TYRELL, John Tyssen (1795-1877), of Boreham House, nr. Chelmsford, Essex

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



1830 - 1831
1832 - 1857

Family and Education

b. 21 Dec. 1795, 1st s. of Sir John Tyrell, 1st bt., of Boreham and Sarah, da. and h. of William Tyssen of Cheshunt, Herts. educ. Felsted; Winchester; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1813; Jesus, Camb. 1814. m. 19 May 1819, Elizabeth Anne, da. of Sir Thomas Pilkington, 7th bt., of Chevet, Wakefield, Yorks., 2s. d.v.p. 3da. suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 3 Aug. 1832. d. 19 Sept. 1877.

Offices Held

Capt. W. Essex militia 1815, lt.-col. by 1820, col. 1831-52.


Tyrell belonged to a junior branch of an old Essex family, whose members included Walter Tirel (fl. 1100), the reputed accidental killer of William Rufus, and Sir Thomas Tyrell (d. 1502), the supposed murderer of the princes in the Tower. The baronetcy conferred on John Tyrell (?1637-73) of East Horndon in 1666 became extinct on the death in 1766 of his great-grandson Sir John, the 5th baronet. This Member was descended from Thomas Tyrell of Buttsbury, a younger brother of the father of the first baronet, John Tyrell (1597-1676) of East Horndon, who was knighted in 1628 and sat for Maldon, 1661-76. Thomas’s great-grandson John Tyrell (?1714-86), of Hatfield Peverill and Wakering, was sheriff of Essex, 1770-1. He had acquired the Boreham estate through his first and childless marriage to Sarah, the daughter and heiress of John Higham. With his second wife Anne Master of East Haddingfield he had a son John, the father of this Member.1 John Tyrell was a stalwart of the Essex Blue or Tory party, received a baronetcy from the Portland ministry in 1809 and served as sheriff, 1827-8. His elder son John Tyssen Tyrell, whose brother Charles (1803-58) entered the church and took the additional name of Jenner in 1828, chaired the anniversary dinner of the Maldon Pitt Club, 18 June 1821.2 After his marriage in 1819 to a nineteen-year-old Yorkshire woman, a ward in chancery, who brought him £45,00, he lived at Pitt’s Place, near Coggeshall; but on the death of his mother in 1825 he and his family of females moved in with his father at Boreham. On 19 Nov. 1827 his wife Elizabeth eloped with the Rev. Humphrey St. Aubyn, one of the many bastards of the Whig dilettante Sir John St. Aubyn, whom she had met during a visit to her mother that summer. While he was reconnoitring the Chelmsford area to plan the elopement, St. Aubyn disguised himself as a Jewish pedlar. The couple were run to ground in London at Jannay’s Hotel, Leicester Fields, masquerading as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, but they later fled to France. On 22 Feb. 1828 Tyrell’s crim. con. action in common pleas ended in an award of £1,500 damages, which St. Aubyn, who had to resign his Cornish living, could not pay. Tyrell obtained a definitive sentence of divorce in the London consistory court and had it ratified in 1829 by an unopposed parliamentary bill, which received royal assent on 14 May.3 Two weeks later his father observed to a county friend that Tyrell was well out of the marriage ‘without any attempt to impugn his character’ and ‘must be very unlucky indeed if ever he meets with such another woman’.4

Tyrell started belatedly for Essex at the general election of 1830, seeking to replace the retiring Blue Member. At the nomination he declared his support for the existing constitution in church and state; said that free trade theories could not safely be applied to agriculture; described himself as ‘the advocate of economy and retrenchment’, who would support repeal of at least half the malt tax; claimed to be ‘totally unconnected with any party’, and endorsed the ‘gradual’ abolition of slavery. During a prolonged and bitter contest forced by the independent William Long Wellesley*, who was attacking the Whig-Tory compromise which had divided the county for two generations, Tyrell professed his support for the disfranchisement of corrupt boroughs and the introduction of poor laws to Ireland. He was returned at the head of the poll, with the Whig sitting Member Western in second place.5 His inclusion by the Wellington ministry in a list of their ‘friends’ was subsequently queried; and for the Whig opposition Henry Brougham* reckoned that he was unlikely ‘to vote with government’. Tyrell presented and endorsed an anti-slavery petition from Langham, 5 Nov., and brought up several more from the county in the following five weeks. He was in the majority which brought down the administration on the civil list, 15 Nov. On 23 Dec. 1830 he was in the minority of four for the motion of Quintin Dick, Member for Maldon, for the printing of a petition for repeal of the oath of abjuration. On the Grey ministry’s budget, 11 Feb. 1831, he criticized their failure to reduce the malt duty and said that the proposed tax on stock transfers would be ‘a very great clog to the monied interest’ and ‘a blow ... at the national faith’. He rebuked Hume and Whittle Harvey, Member for Colchester and Long Wellesley’s principal supporter, for making remarks hostile to the Church of England, 16 Feb., when he tried unsuccessfully to persuade the chancellor of the exchequer to implement reduction of the candle duty immediately rather than in October. On 7 Mar. he opposed the Grey ministry’s reform bill as ‘sweeping, oppressive, tyrannical and ... revolutionary’, argued that ‘what the majority of my constituents mean by a parliamentary reform is a reform of ... taxation’ and attacked Harvey for advocating ‘republican’ government at a recent Essex meeting. When charged by Barrett Lennard, Whig Member for Maldon, with having paid lip service to reform during his election campaign, 9 Mar., he replied that it was ‘a question of degree’. He pleaded by letter his duties as a member of the Petersfield election committee as the reason for his absence from the county reform meeting, 19 Mar., when he was denounced as a turncoat by Long Wellesley, who claimed to have

met him in the coffee room of the House ... the evening before last, deep in a rump steak, and a bottle of port deep in him, and he pressed him to attend this meeting, and [said] that if he should be taken into custody for absence from his committee, he would pay his fees, but ... [Tyrell] declined, alleging that he could not leave the committee.6

After deploring the ‘precipitancy’ with which the reform bill was being pressed through, 22 Mar., he voted against its second reading. He welcomed the advance of £50,000 for Irish relief, 30 Mar., but urged ministers to introduce a modified poor law, which would ‘at once strike at the root of the evil’. He contended that the Essex reform petition did not represent respectable majority opinion and upbraided Harvey for attacking the church, 13 Apr. They clashed angrily on this, 15 Apr. Tyrell voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the reform bill, 19 Apr. 1831, and next day presented four Essex petitions for the abolition of slavery. He stood again for the county, with Western and Long Wellesley, at the ensuing general election, claiming to favour the enfranchisement of ‘great commercial places’, the extinction of corrupt boroughs and a modest extension of the franchise, but insisting that the reform bill would unbalance the constitution and damage the agricultural interest. At the nomination he accused ministers of preferring ‘a paltry political triumph to the passing of a measure which would have satisfied all the various interests of this county’ and boasted that he had ‘proved himself a more sincere friend to retrenchment and economy than the Whigs who, when they came into office, adopted a Tory civil list’. During the contest he was credited with the observation that

he was no advocate for the boroughmongers, but if there was in future to be no other channel for getting into the ... Commons than by the popular voice, he thought that a certain number of boroughs should be reserved to be sold publicly by auction - the money to be applied to the exigencies of the state - so as to afford a number of independent Members the means of getting into Parliament, where they might express their unbiased opinions free from the trammels of mobs and democrats.

Tyrell, who apparently received assistance from the Tory opposition’s election fund, was soundly beaten into third place by Long Wellesley.7

He succeeded his aged father, whose personalty was sworn under £16,000, in August 1832.8 At the general election four months later he topped the poll for the Northern division of Essex, where he sat as a Conservative and Protectionist for 25 years. His leader Sir Robert Peel privately regarded him as a ‘blockhead’, and the whip Fremantle considered him ‘insignificant and stupid’; but he had the last laugh by helping to vote Peel out of office after corn law repeal in 1846.9 He died at the Royal York Hotel, Brighton in September 1877. The baronetcy died with him, while Boreham passed to his grandson, John Lionel Tufnell, the son of his eldest daughter Eliza Isabella.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. P.G. Laurie, Tyrells of Heron, 1-11; F. Chancellor, Ancient Sepulchral Mons. of Essex, 175; HP Commons, 1660-90, iii. 618.
  • 2. Colchester Gazette, 23 June 1821.
  • 3. The Times, 25 Dec. 1827, 23 Feb. 1828; LJ, lxi. 79, 112, 231-2, 271-6, 378, 396, 397, 399, 441, 454; CJ, lxxxiv. 234-5, 242, 249, 267, 273.
  • 4. Essex RO, Rayleigh mss D/DRa F69, Tyrell to Strutt, 28 May 1829.
  • 5. Essex Election, Aug. 1830, pp. 18, 49; Essex Co. Election (1830), 5-6, 160.
  • 6. The Times, 21 Mar. 1831.
  • 7. Ibid. 25, 28 Apr., 6, 10, 12 May; Essex RO D/DRh F25/13, Round diary, 26, 29 Apr., 7 May 1831; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 421; PRO NI, Wellington mss T2627/3/2/296, Arbuthnot to Wellington, 17 Aug. 1831.
  • 8. PROB 11/1804/545; IR26/1305/503.
  • 9. Arbuthnot Corresp. 226; D.R. Fisher, ‘The Opposition to Sir Robert Peel in the Conservative Party’ (Camb. Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1970), 56; Add. 40476, f. 20; 40485, f. 295; 40486, f. 30; N. Gash, Sir Robert Peel, 267, 602.