CALCRAFT, John Hales (1796-1880).

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



1820 - 1826
1832 - 1841
1857 - 1859

Family and Education

b. 13 Sept. 1796, 1st s. of John Calcraft* of Rempstone, Dorset and Ingress, Kent and Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Pym Hales†, 4th bt., of Bekesbourne, Kent; bro. of Granby Hales Calcraft*. educ. Eton 1811; Christ Church, Oxf. 1814. m. 13 Feb. 1828, Lady Caroline Katherine Montagu, da. of William, 5th duke of Manchester, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1831. d. 13 Mar. 1880.

Offices Held

Dep. paymaster of the forces 1828-30.

Sheriff, Dorset 1867-8.


Calcraft, who was elected to Brooks’s on 14 Feb. 1817, was brought into Parliament for his father’s borough of Wareham at the general election of 1820. Described by Sir James Mackintosh* that year as ‘a very sensible young man’, he was inactive compared to his father, whose lead he followed in supporting the Whigs, dividing silently with them when present.1 He voted against Wilberforce’s compromise motion on the Queen Caroline affair, 22 June, and the appointment of a secret committee, 26 June 1820. He divided for restoring Caroline’s name to the liturgy, 23, 26 Jan., 13 Feb., and in condemnation of ministers’ treatment of her, 6 Feb. 1821, but his only other known vote that session was against the conduct of the Allies towards Naples, 21 Feb. His absence thereafter was owing to a fever, and George Agar Ellis* noted on 30 Mar. 1821 that he was ‘still peevish and unwell, and confined to his room’.2 He divided to condemn the present influence of the crown, 24 June 1822, and for parliamentary reform, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., and alteration of the Scottish representative system, 2 June 1823. He was ill in February, but voted for Abercromby’s complaint of a breach of privilege against the lord chancellor, 1 Mar. 1824.3 He divided against the Irish unlawful societies bill, 15, 18, 21, 25 Feb., and for Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. His last known votes were given for alteration of the corn laws, 28 Apr., against the grant for the duke of Cumberland, 30 May, 6, 10 June, and for the second reading of the St. Olave tithe bill, 6 June. In his only reported intervention in this period, he presented the petition of the journeymen fishmongers of Westminster for permission to sell fish after 10 o’clock on Sundays, 2 June 1825.4

He again fell ill in early 1826,5 and Lady Spencer wrote to her husband, 25 Jan., that he was

quite in a deplorable state of insanity and nearly hopeless of life - by Methodism and fanaticism. The duchess of Beaufort has got hold of him and with her horrid creed and her books and her various engines of assault, she has fairly turned his brain, and [George] Tierney* told me that he was quite despairingly mad and under mad doctor’s care.6

No doubt because of his ill health, he was not brought forward for Wareham at the general election in the summer of 1826. However (unless it was his brother Granby), he was well enough to attend a Whig meeting at Brooks’s in April 1827, from which he carried to Lord Lansdowne a message urging him to join the Canning ministry.7 Calcraft, whose name had earlier been linked with Lady Mary Brudenell,8 married into the aristocracy in 1828, when his father gave him an allowance of £1,000 a year and let him reside at Rempstone.9 According to the unpublished memoirs of his granddaughter Daisy Bevan, his

marriage was a real love match and not the brilliant one that was expected of her. She met my grandfather, John Calcraft, in Italy. He like her, was a most beautiful person up to the last, but as a young man he must have been dazzling - many people mistake his portrait for that of Byron - but I think he was undoubtedly more handsome. Before his marriage he was a close friend of Pauline Buonaparte’s and she gave him a quantity of Napoleon’s books, some of his lace ruffle and some locks of his hair.10

He presumably supported the Wellington administration, in which his father-in-law was postmaster-general, and he served as deputy to his father, who joined the government as paymaster of the forces in June 1828. He began to take an active part in local affairs, chairing the anniversary meeting of the Wareham Church Missionary Society, 21 Aug. 1828, and he stood in for his father at the mayoral election dinner in Wareham, 13 Sept. 1830.11 A return to the House was not apparently considered at the general election of 1830, nor the following year when his pro-reform brother was brought in for Wareham.

After the final madness and suicide of John Calcraft in late 1831, Agar Ellis noted that ‘I fear much the effects on his son’s health’.12 However, Calcraft, who was the sole beneficiary under his father’s will, lived in good health at Rempstone for many years.13 Having inherited the family interest, he was elected as an anti-reformer for the one remaining seat at Wareham at the general election of 1832, and continued to sit as a Liberal for several years.14 He died in March 1880, ‘a fine example of the country gentleman and the squire’.15 The writer Jane Ellen Panton recorded in 1909 that Calcraft was

one of the most magnificent old men that I have ever seen, and I should think had given his wife cause for anxiety in the days of old; and indeed at the present time one can recognize his brilliant eyes and magnificent hair and build in many a person round who has never heard his name.16

His estate was inherited by his elder surviving son William Montagu (1834-1901), the last of the male line, whom Panton described as ‘a gentle, melancholy, unambitious man’.17 His eldest son John Hales Montagu (1831-68) was Liberal Member for Wareham, 1865-68, and his third son, Henry George (1836-96), was permanent secretary to the board of trade, 1886-93.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. Add. 52444, f. 144; Black Bk. (1823), 144; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 454. Where the Calcrafts are not distinguished from each other in the parliamentary records, it is assumed that John Calcraft was the individual concerned.
  • 2. Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 24, 30 Mar. 1821; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC17/20, 21.
  • 3. Agar Ellis diary, 7 Feb. 1824.
  • 4. The Times, 3 June 1825.
  • 5. Agar Ellis diary, 20 Jan. 1826; Sneyd mss SC17/28.
  • 6. Add. 75938.
  • 7. Creevey Pprs. ii. 114; A. Mitchell, Whigs in Opposition, 199.
  • 8. Add. 52017, Townshend to Fox, 1 Aug. 1825.
  • 9. Sneyd mss SC17/33.
  • 10. R.D. Ryder, Calcrafts of Rempstone (typescript, 1975) in Dorset RO, Ryder mss D/RWR Z7, pp. 43-45.
  • 11. Dorset Co. Chron. 28 Aug. 1828, 16 Sept. 1830.
  • 12. Agar Ellis diary, 13 Sept. 1831.
  • 13. PROB 11/1791A/566; IR26/1253/517.
  • 14. Dorset Co. Chron. 21 June, 20 Dec. 1832.
  • 15. The Times, 17 Mar.; Dorset Co. Chron. 18 Mar. 1880.
  • 16. [J.E. Panton], Fresh Leaves and Green Pastures, 28.
  • 17. Ibid. 34; The Times, 14 May 1880.