COLTHURST, Sir Nicholas Conway, 4th bt. (1789-1829), of Ardrum, co. Cork

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



1812 - 22 June 1829

Family and Education

b. Jan. 1789, o.s. of Sir Nicholas Colthurst, 3rd bt., MP [I], of Ardrum and Harriet, da. of David Latouche, MP [I], of Marlay, co. Dublin. educ. Eton 1799-1808; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1808. m. 11 Nov. 1819, his cos. Elizabeth, da. and h. of Col. George Vesey, MP [I], of Lucan, co. Dublin, 4s. 1da. suc. fa. as 4th bt. c. 20 May 1795.1 d. 22 June 1829.

Offices Held

Trustee, linen board [I] 1817.

Col. R. Cork city militia 1819-d.


Colthurst, who had joined Brooks’s, 3 June 1816, was praised the following year by Peel, the Irish secretary, for his ‘pure and honourable motives’ of public conduct and ‘disinterested’ support; but he was considered ‘incapable of being a good Member’ and ‘to all intents and purposes Peel’s Member’ by Lord Hutchinson, the brother of his quasi-radical colleague Christopher Hely Hutchinson.2 At the 1820 general election he offered again for Cork, asserting his readiness for a contest with a local challenger Gerard Callaghan*, although Hely Hutchinson observed that from his ‘address, the little baronet seems both alarmed and angry’.3 After a five-day struggle he was returned in second place.4 Daniel O’Connell’s* wife was ‘much surprised’ that it was Hely Hutchinson, rather than Colthurst, who was involved in a subsequent duel with a brother of the defeated candidate.5 A regular attender, Colthurst continued to give independent support to the Liverpool ministry, who noted that he had probably ‘of late enjoyed more local patronage than any other Irish Member’ and that ‘we are not in Sir Nicholas’s debt’. (Contemporary statements that he ‘never’ voted ‘for repeal of taxes’, was an ‘absentee’ in 1822 and ‘usually voted with the opposition’ were inaccurate.)6 On 12 June 1820 he successfully moved the second reading of the Cork harbour bill, which was supported by Cork corporation, having urged its opponents to raise their objections in committee.7 He warned that inquiry into the Union duties would produce ‘considerable alarm and discontent’ in Ireland, 14 June. He was granted a month’s leave on urgent private business, 30 June 1820. He voted in defence of the ministry’s conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He was granted six weeks’ leave on urgent private business, 9 Feb., and paired for Catholic claims, 28 Feb. 1821. ‘He was obliged to vote for the Catholics’, Lord Hutchinson later remarked, ‘because from the number of freeholders in 1818 and 1820, the return was in their hands’.8 He presented and endorsed a Cork petition for repeal of the Irish window tax, 24 Apr.9 He advocated increased protection for the butter trade, 8 May, and unsuccessfully moved for inquiry and an additional ten per cent import duty, 20 June. He presented a petition against the regulations governing Cork and Dublin mail coaches, 14 May.10 He called for measures to relieve the Irish people from tithes next day, insisted that commutation should have ‘the approbation of the clergy’, 14 June, and divided for Newport’s amendment to the tithes bill, although he ‘disavowed all participation in the doctrines laid down’ by him, 19 June. He welcomed the government’s ‘generous and humane’ grant for the employment of the Irish poor, 20 May. On 7 June he defended their Irish constables bill; Goulburn, the Irish secretary, later commented that Colthurst was one of ‘my chief allies’, who did ‘all in his power to overcome the prejudices of his fellow Members’ against it. On 19 June 1822 Goulburn reminded Lord Wellesley, the Irish viceroy, of Colthurst’s anxiety for his brother-in-law’s promotion in the church.11

Colthurst urged the necessity of measures to suppress Irish disturbances ‘as soon as possible’ and moved for papers on the issue, 21 Apr. 1823.12 He voted for inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange theatre rioters, 22 Apr., cross-examined a witness, 5 May, and argued for more time to give ‘all parties an opportunity of defending themselves’, 8 May. He defended the Irish Insurrection Act, saying that ‘coercive measures were indispensable to the restoration of tranquillity’, 12 May, and commended schemes of emigration from the south of Ireland to the Cape, 26 May.13 He divided against inquiry into chancery delays, 5 June, when he moved for the Irish election bill to go into committee.14 He ‘strongly opposed’ proposals for a compulsory commutation of tithes, 6 June.15 In July 1823 and June 1824 he wrote to Peel, now home secretary, to ask whether anything could be done for one Ross, who had been dismissed as a distributor of stamps following an ‘unfortunate indiscretion’, but was referred to the treasury.16 He presented a Cork petition for repeal of the leather tax, 17 May 1824, and voted accordingly next day, saying it should be ‘as cheap as possible for the people of his country’.17 He brought up and endorsed a petition against the Irish warehousing bill, 10 June, but agreed to abandon his intended opposition after assurances by Herries, the treasury secretary, that it would not increase costs, 12 June.18 He spoke and divided for the Irish Insurrection Act, 14 June 1824.19 He contended that the objects of the Catholic Association were ‘inconsistent with the constitution’ and ‘injurious’ to Catholic interests, 11 Feb., and voted for its suppression, 15, 25 Feb. 1825. He presented a Cork petition for repeal of the Irish coal duties, 14 Feb.20 He voted for Catholic claims, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., when he asserted that it was ‘unjust’ to ‘exclude any class of men from the constitution’, 10 May. He presented Cork petitions against Irish postage rates, 9 May, and the Liverpool harbour bill, 18 May 1825.21 He divided with ministers on the Jamaican slave trade, 2 Mar. 1826. That May he was urged to settle his outstanding election bills during a case before the Cork bench.22

At the 1826 general election Colthurst offered again. Rumours of a contest came to nothing and he was returned unopposed, Lord Hutchinson (now 2nd earl of Donoughmore) noting that he had ‘promised to hurry’ proceedings ‘as much as the law will permit’ and ‘give nothing by way of expense’, and that he would go back ‘to England the day after’.23 In October 1826 Colthurst was reported to have become ‘very angry’ with Goulburn and to have ‘written in the strongest terms’ about the government’s support for Callaghan, a ‘violent Protestant’, in the by-election caused by the death of Hely Hutchinson, whose pro-Catholic son he endorsed. ‘He is just as much interested in this concern as we are’, remarked Donoughmore.24 He presented Cork petitions for relief from distress, 22 Feb., and for and against the introduction of Irish poor laws, which he thought would be ‘a most dangerous experiment’, 9 Mar. 1827.25 He brought up Cork petitions for Catholic claims, 2 Mar. 1827, 29 Apr. 1828, and voted thus, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828.26 He was granted two weeks’ leave to attend the assizes, 26 Mar. 1827. He presented petitions for the protection of the shipping interest, 22 May, and the relief of Dissenters from serving as churchwardens, 25 May 1827.27 He brought up a Cork petition against the Irish Vestry Act, 29 Apr. 1828. In December 1828 John Hely Hutchinson I* heard the ‘same report’ as Donoughmore of Colthurst’s retiring, but was ‘sure’ that he would be ‘most unwilling to give way’ to Callaghan.28 He welcomed the Wellington ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation as a ‘great benefit’ to Ireland, despite the ‘strong feeling’ against it among Cork Protestants, 9 Mar., and presented favourable petitions, 16, 20 Mar., and a hostile one from which he dissented, 16 Mar. He had, of course, been listed by Planta, the patronage secretary, as a supporter of the measure and he paired accordingly, 30 Mar. He presented Cork petitions against militia reductions, 20 Mar., and the Irish Subletting Act, 24 Mar. 1829.

Colthurst died at Leamington, Warwickshire in June 1829 after a short illness.29 He was succeeded in the baronetcy by his eldest son George (1824-78), Liberal Member for Kinsale, 1863-74.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. Hist. Irish Parl. iii. 460-1.
  • 2. Add. 40293, f. 149; TCD, Donoughmore mss F/13/25, 75.
  • 3. Donoughmore mss D/43/45.
  • 4. Dublin Evening Post, 9, 21, 25 Mar. 1820.
  • 5. O’Connell Corresp. ii. 836.
  • 6. Black Bk. (1823), 147; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 457.
  • 7. I. D’Alton, Protestant Society and Politics in Cork, 139.
  • 8. Donoughmore mss F/13/73.
  • 9. The Times, 25 Apr. 1822.
  • 10. Ibid. 15 May 1822.
  • 11. Add. 37299, ff. 213, 238.
  • 12. The Times, 22 Apr. 1823.
  • 13. Ibid. 27 May 1823.
  • 14. Ibid. 6 June 1823.
  • 15. Ibid. 7 June 1823.
  • 16. Add. 40357, ff. 181, 206; 40366, ff. 189, 223.
  • 17. The Times, 18 May 1824.
  • 18. Ibid. 11, 14 June 1824.
  • 19. Ibid. 15 June 1824.
  • 20. Ibid. 15 Feb. 1825.
  • 21. Ibid. 10, 19 May 1825.
  • 22. Southern Reporter, 1 June 1826.
  • 23. Ibid. 6, 13 June; Cork Constitution, 6, 15 June 1826; Donoughmore mss F/13/151.
  • 24. Donoughmore mss F/13/157-8.
  • 25. The Times, 23 Feb. 1827.
  • 26. Ibid. 3 Mar. 1827.
  • 27. Ibid. 23, 26 May 1827.
  • 28. Donoughmore mss E/360.
  • 29. Gent. Mag. (1829), ii. 176; Cork Constitution, 25 June 1829.