HANDCOCK, Richard (1791-1869), of Moydrum Castle, co. Westmeath

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



1826 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 17 Nov. 1791, 1st s. of Richard Handcock, MP [I], 2nd Bar. Castlemaine [I], of Moydrum and Anne, da. of Arthur French of French Park, co. Roscommon. m. 17 Apr. 1822, Margaret, da. of Michael Harris of Dublin, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. as 3rd Bar. Castlemaine [I] 18 Apr. 1840. d. 4 July 1869.

Offices Held

Rep. peer [I] 1841-d.


Handcock, whose uncle William, created Baron Castlemaine in 1812, was governor and sole proprietor of Athlone, served in alternate years from 1816 to 1826 as sovereign and vice-sovereign of the family controlled corporation on a salary of £100 per year, a position which had been held since 1798 by his father, who succeeded to the barony in 1839.1 Following a campaign by the town’s inhabitants against the corporation’s ‘tolls and customs’, which they denounced as a hindrance to ‘prosperity and trade’, Handcock came forward at the 1826 general election promising to address ‘the grievances of which the public complain’; he was returned unopposed.2 He immediately began negotiating a new agreement between the corporation and the town’s inhabitants, which was finalized on 16 Oct. 1826.3 A petition against his return was presented, 8 Feb., but he presented another successfully challenging its authenticity, 13 Mar. 1827.

Handcock signed the Irish landed proprietors’ petition against Catholic relief in February, voted thus, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and brought up hostile petitions, 28 Apr., 1 May 1828.4 He was granted a month’s leave on ‘urgent business’, 5 Apr. 1827. He divided against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. He was in a minority of 24 against going into committee on Irish and Scottish small bank notes, 16 June 1828. He presented petitions against the Wellington ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation, 18 Feb., 2 Mar. 1829. Next day he denied the assertion of Brownlow, Member for County Armagh, that the recent election to the representative peerage of Lord Dunalley* rather than Lord Castlemaine (who in 1828 had privately solicited the support of the premier, the duke of Wellington, citing his ‘influence’ in Westmeath and ‘the return of his nephew’ for Athlone), demonstrated the Irish aristocracy’s support for emancipation, observing that ‘33 peers voted for my noble relative out of about 80’.5 He divided against emancipation, 6, 18, 23, 27 and (as a pair) 30 Mar. He had been expected by Planta, the patronage secretary, to support securities after emancipation had passed, but he was a teller for the minority of 16 who voted to raise the Irish freehold qualification from £10 to £20, 26 Mar. 1829. He was granted a month’s leave on urgent private business, 10 Mar. 1830. He divided with opposition for repeal of the Irish coal duties, 13 May, for accounts of privy councillors’ emoluments, 14 May, and to reduce the grant for Prince Edward Island, 14 June. He secured returns of expenditure on Irish public works, 4 June. He voted for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June 1830.

At the 1830 general election he was returned after a token contest with an outsider.6 He was listed by the Wellington ministry as one of the ‘moderate Ultras’, and was absent from the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he offered again for Athlone, promising to oppose the ‘revolutionary’ bill ‘on all occasions’ and to ‘maintain the rights, liberties and franchises of this corporation’. He defeated a reformer with a majority of 30 votes ‘of the old freemen’.7 On 4 July 1831 he endorsed and ‘bore testimony to the weight and respectability’ of an anti-reform petition from Westmeath. He voted against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, to adjourn, 12 July, for use of the 1831 rather than the 1821 census, 19 July, and against the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July. He paired against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and divided against the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. He was in a minority of 13 for the reduction of salaries to 1797 levels, 30 June, and voted for the cessation of the Maynooth grant, 26 Sept. He was absent from the division on the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831. He welcomed a petition concerning the unrest in Westmeath, declaring that it was ‘in such a state of insubordination that the laws, as now constituted, are not strong enough’, and urged government to ‘adopt some measures to stop the progress of crime’, 15 Mar. 1832. He divided against the third reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar., and was in the minority of 27 for Waldo Sibthorp’s amendment concerning Lincoln freeholders, 23 Mar. He voted against the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May. He divided against ministers on the abolition of slavery, 24 May, and the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July, but voted for their Irish tithes bill, 13 July 1832. He was a founder member of the Conservative Society of Dublin established that summer.8

At the 1832 general election he stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative for Athlone and he was defeated in Westmeath in 1837. Following his succession in 1840 as 3rd Baron Castlemaine he pressed his claims to the Irish representative peerage, but finding that it had ‘been arranged that ... Lord Caledon should come in’ on the first vacancy, he informed Sir Robert Peel, 6 Mar. 1841, that he was ‘not willing to create any division’ and would ‘withdraw’, adding that ‘in doing so, I hope I shall be considered on the next vacancy, trusting that past services and that my endeavours to recover what we have at present lost in Westmeath and Athlone, will not be forgotten’.9 He was duly elected a representative peer in July 1841 and served until his death in July 1869. He was succeeded in the Irish barony by his elder surviving son Richard (1826-92).

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. PP (1835), xxvii. 326-7.
  • 2. Westmeath Jnl. 8, 22 June 1826.
  • 3. PP (1835), xxvii. 332.
  • 4. Add. 40393, f. 3.
  • 5. Wellington mss WP1/914/49.
  • 6. Kilkenny Moderator, 11 Aug. 1830.
  • 7. Ibid. 30 Apr. 1831; Westmeath Jnl. 12 May 1831.
  • 8. NLI, Farnham mss 18611 (3), T. Lefroy to Farnham, 4 June 1832.
  • 9. Add. 40429, f. 138.