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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the resident freemen

Estimated number qualified to vote:

about 750, rising to about 850

Number of voters:

809 in 1831


7,031 (1821); 8,192 (1831)


 Timothy Yeates Brown340
24 July 1823JOHN EVELYN DENISON vice Kinnersley, deceased336
 Richard Edensor Heathcote313
 Edmund Peel319
 John Evelyn Denison280
2 May 1831EDMUND PEEL746
 Josiah Wedgwood374

Main Article

Newcastle-under-Lyme, long ‘famous for the manufacture of hats’ under an incorporated company of felt makers, had a flourishing clothing industry employing some 1,587 families, but the ‘welfare or adversity’ of the surrounding Potteries also affected its ‘trade and prosperity’.1 The representation had for many years been dominated by the Trentham interest of the 2nd marquess of Stafford, whose electoral influence derived from the nominal rents charged on his cottage properties and his alliance with the self-elected corporation of two bailiffs and 24 capital burgesses, one of whom served annually as mayor. An extensive rationalization of the Trentham estates after 1812 (including a series of highly controversial rent increases which led to a doubling of income by 1814) precipitated a gradual disengagement from local politics by the family, and although candidates continued to wear their colours of pink and white, Lord Stafford ‘declined any interference’ in the 1818 general election, which was carried by the corporation.2 Its creation of 202 honorary freemen by ‘gift’ (as opposed to a seven-year ‘servitude’ or apprenticeship) between 1815 and 1818, under the direction of the dominant Fenton brothers Robert and Thomas, helped ensure the defeat of the independent Blue candidate and the return of William Kinnersley, a resident banker and businessman, and Robert Wilmot, son and heir of a Derbyshire baronet, but left the way open for future challenges to its actions by local opponents. The threat of these, especially after the successful indictment of Stafford corporation in 1823 for similar practices, increasingly curbed its electoral activities, allowing the Blues to regain one seat in 1826 and, following the instigation of quo warranto proceedings against the corporation in 1827, the second in 1830.3

At the general election of 1820 Kinnersley, ‘the most popular man in and of the town’ and by now a member of the corporation, offered again, promising to continue his support for local manufactures and interests.4 On 10 Feb. the Fentons had advised Stafford’s agent that he was entitled to their ‘best exertions in his support, but that we are not yet any further engaged’, and that Wilmot was unlikely ‘to stand a contest from prudential motives’. On the 19th, however, Wilmot also declared, prompting a flurry of abusive squibs denouncing his support for ministers and Catholic claims and portraying him as an opponent of the education of the poor, against which he and his supporters produced a series of defensive handbills. The friends of Sir John Fenton Boughey of Aqualate Hall, Staffordshire, who had sat as an opponent of the Trentham interest from 1812 until his defeat in 1818, were reported to be ‘straining every nerve to persuade him to stand’, but in a more direct challenge to Lord Stafford’s influence he contested the county instead.5 Wilmot and Kinnersley ‘thought that in consequence of getting rid of Sir John Boughey, they should walk over’, but on 4 Mar. Timothy Yeates Brown of London came forward, even though ‘the odds’ were ‘very much against him’, citing his ‘independent principles’, support for parliamentary reform and Foxite ‘line in political life’.6 A five-day contest ‘carried on in the most spirited manner’ ensued, which followed so closely on the corporation’s triumph of 1818 that they only enrolled six new honorary burgesses.7 Kinnersley, who led throughout, secured the support of 68 per cent of the 736 who voted (379 as split votes shared with Wilmot, 111 shared with Brown and ten as plumpers). Wilmot, on a much reduced majority, received a vote from 52 per cent (seven as plumpers), but did not share any votes with Brown, who secured votes from 46 per cent (229 as plumpers). All 19 capital burgesses who participated voted for Kinnersley and Wilmot, except Kinnersley himself, who cast a gentleman’s plumper for Wilmot. On the grounds of non-residence or receipt of poor relief, five votes for Brown and two for Kinnersley and Wilmot were rejected.8 Wilmot’s opponents, whom he attacked for circulating ‘anonymous aspersions’ that ‘had tended to turn the tide of popular prejudice against him’, claimed that his slim majority over Brown consisted entirely ‘of honorary burgesses made in the year 1815, and disputed votes’ and threatened ‘to bring the matter before a higher tribunal’. Nothing came of this.9

Discontent with the corporation and Wilmot, who achieved junior office in 1821, now began to increase. In October 1820 an eye-witness described how a ‘masked procession’ made ‘a mockery’ of ‘the election of a new mayor’, who was

a Wilmotite, and consequently highly unpopular. Upon the right hand of this travestied representative appeared a cardinal in full canonicals. I asked the meaning. ‘Why, to be sure, Wilmot is a Papist and his mayor must be a Popish chaplain you know’. This taste for waggery was unknown to the worthy burgesses of Newcastle under the Trentham and Buffy dynasties. Poor Wilmot!10

In the House, Wilmot and Kinnersley took opposite sides on Catholic relief, against which petitions were presented to the Lords, 9 Apr. 1821, 23 May 1823, and the Commons, 17 Apr. 1823, but they both opposed parliamentary reform and supported ministers.11 News of the abandonment of the bill of pains and penalties against Queen Caroline was ‘received in a most joyful manner’ in Newcastle and the Potteries, where ‘the bells were rung in the different churches’. An illumination was announced for 21 Nov. 1820, but the ‘magistrates circulated a paper cautioning all persons from firing guns, letting-off fireworks, or making bonfires’. On the day of the illumination, which ‘was very partial’, ‘special constables were made’, a ‘detachment of the volunteer corps were stationed in the guildhall’, and a ‘numerous concourse of persons paraded the streets and conducted themselves with the greatest propriety’.12 A petition from the town for the abolition of slavery reached the Commons, 16 May 1823.13

Kinnersley’s death in July 1823 prompted an anonymous address on behalf of the corporation promising the appearance of his brother or another candidate of ‘undoubted respectability’, which was immediately condemned for its ‘indecent haste’. ‘They feel their interest so low and broken, that they thus insult the remains of their late Member before his corpse is cold’, declared the Blues, 10 July, promising ‘in due time’ to present a candidate ‘of independent and liberal principles’ to defend ‘your rights and privileges’ against ‘a certain body of men’.14 Lord Stafford’s son Lord Gower† firmly rejected any direct involvement by the Trentham interest, whose withdrawal from Staffordshire politics had been hastened by the loss of their county seat in 1820.15 Despite receiving ‘many invitations’, Kinnersley’s younger brother Thomas declined.16 Wilmot, acting on behalf of his ‘friends’ in the corporation, assumed the ‘agony of deciding what is to be done’, and asked Peel, the home secretary, whose family had strong Staffordshire connections, 13 July, if he had a brother ‘whom you would wish to introduce’. ‘The present election will probably cost him less than £3,000’ and ‘for £6,000 he may be returned both for this and the next Parliament’, he explained, adding that the ideal ‘candidate must not be in favour of Catholic emancipation. If a Staffordshire man or not very distant, the better. If a person likely to be considered eligible by Lord Stafford, still better’. The following day Wilmot informed Peel that John Evelyn Denison of Ossington, Nottinghamshire, the Speaker’s brother-in-law, who ‘has all the prescribed qualifications’, had been adopted, and apologized for having ‘given you so much trouble’.17 Yeates Brown announced a canvass, 14 July, but following the arrival of Denison, whose speech, 17 July, ‘could not be heard’ owing to ‘the disturbing and indecent conduct of two or three turbulent fellows’, he withdrew on the advice of his friends. That day Richard Edensor Heathcote* of Longton Hall, Staffordshire, who had announced that he would undertake a ‘personal canvass’, 11 July, came forward in opposition to the corporation candidate, and ‘it was generally supposed’ that he might ‘gain the election, from the circumstance of his being a neighbour, his having a connection with some of the most respectable inhabitants, and the esteem which his family had long and deservedly enjoyed’, although it was later noted that ‘did not commence a canvass until Mr. Denison had nearly finished, and many of Mr. Heathcote’s friends, having promised Mr. Denison, could not retract’. Advised that success depended on his ‘hostility to every species of reform and to all concessions to the Roman Catholics’, he retorted that he would rather ‘forgo at once the honour to which I aspired, than sacrifice opinions not hastily formed’ and portrayed himself as ‘an independent country gentleman’ who was unattached to party.18 A very ‘close’ poll ensued, during which the corporation enrolled 45 freemen, the threat of whom forced Heathcote to concede defeat on the fourth day.19 Eighteen capital burgesses voted, all for Denison, including the mayor, who presided at his election dinner, 25 July. Heathcote, who considered that there were ‘grounds for petition’ but declined putting ‘the borough to that trouble’, later alleged that ‘a vile set of mercenaries’ had been ‘placed upon the suit roll with no other view than to close the borough’, and that some freemen had been disfranchised ‘on the most frivolous pretexts’ although, according to the pollbook, only six of his votes and four of Denison’s were rejected. Throughout the election the town was ‘in a very disturbed state’ owing ‘to the introduction by both parties of men from neighbouring establishments’, and at the declaration ‘a parcel of colliers created a complete riot’.20 Denison, who like Peel had been informed that £3,000 would ‘be the maximum to which his expenses would rise’, found that ‘the demands on him were more than £5,000’.21 On 8 Aug. 1823 a public dinner was held for Heathcote ‘as a token of respect for his manly exertions in endeavouring to establish the independence of the borough’.22 Denison gave general support to the Liverpool ministry, opposing parliamentary reform and Catholic relief, against which petitions reached both Houses, 18 Apr. 1825. The publicans and victuallers petitioned the Commons for repeal of the license duty, 25 Feb. 1824. Wilmot defended the trial in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, against which a petition was presented by Denison, 1 June 1824.23

On 5 Sept. 1824 Lord Stafford formally announced his neutrality in Newcastle elections, prompting a realignment of political forces in the borough.24 Thomas Kinnersley, who had assumed control of his brother’s interest, now declared a ‘decided opposition’ both to Heathcote, with whom he was connected ‘in weighty affairs’, and to Wilmot, on the ground of their ‘intending to give votes in favour of Catholic emancipation’.25 Wilmot accordingly felt ‘obliged to surrender an interest formed and consolidated with his brother at the expense on my side of from ten to twelve thousand pounds of three severe contested elections’, which he ‘should have easily maintained, but for this act of hyper-bigotry’, and began negotiations with Peel to find his successor. ‘I am most desirous of preserving both these seats for the government’, he explained, 15 Oct., and

shall be happy to name any relation or friend of yours ... As I have no doubt that ... Kinnersley will give both personal and pecuniary assistance to the joint candidates, Denison and your nominee, I entertain no doubt of their comparatively easy success [and] I should give them all my personal interest which ... I still estimate after the deduction of Mr. Kinnersley’s interests as considerable. If you refuse this I shall make the same offer to Lushington on the part of the government, and if he refuses it I shall then consider myself as exempted from all possible responsibility.26

Peel’s brother Edmund, of Bone Hill House, Tamworth, Staffordshire, rejected ‘any parliamentary connection with Newcastle’, and attention turned to their younger brother Jonathan Peel* of Marble Hill, Twickenham, Middlesex. John Davenport, who ‘investigated the state of affairs at Newcastle’ and negotiated with Kinnersley on Wilmot’s behalf, ascertained for Robert Peel that the ‘current expenses’, including ‘old men’s pay’ of ‘about 15s. per week’, ought to ‘never exceed £300 per annum for both’ candidates, but was unable to estimate the cost of a contest, as ‘on all the late occasions a most wasteful plan had been pursued’, especially with respect to ‘public house expenditure’.27 Clearly disappointed that no offer of ‘pecuniary assistance’ had emerged from Kinnersley, Wilmot informed Peel, 23 Nov.:

This fellow Kinnersley who is turning me out of a seat which I have earned by the sweat of my brow and by the spending of my money, in conjunction, and for common purposes with his late brother, has no sort of pretext to affect this character of arbiter of the representation unless he chooses to pay something towards it ... The sitting Members, I mean, in this sense, Denison and your brother, should never be called upon to pay more than £100 per annum each and that if it be necessary to incur more than £6,000 expense for their joint election ... they should receive a pledge that all extra expense should be paid by their supporters. It need not appear to come from Kinnersley alone, but from a fund to which he in common with others should subscribe, and his subscription should of course be the greatest.

Peel, fearing that ‘fixing a maximum directly’ would ‘establish that expenditure as a minimum at all elections’, thought that ‘a severe contest against the independent voters, the usual quantity of fawning flattery, brickbats and bad port wine’ would ‘outweigh even the honour of representing Newcastle, particularly as the seat will not be, from the condition as to surplus expenditure, entirely an independent one’. The negotiations foundered, leaving Wilmot free to vent his anger at being ‘turned out by the influence of one individual’. Peel’s brother formally declined, 22 Jan. 1825.28 Later that year Wilmot, who ‘had abandoned all thoughts of reappearance’ at Newcastle, ‘either in public or private’, received an ‘intimation that in consequence of Kinnersley’s repudiation of me I had become in better odour with my hitherto opponents’, and considered ‘making a demonstration’.29 In a speech at the mayoral election, 4 Oct. 1825, which was subsequently published, he defended his support for Catholic relief and promised to give ‘every person within the borough of Newcastle the means of judging for himself’. Over the next six months he attempted to bring this subject ‘calmly and argumentatively’ before his constituents in a series of pamphlets, which produced a varied public response.30 Francis Huyshe, one of his electors, wrote a pamphlet in reply praising ‘the consummate skill’ of Wilmot’s argument, but remained unconvinced that the Catholics ‘could be admitted without danger’.31 On 23 Oct. 1825, Wilmot was sent a curious, but apparently authentic, hand-written petition signed by 127 ‘women of Newcastle’, which, after offering thanks for his services, stated:

You tells us that some says they Catholics will put your civil liberties in danger. If you mean them little liberties as you takes with us when you comes a canvassing, we’ll ha nothing to do with them nasty uncivil papistes.32

At the general election of 1826 both Members offered again. One Naylor started but withdrew citing ‘the precarious state of his wife’s health’, after failing to secure the support of the Blue committee. Their hopes centred on Richardson Borradaile of All Hallows, Balham, London, a furrier and East India merchant, whose connection with the town’s hat industry and purchase of some of the properties auctioned by Lord Stafford in 1825 had made him ‘uncommonly popular’. He had initially declined on discovering that Kinnersley ‘would not support him’, but the Blues ‘put him up’ regardless, refusing to allow the sitting Members to walk over. On 6 June the Fentons warned Wilmot and Denison that the Blues ‘were so strong that they could return one and perhaps two Members’. Next day Borradaile came forward and sent his youngest son to canvass on his behalf, explaining that he was ‘prevented from leaving town on account of an inflammation of the knee’, and that he was ‘decidedly opposed to Catholic emancipation’. Wilmot, who continued to espouse emancipation, and Denison, who refused ‘to pledge himself on that point’, now found that many ‘of their former staunch friends’ would either remain ‘neuter’ or had ‘transferred their interest to the other side’. Later that day it was accordingly agreed that Wilmot should set off for London to offer Borradaile ‘one quiet seat’ if his party agreed not to ‘put up a second candidate’. At ten the following evening, on the eve of the election, the two sides held ‘a conference’ about sharing the representation.33 It had previously been agreed with Edward Littleton, the county Member, that in the event of a compromise arrangement Wilmot would retire, with financial assistance towards securing another seat. Denison, however, now saw that Wilmot

wished to remain at Newcastle, and the corporation wished to have him, at least the Fentons, as the most useful man to them ... By the terms of our agreement I was entitled to remain, but I said, this is some degree a new case [as] instead of a split for one Parliament, it looks like a more permanent arrangement. You have done much more than I have to bring the borough into its present condition, you have more right to reap the harvest you have sown than I have. Wilmot said he did consider it a new case ... [since] permanency had never been contemplated, at least on such terms as offered now, and he should think it a fair concession on my part ... if I should retire in his favour. We then put it to the corporation, who preferred Wilmot.34

At the hustings the following day, 9 June, Denison duly withdrew, claiming that ‘the balance of public opinion’ had become ‘more equal since his first return’, and that Wilmot ‘was better qualified to serve their interests’. Wilmot now found himself extremely unpopular, and it was only ‘after a gentleman on the opposite party begged a hearing’ that he was able to speak, defending his views on Catholic relief and slavery, and promising to ‘strenuously support the enlightened and liberal policy of the present administration’.35 Wilmot considered that he owed his unopposed re-election to his ‘having firmly faced my constituents upon the Catholic question’, but later admitted that in his ‘anxiety to continue to represent a borough which I had long represented and had so often contested’, he had expressed himself to Denison ‘more strongly than I otherwise should have felt myself justified in doing’. He had assumed that under the compromise arrangement ‘each party were, by courtesy, to return a Member without opposition from their former opponents’, but on the day of the election he

discovered that a sudden hostility had been created against me, in an unknown and extraordinary manner. So decided was this feeling that I must have given way had not Mr. Denison honourably and consistently persevered in his determination to retire. It was upon this occasion that for the first time the cry of ‘no slavery’ was to my astonishment raised against me [by] a party in London having very considerable influence in the staple trade of the borough.36

Borradaile, who was absent throughout, visited his new constituency, 13 June, when he reiterated his opposition to ‘further concessions to the Catholics’ and promised to support ‘free trade in corn’ and ‘aid the hat trade’. At his celebration dinner, which was attended by at least one member of an increasingly conciliatory corporation, his agent John Tomlinson bitterly attacked Wilmot’s support for Catholic claims and his affecting ‘to dispose of the representation of your borough by arrangement, not only now, but in future’.37 Under the terms of their agreement, Denison, who was subsequently returned on a vacancy for Hastings, and Wilmot divided their respective election costs of £3,250 and £1,500 between them, leaving each with a bill of £2,375.38

Wilmot continued to support Catholic relief, which Borradaile opposed, and against which petitions were presented to both Houses, 1 Mar. 1827, and by Borradaile, 24 Feb. 1829. A favourable petition from the town’s Catholic inhabitants reached the Commons, 26 Mar. 1829.39 In 1827 the long anticipated challenge to the corporation occurred with the issue of quo warranto proceedings against the mayor, J. E. Phillips, the town clerk, Thomas Fenton, and another capital burgess. Though fewer in number, the suits were similar to those against Stafford corporation and brought by the same prosecutor, Charles Flint, acting on behalf of local reformers. With the mayoral elections declared void under a rule nisi granted in the Easter term of 1828, ‘it followed that the titles of all those who were elected under the same system’ could ‘not be supported’, leaving the corporation effectively defunct until 1833 (when a mayoral election ‘thrown open’ to ‘the burgesses at large’ was approved by a royal warrant) and saddled with legal costs of £4,152.40 Wilmot’s position now became even more precarious. Owing to his duties as colonial under-secretary, his constituents had received little ‘personal attention’ and had ‘not been able to extract any patronage’, and he now ‘entirely decided not to stand’ another contest.41 When Lord Goderich, the new premier, offered him the vice-presidency of the board of trade, 16 Aug. 1827, ‘no sooner was the rumour of the necessity of my re-election circulated, than a candidate connected with the party in London’ was brought forward by the Blues ‘in readiness to contest my return’, and he was forced to decline.42 His unpopularity increased further when, in an address to his constituents which did ‘much damage’, he promised in January 1828 to support the Wellington ministry.43 Petitions for repeal of the Test Acts were presented to the Commons from the Protestant Dissenters, 12, 13 June 1827, from the Ebenezer Chapel by Borradaile, 18 Feb., and to both Houses from the Marsh Chapel, 22 Feb. 1828. Petitions against slavery reached the Lords, 15 July, and the Commons, 25 July 1828. Wilmot presented petitions for aid to emigrate, 26 Mar. 1829, and against the truck system, 16 Mar. 1830, which was followed by another to the Lords the next day. A petition against renewal of the East India Company’s monopoly reached the Commons, 8 Apr. 1830.44

At the 1830 general election Wilmot, who had announced in an open letter that he would not seek re-election, duly retired. Edward Strutt* of St. Helen’s House, Derby, was approached by a Newcastle agent ‘very anxious’ to bring him in ‘for £1,200’, but opted to stand for his native town instead.45 Borradaile, who remained ‘very popular’, offered again and was joined by a second independent, William Henry Miller of Britwell Court, near Burnham, Buckinghamshire, who campaigned for the ‘opening of the trade to India and the reduction of the public expenditure’. A Mr. Harris was rumoured as a ‘third man’, but was thwarted by the declarations of Denison, who came forward after his plans to stand for Nottinghamshire had gone awry, and Edmund Peel, who was said to be standing at the behest of ministers in opposition to the Huskissonite Denison.46 (Huskisson, who reported hearing that Denison’s prospects were good, believed that Peel’s ‘first object was to win for himself, the second was to make you lose’.)47 Peel rested his claims on ‘being actively engaged in commerce for 22 years’, but ‘on no subject would he make any distinct pledges’. In a grand gesture of defiance, the corporation created ‘about 140’ freemen in the week before the election. Although James Loch*, Lord Stafford’s agent, lent Peel his private support, Lord Stafford published a ‘decided disavowal’ of ‘any interference’ by the Trentham interest. A three-day contest ensued, which was ‘carried on with much more good humour and moderation than usual’ and cost £20,000, almost half of which was spent by Peel.48

Borradaile, whose canvass of ‘nearly 700 promises’ was ‘completed in two days, a thing quite unprecedented’, was supported by 59 per cent of the 772 who voted (362 as split votes shared with Miller, 48 with Peel, 41 with Denison, and two as plumpers). Miller received a vote from 56 per cent (31 shared with Peel, 14 with Denison and 29 as plumpers). Peel, who also received 29 plumpers, was supported by 41 per cent (211 shared with Denison). Denison, who in an effort to limit his expenses retired before the suit roll had been exhausted, was supported by 36 per cent (fourteen as plumpers). The voting of the arraigned corporation was divided. Of the 13 capital burgesses who participated, nine voted for Peel and Denison, and four voted for Borradaile and Denison. Of the 50 voters ‘rejected’ or ‘objected to’, 30 were for Borradaile and Miller, and six were for Peel and Denison.49 Tomlinson, the Blue agent, duly observed that ‘the independence of the borough was now completely established’, and Borradaile’s election dinner was attended by a supine mayor and corporation, 5 Aug. Later that month, however, the borough was listed by Planta, the patronage secretary, as one where ministers had ‘gained’. Peel, whose agent intimated that he ‘would appear again on a future occasion’, received an address of support signed by ‘about 400 burgesses’ stating ‘their regret at the issue of the poll’, 12 Aug. 1830.50

Petitions for the abolition of slavery reached the Commons, 4 Nov., 13 Dec. 1830. On 23 Feb. 1831 Borradaile presented one from the corporation and inhabitants in favour of parliamentary reform.51 Speculating on the Grey ministry’s reform plans, 3 Jan. 1831, John Wilson Croker* could not understand ‘why a place like Dunwich, against which neither bribery nor perjury can be charged, should be disfranchised, while Liverpool, and Newcastle in the Potteries, are to be preserved as samples of purity of election’.52 Both Members opposed the reform bill, against which a petition was presented by Miller with ‘1,600 signatures attached to it’, 19 Mar. He presented another against the truck system, 30 Mar. 1831.53 At the ensuing general election Borradaile retired on account of ‘advanced age, coupled with uncertain health’. Miller stood his ground as a ‘protector of the children’s rights’ against the proposed abolition of the freeman franchise, and campaigned under the banners of ‘no truck’, ‘abolition of slavery’ and ‘free trade to India and China’. Edmund Peel, who had been cultivating the borough since his defeat, offered again, despite ‘being unable to walk’ owing to a ‘recent accident’. He professed to approve of ‘several parts of the reform bill’, but ‘pledged himself to oppose it on the ground that it took away their rights’, to which ‘he would never consent’. Following a meeting at the Castle hotel, which was ‘numerously and respectably attended’ by ‘several gentlemen from the Potteries’, 25 Apr., Josiah Wedgwood of Maer Hall, Staffordshire, son and heir of the famous earthenware manufacturer, was solicited to stand ‘on reform principles’ and ‘free of all expense’, and the ‘Potteries were requested to aid Newcastle in the struggle’. At a meeting of the inhabitants of Hanley and Shelton next day a subscription was entered into on his behalf, and his employees, ‘of their own accord’, collected ‘a small sum, commensurate with their limited means, towards the fund that had been raised’. Wedgwood, who received ‘a very flattering reception’ from ‘the more respectable freemen’, entered Newcastle, 28 Apr. 1831, accompanied ‘by a long train of horsemen’ and ‘an immense number of people on foot’, mainly ‘from the Potteries’, including ‘many of the most respectable manufacturers’. He espoused ‘reform principles’, though he acknowledged that ‘some objected to the bill as taking away corporate rights’, and called for ‘the immediate abolition of slavery’. Miller, like Peel, expressed ‘the greatest objection to the Potteries interfering with the election’. Peel’s agent, Flint, ‘derided’ the Hanley and Burslem reformers, who were ‘in effect saying’ to Newcastle’s freemen, ‘give me the coat off your back, that I may put it upon mine’.54

A three-day contest ensued in which Peel, who led throughout, was supported by 92 per cent of the 809 who voted (423 as split votes shared with Miller, 316 with Wedgwood, and seven as plumpers). Miller, who boasted that he had not purchased a ‘single vote’, received support from 57 per cent (35 shared with Wedgwood and five as plumpers). Wedgwood, who ‘feared his late arrival had prejudiced his cause’, obtained support from 46 per cent (23 as plumpers). Of the 14 capital burgesses who participated, 12 voted for Peel and Wedgwood, one for Peel and Miller and one singly for Peel.55 Wedgwood, whose post-election dinner was chaired by the mayor, did not ‘consider it a defeat’ as ‘the votes given for me have not been thrown away’ but ‘record the opinions and wishes of a great majority of the most intelligent and most respectable burgesses for the reform proposed by government’. After the declaration, however, ‘a great number of potters’ arrived ‘from the various surrounding districts’ and ‘lost no time in manifesting their displeasure’ at the outcome. ‘An outrage’ which ‘kept the town in a state of ... terror for several hours’ followed, the ‘High Street presented the scene of a general engagement’ between ‘the potters on the one hand’ and the ‘townspeople on the other’, and it was ‘a matter of astonishment to all that no persons lost their lives or limbs’.56

Peel, who initially opposed the reintroduced reform bill, presented a petition for preservation of the freeman franchise, 17 Aug., and proposed an unsuccessful amendment on the subject, which was supported by Miller, 31 Aug. 1831.57 The bill’s unpopularity in the borough prompted ‘rejoicings’ at its defeat in the Lords that October, and although a favourable petition reached that House, 4 Oct. 1831, it was said to have been a ‘snug thing, done in a public house without so much as a crowd at the door’.58 Following the modification of the bill to preserve the votes of resident freemen created before 1 Mar. 1831 and by birth or servitude thereafter, Peel was publicly thanked by ‘the freemen ... the sons of freemen, and persons serving apprenticeships’ for his efforts, ‘which, although unsuccessful at the moment’ had ‘undoubtedly led to the adoption in the present bill’, 26 Feb. 1832.59 Peel, whose resistance to reform now lapsed, presented a petition from the town praying that the supplies be withheld until it was effected, 22 May 1832.60 By the Boundary Act a ‘small isolated portion of the township of Penkhull in the parish of Stoke-upon-Trent’ was added, giving the new constituency 360 houses worth £10 or above a year, and a registered electorate of 973.61 Both Members offered again at the 1832 general election, when Miller retained but Peel lost his seat in a contest with another Conservative. Miller sat until his defeat in 1841. Shortly before the 1835 general election Peel warned his brother, the premier, that ‘until I can be assured that the bribery system is discountenanced by the candidates and by the town, I will have no part in the election’, adding that if had a ‘petition been presented after the last election, Newcastle would now be in the same position as Stafford’.62 Such assurances were evidently forthcoming and he was re-elected, but a practice of paying the poorer electors under the guise of market money or dinner money continued throughout the 1830s.63

Author: Philip Salmon


See Language, Print and Electoral Politics, 1790-1832: Newcastle-under-Lyme Broadsides ed. H. Barker and D. Vincent.

  • 1. Staffs. Dir. (1834), 652; Oldfield, Rep. Hist. (1816), iv. 508; PP (1833), xxxvii. 600; Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1828-9), 718.
  • 2. PP (1835), xxv. 544, 551; E. Richards, ‘Influence of Trentham Interest’, Midlands Hist. (1975), iii. 121-9; Staffs. RO, Sutherland mss D593/K/1/3/8, R. Fenton to Loch, 10 Feb. 1820.
  • 3. S.M. Hardy and R. C. Bailey, ‘Downfall of Gower Interest in Staffs. Boroughs’, Colls. Hist. Staffs. (1950-1), 276-80, 297-99; PP (1835), xxv. 543-5.
  • 4. Derbys. RO, Catton mss WH2932, Wilmot to Goderich, 18 Oct. 1827; Language, Print and Electoral Politics, 231, 232.
  • 5. Sutherland mss D593/K/1/3/8; Language, Print and Electoral Politics, 232-43.
  • 6. Hatherton diary, 21 Mar., citing letter from Keen to Littleton, 4 Mar.; Birmingham Chron. 9 Mar. 1820; Language, Print and Electoral Politics, 249-52.
  • 7. Staffs. Advertiser, 11 Mar. 1820; Hardy and Bailey, 276-79.
  • 8. Newcastle-under-Lyme Pollbook (1820).
  • 9. Staffs. Advertiser, 18 Mar. 1820.
  • 10. Countess Granville Letters, i. 182.
  • 11. LJ, liv. 180; lv. 706; CJ, lxxviii. 214.
  • 12. Staffs. Advertiser, 18, 25 Nov. 1820.
  • 13. CJ, lxxviii. 318.
  • 14. Sutherland mss D593/S/16/13, handbills; Language, Print and Electoral Politics, 267, 68.
  • 15. Richards, 140, 141.
  • 16. Staffs. Advertiser, 12, 19 July 1823.
  • 17. Add. 40357, ff. 110, 114-16.
  • 18. Staffs. Advertiser, 19, 26 July 1823; Add. 40357, f. 190; Language, Print and Electoral Politics, 269-74.
  • 19. Hardy and Bailey, 279, 280.
  • 20. Staffs. Advertiser, 26 July, 2 Aug. 1823; Newcastle-under-Lyme Pollbook (1823); J.C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. iii. 55.
  • 21. Add. 40370, f. 293.
  • 22. Staffs. Advertiser, 9 Aug. 1823.
  • 23. LJ, lvii. 579; CJ, lxxix. 97, 446; lxxx. 314.
  • 24. Richards, 141; Hardy and Bailey, 280, 281.
  • 25. Adds. 40369, f. 64; 40370, f. 182.
  • 26. Add. 40369, ff. 64, 107.
  • 27. Adds. 40370, f. 182; 40605, f. 277.
  • 28. Adds. 40370, ff. 178, 285, 293; 40372, f. 186.
  • 29. TNA 30/29, Wilmot to Granville [7 July 1825].
  • 30. Bodl. G.Pamph. 2736 (13), Speech by Robert Wilmot Horton ... in the Town Hall of Newcastle-under-Lyme, on the occasion of his attending the Election of the Mayor (1825); 26.493, Letter to Electors of Newcastle-under-Lyme (1826); 26.494, Letter to Duke of Norfolk on Catholic Question (1826).
  • 31. Bodl. 26.503, Letter to Sir Thomas Dyke Acland ... upon Mr. Wilmot Horton’s pamphlet ... by one of his electors (1826), 3.
  • 32. Catton mss WH2511, signed petition.
  • 33. Staffs. Advertiser, 3, 10, June 1826; Hardy and Bailey, 294-5; Nottingham Univ. Lib. acc. 636, Denison diary, 6 June 1826.
  • 34. Denison diary, 17 Mar., 6 June 1826.
  • 35. Staffs. Advertiser, 10 June 1826.
  • 36. Catton mss WH2936, Wilmot to Blake, 10 June 1826; TNA 30/29, Statement to be read by Mr. W. Horton’s agents, Oct. 1827.
  • 37. Staffs. Advertiser, 17 June 1826.
  • 38. Denison diary, 15 Nov. 1826.
  • 39. CJ, lxxxii. 245; lxxxiv. 81, 173; LJ, lix. 117.
  • 40. Hardy and Bailey, 297-9; PP (1835), xxv. 543-51; The Times, 18 June 1828.
  • 41. Catton mss WH2932, Wilmot to Goderich, 18 Oct. 1827; Add. 38751, f. 325.
  • 42. TNA 30/29, ‘Statement’, Oct. 1827.
  • 43. Hatherton mss, Wilmot to Huskisson, 22 Jan. 1828.
  • 44. CJ, lxxxii. 545, 555; lxxxiii. 79, 96, 555; lxxxiv. 81, 173; lxxxv. 183, 282; LJ, lx. 66, 628; lxii. 127.
  • 45. Derbys. RO, Strutt mss 7, E. to F. Strutt, 26 May 1830.
  • 46. Hardy and Bailey, 299; Staffs. Advertiser, 3, 17, 31 July 1830.
  • 47. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Ossington mss OsC 76, Huskisson to Denison, 19 July, 5 Aug. 1830.
  • 48. Staffs. Advertiser, 31 July, 7 Aug.; Univ. Coll. London, Loch mss Add. 131, W.Y. Peel to Loch, 7 July; Sutherland mss D593/K/1/5/26, Fenton to Loch, 13 July 1830. For more details of the campaigning see Language, Print and Electoral Politics, 285-325.
  • 49. Newcastle-under-Lyme Pollbook (1830). This breakdown of the poll differs from that in Wedgwood, iii. 66.
  • 50. Staffs. Advertiser, 7, 14 Aug. 1830.
  • 51. CJ, lxxxvi. 35, 169, 295.
  • 52. Croker Pprs. ii. 96
  • 53. CJ, lxxxvi. 407, 465.
  • 54. Staffs. Advertiser, 23, 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 55. Newcastle-under-Lyme Pollbook (1831).
  • 56. Staffs. Advertiser, 7 May 1831.
  • 57. CJ, lxxxvi. 762.
  • 58. LJ, lxiii. 1044; Add. 69364, Sneyd to Fortescue, 22 Oct. 1831.
  • 59. Language, Print and Electoral Politics, 327, 328.
  • 60. CJ, lxxxvii. 328.
  • 61. PP (1831-2), xl. 4.
  • 62. Add. 40408, f. 67.
  • 63. N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 119.