COTTERELL, Sir John Geers, 1st bt. (1757-1845), of Garnons, Herefs.

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



1802 - 18 Mar. 1803
1806 - 1831

Family and Education

b. 21 Sept. 1757, 1st s. of Sir John Brookes Cotterell and Anne, da. and h. of John Geers of Garnons. m. 4 Jan. 1791, Frances Isabella, da. and h. of Henry Michael Evans of Spring Grove, Uxbridge, Mdx., 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 6da. suc. fa. 1790; cr. bt. 2 Nov. 1805. d. 26 Jan. 1845.

Offices Held

Maj. Herefs. militia 1784, lt.-col. 1796, col. 1796-1803; brevet col. 1796; col. Herefs. vols. (2 batt.) 1803, N. Herefs. militia 1808.


Cotterell, an anti-Catholic Tory squire whose hopes of coming in for Hereford had been dashed, had proved to be a popular choice for the county on account of his ‘close residence’, command of the militia, espousal of local causes and the prevailing anti-Catholicism of the clergy and cathedral chapter of Hereford. He made no major speeches in the House, and had latterly refrained from dividing with Lord Liverpool’s administration on taxes objected to by the agriculturists.1 His sixth return in 1820 was unopposed. Canvassing, he professed his usual ‘zealous attachment to the constitution in all its branches’. He addressed the 7 Feb. agriculturists’ meeting which petitioned for protection and seconded Herefordshire’s address of condolence and congratulation to George IV, 4 Mar. He also provided generously for his supporters at The Hotel on election day.2 He kept his customary high profile at the Herefordshire Association anniversary dinner at the Albion Tavern, 19 May, Hereford’s August races and the mayor’s ‘free buck dinner’ at Michaelmas 1820.3 He signed the corporation of Hereford’s loyal address to the king, and divided with ministers against censuring their handling of Queen Caroline’s case, 6 Feb. 1821.4 He voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21, 10 May 1825, and the attendant Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825, and presented and endorsed hostile petitions from the dean and chapter of Hereford, 28 Mar. 1821, 17 Apr. 1822, 19 Apr. 1825.5 He celebrated the coronation with great style at Garnons in July 1821, and attended the Pitt Club dinner, 30 Aug., and the Agricultural Society meeting, 19 Oct.; but, ‘being ill’, he missed the mayor’s dinner, 1 Oct., and the lieutenancy meeting at which an inquiry into militia expenditure was launched, 9 Oct. 1821.6

He stayed away from constituency meetings to petition for action to alleviate distress and continued to vote sparingly. He divided with government against a gradual reduction of the salt duties, 28 Feb. 1822, but pressed strongly for concessions in the locally important duty on hops at several meetings with the chancellor of the exchequer Vansittart and the Irish secretary Goulburn between February and May.7 He was one of 24 protectionists who voted for Lethbridge’s proposal for a 40s. fixed duty on corn imports, intended as an alternative to the ministerial scale based on the agriculture committee’s report, 8 May 1822. That summer he agreed to promote the Haw Bridge scheme, and the Tory squires left him in no doubt of their dissatisfaction with ministers.8 He declined to address the contentious county meeting on agricultural distress, refused by the sheriff but convened for 17 Jan. 1823 by Lord Somers as lord lieutenant, and he refused to endorse their Whiggish petition as requested.9 He reaffirmed his opposition to parliamentary reform in divisions on 20 Feb., 2 June 1823, 24 Feb. 1824.10 He voted in the government’s minority against inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and with them against inquiry into chancery delays, 5 June 1823. In November he applied to Liverpool for a revenue clerkship for his second son Henry, a junior treasury clerk, but was turned down.11 A severe contest was anticipated at Hereford at the next election, and, to assist his party, he steered the 1824 lighting bill through the Commons.12 He presented the county’s petition for repeal of the cider duty, 8 Mar.13 He attended the usual county and city functions during the recess and chaired the Pitt Club dinner, 15 Oct. 1824.14 According to a radical publication of 1825, Cotterell ‘attended occasionally and voted with ministers’.15 He voted to outlaw the Catholic Association, 25 Feb. He presented Herefordshire’s petitions for a reduction in the county rate, 5 May 1825.16 At the Lent assizes he brought a successful civil action against his neighbour Hobby (a 50-acre freeholder whose holding he reputedly coveted to ‘round off his domain’) for ‘cutting and lopping ornamental trees at Garnons’.17 Devastated by Henry’s death on 26 July ‘after an illness of four days only’, he missed the usual meetings and social round that autumn.18 Before the dissolution in 1826 he chaired meetings at Hereford during the banking crisis, helped to steer the Hereford railway and Leominster canal bills through the Commons and confirmed his support for protection with minority votes against admitting foreign corn, 8 May, and the second reading of the government’s corn bill, 11 May.19 He was returned unopposed at the general election in June, when interest focused on the contest for Hereford, where, as in 1818 and 1820, he publicly pledged his support to the lord lieutenant’s son Lord Eastnor despite their differences on the Catholic question. He nevertheless cast a second vote for the unsuccessful anti-Catholic candidate Richard Blakemore; and his name headed the subscription list and requisition for a public dinner for Blakemore in July 1826.20

Cotterell, who had been present at their adoption, presented and briefly endorsed the Agricultural Society’s petitions for protection, with others opposing corn law revision, 21, 27 Feb. 1827.21 His failure to vote on the issue that session may have derived from his absence at the assizes, for which he was granted a fortnight’s leave, 28 Mar.22 He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar., attended the anti-Catholic meeting at Hereford, 23 May, and signed and presented their address of support to Peel and the seceders who refused to serve under the pro-Catholic Canning as premier.23 He remained regular in his attendance at the Herefordshire Association, agriculturists’ and Pitt Club meetings, but he distanced himself from the petitioning campaign for repeal of the Test Acts, and did not vote on it in 1828.24 He presented petitions for repeal of the 1827 Malt Act, 22 Feb., 18 Mar. 1828, against Catholic claims, 28 Apr. (which he also voted against), 12 May, the ‘Small Notes Act’, 10 June, and the importation of foreign gloves, 4 July. He cast a minority vote for inquiry into the circulation of Scottish pound notes, 5 June, but divided with the Wellington ministry against ordnance reductions, 4 July 1828. The patronage secretary Planta correctly predicted that Cotterell would remain ‘opposed to the principle’ of Catholic emancipation when it was conceded in 1829. He supported his friends in the corporation, the Pitt Club and the chapter of Hereford in their hostile petitioning campaign, presented their petitions, 20 Feb., 3 Mar., and voted resolutely against the measure. The ‘intolerants’ who failed to carry their anti-Catholic petition at the county meeting, 28 Mar. 1829, later praised him for his endeavours.25 Recognizing the unparalleled distress under which his constituents laboured, and their disappointment at ministers’ failure to remedy it, Cotterell chaired the Agricultural Society dinner, 8 Feb., and presented their petitions calling for government action, 4, 12 Mar. 1830.26 He voted against enfranchising Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., cast a wayward vote against the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar., and divided against Jewish emancipation, 17 May. Heeding local opposition to the sale of beer bill, he voted to restrict its provisions for on-consumption, 1 July 1830. Challenged by an anonymous candidate and conscious that his support had waned, he canvassed thoroughly before the general election in August, identifying himself closely with the county’s agriculturists, to whom he appealed for support.27 The threat evaporated and he was returned unopposed.28 He waited on Princess Victoria during her visit to Herefordshire in September, and was a guest of the Foleys at Stoke Edith Park for the eisteddfod in October 1830.29

The ministry counted Cotterell among their ‘friends’, and he divided with them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, when they were brought down. He kept aloof from the petitioning campaigns against slavery and for parliamentary reform, and could do little to combat the local outbreaks of incendiarism and machine breaking which plagued Herefordshire that winter.30 Writing from London to his political ally and kinsman Edmund Burnam Pateshall of Allensmore, 4 Mar. 1831, he remarked that the Grey ministry’s reform bill had been allowed to be brought in without opposition ‘to show that it is so radical that it ought not to pass, and in full expectation of it being thrown out in about nine days on the second reading’. He added:

Parties run very high, and they are now beginning in the Lords, which fear if the act passes they will not much longer exist. I hope the county meeting will not now be called. There never was a more interesting moment. Pray God all may go on well.31

Efforts to defend him at the county reform meeting, 19 Mar., ended in uproar.32 He voted against the reform bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment by which it was lost, 19 Apr. He had known since the reformers’ dinner for Edmund Lechmere Charlton†, 2 Apr., that he faced certain opposition should he seek re-election, and issued an open letter confirming his abhorrence of ‘sweeping changes and entrusting [the bill’s] details to a commission’, in which he insisted that his anti-reform votes were ones of conscience against ‘a new experiment, the practical result of which no man living can foresee’.33 The Tory squires rallied to his cause before the dissolution, and on 23 Apr. he attended their public meeting in Hereford, which adopted a resolution approving his conduct and candidature for the county and that of his fellow anti-reformer Eastnor for Herford. A list of their supporters was promptly and widely publicized, together with Cotterell’s canvassing address of the same day.34 Having been twice previously forced to a poll, he dreaded the expense of a contest, and with Price and two reformers already in the field, and financial support and success uncertain, ‘like a good general’ he reluctantly announced his retirement, 30 Apr.35 Commiserating, John Matthews of Belmont hoped that he would ‘feel very sensibly’ that the ‘termination’ of his parliamentary career was ‘as honourable as its commencement was triumphant’.36 Herefordshire Tories expressed their gratitude to him at a public dinner, 28 July, and on 1 Aug. 1831 Hereford common council resolved that he should be invited to ‘all the free buck dinner days in future years’ as a testimony of their regard. He proudly maintained that it was better to have been a victim of his own consistency than to have supported a bill harmful to the agricultural interest, and accordingly of no use to Herefordshire.37

Cotterell remained a committed anti-reformer loyal to the Conservative cause. He died at Garnons ‘in his 88th year’ in January 1845, having been predeceased in 1834 by his eldest son, and was buried in the family vault at Mansel church.38 His will, dated 29 Sept. 1834, was administered by his friend and fellow Tory Edward Evans of Eyton Hall, Leominster, his son-in-law William Leigh of Leamington and the Rev. James Johnson of Byford, to whom he entrusted estates encumbered by debts, settlements and mortgages totalling £80,300, during the minority of his grandson and heir John Henry Geers Cotterell; £27,000 remained unpaid when he died at the age of 16 in 1847. Bequests to his unmarried daughters and only surviving son Thomas (d. 1886) were honoured, and in November 1859 probate on their grandfather’s will passed to John Henry’s younger brother, Sir Geers Henry Cotterell, 3rd bt., Liberal Member for Herefordshire, 1857-9, who by a deed of distraint of 23 Aug. 1855 had made himself absolute owner of Garnons.39

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 196-9; iii. 507-8.
  • 2. Hereford Jnl. 2, 9, 16, 23 Feb., 1, 8, 15, 22 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. Ibid. 31 May, 23 Aug., 4 Oct. 1820.
  • 4. Ibid. 3 Jan. 1821.
  • 5. The Times, 29 Mar. 1821, 18 Apr. 1822, 20 Apr. 1825.
  • 6. Hereford Jnl. 18, 25 July, 5 Sept., 3, 24 Oct. 1821.
  • 7. Ibid. 6, 20 Feb., 1 May 1822.
  • 8. Ibid. 5, 12 June, 17, 24 July, 2 Oct. 1822; Herefs. RO, Pateshall mss A95/V/EB/434-9.
  • 9. Hereford Jnl. 11, 18 Dec. 1822, 8, 22, 29 Jan., 5 Feb. 1823.
  • 11. Add. 38297, ff. 353-4.
  • 12. The Times, 10 Dec.; Hereford Jnl. 31 Dec. 1823; CJ, lxxix. 46, 102, 120, 129, 340-1.
  • 13. The Times, 9 Mar. 1824.
  • 14. Hereford Jnl. 6, 20 Oct.; Hereford Independent, 23 Oct. 1824.
  • 15. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 459.
  • 16. Hereford Independent, 30 Apr., 18 June; The Times, 6 May 1825.
  • 17. The Times, 26 Mar. 1825.
  • 18. Pateshall mss A95/V/EB/480; A95/V/W/a/125; Hereford Jnl. 27 July 8 Oct. 1825.
  • 19. Hereford Independent, 1, 15 Apr. 1826; CJ, lxxxi. 45, 94, 99, 127, 222, 290, 377.
  • 20. Hereford Jnl. 10, 17, 24, 31 May, 7, 14, 21 June, 5, 12 July; Hereford Pollbook (1826).
  • 21. Hereford Jnl. 7, 21 Feb., 14 Mar. 1827.
  • 22. The Times, 22, 28 Feb. 1827.
  • 23. Hereford Jnl. 16, 20 May, 6 June 1827; Detailed Report of Public Meeting at Hereford.
  • 24. Hereford Jnl. 3, 24 Oct.; Hereford Independent, 20 Oct. 1827.
  • 25. Hereford Jnl. 10 Sept. 1828, 28 Jan., 18, 25 Feb., 4, 18, 25 Mar., 15, 22 Apr., 16 Sept.; Herefs. RO, diaries of John Biddulph of Ledbury [Biddulph diary] G2/IV/J/55, 6 Feb.-3 Apr. 1829.
  • 26. Hereford Jnl. 10 Feb. 1830.
  • 27. Biddulph diary G2/IV/J/57, 30 June-22 July; Hereford Jnl. 7, 14, 21, 28 July 1830.
  • 28. Hereford Jnl. 11 Aug. 1830.
  • 29. Ibid. 1, 8 Sept., 20 Oct. 1830.
  • 30. Ibid. 15, 22 Dec. 1830, 19 Jan., 23 Feb., 2, 9, 16, 23 Mar. 1831.
  • 31. Pateshall mss A95/V/EB/609.
  • 32. Biddulph diary G2/IV/5/59, 19 Mar.; Hereford Jnl. 23 Mar. 1831.
  • 33. Hereford Jnl. 6, 13, 20 Apr. 1831.
  • 34. Pateshall mss A95/V/EB/595; Add. 38280, f. 12; Hereford Jnl. 20, 27 Apr.; Globe, 30 Apr. 1831.
  • 35. Pateshall mss A95/V/W/a/130; Biddulph diary G2/IV/J/59, 30 Apr., 1 May; The Globe, 2 May; Hereford Jnl. 4 May; The Times, 9 May 1831.
  • 36. Herefs. RO, Cotterell mss W69/IV/33.
  • 37. Hereford Jnl. 27 July, 3 Aug. 1831; Herefs. RO HLM/A8, minutes of Hereford common council.
  • 38. Hereford Jnl. 23 Nov. 1831, 4 Jan., 2 May, 13 June 1832, 29 Jan. 1845; Gent. Mag. (1845), i. 542-3.
  • 39. PROB 11/2015; IR26/1701/329; Cotterell mss W69/III/200-228; The Times, 19 Mar. 1900.