VENABLES VERNON, George John (1803-1866), of Sudbury Hall, Derbys. and 25 Wilton Crescent, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 22 June 1803, o.s. of George Charles Venables Vernon (formerly Sedley), 4th Bar. Vernon, and Frances Maria, da. and h. of Adm. Sir John Borlase Warren†, 1st bt., of Stapleford, Notts. educ. Eton 1814; Christ Church, Oxf. 1822. m. (1) 30 Oct. 1824, Isabella Caroline (d. 14 Oct. 1853), da. and coh. of Cuthbert Ellison*, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da.; (2) 14 Dec. 1859, his cos. Frances Maria Emma, da. and h. of Rev. Brooke Boothby, preb. of Southwell, s.p. suc. fa. as 5th Bar. Vernon 18 Nov. 1835; mother to Stapleford 1837 and took name of Warren instead of Venables Vernon by royal lic. 14 Oct. 1837. d. 31 May 1866.
Capt. Burton yeomanry 1831; capt. commdt. Sudbury vols. 1859; maj. 2 batt. Derbys. rifle vols. 1861, hon. col. 1864; constable, Tutbury Castle.1
Venables Vernon’s grandfather, the 3rd Baron Vernon, a younger son of the 1st Baron with his third wife, was the older brother of Edward Venables Vernon, archbishop of York. This Member’s father, a former soldier and an enthusiast for naval architecture, married the heiress to Stapleford, where their only child was born in 1803. As a youth, Venables Vernon seconded the nomination of Francis Mundy* at the Derbyshire by-election in November 1822, and, a Whig like his father, he was admitted to Brooks’s in 1826, sponsored by Lord Althorp* and George Lamb*. He married one of the daughters of the Tory Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1824 and apparently lived for a time in Italy (where his first son was born in February 1829), so acquiring an interest in Italian literature. His father succeeded to the barony in March 1829. Venables Vernon, whose suitability had been drawn to the attention of the duke of Devonshire, was invited at short notice to stand as a second Whig candidate for Derbyshire at the general election of 1831 by Lord Waterpark*, in loose alliance with the Cavendish Member. Although he had no funds and suspected that this request was an attempt to make him subservient, he accepted and his canvassing apparently involved him (then or soon afterwards) in making speeches even in small towns and villages.2 His popularity was such that one supporter reported to Lord Vernon that, at a meeting of freeholders, the ‘natural, honest and unaffected manner in which he answered their questions and addressed them pleased them infinitely more than the most splendid oratory would have done’.3 Despite his youth and inexperience, he declared himself an ‘old reformer’, who believed in giving the people ‘as much civil and religious liberty as they could possibly enjoy consistently with the safety and security of the state’. Having averred that he was for abolishing colonial slavery, a ‘firm friend’ to retrenchment and economy, a ‘staunch advocate’ of free trade and an ‘enemy of war’, he was returned unopposed.4 Worried about his election expenses and that he was to be made a dupe of the Tories, he insisted that he would speak on the side of the people and should decline the situation of groom of the bedchamber as ‘I’d not be independent enough, and even though I were so in reality, my constituents might fancy the contrary’.5 In the House he joined his father’s cousins George Granville Venables Vernon and Granville Harcourt Vernon (as well as William Venables, who was no relation).
Venables Vernon presented the Chesterfield petition for its own enfranchisement, 25 June, and pressed for legislation to ameliorate the condition of slaves in the West Indies, 27 June 1831. He voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and generally for its details. Admitting that he could not speak and had in fact ‘made a sad mess of speaking at my election’, he informed his father, 19 Aug., about his effort on the 11th that
from not sufficiently raising my voice, I was not much heard by the other side of the House. I thought all the time that I was speaking in a stertorian tone, but still my own side kept crying ‘speak out, speak out’. At one time I lost myself completely from sheer fright but the House crying ‘hear, hear’, I was enabled to resume.
He argued in favour of splitting counties into smaller, more accessible and less expensive divisions, and wrote to Lord Vernon on the 23rd that he had voted for this because he was pledged to support the whole bill, adding, however, that ‘since Lord Chandos’s amendment [to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will], which I consider to have violated the principle of the bill, has been carried, I consider myself at liberty to vote against it (if I wish) on bringing up the report’.6 He divided for printing the Waterford petition calling for the disarming of the Irish yeomanry, 11 Aug., but with ministers against charges of improper interference by the Irish government in the Dublin election, 23 Aug., although he was in the minority for Benett’s amendment that there had been gross bribery at the Liverpool election, 5 Sept. He voted for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec., and again for its details and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He was one of the ‘old friends’ attending John Cam Hobhouse’s re-election for Westminster in February.7 He spoke for the factories regulation bill to prevent children falling ‘victims of avarice’, 20 Feb., and supported its referral to a select committee because he had received ‘so many complaints from the master manufacturers of Derbyshire’. He voted for Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the reform bill unimpaired, 10 May, and brought up Derbyshire petitions for withholding supplies, 22 May. He paired for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and voted against increasing the Scottish county representation, 1 June. He divided for making coroners’ inquests public, 20 June, and backed the Derby coroner’s petition complaining of inadequate remuneration, 6 July. He was added to the select committee on the renewal of the East India Company’s charter, 28 June. He sided with ministers for the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July 1832.
Late the previous year Venables Vernon had come under pressure from Devonshire to state that he would stand with the sitting Cavendish Member for the Northern division of the county, but, since his father’s estates were in south Derbyshire, he chose to offer for that division. This arrangement meant that he did not risk his friend Thomas Gisborne’s* candidacy for Derbyshire North; it might have jeopardized Waterpark’s, but they were both returned for Derbyshire South after a contest at the general election of 1832. He sat as a Liberal until his defeat two years later.8 He inherited his father’s title and estates in 1835 and changed his surname to Warren on coming into his mother’s property in 1837. From 1839 he resided in Italy, claiming that life in England reminded him of the four ubiquitous ‘T’s: ‘turnips, trustees, turnpike-gates and top-boots’. Not only did he become a Dante scholar of considerable repute, publishing a luxury edition of the poet’s works (in three volumes, 1858-65), but in later life he developed a monomaniacal interest in rifle shooting, as recollected by his younger son William John Borlase Warren Venables Vernon (1834-1919). He died in May 1866, being succeeded as 6th Baron Vernon by his elder son Augustus Henry Venables Vernon (1829-83).9
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Authors: Simon Harratt / Stephen Farrell
- 1. Derby Mercury, 6 June 1866.
- 2. Vernon of Sudbury mss, Waterpark to Vernon, n.d., Venables Vernon to same, 24 Apr., 10 May, Devonshire to same, 28 Apr. 1831; G.E. Hogarth, ‘Derbys. Parl. Elections of 1832’, Derbys. Arch. Jnl. lxxxix (1969), 72-73, 76; Chatsworth mss 2330, 2334.
- 3. Vernon of Sudbury mss, Lockett to Vernon, 28 Apr. 1831.
- 4. Derby Mercury, 27 Apr., 11 May 1831; Derby Local Stud. Lib. BA 324, election ballads.
- 5. Vernon of Sudbury mss, Venables Vernon to Vernon, 10, 12 May 1831.
- 6. Ibid.
- 7. Add. 56556, f. 59.
- 8. Hogarth, 75-82.
- 9. W.W. Vernon, Recollections of 72 Years, 13, 14, 18, 24, 205, 207, 254, 258, 354; H.C. Barlow, On the Vernon Dante, 1-4, 33-34; J. Forster, Life of Dickens (1846), 416-17; Gent. Mag. (1866), ii. 108-9; DNB; Oxford DNB.