BUCKNALL ESTCOURT, see also Thomas Henry Sutton, Thomas Henry Sutton (1801-1876), of New Park, nr. Devizes, Wilts.

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



13 Mar. 1829 - 1832
25 Nov. 1835 - 1 Feb. 1844
12 Feb. 1844 - Mar. 1865

Family and Education

b. 4 Apr. 1801, 1st s. of Thomas Grimston Estcourt* and Eleanor, da. and coh. of James Sutton† of New Park. educ. High Wycombe (Rev. James Price) 1809; Harrow 1813; Oriel, Oxf. 1818. m. 21 Aug. 1830, Lucy Sarah, da. and h. of Frank Sotheron*, s.p. Took name of Sotheron by royal lic. 17 July 1839; suc. fa. 1853; took additional name of Estcourt by royal lic. 4 Sept. 1855. d. 6 Jan. 1876.

Offices Held

PC 26 Feb. 1858; pres. poor law bd. Mar. 1858-Mar. 1859; sec. of state for home affairs Mar.-June 1859.

Cornet Devizes troop of Wilts. yeoman cav. 1829, lt. 1835, capt. 1835; maj. R. Wilts. yeoman cav. 1861, res. 1865.

Chairman, q. sess. Wilts. (Marlborough) 1836.


Thomas Henry Sutton Estcourt, as he was christened, was the eldest son of a country gentleman, who became Member for Devizes in 1805. He was educated privately and at Harrow, where he excelled, and (having matriculated in 1818, but only begun to reside in 1819) took a first class degree at Oxford. He showed an early interest in politics and was introduced to Wiltshire society at a young age, for instance by becoming a member of the Devizes Bear Club in 1822.1 After his father’s change of name in 1823, he was known as Bucknall Estcourt. In 1823 and 1824 he travelled on the continent with his friends Charles Wood* and Edward Denison, later bishop of Salisbury, and he attended debates in the Commons on the Catholic question during 1825. Early the following year he canvassed on behalf of his father at the Oxford University by-election, helping to bring him the support of the members of Oriel, where he had been ‘a great favourite’. He attended the subsequent by-election at Devizes, as well as the general election there later that year. Wood, to whom he had offered his assistance during his successful candidacy for Great Grimsby, joked that he was disappointed not to find him as a colleague, ‘for seeing in the paper, "returned for Downton, T. U. V. W. X. Y. Z. Estcourt", although the initials were not yours, I conceived it beyond possibility that any other person could have so many’.2 He qualified as a justice of the peace for Wiltshire in July that year.3 He recorded that having heard Canning’s speech on Portugal in the Commons, 12 Dec. 1826, he decided to visit the country for himself; he left London immediately and spent the first part of 1827 there.4 He was elected a capital burgess of Devizes, 27 Jan. 1827, and attended to be sworn, 30 May 1828. Allied to the dominant party on the corporation, he voted for the mayor’s choice of candidates for two vacancies on it, 6 June, and was a regular attender at its meetings. He was elected a capital burgess councillor and the borough’s justice, in succession to his father, 11 Aug. 1828.5 He was involved in the establishment of the Wiltshire Friendly Society early that year, and its success over the following decades was almost entirely due to his endeavours as its secretary.6

According to his ‘family records and diary’, during the early months of 1829, ‘I busied myself, in company with Walter Long†, in getting up anti-Catholic petitions’ in Wiltshire. Despite their efforts, the government’s volte face and the county’s general indifference limited the success of their campaign.7 It did, however, serve to bring Bucknall Estcourt to the attention of Lord Ailesbury, who, perhaps at the prompting of his father, returned him for Marlborough, one of his pocket boroughs, in place of his pro-Catholic son, Lord Bruce.8 He took his seat in the House, 17 Mar., and voted against the second reading of the Wellington ministry’s emancipation bill the following day. His activities there cannot always be distinguished from those of his far more committed father, though no doubt it was he who presented the anti-Catholic petition from the Wesleyan Methodists of Marlborough, 23 Mar. That day he voted against allowing Catholics to sit in Parliament, and he divided against the third reading of the bill, 30 Mar. Either he or his father voted for a reduction in the grant for a sculpture of the marble arch, 25 May 1829. He voted against parliamentary reform, 18 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He spoke for the first time, 18 Mar., when, admitting that he was an inexperienced Member, he called for a select committee on ways of relieving the prevailing distress. He divided against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He presented a Marlborough petition against allowing beer to be sold for on-consumption, 13 May, though it may have been his father, and not he, who voted for amendments against this practice, 21 June, 1 July. His only other known votes that session were against the Galway franchise bill, 25 May, and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June 1830.

At the general election of 1830 he was again returned for Marlborough after a contest, and he survived a petition. At Devizes, 2 Aug., he proposed George Watson Taylor, who had succeeded his father there in 1826.9 He made an advantageous marriage later that month, though Wood commented privately that she was ‘not the sort of person to please him ... I confess, if I had been in his place, I should not be in a state of ecstasy, though I might have improved my worldly wealth’. Thereafter he lived at New Park, while his father based himself at the family’s principal residence, Estcourt House.10 Echoing the views of his father on parochial relief, in which he took a close interest, he wrote to William Henry Fox Talbot†, 21 Oct.:

I look forward some day to an alteration in our present unjust and illegal system of administering the poor laws. Until that happy period, I cannot be sanguine about any plan for amending the condition of the poor, for amendment is impracticable whilst encouragement is given directly to idleness and thoughtlessness, as is now the case.11

Listed by ministers among the ‘moderate Ultras’, he was absent from the division on the civil list which brought about their downfall, 15 Nov. He was granted three weeks’ leave, 6 Dec. 1830, on account of the disturbed state of his neighbourhood.12 He presented Marlborough petitions against slavery and for reducing taxes to alleviate distress, 2 Mar. 1831. At meetings of the corporation of Devizes, 4, 8 Apr., he proposed and brought forward its anti-reform petition.13 He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.

He signed the declaration in favour of the return of Lord Robert Edward Henry Somerset for Gloucestershire at the subsequent general election, and it was supposed that he might himself start for Wiltshire.14 However, despite being very unpopular with the inhabitants of Marlborough, owing to his opposition to reform, he was again returned by Ailesbury. For the second time he nominated Watson Taylor, another anti-reformer, for Devizes.15 He voted against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and for postponing consideration of the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July. He acknowledged that one seat would be removed from Marlborough, 30 July, but complained that the Whig Lord Lansdowne’s pocket borough of Calne, a neighbouring constituency of a similar size, was to be allowed to retain two Members. He signed the Wiltshire declaration against reform.16 It was probably not he, but his father, who voted for censuring the Irish government over the Dublin election, 23 Aug., and preserving the right of voting to non-resident freemen for their lives, 30 Aug., and against the third reading of the reform bill, 19 Sept. He divided against its passage, 21 Sept. 1831.

He missed the division on the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, because, as he explained to his relation, Lord Sidmouth

I was one of those who reckoned, considering the improbability of a large division, owing to the season of the year, the shortness of the holidays, the want of sufficient notice, and the little space allowed for concerting beforehand a plan of opposition, that a division on the second reading could scarcely be regarded in this instance, as one of principal importance; and that at all events another division on the principle of the bill could not fail to be taken after Christmas, when the number of our friends would undoubtedly be greater; and in this case such later division would of course supersede the former one in importance from its superior strength.

He had also made a commitment to visit his wife’s relations in Yorkshire at that time. He revealed that he had offered to resign his seat during the previous year, when he and Ailesbury, an anti-reformer, had had an apparent difference of opinion over the reform proposals. As the rift was now evidently in danger of reopening, he made it clear that he looked upon the new bill ‘in the same light as I did the last, that is, as founded upon an arbitrary and unconstitutional principle’. He remained grateful to Ailesbury, and stated that he would willingly stand aside if he wished to bring his younger son, Lord Ernest Augustus Charles Brudenell Bruce†, into Parliament. But, in another letter, he added that

to speak plainly, my notions of independence were a little shocked at the way in which Lord Ailesbury, without waiting to learn whether his suspicion of my supposed change of opinion was well founded or not, intimated at once his desire that I should vacate my seat.

The misunderstanding was, however, resolved by the end of January 1832.17 He may have taken up Thomas Greene’s offer to pair, 13 Jan., which would explain his absence from the reform divisions on 20, 23 Jan.18 He voted against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., and informed Sidmouth, 27 Jan., that ‘we gave ministers a pretty hard rap yesterday, which they richly deserved both by the illegality and stupidity of their conduct’.19 He divided against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., the third reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar., and the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May. Either he or his father voted in the minorities against the malt drawback bill, 2 Apr., and for making permanent provision for the Irish poor, 19 June, and the privileges of Parliament bill, 27 June. His name was mentioned as a possible poor law commissioner that month.20 He paired against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July 1832.

Bucknall Estcourt made another tour of the continent during July and August 1832.21 His opposition to reform had damaged his chances of representing his father’s old seat, Devizes, which was being cultivated on his behalf by the corporation. He declined to stand there, or for Wiltshire North, about which he had been approached. Although it was originally intended that he should continue at Marlborough, Ailesbury chose this time to bring in Lord Ernest Bruce, and he was therefore left without a seat at the dissolution in December 1832.22 He returned to the House as Conservative Member for Devizes in November 1835, after a contest, and transferred to the Northern division of Wiltshire in 1844. Reluctant to enter office, he served briefly as home secretary in Lord Derby’s second administration, and retired from the House on account of ill health in 1865. An excellent scholar, he was no ‘blind partisan’, but achieved much ‘by persevering work and unvarying kindness and courtesy of manner’. He died, without issue, in January 1876, leaving his estate to his younger brother Edmund Hiley Bucknall Estcourt (1803-94), rector of Eckington, near Chesterfield, Derbyshire, whose only son and heir, George Thomas John Sotheron Estcourt (1839-1915), Conservative Member for Wiltshire North, 1874-85, became the first and only Baron Estcourt.23

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. Glos. RO, Sotheron Estcourt mss D1571 F228; F233; F438; Devizes Gazette, 2 Sept. 1822.
  • 2. Sotheron Estcourt mss F438; F365, Wood to Bucknall Estcourt, 2, 18 June 1823, 13 Mar. 1825, 20 Mar., 27 June; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Denison diary, 4 Feb.; Devizes Gazette, 2 Mar., 15 June 1826; H.P. Liddon, Life of Pusey, i. 91.
  • 3. Salisbury Jnl. 22 July 1826.
  • 4. Sotheron Estcourt mss F228, Bucknall Estcourt to fa. 12 Dec. 1826; F386; F438.
  • 5. Wilts. RO, Devizes borough recs. G20/1/22.
  • 6. Sotheron Estcourt mss F438; X115; H. Bull and J. Waylen, Hist. Devizes, 560-1; Devizes Gazette, 20 Apr. 1899.
  • 7. Sotheron Estcourt mss F438; X114; ‘Diary of Thomas Sutton Estcourt’ ed. V. C. Nielson, Glos. Hist. Stud. ii (1968), 32-35.
  • 8. Sotheron Estcourt mss F288; F438; X114, T.G. Bucknall Estcourt to s. 26 Feb., 2-4 Mar.; Devizes Gazette, 19 Mar. 1829.
  • 9. Devizes Gazette, 5 Aug. 1830.
  • 10. Borthwick, Halifax archive, Wood to Mary Wood, 14 July 1830; Bull and Waylen, 558-9.
  • 11. British Library, Talbot collection; Sotheron Estcourt mss F363.
  • 12. Devizes Gazette, 25 Nov. 1830.
  • 13. Devizes borough recs. G20/1/22.
  • 14. Gloucester Jnl. 23 Apr.; Wilts. RO, Radnor mss 490/1375, D. Pleydell Bouverie to Radnor, 26 Apr. 1831.
  • 15. Wilts. RO, Marlborough (Burke) mss 124/1/57; Devizes Gazette, 5, 12 May 1831.
  • 16. Devizes Gazette, 11 Aug. 1831.
  • 17. Sotheron Estcourt mss F666, Bucknall Estcourt to Sidmouth, 13, 25-27 Jan. 1832.
  • 18. Ibid. F209.
  • 19. Ibid. F666.
  • 20. Brougham mss, Slaney to Brougham, 28 June 1832.
  • 21. Sotheron Estcourt mss F387.
  • 22. Ibid. E411, Salmon to T.G. Bucknall Estcourt, 11 Mar. 1831; Devizes Gazette, 7 June, 11 Oct. 1832; Marlborough (Burke) mss 124/1/179.
  • 23. Wilts. Arch. Mag. xvi (1876), 340-3; J. Stratford, Wilts. and its Worthies (1882), 9-11; T.H. Ward, Men of the Reign (1885), i. 302; DNB; Oxford DNB.