CRAWLEY, Samuel (1790-1852), of Stockwood Park, nr. Luton, Beds. and Ragnall Hall, nr. Tuxford, Notts.

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



1818 - 1826
1832 - 1837
21 May 1838 - 1841

Family and Education

b. 16 Dec. 1790, 1st s. of Samuel Crawley of Keysoe, Beds. and w. Eliza née Rankin, h. of Ragnall. educ. Eton 1805-8; Christ Church, Oxf. 1808. m. (1) 19 June 1817, Theodosia Mary (d. 3 Jan. 1820), da. of Robert Vyner† of Gautby, Lincs., 1da.; (2) 15 July 1822, Maria, da. of Christopher Musgrave of Kempton Park, Mdx., 6s. (3 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. 1805; uncle John Crawley to Stockwood 1815. d. 21 Dec. 1852.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Beds. 1817-18.


Crawley’s family had had a significant presence in the Luton area of Bedfordshire since at least the early sixteenth century. He enjoyed a handsome inheritance from his father, whose personalty was sworn under £7,500 in 1806, and his uncle, whose personalty was sworn under £30,000 in 1815.1 He was touted as a possible candidate for the county in 1820 (in the event, he plumped for the unsuccessful ministerialist),2 but stood again for the venal borough of Honiton, where a kinsman had introduced him to the local men of influence in 1818. He was returned unopposed with the other sitting Member, a brother of the 1st Earl Brownlow, who had interests in Bedfordshire.3

He was a silent Member and not the most assiduous of attenders, but he continued to give general support to Lord Liverpool’s ministry while showing, as before, a marked degree of independence on specific issues. He divided against government on the civil list, 3, 8 May 1820. In January 1821 he signed the Bedfordshire loyal address, organized by local Tories to counter the Whigs’ expression of support for Queen Caroline, and he voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards her, 6 Feb.4 However, he divided with opposition for inquiry into the conduct of the sheriff of Dublin, 22 Feb. He voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. He divided with government against Maberly’s resolutions on the state of the revenue, 6 Mar., and repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., but was in the minorities for a revision of salaries, 30 Mar., to inquire into the currency, 9 Apr., and to omit arrears from the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18, 29 June. He also voted against sending the editor of John Bull to Newgate, 11 May, and for inquiry into the administration of justice in Tobago, 6 June. He divided for the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 4 June 1821. He voted with ministers against more extensive tax reductions, 11 Feb., but against them for abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May, payment of naval and military pensions from the sinking fund, 3 May, 3 June, repeal of the salt duties that day, and reconsideration of the resumption of cash payments, 12 June 1822. He paired against Canning’s bill to relieve Catholic peers of their disabilities, 30 Apr. 1822. Curiously, a radical publication subsequently asserted that in these sessions he had ‘voted ... for the ministers always’, with the exception of his vote on the postmastership.5 He divided with government against parliamentary reform, 20 Feb., repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823. In an apparent change of mind, he voted against inquiry into the currency, 12 June 1823. No votes have been found for the following session, although he presented a Devon petition for repeal of the coal duties, 1 Mar. 1824.6 He paired against Catholic claims, 1 Mar., and voted against them, 21 Apr., 10 May, and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. It was said of him at this time that he ‘attended frequently, and usually voted with ministers’.7 He presented a Honiton anti-slavery petition, 17 Feb.,8 and voted in the minority against the resolutions permitting the temporary opening of ports to foreign corn, 8 May 1826. Shortly before the dissolution that summer he unexpectedly announced his retirement, having canvassed Honiton the previous year with a view to seeking re-election.9

Crawley’s political views had undergone a dramatic change, and at the Bedfordshire election he plumped for the reforming Whig sitting Member, Lord Tavistock, the duke of Bedford’s son, who stood on a strict purity of election platform.10 He apparently took no public role in Bedfordshire politics in the ensuing six years, but in the summer of 1832 he declared his support for Tavistock’s reforming colleague Peter Payne at the next general election. He advocated ‘a permanent commutation of tithes’, a fixed duty on corn, emancipation of the West Indian slaves without infringing proprietors’ rights (his paternal inheritance may have included a coffee plantation in Grenada) and ‘a reduction of taxation to every practicable extent’. When Tavistock subsequently announced his retirement Crawley offered in his room, only to make way for Tavistock’s brother, Lord Charles Russell; he nevertheless portrayed himself as Payne’s eventual successor.11 In fact he stood for Bedford as a reformer, stressing the importance of ‘economy and retrenchment’ as ‘the great end of the reform bill’, but being evasive on the slave question. Tavistock explained to one of his brothers that Crawley ‘was a Tory, but ... is now a reformer’, and observed that while he was ‘not a man to feel any interest about’, he was preferable to the sitting Member. He was narrowly returned in second place.12 Denis Le Marchant† described him as ‘very dissolute and ill conditioned’, and noted that ‘the less said about his private life the better’; he was ‘a rich country gentleman’ who would ‘vote well’, but he was ‘not [of] very respectable private character’.13 The reason for these strictures has not emerged. He was again returned in 1835, was beaten in 1837 but seated on petition, and retired in 1841. After adding to his Bedfordshire estates, he spent his later years mainly in Italy.14 He died at Naples in December 1852 and was buried there. His estates passed to his eldest son John Sambrook Crawley (1823-95), a leading exponent of agricultural improvement and liberal endower of churches in the Luton area.15

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. W. Austin, Hist. of a Beds. Fam. passim; Beds. N and Q, ii. 270-4, 323-4; J. Godber, Hist. Beds. 266; IR26/110/91; 635/177; Beds. RO, Crawley mss C 2738-40.
  • 2. Beds. RO, Wrest mss L 30/11/20/13; Beds. Pollbook (1820), 64.
  • 3. Austin, 279; A. Farquharson, Hist. Honiton, 41; Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, 16 Mar. 1820.
  • 4. Northampton Mercury, 20 Jan. 1821.
  • 5. Black Bk. (1823), 149.
  • 6. The Times, 2 Mar. 1824.
  • 7. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 458.
  • 8. The Times, 18 Feb. 1826.
  • 9. Austin, 279-80; Farquharson, 51.
  • 10. Beds. Pollbook (1826), 33; Austin, 281.
  • 11. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 28 July, 11 Aug. 1832; Three Diaries, 288; Austin, 282-3; Godber, 390.
  • 12. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 15-29 Sept., 15, 22 Dec. 1832; Russell Letters, i. 183, iii. 26.
  • 13. Three Diaries, 287-8; Brougham mss, Le Marchant’s memo [1833].
  • 14. Austin, 283-7.
  • 15. Gent. Mag. (1853), i. 218; PROB 11/2168/174; Austin, 287-94.