CHAMBERLAYNE, William (1760-1829), of Weston Grove, Hants.

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



31 May 1800 - 1802
7 Mar. 1818 - 10 Dec. 1829

Family and Education

b. 1 Nov. 1760,1 o.s. of William Chamberlayne of Coley Park, Berks. and Mary née Boudry of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, London.2 educ. Winchester 1773; M. Temple 1778; New Coll. Oxf. 1779. unm. suc. fa. 1799; Harriet, wid. of Thomas Dummer† of Cranbury Park, Hants and of Nathaniel Dance† (afterwards Sir Nathaniel Holland, 1st bt.) to the Dummer estates 1825. d. 10 Dec. 1829.

Offices Held

Capt. Hound, Hamble and Bursledon vols. 1803.


Chamberlayne was well provided for by his father, who had successively held the posts of solicitor to the mint and treasury and commissioner of the public accounts. He sold his father’s residence at Coley Park, Berkshire, in 1802 and appears to have done the same with the parts of his landed inheritance which lay in Kent and Hertfordshire.3 Shortly thereafter he moved to a new house at Weston, on Southampton Water, which was later eulogised for its neat appearance by William Cobbett†, once a near neighbour at Botley. Cobbett also commended Chamberlayne’s record as a landlord and employer, in spite of the knowledge ‘that both he and his equally benevolent sister would rather that their goodness remained unproclaimed’, and noticed the recent augmentation of the estate to include ‘the whole of the lands that come down to the water’s edge and that lie between the ferry over the Itchen at Southampton, and the river that goes out from Southampton Water at Hamble’.4 This had come to Chamberlayne as the reversionary legatee of his father’s friend and client Thomas Dummer on the death of the latter’s widow in June 1825, and along with a smaller plot in Leicestershire was reputed to be worth £18,000 a year. According to his father’s will, there was also ‘a very considerable personal estate’.5 Although Chamberlayne never lived at Cranbury Park, Dummer’s former residence near Eastleigh, he was responsible for the accumulation of most of the furnishings and pictures which later adorned it. He was a patron of the painter Henry James Richter and, according to an obituarist, possessed ‘a most correct and elegant taste for the arts’.6

Chamberlayne had first entered Parliament under the aegis of the Pittite George Rose†, but apparently came under the influence of Cobbett and signalled the leftward drift of his politics by raising a monument to Fox at Weston in 1810.7 In his local borough of Southampton he became the standard bearer of the independent interest in 1812 and was returned at a by-election in 1818. At the 1820 general election he defeated the challenge of a ministerialist candidate by one vote in a contest which, as he later joked, ‘made Waterloo look like a boys’ game’. Uncharacteristically, he mistook the date of a meeting to offer condolence and congratulation to George IV, 27 Mar., for he was usually assiduous in the discharge of constituency duties.8 A lax attender in the House, inexplicably described as having ‘attended frequently’ in a commentary of 1825, when present he continued to vote with the Whig opposition to the Liverpool ministry on most major issues, including economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation.9 He is not known to have intervened in debate, but was not shy of speaking on home turf and was noted to have returned thanks ‘with his accustomed eloquence and energy’ at a Southampton dinner for his supporters, 14 Sept. 1820.10 In his presidential address to the annual meeting of the Royal British Free School the following month, he expressed satisfaction that prejudice against general instruction was disappearing and entertained his audience with a story of an old woman who blamed her forger son’s death on the gallows on his having learned to read and write.11 He is not recorded in any surviving division list for 1821. That August he presented the prizes at a sailing match in Southampton and in December 1821 donated beef and bread to the local poor.12

Chamberlayne’s most prominent act of munificence was his gift of iron lamp posts for Southampton, which was lit by gas in 1821. His generosity was commemorated the following year by the erection of ‘Chamberlayne’s column’, an iron obelisk of some 50 feet which, after its removal to the quay in 1829, served as a landmark for shipping. As a local historian has noted, the laudatory inscription on its base omitted to mention that he was chairman of the local gas company when he made his gesture.13 He was in the minorities for inquiry into the Scottish burghs, 20 Feb., and parliamentary reform, 25 Apr. 1822, 24 Apr. 1823. He was among the sponsors of a new church in Southampton in November 1823, and subscribed ‘several thousand pounds’ towards a proposed steam packet link to the Channel Islands in January 1824.14 At a local meeting on West Indian slavery that month, he provoked uproar with his assertion that the failure of the colonial assemblies to implement ameliorative measures ‘bordered on high treason’. His unyielding support for an abolitionist petition inspired by Dissenters caused an erstwhile local ally to accuse him of being an habitual malcontent and opportunist, which he vigorously denied.15 He voted for inquiries into the state of Ireland, 11 May, and the case of John Smith, the Methodist missionary accused of inciting slave riots in Demerara, 11 June. That month he was listed as a subscriber to public baths in Southampton.16 In October 1824 it was reported that he had intervened to alleviate the financial difficulties of the superannuated dandy ‘Beau’ Brummel.17 He excused himself from a constituency meeting on the assessed taxes on the plea of ‘extreme ill health’, 10 Feb. 1825.18 No trace of parliamentary activity has been found for that session and his sole recorded vote in 1826 was in the minority against government proposals on the circulation of small notes, 20 Feb. In July 1826 he was at the centre of some local controversy when, citing instances of vandalism, he restricted access to the ruins of Netley Abbey on his estate.19

Chamberlayne’s age and infirmity had given rise to press speculation that he would retire at the next dissolution, but at the 1826 general election he offered again, giving notice that his physical condition might preclude a full canvass. On the hustings he advocated a remission of taxation, but resolutely refused to be pledged on Catholic relief, on which he had cast no previous recorded vote. He was returned unopposed.20 No trace of activity has been found in the ensuing Parliament and he appears to have disappeared from view in his locality as well. In late February 1829 Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, correctly predicted that he would be absent from the division on Catholic emancipation. On 10 Dec. 1829 Chamberlayne was found dead in bed at Weston Grove, where he had retired the previous night in apparent ‘good health and spirits’, having enjoyed better health in the previous three months ‘than for some time before’.21 An obituary notice confirmed that he had been too ill to attend the previous session.22 While his impact at Westminster had been negligible, an anonymous local admirer lamented the loss of ‘a representative of the highest character, who, but for the painful affliction that he incessantly laboured under, would, no doubt, have shone in Parliament as an ornament to his country’.23 His estates passed to his unmarried sister and companion Charlotte, whom he appointed as sole executrix and residuary legatee of his will, dated 18 Nov. 1827. From his personalty, which was sworn under £250,000, he left £20,000 to John Wright, a boy ‘brought up in my family by my dear sister’, who inherited a further £40,000 and a portion of the Hampshire estate on her death in March 1831. The greater part of the landed property, including all that situated in Leicestershire, then passed to Thomas Chamberlayne (1805-76) of Charlton, Kent, his cousin once removed, and the recipient of a £20,000 legacy.24 Chamberlayne was interred in Jesus Church, Peartree Green, Southampton, where there is a memorial to him by Chantrey.25

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Howard Spencer / Philip Salmon


  • 1. GL Ms. 10, 351.
  • 2. Reg. St. George’s Chapel, Mayfair, 249.
  • 3. PROB 11/1333/830; VCH Berks. iii. 365.
  • 4. Cobbett’s Rural Rides ed. G.D.H. and M. Cole, ii. 503-6.
  • 5. Gent. Mag. (1825), i. 641; (1830), i. 87-88, 98; PROB 11/1333/830.
  • 6. Cranbury Park: an illustrated survey (1963); Gent. Mag. (1830), i. 88.
  • 7. VCH Hants, iii. 297.
  • 8. Hants Chron. 20 Mar., 3 Apr.; Salisbury Jnl. 18 Sept. 1820.
  • 9. Black Bk. (1823), 145; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 455.
  • 10. Salisbury Jnl. 18 Sept. 1820.
  • 11. Ibid. 11 Oct. 1820.
  • 12. Ibid. 3 Sept., 31 Dec. 1821.
  • 13. Ibid., 24 Sept., 20 Oct. 1821, 29 July 1822, 13 Jan. 1823, 31 Aug. 1829; R. Douch, Monuments and Memorials in Southampton, 15.
  • 14. Salisbury Jnl. 24 Nov. 1823, 12 Jan. 1824.
  • 15. A. Temple Patterson, Hist. Southampton, i. 149-50; Hants Chron. 24 Mar. 1820; Salisbury Jnl. 2 Feb. 1824.
  • 16. Salisbury Jnl. 28 June 1824.
  • 17. Wellington mss WP1/802/3.
  • 18. Salisbury Jnl. 14 Feb. 1825.
  • 19. Ibid. 8 July 1826.
  • 20. Southampton Herald, 26 Sept. 1825, 10 Apr., 5, 10 June 1826; Temple Patterson, i. 150.
  • 21. Portsmouth Herald, 13 Dec. 1829.
  • 22. Hants Advertiser, 12 Dec. 1829.
  • 23. The Times, 14 Dec. 1829.
  • 24. VCH Hants, iii. 297.; PROB 11/1765/15; 1783/200; IR26/1219/33; 1251/137.
  • 25. Hants Telegraph, 21 Dec. 1829; Douch, 27.