POWELL, Alexander (1782-1847), of Hurdcott House, Baverstock, Wilts. and 63 Montagu Square, Mdx.

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



18 Dec. 1826 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 9 June 1782, o.s. of Francis Powell of Hurdcott and Salisbury and Anna Maria, da. and h. of Sydenham Burrough of Salisbury. educ. Exeter Coll. Oxf. 1800. m. 7 July 1807, Joanna, da. of Rev. George Henry Law, rect. of Willingham, Cambs., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.). d. 25 Dec. 1847.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Wilts. 1818-19; mayor, Wilton 1829-30.


Powell was descended from a branch of the Powells of Pengethley, Herefordshire, which settled in Wiltshire in the mid-seventeenth century. His grandfather Alexander Powell (?1716-84) was active in the municipal affairs of Salisbury and an unsuccessful aspirant to the parliamentary representation in 1765. He was knighted in 1762 and served for many years as deputy recorder of the borough.1 His first two marriages were childless, but with his third wife, Catherine, daughter of Edward Willes, bishop of Bath and Wells, he had an only surviving son Francis, who inherited his town house in Castle Street and his estate at Hurdcott, near Wilton. Francis Powell, who was educated at Oxford, outlived his father by less than two years and died, aged 27, in January 1786, having devised the Salisbury house to his wife and all his other real estate to his infant son Alexander.2 This Member came into his inheritance in 1803, and on the death of his mother, herself an heiress, in 1825 he succeeded to farm lands at Ringwood, Hampshire, and Witham Priory, Somerset, and to property in Salisbury and Fisherton Anger, all of which she had purchased during her long widowhood.3 His sister Anna Maria Selina married in 1802 Wadham Locke (1779-1835) of Rowdeford House, a Devizes banker who came in there as a Liberal in 1832, after an abortive bid in 1820.

Powell’s own politics were Tory and he married a niece of the 1st Lord Ellenborough, whose son and successor was later a member of the duke of Wellington’s cabinet. He chaired the Wiltshire county meeting which approved an address of congratulation and condolence to the new king, 30 Jan. 1821, but was not otherwise prominent in local affairs.4 He signed the requisition for, but did not attend, the Salisbury anti-slavery meeting in January 1826, and that autumn was elected a burgess of Wilton.5 On a vacancy in December 1826 he was brought in for Downton, as an unexceptionable country gentleman, by the 2nd earl of Radnor, whose unbending Toryism he was expected to ape.6 He was an anonymous Member, not known to have spoken in debate and apparently lax in his attendance. He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. He was listed in the majority of seven for the charge of treating on the Berwick election committee, which reported on the 19th; having served on this committee, he had been granted three weeks’ leave on urgent business, 16 Mar.7 Radnor died in January 1828, but the radical 3rd earl, despite Powell’s offer to resign, did not immediately interfere with his electoral arrangements, giving credit to Powell for his honesty even though, as he wrote to him, ‘on all great political points, two friends cannot be more opposed in opinion than you and I am’. Duly grateful, Powell promised him that

as long as I continue in Parliament, it shall be my endeavour to act in an upright and independent manner, and as much as possible to justify the favourable opinion your lordship has expressed of me. I assure you, I have never given any vote which at the moment I do not sincerely believe is for the good of the country.8

Powell was therefore left free to vote against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. He was listed by Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, as ‘opposed to the principle of the bill’ in February 1829, when he signed the Wiltshire anti-Catholic declaration, and was one of the diehard opponents of emancipation in the Commons the following month.9 His only other known vote was against abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June 1830.

At the dissolution that summer, he amicably withdrew from Downton, where Radnor replaced him with a member of the opposition.10 He seconded the nomination of the Tory John Benett* at the Wiltshire election in May 1831, and rendered the same service for his childhood friend Sidney Herbert†, another Conservative, at the Wiltshire South election in December 1832.11 Powell, an obscure squire, died in December 1847, leaving most of his estate to his elder surviving son Alexander Pitts Elliot Powell (1809-82).12

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. Wilts. N and Q, viii. 440; Sir R.C. Hoare, Wilts. Salisbury, 526, 527.
  • 2. PROB 11/1095/441; 1117/28.
  • 3. Ibid. 1139/114; 1707/33.
  • 4. Salisbury Jnl. 5 Feb. 1821.
  • 5. Ibid. 30 Jan., 6 Feb. 1826; Wilts. RO, Wilton borough recs. G25/1/22, f. 317.
  • 6. Devizes Gazette, 21 Dec. 1826.
  • 7. St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 277, Gladstone to Huskisson, 24 Mar. 1827.
  • 8. R.K. Huch, The Radical Lord Radnor, 109; Longford Castle mss 30/7, Powell to Radnor, 6, 10 Feb., replies, 7, 8 Feb. 1828.
  • 9. Glos. RO, Sotheron Estcourt mss D1571 X114, Long to Bucknall Estcourt [?11 Feb. 1829].
  • 10. Wilts. RO, Radnor mss 490/1374, Powell to Radnor, 4 July 1830; Huch, 111-13.
  • 11. Devizes Gazette, 12 May 1831, 20 Dec. 1832.
  • 12. Gent. Mag. (1848), i. 441.