Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in inhabitant householders
Estimated number qualified to vote:
Number of voters:
117 in 1830
1,602 (1821); 2,008 (1831)1
|6 Mar. 1820||Samuel SMITH|
|9 June 1826||Samuel SMITH|
|31 July 1830||Samuel SMITH||83|
|29 Apr. 1831||Samuel SMITH|
Wendover, an ‘inconsiderable place’ with only a remnant of its lace-making industry in this period, was an unincorporated borough picturesquely situated at the entrance of the Vale of Aylesbury.2 It was the largely docile pocket borough of Robert Smith†,1st Baron Carrington, head of the Nottingham and London banking family, whose Buckinghamshire seat at Wycombe Abbey lay ten miles to the south.3 Carrington returned his younger brothers Samuel and George, conservative Whigs and indifferent attenders, in 1820 and 1826.4 The inhabitants illuminated and celebrated the abandonment of the bill of pains and penalties against Queen Caroline, 16 Nov. 1820.5 The only petitions which have been found from Wendover in this period were from the inhabitants and the clergy of the deanery against Catholic emancipation in 1829 and from the inhabitants for the abolition of slavery in November 1830.6
In early 1829 Carrington came under attack from the anti-Catholic Lord Chandos, son of the 1st duke of Buckingham and his own son’s colleague as county Member, who had recently bought, ‘at a considerable price’, property in the borough on which he had built 22 small houses ‘with a view to contest the election there’. When Carrington had the embryonic wall of a house being constructed on what he believed to be his own land pulled down, Chandos brought an action for damages. Carrington, an old friend of his great-uncles Lord and Tom Grenville†, appealed to him have the ‘trifling cause’ settled by arbitration, but Chandos instructed his solicitor to insist on Carrington’s prior payment of his costs. Carrington rejected this and stated his view of these ‘vexatious proceedings’ in conciliatory letters to the Grenvilles and Buckingham, to whom he commented that Chandos’s intervention had
created a great alarm among my friends, both on my account and on their own, as the [new] houses ... are necessarily filled with persons of the lowest description. Those who remember the place before it became my property fear not only the mischievous consequences if former contests should be renewed but their effect upon the poors’ rate ... which must be greatly increased ... There are still owners of small pieces of vacant land or gardens in the borough whose expectations have been greatly excited by the high prices which have been obtained for the ... [sites] sold, and these persons will use every endeavour to encourage fresh purchases. I must in course be obliged to build houses in my own defence as fast as they do, and it is impossible to say to what length these proceedings may go, with what expenses to the parties, or mischief to the town. I cannot but believe that what has happened may have been the result of some meddling agents who expect in course to benefit at the expense of their principals.
The Grenvilles and Buckingham took a dim view of Chandos’s behaviour, but the suit went ahead at the Aylesbury Lent assizes, 11 Mar. 1829, when Chandos was awarded damages of £5.7
In April 1830 Carrington told the prime minister, the duke of Wellington, that he, George, Samuel and Samuel’s son Abel, Member for Midhurst, would support his ministry unconditionally.8 Two weeks before the general election at the end of July, Thomas Knox Holmes, son of the government whip, went down to Wendover with the equity lawyer and agent for Jamaica William Burge* to canvass in opposition to Carrington’s interest. When Wellington got wind of this William Holmes, who claimed that his son’s candidature had been arranged before Carrington’s adhesion to government, was hastily sent to intercept him before he entered the borough. This he managed to do, but Burge went ahead to stake his claim.9 At the election Burge reappeared with Colonel John Camac, an Irishman, to oppose Samuel and Abel Smith, who had exchanged seats with George. They were easily defeated in a poll of 117 electors. Men receiving parish money for work, paid-up debtors of the parish and non-parishioners settled in the borough for six months were allowed to vote, as were electors for whom Chandos, the instigator of this opposition, had paid the poor rates. The threatened petition did not materialize.10 The Smiths reckoned that Burge’s supporters were ‘chiefly tenants’ of Carrington or paupers.11
Wendover was scheduled for disfranchisement by the Grey ministry’s first reform bill of March 1831. There was no challenge to the return of its opponents Samuel and Abel Smith at the general election which followed its defeat in April.12 The borough remained in schedule A in the reintroduced and final reform bills (it stood 26th in the list of condemned boroughs tabulated according to number of houses and amount of assessed taxes) and was duly disfranchised by the Act.13
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. Figures are for the whole parish. The borough had 802 inhabitants in 1831 (PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 42-43).
- 2. Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1823-4), 158; (1830), 93; VCH Bucks. iii. 22-23.
- 3. Oldfield, Key (1820), 43; Key to Both Houses (1832), 414; R.W. Davis, Political Change and Continuity, 24; Wellington mss WP1/1185/17.
- 4. Bucks. Chron. 27 May, 10 June 1826.
- 5. The Times, 23 Nov. 1820.
- 6. CJ, lxxxiv. 33, 84; lxxxvi. 106; LJ, lxi. 85, 256; lxiii. 98.
- 7. Add. 69044, Carrington to Grenville, 25 Feb., 2 Mar., to T. Grenville, 27 Mar., Grenville to Carrington, 3 Mar.; The Times, 13 Mar. 1829.
- 8. Add. 40309, f. 31.
- 9. Wellington mss WP1/1125/5, 21; 1130/30, 33, 42; The Times, 26 July 1830.
- 10. Bucks Gazette, 10, 31 July 1830; Wellington mss WP1/1186/1.
- 11. Cent. Kent. Stud. Stanhope mss U1590 C228, Smith to Lady Stanhope, Wed. [11 Aug. 1830].
- 12. Bucks Gazette, 7 May 1831.
- 13. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 27; xxxvii. 326.