FENTON CAWTHORNE, John (1753-1831), of Wyreside Hall, Lancs.

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



27 Jan. 1783 - 2 May 1796
1806 - 1807
1812 - 1818
1820 - 1 Mar. 1831

Family and Education

b. 5 Jan. 1753,1 1st s. of James Fenton of Lancaster and Elizabeth, da. and event. h. of John Cawthorne of Wyresdale. educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1771; G. Inn 1792. m. 1 Aug. 1778, Frances, da. of Sir John Hussey Delaval†, 1st bt., of Doddington, Lincs., s.p. Took name of Cawthorne by royal lic. 15 May 1781 in compliance with wish of his mother’s cos. John Lane of Hillingdon, Mdx.; suc. fa. 1791. d. 1 Mar. 1831.

Offices Held

Recorder, Lancaster 1791-6.

Col. Westminster regt. Mdx. militia 1791-6; brevet col. 1794-6.


Fenton Cawthorne’s chequered parliamentary career included expulsion in 1796, after being cashiered by court martial for embezzling the Westminster militia regiment’s funds. This also cost him the recordership of his native town of Lancaster. His personal interest there had been established through largesse and was strong enough to secure his unopposed return in 1806, and again in 1812, but he had been defeated in 1818 by the 10th duke of Hamilton’s nominee, the Liverpool West India merchant John Gladstone*.2 He rallied his friends afterwards at the Heart of Oak Club, promoted the adoption of a loyal address after the Peterloo massacre, 13 Sept. 1819, applied for Lord Lonsdale’s protection, and saw off his Tory challenger, Thomas Richmond Gale Braddyll† of Conishead Priory, to come in unopposed with the nabob Gabriel Doveton in 1820, when Gladstone retired.3 He confirmed his support for the ‘constitution in church and state’ on the hustings and afterwards at the King’s Arms, where, on 18 Aug. 1820, he presided at the Heart of Oak Club anniversary dinner.4

Fenton Cawthorne had deserted Fox for Pitt in 1784, and opposed parliamentary reform, Catholic relief and any regulation of the slave trade, whose abolition had contributed to the decline of the port of Lancaster, in which he had a vested interest. Although ostracized by them, he had supported Lord Liverpool’s administration in the 1812 Parliament, and did so again from 1820.5 His ‘few words’ on the conduct of the Lancaster gaoler Higgins, the subject of a hostile petition from the radical prisoner Nathan Broadhurst, 5 July 1820, went unreported, as did his remarks on the vagrancy laws, 14 Mar. 1821.6 He divided against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822 (paired), 1 Mar., 10 May 1825. He voted with administration on the Queen Caroline affair, 6 Feb., and the army estimates, 11 Apr., having cast a wayward vote for repealing the agricultural horse tax, 5 Mar. 1821. He presented and endorsed his constituents’ petitions for equalization of the duties on East and West Indian sugars, 12 May 1823, and against the sale of beer bill, 7 May 1824, and brought up another that day complaining of ‘certain tax gatherers’.7 He divided for the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 10 June 1825, and against Lord John Russell’s electoral bribery resolutions, 26 May 1826. He had welcomed the return of the moderate Tory Thomas Greene in 1824 as Doveton’s replacement, confirmed his own candidature when a dissolution was anticipated in the autumn of 1825 and the political economist Francis Lee and the nabob Alexander Nowell* were manoeuvring against him, and prepared for a contest he could ill afford at the general election of 1826.8 He was a trustee and director of the beleaguered Ground Rent Company, and on 3 June Charles Russell* warned his brother-in-law Greene:

It is thought that Cawthorne will go to the wall, and within the walls too, for he is utterly ruined and penniless, and the only thing which has kept him out of gaol for years is privilege of Parliament. Of course he will do what he can, for he has nothing to lose and everything to [gain] ... It not infrequently happens that the mob, strange as it may appear, will stick by such a man, if, as is the case with Cawthorne, they like him, and enable him to give a great deal of trouble.9

He pleaded sickness, absented himself from the election and was returned unopposed with Greene.10

He received a month’s leave on account of ill health, 27 Feb., another fortnight, 28 Mar. 1827, and is unlikely to have attended that session. He presented a petition against anatomy restrictions, 8 May, divided against Catholic relief, 12 May, and with the duke of Wellington’s administration against ordnance reductions, 4 July 1828. That October he accompanied a Lancaster delegation to wait on the home secretary Peel during his north-western tour.11 As the patronage secretary Planta predicted, Fenton Cawthorne opposed the concession of Catholic emancipation in 1829, presented hostile petitions, 2, 10, 20 Mar., and voted against it, 6, 30 Mar., although not, as the Lowthers had expected, on the 18th.12 Begging a ‘haunch of venison for Cawthorne’ in September, Lord Lowther* told his father Lonsdale, ‘it pleases him much and he is good humoured and always at command to vote or stay away either on great public questions or private business’.13 He paired against Jewish emancipation, 17 May 1830. He had presented Lancaster corporation’s petition against renewal of the East India Company’s ‘monopolistic’ charter, 4 May, and he retained their support at the general election in July, when a campaign to unseat him as an ineffective Member failed, and polled in second place. He attended a celebration dinner at the King’s Arms, 19 Aug. 1830.14

Ministers listed him among their ‘friends’, but he was absent from the division on the civil list when they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented a petition from Leigh on the 25th for the abolition of colonial slavery. He was granted three weeks’ leave on account of ill health, 21 Feb. 1831, and died in early March at his London house in Hanover Street.15 He was childless, and by his will, dated 2 July 1828 and proved under £100, 26 Aug. (resworn to £450, 2 Nov. 1831), he left everything to his wife (d. 1838). Wyreside was sold to Robert Garnett, the son of a Jamaica merchant, who had purchased most of Fenton Cawthorne’s gaming rights in 1825.16

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. N and Q (ser. 12), ii. 266.
  • 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 225-7; iii. 737-9.
  • 3. Lancaster Gazette, 25 Aug., 11, 18, 25 Sept. 1819, 5, 19, 26 Feb., 4 Mar. 1820; The Times, 21 Sept. 1819; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 9 Feb. 1820.
  • 4. Lancaster Gazette, 11 Mar., 26 Aug. 1820.
  • 5. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 737-9; New Tory Guide (1819), 159-61.
  • 6. The Times, 6 July 1820, 15 Mar. 1821.
  • 7. Ibid. 13 May 1823.
  • 8. Lancaster Gazette, 1 June, 28 Oct. 1822, 8 Feb. 1823, 17, 24 Apr. 1824, 10, 17 Mar. 21 May, 22 Oct. 1825, 11, 18, 25 Feb.; The Times, 14 Feb. 1826.
  • 9. Morning Chron. 11 July 1825; Bodl. Ms. Eng. lett. c. 159, f. 44.
  • 10. Lancaster Gazette, 3, 10, 24 June 1826.
  • 11. Ibid. 18 Oct. 1828.
  • 12. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 17 Mar. 1829.
  • 13. Ibid. 10, 22 Sept. 1829.
  • 14. Lancaster Gazette, 3, 24, 31 July, 7, 21 Aug. 1830.
  • 15. Gent. Mag. (1831), i. 282.
  • 16. PROB 8/224; 11/1789/451; Gent. Mag. (1838), ii. 669.