Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Estimated number qualified to vote:
300-400 in 18311
Number of voters:
284 in 18262
12,253 (1821); 13,370 (1831)3
|9 Mar. 1820||HORATIO WALPOLE, Lord Walpole|
|SIR MARTIN BROWNE FFOLKES, bt.|
|9 Jan. 1822||WILLIAM HENRY CAVENDISH SCOTT BENTINCK, mq. of Titchfield vice Browne Ffolkes, deceased|
|29 June 1822||HON. JOHN WALPOLE vice Walpole, called to the Upper House||156|
|Sir William John Martin Browne Ffolkes, bt.||92|
|19 Mar. 1824||WILLIAM JOHN CAVENDISH SCOTT BENTINCK, mq. of Titchfield vice Titchfield deceased||177|
|Sir William John Martin Browne Ffolkes||89|
|10 June 1826||HON. JOHN WALPOLE||199|
|LORD WILLIAM HENRY CAVENDISH BENTINCK||174|
|Sir William John Martin Browne Ffolkes||104|
|4 Feb. 1828||LORD WILLIAM GEORGE FREDERICK CAVENDISH BENTINCK vice Cavendish Bentinck, vacated his seat|
|30 July 1830||LORD WILLIAM GEORGE FREDERICK CAVENDISH BENTINCK||78|
|HON. JOHN WALPOLE||73|
|Sir William John Martin Browne Ffolkes, bt.||8|
|2 May 1831||LORD WILLIAM PITT LENNOX|
|LORD WILLIAM GEORGE FREDERICK CAVENDISH BENTINCK|
Through the acquiescence of the Bagge, Blencowe, Bowker, Everard and Hogge families - the interrelated merchant oligarchy of ship owners, shipbuilders, chandlers, coal dealers, bankers and brewers who dominated the corporation of 12 aldermen and 18 common councillors - the commercial town of King’s Lynn or Lynn Regis had been represented since 1790 by its long-established patrons, the Walpoles, earls of Orford, now anti-Catholic ministerialists, and the Foxite Whig Sir Martin Browne Ffolkes, who, in the right of his wife, represented the interest of the Turners of Warham. The borough had not polled since 1784, but party organization persisted in the Blue and Orange clubs and public houses, and ‘battles’ for control of the spacious Tuesday marketplace, where the hustings were erected, and the route thence to the guildhall were commonplace. The mayor (the returning officer) was chosen annually, 29 Aug., from the 12 aldermen and installed at Michaelmas, which with the February ‘mart dinner’ marked the civic year. In 1835 the municipal corporations commissioners concluded that the corporation, which vetted freeman admissions by apprenticeship (seven years), birth and gift and controlled annual revenues of £7,000, did not abuse their power and that the town was efficiently managed; but the restricted franchise and preference for including merchants and excluding tradesmen from the select body had created tensions. The efforts of disaffected corporators and excluded tradesmen resulted in an opposition, culled mainly from the Blues, being threatened at most parliamentary elections.4 The prosperity of King’s Lynn depended on its port and the Ouse navigation; and the failure, at a cost of £12,000, of the corporation’s bid to prevent the passage of the 1818 Eau Brink Act authorizing the three-mile cut which ultimately altered the harbour channel, was to determine Lynn politics for over a decade, as the corporation sought a patron of political weight to represent their interests, which frequently conflicted with those of the neighbouring Marshland, the Eau Brink commissioners and the Bedford Level Corporation.5
At the general election of 1820 Browne Ffolkes was 70 and in poor health, and Lord Walpole, then absent in Dresden, was expected soon to succeed his father, the 2nd earl of Orford, high steward of the borough. Deputizing, Orford’s second son Colonel John Walpole canvassed jointly with Browne Ffolkes and their sponsors on the corporation on his brother’s behalf; their opponents bided their time and they were returned unopposed.6 The 1820 spring tides brought severe flooding to the area and on 9 June the Agricultural Society, who were denied the powerful backing of the county Member Thomas Coke I, petitioned for relief from distress, as they did again in 1821 and 1822; they also petitioned for protection, 28 Apr. 1825, 7 Mar. 1827.7 Hitherto the corporation had successfully moderated and countered pro-reform resolutions and petitions adopted by the Lynn radicals led by the merchant William Ayre and the grocer Joseph Andrews, and they adopted the same tactic at the borough meeting on 24 Nov. 1820, convened to ‘congratulate the king and queen’ on the termination of the queen’s prosecution.8 The mayor, Scarlett Everard, refused to sanction Ayre’s resolutions of support for Queen Caroline and the corporation petitioned and addressed the king separately.9 The ‘erect tone ... and independent spirit’ of their ‘self-styled loyal address’ induced The Times to comment that it seemed to ‘have no business’ among the 27 Gazetted, 6 Jan., and demonstrated it by italicizing passages:
Alike adverse to those factious and seditious spirits whose sole desire is to seize opportunities for turbulence and disorder, and to that venal tribe who on public questions move only at the beck of those in power, we take the liberty of declaring our firm determination to support the constitution and government of our country as by law established ... confident that what has been framed and fostered by the wisdom and patriotism of our ancestors is the safest guide for our happiness and prosperity. We request, however, that in thus assuring Your Majesty of our unfeigned attachment to your royal person and the constitution of our country, we may not be supposed to express any opinion on the inquiry which has lately occupied the attention of Parliament, or upon the general measures of administration.10
The town and inhabitants’ moderate petition ‘for the introduction’ of Caroline’s name to the liturgy was presented to the Commons by Dr. Stephen Lushington, 13 Feb. 1821.11 In August, when the queen died, the tradesmen closed their shops as a mark of respect.12 Meanwhile, at meetings in Lynn, 23 Nov., 8 Dec. 1820, the Eau Brink and the River Ouse commissioners sought a means of defraying arrears attributable to the tax exemptions claimed by local landowners under the 1794 Act and instigated a new Eau Brink bill, which, after much petitioning and counter-petitioning, received royal assent, 28 May 1821.13 The cut authorized in 1818 was opened on 28 July, scouring the channel and silting the staiths.14
Browne Ffolkes’s death on 11 Dec. 1821 brought the expected vacancy, and the corporation immediately offered their interest at the ensuing by-election to the 4th duke of Portland’s brother Lord William Bentinck, a colonial official and Whig Member for Nottinghamshire, who was also a Marshland proprietor with an estate in North Lynn and a reputation as an innovative landlord and effective lobbyist on Eau Brink matters.15 On the 16th he informed the duke:
This [was] offered to me in the most handsome manner, free of all expense and with every probability of permanency. This seat would suit me in many respects better than the one I now hold, but as there are so many considerations depending upon it, I have thought it better at once to go and consult you and I shall be at Welbeck tomorrow to dinner.16
They decided against hazarding a by-election in Nottinghamshire and agreed to put forward Portland’s heir Lord Titchfield, Member for Bletchingley, as Lord William’s locum until the next general election. His candidature was announced on the 19th and he canvassed Lynn with Lord William from 24 to 26 Dec., spending £500 with a further £400 set aside for the post-election dinner. Portland also bought additional land in North Lynn.17 According to Lord William Lennox, who came in for Lynn in 1831, Titchfield secured the backing of the corporation at a meeting arranged by Coke at Holkham.18 Browne Ffolkes’s son and heir Sir William, a pro-reform Whig, was also in the field, but he was barred through mourning from canvassing personally and, perceiving that he ‘should only involve the town in useless dissensions by coming to the poll against such powerful opposition’, he desisted with a promise ‘to stand a contest if the smallest hope of success can be entertained’.19 Accounting for the choice of a candidate ‘wholly unconnected with the borough and indeed quite unknown to the greater part of the burgesses’, Alderman George Hogge stressed the advantage of having a Member ‘not only of talent and respectability but of weight and influence in the state’, as evidenced by Titchfield’s speech on 27 June 1821 for Hume’s retrenchment motion, and Lord William’s work on the 1821 Eau Brink Drainage Act. Responding, Titchfield professed himself ‘wholly unconnected with party’ and claimed that he was ‘under no restrictions whatsoever’ as Member for Lynn. The election concluded with dinner at the Crown Tavern in Church Street, the venue of the Blues, and a ball in the town hall.20 William Cobbett† paid his first visit to Lynn, 1 Jan. 1822, and on the 29th 200 dined at the Duke’s Head, where a petition calling for parliamentary reform as a means of alleviating agricultural distress was adopted and forwarded to Coke for presentation.21 Lynn also petitioned the Commons that session for remission of Henry Hunt’s* sentence, 24 Apr., and against the poor removal bill, 1 June, and any relaxation of the navigation laws, 31 May. On 18 July 1822 the inhabitants petitioned in favour of the beer bill, which, as brewers with tied houses, the Foxites Thomas Bagge and John Maxey Allen opposed.22 According to its instigator Henry Grey Bennet, between them the corporation owned 88 beer houses.23
News of Orford’s death on 15 June 1822 brought Browne Ffolkes, who had taken his freedom and hosted a mart dinner, 14 Feb., back into the field. He commenced his personal canvass on 16 June, supported by his kinsman James Browne*, Henry Elsden of Congham, the wine merchant Edward Manning and the leading Blues Ayre and Edmund Rolfe of Sedgfield, who became his nominators. They anticipated a close contest against Walpole, the corporation and Orange party candidate, who on account of his father’s funeral could not appear before the 26th, the eve of the election.24 Only three or four tradesmen’s windows in the High Street exhibited Orange favours.25 Walpole, an army colonel earning £700 a year, was lampooned as a family placeman. His proposers were John Prescott Blencowe and John Bramall Toosey of Feltwell, supported by their fellow aldermen Edward Everard, Thomas Bagge, George Hogge and Lionel Self. Parliamentary reform was called for as a means of making Lynn ‘independent’ and the election was fought on local issues. Amid mounting violence, which ‘appeared to be led by some bankers’ working on the Eau Brink cut, the Orange party’s booth was demolished, the hustings and market cross were damaged and polling forcibly interrupted. As the corporation fled to the nearby Duke’s Head and thence to Bagge’s house for safety, the Riot Act was read and the Suffolk yeomanry and dragoons from Norwich were summoned to keep the peace. Polling concluded on the 29th with the tally at 156-92 for Walpole. Twenty-five votes tendered for Ffolkes were rejected. Walpole was denied a hearing and not chaired. Denouncing the corporation’s hunt for voters in the dockyards of Chatham, Deptford and Greenwich (who voted five to three for Walpole), Ayre compared the corporation to
one family. It is not a Holy Alliance, but a corporation alliance ... The influence possessed by this body is very extensive, because not a single place can be given away but through them ... Lord Walpole ... must have been the lawful wife of the corporation ... Browne Ffolkes ... nothing but their kept mistress ... We are determined, however, to move for a bill to divorce the Walpole family from the corporation.26
According to the mariner Thomas Armes:
No less than 51 amenable young men all having promised, under the influence of other high caste promises to do their duty in the right way, were admitted to the great privilege confirmed by the burgesses’ letter. They did the duty assigned and poor Sir William Ffolkes was stumped accordingly.27
Borough records confirm the 51 admissions on 21 and 26 June and that most were former apprentices of members of the merchant oligarchy; but 26 voted for Walpole and 20 for Browne Ffolkes. One-hundred-and-sixty-two voters (61 per cent) were resident and at 104-48 their support for Walpole was overwhelming. The eight South Lynn votes were all for Browne Ffolkes, who also carried the London vote by ten to four. The remaining 74 non-residents voted by 48-26 for Walpole, giving him a narrow majority of eight among the out-voters.28 Walpole’s friends consolidated their strength at Michaelmas 1822 by securing the election of their former Member the 3rd earl of Orford as high steward and his brother-in-law Martin John West as recorder, but the corporation dinner was more remarkable for Titchfield’s speech declaring his continued opposition to the ministry in which his uncle George Canning was foreign secretary.29 At Thetford assizes in March 1823 three of the election rioters were convicted and the mayor John Maxey Allen obtained a ruling against Ayre for the demolition of the hustings. A mandamus action brought by the Blues against the corporation for levying a borough rate to pay for the damage failed when king’s bench ruled that the hustings were not a building.30 The inhabitants petitioned for the ‘gradual’ abolition of slavery, 19 Feb. 1824.31
The sudden death on 5 Mar. 1824 of Titchfield caused another by-election, the third that Parliament involving Browne Ffolkes, who stated on announcing his candidature, 10 Mar.:
I do not stand forward as the opponent of any gentleman, but principally with a view to renew that connection which has so long subsisted between this town and my family; and I sincerely hope this contest may be conducted with that courtesy and good will which it has always been my most anxious wish should be manifested.32
Against him, and with corporation backing, Lord William put forward the late Member’s next eldest brother, now also styled Lord Titchfield, and canvassed personally in his place.33 Popular opposition to the Bentincks as Dutch strangers and Orangemen was rife, and Browne Ffolkes, who was proposed by the merchant Edmund Elsden, with Rolfe seconding, campaigned for corporation reform. Both candidates were Whigs and the contest was perceived as one ‘between two parties in the town itself’. Ayre, the self-styled spokesman of the ‘independents’, again criticized ‘Walpole rule’ and ‘hereditary MPs’ and accused Everard, Blencowe and Bagge of manipulating voters. The absent Titchfield’s proposers, Henry Hogge and Self, both Foxite Whigs, appealed to the sympathy vote and Lord William’s reputation, and 200 special constables kept the peace. The voters polled ‘one per minute’ and Titchfield led throughout, gaining almost twice as many votes as Browne Ffolkes.34 At the dinner at the Duke’s Head on the 20th, Blencowe contrasted the radicalism of Ayre with the moderation of Browne Ffolkes, while Lord William alluded to the proposal made to him in December 1821 and spoke on Eau Brink matters. At the Crown Tavern the next day Elsden eulogized Coke and congratulated the Londoner James Rayner on his organization of the out-voters, while Rolfe appealed for plumpers and a subscription for Browne Ffolkes at the next general election. Their partisans attributed the independents’ defeat to new freeman creations, of which there had been 32 since the last election, including 7 on 17 Mar., and the deployment of the corporation finances against them.35 Comparison with 1822 shows a seven per cent increase in the number polled (266). The resident vote (164) remained steady at 61 per cent, and their votes for Browne Ffolkes unchanged at 48, but, at 116, there was an eight per cent swing to the corporation candidate. The corporation carried the non-resident vote by 61-41 and owed their success to the increased South Lynn vote which they carried by 23-4, and the erosion of Browne Ffolkes’s majority among the London out-voters to nine to eight, which more than countered the independents’ limited achievement in almost matching their tally among the remaining out-voters (30-28). Of the 248 1822 voters, 205 (83 per cent) voted again in 1824: 128 Orange or corporation voters (52 per cent) transferred from Walpole to Titchfield; 66 independents (27 per cent) remained loyal to Browne Ffolkes, 11 switched from Browne Ffolkes to Titchfield and two from Walpole to Browne Ffolkes.
Walpole took charge of the South Lynn poor bill, which transferred the liability for rates from owners to occupiers and provided for a new workhouse; it became law, 15 Apr. 1824.36 Petitions from the journeymen shoemakers for repeal of the combination laws and from the ship owners, ship masters and mariners against naval impressment were entrusted to Joseph Hume and received by the Commons, 25 Mar, 10 June 1824.37 Gas lighting was provided privately in 1825 after the failure of an attempt to establish a company by subscription.38 With a view to repairing damage to the harbour, a town meeting on 14 Nov. 1824 resolved to sponsor a new Eau Brink bill, and at Ely on 9 Dec. the Eau Brink commissioners decided to try to reconcile their differences with the Marshland proprietors, whose representatives Browne Ffolkes, Thomas Hoseason of Banklands (Lord William’s storekeeper as governor of Madras) and Self pressed for ‘nothing short of widening the Eau Brink Cut and taking down Denver Sluice’. This the Bedford Level Corporation refused to sanction, 21 Jan., but they conceded the need for improvements at King’s Lynn, and after their petitions killed off the 1825 Eau Brink bill, 22 Apr., they contributed £592 7s. 8d. towards its cost of £3,246 2s. 7d.39 At Ely on 24 May 1825 Lord William negotiated a compromise which secured financial compensation for the King’s Lynn merchants, and the Eau Brink commissioners agreed to the future widening of the cut provided no action was taken against them for the next two years. On 14 June the matter was referred to a joint committee, whose members included Blencowe, Browne Ffolkes and the King’s Lynn attorney in charge of the 1825 bill, Frederick Lane, who was also the family lawyer of 3rd earl of Orford and the Greville Howards of nearby Castle Rising.40 During the 1825-6 banking crisis Edward Everard and Blencowe purchased the Lynn Bank from Bagge and Bacon for £6,057.41 Attention now focused on municipal improvements, the Norwich and Wisbech turnpikes, and the proposed Cross Keys bridge and embankment across the Wash, for which £3,620 was raised by subscription and legislation carried unopposed shortly before the dissolution in June 1826.42
Reports of an intended opposition and increased activity in the clubs had circulated since March 1826, and Blencowe as mayor insisted on a joint personal canvass by Walpole and Lord William, who had lately financed corporation dinners and whose declaration on 1 June coincided with Titchfield’s retirement through ‘ill health’.43 He arrived to canvass, 3 June, having, like the Tory Walpole, promised in his address to ‘continue to follow, moderately but firmly, the same line of politics which I have hitherto professed’.44 On the hustings, they and their proposers, George Hogge, Bagge, Self and Edward Everard, tried to avoid detailing their views on national issues and thereby exposing their political differences. Ayre was keen to exploit them and criticized Walpole for his ministerialist votes and both Members for voting against abolishing the impressment of seamen.45 Goaded by taunts of ‘coalition’ and ‘mere family transfer’, Lord William conceded the similarities between his politics and those of Ayre, and maintained that
this election ... is a contest between Messrs. Ayre and Andrews, and the leading gentlemen in the town. It is a question, whether Members shall be introduced by ... Ayre and Andrews, or by the principal inhabitants of Lynn. I am ... a reformer ... [and] agree entirely in thinking it would be highly desirable that the respectable inhabitants in this, as in every other town, should have a voice in the election of Members to serve in Parliament.46
His words echoed those of Browne Ffolkes and his proposer Elsden. Over 700 seamen, most of them unfranchised, backed Browne Ffolkes and chaired him daily to the hustings, and 250 special constables were deployed to keep the peace. Walpole and Bentinck led throughout the two-day poll, and with the tally at Walpole 199, Bentinck 174 and Browne Ffolkes 104, Sir William thanked his ‘89 plumpers’, among whom he included those ‘who gave single votes to one of my adversaries’, hoping thereby to return him in second place. He sympathized with ‘those compelled to vote against me’ and declared that he would not stand again.47 There had been no pre-poll surge in freeman creation, but 20 had been admitted since the last election in 1824, and at 284 there was a further seven per cent increase in the number polled.48 According to Mugridge’s edition of the pollbook, 91 (32 per cent) plumped, 73 for Browne Ffolkes, 17 for Walpole and one for Bentinck. Of the 193 (68 per cent) who cast split votes, 162, more than five-sixths, voted for both corporation candidates: 20 (including 16 residents) for Walpole and Browne Ffolkes and 11 (including ten residents) for Bentinck and Browne Ffolkes. The resident vote had increased by 27 to 193 (68 per cent), of whom 41 plumped for Browne Ffolkes, 11 for Walpole and one for Bentinck. One-hundred-and-fourteen (59 per cent) split votes between the corporation candidates and 26 (13 per cent) between the parties. The 91 out-voters favoured the corporation candidates by 48-32, six plumped for Walpole and only five split their votes between the parties. Of the 248 1822 voters, 200 (81 per cent) voted again in 1826: 105 (42 per cent) remained loyal to the corporation candidates, 14 plumped for Walpole, and 45 (18 per cent) for Browne Ffolkes. There were 12 defectors to the corporation candidates, among them Armes and the baker John Danderson, and five, including the mariners Thomas and Joseph Flegg, to the independents; 19 split their votes between the parties.
Influenced by Hoseason, who was made an honorary freeman at Michaelmas 1826, and concerned at the depressed state of shipping, the corporation and inhabitants petitioned the Commons for retention of the corn laws, 7 Mar., and against tariff reform, 14 Mar. 1827.49 The Dissenters contributed petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 7, 12 June.50 Shortly before his death in August, Canning, as premier, appointed Lord William governor-general of Bengal. Assured that the posting would proceed despite ministerial changes, he made the usual overtures to the corporation and in December canvassed King’s Lynn with Portland’s third son, Canning’s former private secretary Lord George Bentinck, who informed Portland, 4 Dec. 1827:
I returned from Lynn yesterday ... I found the result of the consideration of the subject of my return by the principal gentlemen ... to be that I should not canvass the town till immediately before the annunciation of my uncle’s retreat and their wish is that this should not occur till after the conclusion of their mart, which commences the 16th of February and endures six weeks, in order to avoid having the election during a time when the town would be full of people and those generally drunken. They professed however to desire to suit my convenience as far as possible. I therefore told them that I was anxious to take my place in Parliament at its meeting and that ... as I am to have no opposition ... we might get the whole business over before the gathering for their mart commenced. Under these circumstances they will I conceive have no objection to conform to my wishes ... I shall therefore immediately communicate on the subject with Mr. Hogge, the mayor of Lynn.51
Notwithstanding complaints of nepotism, he came in unopposed, 4 Feb. 1828, proposed by Self and Blencowe. At the Duke’s Head afterwards Bentinck, a Canningite opposed to the duke of Wellington’s administration, likened his political views to Blencowe’s but insisted that he was ‘bound by no party’.52 The Dissenters, 21 Feb., 24 Apr., and Unitarians, 22 Feb., 24 Apr., petitioned both Houses for repeal of the Test Acts in 1828, and the latter petitioned with others in the town and neighbourhood for Catholic emancipation, 26 Feb., 10 Mar. 1829, for which both Members voted.53 The merchants, possibly encouraged by Bentinck, petitioned the Commons against the importation of foreign wool, 18 Apr., and reimportation of duty free foreign corn via the Isle of Man, 28 Apr. 1828. According to The Times, they also petitioned in favour of re-exporting bonded corn ground as ‘flour or biscuit’, 22 Apr. The growers and traders objected to the sliding scale stipulated in the Wellington ministry’s corn bill by petitioning the Lords, 14 June 1828. In April 1829, the ‘privilege’ of warehousing and bonding was extended to King’s Lynn.54 Before the dissolution in 1830 the chemists and druggists petitioned the Commons, 21 May, and the Lords, 4 June, for repeal of the stamp duty on medicines, and the Dissenters and inhabitants petitioned both Houses for mitigation of the death penalty for forgery and criminal law reform.55 No petitions resulted from Cobbett’s visits to the town in March and April 1830.56
The corporation marked the death of George IV with the usual proclamations and adopted an address of thanks to Sir James Graham for calling for a revision of official salaries, 12 Feb., and forcing a division on privy councillors’ emoluments, 14 May 1830.57 With Browne Ffolkes a candidate for the county, no opposition to the sitting Members was anticipated at the ensuing general election, and interest focused on the bakers’ petition against working on the Sabbath and the licensing provisions of the Beer Act, which the independents opposed lest it should favour the corporation brewers, who in turn perceived it as a threat to their tied houses and had joined in the hostile petitioning, 21 May.58 However, at the Duke’s Head, 27 July, a meeting chaired by Henry Elsden resolved to support Browne Ffolkes’s candidature for the county; and he was also nominated for the borough in absentia and without his prior consent by alderman Alexander Bowker, a former Walpole supporter, and the grocer Christopher Peek for the independents, who demanded a poll.59 On the 31st George Hogge informed Browne Ffolkes:
I do not presume to dictate to you, but as I consider you have not any chance of success here, and it may be prejudicial to your interest in the county ... I have persuaded Mr. Bowker to give up the contest as far as he is concerned.60
Browne Ffolkes polled only eight votes to 73 for Bentinck and 78 for Walpole. Walpole was accused of being ‘too ministerialist’ and ‘anti-reform’ and was challenged (in view of the collapse of his mining company) to prove his legal qualification to sit in Parliament, which he refused to do. He had little to say, but Bentinck conceded that he had voted ‘mainly with opposition’, stated that he had supported parliamentary reform by voting for the enfranchisement of large towns and claimed to have promoted the borough’s interests on Eau Brink matters.61 Browne Ffolkes’s success in the county was celebrated at a dinner at the Duke’s Head, 14 Oct. 1830, marked by the chairman George Hogge’s embarrassment at Coke’s libellous criticism of George IV.62
As expected Walpole voted for and Bentinck against the Wellington ministry when they were brought down on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, and Walpole’s subsequent appointment as a private secretary to Lord Palmerston*, foreign secretary in Lord Grey’s administration, was authorized solely on compassionate grounds arising from his involvement in the troubled Potosi La Paz and Peruvian Mining Association.63 Their constituents sought government patronage through Bentinck and joined in the petitioning against slavery, 11, 12, 16, 18 Nov. 1830, 25, 29 Mar. 1831, and the duty on coastwise coal, 13 Dec. 1830, 11 Feb. 1831, which annually cost the town over £40,000.64 Attention focused increasingly on parliamentary reform and the new Eau Brink bill, by which the commissioners proposed raising revenue by ending concessionary tolls and ‘the free bridge’. The Marshland proprietors, the corporation, Lord William’s agents and individual occupiers petitioned against it, and it remained under consideration at the dissolution precipitated by the defeat of the Grey ministry’s reform bill.65 Opinions on the latter differed. The independents were behind a 1,000-signature petition for reform including the ballot, which Bentinck, who dissented from its prayer, presented, 17 Feb. 1831. A well-attended town meeting and most of the corporation petitioned in support of the bill, 19 Mar., while Bowker and George Hogge were among the 47 ‘most respectable ... burgesses and inhabitants’ whose petition against the measure was received by the Commons, 19 Apr., and the Lords, 30 June 1831.66 Notwithstanding newspaper reports to the contrary and his brother’s support for the Norfolk anti-reformers, Walpole, like Bentinck, had voted for the bill; and this, coupled with his alleged inaction and votes for the 1830 Beer Act, made him unpopular with all parties and fuelled the movement to oust him. The reformer Lennox was invited to stand with Bentinck, an attempt to rally support for Walpole failed and on the banker Everard’s advice he reluctantly agreed to stand down, leaving the reformers unopposed. Self and the tradesmen Keed and Arrow ‘vetted them as reformers’ at an eve of poll meeting which carried an address thanking the king for dissolving Parliament. On the hustings Bentinck, who was proposed by George Hogge and Manning, claimed the credit for securing reductions in the taxes on coal and beer and promised to secure concessions on the Eau Brink bill. Lennox alone, whose brother the 5th duke of Richmond was postmaster-general, pledged uncompromising support for the measure. £1,050 was spent on hospitality.67 A second Eau Brink bill, which further compensated the merchants, was introduced, 30 June, and received royal assent, 6 Sept. 1831.68
The Members voted for the reintroduced and revised reform bills at their second and third readings, but unlike Lennox, Bentinck’s support for them in committee was erratic. When Self became mayor at Michaelmas 1831, 1,400 signed a petition to the Lords in support of the reintroduced bill, but Bowker informed Wellington that only ten per cent of the signatories were from ‘the respectable part of the community’ and that many had signed on behalf of the illiterate.69 In May 1832, when the king’s overture to Wellington placed the passage of the revised bill in jeopardy, the reformers, who in April had celebrated its successful second reading with bell ringing, met and petitioned that supplies be withheld pending its passage and resolved to establish a branch of the Political Association. The reformers petitioned again, with corporation backing, congratulating the Grey ministry on their reinstatement, 22 May 1831. Norfolk anti-reform addresses were left at the office of Frederick Lane for signature.70 The coal trade was stagnant, incendiaries and fraud rife, cholera prevalent and the mart ‘proclaimed without the usual ceremonies’, 14 Feb. 1832.71 A meeting on 19 Mar. to petition in support of the government’s Irish education policy ended in uproar, and the ‘no Popery faction’ petitioned separately against it, but only the favourable petitions are known to have been presented (21, 30 May).72 The corporation and inhabitants petitioned against the Irish and Scottish vagrants bill, 13 July 1832.73
No change was made to the constituency under the Boundary Act, and the registration of the 253 freemen and 572 £10 voters who comprised the post-reform electorate was ‘fairly trouble free’.74 The independent tradesmen, led by Keed and Selby, failed in their attempt to oust Bentinck on account of his errant votes on reform, and the sitting Members, both Liberals, were returned unopposed at the December 1832 general election.75 In 1834, Bentinck, who represented King’s Lynn for life, persuaded the corporation to back the Liberal Tory Sir Stratford Canning* instead of Lennox. He forfeited little support by going over to the Conservatives and damaging Peel and the party by becoming the leader of the Protectionists in 1846. The Liberals next returned a Member in 1854, six years after his death.
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 547.
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. Including New Lynn St. Edmunds.
- 4. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 292; PP (1835), xxvi. 345-7; F. O’Gorman, Voters, Patrons, and Parties, 344.
- 5. P. Richards, King’s Lynn, 20-37; H. Hillen, Hist. King’s Lynn (1978), ii. 778-81; PP (1835), xxvi. 313-14.
- 6. Norf. Chron. 4, 18 Mar.; Bury and Norwich Post, 8, 15 Mar. 1820.
- 7. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland mss PwH 251; Stirling, Coke of Norf. 452-8; CJ, lxxv. 295; lxxvi. 125; lxxvii. 272; lxxx. 361; Norwich Mercury, 2 Apr., 11 June 1825.
- 8. The Times, 20 Nov. 1820.
- 9. Bury and Norwich Post, 22 Nov., 6 Dec. 1820.
- 10. The Times, 8 Jan. 1821.
- 11. Ibid. 14 Jan. 1831; CJ, lxxvi. 67.
- 12. Norwich Mercury, 18 Aug. 1821.
- 13. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 18, 25 Nov; Bury and Norwich Post, 29 Nov. 1820; CJ, lxxvi. 22, 63-64, 70, 102-3, 239, 245, 248, 284, 303, 312, 384; LJ, liv. 404, 415, 442.
- 14. Portland mss PwJe 265.
- 15. J. Rosselli, Lord William Bentinck, 90-99; idem. ‘An Indian Governor in the Norfolk Marshland’, Agricultural Hist. Rev. xix (1971), 46-49.
- 16. Portland mss PwH 270.
- 17. Ibid. 346; PwJe 1074.
- 18. Lord W.P. Lennox, Drafts on my Memory, ii. 351-2.
- 19. Norf. Chron. 22, 29 Dec. 1821.
- 20. Bury and Norwich Post, 2, 9 Jan.; The Times, 7, 14 Jan.; Norwich, Yarmouth and Lynn Courier, 12 Jan. 1822.
- 21. The Times, 4, 16 Feb.; County Chronicle, 5 Feb. 1822; CJ, lxxvii. 27.
- 22. CJ, lxxvii. 200; 304, 437; Richards, 37.
- 23. The Times, 25 May 1822.
- 24. Norf. RO, King’s Lynn borough recs. KL/C7/15; King’s Lynn Pollbook (Mugridge, 1822), 1-9; Norf. Chron. 22, 29 June 1822.
- 25. King’s Lynn Pollbook (1822), 12.
- 26. Ibid. 15-33; The Times, 5 July; Norf. Chron. 6 July 1822.
- 27. Hillen, ii. 686.
- 28. King’s Lynn borough recs. KL/C7/15-16.
- 29. The Times, 3 Oct. 1822; Stirling, 479.
- 30. Hillen, ii. 561.
- 31. CJ, lxxix. 64.
- 32. Portland mss PwJe 77; Bury and Norwich Post, 10 Mar.; Norf. Chron. 13 Mar. 1824.
- 33. Portland mss PwJe 1077.
- 34. Norf. Chron. 20, 27 Mar.; Bury and Norwich Post, 24 Mar. 1824; King’s Lynn Pollbook (Mugridge, 1824), 6.
- 35. King’s Lynn Pollbook (1824), 25-28, 37-39; King’s Lynn borough recs. KL/C7/16.
- 36. CJ, lxxix. 49, 129, 164, 188, 271, 300; Portland mss PwJe 77.
- 37. The Times, 26 Mar., 11 June 1824; CJ, lxxix. 211, 474.
- 38. Richards, 17.
- 39. Portland mss PwJe 79-90, 92-95, 113, 405, 487-9, 1001; Norwich Mercury, 22 Jan. 1825. CJ, lxxx. 27, 45, 138, 308, 318, 319, 328.
- 40. Huntingdon, Bedford and Cambridge Weekly Jnl. 28 May; Norwich Mercury, 4 June 1825; Portland mss PwJe 102, 490; Lord Walpole of Wolterton mss 8/82; 8/84 [NRA 43212, pp. 69-71].
- 41. Richards, 57.
- 42. Norwich Mercury, 3 Dec. 1825, 7 Jan., 27 May, 3 June; Bury and Norwich Post, 11 Jan., 25 Feb., 29 Apr. 1826; Portland mss PwJe 110, 222, 492, 493; Richards, 21.
- 43. Portland mss PwH 2258; PwJe 112, 116, 118-22.
- 44. Ibid. PwJe 1079; Bury and Norwich Post, 7 June; The Times, 9 June; Norwich Mercury, 10 June 1826.
- 45. King’s Lynn Pollbook (Mugridge, 1826), 5-15.
- 46. Ibid. 16.
- 47. Bury and Norwich Post, 14 June; Norwich Mercury, 17 June 1826.
- 48. King’s Lynn borough recs. KL/C7/16; King’s Lynn Pollbook (1826), 47-55.
- 49. King’s Lynn borough recs. KL/C7/16; Wellington mss WP1/891/15; 927/12; CJ, lxxxii. 290, 316.
- 50. CJ, lxxxii. 527, 545.
- 51. Portland mss PwH 139; PwJe 1080.
- 52. Bury and Norwich Post, 9 Jan., 6, 13 Feb.; Norwich Mercury, 2, 9 Feb.; Harewood mss WYL 250/8/87, Bentinck to Lady Canning, 11 Feb. 1828.
- 53. CJ, lxxxiii. 90, 96; lxxxiv. 85; LJ, lx. 237; lxi. 156.
- 54. CJ, lxxxiii. 246, 259, 279; LJ, lx. 541; The Times, 23 Apr. 1828, 20 Apr. 1829.
- 55. CJ, lxxxv. 443, 456, 463; LJ, lxii. 333, 598.
- 56. Hillen, ii. 562-3.
- 57. Norwich Mercury, 10 July 1830.
- 58. Norf. Chron. 17, 24 July 1830; Richards, 38; CJ, lxxxv. 456.
- 59. Norf. RO NRS 8741, Ayre to Browne Ffolkes, 28 July; Norf. RO, Hammond of Westacre mss HMN5/119, 738x1; HMN5/121/4, 738x1; Norwich Mercury, 24, 31 July, 7 Aug. 1830.
- 60. Norf. RO NRS 8741.
- 61. Norf. Chron. 7 Aug.; Norwich Mercury, 21 Aug. 1830.
- 62. Stirling, 528-9; Wellington mss WP1/1159/73; The Times, 18 Oct., 27 Nov. 1830.
- 63. K. Bourne, Palmerston, 427.
- 64. Portland mss PwL 194-7; CJ, lxxxvi. 56-57, 108, 169, 237, 435, 455; LJ, lxiii. 44, 52, 69; Hillen, ii. 541.
- 65. ‘Tam O’Shanter’, Letter to Bedford Level Corporation and Eau Brink Commissioners (1830), passim; CJ, lxxxvi. 216, 224-5, 286, 421, 433.
- 66. East Anglian, 11 Jan., 8 Feb.; Norwich Mercury, 9, 16 Apr. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 264, 406, 505; LJ, lxiii. 773.
- 67. Globe, 30 Apr.; Norwich Mercury, 30 Apr., 7 May; East Anglian, 3 May; Bury and Norwich Post, 4, 11 May 1831; Lord W.P. Lennox, Fifty Years Biog. Reminiscences, 157-63, 168; Portland mss PwH 152.
- 68. CJ, lxxxvi. 577, 581, 591, 607, 638, 826.
- 69. The Times, 3 Oct.; Norf. Chron. 8 Oct. 1831; LJ, lxiii. 1045; Wellington mss WP1/1198/25.
- 70. The Times, 23 Apr., 19, 23 May; Norf. Chron. 12, 19, 26 May 1832; CJ, lxxxvii. 328; Richards, 132.
- 71. Bury and Norwich Post, 25 May, 21, 28 Dec. 1831, 8 Feb.; Norf. Chron. 18 Feb. 1832; Richards, 78.
- 72. Norf. Chron. 17, 24 Mar., 14 Apr.; W.J. Brodrick, Statement of principal facts connected with ... scriptural education in Ireland; LJ, lxiv. 221; CJ, lxxxvii. 347.
- 73. CJ, lxxxvii. 487.
- 74. PP (1835), xxvi. 334, 345; Norf. Chron. 3 Nov. 1832.
- 75. The Times, 14 May; Norf. Chron. 9, 30 June, 7, 14, 28 July, 15 Dec.; Bury and Norwich Post, 25 July 1832.