ACHESON, Archibald, Visct. Acheson (1806-1864).

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



1830 - 1847

Family and Education

b. 20 Aug. 1806, o. s. of Archibald Acheson†, 2nd earl of Gosford [I], and Mary, da. and h. of Robert Sparrow of Worlingham Hall, Suff. educ. Harrow 1820; Christ Church, Oxf. 1825. m. 22 June 1832, Lady Theodosia Brabazon, da. of John, 10th earl of Meath [I], 2s. 3da. cr. v.p. Bar. Acheson [UK]18 Sept. 1847; suc. fa. as 3rd earl of Gosford [I] and 2nd Bar. Worlingham [UK] 27 Mar. 1849; KP 22 Feb. 1855. d. 15 June 1864.

Offices Held

Ld. lt. and custos rot. co. Armagh 1864-d.

Col. co. Armagh militia 1834.


For five generations the head of the Acheson family had each at some point sat in the Irish Parliament, a sequence culminating with this Member’s father, who represented county Armagh in the Irish Commons, 1797-1800, and in the United Kingdom Commons from 1801 until he succeeded as 2nd earl of Gosford in 1807. Gosford, who became a representative peer in 1811, had originally been a Tory and anti-Catholic, but gave his support to the Whigs in the 1820s, when he started building Gosford Castle, and joined Brooks’s in March 1828.1 His only son Acheson, who took his degree in 1828, also became a member in February 1829 and followed his line in politics. Both attacked higher Irish taxation at an Armagh county meeting, 10 May 1830, and at the general election that summer Acheson was returned unopposed for the county, where Gosford had a substantial interest, after the retirement of the sitting Whig Member, Henry Caulfeild.2 Placing himself under the wing of the Irish liberal Thomas Spring Rice*, he confided to him, 12 Sept. 1830, that ‘nothing will make me ashamed of being an Irishman but the knowledge hereafter that I have neglected the interests of Ireland’.3

Some doubt clearly existed about Acheson’s allegiance since he was considered ‘pro [the duke of Wellington’s] government’ in Pierce Mahony’s† analysis of the Irish elections, while ministers listed him among their ‘friends’, albeit with the annotation ‘crotchet’ beside his name. As he later acknowledged, he did set out to be cautiously sympathetic to the administration, but finding that it ‘went upon no fixed principle of action’, he declined a request to move the address at the start of the session. Then, disgusted by the prime minister’s declaration against parliamentary reform in the Lords on 2 Nov., he voted with opposition in the division on the civil list which led to Wellington’s resignation, 15 Nov. 1830.4 When his colleague Charles Brownlow brought up the Armagh borough reform petition, 6 Dec. 1830, he declared himself ‘a sincere friend to reform in Parliament’, but his condemnation of the ballot led to his being ridiculed in one radical source as a young man of ‘ardent patriotic wisdom’.5 He was appointed to the select committee on the East India Company, 4 Feb., and again, 28 June 1831. He spoke in favour of another Armagh reform petition, 26 Feb., and divided for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.

Acheson offered again for county Armagh at the ensuing general election, stating that ‘in giving to the measure of reform my warmest support, my sole object has been ... to strengthen and perpetuate our legitimate and constitutional establishments’. Having revealed his disillusionment with the previous prime minister, he praised his successor, who had recently appointed Gosford a lord in waiting to William IV, and was returned unopposed.6 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, at least twice against adjourning proceedings on it, 12 July, and steadily for its details. He spoke in defence of the grant to the Kildare Place Society, 2, 9 Aug., the regium donum to Presbyterian clergymen, 31 Aug., and the maintenance of yeomanry forces in the north of Ireland, 26 Sept. He sided with ministers on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. Rumours that he would receive one of the coronation peerages created electoral speculation in county Armagh in September, but he denied having solicited anything.7 He divided for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831.

He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and again for its details. He privately raised some queries about the nature of long leases conferring the franchise with the Irish secretary, Edward Smith Stanley*, and, under pressure from an intended motion of his, which was supported by other Irish Members, changes to this effect were later made to the Irish bill.8 He divided against the production of information on Portugal, 9 Feb., and voiced his approval of the regium donum, 5 Mar. 1832. The following day, when he brought up the petition of the synod of Ulster against the scheme, he made a long speech against the ministerial plan of national education in Ireland, arguing that it would not work in practice. He voted for the third reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar., and Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May, when he wrote to Smith Stanley to assure him of his continuing support.9 He voted for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and against increasing the Scottish county representation, 1 June. On 29 June 1832, a week after his marriage, he was granted six weeks’ leave to attend to urgent business. He was returned for Armagh as a Liberal at the general election of 1832 and represented his native county until the dissolution in 1847. He then received a United Kingdom peerage and two years later inherited his father’s titles and estates. He died in June 1864, being succeeded as 4th earl of Gosford by his elder son Archibald Brabazon Sparrow (1841-1922), an official in the royal household.10

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. Hist. Irish Parl. iii. 49-55. For the 1st and 2nd earls, see C.F. McGlennon, ‘Lord Arthur Gosford [sic] and Armagh Politics’ and L. Proudfoot, ‘Placing the Imaginary: Gosford Castle and Gosford Estate’ in Armagh Hist. and Soc. ed. A.J. Hughes and W. Nolan, 609-38, 881-916.
  • 2. Belfast News Letter, 14 May, 13 Aug.; Belfast Guardian, 13 July 1830.
  • 3. NLI, Monteagle mss 11140 (1).
  • 4. Belfast Guardian, 17 May 1831.
  • 5. [W. Carpenter], People’s Bk. (1831), 119.
  • 6. Belfast Guardian, 29 Apr., 17, 20 May 1831.
  • 7. Ibid. 13, 20 Sept.; Belfast News Letter, 6, 16 Sept. 1831.
  • 8. Derby mss 920 Der (14) 125/7, Acheson to Smith Stanley, 30 Jan.; Newry Examiner, 27 June 1832.
  • 9. Derby mss.
  • 10. Gent. Mag. (1849), i. 537; (1864), ii. 126, 257; Belfast News Letter, 16, 18 June 1864; CP, vi. 32.