WARD, William (1787-1849), of 34 New Broad Street, London and 40 Bloomsbury Square, Mdx.

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



1826 - 1831

Family and Education

b. July 1787, 2nd s. of George Ward (d. 1829), merchant, of Broad Street and Northwood Park, Cowes, I.o.W. and Mary, da. of Henry Sampson Woodfall, printer, of Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row, London. educ. Winchester 1800-4. m. 26 Apr. 1811, Emily, da. of Harvey Christian Combe†, brewer, of Cross Street, London and Cobham Park, Surr., 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. (2 d.v.p.). d. 30 June 1849.

Offices Held

Dir. Bank of England 1817-36; commr. of lunacy 1828-31; master, Musicians’ Co. 1830-1.


Ward’s father, who was born in 1751, was the eldest brother of the barrister and novelist Robert Ward, Pittite Member for Cockermouth, 1802-6, and Haslemere, 1807-23. Their father, John Ward (d. 1791), a merchant based in Gibraltar, where he was chief clerk of the ordnance, had married a Spaniard and settled in England in 1782. George Ward became a prosperous and respected London merchant, specializing in Spanish and Mediterranean produce, with premises in Broad Street. He invested heavily in land, acquiring estates in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight around Cowes, where he built Northwood House. Farington, a guest at his 70th birthday dinner in 1821, was told by his neighbour John Nash, the architect, that he possessed ‘great property, a landed estate of £8,000 per annum’, was ‘very rich in money’ and that ‘when he married he resolved to settle £2,000 on every child he might have’.1

William Ward, his second son, was born at his London home in Highbury Place, Islington. After leaving Winchester, where his elder brother George Henry was also educated, he spent some time in an Antwerp banking house, acquiring an expertise in the foreign exchanges. On his return he worked for his father, who in 1810 took him into partnership with George Henry and one Thompson, a clerk. This arrangement lasted until 1817, when Ward and his younger brother Henry took over the business, which was now based at 34 New Broad Street. From 1825 it was in Ward’s hands alone, and in about 1828 he moved it to 50 Lothbury.2 In April 1817, at the age of 29, Ward became a director of the Bank of England. He gave evidence to the Lords and Commons select committees on the resumption of cash payments in February 1819, describing himself as ‘a cambist and Mediterranean merchant’ and advising ‘excessive caution’ in the restriction of paper in order to ensure a smooth transition. He was an advocate of the Ricardian ingot plan and dissented from the general opinion of his senior colleagues at the Bank that currency regulation had no bearing on the foreign exchanges: subsequent developments vindicated Ward’s view, of which he secured the adoption as Bank orthodoxy in 1827. He was one of the directors who signed the London merchants’ free trade petition presented to the Commons on 8 May 1820.3 Ward, a tall, powerfully built man, had another string to his bow, for he was one of the four outstandingly talented cricketers of the pre-Victorian era. In July 1820, in an innings begun on his 33rd birthday, he scored 278 for the Marylebone Cricket Club against Norfolk, which remained the highest individual score made at Lord’s until it was surpassed by Holmes of Yorkshire 105 years later. Ward saved the ground from the builders in 1825 by buying the lease for £5,000 from Thomas Lord, who was on the verge of turning over a large part of it for the erection of houses.4

Ward was one of the leading supporters of Thomas Wilson*, spokesman for the City’s commercial and shipping interests, at the general election of 1820, when, at Wilson’s adoption meeting, he declared that there were ‘two sorts of independence’, namely ‘independence from any administration’ and, ‘much more valuable, independence of popular clamour’.5 At a merchants’ meeting called to petition for relaxation of the corn laws, 13 Apr. 1825, he recommended steps to ensure ‘a regular supply by a fixed duty’.6 At the general election of 1826 Ward, who was described by Lord Lansdowne as ‘a good sort of man but no Whig’, offered for London in Wilson’s room. When publicly asked whether he would take an alderman’s gown he declined, citing Wilson’s example. He repeated this at his adoption meeting, when he expressed very guarded support for piecemeal parliamentary reform:

There was a great difference between corruption proved and ... asserted. Reform, as Mr. Canning had ... [said] could only be effected by reverting back to the old system, or by the reconstruction of our political edifice ... [which] must ... be preceded by the demolition of our present edifice, to which he never would consent ... If parliamentary reform, of which universal suffrage was a part, were adopted, every ... trader’s clerk, and everyone bearing the form of man, who presented himself, would be entitled to a vote, and the rights and privileges of the City would be proportionately affected.

He refused to give a pledge on the Catholic question, but was assumed to be hostile to relief; and his committee were accused of surreptitiously playing the ‘No Popery’ card. He was returned third in the poll.7

Ward was named to the select committee on the Arigna Mining Company, 5 Dec. 1826. In the House, 15 May 1827, he denied an allegation that he had attended it ‘sometimes, but not regularly’, claiming to have ‘voluminous notes’ to prove otherwise. He voted silently against Catholic claims, 6 Mar. 1827, but afterwards told John Hobhouse* that ‘he should not have cared if the majority with which he voted had turned out to be the minority’.8 He supported the London livery’s petition for free trade in corn, 19 Feb. (as he had spoken in common hall, 19 Oct. 1826),9 and argued in that sense when criticizing as inadequate the Liverpool ministry’s modification of the corn laws and defending the 1819 currency settlement against disgruntled agriculturists, 8 Mar. He spoke and voted in the minority of 38, with his three London colleagues, against the proposed increase in the protection for barley, 12 Mar.; but he voted with government for the duke of Clarence’s annuity bill, 16 Mar. He was in the minority of 18 against the spring guns bill, 23 Mar. He approved Wrotteseley’s bill to curb the powers of Coventry magistrates, 22 May. He objected to a clause in the customs bill, 15 June. He regretted that the corn laws had ‘remained for a whole year unsettled’, but ‘disclaimed imputing any blame whatever’ to the Canning ministry, 19 June; and on their corn bill, 21 June, he decried ‘prohibitory’ regulations, while defending the existing warehousing system, and encouraged ministers to ‘proceed boldly in a measure of this general degree of usefulness, and leave the responsibility of defeating it at the doors of others’.10 That summer he scored 42 and 20 for England against the round-arm bowling of Sussex and ‘said he should have made more in the second innings had he not been thinking of a coming corn law debate’. He made an undefeated 96 for the Gentlemen against the Players.11 In the autumn he informed James Macdonald*, a junior minister in the Goderich administration, of the ‘high good humour’ of the City with Lansdowne as home secretary.12

Ward was one of the Wellington ministry’s supporters appointed to the finance committee, 15 Feb. 1828.13 He voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., but against Catholic claims, 12 May. He defended the corn bonding system, 31 Mar., presented London corn merchants’ petitions for permission to grind corn into flour for export, 18, 22 Apr., and on 25 Apr. acquiesced in the ministerial corn bill as a ‘safe’ measure, even though he felt it set the price for free imports ‘much too high’. He again upbraided the currency cranks, 28 Apr., when he presented and strongly endorsed a London wool merchants’ petition against the threatened duty on foreign produce. On the Scottish bank note restriction, which he described, unaccountably, as ‘one of the most interesting subjects that can engage the attention of an English House of Commons’, 5 June, he put the Bank’s point of view, which largely coincided with the government’s, and said that country bankers had ‘done much to militate against a sound currency’. He voted with ministers on the ordnance estimates, 4 July, and supported their grant for canals as ‘the most economical mode of defending Canada’, 8 July. On the 11th he urged them not to abandon or infringe the sinking fund, as investors had ‘as much right to have it maintained as the landholder has to the corn bill’, and defended the Bank’s relationship with government against Hume’s criticisms. He assured the House, 15 July 1828, that remittances of bullion from India were ‘not likely to produce any ruinous effects upon the trade with that country’. Towards the end of the year he spoke privately ‘in very high terms’ of Lord Ellenborough, president of the India board, who was flattered by this testimony from ‘a great citizen’.14

Ward was considered by ministers as a possible seconder of the address at the opening of the 1829 session, when the decision to concede Catholic emancipation was to be disclosed.15 He was not selected, but Planta, the patronage secretary, expected him to vote ‘with government’. As it was, he paired against consideration of the measure, 6 Mar. On the presentation of the City corporation’s favourable petition, 9 Mar., he announced his continued hostility to ‘further concessions’, but gave credit to Peel and the duke of Wellington for good intentions and promised not to oppose the relief bill after recording his objection to its principle; he did so with a speech and vote against the second reading, 18 Mar., when he sought to correct an impression that he had been guilty of ‘lukewarmness or vacillation’. He presented hostile petitions, 10 Mar. He presented petitions against the London Bridge bill, 2, 3, 13 Apr. He was named to the select committee on vestries, 28 Apr. 1829, as he was again, 9 Feb. 1830. He defended the government’s funding of exchequer bills and upheld the sinking fund, 11 May 1829, asserting that ‘the resources of the country are abundant, if its affairs be administered in a plain and intelligible manner’. He spoke and was a minority teller for the Smithfield market bill, 15 May. On 2 June 1829 he presented the petition of a London silk manufacturer complaining of the lawless conduct of Spitalfields journeymen weavers, whose resort to ‘combination and outrage’, in order to extort higher wages, he condemned.

Ward was chosen to second the address, 4 Feb. 1830, when he said that repeal of the malt tax would afford only partial and currency reform no relief to distressed agriculturists. He clashed with Knatchbull, a spokesman for the latter, protesting that ministers had not put words in his mouth.16 At the particular request of Wellington, who was godfather to his youngest son Arthur Robert, born the previous year, he became chairman of the select committee on the East India Company’s affairs, 9 Feb. He reported part of its evidence and told Hume to keep his nose out, 4 Mar., and brought up its final summarizing report, 8 July, when he stated that it had sat for 22 weeks and put over 6,000 questions, and repudiated an accusation that it had acted partially. His involvement with the committee did not excuse him when his name was drawn in the ballot for the Wexford election committee, 2 Mar., but in the event he was not appointed to it. He endorsed a petition for Jewish emancipation, 22 Feb., and paired for that measure, 5 Apr., 17 May. He supported the St. Katharine’s Docks bill, 1 Mar. Next day he opposed further inquiry into his father’s friend Nash’s conduct over crown leases. He also called for a speedy settlement of the vestry dispute in St. Giles parish; and he spoke and was several times a majority teller for the regulation bill, 1, 2 Apr. He voted against Lord Blandford’s reform plan, 18 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb.; but it is not clear whether he was the ‘C. Ward’ credited with a vote for inquiry into the Newark petition complaining of electoral interference by the duke of Newcastle, 1 Mar. On 12 Mar. he dissented from that part of a London merchants’ relief petition

which ascribes ... distress ... to the malconstruction of this House. I do not mean to say that a small number of commercial towns, under certain circumstances, ought not to have representatives; but, at present, I am decidedly opposed, on general principles, to the large question of parliamentary reform.

Opposing inquiry into the state of the nation, 16 Mar., he argued that agricultural rents were too high, that currency reform was a red herring and calls for a double standard foolish, and that distress was attributable to bad harvests, increased poor rates, the spread of machinery and the influx of unemployed Irish labourers. He denied Warburton’s assertion that the Bank, the East India Company and ‘other large bodies’ exercised significant influence in City elections, 25 Mar. He excused himself from attending the common hall meeting which petitioned for ‘radical’ reform and a reduction in public salaries, 5 Apr., on the plea of his duties on the East India committee, but promised to assist in conveying its sentiments to the House.17 He duly supported the petition when it was presented by his colleague Wood, 17 May, and now declared that the enfranchisement of such towns as Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, ‘so far from endangering the constitution ... would be a public benefit’. On 26 Apr. he presented petitions for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, for which measure he spoke and voted, 24 May, and for reduction of the duty on the domestic cultivation of tobacco. He presented a Bethnal Green petition against the sale of beer bill, 4 May, and was in the minority for an amendment to restrict sales for on-consumption, 1 July. He supported the grant for South American missions in the spirit of Canning and for the sake of British commerce, 7 June. He dismissed Attwood’s currency nostrums and defended the Bank’s handling of the 1825-6 panic, 8 June. He may have voted against the requirement for printers to give additional security under the terms of the libel law amendment bill, 6 July 1830.

Ward stood again for London at the general election at the end of that month and was returned unopposed with the other three sitting Members: he made no reported political pronouncements. Ministers listed him as one of their ‘friends’, but he was absent from the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov.; he was named to the ensuing select committee, and to that on a reduction of public salaries, 9 Dec. He endorsed a London householders’ petition for mitigation of the penal code, 19 Nov., and one from the corporation for repeal of the duty on coastwise coals, 14 Dec. 1830. ‘Extremely’ surprised by the Grey ministry’s budget proposal to tax transfers of funded stock, he declared his ‘decided hostility’, 11 Feb., and welcomed their capitulation over it, 14 Feb. 1831. Next day he refused to support his radical Whig colleague Waithman’s motion for an inquiry into trade and, unhappy with the chancellor of the exchequer Lord Althorp’s explanation of his statement that the governor of the Bank, John Horsley Palmer, favoured the transfer tax, read a statement which he had extracted from Palmer earlier that day, to clarify the matter. He attended a dinner of merchants at which the ministerial proposals to equalize the Canadian and Baltic timber duties were denounced, 11 Mar.18 Ward could not stomach the reform bill. At a meeting of the livery, 7 Mar., he alone of the City Members refused to obey their instruction to support it in the House. He was subsequently pressed to resign his seat by a committee formed to find a replacement, and replied that he would do so if half the corporation signed a written request to that effect.19 He promoted a City anti-reform petition, which he presented after speaking and voting against the second reading of the bill, 22 Mar., when he described it as ‘a formidable experiment’ introduced at a dangerous time, and defended close boroughs as havens for men of talent.20 He presented a Guildford petition expressing qualified support for the measure, 30 Mar., and voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. He initially offered for the City at the ensuing general election. In his address, he rejected annual parliaments, universal suffrage and the ballot, and reform as a means of ‘abolishing tithes, of repealing the corn laws entirely, and of remitting taxation to such an extent as will leave the public creditor unpaid’, but professed support for limited change, noting that the bill as it stood would disfranchise many liverymen and increase Catholic representation. He was targeted by the Parliamentary Candidate Society and opposed by four reformers with a united committee; and on the day of nomination, 29 Apr. 1831, he announced that on the advice of his own committee he had decided to withdraw in deference to the overwhelming ‘sense of the livery’.21 When Wellington questioned his reported observation at a public meeting in May that his and Peel’s fall from power was the price they had paid for bargaining for the support of natural adversaries, as they had on Catholic emancipation, Ward explained that his meaning had been misrepresented:

I neither said nor hinted that you had proposed the relief bill in any connection with the spirit of compromise. I feared that some of my Tory friends might think that I had retired under a compromise with reformers, who were to bring me in hereafter in consideration of my retiring now. I stated that caution was necessary even in accepting the support of adversaries and that yours had cheered you on while you were recommending a measure that was agreeable to them, but that they turned their backs when that measure had become law ... I have contended for the seat in the City under every possible disadvantage, because I believed it to be due to the principles I have advocated and the cause I have upheld ... I could have polled one third of the livery in my favour ... I have gulped my little disappointments, but I cannot conceal my uneasiness and concern at the present posture of public affairs ... and ... the current that has so strangely set in against every existing institution.22

During the crisis precipitated by the defeat of the reform bill in the Lords in October 1831, Ward and Palmer had a series of meetings with Lord Wharncliffe, one of the Tory ‘Waverer’ peers keen to effect a compromise: they impressed on him the general feeling for reform in the City and suggested modifications which would strengthen ministers’ position. With the knowledge and approval of Lords Grey and Althorp, they sought to promote a City address in favour of a diluted bill.23 Ward’s evidence to the Commons select committee on the Bank’s charter in June 1832 included another defence of its handling of the financial crisis of 1825-6.24 He promoted a City loyal address to William IV after his dismissal of the Melbourne ministry in December 1834, when he offered as one of three coalesced Conservative candidates for London at the general election called by Peel in an attempt to sustain his fledgling administration. He condemned those who wished to disturb the supposedly ‘final’ settlement of 1832 and argued that while ‘it was impossible they ever could have a government so strong as governments used to be’, it was feasible to secure ‘a government of administrative efficiency’. He privately hoped for ‘an exhibition of strength’ rather than victory, but he finished a distant sixth as the Conservatives were humiliated.25

By now Ward was on the verge of personal ruin, through no fault of his own. On the dissolution of their partnership in 1817 his father had executed a trust deed of £30,000 for the benefit of Ward’s children, but had allowed the money to remain in Ward’s hands in the business’s capital. Ward’s brother George Henry, the trustee, remained ignorant of the existence of the fund until it was revealed by their father’s will, which was proved under £200,000, 24 Apr. 1829. When George Henry applied to William for recovery of the money, he was told that full repayment would inevitably and immediately bankrupt him. After a legal mediation he sought restitution by instalments. Only £8,000 had been paid by 1835, when George Henry called in the rest, forcing William to have his business, which had moved to Warnford Court, Throgmorton Street, declared bankrupt, 6 Feb. 1836. A meagre dividend of 1s. in the pound was declared on 23 Aug. 1836.26 The previous summer Ward, who had foregone his turn as deputy-governor of the Bank in view of these difficulties, and his four daughters had sold the lease of Lord’s to J.H. Dark for £2,000 and an annuity of £425 for the remaining 58 years of its term.27 He resigned from the Bank direction in 1836 and left his town house in Bloomsbury Square for a more modest residence at 76 Connaught Terrace, Edgware Road. In 1842 his affairs were in chancery, where the following year lord chancellor Lyndhurst ruled that contrary to the claim made on behalf of Ward’s children, their uncle George Henry had not been guilty of breach of trust in failing to press for recovery of the fund until 1832.28 In December 1842 Ward, who explained that he had been ‘maintained by others for some years past’, was reduced to soliciting from Peel a place in the patent office which turned out not to exist.29 He lost his eldest daughter in 1839, his third son Matthew, of the Bengal cavalry, to ‘spasmodic cholera, seven days after his marriage’, in 1843 and his third daughter in 1845.30 In 1840 he published a pamphlet on Monetary Derangements, in which he advocated replacement of the permanent government debt to the Bank with a short annuity and revision of the discounting system in order to guarantee a sound, reliable metal-based currency. In 1847 he unleashed Remarks on the Monetary Legislation of Great Britain, in which he complained that successive governments had undermined mercantile confidence with their inept interference. Ward died at his then London house at 4 Wyndham Place, Bryanston Square in June 1849.31 By his will, dated 15 June 1849, he transferred his entitlement to half his late son’s share in the trust fund and one twentieth of his late eldest daughter’s to his second daughter Alicia Frances and second son Henry; his late third daughter’s portion had already been assigned to his two other younger children, Arthur and Georgina. Artefacts which he distributed among his family included two marble cricketing figures, his ‘only remaining cricket bat and ball’ and an engraving of a Sussex against Kent match at Brighton. His personalty was sworn under a paltry £200 and the entry in the estate duty register was docketed ‘insolvent’.32 Three months later his bother George Henry died without issue, and the extensive and lucrative Northwood and other estates passed to Ward’s eldest son William George (1812-82), who had already embarked on his controversial career as a leader of the Oxford Movement, having been received into the Catholic church in 1845.33

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Gent. Mag. (1849), ii. 206; W.P. Ward, William George Ward and Oxford Movement (1890), 1-2; VCH Hants, v. 250, 268-9; Farington Diary, xvi. 5746-7.
  • 2. Oxford DNB; Gent. Mag. (1849), ii. 206; The Times, 14 Jan. 1842, 27 Apr. 1843.
  • 3. PP (1819), iii. 75-86, 421-8; (1831-2), vi. 126-49; B. Hilton, Corn, Cash, Commerce, 42, 62, 89, 174; Sir J. Clapham, Bank of England, ii. 116-17.
  • 4. Lord Harris and F.S. Ashley Cooper, Lord’s and the M.C.C. 28, 39, 46, 49, 63, 73, 75; Sir P. Warner, Lord’s, 19-20, 23-24; G.B. Buckley, Fresh Light on Pre-Victorian Cricket, 75, 79, 88, 93, 117, 133, 171, 206.
  • 5. The Times, 18 Feb. 1820
  • 6. Ibid. 14 Apr. 1825.
  • 7. Add. 51690, Lansdowne to Holland, 18 Apr.; The Times, 8, 13 May, 10, 16, 17, 20 June 1826.
  • 8. Broughton, Recollections, iii. 176.
  • 9. The Times, 20 Oct. 1826, 20 Feb. 1827.
  • 10. Ibid. 16, 20, 22 June 1827.
  • 11. Harris and Ashley Cooper, 46, 81.
  • 12. Lansdowne mss, Macdonald to Lansdowne, 21 Oct. [1827].
  • 13. Add. 40395, f. 221; Hilton, 247.
  • 14. Ellenborough Diary, i. 261.
  • 15. Ibid. i. 312; Add. 40398, ff. 83, 85, 87; Grey mss, Ellice to Grey, 31 Jan. [1826].
  • 16. Cent. Kent. Stud. Knatchbull mss U951 C38/8.
  • 17. The Times, 6 Apr. 1830.
  • 18. Ibid. 14 Mar. 1831.
  • 19. Ibid. 8, 15 Mar. 1831.
  • 20. Three Diaries, 66; The Times, 21 Mar. 1831.
  • 21. The Times, 25, 27-30 Apr. 1831.
  • 22. Wellington mss WP1/1186/4, 9; Add. 40309, f. 243.
  • 23. Greville Mems. ii. 216; Wellington mss WP1/1262/24; M. Brock, Great Reform Act, 247; The Times, 23-25 Nov. 1831.
  • 24. PP (1831-2), vi. 126-49; Hilton, 203, 208.
  • 25. The Times, 23, 24, 29, 30 Dec. 1834, 3, 5-8 Jan. 1835; Greville Mems. iii. 125, 132, 134, 136; Add. 40407, ff. 213, 215; 40409, f. 82.
  • 26. The Times, 8, 16, 27 Apr., 22 July, 24 Aug. 1836, 14 Jan. 1842; PROB 11/1755/256; IR26/1212/83.
  • 27. The Times, 30 Dec. 1834; Harris and Ashley Cooper, 49, 97, 266; Warner, 20.
  • 28. The Times, 14, 15, 17, 18, 22 Jan. 1842, 27 Apr. 1843.
  • 29. Add. 40520, ff. 142, 144.
  • 30. Gent. Mag. (1839), i. 101; (1844), i. 110; (1845), ii. 543.
  • 31. Gent. Mag. (1849), ii. 206-7.
  • 32. PROB 11/2097/562; IR26/1854/389.
  • 33. Gent. Mag. (1849), ii. 554; Oxford DNB.