FETHERSTONHAUGH, Sir Matthew, 1st Bt. (?1714-74), of Uppark, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. ?1714, 1st s. of Matthew Fetherstonhaugh, merchant, hostman and twice mayor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, by Sarah, da. and h. of Robert Browne. m. 24 Dec. 1746, Sarah, da. of Christopher Lethieullier, sis. of Benjamin Lethieullier, half-sis. of Joshua Iremonger of Wherwell, Hants, 1s. suc. 1746 to the estates in Essex, Herts., Mdx. and the City of London, of Sir Henry Fetherston, 2nd and last Bt., said to be worth £400,000; purchased Uppark 1747 for £19,000. suc. fa. in estates in Northumb., Kent and Mdx. 1762; cr. Bt. 3 Jan. 1747.
Fetherstonhaugh and his wife spent 1749-52 travelling in France, Italy, and Austria. Horace Mann wrote to Thomas Pelham on 17 Oct. 1750, about an invitation he had to dine with them:1
Perhaps you do not know who the Fetherstones are. Sir Matthew is a very sick baronet ... my lady is sister to Mr. Iremonger and Mr. Lethieullier who are here and occupying your house. They are all vastly rich.
From the journey Fetherstonhaugh brought back valuable collections of pictures, tapestries, china, etc. In 1754 he built for himself a house in Whitehall, now the Scottish Office, for nearly £6,000.
The same year he stood for Parliament at Andover where Iremonger had a considerable interest; Fetherstonhaugh was going ‘to try what his friends can do for him’, and had the fullest support from Newcastle. He failed, and wrote to Newcastle on the death of William Hay in June 1755, asking to succeed him at Seaford.2 On being told that the seat was promised to James Peachey he seemed piqued at that preference and uncertain whether he would wish to come in for another place;3 and when on 1 Nov. Newcastle informed him through John Page of an expected vacancy at Tiverton where ‘there can be no doubt of success with very little expense’, Fetherstonhaugh did not relish the idea, nor, wrote Page, was likely to relish the suggestion of any other constituency: ‘I think he is vexed with himself for having stooped to ask what he finds he has not weight enough to carry.’ But when, on Robert Ord being appointed chief baron of the Exchequer in Scotland, Newcastle suggested that Fetherstonhaugh should succeed him at Morpeth (on Lord Carlisle’s interest), Fetherstonhaugh replied, 17 Nov., that next to Seaford nothing could be ‘more satisfactory than the serving for one in Northumberland’. Still, he would not spend more than £500 or £600, and wished to avoid a journey to Northumberland: or else the expense should be included in the sum named above. Newcastle replied on the 19th:
My Lord Carlisle has sent me word by Mr. Ord that the expense is £600 and no more. Mr. Ord says there must be a dinner, which can’t exceed £20. Upon that we shall not differ ... you need not give yourself the trouble of a journey.
Fetherstonhaugh was returned unopposed, 29 Nov. 1755.4
In April 1759, on a vacancy in the county representation of Essex, Fetherstonhaugh was offered the seat by a group of leading Essex Whigs, but declined standing, or undertaking to stand at the next general election.5
On 5 Oct. 1759 Robert Ord, who was one of Lord Carlisle’s executors, wrote to Newcastle that at Morpeth some Yorkshire militia officers had offered ‘money for the choosing of a Member the next election’; this forced him to put up immediately two candidates not disagreeable to the voters; at the same time Lady Carlisle’s chief manager proposed to her Thomas Duncombe and Ord’s son for candidates, and she agreed; the voters would not have accepted Fetherstonhaugh; and it was necessary to act immediately. Newcastle, much surprised, forwarded the letter to Fetherstonhaugh.
I shall certainly [he wrote, 13 Oct.] acquaint my Lord Chief Baron that I think myself very unkindly used by his Lordship. What effect that may have upon him who has such obligations to me, I know not.
But he assured Fetherstonhaugh of a seat in the next Parliament.6
Fetherstonhaugh replied that he had previous warning ‘of the secret contrivances for this change’.7 The Carlisle manager had told a friend of his that he could not be elected again—
that the freemen were offended, and resolved not to choose a person they had never seen; and that to preserve the interest of the Carlisle family he was obliged to humour the freemen, who had been tampered with by an attorney or two, and a great sum of money offered them.
Fetherstonhaugh did not doubt that the alleged discontent among the freemen had not arisen ‘without instigation’.
Newcastle kept his promise, and on his recommendation to Anson, Fetherstonhaugh was returned with Admiralty support at Portsmouth.8 On 1 Apr. Fetherstonhaugh wrote to Newcastle9 thanking him for having
recommended me to so worthy a set of gentlemen as this corporation seems to consist of; for everything was done with great order and decency; and after the election was over we finished the evening with great mirth and jollity.
He received his parliamentary whip direct from Newcastle both in October 1761 and 1762; was classed in Bute’s parliamentary list of December 1761 as ‘Newcastle’; does not appear in Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries; but did not vote with the minority either.
In the autumn of 1763 Fetherstonhaugh was classed by Jenkinson as ‘contra’; under the Grenville Administration voted steadily in opposition; and was counted by Newcastle among his ‘sure friends ... to be sent to upon any occasion’. In Rockingham’s list of the summer of 1765 he was classed as a friend, and on 2 June 1766 was named by Newcastle among those ‘proposed to be made peers’; he again appears as a friend in Rockingham’s list in the winter of 1766-7 and in Newcastle’s of 2 Mar. 1767; and in Townshend’s of January 1767 as a ‘Rockingham’. He voted with Opposition on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, over payment of the King’s debts, 3 Mar. 1769, in the divisions over Wilkes and the Middlesex election, 8 May 1769 and 25 Jan. 1770, and the Spanish convention, 13 Feb. 1771.10 In Robinson’s two surveys on the royal marriage bill, March 1772, he is marked ‘contra, sick, present’; but he did not vote on 11 Mar. The Duke of Richmond wrote to Edmund Burke, 2 Dec. 1772:11
I ... went to Up Park to my friend Sir Matthew Fetherstone ... I found that all idea of getting him to London was vain. He has been in a very dangerous illness for several months. He is now better ... but fears, and with great reasons, that if he was to venture out ... it might cost him his life.
There is no record of Fetherstonhaugh having spoken in the House.
Fetherstonhaugh was among the biggest holders of East India and (at various times) of Bank of England stock, but never was a director of either. His holdings in East India stock averaged about £16,000, and when split represented considerable voting strength: he supported Clive in 1763, 1764 and 1769;12 in 1772 was inclined to temporize. He was also, together with John Sargent, Thomas Walpole, Samuel Wharton and Benjamin Franklin, one of the foremost promoters of the scheme for an interior colony, ‘Vandalia’, on the Ohio river, commemorated by a folly in the park, known as Vandalia Tower.
Fetherstonhaugh was a man of wide interests and reading, the owner of a fine library, and author of two manuscript volumes on ‘natural philosophy’ (with a chapter on electricity).
He died 18 Mar. 1774 aged 59. In the will which he made on his deathbed, he appointed his widow and Benjamin Lethieullier guardians to his only son Harry.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. Add. 33087, f. 54.
- 2. Add. 32995, ff. 199-200; 32735, f. 72; 32856, f. 313.
- 3. J. Page to Newcastle, 25 Oct. 1755, Add. 32860, ff. 161-3.
- 4. Ibid. ff. 289-90, 410-11; 32861, ff. 9, 25.
- 5. Jas. West to Newcastle, 7 Apr. 1759, Add. 32889, f. 394.
- 6. Add. 32896, f. 306; 32897, f. 59.
- 7. Add. 32897, ff. 156-7.
- 8. J. Clevland to Newcastle, 12 Mar. 1761, ibid. f. 135.
- 9. Add. 32921, f. 254.
- 10. Add. 32956, ff. 190-1; 33001, f. 264; Fortescue, ii. 86.
- 11. See also Gibbon to his step-mother, 7 Aug. 1772.
- 12. L. S. Sutherland, E. I. Co. in 18th Cent. Politics, 107, 121, 188, 240-1.