TRENCH, Frederick William (?1777-1859), of 7 Bolton Street, Piccadilly, Mdx.

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



1806 - 15 Dec. 1806
21 Feb. 1812 - 1812
3 Dec. 1819 - 1832
1835 - 1847

Family and Education

b.?1777, 1st s. of Michael Frederick Trench of Heywood, Queen’s Co. and Anne Helena, da. and h. of Patrick Stewart of Killymoon, co. Tyrone. educ. Drogheda; Trinity, Dublin 1793; Trinity Coll. Camb. 6 Apr. 1797, aged 19; L. Inn 1797. unm. suc. fa. 1836; kntd. 22 Feb. 1832; KCH 1832. d. 6 Dec. 1859.

Offices Held

Ensign and lt. 1 Ft. Gds. 1803, lt. and capt. 1807; q.m.g.’s staff, Sicily 1807, Walcheren 1809, Cadiz 1811; maj. and asst. q.m.g. Kent 1811; lt.-col. and dep. q.m.g. Holland 1813; half-pay 1813; col. and a.d.c. to the king 1825; maj.-gen. 1837; lt.-gen. 1846; gen. 1854.

Storekeeper of ordnance June 1829-Dec. 1830; sec. to master-gen. of ordnance Dec. 1834-Apr. 1835, Sept. 1841-July 1846.


Trench, a verbose and egregious Irishman, whose father held his property in Queen’s County as a tenant of the Earls Stanhope, was the ‘great confidant and friend’ of the 5th duke of Rutland.1 He had been returned for Cambridge as a supporter of the Liverpool administration (his flirtation with opposition in 1812 publicly admitted but repented of) on Rutland’s controlling interest at a by-election in December 1819. He took a prominent part in the borough’s ceremonial celebrations of the accession of George IV, which required him to fund a distribution of bread to the poor and a dinner for the inmates of the gaol. These gestures did nothing to lessen his unpopularity with the unfranchised residents of Cambridge, who loathed him as a foreigner and Rutland’s puppet. When he stood again at the 1820 general election, only three months after his first return, amid rowdy scenes, he boasted of his efforts to rescue the poorer classes from ‘harpies of the law’ by promoting a scheme to facilitate the recovery of small debts, but had to admit that ‘my plans are yet in their infancy’. He applauded the recent coercive legislation against ‘atheism and rebellion’, deplored the Cato Street conspiracy and asserted that ‘there cannot be found in the whole world a constitution so beneficial, so full of moderation and freedom’ as the British. He laid claim to principles as ‘independent’ as the ‘ample fortune’ provided for him by his father. He and Rutland’s other nominee comfortably won a contest forced by the independent party opposed to the duke’s hegemony.2 In his first known speech in the House, 2 June 1820, Trench fancifully defended the system of military education at Sandhurst. He voted with government against economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820. On 6 Feb. 1821 he dismissed as an expression of minority opinion the Cambridge bankers and merchants’ petition for the restoration of Queen Caroline’s name to the liturgy, carried at a meeting which the authorities had refused to sanction;3 and later that day he voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards her. He was given ten days’ leave to deal with urgent private business, 14 Feb., and did not vote in the division of 28 Feb. on Catholic relief, which he had supported in 1812, but to which Rutland and most of his constituents were implacably opposed. He was in the government majorities on the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., the army estimates, 11 Apr., parliamentary reform, 9 May, and the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June 1821. His brief speeches against reduction of the quartermaster’s establishment, 11 Apr. 1821, were denounced by his Cambridge enemies as attempts to preserve his own salary.4 He divided against more extensive tax reductions, 11 Feb., and abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar. 1822. He lost his temper when rebutting Hume’s ‘foul’ insinuation that army officers were slaves of the crown, 12 Mar., and was forced to apologize to the House. He defended a detail of the army estimates, 15 Mar.5 He voted against the emancipation of Catholic peers, 30 Apr. He called for measures to relieve ‘the great distress’ prevalent in Ireland, where crop failures had caused ‘absolute starvation’, 7 May. On the question of Irish tithes, he told his father, he was

so completely imbued with the subject and so sincerely anxious about it that I shall not require any preparation and had much rather avail myself of it to try my own bottom than make any attempt at a regular speech. Regular speeches are always long, smell of the lawyer and are not tolerated except from Canning or some great gun. But a ready and evidently unprepared attack in reply is much more useful to the speaker and more agreeable to the hearer. I wish I had something to defend.6

He expressed disappointment that ministers were not prepared to propose ‘such a commutation of [Irish] tithes as would sustain the just rights of the church, and effect the general tranquillity of the country’, 15 May; but he divided with them against Newport’s call for a comprehensive commutation, 19 June. He presented Irish petitions for protection against imported butter, 20 May.7 Supporting the Irish insurrection bill, 15 July 1822, he urged the gentry to ‘raise the peasantry of Ireland from their degraded condition’, condemned the ‘absentee system’ as ‘a very great evil’ and advocated relaxation of the ‘oppressive’ excise laws.

On the eve of the 1823 session Arbuthnot, the patronage secretary, mentioned Trench to Huskisson, president of the board of trade, as one of a number of possible movers and seconders of the address: ‘when I was at Belvoir a little while ago the duke of Rutland begged me to bring him forward. He is not very presentable, but faute de mieux he might do’.8 He was not chosen. He voted with government on the franchise, 20 Feb., the assessed taxes, 10 Mar., and the sinking fund, 13 Mar. He supported the prayer of a petition from the grand jury of Queen’s County for a commutation of tithes, 10 Feb., welcomed the government’s temporary measure as ‘a great improvement’, 6 Mar., and vouched for the efficiency of the Irish yeomanry, 7 Mar.9 At this time Rutland pressed on Lord Liverpool Trench’s claims for present or future employment: ‘he is desirous of becoming a sedulous man of business, and to devote his whole time to that object’. Liverpool, who pleaded a demand for places in excess of the supply, could not oblige.10 Trench opposed ministers by seconding and voting for Barry’s motion for information on the alleged Orange plot against the Irish viceroy, 24 Mar.,11 and was in the majority for inquiry into the legal proceedings against the miscreants, 22 Apr. He repeated his hope that good would come of the tithes composition bill, 21 Apr., 16 May; claimed that Catholic priests had improperly interfered in the last Dublin election, 22 Apr.,12 and applauded the principle of Browne’s bill to discourage joint tenure in Ireland, the source of electoral bribery and disorder, 27 May. He voted with ministers against inquiries into chancery delays, 5 June, and the currency, 12 June. He supported the Irish insurrection bill, 30 June,13 and the distilleries bill, which had put this question on ‘a proper and fair footing’, 8 July 1823. Trench, who had some skill as a draftsman and drawer, had by now ingratiated himself with George IV and his mistress Lady Conyngham; his sketches of her husband’s Irish residence at Slane Castle were much admired by the Court circle.14

He voted with government against the production of papers on Catholic office-holders, 19 Feb., and reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 26 Feb. 1824. He paired for the aliens bill, 2 Apr.15 On Irish matters, he praised the ministerial bill to encourage the permanent residence of the clergy, 16 Feb., and rejected the opposition amendment, which would ‘create a revolution in the whole church property of both countries’. He found fault with ministers for repealing the linen bounties, which would damage the growing trade of south-west Ireland, 26 Feb., 18 Mar., 3 May. He was one of a deputation of 11 Members and peers who vainly laid before Huskisson and Robinson, the chancellor, the case for continuing the bounties, 8 Apr.16 He took a personal interest in the proposed Irish ordnance survey, which he welcomed, 27 Feb., 10 Mar., when he was appointed to the select committee on it.17 He supported Maberly’s motion for the advance of £1,000,000 capital to Ireland, where the irresponsibility of the gentry had been ‘productive of the most mischievous effect’, 4 May,18 and endorsed the government measure to remove restrictions on the establishment of banks in Ireland, 17 May, but he argued that Owen’s ‘visionary plan’ for the promotion of Irish education and employment would ‘destroy the very roots of society’ 26 May. He attacked the Catholic Association, Daniel O’Connell* and the nationalist leaders, ‘a set of artful, cunning, unprincipled demagogues’, for fomenting unrest over tithes, 31 May, though he thought the Catholic clergy ought to be better provided for.19 He supported the insurrection bill, 14, 18 June, presented an Upper Ossory petition for an absentee tax and parish relief for the poor, 21 June, and had the House counted out before it could divide on Hely Hutchinson’s motion for production of the evidence taken before the inquiry into Irish disturbances, 24 June.20 He presented a Cambridge petition for the abolition of slavery, 4 Mar., petitions from Wisbech, 8 Mar., and Cambridge, 11 Mar., in support of Lord Althorp’s county courts bill, and one from Cambridge against the coal duties, 11 Mar.21 He supported Bankes’s motion for inquiry into the expense of the new Westminster law courts and was named to the select committee, 23 Mar. On 4 May he presented the petition of George White, town clerk of Cambridge (who later fled abroad to evade trial for forgery), for compensation for losses sustained under the county courts bill; his amendment to include such provision in the measure was rejected by 112-31, 24 May.22 During the 1824 session he came under pressure from the corporation of Cambridge, who were ‘very jealous of attention’ and became ‘angry’ with him, to secure government intervention to enable them to finance the erection of a new gaol. Partly with an eye on the next election, he raised the problem several times with Peel, the home secretary, who was unwilling to amend the pending gaol bill, but held out the prospect of future enabling legislation for town gaols.23 He voted with government in defence of the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824.

Trench rated himself highly as an urban improver and designer of fine buildings, and had hatched a grandiose scheme for the embankment of the Thames from Charing Cross to Blackfriars. He had the support not only of Rutland and his wife, but of the king’s brother, the duke of York, who took the chair at an inaugural meeting on the lord mayor’s barge, 17 July 1824, when Trench explained his scheme, which he also set out in a published Prospectus, to an audience of the great and the good. He estimated that it would cost less than £500,000 and would yield a return of five per cent. A committee of management was formed and a subscription opened.24 Trench lobbied assiduously, secured ‘honeyed words’ of praise from the king and won over Liverpool who, he claimed, was ‘absolutely enamoured with my project’:

I have now little doubt of its success, and even if it had failed I flatter myself the part I have taken and the luck I have had in overcoming difficulties would have been eminently useful to me as a public man.

George Agar Ellis* conceded that the project ‘seems [to be] getting on in public opinion’, but doubted ‘the possibility of its execution’. By January 1825, when he was hobnobbing with Wellington, York and Lords Anglesey and Hertford at Belvoir, Trench believed it would be ‘carried into effect not exactly as quickly as I could wish and as my project would effect it, but as effectually, and at all events it will be done honestly and impartially and skilfully’.25 When he presented the petition for a bill to implement the Thames Quay scheme, as it was known, 18 Feb., Sir Joseph Yorke warned the House that the pillars, arches and promenades envisaged in it would create ‘a receptacle for ... the offensive filth which this great city was constantly pouring into the river, and which, so accumulated, would, in all probability, occasion a pestilence’. There was opposition from several Members, including Peel, when Trench, who pointed out that the main object of the project was to improve river navigation, moved for leave to introduce the bill, 15 Mar.; but he was supported by Lord Palmerston, the secretary at war, and carried his motion by 85-45. The bill had a first reading the next day, but the opposition of landlords, notably the duke of Norfolk, and wharf owners was so fierce that Trench had to abandon it, 15 Apr., when he nevertheless spoke confidently of being able to dispel the ‘ignorance’ which had frustrated him before the next session.26 In December 1825 he inflicted on a dismayed Palmerston a ‘long note’ about ‘his cursed quay’;27 but he never reintroduced the plan to Parliament, though he tried to revive it in 1827 with the publication of A Collection of Papers relating to the Thames Quay. He presented a petition from the deacon and clergy of Ely against Catholic claims and the Catholic Association, 18 Feb. 1825.28 When supporting the Irish unlawful societies bill, 21 Feb., he argued that ‘the seeds of happiness, peace and tranquillity’ sown by recent enlightened legislation were at risk from the association; Sir John Nicholl* thought the speech was ‘plain and sensible’ and contained ‘some useful facts’.29 Trench voted for the bill, 25 Feb. He divided against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and on 6 May contended that emancipation could not be conceded as long as an ‘ignorant and degraded’ populace were in thrall to the priests, who aimed at ‘supreme power’. He supported the proposed disfranchisement of Irish 40s. freeholders on its own merits, 9 May, and deplored its defeat, 12 May. He did not carry out his threat to try to prevent attorneys practising in county courts under the terms of Althorp’s revised bill, 19 May. He voted for the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 30 May, 6 June 1825. His first attempt to secure appointment as an extra aide-de-camp to the king as a ‘special mark’ of royal favour was unsuccessful, despite Rutland’s intervention with York, the commander-in-chief; his promotion to colonel, it was thought, would mean that ‘a very considerable number of officers highly distinguished by their services in the field would be passed over.30 On 27 May 1825, however, he was one of 21 men named as aides-de-camp in a general promotion. Five weeks later a scandalized Mrs. Arbuthnot recorded a curious episode at Rutland’s in which, after dinner, the duke asked Lady Caroline Powlett if she was ‘ready to be smothered’ and, on her answering in the affirmative, disappeared with her and Trench behind the closed door of an adjoining room.31

Mrs. Arbuthnot had cause to notice Trench again before the year was out for, describing a visit with her husband, now commissioner of woods and forests, to Wellington’s home at Stratfield Saye in October, she wrote:

We had Col. Trench to show us some plans he has for new buildings. He wants to have a palace in ... [Hyde] Park on ... [Bugden Hill], and the execution of his plan would cause half Hyde Park to be occupied by building, courts and gardens. It is the worst plan of a house I ever saw, and quite colossal, for he proposes a statue gallery 500 feet long, a drawing room 190, and other rooms in proportion. It is the most ridiculous plan I ever saw for, added to it, is the idea of a street 200 feet wide extending from the end of Hyde Park opposite the new palace to St. Paul’s!! The king and the duke of York are madly eager for this plan; but the former says he supposes his d____d ministers won’t allow it. Mr. Arbuthnot was very angry with Col. Trench, for he said it was too bad anybody should go and get the king’s ear and set him against everything that is being done for him. Col. Trench has persuaded him that Buckingham House will always be a damp hole unfit for him to live in; and the ministers, in consequence of the king’s determination to have no other palace, during the last session obtained money from Parliament, obtained the king’s approval of the plan and immediately set to work to build there for him.

Arbuthnot, who referred slightingly to Trench in front of the others as ‘a gentleman who fancies himself a man of taste’, told him that he had informed Liverpool of his disruptive interference. In a bid to clear his name ‘from an imputation of thrusting myself forward’, Trench immediately sent the premier a long, tedious, self-exculpatory letter, explaining how he had come to lay the project before the king. He enclosed with it the plans, but Liverpool returned them unseen. This rebuke did not prevent Trench from publicizing his scheme for an alternative palace in the press at the end of the year.32

On the Irish Catholic petition for an education grant, 14 Apr. 1826, he denounced the idea as ‘injudicious’ and advocated the creation of ‘a sort of neutral ground, in which both Catholics and Protestants might meet in harmony’. He saw little merit in the proposal temporarily to open the ports to foreign corn, 5 May, but did not oppose it, though he suggested that Ireland might become a reliable source of grain if its people could be taught ‘habits of industry’. He did not think much of his leading constituents (he referred in private to ‘our blessed Cambridge corporation’), who had pestered him in 1825 on the subject of the university police bill, and into whose factional squabbles he was always liable to be dragged. He had been making himself known at Scarborough, where Rutland controlled one seat, currently occupied by Speaker Manners Sutton: ‘I think much of my future political comfort and ease will depend on my success there, and I have a substitute ready for Cam[bridge]’, he told his father.33 Yet it was for Cambridge that he stood again at the 1826 general election, when he declared his pride in being Irish, hypocritically complained of ‘not having enough to do’ in the matter of safeguarding local interests, emphasized his unflinching hostility to Catholic claims and quibbled at the extent of recent moves towards free trade. He was confronted with allegations that he had spoken contemptuously of his constituents, possessed a dossier of information on every elector and was involved in a plot to revise the bye-laws to hamstring the corporation’s opponents. He denied the first and third charges, but admitted and made light of the second. He and the other Rutland nominee were returned after a token contest.34

In January 1827 Rutland, writing to congratulate Wellington on his appointment as commander-in-chief, strongly recommended Trench, who was ‘filled with ambition to be put forward in public life’, for employment: ‘with his disposition to business, and his indefatigable attention to whatever concern may be entrusted to him, I think you are acquainted’.35 The following month Trench submitted to Wellington proposals to reduce the electoral power of the Irish 40s. freeholders and reform the Irish Catholic church. The advanced Whig Thomas Creevey* liked the plan (of which Trench had given notice in the Commons), but the duke saw insuperable practical difficulties.36 Trench voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. He said that subsidized emigration was anything but the solution to Ireland’s economic problems, 9 Mar., and deplored ‘any system of proselytism’ as a ‘great impediment’ to the promotion of Irish education, 19 Mar. He opposed the abolition of army flogging, 12 Mar., and the spring guns bill, which was inspired by ‘a feeling of morbid sensibility’ characteristic of ‘the new system of philosophy and political economy’, 23 Mar. During the ministerial crisis which followed Liverpool’s stroke, he was a conduit for the opinions of Rutland and like-minded ‘old Tory’ peers who sought in vain to prevent Canning’s accession to power. He tried to impress on Wellington, apparently irritating him in the process, Rutland’s wish that he should stand forward ‘as the champion of the Protestant and Tory party’.37 He caused a splash, 6 Apr. 1827, when, with no question before the House, he launched an attack on Plunket, the Irish attorney-general, for his ‘inflammatory’ speech in favour of Catholic relief a month earlier and his failure to act decisively against the Catholic Association. Ignoring attempts to silence him, he propounded from a prepared paper, which had ‘cost him much labour’, his own scheme for a settlement of the Irish problem: suppression of the Association; subsidized temporary employment of the poor; promotion of education; agricultural improvement; generous payment of the Catholic clergy; franchise reform, and the appointment of county governors. Eventually the ‘long drawling cry of "Oh! Oh!"’ which had been ‘regularly set up’ on the opposition benches overwhelmed him. Peel and Plunket defended themselves, but Trench insisted that he had been right to speak his mind ‘as an Irishman and an honest man’, and said that first hand experience of ‘the evils which arose from the system pursued by the Irish Catholics’ had brought him to see the folly of the support he had naively given to their claims in 1812.

He voted against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. He repeated his view that agricultural improvement, the creation of a market for articles of ‘comfort’, and an end to the ‘infinite subdivision of land’, rather than emigration or the introduction of poor laws, would bring prosperity to Ireland, 31 Mar., 1 Apr. He voted against Catholic relief, 12 May, and with Wellington’s government on the ordnance estimates, 4 July. Rejecting criticism of Gordon’s plan to remove Smithfield livestock market from the City, 12 June (he had, of course, drawn up a scheme of his own at his own expense), he said that he would be ‘glad to see Millbank penitentiary converted into a giant abattoir’. The following day he brandished figures to prove his assertion that, thanks largely to the late duke of York, the cost of ‘the bravest and most economical army in the world’ was relatively less than in 1792. On 24 June 1828 he called for action to relieve the shipping industry from distress, and accused Huskisson of disregarding the complaints of the ship owners of Scarborough in a speech delivered 14 months ago; Huskisson gave him short shrift. Later that day he opposed Wilmot Horton’s Irish emigration scheme and again peddled his own nostrum of agricultural improvement, through which Ireland would ‘become the Sicily of this part of the world; and, instead of having two millions of half-naked wretches, we should have so many comfortable, happy peasantry, contributing to the support of the manufactures of England.’

He presented a petition for the abolition of slavery, 30 June 1828. A month later Rutland told Wellington that Trench, to whom he gave the original credit for the suggestion that Wellington’s son Lord Douro* might enter the Commons on Rutland’s interest, feared that he had ‘displeased’ the duke by urging on him his ‘wishes for civil employment’. Trench was relieved to be assured by Wellington in November that he had caused no offence; but the premier informed Rutland, who had hinted that Trench might be made surveyor-general of the ordnance, that it was ‘impossible at present’ to find a niche for him.38 The decision to concede Catholic relief created difficulties for Trench, who was expected by Planta, the patronage secretary, to side ‘with government’ for it. Rutland, who agreed to Wellington’s request that he should not pledge himself either way in advance, told Mrs. Arbuthnot, 25 Feb. 1829:

Trench writes me today in the following terms: ‘I have had letters from Ireland today and I confess that every moment increases my doubts of resisting what cannot fail (if resistance be successful) to throw us into the power of the ultra Whigs, and of absolute unconditional surrender without the shadow of a security’.39

Two days later Trench presented a petition from Cheveley, where Rutland’s Cambridgeshire house was sited, against emancipation, but stressed that it acknowledged the ‘wisdom’ of ministers’ recommendation that the question be settled. Having resolved to support emancipation, combined as it was with adequate securities, he voted for the second reading of the relief bill, 18 Mar.; and the next day he wrote at length to one of Rutland’s leading supporters at Cambridge, where there was considerable anger at his change of mind, explaining and justifying it on the grounds that

our case is almost that of children contemplating amputation to save the life of a beloved parent, a choice between partial and total revolution ... We cannot sink Ireland into the ocean; and we must either conciliate or coerce.40

On the Irish franchise bill, 26 Mar., he opposed Moore’s amendment to extend its operation to the boroughs, and welcomed it as ‘a great national security to Protestant interests, and to the Protestant church’. He spoke and voted in the minority for Moore’s subsequent attempt to raise the voting qualification to £20. He again explained his conduct in a speech delivered for Rutland’s benefit, 27 Mar., and voted for the third reading of the relief bill, 30 Mar., though he made an unsuccessful bid to add a clause making it a misdemeanour for any Christian minister to prohibit reading of the Scriptures. Lord Londonderry encouraged Rutland, 1 Apr., to turn Trench out; but the duke, who compromised on emancipation by voting for the second reading of the relief bill and sending a proxy vote against the third, and made it clear that his basic confidence in the ministry was undiminished, evidently had no fault to find with him.41 Trench was offered the post of storekeeper of the ordnance by Wellington in late May 1829. After a reconnaissance at Cambridge, which convinced him that standing for re-election there would ‘do good rather than harm’ to Rutland’s interest, he accepted. The king was ‘well pleased’ with the appointment, a ‘very Tory one’, seen as a counterpoise to the simultaneous recruitment of Lord Rosslyn and James Scarlett*.42 At his re-election Trench attributed his support for emancipation, which was resented by many of his constituents, to his ‘honest and conscientious conviction’ of its necessity. He was assailed by Samuel Wells, the eccentric Huntingdon radical, as a foreign time-server who had been rewarded for his apostacy; but there was no threat to his return, and he subsequently boasted that by confronting Rutland’s ‘false friends’ he had rendered the interest impregnable.43 He voted with his colleagues against parliamentary reform, 11, 18, 23 Feb., and the Galway franchise bill, 25 May, and for the grant for South American missions, 7 June 1830. He paired against abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June. As an official man, he curbed his tongue in debate. He supported a Scarborough ship owners’ petition for relief, 15 Mar.; briefly defended aspects of his departmental estimates, 2, 30 Apr.; presented a Cambridge petition against prohibition of arrest for debts of under £100, 10 May, and expressed ‘strong objections’ to Smith Stanley’s Irish ecclesiastical leases bill, 16 June. In a ludicrous episode, 9 July 1830, he proposed an addition to Acland’s stage coach bill, but left the House immediately; it was negatived in his absence. There was no opposition to him and the other sitting Member at the 1830 general election, but incessant barracking prevented him from obtaining a hearing.44

Trench was in the ministerial minority on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, and went out of office on the change of administration. He presented Irish petitions against any further grant to the Kildare Place Society, 13 Dec. 1830. Opposition loosened his tongue. On 15 Feb. 1831 he got leave to introduce a bill, which he presented the next day, to amend the Acts governing Irish elections: it sought to give the vote to the owner of two or more freeholds with a combined value of £10 and to oblige candidates to warn every would-be voter against voting unless properly qualified. Trench, who supported the prayer of another Scarborough ship owners’ petition for protection against foreign competition, 1 Mar., was one of the opposition understrappers who seemed to Lord Ellenborough to be made ‘low’ when the scope of the Grey ministry’s reform bill was revealed.45 He complained of attempts to intimidate Members by an appeal to mass agitation, 9 Mar. On 22 Mar. he asserted that the Irish people would inevitably prefer the more radical reform advocated by O’Connell, of whose ‘flirtation’ with the authorities he was very suspicious. Later that day he divided against the second reading of the English reform bill. Although ministers incorporated his proposals to validate votes from combined freeholds in the Irish bill, Trench insisted, 24 Mar., on pressing on with his own measure so that it would be law in time for the dissolution which he anticipated when the English bill was defeated. It had a second reading, 28 Mar., but Trench’s attempt to add to it provisions to secure the vote for freeholders on tenure for three lives, 14 Apr., was thwarted, and the measure was overtaken by the dissolution. On the government proposal to make a loan of public money for Irish relief, 30 Mar., Trench called for the advance of a smaller sum without securities to provide immediate help. He criticized both the resident gentry and ‘political agitators’, but largely blamed the latter for the disturbances in Clare, 13 Apr., when he clashed with O’Connell. He voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the reform bill, 19 Apr. 1831, and the next day demanded that the Wellington ministry be given due credit for the economies which they had effected in the ordnance department. In his address to Cambridge, where the great enthusiasm for reform had no electoral impact, Trench likened the dissolution to Pride’s Purge, argued that the Irish bill would hand that country over to the nationalist agitators and forecast the speedy annihilation of church, aristocracy and monarchy if the ministerial plan became law. He paid the usual lip service to his willingness to support a ‘judicious and temperate measure of reform’ of indefensible abuses: he was ‘not an anti-reformist but an anti-revolutionist’. He and his colleague were re-elected without opposition amid a barrage of abuse from the unfranchised populace. They were burnt in effigy after their hasty departure from Cambridge.46

In the House, 5 July 1831, Trench declared that the consequences of passing the reintroduced reform bill would be

the invasion of public property, and, at no very distant period, the ruin of the public creditor. I ... think this measure rash, improvident, ill-considered, ineffective for its own professed object, and revolutionary in its tendency.

Replying to opposition descriptions of Cambridge as a rotten borough, he said that Rutland’s influence was ‘legitimate and honourable and unpurchasable’, and that ‘the realm of England does not possess any body of constituents more pure, more upright, and more independent’. He paired against the second reading of the bill next day, but voted to the bitter end for the adjournment, 12 July. He was in the opposition minorities on the 1831 census, 19 July, the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July, and the voting rights of non-resident freeholders in sluiced boroughs, 2 Sept., and voted against the third reading and passage of the bill, 19, 21 Sept. He voted for legal provision for the Irish poor, 29 Aug., but insisted that there was ‘a combination to resist the payment of tithes’ in Ireland, 6 Oct. He thought the Deacles’ allegations against William Bingham Baring* had their origin in ‘a conspiracy’, 27 Sept. On 11 Oct. he praised the police for their handling of the crowd converging on Parliament the previous night, and the following day had an angry exchange with Hume, which required the Speaker’s intervention, over his supposed failure to prevent the attack on Wellington’s house: ‘the time, perhaps, is not very far distant, when a Jacobin club may overawe the proceedings of this House’. The defeat of the reform bill in the Lords and the Tory victory in the Dorset by-election encouraged Trench to predict a national reaction against reform, 17, 20 Oct. 1831.

He rode his royal palace hobby horse (in which he failed to interest Wellington)47 into Parliament, 18 July 1831, when he moved an instruction to the committee on the works at Buckingham House to consider an alternative use for it. Arguing that it was not fit even for a private residence, let alone the site of the Court, he recommended using it partly for a national picture and statue gallery and partly to accommodate King’s College, London, whose new buildings on the east side of Somerset House he would employ as government offices. He claimed that this arrangement would effect a saving of £1,749,081, which could be applied to the erection of a new and superior palace at no public cost. The motion, which was seconded by Hume, was agreed to. On the grant for works at Windsor Castle and Buckingham House, 28 Sept., he went over all this ground again, and complained that the chairman of the committee had spurned his offer to give evidence; he was disregarded. On 8 Aug. he secured the appointment of a select committee, which he chaired, to investigate the possibility of improving the accommodation and conditions of the House. On a pretext, 12 Aug., he outlined his own preferred scheme for the extension of the chamber into the lobby and the provision of better ventilation and access to the benches. He admitted that his original estimate of £2,000 had been £1,000 short. Trench was thanked by some Members, but he had the embarrassment, 6 Oct., of presenting a report which concluded that although the existing House was inadequate, there was no prospect of improving it satisfactorily, and that the only alternative was to build a new one, a proposal deemed to be beyond the committee’s remit.48 It emerged, 11 Oct. 1831, that in his advocacy of Benjamin Wyatt’s extension scheme, the cost of which he now put at £10,000, Trench had been in a minority of one on the committee; and he was mercilessly mocked by Croker, one of its members, who dismissed the plan as ludicrous.

Trench voted against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and was in the opposition minorities against going into committee, 20 Jan., the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July, and condemned their interference in the Portuguese civil war, 26 Mar. He endorsed the popular view that the general register bill was a ‘job’, 8 Feb.; complained of potentially dangerous economies in the Holyhead packet service, 13 Feb.; said that proposals for army reductions, which had been taken to their limit by the Wellington ministry, went too far, 17 Feb., and argued that Warburton’s anatomy bill would encourage rather than curb burking, 27 Feb. He was knighted that month. His motion to revive the select committee on the Commons buildings, 14 Feb., when he blamed Hume for the deadlocked fiasco of the last one, was coldly received, and he dropped it. He again attacked the expense of Buckingham House, 29 Feb., failed in his bid to obtain papers after once more rehearsing his own alternative scheme, 27 Mar., and on 13 Apr. defiantly predicted that the building would ‘never be occupied by the monarch’. He joined in the attack on Plunket, now Irish chancellor, for nepotism, 6 Mar., said he would be glad to see the Irish Catholic priests paid by the state if they would forsake their ‘narrow system’ of seminary education, 11 Apr., and asserted that the clergy were entitled to tithes as long as most Irish property belonged to Protestants, 13 Apr. He paired against the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May. On 31 May he attributed the disturbances in the hitherto peaceful Queen’s County, where his relatives were at the mercy of ‘self-elected lawgivers’, to a deliberate ‘reign of terror’, which he called on government to crush. Although he approved the Irish party processions bill, 29 June, he belatedly attacked ministers for sanctioning, as almost their first act on coming into office in 1830, the trades’ procession to address the king. He criticized the mooted extension to the Commons library as ‘plain and ugly’, 25 July, when he also expressed his belief that Lord Brougham’s appointment of his brother to a chancery sinecure had been intended to be permanent; he defended Sugden’s part in exposing this job the next day. He sought to justify police intervention against a meeting at Blarney and protested at the removal of the naval base from Cove, 2 Aug. The following day, when he voted against the crown colonies relief scheme, he stated that a major objection to single women being allowed to serve as jurors was the fact that juries were often ‘locked up all night together in a room’. He also accused ministers of having encouraged the agitation against Irish tithes which they were now trying to disown and suppress. He thought that army officers with ten years’ service who took holy orders should remain entitled to their half-pay, 8 Aug. 1832.

The Reform Act freed Cambridge from Rutland’s control. At the 1832 general election Trench contested Scarborough on the duke’s interest, but was beaten by two Liberals. He fought successful contests there at the next three elections and retired in 1847. Peel employed him in both his ministries, though whether on his own merits or as a sop to Rutland is not clear.49 On the death of his father, aged 90, in 1836, Trench inherited all the freehold and leasehold property held under Stanhope, the contents of Heywood, £1,000 in three per cent consols and an equal share with his spinster sister Mary in the residue of the estate.50 He was centrally involved in what Greville, expressing the views of many, described as the ‘gross job’ of commissioning the sculptor Matthew Cotes Wyatt, Benjamin’s brother, to produce the giant and much derided equestrian statue of Wellington which was sited on the arch at Hyde Park Corner.51 He tried to resuscitate his embankment scheme, which now included an overhead railway and an extension to London Bridge, in a public Letter in 1841; but the embanking of the Thames was not begun until four years after his death in Brighton in December 1859. By his will, dated 8 Nov. 1859, he left most of his disposable real estate, including his leasehold London house at 47 Lower Grosvenor Street and property in Queen’s County inherited from his brother, the Rev. Segar Stewart Trench (?1782-1853), to Mary Trench. Property at Moyvannon Castle, Roscommon, had already been settled on another sister’s children. He left Mary a snuff box given to him by George IV as a token of friendship and in memory of the duke of York, and, ludicrous to the end, bequeathed to Rutland’s successor ‘a picture of myself in a dressing gown hard at work about the Thames Quay in which his father took so much interest’.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. PROB 11/1862/326; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 94.
  • 2. Cambridge Election (1819), 17; Cambridge Chron. 11, 25 Feb., 3, 10 Mar.1820.
  • 3. The Times, 7 Feb. 1821.
  • 4. Ibid. 12 Apr.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 14 Apr. 1821.
  • 5. The Times, 16 Mar. 1822.
  • 6. Add 53816, f. 24.
  • 7. The Times, 21 May 1822.
  • 8. Add. 38744, f. 49.
  • 9. The Times, 7, 8 Mar. 1823.
  • 10. Add. 38292, f. 346; 38393, f. 21.
  • 11. The Times, 25 Mar. 1823.
  • 12. Ibid. 23 Apr.1823.
  • 13. Ibid. 1 July 1823.
  • 14. Add. 53816, ff. 12, 16, 30.
  • 15. Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 2 Apr..
  • 16. Ibid. 8 Apr. [1824].
  • 17. Add. 38298, f. 61.
  • 18. The Times, 5 May 1824.
  • 19. TCD, Donoughmore mss D/43/62, C. Hely Hutchinson to Donoughmore, 2 June 1824.
  • 20. The Times, 19, 22, 25 June 1824.
  • 21. Ibid. 5, 9, 12 Mar. 1824.
  • 22. Ibid. 5, 25 May 1824.
  • 23. Add. 40361, f. 109; 40364, ff. 85-90; 40365, ff. 119, 121.
  • 24. Oxford DNB; Agar Ellis diary, 17 July; The Times, 20 July 1824.
  • 25. Add. 53816, ff. 20, 21, 23, 28, 34, 36; Agar Ellis diary, 20 Dec. [1824].
  • 26. Agar Ellis diary, 1, 2, 14, 15 Mar.; The Times, 17 Mar. 1825.
  • 27. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 177.
  • 28. The Times, 19 Feb. 1825.
  • 29. Merthyr Mawr mss F/2/8, Nicholl diary, 21 Feb. 1825.
  • 30. Add. 58316, f. 26.
  • 31. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 407.
  • 32. Ibid. i. 420; Add. 38300, f. 51; 38380, f. 171;Wellington mss WP1/829/17; Trench, Coll. of Pprs. 150.
  • 33. Add. 40379, f. 322; 53816, f. 36.
  • 34. Cambridge Chron. 1, 16 June 1826.
  • 35. Wellington mss WP1/880/16.
  • 36. Ibid. WP1/884/4, 21; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 10 Dec. 1826.
  • 37. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 94; Rutland mss (History of Parliament Aspinall transcripts), Londonderry to Rutland, 23 Mar. [1827]; Wellington mss WP1/885/1; 887/27.
  • 38. Wellington Despatches, v. 314; Wellington mss WP1/943/217; 966/18.
  • 39. Wellington Despatches, v. 489-94; Wellington mss WP1/995/3; Arbuthnot Corresp. 119.
  • 40. Wellington mss WP1/1069/33.
  • 41. Rutland mss; Wellington Despatches, v. 583; Wellington mss WP1/1003/3; 1014/17.
  • 42. Wellington mss WP1/1023/10, 13; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 269, 277-8; Ellenborough Diary, ii. 42-43; Greville Mems. i. 295.
  • 43. Cambridge Chron. 5, 12 June 1829; Wellington mss WP1/1023/10.
  • 44. Cambridge Chron. 16, 30 July, 6 Aug. 1830.
  • 45. Three Diaries, 57, 63.
  • 46. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 47. Wellington mss WP1/1191/8.
  • 48. PP (1831), iv. 657.
  • 49. 49 York Herald, 22 Dec. 1832; N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 209-10; Add. 40405, ff. 104, 107; 40406, f. 110; 40407, f. 34.
  • 50. PROB 11/1862/326; IR26/1432/265.
  • 51. Croker Pprs. i. 328; Greville Mems. iv. 70.