CUNLIFFE, Ellis (1717-67), of Saighton Grange, nr. Chester

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



19 Dec. 1755 - 16 Oct. 1767

Family and Education

b. 12 Apr. 1717, 1st s. of Foster Cunliffe, merchant, of Liverpool and Saighton by Margaret, da. of Robert Carter, alderman of Lancaster. m. 19 Dec. 1760, Mary, da. of Henry Bennet of Moston, Cheshire, 2da. Kntd. 18 Apr. 1756; suc. fa. 1758; cr. Bt. 26 Mar. 1759, with spec. rem. to his bro. Robert.

Offices Held


Cunliffe, the son of a prosperous merchant and shipowner of Liverpool, seems to have made delicate health an excuse to avoid taking a very active part in the business, which he disliked, and during his father’s lifetime spent much of his time in the south of England or travelling abroad.1

In 1755, helped by his father’s popularity in Liverpool, he was returned unopposed on the corporation interest. In Parliament he supported Administration; in May 1758, his father having left him ‘in possession of an affluent fortune’,2 he applied to Newcastle for a baronetcy; and in March 1759 had his request granted. In 1761 he successfully contested the borough, again on the corporation interest, jointly with the unsuccessful candidate Charles Pole. According to their opponent Sir William Meredith:3

No man ever stood better with his constituents, than Sir Ellis Cunliffe did at Liverpool, when I first went there. He sunk himself daily and gradually by supporting his colleague ... the temper of the people was to choose a Member independent of the corporation; and by resisting that temper Sir Ellis Cunliffe’s influence was lost entirely.

Yet Cunliffe topped the poll. Because of Newcastle’s distrust of the ‘Tory’ Meredith, he obtained ‘the disposal of everything’4 at Liverpool on condition that he did not recommend any of Meredith’s friends. In March 1762 he brought in a bill for erecting lights and building a new dock at Liverpool, and asked for Newcastle’s help in getting it through the House. In Bute’s list he was classed as ‘Newcastle’; but he appears in Henry Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries; and was noted by Newcastle as absent from the divisions of 9 and 10 Dec.5 On 25 Oct. 1763 Meredith wrote to Charles Jenkinson: ‘There is an idea of Sir Ellis Cunliffe resigning his seat in Parliament; but I know no other presumption for it than his state of health, which is miserable.’6 He was absent from the debates on general warrants, February 1764; and wrote to Newcastle, the same month, that he was ‘under the care of Dr. James, the effects of whose medicines will by no means allow him to stir abroad’.7 Newcastle, 10 May 1764, classed him as a ‘sure friend’, but Cunliffe continued to recommend to Government appointments at Liverpool. He was classed by Rockingham, July 1765, as ‘pro’, in November 1766 as ‘Swiss’, and by Townshend, January 1767, as ‘Government’. He voted with the Administration on the land tax 27 Feb. 1767.

Cunliffe’s one reported speech was on the prize bill, 4 May 1759.  He died 16 Oct. 1767.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Mary M. Drummond


  • 1. Information from a family record written by Cunliffe’s nephew, provided by Capt. R. L. Cunliffe, R.N. (retd.)
  • 2. Add. 32879, ff. 442-3.
  • 3. To E. Burke, 28 Oct. 1767.
  • 4. Jenkinson Pprs. 214.
  • 5. Add. 33000, ff. 278-9.
  • 6. Jenkinson Pprs. 210.
  • 7. Add. 32956, f. 13.