ETWALL, Ralph (1804-1882), of Andover, Hants.

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



1831 - 1847

Family and Education

b. 30 May 1804, 1st s. of Ralph Etwall, attorney, of Andover and Elizabeth, da. of Richard Bird of Snoddington. educ. Trinity, Oxf. 1821; L. Inn 1824. m. 17 Oct. 1837, Mary Anne, da. of John Evans, wid. of one Hannam.1 s.p. suc. fa. 1832. d. 15 Dec. 1882.

Offices Held

Lt. Andover yeoman cav. 1830.


Etwall, ‘the gambler’, was memorably portrayed by William Day, the son of his racehorse trainer, as

the most ungainly person, and for a gentleman the most uncouth, that I ever saw ... He was peculiar ... and one of his peculiarities was that he would never allow you to give any of his servants the smallest gratuity. He used to say that he paid them, and that was enough.

Likewise, he refused to tip other people’s servants, ‘no matter what they might have done for him’. His parsimony in this respect contrasted with his expenditure on racing and coursing, which always ran to ‘more than his faint means would grant continuance’, according to Day, who added that Etwall’s lack of polish and ‘want of education’ could not be blamed on his upbringing and background, given that his parents possessed ‘two or three freehold estates’ in the neighbourhood of Andover.2 The family had long been resident in the district. Etwall’s grandfather Ralph Etwall (d. 1798), an attorney, had at various times held the corporate posts of bailiff, town chamberlain and town clerk. His first appointment in 1752 had galvanized the moribund corporation, which embarked upon a number of important public works. His son Ralph Etwall held the same municipal offices in broken spells, 1797-1828, was appointed a commissioner of lotteries with a salary of £350 in 1817, and after staging a successful revolt against the corporation’s nominal patron the following year was thenceforth regarded as its ‘co-patron’.3 His marriage brought estates in north Hampshire at Snoddington and Longstock, where the inhabitants were regaled with ‘good strong beer and other refreshments’ at a coming of age celebration for Etwall in 1825.4 He had been admitted to Lincoln’s Inn the previous year, but was never called to the bar. At the 1831 general election he offered as a reformer for Andover, following a successful appeal by the inhabitants for the corporation to drop the anti-reform sitting Members Thomas Assheton Smith and Sir John Walter Pollen, both of whose families had employed his father as steward. In private his father had complained that the Grey ministry’s bill would exclude many ‘respectable inhabitants’ from the franchise, but on the hustings Etwall pledged to give it his unqualified support, commenting that ‘on the triumph of the great measure ... depended the happiness and prosperity of the nation’. He was returned unopposed.5

Etwall, who is not known to have spoken in debate in this period, voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against the adjournment, 12 July, and gave steady support to its details, though he divided for the disfranchisement of Saltash, over which ministers provided no clear lead, 26 July, Lord Chandos’s amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., and the total disfranchisement of Aldborough, 14 Sept. 1831. On 10 July he joined Brooks’s, sponsored by ‘Mr. Coke’ and Sir Ronald Ferguson*. He voted for the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish measure, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He divided with ministers on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, again supported its details, and divided for the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted with government on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. He divided for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the reform bill unimpaired, 10 May, and the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May. He was in the minority for a select committee on colonial slavery, 24 May, but voted with ministers on the issue, 20 July 1832.

Etwall’s father died 11 Nov. 1832, leaving him the Longstock estate and his house at Andover, along with the £6,500 residue of his personalty, which was proved in total under £40,000.6 The duke of Wellington, who described Etwall to Lady Salisbury, 23 Nov., as ‘a radical gentleman who has an enormous fortune’, doubted if any Conservative could dislodge him from Andover in 1832, and he successfully defended his seat until 1847, when he retired.7 He subsequently advocated shorter parliaments and repeal of the corn laws, and at the 1837 general election came out in favour of the secret ballot.8 His wedding that year was celebrated at St. Sepulchre, Holborn, London, and both he and his bride were described as residents of Smithfield. The marriage was apparently childless, and his wife died 20 Oct. 1850 at Nursling, Hampshire.9 According to Day, Etwall had ceased to race the previous year, having been ruined by the costs of maintaining his establishment and the expenses of contested elections. Afterwards he ‘lived many years in seclusion’ in France, evading his creditors, and paying occasional visits to friends in England incognito. At some unspecified point he returned and earned a living as an anonymous contributor to newspapers on racing matters.10 In 1872 he wrote to the premier Gladstone, who brushed aside his claim for preferment.11 He had apparently made over the Longstock estate to his brother William, while his mother and his sisters, Elizabeth and Ann, occupied the house at Andover, which he was reputed have visited under cover of darkness to beg for money.12 Neither his mother (d. 1866) nor Ann (d. 1890) made any reference to him in the wills which they drew up in 1861. Etwall died intestate, still ‘in straitened circumstances’, in December 1882, ‘at his residence in Connaught Street, Hyde Park’.13 (An assertion that he died in exile in France is incorrect.)14 No grant of administration has been found. A local newspaper commented blandly that ‘the Etwall family, representatives of whom have always resided in the town ... have always retained general esteem, and done a large amount of good in a quiet unostentatious way’.15

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Howard Spencer / Philip Salmon


  • 1. Marriage certificate (Bishopsgate district registry).
  • 2. H.W. Earney, Men of Andover (Andover Local Archives Cttee. no. 6), 2-4; W. Day, Reminiscences of the Turf (1886), 241.
  • 3. Reg. of Unreformed Corporation of Andover (Andover Local Archives Cttee. no. 7), unpaginated; J. Spaul, Andover, 60-61; Black Bk. (1820), 38; Oldfield, Key (1820), 174.
  • 4. VCH Hants, iv. 450, 513; Salisbury Jnl. 6 June 1825.
  • 5. Salisbury Jnl. 2, 9 May 1831; Hants RO, Andover borough recs. 37M85 11/PE/43; Hants RO 15M84 5/5/26.
  • 6. PROB 11/1809/754; IR26/1290/811.
  • 7. Hatfield House mss.
  • 8. Dod’s Parl. Companion (1838), 106-7; (1841), 149; (1847), 177-8; Salisbury and Wilts. Herald, 29 July 1837.
  • 9. Gent. Mag. (1850), ii. 674.
  • 10. Day, 242, 246-7; Earney, 4.
  • 11. Add. 44541, f. 176.
  • 12. VCH Hants, iv. 450; Andover borough recs. 37M85 18/AP/9: notes by S. Longstaff.
  • 13. Day, 247; The Times, 16 Dec. 1882.
  • 14. Earney, 2.
  • 15. Andover Standard, 22 Dec. 1832.