DASHWOOD KING, Sir John, 4th bt. (?1765-1849), of Halton and West Wycombe, Bucks.

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



1796 - 1831

Family and Education

b. ?1765, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir John Dashwood King†, 3rd bt., of Halton and Sarah, da. of Edmund Moore of Sayes House, Chertsey, Surr. educ. M. Temple 1778; Christ Church, Oxf. 21 Oct. 1783, aged 18. m. 29 Aug. 1789, Mary Anne, da. of Theodore Henry Broadhead of Monk Bretton, Yorks., 5s. (3 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. as 4th bt. 6 Dec. 1793. d. 22 Oct. 1849.

Offices Held

Capt. Bucks. yeoman cav. 1795.


At the general election of 1820 Dashwood King was returned for ‘the seventh time without opposition’ for Chipping Wycombe, which was on his doorstep at West Wycombe, though he preferred to live at Halton, near Wendover, eight miles to the north.1 An independent Member, he evidently had no great interest in politics beyond his hostility to Catholic claims; and in Buckinghamshire he was associated with the anti-Catholic Lord Chandos, one of the sitting Members and son of the pro-Catholic duke of Buckingham. When the other sitting Member decided to retire at the 1820 dissolution he alerted Dashwood King, who seems to have shown a fleeting interest in standing; but he was reckoned to have ‘no chance’, and if his promotion of a county meeting was an attempt to impede the new Whig candidate Robert John Smith*, it was unsuccessful.2 Dashwood King’s diaries, which survive for 1820-23, 1827 and 1832 in this period, are a terse and almost entirely unreflecting record of his daily movements, revealing his variable attendance at the Commons, his personal piety and conscientious discharge of his duties as a magistrate, his abiding passion for hunting and shooting and the mounting financial problems which harassed and perplexed him.3

He took his seat in the new Parliament on 9 May 1820 and attended fairly regularly that session, when his only recorded vote was against the Liverpool ministry’s appointment of an additional Scottish baron of exchequer, 15 May. He served on the Haddingtonshire election committee, 8-13 June, and was ‘up all night’ in the House for the debate on Wilberforce’s motion for a compromise of the Queen Caroline affair, 22 June.4 He spent two hours at the queen’s trial in the Lords, 25 Aug. 1820, and was mostly at Halton for the rest of the year; he leased West Wycombe in October.5 After a brief visit to Brighton, Dashwood King attended the Commons to vote against government on the omission of the queen’s name from the liturgy, 23 Jan. 1821, then ‘came away early’.6 He had an operation ‘for the cure of the hydrocele’ [dropsy of the testicle], 31 Jan., was ‘severely’ stricken with ‘gout ... in the stomach’ two days later and on 12 Feb. secured through Cockerell, Member for Evesham, a month’s sick leave.7 He spent seven weeks at Brighton and another four at Halton before appearing in the House for an election committee ballot, 8 May. Resuming attendance later that month, he was in Hume’s minorities for ordnance reductions, 31 May, and divided against including arrears in the grant to the duke of Clarence, 8 June 1821. At the end of the year he rented new London lodgings at 60 Conduit Street.8 In August he had been obliged to turn down a request for money from his 31-year-old eldest son George Henry Dashwood†:

My own embarrassments are at this time great, insomuch that I have reduced my comforts with the hopes of overcoming them; and which in two years as far as the extent of tradesmen’s demands I might accomplish provided further reductions in the value of lands and the prices of wood should not frustrate my exertions ... I have not been able to provide a carriage for your mother as usual ... and as much as in me lies, I shall avoid every uncalled for expenditure.9

At the quarter sessions, 16 Oct. 1821, he spoke and voted in the minority for placing official advertisements in the ‘radical’ Buckinghamshire Chronicle.10

Dashwood King was present when the Irish insurrection and habeas corpus suspension bills were rushed through the House, 8 Feb. 1822, having moved into Conduit Street earlier that day.11 He voted with government against more extensive tax remissions, 11 Feb., but divided for reduction of the salt duties, 28 Feb., and in the opposition majority for admiralty cuts, 1 Mar.12 He was at Halton from 8 Mar. until 22 Apr., when he attended the debate on the state of Ireland. He thought Canning’s reply to Lord John Russell’s parliamentary reform motion (which he presumably opposed), 25 Apr., was ‘as good a speech as ever I heard him deliver’. He divided against Canning’s bill to relieve Catholic peers, 30 Apr., 10 May. He was in the protectionist minority of 24 for a 40s. fixed duty on corn imports, 8 May.13 He attended spasmodically thereafter: he was in the House, for example, for debates on the Ionian Islands, 14 May, the aliens bill, 5 June, Scottish burgh accounts, 17 June, Irish tithes, 19 June, when he voted against inquiry, the influence of the crown, 24 June, and the slave trade, 27 June. He took a close interest in the Highgate chapel bill in July 1822.14 He was present for the king’s speech and the address, 4 Feb., and on 21 Feb. 1823 heard Robinson, the new chancellor of the exchequer, open his budget. He did not attend again until 17 Mar., being preoccupied with sorting out George Henry’s marriage settlement. On 26 Mar. he went with George Holford, Member for Queenborough, to inspect Millbank penitentiary.15 He attended for Canning’s defence of ministerial policy on the French invasion of Spain, 14 Apr., and an attack on the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters next day. He voted against ministers for inquiry into this, 22 Apr., got ‘home late’ from Russell’s reform motion, 24 Apr., and was a regular attender for the following week.16 After a spell in the country he resumed spasmodic attendance at the end of May: he voted against Scottish parliamentary reform, 2 June, but to recommit the silk bill and condemn misuse of the Barbados defence fund, 9 June, and with Hume for inquiry into the cost of the coronation, 19 June 1823.17

His only known vote in the 1824 session was against the beer duties bill, 24 May. At the Wycombe mayoral feast, 30 Sept. 1824, following Chandos’s lead, he confirmed ‘his objection to Catholic emancipation’, but ‘paid a high compliment to the labours of the Protestant Dissenters’.18 He divided for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. He voted against government on the duke of Cumberland’s annuity, 10 June 1825. In 1826 he was in minorities against the emergency admission of warehoused foreign corn, 8, 11 May. That month he agreed to rectify an oversight in the payment of George Henry’s allowance:

I have bills to run for some time and from some of my principal tenants, which reduced my balance to a small sum. I endeavour to limit my expenses and those which depend upon myself are of small amount. Those I pay to my family [are] very large, and I have a narrow income left. I say this, to justify myself, for I do not know in what way I mismanage.19

At the general election in June 1826 he was returned unopposed for Wycombe, where he emphasized his efforts to prevent interference with the corn laws. He was a guest at the dinner to celebrate the return of Chandos’s Whig uncle Lord Nugent for Aylesbury on ‘constitutional principles’, 10 July, when, on being toasted as ‘one of the earliest friends and stoutest advocates of the principles of freedom of representation’, he commented that if voters stuck to ‘purity of election’ principles ‘they would not have to fear the invasion of strangers, and would possess the privilege of selecting and electing their own representatives’. He had nominated Chandos for the county, and duly chaired his celebration dinner, 17 Aug. 1826, suggesting that constituents should ‘treat’ their Members rather than the reverse. 20

Dashwood King heard Canning explain the ministerial plan for further relaxation of the corn laws, 1 Mar. 1827, then attended for a week, voting against Catholic claims on the 6th.21 Resuming on 23 Mar., he voted against the second reading of the corn bill, 2 Apr. He was occasionally present in May and June 1827, but no votes have been found.22 When Peel, home secretary in the new Wellington ministry and leader of the anti-Catholic Tories, sought his support in January 1828, Dashwood King wished him ‘success in your attempt to re-establish a government on those principles which are without doubt most approved of by the country;23 but his only known votes in the ensuing session were for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and against Catholic relief, 12 May. Planta, the patronage secretary, thought he would side ‘with government’ for the concession of Catholic emancipation in 1829, but, after defaulting on a call of the House, 5 Mar., he divided against it, 23, 30 Mar. He was not permanently alienated from the ministry and voted with them against the enfranchisement of Birmingham Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and for the grant for South American missions and against abolition of the death penalty for forgery offences, 7 June 1830. He divided against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He voted for an unsuccessful attempt to restrict the scope of the sale of beer bill, 1 July 1830.

After his unopposed return for Wycombe at the general election that summer, when he nominated Chandos, now an Ultra, for the county,24 ministers listed him as one of the ‘moderate Ultras’, though he was regarded as essentially a ‘friend’. He was absent from the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. He was at this time plagued by the financial problems of his third son Edwin, an officer in the Blues, who was ‘over head and ears in debt’.25 Dashwood King, who is not known to have spoken a word in debate during his Commons career of almost 35 years, presented a Bridgwater petition for reform, 21 Mar. 1831. Next day, however, he divided against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, as he did for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. His opposition to the measure cost him his seat at Wycombe, where he was execrated by the unfranchised residents and discouraged by most of the dominant Whig corporation from standing at the ensuing general election. He took the hint and retired. He again proposed Chandos, an anti-reformer, for the county.26 At the 1832 county election, displaying ‘an activity that surprised everyone’, he sprang onto the table to answer an accusation that he had refused to contribute towards the cost of erecting a church in his parish with the boast that ‘he and his family had built two churches, without any subscription at all being asked from any human being’.27

The last 18 years of his life were largely wretched. Edwin died in Paris in 1835 and his brother Henry, Dashwood King’s youngest son, had to resign his living at West Wycombe in disgrace over a sexual scandal. He died in February 1846, six months before his married sister Elizabeth St. Leger.28 By then Dashwood King, whose wife had died in 1844, was close to complete financial ruin. In 1847 his elder daughter Mary, whose profligate husband Augustus Berkeley had purloined all her money and impregnated a village girl, found bailiffs ransacking Halton and her father skulking in a hotel in Berkhampstead.29 In 1848 Dashwood King put his affairs in the hands of trustees, who had great difficulty in persuading him to fulfil his ‘promise’ to leave Halton for a frugal life in London lodgings.30 He returned to Halton, where he died in October 1849. By his will, dated 7 Aug. 1843, he directed his trustees to raise from a leasehold estate held from the dean of Windsor annuities of £400 for his second surviving son, the Rev. John Richard Dashwood, and his daughter Mary. He left his property at Chobham, Surrey, to one Agnes Erskine, who had been ‘brought up by Lady Dashwood’, and cleared this estate of all encumbrances by a codicil of 24 Apr. 1844. By another codicil of 9 Feb. 1846 he stipulated that rents from his estates in Merionethshire and Montgomeryshire should be used to provide a £200 annuity for Erskine; and by one of 12 Mar. 1846 he directed that the contents of West Wycombe should be sold to liquidate debts on the Welsh property. His will was proved under £7,000, but the estate was ‘insolvent’ and was left unadministered for seven years.31 Dashwood King was succeeded in the baronetcy by George Henry, who was Liberal Member for Buckinghamshire, 1832-5, and for Wycombe from 1837 until his death in 1862, when it passed briefly to his brother John Richard.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Bodl. MS. DD. Dashwood F.4/4/13; Sir F. Dashwood, The Dashwoods of West Wycombe (1987), 79-80, 82.
  • 2. MS. DD. Dashwood F.4/4/9-10, 13; Add. 58967, f. 136; Cent. Kent. Stud. Stanhope mss U1590 C132, Carrington to Stanhope, 20 Feb. 1820; R.W. Davis, Political Change and Continuity, 50, 77.
  • 3. MS. DD. Dashwood F.4/4-9.
  • 4. Ibid. F.4/4/22-33.
  • 5. Ibid. F.4/4/37-56.
  • 6. Ibid. F.4/5/5-6.
  • 7. Ibid. F.4/5/7-9.
  • 8. Ibid. F.4/5/21, 24, 28, 30, 55.
  • 9. Ibid. G.3/15/4.
  • 10. Bucks. RO, Fremantle mss D/FR/46/9/9.
  • 11. MS. DD. Dashwood F.4/6/8.
  • 12. Ibid. F.4/6/11.
  • 13. Ibid. F.4/6/12-22.
  • 14. Ibid. F.4/6/23, 25-34.
  • 15. Ibid. F.4/7/8, 10, 14, 15.
  • 16. Ibid. F.4/7/18-21.
  • 17. Ibid. F.4/7/24-30.
  • 18. Bucks. Chron. 2 Oct. 1824.
  • 19. MS. DD. Dashwood G.3/15/6.
  • 20. Bucks. Chron. 17 June, 15 July, 19 Aug. 1826; Davis, 92.
  • 21. MS. DD. Dashwood F.4/8/1-12.
  • 22. Ibid. F.4/8/20-27.
  • 23. Add. 40395, f. 116.
  • 24. Bucks Gazette, 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 25. MS. DD. Dashwood F.5/4/2, 7-9.
  • 26. Bucks Gazette, 23, 30 Apr., 7 May 1831; Davis, 42; L.J. Ashford, Hist. Wycombe, 258.
  • 27. Bucks Gazette, 22 Dec. 1832.
  • 28. Dashwood, 84-85; Gent. Mag. (1846), i. 549.
  • 29. MS. DD. Dashwood G.3/16/1-24; 17/1-15; Dashwood, 85.
  • 30. MS. DD. Dashwood G.3/28/9; 29/3-9.
  • 31. Gent. Mag. (1850), i. 84; PROB 11/2116/532; IR26/1874/489.