ADEANE, Henry John (1789-1847), of Babraham, Cambs

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



1830 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 18 June 1789, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Robert Jones Adeane of Babraham and Annabella, da. of Sir Patrick Blake, 1st bt., of Langham Hall, Suff. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1806; L. Inn 1810; I. Temple 1813, called 1814. m. (1) 24 Oct. 1822, Catharine Judith (d. 27 June 1825), da. of John King of Aldenham House, Herts., ?1s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) 6 Oct. 1828, Matilda Abigail, da. of Sir John Thomas Stanley†, 7th bt., of Alderley Park, Cheshire, 4s. 8da. suc. fa. 1823. d. 11 May 1847.

Offices Held


Adeane came from an old Oxfordshire family, whose main property for most of the eighteenth century was at Chalgrove, between Thame and Wallingford. His grandfather, General James Whorwood Adeane† (1740-1802), married the only child of Robert Jones, Member for Huntingdon, 1754-74, a merchant and East India Company director, who in 1770 bought the estate of Babraham, six miles south-east of Cambridge. As his daughter had crossed him by making this match, Jones devised Babraham to her son, Robert Jones Adeane, who was still a minor when Jones died in 1774. This stake in Cambridgeshire enabled General Adeane to sit for Cambridge from 1780 to 1789 and for the county, with the backing of the 5th duke of Rutland’s interest, from 1789 until his death. A Pittite in politics, he was a groom of the bedchamber for the last 18 years of his life.1 Robert Jones Adeane, who seems to have resided during his father’s lifetime at Waltons, near Saffron Walden, Essex, eight miles south of Babraham, became a captain in the Cambridgeshire troop of fencible cavalry in 1794. At the Cambridgeshire by-election of 1810 he opted for neutrality between the ministerialist Charles Yorke†, half-brother of the 3rd earl of Hardwicke, the lord lieutenant, and the successful candidate, the Whig Lord Francis Osborne, his ‘intimate friend and neighbour’, whose seat at Gogmagog Hills lay just north of Babraham.2 Adeane’s first son, Charles Jones Adeane, was baptized in London, 11 July 1786, but died young, leaving Henry John Adeane, the second born, heir to the family estates in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Huntingdonshire and Oxfordshire.

After his call to the bar Henry Adeane, who was based at 8 King’s Bench Walk, practised for a few years as a special pleader on the western circuit. His politics were liberal, though he never joined Brooks’s. At the 1818 general election he stood for Cambridge, where he was little known, in a challenge to Rutland’s controlling interest. In a characteristic speech, he dissociated himself from the religious Dissent of some of his backers and dismissed as fantasy the borough establishment’s portrayal of him as ‘a person violent beyond measure in politics, as an innovator, as a democrat, as an individual whose political sentiments are hostile to the present constitution’. He said that ‘the only liberty I will ever advocate shall be liberty connected with social order’, applauded the parliamentary opposition to the property tax and attacked Rutland’s electoral monopoly of the borough. Although he was defeated, he polled very respectably and, encouraging the few dissident freemen to build on the ‘rising spirit of independence’, indicated that he would try again at the next opportunity.3 By the time of the by-election of December 1819, however, Rutland had made his interest impregnable by a creation of dependable freemen. While Adeane reluctantly went down from London to redeem his pledge of 1818, he made it clear on the hustings, after he had been put in nomination by two rebel aldermen, that he felt under no obligation to persevere when success was unattainable, and confessed that there had been ‘a very slight difference of opinion’ among the leading independents as to whether he should stand. Although the show of hands was in his favour he declined to demand a poll and left the hall; the ensuing formality ended with two votes being cast for him.4 At the dissolution in February 1820 he perversely declared his intention of standing for the borough but withdrew ten days later: he again pleaded as his excuse the fact that a canvass had shown the independents’ cause to be hopeless. He was nevertheless nominated, without his consent, in conjunction with George Pryme, a university lecturer in political economy, to provide the independents with grounds for petitioning in an attempt to have the franchise widened. The ratepayers’ votes were rejected, and Rutland’s nominees easily outvoted Adeane and Pryme among the freemen. The franchise cause was abandoned through lack of funds, and Adeane evidently washed his hands of borough politics.5

He appears to have taken no part in the series of county meetings of 1821-3 on agricultural distress and parliamentary reform. That of 28 Feb. 1822 was presided over by his father in his capacity as the newly installed sheriff. Robert Jones Adeane, a widower since 1812, died intestate in Paris, 10 Jan. 1823. His personalty was sworn under £12,000, 26 Apr. 1823, but was resworn under £25,000 on additional security, 7 Feb. 1826.6 If Henry Adeane had not given up his legal practice before his marriage in the autumn of 1822, he did so on coming into his inheritance. His wife died at Ramsgate, ‘aged 22’, 27 June 1825, three days after reportedly giving birth to ‘a son and heir’.7 If this report was accurate, the child evidently did not survive into manhood. (Adeane certainly had a daughter, Anne, with his first wife, to whom he left a token £50 in his will, considering that she had been well provided for by the marriage settlement, which entitled her to £10,000.)8 According to George White, the maverick town clerk of Cambridge, Adeane refused his offer to nominate him for the borough at the 1826 general election unless he could guarantee sufficient support to give him a realistic chance.9 A few days before the county nomination the other sitting Member, the ministerialist Lord Charles Manners, told his brother Rutland that Adeane ‘has declared he will be put in nomination if there is a third candidate; but he says he will not disturb the peace’. This was also the understanding of Hardwicke and his connections. Manners credited Adeane with ‘good abilities’ and described him as being ‘amazingly popular’ and carrying ‘great weight’ as ‘a very good chairman at the quarter sessions’.10 On the morning of the election a meeting of a radical group among the independents opposed to the Rutland interest resolved to nominate Adeane, but he declined to come forward. At the nomination meeting, however, Samuel Wells, the eccentric Huntingdon radical attorney, nominated Adeane on his own initiative and found a seconder. Adeane, seeking to distance himself from Wells’s politics, declared that ‘I avow myself a Whig; but ... there is as great a difference between a Whig and a Radical as there is between a Radical and a Tory’. Claiming to be pledged to do nothing that would endanger Osborne, he refused the nomination; but Wells would not withdraw it and a full scale poll ensued, even though Adeane announced on the hustings before it started that if he was returned he would immediately vacate the seat. He took no further part in the sham contest, which he finished in a distant third place. He subsequently published a lengthy address explaining and justifying his conduct - he claimed to have heard too late that Osborne had publicly released him from his self-imposed pledge on the second day - and indicating his willingness to stand as ‘an independent gentlemen’ on a future occasion if support was forthcoming.11

In 1828, Adeane took a second wife, 17 years his junior, on whom he fathered 12 children. (The two eldest were twin girls, born in 1829.) At the county meeting of 22 Jan. 1830 he seconded the petition calling for repeal of the beer and malt duties to relieve agricultural distress, though he said that given a choice, he would prefer the former.12 At the general election that summer he responded to a requisition from a group of the independents by declining to lay himself open to the cost of soliciting the seat, but expressing his willingness to serve as Member if he was nominated and elected. Adeane, who had the support of the Hardwicke interest, was denounced and disowned by Wells and reported by a confident Manners to have made Osborne ‘very indignant’ by his intervention.13 At the nomination Adeane again disavowed the ‘nicknames’ of Whig and Tory, but declared his support for the abolition of slavery. (He subsequently repudiated an allegation that he owned property in the West Indies, explaining that he was merely a trustee for an uncle.) He advocated ‘the utmost possible reduction, economy and retrenchment’ and professed himself to be

a friend to reform ... He would not advocate the wild theories of those rash men who would pull down the present constitution, but would repair those abuses which time had occasioned. He would at once cut up bribery and corruption by the roots, and remove the election from all rotten boroughs and give representation to large and populous commercial towns.

Pryme, who had not signed the requisition, made it known that after learning of Adeane’s candidature he had quizzed him on this subject and been assured that he was ‘favourable to reform, although his opinion might not go to the same extent as some others’. Initially there was considerable animosity between Osborne and Adeane and their leading supporters; but as it became clear that there was every chance of defeating Manners, they reciprocally disposed of their second votes. There was enough co-operation to put Adeane comfortably in second place. In returning thanks, he denied being beholden to Hardwicke or anyone else:

He went into Parliament an unfettered man, and he would remain so ... He was not a puppet ... They had sent him to Parliament because they thought he had judgement and honesty, and he trusted that his conduct would convince them that he possessed and was determined to exercise those qualities.

His credentials as a parliamentary reformer remained suspect in the eyes of many of those who had helped to secure his return.14

At a celebration dinner at Wisbech, 8 Oct. 1830, Adeane reiterated his views as ‘a moderate practical reformer’ and qualified his support for the abolition of slavery with the observation that the precipitate emancipation of unprepared negroes would do more harm than good. Questioned on his attitude to tithes, he said that he ‘would not consent to deprive the clergy of their just and legal rights’, but was ‘favourable to any bill’ for commutation.15 The Wellington ministry listed him among their ‘foes’. He was in the minority for a reduction of the duty on wheat imported into the West Indies, 12 Nov., and voted against government on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented and endorsed numerous petitions for the abolition of slavery between 10 Nov. and 15 Dec., when he also presented and supported one from Wisbech calling for the introduction of local jurisdiction. He was named to the select committee on salary reductions, 9 Dec. 1830. He presented a petition from Tydd, near Wisbech, for a commutation of tithes, repeal of the assessed taxes and parliamentary reform, 7 Feb., and other Cambridgeshire reform petitions, 22, 28 Feb. 1831, when he expressed confidence in the ‘sincerity’ of the Grey ministry and his hope that they would produce a scheme ‘from which no man ought to withhold his concurrence’. Yet when he presented an Ely petition applauding the reform bill, 7 Mar., he said that although he considered the principle of the measure to be ‘sound and good’, he thought it had been ‘carried a little too far’ and would be unable to support the bill after its second reading unless it underwent ‘some considerable modification in committee’. This speech excited considerable indignation in his constituency, where he was accused of temporising and reneging on his election promises. Called to account at a county meeting to endorse the bill, 18 Mar., he insisted on his right to exercise his conscientious judgement and repeated his belief that ‘in some respects’ the bill ‘went too far’; but he suggested that his objections were essentially to ‘minor points’, and promised that in the last resort

if he saw that any quibbling was going forward - any attempt to fritter away the principle and to reduce it to a mere skeleton - or that there would be the slightest chance of its being lost, he would at once vote for the bill in its original shape.

This declaration apparently satisfied most of his audience, but one of the Cambridge reformers, after failing to persuade Adeane to commit himself unequivocally to support the whole bill, moved an amendment to have the meeting’s petition and address entrusted to Osborne alone. Wells accused Adeane of indulging in ‘a deal of special pleading’ and suggested that bad company in London had robbed him of his ‘modesty’; but for the sake of unanimity the amendment was withdrawn, and Adeane, off the hook, closed proceedings with the observation that ‘the more he looked at the bill ... the more he liked it’. He duly voted for the second reading, 22 Mar., for which he was praised in the local pro-reform newspaper, whose editor expressed confidence that he would now ‘forego his own peculiar views, and give his unqualified vote to the measure’.16 He was in the ministerial minority against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the bill, 19 Apr. 1831.

At the ensuing general election, though he still reserved ‘a right to act as my judgement dictates’, he promised to oppose any changes to the bill ‘which would essentially alter its character or diminish its efficiency’. While he had lost the support of Hardwicke, the strength of support for Osborne and himself scotched a bid to bring in Manners as a moderate reformer. At the nomination, Adeane ‘avowed himself a friend to retrenchment, economy and reform’ and argued that far from injuring the agricultural interest, the bill would ‘promote’ it by giving it an additional 60 Members and removing borough influence from the counties. His address of thanks, however, made no reference to politics or his future conduct, beyond the customary promise to serve local interests.17 He seconded Weyland’s motion for leave to introduce a bill to abolish the regulations governing parish settlements for the poor, 28 June 1831, but said that the urgently needed general reform of the poor laws was a matter for government. He presented farmers’ petitions against the use of molasses in brewing and distilling, 18 July. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, but pursued an idiosyncratic line on its details. He divided with ministers against using the 1831 census as a basis for disfranchisement, 19 July, for the proposals for St. Germans, 26 July, Greenwich, 3 Aug., Rochester, 9 Aug., Merthyr, 10 Aug., and, notwithstanding a ‘falsely circulated’ report to the contrary, against preservation of freemen’s voting rights, 30 Aug.18 He cast wayward votes, some of which received unfavourable comment in the Cambridge press, on the cases of Appleby, 19 July, Downton, 21 July, Chippenham, 27 July, Dorchester, 28 July, and Guildford, 29 July.19 He also voted against the division of counties, 11 Aug., though the following day he said that he saw nothing objectionable in the arrangement contemplated for Lincolnshire. He divided against allowing urban freeholders to vote in counties, 17 Aug., and next day spoke and voted for the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will: he deemed them to be less susceptible to influence than most £10 householders and thought their addition to county electorates would counteract the tendency to ‘nomination’ which he anticipated from the division proposals. He went against government in favour of an attempt to deprive weekly tenants of the vote, 25 Aug. He voted for the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and took ten days’ leave because of a family illness the following day, but was present to vote for the motion of confidence in the ministry, 10 Oct. 1831. During the Cambridgeshire by-election later that month, when another reformer was successful, he explained his votes on the division of counties and £50 tenants as attempts to strengthen the agricultural interest and curb aristocratic influence.20

Adeane voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and to go into committee on it, 20 Jan., 20 Feb. 1832. He supported an opposition amendment against a commitment in advance to include 30 boroughs in Schedule B, 23 Jan., when he said that as ‘an independent Member’ he was not prepared to bind himself before examining the evidence. Objecting to the proposal for three-Member counties, 27 Jan., he argued that the revised bill gave less ‘attention’ to the agricultural interest than its predecessor: Cambridgeshire, he contended, was entitled to four Members. He again supported the enfranchisement of £50 tenants, now adopted by ministers, 1 Feb., but the same day he voted against their counterbalancing admission of urban voters to county electorates. He also opposed them on an attempt to enfranchise all men rated at £10, 3 Feb. When Hardwicke’s nephew Charles Yorke, Member for Reigate, the unsuccessful candidate at the Cambridgeshire by-election, presented a county petition against the bill, 15 Feb., he provoked Adeane into denying that he sat in the House as a ‘delegate’ or that there had been any reaction against reform in the county. Yorke then made capital of Adeane’s uneasy relationship with his reforming constituents: after his strong professions of support for reform in March 1831 they were now less than pleased with his recent votes against details of the bill. Adeane’s blustering reply betrayed his discomfort. He nevertheless voted against government on the cases of Helston, 23 Feb., and Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb. On the third reading of the bill, 22 Mar., he stood by his independent votes even though, as he admitted, they had earned him ‘much obloquy’. Explaining that his objects had been to make the bill more palatable to the Lords and to safeguard the agricultural interest, he said that despite his reservations he would vote for the bill, because he was ‘assured that this or some measure of equal efficiency is essential to the well-being of the country’. He was named in The Times of 14 May 1832 as one of the dozen supporters of the bill who ‘might have voted if they had thought proper’ for Lord Ebrington’s motion of confidence in the Grey ministry, 10 May, but who had conspicuously abstained. He voted for the Irish, 25 May, and Scottish reform bills, 1 June, but did not feature in the party divisions on the Russian-Dutch loan. After experiencing ‘considerable difficulty’ in making up his mind, he voted against government for reduction of the sugar duties, 7 Mar., as ‘the only means of affording relief to the West India colonies, without trespassing on the interests of this country’; and he was in the minority against their temporizing amendment on the abolition of slavery, 24 May. He spoke against making coroners’ inquests public, 20 June 1832.

Adeane’s failure to support Ebrington’s motion did not go unnoticed in Cambridgeshire, where it was the last straw for many of the urban reformers. A Cambridge meeting of 16 July 1832 resolved to support Townley, the victor at the 1831 by-election, and John Childers† as reformers at the approaching general election, when it was known that Yorke would try again. No mention was made of Adeane, who responded by issuing an address defending his ‘right of private judgement’ and boasting of his efforts on behalf of the agricultural interest. As for Ebrington’s motion, he had gone to the House ‘ignorant’ of its scope and eager to support it, but had felt unable to do so when it emerged that such a vote would endorse ministers’ ‘unconstitutional’ advice to the king to create additional peers to carry the bill. At the same time, he would not oppose it because he approved ‘that part of the address which expressed a hope that no administration would be formed, which would not bring forward a measure of reform equally efficient with that proposed by Lord Grey’. He offered again, standing separately, at the general election in December 1832 but his cause was not helped when he was unable to appear in person, having been ‘confined to his bed’ by the effects of being hit by a stone thrown at him while on sessions duty the previous week. He finished in fourth place, but by only 12 votes in a poll of almost 6,000. His supporters blamed his defeat on ‘sophistry’ and the ‘treachery of pretended friends’, and complained that he had been ‘sacrificed to party purposes and personal hostility’.21

At about this time Adeane demolished the small house erected at Babraham by Robert Jones to make way for a more imposing residence, built to the design of Hardwick, 1833-9. An improving landlord, he increased production from previously poor land and introduced shorthorn cattle to his estates.22 He was in Naples with his family in January 1841, apparently as part of an extended European sojourn.23 Despite ‘delicate’ health, he was active at Cambridgeshire meetings against repeal of the corn laws in 1846. He died at Babraham in May 1847, leaving his widow pregnant with Frederic Carus Adeane, who was born into the ‘poor little sad tribe of mourners’ on the 14th; they became orphans three years later when their mother died, aged only 44.24 By his will, dated 16 July 1836, Adeane confirmed his wife’s entitlement to a jointure of £1,200 under their marriage settlement, and set aside £15,000 for investment in the hope of providing his younger sons and daughters with at least £6,000 each on coming of age. (This was reduced to £5,000 by a codicil of 29 May 1839, following the birth of two more children.) He directed that his real estate in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire be sold to create, together with his residual personal estate, a trust fund to give his wife an additional £300 a year, cater for his younger children’s education and provide a maximum of £3,000 for the completion and furnishing of Babraham Hall. He had sold the designated Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire property by 1839, when he replaced them as sources for the trust fund with other Oxfordshire land and real estate in Essex. He settled Babraham and his estates in Huntingdonshire and Suffolk on his eldest son Robert Jones Adeane, who died suddenly, aged 23, in December 1853.25 Babraham then passed to the second son, Henry John Adeane (1833-70), who sat for Cambridgeshire as a Liberal, 1857-65.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. M. Deane, Bk. of Dene, 111, 115; VCH Cambs. iv. 20, 22; D.W. Butcher, Short Hist. Babraham, 10; I.R. Christie, ‘Adeane of Babraham’, Gen. Mag. xiii (1961), 385-6.
  • 2. Add. 35664, ff. 270, 282, 296, 310, 311; 35688, f. 296.
  • 3. Cambridge Pollbook (1818), 3-18.
  • 4. Cambridge Election, 1819, pp. 1-7, 12-15.
  • 5. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 19 Feb., 4, 11 Mar 1820, 5 Feb. 1825.
  • 6. Ibid. 2 Mar. 1822; Gent. Mag. (1823), i. 383; PROB 6/199.
  • 7. Gent. Mag. (1825), i. 639; ii. 93.
  • 8. PROB 11/2058/542.
  • 9. Cambridge Chron. 16 June 1826.
  • 10. Rutland mss (History of Parliament Aspinall transcripts), Manners to Rutland, 17-19 June 1826; Add. 35691, ff. 136-40, 147.
  • 11. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 23 June, 1, 8 July 1826.
  • 12. Ibid. 23 Jan. 1830.
  • 13. Ibid. 17, 24 July; Rutland mss, Manners to Rutland, 25 July 1830.
  • 14. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 31 July, 7, 14, 21 Aug. 1830.
  • 15. Ibid. 9, 16 Oct. 1830.
  • 16. Ibid. 5, 12, 19, 26 Mar. 1831.
  • 17. Ibid. 30 Apr., 7, 14 May 1831.
  • 18. Ibid. 3 Sept. 1831.
  • 19. Ibid. 22 July 1831.
  • 20. Ibid. 29 Oct. 1831.
  • 21. Ibid. 19 May, 21 July, 22 Dec. 1832.
  • 22. VCH Cambs. iv. 22, 27.
  • 23. Ladies of Alderley ed. N. Mitford, 1-3, 26.
  • 24. Gent. Mag. (1847), ii. 209; Ladies of Alderley, 142, 190, 271, 288-93.
  • 25. PROB 11/2058/542; IR26/1762/615.