RICKFORD, William (1768-1854), of Green End, Aylesbury, Bucks.

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



1818 - 1841

Family and Education

b. 30 Nov. 1768, o.s. of William Rickford of Aylesbury and w. Elizabeth née Brookes.1 m. 28 Sept. 1791, Mary, da. of John Vanderhelm of Amsterdam, 2s. d.v.p. 2da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1803. d. 14 Jan. 1854.

Offices Held


Rickford was a native and lifelong resident of Aylesbury, and since 1803 had been head of its Old Bank, which he had founded with his father six years earlier. Once an ally of the Grenvilles of Stowe in local affairs, he had diverged politically from the head of that family, the increasingly alarmist 2nd marquess of Buckingham. In 1818 he had contested Aylesbury as an independent and came in with Buckingham’s advanced Whig brother Lord Nugent, destroying the Whig Cavendish interest in the process. His local roots, ownership of Aylesbury property, resolute independence and judicious generosity with his wealth put him in a strong position; and at the general election of 1820 he was returned unopposed with Nugent after an interloper had given up.2 He joined Nugent in presenting the Aylesbury address of loyalty to Queen Caroline on 16 Aug. 1820.3

In February 1823 Buckingham, now a duke in consequence of his coalition with the Liverpool ministry, claimed to know from their patronage secretary Arbuthnot that ‘there was a letter extant in the treasury from Rickford after his first election offering his support to government "on consideration"’, and reckoned that he had been given the recommendation to the local post office.4 Whatever the truth of this, Rickford had voted regularly in opposition to government on all major issues in the 1818 Parliament, and he generally continued to do so in that of 1820, although he never joined Brooks’s and was not a thick and thin attender. He divided for parliamentary reform, 18 Apr., 10 May (but not 9 May) 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr. 1823, 9 Mar., 27 Apr. 1826. He was sometimes in the very small minorities who backed the campaign of the ‘Mountain’ for economy and retrenchment: for example on distress, 6 Apr., the navy estimates, 7 May, the Clarences’ grant, 18 June 1821, revenue collection accounts, 12 Mar., the army estimates, 18, 20 Mar. 1822, 6, 7 Mar. 1826, the grant for embassies, 22 July 1822, the ordnance estimates, 27 Feb., and the Irish miscellaneous estimates, 15, 19 Mar. 1824. On two important issues he differed from the bulk of the Whig opposition. He voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825, and for the bill to suppress the Catholic Association, 25 Feb. 1825; and he favoured enhanced agricultural protection, voting in a minority of 36 against the proposed new corn duties, 9 May 1822, and against the emergency admission of warehoused foreign corn, 11 May 1826. He also voted against inquiry into the currency, 12 June 1823. He divided against abolition of the death penalty for forgery offences, 23 May 1821, but was in Hume’s small minority for ending army flogging, 10 May 1826. He was no orator, in or out of the House. He said a few encouraging words at the Aylesbury meeting to petition for economy and reform, 29 Jan., and endorsed the petition in the House, 31 Jan. 1821, as he did a similar one, 25 Apr. 1822. At a meeting of local agriculturists, 9 Feb. 1822, he led the successful resistance to an amendment for reform, on procedural grounds.5 He presented a petition against Catholic relief from Albrighton, Shropshire, 18 Apr. 1825.6 On the promissory notes bill, 27 Feb. 1826, he opposed a Whig attempt to give the holders of £1 notes priority in the event of bank failures, observing that some Members seemed to think that the chancellor of the exchequer ‘had not done sufficient to injure the country bankers, and came forward ... to assist him’. At an Aylesbury anti-slavery meeting, 19 Apr. 1826, he agreed to support its petition.7 A bid to have his vote against the London water bill annulled on account of his ownership of shares in the Westminster Water Company was unsuccessful, 1 Mar. 1825.8

At the 1826 general election Rickford was returned unopposed for Aylesbury, though he did not adopt the ‘purity of election’ stance taken by Nugent.9 On 20 Feb. 1827 he moved and was a teller for the minority of 15 for an amendment to deduct the £173 salary of the governor of Dartmouth Castle from the garrisons grant. He presented an Albrighton petition against interference with the corn laws, 21 Feb., and voted against the new corn bill, 2 Apr.10 He divided with opposition against the Clarence annuity, 2 Mar., and for inquiries into the Irish estimates and chancery delays, 5 Apr. He voted against Catholic claims, 6 Mar., and for the spring guns bill, 23 Mar. He divided against Canning’s ministry for separate bankruptcy jurisdiction, 22 May, and the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May 1827. Requested by Aylesbury Dissenters that month to support repeal of the Test Acts, he did so, 26 Feb. 1828.11 He divided as usual against Catholic relief, 12 May, and presented another hostile Shropshire petition, 19 May. His only other recorded votes that session were against the Wellington ministry on crown control of excise penalties, 1 May, civil list pensions, 20 May, the cost of the Buckingham House improvements, 23 June, and the ordnance estimates, 4 July, and with them on the silk duties, 14 July. On 2 June he said that he had voted previously for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, and strongly urged that if the borough was thrown into the hundred of Bassetlaw the franchise should be restricted to resident freeholders, in order to curb the creation of faggot votes, as Buckingham had done in the Aylesbury hundreds. At the Aylesbury dinner to celebrate Nugent’s election, 28 May 1828, Rickford claimed the right to follow his conscience on the Catholic question.12 In February 1829 Planta, the patronage secretary, listed him among Members ‘opposed to the principle’ of Catholic emancipation; and he took issue with Nugent in the House over the balance of opinion in Aylesbury and the hundreds, 16 Mar., and divided steadily against the measure that month. He was in the minority of 14 against the Maynooth grant, 22 May. He divided in a small minority against the silk bill, 1 May, and to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May 1829 (as he did again, 11 Feb., 5 Mar. 1830) and to condemn the cost of the marble arch, 25 May 1829. Curiously, the Ultra leader Sir Richard Vyvyan* included him in October 1829 in his list of ‘Tories strongly opposed to the present government’ on account of the concession of Catholic emancipation; but he had nothing to do with the Brunswickers.13 He voted for the amendment to the address deploring the omission of any reference to distress, 4 Feb., and at the Aylesbury protest meeting, 24 Feb. 1830, made much of this and explained that he had paired the previous evening for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.14 He divided steadily against government that session with the revived opposition, and was in Russell’s minority for reform, 28 May. On 23 Mar. he said that the low price of their produce made agriculturists ‘utterly incapable of paying the burdens imposed upon them’ and demanded ‘some remedy’. He harped on a minor clerical error in the navy estimates until he was put down by ministers, 26 Mar. He presented and endorsed an Aylesbury publicans’ petition against the sale of beer bill before voting against the second reading, 4 May; he also divided for the restriction of on-sales, 21 June. He voted against Jewish emancipation, 17 May, when he presented a Cashel petition against any increase in Irish newspaper stamp duties. He again voted against abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June 1830.

Returned unopposed for Aylesbury at the general election in August, he could do no more on the hustings than express his gratitude, having been ‘bled the day before’.15 Ministers reckoned him as one of their ‘foes’, and he helped to vote them out of power on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. On the 11th he had presented a Buckinghamshire parish petition for the abolition of slavery. He divided for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election, when an anti-reformer intervened, he offered as an ‘independent’ supporter of reform and economy. He took many of the second votes of the other two men and finished at the head of the poll. In the county election he split his votes between the reformer John Smith* and the Ultra Tory Lord Chandos*, Buckingham’s son, whose championship of the Protestant cause and agricultural protection accorded with his own views; but he did not impose this line on his personal followers in the borough.16 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and generally for its details, though he was in the minorities on the cases of Downton, 21 July, St. Germans, 26 July, and Aldborough, 14 Sept., and the majority for Chandos’s proposal to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug. 1831. On 2 Sept. he secured from ministers an assurance that non-resident freeholders of the four sluiced English boroughs would be disfranchised. In reply to the Tory Wetherell’s slurs on pledged reformers, 15 Sept., he boasted that his 2,000 constituents had left him to ‘follow my own judgement’ and pursue his ‘independent line of conduct’. He voted for the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept. He divided with government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug., but against them for inquiry into the state of the West India interest, 12 Sept., and to terminate the Maynooth grant, 26 Sept. He voted for the motion of confidence in the ministry, 10 Oct. At the Aylesbury reform dinner to honour him and Nugent, 17 Nov. 1831, he claimed that ‘I have never attached myself to any party’ and, stressing the ‘absolute necessity for a reform’, expressed his wish for such a measure ‘as will be calculated to satisfy the reasonable expectations of the people’.17

Rickford voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and generally for its details, though he divided against the enfranchisement of Gateshead, 5 Mar. 1832. He voted for the third reading, 22 Mar. He voted against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July, but with them on British relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. He was in minorities for inquiry into distress in the glove trade, 31 Jan., to reduce the Irish registrar’s salary, 9 Apr., and for a tax on Irish absentee landlords, 19 June. He divided for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform unimpaired, 10 May, but was absent from the Aylesbury meeting to consider the crisis, 15 May, when a call of the House was expected.18 He voted for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May 1832.

He topped the poll for Aylesbury at the general elections of 1832, 1835, and 1837 as a Conservative, having steadily diverged from Nugent and the Whigs on the questions of church reform and agricultural protection. He stood down, at the age of 72, in 1841.19 He remained head of the Old Bank until about 1850, when his kinsman (through his sister’s marriage) Zachariah Daniel Hunt took over. He died at his Aylesbury home in January 1854. His two sons had died young, and by his will of 5 Apr. 1852 he left the bulk of his property to his wife, with remainder to his only surviving child Elizabeth Harriet, the wife of Sir Astley Paston Cooper of Gadebridge, Hertfordshire.20

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. They m. 15 Sept. 1765 at St. Mary’s, Aylesbury (IGI).
  • 2. R.W. Davis, Political Change and Continuity, 47, 55-57; G. Lipscomb, Bucks. i. 328; ii. 346; HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 18; The Times, 7, 9, 13 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. The Times, 17 Aug. 1820.
  • 4. Bucks. RO, Fremantle mss D/FR/46/11/68.
  • 5. The Times, 1, 8 Feb. 1821, 12 Feb., 26 Apr. 1822.
  • 6. Ibid. 19 Apr. 1825.
  • 7. Bucks. Chron. 22 Apr. 1826.
  • 8. CJ, lxxx. 139.
  • 9. Bucks. Chron. 3, 10, 17 June, 15 July 1826.
  • 10. The Times, 22 Feb. 1827.
  • 11. Bucks. Chron. 2 June 1827.
  • 12. Ibid. 31 May 1828.
  • 13. Davis, 77.
  • 14. Bucks Gazette, 27 Feb. 1830.
  • 15. Ibid. 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 16. Ibid. 30 Apr., 7, 14 May 1831; Bucks. Pollbook (1831), 6; Davis, 96-97.
  • 17. Bucks Gazette, 19 Nov. 1831.
  • 18. Ibid. 19 May 1832.
  • 19. Davis, 112-16, 124, 135, 146.
  • 20. Gent. Mag. (1854), i. 321; PROB 11/2186/149; IR26/2006/157.