HANDLEY, Henry (1797-1846), of 7 Charles Street, Mdx. and Culverthorpe Hall, nr. Sleaford, Lincs.

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



3 Aug. 1820 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 17 Mar. 1797, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Benjamin Handley, attorney and banker, of Sleaford and Frances, da. of Jacob Conington of Boston, Lincs. educ. Charterhouse 1805; Eton 1811; Christ Church, Oxf. 1815; L. Inn 1816. m. 15 Oct. 1825, Hon. Caroline Edwardes, da. of William Edwardes†, 2nd Bar. Kensington [I], 2s. 8da.; 1s. illegit. suc. fa. 1828. d. 29 June 1846.

Offices Held


This Member’s father, Benjamin Handley of Sleaford (b. 1754), was descended from an old Nottinghamshire family, being the youngest son of William Handley (1719-86) of Newark, a mason, who married Sarah, the daughter of Benjamin Farnworth of Sutton, a Newark stationer. He, who married into a Boston gentry family, had a son Benjamin, who was born late in 1785, but this child must have been dead by 1791, when another son of his was baptized Benjamin.1 This Benjamin, a lieutenant in the 9th Dragoon Guards, drowned in 1813, when his boat was upset in Lisbon harbour. Another Benjamin Handley (1784-1858), a captain in that regiment, who only narrowly survived the same accident, was the second son of William Handley (1746-98), the eldest son of William Handley of Newark.2 Promoted to the rank of major in 1816, he became Member for Boston in 1832, while his elder brother William Farnworth Handley was elected for Newark in February 1831.3

Henry Handley, the last of seven children, was briefly educated at Oxford and Lincoln’s Inn, but apparently did not take his degree or practice as a barrister. Shortly after the end of the 1820 session, he was returned for Heytesbury, presumably by purchase, in place of one of the brothers of Sir William A’Court†, the proprietor. In the House he occasionally registered wayward votes, but generally sided with the Liverpool administration. He divided in defence of their conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He voted against Catholic claims, 28 Feb. 1821, and the Catholic peers bill, 30 Apr. 1822. He divided against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and parliamentary reform, 9 May, but for the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 23 May 1821. He voted against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11, 21 Feb. 1822. Opposing reduction of the salt duties, 28 Feb., he declared, in a maiden speech which was ridiculed by the radical John Wade,4 that

notwithstanding the wild speculations which had been propagated, he could not think taxation the cause of, nor parliamentary reform the remedy for, the distress which existed. He was thoroughly convinced that the distress was almost solely and exclusively to be ascribed to excessive production.

Nevertheless, he voted in the majorities for reducing the number of junior lords of the admiralty, 1 Mar., and abolishing one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May, and in the minority for total repeal of the salt duties, 3 June 1822. He divided against inquiry into the right of voting in parliamentary elections, 20 Feb., and reform of the Scottish representative system, 2 June 1823. He voted in the minority for reducing the import price of corn to 60s., 26 Feb., but against repealing certain taxes, 3, 16 Mar. He voted against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., yet divided with opposition for inquiry into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. He voted for the advanced Whig Sir William Amcotts Ingilby* at the Lincolnshire by-election in late 1823.5

Handley divided against the usury bill, 27 Feb. 1824. He was in the minority for an advance of capital to Ireland, 4 May. He was a teller for the majority for the West India Company bill, 10 May. He objected to the warehoused wheat bill, 17 May, saying that it would be beneficial to the president of the board of trade William Huskisson’s Liverpool constituents, but would not help the general cause of agriculture, ‘since it would hold out an encouragement to foreign countries to deluge the British market with their corn’. He moved a wrecking amendment against its second reading, but withdrew it after further debate. He divided against condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824. He voted against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr., and paired against the third reading of the relief bill, 10 May 1825. In committee on the corn laws, 2 May, he agreed with Huskisson’s proposal for a 10s. duty on bonded corn, but did ‘not approve the plan for importing wheat from Canada at the intended low duty’. He voted against the grant for the duke of Cumberland, 30 May. He was in the majority for the spring guns bill, 21 June 1825. His only other known votes in this Parliament were against the corn importation bill, 11 May, and for resolutions to curb electoral bribery, 26 May 1826. He left the House at the dissolution that summer.

Handley, who until then had lived in Sleaford, took up residence at Culverthorpe Hall at about the time of his marriage in 1825.6 Three years later, on the death of his father, who was deputy recorder of Boston, 1817-26, he inherited property in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire and the bulk of his estate, which included personal wealth sworn under £20,000. He also came into his father’s share of the Sleaford and Newark bank of Peacock, Handley and Company, which he had founded in the 1790s.7 Handley began to take a serious interest in agricultural affairs and, although he professed to be a reformer, he retained much of the political outlook of a country gentleman and ministerialist. Along with his cousins, he may have been considered for the vacancy at Newark in 1829, and it is possible that he assisted in the promotion of their ambitions there and in Boston during the following years.8 In late 1829 he offered a premium of £100 for the invention of a steam plough, and it was reported that he had ‘expected ere this to have seen the wonder-working powers of steam applied to general agricultural purposes, and that locomotive engines would have smoked in our fields, even before they had established themselves on our roads’.9

He signed the requisition for a Lincolnshire meeting to complain about agricultural distress, and, when the sheriff refused to give his permission, chaired an informal meeting, 8 Jan. 1830, which agreed to petition the Commons for a reduction of the beer and malt taxes.10 At the general election that year he was approached to stand with Amcotts Ingilby against the ministerial Member, Charles Chaplin, but he felt obliged to decline.11 He again put his name to a requisition for a county meeting, at which, 8 Oct. 1830, he seconded the motion for a petition against the malt tax. He observed that

it was impossible for the present system to continue long; the voice of the people must prevail; there was some ground of hope from the present House of Commons; they enjoyed a greater share of popularity; and he hoped those ministers who were rather for increasing than lessening the burdens of the people, would meet with something like a serious opposition.12

In seconding the nomination of Amcotts Ingilby at the general election of 1831, he explained that

reform was once a wild and indefinite term; it comprised every change from the man who lent a tardy and unwilling vote to the disfranchisement of some petty detested borough, to him who went to the daring length of universal suffrage; thanks to His Majesty’s ministers, we have now a certain test by which we can separate the metal from the dross: will you support the bill, aye or no!

He made clear his own support for the Grey ministry’s reform bill, ‘which I believe firmly, while it secures the liberty of the people, will give support to the crown and stability to the established institutions of the country’.13 In November 1831 he signed the requisition for a county meeting on reform, which he silently attended.14 Once the reform bill had passed, he offered for the Kesteven and Holland division of Lincolnshire, declaring in an address, 22 June 1832, that the reasons for his former refusal no longer existed: ‘the provisions of the bill, which essentially affect the regulations of county elections, alike diminish the inconvenience of the voter and the unavoidable expenses of the candidate’. He advocated further economies, agricultural protection and the abolition of slavery.15 He was promised the support of the former prime minister Lord Goderich, and, ‘highly beloved by the gentry, and farmers and tradespeople’, he was considered ‘certain of his election’. He was duly returned unopposed at the general election of 1832 and sat until 1841 as a Liberal, though he concentrated his efforts on defending the agricultural interest.16

According to James Grant, Handley, ‘a respectable speaker, but nothing more’, was

a tall, stout, good-looking man. He has a jolly, countrified countenance, with a complexion redolent of health. His face is full, and his features are regular and pleasing. His hair is of a light brown, and he sports a pair of whiskers of which any Spanish Don might be proud.17

He died in June 1846, dividing his estate among his numerous children, but revoking the annuity that he had previously intended for Henry Handley Farrell, the natural son of one Mary Farrell, because he had ‘wilfully abandoned’ his profession.18 His elder legitimate son, Henry Edwardes (1835-92), of Barrowby Cottage, Grantham, was a lieutenant in the 2nd Dragoon Guards, and the younger, the Rev. Edward (1842-1904), was rector of Clipsham, Rutland and Winthorpe, Nottinghamshire.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. G.Y. Hemingway, ’Handley Fam.’ (typescript, Newark Mus.), 57-58; IGI (Lincs.).
  • 2. Hemingway, 63; The Times, 17 May 1813.
  • 3. The two cousins called Benjamin Handley have sometimes been confused; for example, Burke LG (1937), 1043.
  • 4. Black Bk. (1823), 160-2.
  • 5. Lincs. Pollbook (1823), 75.
  • 6. Hemingway, 64-65.
  • 7. Ibid. 58-61; Gent. Mag. (1828), i. 477; PROB 11/1744/472; IR26/1166/610.
  • 8. See NEWARK.
  • 9. Devizes Gazette, 24 Dec. 1829.
  • 10. Lincoln Herald, 11 Dec. 1829, 15 Jan. 1830.
  • 11. Ibid. 6 Aug. 1830; Boston Gazette, 3 July 1832.
  • 12. Lincoln Herald, 1, 15 Oct. 1830.
  • 13. Ibid. 13 May 1831.
  • 14. Ibid. 11, 25 Nov. 1831.
  • 15. Boston Gazette, 3 July 1832.
  • 16. Add. 40879, f. 49; The Times, 30 June, 17 Nov., 19 Dec. 1832; Hemingway, 66-68; N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 179.
  • 17. [J. Grant], Random Recollections of Lords and Commons (1838), ii. 138-40.
  • 18. Gent. Mag. (1846), ii. 205; PROB 11/2043/729.