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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen and freeholders

Estimated number qualified to vote:

4,200 in 18311

Number of voters:

4,202 in 18302


50,288 (1821); 61,096 (1831)


 Jonathan Peel1912
 Sir Charles Ogle, bt.1762
30 Nov. 1830GRANT re-elected after appointment to office 
3 May 1831ROBERT GRANT2163
 Sir Charles Wetherell948
 Michael Thomas Sadler937

Main Article

The representation of Norwich was dictated by long-established rivalries in municipal politics, fluctuations in party funds and commercial considerations, notably the demise after 1825 of its textile industry, whose productivity consistently failed to match that of the Yorkshire manufactories.3 As the banker Hudson Gurney* commented in 1832, Norwich voters were ‘not counted in ones or twos’.4 Most, including the London out-voters, were managed through political clubs affiliated to two parties, the Purple and Orange representing Tory and anti-Catholic interests, and the Blue and White, whose professed Whiggism and religious toleration appealed to the city’s Dissenter dynasties, the Quaker Gurneys and the Unitarian Taylors and Martineaus. The role of the large employers, the owners of the worsted, silk and paper mills and shoe factories, in awarding time off for polling was important, and multiple entry booths, partisan voting by ward, ready judgments by assessors and a mutual agreement not to ask freemen probing questions concerning their religious affiliation and poor relief habitually kept polling time down to a day or two despite the large electorate.5 There was little ‘cooling time’ between elections to the common council in April (cleansing week), for the mayor in May and the freemen’s sheriff (one of the returning officers) in September. Together with by-elections for vacancies among the 24 aldermen of the mayoral court, they were contested with increasing venality, bribery and cooping, and there was growing evidence of deadlock between the Tory mayoral court and the predominantly Whig common council. Votes bought at municipal elections were expected to be duplicated at parliamentary elections, which had been habitually contested since 1774, so that except for about £1,500 for hospitality and printing, the candidates’ main expenditure (upwards of £4,000 each) lay in bringing in the thousand or so out-voters.6 Of 3,585 freeman voters created between 1800 and 1830, the largest single group, 700, were employed in the textile trade; but the admissions books show that the preference accorded to them and their merchant masters by charter had lapsed, and it became the subject of partisan litigation in this period.7

The preferred representation was by one national and one local figure. The sitting Members in 1820 were William Smith, the pro-reform, pro-Catholic Unitarian leader who had first come in on the Blue and White interest in 1802, when ‘personally but not politically unknown’ in the constituency, and the Norwich banker and lapsed Quaker Richard Hanbury Gurney, who had defeated the Purple and Orange candidate Edward Harbord*, brother and heir of the lord lieutenant, the 2nd Baron Suffield, in 1818.8 Harbord continued to cultivate his interest, pressing for the transfer of the spring assizes from ‘little’ Thetford to Norwich and for the construction of a navigable waterway to the North Sea; and he was feted as the prospective candidate at the King and Constitutional Club dinner, 28 July 1819. However, his refusal to sign the pro-government Norfolk declaration after Peterloo cost him the Purple and Orange party’s support, and at the general election of 1820 he was returned as a Whig for Shaftesbury.9 Late offers made on behalf of the ‘Purple and Orange’ interest to Edward Kerrison (Member for Eye, 1824-52), who retired at Northhampton, the Gurneys’ kinsman by marriage Charles Barclay* and Colonel John Harvey, son of the 1812-18 Member, failed, as did their partisans’ last ditch attempt to capitalize on their victory at a ward by-election on 6 Mar. by nominating Kerrison and the merchant brewer John Stainforth Patteson (son of the 1806-1812 Member).10 Hudson Gurney informed his sister Agatha, 5 Mar.

Up to last night there was no opposition started either for city or county. Dick, who came home greatly fuming in much misery is now in good heart and there is every prospect [of] Smith and him being returned again without ruinous expense. These symptoms of local peace arising from previous depletion - Tory money running low in Norwich and Whig money in Norfolk, though sweetness of spirit by no means abounds either among men of lamblets or men of barley. Whether Dick will not wash his hands of the concern after this bout I am doubtful. I wish he may, as the drain and nuisance together are unbearable and he seems of himself much of the opinion of his groom, who remarks that it is not a thing ‘fit for any gemman that’s fond of divarsion’.11

The Blue and White party, victors at the municipal elections of 1819, rallied at the Swan for Smith and Gurney, who were returned unopposed, proposed by Dr. Edward Rigby and Anthony Hudson, and seconded by aldermen John Robberds and William Foster, supported by the attorney William Unthank and Stone, the speaker of the common council. At the ‘Purple and Orange’ party’s dinner at the Castle, Harvey reserved to himself the right to stand on their interest at the next election.12 A gas lighting bill and a bill for a new bridge across the Wensum became law early in the new Parliament; and further municipal improvements were enacted towards its close, 22 Mar., 5 May 1826.13

Most constituency business in that Parliament was bipartisan and entrusted to Smith. The proposed assize transfer from Thetford was petitioned for annually and was the subject of unsuccessful parliamentary motions, 11 June 1824, 24 Feb. 1825.14 There was strong cross-party support for anti-slavery petitions promoted by Smith, the Gurneys, Harbord and Harvey, 1823-6, and likewise for repeal of the Insolvent Debtors Act and the abolition of the death penalty for forgery and non-violent crimes.15 Norwich Dissenters voiced support, but apparently failed to petition for Smith’s abortive Unitarian marriage bills, which the cathedral clergy opposed.16 The ‘Norwich Friends to Christian Missions’ petitioned the Commons in protest at the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 28 May 1824.17 As yet petitioning on the Catholic question was restricted to the Anglican clergy, who were divided on the issue (the liberal Henry Bathurst favoured relief and the dean and prebendaries opposed it), and to the anti-Catholics on the corporation.18 The manufacturers, corporation and inhabitants supported the campaign for repeal of the duties on coastwise coal.19

The Purple and Orange party consolidated their successes at the common council elections in April 1820 by securing the election of William Burt as mayor, and he declined to preside at the common hall on 2 Aug., when a strongly worded address of support for Queen Caroline was adopted, opposed solely by Harvey’s son Kerrison Harvey.20 The Tory-dominated corporation refused to sanction but failed to prevent an illumination to mark the abandonment of proceedings against the queen, and a common hall on 23 Nov., which Gurney attended, adopted an address in her favour. The corporation responded with an address to the king ‘adopted behind closed doors’, 1 Dec., and by making the dukes of York and Wellington honorary freemen, 4 Dec. 1820.21 Both Members supported the parliamentary campaigns on behalf of the queen and Smith presented the city’s 4,500-signature petition calling for restoration of her name to the liturgy, the dismissal of ministers and parliamentary reform, 26 Jan. 1821.22 Landowners and occupiers petitioned for repeal of the additional malt duty, 13 Mar., for which the Members voted, 3 Apr. 1821. Rioting and agrarian distress were rife when a common hall petitioned for remission of Henry Hunt’s* sentence, 24 Apr. 1822, and on 11 May a meeting addressed by Alderman Thomas Thurtell (a leading Dissenter) and the radicals petitioned the Commons for parliamentary reform, including the ballot, lower rents and tithe reform.23 The Commons received petitions from the tobacco and wool merchants and maltsters for continued protection, 16 May, 18 June 1821, 1 July 1822, the wine importers against the additional excise duty, 11 Mar. 1824, and the licensed victuallers against the beer bill, 21 May 1824. The worsted trade petitioned the Lords in 1820 for repeal of the tariff imposed in 1819, and the textile workers petitioned the Commons in 1824 for repeal of the combination laws and the unrestricted export of artisans and machinery, 4 Mar., duty free long wool imports, 5 Mar., and concessions to moderate the effects of the government’s silk bill, 17 Mar.; each described their trade as flourishing.24 When they next petitioned, for repeal of the corn laws as a means of obtaining cheaper bread, 26 Apr. 1825, 2 May 1826, manufacturing was in crisis, annual poor relief expenditure up from £16,600 to £50,000 and unrest endemic.25 Mayoral elections remained hotly contested. The attorney William Rackham and the warehouseman Robert Hawkes won for the Blues and Whites in 1821 and 1822, and John Patteson for the Purple and Orange in 1823; he was succeeded from 1824-6 on their interest by the attorney Henry Francis and the banker Thomas Starling Day.26 Day’s bank was a casualty of the December 1825 crisis, which Gurney’s survived, partly on account of their limited currency issues, prompt action by the Member and a strong show of support mustered by the county Member Thomas Coke I.27

Through the Purple and Orange alderman William Crisp Brown, a maltster and the purchaser of one in nine of the estimated 40,500 chaldrons transported to Norwich annually from Great Yarmouth, the corporation and manufacturers played a vital part in promoting the Norwich and Lowestoft navigation bill, which Smith introduced, after much haggling, 9 Feb. 1826.28 Projected as a means of reducing coal prices and thereby production costs, it was opposed by the corporation of Great Yarmouth, whose coal revenues it threatened, and defeated by 25-20 in committee after extensive and costly inquiry and petitioning, 2 May 1826.29 This dictated the outcome of the ensuing general election. Gurney, whose endorsement of the scheme was less than half-hearted, considered his local party’s confidence in the benefits of a return to the gold standard and ‘an extended system of free trade’ misplaced, and cited the latter and poor health in justification of his sudden retirement, 29 Apr. Barclay, who had supported the navigation bill, declined the Purple and Orange nomination, and Crisp Brown, perceiving that it needed a more powerful government backer than it had recently had in William Holmes, obtained an interview in London with the home secretary Robert Peel, to whom he offered their interest.30 Authorizing the candidature of his younger brother Jonathan, at a maximum of £1,500, their father wrote, 3 May:

Norwich is a manufacturing town of considerable consequence, and ... the business to be done requires constant attendance. As we wish to avoid being engaged in a contested election, and Norwich being notorious in favour of one, should Jonathan feel himself called to give up all prospect of being one of the Members, could you afford him hopes of getting a seat recommended by government? If the invitation of voters be of that respectable kind that will almost secure him a seat it is to be hoped that your brother will, by attention to his duties, make its continuance easy to him afterwards.31

On the 8th Crisp Brown informed the home secretary:

Since my return I have made it a point to see the greater part of those who generally take a part in opposing us, and I have great pleasure in informing you, that every one to whom I introduced the subject was willing and in fact desirous that the city should remain quiet: all they want is to secure Mr. Smith’s return, and they will not oppose any respectable candidate we may bring forward; they acknowledge they are satisfied with the conduct of ... ministers, that party feelings are much allayed, and they will discourage any opposition come it from where it may ... I have just seen Colonel Harvey, who once intended to offer himself as a candidate, and I am happy to say that he highly approved what has been done, and that he will give Major Peel every support in his power.32

Suspecting a coalition and angry at the loss of a local Member and the spoils of a contest, a freemen’s meeting convened by the operatives and tradesmen requisitioned the Whig Edward Lombe*, while 2,000, headed by the brushmaker John Hutchin, signed a requisition to Harvey and the Norfolk Tory Nathaniel William Peach* (as his second man). They all declined: Lombe on account of his candidature for Arundel, Peach and Harvey (who like Ives later sought a family baronetcy for his pains) as supporters of Peel. This left the Norwich-born barrister William Firth as the self-appointed third man, tacitly approved by the cathedral clergy as a fervent anti-Catholic, but resented as a supporter of the corn laws by the manufacturers, and ridiculed by the hierarchy of both parties. His addresses, however, prompted the Purple and Orange party to convene their supporters, summon their candidate and commence spending.33 Smith, now aged 70 and unable to spend on account of his financial ruin, issued a canvassing address criticizing Norwich election abuses and calling for parliamentary reform, 17 May. The Whig Norwich Mercury and Tory Norfolk Chronicle endorsed his candidature, and a meeting of London out-voters, chaired by John Martineau, resolved to poll for him at their own expense, 3 June.34 Unprepared, the leaders of the Blue and White party offered their second votes in vain to Alexander Baring*, William Windham of Felbrigg, John Martineau and William Earle Lytton Bulwer* of Haydon, while their supporters on the operatives’ committee requisitioned and were turned down by the wealthy London draper and textile merchant James Morrison*, a friend of Joseph Hume*.35 The short canvass, Firth’s late withdrawal, Hume’s influence as the new owner of nearby Burnley Hall and a ‘vast increase’ in the potential suburban freeholder vote complicated the predictions.36 Smith was proposed by Philip Martineau, with Robberds and John Postle seconding, and Peel by Harvey, with Patteson and the mayor elect and president of the Norwich Union Fire and Life Assurance Society Edward Temple Booth seconding. Three members of the operatives’ committee nominated, seconded and demanded a poll on behalf of the absent Gurney; but knowing that the bank would not underwrite his candidature, the corporation persuaded two of them to withdraw, refused a poll and returned Smith and Peel with what Gurney’s half-brother Hudson termed ‘much growling but no opposition’.37 Talk of a petition on Gurney’s behalf soon evaporated, but the notion that the operatives had been ‘sold out’ persisted and in July 1826 an independent society ‘to promote the purity of election’ was established, with Smith as president.38 That month the home secretary ridiculed Firth’s patronage request, alleging that he had made way for Peel; but he authorized plans giving the Pattesons responsibility for a Bank of England branch in Norwich.39

The Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex Railway Company’s scheme for a horse drawn railway to London, launched in the teeth of opposition from the Navigation Company and canal proprietors in 1825 with aldermen Booth and Ives as vice-chairmen, collapsed in August 1826 with the credit of its solicitor, the Member for Sudbury John Wilks.40 Both Members assisted with the revised Norwich and Lowestoft Port bill, which received royal assent, 28 May 1827, but the Company remained financially insecure and by 1830 Crisp Brown was bankrupt.41 The Protestant Dissenters and their allies on the corporation lobbied for ‘relief from the marriage law’ and petitioned both Houses for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., 18 Mar. 1828, and the Commons for the abolition of slavery, 9 June 1828, and the death penalty for forgery, 17 Mar., 24 May, 4 June 1830.42 Both Houses received petitions for Catholic relief in 1828 and 1829 from Norwich’s Catholics and Unitarians.43 Harvey presided over a Brunswick Club established in December 1828, with Jonathan Peel, seven aldermen and the leading anti-Catholic clergy as vice-presidents. Peel, who openly disagreed with his brother’s decision to concede emancipation and voted against it, presented their 8,520-signature petition, 19 Feb. 1829. Its Lords presenter Lord Bexley hailed it as proof that opposition to emancipation was not confined to rural districts, 18 Feb., while critics protested at the way in which it had been ‘got up’ and signed ‘on behalf of children and the illiterate’.44 On 17 Feb. 1829 the common council adopted an address congratulating the king on the repeal of the Test Acts and thanking him for recommending the ‘removal of the Catholic disabilities’ to Parliament.45

Depression in the textile trade and industrial strife had worsened, increasing the pressure on municipal charities and poor rates. Their maladministration for electoral purposes was the major issue at the 1827 elections, when their victory gave the Blue and Whites a majority on the new board of guardians appointed under the 1827 Norwich Poor Act, carried in the teeth of opposition from the Purple and Orange party.46 With the attorney-general Sir James Scarlett* as their counsel, they tried to wrest back control by bringing quo warranto and mandamus proceedings in king’s bench, charging the Blue and Whites with electoral bribery and challenging the preferential admission of wool merchants as freemen.47 The installation of Thurtell as mayor, 17 June 1828, after a second poll, ended in uproar and induced the Purple and Orange party to seek redress through king’s bench, to whom they again appealed following the appointment of the silk manufacturer George Grout as mayor’s sheriff; they were granted a rule nisi against Grout, 8 Nov. 1828. Retaliatory quo warranto proceedings by the Blues and Whites also succeeded and, in a test case, they secured writs demanding the admission of six worsted weavers as freemen.48 Yarmouth Whigs, the 4th earl of Albemarle, Gurney and Lombe had been the chief guests at their recent dinners; but Lombe, who was toasted as their candidate in waiting, broke publicly with the Whig aldermen in 1829 over their dismissal of Dr. Edward Valpy as headmaster of the grammar school.49 The Quakers were the first to organize relief for the distressed weavers and mediate on their behalf with employers and the corporation during the 1829-30 riots.50 With the prior agreement of both parties, a common hall on 17 Mar. 1830, a few days after William Cobbett’s† lectures at the Pantheon, unanimously adopted a petition to the Commons for economy and retrenchment, specifying repeal of the duties on beer, candles, coal, hops, leather and tea and a compensatory tax on property.51 Petitioning for repeal of the coastwise coal duty persisted, but this was now opposed by the paper and textile workers, who feared that mechanisation would bring further lay-offs, and they also accused the guardians of the poor of colluding with the employers to bring down wages.52 They had their revenge by switching to the Purple and Orange party, who in ‘cleansing week’ captured all four wards.53 Corporation business was immediately paralysed by the refusal of the radical mayor, the silk merchant Thomas Osborn Springfield, to attend corporation meetings to validate the appointment of 20 Purple and Orange guardians before he was directed to do so by king’s bench, 12 June.54 The death of George IV was awaited and celebrations on 17 June 1830 at the installation of the Purple and Orange alderman and the currier John Angell as mayor were attended by Jonathan Peel, the Speaker Manners Sutton and Lombe, and took on an electioneering air.55

Peel, who sought re-election on the strength of his parliamentary record, issued canvassing addresses directly the king’s death was announced, 28 June, and dined the London freemen. Handbills and the Whig press criticized his failure to vote for retrenchment and religious liberty, and allusions to his role in securing the passage of the Norwich and Lowestoft Navigation bill were now largely discounted.56 Smith’s retirement notice, in which he called for the abolition of slavery, parliamentary reform and an end to electoral corruption in Norwich, was held back briefly while Coke and Lord Althorp* were consulted about his successor. The lawyers Stephen Lushington*, a political ally of Smith and former Member for Great Yarmouth, and Joseph Phillimore* were expected to offer, but they were pre-empted by the operatives’ requisition to Gurney as a ‘no coalition candidate’.57 On being assured of the support of J.H. Robberds and Sons, T. Martineau and Sons and other leading manufacturers, he accepted, and he commenced his canvass directly the party hierarchy under the chairmanship of the radical Dissenter Sir Thomas Beevor declared for him, 12 July.58 His candidature placed the Quakers in a moral dilemma, on account of his recent elopement and marriage, following divorce proceedings, to the former wife of the Norfolk Whig Joseph Muskett of Intwood Hall, with whom he had had a daughter. Joseph John Gurney informed his brother Samuel:

I deprecate the idea of thy coming down at the time of the Norwich election, as I am quite clear it will not do for any of us to take part in promoting RHG’s election. He has started today, I am sorry to say, and I trust shall be fairly off before the election comes on, but if I am not, I certainly shall not vote for him, not feeling any liberty of mind to do so. My course will be entirely passive, and I entreat thee to let thine be the same, for I have reason to know that many eyes are upon us, to watch whether we will act up to our profession or not. Had RHG refused to stand, there would have been an open door for Lushington, but as matters stand I shall be glad if no second candidate comes forward, the result of which would be a quiet return of one and one. If Lushington should come forward with RHG, I think it will not do for us to vote at all, otherwise it would be quite strikingly offensive to Richard. I feel quite clear that for Richard we cannot vote as Christians and as friends and greatly hope we shall act alike.59

Lushington and Phillimore desisted, the latter, whose invitation had come from the Dissenters, on account of the estimated £5,000 cost and uncertainty concerning Coke’s support. Coke and Lord Holland’s overtures to the Foxite Whig Sir Ronald Ferguson*, then searching for a seat, and to Henry Brougham* were declined, but at William Huskisson’s* behest Brougham sent down Robert Grant, the Member for Inverness Burghs, who declared on the 23rd. Holland and Lord Lansdowne, who were kept fully briefed, welcomed the opportunity it afforded Grant ‘to oust a Peel’.60 Negotiations with Harvey, his fellow alderman the insurer Samuel Bignold and Peel’s brother William Yates Peel* had meanwhile failed, forcing the Purple and Orange party to rely on a second stranger, Admiral Sir Charles Ogle*, who declared on 26 July 1830.61

Joint notices inferred that Peel and Ogle were for and Gurney and Grant against the Wellington administration. Peel’s professions of political independence won him few friends and his Ultra views and votes against the 1830 beer bill were unpopular. Gurney was a proven reformer. Grant’s only independent notice professed support for retrenchment, a liberal and tolerant domestic and foreign policy and ‘judicious and effectual measures for a practical correction of every abuse, including such as prevail in electing the representatives of the people’.62 Both sides displayed their strength through rallies and processions and canvassed assiduously. Squib writers made much of ‘Sinner’ Gurney and the Muskett affair, and portrayed the eloquent Grant as a ‘Saint’ who ‘loves a good dinner’, ‘Soldier’ Peel as ‘Orange Peel’ and ‘Sailor’ Ogle as a political ‘ogle eye’. Grant and Gurney arrived accompanied by fifty horsemen led by Anthony Hudson and a ‘rabble train’ of 10-20,000, 24 July; and Peel and Ogle’s cavalcade on the 26th, Saint Monday, was of a similar size but ‘better managed’. On the 29th Peel was proposed by Harvey, with the borough steward Isaac Preston and Robert Skipper seconding. Ogle’s proposers, Patteson and Aldermen William Rackham and Charles Turner, stifled their candidate’s inept claim that his letters of introduction were to Gurney. He in turn was nominated by Robberds, with the physician William Dalrymple and Foster seconding; and Grant by Beevor, with the Unitarian alderman John Harrison Yallop and Thurtell as seconders.63 Polling proceeded riotously and swiftly and stood that day at Gurney 2,032, Grant 1,963, Peel 1,699, and Ogle 1,560. Afterwards Peel and his supporters were stoned, a man killed and the Purple and Orange booth partly destroyed. Polling resumed on the 30th and the election of Grant and Gurney was declared that day.64 While Whigs rejoiced and Tories lamented, The Times commented:

This election will, perhaps, most vitally affect many, if not all those places where any spark of independence exists: it will be a beacon to show those who, like Norwich ... have become, or are about to be sacrificed to the place hunters.65

Afterwards Hudson Gurney advised Grant’s London backers that the ‘slightest sort of a contest must cost the party ... £10,000’.66 The Members reiterated their commitment to local issues at the chairing and Gurney interpreted the result as an indictment of government for failing to act to alleviate distress. At the dinner, 2 Aug. 1830, he claimed that recent events had vindicated his stance on free trade and denounced those who had called him a party ‘tool’. Grant promised such ‘careful regard to my public duties’ as befitted the representative of a large commercial and manufacturing city, while Robberds and Thomas Bignold called for parliamentary reform and the implementation of the recommendations of the 1828 finance committee.67 The following Sunday the Whig rector of Hargham, Cannon Robert Fountain Elwin preached on 2 Samuel Ch. 1, v. 26: ‘I am distressed for thee my brother Jonathan’.68

According to Bacon and Kinnebrook’s edition of the pollbook, 4,202 voted, which was 755 (22 per cent) more than in 1818. At 95 per cent, partisan split voting was the norm, with 2,231 (53 per cent) voting for Gurney and Grant, and 1,756 (42 per cent) for Peel and Ogle. Of the 137 (three per cent) who split votes between the parties, all but three voted for Peel, who shared 106 votes with Gurney and 18 with Grant; the exceptions split between Grant and Ogle. Only 88 (two per cent) plumped (32 for Peel, 27 for Grant, 26, including his father-in-law William Jary, for Gurney, and three for Ogle). Compared with 1818, there was a nine per cent increase to 74 per cent in the resident vote despite a 22 per cent increase to 385 (nine per cent overall) in the London vote, which, at Grant 220, Gurney 219, Peel 165 and Ogle 157, the Blues and Whites carried convincingly. They also secured majorities among the remaining out-voters (Gurney 395, Grant 385, Peel, 267 and Ogle 256) and the residents (Gurney 1,742, Grant 1,665, Peel 1,451 and Ogle 1,321), winning Connisford ward (Gurney 347, Grant 363, Peel 317 and Ogle 288), Wymer ward (Gurney 626, Grant 606, Peel 548 and Ogle 509) and Northern ward (Gurney 573, Grant 531, Peel 307 and Ogle 255), notwithstanding their ‘cleansing week’ losses, and leaving Peel and Ogle ahead only in the Cathedral Precincts (Peel 29, Ogle 28, Grant 9 and Gurney 7) and the Purple and Orange stronghold of Mancroft ward (Peel 279, Ogle 269, Gurney 181 and Grant 180). The aldermen (excluding proposers) gave Peel 12 and Ogle 11 votes.

The weakened Wellington ministry’s overture to the Huskissonites (including Grant) that autumn failed, and both Members voted against them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. Nothing came of a threatened opposition to Grant’s re-election on the 30th, following his appointment as judge advocate in Lord Grey’s ministry.69 Lacking money, he ‘fleeced’ Edward Littleton* for £1,200, canvassed early and agreed to promote the Norwich assizes campaign. He was proposed as previously and afterwards justified his opposition to the late ministry and his support for Grey, reform and the assize transfer. Gurney, who accompanied him, had doubted the wisdom of holding an ‘inflammatory party dinner’ when unrest, machine breaking and anti-tithe rioting were rampant. On the hustings he expressed his regret at the disturbances and the people’s plight and urged them to support a government pledged to introduce reform and ‘equitable and universal tax reductions’.70 Petitioning for reductions in the coastwise coal duty had resumed and support for the anti-slavery campaign was evident in the Nonconformists’ and inhabitants’ petitions to both Houses in 1830-1.71 They also received petitions for repeal of the assessed taxes from the parishes of St. Andrew, 18 Dec. 1830, 11 Feb., and St. Michael at Plea, 4 Feb. 1831, and Grant lobbied for the assize transfer as promised.72 Nearly 3,000 attended the Norwich reform meeting on 19 Jan. 1831, which was boycotted by Angell as mayor and chaired by the elected sheriff Isaac Wiseman. Resolutions for a petition to both Houses for shorter parliaments, universal suffrage and the ballot as means of alleviating distress was proposed by Beevor, and supported by Alderman Marshall, the Rev. Beaumont and the leaders of the operatives’ committee. Gurney, who was charged with presenting it to the Commons, expressed support for its ‘general tenor’, but called for forbearance towards ministers.73 A petition supporting their reform bill was presented to the Commons, 19 Mar., bolstered by an open letter from the editor of the Norwich Mercury, Richard Mackenzie Bacon.74 Following its defeat (19 Apr.), over 500 bankers and merchants signed a declaration of support for reform and the sitting Members, 22 Apr., and Beevor, with Robberds as his deputy, chaired a joint committee in their interest at the ensuing general election. Surrounded by placards proclaiming ‘reform’, ‘liberty’ and ‘social order’, Grant campaigned as an uncompromising supporter of the bill and his ministerial colleagues. Gurney, who was ill with gout and remained in London throughout, was hailed as a candidate ‘born among us, bred among us, living among us’.75 The Purple and Orange interest had yet to act after obtaining a rule nisi on 26 Jan. against the Blue and White aldermen for electoral bribery at the municipal elections. They now issued an anti-reform declaration and applied to the Tory opposition’s Charles Street office in London, whence the chancery barrister James Wigram and one Pope were sent down with a reputed £30,000; but, perceiving that they had started too late, they soon left. Harvey’s overtures to Alderman John Culley and Firth failed, and attempts to introduce the East and West India Company monopolies, the Bank of England charter, the corn question and slavery as election issues proved futile. A small group of anti-reformers, led by the attorney Augustus Hamilton Beckwith and the future barrister William Utten Browne, remained determined to field a candidate, and after Grant and Gurney had been nominated as hitherto, 29 Apr., the innkeeper Stephen Crotch, the dealer Thomas Parsons and the brushmaker P.T. Scott nominated two well known anti-reformers, the former attorney-general Sir Charles Wetherell* and Michael Sadler* by proxy and without their prior consent and demanded a poll. Grant’s assurances that neither would have ‘sanctioned such useless proceedings’ were ignored once Browne and Alderman Steward had guaranteed their election expenses, and polling commenced on the 30th, after the booths had been built and the out-voters summoned. The tally that day stood at Gurney 2,084, Grant 2,028, Wetherell 849 and Sadler 847. Polling resumed on 2 May, after the Sunday break, when Grant received an additional 113, Wetherell 99 and Sadler 90 votes before violence erupted among a large crowd, convened in anticipation of the arrival of Wetherell and Sadler. The Purple and Orange booth was demolished and burnt, the pollbooks torn and placards proclaimed ‘liberty and public order’ as the Riot Act was read. The poll was declared next day at Grant 2,163, Gurney 2,158, Wetherell 948 and Sadler 937, a majority of over two to one for the reformers. Grant, who was chaired alone before a crowd of 20-30,000, 4 May 1831, claimed the victory for the ministry and called for calm. Reformers denounced ‘empty Sadler’ and complained that the contest was ‘vexatious’ and sustained solely to deplete party funds.76

The Members supported the reintroduced and revised reform bills, and Gurney’s wayward votes against the division of counties, 11 Aug., for granting freeholders in counties corporate like Norwich county votes, 17 Aug., and for the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug. 1831, were well attuned to local interests.77 Polish independence from Russian aggression, a cause espoused by Smith, was the subject of the speeches at the corporation’s coronation dinner in September.78 A common hall on the 29th, requisitioned by 100 of the principal magistrates, bankers and merchants, and addressed by Yallop as mayor, the ‘Blue and White aldermen’ and the Members, petitioned the Lords unanimously urging the reform bill’s passage: 11,352 signed their petition and 1,300 another, quietly circulated by the anti-reformers.79 Wellington was informed afterwards that the demand for reform among the members of Norwich’s manufacturing clubs derived from their opposition to sinecures and official pensions.80 The wording of the corporation’s loyal address to the king following the bill’s defeat in the Lords was disputed, and at a common hall, 18 Oct. 1831, Wiseman carried an amendment adding a declaration of support for the ministry to Thomas Bignold’s pro-reform resolutions.81 Yallop was knighted on presenting it.82 When the revised reform bill was jeopardized by a further Lords’ defeat and the king’s overture to Wellington, the reformers, led by Robberds, Springfield, Bignold and Gurney, met on 14 May 1832 to petition for withholding supplies pending its passage, and 2,000 signed a declaration of support for Grant and Gurney in the event of a precipitate dissolution.83 Since the general election a new poor bill introduced by Grant, 30 June, had received royal assent, 23 Aug. 1831, after much petitioning and counter-petitioning;84 and he had assisted with the 1832 Norwich and Lowestoft Navigation Act, which increased the company’s funding.85 The Norfolk assize bill, whose enactment on 23 June 1832 Thetford, its Baring patrons and Lord Tenterden failed to prevent, made Norwich the county’s sole assize town from January 1833.86

As the commissioners had recommended, except for the inclusion of the castle, the boundaries of Norwich were left unchanged by the Reform Act. This made little difference to the size of the registered electorate, which in September 1832 stood at 4,238 and comprised 2,420 freemen, 775 freeholders and 1,043 £10 voters; but the removal of the out-voters was perceived as an opportunity for additional spending on the resident ones.87 Canvassing commenced in earnest in July 1832, and bribery, vote purchasing and cooping prevailed at the sheriffs’ election in September and the general election in December, when the Conservatives Scarlett and Viscount Stormont* defeated Gurney and his fellow Liberal Henry Bellenden Ker in a fierce contest.88 Subsequent inquiry found that bribery and corruption were endemic, but the duke of Bedford’s fears that the constituency would be disfranchised for corruption were not yet realized.89 Following the defeat of Gurney in 1832 and Suffield’s son Edward Harbord in 1835, the Liberals tried giving precedence to outsiders and regained a seat though Smith’s son Benjamin after Scarlett’s election was declared void in 1838.90 Two Liberals were returned at most elections between 1852 and 1874, but corruption persisted. 91 The Conservative was unseated on petition in 1870 and the elections of 1859 and 1874 were voided, on the latter occasion leaving the constituency with a single Member, the local Liberal manufacturer Jeremiah James Colman, from 1875, when the writ was suspended, until 1880.

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. PP (1831-2), xxxix. 561.
  • 2. Ibid. xxxvi. 146.
  • 3. Norwich in 19th Cent. ed. C. Barringer, 119-60; PP (1835), xxvi. 379-430.
  • 4. Norf. RO, Gurney mss RQG 402/69.
  • 5. B.D. Hayes, ‘Politics in Norf. 1750-1832’ (Camb. Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1957), 73, 79, 96; PP (1826-7), iv. 1113-14, 1116-17.
  • 6. R.M. Bacon, Mem. Baron Suffield, 71-80; M. Harrison, Crowds and History, 92, 220; Hayes, 68-69, 92-98; Norwich in 19th Cent. 75; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 292-5.
  • 7. P.J. Corfield, ‘Social and Economic Hist. of Norwich, 1650-1850: a study in urban growth’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1976), 362-4.
  • 8. CUL, William Smith mss Add. 7621/143; M. Knights, ‘Norwich Elections’, Hickling’s Almanack (1880), 64-65.
  • 9. Bacon, 99-100, 110-11; Norf. Chron. 31 July, 25 Sept. 1819, 26 Feb. 1820.
  • 10. Norf. Chron. 26 Feb., 4, 11 Mar. 1820; W.H. Bidwell, Annals of an East Anglian Bank, 171-2.
  • 11. Gurney mss 572/2.
  • 12. Ibid. 572/3; Norf. Chron. 4, 11 Mar. 1820.
  • 13. Norf. Chron. 2 Oct. 1819; The Times, 6 May 1820; CJ, lxxv. 135, 158, 216, 341; lxxxi. 58, 74-75, 79, 198, 275, 325; LJ, liii. 124, 154, 184, 274; Norwich in 19th Cent. 81.
  • 14. The Times, 6 July 1820; CJ, lxxv. 402; lxxvii. 276; lxxix. 473, 475, 491; lxxx. 123; Add. 40355, f. 273; 40360, f. 35; 40384, f. 255; Norf. RO, Norwich corporation assembly minute bk. xiii, 3 May 1822, 14 Apr. 1823, 24 Feb. 1824, 3 May 1825; Norf. Chron. 17 Jan., 19 June; The Times, 26 Feb., 11, 12, 19 June 1824.
  • 15. Buxton Mems. 142; The Times, 19 Feb., 15 Mar. 1823; Norf. Chron. 17, 24 Jan.; Norwich Meeting, 28 Jan. 1824 [BL 8155. b. 41.]; Bury and Norwich Post, 4 Feb. 1824; CJ, lxxv. 119; lxxviii. 32-33; lxxix. 161, 430; LJ, lv. 692; lvi. 382.
  • 16. The Times, 7, 14 June 1820; Norwich in 19th Cent. 176-97; CJ, lxxviii. 23.
  • 17. CJ, lxxix. 430.
  • 18. Ibid. lxxvi. 120; lxxx. 315, 396; LJ, liv. 171, 349; lv. 858, 859; Norwich in 19th Cent. 160-75; Norwich corporation assembly minute bk. xiii, 3 May 1825; G.I.T. Machin, Catholic Question in English Politics, 54, 148.
  • 19. Norwich corporation assembly minute bk. xiii, 3 May 1823; CJ, lxxix. 76, 497; lxxxi. 358.
  • 20. Norf. Chron. 24 June, 28 July, 5 Aug. 1820; B. Cozens-Hardy, Mayors of Norwich, 153.
  • 21. Norf. Chron. 18, 25 Nov., 2 Dec.; Bury and Norwich Post, 22, 29 Nov., 13 Dec.; The Times, 23 Nov., 1, 5, 6 Dec.; Norwich corporation assembly minute bk. xiii, 1-2 Dec. 1820; Wellington mss WP1/657/1.
  • 22. CJ, lxxvi. 12; The Times, 27 Jan. 1821.
  • 23. The Times, 9 Mar., 18 July; Norwich Mercury, 4, 18 May 1822; CJ, lxxvi. 163; lxxvii. 200, 296.
  • 24. CJ, lxxvi. 347, 458; lxxvii. 163, 390; lxxix. 121, 127, 149, 173, 394; The Times, 22 Mar. 1824.
  • 25. CJ, lxxx. 343; lxxxi. 120; Norf. RO NRS ms 453; The Times, 4, 6, 16, 20 Mar., 16 May 1826; Corfield, 655.
  • 26. Cozens-Hardy, 153-5; Knights, 66.
  • 27. Norwich Mercury, 10, 17, 24 Dec. 1825.
  • 28. Norwich a Port [BL 09235. i. 63.]; Norf. RO MC221/1; The Times, 31 Dec. 1822; Norf. RO, Rumbold mss L14/8-12; Norwich corporation assembly minute bk. xiii, 3 May 1822; Corfield, 402, 409.
  • 29. Norf. Chron. 21 May, 15 Oct. 1825; PP (1826), iv. 383-628; CJ, lxxxi. 26, 74, 104, 129, 132, 138, 144, 151, 203, 240; The Times, 7 Apr.; Norwich Mercury, 6, 13, 27 May 1826.
  • 30. Bury and Norwich Post, 3 May; Gurney mss 402/40, 42; Rumbold mss L14/20.
  • 31. Add. 40386, f. 241.
  • 32. Ibid. f. 269.
  • 33. The Times, 8, 23, 25, 29, 30 May; Norwich Mercury, 20 May; Bury and Norwich Post, 24 May 1826; Add. 40387, ff. 14-19, 54; Wellington mss WP1/673/1; 937/32; 994/7; Knights, 66-67.
  • 34. William Smith mss Add. 7621/143; Norwich Mercury, 27 May; Norf. Chron. 27 May; Bury and Norwich Post, 31 May, 7 June 1826.
  • 35. Add. 40387, ff. 59, 78, 88; Norwich Mercury, 3, 10 June; Bury and Norwich Post, 14 June 1826.
  • 36. The Times, 30 May, 9 June 1826.
  • 37. Add. 440387, f. 248; Gurney diary, 9 June; The Times, 12 June 1826.
  • 38. Add. 40387, f. 248; Norwich Mercury, 17, 24 June, 1 July 1826; C. Mackie, Norf. Annals, 257.
  • 39. Add. 40387, ff. 138, 140; 40388, ff. 115, 117.
  • 40. The Times, 12, 13 Jan. 1825, 8 Apr., 25 Aug. 1826.
  • 41. CJ, lxxxii. 13, 29, 39, 44, 173, 305, 345, 485, 495; The Times, 20 Feb. 1828; Norwich Mercury, 12 Dec. 1829.
  • 42. Wellington mss WP1/917/1; CJ, lxxxiii. 105, 412; lxxxv. 188, 463, 512.
  • 43. CJ, lxxxiii. 268, 282; lxxxiv. 133; LJ, lx. 321; lxi. 182.
  • 44. Norwich Mercury, 6 Dec. 1828; Norf. Chron. 24 Jan., 20, 27 Feb.; The Times, 5 Mar. 1829; LJ, lxi. 52; Knights, 68-69.
  • 45. The Times, 23 Feb. 1829.
  • 46. Ibid. 10, 15, 16 Feb., 18, 20 June 1827; Hayes, 68, 329-30; CJ, lxxxii. 212, 221, 243, 269, 290, 299, 313, 370, 495; Norwich corporation assembly minute bk. xiii, 16 May, 7 June 1827; PP (1835), xxvi. 418-9.
  • 47. Norwich corporation assembly minute bk. xiii, 29 Jan., 9 Mar. 1827; The Times, 13 Feb., 19 May 1828.
  • 48. Norwich Mercury, 14, 21 June, 4 Oct., 15 Nov. 1828; The Times, 11 Feb., 9 July 1829; Cozens-Hardy, 156-7; Norwich corporation assembly minute bk. xiii, 29 Sept. 1828; xiv, 9 Jan. 1829.
  • 49. H.W. Saunders, Hist. Norwich Grammar School, 225-6; Norwich Mercury, 21 Nov. 1829.
  • 50. The Times, 26 Feb. 1829, 1, 18 Jan.; Norf. Chron. 2, 9, Jan., 6 Feb.; Norwich Mercury, 16, 30 Jan. 1830.
  • 51. Norf. Chron. 6, 20 Mar.; Norwich Mercury, 6, 20 Mar. 1830; CJ, lxxxv. 496.
  • 52. CJ, lxxxv. 68; Hayes, 338.
  • 53. Norwich Mercury, 3 Apr., 10 July 1830; Hayes, 332.
  • 54. Norwich Mercury, 8 May; The Times, 14 June; Norwich corporation assembly minute bk. xiv, 21 June 1830.
  • 55. Norwich Mercury, 26 June 1830.
  • 56. Ibid. 3, 10 July; Norf. Chron. 3 July 1830; Norwich Election Budget (1830).
  • 57. Add. 75940, Althorp to Spencer, 6 July; Christ Church, Oxf. Phillimore mss, Holland to Phillimore, 12 July; Norwich Mercury, 10 July 1830.
  • 58. Norwich Mercury, 17 July; Norf. Chron. 17 July 1830.
  • 59. Soc. of Friends Lib. Gurney mss Temp 434/3/526a.
  • 60. Hopetoun mss 167, f. 153; Add. 51813, Phillimore to Holland, 14 July; 51593, Coke to same 22, 25, 30 July; 51687, Lansdowne to same, 28 July; Norwich Mercury, 10, 17, 24 July; Chatsworth mss, Brougham to Devonshire, 21 Sept. 1830.
  • 61. Norf. Chron. 10, 17, 24, 31 July; Norwich Mercury, 24, 31 July 1830.
  • 62. Norwich Election Budget (1830), 10, 20-27.
  • 63. Ibid. 29; Harrison, 223-4; Norf. Chron. 31 July; Norwich Mercury, 31 July 1830.
  • 64. The Times, 4 Aug. 1830; Staffs. RO, Stafford Jerningham mss D641/3/P/3/14/57; Harrison 220.
  • 65. Brougham mss, Mackintosh to Brougham, 31 July; Ellenborough Diary, ii. 333; The Times, 3 Aug.; Add. 61937, Thomson to Fazakerley, 9 Aug. 1830.
  • 66. Lansdowne mss, Empson to Lansdowne [9 Aug. 1830].
  • 67. Norf. Chron. 7 Aug.; Norwich Mercury, 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 68. TNA 30/29, Holland to Granville, 1 Sept. 1830.
  • 69. Norwich Mercury, 20, 27 Nov.; Norf. Chron. 27 Nov., 4 Dec. 1830.
  • 70. Hatherton mss, Grant to Littleton, 24 Nov., Littleton to R. Wellesley, 26 Nov.; The Times, 29 Nov., 2 Dec.; Norwich Mercury, 4 Dec. 1830.
  • 71. CJ, lxxxvi. 57, 226, 237, 455-6l; LJ, lxiii. 68, 112.
  • 72. CJ, lxxxvi. 189 212; LJ, lxiii. 218; Brougham mss, Grant to Brougham, 26 Feb. 1831.
  • 73. Norwich Mercury, 22 Jan.; The Times, 24 Jan.; East Anglian, 23 Jan. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 433 [as Norfolk]; LJ, lxiii. 280.
  • 74. CJ, lxxxvi. 407; Norwich Mercury, 23 Mar. 1831.
  • 75. Norwich Mercury 23, 30 Apr., 7 May; East Anglian, 26 Apr.; The Times, 28 Apr.; Bury and Norwich Post, 4 May 1831.
  • 76. Norwich Election Budget (1831), passim.; Three Diaries, 90; The Times, 27 Apr. 2, 5 May; Norwich Mercury, 7 May 1831; Harrison, 225.
  • 77. Norwich Mercury, 20 Aug.; Norf. Chron. 20 Aug.; East Anglian, 23 Aug.; Bury and Norwich Post, 31 Aug. 1831.
  • 78. Norwich Mercury, 10 Sept. 1831.
  • 79. Ibid. 1 Oct.; The Times, 3 Oct. 1831; Norf. RO, Gunton mss 1/33; LJ, lxiii. 1053.
  • 80. Wellington mss WP1/1198/39.
  • 81. Norwich Mercury, 22 Oct. 1831.
  • 82. Cozens-Hardy, 150-1.
  • 83. The Times, 16 May 1832.
  • 84. CJ, lxxxvi. 590, 635, 649, 681, 697, 777.
  • 85. Ibid. lxxxvii. 20, 30-31, 33, 78, 125.
  • 86. The Times, 4 Apr., 24 May, 15 June 1832; CJ, lxxxvii. 246, 261, 334, 339, 361, 373, 430; LJ, lxiv. 294, 300, 317; PP (1831-2), ii. 587.
  • 87. PP (1831-2), xxxix. 146; (1833), xxvii. 194.
  • 88. Norf. Chron. 23, 30 June, 7, 14 July; The Times, 23, 28 July, 3 Sept., 24 Nov., 12, 13, 18 Dec.; Essex RO, Barrett Lennard mss D/DL C60, Bellenden Ker to Barrett Lennard, 12 Dec. 1832.
  • 89. Add. 51671, Bedford to Lady Holland [13 Dec. 1832]; CJ, lxxxviii. 52-53, 147, 182-3, 260, 406; Knights, 75-76.
  • 90. William Smith mss Add. 7621/460; Knights, 76-99.
  • 91. PP (1852-53), xvii. 1, 147; (1859), iv. 361.