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

Background Information

Estimated number qualified to vote:

about 5,000


7 May 1831(SIR) ROBERT PRICE, bt.

Main Article

The freeholders of the marcher county of Hereford on the Welsh border had been polled three times between 1796 and 1818. Party organization was well developed and the squirearchy, who resented their exclusion from the representation of Leominster, expected their Members to be resident gentlemen of rank, committed to promoting the county’s agricultural and allied interests. Regular attendance at the assizes, city and county meetings and social and party functions was essential, as was patronage of local causes and the London-based Herefordshire Association, at whose quarterly meetings at the Globe Tavern in Fleet Street, and annual May dinners at the Albion or the Freemasons’ Tavern, Members and potential candidates were vetted. Following the death in 1815 of the 11th duke of Norfolk, a pro-Catholic Whig, whose deranged second wife Frances (née Scudamore, d. 24 Oct. 1820), owned the prestigious Holme Lacy estates, the county lord lieutenancy and the stewardship of Hereford had passed to the 2nd Baron Somers of Eastnor Castle. A Grenvillite who coveted an earldom, he had recently declared his support for Lord Liverpool’s administration and opposition to parliamentary reform but remained staunchly pro-Catholic. With his assistance, the Tory caucus gained control of the corporation of Hereford, and the party’s domination by the increasingly unpopular ‘Black and Tans’ (the anti-Catholic bishop of Hereford, George Isaac Huntington, and his clergy), who supported the militia colonel and squire of Garnons Sir John Geers Cotterell, was tempered through the establishment in 1818 of the Herefordshire Pitt Club, a constitutional club, embracing pro and anti-Catholic agriculturists, with Sir Hungerford Hoskyns of Harewood as its first president. In bitter and costly contests at the 1818 general election, the dowager duchess of Norfolk’s agents had colluded with Somers, whose son and heir John Somers Cocks took a seat at Hereford from the Whigs, who in turn failed to oust Cotterell in the county, so perpetuating ‘one and one’ representation and thwarting the aspirations of George Cornewall of Moccas Court to take his father’s former seat. The successful Whig Robert Price, the son of the landscape artist and scholar Uvedale Price of Foxley, had been brought in on Tory second votes and endorsed by the retiring Member Thomas Foley* of Newport House, Almeley, who in 1819 was returned for Droitwich.1 Somers, like Norfolk previously, managed the city and county seats in tandem, and after failing to bring in a second Tory for the city in 1819 he warned Liverpool of the ‘continuing danger, while my family is fighting for the city, of two opposition Members being elected for the county’:

We must I think be contented with one and one. The majority is on our side, but not much, and the activity rather on the part of our opponents; and there exists moreover a danger, lest Colonel Cornewall (who will soon probably be head of his family) attacking Price at a future general election, Sir John Cotterell should decline the expense of another contest - although with such expense certain to succeed.2

The Whigs, led by Foley, Price, Edward Bolton Clive* of Whitfield and John Lucy Scudamore of Kentchurch Court (the nephew of the Hereford Member), who was newly of age, dominated the county meeting which protested against the conduct of the Peterloo magistrates, 12 Nov. 1819; and the 1820 general election took place against a background of increasing discontent and agricultural distress.3 Price, whose address was calculated to mollify the Tories among his erstwhile supporters, and Cotterell, who professed his customary allegiance to ‘the constitution in church and state’, declared early; and both attended and addressed the Hereford Agricultural Society meeting chaired by the radical horticulturist Thomas Andrew Knight of Downton Castle, 7 Feb., which resolved to petition for relief ‘either by the imposition of a protecting duty on agricultural produce imported from foreign parts ... or by the adoption of such other measures as to the wisdom of Parliament may appear more proper or expedient’.4 Over the following weeks similar petitions were carried at agriculturists’ meetings in the hundreds of Greytree, Webtree and Wormelow, and a well-attended county meeting adopted the customary addresses of condolence and congratulation to George IV, 4 Mar.5 The financial exhaustion of the parties discouraged challenges from Cornewall and Edward Thomas Foley of Stoke Edith.6 Lord Beauchamp thought Foley, who came in for Ludgershall in 1826, ‘never could have had a better opportunity’ of taking the county seat;7 but when Cotterell canvassed ‘Silly Filly’, as Foley was known, in London, according to Cornewall he,

answered him he certainly should have his votes, but second to Mr. Price, ‘who you know, Sir John, is the family Member’. Thus we Herefordshire gents are treated and our county turned into a close borough.8

Cotterell’s supporters met him at the White Cross and dined at the Hotel. He was proposed by the chairman of the quarter sessions Colonel John Matthews† of Belmont, who had relinquished his candidature for Hereford in 1819, and seconded to some hissing by Somers’s son James Somers Cocks*, who stressed his long service, devotion to the constitution and readiness to vote against the taxes which the agriculturists opposed. Price was escorted to the hustings from Eign Gate and sponsored by Knight and the deputy steward of Hereford, the Whig banker Robert Phillips of Longworth. He gave a long account of his parliamentary conduct, reaffirmed his commitment to retrenchment, lower taxes, and ‘moderate’ reform and called for measures to combat distress and repeal of the repressive legislation enacted after Peterloo. His ‘friends’ paid 13s. a ticket to attend his election dinner chaired by Clive at the Greyhound.9 The agriculturists’ petitions were received by the Commons, 12, 16 May, and by the Lords on the 15th.10 In June 1820 Ledbury petitioned the magistrates for a reduction in the county rate to alleviate distress.11

The Queen Caroline case aroused popular interest, and party feeling ran high as a result of Somers’s vote for proceeding with her prosecution. Its abandonment in November 1820 was celebrated countywide with bell ringing, illuminations, feasts, bonfires and ritual burning in effigy of prosecution witnesses. Addresses of outright support for the queen were presented from Ledbury, Ross and the boroughs and her partisans dined regularly throughout 1821 at the Carolinean Club in Hereford.12 Price, who, unlike Cotterell, supported the queen’s cause, claimed that the Leominster petition’s plea for the restoration of her name to the liturgy was supported throughout the county, 1 Feb. 1821.13 He also echoed the protests of the county’s landowners and occupiers against the ‘particularly oppressive’ agricultural horse tax and malt duties complained at in their distress petition to the Commons, 6 Mar. 1821.14 The dean and cathedral chapter and the clergy of the Hereford archdeaconry forwarded petitions against Catholic relief for presentation in 1821, 1822, 1823 and 1825 by Cottterell to the Commons and the bishops of Hereford and Llandaff to the Lords, where the bishop of Hereford ‘disclaimed all exercise of influence’ to procure them, 13 May 1825.15 The coronation in 1821, when Somers became an earl, was celebrated by his tenantry in Ledbury, and Cotterell demonstrated his customary hospitality at Garnons; but, in view of the economic downturn, the occasion was marked elsewhere by subscription dinners for the poor in place of the usual illuminations.16 Militia activity was cut to save costs that autumn, and petitioning for relief from agricultural distress resumed amid the publicity generated by the Whigs’ presentation and dinner to Joseph Hume* in Hereford, 7 Dec. 1821.17

The Commons received a distress petition for retrenchment, immediate reduction of the national debt interest and parliamentary reform, 15 Feb., and a moderate one from the hundred of Webtree, 18 Mar. 1822, and Price approved and presented the agriculturists’ memorials against the horse tax that month.18 The Tories’ well-publicized campaign for a reduction in the locally important duty on hops achieved little despite several meetings with ministers, organized by Cotterell and backed by memorials and petitions form Hereford and Bromyard.19 Hoskyns chaired the meeting of ‘landlords and tenants’ at the Hotel and headed their bipartisan requisition for a county distress meeting, 30 Nov. 1822, but the sheriff, Thomas Hampton Symons of Mynde Park, rejected it, stating that ‘the majority of the landowners’ were against it and that he could not see what good it would do.20 Somers had sent his excuses on 30 Nov. but promised to attend the ensuing meeting and, ‘embarrassed how to act’, he reluctantly convened the county in lieu of the sheriff. Somers’s notices of 8 Jan. 1823 acknowledged the unprecedented distress, expressed sympathy with those who feared that, as in Norfolk, the meeting, ‘instead of promoting its avowed and legitimate objects, might be converted into a vehicle for party contest’, and appealed to the freeholders to ‘confine their efforts and observations to the merits of the real subject of their proposed deliberations, on which alone I am requested to assemble them’.21 Presiding, 17 Jan., he called for unanimity from the 5,000 present, and resolutions for a moderate petition approved by the Herefordshire Pitt Club were proposed by Edmund Burnam Pateshall of Allensmore and Hoskyns. They attributed distress to the precipitate currency change in 1819 and the excessive and disproportionate tax burden on agriculture and called for concessions on the currency, government savings, repeal of the half hop duty and other taxes affecting Herefordshire farmers, property rather than land-based taxes and a simplified tax collection system. William Cobbett†, who had arrived from Worcester the previous day, ridiculed it and proposed his Norfolk petition as an amendment. It demanded state appropriation of church property, reduction of the standing army, abolition of sinecures, sale of crown lands, ‘equitable adjustment’ of public and private debts, an immediate moratorium on rents and tithes and the removal of the taxes on malt, leather, hops, soap and candles, and was seconded by his host William Palmer of Bellitree Castle, near Ross. Denouncing Cobbett as an ‘itinerant political tinker’, the founder of the Agricultural Society, the rector of Colchester, Essex, the Rev. John Robert Smythies of Lynch Court, Leominster, objected that the changes he proposed were too great to constitute an amendment and, seconded by the Leominster barrister Thomas Davies, he suggested an alternative petition attributing distress to heavy taxes and the 1797 Bank Restriction Act and calling for equitable taxation of land and ‘funded property’ (monetary holdings), so that the assessed taxes could be reduced for the benefit of the ‘landed and working classes’. Before it could be adopted Edmund Lechmere Charlton† of Ludford intervened and, with a view to trouncing Cobbett, he proposed, as previously agreed with Edward Ellice* and the 2nd Lord Grey, a counter-petition attributing the ‘current crisis in prices, mortgages and rents’ to the late wars, corruption, profligate government expenditure and currency changes, and calling for a currency review, civil list reductions, the restoration of 1792 salary levels, economies in tax collection, the exclusion of placemen from the Commons, suspension of the sinking fund and repeal of the hop duties and taxes adversely affecting agriculture. James Phillips of Bryngwyn seconded. Knight and Archdeacon John Lilly, the rector of Stoke Lacy, spoke against Cobbett’s proposals, preferring Pateshall’s or Lechmere Charlton’s. Calling ‘for unanimity’, Clive ensured that Lechmere Charlton’s petition was proposed first and carried with verbal amendments suggested by Pateshall, who by withdrawing his petition quashed Cobbett’s amendment.22 Clive wrote in a squib:

          The Tories by Cobbett pursued helter-skelter,
          Ran straight into a Whiggish petition for shelter,
          Bespattered, bepelted, bedevilled en masse,
          With a radical canister tied to their ...!23

Its Commons presenter Price endorsed the petition, 21 Feb. Somers refused to sign it but presented it to the Lords, where he confirmed the distress and praised Lilly’s reply to Cobbett, 24 Feb.24 Cobbett’s petition was signed after the meeting by 700 ‘land-occupiers and tradesmen’ and received by the Commons, 27 Feb.25 Somers’s criticism of Lechmere Charlton’s ‘violent language’ and subsequent refusal to sanction a county reform meeting contributed to the flurry of newspaper correspondence that persisted until March.26 Pateshall sent Cotterell an eloquent reminder of the squires’ continued drift into poverty and frustration at the government’s failure to act, 23 Feb., and declined the usual escort to the assizes when he was made sheriff in March, ‘to cut costs’.27 The magistrates, gentry, clergy, freeholders and tenantry petitioned the Commons objecting to the 1823 game bill, 2 June, and certain freeholders for parliamentary reform, 12 June 1823.28 Petitioning against the cider and hop duties persisted countywide, and the towns sought repeal of the Insolvent Debtors Act and protection for the leather and glove trades.29 Ross and the hundred of Becontree petitioned for the county courts bill, 24 May 1824, and Lilly and Hoskyns persuaded the magistrates to petition the Commons for a reduction in the county rate, 5 May 1825.30 Ross, where the Quaker banker Nathaniel Morgan was mayor, petitioned for mitigation of the death penalty for forgery, 17 May 1821, 4 June 1822.31 Kington, on the Radnorshire border, and Bromyard joined Ross in petitioning for the abolition of West Indian slavery in 1824 and 1826.32

In a flurry of political activity before the 1826 general election, when Hereford and Leominster were bitterly contested, the anti-Catholics strengthened their hold on the Pitt Club, and plans were laid and private bills passed for the Haw Bridge scheme, which the Whigs promoted, a new road to South Wales, the Leominster canal, and the Hereford-Grosmont railway.33 Garrett and Sons of Hereford, the Leominster bank of Coleman, Morris and Sons, the ‘Whig’ Hereford City and County Bank (Bodenham, Jay, Cusack and Company) and the ‘Tory’ Hereford Old Bank (Matthews, Holloway and Company) all suspended payments during the 1825-6 banking crisis; but the Kington, Ledbury and Ross banks withstood the run and prompt action by the Members and gentry restored confidence and secured concessions from the treasury.34 On 3 May 1826 the Hereford Journal printed a requisition from the farmers and traders of Hereford and the vicinity calling on ‘gentlemen of property in the county to establish a new bank’. The agriculturists, alarmed by the corn importation bill, lobbied resolutely for protection, and Price, who was kept away from Parliament that session by the demands of his ailing parents and ‘rather inclined to Ricardo’s plan’ for a descending tariff scale, was relieved not to have to ‘show the bearing of my mind too strongly’.35 His absence from the Herefordshire Association dinner, 31 May 1826, was excused by Hoskyns. His sponsors at the election, Knight, and Lord Foley’s brother-in-law Sir Thomas Winnington*, called for ‘an extension of the elective franchise’, ‘revision of the corn laws with proper protecting duties for the agriculturist’, and welcomed the home secretary Peel’s proposals for simplifying the criminal code. Concurring with them, Price also expressed his admiration for Canning as foreign secretary. John Matthews had died in January, and Cotterell was proposed for the first time by another militia colonel, James Kyrle Money of Much Marcle, and seconded as previously. Fresh from his defeat at Ludlow, Lechmere Charlton used part of the hour before the election could be declared to ‘comment’ on his own recent altercation there with Knight, who duly defended his conduct. Pateshall chaired Cotterell’s dinner at the Hotel, and Price’s friends dined in the town hall under the chairmanship of the Whig banker Kedgwin Hoskins of Strickstenning.36

The Pitt Club’s decision to expel members who ‘from private friendship’ had voted for Clive or withheld their support from the defeated candidate in Hereford, the anti-Catholic Tory industrialist Richard Blakemore of The Leys, 13 Oct. 1826, so angered Somers that he and Richard Jones Powell of Hinton and Thomas Powell of Hardwick resigned from and openly renounced it ‘not merely as a body opposed to that question [Catholic emancipation]’ but ‘as a local faction, the ‘cat’s paw’ of a few designing individuals, who ... have rendered what was originally a constitutional club, one of local party spirit’.37 The agriculturists, operating mainly through the local associations for the apprehension of felons, organized a strong petitioning campaign against amending the corn laws in 1827.38 The Ross petition, left for signature at Jones, Morgan and Hoskins’s Archenfield Bank, protested additionally against high rents and the Small Notes Act, which they petitioned against again, 10 June 1828.39 The pro-Catholic Canning’s succession as premier following Lord Liverpool’s stroke prompted Blakemore, Cotterell, the praelector of the cathedral, Canon Arthur Matthews, and Sir Edwyn Scudamore Stanhope of Holme Lacy to convene an anti-Catholic meeting, 23 May 1827, which sent an address of support to Peel and the seceders. Commenting, the leader writer of The Times remarked that there was ‘no natural connection’ between Peel and Herefordshire, mocked Matthews’s speech ‘stuffed with quotes’ and his obscure supporters and quipped that ‘the eloquence of the city and county, like the old golden pippin cider, is but in few hands’.40 Ten staunch anti-Catholics were admitted to the Herefordshire Pitt Club, 9 Oct. 1827.41 The Dissenters contributed to the petitioning campaign for repeal of the Test Acts in 1827 and 1828, and the clergy’s anti-Catholic petitions were now countered by one from the county’s small Catholic community.42 The Hereford Journal reported that there was strong popular support for hostile petitions when the duke of Wellington as premier conceded Catholic emancipation in 1829, but excepting Hereford and Leominster, few were adopted. Hoskyns’s name headed the requisition for the county meeting on 28 Mar., when, supported by Scudamore Stanhope, he proposed resolutions against the relief bill and letters were read out from Cotterell, supporting them, and from Somers, cautioning against petitioning. Whaley Armitage of Morristone and Cornewall put the case for emancipation, Smythies and Money declared that despite their earlier hostility they were now prepared to support Peel and Wellington, and, with the petition apparently abandoned, Thomas Davies managed to dissolve the meeting before Lechmere Charlton could propose his own anti-Catholic petition. Infuriated, but still cheered on by the mob, he and Blakemore, Matthews and Abraham Whittaker of Lyston House were hounded out before they could speak.43 The Whig banker John Biddulph observed:

The meeting was attended by more freeholders than had been expected, owing to the assizes, and also it being market day at Hereford. It was generally expected that the farmers were against concessions to the Catholics, but it appeared otherwise, and, if not particularly friendly, at least they were not opposed, and certainly seemed inclined to the measure of emancipation. Whether they might have been indifferent to the subject or not, yesterday, so many county gentlemen whom they respected appeared friendly to the measure, they joined with them against the intolerants. The clergy, who generally see their interests pretty clearly, seem quite blind at present, and have done their cause much mischief. It is the interest of the establishment to conciliate the Catholics as support against the encroachments of the Dissenters.44

Protest notices and letters to the press followed, and the lesser clergy ‘bandied about’ a petition that ‘few read’ but many signed asking the king to dissolve Parliament and dismiss his ministers. The Ultras regrouped at a St. George’s Day dinner in Leominster, sponsored by the borough’s recorder, Thomas Harley Rodney.45 Addressing the Pitt Club, 11 Sept. 1829, its president and chairman John Holder Matthews argued against disbanding, as opposing Catholic relief had never been their sole object, and suggested that they take up the agriculturists’ cause.46 Amid ‘general concurrence that government had represented this depression to Parliament in terms far below its actual and universal pressure’, the Herefordshire Agricultural Society proposed petitioning afresh for government action, 8 Feb. 1830, prompting a squabble between Price, who advised against doing so, and Smythies and Cotterell. Their petition was abandoned, but Bromyard and the out-parish of Leominster, where Smythies’s estate lay, provided Cotterell with distress petitions to present, 4, 12 Mar. 1830, and Somers and Smythies protested to Wellington at his government’s inaction.47 Before the dissolution precipitated by the death of George IV, the Ross improvement bill was passed and petitions were presented for criminal law reform and mitigation of the death penalty for forgery.48

Prompted by a request to the freeholders to reserve their votes for an undeclared candidate pledged to oppose ‘every measure calculated to militate against the general welfare by an increasing endeavour to effect a change in the present ruinous system of taxation, and by the adoption of such plans as shall tend to improve the condition of those who are now deeply suffering from the distress of the times’, Cotterell and Price embarked on an arduous personal canvass in July 1830. However, pressure to find third men to force contests at Leominster and at Hereford, where Blakemore, as sheriff, was disqualified from standing, proved greater. On 22 July Biddulph, who declined to second Price’s nomination, observed: ‘There is no probability of opposition or both would go out. They are not popular, or very useful in the House’.49 Cotterell, whose addresses made light of his diehard opposition to Catholic emancipation but reaffirmed his readiness to vote against the ministry on measures opposed by the agriculturists, was proposed by Money, who stressed his votes of conscience, militia service and close residence. His seconder, Canon John Hopton of Frome Court, praised him as a ‘tried and tested’ Member. Price, who in 1829 had succeeded to the baronetcy conferred on his father in 1827 by the Goderich ministry, was sponsored by Knight and Clive as an ‘independent Member’. They stressed the benefits of emancipation, called for changes in the tithe and game laws and a householder franchise and non-interference in France following the deposition of Charles X. Price referred to the deterioration in foreign policy since Canning’s death, and on reform projected himself as a moderate opposed to ‘sudden and comprehensive change in the whole system’, universal suffrage and annual parliaments, but eager to see the franchise of the decayed boroughs transferred to populous places such as Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. He pointedly refused to give an undertaking to the Quakers that he would support all anti-slavery measures. After the chairing, the parties dined at the Hotel and The Green Dragon.50

Both Houses received contributions from Herefordshire congregations to the 1830-1 petitioning campaign against slavery.51 Cotterell divided with and Price against the ministry when they were defeated on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, bringing Price’s friends to office. Petitioning for parliamentary reform was slow to get under way, partly because of its association with the incendiarism and agricultural unrest that led to the appointment of special constables in December 1830.52 In February 1831 a handbill printed and dispatched from London urged the inhabitants of Ross (whose population, excluding Ross Foreign, had risen from 1,979 in 1821 to 2,045 in 1831) and Ledbury (parish population: 3,476 in 1821; 3,909 in 1831) to petition for the restoration of their ancient borough franchises. It noted:

It would be inconvenient to increase the number of Members now sent to the Imperial Parliament by the United Kingdom, and it would be unjust to diminish the number now returned by the county of Hereford. Eight are not too much to represent the county, city and boroughs, but they are unequally divided. Leominster and Weobley send two Members each. Why should not one Member from Leominster and Weobley be transferred to Ross and Ledbury, two populous and thriving towns carrying on a considerable and increasing trade?53

‘Paul Pry’ in the Hereford Journal representing Lechmere Charlton, and ‘Philalethes’, a self-confessed admirer of Knight, who remained one of Lechmere Charlton’s severest critics, urged the Whig gentry to rally for reform and petitions were received by the Commons from Kington and from ‘the freeholders’ of Ross, who also appealed to have their franchise restored, 26 Feb.54 By 1 Mar., when the Grey ministry’s reform bill was introduced, a requisition for a county meeting, headed by Knight, Lechmere Charlton and the former diplomat Sir Harford Jones Brydges of Boultibrooke, Winnington and Kentchurch, a Whig challenger in Radnorshire, awaited signature at the Hotel (where it was wilfully destroyed), and petitioning for reform and reductions in tithes and taxes was in progress in Bromyard, Ledbury and Ross.55 The bill proposed disfranchising Weobley and taking a seat from Leominster, reducing Herefordshire’s tally of Members from eight to five. No increase in county representation was proposed, although the 1821 population was 103,243. The reformers’ second requisition reached the sheriff, Hoskyns’s son-in-law John Arkwright of Hampton Court, and the county meeting that Cotterell as an anti-reformer had dreaded was called for 19 Mar.56 The aristocracy, the Members and Cornewall stayed away and sent their apologies. The principal speaker, Lechmere Charlton, compared the representation of Herefordshire, where the near equality of the parties discouraged contests, to ‘an old fashioned garden’, with the lord lieutenant standing centrally ‘as a fine gravel walk’ and ‘on the one side ... branching out in the political garden, Sir John Cotterell, Lord Eastnor and Lord Hotham [Member for Leominster] ... on the other side Sir Robert Price, Mr. Clive and Mr. Ward [Member for Leominster]’, with the 2nd marquess of Bath’s Members for Weobley ‘placed like little cupids in the walk, to contribute to the ornament of the garden without adding to its use’. He castigated those who had ‘abstracted’ the first requisition, called for ‘sweeping’ reform, for ‘no sticking-plaster of Dr. Peel’s would do’, and entertained the crowd with two petitions full of allusions to the radicals’ demands and the misdeeds of named Tories, before proposing a short one with less ‘cayenne pepper’ for adoption that fully endorsed the bill. Seconding, Knight expressed confidence in the ministry. Money now voiced ‘his full approval’ of the bill and the petition, but criticized the government’s fiscal policies, particularly their failure to reduce the malt duty and assessed taxes, and the undue influence of the clergy. Silencing him, Thomas Davies praised Lechmere Charlton, stressed the merits of the bill as a means of preventing corporations from creating partisan voters at will and urged the petition’s unanimous adoption and the resignations of Cotterell and Price should they fail to support it. Responding to Lechmere Charlton’s challenge to any dissentient to ‘stand forward’, Cannon Arthur Matthews praised Cotterell, criticized Money and Price and accused the latter of being a self-interested ‘reformer of convenience’. He defended the constitution with its alleged faults and the clergy’s work as magistrates and proposed petitioning against the bill, but could find no seconder. Richard Jones Powell, however, criticized the bill’s anomalies and failure to benefit Herefordshire in a well-received speech, and spoke of the danger of universal suffrage, annual parliaments, the ballot and repeal of the Union with Ireland being conceded in its wake. Lechmere Charlton’s petition was unanimously adopted, signed by Arkwright (who disagreed with it) on the meeting’s behalf and presented to the Commons and endorsed by Price, 21 Mar.57 According to Biddulph, ‘all would have gone off quietly had not Colonel Money in his speech alluded to the respectability of the clergy’.58 At a reform dinner to Lechmere Charlton in Hereford, 2 Apr., when he announced that he would stand against Cotterell in the event of a dissolution, a countywide network of committees in Bromyard, Kington, Ledbury, Leominster, Ross and Weobley was immediately established to find and support reform candidates.59 Despite the threat, Cotterell and Eastnor, behind whom the city and county Tories now rallied, publicly denounced the bill and voted for Gascoyne’s amendment by which it was lost, 19 Apr. 1831.60

At a public meeting in Hereford, 23 Apr., which Cotterell hurried from London to address, the Tories adopted a numerously signed and widely publicized declaration opposing reform and endorsing Eastnor and Cotterell, proposed by Hoskyns and Scudamore Stanhope and backed by John Holder and Arthur Matthews and Jones Powell.61 The ploy, although less effective than in the neighbouring counties of Brecon, Monmouth and Radnor, alarmed the Whigs, whose approaches to Biddulph, his son Robert, Cornewall and Knight had proved abortive, and in view of Knight’s antipathy to Lechmere Charlton, they settled on ‘a true reformer’, the banker Hoskins, as their second candidate, ‘to be brought in free of charge’ with Price. Lechmere Charlton, who had publicized his candidature, 23 Apr., made way for them. With his success, financial backing and the support of the clergy in doubt, Cotterell, who had projected himself as a ‘moderate reformer’ dissatisfied with the bill and said that his votes against it were ones of conscience, announced his retirement, 30 Apr.62 The Tories, having secured Eastnor’s return for Hereford the previous day, resolved for the time being to ‘hang our harps upon the willows’ and ‘lament our slavish condition’.63 Ministers had announced on 18 Apr. 1831 that Herefordshire would receive a third county Member and that Leominster’s second seat would be spared. The Hereford Journal observed:

Perhaps a candidate more generally respected by all parties and all ranks, of more estimable private character, or more correct conduct in public life could not have been selected than Mr. Hoskins, and he must have felt the flattering conviction of the estimation in which he is held by all men during his canvass.64

The election, from which the Tories absented themselves, was a celebration of reform and the Whigs’ triumph. Knight and Clive proposed Price, who complimented the reformers on their successes in Leominster and the county and tried to rectify the damage Matthews had inflicted on his reputation as an independent Member and genuine reformer. Cornewall and the Rev. Thomas Powell Symonds of Pengethley, the nephew and heir of the former Member for Hereford, sponsored Hoskins and tried to elicit a public pledge from him to vote for civil and religious liberties, the reform bill with the ballot ‘if necessary’, ‘reform of every existing abuse in the institutions of our country’ and abolition of the placeman and pensions system. Hoskins confirmed his support for the bill, ‘the abolition of slavery and all sinecures and useless places and pensions’. Proceedings concluded with a dinner for the Members and 300 of their supporters in the shire hall.65 The Times later published a strongly worded rent demand sent to one of them, John Adams of New-house, Marden, by his landlord, William Chute Hayton of Wisteson and Moreton Court, who saw ‘no reason why I should oblige in any way those persons who will treat me with ingratitude and disrespect’ and warned that ‘those wiseacres who have been so hot-headed in support of it [the bill]’ would ‘live to rue the day of its commencement’.66 Ross celebrated Hoskins’s success at a dinner chaired by Philip Jones of Sugwas.67

The Tories turned out in force for a public dinner to Cotterell, 28 July 1831, chaired by Thomas Harley Rodney, supported by James Somers Cocks and Archdeacon Wetherell, who claimed that Cotterell had retained the clergy’s support ‘to the last’. Hoskyns, Arthur Matthews, the Pateshalls and Scudamore Stanhope all praised him, and Hoskyns proposed a toast to Edward Thomas Foley of Stoke Edith as his likely successor. Foley, however, would not be committed.68 As expected, Price and Hoskins gave the reintroduced reform bill their steady support; but Price proved to be more of a ‘ministerialist’ than Hoskins, and by his vote against the Chandos clause enfranchising £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug. 1831, he was perceived to be letting the agriculturists down and putting national before constituency interests. Unlike the other counties named in clause 13, which was passed with an amendment restricting each voter to two votes, 13 Aug., the award of a third Member to Herefordshire attracted little comment.69 After the Commons passed the bill in September 1831, meetings at Hereford, Ledbury, Leominster and Ross petitioned urging the Lords to support it and protested when it was rejected.70 The Whig aristocracy, the Members and the leading Herefordshire and Radnorshire reformers signed the requisition and attended the county meeting, 5 Nov. 1831. Cornewall, Knight, Sir John Walsham, Dr. Meyrick of Ross, Symonds, Lord Oxford, Price, Hoskins, Clive, Jones Brydges and William Romilly were the main speakers, and in the Tories’ absence their petition in support of the reform bill was passed unanimously and criticism reserved for the conduct of the bishops and the government’s game bill.71 Afterwards Cornewall, who vainly hoped that the extinct Fownhope barony would be restored to his family, lost no time in reminding his old friend Lord Holland of his contribution to the reformers’ cause and the widespread support for it in Herefordshire, conveniently forgetting the elevation of a fellow Whig, the 10th earl of Meath, to the British peerage as Baron Chaworth of Eaton Hall (Leominster), when he claimed that the county had only two peers, ‘Lord Oxford, who favours the bill, and Lord Somers, who certainly in his heart is against it’.72 Meanwhile the Tories, led by Cotterell, Eastnor, Foley, Hoskyns, the Harley Rodneys, Scudamore Stanhope and the chairman of the quarter sessions and deputy steward of Hereford Edwin Poole of Homend, chose not to meet publicly, but sent an address to the king ‘deprecating the ministerial measure of reform’.73 Price and Hoskins, who were now formally excluded from Hereford city functions, gave the revised reform bill their steady support, and when its defeat in the Lords put a ministry headed by Wellington in contemplation, meetings at Ross, 14 May, and Ledbury, 18 May 1832, petitioned the Commons to withhold supplies. Grey’s return to office rendered their presentation unnecessary.74 Petitioning against slavery and for mitigation of the death penalty for non-violent crime now revived, and Price’s pro-government speech against Fowell Buxton’s amendment for the immediate establishment of a committee on colonial slavery, which Clive and Hoskins voted for, 24 May 1832, angered many Whig freeholders, who, like the agriculturists and the glovers, criticized him for putting loyalty to administration before their needs.75

The reform bill’s passage in June was celebrated with public feasts and dinners in Kington, Ledbury, and Ross, which with Bromyard, Leominster and Hereford became the polling towns for the new three Member constituency. Under the Boundary Act Herefordshire gained Foothog and Welsh Bicknor from Monmouthshire, to which it lost Bwlch and part of Trellick; while Farloe chapelry was transferred to Shropshire South, Rochford to Worcestershire West and Litton and Cascob to Radnorshire.76 Price and Hoskins were expected to stand again, and interest at the first post-reform election centred on the bitter contest for Hereford and Tory tactics in the county, where, on 23 July, John Barneby of Brockhampton, who had declared early, made way for his fellow Conservative Foley. Complaints concerning the registration of Herefordshire’s 4,970 voters ran high, and speculation that the ‘Conservatives, as they now call themselves’ would force a contest by supporting Jones Powell, Poole or Scudamore Stanhope against Price persisted until shortly before the election in December 1832, when Foley, Hoskins and Price came in unopposed.77 The Liberal-Conservative balance remained undisturbed until 1841.

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 196-7; Gent. Mag. (1815), ii. 631; Add. 38286, ff. 282, 312, 219; 38573, f. 127; J.J. Sack, The Grenvillites, 168; W.H. Cooke, Duncumbe Hist. Herefs. iv. 119, 191.
  • 2. Add. 38280, f. 12.
  • 3. TNA C110/96 (i), Peploe to Jay, 14 Nov.; The Times, 16 Nov. 1819; Hereford Jnl. 26 Jan. 1820.
  • 4. Hereford Jnl. 2, 9 Feb. 1820.
  • 5. Ibid. 16, 23 Feb., 1, 8 Mar. 1820.
  • 6. Herefs. RO AS53, Clive to Brooks, 17 Mar. 1820; TNA C110/96 (ii), Cornewall to Jay, 11 Jan. 1822.
  • 7. Worcs. RO, Lechmere mss, Beauchamp to Lechmere, 17 Feb. 1820.
  • 8. TNA C110/96 (ii), Cornewall to Jay, 9 Feb. 1820.
  • 9. Lechmere mss, Beauchamp to Lechmere, 17 Feb.; Herefs. RO AS53, Clive to Brooks, 17 Mar.; Hereford Jnl. 8, 15, 22 Mar. 1820.
  • 10. CJ, lxxv. 201, 216; LJ, liii. 68.
  • 11. Hereford Jnl. 21 June 1820.
  • 12. The Times, 18 Sept., 17, 21 Nov., 15 Dec. 1820, 16 Nov. 1821; Hereford Jnl. 15, 22, 29 Nov., 6, 13, 20, 27 Dec. 1820, 3, 10, 17, 24 Jan., 14 Mar. 1821.
  • 13. CJ, lxxvi. 22; The Times, 2 Feb. 1821.
  • 14. CJ, lxxvi. 143; The Times, 7 Mar. 1821.
  • 15. CJ, lxxvi. 211; LJ, liv. 152, 157, 167; lv. 221; lviii. 570; The Times, 29, 31 Mar. 1821, 14 May 1825.
  • 16. Herefs. RO, Pateshall mss A95/V/W/g/1-21; Hereford Jnl. 18, 25 July 1821.
  • 17. Hereford Jnl., 17, 24 Oct.; The Times, 14 Dec. 1821, 8, 24 Jan., 6 Feb. 1822.
  • 18. CJ, lxxvii. 27, 118; Hereford Jnl. 9 Jan.; The Times, 16, 22 Feb., 19 Mar. 1822.
  • 19. Hereford Jnl. 20 Feb., 1, 29 May; The Times, 8 Mar. 1822; CJ, lxxvii. 337; LJ, lv. 523, 628.
  • 20. Hereford Jnl. 13, 27 Nov., 11, 18 Dec.; The Times, 26 Nov., 6, 11, 20 Dec. 1822.
  • 21. Pateshall mss A95/V/EB/401, 404; Hereford Jnl. 8, 15 Jan.; The Times, 10 Jan. 1823.
  • 22. Grey mss, Ellice to Grey, 14, 21 Jan.; The Times, 20, 28 Jan.; Hereford Jnl. 22, 29 Jan. 1823.
  • 23. Clive mss cited in S.J. Johnston, ‘Hereford City: Parliamentary Elections and Political Culture, 1818-1841’ (Manchester Univ. M.Phil. thesis, 1995), 385.
  • 24. The Times, 28 Jan., 22, 25 Feb.; CJ, lxxviii. 58; LJ, lv. 532.
  • 25. Hereford Jnl. 29 Jan.; CJ, lxxviii. 76.
  • 26. The Times, 28 Jan., 1, 10, 22, 28 Feb.; Hereford Jnl. 5, 19 Feb., 5 Mar. 1823.
  • 27. Pateshall mss A95/V/EB/414-33, 439; The Times, 18 Mar. 1823.
  • 28. The Times, 3 June 1823; CJ, lxxviii. 357, 389.
  • 29. Hereford Jnl. 12, 19 Feb. 1823, 21 Jan., 17, 24 Mar., 23 June, 20 Oct. 1824; The Times, 21 Feb. 1823; CJ, lxxviii. 49, 96, 102, 253, 337; lxxix. 132, 177; LJ, lv. 628.
  • 30. CJ, lxxix. 405, 427; lxxx. 380; Hereford Independent, 18 June 1825.
  • 31. CJ, lxxvi. 350; lxxvii. 309, 316; Hereford Jnl. 17 Apr.; The Times, 5 June 1822; C.A.V. Morgan, Nathaniel Morgan, (Ross-on-Wye and District Civic Society, Pink Publication No. 7, 1995), 12.
  • 32. The Times, 13 Mar. 1824; Hereford Jnl. 1 Feb. 1826; CJ, lxxix. 155; lxxxi. 21, 106; LJ, lv. 221.
  • 33. CJ, lxxix. 405; lxxx. 380; lxxxi. 45, 377; The Times, 25 May 1824, 6 May 1825; Hereford Independent, 13 Nov. 1824, 18 June 1825.
  • 34. Hereford Independent, 17, 24 Dec. 1825, 7 Jan., 25 Feb., 18 Mar., 1, 15 Apr. 1826; Hereford Jnl. 21, 28 Dec. 1825, 15, 22, 29 Mar., 5, 12, 19 Apr., 3 May; The Times, 4 Apr. 1826; Herefs. RO X21, notice of Kington and Radnorshire bank; TNA C110/97, corresp. of T. Jay, 1826 passim. See HEREFORD and LEOMINSTER.
  • 35. Fitzwilliam mss 125/16.
  • 36. Hereford Jnl. 7, 14, 21 June; Worcester Herald, 24 June 1826.
  • 37. Hereford Jnl. 18, 25 Oct., 1, 15 Nov.; The Times, 28 Nov. 1826.
  • 38. Hereford Jnl. 7, 14, 21, 28 Feb., 14, 21 Mar.; The Times, 22 Feb. 1827; CJ, lxxxii. 206, 239; lxxxiii. 420.
  • 39. The Times, 2 Mar. 1827; CJ, lxxvii. 245; lxxviii. 420; LJ, lix. 89.
  • 40. Hereford Jnl. 16, 30 May, 6 June; The Times, 29 May; Detailed Report of Public Meeting at Hereford; Fitzwilliam mss, Price to Milton, 4 Oct. 1827.
  • 41. Hereford Jnl. 3, 10 Oct.; The Times 11, 12 Oct.; Hereford Independent, 20 Oct. 1827.
  • 42. Hereford Jnl. 3 Oct. 1827; CJ, lxxxiii. 264, 277.
  • 43. Hereford Jnl. 28 Jan., 18 Feb., 4, 18, 25 Mar., 1 Apr.; The Times, 31 Mar. 1829; CJ, lxxxiv. 72, 98, 114, 141; LJ, lxi. 46; Herefs. RO, diaries of John Biddulph of Ledbury [Biddulph diary] G2/IV/J/55, 6 Feb., 9, 17 Mar. 1829.
  • 44. Biddulph diary G2/IV/J/55, 28 Mar. 1829.
  • 45. Hereford Jnl. 1, 8, 15 Apr.; Biddulph diary G2/IV/J/55, 3 Apr. 1829.
  • 46. Hereford Jnl. 16 Sept. 1829.
  • 47. Ibid. 10 Feb. 1830; Wellington mss WP1/1095/4; 1100/12.
  • 48. CJ, lxxxv. 42, 120, 126, 342, 357, 360, 463, 499; LJ, lxii. 575, 772.
  • 49. Hereford Jnl. 7, 14, 21, 28 July, 4 Aug.; TNA HO43/38, Phillipps to Blakemore, 14 July; Biddulph diary G2/IV/J/57, 21-22 July 1830; Pateshall mss A95/V/W/C/382-394.
  • 50. Hereford Jnl. 11 Aug. 1830.
  • 51. Ibid. 8, 15, 22 Nov. 1830; CJ, lxxxvi. 47, 61, 126; LJ, lxiii. 448.
  • 52. The Times, 29 Nov., 1 Dec.; Hereford Jnl. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 Dec. 1830, 19 Jan. 1831; TNA HO40/27 (3).
  • 53. NLW, Facs 746, Belmont Abbey mss 5.
  • 54. Hereford Jnl. 2, 9 Feb. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 309.
  • 55. Hereford Jnl. 23 Feb., 2 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 416.
  • 56. Ibid. 9, 16 Mar. 1831; Pateshall mss A95/V/EB/609.
  • 57. Hereford Jnl. 23, 30 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 416.
  • 58. Biddulph diary G2/IV/5/59, 19 Mar. 1831.
  • 59. Hereford Jnl. 30 Mar., 6 Apr.; The Times, 11 Apr. 1831.
  • 60. Pateshall mss A95/V/EB/595; Hereford Jnl. 20 Apr. 1831.
  • 61. Hereford Jnl. 27 Apr. 1831.
  • 62. Pateshall mss A95/V/W/a/130, 24-30 Apr.; Biddulph diary G2/IV/J/59, 26, 28, 30 Apr., 1 May; Hereford Jnl. 27 Apr.; Globe, 30 Apr., 2 May 1831. See BRECONSHIRE, MONMOUTHSHIRE, RADNORSHIRE.
  • 63. Biddulph diary G2/IV/J/59, 19 Apr. 1831; Herefs. RO, Cotterell fam. pprs. W69/IV/33. See LEOMINSTER.
  • 64. Hereford Jnl. 4 May 1831.
  • 65. Ibid. 11 May 1831.
  • 66. The Times, 9 May 1831.
  • 67. Ibid. 28 May 1831.
  • 68. Hereford Jnl. 27 July, 3 Aug. 1831.
  • 69. The Times, 13, 14 Aug.; Hereford Jnl. 17, 24 Aug. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 749, 753.
  • 70. Hereford Jnl. 28 Sept., 5, 12, 19, 26 Oct. 1831; LJ, lxiii. 1008, 1021, 1071.
  • 71. Hereford Jnl. 19, 26 Oct., 9 Nov.; Biddulph diary G2/IV/J/60, 5 Nov. 1831.
  • 72. Herefs. RO, Moccas coll. J56/IV/16, Cornewall-Meath corresp. 1831-3; Add. 51836, Cornewall to Holland, 14 Oct. 1831. For Somers’s views see Grey mss, Somers to Grey, 23, 29 Sept., reply 26 Sept. 1831; Wellington mss WP1/1196/4.
  • 73. Hereford Jnl. 23 Nov. 1831, 4 Jan. 1832.
  • 74. Ibid. 16, 23 May 1832.
  • 75. CJ, lxxxvii. 156, 336; LJ, liv. 251; Hereford Jnl. 30 May, 6 June 1832.
  • 76. Hereford Jnl. 13, 20, 27 June 1832.
  • 77. Biddulph diary G2/IV/J/61, 9 June 1832; G2/IV/J/62, passim; Hereford Jnl. 20, 27 June, 4, 25 July, 8 Aug.-22 Dec. 1832.