HANBURY TRACY, Charles (1777-1858), of Toddington, nr. Winchcombe, Glos. and Gregynog, nr. Newtown, Mont.

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



1807 - 1812
23 Jan. 1832 - 1837

Family and Education

b. 28 Dec. 1777, 3rd s. of John Hanbury† (d. 1784) of Pontypool Park, Mon. and Jane, da. of Morgan Lewis of St. Pierre, Mon. educ. privately by David Williams;1 Rugby 1790; Christ Church, Oxf. 1796. m. 29 Dec. 1798, his cos. Hon. Henrietta Susanna Tracy, da. and h. of Henry Leigh, 8th Visct. Tracy [I], 6s. (2 d.v.p.) 3da. Took additional name of Tracy by royal lic. 1 Jan. 1799; cr. Bar. Sudeley 12 July 1838. d. 10 Feb. 1858.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Glos. 1800-1, Mont. 1804-5; ld. lt. Mont. 1848-d.

Lt.-col. Montgomery vol. legion 1803.


Hanbury Tracy, who acquired extensive estates in Gloucestershire, Montgomeryshire and Shropshire through marriage, and who displayed ‘peculiarly polished’ manners, was an amateur architect of some distinction. In 1819 he began work replacing the damp and dilapidated seventeenth century house at Toddington with an imposing Gothic mansion of his own design, which incorporated some of the features of Magdalen College, Oxford, and was considered by contemporaries to be an architectural success. It took almost 20 years to complete (although it was ready for occupation by 1833) and cost around £150,000, some of which he raised by mortgaging his copyhold rights on the Pontypool estate belonging to his elder brother Capel Hanbury, and by sales of timber from his own land.2

He had sat for Tewkesbury, an open borough about eight miles from Toddington, in the 1807 Parliament, and acted with the advanced wing of the Whigs before standing down in 1812 on account of ill health. He counted Sir Francis Burdett* and John Cam Hobhouse* among his friends.3 His politics remained constant, and in December 1830 he signed the requisition for a Montgomeryshire county meeting to petition for parliamentary reform. However, at the general election of 1831 a sense of personal loyalty prevented him from opposing the veteran Member, Charles Williams Wynn, despite the latter’s vote against the Grey ministry’s bill. He assured Williams Wynn of his continued good wishes, but said he was powerless to prevent the local reformers from moving against him and intended simply to keep away:

With the sentiments I have always professed on the subject of parliamentary reform, with the impossibility of declaring myself otherwise than friendly to the bill and as regretting the necessity that ministers were under of dissolving Parliament, I hardly know how I could enter the field as your champion and apprehend that my appearance in Montgomeryshire, whilst it would be embarrassing to myself, would be anything but useful to your cause.4

In any case, he had accepted a requisition to stand for Tewkesbury as a supporter of the reform bill, which he considered essential to the ‘welfare and tranquillity’ of the country. He was beaten into third place by a well-entrenched opponent of the measure, but was reckoned to have laid the foundation for future success for himself or one of his sons.5 He also served on the committee working for the reformer Henry Reynolds Moreton*, who had started for Gloucestershire, and at the election he nominated Sir Berkeley William Guise, the pro-reform sitting Member. He celebrated the rout of the Tories, called for ‘a free and fair representation in Parliament’, warned against the duplicity of ‘sham friends’ of reform and declared his support for ‘the whole bill’, in the belief that ‘reform is now absolutely necessary for the safety of the nation and to restore the confidence of the people in their government’. He defended the dissolution on the ground that Lord Grey had ‘found it impossible to carry on the government, in consequence of the many wheels of corruption with which he has been embarrassed in the machinery of the House of Commons and in every department of the state’.6 In September 1831 Williams Wynn, on hearing that Hanbury Tracy was to join in ‘fanning the flame’ of reform in Montgomeryshire by supporting the proposed county meeting to petition the Lords in support of the bill, commented that until he saw him ‘actually take part against me I will not believe it possible that he can forget his obligation to me’. What this referred to is not clear, but Hanbury Tracy evidently took no active part in the proceedings.7 That month it was reported that he had been offered the vacancy for the venal borough of Wallingford created by the elevation to the peerage of the patron, his old friend and political associate William Hughes. In the event, his eldest son Thomas Charles, who had changed his surname to Leigh, successfully contested the seat.8 Hanbury Tracy’s chance at Tewkesbury came somewhat earlier than expected with the death in early January 1832 of the pro-reform sitting Member John Martin; he was returned unopposed at the resulting by-election.9

He took his seat on 26 Jan. and divided with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan later that day, as he did again, 12, 16, 20 July 1832. He is not known to have spoken in debate in this period, but he presented a petition in support of the Purton Pill railway bill, 1 Feb. He voted with ministers on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. He divided steadily for the details of the revised reform bill, its third reading, 22 Mar., and Lord Ebrington’s motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers committed to carrying an unimpaired measure, 10 May. He voted for the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish bill, 1 June. He may have been the man, named as C.H. Truby or Treby, who divided against Hume’s call for information on military punishments, 16 Feb. He voted with government for the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. He was in the minority against restoring the salary of the Irish registrar of deeds to its original level, 9 Apr. He voted to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June 1832.

Hanbury Tracy was returned for Tewkesbury at the general election of 1832 ‘after a severe struggle’ and sat as an advocate of ‘Whig principles’ until his retirement in 1837.10 He received a coronation peerage in 1838. He added to his reputation as an architect with his work on the reconstruction and modernization of Hampton Court, Herefordshire, but his proposed alterations in 1844 to Barry’s plans for the new Houses of Parliament were rejected.11 He died in February 1858 and was succeeded by his eldest son Thomas Charles Leigh (1801-63), to whom he left all his landed property. His expenditure on Toddington contributed to the crippling financial problems experienced by his successors.12 His second son, Henry Hanbury Tracy (1802-89), was Liberal Member for Bridgnorth, 1837-8.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Terry Jenkins / David R. Fisher


  • 1. The Sudeleys ed. Lord Sudeley, 224.
  • 2. Ibid. 217, 219, 225-8.
  • 3. Add. 56556, f. 59.
  • 4. NLW, Glansevern mss 14047; Coedymaen mss 241.
  • 5. Gloucester Jnl. 26 Mar., 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 6. Ibid. 14 May 1831.
  • 7. Coedymaen mss 984.
  • 8. Reading Mercury, 19, 26 Sept.; Berks. Chron. 24 Sept. 1831.
  • 9. Gloucester Jnl. 7, 14, 28 Jan. 1832.
  • 10. The Times, 14 Dec. 1832; M. Stenton, Who’s Who of British MPs, 1832-1885, p. 382.
  • 11. The Sudeleys, 228-32; Add. 40543, ff. 357, 365; 40545, f. 322.
  • 12. The Sudeleys, 253-67.