RAMSDEN, John Charles (1788-1836), of Buckden and Newby Park, Yorks. and 6 Upper Brook Street, Mdx.

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



1812 - 1831
1831 - 1832
8 Mar. 1833 - 29 Dec. 1836

Family and Education

b. 30 Apr. 1788, 1st s. of Sir John Ramsden†, 4th bt. (d. 1839), of Byram, Yorks. and Hon. Louisa Susan Ingram Shepherd, da. and coh. of Charles, 9th Visct. Irwin [S]. educ. Harrow 1798-1805. m. 5 May 1814, Hon. Isabella Dundas, da. of Thomas Dundas†, 1st Bar. Dundas, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. (2 d.v.p.). d.v.p. 29 Dec. 1836.

Offices Held

Lt.-col. commdt. Halifax regt. militia 1813.


Ramsden, whose family could trace their ancestry back to the fourteenth century in Huddersfield, which they practically owned, was again returned by his kinsman the 2nd Earl Fitzwilliam for his pocket borough of Malton at the 1820 general election. A regular attender, who rarely spoke, he continued to vote steadily with the Whig opposition to the Liverpool ministry on most major issues, including economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation.1 He was granted a fortnight’s leave following a family death, 28 June 1820. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821 (as a pair), 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He voted for repeal of the additional malt duty, 21 Mar. 1821. He was appointed to the select committee on woollen cloth, 28 Mar., argued for a postponement of the third reading of the woollen cloth bill, 13 June 1821, and presented a Huddersfield petition against the free import, storage and re-export of woollens, 25 Apr. 1822.2 In his first speech, 18 Apr. 1821, he contended that parliamentary reform would remove ‘that steady band of placemen who came down to the House ready to vote away the liberties of the people’. He voted accordingly that day, and again, 9 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 24 Apr. 1823, 27 Apr. 1826, and for reform of the Scottish representation, 2 June 1823, and of Edinburgh’s, 26 Feb. 1824. On 21 Feb. 1822, when he voted for more extensive tax reductions, he deplored the current agricultural distress, saying that he ‘could not support any set of ministers unless they greatly lessened the expenditure and agreed to such a reform of the ... Commons as would ensure amongst its Members a sympathy with the distress of the country at large’. He brought up multiple petitions for relief from the West Riding of Yorkshire, 26 Apr. He spoke against the Yorkshire polls bill, 2 May, presented a hostile petition from the county’s freeholders, 13 May, and on its second reading, 7 June 1822, declared that he could ‘perceive no benefit which the bill was likely to produce, but was confident that its effects would be mischievous’.3 During the rumours of a dissolution in the autumn of 1825 speculation grew about the allocation of the two extra seats that Yorkshire had gained at the next election. On 6 Dec. Ramsden assured Fitzwilliam’s son Lord Milton* that ‘though we are all now thrown into a feverish state, yet it will abate and when the day of nomination comes all will depend on who has the best pluck’. Adding that his ‘electioneering devil has risen within me’, he promised to support Milton’s candidacy along with that of Lord Morpeth*, although he stressed that the latter would need the backing of his uncle, the duke of Devonshire, and derided the Tories for lacking any substantial property in Yorkshire.4 On 27 Dec. 1825 Milton advised Lord Althorp* that if Morpeth declined to stand, Ramsden or George Strickland* of Boynton would be ready to replace him.5

At the 1826 general election, however, Ramsden was again returned unopposed for Malton. He voted against the duke of Clarence’s grant, 16 Feb., and for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. He voted for a 50s. duty on corn, 9 Mar., and increased protection for barley, 12 Mar. He was in the majority to go into committee on the spring guns bill, 23 Mar., and voted to postpone the committee of supply, 30 Mar. 1827. He divided for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and presented a petition to that effect, 4 Mar. 1828. He voted against the extension of East Retford’s franchise to the hundred, 21 Mar. He presented petitions for the abolition of slavery from Malton, 30 May, and Huddersfield, 2 June 1828. He voted for the Wellington ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation 6, 30 Mar., and to allow Daniel O’Connell to take his seat unhindered, 18 May 1829. He presented a Malton petition for repeal of the assessed taxes, 1 May, and voted to reduce the grant for the marble arch, 27 May 1829. He brought up a Malton petition for abolition of the death penalty in all cases except murder, 17 Mar., and one from Huddersfield complaining of distress, 23 Mar. 1830, when he called for a reduction of public expenditure ‘in every department of state’. He voted steadily with the revived Whig opposition for economy and reduced taxation from that month onwards. He voted for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He presented petitions from Shipley against renewal of the East India Company’s charter, 7 Apr., and from Wakefield praying that the assizes be held there, 8 Apr. His son John William died on 22 Apr., but he was present to vote for abolition of the lord lieutenancy of Ireland, 11 May, repeal of the Irish coal duties, 13 May, and parliamentary reform, 28 May. One of his daughters, Frances Margaret, died in June 1830 and he was abroad by the time of the dissolution, when it was widely expected that Milton would retire in his favour.6 The arrival of Henry Brougham*, however, complicated matters and on 20 July Thomas Tottie, Ramsden’s lawyer, advised Milton:

When Sir John Johnstone* and [George] Strickland were with me last Thursday, several names were mentioned as candidates ... Mr. Ramsden was one intended to be proposed by them. I have heard in other quarters that Mr. Ramsden is expected to remain abroad until the election is over, and that Sir John Ramsden has declared that he will be at no expense, whether there be any foundation to these rumours I do not know.7

Milton asked his friend Henry Gally Knight* to start a requisition in favour of Ramsden, but Gally Knight was busy contesting St. Albans and advised Milton to try someone in Yorkshire.8 Strickland told a Whig meeting in York, 23 July, that ‘no person had a greater claim to the representation of the county than Mr. Ramsden’, but admitted that the prospect of returning Brougham was too good to miss. When Charles Wood* proposed Ramsden no one seconded him and Edward Baines, editor of the Whig Leeds Mercury, warned that if the meeting decided in favour of Ramsden ‘there would be an inevitable split of the liberal interest’. Daniel Sykes*, a leading East Riding Whig, and Strickland then asked Wood to withdraw Ramsden’s nomination. Thomas Dundas, nephew of Ramsden’s wife and Member for York, read out an address and letter from Ramsden, but concluded by saying that if he had been present to gauge the sense of the meeting, he would have withdrawn. Wood complied and Brougham was selected as the second Whig candidate.9 Ramsden, who had hoped to return to England on 30 July, only arrived on 3 Aug. 1830. By the time he reached London he found that he had been re-elected for Malton.10

He was, of course, listed by ministers as one of their ‘foes’ and he voted against them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He divided for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., for which he received an address of thanks from his constituents, and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.11 At the ensuing dissolution he offered for Yorkshire with the backing of Milton. The Leeds Mercury observed that he had

long been known to the county as a consistent reformer, a friend of economy and a staunch supporter of civil and religious liberty. His character is unimpeachable and his connections are amongst the most distinguished ornaments of the Yorkshire aristocracy.

In his farewell address to the electors of Malton he reiterated his support for the reform bill and criticized the transfer of the Grampound seats to Yorkshire, instead of Leeds, and the failure to give East Retford’s to Birmingham.12 He canvassed the West Riding thoroughly but was prevented by illness from covering the rest of the county. At the nomination he declared that while he was a friend of ‘that pure religion, in which I have been brought up’, he was ‘not blind to the necessity of some reform in the church establishment of England’, and argued for a reform of the tithe system, greater equality in the income of the episcopal sees and an increase in the income of the lower orders of the clergy, citing his support for Catholic relief. He attacked the critics of the reform bill, condemned the corn laws, and called for the abolition of slavery.13 He was returned unopposed with three other reformers. Writing to Milton, 13 May 1831, he declared, ‘I am overpowered with surprise and honour at the task which so suddenly and with so little trouble has befallen me’. Believing that the Whigs would have everything in Parliament ‘practically nearly as much our own way’, he added that ‘it is high time to divide the county, for human strength is not sufficiently gifted to bear such an extensive and still increasing canvass as is becoming the fashion.’14

Ramsden voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and gave generally steady support to its details, though he was in the minority against Downton’s total disfranchisement, 21 July 1831. Next day he argued that Hedon should remain in schedule A instead, ‘for I believe that a more rotten or corrupt borough does not exist in the whole country’. That day he claimed that a Huddersfield petition presented by the radical Henry Hunt demanding universal suffrage, annual parliaments and the ballot was a forgery. Following the announcement, 6 Aug., that in considering the terms for the enfranchisement of Huddersfield, ministers intended to include the entire parish, as most of the town was owned by one person, namely Ramsden’s father, Ramsden observed:

I can only say that this property was not bought for the purposes of electioneering, for it has been in my family for a period of upwards of three centuries ... The influence I may derive from the property I hold will not be very great. I think that the bestowing the franchise on the large manufacturing towns is a most wise and beneficial measure, and I should regret if the influence of property were so great in any of these places as to prevent the just expression of the wishes of the constituency ... If the inhabitants of Huddersfield should do me the honour of electing anyone connected with me, I should feel the greatest happiness, but this can never result from any power I possess, for this bill ... most properly and effectually prevents this.

He had previously urged Lord John Russell to confine the franchise to the town, however, and when it was clear that it would be extended to the parish he wrote to Milton to seek his help in altering the terms, 23 Oct. Arguing that if the boundary could not be restricted to the town only, the suburb of Lockwood would be a suitable addition, he explained:

It would never do to take in more of [the hundred of] Aldmondbury than Lockwood, for I am sorry to say there is not to be found so riotous and radical a population as that parish ... It really will be very absurd and troublesome to have to canvass Marsden, eight miles from Huddersfield, and all the other townships in the parish which lie in a moorish wild country and full of the wildest inhabitants unconnected with Huddersfield.

He added that he was anxious that the returning officer in each place should be a ‘fixed known person’ and that ‘Aldborough and Northallerton ought to be in Schedule A, or B at least’.15 He voted with ministers on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He was given a month’s leave on account of illness in his family, 29 Aug. He divided for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., and for the second reading of the Scottish measure, 23 Sept. He was again given a further month’s leave, 26 Sept. 1831, and a second daughter died soon afterwards. Ramsden was absent from the division on the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, but gave general support to its details, though he was in the minority of 32 against enfranchising £50 tenants-at-will, 1 Feb. 1832. He voted with ministers on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., and defended mill owners in a discussion on factory reform, 20 Feb. When Morpeth presented a Huddersfield petition against the influence of the Ramsdens and praying for its extension into a larger two Member constituency, 5 Mar., Ramsden again denied that his family had any improper or controlling interest. He divided for the reform bill’s third reading, 22 Mar. He was in the majority for the motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May, and endorsed a number of petitions for withholding supplies until it passed, 22 May. He voted in favour of making coroners’ inquests public, 20 June 1832.

On 4 Aug. 1832 he informed Milton that his prospects at Huddersfield were poor, despite having many promises. He also feared that he would not be returned for a division of the county due to the voters’ apathy over registering.16 His apprehension was well founded and he was defeated in a contest for the North Riding at the 1832 general election. He was returned on a vacancy for Malton in 1833 and re-elected in 1835. After a long illness, he died v.p. in December 1836.17 By his will, dated 10 July 1835 and proved under £25,000, 13 July 1837, his London house and Yorkshire estates at Arncliffe, Buckden, Kettlewell and Weddon passed to his wife, with reversion to his only surviving son John William Ramsden (1831-1914), who succeeded to the baronetcy in 1839.18 Sir John was Liberal Member for Taunton 1853-7, Hythe 1857-9, the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1859-65, Monmouth, 1868-74, the Eastern Division of the West Riding, 1880-85, and Osgoldcross Division of the West Riding, 1885-6. He served as under-secretary for war in Lord Palmerston’s* first ministry, 1857-8.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Martin Casey


  • 1. Black Bk. (1823), 187; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 482.
  • 2. The Times, 14 June 1821, 26 Apr. 1822.
  • 3. Ibid. 3 May 1822.
  • 4. Fitzwilliam mss 123/7.
  • 5. Add. 76379.
  • 6. Hull Univ. Lib. Hotham mss DDHO/8/5; Ellenborough Diary, ii. 313.
  • 7. Fitzwilliam mss.
  • 8. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. G2/11.
  • 9. Leeds Mercury, 24 July 1830; Add. 51578, Lady Carlisle to Holland [1830]; Castle Howard mss, Johnstone to Carlisle, 23 July 1830.
  • 10. Leeds Mercury, 9 Apr. 1831.
  • 11. Fitzwilliam mss, W. Allen to Milton, 29 Mar. 1831.
  • 12. Leeds Mercury, 9 Apr. 1831.
  • 13. Ibid. 23, 27 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 14. Fitzwilliam mss.
  • 15. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. G83/143b.
  • 16. Ibid. G9/2.
  • 17. Gent. Mag. (1837), i. 318.
  • 18. PROB 11/1882/561; IR26/1462/472.