GUISE, Sir Berkeley William, 2nd bt. (1775-1834), of Highnam Court, Glos.

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



7 Feb. 1811 - 1832
1832 - 23 July 1834

Family and Education

b. 14 July 1775, 1st s. of Sir John Guise, 1st bt., of Highnam and Elizabeth, da. and h. of Thomas Wright of Laurence Lane, London. educ. Eton 1791; Christ Church, Oxf. 1794. unm. suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 2 May 1794; to Guise fam. estates of Elmore Court and Rendcomb, Glos. on d. (1807) of his cos. Jane, w. of Rt. Rev. and Hon. Shute Barrington, bp. of Durham. d. 23 July 1834.

Offices Held

Verderer and dep. warden, Forest of Dean 1801-d.; sheriff, Gloucester 1807, mayor 1818.

Capt. N. Glos. militia 1798; lt.-col.commdt. 1 R.E. Glos. militia 1809.


Guise, whose landed estates in Gloucestershire reputedly yielded £7,000 per annum,1 was again returned unopposed for the county in 1820 as the representative of the ‘independent’ freeholders, with the Tory Lord Edward Somerset. He affirmed his opposition to ‘lavish expenditure’, blamed the ‘present system of enormous taxation’ for economic distress and expressed his ‘decided opposition’ to the Six Acts.2 He continued to vote steadily with the Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry on all major issues, including parliamentary reform, 9 Mar., 9, 10, 31 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 27 Apr. 1826. He paired for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, and divided for it, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. However, he rarely spoke in debate. He presented numerous Gloucestershire petitions for relief from agricultural distress in 1820, 1821 and 1822.3 He attended the county meeting to agree an address to the king calling for the dismissal of ministers, 30 Dec. 1820, when he denounced the recent proceedings against Queen Caroline and the government’s ‘ill advised and impolitic measures’, which had ‘reduced the country to its present situation of difficulty and distress’; he presented petitions in support of the queen, 24, 26 Jan. 1821.4 He was listed as a steward of the City of London Tavern reform dinner, 4 Apr. 1821. He was granted a week’s leave for urgent private business, 18 Apr. 1822. He hoped that a grant would be made to erect a statue in honour of Edward Jenner, 19 Mar. 1823. He presented a Gloucestershire woollen manufacturers’ petition against imported wool, 16 Feb., and three in favour of repealing the wool duty, 25 Mar. 1824.5 He presented petitions from Cheltenham for repeal of the house tax, 1 Mar., and Clifton for repeal of all assessed taxes, 6 May 1824; more followed in 1825 and 1826.6 He was a majority teller for the second reading of the Cheltenham waterworks bill, 25 Mar. 1824, supported the second reading of the Severn Valley railway bill, 28 Apr., and presented a Severn fishing proprietors’ petition against the salmon fisheries bill, 18 May 1825.7 He presented petitions against the importation of silk, 15, 23 Feb., and voted for inquiry into the trade, 24 Feb. 1826.8 At the general election that summer he was again returned unopposed for Gloucestershire, after pledging his adherence to ‘the same independent principles which have hitherto actuated me’.9

He presented Gloucestershire petitions in favour of agricultural protection, 22 Feb., and voted against the corn bill, 2 Apr. 1827.10 He divided against the Clarence annuity bill, 2 Mar., and for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., the spring guns bill, 23 Mar., and inquiry into the Irish miscellaneous estimates, 5 Apr. He voted against Canning’s ministry to remove bankruptcy jurisdiction from chancery, 22 May, and to disfranchise Penryn, 28 May 1827. He presented numerous petitions for repeal of the Test Acts in 1827 and 1828 and voted in this sense, 26 Feb. 1828. He divided for Catholic claims, 12 May. He voted against extending East Retford’s franchise to Bassetlaw freeholders, 21 Mar., and for reduction of civil list pensions, 10 June 1828. In presenting a Clifton petition against further concessions to the Catholics, 27 Feb. 1829, he expressed the hope that ‘if any measure of relief ... be proposed, it may be guarded effectually by securities’. He presented three Gloucestershire pro-Catholic petitions, 4, 16 Mar., and voted for emancipation, 6, 30 Mar. He presented a Cheltenham petition for repeal of the house and window taxes, 20 Feb., and voted to reduce the grant for the sculpture of the marble arch, 25 May 1829. He divided for Hume’s tax cutting amendment, 15 Feb., inquiry into the revision of taxation, 25 Mar. 1830, and steadily in the revived opposition campaign for retrenchment that session. He was present at the meeting on 3 Mar. when Lord Althorp agreed to lead the Whigs for this purpose.11 He voted for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 Mar., and Russell’s reform motion, 28 May. He paired for Jewish emancipation, 17 May. He urged the Commons to reject the Avon and Gloucestershire railway bill, 12 Mar., alleging that the promoters had not kept faith with the Bristol and Gloucestershire Railway Company. He voted for reform of Irish vestries, 27 Apr., and abolition of the lord lieutenancy, 11 May. He presented Stroud and Nailsworth petitions against the death penalty for forgery, 3 May, and voted accordingly, 24 May, 7 June. He presented a Stroud publicans’ petition against on-consumption in beer houses, 3 May, and voted in this sense, 21 June. He supported a Gloucestershire woollen manufacturers and operatives’ petition against the truck system, 10 May. He divided for Labouchere’s motion on the civil government of Canada, 25 May. He successfully moved that the Lords’ amendments to the Sheffield waterworks bill be agreed, 26 May, and made two minor interventions on details of the Dean Forest bill, 11 June 1830. At the general election that summer he was again returned unopposed, after declaring his support for ‘the interests of the people, the liberty of the ... press and a moderate reform in the Commons’, and pledging his ‘unqualified opposition’ to any interference in France’s internal affairs.12

The duke of Wellington’s ministry of course listed Guise among their ‘foes’, and he duly voted against them in the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented numerous anti-slavery petitions in November and December 1830 and others for repeal of the assessed taxes, 9 Feb., and reform or abolition of tithes, 9 Feb., 2, 16 Mar. 1831. He voiced his ‘strongest objections’ to the vestries bill, 28 Feb. He presented several petitions in favour of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 19, 23 Mar., divided for the second reading, 22 Mar., expressed confidence that it would ‘remedy great evils without creating any new mischief’, 24 Mar., and voted against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing dissolution a requisition was organized in Gloucestershire pledging support for Guise and another reformer, Henry Reynolds Moreton, and they were returned unopposed after Somerset retired. Guise declared that the reform bill ‘may already be regarded as carried’, condemned the rotten boroughs as ‘unconstitutional and pernicious’, argued that reform was needed in order to relieve the burden of taxation and concluded that the bill would ‘not only contribute to the happiness and prosperity of the people, but strengthen the hands of ministers and secure the stability of the throne’.13

He said he was not opposed to the Dean Forest bill, 27 June 1831, but observed that ‘as the tumults which lately took place ... are a great deal connected with the boundaries of the forest, and with the imaginary rights of the people’, it was desirable to revive the local courts in that district. He divided for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and generally supported its details, though he voted for Lord Chandos’s amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug. In a letter to a local supporter, 25 Aug., he added:

I am very apprehensive that ... giving the 40s. freeholders in towns a right to vote for the county will in various counties entirely overturn the agricultural interest ... I therefore supported Col. Davies’s motion to prevent the 40s. freeholders in borough[s] ... from voting for counties, but to grant them a right for voting for the town in which their property is situated ... Unfortunately Webb [Member for Gloucester] and self were in a minority last night upon that point, which I think is very injurious to the landed interest. I think it also very unfair as those towns will not only send representatives for the commercial and manufacturing interest, but will also have a great preponderating interest in returning Members for those counties ... which I have mentioned.14

He divided for the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He arrived late for the county meeting to petition the Lords for reform, 28 Sept., but made a brief speech denying that the country had become apathetic on the subject. At a subsequent dinner in Cheltenham he declared that while the bill was ‘not ... entirely without defects’, these were ‘very trifling’.15 He divided with the minority against the compensation offered to Lescene and Escoffery for their illegal removal from Jamaica, 22 Aug. Next day he voted to punish only those guilty of bribery at the Dublin election. He said he had been asked by some Bristol inhabitants to support the vestries bill and did so ‘with all my heart’, 30 Sept. He divided for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and generally supported its details, but he voted against the proposed division of counties, 27 Jan., and for the amendment to prevent borough freeholders from voting in counties, 1 Feb. 1832. He divided for the third reading, 22 Mar., and Ebrington’s motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers committed to carrying an unimpaired measure, 10 May. He argued unsuccessfully that Wotton-under-Edge rather than Thornbury should be the nomination place for West Gloucestershire, 22 June, when he voted in the minority for Blamire’s amendment to the boundaries bill concerning Whitehaven. He informed The Times that he had paired for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May.16 He voted against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., but was absent from the divisions on this issue in July. He voted with the minority for inquiry into the glove trade, 31 Jan., but with government on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. He warned that if the Purton Pill railway bill was carried the Commons would be ‘guilty of a positive breach of faith’ towards two other railway companies, 22 Mar. He was in the minorities for the abolition of slavery, 24 May, and permanent provision for Irish paupers from a tax on absentees, 19 June. He voted to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June 1832. At the general election later that year he was returned at the head of the poll for East Gloucestershire, promising the ‘same attachment to liberal principles’.17 He sat until his death in July 1834 and was succeeded by his brother, Major General Sir John Wright Guise (1777-1865).18

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Terry Jenkins


The family seat but ‘not his residence, as he generally lives, when in the county, at Rendcomb near Cirencester’ (Diary of a Cotswold Parson ed. D. Verey, 23).

  • 1. Farington Diary, xv. 5259.
  • 2. Gloucester Jnl. 20 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. The Times, 19, 20 May 1820, 21 Feb., 1 Mar. 1821, 14, 19, 26 Feb., 27 Apr. 1822.
  • 4. Gloucester Jnl. 1 Jan.; The Times, 25, 27 Jan. 1821.
  • 5. The Times, 17 Feb., 26 Mar. 1824.
  • 6. Ibid. 2 Mar., 7 May 1824, 18, 26 Feb. 1825, 9 Mar. 1826.
  • 7. Ibid. 29 Apr., 19 May 1825.
  • 8. Ibid. 16, 24 Feb. 1826.
  • 9. Gloucester Jnl. 5, 19 June 1826.
  • 10. The Times, 23 Feb. 1827.
  • 11. Castle Howard mss, Graham to Morpeth [3 Mar. 1830]; A. Mitchell, Whigs in Opposition, 226-7.
  • 12. Gloucester Jnl. 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 13. Ibid. 23, 30 Apr., 7, 14 May 1831.
  • 14. Glos. RO, Clifford mss D149/52, Guise to Clifford, 25 Aug. 1831.
  • 15. Gloucester Jnl. 1 Oct. 1831.
  • 16. The Times, 29 May 1832.
  • 17. Gloucester Jnl. 21 July, 22 Dec. 1832.
  • 18. PROB 11/1836/512; IR26/1353/516.