, 42 per cent for Hughes, and 39 per cent for Felix. Welby and Algernon Tollemache were almost tied among the 470 out-voters (56 per cent of electors), the former receiving 222 votes to the latter’s 219 (47 per cent each); 210 (45 per cent) polled for Hughes and 166 (35 per cent) for Felix Tollemache. Of the seven members of the corporation identified as voting, six split between Hughes and Welby, and one plumped for Welby.
As expected, Welby consistently voted against the reform bill and Hughes for it, neither uttering a word. When lord chancellor Brougham made a brief stop in Grantham in November 1831, he was greeted with such ‘loud and hearty cheers as testified [to the town’s] interest in the cause of reform’.45 Welby presented a Grantham petition against the general register bill, 8 Mar. 1832.46 The boundary commissioners proposed that the parish of Grantham should form the new borough, which added the townships of Manthorp and Little Gonerby, Spittlegate, Houghton and Walton, and Harrowby, giving the new constituency a population of 7,427 and a registered electorate of 698 in 1832.47 Six-hundred-and-fifty polled at that year’s general election, when Algernon Tollemache reverted to the Blues’ traditional Conservatism and was returned with the Conservative Welby, defeating the Liberal Cholmeley. Welby sat until 1857 and Algernon Tollemache, whose eldest brother successfully revived the family interest, until 1837, when he was succeeded by Frederick James Tollemache*, Member until 1852, and 1857-65, 1868-74.48
Authors: Martin Casey / Philip Salmon
- 1. White, Lincs. Dir. (1826), 127.
- 2. Drakard’s Stamford News, 2 June 1826.
- 3. Ibid.
- 4. Unless otherwise indicated this account of the 1820 general election is based on Grantham Pollbook (Storr, Mar. 1820).
- 5. The Times, 15 Feb. 1820.
- 6. Drakard’s Stamford News, 3 Mar. 1820.
- 7. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 17 Mar. 1820.
- 8. Drakard’s Stamford News, 24 Mar. 1820.
- 9. Ibid. 14 Apr. 1820.
- 10. CJ, lxxv. 193.
- 11. Drakard’s Stamford News, 26 May. 1820.
- 12. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 7 July 1820.
- 13. CJ, lxxv. 402, 419.
- 14. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 7 July 1820.
- 15. CJ, lxxv. 430.
- 16. Ibid. 435; The Times, 7, 8 July 1820.
- 17. H. Quilter, Central Grantham, 14.
- 18. CJ, lxxv. 466.
- 19. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 21 July 1820.
- 20. Unless otherwise indicated this account of the 1820 by-election is based on Grantham Pollbook (Storr, July 1820).
- 21. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 21 July 1820.
- 22. Drakard’s Stamford News, 21 July 1820.
- 23. The Times, 20 Nov. 1820.
- 24. CJ, lxxviii. 201; lxxx. 309.
- 25. Ibid. lxxx. 321.
- 26. Unless otherwise indicated this account of the 1826 general election is based on Grantham Pollbook (Storr, 1826).
- 27. Drakard’s Stamford News, 2 June 1826.
- 28. Ibid. 16 June 1826.
- 29. The Times, 22 July 1826.
- 30. CJ, lxxxii. 290; lxxxiii. 269; lxxxiv. 14.
- 31. Drakard’s Stamford News, 16 July; Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 16 July 1830.
- 32. Unless otherwise indicated this account of the 1830 general election is based on Grantham Pollbook (Storr, 1830).
- 33. Lincs AO, Ancaster mss xiii/B/5aa.
- 34. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 16 July 1830.
- 35. Drakard’s Stamford News, 6 Aug. 1830.
- 36. Ancaster mss xiii/B/5x.
- 37. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 16 July 1830.
- 38. Ancaster mss xiii/B/5y.
- 39. Drakard’s Stamford News, 6 Aug. 1830.
- 40. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 13 Aug. 1830.
- 41. CJ, lxxxvi. 75, 196, 336, 340.
- 42. LJ, lxiii. 225, 315.
- 43. Boston Gazette, 26 Apr. 1831.
- 44. Unless otherwise indicated this account of the 1831 general election is based on Grantham Pollbook (Storr, 1831).
- 45. The Times, 14 Nov. 1831.
- 46. CJ, lxxxvii. 174.
- 47. PP (1831-2), xxxix. 103; P. Salmon, Electoral Reform at Work, 258.
- 48. R.J. Olney, Lincs. Politics, 1832-1885, pp. 7-8; N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 438.