GRENFELL, Pascoe (1761-1838), of Taplow House, Bucks and 19 Charles Street, St James's, Mdx.

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



14 Dec. 1802 - 1820
1820 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 3 Sept. 1761, 1st s. of Pascoe Grenfell, commissary to the States of Holland, of Marazion, Cornw. and Mary, da. of William Tremenheere, attorney, of Penzance. educ. Truro g.s. 1777. m. (1) 26 Aug. 1786, his cos. Charlotte (d. 2 May 1790), da. of George Granville, otherwise Grenfell, of Kentish Town, Mdx.,1 2s. 1da.; (2) 15 Jan. 1798, Hon. Georgiana St. Leger, da. of St. Leger, 1st Visct. Doneraile [I], 2s. 10da. (3 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1810. d. 23 Jan. 1838.

Offices Held

Dir. R. Exchange Assurance Co. 1789-1829, gov. 1829-d.


Grenfell had prospered as the associate and partner in the copper trade of the Williams family, to whom he owed the seat for Great Marlow which he had occupied as a Grenvillite Whig and loquacious financial pundit since 1802. His partnership with Owen Williams, the other Member for Marlow, in the London copper agency at Castle Baynard wharf, Upper Thames Street continued, and he operated profitable smelting concerns in the Swansea area of South Wales.2 Shortly before the dissolution in 1820 he learned that his seat was required by Williams for his own son. Grenfell sought assistance from his mentor Lord Grenville, who proved unwilling to appeal directly to Lord Liverpool’s ministry for electoral support for a man who, while he had supported the recent repressive legislation and ‘declared [his] hostility to the visionary projects of change in our constitution now afloat under the specious name of parliamentary reform’, was in general their opponent. Nevertheless, Grenville gave his written blessing and authorized such discreet use of it as seemed appropriate. Grenfell, whose rumoured candidature for Hull came to nothing, kept this letter in reserve for a possible bid for the Court interest at Windsor, but looked first to the open and venal Cornish borough of Penryn, having been promised the limited influence of the Tory Lord De Dunstanville. He supposed that his credentials ‘as a Cornishman, and a considerable purchaser of the produce of the Cornish mines’ gave him a ‘fair’ chance.3 He comfortably topped the poll, reportedly without resorting to bribery.4

He continued to attend regularly and acted with the Whig opposition on many issues, although his record on economy and retrenchment motions was mixed and he remained lukewarm about parliamentary reform. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. On 28 Apr. 1820 he secured a return of bank notes in circulation, as he did in successive sessions of the 1820 Parliament.5 He condemned the ‘most disgraceful manner’ in which the £5,000,000 issue of exchequer bills had been conducted, 31 May, but changed his tune, 9 June, when he approved it, though he criticized (as was his wont) the ‘delusion’ of the current sinking fund system. In moving, as he did every year, for an account of public balances in the Bank of England and its administrative charges, 13 June, he professed to hope that ‘the warfare between the Bank ... and himself was over’, now that the Advances Act of 1819 had significantly reduced its holdings. Yet he argued that further reductions could be effected, and throughout this Parliament he persisted in his personal crusade against the Bank’s exorbitant profits from its public transactions.6 He blamed recent Irish bank failures on the ‘false system of paper currency’, 16 June. He endorsed the prayer of the London merchants’ free trade petition, 8 May. He reaffirmed his aversion to the ‘wild theory’ of parliamentary reform, 19 May, but supported the proposed disfranchisement of Grampound, though he disliked the idea of giving its seats to Leeds rather than to a county; he spoke to the same effect, 6 June 1820.7 At the London merchants’ meeting in support of Queen Caroline, 24 Jan. 1821, he moved the vote of thanks to the lord mayor.8 He admitted that his objections to parliamentary reform had been ‘considerably shaken’ by the government and the House’s disregard of public opinion in the matter, 31 Jan., and as ‘a moderate man’ he promised to support any acceptable ‘moderate plan of reform’. He explained that he approved the Grampound disfranchisement bill because it ‘applied a proper punishment to an acknowledged abuse’, 12 Feb. However, he did not vote for Lambton and Russell’s general reform motions later that session. He opposed Burdett’s demand for inquiry into Peterloo and stood by his votes for the Six Acts, 15 May. He resumed his attack on the ‘delusive’ aspect of the sinking fund, 1 Feb., but defended the 1819 currency settlement, 22, 27 Feb., 28 Mar.9 He took up his familiar refrain that ‘the only sinking fund that could ever be applicable to the reduction of the [national] debt, must be the surplus of the income over the expenditure of the country’, 3 Apr. On the third reading of the cash payments bill, 12 Apr., he borrowed from the late Frank Horner† to describe the transactions between the Bank and government as ‘a scene of rapacity on the part of the directors, and of extravagance and profligacy on the part of the chancellor of the exchequer’. He seconded Parnell’s motion for inquiry into trade with Ireland and called for assimilation of the two currencies, 19 Apr. He was a teller for the small minority who wished to permit Catholics to become directors of the Bank of Ireland, 13 June. Although he advocated ‘every description of rigid retrenchment’ to ‘restore public tranquillity’, 12 Feb., he voted for the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June. He opposed Curwen’s plan to tax stock transfers, 5 Mar., and voted against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. He was a stern critic of the ‘unwarranted’ grant of £20,000 to Desfourneaux for losses sustained at Guadeloupe, 8, 13, 21, 28 June, when he moved and was a teller for a successful amendment to reduce it to £3,500.10

Grenfell was in the opposition minority on the address, 5 Feb., yet voted with ministers against more extensive tax reductions, 11, 21 Feb. 1822. He gave ‘hearty support’ to admiralty reductions, 1 Mar., and called for repeal of the ‘most objectionable’ salt tax, 1 Apr., 30 May, 2 June.11 Infuriated by the proposal to pay the Bank for handling the conversion of the navy five per cents, 4 Mar., he moved a nullifying amendment which was defeated by 76-39; he had more to say on this, 7, 8, 11 Mar., though he considered the plan itself to be ‘fair and just’.12 He brought up and endorsed a Berkshire petition against renewal of the Bank’s chartered monopoly, 31 May. He failed to persuade the chancellor to include revision of the sinking fund in the remit of the select committee on public accounts, 18 Apr.13 He dissented from Hume’s call for abolition of the fund, 25 July, but conceded that it operated injuriously in time of war. He gave guarded approval to the government scheme for military and naval pensions, 1 May, but secured the adoption of an amendment to empower the national debt commissioners to use their funds to buy those annuities, 3 June. He largely dissented from the arguments of a Cornwall agriculturists’ distress petition, 22 Apr., maintaining that difficulties were localized and that the economy was reviving. He welcomed Bennet’s alehouses licensing bill, 14 May, and regretted ministers’ abandonment of the warehousing bill, 21 June 1822.14 He warned Maberly and Hume that he ‘by no means concurred’ in their proposals for draconian tax remissions, 24 Feb., and he voted accordingly, 3 Mar. 1823. He condemned the coastwise coal duties, 10, 24 Mar.15 He supported the national debt reduction bill and dismissed Ricardo’s property tax ‘crotchet’, 11 Mar. He divided with ministers for the debt reduction bill, 13 Mar., and against repeal of the assessed taxes, 18 Mar. He was now a relentless opponent of the bill to entrust management of the dead weight military pensions fund to the Bank, which would be made thereby ‘a jobber and speculator in public securities’; he unsuccessfully divided the House against it, 11, 14, 18 Apr.16 He voted with government in the controversy over the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 24 Mar.17 He advocated Catholic emancipation, 16 Apr. He divided for Scottish parliamentary reform, 2 June, and paired for inquiry into arrears in chancery, 7 June 1823. He presented a constituency petition against the coal duties, 9 Feb., and pressed for their repeal, 23 Feb., 29 Mar. 1824.18 He exhorted ministers to support repeal of the usury laws, 16 Feb., 31 Mar. He attended the London merchants’ meeting which petitioned for revision of the corn laws, 13 Apr.19 On 25 Feb. he obtained leave by 78-30 to introduce the St. Katharine’s Docks bill, which some irregularities forced him to reintroduce, 22 Mar.; he carried its second reading by 74-55, 2 Apr. He explained that reports of the scale of housing clearance required had been grossly exaggerated, 15 Apr., but the weight of petitioning against the bill blocked its progress that session. He supported the South London Docks bill, 3 May.20 He approved the West India Company bill provided it did not harm the slaves, 10 May. Though ‘a friend to liberal principles’, he opposed the marine insurance bill as a threat to the chartered rights of Lloyds and his own Royal Exchange Assurance Company, 17, 27, 28 May, 3, 11, 14 June.21 He was named to the select committee on the private business of the House, 27 May, after applauding Hume’s exposure of an unsatisfactory system which was ‘a complete denial of justice’. He presented and endorsed a Falmouth petition condemning the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 10 June, explaining that ‘he was neither a Methodist nor a fanatic, and most certainly not a Saint’, but that as a Christian he considered the slaves ‘the most wretched of the human species’. He voted in the ministerial majority for the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June. He called for ‘great public officers’ to be provided with adequate pensions, 21 June 1824.

On 15 Feb. 1825 Grenfell expressed support for the bill to suppress the Catholic Association, which ‘impeded the pure stream of justice’, but he raised eyebrows with his ‘fervent prayer’ for successful Irish Catholic resistance to their being ‘oppressed, injured, insulted [and] trampled upon’ by the Protestant majority. Six days later he recanted and opposed the measure. He carried the second reading of his reintroduced St. Katharine’s Docks bill by 119-30, 22 Feb., though his own vote was subsequently disallowed after he admitted being a subscriber to the scheme. He said he wanted Members with vested interests in opposing private bills to be prevented from voting on them, 23 Feb., 10 Mar. He steered the docks bill through the Commons and it gained royal assent, 10 June.22 He spoke and was a majority teller for the London and Westminster oil gas bill, 22 Feb.23 He objected to the practice of giving joint-stock companies and their officials mutual suing powers, 28 Feb., and called for regulation of ‘these speculations’, 29 Mar. He introduced a bill to empower the Royal Exchange Company to grant mortgages, 10 Mar.; it became law, 2 May.24 Having been one of a small deputation who lobbied ministers on their plans to reduce the copper duties, he applauded the ‘liberal principles’ which lay behind this, 11 Mar., but advised caution.25 He divided for revision of the corn laws, 28 Apr. He approved the government’s plan to assimilate the English and Irish currencies, 12 May. He called for ‘some remedy’ for the chaos produced by repeal of the combination laws, 31 May.26 In October 1825 he was one of a number of supporters of Catholic relief who advised the Catholic Association not to petition on the subject in the forthcoming session of Parliament.27 About this time he informed his constituents that he would not offer at the next general election, as he stood no chance of success without resorting to illegal practices.28 On the address, 2 Feb. 1826, Grenfell, the words doubtless sticking in his throat, praised the Bank directors for their ‘liberal’ intervention to deal with the recent financial crisis. Yet a week later he could not resist criticizing the Bank’s profits and inordinate remuneration for its public services. He largely accepted the emergency legislation on banking and the currency, 20, 27 Feb., though he privately confessed to Grenville a recent ‘inclination’ towards a silver standard.29 He was named to the select committee on Irish and Scottish small notes, 16 Mar., and was a dissentient from its chairman Peel’s report recommending no change.30 He urged ministers to encourage the Bank to make its notes as difficult to forge as possible, 21 Mar. He demanded an end to the prohibition on the export of machinery, 5 May. On 2 Mar. Lord John Russell noticed in the House Grenfell’s earlier address to his constituents and invited him to support his bill to prevent electoral bribery: the reply was that he had said nothing to ‘prevent him from opposing ... any innovation, founded upon an undefined, speculative plan of parliamentary reform’. Nevertheless, Grenfell was a minority teller for Newport’s motion to disfranchise non-resident Irish borough voters, 9 Mar., and he would have voted for reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr., but was shut out;31 he spoke and voted for Russell’s resolution condemning bribery, 26 May. He denounced the court of chancery as ‘a curse to the country’, 18 Apr., and was ranting at the inadequacy of the government’s bill to reform it, 31 May 1826, when the arrival of Black Rod silenced him and ended his parliamentary career.

In 1829 Grenfell fell out with Owen Williams, who vowed ‘never [to] make it up with’ him, over the conduct of the copper business, apparently on account of the large sums which the ‘overbearing’ Grenfell had borrowed without consulting him. Williams had by then withdrawn from the enterprise, which continued as Pascoe Grenfell and Company.32 Grenfell addressed the London merchants’ meeting called to express support for the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 25 Mar. 1831.33 At the general election five weeks later, when he was almost 70 years old, he was prevailed on to stand for Buckinghamshire as a supporter of the ‘healing and comprehensive measure’, in an attempt to turn out Grenville’s Tory great-nephew Lord Chandos. His refusal to spend any money and squabbles with the other reform candidate left him hopelessly adrift in third place and, amid recriminations, he gave up after four days’ polling.34 At a meeting of London merchants and bankers to address the king, 13 Oct. 1831, he moved the resolution deploring the reform bill’s defeat in the Lords.35 The following month he was an intermediary in negotiations for a compromise on reform between ministers, the Tory ‘Waverers’ in the Lords and Horsley Palmer, the governor of the Bank, but one interested observer reckoned that his ‘dictatorial temper’ contributed to their collapse.36 He died in January 1838 and, having quarrelled with his eldest son, his will instructed that all his real estate be sold for the benefit of his second son, Charles Pascoe Grenfell (1790-1867), Liberal Member for Preston, 1847-52, 1857-65, who became head of the copper business.37

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Gent. Mag. (1784), ii. 798; PROB 11/1126/79.
  • 2. J.R. Harris, Copper King, 154, 182-4; Add. 58977, f. 164.
  • 3. Add. 58977, ff. 165, 167, 169, 171; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F49/24, 57, 59; Hants RO, Tierney mss 31.
  • 4. West Briton, 25 Feb., 3, 10, 17 Mar. 1820.
  • 5. The Times, 29 Apr. 1820.
  • 6. Ibid. 14 June 1820, 21 Feb., 21 Mar., 3, 19 May 1821, 12, 13 Feb., 5, 8, 9, 11 Mar., 1, 3, 7-9, 15 May, 21 June 1822, 10 Feb., 25 Mar. 1823, 11 Feb. 1824, 24 Feb., 6, 11 May 1825, 3 Feb., 29 Apr. 1826.
  • 7. Ibid. 7 June 1820.
  • 8. Ibid. 25 Jan. 1821.
  • 9. Ibid. 28 Feb., 29 Mar. 1821; HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 28.
  • 10. The Times, 9, 14, 22, 29 June 1821.
  • 11. Ibid. 2 Apr., 31 May, 4 June 1822.
  • 12. Ibid. 5, 8 Mar. 1822.
  • 13. Ibid. 19 Apr. 1822.
  • 14. Ibid. 22 June 1822.
  • 15. Ibid. 11, 25 Mar. 1823.
  • 16. Ibid. 15 Apr. 1823; J.H. Clapham, Bank of England, ii. 89.
  • 17. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 446.
  • 18. The Times, 10 Feb. 1824.
  • 19. Ibid. 14 Apr. 1824.
  • 20. Ibid. 26 Feb., 23, 31 Mar., 3, 16 Apr., 4, 12 May 1824.
  • 21. Ibid. 28 May 1824.
  • 22. Ibid. 10, 25 Mar., 14, 20, 22, 23 Apr. 1825.
  • 23. Ibid. 23 Feb. 1825.
  • 24. Ibid. 11 Mar. 1825.
  • 25. NLW, Vivian mss 1019.
  • 26. The Times, 1 June 1825.
  • 27. Harewood mss WYL 250/8/87.
  • 28. Buckingham, ii. 282-3.
  • 29. Fitzwilliam mss 124/8/1; Add. 58977, f. 186.
  • 30. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Denison diary, 14 May [1830].
  • 31. The Times, 15 Apr. 1826.
  • 32. Vivian mss 1120, 1122.
  • 33. The Times, 26 Mar. 1831.
  • 34. Add. 37185, f. 538; Bucks. RO, Fremantle mss D/FR/139/20/23; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 6 May; The Times, 16 May 1831.
  • 35. The Times, 14 Oct. 1831.
  • 36. Sheffield City Library, Wharncliffe mss, Palmer to Wharncliffe, 16 Nov., A. Baring to same, 4 Dec. 1831.
  • 37. Gent. Mag. (1838), i. 429; IR26/1481/76.