WOOD, Matthew (1768-1843), of 77 South Audley Street and Little Strawberry Hill, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 2 June 1768, 1st s. of William Wood, serge manufacturer, of Tiverton, Devon and w. Catherine née Cluse. educ. Southgate Street, Exeter; Blundell’s, Tiverton. m. 5 Nov. 1795, Maria, da. of John Page, surgeon and apothecary, of Woodbridge, Suff., 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1809; James Wood, banker, of Gloucester to Down Hatherley, Glos. 1836; cr. bt. 11 Nov. 1837. d. 25 Sept. 1843.
Common councilman, London 1802-7, alderman 1807-d., sheriff 1809-10, ld. mayor 1815-17.
Prime warden, Fishmongers’ Co. 1834-6; gov. Irish Soc. of London 1835-d.
Dir. British Herring Fishing Co. 1812.
Maj. 8 Loyal London vols. 1803.
Wood, a popular former lord mayor of London and enthusiastic promoter of civic improvements, was a committed radical reformer with a taste for rabble-rousing. He earned his living as a hop merchant, in partnership with Edward Wigan. In about 1820 the business moved from Falcon Square, Cripplegate (Wood’s aldermanic ward) across the Thames to St. Margaret’s Hill, Southwark. By 1825 Wigan had left and Wood’s brothers Benjamin and Philip and youngest son Western became variously involved in the concern, which by 1832, as Wood, Field and Wood, was back in the City at 25 Mark Lane. Wood had also held a substantial stake in the Cornish Wheal Crennis copper mine since 1812, but it had run into difficulties and at the start of this period was the subject of a chancery suit.1 At the general election of 1820 Wood, who in late 1819 had sided with his fellow radical alderman and City Member Robert Waithman* in the corporation’s internal squabbles over Peterloo and its aftermath, offered again for London.2 At the nomination, mindful no doubt of the City alarmism provoked by Peterloo and the Cato Street conspiracy, he declared that
liberal as his political sentiments were, he was certain that nobody would accuse him of a desire to overturn the constitution; he was ready to check all mobs; and to do everything which a magistrate ought to do, to preserve the public peace.
He narrowly topped the poll, but Waithman and the Whig sitting Member Thorp were beaten. Tierney, the Whig leader in the Commons, partly blamed Wood’s selfishness (which Wood himself denied), while a Tory observer lamented that the livery were ‘still too much attached’ to such a ‘vain, foolish busybody’.3 Wood, who in the House, 11 Feb. 1828, described himself as a ‘disciple’ of Joseph Hume*, continued to act steadily with the extreme left wing of opposition, voting remorselessly, often in tiny minorities, for economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation, and dividing against the Liverpool ministry on most major party issues. He was a frequent but pedestrian speaker (‘plain’ was his own word for it), and was keenly attentive to the interests of his constituents.4
He made an immediate impact in the new Parliament by raising the case of George Edwards, the government informer involved in the Cato Street affair, on which he had obtained information in his capacity as a magistrate. Having failed to persuade Lord Sidmouth, the home secretary, to prosecute Edwards for treason and been frustrated in his bid to interrogate the condemned conspirators in Newgate, he shouted questions at Thistlewood on the scaffold, 1 May. Next day he moved that Edwards be brought to the bar, treating the matter as one of breach of privilege, but he was talked out of it by the Whig lawyer Henry Brougham. On 9 May, after detailing his correspondence with the home office, he moved for the appointment of a secret committee, but the sense of the House was overwhelmingly hostile to what the Whig Lord Althorp considered an ‘absurd’ proposition. Charles Williams Wynn* reported that Canning, for government, had ‘drubbed and exposed’ Wood and his few backers, and the backbencher Hudson Gurney agreed, though he thought that Canning had overdone his ‘demolition’ of Wood, who was ‘proved a very foolish meddler, but I believe an honest gull’. The Tory Member Henry Bankes, who dismissed Wood as ‘a meddling, busy and mischievous man’, was outraged by the ‘folly’ of his motion.5 Wood was amenable to an investigation of the supposedly decrepit state of London Bridge, 4 and 12 May, and defended the planned City improvements, including the new post office, 11 May.6
He had been corresponding with Queen Caroline (whom he had championed as princess of Wales in 1813) in Italy since mid-April 1820, and his eldest son, the Rev. John Page Wood, met her at Geneva. To the alarm of Brougham, her attorney-general, who denounced him as a ‘Jack Ass’ and a ‘jobbing fool’, alleging that he hoped to persuade her to buy the late duke of Kent’s villa near Ealing to relieve himself of some of the responsibility, as a trustee, for the duke’s debts, and to secure places in her household for his supporters in the livery, Wood went to France at the end of May.7 At St. Omer he stole a march on Brougham, who presented Caroline with the government’s offer to buy her off, and his coadjutor Lord Hutchinson, who condemned him to the king as an ‘enlightened mountebank’. He enticed Caroline, with assurances of popular acclaim, which he had orchestrated in advance, to disregard their advice and return to England with him.8 They arrived in London on 6 June, with Wood, whose ‘vulgarity’ shocked the establishment, sitting beside the queen in an open carriage and acknowledging the cheers of the crowds lining the route. Satirized as ‘Mother Wood’, a notorious brothel-keeper and procuress, but also lauded as the ‘Foe to Oppression’, he accommodated her in his house in South Audley Street for two months before she moved to Brandenburgh House, Hammersmith, where he became one of her motley court and won William Cobbett’s† support for the cause.9 In the Commons, 7 June, Brougham, who had come close to washing his hands of the queen’s case on account of Wood’s interference, raised a laugh at his expense by referring to him as ‘Absolute Wisdom’.10 Wood voted against government on the affair, 22, 26 June, and endorsed London corporation’s petition in her support, 17 July, but kept out of her trial, to Brougham’s relief.11 He tried in vain to amend Althorp’s insolvency bill, 16 June, welcomed Littleton’s truck bill, 22 June, and presented inadmissible parliamentary reform petitions from Birmingham, 24, 25 July 1820.12
Delighted by the abandonment of the bill of pains and penalties in November, he helped to organize the City’s celebrations and calls for restitution, attended Caroline’s thanksgiving at St. Paul’s and was one of the minority who opposed the court of aldermen’s loyal address to the king, 5 Dec. 1820.13 At the opening of the 1821 session he presented petitions for the restoration of her name to the liturgy, repeatedly denied that she was deep in debt and voted steadily in her support. He spoke in the same sense at the livery meeting of 29 Jan. and presented and endorsed its petition, 13 Feb.14 He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb., as he did again, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. Having personally inspected conditions in Ilchester gaol, which housed the demagogue Henry Hunt* (who had engineered Wood’s first return for London in 1817), he raised the issue in the House, 9, 12 Mar., 11 Apr. 1821, when he moved for a select committee of inquiry but was forced by ministers to settle for a commission. He was in the minority for the production of the visiting magistrates’ report, 21 June 1821, when his own motion on the subject of the dubious Llanllechid slate quarry leases was lost by 90-19.15 He took up Hunt’s case for an early release in the 1822 session, and voted for Burdett’s motion, 24 Apr.16 At the City Tavern reform dinner, 5 Apr. 1821, he called for unanimity among reformers to thwart the ministerial ‘game’ of fomenting divisions ‘in order to succeed in their profligate expenditure’.17 He voted for reform, 9 May 1821, 25 Apr., 3 June 1822, 24 Feb., 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 9 Mar., 27 Apr. 1826, presented the livery’s reform petition, 2 Apr. 1822, endorsed the corporation’s petitions, 17 Feb. 1823, 17 May 1824, and presented a Halifax petition for reform on Major Cartwright’s plan, 22 Apr. 1823.18 Soon after the inconclusive outcome of the chancery suit brought by his former Cornish mining partner Rowe for the enterprise to be removed from Wood’s possession and placed in receivership (the lord chancellor rejected this but advised the disputants to come to terms), he called for Cornwall to be exempted from Taylor’s bill to regulate steam engines, 18, 30 Apr., 7 May. 1821.19 He presented petitions from wounded victims of Peterloo, 15 May, and voted for inquiry into the incident next day.20 On 23 May he attended the Westminster purity of election anniversary dinner and proposed the toast to the Member, Sir Francis Burdett.21 He had secured the appointment of a select committee on the condition of London Bridge, 12 Feb., and on 25 May he brought up its report. He was involved in subsequent legislation to repair and improve the structure.22 He supported atttempts to curb cruelty to animals, 1, 14 June 1821.23 On 18 June, when he voted three times against the duke of Clarence’s grant, he condemned ministers’ meanness to the queen; and on 10 July 1821 he refuted Butterworth’s allegation that her credit and popularity were gone.24 Yet he was apparently ‘hooted’ when he appeared with her in her futile attempt to gain admittance to the coronation. Supposedly disappointed at not being mentioned in her will on account of his financial problems over the Cornish mine, he was depicted immediately after her death as a smashed ‘Humpty Dumpty’. He was involved in the organization of her funeral procession.25
On 8 Feb. 1822, when he voted in small minorities against coercive legislation for Ireland, he had printed the City corporation’s petition complaining of an assault by troops on Waithman, as sheriff of London, at Knightsbridge the previous August. His motion for inquiry, which was contemptuously seconded by his Tory colleague Curtis, was defeated by 184-56, 28 Feb. On 22 July he tried unsuccessfully to amend the contentious bill to regulate the London orphans’ fund coal duties.26 He welcomed the ‘very salutary’ vagrant laws amendment bill and was named to the committee on it, 29 Mar. (as he was to that on a new measure, 6 May 1824). He failed by 75-33 to postpone consideration of the grant for public building works.27 He was in the minority of 36 against the revised corn duties, 9 May 1822. He presented petitions against Bennet’s alehouses licensing bill, 3 June, but warmly supported the measure, 27 June.28 He failed by 55-54 to carry an amendment to the prisons bill, 21 June, and complained of the effect on small maltsters of the Excise Licences Act, 1 July. He backed Hume’s objections to the receivers general bill, 9 July, but did not divide the House on it, 18 July, on the understanding that salaries would not exceed £2,000. He presented publicans’ petitions against Brougham’s beer retail bill, 17 July 1822, and attacked it on their behalf next day.29 He was again one of the publican’s spokesmen against the bill on its reintroduction in 1823, when he also opposed the government’s beer duties proposals, 24 Mar., 13, 17 June, and spoke and voted for inquiry into transferring the tax from beer to malt, 28 May.30 He had secured a return of information on this subject, 25 Feb., and on 26 Mar. he endorsed the London merchants’ petition for repeal of the Insolvent Debtors Act.31 He voted to lower the import price for corn, 26 Feb. At a City meeting the following day he expressed his support for a reform of London tithes.32 He laughed at the notion of erecting a statue of Dr. Jenner at public expense, 19 Mar. He spoke and voted for the abolition of punishment by whipping in gaols, 30 Apr. He voted for inquiry into the currency, 12 June, and for repeal of the usury laws, 17 June 1823, 27 Feb. 1824, 17 Feb. 1825. He was an advocate outside the House of financial support for Greek and Spanish liberals in June 1823.33 He divided in the minority of 15 against the reciprocity bill, 4 July 1823.
Wood saw nothing wrong with the judicious use of treadmills in prisons, 19 Feb., though he did not wish women to be so punished, 5 Mar. 1824. He called for repeal of the wool tax, 20 Feb. Having on the 12th promoted a corporation petition for repeal of the coal duties, he pressed this matter when presenting other London petitions, 20, 23, 27 Feb., 8, 29 Mar., 12 Apr.34 He welcomed the proposed reductions, 1 Apr. He advocated abolition of the duty on excise licences, 1, 10, 11, 30 Mar.35 He presented anti-slavery petitions from Cripplegate, 2 Mar., and Brentwood, 15 Mar.36 He credited ministers with good intentions towards the silk industry, 9 Mar., but urged them to allow drawback on cut goods for the sake of the smaller dealers, 10, 19, 22 Mar. He wanted relaxation of the regulations governing the processing of hides and skins, 18 Mar., 3, 7 May.37 He jocularly called for the inspector-general of gas companies to examine the gasometer at Mansion House, ‘over which he had slept for two years’, 2 Apr. He presented a London brass-founders’ petition for repeal of the Combination Acts, 5 Apr., and demanded a reduction of the rum duties, 8 Apr.38 He again attacked the beer duties proposals on behalf of the ‘deserving’ publicans, 6 Apr., 7, 19, 24 May, when he voted in the minority of 32.39 On 10 May he brought in bills to enable London corporation to borrow money to discharge debts on the coal exchange, Thames navigation and the orphans’ fund. The first two became law that session, but the last was defeated on its third reading by 35-30, 9 June.40 He opposed the marine insurance bill, 28 May, 11 June, when he was a teller for the hostile minority. He was in those of 15 against the new churches bill, 14 June, and of 14 against the Irish insurrection bill, 18 June. In October 1824 he was granted the freedom of Gloucester, where a sister of the eccentric local banker James Wood had befriended him and left him a house in recognition of his championship of the late queen.41
Wood was described by Daniel O’Connell* on their first acquaintance in February 1825 as having ‘the air of an honest man, cordial and frank’.42 He endorsed the City corporation’s petition for a revision of London tithes, 14 Feb., and presented parish petitions to the same effect, 17 Feb. 1825. On 21 Mar. he introduced a London tithes bill, but ministers ensured its rejection on its second reading, 17 May. He supported the St. Olave tithe bill, 6 June.43 He endorsed the corporation’s petition for a repeal of assessed taxes, 25 Feb., spoke and voted in that sense, 3 Mar., presented petitions, 17 Mar., 19 Apr., and divided for repeal of the window tax, 17 May.44 He supported corporation petitions against the Metropolitan Waterworks and Equitable Loan Bank bills, 11 Mar., and joined in criticism of the Fish Company bill, 15, 16 Mar.45 In common council, 7 Apr., and at a public meeting, 13 Apr., he spoke in favour of revision of the corn laws,46 as he did in the House, 25, 28 Apr., when he applauded ministers’ general relaxation of commercial restrictions but urged them to follow suit on corn; he was in the minority that day. He presented petitions against re-enactment of the combination laws, 3, 10 May.47 Supporting Maberly’s motion for repeal of the beer duties, 5 May, he complained that in the current session ‘not one shilling had been taken from the taxes that pressed immediately upon the poor’, while the ‘rich duke and the opulent commoner’ had benefited from reductions in the wine duties. He had been added to the committee on the county courts bill, 17 Feb., and on 19 May he secured the City’s exemption from its provisions. On behalf of Cornish miners, he called for a reduction of the duty on soap and tallow candles, 7 June, reminding ministers that the £6,000 a year which they were about to ‘throw away’ on the grant to the duke of Cumberland was taken from ‘the pockets of the labouring classes’. Before voting in a minority of 37 for inquiry into the Irish church, 14 June 1825, he said that its proposer Hume ‘did not wish to despoil the church, but for a more equal distribution of its amazing wealth’.
On the address, 3 Feb. 1826, Wood declared that the proposed relief would not assuage the ‘suffering of his constituents’: repeal of the corn laws and tax remissions were essential. He spoke in the same terms in common council on the 8th.48 He presented a Coggeshall silk manufactures’ petition for protection against French imports, 10 Feb.,49 and voted for inquiry into the trade, 24 Feb. Of the government’s emergency financial legislation, which he resolutely opposed, he observed on 14 Feb. that ‘if ministers did not get many cheers, they got what they liked much better, a vast majority’. He assured Wilmot Horton that there were plenty of distressed Londoners who would leap at subsidized emigration, 14 Mar.50 He divided for inquiry into the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar., and presented an abolitionist petition, 15 Mar.51 Next day he chided Martin the animal protector for failing to vote for an end to the flogging of ‘his own species’ on the 10th. He was twice a teller for tiny minorities against items in the Irish estimates, 23 Mar. On 17 Apr. he spoke and was a teller for the minority against the London corn exchange bill and endorsed the corporation’s petition for revision of the corn laws, for which he voted the following day. The bill which he had introduced on 10 Mar. to provide public funds for the rebuilding of London Bridge became law on 5 May; but he had to abandon his measure to regulate the employment of Thames watermen.52 When supporting Russell’s resolution condemning electoral bribery, 26 May 1826, he boasted that in his three elections for the City he had ‘never paid either in meal or in malt’ or ‘expended a single shilling in coach hire’ for out-voters. In the House, 21 Apr. 1825, he had declared that he would vote for Catholic relief even if doing so alienated his constituents and cost him his seat. At the general election of 1826, when he admitted publicly that he ‘had no claims to the character of an orator’, his support for Catholic claims damaged him enough to leave him only in fourth place in the poll; he resented that he ‘should have been selected as a sort of popular mark’.53
At a common hall, 19 Oct. 1826, Wood acquiesced in the call for revision of the corn laws, but pointed out that without an immediate reduction of extravagant expenditure it would be nugatory.54 He duly spoke, 1, 12 Mar., when he divided the House against the proposals for barley, and voted, 9, 22 Mar. 1827, for lower protection. He supported and was a minority teller for Hume’s amendment to the address, 21 Nov. 1826. He pressed for a reform of bankruptcy administration, 8 Dec. 1826,55 and the regulation of naval impressment, 13 Feb. 1827. Wood, who voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., was in the opposition minorities on the army estimates, 20 Feb.; the Clarence annuity bill, 2, 16 Mar., when he told ‘the vociferators’ who tried to shout him down that he would not be silenced by ‘the intolerant spirit of the landed faction’; the conduct of Leicester corporation, 15 Mar.; the Barrackpoor mutiny, 22 Mar, and the Lisburn Orange procession, 29 Mar. He did not, however, vote next day for the motion to withhold supplies until the ministerial crisis had been resolved. He demanded inquiry into and improvement of the Fleet debtors’ gaol, 14 Mar., 3 Apr., 22 May.56 He voted for the spring guns bill, 23 Mar. He divided with opposition for inquiries into the Irish miscellaneous estimates and chancery delays, 5 Apr. On Althorp’s proposed elections regulation bill, 8 May, he argued for the retention of nominees to safeguard the interests of petitioners. At a common council meeting next day to petition for repeal of the Test Acts (for which he presented petitions, 23, 31 May, 7, 8, 19 June), he observed that although Canning, the new premier, had ‘avowed his determination to oppose ... repeal and ... reform’, he was ‘now surrounded by a large number of men who were pledged to support these measures’.57 In the House on the 11th he told Canning that ‘a large number of his constituents were satisfied with his government’ and that ‘though he continued in his former seat, he would support the ministry as far as he could’. Yet he felt bound to denounce the grant for a national gallery that day,58 and he voted against government on bankruptcy jurisdiction, 22 May, the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May, repeal of the Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act, 31 May (when he was a teller for the minority of ten), and the grant for Canadian canals, 12 June. He reintroduced his Thames watermen bill, 5 Apr., and saw it through to the statute book on 14 June 1827.59
Peel, back in office as home secretary in the duke of Wellington’s ministry, was warned in late January 1828 that ‘some foolish fellow’ such as Wood might create parliamentary difficulties over the duke’s concurrent appointments as premier and commander-in-chief, but nothing came of this.60 In common council, 24 Jan., he promised ‘hearty support’ for their petition for repeal of the Test Acts.61 He duly endorsed it, 11 Feb., urging Dissenting electors to ‘use their best endeavours to control the opinion of their representatives on a point of so much importance’; and he presented other petitions, 23, 26 Feb., when he voted for repeal. He divided for Catholic relief, 12 May. He spoke and voted, in Hume’s minority of 15, for navy economies, 11 Feb., and was in a minority of eight the next day. He presented petitions from Gloucester and Gloucestershire maltsters for repeal of the ‘almost inoperative’ Malt Act, 18 Feb. He was named to the select committees on the police of the metropolis, 28 Feb., after assuring Peel, who gently mocked him, that the City authorities had confidence in their own arrangements. (He was named to the revived select committee, 15 Apr. 1829.) He pressed for London freeholders to be enfranchised, 11 Mar., supported the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 21 Mar., 27 June, and endorsed Davies’s bill to limit borough polls to six days, 6, 15 May 1828. He wanted reform of St. Marylebone vestry, 31 Mar., and he presented numerous petitions against the friendly societies bill, 3, 21, 24, 25 Apr. He voted for relaxation of the corn laws, 22, 29 Apr., and inquiry into chancery delays, 24 Apr. He supported London corporation’s petition for partial repeal of the stamp duty on receipts, 28 Apr., and presented ones from Sunderland against the coal owners’ monopoly, 9 May, and from Warminster manufacturers for an end to truck payments, 20 May. He welcomed the government’s church briefs abolition bill and plan to facilitate the recovery of small debts, 22 May. He presented a Ramsgate anti-slavery petition, 30 May, and one from Gloucester against the restriction of the circulation of small bank notes, 2 June; he voted against this bill, 5, 16 June. He opposed any increase in the duties on foreign wool, 3 June, and was in small minorities for economies, 6, 10 June. He defended London corporation’s stand on Smithfield meat market, 12, 13 June, drew attention to the parlous state of the City militia, 20 June, and, as instructed, endorsed the livery’s petition on abuses in the secondaries office, 23 June, when he divided against government on the refurbishment of Buckingham House. He voted for repeal of the usury laws, 19 June. He spoke and voted in a minority of ten against the cider retail bill, 26 June. On the 30th he attacked the additional churches bill as ‘an odious measure, that would wring money out of the hands of industrious poor people’, and was a teller for the minority. He voted against administration on the ordnance estimates, 7 July, and the silk duties, 14 July 1828, and next day dismissed the Irish butter trade bill as ‘absurd’.
Wood divided for Catholic emancipation, 6, 30 Mar., endorsed London corporation’s favourable petition, 9 Mar., presented one from Pendlebury Dissenters, 18 Mar., and questioned the validity of signatures on the London and Westminster anti-Catholic petition, 19 Mar. 1829. That session he introduced bills to extend the scope of the St. Katharine’s Docks Act, to improve the approaches of London Bridge (which he defended, 23 Mar., 6 May), to give estate purchasing powers to the board of the London Workhouse, to improve Smithfield market and to start the East London railway. Only the two last failed to become law: the Smithfield bill, which he tried to save, 15 May, was thrown out by 54-31.62 He approved the ministerial bill to reform the management of Greenwich Hospital, 9 Apr., but was a critic of the West India Dock bill, 14 Apr. He voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May, and Lord Blandford’s reform scheme, 2 June, for O’Connell to be allowed to take his seat unimpeded, 18 May, and in minorities of 12 for a fixed duty on corn, 19 May, and seven against the ecclesiastical courts bill, 5 June 1829.
Wood divided against the address, 4 Feb. 1830. He voted as before on East Retford, 11 Feb., 15 Mar., again for Blandford’s reform plan, 18 Feb., and for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and in support of the Newark petition complaining of the duke of Newcastle’s electoral interference, 1 Mar. He was in the minorities for O’Connell’s radical reform scheme, as well as for Russell’s more moderate proposals, 28 May, when he reiterated his approval of the enfranchisement of City freeholders. He voted for tax reductions, 15 Feb., and presented and approved petitions to that effect from his ward, 16 Feb., 15 Mar. He divided steadily for economies and reduced taxation throughout the session. Although he supported the prayer of the London merchants’ distress and reform petition, 12 Mar., he reckoned that few in the City shared Waithman’s reservations about free trade. In common hall, 5 Apr., when Hunt proposed a string of resolutions calling for radical reform to relieve distress, Wood ascribed this to ‘the enormous amount of taxation’ and advocated a property tax to permit other remissions. He saw ‘no near prospect’ of reform, but he duly presented and supported the petition, 17 May.63 He was named to the select committee on the sale of beer, 4 Mar., endorsed a London licensed victuallers’ petition against the subsequent bill, 11 Mar. (when he also secured the appointment of a an inquiry into the London coal trade, which he chaired); he expressed his objections to the proposals for on-sales, 4 May, and voted in this sense, 21 June, 1 July. He presented a Finsbury Dissenters’ petition for mitigation of the criminal code, 25 Mar., and voted for abolition of the death penalty for forgery offences, 24 May, 7 June. He spoke and voted in a minority of 16 against Lord Ellenborough’s divorce bill, 6 Apr., and divided for reform of the laws, 3 June. He voted for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He introduced and carried a bill to make further provision for funding redevelopment of the approaches to London Bridge.64 He voted for abolition of the Irish lord lieutenancy, 11 May, and was in O’Connell’s small minority for Irish vestry reform, 10 June. He spoke in favour of allowing the Irish judge Barrington to be heard in his own defence at the bar and was a minority teller, 22 May. He endorsed London corporation’s petition against the Irish and Scottish vagrants removal bill, 24 May, and opposed the measure, 26, 27 May, 3 June. That day he gave notice of a motion for a reduction of public salaries to 1797 levels (as he had been instructed to do by the livery, under Hunt’s direction, in April),65 but the dissolution after the king’s death intervened. On 10 June he secured leave to introduce a bill to curb the spread of canine rabies by increasing magistrates’ powers, but on Peel’s advice he referred it to a committee upstairs, 15 June. He supported the City corporation’s petition for the abolition of superfluous oaths, 5 July 1830.
At the ensuing general election Wood, who declared his undiminished support for ‘the reform of abuses’ and hostility to ‘extravagant expenditure’, and bragged about his dedicated attendance, was returned unopposed for London.66 Ministers of course numbered him as one of their ‘foes’, but ‘severe indisposition’ made him an unwilling absentee from the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830, when he also missed the common council reform meeting.67 He approved of its petition when it was presented next day, observing that Wellington’s anti-reform declaration and decision to put off the new king’s visit to the City had convinced him that ‘it was time for the government to be changed’. He supported the corporation’s petition for repeal of the coastwise coal duties, 14 Dec. 1830, and presented ward petitions for this, 3, 7, 10, 11 Feb. 1831. He welcomed Hobhouse’s plan for vestry reform as an essential adjunct to parliamentary reform, 16 Dec. 1830, and brought up favourable petitions, 11, 14 Feb. 1831. On 3 Feb. he gave notice of his motion on public salaries, but events again overtook it. He presented a ward petition for repeal of the house and window taxes, but dissented from its advocacy of a tax on luxuries, 7 Feb., arguing that if the Grey ministry kept their promises no new taxes would be required. He reintroduced his rabies bill, 10 Feb., and secured its second reading on the 23rd, but it made no further progress that session.68 His measure to extend the scope of the 1830 London Bridge Act (20 Dec. 1830) became law on 11 Mar. 1831. He presented a petition from St. Giles, Cripplegate for tithe relief, 11 Feb.; called for the exemption of Scotland from the proposed tax on steamboat passengers and for an end to the ‘dead robbery’ of the drawback on malt used in Scottish distilleries, 17 Feb.; endorsed the City corporation’s petition for bankruptcy reform, 21 Feb., and approved Slaney’s ‘very good’ liability of landlords bill, 23 Feb. He presented a ‘singular’ petition for ‘radical reform’ from 15 electors of the ‘snug borough’ of Malmesbury, 11 Feb., and one from his ward for more frequent parliaments and the secret ballot, 28 Feb. On 4 Mar. he supported London corporation’s petition in favour of the ministerial reform bill, which he said would ‘save’ the country. He spoke for it in common hall and in the House, 7 Mar., chaired a Cripplegate meeting to approve it, 8 Mar., and presented its and other favourable ward petitions, 16 Mar., when he proclaimed that ‘the present administration stands higher with the country than any administration ever has done’ and denied Tory allegations that the bill’s threat to the livery’s votes was an issue with them. He presented more ward petitions, 19, 22 Mar., when he divided for the second reading. As a veteran reformer, he applauded the measure at a merchants’ Mansion House meeting, 25 Mar.,69 and he endorsed their petition, 18 Apr. On 29 Mar. he clashed with the anti-reformer Wetherell over the strength of reforming sentiment in Cornwall, claiming that he had once employed about 1,200 people there and admitting that he had ‘paid one bill for £7,000 arising out of proceedings’ in chancery. Wood, who, with Waithman and other radicals, had not crossed the House on the change on ministry and sat among the Tories for the rest of this period,70 defended the alterations made to the bill and ridiculed the opposition’s attempts ‘to get back into office’, 13 Apr. Next day, however, he felt compelled to join Hume in resisting the grant for civil list pensions. He largely favoured Evans’s corporate funds bill that day. He welcomed the ministerial measures to regulate Tower Hamlets militia, 10 Mar., and the coal trade, 28 Mar. He voted against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the reform bill, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he came in again unopposed for London on the united reform platform, promising to ‘continue a reformer for the rest of his life’ and asserting that ‘if they had had a reformed Parliament 30 years ago, they would not now have that enormous load of debt which was hanging about them’. At the livery dinner, 9 May 1831, he announced that ‘though he was satisfied with the bill [he] would go further if necessary, even to the extent of vote by ballot’.71
On 28 June 1831 Wood, who was nettled by smirks from ministers and some new Members, secured leave to reintroduce his rabies bill, threatening if necessary to divide the House ‘in order to see whether it cares more for its dogs than for the human species’. He presented it next day, but it made no further progress.72 On 30 June he moved his resolution for a reduction of public salaries, complaining that it was ‘a robbery to transfer the public money to the pockets of those who perform no actual service in return’, but ministers treated it as a question of confidence and it was crushed by 216-13.73 He called for repeal of the duty on tiles and found fault with the former Tory chancellor Goulburn’s new concern for the poor, 1 July, though he admitted when pressed that his repeal of the beer and leather taxes had been beneficial. He said that Millbank penitentiary was the useless ‘hobby of gentlemen who like to try experiments in prison discipline’ and opposed the National Gallery grant on behalf of his ‘thousands’ of philistine constituents, 8 July. Advocating the construction of a new road from Waterloo Bridge to the New (Euston) Road, 11 July, he remarked that he had ‘been often charged with having a hand in every job about the town where improvement is concerned, but I am still ready to bear all the weight of this charge’. He was in the minority against the civil list grant, 18 July. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and at least twice against the adjournment, 12 July, and exchanged angry words with some of his Tory neighbours over opposition’s obstructive tactics, 14 July. He gave the measure steady general support in committee. In common council, 7 Sept., when he dismissed some extremists’ criticism of his preference for a scot and lot over the £10 householder franchise, he boasted that he had ‘sat in the House every night until two and three in the morning, always giving his best attention to the interests of the bill, and voting with the government in every division’:74 in fact, he spoke and voted for separate representation for Merthyr Tydfil, 10 Aug. He made an uneasy defence of the livery’s reprimand of and dictation to his colleague Thompson over a wayward vote, 3 Aug. Next day he welcomed the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets. Although he divided with ministers against the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., he admitted that he rather liked the idea, 24 Aug., when he also said that he was at odds with some of the livery over the proposal to allow City freeholders to vote in London, which he approved. He was anxious to ensure that those who only rented offices in City counting houses should not be allowed to vote, 26 Aug. He saw no reason why the expenses of revising barristers should not be met by the constituencies, 5 Sept. He secured the addition to the bill of a clause compelling the livery companies to make a return of the members claiming the vote, 14 Sept. In the last speech before the division on the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., when he was of course in the majority, he refuted Hunt’s allegation that enthusiasm for it had cooled among the livery, having spoken in the same sense at the common hall to petition the Upper House in its favour, 19 Sept.75 He voted for the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and for the motion of confidence in the government, 10 Oct., and attended the City meeting to address the king, 13 Oct.76 Wood voted in O’Connell’s minority on the composition of the Dublin election committee, 29 July, and to postpone issuing the Dublin writ, 8 Aug., but with government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He was in the minorities against issuing the Liverpool writ, 5 Sept., and against the quarantine duties next day. On 11 Aug. he brought in, on the recommendation of City magistrates, a bill to regulate the speed of steam vessels in the port of London. It ran into strong opposition and on 5 Sept. he withdrew it, but he secured the appointment of a select committee on the subject the following day. He welcomed lord chancellor Brougham’s bankruptcy reform bill, 13 Oct. 1831.
Wood voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec.1831. He again gave general support to its details, though he was in Hunt’s minority of 11 for a tax-paying householder franchise, 2 Feb. 1832. He voted for the third reading, 22 Mar. He divided with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., and the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr.; but he was in the minority for information on military punishments, 16 Feb. On 17 Jan. he brought in a new London steam vessels bill, but, to his great annoyance, it was got rid of when his back was turned, 30 July.77 He carried through another London Bridge bill, commenting on 13 Feb. that if it was rejected ‘the city will be deprived of a great and noble street opening from the river into the heart of the town’.78 As requested, he supported a London silk weavers’ petition for inquiry into their plight, 21 Feb., but he said nothing about their demands for protection. He presented a Clerkenwell petition in favour of Sadler’s factories regulation bill, 7 Mar., but noted that it would not be applicable to woollen mills, where children were not employed. He again pressed for the removal of all drawback on Scottish distillery malt, 30 Mar., endorsed London corporation’s anti-slavery petition, 4 Apr., and supported the Gravesend pier bill for the recreational benefit of poor Londoners, 10 Apr. In common council next day he approved the ministerial plan for Irish education and denounced Protestant ‘fanatics’.79 He liked the principle of Warburton’s anatomy bill, but would have no truck with the proposed payment of money for corpses, 11, 18 Apr. He was named to the secret committee on renewal of the Bank’s charter, 22 May. A ‘domestic calamity’ prevented him from attending the common council meeting which petitioned for supplies to be withheld until reform had been secured, 10 May; but in the House later that day he supported the petition and voted for the motion for an address requesting the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the bill unimpaired. At the livery meeting on the 11th he promised that in such ‘awful times’ he ‘would never desert’ his ‘post’.80 He gave ‘cordial support’ to the Manchester supplies petition that day, presented the livery’s petition, 14 May, and brought up several others from City wards and parishes, 18, 24 May. On the 25th he voted for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, but he was in O’Connell’s minority for the enfranchisement of £5 freeholders, 18 June. He voted against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish bill, 1 June; failed in his attempt to ‘make some excitement’ by interrupting the committee on it in order to receive the English bill back from the Lords, 4 June;81 and endorsed the City corporation’s petition for the principles of the English to be extended to the Scottish measure, 4 July. He presented petitions against the cruelty to animals bill in so far as it infringed the Smithfield Act, 30, 31 May. He voted against Alexander Baring’s bill to exclude insolvent debtors from the House, 6 June, divided with Hunt for the suspension of flogging, 19 June, and with Hume for liberalizing amendments to the coroners bill, 20 June. He was in the minority against ministers on the proposed boundaries of Whitehaven constituency, 22 June. On 2 July he denounced and voted in the minority of 22 against the grant for the Waltham Abbey ordnance establishment. He presented and endorsed City ward and parish petitions against the Scottish and Irish poor removal bill, 5, 9 July. He approved the plan to supply the capital with water at public expense, 6 July, and agreed with government that men made redundant by the Irish coal trade bill should be compensated, 24 July. He presented an Irish petition for the abolition of tithes, 31 July, and on 6 Aug. 1832, with a view to registration, secured a return of the number of rated inhabitants of the City and of those who had now paid their dues.
In October 1831 the patronage secretary Ellice had told Lord Grey that ‘our friend’ Alderman Wood
was deeply grieved at no offer of a baronetcy being made to him, when you gave that distinction to his less worthy brother, Alderman Heygate*. If he could get a baronetcy conferred upon his namesake and relation ... [James] Wood of Gloucester, with remainder to the alderman and his heirs, he would obtain a more substantial advantage with it, and the settlement of a million of money on his family, to enable them to support the dignity. He calls Mr. Wood his relation. I believe he would have some difficulty in tracing the connection, but the object of the alderman’s ambition is to revive the dignity of baronet in his own person, which formerly belonged to a branch of his family. If that could be done through the alderman’s influence, the other consequences would flow from it. This would be barely an act of justice for poor Wood’s political conduct and adherence to the party, and a great act of kindness on your part.
On Ellice’s advice, Wood laid his case before Grey at the turn of the year; but the king had personal objections to him, and nothing came of the scheme.82
Wood was returned in second place for London at the general election of 1832 and came in again at the next three elections.83 In 1836 he benefited handsomely from the will of James Wood, who left him his county estate at Down Hatherley and a share worth at least £1,000,000 in his personal fortune. The following year Queen Victoria, in a gesture of personal friendship in memory of her father, made him a baronet.84 Wood died at Matson House, near Gloucester, the home of his son-in-law Edwin Maddy, in September 1843. He was acknowledged to have been an ‘honest and consistent’ man, who left a lasting physical mark on the City.85 By his will, dated 7 July 1843, he directed his executors to sell all his real estate in Gloucestershire, Middlesex, Surrey, London and Southwark and to combine the proceeds with the residue of his personal estate to provide a life annuity of £1,500 for his wife. He left £20,000 to his eldest son and successor in the baronetcy, John Page Wood (1796-1866), rector of St. Peter’s, Cornhill, together with an equal share with his four surviving siblings in the residuary estate.86 His second son, William Page Wood (1801-81), a successful barrister, was Liberal Member for Oxford, 1847-52, vice-chancellor, 1853-68, and lord chancellor, as Baron Hatherley, 1868-72. His third son, Western Wood (1804-63), carried on the Mark Lane business and was Liberal Member for London, 1861-3.87
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. The Times, 12 Mar. 1821.
- 2. Ibid. 13 Oct., 8 Nov., 8 Dec. 1819, 12, 18 Feb. 1820.
- 3. Ibid. 22 Feb., 2, 7, 16, 17 Mar.; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 17 Mar. 1820; Colchester Diary, iii. 121.
- 4. J.R. Dinwiddy, Radicalism and Reform, 64; The Times, 27 Apr. 1826.
- 5. J.A. Hone, For the Cause of Truth, 347; The Times, 2, 25 May; Broughton, Recollections, ii. 127; Althorp Letters, 107; NLW, Coedymaen mss 935; Gurney diary, 9 May; Dorset RO D/BKL, Bankes jnl. 117 (9 May); 118 (5 June 1820).
- 6. The Times, 13 May 1820.
- 7. C. New, Brougham, 238; Add. 38284, ff. 141, 227, 306; 52444, ff. 141-2; Brougham mss, Brougham to Lady C. Lindsay [28 May 1820]; Mem. Bar. Hatherley, i. 33, 39-40.
- 8. New, 239-41; Geo. IV Letters, ii. 821, 822, 847; Brougham, Life and Times, ii. 357-65; Von Neumann Diary, i. 24; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 21; Creevey’s Life and Times, 128-9; London in the Age of Reform ed. J. Stevenson, 120-1.
- 9. Brougham, ii. 366; New, 242; Greville Mems. i. 94-95; Hobhouse Diary, 24; Creevey Pprs. i. 302; Farington Diary, xvi. 5513; Lady Palmerston Letters, 34, 43; Hatherton diary, 10 June 1820; Colchester Diary, iii. 141; M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, x. 13736, 13749, 13852; London in Age of Reform, 123; R.R. Sharpe, London and the Kingdom, iii. 318.
- 10. Add. 52444, f. 135; George, x. 13899, 14146; New, 243.
- 11. Greville Mems. i. 195.
- 12. The Times, 17 June, 25 July 1820.
- 13. George, x. 13989; D. Miles, Francis Place, 159; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 884; Ann. Reg. (1820), Chron. pp. 499-500; The Times, 15, 17 Nov., 6, 15 Dec.1820.
- 14. The Times, 25, 27, 30 Jan., 14 Feb. 1821; Hobhouse Diary, 49.
- 15. The Times, 13 Mar., 12 Apr., 3 May, 22 June 1821.
- 16. Ibid. 9, 19, 26 Feb., 2, 15, 21, 29 Mar., 6, 14 June 1822.
- 17. Ibid. 5 Apr. 1821.
- 18. Ibid. 3 Apr. 1822, 23 Apr. 1823.
- 19. Ibid. 12, 14, 16, 19, 23 Mar., 1 May 1821.
- 20. Ibid. 16 May 1821.
- 21. Add. 56542, f. 29; The Times, 24 May 1821.
- 22. The Times, 26 May 1821, 6, 14 Mar. 1822, 7, 17 June 1823.
- 23. Ibid. 2, 15 June 1821.
- 24. HLRO, Hist. Coll.379, Grey Bennet diary, 116.
- 25. Creevey Pprs. ii. 17-18; Croker Pprs. i. 197, 201; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland mss PwH 87; George, x. 14247-8; London in Age of Reform, 138.
- 26. The Times, 23 July 1823.
- 27. Ibid. 30 Mar. 1822.
- 28. Ibid. 4 June 1822.
- 29. Ibid. 22 June, 2, 10, 18 July 1822.
- 30. Ibid. 4, 25 Mar., 14, 24 June 1823.
- 31. Ibid. 26 Feb., 27 Mar. 1823.
- 32. Ibid. 28 Feb. 1823.
- 33. Ibid. 11, 14 June 1823.
- 34. Ibid. 21, 28 Feb., 9 Mar., 13 Apr. 1824.
- 35. Ibid. 2, 11, 12, 31 Mar. 1824.
- 36. Ibid. 3, 16 Mar. 1824.
- 37. Ibid. 19 Mar., 4, 8 May 1824.
- 38. Ibid. 6, 9 Apr. 1824.
- 39. Ibid. 20 May 1824.
- 40. Ibid. 11, 15 May, 10 June 1824; CJ, lxxix. 340, 502, 525.
- 41. The Times, 19 Oct. 1824; Mem. Bar. Hatherley, i. 67; Gent. Mag. (1843), ii. 542; Oxford DNB.
- 42. O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1169.
- 43. The Times, 15, 18 Feb., 22 Mar., 18 May, 7 June 1825; CJ, lxxx. 230, 425.
- 44. The Times, 18 Mar., 20 Apr. 1825.
- 45. Ibid. 12, 17 Mar. 1825.
- 46. Ibid. 8, 14 Apr. 1825.
- 47. Ibid. 4, 11 May 1825.
- 48. Ibid. 9 Feb. 1826.
- 49. Ibid. 11 Feb. 1826.
- 50. Ibid. 15 Mar. 1826.
- 51. Ibid. 16 Mar. 1826.
- 52. CJ, lxxxi. 149, 312, 324; The Times, 19, 26 Apr., 5, 12 May 1826.
- 53. The Times, 10 Mar., 27 Apr., 10, 17, 20 June, 20 July 1826; George, x. 15138.
- 54. The Times, 20 Oct. 1826.
- 55. Ibid. 9 Dec. 1826.
- 56. Ibid. 15 Mar., 23 May 1827.
- 57. Ibid. 10, 24 May, 1, 8, 9, 20, 22, 30 June 1827.
- 58. Ibid. 12 May 1827.
- 59. CJ, lxxxii. 348, 387, 396, 475, 558; The Times, 6 Apr., 22 May 1827.
- 60. Add. 40395, f. 132.
- 61. The Times, 25 Jan. 1828.
- 62. CJ, lxxxiv. 26, 101, 129, 136, 158, 304, 416.
- 63. The Times, 6 Apr. 1830.
- 64. CJ, lxxxv. 58, 500.
- 65. The Times, 6 Apr. 1830.
- 66. Ibid. 27, 31 July 1830.
- 67. Ibid. 16 Nov. 1830.
- 68. CJ, lxxxvi. 223, 229, 297, 484.
- 69. The Times, 26 Mar. 1831.
- 70. Add. 40403, f. 167.
- 71. The Times, 25, 28, 30 Apr., 10 May 1831.
- 72. CJ, lxxxvi. 583, 589.
- 73. Le Marchant, Althorp, 325-6.
- 74. The Times, 8 Sept. 1831.
- 75. Ibid. 20 Sept. 1831.
- 76. Ibid. 14 Oct. 1831.
- 77. CJ, lxxxvii. 33, 178, 495, 531.
- 78. Ibid. 78, 85, 95, 183, 199, 226, 234, 244.
- 79. The Times, 12 Apr. 1832.
- 80. Ibid. 11, 12 May 1832.
- 81. Hatherton diary, 4 June 1832.
- 82. Grey mss, Ellice to Grey, Wed. [Oct. 1831], Sun. [Jan. 1832], Wood to Ellice, 31 Dec. 1831.
- 83. The Times, 26 Oct., 20 Nov., 10-13 Dec. 1832.
- 84. Oxford DNB; Mem. Bar. Hatherley, i. 66-72.
- 85. Gent. Mag. (1843), ii. 541-3.
- 86. PROB 11/1987/723; 8/236 (27 Oct. 1843).
- 87. Oxford DNB; Mem. Bar. Hatherley.