ELLISON, Cuthbert (1783-1860), of Hebburn Hall, co. Dur.

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



Family and Education

b. 12 July 1783, 2nd s. of Henry Ellison (d. 1795) of Hebburn and Gateshead and Henrietta, da. of John Isaacson of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb. educ. Bradenham 1791-6; Harrow 1796-1801; Christ’s, Camb. 1801. m. 21 July 1804, Isabella Grace, da. and coh. of Henry Ibbetson of St. Anthony’s, Northumb., 7da. (5 d.v.p.). suc. bro. Henry 1798. d. 13 June 1860.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Northumb. 1808-9, co. Dur. 1827-8; mayor, Hartlepool 1809.

Lt.-col. commdt. Gateshead vols. 1803-14.


Ellison, a Tyneside grandee and patron of the mining engineers Sir Humphry Davy and John Budde, was noted for his shrewdness, largesse and ‘most frugal manner of conducting extensive coal concerns’.1 A pro-Catholic Tory committed to cutting public expenditure, he had been thwarted in his ambition to sit for county Durham in 1807, but came in for Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1812 as the candidate of the incorporated companies and the shipping interest. He spoke only on issues of local importance. The renegade Whig Sir Charles Monck† of Belsay Hall, who had, as Member for Northumberland, liaised with him on constituency business, considered him ‘quite unsafe to be reckoned upon in the case of a job’.2 Prolonged absences abroad on account of his own and his family’s ill health, coupled with his inability to prevent the establishment of a rival customs house in Tynemouth, encouraged opposition to him in Newcastle at the general election of 1820, but with his brother Robert (d. 1843), a soldier, deputizing, he saw off a challenge from lord chancellor Eldon’s nephew William Scott* and was returned in absentia with the sitting Whig Sir Matthew White Ridley after a one-day poll.3

Ellison’s conduct in the 1820 Parliament restored his reputation. He presented the Tyne ship owners’ petition against altering the timber duties, 26 Feb. 1821. He divided with the Liverpool ministry on the Queen Caroline affair, 6 Feb., the additional malt duty repeal bill, 3 Apr., and retrenchment, 27 June, but he cast a wayward vote for restoring the queen’s name to the liturgy, 13 Feb. 1821. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825, and was described in a radical publication of that session as a Member who ‘attended occasionally and voted with ministers’.4 He voted against parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 26 Feb. 1824, 13 Apr. 1826. According to his 1826 election speech, he also voted in the minority for transferring Grampound’s seats to Yorkshire, 12 Feb. 1821.5 He divided with ministers on taxation, 21 Feb., but for reductions in the ‘comparatively useless’ junior admiralty lordships, 1 Mar., and to abolish one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May. He officiated at the proceedings in Newcastle to mark the duke of Sussex’s visit in September 1822, hosted the Recorder’s Club dinner there in October and became a founder-trustee that month of the Literary and Philosophic Society.6 He divided with government against repealing the Foreign Enlistment Act (which he had opposed in 1819), 16 Apr., and on chancery arrears, 5 June, and the Scottish juries bill, 20 June 1823. However, brandishing the ship owners’ hostile petition, he voted against their reciprocity bill, 4 July 1823.7 Both families ‘delighted’ in the connection brought about by his daughter Henrietta’s marriage in 1824 to the Whig John Lambton’s* brother William.8 Reporting on 2 Mar. 1824 from the select committee on the Newcastle coal trade, Ellison defended the northern coal owners against allegations of price fixing, and he criticized ministers’ decision to cut the duty on coal transported over land, but not coastwise, 1 Apr., 4 May.9 He called again for a reduction in the duty on coal exports, 17 June 1825. He voted, 8 Apr., and presented petitions, 9 Apr., for the usury laws repeal bill, and against colonial slavery, 7 May. He opposed inquiry into the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June 1824, believing, he later explained, that Smith’s treatment and trial so clearly contravened Canning’s 1823 resolutions as to make further investigation unnecessary.10 He voted for the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June 1824, and, true to his 1815 votes, he divided against the award to the duke of Cumberland, 6 June 1825. Uncharacteristically, he breached a pairing arrangement to vote personally for the anti-Catholic Tory Matthew Belb at the Northumberland by-election of February 1826.11 He presented anti-slavery petitions, 28 Feb., 17 Mar., and endorsed protectionist ones from the ship owners of North Shields, 27 Apr., and Newcastle, 5 May 1826.12 He chose not to vote in Northumberland at the general election in June. On the hustings at Newcastle, where his fourth return was never in doubt, he condemned tariff reform and precipitate relaxation of the navigation laws, defended his voting record, and called for greater protection for shipping and manufacturing.13

Ellison presented and endorsed the Newcastle ship owners’ petition for protection, 3 May 1827. However, before Gascoyne withdrew his inquiry motion on the 7th, he informed the ship owners that although he was prepared to vote for it ‘in deference to their wish’, he had become convinced by the president of the board of trade Huskisson’s counter-arguments that it was unnecessary and would serve no purpose. He presented petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 30 May, 20 June 1827.14 He brought up and strongly endorsed the Newcastle coal owners’ petition against removing one pound country bank notes from circulation (under the Small Notes Act), 6 June 1828, and one from North Shields for the abolition of colonial slavery, 24 June. His votes to reduce government spending on the Royal Cork Institution, 20 June, and Buckingham House, 23 June, were wayward ones, but he divided with the Wellington administration against ordnance reductions, 4 July 1828. Ellison had divided for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and he voted for emancipation, 6, 30 Mar. 1829, as the patronage secretary Planta had predicted, having presented and endorsed favourable petitions from Newcastle, 13 Feb., 17, 26, and Gateshead, 26 Mar. However, he also testified to the ‘respectability’ of the signatories to the hostile Northumberland petitions presented by Bell, 17 Mar.15 He brought up his constituents’ protectionist petitions against French shoe imports, 26 Mar., one in favour of anatomical dissection, 13 Apr., and several against the labourers’ wages bill, 12 May 1829. As a Tyneside Member, Ellison was appointed to the East India select committee, 9 Feb., and that on the coal trade, 11 Mar. He voted against enfranchising Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., but to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 Mar. 1830. He aligned with the revived Whig opposition in the divisions on the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar., the public buildings grant, 3 May, the Irish lord lieutenancy, 11 May, and privy councillors’ emoluments, 14 May, but voted against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He divided as previously (4 June 1821) for the abolition of capital punishment for forgery, 7 June. Ellison was alerted on 29 May by his Newcastle agents to the prevailing local hostility to Ridley, and John Hodgson* of Elswick’s willingness to poll as a third man, and he immediately authorized spending on a canvass and freeman admissions there. Accordingly, his decision on 8 June 1830 to stand down on health grounds, despite assurance of success, surprised all but his closest friends.16 Returning to Newcastle for the election, he conceded on the hustings that he was the ‘victim’ of the anti-Ridley campaign; but he denied that his retirement had been procured through a pact between them.17

From Florence in March 1831 and again in March and August 1832 Ellison declined invitations to stand for the new Gateshead constituency at the first post-reform election, and preferred to hold aloof from Durham and Northumberland politics.18 Deterred from living in his 85-room mansion at Hebburn by encroaching industrialization and especially the construction in 1853 of Andrew Leslie’s shipbuilding yards, he spent his later years at Juniper Hill, near Dorking, Surrey, and his London house in Whitehall Gardens, where, predeceased by his wife and four of their daughters, he died in June 1860. He was recalled for his philanthropy towards Gateshead Dispensary, the Literary and Philosophical Society and Infirmary in Newcastle and the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, to whom his wife had bequeathed their watercolour collection. His youngest daughter Sarah and many grandchildren were the principal beneficiaries of his will, which was proved in London, 27 Aug. 1860, and administered by Sarah’s husband Sir Walter Charles James† of Betteshanger, afterwards 1st Baron Northborne. Having no sons, his entailed estates passed to Robert’s son, Cuthbert George Ellison, who died without issue in 1867, and then to his sister Hannah’s son Ralph Carr (d. 1884), who assumed the name of Ellison.19

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. Diaries and Corresp. of James. Losh ed. E. Hughes (Surtees Soc. clxxiv) [hereafter Losh Diaries, ii], 68; F.W.D. Manders, Hist. Gateshead, 325-6.
  • 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 148-51, 312; iii. 702-3; Grey mss, Monck to Grey, 3 Oct. 1812.
  • 3. Newcastle Courant, 12, 26 Feb., 11, 18 Mar.; Tyne Mercury, 14 Mar. 1820; Northumb. election pprs. [BL J/8133.i.13.], ii. 805-13
  • 4. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 462.
  • 5. Newcastle Chron. 17 June 1826.
  • 6. Ibid. 4 Sept.; The Times, 6 Sept. 1822; R.S. Watson, Hist. Lit. and Phil. Soc. of Newcastle, 68-72, 83; Diaries and Corresp. of James Losh ed. E. Hughes (Surtees Soc. clxxi) [Losh Diaries, i], 173.
  • 7. The Times, 5 July 1823.
  • 8. Grey mss, Lambton to Grey, 4 Jan. 1824.
  • 9. The Times, 5 May 1824.
  • 10. Newcastle Chron. 17 June 1826.
  • 11. Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 7 Mar. 1826.
  • 12. The Times, 1, 17 Mar., 6 May 1826.
  • 13. Northumb. election pprs. ii. 573, 579, 585, 591; The Times, 26 May, 2, 12 June; Newcastle Chron. 27 May, 10, 17 June 1826.
  • 14. The Times, 4, 31 May, 21 June 1827.
  • 15. Losh Diaries, ii. 166.
  • 16. Tyne and Wear Archives, Ellison of Hebburn mss DF/ELL/A66, passim; Newcastle Chron. 12 June 1830; P.D. Brett, ‘Newcastle Election of 1830’, Northern Hist. xxiv (1988), 101-23.
  • 17. Newcastle Chron. 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 18. Manders, 268-9.
  • 19. Gent. Mag. (1860) ii. 205-6; R.E. and E.E. Carr, Fam. of Carr, i. 114, 121-2.