St. Albans


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 in householders paying scot and lot

Estimated number qualified to vote:

about 750

Number of voters:

656 in 1831


4,472 (1821); 4,772 (1831)


 Sir Henry Wright Wilson151
9 Jan. 1821SIR HENRY WRIGHT WILSON vice Robarts, deceased209
 Charles Ross189
 John Easthope177
3 Aug. 1830JAMES WALTER GRIMSTON, Visct. Grimston495
 Henry Gally Knight280
29 Apr. 1831SIR FRANCIS VINCENT, bt.452
 James Walter Grimston, Visct. Grimston308

Main Article

By 1820 St. Albans, a stagnant market town and centre of coaching traffic, had become a largely unmanageable borough: of the 16 elections which occurred between 1784 and 1832, only three were uncontested.1 The strongest natural interest belonged to James Walter Grimston†, 1st earl of Verulam, an anti-Catholic Tory and brother-in-law of the prime minister Lord Liverpool, whose residence at Gorhambury lay two miles west of the town. His ancestors had supplied several Members for St. Albans, but after his own removal to the Lords in 1808 he was handicapped by the lack of a suitable family candidate: his eldest son and heir, Lord Grimston, was not born until February 1809.2 The Spencers of Althorp, Northamptonshire, whose interest, based on their control of the corporation, underpinned by loans, and the backing of local Dissenters, had once been stronger than that of the Grimstons, had withdrawn from full-scale involvement in St. Albans electioneering after their defeat, amid flagrant bribery, in 1807. There remained, however, a party of liberal political outlook within the borough who looked to them for a lead, and in particular to the 2nd Earl Spencer’s son and heir Lord Althorp, Member for Northamptonshire.3

The venal element at St. Albans became increasingly significant with the disintegration of the Spencer and hamstringing of the Grimston interests. According to evidence given to the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the 1850 by-election, which resulted in the borough’s disfranchisement for gross bribery and corruption in 1852, before the 1832 Reform Act there was ‘a known and settled price given to voters’, of two guineas for a plumper and one (from each candidate) for splits. The money, which most voters considered their due, was brazenly distributed by election agents. There existed a so-called ‘contest party’, which had its origin in the independent candidature of the radical, Samuel Waddington, in 1796, and thereafter actively encouraged the intervention of wealthy third men. This party was led for a time by John Sharpless, a London voter, and John Monckton Hale, a boroughmongering attorney; but during the 1820s it came under the direction of Dr. Richard Webster, a retired naval surgeon and an alderman of St. Albans since 1812. It was reckoned that before 1832, about a third of candidates’ expenditure went on bribery.4 A substantial portion might also be applied to the cost of bringing up non-resident freemen, mainly from London, who comprised between 11 per cent (1820) and 23 per cent (1821) of those who voted in this period. Overall, freemen constituted almost 30 per cent of voters in 1820, 1830 and 1831; and the proportion rose to 39 per cent in 1821. The freedom was obtainable by apprenticeship, birth, redemption or honorary admission, but it was made little use of for electioneering purposes: there were only 77 admissions between 1820 and 1831.5 The corporation, which consisted of a mayor and 12 other aldermen, had in the past been at pains to restrict the number of creations; and a by-law of 1809 stipulated that no eldest son of a freeman could be admitted unless his father had been or was a resident of St. Albans. Admissions by apprenticeship were also strictly regulated. The redemption fee was £5, but it was customary to admit parliamentary candidates free. In 1826, however, the debt-ridden corporation set a fee of £50 for candidates. It was reduced to £10 in December 1832.6 The corporation, a select and irresponsible body drawn largely from the ranks of professional men and prosperous tradesmen, whose principal function was magisterial, lost much of its political significance after the withdrawal of the Spencers.7 At least four in ten resident adult males of the borough had the vote; and, overall, slightly more than a quarter of the electorate were unskilled labourers.8

The Spencers gave their blessing to the Whig William Robarts, a rich London businessman and nephew of the opposition Commons leader George Tierney, who was successful at a by-election in February 1818. The defeated candidate was their kinsman Lord Charles Spencer Churchill, the impoverished younger son of the 5th duke of Marlborough, who owned some property in St. Albans. Spencer Churchill, who acted with opposition when present, was returned with Robarts at the general election later in the year at the expense of the other sitting Member, Christopher Smith, a London wine merchant and alderman, and a supporter of government. At the general election of 1820 Spencer Churchill, ‘not being able to pay his last bill, could not appear at St. Albans’; and it was initially thought by John Harrison, Spencer’s agent, that Robarts and Smith, who came forward again, would be unopposed. In the event there was a late and feeble challenge from the ministerialist Sir Henry Wright Wilson of Chelsea Park in west London, who derived his considerable wealth from inherited property in Yorkshire and Hampshire. He finished a poor third.9 He received a vote from only 33 per cent of the 462 who polled, while Smith was supported by 75 per cent and Robarts by 63. Robarts had 76 plumpers (27 per cent of his total), but he shared 186 votes (64 per cent) with Smith. Smith had 49 plumpers (14 per cent of his total), and shared 111 votes with Wright Wilson (32 per cent). The latter, with only 13 plumpers (eight per cent of his total) and 27 votes shared with Robarts (18 per cent), received almost 75 per cent of his support from the second votes of Smith’s backers. There was little significant variation in the distribution of support for the candidates among ratepayers and freemen, though the latter marginally preferred Robarts and Wright Wilson, who polled markedly better than he did overall among the 80 resident freemen. The 53 non-residents supported Robarts, Smith and Wright Wilson in the respective proportions of 66, 53 and 28 per cent. Of the four aldermen who voted, John Newball Bacon and Thomas Foreman Gape split for Smith and Wright Wilson; William Brown plumped for Wright Wilson; and Webster did likewise for Smith.10 On the day of the election the corporation minuted the termination in their favour of an action brought in king’s bench by one George Aviss to challenge the restrictive by-law of 1809.11

Wright Wilson, doubtless encouraged by a sudden and rapid decline in Robarts’s health, continued to cultivate the borough. At the end of September 1820 General Alexander Ross, a Tory, who was then renting Lamer Park, five miles north east of St. Albans, sought the ‘countenance’ of Spencer, an old and close personal friend, for his son Charles when Robarts died, provided no Whig started. He claimed that he had already been approached by ‘some friends in this part of the country’ on a premature report of his death. While Spencer stated his ‘determination to take no active part in the electioneering concerns’ of the borough, he informed Ross that he was committed to support his Whig cousin William Poyntz* of Cowdray, Sussex, a former Member, who was supposedly interested in the prospective vacancy.12 Five weeks later Harrison, warning Spencer that Robarts was at death’s door, urged him to confirm Poyntz’s candidature, ‘as nothing can be so essential to his success as obtaining the start’. Poyntz in fact decided against standing, to the chagrin of Harrison, who felt that ‘the interest which brought in ... [Robarts] would be increased by personal considerations for Mr. Poyntz’. He told Spencer that Thomas Kinder, the current mayor, whose family had long supported the Spencer interest, and to whom Poyntz had communicated his decision, had been in touch:

He and his friends are at a loss how to act, having no candidate to bring forward, and he desires to hear from me. I can only tell him that I can give him no information or assistance, and that he must do what he thinks fit.13

A fortnight before Robarts’s death, 9 Dec. 1820, Althorp informed Spencer that he had been solicited by the opposition whip Lord Duncannon* (Spencer’s nephew) to write to Kinder in favour of James Evan Baillie*, the Bristol banker and West India merchant, and former Whig Member for Tralee; and by Poyntz to endorse the pretensions of a son of John King, secretary to the treasury in the Grenville ministry, and now comptroller of army accounts. Althorp dismissed the latter, but told Duncannon that in view of General Ross’s friendship with his family

I cannot bring myself to take an active part against his son in favour of a stranger; that I certainly will not vote against Mr. Baillie; that if I vote at all I will vote for him, but that at present I do not intend to vote at all.14

As soon as Robarts died Wright Wilson and Charles Ross*, who claimed to be the local candidate, were joined in the field by John Easthope, a wealthy self-made London stockbroker. According to Duncannon, Easthope intervened at the ‘instigation’ of the London Whig party managers, though he was personally unknown to Tierney. He professed ‘independence’, appealed for the support of those who had voted for Robarts, attacked ministers for their prosecution of Queen Caroline and advocated economy and parliamentary reform.15 Two days after Robarts’s death Spencer was told by Duncannon and Humphrey Howarth, a former Whig Member, that the Rosses were laying claim to his and Althorp’s support. They urged him to ‘write to any friend at St. Albans contradicting such assertions, which cannot but be fatal to the interests of the Whig candidate, who being a Whig upon principle deserves support’. Spencer, who said that in a conversation with General Ross at St. Albans the previous day he had merely authorized him to let it be known that the Spencers would take no part, declined to do so; but he did write sternly to the general to reiterate his neutrality. Ross insisted that he had gone no further than

to mention that Lord Althorp had, on account of his friendship for me, declared that he would not support any candidate in opposition to my son, and ... stating to Mr. Kinder that although you persisted in declining all interference, you had no objection to him and other friends giving any assistance and support to my son that they might think fit.

He went on to say that ‘after much hesitation’ Kinder had abandoned his neutrality and allowed his brother to canvass for Charles Ross. He also accused Easthope, who was backed by ‘Dissenters, Queenites and radicals’, of having through his agents been the first to claim Spencer’s support, and so force the Rosses to stress his neutrality. As far as Charles’s chances were concerned, he had not yet decided whether to ‘proceed as far as a poll’, because ‘what is called the Tory party is divided by Sir Henry Wilson continuing to canvass the same interest’. When Duncannon called on Easthope in St. Albans, 13 Dec., he found him ‘quite reasonable’ about Spencer’s neutrality, and disposed to think that the seriousness of General Ross’s transgression had been exaggerated.16 There was a brief intervention by one Joseph Barretto of Portland Place, London, ‘a man of colour’, who professed ‘absolute independence of character’ and ‘a total disconnection from any political party’. Over 30 years later a local resident claimed to remember a large body of celebrating electors parading Barretto’s gift of a live bullock through the streets. He withdrew four days before the election.17 By now Ross, who was portrayed by The Times as the ‘Court’ candidate, was known to have the backing of Verulam and, it was thought, of the 1st marquess of Salisbury, the county’s leading peer. Easthope was narrowly ahead after the first day, but Wright Wilson overtook him on the second and finished 22 above Ross, with Easthope 12 votes further adrift. Both Easthope and Ross indicated that they would stand at the next opportunity. The Times, which supported Easthope, the ‘popular’ candidate, attributed Wright Wilson’s victory to his early start, his obtaining promises by political duplicity and extensive bribery.18 The 575 electors whose votes were admitted (69 were rejected or adjourned) polled for Wright Wilson, Ross and Easthope in the respective proportions of 36, 33 and 31 per cent. The 350 ratepayers voted significantly in favour of Wright Wilson (43 per cent) as against his rivals (29 per cent each); but he had the support of only 27 per cent of the freemen, who preferred Ross (40 per cent) and Easthope (34 per cent). From the 95 resident freemen, Wright Wilson got 36 votes to Ross’s 33 and Easthope’s 26; but he mustered only 24 from the 130 non-residents, whose 56 votes provided Ross with 30 per cent of his total and Easthope (50 votes) with 28 per cent of his. The ten aldermen who voted divided equally between Wright Wilson, who had the support of Webster and the Gapes, and Ross, who received the vote of John Samuel Story, Verulam’s agent.19 Easthope, who publicly accused Wright Wilson of bribery, was tempted to petition to have the election declared void, but was only prepared to do so if Althorp, whom he sounded, would promise to support him at the ensuing by-election. Althorp refused to back him against Charles Ross; and he made no real attempt to convince the general that if they allowed Easthope a free run at a by-election brought about by a petition, his son would at the next general election ‘have the advantage of being upon such terms with Mr. Easthope as will probably either prevent a contest or make it very easy’. Ross clearly would not co-operate, and Easthope abandoned the idea.20

Petitions from the clergy of the archdeaconry of St. Albans against Catholic claims were presented to the Commons, 26 Mar. 1823 (by Smith) and 18 Apr. 1825, as was one from the corporation and inhabitants of the borough, 15 Apr. 1825. On 29 Apr. the owners and occupiers of land in the St. Albans area petitioned the Commons against any alteration in the corn laws.21 The absence of Smith, who had generally but not slavishly supported ministers, and Wright Wilson, a silent ministerialist, from the retiring mayor’s dinner, 21 Sept. 1825, was taken by Harrison and others to indicate that neither intended to seek re-election.22 Easthope and Charles Ross, who since 1822 had been sitting for Orford, were thought to be ‘the only aspirants’, but Harrison surmised that ‘it will not probably end so’. A month later Ross, assured of a return for St. Germans next time, withdrew his pretensions, which prompted Easthope to confirm his candidature as a supporter of ‘constitutional freedom’. Against expectations, Smith announced his intention of standing again. Praise in the local press for his opposition to Catholic relief and acts of financial generosity to the town was countered with a denunciation of him as a servile tool of ministers. Easthope was forced to repudiate an anonymous slur on his financial probity. Wright Wilson duly abandoned St. Albans for East Retford. A third man appeared in the person of the London banker and alderman William Heygate who, as Member for Sudbury in the current Parliament, had inclined to opposition, even though he was hostile to Catholic claims. He stressed the latter fact in his address, where he also laid store by his residence at North Mimms, five miles south-east of St. Albans. He was thought to have the countenance of Verulam, and the Rev. James Gape, whose late mother had been Verulam’s great aunt, was chairman of his committee.23 Illness and the exigencies of the City financial crisis prevented Heygate from canvassing in person until late December; and in early January 1826 Kinder, informing Spencer that the canvass had now ‘rather relaxed’, deemed him to be the ‘weakest’, while he considered Easthope to be ‘secure’. A month later Easthope and Heygate donated ‘a considerable quantity of coals to the poor’.24 On 31 May 1826, only two days before the dissolution, Heygate announced his retirement from the contest. While he claimed to have ‘the support of the majority of those electors who carry on the trade and business of the town and neighbourhood’, he explained that ‘success, however probable, cannot be considered certain upon the principle of free and unbiased suffrage’, as his opponents had had too much of a start. It was wildly rumoured that his ‘unexpected’ withdrawal was part of a plot to ensure Easthope’s return in combination with a surprise third man. A bid to start Sir John Sewell, judge of the vice-admiralty court of Malta, as an anti-Catholic came to nothing. Rumours of opposition persisted, but in the event Smith and Easthope, who took a far more moderate political line on the hustings than in 1821, were returned without a challenge.25 A dinner for Heygate’s supporters, which was presided over by the Rev. Gape, 28 June, and the tickets for which were suspiciously cheap, was seen by some as a bid to rally the Verulam interest and introduce Grimston to the voters. In repudiation of this speculation, it was pointed out that Grimston did not attend, and asserted that the object of the gathering was merely to demonstrate the strength of government support in the borough. Heygate was publicly attacked for his precipitate retirement, a ‘great and never-to-be forgotten insult ... to the independent electors’; but he dismissed all criticism and ‘insinuations’, maintaining that he had only bowed to the inevitable.26

The Protestant Dissenters of St. Albans petitioned the Commons for repeal of the Test Acts, 30 May 1827.27 Smith opposed repeal and Easthope supported it in 1828. On 29 Apr. that year both backed the unsuccessful attempt of the Whig county Member Sebright to obtain permission for the bill for the erection of a new court house to be proceeded with despite the failure of Story, clerk of the peace to the magistrates of the liberty of St. Albans, to comply with standing orders. A dispute over the best site for the new building had brought Verulam, chairman of the liberty bench, into conflict with the corporation, who were also divided among themselves. The matter was eventually settled in January 1829, and a new bill was introduced in March. Work began in April and was completed two years later. The undertaking, which cost over £12,000, increased the corporate debt.28 Easthope supported Catholic emancipation in 1829, but Smith abstained.

Grimston came of age in February 1830, and as soon as the king’s death in the summer heralded a general election, he announced his long anticipated candidature, for which support had been mustered. His adherence to the Wellington ministry was taken for granted.29 As expected, Smith, now 80 years of age, retired. Easthope, to whom Althorp promised his vote, initially offered again; but Kinder refused to support him and, with a third man confidently expected to appear, he soon concluded that he had no chance, not least, as it was thought, because he had ‘failed to attend to the local interests of the borough so much as was required of him’. He delayed making public his withdrawal to give Althorp time to find and start another Whig. The third man turned out to be Charles Tennant, a verbose London attorney who had recently published a pamphlet on organized emigration. Tennant, whose father was a well-to-do South Wales canal entrepreneur, appeared in St. Albans on 5 July and indicated his general approval of the government. The next day Easthope announced his resignation, citing as his ostensible reasons ‘consequences arising out of the misfortunes of my agent at the last election’ and the ‘backwardness’ of Kinder. Immediately in his room came forward the Whig Henry Gally Knight*, a Yorkshire landowner, who had accepted Althorp’s offer of support, which he stressed in his introductory address, and gone to St. Albans with John Kinder as his minder. On 6 July, when Tennant and Gally Knight paid their redemption fees, the corporation resolved to defer consideration of a petition from 30 non-resident freemen, ‘emboldened by the inclination of the present age to remove all restraints upon civil as well as religious liberty’, for repeal of the by-law of 1809. Nothing more was heard of the matter.30 Althorp soon concluded, on local advice, that Gally Knight ‘had no chance’, even though Kinder harboured ‘great hopes’. He informed Spencer, 9 July:

I told Kinder I hoped he would not involve him in any great expense and I told Knight himself that I did not wish him at all to consider our interest and not to persevere for the sake of preserving that, unless he thought it useful for himself to do so. I said this to him for I found they talked of his ruining the interest if he did not go through with the business. Now as I do not believe you care about this interest and as I am sure I do not, I should be very sorry that anyone should put himself to unnecessary expense in order to keep it up.

For his own part Gally Knight, while appreciating Althorp’s good intentions, had only taken on St. Albans because it then appeared that the bill to throw East Retford into the hundred of Bassetlaw, where he was thought to have an excellent chance, would not be law in time for the election. In the event, and to his chagrin, it reached the statute book at the last minute. He confided to Lord Milton*, 21 July:

When I got there I found matters much less promising than I had expected. The leading people of our party were quarrelling amongst themselves and the enemy had got a start. Finally ... exertions were made and I found myself in a good position. After all Bassetlaw exists. I will not say how I grieve not to go there, where ... I should probably be safe for life; but my new friends at St. Albans would think me shabby were I now to desert them, and the Whig cause and the Spencer interest would certainly go to the wall, were I to quit the field. Under these circumstances I feel myself bound in honour to remain at St. Albans and there abide my fate.31

All three candidates professed great confidence on the eve of the election. Grimston, who was spectacularly escorted into the town, was nominated by George Gape and Story. Both the Rev. William Leworthy and Webster, who proposed Tennant, made it clear that they also supported Grimston. Althorp himself nominated Gally Knight. In response to some barracking, he denied that he was trying to revive the family interest, and congratulated the electors on their success in emancipating themselves from it in 1807. In his own private view, the hecklers were ‘a poor lot’, and he ‘beat them in the first sentence’. At the close of the first day Grimston had what already appeared to be an unassailable lead, but Gally Knight was narrowly ahead of Tennant. Althorp was now hopeful, having inferred from conversations with some of Grimston’s supporters that ‘they would split upon Knight the second day’. Gally Knight, who was subsequently criticized in some quarters (unjustly as he thought) for abandoning the independent interest at East Retford, claimed to have been ‘assured by all those I was told to trust that I was certain of success’ and to have ‘continued in that belief to within two hours of the finale’. The outcome was a resounding victory for Grimston, while Tennant overtook Gally Knight on the second day and beat him by 31 votes. Gally Knight, who was ‘stunned’ by his defeat, reported that ‘government did all it could against me, but the corruption of St. Albans did at least as much’. Grimston’s expenses came to £3,676: they were, as Story commented, ‘greatly increased by the publicans’ (shameful) bills on open houses, and by having so large a number of voters to pay’.32 Of the 623 electors whose votes were admitted, 79 per cent supported Grimston, 50 per cent Tennant and 45 per cent Gally Knight. Grimston had 86 plumpers (14 per cent of his total), Tennant 23 (four per cent) and Gally Knight 51 (eight per cent).33 The indications are that both Tennant and Gally Knight received substantial numbers of Grimston’s second votes, but that Tennant’s advantage in this respect was decisive. Of the eight aldermen whose votes are known, Bacon, William Brown and Webster split for Grimston and Tennant; the Rev. William Bowen, Francis Searancke, Story and John Wilde plumped for Grimston; and Richard Brabant split for Grimston and Gally Knight.

About 150 electors in the Verulam interest rallied at a dinner presided over by Story and Bowen, 10 Sept. 1830.34 Neither Grimston nor Tennant supported government in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. The inhabitants petitioned the Commons for parliamentary reform, 23 Dec. 1830, 26 Feb. 1831. Grimston presented the latter petition, but he stayed away from the borough reform meeting two days later.35 So too did Tennant but, to the surprise of many, he supported the Grey ministry’s reform bill, which Grimston opposed. At the general election precipitated by its defeat, two ‘staunch reformers’ offered themselves. First to appear was Sir Francis Vincent, a young Essex landowner. He was joined by Richard Godson, a barrister on the Oxford circuit, who was committed to stand for Kidderminster when it was enfranchised by the enactment of the reform bill; he was introduced by Webster and his cronies. Tennant, unable to afford a contest, retired; but Verulam, who addressed the ‘gentlemen inhabitants of St. Albans’ on the ‘revolutionary’ threat posed by the bill, decided to stand and fight. In a two-day contest Grimston, whose expenses were £2,090, was humiliatingly beaten into third place, 144 below Vincent and 114 behind Godson. Vincent’s costs were later put at about £1,300. The outcome was widely celebrated as the ‘first signal defeat’ of the general election for ‘the sons of corruption’; and it was asserted in the pro-reform press that ‘Lord Verulam’s interest is destroyed’.36 Of the 656 electors whose votes were admitted (six were rejected), 69 per cent voted for Vincent, 64 per cent for Godson, and 47 per cent for Grimston. Three-hundred-and-thirty (50 per cent) split for the reformers, while 112 (17 per cent) plumped for Grimston and 10 (17 per cent) split for Vincent and Grimston. Splits for Godson and Grimston numbered 87 (13 per cent). Therefore 460 voters (70 per cent of the total) divided on party lines, with 53 per cent for reform and 17 against it. At the same time, the borough’s venality was perhaps reflected in the fact that 30 per cent of those who polled cast mixed votes. The ratepayers divided in the proportions of 70, 68 and 46 per cent for Vincent, Godson and Grimston respectively. Among the 181 freemen (28 per cent of voters), the figures were 66, 53 and 50 per cent. Grimston polled significantly better than overall among the non-resident freemen (55 per cent); but even here he trailed Vincent (58) and was only marginally ahead of Godson (51). Eleven aldermen cast seven votes for Grimston, five for Vincent and four for Godson: Bowen, Thomas Foreman Gape, John Lipscomb, Richard Lowe, Searancke and Story plumped for Grimston; Bacon, Brown, Samuel Jones and Webster voted for the reformers; and Wilde compromised by splitting for Grimston and Vincent. Of 326 electors who are known to have voted for Grimston in 1830, 126 (39 per cent) did so this time, 112 (34 per cent) voted for the reformers and 88 (27 per cent) did not vote.37

Vincent entertained and rallied his supporters with a dinner, 30 July 1831.38 The local Tory press complained that a petition presented by Godson for a reduction in the borough householders’ voting qualification to £5, 24 Aug., had been got up in a ‘hole and corner’ fashion by him and Webster.39 At the mayoral election a month later there was a rare contest, marked by ‘party feeling’, in which Searancke defeated Lowe.40 Webster and Brown organized a meeting to petition the Lords to pass the reform bill, 28 Sept., and were prominent at a ‘sumptuous entertainment’ given by Godson, 7 Oct., when all the speakers expressed ‘unabated zeal in the cause of reform’.41 At a meeting called to address the king after the defeat of the bill, 19 Oct., Webster again took the lead. Thomas Blagg, the town clerk, sounded a dissenting note by accusing the government of throwing the country into turmoil by proposing reform. He had the meeting dissolved on a technicality, but it was reconvened later that day and an address supporting ministers was carried.42 An indication of the resentment felt in some quarters at Webster’s self-aggrandizement was given by the opposition raised to the election of his nominee, Luke Batten, a drunkard, as permanent overseer of Abbey parish in November 1831. It was quashed on technical grounds, and after a disorderly attempt to hold a new election ended in chaos, no appointment was made.43 On 16 May 1832 Webster, Brown, John Kinder, Batten and others, along with both Members, addressed a meeting to appeal to the king to reinstate the reform ministry. The borough’s reform festival, 27 June 1832, was marred when, to the embarrassment of the authorities, rowdy elements burnt an effigy of the duke of Wellington. Vincent attended the following day’s dinner, but Godson stayed away.44

The boundary commissioners proposed a modest enlargement of the constituency to include the whole town, and in the House, 8 June 1832, Godson secured a further adjustment. The reformed parliamentary borough had a population of 5,771 and a registered electorate of 892.45 At the 1832 general election, when Godson fulfilled his commitment to the reformers of Kidderminster, Vincent and another Liberal narrowly defeated a Conservative. The Verulam interest was effectively reasserted in 1835; but rampant venality, orchestrated by local party managers, became the keynote of St. Albans elections and brought about the borough’s disgrace in 1852.46

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. PP (1835), xxvi. 2930; W. Page, St. Albans, 100.
  • 2. Maxwell, Clarendon, i. 219-20.
  • 3. Page, 95; H.C.F. Lansberry, ‘Whig Inheritance’, BIHR, xli (1968), 45-57.
  • 4. PP (1852), xxvii. 9-10, 42, 245-6, 249-50, 291; Page, 95-96; Lansberry, ‘Politics and Government in St. Albans’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1964), 246-7, 255-7.
  • 5. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 579-81; (1835), xxvi. 2922-3.
  • 6. Lansberry thesis, 60, 91-92; St. Albans Central Lib. city recs. 339 (12 June 1826); 340 (8 Dec. 1832).
  • 7. Lansberry thesis, 2; PP (1835), xxvi. 2923.
  • 8. Cf. F. O’Gorman, Voters, Patrons, and Parties, 181, 203.
  • 9. Add.76033, Harrison to Spencer, 25 Feb.; Althorp Letters, 102; The Times, 9, 10 Mar.; County Chron. 14 Mar. 1820.
  • 10. St. Albans Pollbook (1820).
  • 11. A.E. Gibbs, Corporation Recs. of St. Albans, 170.
  • 12. Add. 76124, Ross to Spencer, 30 Sept., reply, 1 Oct. 1820.
  • 13. Add. 76033, Harrison to Spencer [4 Oct.], 7, 11 Nov. 1820.
  • 14. Althorp Letters, 112.
  • 15. The Times, 11, 13, 15, 19 Dec.; Add. 76124, Duncannon to Spencer [11 Dec.]; Bessborough mss, Brougham to Duncannon [13 Dec.]; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 13 Dec. 1820.
  • 16. Add. 76124, Duncannon to Spencer [11], [13 Dec.], Howarth to same, 11 Dec., reply, 12 Dec., Spencer to Ross, 12 Dec., reply, 13 Dec. 1820.
  • 17. The Times, 27 Dec. 1820, 1, 5 Jan. 1821; PP (1852), xxvii. 57.
  • 18. The Times, 10-13, 15, 16, 18 Jan; Cambridge Chron. 12 Jan.; Add. 76033, Harrison to Spencer, 16 Jan. 1821.
  • 19. St. Albans Pollbook (1821).
  • 20. The Times, 18 Jan.; Add. 76124, Althorp to Ross, 24 Jan. 1821.
  • 21. CJ, lxxviii. 177; lxxx. 309, 314, 354.
  • 22. Add. 76036, Harrison to Spencer, 22 Sept.; Herts Mercury, 24 Sept. 1825.
  • 23. Add. 76134, C. Ross to Spencer, 19 Oct.; Herts Mercury, 22, 29 Oct., 5, 12, 19, 26 Nov., 3, 17, 24 Dec. 1825.
  • 24. Herts Mercury, 17, 24 Dec. 1825, 7 Jan., 4 Feb.; Add.76135, Kinder to Spencer, 6 Jan. 1826.
  • 25. Herts Mercury, 3, 10, 17 June; Bucks. Chron. 10, 17 June; The Times, 12, 14 June 1826.
  • 26. Herts Mercury, 1, 15, 22, 29 July 1826.
  • 27. CJ, lxxxii. 504.
  • 28. CJ, lxxxiii. 66, 160, 175, 284; lxxxiv. 21, 37, 139, 154, 196, 206, 234, 297; Herts Mercury, 16 Feb. 1828; Lansberry thesis, 146-56.
  • 29. Herts Mercury, 3 July; Herts. Archives, Verulam mss D/EV F323, requisition to Grimston [July 1830].
  • 30. Herts Mercury, 3, 10 July 1830; Althorp Letters, 150-2; St. Albans city recs. 340.
  • 31. Althorp Letters, 152; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. G2/11.
  • 32. Herts Mercury, 31 July, 7, 14 Aug.; The Times, 4, 5 Aug.; Althorp Letters, 153; Add. 36466, f. 219; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. G2/27; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Ossington mss, Huskisson to Denison, 5 Aug.; Verulam mss F323, election accts. [Aug. 1830], Story to Verulam, 17 Sept. 1832.
  • 33. H. Stooks Smith, Parlts. of England, i. 148; PP (1831-2), xxxviii. 242. In the only known surviving copy of the pollbook (St. Albans city recs. 934), 221 names, beginning with letters between G and P, are missing as a result of defacement.
  • 34. Herts Mercury, 28 Aug., 18 Sept. 1830.
  • 35. CJ, lxxxvi. 202, 310; County Herald, 5 Mar. 1831.
  • 36. The Times, 25, 27-29 Apr.; County Herald, 30 Apr., 7 May; Bucks Gazette, 7, 14 May; Verulam mss F308, Verulam’s address [Apr. 1831]; F323, Story to Verulam, 17 Sept. 1832; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 30 Apr. 1831; PP (1852), xxvii. 290.
  • 37. St. Albans Pollbook (1831); O’Gorman, 220, 223, 372, 374-5.
  • 38. County Press, 2 Aug.; Bucks Gazette, 6 Aug. 1831.
  • 39. County Press, 30 Aug.; Bucks Gazette, 3 Sept. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 780.
  • 40. County Press, 27 Sept.; Bucks Gazette, 1 Oct. 1831.
  • 41. County Press, 4, 11 Oct. 1831; LJ, lxiii. 1051.
  • 42. County Herald, 15 Oct.; Bucks Gazette, 22 Oct. 1831.
  • 43. County Press, 8, 15, 22 Nov. 1831.
  • 44. County Herald, 1 May; County Press, 3, 14 July 1832.
  • 45. PP (1831-2), xxxviii. 239-42.
  • 46. N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 159, 166; PP (1852), xxvii, passim.